Law & Leviathan is an accessible, nicely executed defense of a curiously ill-defined beast—the “administrative state.” Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule, both prolific writers and renowned teachers at Harvard Law School, refrain from cheap polemics, for the most part; indeed, they seek common ground with conservative and libertarian critics of administrative government. Although much can be said for their analysis, their core argument remains unconvincing.

Many of the book’s chapters are previously published law review essays, and the title suggests greater ambition than the content would warrant. “Law” turns out to mean chunks of administrative law. “Leviathan” appears only sporadically, as a scarecrow conjured up by overwrought conservative and libertarian critics of administrative government. The authors’ cringe-inducing term for the “cluster of impulses stemming from a belief in the illegitimacy of the modern administrative state” is, alas, “the New Coke.” Rock-ribbed critics of the administrative state, they write, “frequently refer to the specter of tyranny or absolutism…and they valorize a (putatively) heroic opponent of Stuart despotism: the common-law judge, symbolized by Edward Coke.”

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Both authors have supplied firm (though

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