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By Gary C. Bryner
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Additional resources for Constitutionalism and Rights
Constitution viewed the idea of rights and how the contemporary debate over rights addresses them. II The Framers were influenced by a variety of ideas. They sought guidance and direction from virtually all the sources of political thought available in the late eighteenth century. The writings of classical theorists and historians were frequently read and referred to by the Framers and others who joined in the debate over principles of government. 7 The European Enlightenment also served as an important source of ideas for political thought in eighteenth-century America.
Regular legislative activity fails to address fundamental concerns; discussion of rights fosters a concern with political issues that are moral problems and facilitates moral evaluation and possible moral growth. 38 These and other arguments that have been offered in anticipation of and in defense of the expansion of rights have, of course, not gone unchallenged. Some critics argue that these new rights themselves are inappropriate. As new rights are added, the value of old ones is lessened. Rights "inflation" sacrifices the importance of traditional concerns for newer ones.
First, it extended the sphere of government, taking in a "greater variety of parties and interests," making it "less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens" (10:83). Second, as Madison argued, it would remove governing power from the people themselves and would refine and enlarge the public views by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.