Judge Posner offers a vigorous and extended contemporary elaboration of Churchill's aphorism that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others. He surveys much recent literature on the subject, and as might be expected, he does not favor high-minded participatory and deliberative versions of democratic theory. But overall his is a much more robust defense of existing democratic institutions than has been usual in recent work by those who view politics from the perspective of economics and public choice theory. He also expands in an interesting way on the important pragmatic account of adjudication developed in his earlier writings. The book represents a provocative and readable stretch of the authors ongoing reflections on the intellectual scene: the economist/jurist/judge at the breakfast table. (Thomas Grey, Stanford Law School)
This hook is sure to provoke attention to the topic of democratic theory. Among the book's many strengths are the discussions of pragmatism, philosophical and everyday; Dewey on democracy, experimentalism, and distributed intelligence; Schumpeter on democracy; John Marshall's greatness; Kelsen's legal theory and, to a lesser extent because it is a lesser theory, Hayek's legal theory; and the anti-trust theory of judicial decision on the democratic process. These seemingly disparate topics belong together so well that the book sustains reading straight through, as is seldom true of academic works. (Russell Hardin, Stanford University)
Posner...presents a brilliant defense of the manner in which Americans organize and operate their government...This book is to be read and reread if one is to understand the intricacies of American constitutional democracy. (R. J. Steamer Choice
Posner is very convincing when he describes how the American political system actually works, how the federal courts actually function, and how public opinion and elections begin to play a role only when the political elites have made a mess of things. This book is one of his best--vigorously argued and written with wit and panache...He is a genuinely original thinker, as well as a prodigy of learning. Able to draw upon an amazingly broad range of reading, he resists stereotypes and allegiances, and goes his own way. (Richard Rorty Dissent
This elegant analysis of democratic theory, by a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, argues for a legal pragmatism that pays greater attention to the consequences of what we do than to abstract principle. (New York Times Book Review
Judge Posner's book makes a valuable contribution to an expanded understanding of the tense yet mutually reinforcing interaction of law and democracy. (Arthur Jacobson and John McCormack International Journal of Constitutional Law
About the Author
Richard A. Posner is Circuit Judge, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School.