The Executive Unbound: After the Madisonian Republic

The Executive Unbound: After the Madisonian Republic

by Eric A. Posner, Adrian Vermeule
     
 

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Ever since Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. used "imperial presidency" as a book title, the term has become central to the debate about the balance of power in the U.S. government. Since the presidency of George W. Bush, when advocates of executive power such as Dick Cheney gained ascendancy, the argument has blazed hotter than ever. Many argue the Constitution itself is in…  See more details below

Overview

Ever since Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. used "imperial presidency" as a book title, the term has become central to the debate about the balance of power in the U.S. government. Since the presidency of George W. Bush, when advocates of executive power such as Dick Cheney gained ascendancy, the argument has blazed hotter than ever. Many argue the Constitution itself is in grave danger. What is to be done? The answer, according to legal scholars Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule, is nothing. In The Executive Unbound, they provide a bracing challenge to conventional wisdom, arguing that a strong presidency is inevitable in the modern world. Most scholars, they note, object to today's level of executive power because it varies so dramatically from the vision of the framers. But there is nothing in our system of checks and balances that intrinsically generates order or promotes positive arrangements. In fact, the greater complexity of the modern world produces a concentration of power, particularly in the White House. The authors chart the rise of executive authority straight through to the Obama presidency. Political, cultural and social restraints, they argue, have been more effective in preventing dictatorship than any law. The executive-centered state tends to generate political checks that substitute for the legal checks of the Madisonian constitution.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A refreshingly straightforward case that the modern presidency is unconstrained by law—and that you should like it that way. Even those who...disagree vehemently with the latter proposition will find Posner and Vermuele's arguments provocative and challenging." —American Conservative

"Powerfully argued, this book is an important part of the debate over presidential power in the present world." —Choice

"Provocative." —American Prospect.org

"A thought-provoking book." — Library Journal

"This is a book that will, for many readers, both illuminate and infuriate. It is the most full-throated embrace in recent years of the very important (and always controversial) jurisprudential theories associated with Carl Schmitt, particularly with regard to the accretion of power in the Executive Branch. If their views become widely accepted, American law—or at least the American legal academy—will never be the same again." —Sanford Levinson, author of Our Undemocratic Constitution

"This exciting, contrarian, and learned book challenges the core of liberal legalism." —Jack Goldsmith, author of The Terror Presidency

"In a relentlessly challenging attack on Madisonian pieties, Posner and Vermeule use contemporary examples to argue with verve and style that only politics can realistically check the inevitable dominance of the modern executive." —Charles Fried, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

"Opponents of presidential power may be discomfited by Posner and Vermeule's argument that the imperial presidency is unavoidable in the modern world. Proponents of presidential power may be equally discomfited by the authors' argument that presidential power is constrained in practice by politics. Both sides will find it difficult to identify the cracks in a provocative argument with which everyone interested in the twenty-first century Constitution must contend." —Mark Tushnet, Professor of Law, Harvart Law School, and author of Why the Constitution Matters

"The title of Posner and Vermeule's book is as provocative as its argument, since the executive is, on their view, bound—but by politics, not law. If they are right, then standard courses in law school should be re-titled 'Constitutional Politics' and 'Administrative Politics', not to mention 'International Politics', and perhaps even moved out of the law schools and into political science departments. For that reason alone, there will be strong resistance to their book's central thesis, which is the mark of a highly successful work." —David Dyzenhaus, Professor of Law and Philosophy, University of Toronto, and author of Hard Cases in Wicked Legal Systems

Library Journal
Posner (Univ. of Chicago Law Sch.) and Vermeule (Harvard Law Sch.) have written a thought-provoking book on what they see as the failure of the U.S. Constitution's checks and balances. The authors argue that modern government and its complex system of increased executive power and powerful administrative agencies has made checks and balances useless. They follow the ideas of the German political theorist Carl Schmitt, who believed that democratic politics do not check the power of the administrative state. According to Schmitt, the executive of the administrative state is unconstrained by the legislative branch or by the courts. Posner and Vermeule expound on Schmitt's theory in six chapters on the various aspects of American government that have weakened checks and balances. Each chapter tackles a particular factor and is extremely detailed. The first chapter, for example, explores the role of crisis in expanding executive power. VERDICT This book thoroughly examines its subject but is not for the casual reader. Political science students interested in political theory will want to read this, and law students may also be interested.—Becky Kennedy, Atlanta-Fulton P.L., GA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199831753
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
03/16/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Eric A. Posner is Kirkland and Ellis Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, and is the author of The Perils of Global Legalism, Terror in the Balance (written with Vermeule), and Climate Change Justice, among other books. Adrian Vermeule is John H. Watson Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and is the author of Law and the Limits of Reason, Mechanisms of Democracy, and Judging Under Uncertainty, and is the co-author with Posner of Terror in the Balance.

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