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5.1: Constitutions and Contracts: Why establish rules for governing?

  • Page ID
    252169
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    A photo of the U.S. Constitution displays the headings,

    If individuals band together to form a government, give their consent to this government to gain the protection of rights, and work to maintain collective order and security, it is preferable to put the rules of consent in writing–a contract.  Whether the nation has 13 states or 50 with 3 million or 330 million citizens, a country as large and diverse as the US needs a written contract between government and citizens.

    The American people have a contract with their government–the Constitution of the United States of America.  Written in 1787 and amended twenty-seven times, this document is the basis for U.S. government.[1]

    The U.S. Constitution is the oldest and shortest written constitution of the modern era, the culmination of American (as well as British/European/Greek/etc.) political thought about government power.  The framers of this contract were not like-minded individuals aligned in thought or purpose.  The Constitution was born of necessity following the failures of the first revolutionary government and featured several pragmatic compromises. More than 225+ years later the U.S. government still requires compromise to function.

    Constitutions & Contracts: Questions to Consider

    1. What reason would you give for maintaining the written contract US citizens have with the government?
    2. Would you like to see the contract/constitution changed?  In what way?
    3. Would a verbal contract work for government?
    4. Would a contract by handshake work for government?
    5. Is government more accountable to a written contract? Why/why not?

    1. credit: modification of work by National Archives and Records Administration
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