Why Constitutions Matter

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As countries in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries change from colonialist to independent rule, or from a socialist to a democratic society, the need for a written constitution becomes apparent. Countries in the former Soviet Union, Africa, or nations once part of the British Empire face social, economic, and humanitarian problems as they experiment with democratic rule. Such issues as clearly defining where sovereignty lies, how much power is given to the people, and what rights are possessed by a nation's citizenry are new to these countries. While a constitution, being a man-made document, is subject to interpretation and does not always delineate in a lucid framework its parameters for future generations, it is clear that constitutions do matter.

This volume, compiled under the direction of the City University of Stockholm, is an important study on the significance of constitutions and constitutional law in a democratic society. A number of scholars in law, political science, and economics have contributed to this volume. They include: James Buchanan, Aleksander Peczenik, Mats Lundstrom, Joakim Nergelius, Sverker Hard, Niclas Berggren, Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard, Wolfgang Kasper, and Erik Moberg. All add to the understanding of the intertwining roles of politics and the social sciences in a modern democratic state.

They explore why a constitution is essential; the relationship between a constitution and a rational political system; the democratic principle of majority rule; why constitutional constraints are needed in a democratic state; recent constitutional reforms in the United Kingdom; the electoral system and its centrality in a democracy; evolution in constitutional change; competition within a federal structure; and the connection between politics and economics. Why Constitutions Matter is a fascinating and timely study of constitutionalism, and will be of interest to students of politics, law, economics, and sociology.

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Publisher
Transaction Publishers
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Pages
291
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ISBN
9780765809247
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Language
English
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Genres
Law / Constitutional
Political Science / Constitutions
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Democracy
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This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Beyond the People develops a provocative, interdisciplinary, and meta-theoretical critique of the idea of popular sovereignty. It asks simple but far-reaching questions: Can 'imagined' communities, or 'invented' peoples, ever be theorized without, at the same time, being re-imagined and re-invented anew? Can polemical concepts, such as popular sovereignty or constituent power, be theorized objectively? If, as this book argues, the answer to these questions is no, theorists who approach the figure of a sovereign people must acknowledge that their activity is inseparable from the practice of constituent imagination. Though widely accepted as important, even vital, for the development of political concepts, the social practice of imagination is almost always presumed to operate either historically or impersonally, but seldom individually. Those who theorize the figures of popular sovereignty do not see that they are, in effect, 'conjurors' of peoplehood. This book invites constitutional, international, normative, and other political and legal theorists of sovereign peoplehood to embrace the conjuring-side of their professional identities, as a way of exploring the possibility of moving beyond eternally recurring, insolvable, and increasingly irrelevant questions. Instead of asking: Who is the people? What is the function of constituent power? Where may the people exercise its right to self-determination? Beyond the People asks the reader to consider the prospect of a riskier and more adventurous theoretical road, that opens with the question: What do I as a 'theorist-imaginer', or 'conjuror of peoplehood', assume, anticipate, and aspire to as I theorize the vehicles that mediate the assumptions, anticipations, and aspirations of others? This question is examined throughout the book as it interrogates the idea of peoplehood beyond disciplinary boundaries, showing how polemical, visual, affective, conceptual, and allegorical language critically shapes our idea of peoplehood. It offers a nuanced account of the contested relationship between the social imaginary of peoplehood on the ground, and the imaginative practices of the professional 'conjurors' of peoplehood in the academy.
It is no longer controversial that the American political system has become deeply dysfunctional. Today, only slightly more than a quarter of Americans believe the country is heading in the right direction, while sixty-three percent believe we are on a downward slope. The top twenty words used to describe the past year include “chaotic,” “turbulent,” and “disastrous.” Donald Trump’s improbable rise to power and his 2016 Electoral College victory placed America’s political dysfunction in an especially troubling light, but given the extreme polarization of contemporary politics, the outlook would have been grim even if Hillary Clinton had won. The greatest upset in American presidential history is only a symptom of deeper problems of political culture and constitutional design.

