- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Cato Institute; Reprint edition (January 16, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1935308270
- ISBN-13: 978-1935308270
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #628,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom, With a New Preface Reprint Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Cato Institute senior fellow Levy and lawyer Mellor, in this excellent examination of twelve far-reaching Supreme Court cases and their consequences, force readers to question the direction in which the judiciary has led our country over the past century-and possibly their own attitudes toward the federal government. The authors deftly navigate the complicated proceedings without slipping into lawyer-speak, while unapologetically leaning on their libertarian sentiments to color their commentary and analysis. Though the writers defend well their claim that the dozen cases under discussion-with a number of "dishonorable mentions" and an appendix each for Roe v. Wade and Bush v. Gore-have expanded the federal government and eroded civil liberties, one can't help but feel a creeping sense of arrogance when Levy and Mellor assert repeatedly that they know how the Constitution's authors would view the document were they alive today. Still, the authors' canny investigation into the Supreme Court should call into doubt some of the staid political viewpoints readers may have taken too long for granted.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Many of the most harmful decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court have been subject to sustained attack in separate places. But I am not aware of any volume whose major function is to critique the worst in one place. Into this void step two fearless writers,Bob Levy and Chip Mellor, who through their work have been deeply involved in shaping our legal and political culture. (From the Foreword by Richard A. Epstein, Professor of Law, University of Chicago)
A passionate, thoughtful, provocative, and eminently readable book by two of America's most influential libertarian lawyers and legal thinkers. (Eugene Volokh, Professor of Law, UCLA; Founder of the Volokh Conspiracy Blog)
An easy read, and a very informative primer on some long-neglected cases. |fLyle Denniston, Scotus Blog
Levy and Mellor offer fascinating insights on twelve of the most important and controversial cases of our time. Readers will gain new appreciation for the Supreme Court's role in affecting their lives and liberties. With that appreciation will come heightened understanding of the stakes in future Supreme Court nominations. (Nadine Strossen, Former President, American Civil Liberties Union)
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Top customer reviews
Though they deals with at-times complex legal issues, Levy and Mellor have done a great job in this book of making those issues understandable even to someone without legal training. For each case selected, they set forth the facts of the case, their position on where the Court got it wrong, and the consequences that have developed from that decision. They also deal separately with two of the most controversial Supreme Court cases of the past 30-odd years; Roe v. Wade and Bush v. Gore. For different reasons, they fail to include either case in their "Dirty Dozen" list largely because they believe that the Court at least got the result right even if one could find problems with the way they got there.
In each case, Levy and Mellor clearly explain how the Court ignored the plain text of the Constitution, precedent, and quite often common sense, to reach it's decision and how those decisions have increased the power of the state at the expense of individual liberty. Oe may disagree with the author's choice of cases;it would have been interesting, for example, for them to discuss "Dirty Dozen" cases from the era prior to 1937 (and there are certainly enough of them) and how those decisions lead to the judicial ideology that created the case law they rightly decry. However, it's fairly clear that they've selected a dozen pretty bad cases, and the book provides an object lesson of what happens when one of the branches of government ignores it's Constitutional responsibilities.
This book illustrates what can happen when supreme court justices get it wrong: the laws that protect the people from their government lose their meaning and we're left that much more defenseless. The Dirty Dozen is one of those books that should be on everyone's summer reading list.
But the truly magnificent part about this particular work is that its veracity is NOT up for grabs- whereas many books offering one or another particular version of history will be touted as both fact and farce (depending on who you talk to), this one's got all the bases covered.
Even the most hardened liberals will concede that the outcomes of the dirty dozen cases are alarming signs that the power of government, when left unchecked, threatens us all.
I was wrong.
The Dirty Dozen is mainly hardline Libertarian fear mongering about the dangers of big government. It asserts itself as a study that reveals how select Supreme Court decisions after the 1930s have led to rapid expansion of federal power and trampled over individual rights, but it turns out that's just a fancy way of disguising that this book is really about how government regulations protecting economically disadvantaged citizens from things such as predatory lenders, from insurance companies that try to screw over their policy holders through overly long legal contracts filled with legal jargon incomprehensible to the average citizen, public programs protecting impoverished working class people, etc, are all just there to trample over the rights of those poor, defenseless, corporate shareholding billionaires.
