Book Review: Freedom, Virtue and the First Amendment

Rene de Visme Williamson, Louisiana Law Review 18:2 (February 1958).


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 camps, there is likely to be a renaissance of critical and speculative thinking about fundamentals. Not all this thinking is of high quality, as the refurbishing of the old doctrine of nullification and much of the so-called “neo-conservative” literature so amply testify. Nevertheless, controversy brings thought, and some of this thought will be of enduring value.

Walter Berns’ Freedom, Virtue and the First Amendment is a notable example of the best kind of thought which controversy can engender. It is a very important contribution to political thought and will attract attention among social scientists for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it is a ringing challenge to the system of values which has dominated them. One does not need the gift of prophecy to predict that this book will be vigorously and widely attacked. It will likewise influence the legal profession because its immediate concern is with court decisions and the factors which influence them. Finally, it will interest many people in the thinking public who are looking for a truer and more adequate philosophical foundation for our constitutional democratic way of life.

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