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The Upside-Down Constitution

The Upside-Down Constitution

Michael S. Greve

ISBN 9780674061910

Publication date: 02/29/2012

Over the course of the nation’s history, the Constitution has been turned upside-down, Michael Greve argues in this provocative book. The Constitution’s vision of a federalism in which local, state, and federal government compete to satisfy the preferences of individuals has given way to a cooperative, cartelized federalism that enables interest groups to leverage power at every level for their own benefit. Greve traces this inversion from the Constitution’s founding through today, dispelling much received wisdom along the way.

The Upside-Down Constitution shows how federalism’s transformation was a response to states’ demands, not an imposition on them. From the nineteenth-century judicial elaboration of a competitive federal order, to the New Deal transformation, to the contemporary Supreme Court’s impoverished understanding of constitutional structure, and the “devolution” in vogue today, Greve describes a trend that will lead to more government and fiscal profligacy, not less. Taking aim at both the progressive heirs of the New Deal and the vocal originalists of our own time, The Upside-Down Constitution explains why the current fiscal crisis will soon compel a fundamental renegotiation of a new federalism grounded in constitutional principles.


  • Michael Greve has written the best book on American federalism in years. One need not agree with his general argument in order to find constant stimulation and illumination in every chapter. No one interested in American constitutional development (and its future) can afford to ignore this book.

    —Sanford Levinson, author of Framed: America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance


  • Michael S. Greve is the John G. Searle Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

Book Details

  • 528 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press