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Video: Richard Epstein defends the ‘classical liberal’ Constitution

September 11, 2014 by NCC Staff


Richard Epstein, Jeffrey Rosen and Theodore Ruger
Richard Epstein, Jeffrey Rosen and Theodore Ruger

What does the Constitution mean, and how do we know? NYU Law School’s Richard Epstein joined the National Constitution Center’s Jeffrey Rosen and Penn Law School’s Theodore Ruger for a lively examination of the “classical liberal” approach to constitutional interpretation.


A graduate of Yale Law School and a fellow at the Hoover Institution, Epstein is also the founding director of the Classical Liberal Institute at NYU. His research spans a broad array of disciplines, including law, economics, history and philosophy.


Epstein’s most recent book, The Classical Liberal Constitution: The Uncertain Quest for Limited Government, seeks to explain and defend his theory of constitutional understanding.


In his conversation with Rosen and Ruger, Epstein covered a wide range of topics. From health care to the environment to campaign finance and beyond, the influential scholar didn’t shy away from big questions.


On the traditional conservative approach to constitutional interpretation: “To say that you believe in the fidelity to text and that you believe in narrow interpretation essentially puts two ideas into tension with one another.”

On the Supreme Court decision that upheld the Affordable Care Act: “Justice Roberts’ opinion is just an intellectual blunder of the first order.”

On his favorite Justice of all time, Mahlon Pitney: “He was the most consistent classical liberal.”

On the Court’s ruling in Citizens United: “This is, in my view, a very easy case. Scalia’s opinion here is, I think, quite strong.”

On amending the Constitution: “What I would try to do is to pick the three or four things that I think are the biggest weaknesses and say ‘don’t do it.’”

Watch the full program below.

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