April 27th, 2006

Books!

Interesting ...

I've had this book sitting around since the middle of the Klinton regime (when I was certain those bastards would ban all access to the Constitution ... I figured I needed a copy in my possession), but it didn't suggest itself for the "current read" pile until just recently (perhaps by this was the trigger). Anyway, I figured, what good is a Libertarian if he doesn't have easy access to the Constitution, right?

Well, Harold J. Spaeth's The Constitution of the United States is a bit of a strange duck. One would think that a book so titled would, perhaps, concentrate most of its verbiage on the Constitution ... however, Spaeth's book spends only the first 10% or so discussing it, then devotes the next 70% to looking at how the Supreme Court has interfaced with it over the years (up to 1990, this being the 1991 edition). The actual Constitution itself is buried back in Appendix F, stuck between a couple of editions of The Federalist and the Confederate Constitution!

Frankly, I would have been MUCH more interested in this had the focus been on the materials dumped in the back ... the Virginia Bill of Rights of (1776), the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Articles of Confederation (1781), The Federalist #10 (1787), The Federalist #51 (1788), the U.S. Constitution (1789), and the C.S. Constitution (1861). While he does, briefly touch on the antecedents of the Constitution and the fight over Federalism, this would have been a far better book had the thrust been on how the Constitution got to be the way it is, with comparisons to similar documents, rather than a look at what the Supreme Court has done with it. It's almost "false advertising" that there is NO mention of the Supreme Court on the cover, as this is not a book about the Constitution, but about how the Court has interpreted it in various cases in assorted "topics" over the years ... a more honest title would have been something like "The Supreme Court's approach to The Constitution" or something along those lines

Of course, the fact that Spaeth "wears his Leftism on his sleeve" for most of the book (sneering at Conservative judges/decisions and waxing into breathless enthusiasm for the most radical of the 60's judicial excesses) didn't help my enjoyment of it. I have since discovered that the author is a member of the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee, so his is hardly a neutral voice! On the plus side, it's written for college students, so it's at about the 8th grade reading level ... which made it (up until the documents in the Appendices, of course), a quick and easy read.

Now, I probably read the Constitution somewhere back in High School, but the details hardly stayed with me ... what struck me, however, was the economy of words .. I'm not sure if "terseness" or "brevity" fits, but when you have the Second Amendment (in total) say:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."
It hardly leaves much "wiggle room" ... which makes me wonder what part of "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms" or "shall not be infringed" the anti-gun Leftists can't get! You can't have an effective Militia unless you can assemble armed citizens. Of course, the Lefties think everything comes from the Government so they try to argue that the Militia is something somehow provided BY the Government, rather than being a safeguard that the People have against excesses OF the Government.

Anyway ... I can't much recommend this one ... I'm sure there are better books on the Constitution out there. It is perhaps telling, that while this is still in print (it is, after all, in the HarperCollins College Outline series, so is no doubt being used as a text book), this 13th edition, from 1991, was the last update. If the idea of a Leftist review of Supreme Court decisions sounds yummy to you, it can be had new from the usual suspects for as little as a buck seventy five. I'd recommend a cup of coffee instead.


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