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Sept. 16 Essay Assignment -- Grading Considerations
"A constitution is a mutual agreement among free persons to limit their own individual liberty, in order to pursue certain collective values and interests, by granting certain powers to a government."
How Constitution differed from this -- several ways to put it:
- Federalist manipulations of the process made it not a free agreement, freely arrived at. Asymmetric participation, and "agenda control" by Federalists presented a lopsided deal to the anti-Federalists. Or more generally: Federalists' procedural advantages made this a one-sided "bargain"
- People weren't all free to agree or disagree: if delegates in nine states ratified, all people in those states would be bound by the Constitution. People in late-deciding states no longer had ability to choose between new Constitution and status quo ante.
- Many were affected who had no voice in the agreement -- e.g. through protections for slavery. No choice about giving up some of their liberty.
- One paper: "collective value" of liberty conflicts with the Constitution's retention of slavery
Why the abstraction might nevertheless be relevant:
- At least among those allowed to participate, the Constitution represents pursuit of collective
- Federalists hoped to allow slavery to fade away by not writing slavery explicitly into the Constitution
- Many voted against Constitution because it was not their ideal; nevertheless, it could be argued that the agreement produced mutual gains whereas its failure would have produced no gain.
- Need to coordinate on some such plan -- in virtually all participants' interests.
- Federalists, it turned out, knew better than anti-Federalists what arrangement would produce
gains for all -- hence despite anti-Federalists' lack of understanding, the wisdom of the majority
(actually, state-by-state majorities) prevailed, and collective values and interests were realized.
- Note that the abstraction did not require equal net benefits for participants; many of the objections seem to focus on that.
Two other points to beware:
- the abstraction does NOT contemplate a bargain between the government and the people, but rather among the people; and
- it speaks of "limiting their own individual liberty" in the sense of granting the government some power over themselves and everyone else -- which, if they agree to it freely, does not contradict individual liberty as a basic value)