Joseph Postell's comprehensive treatment of the tension between constitutionalism and the administrative state that he contends has existed throughout U.S. history stakes out an admirable—and needed—niche in the literature on bureaucracy. Postell presents a strong case that the use of administrative law by reformers who attempted to calibrate a balance between constitutional checks and a burgeoning federal bureaucracy across various eras never succeeded, leading to a perpetual “crisis of legitimacy” (pp. 4, 315) for the administrative state.
Postell's work is timely since the United States appears to be entering a new chapter in this saga. The Donald Trump administration and conservative legal thinkers are challenging the power of the administrative state in an apparent response to its growth during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Indeed, the theme of the Federalist Society's 2017 National Lawyers Convention was “Administrative Agencies and the Regulatory State,” while the foreword to the Harvard Law Review's November 10 edition was titled, “1930's Redux: The Administrative State under Siege.”
Early on, Postell uses primary sources from the founding period to lay out the “relatively sophisticated principles” (p. 30) that guided the Framers
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Administrative Burden: Policymaking by Other Means, Pamela Herd and Donald P. Moynihan Reviewed by John Sivolella
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