The Volokh Conspiracy

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Neil Siegel Guest-Blogging About His New Book "The Collective-Action Constitution"

The book argues that the structural elements of the Constitution should be interpreted in a way that empowers the federal government to address collective action problems facing the states.


Oxford University Press.
(Oxford University Press.)

I am pleased to announce that Professor Neil Siegel (Duke University School of Law) will be guest-blogging this week about his important new book The Collective-Action Constitution. Neil is a prominent and widely cited scholar on a variety of structural constitutional issues, and his new book is a major contribution to the field. It is of obvious interest to students of federalism, constitutional theory, and related issues.

Here is the description provided by the publisher (Oxford University Press):

The United States Constitution was established primarily because of the widely recognized failures of its predecessor, the Articles of Confederation, to adequately address "collective-action problems" facing the states. These problems included funding the national government, regulating foreign and interstate commerce, and defending the nation from attack. Meeting such challenges required the states to cooperate or coordinate their behavior, but they often struggled to do so both inside and outside the Confederation Congress. By empowering Congress to solve collective-action problems, and by creating a national executive and judiciary to enforce federal law, the Constitution promised a substantially more effective federal government.

An important read for scholars, lawyers, judges, and students alike, Neil Siegel's The Collective-Action Constitution addresses how the U.S. Constitution is, in a fundamental sense, the Collective-Action Constitution. Any faithful account of what the Constitution is for and how it should be interpreted must include the primary structural purpose of empowering the federal government to solve collective-action problems for the states and preventing them from causing such problems. This book offers a thorough examination of the collective-action principles animating the structure of the Constitution and how they should be applied to meet many of the most daunting challenges facing American society today.

Back in 2011, I wrote a Jotwell essay recommending and reviewing the law journal article (coauthored by Neil with Robert Cooter) that first presented the argument developed far more extensively in the book.

We welcome Neil, and very much look forward to his guest posts!