Constitutional Values

Unfortunately, there may be some situations when the politically and managerially oriented public administration’s values may be in a conflict with the principles and values of the democratic constitutionalism. Moreover, there were a lot of cases when the actions of the public administrations were considered as unconstitutional by the courts. However, the only way to understand the nature of these conflicts is to understand the essence of the constitutional values and rights first. Among the constitutional values, there are the following: liberty and freedom, property rights, equal protection, separation of powers, legitimacy, procedural due process, equity, individuality and privacy. In particular, liberty and freedom, equal protection and property rights are those constitutional values that will be discussed in this essay.

Freedom and Liberty

Constitutional values pay a great attention to individual liberty and freedom. Moreover, there is a viewpoint that these aspects are antecedent to the Constitution. The reason for such an opinion is that liberty and freedom existed before the creation of the constitutional government. Furthermore, these values were given both general and specific protection against governmental intrusions in the Bill of Rights (Rosenbloom, Kravchuk, & Clerkin, 2014). However, rights to liberty and freedom do not come from the Constitution. They lie outside of the legitimate realm of execution of governmental power. That is why, following the Declaration of Independence, these fundamental rights are often considered as natural rights. However, it does not mean that rights to liberty and freedom are “absolute” ones. They may be limited or encroached upon if there is a need for it, for instance, when a government has an override authority.

Property Rights

The property rights are highly valued by the Constitution. Life, liberty, and property are ranked alongside one another in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). Moreover, these legislations provide all of them a protection from invidious, capricious, or arbitrary governmental encroachments. Property right, like liberty, has been often considered anterior to the constitutional government’s formation. Moreover, property rights and property existed preceding to 1789 and the adopted Constitution does not typically infringe them (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). Furthermore, the Constitution provides these rights with the governmental protection.          

In not so distant past, “property” and “liberty” were considered as almost interchangeable. For instance, according to James Madison, property exists not only in possessions and land but also in religious principles, opinions, and general liberty (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). Furthermore, he considered property as an essential factor in developing of the political preferences and personality. However, like in a case of liberty, property rights are also not absolute. It means that the government of the U.S. was granted the power to “take” private property in some situations. For example, it may be taken for a legitimate public use. However, on the one hand, according to the Fifth Amendment, the compensation for the taken private property has to be provided (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). On the other hand, the refusal of the use of the owner’s property does not have to be compensated though it must be proportional to the supposed public purpose searched. Moreover, the unsafe, blighted and other property that may be a source of danger to the public interest also may be taken without any compensation but only in case when the owner does not fix the situation.

Equal Protection

According to the Fourteenth Amendment, there is no state that can deny to any individual the equal protection if this person is within the jurisdiction of the state (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). Talking about the original purpose of this legislation, it was an idea to protect African Americans and freed slaves, especially in the South. Nowadays, constitutional principles and values dictate vast application of the clause.

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Classifications

It is frequently quite important to classify people according to social, demographic, economic, or other characteristics. For example, individuals may be categorized by education, age, geographic residence, alienage, or citizenship; taxpayers may be systematized according to the amount of their income. Moreover, citizens may be classified by gender, race, color, national origin (ethnicity), or religion.

Over the years, a “three-tier” approach to managing the classification of the individuals was developed by the Supreme Court (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). However, some of these aspects may be considered as those that can potentially violate the guarantee of equal protection through discrimination; for instance, ethnic and racial groups have been often recognized as “insular and discrete minorities”. Unfortunately, these minorities are powerless when they protect their interests in the political process. That is why, such classifications are called “suspect”. However, the courts apply a strict analysis to the efforts of the government to justify the suspect classifications. The reason is that they want to assure that there cannot be any breach of equal protection.

In their turn, classifications that are based on wealth, residency, or age are “ordinary” (or “nonsuspect”). These ones may be found in a wide range of public policies. For instance, among them there is the reduced tuition at state universities for bona fide states residents or laws that restrict the sale of the alcoholic beverages to individuals who have not reached the age of 21. Such classifications are valid only if they serve a legitimate governmental goal in a rational way and are subject to routine judicial researches.

Talking about the gender-based classification, it falls between the nonsuspect and suspect categories (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). The reason is that men and women were treated in a different way at the earlier time. Moreover, such treatment was common. The situation when the purpose was to allegedly protect women was quite frequent. Unfortunately, in fact, the main aim of such classification was to create different limitations and barriers in their property rights, full citizenship, education, employment, and other opportunities. Nowadays, society is way more competent in unequal treatment of women. Moreover, the courts take a closer look at the gender-based classification.

Discriminatory Purpose

A lot of governmental regulations do not establish the accurate classification. Furthermore, they tend to have stronger impact on one social group than another. For instance, the Supreme Court admits that this may be true concerning “a whole range of tax, public service, welfare, licensing statutes, and regulatory that may be more cumbersome to the average black or to the poor than to the more wealthy white” (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). Such regulations cannot be considered as a violation of equal protection except the situations when the discriminatory purpose can be proved.           

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Classifications and Fundamental Rights

In a situation when the nonsuspect classification is pressing on the fundamental constitutional rights, it will become a subject of the strict research. For example, in 1969, the Supreme Court has made a conclusion that the new residents of the District of Columbia had to wait at least one year before they would have a possibility to apply for welfare benefits (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). This was a violation of the constitutional rights of the indigents to “travel interstate”.

Conclusions

Nowadays, the actions and decisions of the public administrations, despite their efforts to do their best, may be in a conflict with the constitutional values and rights of the citizens. Among these values there are liberty and freedom, property rights, equal protection, separation of powers, legitimacy, procedural due process, equity, individuality and privacy. That is why, the only way to solve conflicts between the constitutional values and public administrations’ ones is to understand their nature and, as a matter of fact, the essence of the constitutional right.

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