Morality, Political Economy and American Constitutionalism
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Morality, Political Economy and American Constitutionalism

Timothy P. Roth

The Founders of the American Republic set up a remarkable experiment in self-government. Today, debates rage as to the philosophical legacy of this ongoing experiment. In this fascinating study, Timothy Roth offers a critical analysis of modern liberalism and the economic theory to which it is conjoined – social welfare theory.
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Chapter 4: The Public Philosophy of Modern America

Timothy P. Roth


4.1 Introduction George W. Carey is a Professor of Government at Georgetown University. He is also an editor of the Gideon edition of The Federalist (Carey and McClellan, 2001), a document that Madison regarded as ‘the most authentic exposition of the text of the federal Constitution, as understood by the Body which prepared & the Authority which accepted it’ ([1825] 1999, p. 808).1 While these are Madison’s words, Jefferson would have agreed ([1825] 1984, p. 479). It is perhaps of some moment then that, writing in 1995, Carey observed that What seems increasingly clear in recent decades is that the [constitutional] revisionists … have given primacy to ends over means; that is, their commitment to majority rule is secondary to their commitment to democratic ends which, to a great extent, come down to egalitarianism mixed with virtually unbridled liberty. (1995, p. 4) If the passage is evocative of utilitarianism’s contingent defense of majoritarian democracy (S3.4), it also calls to mind Madison’s concern with ‘legislative encroachments’; with the latitude given by the Supreme Court to the substitution ‘for a definite connection between means and ends, a Legislative discretion as to the former to which no practical limit can be assigned’ ([1819] 1999, p. 734).2 Of immediate interest, however, is Carey’s characterization of what animates the ‘revisionists’: While we cannot explore all the aspects of the relationship between the natural rights school of thought and our contemporary malaise, certain features do merit our attention … . First, let us consider the image of the...

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