The catchy phrase is as important in academic writing as it is in popular writing. In motivating their constitution-making stage in The Calculus of Consent, James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock assumed “that the individual is uncertain as to what his own precise role will be in any one of the whole chain of later collective choices that will actually have to be made.” A few years later John Rawls made the same assumption (albeit with different results), but phrased it more quotably as the “veil of ignorance.” Rawls’ terminology stuck. Buchanan and Tullock’s terminology remained just theirs.
Few people who served in the Obama Administration or are professors at Harvard Law School praise the Trump Administration for anything, but Cass Sunstein is commending the Trump Executive Orders on regulatory reform. Sunstein writes: The [new executive] order calls for the official designation of “Regulatory Reform Officers” and “Regulatory Reform Task Forces” within each department and agency of the federal government. The reform officers are charged with carrying out three earlier executive orders. The first is Trump’s own requirement that agencies eliminate two regulations for every one that they issue. More surprisingly, the second and third come from Presidents Bill Clinton…
“You must be the best judge of your own happiness.”
Jane Austen said that, in Emma, but the statement is also a keystone principle of modern microeconomic theory, and it provides the epistemic foundation that makes benefit-cost analysis possible. The only way to know people’s preferences is observe the choices that they themselves freely make; all inferences about the “public” interest must begin there.
The silver anniversary of the Great Society was last year, and perhaps the most remarkable feature of the retrospectives by the academic and media establishment was the hard feelings shown toward the man most responsible for it. As Randall B. Woods points out in his new book, liberals (with a few exceptions, like historian Robert Dallek) have never forgiven LBJ for Vietnam, and this obscures their view of the Great Society. Woods, on the other hand, is rather sympathetic to him in Prisoners of Hope: Lyndon B. Johnson, The Great Society, and the Limits of Liberalism. Or least he does not…
In a recent post, I discussed how Cass Sunstein argued, with the aid of the Star Wars saga, that delegation to the executive could be dangerous to democracy. While Posner and Vermeule contend that democracy favors delegation, because the democratic legislature has chosen to delegate, Sunstein notes that delegation can lead to the end of democracy, as it allows the executive to permanently displace the legislature. This was the case with Emperor Palpatine and with Adolph Hitler, both of whom received delegations of authority that they used to rule and never allowed the legislature to take back the authority.
Sunstein notes that George Lucas, the principal author of Star Wars, had analyzed the declines of democracies. According to Lucas, “You sort of see these recurring themes where a democracy turns itself into a dictatorship, and it always seems to happen kind of in the same way, with the same kind of issues, and threats from the outside, needing more control. A democratic body, a senate, not being able to function properly because everybody’s squabbling, there’s corruption.”