Cato’s Eternal Vigilance

Today is Constitution Day, when all educational institutions are supposed to teach something about our founding document and when all citizens should think about the liberty that is so precious, but that requires, as Jefferson said, eternal vigilance.  We at Cato celebrate Constitution Day with our annual symposium – this year held yesterday so as to accommodate Yom Kippur, which begins tonight – and by releasing the Cato Supreme Court Review, the nation’s first in-depth review of the Supreme Court term just ended.

We’ve now had nine such conferences – which take place about two and a half months after the previous term concludes and two weeks before the next one begins – and published nine such volumes.  We are proud of the speed with which we publish the Review – authors of articles about the last-decided cases have little more than a month to provide us full drafts – and of the tome’s accessibility, at least insofar as the Court’s opinions allow for that.  Both the book and the conference are intended for everyone from lawyers to educated laymen and interested citizens.

I hope that our Constitution Day event and the Review’s collection of essays will deepen and promote the Madisonian first principles of our Constitution, giving renewed voice to the Framers’ fervent wish that we have a government of laws and not of men.  In so doing, we hope also to do justice to a rich legal tradition in which judges, politicians, and ordinary citizens alike understood that the Constitution reflects and protects the natural rights to life, liberty, and property – including The Right to Earn a Living, to quote the title of a new book by my friend and Cato adjunct scholar Timothy Sandefur (for which we’re having a Hill briefing today and book forum Monday) – and serves as a bulwark against the abuse of government power.

In this uncertain time of individual mandates, endless “stimulus,” financial “reform,” and general overreach, it is more important than ever to remember our Constitution’s roots in the Enlightenment tradition.