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Political Science: An Introduction

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1 Political Science: An Introduction
Michael G. Roskin Robert L. Cord James A. Medeiros Walter S. Jones Chapter 5 Constitutions 2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.

2 Iraqi Shi’as vote in 2005 for new constitution
Constitutions Iraqi Shi’as vote in 2005 for new constitution 2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.

3 Constitutions in the Modern World
Constitution – rules and customs by which a government conducts its affairs Some constitutions are unwritten, made up of traditions, customs, statutes, and precedents, like Britain’s Many constitutions also specify individual rights and freedoms Constitutions supposed to set forth government forms and limits, and balance minority and majority interests US constitution unusual in brevity and lack of detail Some constitutions have many requirements that can’t be achieved, especially in poorer countries, such as universal education Some look good on paper, but used to provide cover for brutal regimes like Stalin’s, which flouted Soviet constitution 2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.

4 The General Nature of Constitutional Law
Constitutions are fundamental, highest law of the land Often a constitutional court needed to interpret constitutional provisions, an American innovation Constitutional law interpreted for specific incidents Judicial activism – willingness of a court, conservative or liberal, to strike down precedents; in US characterized by liberal Warren Court and by conservative Justice Scalia Judicial restraint – reluctance of a court to strike down laws or make law through broad decisions 2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.

5 Constitutions and Constitutional Government
Constitutions can be similar, but countries’ political culture can cause interpretations to differ, as between the operations of Swedish and Italian governments Constitutions can essentially be idealistic fictions, as the Soviet Constitution was under Stalin Constitutionalism – power of government limited; Magna Carta early effort to limit power of state (king) Magna Carta also seen as tool to create democracy 2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.

6 The Purpose of a Constitution (1)
States national ideals – US constitution proclaimed goal among others of a more perfect union; USSR proclaimed a developed socialist society by its constitution Formalizes government’s structure – US constitution establishes 3 branches and their functions; specifies checks and balances among the branches Constitutions outline division of power between central and regional/local governments, especially important for federal systems like the US Establishes government’s legitimacy – a written constitution allows many nations to recognize a state 2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.

7 The Purpose of a Constitution (2)
Constituent Assembly – a legislature meeting for the first time to write a constitution; often established after overthrow of previous regime to provide legitimacy of rule by new regime --Spanish parliament elected in 1977 became constituent assembly to end Franco system with new constitution; afterwards, it turned itself back into Cortes, Spain’s regular parliament --Afghanistan did same with loya jirga, a traditional body, after Taliban overthrown 2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.

8 What Is a Right? Jeremy Bentham declared “Right is the child of law;” a right only exists when it’s in statute or in a constitution US Founding Fathers took “natural rights” as basis for human rights, which can generally be formulated as “freedom from” Civil rights – come with modern democracy, which needed freedom to speak and vote for citizens; without civil rights, dictatorship looms Economic rights – relatively new; a socialist idea of 19th century, also advanced by FDR in Great Depression; often expressed as “freedom to,” as in freedom to have a job 2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.

9 Civil Liberties and Civil Rights
After horrors of Nazi concentration camps and Japanese military in World War II, UN adopted Universal Declaration on Human Rights --Symbolic, with no powers of enforcement --But, vicious regimes risk isolation by world community --Declaration patterned after French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen and on American Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights --Affirms basic civil and human rights no government may arbitrarily take away --Expands to cover economic and cultural rights: to an education, to marry, to live according to one’s culture 2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.

10 Freedom of Expression in the United States (1)
The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights prohibits any law abridging freedom of speech or of the press In US, we may make antigovernment or anti-religion statements or artwork – we have constitutionally protected right to burn American flag, for example Europe has prohibitions against such speech, such as denying the Holocaust Not all speech is protected, e.g., can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater nor spread malicious falsehoods (slander or libel) US theoretically prohibits obscenity, but impractical to define and enforce, especially over Internet 2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.

11 Freedom of Expression in the United States (2)
Seditious speech that would violently overthrow our government or impede it from its legitimate operations is illegal But, “seditious speech” has been used to silence critics, as Lincoln did during Civil War Sedition acts used against pacifists who objected to fighting in World War I, against Communists in 1940s and 1950s due to their revolutionary ideology McCarran Act barred Communists from working in federal government Rights are highly context-dependent; after 9/11 Americans readily accepted Patriot Act in panic Some foreign governments suppress free speech as threat to public order, such as Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia 2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.

12 The Pentagon Papers During Vietnam War, the Defense Department secretly collected information on the war that would contradict the public reports by the government In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, working at the Pentagon, released this study to the New York Times The Nixon administration asked the Supreme Court to block publication by the Times The Court rejected the government’s suit, emphasizing the necessity for a free and unrestrained press to effectively expose government deception --The Court noted that to grant the government’s request would be tantamount to “prior restraint,” which would allow the government to censor anything 2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.

13 A vigil across from the White House
Free Speech A vigil across from the White House 2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.

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