Unintended Consequences and the Bill of Rights
As you know, I’m working on a book about the Bill of Rights. The book is currently in publisher’s limbo, by which I mean that I’ve turned in the first draft and am waiting for the manuscript to be returned to me for the next round of changes. Until then, what will I be mulling over?
First, I want to see what (if anything) President Trump has to say about the Bill of Rights. My book ends with Bush 41’s speech in 1991 marking the bicentennial of the Bill of Rights. (I’ve posted about that speech before.) Since then, there really haven’t been any significant presidential statements on the Bill of Rights, and no real celebration was held to mark the 225th anniversary of ratification this past December. But maybe the new President will say something that I will need to include.
Second, I’m wondering about a question posed by one reader of the draft. To what extent was the expansion of civil liberties in the 1940s an unintended consequence of the way in which FDR talked about the Bill of Rights? One argument in the book is that Roosevelt often used and emphasize the Bill of Rights to justify the New Deal and the growth of federal power to fight World War II. If that’s true, then couldn’t you say that the wider embrace of the term and of the first set of amendments for a different purpose was in part an accident. I think my answer is “kind of,” but I need to give that more thought.