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The Classical Liberal Constitution

The Classical Liberal Constitution

The Uncertain Quest for Limited Government

Richard A. Epstein

ISBN 9780674975460

Publication date: 03/20/2017

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American liberals and conservatives alike take for granted a progressive view of the Constitution that took root in the early twentieth century. Richard Epstein laments this complacency which, he believes, explains America’s current economic malaise and political gridlock. Steering clear of well-worn debates between defenders of originalism and proponents of a living Constitution, Epstein employs close textual reading, historical analysis, and political and economic theory to urge a return to the classical liberal theory of governance that animated the framers’ original text, and to the limited government this theory supports.

“[An] important and learned book.”
—Gary L. McDowell, Times Literary Supplement

“Epstein has now produced a full-scale and full-throated defense of his unusual vision of the Constitution. This book is his magnum opus…Much of his book consists of comprehensive and exceptionally detailed accounts of how constitutional provisions ought to be understood…All of Epstein’s particular discussions are instructive, and most of them are provocative…Epstein has written a passionate, learned, and committed book.”
—Cass R. Sunstein, New Republic


  • Over the past three decades, Richard A. Epstein has repeatedly argued—with analytical rigor and astonishing erudition—that governments govern best when they limit their actions to protecting liberty and property…Mr. Epstein believes that constitutional law lost its way when it began to embrace a Progressive vision, according to which rights are created by a supposedly benevolent state…[He] vividly shows us how constitutional law would look if we gave priority to individual rights—something that we have not done for almost a century.

    —Wall Street Journal


  • Richard A. Epstein is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Law and Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of, among other books, Takings: Private Property and the Power of Eminent Domain; Simple Rules for a Complex World; Design for Liberty: Private Property, Public Administration, and the Rule of Law; and The Dubious Morality of Modern Administrative Law.

Book Details

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

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