Freedom, Virtue and the First Amendment

– The Louisiana State University Press, 1957; reprinted, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1969.
This book examines the First Amendment and issues of liberty and the American Founding. Table of Contents Preface Acknowledgments I           Censorship: A Classic Issue… More

After the People Vote: Steps in Choosing the President

– American Enterprise Institute Press, 1983; second edition, 1992.
Explains how electors are appointed, how ballots are cast and votes are counted, and what happens if no one has a majority; and discusses three disputed elections.

In Defense of Liberal Democracy

– Regnery Gateway, 1984.
In this new book of essays, Walter Berns give shape to the arena of American government and politics. He contends that “free government is an endangered species in our world,”… More

Taking the Constitution Seriously

– Simon and Schuster, 1987; reprinted, Madison Books, 1992.
Walter Berns’s book is must reading for every judge, law student, or member of the general public who wants to know more about our Federal Constitution. Berns concisely and clearly… More

Making Patriots

– University of Chicago Press, 2001; paperback edition, 2002.
Although Samuel Johnson once remarked that “patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels,” over the course of the history of the United States we have seen our share of heroes:… More


Buck v. Bell: Due Process of Law?

Western Political Quarterly 6:4 (December 1953).
Excerpt: A quarter of a century has passed since Justice Holmes provided the eugenical sterilization movement with a constitutional blessing and an epigrammatic battle cry. His opinion for… More

Freedom and Loyalty

The Journal of Politics 18:1 (February 1956), 17–27.
Excerpt: It is best to begin with what is familiar and, I hope, noncontroversial. Until the first World War there was no problem of freedom and loyalty to speak of in the United States.… More

Voting Studies

Essays on the Scientific Study of Politics, Herbert J. Storing, ed. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962).

Professors and Politics

Cornell Daily Sun, May 4, 1962.
Excerpt: The purpose of the university places it in a position of uneasy tension with the community, and the tension is likely to increase with the extent to which this purpose is… More

The Meaning of the Tenth Amendment

A Nation of States: Essays on the American Federal System, Robert A. Goldwin, ed. (Skokie, IL: Rand McNally College Pub. Co., 1963).

John Milton

History of Political Thought, Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, eds. (Skokie, IL: Rand McNally, 1963; reprinted, University of Chicago Press, 1987).

Law and Behavioral Science

Law and Contemporary Problems 28 (Winter 1963).
Excerpt: Behavioral science, which has only recently become a subject of discussion in legal journals, has had its greatest impact on the newer social sciences, especially sociology. This… More

The Sources of Law

National Review, August 11, 1964, 690.
Book review of The Morality of Law by Lon L. Fuller.

Defending Politics

Commentary, August 1966.
Excerpt: As might have been expected, this posthumous work by the late V. O. Key, Jr. is the best voting study to appear, although its merits will be apparent only to readers who know the… More

The Constitution and the Migration of Slaves

The Yale Law Journal 78:2 (December 1968), 198–228; reprinted in Walter Berns, In Defense of Liberal Democracy (Regnery Gateway, 1984).
Excerpt: Shortly after the adoption of the Constitution, the South came to see the power granted to Congress to regulate commerce as a major threat to its domestic tranquility, for this… More

The New Left and Liberal Democracy

How Democratic is America?: Responses to the New Left Challenge, Robert A. Goldwin, ed. (Skokie, IL: Rand McNally, 1971).
Outgrowth of a conference held under the auspices of the Public Affairs Conference Center of Kenyon College.

Pornography Vs. Democracy: The Case for Censorship

Public Interest 22 (Winter 1971), 3–24.
Excerpt: The case against censorship is very old and very familiar. Almost anyone can formulate it without difficulty. One has merely to set the venerable Milton‘s Areopagitica in… More

The Limits to Judicial Power

National Review, September 1, 1972, 958.
Book review of The Modern Supreme Court by Robert G. McCloskey and Martin Shapiro.

Free Speech and Free Government

The Political Science Reviewer 2:1 (Fall 1972).
Excerpt: It is unfortunate, and a measure of our contemporary difficulties, that too many Americans today would hesitate to agree with Gladstone that the American Constitution was… More

The Importance of Being Amish

Harper's (March 1973); reprinted in Walter Berns, In Defense of Liberal Democracy (Regnery Gateway, 1984); reprinted in Contemporary Debates on Civil Liberties: Enduring Constitutional Questions, Glenn A. Phelps and Robert A. Poirier, eds. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 1985), 28–34.

Thinking About the City

Commentary, October 1973; reprinted in Walter Berns, In Defense of Liberal Democracy (Regnery Gateway, 1984).
Excerpt: Cities express an ambivalence in the American soul: we like cities and wish to live in them—or at least to visit them—but we also dislike cities and wish to avoid them, and… More

The Essential Soul of Daniel Berrigan

National Review, November 9, 1973; reprinted in Walter Berns, In Defense of Liberal Democracy (Regnery Gateway, 1984).
Excerpt: It is Dan’s talent for publicity that accounts for the swiftness of his elevation to the ranks of the exalted. Unlike [Thomas] More, Dan has written a play about his own… More

Violence, Morality and the Law

The Intercollegiate Review 9:2 (Spring 1974).
Excerpt: In Political Violence and Civil Disobedience, Ernest van den Haag argues that the problem underlying civil disobedience is the question whether there is ever a moral right to… More

Justified Anger, Just Retribution

Imprimis, Hillsdale College, June 1974.
Excerpt: Between 1966 and 1971 the U.S. murder rate increased by 52 percent, and the crime rate as a whole by 74 percent, as reported in Crime in the United States: Uniform Crime Reports,… More

Two Mills and Liberty

Virginia Quarterly Review, Winter 1975.
Excerpt: “On Liberty and Liberalism: The Case of John Stuart Mill” tells the astonishing story of John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty,” which is a story about the book (one of the… More

Whether You Want It or Not

National Review, October 10, 1975, 1124.
Book review of The Rise of Guardian Democracy by Ward E.Y. Elliott.

Religion and the Founding Principle

The Moral Foundations of the American Republic, Robert H. Horwitz, ed. (Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1977, 1986).

The Least Dangerous Branch, But Only If…

The Judiciary in a Democratic Society, Leonard J. Theberge, ed. (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1979).
Based on papers presented at the national conference on the role of the judiciary in a democratic society held at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., on September 30… More

For Capital Punishment

Harper's Magazine, April 1979; reprinted in Walter Berns, In Defense of Liberal Democracy (Regnery Gateway, 1984).
Excerpt: Until recently, my business did not require me to think about the punishment of criminals in general or the legitimacy and efficacy of capital punishment in particular. In a vague… More

The Clerks’ Tale

Commentary, March 1980.
Excerpt: The Brethren is, as it claims to be, a term-by-term account of the “inner workings of the Supreme Court from 1969 to 1976—the first seven years of Warren E. Burger’s tenure… More

Bonds of Cliché

Commentary, September 1980.
Excerpt: The materials accompanying the publication of this new book by Richard Sennett, a sociologist by training and now a professor of humanities at New York University, describe him as… More

The Corporation’s Song

American Spectator 13:9 (September 1980).
“The Corporation’s Song” Walter Berns and lyrics by Hobbes, Locke, and Madison. Music by Mobil Oil?

