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The Preamble as Policy

A Guidebook to Governance and Civic Duty

Robert Irons and Jim Twombly

In The Preamble as Policy: A Guidebook to Governance and Civic Duty the authors show that the Preamble to the Constitution is more than an introduction to the document; it sets the tone for the rest of the document and how it should be viewed and interpreted. It is also a list of goals for a new government and a tool for holding our elected representatives accountable for their efforts on our behalf. The Preamble as Policy looks at the history of the development of the Constitution to show how the Preamble can be used to judge the laws and policies enacted by the federal government. The Preamble as Policy weaves political thought, history, and current events together allowing for examination of an oft forgotten part of the Constitution. It provides a unique framework and firm foundation for class discussions or social interactions about what we have achieved as a nation and where we might have come up short.

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Chapter Eight A Perfectible Union: Still Seeking Justice, Domestic Tranquility, a Common Defense, General Welfare, and the Blessings of Liberty


We noted earlier that human beings, at least in the eyes of Rousseau are not perfect, but are perfectible. We suggest that our Union may not, nor perhaps ever, be perfect, but it is perfectible. It is not our perfection that the Preamble seeks, but its words – “a more perfect union” (emphasis added) – serve as a measure of what can be, what we should be, and what we must seek to do; even if we stumble on that path.

In the previous chapters, we have looked at how history and public policy measure up to the goals set forth by the Framers in the Preamble to the Constitution. We have seen how we have grown as a Union, first in terms of our size and economic prowess, and then through our pursuit of the other five goals. It was hard in 2020, with social and racial unrest, a failed attempt to lawfully remove a sitting president, a raging pandemic, and an economy as much on life support as so many of our fellow citizens who had fallen victim to COVID-19, to feel that we are anywhere near the Rousseauvian perfectibility suggested by that simple phrase: “a more perfect union.” There is, however, hope.←81 | 82→

In Chapter One we laid out what the Preamble is and how the Framers might have viewed it. We also defined several ways in which the Constitution can and has been interpreted by scholars and Supreme Court justices alike. While taking...

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