The Journal of Law & Liberty Annual Symposium: "The Classical Liberal Constitution"

On behalf of The Classical Liberal Institute and the New York University Journal of Law & Liberty, we invite you to today's symposium at New York University School of Law. The topic of the conference will be Professor Richard Epstein’s new book The Classical Liberal Constitution: The Uncertain Quest for Limited Government.

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The conference will bring together legal scholars from around the country to analyze and debate Professor Epstein’s The Classical Liberal Constitution. Professor Epstein employs close textual reading, historical analysis, and political and economic theory to urge a return to the classical liberal theory of governance that animated the framers’ original text, and to the limited government this theory supports. Grounded in the thought of Locke, Hume, Madison, and other Enlightenment figures, the classical liberal tradition emphasized federalism, restricted government, separation of powers, property rights, and economic liberties. 

The conference begins at 9:30AM with Opening Remarks by Dean Trevor Morrison and an Introduction by Professor Mario Rizzo. 

Following the Introduction, there will be three panels, each focusing on a different aspect of the book:

1. Constitutional Structure, 10:00 AM: This panel will evaluate the structural aspects of the classical liberal constitution, including the roles of each branch of the federal government, separation of powers, and federalism. Professor Epstein defends the traditional view of separation of powers at the federal level, which cuts against the progressive effort to build administrative agencies into the basic system. He also defends on both structural and textual grounds the pre-1937 view of limited commerce and taxing powers against the progressive position that envisions a broad role for government in both these areas.

Moderator: Professor Troy McKenzie (NYU Law)

Panelists: Michael Greve (George Mason Law), Richard Pildes (NYU Law), Richard Wagner (George Mason University), and John Yoo (Berkeley Law)

2. Individual Rights, 1:15 PM: This panel will evaluate the classical liberal constitution’s theory of individual rights–including property, liberty, contract, speech, religion, and equal protection. On these issues, Professor Epstein argues that the interpretive principles set out above tend to argue for the protection of broad rights which in turn are subject to major public justifications that are often encapsulated in the traditional notion of the police power. That uniform position is then contrasted with the modern two-tier progressive structure that tends to follow this approach with preferred freedom and suspect classification but ignores it in connection with traditional property, contract, and, in some cases, procedural protection.

Moderator: Christopher Sprigman (NYU Law)

Panelists: Daryl Levinson (NYU Law), Deborah Malamud (NYU Law), Thomas Merrill (Columbia Law), and Ilya Somin (George Mason Law)

3. Constitutional Methodology, 3:15 PM: This panel will evaluate Professor Epstein’s theory of constitutional interpretation, which starts from a textualist position that it modifies in two ways. The first involves applying general principles to deal with non-textual issues of circumvention, justification, and remedy. Second, he discusses when the prescriptive
constitution (based on long practice) leads to a departure from the original text. That interpretive background is then applied to the major conceptual shifts from the classical liberal constitution that he defends and the modern progressive world view that he attacks.

Moderator: TBA

Panelists: Barry Friedman(NYU Law), Gary Lawson (Boston University Law), Michael Rappaport (San Diego University Law), Nicholas Rosenkranz (Georgetown Law), and Adam Samaha (NYU Law)

At 11:45 AM and 5:00 PM, Professor Richard Epstein will give  remarks responding to the day's panels.   

Please RSVP

We hope you will be able to join us today.