Self-Defeating Proposals: Ackerman on Emergency Powers

21 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2006


This paper responds to Bruce Ackerman's recent book on emergency powers (After the Next Attack: Emergency Powers in an Age of Terrorism). Ackerman stumbles into a methodological pitfall by offering a self-defeating proposal: the diagnosis that Ackerman offers itself rules out the prescription that he suggests. Proposals defeat themselves when the motives, beliefs or political opportunities ascribed to relevant actors by the theorist's diagnosis are incompatible with the solution that the theorist offers. The value of the book, then, is that it provides a methodological cautionary tale.

Keywords: emergencies, constitutionalism, statutes, executive, constitutional law, legislation, national security law

Suggested Citation

Vermeule, Adrian, Self-Defeating Proposals: Ackerman on Emergency Powers. Fordham Law Review, Forthcoming; U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 122; U Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 286. Available at SSRN:

Adrian Vermeule (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1525 Massachusetts
Griswold 500
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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