Democracy and Dysfunction brings together two of the leading constitutional law scholars of our time, Sanford Levinson and Jack M. Balkin, in an urgently needed conversation that seeks to uncover the underlying causes of our current crisis and their meaning for American democracy. In a series of letters exchanged over a period of two years, Levinson and Balkin travel—along with the rest of the country—through the convulsions of the 2016 election and Trump’s first year in office. They disagree about the scope of the crisis and the remedy required. Levinson believes that our Constitution is fundamentally defective and argues for a new constitutional convention, while Balkin, who believes we are suffering from constitutional rot, argues that there are less radical solutions. As it becomes dangerously clear that Americans—and the world—will be living with the consequences of this pivotal period for many years to come, it is imperative that we understand how we got here—and how we might forestall the next demagogue who will seek to beguile the American public.
One of the most astonishing features of social, economic, and political life is that large-scale patterns, structures, and behavioral regularities sometimes develop without anyone intentionally planning their occurrence, or without anyone deliberately working to bring them about. They evolve as a specific kind of unintended consequence of human action. They are the result of invisible hands. Building on Adam Smith's classic concept of "the invisible hand," this study presents a general approach, based on the theory of games and evolutionary theory, to explain such large-scale unintended consequences within markets, communities, and the state. This analysis by Nils Karlson is further used to explain the growth of the modern "welfare" state. It shows how an unconstrained democratic state through two distinct invisible-hand processes, the logic of conceit and the logic of opportunism, may develop into a "equilibrium" state, "The State of State." His work moves classic political economy into the world of political sociology. A normative contractual model is presented and the relative desirability of the state, markets, and communities is discussed. A major conclusion is that it is a choice between imperfect alternatives, involving decisions about more or less, rather than absolute judgments of an either/or variety. It is nevertheless suggested that society ought to be radically depoliticized and that constitutional constraints should be introduced in the universe of policy-making.
Have you ever had trouble understanding the United States Bill of Rights?

Have you ever wondered what was really meant by one or more of the ten amendments?

Have you ever been unsure as to how these rights apply to modern society?

Have you even questioned if the Bill of Rights should still be held as inviolable law, nearly 250 years after its writing?

Here's the truth: the Bill of Rights is not easy to understand if you just pick it up and give it a read. The eloquent style in which it's written can be confusing. The language can cause misunderstandings. There's a lot of legal terminology that's beyond most of us. Without an understanding of the historical background of certain amendments, it's impossible to fully understand their importance and scope. And to top it all off, there are countless politicians and pundits that try to interpret our rights for us and tell us what the Founders meant.

But are you comfortable letting crooked politicians decide what your rights are? Or would you rather know and be able to insist on, with certainty, the freedoms our Founders intended for you, your family, your friends, and your fellow Americans? If you're like millions of other Americans, you'll choose the latter.

Thomas Jefferson said, "Educate and inform the whole mass of the people...They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty." He also said, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was and never will be."

That's why this book was created, and it would make the Founders proud if they were here today. This book helps you easily reach a deep understanding of the Bill of Rights by walking you through each amendment, clarifying the precise definitions of key words; providing the historical context you need to fully grasp and spirit and importance of the amendments; sharing powerfully insightful quotes on each amendment, straight from the Founders and their peers; supplying you with an extensive glossary of terms so you never get lost in a dictionary or encyclopedia trying to understand what you're reading; and more.

The Founders fought tirelessly to guarantee you specific rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Don't let two-faced politicians and pundits tell you what your rights are.

Scroll up and click the "Buy" button now to learn your rights, and together, we can keep the spirit of freedom alive in this great nation.

In America’s Constitution, one of this era’s most accomplished constitutional law scholars, Akhil Reed Amar, gives the first comprehensive account of one of the world’s great political texts. Incisive, entertaining, and occasionally controversial, this “biography” of America’s framing document explains not only what the Constitution says but also why the Constitution says it.

We all know this much: the Constitution is neither immutable nor perfect. Amar shows us how the story of this one relatively compact document reflects the story of America more generally. (For example, much of the Constitution, including the glorious-sounding “We the People,” was lifted from existing American legal texts, including early state constitutions.) In short, the Constitution was as much a product of its environment as it was a product of its individual creators’ inspired genius.

Despite the Constitution’s flaws, its role in guiding our republic has been nothing short of amazing. Skillfully placing the document in the context of late-eighteenth-century American politics, America’s Constitution explains, for instance, whether there is anything in the Constitution that is unamendable; the reason America adopted an electoral college; why a president must be at least thirty-five years old; and why–for now, at least–only those citizens who were born under the American flag can become president.

From his unique perspective, Amar also gives us unconventional wisdom about the Constitution and its significance throughout the nation’s history. For one thing, we see that the Constitution has been far more democratic than is conventionally understood. Even though the document was drafted by white landholders, a remarkably large number of citizens (by the standards of 1787) were allowed to vote up or down on it, and the document’s later amendments eventually extended the vote to virtually all Americans.

We also learn that the Founders’ Constitution was far more slavocratic than many would acknowledge: the “three fifths” clause gave the South extra political clout for every slave it owned or acquired. As a result, slaveholding Virginians held the presidency all but four of the Republic’s first thirty-six years, and proslavery forces eventually came to dominate much of the federal government prior to Lincoln’s election.

Ambitious, even-handed, eminently accessible, and often surprising, America’s Constitution is an indispensable work, bound to become a standard reference for any student of history and all citizens of the United States.
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