While heroism may seem a forbidding theme, in Tod Lindberg’s hands it becomes an engaging one. He fashions a grand historical narrative with heroism at its center, explaining where we are and how we’ve gotten there. And yes, liberty too proves a major theme because inseparable from the others. While heroism has meant different things in different times, Lindberg’s distinctively modern hero serves equality and liberty. Lindberg subscribes unapologetically to the old view that the core of heroism is courage. “The distinctive characteristic of the heroic figure is the willingness to risk death,” he writes. While only too aware that contemporary…
Justice Scalia is one of the few jurists who vindicate Carlyle’s great man theory of history. Because he brought three large and different talents to the Court, he changed the course of its jurisprudence. He had the intellect to fashion theories of interpretation, the pen to make them widely known, and the ebullience to make it all seem fun.
More than any other individual, Justice Scalia was the person responsible for the turn to both originalism in constitutional law and textualism in statutory interpretation on the Court and in the legal world more generally. Indeed, it was Scalia who made a crucial move in modern originalist theory. While a variety of scholars had argued that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the intent of the Framers, original intent originalism had some disabling flaws, the most important of which it is impossible often to find a unitary intent in a multimember deliberative body. Scalia championed a theory of original meaning that made the Constitution depend not on the intent of the Framers but on the publicly available meaning of its provisions.
In this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review Leon Wieseltier has polemicized against the digital age. While beautifully written, its major propositions are either wrong or not wholly coherent. All have been heard before in previous ages of technological change. While it is difficult to isolate all the sources of Wieseltier’s distemper, here are four in ascending order of their claim to be taken seriously.
1. Wieseltier claims that “the greatest thugs in the history of the cultural industry” (by which he means Amazon and the like) have destroyed bookstores and record shops. Similarly, journalists now earn less money because of competition from digital platforms. These complaints are the whining of producers displaced by competition that helps consumers. The Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites allow me faster access to a much wider variety of books than the independent bookstores of my youth. And unlike some of these stores, they do not discriminate against books on political grounds. Journalists have no greater claim to be insulated from competition than other professions. And again the web has given range to much more variegated opinion and analysis than the mainstream media of old.
Wieseltier’s complaint resembles nothing so much as those of French publishers of the late eighteenth century who complained to the National Assembly about competitors with cheaper means of production: