Saturday, June 25, 2005

'An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States' Rears Its Ugly Head

My friend Jess and I hid a note for all posterity in what we determined was the most boring book in the high school library. This is the second time in the last year I have found a prominent reference to it.
For the past hundred years the attack on private property has been central to the Progressive assault on the Constitution, beginning with J. Allen Smith's The Spirit of American Government (1907) and continuing most importantly with Charles Beard's An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution (1913). Smith and Beard portrayed the constitutional protection of private property by the founders as the weapon of an elite interested in preserving its privilege. (By the time scholars got around to debunking Beard's book in particular -- few serious works of history have been as definitively disproved as Beard's -- the damage had been done.) Today the Progressive assault on property rights continues in the scholarship of liberals such as University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein.

At least I can say this: When it came to mocking books, we had good taste.

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