A Book Report
Constitutional Chaos

By Roger R. Lott

Constitutional Chaos reveals some of the dirtiest secrets about our government. It makes you go red with rage (or maybe pale with fear) while reading of case after case involving government unlawfulness, lies, abuse and police misconduct. This book is a must-read for anyone concerned about the security of his/her constitutional rights. It seems clear that the government is becoming increasingly corrupt and that we are losing our rights. Throughout the book, Judge Andrew P. Napolitano makes it quite clear that “the government is not your friend”.

Armed with an arsenal of powerful examples, Napolitano sets out to prove that the government “silences the First Amendment”, “shoots holes in the second”, “breaks some laws to enforce others”, “entraps citizens”, “steals private property” and even “denies suspects their day in court”. Napolitano does an excellent job convincing the reader that this is the case.

Why should we trust Andrew Napolitano? As a graduate of Princeton and Notre Dame Law School, Napolitano became the youngest person in New Jersey history to receive a lifetime judgeship. In this book, Napolitano tells us what he has learnt from his own experiences in the courtroom. The author’s time on the bench has drastically changed his opinion about the government.

Napolitano’s very first example tells of how in 1942, Chicago police officers illegally abducted one Shirley Collins at the request of their Michigan colleagues. The police forcefully took Collins into custody and interrogated him. When Collins refused to answer them until after he could consult a lawyer, the police beat him with blackjacks. The next day, Collins was beaten unconscious when he again requested council (I am sure that only the worst police would do such a thing). He faced trial the following day without a lawyer and was convicted. Shockingly, the Supreme Court declared that the government adhered to the Constitution in their treatment of Collins.

What were the Supreme Court Justices thinking when they reached this decision? The Bill of Rights explicitly states that a defendant has the right to counsel, and the way in which the police treated Collins was certainly a criminal offense. Surely the Chicago police correctly assumed that they would get away with their crimes. This is one of numerous instances in which the government placed itself above the law and at the same time took away the rights of “we the people”.

Let us take a look at one recent case concerning fifth-amendment abuse in the town of Hurst, Texas. In 2000, the community leadership threatened to demolish 127 homes in order to allow their largest taxpayer – a real-estate agency – to build a larger parking lot for the town’s mall (this would increase the City’s sales and property tax revenues). The government threatened to declare eminent domain if the owners refused to sell their homes. Although the government rarely pays their victims “just compensation”, many people settle for the government’s low offer because it would be a real hassle to work through today’s complicated legal system. Only ten families refused to sell their property. A Texas trial judge chose to allow the City government’s use of eminent domain, and thus forced the condemnees from their homes.

Although the fifth-amendment only allows the government to seize property provided that it will serve a public use, it is apparent that the government annihilated these houses to nurture a better relationship with the real-estate agency (undoubtedly a private purpose). It is quite clear that 127 homes are better than an expanded parking lot.

Scenarios like the one explained above are by no means rare occurrences. The Castle Coalition, a nonprofit organization formed by the Institute for Justice, found that there have been over 10,000 properties in 41 states that have faced attempted condemnation so the land could be given to private developers. The successful attempts clearly violate the fifth-amendment.

Constitutional Chaos is a book that will appeal to a broad array of readers. Because Napolitano writes in a rather non-ideological way – he blames both Democrats and Republicans – this book will hopefully appeal to people from both ends of the political spectrum.

If you have any comments, please e-mail me at R4Roger05@aol.com.


Constitutional Chaos by Andrew P. Napolitano




Johnlott.org (description of book, downloadable data sets, and discussions of previous controversies)

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Appalachian law school attack

Baghdad murder rate

Arming Pilots

Fraudulent website pretending to be run by me

The Merced Pitchfork Killings and Vin Suprynowicz's quote

Ayres and Donohue

Stanford Law Review

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Craig Newmark

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Dr. T's EconLinks.com

Interview with National Review Online

Lyonette Louis-Jacques's page on Firearms Regulation Worldwide

The End of Myth: An Interview with Dr. John Lott

Cold Comfort, Economist John Lott discusses the benefits of guns--and the hazards of pointing them out.

An interview with John R. Lott, Jr. author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws

Some data not found at www.johnlott.org:

Updated Media Analysis of Appalachian Law School Attack

Since the first news search was done additional news stories have been added to Nexis:

There are thus now 218 unique stories, and a total of 294 stories counting duplicates (the stories in yellow were duplicates): Excel file for general overview and specific stories. Explicit mentions of defensive gun use increase from 2 to 3 now.

Journal of Legal Studies paper on spoiled ballots during the 2000 Presidential Election

Data set from USA Today, STATA 7.0 data set

"Do" File for some of the basic regressions from the paper