Constitutional Interpretation and the Common Good
September 17, 2020
John O. McGinnis, George C. Dix Professor of Constitutional Law, Pritzker School of Law, Northwestern University, and Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University
Stated most generally, the purpose of a constitution is to serve the common good of a political society. How does the Constitution of the United States serve the common good of the America polity and the American people? Does the fact that the Constitution is itself justified by its service to the common good have implications for how the Constitution should be interpreted? Are interpretative theories or approaches to the Constitution themselves justified by how well they serve the common good? What about the theory or approach (or family of theories and approaches) known as “originalism”? If we indeed believe that the Constitution is justified by its service to the common good, should we embrace originalism? Or should we reject it? If the latter, in favor of what alternative should it be rejected? Is a proper “common good constitutionalism” originalist? Or non-originalist?