Judge Napolitano on the Worst Supreme Court DecisionsSubmitted by DJP333 on Wed, 09/18/2013 - 12:54
Judge Andrew P. Napolitano joined the Mises Institute in August as the Institute’s Distinguished Scholar in Law and Jurisprudence. During Mises University in July, Judge Napolitano taught what David Gordon described as a “conference within the conference” and “a masterful survey of how the Supreme Court has interpreted the commerce clause, from Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) to the present.” This summer, the Mises Institute spoke briefly with Judge Napolitano about the Constitution and the American political system.
Mises Institute: Why is understanding constitutional law and its history important? The text of the document is pretty short, so can’t we just read it for ourselves and know what it says?
Judge Andrew P. Napolitano: The Constitution proclaims itself to be the Supreme Law of the Land. It was written to create, define, and restrain the federal government. If history is prologue, it is important for all concerned about the overreach of the government today to understand how we got to where we are today; and the history of that is essentially a study of the history of the debates over the implementation of the powers set forth in the Constitution.
As for reading the Constitution in order to understand it, that is no doubt what its authors intended. However, as is well known, the big government impulses of those in government have rendered most of the plain language in the Constitution meaningless. Thus, it is nearly impossible to comprehend the meaning of the Constitution without understanding about 200 Supreme Court cases interpreting it.
MI: When it comes to Supreme Court cases, what do you think were some of the most damaging to the cause of liberty?