Monday, December 6, 2010

Johnson, Sowards, and more in the Law & Politics Book Review

A new issue of the Law & Politics Book Review (sponsored by the Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association) is out. As usual, it contains several books that may be of interest to legal historians.

For example, Alan Gibson (California State University, Chico) reviews Calvin H. Johnson, Righteous Anger at the Wicked States: The Meaning of the Founders' Constitution (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
University of Texas Law Professor Calvin Johnson’s provocative but deeply flawed book RIGHTEOUS ANGER AT THE WICKED STATES is at once a study of the motives that led to the formation of the Constitution and a targeted refutation of the “new federalism” led by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Johnson hammers the following thesis: the original Constitution was “first a pro-tax document written to give the federal government revenue to pay enough of its war debts to restore the public credit” (p.2). The inability of the Confederation government to raise revenue had made orchestration of the Revolutionary war effort excruciating and perilous. It also endangered the union after independence. Paying debts to creditors, especially foreign ones, the Framers realized, was essential to national defense because the United States would doubtlessly be at war and in need of money again. Defaulting on current loans would make future borrowing impossible.
You can read the full review here.

UPDATE: the Law & Politics Book Review has published Johnson's reply. You can read it here.

Another book taken up is Adam Sowards's The Environmental Justice: William O. Douglas and American Conservation (Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press, 2009). Helen J. Knowles (Whitman College) describes it as "beautifully written," "highly readable," and persuasive. Here's the overview:
The book proceeds chronologically, taking us on a fascinating journey from the intellectually formative years of Douglas’s youth, many of which were spent embracing the landscape and wilderness of the Pacific Northwest; through the 1950s and early 1960s when he led protest marches in the name of conservation; to the late 1960s and early 1970s when, as a member of the Court, Justice Douglas frequently found himself writing passionate dissents in environmental cases. However, each chapter does so much more than tell a story about a particular point in time. Douglas’s quest for environmental justice was defined by certain characteristics. Some of these figured prominently throughout his life (such as playing the role of public educator), but others only rose to the surface of Douglas’s activities at specific times (for example, as chapter five shows, Douglas found the writing of dissenting judicial opinions to be a particularly effective (in his mind) tool for articulating his opposition to bureaucratic ‘meddling’ with the conservation cause). Every chapter of THE ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE makes this clear by identifying the particular characteristic that was most prominent in Douglas’s work during the period of time covered in that chapter.
You can find the rest of the review here.

Also reviewed -- a collection of essays on Eugen Ehrlich (author of The Fundamental Principles of the Sociology of Law), an ethnographic study of two California corrections programs for young mothers, and a history of institutional review boards (IRBs).