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Personal Writing Sample

What is the purpose of the United States Constitution? May its purpose be to serve as the backbone of and the linchpin for good social order in America? By good social order, I mean that the individual can know at all times where he stands in relation to both other individuals and to the state; and I also mean that the state can know at all times where it stands in relation to the individual and to all individuals. Is this not the purpose of all constitutions? May this conception be perceived to be more or less the reasonable truth?

Are there unintended consequences related to establishing and upholding a constitution, specifically, our Constitution? Do these consequences affect how some Americans feel the Constitution is to be properly viewed? By unintended consequences, I mean the perpetuation of social inequities that have existed since document's ratification. If one considers first how some Americans feel the Constitution is to be properly viewed, I think he/she will discover that the concern about inequality exists, notwithstanding the legitimacy of those concerns.

Some Americans believe that the Constitution is to be treated as a legal framework that fits our always changing social circumstances and that social order is better preserved in this way. A good example of changing circumstances are shifts in morality which can be influenced by scientific discoveries and other new knowledge. In my view, the best support for the legal framework idea is that the purpose of a constitution (previously noted) is hindered by the fact that social circumstances are always changing. In other words, often times changing circumstances dictate where the individual actually stands in relation to other individuals and to the state; often times changing circumstances dictate where government actually stands in relation to the individual and to all individuals. This reasoning suggests the way we view the Constitution ought to account for these changes. Turning this argument upside down is to say: circumstances dictate relationships between individuals and the state only when individuals and the state believe circumstances ought to dictate these relationships.

The idea that individuals and the state ought to dictate what their social order will be, I think, is the centerpiece of the debate on interpreting the Constitution. Looking at the prolonged social inequality that persists in American society, some are compelled to blame to varying degrees the Constitution. If the purpose of the Constitution is to assure individuals and the state of where they stand in relation to each other, then some people will inevitably believe that the way America views the Constitution should be consistent over time, irrespective of the changes in social circumstances. Treating the Constitution in this way, for those focused on perpetual inequality, has the unintended consequence (if not the intended consequence) of styming change towards a more equal society. It goes without saying that right-minded Americans would prefer a more equal society, even if they don't agree on how that change should come about.

Two important questions emerge: Do those who support the legal framework idea support it because (a) they believe changing circumstances dictate social order or (b) they believe circumstances ought to dictate social order? Secondly, is it correct to say the purpose of the legal framework idea is preserving social order in the best way possible?