Freedom and the Burden of Proof: Randy Barnett's New Book on the Constitution
Independent Review, Vol. 10, p. 139, 2005
In Restoring 'The Lost Constitution', Randy Barnett makes two main arguments: (1) that the legitimacy of a Constitution does not hinge on the consent of the governed, but on the degree to which the government respects the rights of the non-consenting; (2) that a constitutional theory should presume in favor of liberty, requiring advocates of government intervention to justify their position. (Current law holds the opposite, requiring those challenging the constitutionality of a law to bear the burden of proving its unconstitutionality.)
Although Barnett makes compelling arguments for his theses, they could be supported more strongly by legal history than he seems to be aware. Specifically, I argue that the debate between the current presumption in favor of government, and Barnett's presumption of liberty, can be traced to the difference between the Lockean ideas of the founders and the ideas of William Blackstone, which gained popularity during the nineteenth century.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 10
Keywords: Randy E. Barnett, Barnett, Restoring The Lost Constitution, sovereignty, Blackstone, limited government, substantive due process, Calder, Sharpless, Billings
JEL Classification: K10, K30, K40
Date posted: July 28, 2005