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gjzann
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"The success of a constitution is dependent upon its ability to evolve. Discuss." Any idea?
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william walker
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(Original post by gjzann)
"The success of a constitution is dependent upon its ability to evolve. Discuss." Any idea?
Well if a constitution can evolve it is not longer a constitution. It is just a meaningless document. What normally happens in the constitution is subverted by the government and courts. So it doesn't evolve its meaning changes.
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GeneralStudent95
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(Original post by gjzann)
"The success of a constitution is dependent upon its ability to evolve. Discuss." Any idea?
The typical debate about constitutions is between flexibility and rigidity. You want a constitution which is in some way flexible so that it can evolve and adapt to the changing circumstances of the modern day; if a Constitution was absolutely rigid then no changes would be possible, and, for example, societal changes such as extending the franchise over the past century wouldn't have happened under many constitutional systems. On the other hand,if you have a constitution which is too flexible there is no normative limits on governmental power - the constitution is no longer a restraining influence on government.

It needs to strike a balance between the two.

(Original post by william walker)
Well if a constitution can evolve it is not longer a constitution. It is just a meaningless document. What normally happens in the constitution is subverted by the government and courts. So it doesn't evolve its meaning changes.
I disagree entirely with this. I don't understand your distinction between evolve and change; a constitution can evolve and indeed change and still be a constitution. The US Constitution has evolved through the interpretative judgements of the US Supreme Court - Roe v Wade the infamous example. It has also changed through the amendments process a number of times. Constitutions are naturally resistant to frequent change, but they certainly aren't opposed to change or dependent upon stagnation.
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william walker
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(Original post by GeneralStudent95)
I disagree entirely with this. I don't understand your distinction between evolve and change; a constitution can evolve and indeed change and still be a constitution. The US Constitution has evolved through the interpretative judgements of the US Supreme Court - Roe v Wade the infamous example. It has also changed through the amendments process a number of times. Constitutions are naturally resistant to frequent change, but they certainly aren't opposed to change or dependent upon stagnation.
Constitutions don't come out of thin air. They come from a power balance between institutions to form a nation. So the US constitution was created to protect the power of the states and constrain the power of the federal government. However this is now meaningless because of the US civil war. Constitution's don't change or evolve, the power they were created to protect or enforce changes or evolves. After all a constitution is just a bit of paper with some writing on it, until an institution takes it up as law and seeks to enforce it. It is the same with the English Bill of Rights and the Charter in Canada.
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GeneralStudent95
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(Original post by william walker)
Constitutions don't come out of thin air. They come from a power balance between institutions to form a nation. So the US constitution was created to protect the power of the states and constrain the power of the federal government. However this is now meaningless because of the US civil war. Constitution's don't change or evolve, the power they were created to protect or enforce changes or evolves. After all a constitution is just a bit of paper with some writing on it, until an institution takes it up as law and seeks to enforce it. It is the same with the English Bill of Rights and the Charter in Canada.
Constitutions don't come out of thin air.
I agree. I never suggested otherwise.

They come from a power balance between institutions to form a nation. So the US constitution was created to protect the power of the states and constrain the power of the federal government.
I will ignore the fact that you are only speaking about codified constitutions here for a moment, because uncodified constitutions do not come from a constitutional moment such as you have described here.

Firstly, a nation is anterior to governmental institutions. The nation comes together to form a Constitution, not institutions to form a nation. Even this reasoning is dubious, because Constitutions are normally "created" by a small elite and ratified by a nation.

Secondly, they don't exclusively come from a "power balance" but this may provide the impetus for a constitution.

Thirdly, I have no disagreement with your general comments on the US Constitution, although it was designed to do much more than you suggest also.

However this is now meaningless because of the US civil war.
I have no idea why you possibly think the US Civil War has made the Constitution meaningless.

Constitution's don't change or evolve, the power they were created to protect or enforce changes or evolves.
I will ignore the fact that the second half of this sentence contradicts the first.

Firstly, constitutions do change - that is a matter of fact. The US Constitution has been amended and the amendments change the Constitution. The 25th Amendment to the US Constitution for example changed the succession to the Presidency rules. That is an undeniable fact.

Secondly, constitutions do evolve in relation to changing circumstances. The words of the Constitution remain fixed - subject to amendment - but the meaning of those words evolve. I have given you an example of a US Supreme Court case to this effect.

Thirdly, your assertion is broadly correct about the power which they seek to protect evolving, but this is the one part of a Constitution I would argue remains almost fixed. The US Constitution continues to be fixed upon federal principles of state maximised power, but this has evolved through different political eras.

After all a constitution is just a bit of paper with some writing on it, until an institution takes it up as law and seeks to enforce it.
Not all constitutions are just a "bit of paper" - the British Constitution being a classic example.

Most Constitutions - but not all - are not taken up by an institution as law. Constitutions are anterior to a system of government and precede it; the US Constitution created the institutions which now enforce US Law. There was no institution which adopted the US Constitution - the nation did. The preamble states that: "We the people..."
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