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Is Administrative Law Unlawful? Hardcover – May 27, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


Is Administrative Law Unlawful? is a work of the very highest quality, a learned scholarly exegesis setting out the intellectual foundations—in medieval and early modern English constitutional thought—for the proposition that the contemporary American administrative state is profoundly unconstitutional and unlawful. Philip Hamburger’s argument is intricately wrought and forcefully expressed. Its indictment of modern administration in America doubles as a major statement on the virtues of a genuinely constitutional government.”
(Ken I. Kersch, Boston College)

"With characteristic erudition, Philip Hamburger shows how virtually every aspect of the modern administrative state undermines the Anglo-American legal tradition—or at least that part of the tradition that most informed the American founding. It is a provocative thesis, but one that is amply supported by extensive scholarly argument and fascinating historical study. Hamburger makes an impressive case that modern administrative law owes its lineage to claims of monarchical prerogative and civil law absolutism that were precisely the ideas that the American revolution was trying to reject. This is a tremendously important book."
(Gary S. Lawson, Boston University School of Law)

“An important new book that is very much worth reading."
(National Review, Bench Memos 2014-05-29)

"The most important book I have read in a long time."
(Scott Johnson Power Line)

“The administrative state is a modern invention. It was, and remains, a necessity in our complex modern age. Or so goes the argument. . . . Hamburger meticulously (and sometimes laboriously) demonstrates how the modern administrative state revives all the attributes of the royal prerogative and absolute power.”
(Ilan Wurman Weekly Standard 2014-07-21)

“A serious work of legal scholarship. . . . This is a book that rewards the reader with a deepened understanding of the Constitution and the challenges that confront us in the task of restoration. . . . The news of the day repeatedly buttresses the powerful case Hamburger makes against the legitimacy of the vast administrative apparatus that does so much to dictate the way we live now. It is a book not only of this season but of many seasons to come.”
(National Review)

“An interesting new work by Philip Hamburger dispenses with the tiresome back and forth between Republicans and Democrats. Instead, it focuses on Washington’s permanent administration—the ever-expanding federal bureaucracies that have come to play a central role in health care, finance, housing and work, and large roles in education, energy and whatever else constitutes the American system. . . . Hamburger’s book is filled with details of how the centralisation of power divorced from a popular or court mandate leads to insularity and even insurrection as hopes of efficiency and expertise give way to bureaucratic inertia.”
(Economist 2014-08-09)

“[Is Administrative Law Unlawful?] is the author’s most ambitious, even daring, work, for not only does it question important features of administrative law; it challenges (as the title suggests) their very legality. . . . Deeply researched and well written, the book is a veritable cornucopia of fresh and significant insights that will greatly enrich the existing literature. It is a work of encyclopedic breadth and erudition, confirming that its author is equally comfortable with grand themes and matters of granular detail.”
(Claremont Review of Books 2014-11-20)

“Hamburger argues persuasively that America has overlaid its constitutional system with a form of governance that is both alien and dangerous. . . . Some readers undoubtedly will find daunting this book’s length. . . . But it is lucidly written and carefully organized, and certainly it is no small task to analyze just how deeply the administrative state threatens liberty and constitutionalism. Scholars will return to Hamburger’s exhaustive explication of these issues for a long time to come.”
(Law and Politics Book Review 2015-04-06)

“Immensely important. . . . Hamburger indicts the entire structure of executive-agency rulemaking as illegitimate. . . . An argument of deep passion, learning, intelligence, and consequence that deserves to reach the widest possible audience.”
(City Journal 2015-04-21)

“A masterful look at the origins and legitimacy of American administrative law. . . . Anyone interested in the rise of the American administrative state will benefit from this original, erudite, and thought-provoking book.”
(Law and History Review 2015-10-22)

