Participant, Conference on Law and the Culture of Liberty, James Madison Program (May 18-19, 2015)


This Robert J. Giuffra ’82 Conference was co-sponsored by The Association for the Study of Free Institutions, Texas Tech University and the Bouton Law Lecture Fund:

‘What is the relationship among law, culture, and human freedom? Is freedom to be found primarily where law is kept to a minimum and culture is therefore mostly the spontaneous reflection of the choices of largely autonomous individuals? Or does true freedom require law to provide a kind of moral discipline, a habituation in the virtues, with a view to promoting a culture in which freedom is directed toward the ourishing of our nature, and not just toward whatever may appear desirable to the individual? To what extent can law shape culture in this way, and to what extent is it rather shaped by a culture that already exists?

In order to foster re ection on these issues, the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions and the Association for the Study of Free Institutions are pleased to announce a conference entitled “Law and the Culture of Liberty.” The program includes scholars from a variety of disciplines in the social sciences and humanities. We seek to address a number of questions. What is the proper relationship between law and liberty in the natural-law jurisprudence of John Finnis and his colleagues? To what extent does our ourishing according to nature require freedom from legal constraint, and to what extent does it require the discipline of legal sanctions? How does contemporary American popular culture shape our understanding of law and liberty? Is pop culture a powerful force for freedom, or does it undermine the virtues of character and mind necessary for the preservation of the free society? What is the role of marriage in fostering a culture of liberty? To what extent does a healthy marriage culture require the support of law? What is the role of freedom of thought and speech in maintaining a free and decent culture? Should law permit an untrammeled right of self-expression, or must it rather set limits on what may be said in order to protect civility and other important social values? Most fundamentally, can we attain rational knowledge of the true character of law, of culture, and of liberty, and of their proper relation to one another?’

For source, and conference schedule, see:

About the James Madison Program:

‘Founded in the summer of 2000, the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions in the Department of Politics at Princeton University is dedicated to exploring enduring questions of American constitutional law and Western political thought. The Program is also devoted to examining the application of basic legal and ethical principles to contemporary problems. To realize its mission, the James Madison Program implements a number of initiatives. The Program awards visiting fellowships and postdoctoral appointments each year to support scholars conducting research in the elds of constitutional law and political thought. The Program supports the James Madison Society, an international community of scholars, and promotes civic education by its sponsorship of conferences, lectures, seminars, and colloquia. The Program’s Undergraduate Fellows Forum provides opportunities for Princeton undergraduates to interact with Madison Program Fellows and speakers. The success of the James Madison Program depends on the support of foundations and private individuals who share its commitment in advancing the understanding and appreciation of American ideals and institutions.’

Paper presentation, ‘Multiple Sovereignties and the Principle of Separation of Powers’, IXth World Congress of Constitutional Law, University of Oslo (2014)


About the Congress:

‘The IACL holds a World Congress every 3-4 years. The IXth Congress will take place in Oslo from 16 to 20 June 2014 and is organised by the Department of Public Law at the University of Oslo in collaboration with the Executive Committee of the IACL. The venue for the Congress is the historic Main Building of the University of Oslo, which is in the centre of the city.
The Congress will take place just one month after the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian Constitution which today stands as the second-oldest written Constitution in the world. It is expected that between 300 and 500 participants will attend the Congress, from all regions of the world.
The working languages of the Congress are French and English and simultaneous translation will be provided in plenary sessions.
The IACL uses two principal formats for the scholarly programme of a World Congress: plenary sessions and workshops. Plenary sessions are open to all participants while workshops are smaller and discussion-based. There will be four plenary sessions in this Congress, each of which lasts for 3½ hours.’

About the workshop during which the paper was presented (‘The mutations and transformation of division of powers: the constitutional organization’):

‘The classical characteristics of the Legislative and Executive Powers, which have scarcely changed since the origins of liberal constitutionalism (XVIIIXIX), are no longer adequate concepts or theoretical devices for explaining constitutional reality.

Every division of powers rests on the willingness of a constitutional assembly to divide the power with the purpose of avoiding the abuse of power and tyranny. The search for a system of checks and balances is then based on a liberal conception of political power. Therefore the main instrument to realize this balanced frame is to organize a moderate and representative government as was defended by Montesquieu and other authors; a limited power – they thought – should exclude arbitrariness and despotism.

But it becomes necessary to maintain two essential ingredients of the spirit of division of powers: the efficiency of this frame of government and the limitation of powers itself. The first ensures the supreme and general interest of a community; the second guarantees the fundamental rights and private interests of individuals. Thus both requirements must condition the development of the political society that every Constitution leads.

The issue of division of powers is however, nowadays, clearly renewed, because not only do the Executive and the Legislative powers play a main role within constitutional organization, but also those two classical powers have been submitted to strong transformations. Besides, modern constitutional provisions have created many new organs and powers, taking into account new circumstances and techniques.

On one hand, the judiciary power has affirmed itself step by step as a counter power of political and representative power. On the other hand, there are other powers with a diverse nature and quite different from those organized by the constitution:

the economic and financial powers,
international organizations which can be founded on different bedrocks,
lobbies which represent the interest of different groups in a society or even
collective and minority interests (religions, languages, costumes, regional or national identities), or
media powers.
These entities do not belong to the democratic and representative circuit provided inside constitutions. Those new realities and scenarios should probably be present in the philosophy of the contemporary constitutional organization. We must also underline the existence of supranational organizations, in particular in Europe and Latin America, as well as their intense impact on the transformation of the domestic division of power within the States.’

For sources and additional information, see:;

[At my request, my own paper was removed from the list of ‘accepted papers’ for copyright purposes.]