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Book Review: Kramer’s The People Themselves: Popular Constitutionalism and Judicial Review

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3 Responses

  1. Excellent review.

    There are any number of compelling reasons one should not be persuaded by the arguments of “popular constituitonalists” like Larry Kramer (or Mark Tushnet), and you cite several here. Others would include the wider arguments raised against the goals and proposals of participatory and (most) deliberative democratic theorists (Robert Goodin’s model of ‘democratic deliberation within’ being one exception), some of which are made or anticipated in The Federalist Papers. Popular constitutionalism comes dangerously close to “opinion poll” democracy and its remote chances for plausibility depend upon a public extremely well-educated or intelligent, with ample and well-directed leisure time, including sufficient motivation by values and principles that extend beyond a familial focus on materially “making it.” It’s not that “self-interests” are not linked to more public ones, it’s just that an ability to understand the complex causal mechanisms at work in such linkages appears, at our time and place, to be well beyond the cognitive capacity of the hoi polloi (the Tea Party mentality being the most egregious instance of this), hence the misplaced and deeply ignorant fulminations directed against “big government” and the widespread inability to understand the nature of our economic system. This sort of onstitutional tinkering fails to get to the heart of what ails us, both individually and collectively.

  2. Anon in SF says:

    I’m confused. Why are you writing — and this website running — a review of Dean Kramer’s book, now six years old? The review may be great. Or not. That’s a different question. I’m just curious what’s behind this post. It’s not as if the book didn’t get serious attention when it came out — again, six years ago.

  3. ANKLYN says:

    Anon in SF asks the right question. What’s next: A review of Democracy & Distrust?