The Constitution and Its Critics

In planning a freshman undergraduate curriculum with colleagues recently, the question arose as to what type of understanding we wanted to impart to our students about the Constitution. Is there some practical way to impart a critical understanding of the Constitution in just a very few classes? It turns out there is: Assign the students Sanford Levinson’s Our Undemocratic Constitution, or Robert Dahl’s How Democratic is the American Constitution?, Daniel Lazare’s The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution is Paralyzing Democracy could also serve this purpose. But at the heart of these works are two other types of supposed constitutional defects. Levinson and the other authors are all more or less critical of bicameralism, the presidential veto, and judicial review; the analysis of these institutions is what makes these books especially interesting though sometimes wrongheaded.

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