Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, I finally got around to a book that had been on my to-do list for six months. It’s not light holiday fare and certainly not a beach read, but if you like constitutional law and constitutional studies, I highly recommend it. The book is The Classical Liberal Constitution: The Uncertain Quest for Limited Government, by Richard A. Epstein, who is Professor of Law, the New York University School of Law, Senior Lecturer, the University of Chicago Law School, and Senior Fellow, the Hoover Institution.
The central theme of this book is classical liberalism, which for Epstein means the philosophy of John Locke, which holds that men are naturally free and form governments to which they submit only for purposes of protecting their rights as free men to life, liberty, and property. This was the spirit and the word of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence and Epstein has devoted a significant part of his life’s work in tracing how our jurisprudence and particularly our U. S. Constitution has evolved since our founding on Locke’s principles.
To trace this evolution, he marches through all of the constitutional articles and numerous cases, highlighting major turns in jurisprudential philosophy and the many and various serious mistakes made by some of the brightest minds in Supreme Court history that brought us to our current stalemate over the very meaning of classical liberalism properly applied. And I should add that his analysis is often not of the usual conservative/progressive, right/left, originalist/living constitution arguments.
Again, it’s a bit wonkish, but if you’re into this stuff, no one is better than Epstein in telling and documenting the story.