The Corner

Walter Berns, 1919-2015

Walter Berns, the great political theorist, constitutional scholar, and teacher and mentor to generations of students, passed away on Saturday at the age of 95. 

Berns taught at Cornell, Yale, Georgetown, the University of Toronto, Louisiana State, and elsewhere, but perhaps above all he taught through his essays and books on subjects ranging from the limits of the social sciences to the freedom of speech, capital punishment, constitutional interpretation, patriotism, and much more. All combined a deep understanding of political philosophy with a command of American history and a keen grasp of the prudential limits of both statesmanship and citizenship. He was a calm but firm voice of reason on the very subjects that tended to draw the most heated and least reasonable public debates through the years. And he always seemed to embody in his own life the virtues he sought to elevate in his work. 

Some of Berns’s most influential and important essays were published in The Public Interest over the course of nearly four decades, and National Affairs (which is home to the complete Public Interest archive) has collected them here. You can also learn more about Berns and read much more of his writing at this website dedicated to his work, created last year by the Foundation for Constitutional Government.

The country Berns so loved was awfully lucky to have him. RIP. 

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.


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