Share this

The Constitution of Risk, Adrian Vermeule

Reviewed by Aziz Z. Huq



Environmental regulators must sometimes decide whether to install rules absent full information about either a risk’s or a precaution’s costs. In Europe, recourse is had to a “precautionary principle” that warrants intervention not­withstanding epistemic gaps. While debate persists about how to formulate the precautionary principle, American scholars have leveled withering criticism of its strong form’s incoherence. “Take every precaution,” they argue, is infeasible, even paralyzing, counsel.

Constitutions, Adrian Vermeule notes, are tools for managing risks. Ver­meule detects precautionary reasoning across American constitutional thought. He finds it in Chief Justice John Marshall’s sweeping repudiation in McCulloch v. Maryland of states’ authority to tax federal institutions such as the Bank of the United States. More recently, Vermeule argues, precautionary logic has underwritten narrow construction of the President’s recess appoint­ment power. In both cases, government power is constrained based on fear of future abuse. Generalizing, Vermeule suggests that precautionary logic is typically employed to underwrite “narrow construction” (p. 53) of governme

To continue reading, see options above.

About PSQ's Editor

Demetrios James Caraley

Full Access

Join the Academy of Political Science and automatically receive Political Science Quarterly.

Editor’s spotlight

North Korea and the West

The Debate over North Korea


Search the Archives

Publishing since 1886, PSQ is the most widely read and accessible scholarly journal with distinguished contributors such as: Lisa Anderson, Robert A. Dahl, Samuel P. Huntington, Robert Jervis, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Theda Skocpol, Woodrow Wilson

view additional issues

New APS Book

Continuing Issues in U.S. National Security Policy   CONTINUING ISSUES IN U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY

Most read

Articles | Book reviews

Understanding the Bush Doctrine
Robert Jervis

The Study of Administration
Woodrow Wilson

Notes on Roosevelt's "Quarantine" Speech
Dorothy Borg

view all

About US

Academy of Political Science

The Academy of Political Science, promotes objective, scholarly analyses of political, social, and economic issues. Through its conferences and publications APS provides analysis and insight into both domestic and foreign policy issues.

Political Science Quarterly

With neither an ideological nor a partisan bias, PSQ looks at facts and analyzes data objectively to help readers understand what is really going on in national and world affairs.

Stay Connected

newsstand locator
About APS