Chapter 3, for example, uses hurricanes Andrew, Rita, and Katrina, as examples for how "government interference" led to the bankruptcy of a dozen different insurance companies because the government stepped in and retroactively altered insurance contracts and prevented them from backing out of covering the billions of dollars of damages the economically disadvantaged families living in the areas most affected by these disasters endured, with fairly heinous quotes such as "Corporate shareholders and employees are second -class citizens whose rights can be sacrificed to protect homeowners and farmers," and describing these corporate billionaires as "parties whose rights have been extinguished."
So you're telling me, that the billionaires who entered into a contract with their policy holders, agreeing to cover the financial damages, should disaster strike the homeowners whom they insure, are essentially "second hand citizens" because they went bankrupt after the government stepped in, and forced them to cover the damages they agreed to cover? You're kidding me, right? With the numerous occasions under which the courts have sided with corporate shareholders over the working class citizens whom they exploit (A Civil Action being just one example), you take it as a sign of a rampant, out of control government, on one of the few occasions when the courts sided with the working class, and a few billionaires went bankrupt as a result? You honestly believe that?
But it really isn't all bad, because this coauthor set of libertarian lawyers don't just have corporate shareholder's interest ms at heart, as chapter 4 expresses concern for the smaller businesses that went under trying to comply with regulations imposed by the EPA, which goes to demonstrate how obviously imperfect the system is, but their solution seems to lie within abolishing federal power and judicial power over fixing it. I get some smaller businesses have suffered when trying to comply with EPA regulations, and that needs to be addressed, but you can't isolate these failings from the successes, like the recently successful project to reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone, and the massive beneficial impacts that's had on the environment, the successful prosecution of corporations that have dumped toxic chemicals into water sources and poisoned families as a result, the decontamination of various water sources that had been poisoned with lead and mercury and arsenic, the exponentially improved air quality of major American cities such as LA from what it was in the 1970s, and literally thousands of other examples of success that have resulted in a better quality of life for millions of people, in order to justify repealing governmental regulation.
The policies year writers are advocating for comes dangerously close to creating an oligarchical society, as much as they outwardly champion the idea of "individual freedom." Even by omitting the successes of the system they're writing against, they still fail to make a substantial case for how much of what they're writing about adversely affects anybody outside of the billionaire class. Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12 are the only topics discussed that actually affect common people.
Chapter 6 deals with gun control, which presents a very solid case for deregulation of gun control, but it's impossible to detangle what a tricky issue gun control is in a single chapter of a book, which results in an oversimplification of the issue through which they treat ending violent crime as a simple matter of deregulating guns. Even though I consider myself more liberal, I'm still pro-gun ownership, but I'm not going to fault the government for trying to grapple with the issue of keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, while allowing common citizens to remain armed. Violent crime and gun regulation is far more complicated than they make it seem.
Chapter 7 deals with how rights to privacy get trampled on in favor of "national security," chapter 8 deals with the most egregious flaw in our justice system (outside of police brutality), which is asset forfeiture without due process, and chapters 9 and 10 deal with eminent domain and how the government stiff arms people out of their property through regulation. All of these chapters are extremely solid and are definitely worth checking out.
But chapter 12, on the other hand, deals with how programs such as affirmative action violates equal protection under the laws of the United States, which I find to be the most ridiculous argument this book tries to make. This review is long enough as it is, and I don't want to end up writing an entire book out of how promoting diversity through programs such as affirmative action actually benefits our economy considerably, and helps to alleviate the systemic poverty that is still being inflicted on people of color to this very day, but even though o disagreed with the majority of this book's thesis, none of the other chapters actually made me angry the way this final chapter did, and I'm not up to discussing in depth just how fundamentally broken many of these points are right now.
Another thing I find bizarre in this book, is how the authors occasionally site The Federalist Papers when they're making their case for smaller government, when in one of the very first papers, Alexander Hamilton literally says that many will argue for a weak federal government under the pretense of "individual liberties," but that is a fallacious argument. I don't know why Libertarians continue to keep using quotes from the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton was the opposite of a Libertarian.
I really do sound much more negative than I really am about The Dirty Dozen. While overall, I do disagree with a majority of the points presented in it, there are still lots of fairly compelling examples and arguments that are worth reading, even though I completely disagree with their solutions to the issues they present.
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Concise and clear in its discussion.