Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty

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Princeton University Press, Jan 10, 2009 - Law - 384 pages
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The U.S. Constitution found in school textbooks and under glass in Washington is not the one enforced today by the Supreme Court. In Restoring the Lost Constitution, Randy Barnett argues that since the nation's founding, but especially since the 1930s, the courts have been cutting holes in the original Constitution and its amendments to eliminate the parts that protect liberty from the power of government. From the Commerce Clause, to the Necessary and Proper Clause, to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, to the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court has rendered each of these provisions toothless. In the process, the written Constitution has been lost.

Barnett establishes the original meaning of these lost clauses and offers a practical way to restore them to their central role in constraining government: adopting a "presumption of liberty" to give the benefit of the doubt to citizens when laws restrict their rightful exercises of liberty. He also provides a new, realistic and philosophically rigorous theory of constitutional legitimacy that justifies both interpreting the Constitution according to its original meaning and, where that meaning is vague or open-ended, construing it so as to better protect the rights retained by the people.

As clearly argued as it is insightful and provocative, Restoring the Lost Constitution forcefully disputes the conventional wisdom, posing a powerful challenge to which others must now respond.

 

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Contents

9780691123769_2INT
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About the author (2009)

Randy E. Barnett attended Northwestern University where he studied philosophy. He received his J.D. from Harvard University and worked as a prosecutor for several years. Barnett then turned to teaching and is currently the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Law at Boston University Law School. Barnett has written frequently on law topics ranging from criminal law to constitutional rights and the role of consent in contract law. The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law, The Function of Restitutive Justice, and The Rights Retained by the People: The History and Meaning of the Ninth Amendment are some of his important works.

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