In an excellent Wall Street Journal op-ed today (subscription required), law professor Steven G. Calabresi cogently explains why “we all ought to hope that the Roberts Court and the justices appointed by the next president will be originalists.” As Calabresi points out, although the label “originalism” may seem unfamiliar, “the long-accepted rule for interpreting legal texts is to construe them to have the original public meaning that they had when they were enacted into law. This is the way we interpret statutes, contracts, wills, and even old Supreme Court opinions.” The same rule of originalism, he continues, should also govern interpretation of the Constitution. (My own simple test to show you that you, like it or not, are an originalist is here.)
Calabresi, co-founder of the Federalist Society, is also editor of the new book Originalism: A Quarter Century of Debate, an outstanding compilation of speeches (both for and against) about originalism and debates over it. Anyone interested in thinking more deeply about originalism will want to read this book.