One side of the debate advocates a large, energetic, active, powerful national government. It believes central planners can use their “expertise” to direct many aspects of economic affairs, and that stern regulators are needed to protect Americans from numerous ills both natural and man-made…. The Constitution, according to this outlook, is antiquated, almost hopelessly so – except insofar as its “spirit” can be discerned and applied to meet changing circumstances. In that way, the Constitution is “alive” – ever evolving under the beneficent care of learned and appropriately progressive judges. It doesn’t protect rights that pre-exist government; instead, judges use the Constitution’s spirit to ascertain which rights should be “doled out” (in the words of one Supreme Court justice) by the government. In other words, the government, not a Creator, grants rights, insofar (and only insofar) as those rights are seen to be conducive to the betterment of society….
The other side of the debate believes that government, especially the national government, must be strictly limited to powers and duties assigned to it by the Constitution ratified by the people. Freedom is paramount, in the form of “ordered liberty” – the “order” being maintained through laws firm and clear, but not numerous. Individual citizens, not the government, are usually the best judges of their own best interests. And free enterprise and capitalism are seen as a bit messy but overwhelmingly productive and constructive. Capitalism might require a safety net, but not a harness…. In matters cultural, traditional values are seen as the bedrock of society, and faith must be allowed wide latitude for public expression. And the entirety of enlightened civilization rests on two foundations: the recognition that human life is a sacred gift from God; and the celebration of the traditional family unit, grounded in the age-old ideal of marriage between man and woman.
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