Winner of the 2021 Scribes Book Award
From two legal luminaries, a highly original framework for restoring confidence in a government bureaucracy increasingly derided as “the deep state.”
Is the modern administrative state illegitimate? Unconstitutional? Unaccountable? Dangerous? Intolerable? American public law has long been riven by a persistent, serious conflict, a kind of low-grade cold war, over these questions.
Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule argue that the administrative state can be redeemed, as long as public officials are constrained by what they call the morality of administrative law. Law and Leviathan elaborates a number of principles that underlie this moral regime. Officials who respect that morality never fail to make rules in the first place. They ensure transparency, so that people are made aware of the rules with which they must comply. They never abuse retroactivity, so that people can rely on current rules, which are not under constant threat of change. They make rules that are understandable and avoid issuing rules that contradict each other.
These principles may seem simple, but they have a great deal of power. Already, without explicit enunciation, they limit the activities of administrative agencies every day. But we can aspire for better. In more robust form, these principles could address many of the concerns that have critics of the administrative state mourning what they see as the demise of the rule of law. The bureaucratic Leviathan may be an inescapable reality of complex modern democracies, but Sunstein and Vermeule show how we can at last make peace between those who accept its necessity and those who yearn for its downfall.
This short book is as brilliantly imaginative as it is urgently timely. By identifying an inner morality of administrative law, Sunstein and Vermeule refute the most serious legal and political attacks on the administrative state since the New Deal. The book makes major contributions to the theory of the rule of law.
This is a sparkling vindication of the enduring relevance of Lon Fuller’s classic account of the rule of law. It is an exemplary piece of legal scholarship in the way it connects a sensitive exploration of legal doctrine to underlying moral concerns.
In the face of decades of robust attacks on the administrative state as unconstitutional, immoral, or worse, Sunstein and Vermeule offer a doctrinally careful and theoretically sophisticated defense of pervasive administrative regulation tempered by the kinds of rule of law concerns associated with Lon Fuller’s internal morality of law. At no time more than the present, a defense of expertise-based governance and administration is sorely needed, and this book provides it with gusto.
A must-read for critics and defenders of the administrative state.
In this elegant and thoughtful book, Sunstein and Vermeule seek to offer an ‘appealing second best’ on which the administrative state’s friends and foes can agree. Whether they will succeed in that task remains to be seen, but their effort to move us past old debates is exactly right. The pandemic has shown the urgent need for an administrative state that is both lawful and effective, empowered as well as constrained. Sunstein and Vermeule offer us an insightful account of how that uneasy balance is attained through core principles emanant in administrative law.
Sunstein and Vermeule pack in a great deal of information, almost a thumbnail course in administrative law…For lawyers, the book provides an easy entry point to the latest developments in a complex and technical field of law...Put[s] forward a new analytical framework for thinking about the direction of the administrative state.
Has something to offer both critics and supporters of the administrative state and is a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate over the constitutionality of the modern state.
Law and Leviathan is a useful source to learn about the current state of US public law discourse. The reader can find an interesting mapping of concerns and solutions advanced towards developments which—to different degrees and under various labels—have taken place in most Western constitutional systems, as well as within the institutional structures of global governance.
- 2021, Winner of the Scribes Book Award
- 208 pages
- 5 x 7-1/2 inches
- Belknap Press
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