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Who Killed the Constitution?: The Federal Government vs. American Liberty from World War I to Barack Obama

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Think it’s just judges who are trampling on the Constitution? Think again. The fact is that government officials long ago rejected the idea that the Constitution possesses a fixed meaning limiting the U.S. government’s power. Going right to the scenes of the crimes, bestselling authors Thomas E. Woods Jr. and Kevin R. C. Gutzman dissect twelve of the most egregious assaults Think it’s just judges who are trampling on the Constitution? Think again. The fact is that government officials long ago rejected the idea that the Constitution possesses a fixed meaning limiting the U.S. government’s power. Going right to the scenes of the crimes, bestselling authors Thomas E. Woods Jr. and Kevin R. C. Gutzman dissect twelve of the most egregious assaults on the Constitution. In Who Killed the Constitution? Woods and Gutzman: • REVEAL the federal government’s “great gold robbery”–the flagrant assault on the Constitution you never heard about in history class • DESTROY the phony case for presidential war power • EXPOSE how the federal government has actively discriminated to end . . . discrimination Who Killed the Constitution? is a rallying cry for Americans outraged by a government run amok and a warning to take heed before we lose the liberties we are truly entitled to. “If you want to know why the federal government regulates the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the words you speak, read Who Killed the Constitution? . . . When the history of these unfree times is written, Tom Woods’s and Kevin Gutzman’s fearless work will be recognized as the standard against which all others are measured.” –Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News senior judicial analyst and bestselling author of The Constitution in Exile “It’s about time someone shouted out that the emperor has no clothes.” –Kirkpatrick Sale, director of the Middlebury Institute and author of Human Scale


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Think it’s just judges who are trampling on the Constitution? Think again. The fact is that government officials long ago rejected the idea that the Constitution possesses a fixed meaning limiting the U.S. government’s power. Going right to the scenes of the crimes, bestselling authors Thomas E. Woods Jr. and Kevin R. C. Gutzman dissect twelve of the most egregious assaults Think it’s just judges who are trampling on the Constitution? Think again. The fact is that government officials long ago rejected the idea that the Constitution possesses a fixed meaning limiting the U.S. government’s power. Going right to the scenes of the crimes, bestselling authors Thomas E. Woods Jr. and Kevin R. C. Gutzman dissect twelve of the most egregious assaults on the Constitution. In Who Killed the Constitution? Woods and Gutzman: • REVEAL the federal government’s “great gold robbery”–the flagrant assault on the Constitution you never heard about in history class • DESTROY the phony case for presidential war power • EXPOSE how the federal government has actively discriminated to end . . . discrimination Who Killed the Constitution? is a rallying cry for Americans outraged by a government run amok and a warning to take heed before we lose the liberties we are truly entitled to. “If you want to know why the federal government regulates the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the words you speak, read Who Killed the Constitution? . . . When the history of these unfree times is written, Tom Woods’s and Kevin Gutzman’s fearless work will be recognized as the standard against which all others are measured.” –Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News senior judicial analyst and bestselling author of The Constitution in Exile “It’s about time someone shouted out that the emperor has no clothes.” –Kirkpatrick Sale, director of the Middlebury Institute and author of Human Scale

30 review for Who Killed the Constitution?: The Federal Government vs. American Liberty from World War I to Barack Obama

  1. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    Unlike many books on the U.S. political scene right now, a very balanced and fair appraisal of the State of the Union, with respect to following the Constitution. General impression is that no Party is doing a good job of respecting the Constitution. Republicans have George Bush with his view of an aggressive executive branch. Democrats have FDR, with his view of unlimited National government. Presidents seem to all seek more power than they are allowed. Congresses all seek more power than they are Unlike many books on the U.S. political scene right now, a very balanced and fair appraisal of the State of the Union, with respect to following the Constitution. General impression is that no Party is doing a good job of respecting the Constitution. Republicans have George Bush with his view of an aggressive executive branch. Democrats have FDR, with his view of unlimited National government. Presidents seem to all seek more power than they are allowed. Congresses all seek more power than they are allowed, but try to dump responsibility to Executive or Judicial branches. Supreme Court since the very beginning has tried to pretend they can rewrite the Constitution by Fiat. States dump responsibility by hoping the Feds pay for things. And the People get the shaft. His closing remarks are quite depressing, but comport well with my impressions of the national scene, as well as with how each Party screams when they are not in power. The People most responsible for this... is us.

