Conference on Originalism and the Good Constitution

Originalism and the Good Constitution

Conference Overview

The Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism is hosting a conference on Originalism and the Good Constitution (Harvard University Press, 2013), written by University of San Diego’s Hugh and Hazel Darling Foundation Professor of Law Michael Rappaport and Northwestern’s George C. Dix Professor in Constitutional Law John McGinnis.

About the Book

From the bookjacket: Originalism holds that the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted according to its meaning at the time it was enacted. In their innovative defense of originalism, John McGinnis and Michael Rappaport maintain that the text of the Constitution should be adhered to by the Supreme Court because it was enacted by supermajorities--both its original enactment under Article VII and subsequent Amendments under Article V. A text approved by supermajorities has special value in a democracy because it has unusually wide support and thus tends to maximize the welfare of the greatest number.

The authors recognize and respond to many possible objections. Does originalism perpetuate the dead hand of the past? How can following the original meaning be justified, given that African Americans and women were excluded from the enactment of the Constitution in 1787 and many of its subsequent Amendments? What is originalism's place in interpretation of the Constitution, when after two hundred years there is so much non-originalist precedent?

A fascinating counterfactual they pose is this: had the Supreme Court not interpreted the Constitution so freely, perhaps the nation would have resorted to the Article V amendment process more often and with greater effect. Their book will be an important contribution to the literature on originalism, which is now the most prominent theory of constitutional interpretation.


Conference Organizer

  • Michael Ramsey — Hugh and Hazel Darling Foundation Professor of Law, University of San Diego

Limited seating is available to observe the conference; please email

About the Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism

Originalism is the view that the Constitution should be interpreted in accordance with its original meaning—that is, the meaning it had at the time of its enactment. The Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism at the University of San Diego School of Law studies all aspects of originalism by holding conferences, hosting speakers, sponsoring fellows, operating a blog, and promoting originalist scholarship.


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