Americans have sold their constitutional heritage, submitting to rights violations and the undermining of basic political structures in return for money.
Have the Supreme Court’s interpretations facilitated unjustified distortions in our constitutional system? Philip Hamburger’s new book, Purchasing Submission, certainly engages this question, a staple of legal and political debates, and in doing so builds upon previous groundbreaking books from the Maurice & Hilda Friedman Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, including Law and Judicial Duty (2008) and Is Administrative Law Unlawful? (2014). But its core contention is that the American people themselves have sold fundamental elements of their constitutional heritage, submitting to violations of their rights and the undermining of basic political structures, including federalism and separation of powers, in return for money. Ultimately, though, Hamburger rejoins the mainstream by calling on the courts to save us from our folly.
Although this book is addressed primarily to lawyers, its best insights go beyond strictly legal problems to identify structural damage to our political system. When, for example, private universities accept federal funding and in return adopt federal guidelines designed to control dating practices, the first effect is to regulate students’ speech and the second to expose them to punishment after inadequate hearings designed and conducted by the institution. Were the government to impose such rules and procedures