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2012 Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture: Spending, Public Debt, and Constitutional Design

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Spending, Public Debt, and Constitutional Design:
2012 Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture
(September 2012)

Download the full booklet as a PDF

WATCH: Michael W. McConnell delivers the 2012 Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture.

In September 2011, AEI president Arthur Brooks announced that henceforth the Program on American Citizenship’s annual Constitution Day celebration would be named in honor of Walter Berns in appreciation of his scholarly legacy in this field and his many years of contributing to the work of AEI.

For more than fifty years, Walter Berns has analyzed the American constitutional order with insight and profundity. Walter’s many works include nine major publications and scores of articles and lectures. He has written several volumes on the Constitution, specifically Freedom,Virtue and the First Amendment (1957), The First Amendment andthe Future of American Democracy (1985), Taking the Constitution Seriously (1987), After the People Vote (1983, 1992, 2004), and Democracyand the Constitution (2006). And, of course, Walter’s legacy extends to the hundreds of students he has taught over the years at Cornell University, the University of Toronto, Colgate University, the University of Chicago, Yale University, Georgetown University, and LouisianaState University; these students’ admiration for and attachment to the American political order was a direct consequence of attending Professor Berns’s courses and lectures.

For the 2012 Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture, Michael W. McConnell, Richard & Frances Mallery Professor and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School, gave an address entitled “Spending, Public Debt, and Constitutional Design.”

Spending and borrowing are often seen as policy issues, not as constitutional ones. But the Constitution’s architects thought long and hard about the democratic tendency to pursue particular votes at the expense of the common good, to favor central government at the expense of the productive hinterlands, and to neglect the long term to curry favor in the present. As the U.S. approaches an unprecedented fiscal crisis, it is worth revisiting the founders’ ideas about the relation between fiscal policy and constitutional design.

Read Professor McConnell’s full remarks here.