Balkin on Barnett’s New Book

See Jack Balkin’s review here. Even though I sympathize more with Randy Barnett’s vision, I think Balkin’s critique, which is more linguistic, is strong. A taste:

On SSRN, I’ve published a draft of Which Republican Constitution?, a review of Randy Barnett’s new book, Our Republican Constitution. The article is part of a conference on the book held in March at the University of Illinois, and will be published in Constitutional Commentary. Here is the abstract:

Randy Barnett argues that the American political tradition, understood in its best light, features a “Republican Constitution.” But Barnett’s version of “republicanism” has relatively little to do with the historical tradition of republicanism, a tradition that celebrates the common good; seeks to inculcate civic virtue; opposes aristocracy, oligarchy, and corruption; understands liberty not as mere negative freedom but as non-domination; connects civil rights to civic duties; and demands a government which derives its powers from and is ultimately responsive to the great body of the people.

Instead, Barnett’s “Republican Constitution” is far closer to what most historians of the Founding would regard as the opposite or complement of the republican tradition. This is the tradition of natural rights liberalism, which begins with John Locke and evolves into classical liberalism in the nineteenth century. …

This parallels what I’ve been reflecting on, of late. There were tensions within the synthesis of originalism. The American Founding had a “liberal” ideological component, and a “republican” component. (And some others.) Libertarianism/laissez faire economics is more consonant with the “liberal” ideology of the American Founding. The “republican” ideology of that era was arguably more collectivistic and economically egalitarian.

Jon Rowe

Jon Rowe is a full Professor of Business at Mercer County Community College, where he teaches business, law, and legal issues relating to politics. Of course, his views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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2 Responses

  1. In light of the linked discussion at American Creation [1], it’s interesting that “United States” translates into Hebrew as “The Lands of the Covenant” [2].

    1. Why is it that official Christian views of the Hebrew Bible are so often Loony Tunes?

    2. Artzot ha-brit, and yes, that’s the same “brit” as in circumcision. We’re not just the top country, we’re the tip-top.

  2. Jon Rowe says:

    To answer question 1, orthodox Christians would say that the Old Testament is to be interpreted in light of the New. Though “Americanism” is not a particularly orthodox doctrine, even if believed in by folks who believe in the other historically orthodox things.