The Volokh Conspiracy

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Executive Power

Prof. Daniel Farber (Berkeley) Guest-Blogging on His Contested Ground: How to Understand the Limits of Presidential Power


I'm delighted to report that Prof. Daniel Farber, one of the top constitutional scholars in the country, will be guest-blogging this week about his new book:

Here's the publisher's summary:

The Trump presidency was not the first to spark contentious debates about presidential power, but its impact on these debates will reverberate far beyond his term. The same rules must apply to all presidents: those whose abuses of power we fear, as well as those whose exercises of power we applaud. In this brief but wide-ranging guide to the presidency, constitutional law expert Daniel Farber charts the limits of presidential power, from the fierce arguments among the Framers to those raging today. Synthesizing history, politics, and settled law, Contested Ground also helps readers make sense of the gaps and gray areas that fuel such heated disputes about the limits of and checks on presidential authority.

From appointments and removals to wars and emergencies, Contested Ground investigates the clashes between branches of government as well as between presidential power and individual freedom. Importantly, Farber lays out the substance of constitutional law and the way it is entwined with constitutional politics, a relationship that ensures an evolving institution, heavily shaped by the course of history. The nature of the position makes it difficult to strike the right balance between limiting abuse of power and authorizing its exercise as needed. As we reflect on the long-tailed implications of a presidency that tested these limits of power at every turn, Contested Ground will be essential reading well after today's political climate stabilizes (or doesn't).

And the blurbs:

"This is a wonderfully readable and insightful book on a topic of enormous importance: the constitutional parameters of presidential power in the United States. Dan Farber expertly guides readers through multiple aspects of the topic, including constitutional text, methods of constitutional interpretation, and the roles played by law, politics, and history. "—Heidi Kitrosser, University of Minnesota Law School

"Farber, one of our nation's preeminent constitutional scholars, offers a brilliant analysis of the constitutional limits and historical abuses of presidential power—an issue that has tested our democracy from the founding through the Trump era. Addressing such critical issues as foreign affairs, domestic policy, individual rights, and separation of powers, this is an essential work for anyone who wants to understand the central challenges to our democracy past, present, and future."—Geoffrey R. Stone, University of Chicago Law School

"This book is a master class on the law and politics of presidential powers. Drawing from founding debates, modern political practice, and Supreme Court case law, Farber brings clarity to the boundaries of executive authority. Another home run for Farber."—Richard Albert, the University of Texas at Austin

"Addressing our national turmoil over the nature, powers, and legitimacy of the presidency, here is an accessible, brilliant, balanced book anyone interested in these questions should want to read."—Peter L. Strauss, Columbia Law School

"Refreshingly open-minded and comprehensive. Farber writes beautifully and clearly, and he meticulously presents both sides of every issue. I disagree with much of what Farber concludes, but this is a scholarly and timely book!"—Steven Gow Calabresi, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law

"Is the President too powerful, or not powerful enough? Dan Farber's smart, engaging book weaves together law, politics, history, and common sense to give readers, whatever their background, a new way to think about this critical question—one that doesn't depend on whether we happen to approve of the incumbent."—David A. Strauss, University of Chicago Law School