Constitution of the United States

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How does the Constitution balance the conflict between liberty and order?

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The expression of liberties and rights is the main way in which the Constitution creates a balance between liberty and conflict. There will inevitably be conflict between individuals attempting to express their own rights if those rights go against each other. For instance, the freedom of speech and the freedom...

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The expression of liberties and rights is the main way in which the Constitution creates a balance between liberty and conflict. There will inevitably be conflict between individuals attempting to express their own rights if those rights go against each other. For instance, the freedom of speech and the freedom to practice religion can sometimes conflict with one another (as hate groups can slander other individuals or religious groups can try to suppress free speech).

The Constitution does its best to outline the important rights and liberties that are protected, as well as their priority. The Constitution attempts to maintain as much liberty for every individual as possible, while also attempting to prevent major conflicts from occurring as a result.

The Bill of Rights is the primary document that establishes these rights and liberties. This document was starting as an appendix to the Constitution, and has been appended over the years to include new and important rights as they are defined and understood. By protecting everyone's rights equally, there is always room for conflict, but there is an intent and plan to understand the path with the least conflict and to try and mediate to arrive at that point. It is difficult, but the provisions of rights in the Constitution help to define this balance.

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The balance between liberty and order in the Constitution is enshrined in the Bill of Rights, the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution. The whole purpose of the Bill of Rights was to assuage the concerns of those delegates at the Constitutional Convention who felt that the proposed Constitution gave the Federal government too much power at the expense of individual citizens and the states, thus undermining the liberties for which the Americans had fought against the British.

The Bill of Rights purposely seeks to curb the power of the Federal government by clearly articulating Americans' inalienable rights, the better to protect them from attack by an over mighty executive. At the same time, the Bill of Rights tacitly acknowledges the Federal government's overriding role in maintaining good order. After all, it was the lack of a centralized police power that was one of the primary reasons behind scrapping the Articles of Confederation and replacing them with a new Constitution.

But in maintaining order, and indeed in carrying out all its functions, the Federal government must still adhere to fundamental principles of liberty. It cannot ride roughshod over the rights for which so many Americans fought and died during the Revolutionary War.

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The writers of the Constitution understood a new plan of government was needed as the government that was created by the Articles of Confederation struggled significantly in many areas, including keeping order in the country. As a result, the new plan of government had to be stronger than the old one. This created the possibility of the government abusing its powers and reducing the people’s freedoms.

The Constitution gave the federal government more power than it had in the past. The federal government could print money, levy taxes, and create a military. Certain powers were reserved for the state governments, such as the power to determine educational policy with the state. A stronger federal government helped make it easier to keep order in the country. However, each branch of government had a different role, and each branch could control the actions of the other branches through the system of checks and balances. For example, Congress passes laws, but the president could veto them. The president appoints judges, but the Senate must confirm them. These actions help prevent any branch of the government from becoming too powerful or from threatening the liberties that the American people enjoy.

In order to get the Constitution ratified, an agreement was made to add a Bill of Rights to the Constitution. This was a demand made by many states to reduce fears that people would lose their freedoms. These were the first ten amendments and guaranteed certain freedoms such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, and the right to not have to testify against oneself in court. There are also provisions within the Constitution that protect rights. Examples include the fact that Congress cannot pass ex-post facto laws and bills of attainder and also cannot suspend the writ of habeas corpus.

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The Constitution provides a balance between granting liberty and creating order. To create order, the document stipulates the powers of each branch of government and provides checks and balances between these branches. For example, the President can veto bills passed by Congress, and Congress can override these vetoes. In addition, the Constitution creates a balance between what the federal government can do and what state governments can do. The Congress, for example, can regulate interstate commerce and make treaties with foreign nations, which states can not do. By delineating the powers of the federal government and those of state or local governments, the Constitution creates order.

The Constitution also grants liberties to people, mainly through the first ten amendments, which are referred to as the Bill of Rights. These amendments grant people basic civil rights, including speech, and rights in criminal trials. In addition, the 10th Amendment states that rights not explicitly given to the federal government are given to the states and the people.

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The Constitution balances this conflict by giving the government a great deal of power but, at the same time, limiting what it can use that power for.  The Constitution sets limits on what the government can do.  Some of these limits are in the original Constitution (no bills of attainder or ex post facto laws, guarantee of habeas corpus) while others are in the Bill of Rights (no searches without warrants, guarantee of jury trials).  By setting these limits, the Constitution tries to ensure that the great power of government (which is needed to keep order) will not be allowed to threaten liberty excessively.

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