More than the Roman emperors, the Popes, the English monarchs, the czars and czarinas, the sultans and the Chinese emperors, the American presidency is unique in the political history of the world. Reacting against both the weakness of the executives in the states under the Articles of Confederation, and the arbitrary prerogatives of the English monarchy, the Framers of the American Republic sought to merge two opposing principles: a vigorous unitary executive within a limited and limiting constitutional republic. Whether their experiment was successful or not has depended from the start largely on the personality and character of those who occupied the office.
Archives for May 2017
The latest nominations of ten fine lower court judges makes clear that President Trump is the best President for judicial selection since at least Ronald Reagan, particularly in his willingness to nominate conservative legal academics likely to have extraordinary influence. He has certainly been aided by having a Republican Senate, and by relying on the network of the Federalist Society, but the nominations are his own.
And they will receive almost universal approbation among conservatives, classical liberals and libertarians. That includes those who supported Trump and those who were Never-Trumpers, although it is somewhat embarrassing for those Never Trumpers who said the candidate could not be trusted to select good judges or even to choose justices from the list he announced. As I said before the election, precisely because of his other heterodox stances, Trump would follow through on his unifying judicial commitments.
Appointing judges whose ideal is to enforce the Constitution as written unites almost all strands of the political right. For traditional conservatives, the Constitution represents an anchor against too rapid change. For libertarians, the Constitution contains valuable limitations on government power and protections of rights. For both, originalism protects the rule of law against the latest social engineering fads of the left.
But one might wonder whether this union will survive the increasingly fierce debate between judicial engagement and judicial restraint among constitutional theorists on the right..
Since the unexpected—and, in certain circles, inconceivable—election of Donald Trump as President, federal courts have aggressively obstructed his executive orders on immigration, leading to complaints that activist judges are staging an insurrection or even a coup d’état against a President they consider illegitimate. I’ve indulged in a bit of this commentary myself, but—unfortunately—the problem is deeper and more serious than a few rogue judges resisting Trump’s policies. Much of the nation’s elites, and especially the legal class that dominates the judiciary, are in a bipartisan revolt against the bourgeois social order and the constitutional loyalties it underwrites. Trump’s election has merely exposed the extent of the longstanding (and widening) cultural chasm that divides the lumpenproletariat (Hillary’s “deplorables”) from the self-anointed elites.
“[W]e expect he would work with Congress, as the Founders intended.” Scholars and Writers for America, Statement for Candidate Trump “We don’t have a lot of closers in politics and I understand why. It’s a very rough system. It’s an archaic system. You look at the rules of the Senate, even the rules of the House—but the rules of the Senate and some of the things you have to go through, it’s—it’s really a bad thing for the country, in my opinion. They’re archaic rules and maybe at some point we’re going to have to take those rules on because for the…
The Guardian newspaper, Britain’s major organ of liberal opinion, recently ran this headline: “The Arkansas mass executions on Easter Monday must be stopped.”
The emotive words “mass execution” conjure up in my mind considerably more than the eight executions the state of Arkansas planned to perform over the course of 11 days, two of which, as far as I am aware, had been carried out at the time the headline appeared. Che Guevara would have laughed at the idea that a mere eight people put to death, let alone two, constituted a mass execution. He would have taken the use of the word as further proof of the decadence of late capitalist society and its ripeness for overthrow: and so, no doubt, would Slavoj Zizek, mass murder’s star philosopher and proselytizer.
The longer entitlement reform is delayed the worse entitlement reform will be. Indeed, delay increases the risk of no substantial reform and much higher taxes for supporting Social Security and Medicare. As time passes and more baby boomers retire, the amount of money paid out for age-tested entitlements will grow, making the programs even less solvent. Even more importantly, the larger number of recipients and those close to eligibility will form a voting block against decreasing benefits. People fight very hard, sometimes even irrationally, to hold what is theirs. I am getting closer to eligibility myself and while I am ideologically committed to reform, I sometimes feel the tug of my own interests in policy analysis.
And the elderly form a particularly powerful voting block. It is costly to vote and thus the elderly vote in larger numbers than the young. They have less exciting things to do than the young and more time on their hands.
But most of the best reforms to Social Security and Medicare would affect those already collecting these entitlements or those within hailing distance of retirement.
In Jennifer Mascott’s new paper, Who are the Officers of the United States?, she argues that the definition of an officer was much broader than the Buckley standard of significant authority pursuant to the laws of the United States and that it included positions with ministerial duties. I think the evidence that the paper discusses supports this conclusion. The common definition of office defined it broadly, as Chief Justice Marshall did in 1815, when he wrote it was “ ‘a public charge or employment,’ and he who performs the duties of the office, is an officer. If employed on the part…
While containing an element to truth, the idea that Trump supporters, elite supporters, in particular, support Trump as a disruptor, as a way of “blowing things up,” strikes me as too negative, too destructive, of a spin on their aspirations for Trump. Reading Andrew Sullivan’s account of his meeting with Charles Kesler suggests a more-accurate picture. A model, to be sure, that still reflects a desperate gamble, but one that aspires not to destroy but to prevent destruction. Jack Hirshleifer and John G. Riley provide a clever setup to model desperation at the end of an early chapter of their book,…
One of the most inspiring yet least known stories of resistance to communism during the Cold War is that of Poland’s Tomasz Stańko. Stańko, 74, is a jazz trumpeter whose beautiful, minimalistic and meditative style of playing is considered by many to be one of the great treasures of modern music. His new release, December Avenue, is a strong effort in what has been a remarkable series of albums over the last 15 years for the great German jazz label ECM. December Avenue is enjoyable on its own simply as a sublime record, but it takes on a dimension of historical…