What would the Father of the Constitution think of contemporary developments in American politics and public policy?Constitutional scholars have long debated whether the American political system, which was so influenced by the thinking of James Madison, has in fact grown outmoded. But if Madison himself could peer at the present, what would he think of the state of key political institutions that he helped originate and the government policies that they produce? In What Would Madison Do?, ten prominent scholars explore the contemporary performance of Madison's constitutional legacy and how much would have surprised him.John DiIulio Jr (University of Pennsylvania) observes the failure of today's policymakers to address adequately the nation's long-range financial liabilities and considers the need for constitutional reforms.William Galston (Brookings Institution) examines significant departures from the framers' intentions: most notably, the implications of the rise of political parties and the ascent of ""direct versus representative democracy.""Pietro Nivola (Brookings Institution) makes the case that our old political system, now so often said to be dysfunctional, actually acquitted itself comparatively well in contending with the recent Great Recession.R. Shep Melnick (Boston College) challenges the common presumption that the U.S. government is gridlocked and surveys the robust record of policy accomplishments in the past couple of decades.Jonathan Rauch (Brookings Institution) argues that America's political process continues to encourage useful compromise, much as Madison intended.Jack Rakove (Stanford University) ponders what Madison would think of the contemporary United States Senate and the chamber's rules or practices that often facilitate obstruction.Martha Derthick (University of Virginia) contemplates how startled Madison would be by the federal government's extensive involvement nowadays in ""local and particular"" concerns of states and localities.Eugene Hickok, a former deputy secretary of education, discusses Madison's devotion to education in the young nation and invites us to wonder how he might view the educational system's current condition.Lynn Uzzell (Montpelier's Center for the Constitution) reflects on how Madison might have regarded the judicial role in resolving constitutional disputes such as those stirred by laws like the Affordable Care Act.Benjamin Wittes (Brookings Institution) and Ritika Singh (Lawfare) look at the age-old tension between national security interests and safeguarding civil liberties - from Madison's own perspective and from that of the present day.
Benjamin Wittes is a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a founding editor of Lawfare. He is the author of many books, including most recently The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones - Confronting A New Age of Threat (Basic Books, 2015), coauthored with Gabriella Blum.Pietro Nivola is a senior fellow emeritus at the Brookings Institution. His most recent book is What So Proudly We Hailed: Essays on the Contemporary Meaning of the War of 1812 (Brookings Institution Press, 2012), coedited with Peter J. Kastor.