Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Wisdom of Raoul Berger


Both Kevin Gutzman and I have offered a substantial reading list for our constitutional history course at Liberty Classroom, but for those who have not had the time to delve into some of the volumes, I thought I would offer a few quotations from two of the books I recommended for the course, both by Raoul Berger. Berger was arguably the most important and misunderstood legal scholar of the late twentieth century. The left loved him during Watergate, but they could not understand how his withering assault on executive privilege could mesh with his equally devastating attack on the Earl Warren Court and the incorporation of the 14th Amendment during the Civil Rights era. Berger disliked modern political labels and vigorously denied he was either a liberal or a conservative.

Rather, he was what I call an American traditionalist in favor of the federal republic of the founding generation, a republican in the Jeffersonian mold. Most important, Berger was a real scholar.

His books are hard to find and often pricey, but many academic libraries still carry several of his works, and they are a must read for anyone interested in an originalist perspective. Let these few remarks serve to whet your appetite.

From Executive Privilege: A Constitutional Myth:

“Executive privilege—the President’s claim of constitutional authority to withhold information from Congress—is a myth.”

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