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John Yoo Asks, “Why Do We Need a Constitution?”


Published June 22, 2021

People are imperfect. Well-meaning people may make mistakes, and ill-intentioned people may abuse government power. We need a constitution to establish decision-making rules when there are conflicts, so that disputes brought on by imperfect people can be resolved fairly and consistently.

Additional Resources:

  • Watch “How to Interpret the Constitution,” with John Yoo, on PolicyEd. Available here.
  • Watch “Peter Berkowitz on the Prevention of the Abuses of Power” on PolicyEd. Available here.
  • Watch “Constitutional Checks and Balances,” with John Yoo, on PolicyEd. Available here.
View Transcript

People are imperfect. So it’s entirely possible well-meaning people may make mistakes or badly intentioned people may get into the government and abuse it.


What happens if, say, the president says, “I want to lock down the whole country for six weeks”? And what if states and cities say, “No we don’t think that's a good idea.” How does that get worked out? That's where the Constitution comes in, because it does set up different decision-making rules in terms of conflict.


You wouldn’t need a constitution if everybody agreed on everything all the time. You wouldn't need a constitution if people were always wise and smart all the time.


James Madison said, “If mankind were angels, there would be no need for government.”


It’s because we’re not angels that you need a government.