No man has a natural right to commit aggression

The United States Constitution is a document considered almost sacred by many
Who live in this country.  Liberty and freedom are often considered our greatest resources (Burns, Peltason & Cronin p10).  However, while the idea of “liberty and justice for all” stands optimistically in its citizen’s minds, the reality is much more complicated.  Questions arise such as; does freedom of speech include yelling fire in a crowded theater?  When one person’s rights infringe upon another, whose liberties take precedence?  In some cases, the question has even arisen, does “all men are created equal” really apply to all men?  What about women?
In creating the United States, a fine balance has been created between the majority and the minority.  Obviously, for a functioning democracy to work, the majority vote would rule.  As Abraham Lincoln said “Unanimity is impossible; the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible (Rejai p70).”  However, he also commented that the majority must be constrained “With deliberate changes of popular opinion and sentiments (Rejai p70)” in order to remain a free people.

Still it was important to the founders of the United States for the importance of the individual to be retained.  The Bill of Rights, especially the first amendment, was written to remove government’s ability to limit those rights (Burns, Peltason & Cronin p11).  The authors understood that freedom of speech, the press and religion were major rights and needed extra protection from repression.
Over time the government was also used to prevent individuals from impeding on the rights of other persons.  For instance, Amendment 26 in the Bill of Rights states “The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States of by any other State on account of age.”  Upon reaching adulthood, it was determined that everyone should have their equal vote (Burns, Peltason & Cronin p 14) and no one should be able to deny an individual that right.
Minority rights continue to be an issue, however, despite the passing of several amendments to protect such rights.  In some cases, this is done because it has been determined that the protection of society is more important than the rights of the individual.  The fourteenth amendment, for instance, states “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”  However, in many cases, laws are passed that interfere with the right of sexual predators by forcing them to declare themselves to law enforcement and/or their neighbors.
In other cases, despite the goal of “liberty and justice for all” minorities continue to be discriminated against for religious or political reasons, or simply because they are minorities.  Homosexuals, for instance, continue to be denied the right to marry in the majority of states (Nava & Dawidoff pxii).  In this case, the vote of the majority continues to outweigh the minority despite the loss of civil liberties and despite that fact that this has no direct effect on the majority.
On the other hand, in certain cases when the rights of the minority and the majority clash, the minority-member is given precedence, due to past injustices done to the minority as a whole.  This is the case in affirmative action, where minorities are given preference over the majority due to their past lack of status.  The practice seeks to make up for previous lack of economic and educational opportunities, often at the expense of those classes who have had them.
The balance between the society and the individual, majorities and minorities is a difficult one.  In forming the Constitution, attempts were made to appease all sides and amendments were made as society’s ideas of what were important changed.  This pendulum continues to be in constant flux, with the majority or minorities occasionally taking precedence over the other as elected officials see a need.  It remains a vital process however, since the entire foundation of the United States is dependant on this equilibrium.
How can we maintain the proper balance between liberty and order, between diversity and uniformity, between individual rights and collective needs?…The problem, then, is how to balance individual rights against collective needs, remembering always that individual freedom  and social order are necessary to each other.  ( Burns, Peltason, & Cronin p124)
Burns, J.M., Peltason, J.W., & Cronin, T.E.. (1975). Government by
the People, 9th Edition.  Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey:  Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Nava Michael & Dawidoff, Robert.  (1994). Created Euqal:  Why Gay Rights Matter to
America.  New York:  St. Martin’s Press.
Rejai, M..  (1976).  Democracy: The Contemporary Theories.  New York:
Atherton Press.
Shein, Lori (ed).  (1998). Inequality:  Opposing Viewpoints to Social Problems.  Dan
Diego, CA: Greenhaven Pres, Inc.

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