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How Does the Constitution Adapt to New Concepts of Liberty?

Professor Kurt Lash explains that the Constitution represents the liberties that we the people have agreed deserve protection. There will always be debate about what liberties, or whose liberties, should be enshrined in the Constitution. That is a normal feature of the democratic process. The amendment process allows us to adjust the Constitution according to the agreed will of the people. https://youtube.com/watch?v=1xlA6pDyVzU


The Constitution changes and represents new ideas of liberty over time, because liberty is always a contested principle. We don't agree with one another over every aspect of liberty. The Constitution reflects just those aspects that we have agreed upon. So when we look to the Constitution, to protect liberty, we have to remember what we're thinking about. We're asking the Constitution to reflect just not my personal idea about liberty, we're asking the Constitution to reflect all of our considered judgment about what liberty should be so important, and so protected that they actually should be lifted out of the political process. Obviously this continues to be debated. To what degree should liberties be extended? Maybe they should be extended not only to citizens, to non-citizens, rights of people who come to the country through legal documentation or not, should it be extended in ways of right to privacy? Should it be extended in ways having to do with economic liberty? Should that particular, or those particular concepts of liberty also be entrenched and written into the design and text of the Constitution? It's a debate that we're having. These will not be Constitutional principles, however, until the outcome of that debate is one that reflects the considered will of all of us as a people. Until then, we'll have a partial protection of liberty in the American Constitution. Other aspects of liberty will have to be continued to be debated as part of the ordinary political process. The people have changed their minds about the meaning of liberty over time. In the beginning, the Constitution allowed states to keep people as chattel slaves. We changed our mind about that particular aspect of federalism and we took away power from the people in the states. We took away power from anyone to keep anyone as a slave through our use of Article 5 and our adoption of the 13th amendment to the Constitution. We also changed our mind about whether or not certain due process decisions or certain equal protection decisions should be decided by the people on a state level. We entrenched the principles of due process and equal protection in the Constitution itself. Of course at that time, we had a debate over whether or not the fundamental conditions of liberty required giving political power to women, and we decided no, only freedman would be given the right to vote at the time of the 15th Amendment. Liberty of all of us would be best protected through that small expansion of suffrage. We then changed our mind again in the 20th century. No liberty demanded that the political franchise be expanded to those who had a stake, and women had a stake in the political process and should equally participate in the right to vote, so we passed a new amendment to the Constitution.

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