A core duty of government is keeping those it governs safe. However, in modern democratic states, government is structured by a Constitution, which establishes constraints and checks on the power of any one office. But emergencies – from natural disasters to terrorist attacks – often call for a swift response that presses against those constraints and checks. In the United States, the President has claimed the authority to do what’s necessary to secure and protect the American people. Can such claims be squared with a commitment to the Constitution?
In Overcoming Necessity: Emergency, Constraint, and the Meanings of American Constitutionalism (Yale 2021), Thomas Crocker argues for a conception of American constitutionalism that can address the need for government to respond to emergencies without losing its normative bearings.
Robert Talisse is the W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University.