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The Upside-Down Constitution Hardcover – January 30, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (January 30, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674061918
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674061910
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Michael Greve has written the best book on American federalism in years. One need not agree with his general argument in order to find constant stimulation and illumination in every chapter. No one interested in American constitutional development (and its future) can afford to ignore this book. (Sanford Levinson, author of Framed: America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance)

Political events and extraordinary scholars have made this a golden age of argument about the Constitution. One of those scholars, Michael Greve, argues that promoting federalism—in the conventional sense of states' rights or the Tenth Amendment—may promote a greater quantity and poorer quality of government. This may seem counterintuitive, particularly to conservatives, but not to those who remember why various states' policies convinced James Madison that the Articles of Confederation had to be replaced by the Constitution. (George F. Will)

Michael Greve is one of the most creative thinkers today about the Constitution's deep structures. In this remarkable reinterpretation of American federalism, he argues that competition between states is central to the Constitution's political goals. This brilliant book will turn your complacent conceptions about the American Constitution upside down. (Jack M. Balkin, author of Living Originalism and Constitutional Redemption)

A learned, yet eye-opening and provocative analysis of one of the perpetual dilemmas of our federal system. Mr. Greve's quite significant contribution to our understanding of this complex subject will cause considerable rethinking of much conventional wisdom and deeply rooted dogma. (Theodore B. Olson)

The Upside-Down Constitution tackles in a fast-paced and no-nonsense style the full range of issues that surround the transformation of American federalism from the founding period to today. No naive originalist, and no free-form modernist, Greve skillfully shows how the original plan that supported competitive federalism has given way to a misguided New Deal synthesis that works to enrich politicians at all levels of government at the expense of the ordinary individuals whom our Constitution was intended, today as always, to protect. (Richard A. Epstein, author of Design for Liberty)

If there is to be a recovery of the Constitution's federalism, it will involve a retreat by the federal courts from the culture wars and, simultaneously, a renewed commitment by them to policing the boundaries of state authority over national commerce. A precondition for any such recovery is the conservative intellectual reorientation that Greve is attempting to advance. Thoughtful conservatives understand, as he notes, that the free market is not the same thing as "the opportunistic demands of the Fortune 500." They ought to begin distinguishing as well between federalism and the desires of state governments. (Ramesh Ponnuru National Review online 2012-03-26)

Marvelous and challenging. (Mario Loyola National Review online 2012-06-29)

Greve portrays an ever-increasing trend that will lead to more and more government and to greater fiscal recklessness. He approaches his subject from a historical perspective and with careful systematic documentation. In a very well-written concluding essay, the author discusses where the nation is at the current moment and offers solutions to the current situation. (R. A. Carp Choice 2012-08-01)

About the Author

Michael S. Greve is the John G. Searle Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By ERIC OKEEFE on June 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Michael Greve's meticulous work is persuasive on this vital point: America's founders created a system of competitive federalism, and through time it has been corrupted into a system of cartel federalism. Instead of states checking
the federal government, they more often collaborate with it to abuse the citizens.

The implementation of Obamacare perfectly reflects the corrupt modern view of federalism, where the states are
mere administrative units for a one-size-fits-all cartel federalism. The states get to maintain the illusion
of independence, as long as they do what they are told by the federal bureaucrats. And many state officials like this, because it reduces competition from other states, and gives them power without responsibility.

Greve's view is not pessimistic, though. He sees a benefit in crisis we face from politicians who are taking
the country to the brink of bankruptcy: this fiscal abyss will create a crisis that could create a historic opportunity to revive competitive federalism, and thereby save the Republic.

Greve is a scholar of law who also has a keen understanding of the political possibilities in modern America.
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