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Posts Tagged ‘Akhil Reed Amar’

4 guysTalk radio, poisonous emails, and Fox News are pesticides killing our understanding of what it means to believe in the American way of government.  To rid ourselves of these destructive chemicals we must educate ourselves in our history and culture.  While they make noise, we should reserve judgement until we are well grounded.  A superb starting point is Akhil Reed Amar, America’s Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live By.

The premise of the book is clear, “America’s unwritten Constitution encompasses not only rules specifying the substantive content of the nation’s supreme law but also rules clarifying the methods for determining the meaning of this supreme law.  Since the written Constitution does not come with a complete set of instructions about how it should be construed, we must go beyond the text to make sense of the text.”

The men most influential in molding the unwritten Constitution were William Blackstone, George Washington, John Marshall, and Earl Warren, each unique and fortuitous in time and role.  The birthing of the written Constitution sheds light on the fundamental principles of our government more so than any time since its ratification.  A quiet return to the study of our history will bring rich rewards in understanding past and present leaders, events, successes, failures, and public responses.

“Precisely,” writes the author in his Afterword, “because America’s unwritten Constitution and America’s written Constitution fit together to form a single system, no proper account of the former should ever lose sight of the latter: The terse text is inextricably intertwined with the implicit principles, the ordaining deeds, the lived customs, the landmark cases, the unifying symbols, the legitimating democratic theories, the institutional settlements, the framework statutes, the two-party ground rules, the appeals to conscience, the state-constitutional counterparts, and the unfinished agenda items that form much of American’s unwritten Constitution.”  Charles Marlin

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