Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Constitution and the Economy: The Smith Seminar for Spring 2010

The Institute for Constitutional History announces the Robert H. Smith Seminar for Spring 2010, "The Constitution and the Economy," to be led by James Surowiecki and John Fabian Witt. Surowiecki is a staff writer at the New Yorker, where he writes the popular bi-weekly business column “The Financial Page.” He is the author of the The Wisdom of Crowds. Witt is a Professor of Law at Yale Law School and the author of Patriots and Cosmopolitans: Hidden Histories of American Law (Harvard Press, 2007) and The Accidental Republic: Crippled Workingmen, Destitute Widows, and the Remaking of American Law (Harvard Press, 2004).

According to the Institute's announcement:
The United States Constitution is the foundation of the American economy. It sustains the property rights on which American markets rest. It shapes government regulation of those markets, too. But can a two hundred and twenty year old document support a twenty-first century economy? This seminar takes up the relationship between the Constitution and economic life in American history. It investigates the economic controversies that have surrounded the Constitution from its start, from the economic crises of the 1780s, to nineteenth-century battles over slavery, banking, the railroads, and national infrastructure; from the income tax, the Federal Reserve, and the New Deal state in the twentieth century, to global trade agreements, eminent domain, and climate regulation in the twenty-first. In examining the ways in which the Constitution has shaped (and been shaped by) the transformations in the U.S. economy, we hope to glean answers to one of the most pressing questions of our time: How can that same Constitution successfully accommodate the economic challenges of our future?

The seminar is designed for graduate students and junior faculty in history, political science, law, and related disciplines. All participants will be expected to complete the assigned readings and participate in seminar discussions. Although the Institute cannot offer academic credit directly for the seminar, students may be able to earn graduate credit through their home departments by completing an independent research project in conjunction with the seminar. Please consult with your advisor and/or director of graduate studies about these possibilities. Space is limited, so applicants should send a copy of their c.v. and a short statement on how this seminar will be useful to them in their research, teaching, or professional development. Materials will be accepted only by email at until December 1, 2009. Successful applicants will be notified soon thereafter. For further information, please contact Maeva Marcus at (202) 994-6562 or e-mail

There is no tuition or other charge for this seminar, though participants will be expected to acquire the assigned books on their own. Modest assistance with travel expenses from outside the New York metropolitan area will be available.
The seminar meets Tuesday afternoons, 2:00–4:00 p.m., January 19, 26, February 2, 16, 23, and March 2, 2010, at the New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York City.