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Is the US Bill of Rights clear?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/12/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 8 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 241 times Debate No: 86507
Debate Rounds (3)
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I Love and am thankful for the US Bill of Rights, but unfortunately the original founders could have never imagined how far society would fall and more importantly how lawyers will twist verbiage to interpret what was written to reflect different stories.

With that I feel that the bill of rights needs to be restructured and defined clearly. I know that these were left vague by the original builders because they felt it was obvious, well unfortunately in this new age and times Obvious to them is WAY to open for interpretation. Now I also think that yes they can be updated as well with the addition of some specifics.

I would like to see some form of breakdown like this:
Birth Rights : anything that you are born with, air, Choice, etc.
American Citizen Guarantees: Items Granted to you by being an American; the normal Bill of rights here. Bear arms, due process, Speech, etc.
Economic: Choice, freedom to search for work, and what to do with your money. ENTITLED TO NOTHING.


Before I begin, I think it is important to remember the circumstances of the writing of the Bill of Rights. They were largely written as a concession to the Anti-Federalists (those against the ratification of the new Constitution) who complained that the document did not have any specific protections of individual rights and civil liberties. To try and assuage those fears, the Bill of Rights was passed and ratified in 1791(1).

The Bill of Rights was written with several past abuses in mind. During the Revolution and prior to it (barely a decade before) colonists had suffered from various actions incurred by the British government and its armies. The British in several occasions had tried to confiscate colonial arms caches (2). The property rights of colonists had also been infringed upon through the forced quartering of British soldiers in American homes. These, and others, greatly contributed to what was put into the Bill of Rights.

When reading the Bill of Rights, there several different ways to do so, and two are most prominent; the first, the original intent of James Madison and the others; the second, how we read and use it today. While I have referred to the original intent of the writers, I will be discussing the meaning of the Bill of Rights from a contemporary standpoint, as that is most relevant.

1st Amendment: People"s freedoms of speech, press, peaceful assembly, petition, and religion are protected within reasonable limits, so long as their exercise of them does not infringe upon the ability of others to exercise theirs or break other laws.
2nd Amendment: The right to bear arms shall not be infringed upon, again, within reasonable limits. It"s not considered reasonable, for example, to have shoulder-mounted rocket launchers.
3rd Amendment: Largely irrelevant. Harks back to the British practice of commandeering homes without the permission of or compensation to the owners during the Revolution.
4th Amendment: Requires a warrant and/or probable cause before property or persons can be searched. This protects against unreasonable search and seizure and thus the violation of privacy by the government and its agencies.
5th Amendment: Requires an indictment before a grand jury in crimes of a serious nature, as well as guaranteeing the right of due process for all cases that result in imprisonment, loss of property (monetary or physical), or life. It also forbids forced self-incrimination, as well as being tried twice for the same crime. Lastly, it allows the government to take private property for public use as long as it benefits the public and that the owner of the property is given just compensation for that property.
6th Amendment: People must be brought to court within 30 days of being arrested; said court must be in full view of the public. Trials must be done by a jury of the accused"s peers, and the accused must have access to legal counsel. Lastly, the accused must be made aware of the nature of the charges against him.
7th Amendment: Similar to the 6th: Guarantees the right to a trial by jury in civil court.
8th Amendment: Amount charged for bail cannot be unreasonable, and punishment cannot be "cruel or unusual". For example, drawing and quartering, hanging, beheading, branding, etc.
9th Amendment: There are rights that exist other than are listed in the Bill of Rights, and those, too, are protected. This, along with the 1st, 4th, and 5th Amendments has contributed to the idea that there is a right to privacy, and has been cited as such in such cases as Roe v. Wade (3).
10th Amendment: Any authority not mentioned in the Constitution is delegated to the states. This is why the states have control over such issues as education.

There it is; the Bill of Rights. Most areas of it are clear, and where it is not, the rulings of the Courts have made them clearer. Some are vague; that is to the advantage of society. They leave room for decisions and progress to be made. For example, the section in the 8th Amendment that disallows "cruel and unusual punishment" as penalty for crimes. Obviously, what was considered cruel and unusual in 18th Century America is going to be different than what is considered cruel and unusual today. For example, whipping as a punishment today would be a violation of the 8th Amendment (4). The fact that this is left vague allows for progression on the issue. If the Amendment had gone into specifics and laid out what was considered cruel and unusual, it makes forward progress on the issue very difficult. Leaving it "blank", so to speak, allows it to be adapted to the morals of society as it advances.

