The Cato Home Study Course, Vol. 7: The Bill of Rights and Subsequent Amendment to the Constitution
Download the .mp3 version of this course right here: http://bit.ly/2aZWgba
The fight over ratification of the Constitution was won by its proponents, the Federalists, only by means of a compromise with their opponents, the Anti-Federalists. That compromise was the addition of the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution. The fear of a consolidated government was by no means new or unique to Americans; it grew out of a long history of struggles to limit the powers of kings, going back at least to Magna Carta. The various efforts to tie the rulers down with constitutional chains are charted in the audiocassettes for this module and documented in the readings, including Magna Carta, the Petition of Right, and the English Bill of Rights. Fear of expanding government is not out-of-date, as David Boaz demonstrates in his chapter "What Big Government Is All About."
The audiocassettes for this module explain the background and meaning of each of the amendments in the Bill of Rights, as well as the debates over their ratification. In addition, all of the subsequent amendments to the Constitution are examined and explained.
Readings to Accompany The Audio
From From Magna Carta to the Constitution: Documents in the Struggle for Liberty: Magna Carta (1215) (pp. 1-16); The Petition of Right (1628) (pp. 19-24); the English Bill of Rights (1689) (pp. 37-46); the American Bill of Rights (1789) and subsequent amendments to the Constitution (pp. 90-101).
From Libertarianism: A Primer: Chapter 9, "What Big Government Is All About" (pp. 186-209).
From The Libertarian Reader: Roger Pilon, "The Right to Do Wrong" (pp. 197-201).
Some Problems to Ponder & Discuss
• Why list rights if no exhaustive list could be written? And why list activities and powers forbidden to government if those powers are not authorized in the first place? Is the Bill of Rights a redundancy in the Constitution?
• How are "natural rights" related to "legal rights" and "procedural rights"?
• Is it "undemocratic" to limit by law what the people may do?
• How can law limit itself?
• What good are "parchment barriers" to tyranny?
• What other items might you have added to the Bill of Rights, especially considering the experience of the years following the ratification of the Bill of Rights?
• Would an amendment to the Constitution limiting the terms of office of members of Congress (the president is already limited to two terms) help to secure limited government?
• The Ninth Amendment ("The enumeration in the Constitution of certain Rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people") speaks of other rights retained by the people. What might those other rights be?
• In Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, the Congress is empowered to "provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States." How is this related to the Tenth Amendment ("The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the states respectively or to the people")?