Best Books of 2019: A Republic, If You Can Keep It


Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch explains in vivid detail the purpose of the separation of powers in his 2019 book A Republic, If You Can Keep It. He presents specific examples of what happens when those lines are blurred. He shows how accountability of our government to the American people through their elected representatives is undermined by giving unelected officials unreviewable power to determine the law. Also, that the rules governing a citizen’s behavior become a matter of whim when prosecutors determine who is guilty.

The separation of powers also limits his own authority as a justice on the Supreme Court. Much of the book describes in detail the proper role of a judge, in which the judge should merely apply the policy choices previously made rather than as a kind of super-legislator. But that doesn’t mean he believes in a kind of judicial timidity—judges have a responsibility to be courageous and stand up for the Constitution when it is being violated.

All of these serious and important issues are interlaced with his own anecdotes that make the book fun to read. For instance, the story of how he got secretly out of his house in Colorado, where reporters were watching outside, to get to the announcement ceremony of his nomination at the White House in D.C.

The  themes of the book are humility, impartiality, civic responsibility, and mutual respect for reasonable disagreement. In an age of people yelling at each other about impeachment, and so many other topics, this book is a breath of fresh air on issues of vital importance. Anyone considering a holiday gift about the American system of government should consider A Republic, If You Can Keep It.