Tuesday, May 29, 2007
A Review of Bruce Ackerman's Holmes Lectures, "The Living Constitution", Part One
My colleague Bruce Ackerman's Holmes Lectures have now been published in the Harvard Law Review as "The Living Constitution," 120 Harv. L. Rev. 1737 (2007). In my view, this is scholarly innovation of the first rank, as important as any in this very distinguished series of lectures. As I describe the major themes in this review, you will instantly see that they raise a new agenda for discussion about constitutional law and constitutional theory. They are generative scholarship in the best sense.
What about the nearly-forgotten Civil Rights Act of 1957? It was not as sweeping as the 1964 bill, but Sen. LBJ managed to break the Southern filibuster threat to get the first civil rights bill enacted since Reconstruction, paving the way for what followed. Maybe the 1957 and 1964 bills can be viewed as two parts of a slowly unfolding but singular event, solving the problem of the excessive time that elapsed after Brown's claimed trigger.
So how can this be a ratifying election for the Civil Rights Revolution? I'll offer the answer in tomorrow's installment.
Oooh, a cliffhanger! Are you joining the ranks of YLS novelists, Prof Balkin?
I may be anticipating future posts, but having just read Ackerman's article, a major point he makes, over and above the issue of the validity of his model with respect to the civil rights revolution, is that he upholds the separation of powers as the key to the virtues and effectiveness of our government. I wonder how he would react to Edward Rubin's critique of the notion or metaphor of the separation of powers and the tripartite structure of government in his book Beyond Camelot. Rubin trashes the whole metaphor as unproductive and misleading in the effort to accurately describe the nature of modern government. In its place he suggests the metaphor of a network of interacting agents as a metaphor with less historical baggage that just does not apply to the modern world. His suggestions would require a major reconceptualization of what our government is. How would this affect Ackerman's argument?
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