What is the purpose of constitutions and why are they necessary?

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The main purpose of a constitution is to set down the basic rules and principles that form the basis of a system of government.

This purpose is absolutely essential because, without it, it would be impossible to put in place any kind of government worthy of the name. Without any kind of constitution, be it written or unwritten, no one would have any idea of what is or isn't permissible in relation to the relevant governing institutions.

Indeed, without a constitution, government institutions would be arbitrary and prone to change at the drop of a hat, ensuring a chronic lack of stability and order.

Everyone in a given territory, whether they're politicians or private citizens, need to know the rules and principles on which their government is based. Otherwise, they will not be able to adapt their behavior accordingly. In turn, this will lead to confusion and conflict, with everyone effectively following their own rules.

An additional important function of constitutions is to limit government power. Not all constitutions do this, of course, but those in liberal democracies tend to. By setting out precisely the relevant rules and principles on which a system of government is based, it is invariably the case that constitutions limit the powers of government, setting out in clear terms exactly what a government can or can't do.

To be sure, disputes can still arise in specific cases, but most constitutions make provision for the resolution of such disputes by constitutional courts, such as the Supreme Court of the United States.

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