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Framed: America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0199890750
ISBN-10: 0199890757
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"From America's greatest revolutionary constitutionalist, a profoundly important book, that will be at the center of the next reform movement."--Lawrence Lessig, author of Republic, Lost


"Anyone who cares about America's future should read Sandy Levinson's book. His fresh thinking illuminates old debates and his understanding of political nuance gives power to his analysis. You don't have to agree with him to know you are in the presence of a scholar who is a constitutional giant." --Senator Bill Bradley


"Sandy Levinson has authored an important, and cautionary, book-one that needs to be read as much by those who disagree with him as by those who share his analysis." --Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Professor of Law, University of Tennessee College of Law, founder of Instapundit


"I've been Framed! Levinson sparks a long-overdue conversation about the relationship between America's current governing crisis and the American Constitution-or rather, 'constitutions,' since he takes the unusual and valuable step of looking at state constitutions as well. His message: Pay attention to the 'Constitution of Settlement,' the established rules of the political game, not just the 'Constitution of Conversation' that sparks continuing legal dispute. It is a measure of the success of his stimulating book that he makes what once seemed settled appear newly ripe for debate." --Jacob S. Hacker, Stanley Resor Professor of Political Science, Yale University; co-author, Winner-Take-All Politics


"The most remarkable feature of Levinson's most remarkable book is his effort to place himself and his readers in the positions of the founding fathers and the founding generation." --Tulsa Law Review


About the Author


Sanford Levinson is Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Texas-Austin. His books include Our Undemocratic Constitution, Constitutional Faith, and Wrestling with Diversity.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199890757
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199890750
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.4 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #994,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Sanford Levinson holds the W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair in Law at the University of Texas Law School. His is the author of over 200 articles in professional and more popular journals, and has written numerous books.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Readers who think they know a lot about the Constitution will find out how much more they have to learn from this book. Law Professor Sanford Levinson examines parts of the document few people pay attention to, and he compares the Constitution to state constitutions and to the constitutions in other countries.

In our era of political polarization, one thing that unites Americans across the spectrum is the perception that the federal government is profoundly dysfunctional. Only about one in ten Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, and trust in government is at historic lows. Levinson has a simple thesis, namely that government failure is caused in part by the constitutional structure of government, at both the federal and state levels, and that as much attention should be paid to the 50 state documents that also make up American constitutionalism.

Americans hold the Constitution in high regard, so criticizing it is considered akin to radicalism if not disloyalty. Most would-be reformers of the political system shy away from trying to change the structure. Levinson recognizes the towering achievement the Constitution represented in the 18th century, but he also believes it needs to be updated to meet current conditions, which are quite different from those of 1787.

Levinson agrees that the political culture of a society matters in how well government functions. Yet political behavior happens within the formal institutional structures as defined by the Constitution. Political scientist Robert Dahl describes it well: “The biggest obstacles to energetic, coherent action are systemic.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jim Bruner on March 20, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Alas, Levinson's discussion of this immense problem is limited to a couple of pages of Chapter 1. On page 29, he even lets another author, Daniel Rodriquez, define the problem: "[T]he basic range of policies and policy choices made by state and local officials dwarf (sic)--indeed always have dwarfed (sic)--national political activity." Ever since Tip O'Neill said, "All politics is local," that has been my observation, and why it should be a mystery to any other serious student of American history is beyond me.
In our dysfunctional national legislative family, 50 squabbling children (mostly bicameral state legislatures) individually devise their own conflicting "playground rules" and pry "lunch money" from their citizens (and then petition Congress via the IRS Form 1040, Schedule A to refund part of it), even though the U.S. Constitution gives only Congress the right to tax (and specifically only incomes at that). Not satisfied with salaries and perks provided by the IRS, the members of the parent Congress engorge themselves on generous "campaign contributions" from corporate members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has no allegiance to any state, and (given its tendency to hide profits offshore) probably not to the nation, either.
The U.S. Constitution, as currently interpreted, allows greedy corporate entities like ALEC to methodically divide and conquer ignorant voters in the 50 states while the peasants anxiously and sporadically watch the DC media circus, hoping that Congress will somehow save them from their own folly.
Most Americans don't know enough math or have enough patience to file their own tax returns, let alone realize when snake-oil salesmen are taking them to the cleaners, and none of our 51 constitutions offer them much protection. No wonder we have income inequality.
This is why we need to scrap all of our constitutions and start over.
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9 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Publius on May 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
You want fundamental Constitutional reform? This book is amazing. It builds off of Levinson's last book, which is also fantastic (5 stars) -- Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (And How We the People Can Correct It). Spoiler: he proposes the same solution. (i.e., a Constitutional Convention by a group of people picked by a lottery -- with many other great suggestions).
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5 of 51 people found the following review helpful By M. Heiss on September 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I was going to add this item to my wall display of attractively lettered documents:

Aunt Jody's homemade Christmas Card from 2007...
That YIELD sign from the construction zone on the corner...
The Equal Opportunity Guidelines from the bulletin board at work (en Espanol)...
and my collage of labels from containers of Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 gallon, 128 fl oz. Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl oz

With a name like this, one naturally expects the item to come FRAMED. This is misleading. You have to supply your own frame.
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Framed: America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance
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