Permanent State of Emergency
Unchecked Executive Power and the Demise of Rule of Law
McGill Queens University Press 2017
Ryan Alford is a law professor at Lakehead University and a specialist in constitutional law. His book Permanent State of Emergency: Unchecked Executive Power and the Demise of Rule of Law (McGill Queens University Press, 2017), offers a fresh perspective on debates about the expansion of executive authority in the US in the post-9/11 period and has become even more topical in light of President Trump and the power he seeks to exercise.
Drawing on a broader canvas of legal history and comparative law than is common in the field, Alford sketches a global standard of what constitutes a “rule of law state,” and applies this to make clear the extent to which Presidential power has departed from historical norms, amounting in essence to an “elective dictatorship.” Among the many novel facets of Alford’s study are the lines it traces between strategies of the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations and those attempted by Nixon. Offering a powerful argument for why recent presidents have been more successful than Nixon in assertions of greater power, Alford points to important differences in context, including the lack of support for the war in Vietnam in contrast to the war on terror, the process surrounding judicial appointments, and campaign financing.
The interview below aims to give a sense of the book’s wide ranging examination of factors that make reform of the dictatorial presidency unlikely in the short term and questionable in the long term.
Robert Diab is a law professor at Thompson Rivers University and the author of The Harbinger Theory: How the Post-911 Emergency Became Permanent and the Case for Reform (Oxford 2015).