Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



I would suggest to you that during the more than two centuries that have elapsed since the American Revolution, American political philosophy has been notable principally for the contrapuntal themes that rise and fall as the nation matures. Numerous commentators have pointed out that certain ideals have long been widely shared by Americans: individual autonomy, liberty, equality, and a belief in limited, decentralized government.1 But no one would be so bold as to describe the present government of the United States as embodying those ideals. We have a strong national government that, with occasional lapses, impinges more and more on the activities of each individual citizen as time goes by.Yet most Americans are downright suspicious of, if not hostile to,governmental authority of any sort. This gap between our feelings about government in the abstract and the existing national, state,and local governments that we have in fact created in this country has made grist for the mill of those who would question the legitimacy of governmental authority-however much that authority may be completely consistent with the United States Constitution.