The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy

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9780151000852: The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy

In this thought-provoking polemic, “an accomplished iconoclast” whose “knowledge of american history is as persuasive as his wit” (New York Times Book Review) blames america’s outmoded constitutional system of checks and balances for the political malaise and governmental gridlock of recent years. Index.

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About the Author:

Daniel Lazare is the author of the iconoclastic study of the U.S. Constitution, The Frozen Republic, a Book-of-the-Month Club selection. He has written about race, drugs, and urban policy for a wide variety of publications, including Harper's, The American Prospect, and Le Monde Diplomatique. He lives in Manhattan.

Review:

Freelance writer Lazare offers a creative, constructive challenge to constitutional orthodoxy, arguing that the gridlock built into the Founders' design must be uprooted. The book moves slowly at first, with a large chunk devoted to an almost academic recap of American history viewed through the prism of constitutional interpretation. Lazare, refreshingly, looks abroad; while post-WWII European states devised new constitutions (Germany's encourages governmental activism), Americans reveled in a sort of "nostalgic conservatism." Thus, our uncoordinated branches of government have been unable to forge a real policy to address issues such as de facto segregation and urban safety. The author warns against our unrepresentative Senate, where California has weight equal to Vermont?suggesting the House of Representatives might dissolve it in a "democratic coup." Recognizing that his challenge presupposes an engaged citizenry, Lazare says Americans also must develop a "modern democratic movement" to guarantee their rights. Author tour.
(Publishers Weekly)

America is in a state of crisis. Society is fraying, and the government is unresponsive. The fault, claims Lazare, the New York editor for In These Times magazine, lies in adherence to an outdated system of checks and balances that guarantees inaction. In a historical examination of the Constitution and its antecedents, Lazare shows how that system arose and how we got from 1787 to now. Along the way, Gingrich, liberals, and Ross Perot receive their share of criticism, proving Lazare is, if nothing else, nonpartisan. One quibble: while Lazare spells out Constitutional problems clearly and well, he is somewhat less clear regarding the solutions he would prescribe. The book is bound to raise a fuss, and it should be considered essential reading.
-Robert A. Curtis, Taylor Memorial P.L., Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
(Library Journal)

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