America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance
October 19, 2012
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes constitutional scholar SANFORD LEVINSON for a discussion of his book Framed: America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance.
In Framed, Levinson challenges our belief that the most important features of our constitutions concern what rights they protect. Instead, he focuses on the fundamental procedures of governance such as congressional bicameralism; the selection of the President by the electoral college, or the dimensions of the President's veto power, not to mention the near impossibility of amending the United States Constitution. These seemingly "settled" and "hardwired" structures contribute to the now almost universally recognized "dysfunctionality" of American politics.
Levinson argues that we should stop treating the United States Constitution as uniquely exemplifying the American constitutional tradition. We should be aware of the 50 state constitutions, often interestingly different, and perhaps better, than the national model. Many states have updated their constitutions by frequent amendment or by complete replacement via state constitutional conventions. California's ungovernable condition has prompted serious calls for a constitutional convention. This constant churn indicates that basic law often reaches the point where it fails and becomes obsolete. Given the experience of so many states, he writes, surely it is reasonable to believe that the U.S. Constitution merits its own updating.
"From America's greatest revolutionary constitutionalist, a profoundly important book, that will be at the center of the next reform movement." —Lawrence Lessig, author of Republic, Lost
"Anyone who cares about America's future should read Sandy Levinson's book. His fresh thinking illuminates old debates and his understanding of political nuance gives power to his analysis. You don't have to agree with him to know you are in the presence of a scholar who is a constitutional giant." —Senator Bill Bradley
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