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Framed: America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance [Hardcover]

Sanford Levinson

Price: CDN$ 29.95 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

April 17 2012
In his widely acclaimed volume Our Undemocratic Constitution, Sanford Levinson boldly argued that our Constitution should not be treated with "sanctimonious reverence," but as a badly flawed document deserving revision. Now Levinson takes us deeper, asking what were the original assumptions underlying our institutions, and whether we accept those assumptions 225 years later. In Framed, Levinson challenges our belief that the most important features of our constitutions concern what rights they protect. Instead, he focuses on the fundamental procedures of governance such as congressional bicameralism; the selection of the President by the electoral college, or the dimensions of the President's veto power--not to mention the near impossibility of amending the United States Constitution. These seemingly "settled" and "hardwired" structures contribute to the now almost universally recognized "dysfunctionality" of American politics. Levinson argues that we should stop treating the United States Constitution as uniquely exemplifying the American constitutional tradition. We should be aware of the 50 state constitutions, often interestingly different - and perhaps better - than the national model. Many states have updated their constitutions by frequent amendment or by complete replacement via state constitutional conventions. California's ungovernable condition has prompted serious calls for a constitutional convention. This constant churn indicates that basic law often reaches the point where it fails and becomes obsolete. Given the experience of so many states, he writes, surely it is reasonable to believe that the U.S. Constitution merits its own updating. Whether we are concerned about making America more genuinely democratic or only about creating a system of government that can more effectively respond to contemporary challenges, we must confront the ways our constitutions, especially the United States Constitution, must be changed in fundamental ways.

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Review


"From America's greatest revolutionary constitutionalist, a profoundly important book, that will be at the center of the next reform movement."--Lawrence Lessig, author of Republic, Lost


"Anyone who cares about America's future should read Sandy Levinson's book. His fresh thinking illuminates old debates and his understanding of political nuance gives power to his analysis. You don't have to agree with him to know you are in the presence of a scholar who is a constitutional giant." --Senator Bill Bradley


"Sandy Levinson has authored an important, and cautionary, book-one that needs to be read as much by those who disagree with him as by those who share his analysis." --Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Professor of Law, University of Tennessee College of Law, founder of Instapundit


"I've been Framed! Levinson sparks a long-overdue conversation about the relationship between America's current governing crisis and the American Constitution-or rather, 'constitutions,' since he takes the unusual and valuable step of looking at state constitutions as well. His message: Pay attention to the 'Constitution of Settlement,' the established rules of the political game, not just the 'Constitution of Conversation' that sparks continuing legal dispute. It is a measure of the success of his stimulating book that he makes what once seemed settled appear newly ripe for debate." --Jacob S. Hacker, Stanley Resor Professor of Political Science, Yale University; co-author, Winner-Take-All Politics


"The most remarkable feature of Levinson's most remarkable book is his effort to place himself and his readers in the positions of the founding fathers and the founding generation." --Tulsa Law Review


About the Author

Sanford Levinson is Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Texas-Austin. His books include Our Undemocratic Constitution, Constitutional Faith, and Wrestling with Diversity.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I had hoped for March 20 2014
By Jim Bruner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Alas, Levinson's discussion of this immense problem is limited to a couple of pages of Chapter 1. On page 29, he even lets another author, Daniel Rodriquez, define the problem: "[T]he basic range of policies and policy choices made by state and local officials dwarf (sic)--indeed always have dwarfed (sic)--national political activity." Ever since Tip O'Neill said, "All politics is local," that has been my observation, and why it should be a mystery to any other serious student of American history is beyond me.
In our dysfunctional national legislative family, 50 squabbling children (mostly bicameral state legislatures) individually devise their own conflicting "playground rules" and pry "lunch money" from their citizens (and then petition Congress via the IRS Form 1040, Schedule A to refund part of it), even though the U.S. Constitution gives only Congress the right to tax (and specifically only incomes at that). Not satisfied with salaries and perks provided by the IRS, the members of the parent Congress engorge themselves on generous "campaign contributions" from corporate members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has no allegiance to any state, and (given its tendency to hide profits offshore) probably not to the nation, either.
The U.S. Constitution, as currently interpreted, allows greedy corporate entities like ALEC to methodically divide and conquer ignorant voters in the 50 states while the peasants anxiously and sporadically watch the DC media circus, hoping that Congress will somehow save them from their own folly.
Most Americans don't know enough math or have enough patience to file their own tax returns, let alone realize when snake-oil salesmen are taking them to the cleaners, and none of our 51 constitutions offer them much protection. No wonder we have income inequality.
This is why we need to scrap all of our constitutions and start over.
8 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Fundamental Reform May 9 2012
By Publius - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
You want fundamental Constitutional reform? This book is amazing. It builds off of Levinson's last book, which is also fantastic (5 stars) -- Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (And How We the People Can Correct It). Spoiler: he proposes the same solution. (i.e., a Constitutional Convention by a group of people picked by a lottery -- with many other great suggestions).
4 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Contrary to expectations, no frame included Sept. 26 2012
By M. Heiss - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I was going to add this item to my wall display of attractively lettered documents:

Aunt Jody's homemade Christmas Card from 2007...
That YIELD sign from the construction zone on the corner...
The Equal Opportunity Guidelines from the bulletin board at work (en Espanol)...
and my collage of labels from containers of Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 gallon, 128 fl oz. Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl oz

With a name like this, one naturally expects the item to come FRAMED. This is misleading. You have to supply your own frame.

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