strengths and weaknesses in constitution

13 June 2024
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adaptable to political conditions and circumstances STRENGTH
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flexible as can evolve in response to new challenges and demands through changing conditions eg civil rights, great depression words of constitution does not change but meaning can due to judicial review. Same words may be interpreted differently depending on the time and circumstance eg 14th amendment said to mean 'separate but equal' in Plessy v Ferguson, but segregation was unconstitutional in Brown V Board
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too difficult to amend WEAKNESS
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formal amendment process are tortuous process. Require supermajorities in both houses then ratification by 3/4 of state legislatures, means 13 states can block any change. There have only been 27 since the start with 10 of these ratified in 1791
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avoids elective dictatorship STRENGTH
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checks and balances ensure one branch does not hold too much power over another to prevent tyranny, eg congress has legislative power but can be checked by the presidential veto, but the presidential veto is checked by the congressional override with 2//3 majority in both houses
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gridlock WEAKNESS
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checks and balances can lead to legislative process grinding to a halt, lead to power struggle between executive and legislative- particularly the case when there is divided government, leads to weak government, inactivity and difficulty in making decisions
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liberties and rights protected STRENGTH
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codified constitutions ensure rights of individuals are securely protected as defines the relationship between federal gov and citizens of the usa Bill of Rights ensured rights and liberties are clearly defined and easier to enforce Eg 1st Amendment protects freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly
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citizens' rights not fully protected WEAKNESS
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many instances in history when rights have not been fully protected eg -japenese being put in camps in WW2 -patriots act allowing surveillance -guantanamo bay allow torture and no habeas corpus can be said rights depend on climate and events of the day, supreme court can change their interpretation over time eg Plessy/Brown
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Too much power to unelected and unaccountable judges
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"We live under a constitution, but the constitution is what the judges say it is" (chief justice Hughes, 1909) Judicial interpretation not subject to public accountability and may reflect preferences and values of judges rather than public eg Gore V Bush Not elected and socially unrepresentative