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Overcoming NecessityEmergency, Constraint, and the Meanings of American Constitutionalism$
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Thomas P. Crocker

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780300181616

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300181616.001.0001

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Can “Necessitous Men” Ever Be Politically Free?

Can “Necessitous Men” Ever Be Politically Free?

(p.27) 1 Can “Necessitous Men” Ever Be Politically Free?
Overcoming Necessity

Thomas P. Crocker

Yale University Press

This chapter begins with an account of necessity's story. It illustrates the moment of receding crisis in American life that produced Franklin Roosevelt's warning that “necessitous men are not free.” The chapter explains how necessity can produce dictatorship, because the people are willing to allow whatever it takes to solve their immediate needs. It looks into the theory that a president might suspend the constitutional order like a Roman dictator in order to post hoc political accountability. It also analyzes the misguided belief that constitutional systems can function in the so–called “states of exception,” which misconstrues the relation between rules and exceptions. The chapter explains “rule skepticism” that results from believing that if rules do not determine responses to new applications then rules cannot function as constraints.

Keywords:   necessity, Franklin Roosevelt, dictatorship, political accountability, states of exception, rule skepticism

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