Democracy’s Privileged Few

Legislative Privilege and Democratic Norms in the British and American Constitutions

Josh Chafetz

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February 28, 2007
320 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
ISBN: 9780300113259
Hardcover

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This book is the first to compare the freedoms and protections of members of the United States Congress with those of Britain’s Parliament. Placing legislative privilege in historical context, Josh Chafetz explores how and why legislators in Britain and America have been granted special privileges in five areas: jurisdictional conflicts between the courts and the legislative houses, freedom of speech, freedom from civil arrest, contested elections, and the disciplinary powers of the houses.
Legislative privilege is a crucial component of the relationship between a representative body and the other participants in government, including the people. In recounting and analyzing the remarkable story of how parliamentary government emerged and evolved in Britain and how it crossed the Atlantic, Chafetz illuminates a variety of important constitutional issues, including the separation of powers, the nature of representation, and the difference between written and unwritten constitutionalism.  This book will inspire in readers a much greater appreciation for the rise and triumph of democracy.

Josh Chafetz is a student at Yale Law School where he is an editor for the Yale Law & Policy Review and the Yale Law Journal. He received his doctorate in politics from Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. He has written for the New York Times Book Review, New Republic, Commentary, Weekly Standard, and other journals. He lives in New Haven.

"Josh Chafetz manages to combine scholarly care with an almost journalistic ability to write in an accessible fashion."—Nick Barber, Oxford University 


"A very distinguished work. Chafetz is beautifully clear and deals with an interesting problem concerning parliamentary government in Britain and America in a comparative manner. I do not know of any work which covers the ground in a similar way."—Vernon Bogdanor, Oxford University 

"This book heralds the arrival of an important new scholar in the fields of comparative constitutional law and legal history. Fitting a broad range of institutional details into a comprehensive and subtle theoretical framework, Chafetz shows how Congressional privileges in America and Parliamentary privileges in England sprang from common origins but then evolved along separate paths as a result of basic differences in the political ecosystems. An excellent chronicle of the evolution of legislative privileges from the parliamentary supremacy of England to the popular sovereignty in kingless America."—Akhil Amar, Yale Law School

“A thorough and well-researched treatment of an important and neglected topic. Chafetz’s historical overview on legislative privilege deserves to become a well-known point of reference.”—Adrian Vermeule, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

 

 

"Chafetz has written what looks to be the definitive book on legislative privilege."—Michael Barone, U.S. News & World Report

"Examines the relationship between British and American constitutional traditions through a comparison of the special privileges granted members of Congress and Parliament."—Chronicle of Higher Education

"An impressive work of historical scholarship. . . . Highly recommended. General readers, lower-division undergraduates through practitioners."—J.D. Gillespie, Choice
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Legislative Authority and the Separation of Powers

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