A Constitutional Studies Reading List
Prepared by Roger Pilon
Read This First
- The Purpose and Limits of Government by Roger Pilon (Cato’s Letters, No. 13, 1999)
Explicates the theory of the Declaration of Independence, how that theory is manifest in the Constitution, and what has happened to it in the last 200 years.
On the Principles of Constitutional Government
- “Freedom, Responsibility, and the Constitution: On Recovering Our Founding Principles” by Roger Pilon (68 Notre Dame Law Review 507, 1993)
A more detailed discussion of the Constitution: its principles, its history, and the ideas behind that history.
- “Foreword: Restoring Constitutional Government” by Roger Pilon (2001-2002 Cato Supreme Court Review, p. vii)
Discusses how to restore the first principles of the Constitution.
- Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty by Randy Barnett (Princeton University Press, 2004)
An in-depth, scholarly work that argues that the Constitution establishes a government of enumerated, limited powers, with a presumption of liberty for those powers not specifically delegated to government.
On the History of Limited Government in America
- The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America (Cato Institute edition, 1998)
The documents that launched the American experiment in republican government.
- The Federalist Papers edited by Charles R. Kesler (Signet, 2003)
Hamilton, Madison, and Jay on the original understanding of the Constitution.
- The “Higher Law” Background of American Constitutional Law by Edward S. Corwin (Cornell University Press, 1955)
Traces the development of natural law from antiquity to the Constitution, with special emphasis on the common law.
- Congress as Santa Claus by Charles Warren (Michie, 1932)
A delightful discussion of the meaning, use, and abuse of the Constitution’s General Welfare clause, written on the eve of the New Deal.
- The Supreme Court Reborn: The Constitutional Revolution in the Age of Roosevelt by William E. Leuchtenburg (Oxford University Press, 1995)
Discusses the impact of Franklin Roosevelt’s Court-packing scheme.
On the Philosophical Foundations of Limited Government
- Two Treatises of Government by John Locke (Peter Laslett, ed., Cambridge University Press, 1960)
This discussion of rights, of property, and of the social contract remains the locus classicus of the American experiment.
- Anarchy, State, and Utopia by Robert Nozick (Basic Books, 1974)
A sophisticated defense of the libertarian vision, a devastating critique of statism, and a subtle exploration of the foundations of legitimacy.
- Reason and Morality by Alan Gewirth (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1978)
A sophisticated refutation of moral skepticism and robust development of the theory of rights
On Specific Issues of Constitutional Interpretation
- Grassroots Tyranny: The Limits of Federalism by Clint Bolick (Cato Institute, 1993)
A readable review of state and local tyranny and a call for the kind of federalism that was meant to limit both federal and state abuses of liberty.
- “Reviving the Privileges or Immunities Clause to Redress the Balance Among States, Individuals, and the Federal Government” by Kimberly C. Shankman and Roger Pilon (Policy Analysis No. 326, November 23, 1998)
A detailed discussion of the changes wrought when the Declaration’s principles were finally incorporated in the Constitution through the Civil War Amendments, and how today both liberals and conservatives misunderstand and misapply those principles.
- “The Original Meaning of the Commerce Clause” by Randy E. Barnett (68 Univ. of Chicago Law Review vol. 68, p. 101, 2001)
How the modern regulatory state grew out of a misreading of the Commerce Clause.
- “The Proper Scope of the Commerce Power” by Richard A. Epstein ( Virginia Law Review , vol 73, p. 1387, 1987)
A detailed history of the growth of the commerce power.
- “The ‘Proper’ Scope of Federal Power: A Jurisdictional Interpretation of the Sweeping Clause” by Gary Lawson and Patricia B. Granger ( Duke Law Journal , vol 43, p. 267, 1993)
A discussion of the Necessary and Proper Clause through which the federal government finds the means to do what it does.
- Takings: Private Property and the Power of Eminent Domain by Richard A. Epstein (Harvard University Press, 1985)
A sophisticated, wide-ranging treatment of property rights and the modern problem of regulatory takings.
- Economic Liberties and the Constitution by Bernard H. Siegan (University of Chicago Press, 1980)
A history of the demise of constitutional protection for economic liberties.
- Power Without Responsibility: How Congress Abuses the People Through Delegation by David Schoenbrod (Yale University Press, 1993)
How Congress shirks its responsibility and violates the constitution by delegating its legislative authority to unelected bureaucrats.