  2. 4 out of 5

    John

    This is another book in the same vein as Constitutional Chaos, A Nation of Sheep, and The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution. It is a worthy addition to these books, covering some new ground. Woods and Gutzman review twelve different points in American history that we collectively put nails into the coffin of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution is clearly dead, as they both argue and there is no easy path to resuscitate it. We are a lawless nation, governed by the will of men, n This is another book in the same vein as Constitutional Chaos, A Nation of Sheep, and The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution. It is a worthy addition to these books, covering some new ground. Woods and Gutzman review twelve different points in American history that we collectively put nails into the coffin of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution is clearly dead, as they both argue and there is no easy path to resuscitate it. We are a lawless nation, governed by the will of men, not the letter of the law.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David

    One of my favorite books by Thomas Woods (and Guzman too). Similar to "The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom," this book, too, highlights major crossroads and seminal cases where the Federal government---mainly through SCOTUS, whereby it sits in judgment of the Federal government, i.e. sits in judgment of itself!---eroded and undermined individual liberty, Federalism, states' rights, and otherwise rendered the U.S. Constitution a hollowe One of my favorite books by Thomas Woods (and Guzman too). Similar to "The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom," this book, too, highlights major crossroads and seminal cases where the Federal government---mainly through SCOTUS, whereby it sits in judgment of the Federal government, i.e. sits in judgment of itself!---eroded and undermined individual liberty, Federalism, states' rights, and otherwise rendered the U.S. Constitution a hollowed-out shell of its former self. The book is easy to read and understand (you don't need to be a lawyer, although I am one), and informative. I'm not into "parchment worship," and generally I believe creating yet another overlay of powerful government above the already-sovereign state governments, represented a return to mostly what we had prior to the American Revolution---i.e. heavy-handed rule, by an elitist ruling-class, wielding power from a far-off imperial city. (And in fact, the Constitutional Convention WAS a "soft coup" in that it scrapped the Articles of Convention, when the purpose was merely to arrive at suggestions for modifications). That said, utilizing Lockean concepts of Natural Rights, and the concepts of Federalism/separation of powers that were touched upon by Montesqieu, represented novel safeguards (such as they were) against oppressive, powerful, central-governments, and scrapping all Constitutional case law and returning to a freshly-minted Constitution would make any libertarian worth his salt howl with glee (with a few improvements, of course, to the Necessary & Proper Clause, the Commerce Clause, and the General Welfare Clause).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mark Geise

    "Who Killed the Constitution?" is a nice, quick look into 12 specific instances of unconstitutional actions and the process and justification that led to those actions. Though the body of this book is only about 200 pages, Tom Woods and Kevin Gutzman pack much more content into those pages than you would expect. If you are at all familiar with any of Woods's and Gutzman's other work, you can guess what the premise is: the federal government has continually moved further away from the Founding Fa "Who Killed the Constitution?" is a nice, quick look into 12 specific instances of unconstitutional actions and the process and justification that led to those actions. Though the body of this book is only about 200 pages, Tom Woods and Kevin Gutzman pack much more content into those pages than you would expect. If you are at all familiar with any of Woods's and Gutzman's other work, you can guess what the premise is: the federal government has continually moved further away from the Founding Fathers' intentions and has blown blown away the premise of limited government. Presidential and Supreme Court actions in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have contributed most to this march away from constitutional government, though the seeds were sown earlier in American history. I won't touch on every example Woods and Gutzman use, but a few stuck out in my mind. First, I think it was important that Woods and Gutzman attacked both liberals and conservatives for their assaults on the Constitution. They spend a lot of time criticizing FDR, but they come back near the end of the book with a ten page section tearing apart neoconservative John Yoo's expansive interpretation of the president's powers. The examples they use are wide-ranging but relatable, including medicinal marijuana, school prayer, and school busing. Nobody can possibly accuse Woods and Gutzman of cherry-picking or partisanship. I enjoyed "Who Killed the Constitution?" but I believe it is an even better read for someone that has not read other books on this topic. I would like to see a partisan Republican or Democrat's response to this book because it is hard to toe the party line without also endorsing the unconstitutional actions of the other party. All in all, this is a great introduction to the topic at hand.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    Really great ideas but had to start skimming after two-thirds.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Achord