Defending the Death Penalty

Crime & Delinquency 26:4 (October 1980)  503–11; reprinted in Contemporary Moral Issue, Wesley Cragg, ed. (Whitby, ON: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1983).
Excerpt: The allegedly moral objections to capital punishment are a product of modern amoral political philosophy, from which has derived the modern reluctance to exact retribution.… More

Terms of Endearment

Harper's Magazine, October 1980; reprinted in Walter Berns, In Defense of Liberal Democracy (Regnery Gateway, 1984).

The Need for Public Authority

Modern Age 24:1 (Winter 1980); reprinted in Freedom and Virtue: The Conservative and Libertarian Debate, George W. Carey, ed. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1984; reprinted, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2004).
Excerpt: Some ten years ago, I resigned from Cornel1 University; at that time the university had just been taken over by students carrying guns, and first the administration and then the… More

Privacy, Liberalism, and the Role of Government

Liberty and the Rule of Law, Robert L. Cunningham, ed. (College Station, TX: Texas A & M Press, 1981).
Friedrich A. Hayek, distinguished scholar and Nobel laureate, has long been recognized as the moral and intellectual spokesman for classic liberalism and a free society. In January, 1976, a… More

Let Me Call You Quota, Sweetheart

Commentary, May 1981; reprinted in Walter Berns, In Defense of Liberal Democracy (Regnery Gateway, 1984).
Excerpt: It was said of the late Justice William O. Douglas, and it was said by way of praising him, that more than any other judge in our time he dared to ask the question of what is good… More

Liberal Censorship

Public Interest 65 (Fall 1981), 146–49.
Excerpt: One would have thought that the censorship issue had been settled in the liberal societies of the West. In theory pornography may be proscribed by the law-in the United States, for… More

Who’s Afraid of Agee-Wolf?

Wall Street Journal, November 4, 1981; reprinted in Walter Berns, In Defense of Liberal Democracy (Regnery Gateway, 1984).

Judicial Review and the Rights and Laws of Nature

The Supreme Court Review 1982, (1982), 49–83; reprinted in Walter Berns, In Defense of Liberal Democracy (Regnery Gateway, 1984).
Excerpt: The current controversy over the proper role of the judiciary can be said to have begun twenty years ago with Herbert Wechsler’s appeal for Supreme Court decisions resting on… More

A Reply to Harry Jaffa

National Review, January 22, 1982.
Abstract: The article presents the author’s response to professor Harry Jaffa’s criticism of his views about the Declaration of Independence in the U.S. The author says that… More

Voting Rights and Wrongs

Commentary, March 1982; reprinted in Walter Berns, In Defense of Liberal Democracy (Regnery Gateway, 1984).
Excerpt: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is surely the most successful civil-rights measure ever enacted by the national government. Everybody—or, at least, everybody who has publicly… More

A New Flock of Sheep

American Spectator (September 1982); reprinted in Walter Berns, In Defense of Liberal Democracy (Regnery Gateway, 1984).
Excerpt: As the Catholic “Peace Bishops” are about to learn, it is not possible to be both an American and a martyr.

The Nation and the Bishops

Wall Street Journal, December 15, 1982;  reprinted in Walter Berns, In Defense of Liberal Democracy (Regnery Gateway, 1984).

Taking Rights Frivolously

Liberalism Reconsidered, Douglas MacLean and Claudia Mills, eds. (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Allanheld, 1983).

The American Presidency: Statesmanship and Constitutionalism in Balance

Imprimis, Hillsdale College, January 1983. Reprinted in Educating for Liberty: The Best of Imprimis, 1972–2002, Douglas A. Jeffrey, ed. (Hillsdale, MI: Hillsdale College Press, 2002).
Excerpt: America today is in need of leadership of the sort provided in the past by our greatest presidents, presidents whom we mean to honor and praise when we denominate them… More

The Legislative Protection of Rights

The U.S. Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, William R. McKercher (Ontario, Canada: Ontario Economic Council, 1983).

The New Pacifism and World Government

National Review (May 27, 1983); reprinted in Walter Berns, In Defense of Liberal Democracy (Regnery Gateway, 1984).
Abstract: The article presents a commentary on the increasing number of pacifists in the U.S. as of May 1983. It traces the history of pacifists in the country. It stresses the impact of… More

How to Talk to the Russians

American Spectator (July 1983); reprinted in Walter Berns, In Defense of Liberal Democracy (Regnery Gateway, 1984).

Third-World Ways in Cambridge USA

Wall Street Journal, December 28, 1983.
Excerpt: “Property rights,” said the Cuban delegate, “are out of fashion at the United Nations.” This was said a couple of years ago in a response to a speech of mine, and, since he… More

The Writing of the Constitution of the United States

– American Enterprise Institute, 1984; reprinted by the President's Commission on White House Fellowships; reprinted in Constitution Makers on Constitution Making: The Exercises of Eight Nations, Robert A. Goldwin, ed. (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 1988).
A paper presented to the White House fellows at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, October 19, 1983.

The Constitution as Bill of Rights

How Does the Constitution Secure Rights?, Robert A. Goldwin and William Schambra, eds. (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 1984); reprinted in Walter Berns, In Defense of Liberal Democracy (Regnery Gateway, 1984).

The United Nations and Human Rights

Human Rights Law and the Reagan Administration, Andrew Samet, ed. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1984).
This book comprises a collection of papers prepared for a Human Rights Law Symposium held at the Georgetown University Law Center on March 22, 1983. Cosponsored by the International Law… More

Affirmative Action vs. the Declaration of Independence

New Perspectives 16:1 (Summer 1984).
Abstract: Reverse discrimination is an effect of affirmative action that cannot be overlooked: it is discriminatory and it has victims. If laws may be used to discriminate against Whites,… More

Citizenship, Rights and Responsibilities

Rights, Citizenship, and Responsibilities, Bradford P. Wilson, ed. (Valley Forge, PA: Freedom Foundation, 1984).
The proceedings of Freedom Foundation’s symposium on citizen responsibilities, December 13-14, 1984, Washington, D.C.

Do We Have a Living Constitution?

National Forum LXIV:4 (Fall 1984).
Excerpt: Now, almost 200 years later, one can read Hamilton’s words in Federalist No. 1 and conclude that, under some conditions, some “societies of men” are capable of… More

Judicial Rhetoric

Rhetoric & American Statesmanship, ed. Glen E. Thurow and Jeffrey D. Wallin (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, May 1, 1984).

Has the Burger Court Gone Too Far?

Commentary, October 1984.
Excerpt: Only yesterday, it seems, federal judges were being admired for refusing to confine themselves to the modest but appropriate role of interpreters of statutory or constitutional… More

Teaching the Founding of the United States

Politics in Perspective 13:1 (Fall 1985).
Abstract: If students are to understand the American Constitution, they must, like the Founders, take political philosophy seriously. Books and essays that college teachers can use to teach… More

Religion, Ethics and Politics in the 1980s

Morality of the Market: Religion and Economic Perspectives, Walter Block, Geoffrey Brennan, and Kenneth Elzinga, eds. (Vancouver, Canada: The Fraser Institute, 1985).
Proceedings of an International Symposium on Religion, Economics and Social Thought, held August 9-11, 1982, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

The Words According to Brennan

Wall Street Journal, October 23, 1985.
Excerpt: Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. is an angry man who has begun to give vent to his anger off the bench and in public. Although his recent Georgetown University address… More

Equally Endowed With Rights

Justice and Equality Here and Now, Frank Lucash, ed. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986), 151–71.

