A Very Short Reading Group discussion

The U.S. Constitution: A Very Short Introduction
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The U.S. Constitution > Power and Liberty

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Stockton Libraries | 87 comments One or two constitutional issues seem to be in the news at the moment...
How well does this very short introduction deal with the "age-old antagonism in Western culture between power and liberty"? Any thoughts post them here!


Stockton Libraries | 87 comments Another interesting discussion for our September meeting. A very dense short introduction, packing in a lot of detail which really brought to light the intricacies, conflicts and contradictions of the U.S. Constitution. What stood out most was how culturally and emotionally significant the constitution is to the country, which can seem to outsiders as perhaps somewhat alien. This balance between power and liberty which was agonised and indeed fought over for centuries has far reaching effects in American society. Discussing the issues of civil rights and gun control, for example, in the context of the constitution was revealing, showing how aspects current attitudes and ideology have their roots in a document from over two hundred years ago. A very informative read and discussion.


lisa_emily | 14 comments Stockton wrote: "Another interesting discussion for our September meeting. A very dense short introduction, packing in a lot of detail which really brought to light the intricacies, conflicts and contradictions of ..." I just started reading this ( I'm behind this month) but just reading the intro I can tell I will be learning a lot!


Nigel Bamber | 31 comments I'm, a bit late with my comments this month as I've just been away for a short holiday, soooo....

I agree that we can see the seeds of the present condition of America in this document.

I think the assumption by the compilers, that the constitution should manage the balance between power and liberty, was fundamentally flawed.
Power should only be required to prevent the liberties of different people and groups, impinging on each other and leading to conflict. There was a declaration of rights, but as Kant states, with rights, there should be associated duties not to conflict with the rights of others. This is discussed in the VSI on Kant and on Human Rights. If there is a strong sense of duties, the potentially dangerous granting of power to a government would not be required.
Just granting rights in isolation has led to a society pre-occupied with self-interest, a situation reflected in the litigational environment and the economic system that have grown up alongside the constitution.

There are other duties, associated with a democratic system. The voter has a duty to put public interest above self interest, to prevent tyranny of majority in a democracy.
With a right to eduction comes to duty to learn and be informed, when entering public discourse and voting.

I always feel uneasy when the right to property is stated as the guardian of other rights.
Property is a primary source of conflict between humans. I also think that the World has too many electric drills and lawnmowers. Share?

The granting of “rights” to corporations has led to a pressure to increase the size of government until now it seems that even national level governments are unable to limit their influence and power. We have created entities that are capable of oppressing both individuals and governments, without being accountable to either.

If the NSA monitor GoodReads I realise I might now find myself taking longer to get through US immigration next time I visit, but in the interests of honesty.......


Stockton Libraries | 87 comments Sharing? That's dangerous talk... I did find the book very helpful in placing the current (apparent) divisions in American society in context, particularly the vehemence which some commentators react to perceived impingements on their liberty by either government or corporation. That this debate was one of the founding issues of the country, becoming part of its culture and ideology, is revealing in how entrenched it still is across the generations.


lisa_emily | 14 comments I am late to the party, but here I am. I finally finished this book- for some reason it was a pretty dense read for me, but well worth the effort. I am embarrassed to admit that I never really thought about what was the point of the Constitution. I think this VSI did a decent job looking at the philosophical reasons for its existence and some of its shortcomings and amendments to rectify those shortcomings.

Serendipitously, RadioLab has been doing radio segments about the amendments so its a good follow up to the reading.


Nigel Bamber | 31 comments I often find that reading a VSI draws my attention to stories in other places that I previously wouldn't have picked up on. I've just started working my way through 2018's Radiolab podcasts on my drive to work, so looking forward to more on the Constitution.
I've just finished the VSI on The Welfare State. It draws attention to how America's approach to Social Aid Provision is influenced by the philosophy of the Constitution.


Stockton Libraries | 87 comments I do like a good podcast. I'll have to give Radiolab a try.


Nigel Bamber | 31 comments https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/rad...

I found the way in which the constitution has been distorted and bent out of shape in this one, quite disturbing.


Stockton Libraries | 87 comments Finally got around to listening to the RadioLab podcast. Absolutely fascinating - the use of the commerce clause in civil rights legislation was an eye opener. The legal machinations in fighting one loophole with another, and the power that can inadvertently give, shows how difficult a coherent and workable constitution is to achieve.


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