    Why it's laughable to claim current presidential candidates are particularly dangerous or that racial discrimination is unusually bad today: “With the United States finally in the war (WWI) the Wilson administration launched various efforts to promote the U.S. government’s view of the conflict. The key figure in this important undertaking was George Creel, the Missouri journalist and longtime Wilson partisan. Creel headed the Committee on Public Information (CPI), which Wilson established by exec Why it's laughable to claim current presidential candidates are particularly dangerous or that racial discrimination is unusually bad today: “With the United States finally in the war (WWI) the Wilson administration launched various efforts to promote the U.S. government’s view of the conflict. The key figure in this important undertaking was George Creel, the Missouri journalist and longtime Wilson partisan. Creel headed the Committee on Public Information (CPI), which Wilson established by executive order in 1917, and used every available instrument of communication to carry out this propaganda mission. "It worked. Throughout American culture Germans began to be portrayed as subhuman savages. Journalists, the entertainment industry, and even professional historians succumbed to the most juvenile stereotyping and jingoism. Symphony orchestras refused to perform works by German composers. Sauerkraut became “liberty cabbage.” German shepherds were now “Alsatians.” Other effects were more serious: Germans found themselves driven from their jobs, frightened into changing their names, and even, in rare cases, beaten or killed. In Iowa and South Dakota the German language was altogether forbidden in public—with the exception (in South Dakota) of funerals, for which people could be issued special permits. Texas banned teaching the German language. "Volunteer enforcement organizations were founded, boasting such names as the Sedition Slammers, the Terrible Threateners, and the Boy Spies of America. The Literary Digest called upon its readers to be on the lookout for sedition and to “clip and send to us any editorial utterances they encounter which seem to them seditious or treasonable.” State and local councils of defense, outgrowths of a national Council of Defense that Congress had created to coordinate the war effort, turned much of their attention to getting public opinion in line. In Missouri, some of the local councils of defense used “Red, White, and Blue Cards” to intimidate people into silence. According to the records of the Missouri state council: 'The person to whom the first warning card is sent, generally takes it as a warning that they are being watched and immediately becomes very careful in their expressions. It has been found necessary in only a few cases to send a blue card to anyone and the red card has never been sent. The red card is simply a statement from the Council of Defense that the recipient will be reported immediately to the United States Secret Service.’ “The stories that come down to us from that period sound like fiction. A movie about the American War for Independence called The Spirit of ’76, which portrayed the British in an unflattering light, got its makers in trouble with the law: since the United States was now allied with Britain, such images could promote discontent in the American armed forces and interfere with recruitment. They received a prison sentence of ten years.6 A Christian minister in Vermont was sentenced to fifteen years for writing a pamphlet, which he distributed to five people, arguing that Christ had been a pacifist and that Christians should not participate in war. A mob broke into a school in Marysville, Nebraska, looking for any material about Germany or written in the German language, and burned all of it, including German-language Bibles. A man was arrested under the Minnesota Espionage Act for saying, in reference to women who knitted socks intended for soldiers, “No soldier ever sees these socks.” Michigan’s Clarence Nesbitt, who purchased $1,500 in Liberty bonds, was tarred and feathered by a “group of men who thought he should have purchased $3,000 worth instead.7 Nesbitt’s fate was not unique. Walter Ferguson, an Oklahoma farmer, vainly protested that he had purchased all the bonds he could afford. Local war enthusiasts didn’t believe him and proceeded to make his life miserable. “It would require a book to tell of the devilish ways in which he was hounded afterward,” Ferguson’s wife later recalled. “Merchants refused to sell him groceries, women cut his wife dead in church, neighbors set fire to his barn. "So many more such cases could be cited that the rest of this book could easily be filled with them.” — Woods and Gutzman, Who Killed The Constitution?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Brownell

    Excellent After a hospital stay, I am reminded of why scissors can only cut when they are oriented in one direction.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tyler L.