Re-evaluating the Open Society

Order, Freedom, and the Polity: Critical Essays on the Open Society, George W. Carey, ed. (Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute and University Press of America, 1986).
Abstract: A series of essays which critically examine the concept of the open society as ‘the crowning achievement of Western civilization.’ Analyzes the open society theory… More

Constitutional Power and the Defense of Free Government

Terrorism: How the West Can Win, Benjamin Netanyahu, ed. (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1986).
Abstract: Compiles statements from political leaders, scholars of Middle Eastern affairs, specialists on international terrorism, journalists, and foreign experts

The Constitution and the Pursuit of American Happiness

– We the People, Constitutional Ideals and the American Experience: A Bicentennial Perspective, symposium hosted by Angelo State University, 1987.
Excerpt: There are, as I count them, 164 countries in the world, and of these all but six (Great Britain, New Zealand, and Israel; Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Libya) have written constitutions.… More

Capital Punishment Cases of 1972

Encyclopedia of the American Constitution and Supplement, Leonard W. Levy, Kenneth L. Karst, and Dennis J. Mahoney, eds., 1987.

Capital Punishment Cases of 1976

Encyclopedia of the American Constitution and Supplement, Leonard W. Levy, Kenneth L. Karst, and Dennis J. Mahoney, eds., 1987.


Encyclopedia of the American Constitution and Supplement, Leonard W. Levy, Kenneth L. Karst, and Dennis J. Mahoney, eds., 1987.

The ‘New’ Science of Politics and Constitutional Government

Constitutionalism and Rights, Gary C. Bryner and Noel B. Reynolds, eds. (Albany NY: SUNY Press, 1987).
Abstract: Constitutionalism and Rights explores the ambivalent relationship between the American tradition of constitutionalism and the notions of rights that have emerged over the last… More

Comment on Rowan

Maryland Law Review 47:1 (1987).
Excerpt: I begin by setting the stage for a question. I then ask it. Put yourself in the position of a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. You are an… More

A Machine That Would Go of Itself

Commentary, February 1987.
Excerpt: Michael Kammen, the Newton C. Farr Professor of American History and Culture at Cornell University, describes this book as a study in popular constitutionalism, by which he means… More

Government by Lawyers & Judges

Commentary, June 1987.
Excerpt: We call it judicial review, and while the point has frequently been disputed, sometimes fiercely, there is really no question but that the Framers intended federal judges to… More

Taking the Constitution Seriously

Crisis, June 1, 1987.
Excerpt: Unlike the first federal judges, whose formal legal education was likely to have been very limited indeed — John Marshall was largely self-educated in the law and John Jay, the… More

In Times of Crisis, How Much Power Does the President Have?

Washington Times, June 3, 1987; reprinted in The World and I (August 1987).
Excerpt: Lt. Col. Oliver North may or may not have broken the law, but that he was a hero Patrick J. Buchanan had no doubt. Unlike the other members of the Reagan White House – he was… More

Public Trial by Public Jury

Wall Street Journal, July 24, 1987.
Excerpt: At one point in the Iran-Contra hearings, Arthur L. Liman, Senate chief counsel, said (rather testily I thought): “This is not a prosecution, Col. North, this is an… More

Equality as a Constitutional Concept

Maryland Law Review 44 (Fall 1987).
Excerpt: I begin by setting the stage for a question. I then ask it. Put yourself in the position of a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. You are an… More

Judicial Review and the Supreme Court

The World and I (September 1987).
Excerpt: In a recent speech, Harvard law professor Archibald Cox acknowledged that the Supreme Court had succeeded in making the Constitution into an “instrument of massive… More

The New Pursuit of Happiness

Public Interest 86 (Winter 1987), 65–76.
Excerpt: Landing in New York in May 1831, Gustave de Beaumont was struck by the “busyness” of the place. “It’s a remarkable phenomenon,” he wrote his father, “a great people… More

The Morality of Anger

Philosophy of Punishment, Robert M. Baird and Stuart E. Rosenbaum, eds. (Amherst, MA: Prometheus Books, 1988, 1995).

Judicial Roulette

– Twentieth Century Fund Task Force Report on Judicial Selection (New York: Priority Press, 1988).

What Does the Constitution Expect of Jews?

The Judeo-Christian Tradition and the U.S. Constitution: Proceedings of a Conference at the Annenberg Research Institute, November 16–17, 1987, David M. Goldenberg, ed. (Philadelphia: Annenberg Research Institute, 1989), 21–27; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: The short answer to this question is that the Constitution expects of Jews what it expects of everybody. George Washington expressed this perfectly in his famous (and very… More

Retribution as the Ground for Punishment

Crime and Punishment: Issues in Criminal Justice, Fred E. Baumann and Kenneth M. Jensen, eds. (Public Affairs Conference Center, Kenyon College, 1989).
Abstract: When societies do not believe their laws are just, they lack the confidence and strength to punish criminals. Some criminologists and social scientists in the past argued that… More

The American Founding

Principles of the Constitutional Order: The Ratification Debates, Robert L. Utley, ed. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1989).

Justice as the Securing of Rights

The Constitution, the Courts, and the Quest for Justice, Robert A. Goldwin and William A. Schambra, eds. (American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1989).

The Core as an Education for Natural Aristocrats

Academic Questions 2:3 (Summer 1989),  22–26.
Focuses on the importance of education in aristocratic societies in the U.S. Influence of aristocrats in the cultivation of the arts and sciences; Principle of democracy; Coverage of… More

Flag-Burning & Other Modes of Expression

Commentary, October 1989; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: This summer, Washington was given patriotism and obscenity to deal with when the Supreme Court upheld the burning of the flag by an angry Gregory Johnson and when an embarrassed… More

The Demise of the Constitution

– Speech delivered at the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, September 21, 1989; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: On January 20, 1989, George H. W. Bush took the following oath of office, an oath prescribed in the Constitution itself and, because of that, taken on each of the fifty-nine… More

Review Essay: Locke and the Legislative Principle

Public Interest 100 (Summer 1990), 147–56.
Excerpt: What is the role of Congress in our system of constitutional government and how well does it perform that role? To begin with, Congress is not Parliament, which means that ours is… More

Natural Law, Natural Rights

Washington Times, September 9, 1991. University of Cincinnati Law Review 61:1 (1992–93).
Excerpt: “The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty,” said Abraham Lincoln, “and the American people, just now, are much in need of one.” That… More

On Hamilton and Popular Government

Public Interest 109 (Fall 1992), 109–13.
Excerpt: Alexander Hamilton has never been a popular hero among his fellow citizens. When visiting the capital city, they mount the tour buses that take them to the Capitol, the White… More

