In the Stacks, March 22, 2012

By Duane Shank 3-22-2012
Photo by Tischenko Irina/
Photo by Tischenko Irina/

Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written. 

Here are my picks in this week’s books of interest:


‘The Emergency State’
By David C. Unger, Reviewed by Jonathan Tepperman

Washington has long inflated external threats in order to build a national security machine, a Times editorial writer says.

In this angry new book, Unger deplores what he sees as Washington’s obsession with security and overreliance on military and intelligence capabilities, arguing that they are dangerous perversions of the country’s Jeffersonian traditions. Presidents since Franklin Roosevelt, in Unger’s view, have inflated external threats in order to build up a vast and unaccountable national security machine that runs roughshod over the framers’ design for a modest government with plenty of internal checks and few international obligations. This emergency state, as Unger calls it, not only expands presidential powers, wastes money and tramples the rights of Americans and foreigners, but it also fails to guard the country from today’s real dangers.

‘Cosmic Constitutional Theory’
By J. Harvie Wilkinson III, Reviewed by Jeffrey Rosen

A conservative judge assails constitutional theories espoused by both the left and the right.

In courts and law schools across America, the most intense legal battles are fought over theories of constitutional interpretation. From the originalists on the right to the living constitutionalists on the left, each of the warring camps claims that it has discovered the true faith and accuses its opponents of hypocrisy. … This modest book is an invaluable reminder of the lost virtues of bipartisan judicial restraint. For law students and citizens who are frustrated with the way that all the constitutional methodologies fail, in practice, to deliver on their promise of helping judges separate their political views and judicial decisions, Wilkinson’s primer offers a diagnosis of the problem and a self-effacing solution.

Duane Shank is Senior Policy Advisor for Sojourners. Follow Duane on Twitter @DShankDC.

(Photo by Tischenko Irina/

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