About the Author

Philip Hamburger is the Maurice and Hilda Friedman Professor of Law at Columbia Law School.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 648 pages
  • Publisher: The University of Chicago Press; 1st edition (May 27, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 022611659X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226116594
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #211,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Hinkle Goldfarb on June 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
As a practitioner who has had to deal with the administrative law process over the years, I've come to realize that it truly is the vehicle of fascism in this county, or if that word is too emotive for you, authoritarianism / statism. There's nothing worse that an executive branch assuming Article III powers, whether it be at the federal level or its state equivalent. It's the worst of both worlds. Merely by posing the question Mr. Hamburger is performing an invaluable service. It's time to stop the Leviathan before our lives become those like Sam Lowry's in Brazil.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Thelma Taormina on September 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is one of the most important books anyone could read to understand what has happened to our real judicial system. Administrative Law has infiltrated our entire American System and it really is a problem. If you need to understand why it is so hard to get real justice when it involves government agencies and why there is so much red tape, this is a book you must read. This will help the average American or experienced Attorneys understand how we got to where we are. You will never regret reading this book!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By lumindanu on September 16, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
As both a career civil servant and a political appointee I have exercise and observed the abuses of power enabled by administrative law. Nameless, faceless bureaucrats, answerable to no one pursue their personal agendas. The picture of the 'low level bureaucrat' used by the IRS as an excuse for conservative targeting was wholly believable, we have all observed that kind of abuse of power. The civil servant asserting authority at public meetings, threatening local agencies, all with impunity are familiar circumstances for most of us. This kind of behavior is rampant and can only occur in the current climate of administrative law we live in... where the bureaucrat is king, emperor, despot, and no one can control the octopus with multiple tentacles.
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This is a first rate discussion. It is not an novel but I had a hard time putting it down for supper (a very good supper). Those interested in the duties of congress, the background of those duties as entered in the constitution and the problem of the regulatory state will find this book extremely interesting. This is not a rant. It is a thoughtful discussion and very informative.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Al Moore on October 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a rare find. The author explains the laying aside of our Constitution by its replacement in Administrative Law. That is the elimination of separation of power granted by the people. Administrative Law is the creation of power that is beyond the law.

I am a voracious reader on a wide range of subject. About 50 a year. This work ranks with the best, if not the best work I have read in the past 5 years. Outstanding in every respect.

Find out why agencies are in effect writing what is treated as law. In effect, power beyond the law.

A treasure in writing and very highly recommended.

Published 2014.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Americans Love Freedom on November 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a watershed work. It was highlighted in a speech by the author in the September, 2014 issue of Hillsdale College Imprimis. I was so excited that I rushed out to purchase a copy. I was not disappointed. I have been on a bread-crumb-trail to find out what went wrong with America since the Vietnam war. In 1980, I became a student of the tenets of a free society by reading everything I could from the Foundation for Economic Education and Hillsdale College, Michigan. It was there that I learned about Ludwig von Mises and the Austrian School of Economics. Many, many Americans have said for decades that we have lost our freedoms. But it has always been difficult putting one's finger on exactly how that has occured. I had discovered the Fabian Socialist Society, a group in England founded prior to the 1900's that espoused the doctrines of Marx. The man responsible for the American monetary system, Lord Maynard Keynes, was a member of that society. I then learned that it was through the Fabians that the League for Industrial Democracy was the American beachhead for the statist doctrine. It's objective was to infiltrate Harvard with Keynesian economics and the statist doctrine to teach those who would become the professors of those students who would become the teachers of our children and thus indoctrinate our culture with Marxist statism. In the late fifties or early sixties, a number of Harvard alumni had formed the Veritas Foundation to investigate just how Harvard had been sidetracked. Two studies were published in 1964 deliniating this.

Surprisingly enough, these ideas had been challenged and refuted, point by point, by what became known as the Austrian School of Economics starting with Carl Menger and the subjective theory of value.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Clayton Smith on August 1, 2014
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This book illuminates the reason why this gigantic government that has been allowed to come into existence can only be revised by totally dismembering the bureaucracy. This author, being on the inside of this decrepit legal system we possess, has done a great service with his writing, if in fact many people care to read it!
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46 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Ross V. Huebner on June 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had just recently read the book "Regulatory Rights" by professor Yackle from Boston School of Law, which as it turns out was only worth being used as backup paper in the ol' out house. Now I have just finished reading Professor Hamburger's book and I must say, it was simply amazing.

Professor Hamburger outlines the fact that administrative law (outside of very limited circumstances) is not only unconstitutional, but it is anti-constitutional as well. I recommend this book as a worthy legal history of administrative law and state simply that it should be in every serious scholar's library for both historical and legal purposes. I was so impressed that I purchased Hamburger's other book regarding the so-called "high wall" between church and state. Which is yet another amazing gem.

I found the book so compelling that I ran down to my local law library and insisted that they purchase it for public access, After researching the book,they did.

Philip Hamburger's books are a universes apart from the academic hacks (progressive-socialists/communists [same thing]) that permeate academia. An utterly delightful read. Worth every penny and then some. Buy a copy now before the "powers that be" ban the book. Only in America can you ban a book, but you cannot ban pornography. Apparently you only have the right to freedom of speech or expression when you are naked? Reason and logic are never applied by anyone, any more. So now we have been thrown the slop of administrative law, like a bunch of pigs (Animal Farm, Farm-speak). Administrative law is nothing more than a lexicon consisting of the cacophony of fascism, wrapped in the more palatable coating of legal sophistry, which is "rubberstamped" and approved by judicial technocrats. It may make a nice mix if you put it on the lawn or your roses. Philip Hamburger reveals that the king has no clothes.
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