Administrative Law and Regulatory Policy: Problems, Text, and Cases, Eighth Edition – 2017

With Stephen G. Breyer, Richard B. Stewart, Cass R. Sunstein, and Michael Herz

Outstanding authorship, rich materials, and comprehensive coverage are the hallmarks of the eighth edition of Administrative Law and Regulatory Policy. Administrative procedure is examined in light of substantive policy debates in areas such as health, safety, environmental protection, and economic regulation. Questions, notes, and problems support thoughtful reading and analysis of Supreme Court decisions, agency rulemaking and adjudication, and matters of contemporary debate. The eight edition includes revised and expanded coverage of issues such as delegation to private parties, recess appointments, OIRA Review, judicial deference to agency interpretations, notice-and-comment rulemaking, general statements of policy, and agency transparency.

Law’s Abnegation: From Law’s Empire to the Administrative State – 2016

Ronald Dworkin once imagined law as an empire and judges as its princes. But over time, the arc of law has bent steadily toward deference to the administrative state. Adrian Vermeule argues that law has freely abandoned its imperial pretensions, and has done so for internal legal reasons. In area after area, judges and lawyers, working out the logical implications of legal principles, have come to believe that administrators should be granted broad leeway to set policy, determine facts, interpret ambiguous statutes, and even define the boundaries of their own jurisdiction. Agencies have greater democratic legitimacy and technical competence to confront many issues than lawyers and judges do. And as the questions confronting the state involving climate change, terrorism, and biotechnology (to name a few) have become ever more complex, legal logic increasingly indicates that abnegation is the wisest course of action. As Law’s Abnegation makes clear, the state did not shove law out of the way. The judiciary voluntarily relegated itself to the margins of power. The last and greatest triumph of legalism was to depose itself.

The Constitution of Risk – 2014

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.

The Executive Unbound: After the Madisonian Republic – 2011

With Eric A. Posner

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.

The System of the Constitution – 2011

A constitutional order is a system of systems. It is an aggregate of interacting institutions, which are themselves aggregates of interacting individuals. In The System of the Constitution, Adrian Vermeule analyzes constitutionalism through the lens of systems theory, originally developed in biology, computer science, political science and other disciplines.

Systems theory illuminates both the structural constitution and constitutional judging, and reveals that standard views and claims about constitutional theory commit fallacies of aggregation and are thus invalid. By contrast, Vermeule explains and illustrates an approach to constitutionalism that considers the systemic interactions of legal and political institutions and of the individuals who act within them.

Law and the Limits of Reason – 2008

Human reason is limited. Given the scarcity of reason, how should the power to make constitutional law be allocated among legislatures, courts and the executive, and how should legal institutions be designed? In Law and the Limits of Reason, Adrian Vermeule denies the widespread view, stemming from Burke and Hayek, that the limits of reason counsel in favor of judges making “living” constitutional law in the style of the common law. Instead, he proposes and defends a “codified constitution” – a regime in which legislatures have the primary authority to develop constitutional law over time, through statutes and constitutional amendments. Vermeule contends that precisely because of the limits of human reason, large modern legislatures, with their numerous and highly diverse memberships and their complex internal structures for processing information, are the most epistemically effective lawmaking institutions.

Mechanisms of Democracy: Institutional Design Writ Small – 2007

What institutional arrangements should a well-functioning constitutional democracy have? Most of the relevant literatures in law, political science, political theory, and economics address this question by discussing institutional design writ large. In this book, Adrian Vermeule moves beyond these debates, changing the focus to institutional design writ small. In established constitutional polities, Vermeule argues that law can and should – and to some extent already does – provide mechanisms of democracy: a repertoire of small-scale institutional devices and innovations that can have surprisingly large effects, promoting democratic values of impartial, accountable and deliberative government. Examples include legal rules that promote impartiality by depriving officials of the information they need to act in self-interested ways; voting rules that create the right kind and amount of accountability for political officials and judges; and legislative rules that structure deliberation, in part by adjusting the conditions under which deliberation occurs transparently or instead secretly. Drawing upon a range of social science tools from economics, political science, and other disciplines, Vermeule carefully describes the mechanisms of democracy and indicates the conditions under which they can succeed.

Terror in the Balance: Security, Liberty, and the Courts – 2007

With Eric A. Posner

In Terror in the Balance, Posner and Vermeule take on civil libertarians of both the left and the right, arguing that the government should be given wide latitude to adjust policy and liberties in the times of emergency. They emphasize the virtues of unilateral executive actions and argue for making extensive powers available to the executive as warranted. The judiciary should neither second-guess security policy nor interfere on constitutional grounds. In order to protect citizens, government can and should use any legal instrument that is warranted under ordinary cost-benefit analysis. The value gained from the increase in security will exceed the losses from the decrease in liberty. At a time when the ‘struggle against violent extremism’ dominates the United States’ agenda, this important and controversial work will spark discussion in the classroom and intellectual press alike.

Judging under Uncertainty: An Institutional Theory of Legal Interpretation – 2006

How should judges, in America and elsewhere, interpret statutes and the Constitution? Previous work on these fundamental questions has typically started from abstract views about the nature of democracy or constitutionalism, or the nature of legal language, or the essence of the rule of law. From these conceptual premises, theorists typically deduce an ambitious role for judges, particularly in striking down statutes on constitutional grounds. In this book, Adrian Vermeule breaks new ground by rejecting both the conceptual approach and the judge-centered conclusions of older theorists. Vermeule shows that any approach to legal interpretation rests on institutional and empirical premises about the capacities of judges and the systemic effects of their rulings. Drawing upon a range of social science tools from political science, economics, decision theory, and other disciplines, he argues that legal interpretation is above all an exercise in decisionmaking under severe empirical uncertainty. In view of their limited information and competence, judges should adopt a restrictive, unambitious set of tools for interpreting statutory and constitutional provisions, deferring to administrative agencies where statutes are unclear and deferring to legislatures where constitutional language is unclear or states general aspirations.