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The U.S. Constitution in Five Minutes

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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. The U.S. Constitution in Five Minutes presents fifty-nine essays on subjects central to the meaning and application of the U.S. Constitution. 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 noncitizens?
• How can we tell what the Constitution means?
Intended for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the underlying principles of the U.S. political system, the book will also be a valuable supplement to political science courses. As with all the “Five Minutes” books, the essays are written in lively and accessible prose and are brief enough to be read in five minutes.

Published: Apr 11, 2023

Book Contributors

Section Chapter Authors
Preface Joseph L. Smith, David E. Klein
1. Why Do We Have a Constitution? James Todd
2. Who Wrote the Constitution? Madison Shanks, Kirk A. Randazzo
3. Human Nature and the Constitution David Lay Williams
4. Racism in the Constitution Leslie F. Goldstein
5. Emulation and Innovation in the Constitutional System A.K. Shauku
6. How Can We Tell What the Constitution Means? Sara C. Benesh
7. Is the Constitution What the Justices Say It Is? Joseph L. Smith
Congress and the States
8. What Can States Do? John D. Nugent
9. What Is "Commerce among the Several States," and Why Does It Matter? H. W. Perry, Jr.
10. What States Can't Do Joseph L. Smith
11. How Can Governments Use the Power to Tax? Jolly A. Emrey
12. Why Is It Hard to Sue a State? Susan W. Johnson
Conflicts between the Branches
13. What Is the Purpose of the Separation of Powers? Joseph L. Smith
14. The President as Chief Executive David Crockett
15. The Crucial Power to Appoint and Remove Officials Robert J. 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 U. Thorpe
19. How Can We Get Rid of a Bad President? Donald A. Zinman
20. Judicial Review Allyson Yankle
21. The Challenge of Judicial Independence Charles Gardner Geyh
Representative Democracy
22. Who Can Vote? Greg W. Vonnahme
23. Why Is My Congressional District Such a Weird Shape? Jeffrey L. 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 Kexel Chabot
Individual Liberties
30. Does the Constitution Protect Hate Speech? Timothy R. Johnson
31. Does the Constitution Protect the Right to Lie? Keith J. Bybee
32. Can I Be Prosecuted for Telling Someone to Break the Law? David E. Klein
33. Do the Media Have Special Rights? Mark J. Richards
34. Is All Religious Behavior Protected? Barry Pyle
35. What Does "Separation of Church and State" Mean? 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? William Merkel
38. 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 O. Law
42. Does the Constitution Protect Noncitizens? Allen Linken
43. Does the Equal Protection Clause Cover Gender? Laura P. Moyer
44. Equal Protection beyond Race and Sex David E. Klein
45. Regulating Private Discrimination Karen Swenson
46. Does the Constitution Permit Affirmative Action? Kyla K. Stepp
47. Is There a Right to Same-Sex Marriage? Robert J. Hume
The Criminal Justice Process
48. Homes and the Fourth Amendment Pamela C. Corley
49. Automobiles and the Fourth Amendment Melinda Gann Hall
50. Electronic Surveillance and Tracking Tinsley Griffin Hill
51. Taking the Fifth David E. Klein
52. Police Interrogations and the Miranda Warnings Ryan J. Williams
53. Why Do Courts Throw Out Good Evidence? Wendy L. Martinek
54. Cruel and Unusual Punishments Taneisha N. Means
Looking Outward and Forward
55. The U.S. Constitution as an International Model Monica Lineberger
56. Different Approaches to National Constitutions Matthew Reid Krell
57. Does the Constitution Work in a Crisis? David Crockett
58. Does the Constitution Cause Gridlock? Richard L. Pacelle, Jr.
59. Does the Amendment Process Need Amendment? Bruce Peabody
End Matter
Index Joseph L. Smith, David E. Klein