“Does the ‘Will of the People’ Exist?” Conference

When a court refrains from declaring a law unconstitutional it often explains that the law represents the “Will of the People” and that mere judges should invalidate that “Will” very sparingly. But what actually is the “Will of the People?” Does it even exist in the first place? And even if it does to some degree, how many of our laws really exist because of it? Further, what do the answers to these questions have to say about judicial review? If the “Will of the People” isn’t all it’s often thought to be, does that mean courts should be more engaged with finding laws to violate the Constitution?

This conference, which the Center for Judicial Engagement sponsored along with our friends at the Liberty and Law Center at Antonin Scalia Law School, brought together leading experts on these issues from law, political science, and economics to address the same central questions

  1. Does the “Will of the People” exist and if so to what extent?
  2. What does the answer to question (1) have to say for judicial deference to the political branches on questions of constitutionality?

Several experts presented their essays answering these questions, and others will provided commentary on these overlooked issues of American democracy and constitutional law. The essays will later be published in the George Mason Law Review. 

The legal scholars participating were Ilya Somin of George Mason, Margaret Lemos of Duke University, and Barry Friedman of NYU, with David Bernstein of George Mason moderating. The political science scholars were Joseph Ura of Texas A&M, J. Jarpa Duwani of Howard University, and Samuel Goldman of George Washington University, with Dana Berliner of IJ moderating. The economics scholars were Jayme Lemke of the Mercatus Center at George Mason, Francesco Parisi of the University of Minnesota and University of Bologna, and Stefanie Haeffele of the Mercatus Center at George Mason, with Robert Frommer of IJ moderating.

videos from the event

Video from the political science and economics panels is available here:

Political Science