The Tyranny of the Constitution without the Declaration
May 9, 2014 - 2:08 pm
Can the U.S. Constitution be understood independent of the principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence?
Does the Constitution exist to protect democracy, or do democratic elements of the republic exist to protect individual liberty?
Is it possible that critics of “judicial activism” on the Right and Left have mistaken their personal preferences for Constitutionality?
Should judges defer to legislatures because the latter are “of the people,” and legislative mistakes are easier to clean up than judicial precedents?
In “The Conscience of the Constitution: The Declaration of Independence and the Right to Liberty,” Timothy Sandefur grapples with these and related questions by setting the Constitution in the context of the Declaration. He maintains that the former cannot be properly understood or applied without the principles of individual liberty espoused in the latter.
‘Progressives’, on the Right and Left, have convinced several generations of Americans that the Constitution favors majoritarianism over individual rights, democracy over liberty. Sandefur, however, says that legislatures incline toward tyranny as easily as monarchs do, and that courts see their role properly when they restrain lawmakers within the bounds of the Constitution as seen through the lens of the Declaration.
‘The Conscience of the Constitution’ makes a compelling, thoughtful case, in accessible and vigorous prose, that we need to return to a jurisprudence–as well as a framework for lawmaking and implementation–that couples these two founding documents.