The centenary of World War I has drawn surprisingly little attention. And this is unfortunate because the Great War offers many opportunities for reflection on statesmanship, the losses of war, and the strategies and tactics of military leaders. One event in 1917 merits particular attention as an occasion to reflect upon the costs of war and national strategy.
Archives for December 2017
It may be a bit of an exaggeration to say that 2017 was the best of times and the worst of times for classical liberalism in the United States but not much of one.
In two prior posts (here and here), I have been discussing the ideas in my new paper, “Classical Liberal Administrative Law in a Progressive World.” This post continues the series by discussing how agency adjudication should be changed.
Under current arrangements, agencies often adjudicate cases that really should be adjudicated in Article III courts. Most of the time, these adjudications are called formal adjudications since they are accompanied by a formal hearing that provides significant procedural protections. The initial decision is made by an administrative law judge (ALJ) but, if the agency does not agree with the ALJ’s decision, the agency can appeal that decision to itself and reverse the ALJ. Thus, agency adjudications are ultimately controlled by the agency.
One of the main ways that administrative agencies exercise non-executive power is through their extensive rulemaking authority. Agencies exercise quasi-legislative (or simply legislative) power by enacting rules on the basis of often vague statutory requirements, such as “promoting the public.” The best solution to this issue would probably have Congress pass the rules that govern the public rather than leaving the decision to agencies. But Congress likely does not have the expertise to write these rules or the time to enact them.
Some historical figures maintain their reputation, whatever our contemporary concerns. George Washington has remained one of our most admired Presidents for the entire history of the Republic. James Buchanan settled in the doghouse as soon as he left office and has stayed there ever since. But the assessments of most Presidents and public figures lying between these poles of excellence and of failure wax and wane depending on our current preoccupations. Biography can be the most presentist of historical disciplines.
No subject exemplifies these vicissitudes more than Ulysses S. Grant. When the nation wanted to emphasize the reconciliation of the South and North and forgot about civil rights for African Americans, Grant was derided both as a general and as President. He was said to have defeated Robert E. Lee only because of his greater willingness to sacrifice the lives of ordinary soldiers and the greater industrial might of the North. His Presidency was treated as a travesty almost as bad as Buchanan’s—that of a man in office over his head with a high tolerance of scandalous behavior of subordinates.
But today we see more of American history as a struggle for civil rights and thus Ron Chernow’s magisterial biography attempts to raise Grant to the pantheon of American generals and to a more than respectable position among American Presidents. Chernow is more successful in promoting a reassessment of his career as a warrior than as a statesman.
The word “uncompromising” is often attached to creative artists who defy convention. It is usually reserved for those who break taboos about violence or sex, particularly in motion pictures. Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) is “uncompromising,” as is Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers (1994), Marlon Brando’s pornographic Last Tango in Paris (1972), and Darron Aronofsky’s ugly and violent homage to environmentalism, Mother! (2017).
Darkest Hour, the new film about Winston Churchill’s leadership of Britain as the Nazis approached in 1940, is a truly uncompromising movie.
The religious Right’s quiet decline is one of the more interesting political developments of the last decade.