Should a constitution be allowed to be revised?

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whorace
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#1
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#1
You might say, well this is very limiting and impractical because then how would you change it? Well you wouldn't, because the entire point of a constitution is that it is limited and guarantees certain fundamental rights. We see in many societies (Turkey and Russia) at the moment countries who have constitutions that are completely contradictory to the way they run government, they are virtual dictators as they have revised it to increase presidential powers.

Surely you wouldn't ever need to revise the right to freedom of religion, conscience, gender equality and so on. I thought that's why they are called universal and inalienable
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Aj12
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#2
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It depends what's in it. Look at the us constitution , the right to bear arms was written for a vastly different time.

Certain rights may never change but if you took the values from 50 years ago that constitution would be very different from today. A constitution assume that the rights and laws of today are superior to anything that can cone in future. It seems overly restrictive to me.

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whorace
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#3
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#3
(Original post by Aj12)
It depends what's in it. Look at the us constitution , the right to bear arms was written for a vastly different time.

Certain rights may never change but if you took the values from 50 years ago that constitution would be very different from today. A constitution assume that the rights and laws of today are superior to anything that can cone in future. It seems overly restrictive to me.

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You're forgetting that the 18th century was a time of profound ignorance though, it's difficult to see how say, the right not to be a slave, right to gender equality and to a free trial could change.

Guns are a controversial one, I don't think they should be mentioned at all in a constitution.
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Falcatas
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#4
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All constitutions are utter nonsense and self contradictory.
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whorace
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#5
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#5
(Original post by Falcatas)
All constitutions are utter nonsense and self contradictory.
In a sense, from my understanding even constitutions that don't have emergency clause have a strict provision saying they can restrict them in certain instances. In practice a state with no rule of law won't follow the constitution anyway, which renders it fairly useless.

On the other hand it's a fair declaration of certain rights that people have been denied for a very long time, it's good to keep a list somewhere.
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Aj12
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(Original post by whorace)
You're forgetting that the 18th century was a time of profound ignorance though, it's difficult to see how say, the right not to be a slave, right to gender equality and to a free trial could change.

Guns are a controversial one, I don't think they should be mentioned at all in a constitution.
Perhaps your right but I am not confident enough that the world today is the best it can be, good enough to be worth tying down future generations with it. You mentioned Turkey and Russia as examples of nations without constitutions falling apart. But the UK does not have one and is one of the longest functioning democracies.

Another issue is the on going debate in the US. How do you interpret a constitution? There are huge debates about whether the constitution should be taken literally or is a document to be interpreted. That won't be an issue for at least a few decades but if you want the document to be the guiding principles of your nation, difficult if not impossible to change then it is certainly something worth considering.
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whorace
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#7
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(Original post by Aj12)
Perhaps your right but I am not confident enough that the world today is the best it can be, good enough to be worth tying down future generations with it. You mentioned Turkey and Russia as examples of nations without constitutions falling apart. But the UK does not have one and is one of the longest functioning democracies.

Another issue is the on going debate in the US. How do you interpret a constitution? There are huge debates about whether the constitution should be taken literally or is a document to be interpreted. That won't be an issue for at least a few decades but if you want the document to be the guiding principles of your nation, difficult if not impossible to change then it is certainly something worth considering.
Turkey and Russia do have constitutions, they are actually very progressive and have commitments to labor legislation as well. You are mistaken in the belief that the UK does not have a constitution, it does not have a written one, but the body of common law does deal with fundamental rights (the Bill of Rights and Human Rights Act are excellent examples)

A good way of avoiding literalism vs interpretive is two things: assume the writers of the legislation were not idiots and were being as clear as possible (likely) and not try and distort what they meant, b) the writers could be more explicit, in the case of India (which has the longest constitution in the world), there is a remarkable amount of detail about what is and isn't allowed.
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ChaoticButterfly
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#8
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#8
(Original post by Aj12)
It depends what's in it. Look at the us constitution , the right to bear arms was written for a vastly different time.

Certain rights may never change but if you took the values from 50 years ago that constitution would be very different from today. A constitution assume that the rights and laws of today are superior to anything that can cone in future. It seems overly restrictive to me.