On Madison and Majoritarianism: A Response to Professor Amar

Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 15:113 (Winter 1992).
Excerpt: Some fourteen years ago, in Washington, before an audience consisting largely of law school professors and federal judges, I said there probably was not a law school in the country… More

An Office That We Take More Seriously Today

Washington Times, July 27, 1992.
Excerpt: Perhaps never before in an election year has so much attention been paid to the vice presidency. And while the names Bush and Clinton headline the two major tickets, stay tuned for… More

Lincoln at Gettysburg

Commentary, November 1992.
Excerpt: Garry Wills has a lot of interesting things to say about the Gettysburg Address, and especially about the occasion on which it was delivered. We learn, for example, that far from… More

Electoral College Quiz

Washington Times, November 3, 1992.
Excerpt: On Jan. 8, 1981, following the election in which John Anderson ran for president as an independent candidate, I began an article under this same title by pointing out that… More

When the Last Vote Is Cast…

Washington Times, November 3, 1992.
Excerpt: On Jan. 8, 1981, following the election in which John Anderson ran for president as an independent candidate, I began an article under this same title by pointing out that… More

Let’s Hear It for the Electoral College

Wall Street Journal, December 2, 1992; reprinted in Walter Berns, In Defense of Liberal Democracy (Regnery Gateway, 1984).
Excerpt: Once again we have reason to be grateful for the Electoral College. Bill Clinton’s victory has been widely termed a “landslide.” Yet it was that, of course, only… More

Preserving a Living Constitution

Is the Supreme Court the Guardian of the Constitution?, Robert A. Licht, ed. (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 1993), 34–35; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).


Rutgers Law Journal 24:3 (Spring 1993), 725–31.
Part of a symposium on “Race Relations and the United States Constitution: From Fugitive Slaves to Affirmative Action.”

New Start for Statehood?

Washington Times, May 24, 1993; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: If all goes well — or at least as planned — the District of Columbia soon will become the state of New Columbia. The bill calling for statehood failed of adoption last… More

We, the People, Debate the Constitution

Washington Times, July 4, 1993.
Excerpt: With the publication of the two volumes of “The Debate on the Constitution,” the 62nd and 63rd in the Library of America series, the general public will now have access… More

Leaving Town Alive

Commentary, August 1993.
Excerpt: John Frohnmayer had two purposes in mind when he set out to write this book: he wanted to get even with all the enemies (or perceived enemies) he had made during the two-and-a-… More

Learning to Live with Sex and Violence

National Review, November 1, 1993.
Excerpt: Many years ago, at a supper club in Chicago, I asked a waiter (decked out, as I recall, like some character from the Arabian Nights) why they served their steaks on flaming… More

Solving the Problem of Democracy

South Africa's Crisis of Constitutional Democracy: Can the U.S. Constitution Help?, Robert A. Licht and Bertus de Villiers, eds. (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 1994), 180–200; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: Some years ago, before an audience of federal judges and law professors, I said that there probably was not a law school in the United States that did not offer a course in… More

Getting Away with Murder

Commentary, April 1994.
Excerpt: Trial by a jury of one’s peers is a venerable institution. Like Blackstone before him in England, the American Joseph Story, in his justly famous Commentaries on the… More

What D-Day Message from Clinton?

Washington Times, May 22, 1994.
Excerpt: On April 19, Bill Clinton spoke to a group of high school students at an MTV Forum, the 24-hour music video channel on which he was to share time with (as The Washington Post put… More

The Prattling Presidency

Wall Street Journal, October 13, 1994; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: Our presidents have become big talkers. President Clinton, for example, is going across the country this week to sing the praises of his administration and of the Democratic… More

When Men Are the Prey of Women

Washington Times, October 25, 1994.
Excerpt: In 1971, the Supreme Court told us that “one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric,” but nowadays a man’s vulgarity is more likely to be seen as sexual… More

Dirty Words

Public Interest 114 (Winter 1994), 119–25.
Excerpt: The world has never had a good definition of liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in need of one.” What Abraham Lincoln said in 1864 about liberty in general can… More

Constitutional Interpretation in the Court’s First Decades

Benchmarks: Great Constitutional Controversies in the Supreme Court, Terry Eastland, ed. (Washington, DC: Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1995), 1–12.
Leading professors and practitioners of the law offer compelling analyses of key constitutional controversies in the Supreme Court that have helped shape America’s legal and social… More

New Deal vs. Nine Old Men

Wall Street Journal, March 16, 1995.
Excerpt: The story told by Frank Leuchtenburg in The Supreme Court Reborn: Constitutional Reform in the Age of Roosevelt (Oxford, 350 pages, $30) should be a familiar one, although it may… More

Sue the Warden, Sue the Chef, Sue the Gardener . . .

Wall Street Journal, April 24, 1995.
Excerpt: The Senate’s debate this week on tort reform will focus the public spotlight on frivolous lawsuits. Nowhere is this problem more pressing than in our prison system. As one… More

Defunding the Humanities

The American Enterprise, May 1, 1995.
Excerpt: I served on the National Council on the Humanities from 1982-88. My first exposure to the Endowment came in 1982 when, going through a list of proposals that had been approved… More

Blue Movies

Public Interest 119 (Summer 1995), 86–90; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: Hollywood Censored,  we are told on the book’s dust jacket, examines how hundreds of films–Mae West comedies, serious dramas, and films with a social… More

The Great Emancipator

Commentary, January 1996.
Excerpt: David Herbert Donald, a distinguished historian of the South and a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for biography, is the Charles Warren Professor Emeritus of American History… More

Peers and Peremptory Challenges

Race and the Criminal Justice System: How Race Affects Jury Trials, Gerald A. Reynolds, ed. (Washington, DC: The Center for Equal Opportunity, 1996).
Abstract: An introductory paper notes that throughout most of American history a white-dominated justice system, including juries, has discriminated against black defendants, but today… More

The Illegitimacy of Appeals to Natural Law in Constitutional Interpretation

Natural Law, Liberalism, and Morality: Contemporary Essays, Robert P. George, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996, 2001), 181–94; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: I begin by stating the obvious: Federal judges are not in the habit of invoking natural law to support their constitutional decisions. Rather, they invoke one or another—and… More

We Are the World?

National Review, February 26, 1996.
Excerpt: One would never know from the list of celebrities attending the recent “State of the World Forum,” sponsored by the Gorbachev Foundation U.S.A., that there was a time… More

Marriage Anyone?

First Things, April 1996.
Excerpt: Almost 70 percent of the American people have indicated their opposition to “same—sex” marriages (males with males, females with females), but neither they nor their elected… More

Women: An Uncertain Fit for the Multicultural Movement?

Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 19:3 (Spring 1996), 733.
Abstract: Women do not fit well into the model of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism involves groups asking for recognition based on their cultural identity. However, women do not… More

On Patriotism

– Bradley Lecture, American Enterprise Institute, September 16, 1996.
Excerpt: Patriotism means love of country (patria, in the Latin) and implies a readiness to sacrifice for it, to fight for it, perhaps even to give one’s life for it. In the traditional,… More

Examining the Qualities That Make for Leadership

Washington Times, September 22, 1996.
Excerpt: According to its publishers, “Hail to the Chief” is “essential reading for anyone concerned with the state of the Presidency – both its past and its… More

The Assault on the Universities: Then and Now

Reassessing the Sixties: Debating the Political and Cultural Legacy, Stephen Macedo, ed. (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1997), 157–83; reprinted in Academic Questions 10:3 (Summer 1997); reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: The assault on the university began with the student revolt at the Berkeley campus of the University of California in December 1964. Berkeley was followed by Columbia in 1968,… More

On the Future of Conservatism

Commentary, February 1997.
Excerpt: Years ago (how many, I do not remember) I was on a panel with the late Russell Kirk, the doyen of the paleoconservatives, and sitting behind him when, at the podium, he outlined… More

Taking Virtue Seriously

Public Interest 128 (Summer 1997), 122–26.
Excerpt: In 1790-91, Supreme Court Justice James Wilson delivered a series of lectures on the law at what was to become the University of Pennsylvania and before an audience that included… More

Vengeance? Executing McVeigh Would Be Moral

Washington Post, June 8, 1997.
Excerpt: Timothy McVeigh deserves to be punished. Almost all of us can agree on that, but does he deserve to be executed? The Denver jury has to answer that question, but the larger… More

Clinton Lays an Egg

Weekly Standard, July 7, 1997.
Excerpt: During the latter years of a teaching career extending over more than four decades, I became accustomed to university students who could not spell or punctuate and did not know the… More

Is There a Worldwide Conservative Crackup?

Weekly Standard, August 25, 1997.
Excerpt: Ask a conservative what he wants to conserve and he is likely to say ” freedom,” including the freedom to spend his own money; hence, his dislike of taxes. But ask the… More

Testimony of Walter Berns on the Electoral College

– Subcommittee Hearing on "Proposals for Electoral College Reform: H.J. Res. 28 and H.J. Res. 43," U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, September 4, 1997.
Excerpt: In 1981, I began an article The Wall Street Journal by pointing out that “where the Electoral College is concerned, nothing fails to succeed like success.” What was… More

Clothes for Working Women–or Working Girls?

Wall Street Journal, October 27, 1997.
Excerpt: On Oct. 8, The Wall Street Journal ran an article with the headline, “Will Working Women Wear This Stuff?” The “stuff” in question — “vixenish… More

Constitutionalism and Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism and American Democracy, Arthur M. Melzer, Jerry Weinberger, and M. Richard Zinman, eds. (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1998), 91–111; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in the 1830s, very much feared that liberty and equality would be at war with each other; today there is a tendency among some intellectuals to think… More

Why the Death Penalty Is Fair

Wall Street Journal, January 9, 1998.
Excerpt: The death penalty is much in the news. With jurors failing to agree on a sentence for Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, he will escape the maximum legal punishment… More

Covering Their Eyes With Parted Fingers

New York Times, April 4, 1998.
Excerpt: I’ll confess I despise Bill Clinton and have for a long time, and I can’t get enough of this and my wife is disgusted with me. She doesn’t like Bill Clinton, but… More

My Days With Frieda Lawrence

Commentary, August 1998; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: It was a lovely place, that ranch, near (but not at) the top of a mountain a few miles from Taos, New Mexico, and so inaccessible that no one was likely to come upon it… More

Historians Spring an “October Surprise”

Wall Street Journal, November 3, 1998.
Excerpt: In the runup to every election, politicians wait in hopeful or nervous expectation of the “October surprise” — a last-minute news bombshell that can turn the… More

Alexis de Tocqueville

The American Enterprise (November/December 1999).
Alexis de Tocqueville was born in France in 1805, the son of aristocrats. During the French Revolution, his parents had been imprisoned, and his mother’s father and grandfather had… More

Constitutionalism: Old and New

The Liberal Tradition in Focus: Problems and New Perspectives, João Carlos Espada, Marc F. Plattner, and Adam Wolfson, eds. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2000), 17–26.
The Liberal Tradition in Focus is a collection of essays by prominent scholars in their fields on the nature of liberalism at the close of the twentieth century. Using a variety of… More

The Cultivation of Citizenship

Public Morality, Civic Virtue, and the Problem of Modern Liberalism, T. William Boxx and Gary M. Quinlivan, eds. (Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), reprinted in Citizens and Statesmen: An Annual Review of Political Theory and Public Life, James R. Harrigan, ed. (2006).
Liberalism, the central political philosophy of American and Western society, is a philosophy based on human freedom, equality, and the natural rights of individuals. Yet liberalism needs… More

Revisiting States’ Rights Controversy at the Wrong Time, with Altered History

Washington Times, October 15, 2000; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: Forrest McDonald is a reputable scholar. Early-American historians especially are indebted to him, not only f or his important study of the formation of the republic, and his… More

Two-and-a-Half Cheers for the Electoral College

– Ashbrook Center, April 2001; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: Andy Warhol once said that everyone has fifteen minutes of fame during a lifetime—or, at least, is entitled to fifteen minutes of fame. His began when he painted his picture of a… More

Where Are the Death Penalty Critics Today?

Wall Street Journal, July 11, 2001.
Excerpt: Timothy McVeigh’s execution today is noteworthy, coming as it does a “mere” six years since the bombing in Oklahoma City and three since he was convicted and… More

From the Ashes Comes the Rebirth of Patriotism

– AEI Online, October 1, 2001.
Excerpt: The terrorist attacks of September 11 have inspired a greater outpouring of patriotism by the American people than have many previous wars, and numerous displays of the American… More

James Madison on Religion and Politics

James Madison and the Future of Limited Government, John Curtis Samples, ed. (Washington, DC: Cato Institute, 2002), 135–46.
Americans are once again rediscovering the wisdom of the founders who wrote and ratified the U.S. Constitution, which has stood the test of two centuries. James Madison’s efforts in… More

Ancients and Moderns: The Emergence of Modern Constitutionalism

– Institute for the Study of the Americas, March 2002; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Walter Berns, John M. Olin University Professor emeritus at Georgetown University, investigates the history of modern constitutionalism or limited government. Particularly interested in the… More

Mystic Chords of Memory: Cultivating America’s Unique Form of Patriotism

The American Educator 26:1 (Spring 2002): 26–38; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: Patriotism. The word itself comes from the Latin patria, meaning country. Patriotism implies a love of country, a readiness to sacrifice for it, perhaps even a willingness to give… More

The Perennial Trashing of Bourgeois Democracy

Academic Questions 15:4 (September 1, 2002), 23–26; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: What began in nineteenth-century Britain as a serious critique of the new liberal democracy became, in twentieth-century America, a contemptuous “bourgeois bashing,”… More

The Libertarian Dodge

Claremont Review of Books, September 2003; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: There is a question as to why the Beacon Press would choose to publish this collection of Wendy Kaminer’s essays. It is not enough to say, as she does in a prefatory note,… More

The Insignificant Office

– National Review Online, July 9, 2004; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: Why should John Edwards or anyone else want to be vice president? One of the men who held the post spoke of it as “the most insignificant office” ever contrived by the… More

Recipes for Anarchy

Washington Post, July 16, 2004.
In his column [“The Right Plan for Iraqi Voters,” op-ed, July 6] Andrew Reynolds makes much of what advocates see as the chief merit of proportional representation–namely,… More

Religion and the Death Penalty

– Speech delivered at Harvard Law School, September 17, 2004; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: The best case for the death penalty—or, at least, the best explanation of it—was made, paradoxically, by one of the most famous of its opponents, Albert Camus, the French… More

Sticks and Stones?

