Beyond Camelot

Beyond Camelot: Rethinking Politics and Law for the Modern State

Edward L. Rubin
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 480
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  • Book Info
    Beyond Camelot
    Book Description:

    This book argues that many of the basic concepts that we use to describe and analyze our governmental system are out of date. Developed in large part during the Middle Ages, they fail to confront the administrative character of modern government.

    These concepts, which include power, discretion, democracy, legitimacy, law, rights, and property, bear the indelible imprint of this bygone era's attitudes, and Arthurian fantasies, about governance. As a result, they fail to provide us with the tools we need to understand, critique, and improve the government we actually possess.

    Beyond Camelotexplains the causes and character of this failure, and then proposes a new conceptual framework, drawn from management science and engineering, which describes our administrative government more accurately, and identifies its weaknesses instead of merely bemoaning its modernity.

    This book's proposed framework envisions government as a network of connected units that are authorized by superior units and that supervise subordinate ones. Instead of using inherited, emotion-laden concepts like democracy and legitimacy to describe the relationship between these units and private citizens, it directs attention to the particular interactions between these units and the citizenry, and to the mechanisms by which government obtains its citizens' compliance. Instead of speaking about law and legal rights, it proposes that we address the way that the modern state formulates policy and secures its implementation. Instead of perpetuating outdated ideas that we no longer really believe about the sanctity of private property, it suggests that we focus on the way that resources are allocated in order to establish markets as our means of regulation. Highly readable,Beyond Camelotoffers an insightful and provocative discussion of how we must transform our understanding of government to keep pace with the transformation that government itself has undergone.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2662-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. One Introduction
    (pp. 1-36)

    Over the course of the last two centuries, we have developed a new mode of governance—the administrative state—and it makes us feel miserable. We rail at the bloated bulk and dreary pragmatism of our public institutions. We condemn the uninspired, cumbersome rigidity that, despite such pragmatism, makes those institutions ineffective. We yearn for times that were not only simpler but more joyous and more integrated, when our individual experience was directly connected to the collectivity and we inhabited a political world that was suffused with moral values. This set of attitudes can be described as social nostalgia.


    • Two From Branches to Networks
      (pp. 39-73)

      The most basic question about our government, as opposed to the state or the society in general, involves its structure, its principal components and their interrelationship. Our prevailing description of governmental structure is that the government is made up of three branches—executive, legislative, and judicial. This notion is the topic of the present chapter. The next question concerns the human attitudes and relationships that animate this governmental structure and that are generally described by the terms ‘power’ and, secondarily, ‘discretion’ (Chapter 3). We can then ask how the government relates to its citizenry. The standard concepts used in this...

    • Three From Power and Discretion to Authorization and Supervision
      (pp. 74-109)

      When Arthur, with his unsuspecting hand, pulled the sword out of the stone, he was revealed, in Malory’s words, as the “rightfully-born king of all England.”¹ We would say that he acquired power. For us, power is the force that animates the governmental structure described in the preceding chapter; it constitutes the purpose for which that structure is created, and the effect that it produces. Other institutions in society also exercise power, it is said, but the government is generally described as the most powerful, and power is more central to its purpose and its operation than it is for...

    • Four From Democracy to an Interactive Republic
      (pp. 110-143)

      The discussion thus far has been exclusively concerned with the government’s internal organization. That organization is traditionally divided between structural and animate components, with the former being envisioned as three branches, and the latter as the exercise of power and discretion. It has been suggested that both these descriptions can be replaced with the image of a multilevel network that unites them and describes each one with greater emotional, epistemological, and analytic realism. Thus, the internal structure, or hardware, of government is represented by the network’s overall design, rather than three branches, and the more animate relationships among the units—...

    • Five From Legitimacy to Compliance
      (pp. 144-178)

      The relationship between government and its citizens, like the government’s internal organization, possesses an animate as well as a structural aspect. Democracy, or electoral and administrative interaction, characterizes the structural aspect of this relationship. But how do people feel about the government? Do they regard it as good or bad, justified or unjustified, protective, neutral, or oppressive? The answers to these questions are crucial for a committed description of the modern administrative state. If the purpose of the state is to benefit its citizens, the way people feel about the state’s actions clearly constitutes an important part of what we...

    • Conclusion to Part I
      (pp. 179-188)

      The four chapters in Part I of this book have argued that there are significant conceptual advantages to bracketing a number of the basic concepts that we use to describe the tectonic and affective structure of the modern state—the three branches of government, power, discretion, democracy, and legitimacy. They are awkward descriptions, inherited from a prior and distinctly different era, that divert us from our genuine commitments, mask their heuristic character, and impede microanalysis. A further disadvantage of these concepts is that they do not fit together. They thus fail to satisfy a fourth criterion as well, a criterion...

    • Six From Law to Policy and Implementation
      (pp. 191-226)

      Part I discussed the way that government is organized, that is, the tectonic and affective aspects of its internal design and its relationship with citizens. This part discusses the way that structure operates, that is, the way modern government performs its functions. To discuss the entire range of functions that a modern administrative state performs, however, would be an overwhelming task, and not necessarily a productive one. Many governmental actions, in areas such as diplomacy, espionage, war, internal operations, and the management of institutions, are relatively free of the pre-modern concepts that constitute the subject matter of this study. Instead,...

    • Seven From Legal Rights to Causes of Action
      (pp. 227-259)

      Rights are central to our current conception of the legal system. Together with obligations, they constitute our idea of the way that the legal system, the system by which the government carries out a large portion of its functions, interacts with private parties. According to the traditional account, the obligations that the law imposes can be derived from the content of the law itself, and need not be considered separately, while rights, being claims that private parties can assert, possess an independent status that merits detailed consideration. Rights are generally divided into two basic types, legal rights and human rights,...

    • Eight From Human Rights to Moral Demands on Government
      (pp. 260-295)

      Chapter 7 brackets the concept of legal rights, but its argument is inapplicable to human rights. Legal rights, by definition, are created by positive enactment and can be abolished by it; the concept should be bracketed, it was argued, because it refers to a specific implementation mechanism—privately initiated adjudication—that is only one of several in a modern administrative state. The concept of human rights, in contrast, belongs to moral theory.¹ It does not refer to an implementation mechanism at all, but to claims that human beings can assert against any form of governmental action. According to the general...

    • Nine From Property to Market-Generating Allocations
      (pp. 296-329)

      The previous chapter argued that human rights are better conceived, in the context of the modern administrative state, as a set of constraints and obligations upon governmental action that arise from the moral demands of the citizenry. Although the discussion extended to all other protections against government that are regarded as human rights, it specifically excluded the right to private property. This exclusion was not motivated by the desire to argue by verbal stipulation, or to avoid a complex subject, but rather by the idea that the concept of property raises distinct issues that merit separate consideration. Those issues are...

    • Conclusion to Part II
      (pp. 330-340)

      Part I of this study argued that the inherited concepts that we use to describe the structure of our government—the three branches, power, discretion, democracy, and legitimacy—do not provide a satisfactory description of the government we actually possess. Each of its four chapters, aspiring like Twain’s Connecticut Yankee to be “a champion of hard unsentimental common sense and reason,” pursued the thought experiment of bracketing one of these concepts and proposing an alternative description based on the image of an interacting network. These chapters argued that the proposed alternatives better satisfy the stated criteria for a good political...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 341-454)
  8. Author Index
    (pp. 455-458)
  9. Subject Index
    (pp. 459-471)