Knopf, 2017.

Review published Apr 2017.

The author, a law-school professor and former policy director for Senator Elizabeth Warren, discusses at some length the nature of constitutions. Ancient constitutions (so-called 'class warfare constitutions') recognized the inequality of the populace and endeavoured to constrain the power of the privileged class and so preserve the rights of the masses. The American Constitution of 1776 (a 'middle-class constitution') instead relied on the great similarity among the voting colonists. As our Constitution has evolved, it continues to be founded on the assumption of equality.

But as government has grown more complex, American elites have exercised greater and greater political power -- chiefly through lobbying and campaign contributions -- and have turned around many of the great egalitarian features of politics and taxation in the mid-twentieth century. Instead of high taxes on personal income and low sales taxes, the situation today is reversed, enabling the wealthy to grow wealthier while the poor grow poorer.

As always in books of this sort, the problem is easier to assess than the solution. The author wishes we would strengthen the middle-class, and suggests higher wages and cheaper and more universal education as two important steps, but I am surprised he does not recommend some of the basic income proposals that are being floated about. I particularly believe the Conservative Plan for Climate Action as put forth by Greg Mankiw and backed by political heavyweights Jim Baker and George Schultz would be of enormous benefit to the country.

If you want to bypass the historical analysis of constitutional theory, you can just read Chapters 5 and 6 to get a good summary of our current dilemma.