Jon D. MichaelsMay 17, 2018
Privatization’s Threat to the American Republic
Harvard University Press 2017
Jon D. Michaels, a professor of law at UCLA Law School, has written an argument in favor of the administrative state and against recent efforts to shift government functions to private contractors. In Constitutional Coup: Privatization’s Threat to the American Republic (Harvard University Press, 2017), Professor Michaels contends that the administrative state of the New Deal and post-World War II periods was a state that rightly fulfilled state functions by having an administrative entity and its dedicated employees carry out regulatory functions, rule-making, and adjudication. Professor Michaels rejects the claim that bureaucrats are a threat to the proper functioning of government; and instead argues that they are experts that serve as a counterweight to politically motivated appointed agency heads. He sees in the modern administrative state a recreation of the separation of powers (legislative, executive, and judicial) that harkens back to the Founders’ concerns about consolidated power and tyranny. Professor Michaels sees the efforts to private state functions as endangering our democratic system of government by placing private actors in too powerful positions, wherein state functions are subordinated to the concerns of private actors, all to the detriment of the public. Professor Michaels addresses the politically contentious issues of the efficiency of public employees, private interests capturing public functions, and whether the modern regulatory state is constitutional.
Ian J. Drake is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Law at Montclair State University. His scholarly interests include American legal and constitutional history and political theory.