The breakdown of rights into separate categories for Birth, American Citizens, and Economic rights are unnecessary and counterproductive. First of all, if you are born in the United States, you are automatically an American citizen, with access to all the rights that status entails. That distinction, therefore, is useless. Secondly, this specific enumeration of rights is unwise. By enumerating the exact rights that people have, without leaving any room for judgement, it inhibits their ability to be able to adapt to the changing times. As previously mentioned, if the 8th Amendment had laid out the exact means of punishment considered cruel and unusual, it would not have included what is considered cruel and unusual today. Since it is not specifically enumerated, it is left up to the judgement of society and through it the Courts to decide what is cruel and unusual, and allows the law to be more elastic. Lastly, it greatly limits the actions that the government may take regarding the well-being of its citizens. Setting economic rights, especially ones that prevent such things as welfare, greatly worsens the lot of the poorest in society. The reality is that many citizens are born into a cycle of poverty that is extremely difficult to escape (5). The best chance for these individuals to get out of poverty is through some sort of outside intervention. This often includes the government, whether directly through an agency of the government, or through funding to outside groups. Setting strict limits on what the government can do to help citizens would thus harm the working class. Therefore, it is best that the economic rights of the American citizen be left unwritten, so that society as a whole can decide the issue. Currently, this concludes that welfare is a necessary duty of the government through such programs as medicare, medicaid, social security, and other forms.

Debate Round No. 1


You make a great point, and I do agree that the vagueness was intended to be to the benefit of society. I have just seen where there have been more instances where the vague verbiage and ability of those who seem to sell their morals for profit has been a tool for damaging the country as opposed to the intention of protecting the citizens. I certainly did not think of the definitions I gave as examples to be fully formed and feel they obviously left room for vast improvement and in no way feel I could have done a better job at writing them better than the founders of the country.

I also do at my core feel the economic rights shouldn't be written and defined I personally see them fall under the normal bill of rights. I have simply seen and heard of to many people who have twisted the language of certain Rights and have understood them to be privileges instead. I feel that the level of entitlement in the country has grown to epic levels and have very little faith in society as a whole to remedy a potential twist of language on the constitution. For example the Bernie Sanders crowd is somehow under this twisted thought that they are deserving of free college, and entitled to things simply based on being born. They are also indoctrinated to think that Socialism is actually something America should aspire to utilize. Which is inherently a direct contradiction to what America is founded upon, that if you work hard you reap what you sow.

Now I am under the strong belief that a person can be smart, and most importantly reasonable. A group/mob is ignorant and uncontrollably unreasonable. With all of these miss-interpretations of the constitution by mobs, leads to one eventual mess in my opinion. Example being 1930's-1940's Germany.


I understand the points that you are trying to make. However, just because some people abuse or misuse the rights granted in the first ten amendments does not mean that there is something wrong about the way the rights are written; it is more a reflection upon the people abusing those rights than the rights themselves. For example, the Westburo Baptist Church crowd: they are certainly using the right of free speech in a way that was not intended by the Founders when they wrote it (1). However, since they are not agitating for violence or physically hurting people, they must be left alone.
As for economic rights, I think that has little to do with what the Bill of Rights was intended to be. The Bill of Rights was intended to be a list of civil protections to keep the government from being too powerful and from becoming an oppressive regime like the one that they had just left. In other words, economic rights are neither here nor there. While Congress is certainly granted the right to legislate in relation to economic matters, that is far more to do with the regulation of commerce and consumer protection than with the Bill of Rights. While I will avoid the debate over whether or not I agree with Sanders" Campaign and his goals, his goals are well within the powers of the Constitution to grant. His proposed tax on the upper class to fund them is, of course, within the power of Congress to tax, and seeing as Federal aid to students already exists, that money going to pay for the cost of university would be similarly permissible.
However, as already stated, this has little to do with the clarity of the Bill of Rights. A lot of what we are getting into is related to your perception of the current generation and their views regarding their rights and privileges. I will say, however, that I do not think that this is leading anywhere close to an authoritarian regime; at least not on the left. Sanders, after all, did not write a book lambasting democracy and bashing minorities. The only candidate whom I believe one could make credible comparisons to Hitler in this race is Trump, due to his racial remarks (2) and his invoking and use of nationalism (make America great again).
Debate Round No. 2


Shmac07 forfeited this round.


Well, I guess that's it then. Thank you for an excellent debate and discussion!
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Shmac07 8 months ago
Dang I am sorry I got caught up in work that I missed the entire next rounds! Thank you anyway!
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by U.n 8 months ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Only Pro cited sources. Con forfeited a turn.