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I agree with this to be honest.
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Arbolus
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#9
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#9
(Original post by whorace)

Surely you wouldn't ever need to revise the right to freedom of religion, conscience, gender equality and so on. I thought that's why they are called universal and inalienable
Well, that's debatable. In the 17th century, for example, when religious identity was more important than national identity, it made perfect sense to discourage non-conformism since nobody not belonging to the state church could be trusted to be loyal. Today's notions of freedom of religion would seem like madness to anyone from then.

We might think that today's universal rights will never cease to be relevant, but who knows how future attitudes might change? It would be foolish to eliminate the possibility of change altogether, though we can make change very difficult.

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Studentus-anonymous
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#10
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#10
(Original post by whorace)
You might say, well this is very limiting and impractical because then how would you change it? Well you wouldn't, because the entire point of a constitution is that it is limited and guarantees certain fundamental rights. We see in many societies (Turkey and Russia) at the moment countries who have constitutions that are completely contradictory to the way they run government, they are virtual dictators as they have revised it to increase presidential powers.

Surely you wouldn't ever need to revise the right to freedom of religion, conscience, gender equality and so on. I thought that's why they are called universal and inalienable

Let's look it at the other side of the coin. The US constitution (despite having been amended) is considered a strict and un-touchable constitution (at least regarding certain clauses) and America is an increasingly sick and lagging society slowly but surely being overwhelmed by modern needs and realities chafing with a system never intended to govern them.
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Aj12
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#11
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#11
(Original post by whorace)
Turkey and Russia do have constitutions, they are actually very progressive and have commitments to labor legislation as well. You are mistaken in the belief that the UK does not have a constitution, it does not have a written one, but the body of common law does deal with fundamental rights (the Bill of Rights and Human Rights Act are excellent examples)

A good way of avoiding literalism vs interpretive is two things: assume the writers of the legislation were not idiots and were being as clear as possible (likely) and not try and distort what they meant, b) the writers could be more explicit, in the case of India (which has the longest constitution in the world), there is a remarkable amount of detail about what is and isn't allowed.
The UK's constitution is hardly comparable to the written constitutions of other nations. It's nature is changeable and it shifts with the laws and conventions of the time. Compare that to the US constitution which has been amended 33 times? They are both very different systems, you appeared to be wanting a system closer to America's than Britain's.

Even when you do that in a hundred years will that document still be relevant to the country that it governs? Even a constitution as explicit as India's will eventually run into situations that it was not equipped for. That is the problem with difficult to change written constitutions, they cannot flow with the challenges modern states go through.
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gladders
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#12
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#12
No, constitutions must have some capacity for reform. Society always changes, and you're never, ever, ever going to devise a system the satisfies the needs of society forever.

Two hundred years from now, people will be looking upon the most modern constitutions of today, and scoffing at them for their silly attachment to arcane and obsolete concerns.

Far better to have a constitution like the UK's which can be altered incrementally.
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Rakas21
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#13
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Different horses for different courses.

In stable, wealthy democracies like the UK or US i don't think that codified constitutions are needed and indeed we see that the right to bear arms is completely outdated and now damaging in the US.

In places which are less stable (Turkey only managed initially because it did what Egypt is doing today - i.e. it the military actively kept hardline Muslims out) then i think that a codified constitution which is hard to change (say 66% of parliament needed) can be quite useful in enforcing a set of laws which moderate some of the more radical or unstable elements.

Of course the flaw in what i say is that times change. Europe of today is considerably more stable than a century ago. The US or UK in a century could have 30% unemployment rates and thriving fascist movements like in Greece.
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whorace
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#14
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#14
(Original post by Rakas21)
Different horses for different courses.

In stable, wealthy democracies like the UK or US i don't think that codified constitutions are needed and indeed we see that the right to bear arms is completely outdated and now damaging in the US.

In places which are less stable (Turkey only managed initially because it did what Egypt is doing today - i.e. it the military actively kept hardline Muslims out) then i think that a codified constitution which is hard to change (say 66% of parliament needed) can be quite useful in enforcing a set of laws which moderate some of the more radical or unstable elements.

Of course the flaw in what i say is that times change. Europe of today is considerably more stable than a century ago. The US or UK in a century could have 30% unemployment rates and thriving fascist movements like in Greece.

Times don't change though, Persia outlawed slavery 2000 years ago. Morals don't change, it is never right to violate human rights.
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