What Do Progressives Have Against the Federalist?

Why study it?  Peter Berkowitz, writing in The Wall Street Journal, has some thoughts on the matter.

…despite the lip service they pay to liberal education, our leading universities can’t be bothered to require students to study The Federalist—or, worse, they oppose such requirements on moral, political or pedagogical grounds.


The Federalist deals with the reasons for preserving the union, the inefficacy of the existing federal government under the Articles of Confederation, and the conformity of the new constitution to the principles of liberty and consent.  It covers war and peace, foreign affairs, commerce, taxation, federalism and the separation of powers.  It provides a detailed examination of the chief features of the legislative, executive and judicial branches.


It advances its case by restatement and refutation of the leading criticisms of the new constitution.

Actual logic.  What’s up with that?

Amazingly, our pseudo-elite schools blow off this collection of essays almost entirely.  At Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and Berkeley, for instance, political science majors can get their BS/BAs without so much as a reference to The Federalist, and their law school graduates (except for Princeton, which has no law school) can get their law degrees with the same level of ignorance of how our legal system, and the laws within (and without) it, are intended to operate.

Never mind that the collection of essays comprises a most sound analysis of the problems our Constitution was intended to solve (have these institutions, or their graduates, even heard of the Articles of Confederation?) and the manner in which the government of which our Constitution is the blueprint was intended to operate.

Again, I ask: why do Progressives avoid The Federalist as assiduously as they do?  I can think of two reasons.  One is Berkowitz’: the essays are about a Constitution that they think no one can understand because it’s old, and it’s not binding on anything, anyway.  It’s wholly irrelevant.

But there’s another reason, too.  If they knew and understood these arguments, they’d have a harder time trying to criminalize those who disagree with them.

Update: corrected the last link, which had been broken.

One thought on “What Do Progressives Have Against the Federalist?

  1. Pingback: The Federalist and Thinking | A Plebe's Site

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