The United States government is based on many ideas dealing with limited government. Limited government is a governing body whose power exists within limits that are set by a constitution. Within limited government, the US government upholds principles of natural rights, popular sovereignty, republicanism, and social contract.
The Declaration of Independence provided the foundation for popular sovereignty in the United States government. The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson (John Adams and Benjamin Franklin also aided in drafting the Declaration) to justify why the colonies were declaring war between Great Britain.
The Declaration of Independence has been an influential document because it has served as a template for other nations when declaring their independence. The U.S. Constitution was drafted at the Philadelphia Convention and set the foundations for the political democracy in the United States. The convention was headed by George Washington. Others, like James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, provided important insights into the structure of American democracy. The U.S. Constitution was preceded by the Articles of Confederation, which ultimately failed.
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Natural rights are fundamental rights that are granted at birth and are seen as necessary for all humans. In the Declaration of Independence, the natural rights that are stated are “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. They are also further protected by constitutional amendments (including the Bill of Rights).
Popular sovereignty is the idea that the power of a government is derived from the consent of its people. This job is done by elected representatives. Popular sovereignty was promoted by Enlightenment philosophers.
Republicanism is the idea of governing a nation where power is primarily held by the people and elected representatives. Also, the head of the government is not chosen based on heredity but rather an election. The president of the United States is determined through the presidential election. Tip: to remember the philosophy behind republicanism try this:
RE-publicanism is RE-presentative
Social contract is the idea that there is an agreement between the government and the people. This agreement is important because the people must give up some rights in order for protection for all. An example of this is the debate on privacy vs. safety.
After 9/11, there have been increasing security measures that were made in order to protect the safety of all. However, these security measures can invade the privacy of the people and cause a debate over natural rights.
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