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New Book by James R. Copland: The Unelected: How an Unaccountable Elite is Governing America

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press release

New Book by James R. Copland: The Unelected: How an Unaccountable Elite is Governing America

September 15, 2020

[V]aluable reading for anyone committed to a republican form of government.”
Leonard Leo, Co-Chairman, Federalist Society

“In this masterful history, Jim Copland shows how the law of the land became more like the law of the jungle.”
Philip K. Howard, Founder, Common Good

“Jim Copland knows more about this subject than almost anyone.”
Walter K. Olson, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute

NEW YORK, NY – Americans are focused on the November elections. Those elections matter. But unelected actors are also responsible for a great deal of the way our government influences our daily lives. They are the subject of The Unelected: How an Unaccountable Elite is Governing America (Encounter Books; September 15, 2020), a new book written by James R. Copland, senior fellow and director of legal policy at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

Who are “the unelected”? They’re the more than two-million federal employees who write, enforce, and interpret the rules. They’re the 1.3 million private lawyers who regulate our lives through lawsuits. They fill 50 state capitals and more than 89,000 municipal governments—often exerting implicit authority over people who live far beyond their jurisdictions.

Congress has largely abdicated its authority: 98 percent of federal crimes were never voted on by the legislative branch. Those federal crimes number 300,000, making it impossible for any ordinary citizen today to know what is legal and what is not. A parallel litigation system controls our lives based on legal theories never voted upon by the people’s elected representatives. Meanwhile, state and local officials reach beyond their borders to dictate the terms of national commerce—giving San Francisco’s elected officials implicit control over the citizens of Fargo and Nashville.

Copland’s book tells the real-world stories of Americans whose lives have been put on hold, hampered, or destroyed by the excesses of unelected government actors. And it weaves in a rich history of our federal system, as well as sophisticated legal analysis, before offering solutions for all three branches of government to restore the republic to something closer to the constitutional design.

James R. Copland is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, where he has directed legal-policy research since 2003. He has testified before Congress, state and municipal legislatures, and international bodies; he has spoken before multiple federal conferences, commissions, and agencies; and he has consulted with the Executive Office of the President. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has awarded Copland’s research on civil litigation, and the National Association of Corporate Directors has designated Copland to its “Directorship 100” list of the individuals most influential over U.S. corporate governance.

Copland has authored policy reports, book chapters, and articles in academic publications, including the Harvard Business Law Review and Yale Journal on Regulation. He regularly writes opinion columns and appears in popular media outlets. Outside his role at the Manhattan Institute, Copland has served on multiple corporate, public, and nonprofit boards.

Earlier in his career, Copland was a management consultant with McKinsey and Company in New York and a law clerk for Ralph K. Winter on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He holds a J.D. and an M.B.A. from Yale; an M.Sc. in the politics of the world economy from the London School of Economics; and a B.A. in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a Morehead Scholar.

“In this masterful history, Jim Copland shows how the law of the land became more like the law of the jungle. Who’s responsible?  That’s the problem — nobody. Bureaucrats and lawyers of a certain disposition use law as a weapon for extortion, beyond the control of democratically elected officials and timid judges.” —Philip K. Howard, Author, The Death of Common Sense; Founder, Common Good

The Unelected is valuable reading for anyone committed to a republican form of government. Copland identifies multiple aspects of the regulatory state that are fairly opaque and unaccountable but wield considerable unchecked power over Americans, who should expect elections to matter more. His call for public policy efforts to return authority to voters is worthy of serious debate and consideration.” —Leonard Leo, Co-Chairman, Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies 

“As America emerges from its deepest recession in decades, businesses need clear laws to follow. Unfortunately, shifting regulations, uncertain enforcement, and shakedown lawsuits are far too common. And local officials regularly reach past their borders to interfere with the economies of other states and municipalities. James Copland’s new book explores all these trends and suggests ideas we should be discussing to get on a better path.” —Thomas J. Donohue, Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

“How do unelected power players exploit law and regulation to call the shots in American government and policymaking, while often doing very well for themselves in the process? Jim Copland knows more about this subject than almost anyone — and after you read this book, you will know too.” —Walter K. Olson, Author, The Litigation Explosion; Senior Fellow, Cato Institute

“In The Unelected, Jim Copland describes the raft of federal, state, and local officials whose interpretations of law have often overshadowed legislation itself — in a story running up to the current pandemic response.  The awareness raised by his insightful historical and legal analysis is a necessary precondition to any institutional solution.” —Richard A. Epstein, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, NYU Law School

“Although Copland is a Yale-trained lawyer, his analysis is refreshingly free of jargon and puckishly irreverent toward the legal profession he effectively skewers. The often-arcane terminology of administrative law, civil procedure, and litigation is broken down and clearly explained in layman’s terms. Copland offers the clearest and most succinct summary of these complicated subjects that I have ever seen.” —Mark Pulliam, Contributing Editor, Law & Liberty


Theodore Kupfer
Press Officer
(717) 418-1319