Greg Weiner

Greg Weiner is a contributing editor of Law and Liberty.

Publius’ Natural Law

Calligraphy handwriting on old vintage paper

Between the breathless whispers that Judge Neil Gorsuch intends to impose either medieval Catholicism or, worse, Oxford sensibilities from the bench through the mechanism of natural law and the fear that he might otherwise glide into the legal positivism of which Justice Scalia was unreasonably accused lies another possibility: The Constitution can neither be interpreted through natural law nor reduced to positive law. It is more profitably understood as fundamental law.

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The Incredible Shrinking Left

Liberals mystified by the election of Donald Trump might look to the Middlebury assault—in which Charles Murray was shouted down and physically pursued as he left campus while the professor escorting him was attacked and put in a neck brace—for a slice of the explanation. The answer may lie less in the grotesque conduct of college students awash in—wait for it, wait for it—privilege than in what the impassioned youth never said.

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Grading on a “Change Agent” Curve

Colors of the sky above Mount Rushmore - South DakotaHistorians, as a profession, are understandably fascinated by change. Civilizations, as a phenomenon, are properly concerned with conservation. Tension is inevitable when the former apply criteria of success and failure ill-suited to the goals of the latter. The best recent evidence: C-Span has just released its Presidential Historian’s Survey for 2017. It is proof that historians celebrate Presidents the more change they achieve while consigning them  to obscurity for governing prudently according to circumstance.

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Grasping at the Straws of Public Virtù

Friedrich Hayek did not predict Donald Trump, and President Trump is not the central planner of Professor Hayek’s dark imaginings. The question is whether Hayek’s analysis of the central planner can help explain the Trump phenomenon. The claim of my February Liberty Forum essay was that it could. In assessing that claim, I have the privilege of thoughtful replies from distinguished interlocutors representing a broad and diverse range of perspectives. I am grateful for their incisive responses. Tom Palmer’s challenge to the thesis begins with a critique that it is unparsimonious: Simpler explanations, he observes, will do for Trump, including the…

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In response to: He Tried to Warn Us

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Why the Worst Now?

The Road to Serfdom’s publication was one of the intellectual and political turning points of the 20th century. The bloom was starting to come off the rose of socialism and Hayek explained why—in clear, crisp, and precise language and in a spirit of respect for those who had believed or still believed in socialism. I’m…

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We Might Need a Prince of the Potomac

Within days of Donald Trump’s inauguration, George Orwell’s 1984 shot to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list. Trump’s America is not Big Brother’s Oceania or Airstrip One. (Hillary Clinton’s America would not have been, either.) But however far Orwell’s dystopia is from becoming our reality, it’s good for Americans to reacquaint themselves with his warnings.…

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Father Knows Best

In many key respects, F.A. Hayek’s fears that the modern social-democratic welfare state would lead to totalitarianism did not come to pass. Even soft despotism seems only to have been partially realized. However, rereading The Road to Serfdom in the opening days of Donald Trump’s presidency offers an uncomfortable glimpse of where our national politics…

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Yale’s Identity Politics Are Calhounian to Their Core

calhoun college

The protestors who pressured Yale University into scrubbing the legacy of John C. Calhoun—racist, slaveholder and forthright apologist for African bondage; statesman, philosopher and critic of excessive executive power and American imperial ambitions; and, unto Saturday, namesake of a residential college at the alma mater where he was valedictorian of the class of 1804—have no palate for moral nuance, so assume they have no taste for irony either. Consequently, they are probably unaware that the identity politics they champion are Calhounian to their core.

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Lord, Give Me Constitutionalism, But Not Yet

White House Washington DC behind bars

The case of Washington v. Trump—in which a panel of the Ninth Circuit expressed apparent sympathy, during Tuesday’s arguments, for a district judge’s restraining order against the President’s pause on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries identified as terrorism threats—has less to do with an overreaching judiciary than with an underperforming Congress.

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He Tried to Warn Us

Friedrich Hayek (1899 - 1992) with a class of students at the London School of Economics, 1948. (Photo by Paul Popper/Getty Images)

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton entered the 2016 campaign as the least popular major-party presidential nominees in the history of polling. Clinton was widely regarded as some combination of corrupt and disingenuous. Many of Trump’s most serious supporters still tend to defend him from a posture more of apology than enthusiasm. The campaign played out as if designed to disprove Publius’ prophecy about selecting a chief executive: that it “affords a moral certainty, that the office of president will seldom fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.” Publius’ prediction,…

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Responses

Why the Worst Now?

The Road to Serfdom’s publication was one of the intellectual and political turning points of the 20th century. The bloom was starting to come off the rose of socialism and Hayek explained why—in clear, crisp, and precise language and in a spirit of respect for those who had believed or still believed in socialism. I’m…

Read More

We Might Need a Prince of the Potomac

Within days of Donald Trump’s inauguration, George Orwell’s 1984 shot to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list. Trump’s America is not Big Brother’s Oceania or Airstrip One. (Hillary Clinton’s America would not have been, either.) But however far Orwell’s dystopia is from becoming our reality, it’s good for Americans to reacquaint themselves with his warnings.…

Read More

Father Knows Best

In many key respects, F.A. Hayek’s fears that the modern social-democratic welfare state would lead to totalitarianism did not come to pass. Even soft despotism seems only to have been partially realized. However, rereading The Road to Serfdom in the opening days of Donald Trump’s presidency offers an uncomfortable glimpse of where our national politics…

Read More

Grasping at the Straws of Public Virtù

Friedrich Hayek did not predict Donald Trump, and President Trump is not the central planner of Professor Hayek’s dark imaginings. The question is whether Hayek’s analysis of the central planner can help explain the Trump phenomenon. The claim of my February Liberty Forum essay was that it could. In assessing that claim, I have the…

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Meet the New Boss

oval office

The most revealing executive action of the new administration may have been among the least reported. President Trump, by memorandum, ordered the Secretary of Commerce to “develop a plan” under which all new, retrofitted, repaired or expanded pipelines inside the United States would use U.S.-made materials and equipment “to the maximum extent possible and to the extent permitted by law.”

Cutting to the chase, the extent permitted by law is zero. The president of the United States neither has nor ought to have the authority to tell private companies making private investments where to buy their equipment or materials. He has no authority to encourage them, pressure them or bully them. The conservative response to a comparable order from President Obama would, appropriately, have been apoplexy.

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Vox Populi, Vox Impetu

US Capitol die cast model

The first constitutional test of the new era will be answered less by Donald Trump than by Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.): namely, whether the congressional leadership delivers to the chief magistrate the news that Capitol Hill is not a subsidiary of the White House.

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Fare Thee Well

U.S. President Barack Obama gives his farewell speech at McCormick Place on January 10, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

If there is any doubt remaining that the slogan “change” had no content when it was proffered as a reason for electing a President, consider this: Barack Obama bid farewell to the nation without calibrating his calls for change to his assertions of having already achieved it. President Obama’s farewell last night—delivered not in the traditional sedateness of the Oval Office but rather at the site and in the manner of a campaign rally—thus served as a primer on the shift from the liberal politics of amelioration to the Progressive politics of historical teleology. It should be said that despite the setting, he…

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