Walter Berns

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Walter Berns is a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and professor emeritus at Georgetown University, specializing in political philosophy and constitutional law. He is a member of the Committee for the Present Danger and President of APCO Insight, international survey research firm.


  • Professor Emeritus, 1994-present; John M. Olin University Professor, 1986-94; Professorial Lecturer, 1979-86, Georgetown University
  • Faculty, University of Chicago, 1984, 1989; University of Toronto, 1969-79; Colgate University, 1970; Yale University, 1956-59; Louisiana State University, 1953-56
  • Member, Judicial Fellows Commission, 1986-1988
  • Member, National Council on the Humanities, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1982-88
  • Consultant, Task Force on Judicial Selection, Twentieth Century Fund, 1988
  • Member, Board of Directors, Institute for Educational Affairs, 1980-88
  • Member, Joint Committee Project '87, Joint Undertaking of the American Historical Association and American Political Science Association to Commemorate the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, 1987
  • Consultant, U.S. Department of State, 1983-87
  • Lecturer, Phi Beta Kappa Society Lecture Series, 1985-86
  • Member, Council of Scholars, Library of Congress, 1981-85
  • Alternate U.S. Representative, United Nations Commission on Human Rights, 1983
  • Guggenheim Fellow, 1978-79
  • Advisory Board Member, National Institute of Law Enforcement, 1974-76
  • Professor of Government, 1959-69; Chairman, Department of Government, 1963-67, Cornell University
  • Fulbright Fellow; Rockefeller Fellow, 1965-66
  • Lecturer, Salzburg Seminar in American Studies, 1959
  • Carnegie Teaching Fellow, 1952-53
  • U.S. Navy, 1941-45

Presidential authority against terrorism

He wrote on prerogative power and the unitary executive theory based on the theories of John Locke, who wrote, in the Second Treatise on Government, that while the legislature was the first power, "The law cannot "foresee" events, for example, nor can it act with dispatch or with the appropriate subtlety required when dealing with foreign powers. Nor, as we know very well indeed, can a legislative body preserve secrecy." Locke, in the same writing, continued that such events should be left to "the discretion of him who has the executive power." It is in this context that he first spoke of the "prerogative": the "power to act according to discretion, for the public good without the prescription of the law, and sometimes even against it." He concluded by saying "prerogative is nothing but the power of doing public good without a rule" (italics in the original).[1]


  • Ph.D., M.A., University of Chicago
  • London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Reed College
  • B.S., University of Iowa