Commentary, June 2005.
Excerpt: In 1925, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, and in some circles became famous for saying, “if, in the long run, the beliefs expressed in proletarian dictatorship are destined to… More

Under God

– In Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (Washington, DC: AEI Press, 2006).
Excerpt: On March 24, 2004, the Supreme Court heard arguments in still another of what civil libertarians insist on calling establishment-of-religion cases, Elk Grove Unified School… More

Remembering Herbert Storing

– In Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (Washington, DC: AEI Press, 2006).
Almost thirty years have passed since Robert Goldwin called from Washington and said that Herbert Storing had died. I must have uttered a cry, because my wife, who was across the room, rose… More

Patriotism and Multiculturalism

The Many Faces of Patriotism, Philip Abbott, ed. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), 3–14.
In the decades following the end of the Cold War, scholars turned their attention to reevaluating patriotism. Many saw both its ability to serve as a cohesive force and its desirability as… More

Outputs: The Electoral College Produces Presidents

Securing Democracy: Why We Have an Electoral College, Gary L. Gregg II, ed. (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2008).
The distinguished contributors to Securing Democracy—including Michael Barone, Walter Berns, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan—have an uncommonly complete understanding of the nature of… More

Religion and the Death Penalty

Weekly Standard, February 4, 2008.
Excerpt: The best case for the death penalty–or, at least, the best explanation of it–was made, paradoxically, by one of the most famous of its opponents, Albert Camus, the… More

On George Kateb’s Patriotism

Cato Unbound, March 12, 2008.
Excerpt: Professor Kateb begins by defining patriotism as love of country; fair enough. He then distinguishes this love from that of a child’s for his parents, pointing out that,… More

The Case for Keeping the Electoral College

Roll Call, April 3, 2008.
Excerpt: Although national attention continues to focus on an especially riveting nomination contest, a consequential change to the Electoral College, the so-called National Popular Vote… More

Why America Celebrates Lincoln

Wall Street Journal, February 17, 2009.
Excerpt: Abraham Lincoln did great things, greater than anything done by Woodrow Wilson or Franklin Roosevelt. He freed the slaves and saved the Union, and because he saved the Union he was… More

Interrogations and Presidential Prerogative

Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2009.
Excerpt: Recently, an Episcopal church in Bethesda, Md., displayed a banner with the following words: “God bless everyone (no exceptions).” I confessed to the rector of my own… More

In Memoriam: Robert A. Goldwin

– AEI Online, January 21, 2010.
Excerpt: I begin with some personal reflections. I had something of a life before I knew Bob Goldwin. I had graduated from college, had played tournament tennis, and, for four years had,… More

Natural Rights and Modern Constitutionalism

– Walter Berns, "Natural Rights and Modern Constitutionalism," Natural Law, Natural Rights, and American Constitutionalism, a web resource of the Witherspoon Institute.
Excerpt: The idea of constitutionalism is as old as political science, and its features are best described and defended by political philosophers. Aristotle, for example, first addressed… More

Berns on Bork: Distinguished Scholar, Dear Friend

– American Enterprise Institute, December 19, 2012.
Bob Bork was a distinguished legal scholar, judge, teacher, and dear friend to his associates here at AEI.  He was also a Marine who fought in Korea.  He lost his first wife and mother of… More


Book Review: Freedom, Virtue and the First Amendment

– Rene de Visme Williamson, Louisiana Law Review 18:2 (February 1958).
Excerpt: In an age when conflicting ideologies are competing for the support of mankind and when constitutional issues regarding civil liberties are dividing the American people in opposing… More

The First Amendment and the Future of American Democracy

– William J. Bennett, Commentary (May 1977).
Abstract: The recent First Amendment decisions of the Supreme Court have met with criticism both from those who think the Court has gone too far and from those who think it has not gone far… More

The Role of the Court

– William J. Bennett, Commentary, May 1977.
Excerpt: The recent First Amendment decisions of the Supreme Court have met with criticism both from those who think the Court has gone too far and from those who think it has not gone far… More

Killing & the State

– Peter L. Berger, Commentary, August 1979.
Excerpt: In the case of this book, the title and subtitle give, for once, an accurate idea of the contents. The book is a frank plea in favor of capital punishment.

In Defense of Political Philosophy: Two Letters to Walter Berns

– In Harry Jaffa, American Conservatism and the American Founding (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 1984)
Excerpt: IN HIS ‘REPLY TO Harry Jaffa” (National Review, January 22, 1982), Walter Berns writes: There is no substance to Harry Jaffa’s criticism of me. In 1972, he wrote that the… More

No One Blushes Anymore

– George Will, Washington Post, September 15, 1985.
Excerpt: Walter Berns, the political philosopher, asks: What if, contrary to Freud and much conventional wisdom, shame is natural to man and shamelessness is acquired? If so, the… More

Taking the Framers Seriously

– William Michael Treanor, The University of Chicago Law Review 55:3 (Summer, 1988), pp. 1016–40.
Abstract: This review focuses on three of the key historical points that Walter Berns makes: his arguments that the Declaration of Independence is a Lockean document; that the Constitution… More

A Country to Die For

– Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post, May 17, 2001.
Excerpt: This slender but closely argued explication and defense of patriotism is in most respects admirable and welcome, but it proceeds from a somewhat shaky premise. In the academic… More

Is Patriotism Dead? by David Brooks

– David Brooks, Weekly Standard, May 21, 2001.
Excerpt: Noah Webster didn’t just produce a dictionary; he also wrote one of the most influential school textbooks in American history. It was called An American Selection of Lessons… More

Complexities of Patriotism

– George Will, Washington Post, May 27, 2001.
Excerpt: Decoration Day, as it was called when Americans still vividly remembered what it was they were supposed to be remembering, used to be May 30, no matter what, never mind the… More

To Honor My Country

– Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post, July 4, 2001.
Excerpt: A mark of the times is that we have stripped most of our patriotic holidays of their patriotism. We no longer celebrate Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays on their… More

America—Idea or Nation?

– Wilfred M. McClay, Public Interest (Fall 2001).
Excerpt: At first glance, American patriotism seems a simple matter. But it is simple only until one actually starts to think about it, inquire after its sources, and investigate its… More

Imperishable Insights by Bill Buckley

– William F. Buckley, New Criterion (September 2001).
Excerpt: This (too) short book grew out of an essay written by the distinguished political philosopher Walter Berns for The Public Interest. What it does is to probe into American… More

Patriot Practitioner

American Enterprise, September 1, 2002.
Excerpt: World War II Navy veteran, scholar of Constitutional law and political philosophy, prolific author, patriot, and gentleman–those are just a few terms to describe AEI’s… More

Can Patriotism Survive Democracy?

