Constitutionalism and Rights, Gary C. Bryner and Noel B. Reynolds, eds. (Albany NY: SUNY Press, 1987).
Constitutionalism and Rights explores the ambivalent relationship between the American tradition of constitutionalism and the notions of rights that have emerged over the last three centuries. The six essays focus systematically on selected tensions between these two fundamental strands in the American tradition of liberty and self-government. Discussed are: ideas of rights and constitutionalism generally; mechanisms and procedures necessary to assure rights in a large bureaucratic state; rights as expressed in public welfare programs; innovations employed by the eighteenth-century Framers to achieve limited government as a means to securing fair and equal individual freedom; the dependence of rights on institutional devices and the rule of law; the need for public virtue (balancing individual rights with self-sacrifice for the common good) if the American constitutional system is to survive; and the dangers of individualism and individual rights posed by modern liberalism.
The essayists are prominent scholars representing the disciplines of political science, government, and law. They all state their confidence in the American constitutional system, but they also voice doubts about the future if problems are not redressed. The editors conclude their introduction by expressing hope that this volume “will clarify some important issues and help us remember essential lessons of the past, as we continue in this great public conversation.”