Book Talk: Adrian Vermeule, The Constitution of Risk, Tuesday, April 8 at noon

The Harvard Law School Library staff invites you to attend a book talk and panel discussion in celebration of Professor Adrian Vermeule’s recently published book, The Constitution of Risk.

Professor Vermeule is the John H. Watson Professor of Law.  Before coming to the Law School, he was the Bernard D. Meltzer Professor of Law at the University of Chicago.  Professor Vermeule is the author or co-author of eight books, most recently The Constitution of Risk (2014) and The System of the Constitution (2012).  He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012.  His research focuses on administrative law, the administrative state, the design of institutions, and constitutional theory.

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“The Constitution of Risk is the first book to combine constitutional theory with the theory of risk regulation. The book 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 attitude of distrust of official power that is so prominent in American constitutional history and discourse.” — Cambridge University Press

Book talk panelists include:

HLS Professor Richard Fallon, Ralph S. Tyler, Jr. Professor of Constitutional Law;

HLS Professor Cass Sunstein, Robert Walmsley University Professor;

HLS Professor Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 12:00 noon.

Harvard Law School, Lewis International Law Center, Room 214A.  (Directions).

Sponsored by the Harvard Law School Library.

Free and open to the public.  Lunch will be served.

“With characteristic lucidity and vigor, and by compelling examples, Adrian Vermeule launches a devastating attack on abstract possibilistic reasoning in the law and in politics. He shows how risk-management itself may create risks by focusing on worst-case scenarios or by relying on stereotypical preconceptions, and offers a robust alternative that enjoins us to weigh the risks of inaction as well as those of action.”—Jon Elster, Columbia University

“Another tour de force from Adrian Vermuele. The Constitution of Risk is a major addition to an already rich body of work. The thesis is characteristically bold. Constitutions should be judged according to how successfully they manage political risks. The best strategy is not the risk-averse approach of classic Madisonian constitutional theory but a more fluid theory of ‘optimizing constitutionalism’ infused with Hamiltonian spirit. Written with clarity and economy of style, this book cements Professor Vermeule’s reputation as one of the most distinctive and important voices in contemporary constitutional theory.” –Thomas Poole, Department of Law, The London School of Economics


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