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Law’s Epstein Takes a Classical Liberal View of Constitution in New Book

December 16, 2013

Both progressives and conservatives fundamentally misunderstand the Constitution, argues Richard Epstein, the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at the Law School, in his new book The Classical Liberal Constitution (Harvard University Press, 2014). These opposing camps, he write, take for granted a progressive view of the founding document—accepting, for example, that courts should show extreme deference to legislative regulation of the economy—and this helps explain America’s current economic malaise and political gridlock.

A leading constitutional law scholar, Epstein takes a third point of view, that of the classical liberal, and explains how the Constitution emphasizes federalism, restricted government, separation of powers, property rights, and economic liberties. Employing close textual reading, historical analysis, and political and economic theory, Epstein urges a return to limited government.

The director of the new Classical Liberal Institute, Epstein spent seven years working on the book. In The Classical Liberal Constitution, he illuminates contemporary disputes ranging from presidential prerogatives to health care legislation. He also reexamines topics such as the institution of judicial review, the federal government’s role in regulating economic activity, freedom of speech and equal protection.

Epstein has authored numerous books, including, most recently, Design for Liberty: Private Property, Public Administration, and the Rule of Law (Harvard University Press, 2011), The Case Against the Employee Free Choice Act (Hoover Press, 2009), and Supreme Neglect: How to Revive The Constitutional Protection for Private Property (Oxford University Press, 2008).

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Law’s Epstein Takes a Classical Liberal View of Constitution in New Book

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