This book is a careful and thoughtful analysis of the tension between the written, formal US Constitution of 1787 and what Reed (emer., law, Widener Univ.) calls the “living” constitution of the US as it has evolved in practice and through judicial review over the centuries since ratification. The author focuses on the inherent tension between the presidential power to make war and the individual liberties guaranteed to US citizens in the Bill of Rights and elsewhere. The larger problem, as Reed sees it, is whether moral consequentialism (utilitarian ethics) authorizes the president and the federal government to do just about anything they think necessary to protect the state in time of war, and in so doing violate the historic rights of individuals. Reed surveys all of US constitutional history leading up to the forceful behavior of George W. Bush’s global war on terror to demonstrate that, when push comes to shove, Americans (their courts and legislatures) have been willing to subordinate individual liberty to national security. Well-informed readers will not be surprised by Reed’s conclusions, but they will find little to disagree with in his well-informed account.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.