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Who Killed the Constitution?: The Fate of American Liberty from World War I to George W. Bush Hardcover – July 8, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“If you want to know why the federal government regulates the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the words you speak, read Who Killed the Constitution? . . . When the history of these unfree times is written, Tom Woods’s and Kevin Gutzman’s fearless work will be recognized as the standard against which all others are measured.”
–Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News senior judicial analyst and bestselling author of The Constitution in Exile

“It’s about time someone shouted out that the emperor has no clothes.”
–Kirkpatrick Sale, director of the Middlebury Institute and author of Human Scale

"Woods and Gutzman (two bestselling authors in thePolitically Incorrect Guide series) appeal to both left and right in this constitutionalist jeremiad. Liberals will agree about the unconstitutionality of the draft, warrantless wiretapping and presidential signing statements. Conservatives will agree about the unconstitutionality of school busing, bans on school prayer and Roosevelt's suspension of the gold standard. The common thread is the authors' brief for a federal government strictly limited to the powers explicitly granted by the Constitution. The authors' exegeses of the Constitution and court decisions, heavy on original intent arguments, are lucid and telling, but not always consistently supportive of liberty: their reading of the First Amendment implies that state governments may restrict speech, religion and the press. Their attack on expansive federal power-even federal spending on cancer research-is perhaps too successful; it inadvertently supports scholars like Daniel Lazare who argue that the Constitution is too antiquated, constraining and hard to change to keep up with a modern consensus on civil rights and good governance."
Publishers Weekly

About the Author

THOMAS E. WOODS JR., PH.D., is the New York Times bestselling author of The Politically Incorrect Guide™ to American History, How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, and 33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask. A senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and a contributing editor of The American Conservative magazine, he has received the Templeton Enterprise Award and the O. P. Alford III Prize in Libertarian Scholarship, among other honors. He and his family live in Alabama.

KEVIN R. C. GUTZMAN, J.D., PH.D., is the New York Times bestselling author of The Politically Incorrect Guide™ to the Constitution and Virginia’s American Revolution. An associate professor of American history at Western Connecticut State University, Dr. Gutzman has written for numerous popular and scholarly publications.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Forum; 1St Edition edition (July 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307405753
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307405753
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,350,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James E. Egolf VINE VOICE on August 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Messers Woods and Gutzman wrote a provocative book that should be read by Americans who actually care about law-and-order plus individual liberties. This reviewer has noticed that the number of Americans who do care is quite small. The book deals "The Dirty Dozen" cases and instances of abuse of government power, and the authors readily admit that this book could have been exponentially larger. This review will not cover all "The Dirty Dozen" examples which would make the review too tedious. However, the general scheme of the book will be examined.

The first example cited in this book dealt with the arbitrary laws that violated First Amendment rights of Free Speech and Free Press (1917-1918). U.S. authorities could make arrests and prosecutions for the most innocent remarks that could have been construed as critical of U.S. intervention into W.W. I. What was worse,the authors cited examples of official tattle tales who reported on neighbors'comments. As an aside, Messers Woods and Gutzman demolish the statement alleged by Pres. Woodrow Wilson who supposedly expressed regret for agreeing to the Declaraion of War. The authors clearly that the statement was fabricated by Wilson's sycophants who tried to cover Wilson's blunder. The basic constitutional point made my Messers Woods and Gutzman is that the First Amendment clearly states that Congress shall make no law abridging the rights of Free Speech and Free Press. Yet, power hungry political hacks and unthinking Americans accepted all of this with little protest. One should note that the American people are so poorly read and so ready to believe media accounts that such oppressive laws are no longer necessary. The American media folks have so censored themselves that censorship laws are unnecessary.
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Format: Hardcover
So, our bedrock creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Our rights are unalienable and originate from the creator and/or our status as human beings. The only reason we need a written constitution is to make some of these rights plain to the power-hungry idiots we put in charge of government affairs. The authors do a great job of describing what the original intent of several articles in the constitution were and how they have been corrupted through the years.

To say that current and future generations should feel free to reinterpret the constitution as seems best to them is fatuous. There is a perfectly sound constitutional method for amending same when the various articles go "out of date" or new interpretations are needed: constitutional amendments. For example, the fourth amendment has been (or should have been) much in the news lately: the right to be secure from unreasonable search. If the govt thought that the law is too restrictive for modern times, they could have proposed changes in the form of an amendment. But they did not and simply broke the law and, when discovered, had congress pass an ex-post facto law "legalising" what they had done. This is precisely what is indeed killing the constitution.
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Format: Hardcover
I sometimes think that in an era when "history" means who won last season's American Idol, one of the hardest things to get people to understand is that the assault on the American Constitution didn't begin with George W. Bush. The systematic attempt to expand and centralize State power at the expense of individual liberty goes much farther back in our past ... probably to the very adoption of the Constitution in place of the Articles of Confederation, but at least, as Thomas Woods and Kevin Gutzman argue, to the first world war. Indeed, as I saw someone express it recently, George W. Bush is a pro-bono attorney for the ACLU compared to that true monster, Woodrow Wilson.

So that's the first thing about "Who Killed the Constitution?": the authors' well-grounded historical viewpoint. The second is their research and documentation. It would be one thing to disregard them as ideologists if all they were doing was huffing and puffing like a Fox News pundit. But for them to marshal facts and citations and many, many quotations, as they do, makes this not pontificating but important investigative history. Discounting the seriousness of their argument would require ... well, exactly what has been happening for that last century or so ... the bald-faced denial of the evidence of our senses and reason. But if the rational reader can't see through that after a few hours in these pages, then I'm not sure what more we can do.

Of course, I'm not entirely sure what we can do anyway. I was all set to write that I wished I shared the authors' belief that Something Can Be Done, that the Republic is salvageable, and what's been lost can be regained. I had even prepared to title my review something like "A great book, heartbreakingly irrelevant.
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Format: Hardcover
The Constitution has certainly been ignored by our elected officials. It can't be denied that the federal government is totally off the rails, doing whatever it wants to do despite the Constitution. It was probably human nature, the drive for more and more power, that killed it. Perhaps the document wasn't written and designed well enough to secure its main purpose: to bind the federal government to an assignment of expressly granted powers. Whatever happened, it certainly can be said that we are now living under a system which we never agreed to live under.

Here, Woods and Gutzman explore a series of constitutional subjects from WWI to the present. From presidents and congresses bound only by their own will, to federal judges legislating policy based only on personal preferences, the authors show just how much (dis)respect officials in Washington have for the Constitution. The chapter on gold was a new subject for me, and was truly scary.

From John Taylor of Caroline, to Raoul Berger, to Kevin Gutzman and Thomas Woods, there have always been true patriots exposing the total disjunct between what the federal government does and what the American people have actually agreed to let it do in the Constitution. The authors have revived the Constitution to a detectable pulse. Gutzman and Woods have given the American people the tools and knowledge to totally revive the Constitution, a revival that can bring back for ourselves self-government and the control of our own destiny.
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