– Jeremy Rabkin, Azure 5763:15 (Summer 2003).
Excerpt: The title is misleading. If you are seeking instruction on how to make people patriots, you will find Walter Berns’ Making Patriots disappointing. What it presents, rather, is a… More

Interview with Walter Berns

– Peter and Helen Evans, RenewAmerica, August 4, 2004.
Excerpt: Helen: Let’s talk about your book, Making Patriots. What do you think the alternative to waving the flag at our Independence Day celebrations would be for that person? In… More

Walter Berns, 2005 National Humanities Medalist

– Cynthia Barnes, National Endowment for the Humanities, January 2005.
Excerpt: As a boy in 1920s Chicago, Walter Berns watched survivors of the Indian Wars march down Michigan Avenue during the Memorial Day parade. At school, he memorized the Gettysburg… More

Walter Berns: The Virtuous Republic

– In Catherine and Michael Zuckert, The Truth About Leo Strauss (The University of Chicago Press, 2006).
Selection from “The Emergence of the Straussian Study of America,” Chapter Six in The Truth About Leo Strauss (The University of Chicago Press, 2006).

Cornell ’69 And What It Did

– Donald A. Downs, Minding the Campus, April 20, 2009.
Excerpt: Forty years ago this week, an armed student insurrection erupted on the Cornell campus. I was a sophomore on campus at the time and later wrote a book on the events, Cornell ’69:… More

Walter Berns’ Constitution by Christopher DeMuth

– Remarks by Christopher DeMuth at a Constitution Day seminar in honor of Walter Berns, hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, September 20, 2011.
Excerpt: In America today, the Constitution has come to mean constitutional law. Most Americans venerate their Constitution and realize that it is an important source of their liberties and… More

Walter Berns, Teacher and Patriot by Leon Kass

– Leon R. Kass, The American, September 27, 2011.
Excerpt: It is absolutely fitting and proper to honor Walter Berns in connection with Constitution Day. The U.S. Constitution, and the underlying ideas and ideals of… More

Walter Berns, 1919-2015

– William Kristol, The Weekly Standard, January 10, 2015.
Excerpt: Walter Berns, the great constitutional scholar and defender of the American republic, died today. He was 95. Generations of students have learned from his work, and will continue… More

Walter Berns, 1919-2015

– Yuval Levin, National Review, January 10, 2015.
Excerpt: Walter Berns, the great political theorist, constitutional scholar, and teacher and mentor to generations of students, passed away on Saturday at the age of 95. Berns taught at… More

Walter Berns and Harry Jaffa

– Peter Augustine Lawler, National Review Online, January 11, 2015.
Excerpt: Berns and Jaffa, two legendary teachers and scholars, died last Saturday within hours of each other. What tied them together is they were both students of Leo Strauss, and all of… More

Remembering my First Law Teacher: Walter Berns 1919-2015

– Robert Howse, Prawfsblog, January 11, 2015.
Excerpt: Walter Berns, with whom I studied American constitutional law as undergraduate, passed away Saturday.   He was a student of Leo Strauss, and a conservative, who supported capital… More

Reminiscences of Walter Berns and Harry Jaffa

– F. H. Buckley, American Spectator, January 11, 2015.
Excerpt: People here in D.C. who remember Walter will recall a witty and learned scholar, but they also remember an indefatigable dancer who, well into his 80s, energetically twirled his… More

Walter Berns and Harry V. Jaffa, RIP

– Steven F. Hayward, Powerline, January 11, 2015.
Excerpt: By an extraordinary coincidence that summons up the idea of Providence, Walter Berns and Harry Jaffa both passed away yesterday. These two intellectual giants, graduate school… More

Walter Berns — A Tough Start to 2015

– Tevi Troy, Ricochet, January 12, 2015.
Excerpt: 2015 may be less than a few weeks old, but already we have lost three of the most important intellectual figures in the modern conservative intellectual movement: Martin… More

Remembering Walter Berns

– Michael S. Greve, Library of Law and Liberty, January 12, 2015.
Excerpt: This past Saturday, Walter Berns died at the age of 95. Walter Berns was one of the truly great constitutional scholars and political theorists of his generation, or any generation… More

The Great Walter Berns

– Quin Hillyer, National Review Online, January 12, 2015.
Excerpt: “Gov’t can rule only by laws, not by decrees.” “The Last paragraph Fed 10: (first object of gov’t: protect the unequal faculties of acquiring property.) [arrow to next… More

Walter Berns: Reminiscences

– Karlyn Bowman, Gary Schmitt, and Scott Walter, AEIdeas, January 12, 2015.
Excerpt: I’ve “known” Walter Berns since the early 1970s.  As an undergraduate and graduate student studying political science at, respectively, the University of Dallas and the… More

The Feud That Revived Conservatism

– Steven F. Hayward, Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2015.
Excerpt: Berns and Jaffa saved conservatism by drawing our attention to and deepening our appreciation of the specifically American aspects of our political foundations, and thereby… More

Remembering Walter Berns

– Steven F. Hayward, The American, January 13, 2015.
Excerpt: There are limitless examples of Berns at his blunt but clarifying best. My favorite is his summary judgment of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who for some reason seems to have every… More

Professor Walter Berns Remembered

– The Fund for American Studies, January 2015.
Excerpt: In 1993, when TFAS launched its Prague-based American Institute on Political and Economic Systems (AIPES), Berns lectured on political philosophy and the U.S. Constitution. It was… More

Walter Berns

Intercollegiate Review, January 14, 2015; reprinted from American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia (ISI Books, 2006).
Excerpt: Berns is best known for his analysis of First Amendment adjudication—especially concerning the so-called “religion clauses”—and for his more general interpretation of the… More

Walter Berns: Teacher, Scholar, Inspiration

– Kishore Jayabalan, The American Spectator, January 15, 2015.
Excerpt: Walter Berns, professor emeritus of government at Georgetown University and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, died Saturday, January 10, 2015, at the age of… More

Freedom, Virtue, and Walter Berns by James Ceaser

– James W. Ceaser, The Weekly Standard, January 26, 2015.
Excerpt: Walter Berns, a leading figure in the study of constitutional law for nearly half a century, enjoyed an advantage over most other scholars in this field: He never attended law… More

The Gentleman Patriot

– Jeremy Rabkin, The Weekly Standard, January 26, 2015.
Excerpt: Aristotle says nature intends the gentleman to be physically imposing but does not always achieve this intention. Nature delivered for Walter Berns. Or anyway (which may have been… More

Scholars of American Politics

– Harvey Mansfield, The Weekly Standard, February 9, 2015.
Excerpt: Among followers of Strauss, one issue is the importance of politics in the relationship of politics and philosophy. Politics thinks it is the most important human activity… More

Country Before Faith

– Gerald J. Russello, American Conservative, February 25, 2015.
Excerpt: Among the most vexing problems Berns addressed over his long career was that of religion in the American polity. An Episcopalian of the old school, Berns thought religion important… More

The Political Thought of Walter Berns

– Harry Clor, Library of Law and Liberty, March 2, 2015.
Excerpt: It is fair to say, I think, that constitutionalism and patriotism are the predominant themes in Berns’s thought—at least in his later years. His central idea on… More

