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The U.S. Constitution in 5 Minutes

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The U.S. Constitution in 5 Minutes presents 59 essays on subjects central to the meaning and application of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution was written more than 230 years ago, for a new country on the periphery of the world. Two centuries later, it governs the most powerful nation on earth and its meaning is constantly debated. Written by scholars, these essays cover origins; institutions, processes, and structural features; civil rights and liberties; and modes of interpretation and address common questions and misunderstandings about the Constitution, such as:
Can the President start a war?
Does the Constitution protect hate speech?
Does the Second Amendment give everyone the right to have a gun?
Does the Constitution protect non-citizens?
How can we tell what the Constitution means?

Pitched at readers who follow the news and have basic knowledge about the U.S. government, this book is valuable as a supplement to political science courses and for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the underlying principles of the U.S. political system. As with all the “in 5 Minutes” books, the essays are written in lively and accessible prose and are brief enough to be read in 5 minutes.

Published: Mar 1, 2023

Book Contributors


Section Chapter Authors
Preface
Preface Joseph Smith, David Klein
Origins
1. Why do we have a Constitution? James Todd
2. Who wrote the Constitution? Madison Shanks, Kirk Randazzo
3. Human nature and the Constitution David Williams
4. Racism in the Constitution Leslie Goldstein
5. Emulation and innovation in the constitutional system A.K. Shauku
6. How can we tell what the Constitution means? Sara Benesh
7. Is the Constitution what the justices say it is? Joseph Smith
Congress and the States
8. What can states do? John Nugent
9. What is ‘commerce among the several states,’ and why does it matter? H. W. Perry, Jr.
10. What can’t states do? Joseph Smith
11. How can governments use the power to tax? Jolly Emrey
12. Why is it hard to sue a state? Susan Johnson
Conflicts between the Branches
13. What is the purpose of separation of powers? Joseph Smith
14. The president as chief executive David Crockett
15. The crucial power to appoint and remove officials Robert Hume
16. Who really makes the laws? Eric Heberlig
17. Executive orders: statutes in disguise? Chris Edelson
18. Can the president start a war? Rebecca Thorpe
19. How can we get rid of a bad president? Donald Zinman
20. Judicial review Allyson Yankle
21. The challenge of judicial independence Charles Geyh
Representative Democracy
22. Who can vote? Greg Vonnahme
23. Why is my congressional district such a weird shape? Jeffrey Bernstein
24. Is the Electoral College undemocratic? Sheahan Virgin
25. Why do Wyoming and California have the same number of senators? Benjamin Kassow
26. Term lengths, stability, and responsiveness Beth Henschen
27. Can the Constitution handle political parties? Michael Catalano
28. Campaign finance and the First Amendment Bruce Larson
29. Is the administrative state unconstitutional? Christine Chabot
Individual Liberties
30. Does the Constitution protect hate speech? Timothy Johnson
31. Does the Constitution protect the right to lie? Keith Bybee
32. Can I be prosecuted for telling someone to break the law? David Klein
33. Do the media have special rights? Mark Richards
34. Is all religious behavior protected? Barry Pyle
35. Separation of church and state Chris Kromphardt
36. Does a Twitter ban violate the Constitution? Lawrence Baum
37. Does the Second Amendment give me the right to carry a gun? Bill Merkel
38. Private property and the takings clause Robert Howard
39. Is There a right to abortion in the Constitution? Chase Porter
Equality and Civil Rights
40. How did the Civil War amendments change the Constitution? Gbemende Johnson
41. Who is a citizen? Anna Law
42. Does the Constitution protect non-citizens? Allen Linken
43. Does the equal protection clause cover gender? Laura Moyer
44. Equal protection beyond race and sex David Klein
45. Regulating private discrimination Karen Swenson
46. Does the Constitution permit affirmative action? Kyla Stepp
47. s There a right to same-sex marriage? Robert Hume
The Criminal Justice Process
48. Homes and the Fourth Amendment Pamela Corley
49. Automobiles and the Fourth Amendment Melinda Hall
50. Electronic surveillance and tracking Tinsley Hill
51. Taking the Fifth David Klein
52. Police interrogations and the Miranda Warnings Ryan Williams
53. Why do courts throw out good evidence? Wendy Martinek
54. Cruel and unusual punishments Taneisha Means
Looking Outward and Forward
55. The U.S. Constitution as an international model Monica Lineberger
56. Different approaches to national constitutions Matthew Krell
57. Does the Constitution work in a crisis? David Crockett
58. Does the Constitution cause gridlock? Richard Pacelle
59. Does the amendment process need amendment? Bruce Peabody