    This book was different, rather than better, than what I expected. Being familiar with both authors I knew what I was getting into. With Gutzman's legal expertise and Woods' witty anecdotes from history, this book turned out solid. Law school doesn't teach the Constitution anymore. For over a century now it merely teaches "case law" which is just precedent. In this context, precedent means the opinions of nine unelected government lawyers. But these activist judges are not this book's primary ta This book was different, rather than better, than what I expected. Being familiar with both authors I knew what I was getting into. With Gutzman's legal expertise and Woods' witty anecdotes from history, this book turned out solid. Law school doesn't teach the Constitution anymore. For over a century now it merely teaches "case law" which is just precedent. In this context, precedent means the opinions of nine unelected government lawyers. But these activist judges are not this book's primary target. The true culprits behind the death of our beloved Constitution are the Presidents and Congressmen who showed it no more fidelity than any Supreme Court justice. A few of the familiar court cases feature in this book like the free speech cases from WWI and, of course, Brown v. Board of Education. But others you've hardly heard about anywhere else are explained here in fascinating detail. The best thing about this book is how the authors effectively communicate the absolutely absurd rationalizations our past politicians attempted to make in justifying their unconstitutional actions. Truman's seizure of the steel mills, FDR's confiscation of gold, Warren Burger's forced busing of students based on race, and George W. Bush's expansion of presidential war powers are all destroyed by the authors in an entertaining fashion. I especially enjoyed the chapter that makes the case for the unconstitutionality of a draft. Also hilarious is how the justices who ruled against segregated public schools tried to justify their ruling by invoking the 14th Amendment which was undeniably written by men who did not support whites and blacks going to school together. Even when these justices are right, they are still wrong! A few chapters feature topics that have been done to death (prayer in school, medical marijuana) and seem trivial compared to more pressing issues, but that is just my opinion. Nonetheless, federal banishment of these rights are exposed as clearly unconstitutional. Ultimately, this book has a point, and it nails it. It covers controversial topics, especially the really emotionally-charged ones like the segregation of schools. The authors take a bold stand on some of these issues. But they are not defending any immoral behavior. The authors' opinions of each issue is irrelevant. The point of the book is that if we are to live in a republic under the rule of law and not of men, we must follow the law. If the law is bad or immoral, there is a legally-prescribed method of changing it. There is also natural law (individual rights) that come into play. The federal government has intervened with mostly honorable intentions to put an end to bad things, but if they do it in an unconstitutional manner, then it is wrong. These problems must be addressed in a legal fashion if we are to keep our republic. If we do not follow the law and just let men rule as they wish, why even have a Constitution? Why even have a United States of America?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    "The Constitution is Dead." That's the title of the Introduction, and it reiterated again in the Conclusion. In between these two sections are what the authors call the "dirty dozen" top offenders - those changes to Constitutional interpretation over the last 100 years or so that have done the most damage to the original form of government envisioned by the framers of the Constitution. In many instances the "reinterpretations" run completely counter to historical precedent and original intent - "The Constitution is Dead." That's the title of the Introduction, and it reiterated again in the Conclusion. In between these two sections are what the authors call the "dirty dozen" top offenders - those changes to Constitutional interpretation over the last 100 years or so that have done the most damage to the original form of government envisioned by the framers of the Constitution. In many instances the "reinterpretations" run completely counter to historical precedent and original intent - sometimes knowingly so. But in every instance, the reinterpretation has always been in favor of larger, more powerful, and less restricted federal government. One might think that this book would focus on the Supreme Court, but the authors spread the blame to Congress and various Presidents when appropriate. And they don't just pick on progressives like Wilson and FDR, either. George W. Bush is well nigh excoriated in the final two chapters for grossly expanding presidential power while in office. All in all, I found the book an interesting but rather depressing read on how the US federal government has become unmoored from the concept of limited government that the framers originally intended.

  10. 5 out of 5

    T.

    Maybe, just maybe, our media and consumerist/gadget obsessions distract us just enough from caring about the consequences of what the federal government and moneyed interests have come to perfect in our absence of mindfulness: running roughshod over the country's freedoms and the ideals at their foundation. And maybe we need to dial back our perception of "consumerism" as freedom and think pointedly about what exists in the absence of distractions. Rare is the person who is genuinely thoughtful a Maybe, just maybe, our media and consumerist/gadget obsessions distract us just enough from caring about the consequences of what the federal government and moneyed interests have come to perfect in our absence of mindfulness: running roughshod over the country's freedoms and the ideals at their foundation. And maybe we need to dial back our perception of "consumerism" as freedom and think pointedly about what exists in the absence of distractions. Rare is the person who is genuinely thoughtful about constitutional law; rarer still are those who care to confront malfeasance and outright contempt for the highest laws in the land without partisan or overly simplistic reasoning. In this light, "Who Killed the Constitution?" is a worthy companion to "Lies The Government Told You" by Andrew Napolitano. While not all libertarian viewpoints may resonate comfortably with the country-at-large, the arguments outlined and explored here add considerably toward broadening the scope of daily dialogue about what is happening in the United States of America today.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    This book is scarier than a mystery novel! Jefferson warned that the Roman Republic fell when the ruling class began to ignore the Constitution. If anyone listened to him then they aren't now. Over time the Constitution has been abused by every branch of the government. By the Executive which has applied it's 'privilege' and 'order' to skirt it, by Congress who feels that all they require is the will do do something and get away with it because they can, and by the Judicial which legislates from This book is scarier than a mystery novel! Jefferson warned that the Roman Republic fell when the ruling class began to ignore the Constitution. If anyone listened to him then they aren't now. Over time the Constitution has been abused by every branch of the government. By the Executive which has applied it's 'privilege' and 'order' to skirt it, by Congress who feels that all they require is the will do do something and get away with it because they can, and by the Judicial which legislates from the bench and imposes their own interpretation onto most every issue. If Jefferson feared the government would become contemptuous of it's citizens and the republic would disintegrate into tyranny it appears he was even smarter than he has been given credit for.

