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Holiday Book Bonanza ’09:
Elvin Lim

It has become a holiday tradition on the OUPblog to ask our favorite people about their favorite books. This year we asked authors to participate (OUP authors and non-OUP authors). For the next two weeks we will be posting their responses which reflect a wide variety of tastes and interests, in fiction, non-fiction and children’s books. Check back daily for new books to add to your 2010 reading lists. If that isn’t enough to keep you busy next year check out all the great books we have discovered during past holiday seasons: 2006, 2007, 2008 (US), and 2008 (UK).

Elvin Lim is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He writes a weekly OUPblog column which you can check out here. He also blogs at www.elvinlim.com.

My favorite book published this year is Sonu Bedi’s Rejecting Rights (Cambridge, 2009). It is crazy-iconoclastic but, Bedi’s argument against rights sounds about right. That we have a right to this, and a right to that has been the canonical way for Courts to thwart democratic tyranny, but Bedi argues that the clash of incommensurables leaves a lot to be desired, and it doesn’t even give liberals what they want. Bedi argues that we shouldn’t be hung up on the inherited language of a private sphere as if we were petitioning against Kings to secure our liberty; we should turn instead to a set of reasons on which democratic governments speaking on our behalf may act upon. The substantive conclusions of Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, and other landmark civil rights cases could have been achieved, according to Bedi, without the limiting language of “equal protection,” and the constitutionally shady talk of “penumbral” rights. Bedi’s invitation for the Courts to turn to the reason or justification of a law rather than the right it violates anticipates the maturation of our democracy. By not clinging to rights as trumps, citizens are better able to participate in and inform collective decision-making.

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