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Constitutional Myths: What We Get Wrong and How to Get it Right, Ray Raphael

Reviewed by Ken I. Kersch



While Americans are obsessed with their Constitution’shistory,theyhavea hard time thinking about their Constitution historically. Constitutional Myths is less concerned with substantive misunderstandings than with meta‐myths involving ahistorical appeals to the Founding. While framed as a debunking, the book packs an affirmative punch, arguing that there is no inconsistency between taking the Founding as a touchstone and a strong activist government commitment to working pragmatically to meet the challenges of its time.

After lamenting that today the Constitution is being used to divide rather than unite, the author sets out to explain what the Founders did in their own eyes and how and why later generations have disregarded that to forge a succession of “phantom constitutions” (p. xiii). Recently, eight myths have served: 1) the Framers opposed a strong federal government; 2) the Framers hated taxes; 3) the Framers were impartial statesmen, above interest‐driven politics; 4) the Framers were guided by clear principles of limited government; 5) James Madison sired the Constitution; 6) The Federalist Papers tell us what the Constitution really means; 7) the Founders gave us the Bill of Rights; and 8) we can determine how specific provisions of the Constitution should be applied today by discovering their original intent or meaning. In each chap

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