Mary Anne Franks


On her book The Cult of the Constitution

Cover Interview of October 30, 2019


My most modest goal for the book is for it to contribute to the improvement of Americans’ constitutional literacy. More ambitiously, I would like the book to deprive constitutional fundamentalism of its seductive but corrosive power. I would be gratified if reading this book encourages people to adopt a critical, rather than reverent, attitude to the Constitution, so that bad faith constitutional claims might more easily be exposed as such. If this book led people to persistently question not only which constitutional rights but whose constitutional rights are being defended, I would consider it a success.

Most ambitiously, I would wish that the book could make people more receptive to adopting the principle of reciprocity, not only as a legal but as a moral principle. It is always tempting to dress up one’s self-serving beliefs as fidelity to a higher authority, and it can be hard to detect when we are doing so. The principle of reciprocity is the surest test of our real motivations, whether in law or love or any part of life: to ask ourselves whether we would deny to others the benefits we claim for ourselves, or, conversely, whether we would impose on others the wrongs we seek to avoid for ourselves.