« Joel Alicea: The Moral Authority of Original Meaning
Michael Ramsey
| Main | Helen White & Cameron Kistler on Originalism and Meaning of State Legislatures
Michael Ramsey »

03/05/2022

Eric Segall on Adrian Vermuele's "Common Good Constitutionalism"
Michael Ramsey

At Dorf on Law, Eric Segall: Ten Observations About Adrian Vermeule's Book "Common Good Constitutionalism" 

Professor Adrian Vermeule of Harvard Law School is somewhat of a polarizing figure whose opposition to gay rights and same-sex marriage are, to this writer, unpersuasive and troubling. But those subjects make up only a tiny portion of his new book "Common Good Constitutionalism." On many matters of public policy and constitutional law, Vermeule's suggestions are, and he will hate this word, progressive. More importantly, his book contains a devastating critique of the never-ending debates between originalists and living constitutionalists--debates that have not furthered constitutional discourse in a helpful manner. We must stop dismissing people because we disagree with some of their ideas.

I have been attacked on Twitter for taking this book seriously. Some of those charges suggest that, because the man himself has said this or that allegedly offensive thing in the past, his book should be ignored. But I am discussing the book, not the man. Without minimizing my strong disagreements with Vermeule on some fundamental issues, the book is important and valuable because it presents a smart, sophisticated, and fresh (he would likely say ancient) perspective on the law. As a law professor, why wouldn't I be interested?

This blog post is not a full blown review. I will be writing one of those for the law reviews or some other forum. This post is motivated by my desire to wrestle with and learn from people with whom I disagree on some core matters and my belief that people shouldn't judge a book until they actually read it. There is so much for everyone in the book's 184 pages (before the footnotes).

Below are ten observations about "Common Good Constitutionalism" that I hope will motivate some people to read it....

I think they'll motivate originalists to distrust the book even more than they already do.  But they should read it anyway.