Courts and Character

– Rainer Knopff, remarks from Claremont Institute APSA panel, September 2015.
Excerpt: I am honored to be here to discuss the life and work of Walter Berns – a wonderful teacher, a superb scholar, a beautiful writer, and, quite simply, one of the finest men I have… More

Berns on Free Speech

– Bradley C. S. Watson, remarks from Claremont Institute APSA roundtable, September 2015.
Excerpt: Like few others, Walter Berns made it his life’s work to remind us of the reciprocal relationship between rights and duties, individualism and the common good, civil liberties… More

The Jaffa-Berns Feud Revisited

– Steven F. Hayward, Powerline, September 11, 2015. Remarks from Claremont Institute APSA panel, September 2015.
Excerpt: Berns inclined toward a Hobbesian reading of Locke while Jaffa worked out an Aristotelian reading of Locke. Jaffa thought America the best regime, in the classical sense. Though he… More


Liberty and Equality

– Panel discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, December 1, 1987.
This a session from the larger conference held by the American Enterprise Institute entitled “The Spirit of the Constitution.” The focus of this panel was liberty and equality. Part… More

Blacks, Women & Jews & the Constitution

– Panel discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, April 19, 1990.
A panel discusses Robert Goldwin’s new book, Why Blacks, Women, and Jews Are Not Mentioned in the Constitution, and Other Unorthodox Views.

Third Party Candidates

– Panel discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, March 27, 1992.
The panel discussed the potential of a third party candidate in the presidential primary, the possibility of Ross Perot entering the presidential race, the public assesment of the current… More

Electoral College Proceedings

– C-SPAN, July 3, 1992.
Mr. Berns discussed the electoral college and its functions in the election process. Mr. Berns recently authored a book about the electoral college entitled, After the People Vote.

History of Electoral College in Election

– C-SPAN, September 28, 1992.
Representatives of various groups discussed the electoral college and its origins. The group also talked about presidential elections where the electoral college was significant.

Electoral College Procedure

– C-SPAN, January 6, 1993.
Mr. Berns discussed the origins and history of the electoral college process, with the 1992 electoral college scheduled to take place later in the day. He also commented on footage from… More

Smoking, Is Big Brother Becoming Big Nanny?

Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg, PBS, April 29, 1994.
Think Tank discusses the government’s role in limiting cigarette smoking, in light of the Smoke-Free Environment Act before Congress. How far should the government go in telling people… More

Is this a New, New Deal?

Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg, PBS, January 6, 1995.
Some say the New Deal didn’t end until January 4th, 1995, when the Republicans finally took over Congress. Does this new Congress signal a dramatic shift in the politics and policies of… More

Has the Electoral College Flunked Out?

Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg, PBS, November 16, 2000.
This week, Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg takes an in-depth look at the history and purpose of the electoral college. The controversy surrounding the 2000 election has led many to question… More

Popular vs. Electoral College Vote

– Panel discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, November 1, 2000.
Participants spoke about the role and workings of the Electoral College. They talked about such topics as the history of the Electoral College and the role it had played in past… More

Electoral College

– Panel hosted by Georgetown University, November 29, 2000.
Panelists talked about the electoral college system of voting for president in the U.S. They also talked about which voters have the most power under the current system.

Electoral College Votes Preview

– C-SPAN, December 18, 2000.
Mr. Berns and Mr. White talked about the Electoral College process. They focused on how the process is run and why it was created by the Founding Fathers. They also responded to viewer… More

Interview with Walter Berns About His WWII Service

– Walter F. Berns Collection (AFC/2001/001/15689), Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.
Oral history interview with Walter F. Berns by Valda Morris-Slack for the Veterans History Project.

Election Reform

– Discussion hosted by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, April 5, 2001.
The panelists discussed efforts to reform the U.S. election system since the contested presidential vote in Florida last year and answered questions from the audience of high school… More

Patriotism and Citizenship

– Panel discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, May 20, 2001.
The panelists discussed American patriotism and Mr. Berns’ book, Making Patriots, published by University of Chicago Press. Other panelists were Mr. Cohen, author of Citizens and… More

Walter Berns on C-SPAN Booknotes

– Interview with Walter Berns on his book Making Patriots by Brian Lamb, Booknotes, C-SPAN, August 19, 2001.
Excerpt: BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Walter Berns, where did you get the idea of writing a book called Making Patriots? Professor WALTER BERNS (Author, Making Patriots): Where did I get the idea? I… More

What Patriotism Means Today

– Panel discussion hosted at the American Enterprise Institute, April 8, 2002.
In a panel discussion titled “What Patriotism Means Today,” panelists talked about the history of patriotism in the U.S., the impact of terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on… More

Higher Education and Democracy

– "Higher Education and Democracy in Peace and War: Is Higher Education Compatible with Patriotism?," panel discussion hosted by the National Association of Scholars, May 31, 2002.
In a forum titled “Higher Education and Democracy in Peace and War: Is Higher Education Compatible with Patriotism?,” participants talked about the state of higher education and the… More

Democracy and the Constitution: Essays by Walter Berns

– Audio, book forum, American Enterprise Institute, September 29, 2006.
AEI scholar and historian Walter Berns has spent his academic career defending the United States Constitution. In his latest collection of essays, Democracy and the Constitution (AEI Press,… More

Abraham Lincoln at Two Hundred

– Audio lecture, American Enterprise Institute, February 9, 2009.
Abraham Lincoln was the greatest of our presidents. He saved the Union, which made it possible for him to free the slaves. But he did more than this; without him we probably would have had… More

Free Markets and the Constitution

– Audio lecture, American Enterprise Institute, August 11, 2009.
Why is the number of Americans who value free enterprise, and who understand its virtues and benefits declining–especially among students and younger citizens? Asked in an… More

Walter Berns and Leon Kass on Stephen Spielberg’s “Lincoln”

– Discussion with Walter Berns and Leon Kass, hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, December 20, 2012.
At a discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, What So Proudly We Hail editor Leon R. Kass and Walter Berns (professor emeritus, Georgetown University) discussed Steven… More


– Audio, "Dialogue," Woodrow Wilson Center.
In ancient Sparta patriotism meant a commitment to warfare and a view of the state as divine. For modern Americans patriotism is set on a much different and abstract basis. Walter Berns… More

Conversations with Bill Kristol: James Ceaser

– James Ceaser, Conversations with Bill Kristol, March 2, 2015.
In this footage from Conversations with Bill Kristol, University of Virginia political scientist James Ceaser reflects on the lives and ideas of seminal teachers of political philosophy and… More

The Magna Carta, Due Process, and Administrative Power

– Philip Hamburger, Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture, American Enterprise Institute, September 17, 2015.
Summary: Is the Magna Carta still relevant? By the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell was already allegedly declaring, “Magna Carta, Magna Farta.” Numerous legal commentators today remain… More

The Man that Made the Constitution Relevant

– Video, American Enterprise Institute, September 17, 2015.
A short tribute video produced by the American Enterprise Institute about the life and work of Walter Berns.


Teaching Career

Professor Emeritus, 1994–present; John M. Olin University Professor, 1986–94; Professorial Lecturer, 1979–86, Georgetown University Visiting Professor of Political Science, University… More