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American CredoThe Place of Ideas in US Politics$
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Michael Foley

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199232673

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199232673.001.0001

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The Rule of Law

The Rule of Law

(p.97) 5 The Rule of Law
American Credo

Michael Foley (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the American reverence for the rule of law and due process, which is exemplified by the political status afforded to the Constitution. The brevity and ambiguity of the Constitution gives it an extraordinary capacity to absorb different positions and principles within a single unified dimension of presumptive constitutionality. It is this lack of definition that provides it with so many contending definitions. Constitutional disputes provide the occasions when different components of the American creed or different constructions of the creed come into direct and explicit conflict. In arbitrating between these conflicting perspectives, the Supreme Court has to use the Constitution to weigh not merely the merits of the constitutional argument, but also the contemporary meaning and importance given to the variety of American values accommodated within the Constitution. In this respect, Supreme Court judgments are often in essence declarations of public philosophy in constitutional dress. They are declarations in which the inherent strains between American values are not so much resolved as reformulated either to reflect current conceptions of, and allegiances to, different aspects of America's liberal democracy, or else to achieve a different balance between the constituent themes of the regime.

Keywords:   government, rule of law, Constitution, democracy, constitutionalism, Supreme Court

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