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What are the advantages and disadvantages of a written constitution?

Extracts from this essay...

Introduction

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a written constitution? A written constitution is precisely a charter that has been codified, in that the rules and regulations that citizens must abide by are stated in a single document format. Although elements of the British constitution are written, (eg the statute law), sections of it are not. It must be noted that America follow a written constitution called the "Bill of Rights", and by contrast Britain at present do not adhere to a formal written constitution. Hence, one must consider the advantages and disadvantages of a written constitution to establish a judgement on whether the introduction of a written constitution in Britain is a beneficial concept to acquire. There are many advantages of adopting a written constitution in Britain, and there are many pressure groups, political figures and ordinary people who believe that Britain should have one. Our unwritten constitution is old fashioned, and there is not even an agreement about what it actually contains as it is made up of various conventions, statute laws and ancient documents. Constitutions are supposed to be the fundamental social compacts by which authority and order are maintained, and so a British written constitution would not only provide a rigid means of protecting the people from the power of the executive, but prevent the power of the Government from being too centralised, which is presently a major criticism of the Government.

Middle

An entrenched codified constitution would also be an advantage to the British Judicial system, as laws would be clearly defined so judges would be able to recognise when laws are broken, and make fairer decisions. Some people believe that even though our unwritten constitution is supposed to be traditional, the running of the country at present does not coincide with the laws that were made hundreds of years ago, as they are simply out of date and not applicable to today's society. A written document would not only modernise British law, but would also follow the majority of the countries in the world, who have working proof that written constitutions are beneficial and successful. Despite the large number of advantages for a written constitution to be incorporated into Britain, there are also many arguments against an entrenched document. Our present constitution may contain many sources, but there is no denying that our constitution does work; Britain has a successful judicial system and a democratic Parliament, and even though it may run in a different way than a country with a written constitution such as America, is certainly isn't less prosperous and flourishing than the US. Also, even though the introduction of a written constitution is possible, it would be extremely time consuming to produce and costly, especially to the British tax payers.

Conclusion

Power and sovereignty would then travel from the elected executive to the un-elected judiciary and judges would be able to make political decisions such as make laws and declare unconstitutional actions, which is undemocratic and unjust. The final disadvantage of introducing a written constitution into Britain is that the supposed inflexible and rigid nature of written constitutions of other countries is often open to amendments when laws are out dated. Unless our constitution declared that the constitution could not be amended similar to in Italy, there is danger that laws may need to be changed and it would not be possible. If we adopted a written constitution and amended it whenever necessary, there would hardly be any difference to the present constitutional system. Overall, there are valid reasons for and against written constitutions, in that a written constitution would bring many economical, social and political benefits, and be a worthwhile move for the future of Britain, and will protect against arbitrary government. However by contrast there are also a great number of arguments against a written constitution, which would pose the country a lot of problems if Parliament decided to introduce one. A valid point is that there may not be many negative consequences of introducing a written constitution, but as the present one works efficiently, there is simply no necessity for one, in my belief.

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