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The Guardian of Every Other Right: A Constitutional History of Property Rights (Bicentennial Essays on the Bill of Rights) Paperback – September 4, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0195110852 ISBN-10: 0195110854 Edition: 2nd

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An impressively concise treatment of a complex topic. Ely manages to focus admirably, making this an excellent supplementary text for a course in constitutional law."--Dan O'Bryan, Sierra Nevada College

Praise for the previous edition

"An informative and balanced account of the history of property rights protections under the Constitution."--The American Journal of Legal History

"Greatly clarifies the pivotal place of private property in the American system. Through a sophisticated historical analysis, Ely illuminates two recurring issues of great importance: the constitutional limits on government regulation of property and the complex relationship between property ownership and individual liberty."--Norman Dorsen, New York University School of Law

"A fine overview of property rights in the courts, which makes a good foundation for the study of present day land use planning and land use controls."--Irving Schiffman, California State University, Chico

Review

"An impressively concise treatment of a complex topic. Ely manages to focus admirably, making this an excellent supplementary text for a course in constitutional law."--Dan O'Bryan, Sierra Nevada College

Praise for the previous edition

"An informative and balanced account of the history of property rights protections under the Constitution."--The American Journal of Legal History

"Greatly clarifies the pivotal place of private property in the American system. Through a sophisticated historical analysis, Ely illuminates two recurring issues of great importance: the constitutional limits on government regulation of property and the complex relationship between property ownership and individual liberty."--Norman Dorsen, New York University School of Law

"A fine overview of property rights in the courts, which makes a good foundation for the study of present day land use planning and land use controls."--Irving Schiffman, California State University, Chico --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Bicentennial Essays on the Bill of Rights
  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (September 4, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195110854
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195110852
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 0.8 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,373,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By greg taylor VINE VOICE on March 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a very well conceived survey of the history of property rights in the United States. Ely seems to see American constitutional history as having four great periods. The first period is the colonial and early national period up to the ratification of the Constitution. The second period runs from that first Washington administration up to the adoption of the Reconstruction Amendments after the Civil War. The third period runs from then until the so-called "revolution of 1937" when the Supreme Court did a turn around from its resistance to New Deal programs. From 1937 to the present time constitutes the final period of Ely's history.

Obviously, from this perspective, the three great moments in U.S. constitutional history were 1. the original ratification of the Constituion, 2. the ratification of the 14th Amendment and 3. F.D.R.'s successful campaign to change the approach of the Supreme Court in 1937.

To this history, Ely applies the following three analytical principles:

1. The framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights "envisioned some degree of federal judicial review of the substance of economic legislation" (Ely, p.9).

2. The framers did not regard personal and property rights as seperable. "Indeed, the framers saw property ownership as a buffer protecting individuals from governmental coercion." (p. 43)

3. However, property is not constitutional entitled to preferential treatment. Constitutional rights are not unlimited. In many cases, there are competing interests that must be balanced.

Ely's survey of the colonial and revolutionary period serves to remind us that there has never been a period of time when property rights were granted unfettered priority.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By MT57 on August 29, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The published reviews present a fairly accurate picture of the book. First, it is concise, always appreciated in a dry subject.

Second, it is historical, not only in its order of presentation but also in the mode of analysis. It starts in the right place, America in the colonial period, and marches up to the 2006-07 Supreme Court term.It is blissfully, and I mean blissfully if you have read other works on this subject, free of lengthy disquisitions on the superiority or bankruptcy, depending on your point of view, of particular economic theories; and likewise blissfully free of cant, quack social science and meta-theoretical discussion that focus on academics' views far more than on actual events.

Last, it is fairly balanced, and certainly the most balanced treatment I can find out there. The other Amazon reviewer says that the author "wears his conservative heart on his sleeve" and I respectfully disagree. The author delivers his story very much in a "on the one hand, on the other hand" fashion. There are many, especially in the not for profit world, who would like to impose a Hegelian narrative on the subject laying out a teleological progress toward the elimination of any "reification" or "privileging" of private property rights in favor of a "redistributive constitutional regime" that has been interrupted by evil reactionaries who would return us to the era of 16 hour workdays and child labor. There are others who would have you believe that intelligent life peaked when Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations and all economic regulation is foam from the mouth of raving Marxists. This author paints a much more factual and balanced picture, which is summed up in three sentences (page 9): "First, the framers ...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Edward Cline on May 14, 2014
Format: Paperback
James W. Ely, Jr., wrote a gem of a history of the Constitution that focuses almost exclusively on the treatment of property rights, from colonial times to the present, The Guardian of Every Other Right: A Constitutional History of Property Rights. It is one of the handiest and briefest digests of the history of property rights vis-à-vis federal and state courts and legislative acts I've come upon, written in clear, succinct language. For anyone imbued with the ambition to tackle The Federalist, the Constitutional Convention debates, and the papers of Founders such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton, Ely's book can serve as a nonpareil introduction to the subject of property rights in a political context.
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The Guardian of Every Other Right: A Constitutional History of Property Rights (Bicentennial Essays on the Bill of Rights)
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