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The Classical Liberal Constitution: The Uncertain Quest for Limited Government Hardcover – January 6, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

Review

The central mission of The Classical Liberal Constitution is to go against the grain of modern Supreme Court jurisprudence and much of the legal scholarship that has grown up around that body of work. The motivation for this argument should be apparent from the major disarray that infects every area of modern American life: steady decline in the average standard of living; constant battles over debt limits and fiscal cliffs; uncertainty over key elements of the tax structure; massive overregulation of the most productive sources in society (health care and financial services); government-inspired brinksmanship in labor negotiations; and runaway redistribution programs that undercut the economic production that makes these programs viable. All of these major programs could not have happened under the original constitutional structure, faithfully interpreted in light of changed circumstances. The confluence of these events cannot be dismissed as the result of random noise or simple mistakes. Rather, they are the ultimate consequence of the profound progressive break with the classical liberal tradition that was the guiding genius in the drafting and interpretation of the Constitution.



(From the book)

[An] important and learned book. (Gary L. McDowell Times Literary Supplement 2015-03-13)

Epstein has now produced a full-scale and full-throated defense of his unusual vision of the Constitution. This book is his magnum opus…Much of his book consists of comprehensive and exceptionally detailed accounts of how constitutional provisions ought to be understood…All of Epstein’s particular discussions are instructive, and most of them are provocative…Epstein has written a passionate, learned, and committed book. (Cass R. Sunstein New Republic 2014-05-18)

About the Author

Richard A. Epstein is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Law and Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (January 6, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674724895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674724891
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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63 of 67 people found the following review helpful By George Bramwell on January 30, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is a big book, no doubt. But you will be impressed at how fast Professor Epstein's great writing takes you through the chapters. The clarity of the writing reflects the underlying clarity of thought in this book. The ideas developed here are the result of a lifetime of thinking and writing about constitutional issues, political philosophy, economics, and policy. But there is more. Epstein carefully integrates themes from private and public law into his constitutional analysis. The Classical Liberal Constitution is an extremely important book not only for those who agree with Epstein's approach but also for progressives and conservatives alike who will want to respond to his arguments against them both. The book provides a way out of the intellectual and political dead-end that constitutional jurisprudence has become. If you are interested in law, political philosophy or public choice economics, you'll want to read this.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Colonel Panic on July 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I was fortunate to have Epstein as a professor at Chicago when he was a younger man. Brilliant then, it is extraordinary now to read this work from an even more impressive mind. This examination is a much better course for any of us who reject progressivism and are uncomfortable with originalism. A tour de force.
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Format: Hardcover
The book should be required reading for all American voters, court judges, legislators , and chief executives of states the the federal government. Only through the protection of economic and property rights do you ensure the freedom of all to pursue their own individual concept of happiness as Jefferson's Declaration of Independence announced. The Constitution of 1787 has been misconstrued by both Progressives and Conservatives on the Supreme Court over the years. Only by staying true to "Classical Liberal view of the U.S. Constitution" can the American economy be restored to its former greatness and politics be minimized in public decision making and vote buying be dramatically reduced to it's former insignificance. At 575 pages in length , this book may not be for the general reader. But if the average American taxpayer wants to know why his taxes are so high, why the government is so inefficient and gives poor service to us fellow citizens, they might want to read parts of this book.
To clarify my point to my fellow citizens in reference to contemporary political issues, the author indicated that Obama care would have been declared unconstitutional ( as four supreme court justices indicated) if only the Pre-NEW DEAL meaning of the Commerce Clause was still in U.S. Supreme Court judicial favor [pg 185].
Also note the numerous regulatory agencies created by Congress over the past 100 + years has no Constitutional basis in law[ pg 276].
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Ronald E. Robinson on April 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Epstein's tome is a modern classic. I would have been well served to have this as a text for a limited government course, a graduate reading, even in law school to complement a Constitutional law class. If you want to understand the historic and philosophical basis for maximum freedom in a (regrettably) big government era, get this book!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By tortoise on February 7, 2015
Format: Hardcover
I recommend this book to free thinkers but not those who get especially upset over one particular issue or another. Epstein addresses the Second Amendment in the first section of the book and argues against Scalia's individual right to own guns, which has been incorporated against the states. If you shut the book in rage at that point and denounce Epstein to the NRA, you'll miss numerous other iconoclastic attacks on the dogma of both left and right.

The only particular issue about which every reader should be upset before embarking on the "Uncertain Quest" of reading this epic book is that of state control over the economy. To appreciate or even approach this book in a constructive manner, you cannot believe that government bureaucrats are better capable of managing an economy than free markets. But if you simply have qualms about governmental limitations of freedom beyond those necessary to prevent individuals from trampling on each others' rights, then this book might influence your worldview, as it has mine.

Now I write for the free thinking capitalists still reading this review. "The Classical Liberal Constitution" presents a coherent classical liberal theory of the underlying principles of the Constitution. These principles boil down to the following: people should be left alone by government except when they infringe each others' liberties or when there is a greater good that can be provided by government that is incapable of being provided by the private market due to coordination issues. A few of the facile reviews of this book that I have seen elsewhere on the internet argue that no justice could possibly reach the "proper" case outcomes envisioned by Epstein.
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