Justin Shubow

A graduate of Yale Law School, Justin Shubow works at the intersection of law and social media in Washington, D.C. He is the author of The Gehry Towers Over Eisenhower: The National Civic Art Society Report on the Eisenhower Memorial.

Oakeshott and the Separation of Powers

Professor Fuller has provided a very helpful outline of Oakeshott’s conception of the rule of law.  The British philosopher is at some of his most difficult here. But this is not to say that Oakeshott is ever easy. For readers educated in the English-speaking world, Oakeshott is challenging on a number of levels.  He forces us to rethink many of our unquestioned fundamental assumptions: our dogmatic empiricism, our foundationalism (especially in epistemology and political philosophy), our belief in the importance of theory to practice, our moral doctrinalism, our acceptance that politics is a matter of Left versus Right, our belief…

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Oakeshott’s Ideal of the Liberal State

It’s hard to imagine an event that more perfectly illustrates Michael Oakeshott’s notion of telocracy than the Supreme Court decision, in a 5-4 vote, that President Obama’s signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act, was constitutional. The reasons for this decision were shocking and unexpected; and the fallout is as yet unknown. But I…

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Coming Apart: Not Proven

It is not easy to summarize Charles Murray’s latest book, Coming Apart: The State of White America: 1960-2010 (Crown Forum), and the author himself never lays out his argument.  But it seems to go something like this:  Since 1960, two new classes have formed in America that are fundamentally shifting the nature of the society: 1) A New Upper Class, larger than that which preceded it, that is the product of an cognitive meritocracy and increased returns on brains; and 2) a New Lower Class that is the product of—well, he never says.  (Although Murray does not use the term, the class is essentially what Marx called the lumpenproletariat—criminals, isolates, the mentally ill, and others outside of the labor market.)   The two classes are diverging in terms of taste and geographical segregation such that they cannot understand and empathize with each other.  They are also diverging in the four “founding virtues” that have been the sine qua non of the American republic: industriousness, honesty (by which he typically means law-abidingness), marriage, and religiosity.  While the New Upper Class has seen small decreases in adherence to these virtues, the New Lower Class has suffered precipitous declines that threaten the very ability to support a functional community.  These declines have occurred independently of the economy as a whole, and independently of race and ethnicity.

While the New Upper Class is not doing badly per se, it is increasingly a “hollow elite” lacking in the self-confidence and moral fortitude required by its station: to set and promulgate standards for the entire society.  Unless drastic change occurs—namely, the elimination of all forms of welfare, including Social Security and Medicare—the confluence of the softening of the New Upper Class and the degeneration of the New Lower Class will lead us to our “doom,” the acceptance of the model of the European welfare state.

We will thus witness the end of the “American project”—the exceptional effort that “human beings can be left free as individuals and families to live their lives as they see fit.”  This will have a disastrous effect on our happiness, defined to mean something like Maslow’s self-actualization.  Hope remains, however, that we will avoid that path by heeding the lessons of Europe’s looming bankruptcy.

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