By Stephen Plafker
This course studies what Ayn Rand called "the great American achievement," the system of checks and balances of the United States Constitution.
A Constitution is "[t]he system or body of fundamental principles according to which a nation, state, or body politic is constituted and governed." Paraphrasing Ayn Rand, a proper government protects men from criminals and foreign invaders and provides for the settlement of disputes according to objective laws. A government, therefore, does three things: it makes laws (the legislative function), enforces them (the executive function) and runs law courts (the judicial function).
The United States Constitution divides these functions into separate departments; this is the doctrine of separation of powers. It also divides governmental powers between the state and federal governments by enumerating the powers of the latter and by specific limitations on both. Thus, both the federal and the state governments have sufficient powers to secure rights and are limited in their ability to violate them.
The course begins with a detailed discussion of the most fundamental provisions of the Constitution. This discussion is followed by a summary of the writing and ratification of the Constitution. The course ends with a short discussion of a constitution for an Objectivist society.
The course provides an understanding of the federal government, explaining the government's organization, the reason it works and the reason it is deteriorating: i.e., why this country cannot last without a proper philosophy.
The course comes with a diagram which outlines the Constitution's structure as developed in the lecture. The listeners should follow the lecture with this diagram. They should also have a copy of the Constitution and read its provisions as they are stated in the lecture.
This course was recorded at the 2006 Objectivist Summer Conference in Boston, MA.
(MP3 download; 4 hrs., 32 min., with Q & A, 195.43 MB)