The Dirty Dozen

A brief note on The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom.

I really had high expectations for this book, written as it was by a dream team of Cato (Robert A. Levy) and Institute for Justice (Wiliam H. Mellor) authors.  Add in a forward by Richard A. Epstein, and this book should be great.

The basic format is to take 12 issues, and for each one to examine the relevant Supreme Court decisions, asking for each one:

  • What is the Constitutional issue?
  • What were the facts?
  • Where did the Court go wrong?
  • What are the implications?

The general theme is to show how things went off the rails, how a particular Supreme Court decision, as the title suggests, “radically expanded government” or “eroded freedom.”

The book is quite readable, and will be approachable by anyone with basic knowledge of American government and our constitutional order.

The issues covered range from interstate commerce (Wickard v. Filburn) to campaign finance reform (McConnell v. Federal Election Commission) to gun rights (United States v. Miller.   These are all relevant, evergreen issues.  However, as the observant reader will no doubt notice, a lot has happened in these areas since this book was published back in 2008, like Heller and Citizens United.

As a result, much in the book is out of date.  But the approach, and execution, is brilliant.  (More, please!)  Again, I had high expectations for this book.  And now I have earnest wishes for the thorough updating this books deserves.  A new preface (added a decade ago) is not enough.

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