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Adrian Vermeule, The Publius Paradox: On the Dangers of a Weak Executive, 82 Modern L. Rev. 1 (2019)

Abstract: At the Philadelphia convention assembled to draft a new Constitution, Alexander Hamilton argued “[e]stablish a weak government and you must at times overleap the bounds. Rome was obliged to create dictators.” Publius then expands upon this argument in several ways in the Federalist. I suggest that Publius identifies a dynamic or mechanism, the “Publius Paradox,” that warrants great attention: Under particular conditions, excessive weakness of government may become excessive strength. If the bonds of constitutionalism are drawn too tightly, they will be thrown off altogether when circumstances warrant. After illustrating and then analysing this “Publius Paradox,” I will turn briefly to its implications, the main one being that constitutional law should be cast as a loosely-fitting garment — particularly the executive component of the constitution and the scope of executive powers. 2018 Chorley Lecture, London School of Economics. Lecture video: