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A New Old Regime

by Scott W. Johnson

Is Administrative Law Unlawful? by Philip Hamburger (Chicago, 648 pp., $55)

Before you turn the page, dear reader, let me answer the question in the back of your mind. Can a book about administrative law really be must-read? Compelling? Of interest to the general reader? Like the answer to the question posed in the title of this absorbing book, the answer to each of these questions is Yes! in thunder.

To adapt the adage misattributed to Trotsky that is achieving the status of a cliché, you may not be interested in administrative law, but administrative law is interested in you. Hamburger declares that although administrative law is unrecognized by the Constitution, it “has become the government’s primary mode of controlling Americans.” He observes that “administrative law has avoided much rancor because its burdens have been felt mostly by corporations.” This is where you come in: “Increasingly, however, administrative law has extended its reach to individuals. The entire society therefore now has opportunities to feel its hard edge.”

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