  12. 4 out of 5

    David Robins

    Good stuff, although he should have gone further back and included Lincoln. Covers FDR's gold seizure, several illegal wars declared by presidents, warrantless wiretapping, Wilson's suppression of opinions against WWI, Truman's seizure of the steel mills, infringement on states' rights, forced busing, unconstitutional improvements including roads and bridges to nowhere, banning prayer from public schools, the draft, medical marijuana, and other tramplings of the Constitution (especially with war Good stuff, although he should have gone further back and included Lincoln. Covers FDR's gold seizure, several illegal wars declared by presidents, warrantless wiretapping, Wilson's suppression of opinions against WWI, Truman's seizure of the steel mills, infringement on states' rights, forced busing, unconstitutional improvements including roads and bridges to nowhere, banning prayer from public schools, the draft, medical marijuana, and other tramplings of the Constitution (especially with war as an excuse) by all branches, but mainly the executive.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Enjoyed this thoroughly with a few caveats: I wish it'd been set up more chronologically to tell a "story" more rather than just being disjointed Supreme Court case reports; Having a reference to Obama on the cover is false advertising, he's really not mentioned in the book; and I'm not at all sure I agree with his Brown v. Board of Education analysis. Rest is rock solid and will be on my high schoolers' reading lists for American history and government.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    A recommendation from Robby. Well-written and provocative. Builds awareness of how long and in how many different settings the Constitution has been completely set aside in favor of whoever was in power making a grab to extend their reach. Includes the entire text of the Constitution, Bill of Rights and additional amendments.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tami

    This book was a little over my head intellectually, but I skimmed it and got the basic message of what the author is saying. I enjoyed it and learned alot! I realize have lived so many years in plain ignorance to politics. I have more love and reverence for the Constitution and for our Founding Fathers than ever before.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kristen Hill

    This book was very interesting. It brought to life some parts of American history that I was not taught in school. I also liked that the author was not for one side or the other but he skewered both democrats and repulicans alike. Some of the law went over my head but ultimately it was a good book that I really enjoyed.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brandy

    Very informative and interesting...and sad. The book gives a chronological account of ways in which the constitution has been deliberately overridden. Some of it, especially the occurances in the distant past, around the turn of the century and a little beyond, are shocking to me. The more current situations are less shocking and more "expected". Sad.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    It's not the more recent things that surprised me but the older things. First off just learning how FDR outlawed gold ownership and the resulting trial before the Supreme Court. But also going all the way back to the whiskey rebellion. This book should be required reading before you vote in the next election!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Lent from a hallmate in college. Enjoying the historical process of how our country has shifted politically. Although can be tiring at times, great analysis so far.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    A very interesting look at how Republicans, Democrats, liberals, and conservatives in the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches have trampled and disregarded the Constitution of the US.

  21. 5 out of 5

    David

    An excellent review of 12 different "cases" where the federal government /way/ overstepped their constitutional authority in the last 100 years or so. Very easy to read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Brent

    Every American should take the time to read this book to understand what has happened to our so-called republican (federal) form of government. Eye-opening.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lu

    Assult on our freedoms from WW to present

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    Eye Opening Excellent

  25. 4 out of 5

    Craig Bolton

    Who Killed the Constitution?: The Fate of American Liberty from World War I to George W. Bush by Thomas E. Woods Jr. (2008)

  26. 4 out of 5

    SPstudio

    Very informative and well documented.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mike Smith

    A little one sided at times it still is an informative read. Also contains a copy of the constitution which everyone should read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stormy

    It's controversial. It's a good read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Very enlightening. And also frustrating.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    Very Interesting examples. Would have rated it higher, but some chapters were a bit dry.

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