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The Executive UnboundAfter the Madisonian Republic$
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Eric A. Posner and Adrian Vermeule

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199765331

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199765331.001.0001

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(p.176) Chapter 6 Tyrannophobia
The Executive Unbound

Eric A. Posner

Adrian Vermeule

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses tyrannophobia, the false and unjustified belief that the alternative to liberal legalism, with its executive tightly constrained by law, must be executive tyranny. This is a bogeyman of liberal legal and political theory that rests on little or no evidence. The real alternative to liberal legalism is not tyranny but a plebiscitary presidency, constrained by the shifting tides of mass opinion. The United States has never had a dictator or come close to having one, and rational actors should update their risk estimates in the light of experience. The benefit of tyrannophobia is minimal because demographic factors and the basic framework of elections provide an independent and sufficient safeguard against dictatorship. It also blocks the desirable grants to authority.

Keywords:   executive tyranny, liberal legalism, dictatorship, mass opinion, plebiscitary presidency, American history

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