There's not a lot about the Constitution, per se, in "The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution." Most everyone knows the structural stuff -- three branches, elections in November, blah blah -- and the rest ... well, the rest hardly matters anymore.
Thomas Woods has already produced an excellent "Politically Incorrect Guide to American History," but "The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution" necessarily includes a good deal of history to explain why we've reached that point. The fundamental point of Kevin Gutzman's outstanding book is that "constitutional law" as understood and taught in the US has little if anything to do with the document adopted on September 17, 1787, and ratified by the several states over the next three years. Instead, "constitutional law" is the body of decisions and "interpretations" issued by the Supreme Court and lower courts. It's this idea of "law," and the impact it has had on the republic the founders created, that is the real object of Gutzman's study.
The resulting book is spirited, opinionated, and remarkably informative. Out of more than two centuries of jurisprudence, the author has isolated some important themes and trends. Long after the Federalist Party was dead and buried, John Marshall and his intellectual heirs have succeeded in achieving the arch-Federalist goal, Gutzman argues, of turning a confederation of sovereign states into a centralized nation, and replacing "the authority of elected state governments with the authority of a few lawyers, appointed by a president to positions of lifetime tenure without any check on their power" (p. 86).
Along the way, he introduces us to some key personalities and calls out some important suggested reading. Most importantly, he gives us chapter-and-verse examples of how courts, particularly the Supreme Court, have twisted, distorted, "interpreted," or ignored the clear language of the Constitution to gild judges' own opinions with the luster of "constitutional law."
By making these arguments and charting these trends, Gutzman is taking on generations of America's legal establishment, as well as the received wisdom of most citizens that the word of the federal Supreme Court is final and that's just the way it's supposed to be. A reader who takes Gutzman's work seriously (and she should), may well end up both outraged and convinced that achieving any fundamental change would be an exceptionally Sisyphean task. Certainly it should make her sympathetic to the great American abolitionist and anarchist philosopher Lysander Spooner, who wrote way back in 1870 that "whether the Constitution really be one thing or another, this much is certain -- that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist."
Today is Constitution Day. Take a moment to remember what was meant to be, and what could have been.
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
Andrew S. Rogers (Cascadian)
Mostly, I'm a moderately prolific Amazon.com reviewer who's giving Lunch a try as another venue for my reviews.
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.
In The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution, readers will follow the Supreme Court as it uses the Constitution as a fig leaf to cover its blatant seizing of the people's right to govern themselves through elections. Gutzman unveils the radical inconsistency between constitutional law and the rule of law, and shows why and how the Supreme Court should be reined in to the proper role assigned to it by the Founders.