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The Constitution of Risk


  • Date Published: January 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107043725

£ 62.00

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About the Authors
  • The Constitution of Risk is the first book to combine constitutional theory with the theory of risk regulation. It argues that constitutional rulemaking is best understood as a means of managing political risks. Constitutional law structures and regulates the risks that arise in and from political life, such as an executive coup or military putsch, political abuse of ideological or ethnic minorities, or corrupt self-dealing by officials. The book claims that the best way to manage political risks is an approach it calls 'optimizing constitutionalism' - in contrast to the worst-case thinking that underpins 'precautionary constitutionalism', a mainstay of liberal constitutional theory. Drawing on a broad range of disciplines such as decision theory, game theory, welfare economics, political science and psychology, this book advocates constitutional rulemaking undertaken in a spirit of welfare maximization, and offers a corrective to the pervasive and frequently irrational distrust of official power that is so prominent in American constitutional history and discourse.

    • Draws on a wide range of subjects such as law, economics, history, policy analysis, political science and political theory
    • Transposes debate over 'precautionary principles' to the constitutional sphere
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'With characteristic lucidity and vigor, and by compelling examples, Adrian Vermeule launches a devastating attack on abstract possibilistic reasoning in the law and in politics. He shows how risk-management itself may create risks by focusing on worst-case scenarios or by relying on stereotypical preconceptions, and offers a robust alternative that enjoins us to weigh the risks of inaction as well as those of action.' Jon Elster, Columbia University, New York

    'Another tour de force from Adrian Vermuele. The Constitution of Risk is a major addition to an already rich body of work. The thesis is characteristically bold. Constitutions should be judged according to how successfully they manage political risks. The best strategy is not the risk-averse approach of classic Madisonian constitutional theory but a more fluid theory of 'optimizing constitutionalism' infused with Hamiltonian spirit. Written with clarity and economy of style, this book cements Professor Vermeule's reputation as one of the most distinctive and important voices in contemporary constitutional theory.' Thomas Poole, London School of Economics and Political Science

    '… Vermeule's book makes a strong contribution to constitutional debate … it can usefully be applied to a range of constitutional dilemmas in Ireland and elsewhere. In particular, his insights might be applied to Irish debates concerning the appropriate role and extent of judicial review over administrative access, and how individual rights are weighted against competing goals.' Eoin Daly, The Irish Jurist

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2014
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107043725
    • length: 210 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.45kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Theory:
    1. Precautionary constitutionalism
    2. Optimizing constitutionalism: the mature position
    Part II. Applications:
    3. Checks and balances in the extended republic: the framers' self-defeating precautions
    4. The risks of impartiality: on judging in one's own cause
    5. The risks of deliberation: second opinions
    6. The risks of expertise: political administration and expert groupthink.

  • Author

    Adrian Vermeule, Harvard Law School, Massachusetts
    Adrian Vermeule is John H. Watson Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He is the author or co-author of seven previous books, most recently The System of the Constitution (2011). He was formerly Bernard D. Meltzer Professor of Law at the University of Chicago, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012.

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