—Conor Casey, University of Liverpool School of Law
“There is nothing new under the sun” we are told in Ecclesiastes (1:9). This aphorism applies with particular force to public law scholarship, where we see the same conceptual and normative battles being waged in cyclical fashion by successive scholarly generations. Whether it’s over the pros and cons of judicial review, unitary executives, originalism, political/legal/popular constitutionalism – it is often hard to think of something truly new that can be said in many of these debates.
Professor Cohn’s new book, however, refutes this aphorism in spectacular fashion. Cohn’s book offers a compelling and novel comparative and theoretical study of the executive branch in contemporary constitutionalism. It is one of only a handful of works (the other one that comes to mind being Professor Harvey Mansfield’s Taming the Prince: the Ambivalence of Modern Executive Power (1989)and, way before that, canonical texts like Locke’s Two Treatises on Government and Montesquieu’ Spirit of the Laws) that moves beyond system-specific study of political executives and grapples with the conceptual nature of the executive branch in constitutional theory more broadly. It ought to be, and no doubt will become, required reading for students of constitutional theory and comparative constitutional law.
In this brief comment I will outline what I think the main contribution of the book is before sketching two issues I think emerge from the book that public lawyers should grapple with more than they currently do.Read the rest of this entry…