In The Decline and Fall of the American Republic, Bruce Ackerman, one of our nation’s most thoughtful and most influential constitutional theorists, sounds the alarm about the dangers posed by our ever-expanding executive authority. Those who care about the future of our nation should pay careful heed to Ackerman’s warning, as well as to his prescriptions for avoiding a constitutional disaster.
–Geoffrey R. Stone, University of Chicago Law School, author of Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime: From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism
Alarmist or alarming, The Decline and Fall of the American Republic, is a serious attention-getter. Bruce Ackerman has adroitly woven recent changes in our institutional arrangements into a provocative argument that the expanding powers of the 21st century presidency have put our constitutional order at risk.
–Joyce Appleby, UCLA, author of The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism
At once audacious and plain spoken, Ackerman offers a fierce critique of democracy’s most dangerous adversary: the abuse of democratic power by democratically elected chief executives.
–Benjamin R. Barber, author of Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World and Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole
Bruce Ackerman shows how the institutional dynamics of the last half-century have transformed the American presidency into a potential platform for political extremism and lawlessness. Watergate, Iran-Contra, and the War on Terror are only symptoms of deeper pathologies. Ackerman points to a series of developments that have previously been treated independently of one another—from the rise of presidential primaries, to the role of pollsters and media gurus, to the centralization of power in White House czars, to the politicization of the military, to the manipulation of constitutional doctrine to justify presidential power-grabs. He shows how these different transformations can interact to generate profound constitutional crises in the twenty-first century—and then proposes a series of reforms that will minimize, if not eliminate, the risks going forward.
The book aims to begin a new constitutional debate. Americans should not suppose that Barack Obama’s centrism and constitutionalism will typify the presidencies of the twenty-first century. We should seize the present opportunity to confront deeper institutional pathologies before it is too late.
About the Author
Bruce Ackerman is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University.