Active Liberty (Magill's Literary Annual 2006)
In Active Liberty, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer outlines his judicial philosophy. In doing so, he consciously attempts to derive a compelling alternative to “originalism,” an approach which dictates that constitutional (and statutory) provisions be narrowly interpreted in the light of the Constitution’s text, augmented, when necessary, by the intent of their legislative authors. Originalism, along with other forms of self-proclaimed “judicial restraint,” have been on the rise in recent years, backed by President George W. Bush and fronted by colorful spokespeople such as Antonin Scalia, also a Supreme Court justice. Active Liberty has caught the attention of many readers because it is seen as presenting a potential counterbalance to this growing trend.
Active Liberty is based on the Tanner Lecture series delivered by Breyer at Harvard University in November, 2004. The book opens with an exposition on “modern” and “ancient” notions of liberty as conceptualized by Swiss political philosopher Benjamin Constant (1767-1830). According to Constant, modern liberty is the freedom of individuals from any unnecessary government control (and Constant did not think very much government control was truly necessary). Ancient (or “public”) liberty to Constant, or as Breyer refers to it, “active liberty,” involves the freedom of the people as a whole to exercise self-government.
(The entire section is 1614 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2006)
Booklist 102, no. 6 (November 15, 2005): 9.
Library Journal 130, no. 15 (September 19, 2005): 77.
The New Republic 233, no. 12 (September 19, 2005): 29-34.
The New York Times 155 (September 26, 2005): A16.
Newsweek 146, no. 13 (September 26, 2005): 72.
Publishers Weekly 252, no. 30 (August 22, 2005): 48.
The Wall Street Journal 246, no. 37 (August 23, 2005): B1-B4.
(The entire section is 34 words.)