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13 Harv. J. L. & Pub. Pol'y 67 (1990)


A year ago, I spoke at a Federalist Society conference on "Constitutional Protections of Economic Liberty."' On that occasion, I chastised the organizers for having fallen prey to the Beltway Syndrome. This syndrome, which mainly afflicts residents of the Washington, D.C., area, is the tendency to exaggerate the importance of the federal government to folks in the hinterland. That conference had been proceeding mostly as if the United States Constitution were the only constitution we have. I pointed out that James Madison, whose silhouette graces the Federalist Society banner, would be shocked at the group's snubbing of state constitutions. Because Federalists are committed to the decentralization of political power, I argued that they should pay more attention to subfederal law.

This Conference is an improvement on this score. Most property law is state, not federal, law. The Beltway Syndrome nevertheless subtly pervades these proceedings. The prior panel was entitled "Property and the Constitution," as if there were only one constitution. All seven conference panelists known for their work in government have been or are employed by the federal government-four as judges and three as administrators (two in the Justice Department and one in the Interior Department). I suggest, only half jokingly, that the Federalist Society might consider moving its headquarters from its present location inside the Beltway to Peoria or Lubbock or some other city that is an antipode of Washington, D.C.

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