Greg Weiner

Greg Weiner teaches political science at Assumption College. His latest book is American Burke: The Uncommon Liberalism of Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Reason Bounded by Experience

The Constitution by Barry Faulkner, Mural the Rotunda of the Capitol. Source: National Archives

To say legislation is not a discretely rational exercise is not to say it is positively irrational. But what of the fundamental law that is often taken to be the apex of legislative reason: the Constitution of the United States?

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The Myth of Rational Legislation

gavel

The ongoing debate between libertarian and more traditional constitutionalists is about something more fundamental than what standards of review to apply to which cases. What’s at stake in this disagreement is politics—its very survival, and in what form. Is this institution that is, or at least was, enlivened by argument among citizens to be replaced by a desiccated vision of rational claims adjudicated by courts?

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George Will, Burkean

george will

The forgotten etymology of “conservatism” lies in its hardly hidden first two syllables—to “conserve”—so when the Republican Party underwent its lurching metamorphosis from its commitments to constitutionalism, free trade, and chivalry to royalism, protectionism, and vulgarity, the news was not that George F. Will, conservative, stood still. It was that, in the terms of conservatism’s father Edmund Burke, the Republican Party may no longer constitute, properly speaking, a party at all. It is at risk of reverting to the primordial state of “faction” from which Burke rescued what he called the practice of political “connection.”

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They’re Into Masochism

US Capitol dome detail

Among its myriad other mysteries, the 2016 election presents this Madisonian puzzle: Why are so many members of Congress genuflecting before presidential nominees whose platforms include emasculating them?

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Bernie’s Avengers

johnies_coffee_shop_screen_shot-h_2016

Situated at the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire in Los Angeles, the iconic Johnie’s Coffee Shop was where Mr. Pink plotted a diamond heist in Reservoir Dogs and where Walter offered to obtain The Dude a toe in The Big Lebowski. But it has never witnessed malfeasance like the villainy that has unfolded there over the last few weeks. Johnie’s has been converted into a hub of unregulated advocacy for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

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Arise, Ye Prisoners of Scalia

Businessman running to the future

The particular danger of conservatives’ turning to the courts to pursue preferred outcomes, even constitutional ones, is that doing so legitimizes the same strategy by constitutional liberals, who will—it bears repetition—sooner or later reassume control of the levers of judicial power. The time for warnings may soon give way to a season of regret: The liberal judicial ascendance is begun.

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The Rise of Political Caesarism

The leader: Cesare Augustus - Emperor

“The cause is in my will.”—Julius Caesar, Act II, Scene II 

We ought to have known it would come to this. Still, the latest assertion of presidential authority assumes a new and ominous form: the power not merely to assert authority outside the law—which can at least masquerade under the banner of Lockean prerogative—but rather to redefine words and, with them, the institution of law itself.

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Coopting the Words

Statue of Aristotle

The difference between human beings and other creatures, Aristotle teaches, is logos, humans’ unique capacity to employ language to express moral abstractions. Aristotle never met Judge Henry Floyd of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Avoidant Polity Disorder: Diagnosis and Treatment

doctor workplace

An essential difference between civilization and barbarism is that civilized people conduct politics with words, a precondition of which is that words have objective meanings—they indicate this and not that—and that we are willing to articulate them.

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