Dictator Games

th demokratie diktatur I

Was he or wasn’t he? An enormous number of words have been written to contest the question of whether Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) was an avid supporter of Hitlerism and totalitarianism.

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Is It Back to the 1980s at Harvard Law School?

Harvard Law School was a troubled institution when I was a student there in the 1980s. The faculty was bitterly divided between liberal Democrats and radicals, and the radicals tried to take over. Three decades later it is hard to exaggerate the craziness of that time—demonstrations and mass meetings that were ripples from the power struggle among the professors. For instance, the faculty considered taking class participation into account in second and third year classes. The idea was to enliven classes so that they were no longer like the morgues many resembled. But some students and professors protested that the scheme was a plot to mark radicals down. And one of the radical professors memorably got up on the steps of Langdell Law Library to orate about how the proposal showed what a “repressive place” HLS was.

News of what became known as the “crit wars” got out to the alumni, the President appointed a new Dean, Bob Clark, and HLS slowly ceased to resemble Beirut on the Charles. But not before substantial damage was done. Many faculty members became even less interested in teaching than usual.  The best teacher in my entire educational career, Paul Bator, decamped to Chicago. Student leftists were emboldened and got the Harvard Law Review, unlike other major law reviews, to embrace ethnic and racial preferences, replacing a century old tradition where selections were made based on merit alone.  But worst of all there was the dispiriting sense that even at the heart of a university, power rather than reason was the coin of the realm.

HLS again seems to be convulsed along a similar fault line.

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Libertarians and Classical Liberals on Trump versus Clinton

I have taken a real interest in the debate among libertarians and classical liberals (as well as conservatives) over whether to support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.  In the past, libertarians and classical liberals (who I will refer to simply as libertarians for ease of exposition) have tended to split between supporting the Republican nominee and the Libertarian Party nominee.  Yet, if libertarians were forced to choose between the Republican and Democratic nominees, my sense is that the great majority would support the Republican.

These days the matter is different.  Libertarians like Donald Trump much less than they like the usual Republican nominees.   Unsurprisingly, then, many more of them are considering voting for the Libertarian Party nominee.  But interestingly many of them, when pushed on the issue, say that they prefer Clinton to Trump.

Here are some of the main views of the two camps.  Those who favor Trump over Clinton believe that another Democratic Administration would be very bad for the Republic.  Another 4 or 8 years, after 8 years of Obama, would be disastrous.  They argue that concerns about Trump’s corruption and authoritarianism are no greater than concerns about a Clinton Administration.  Moreover, the media will be scrupulous about identifying wrongdoing by a Trump Administration, whereas it will cover up that wrongdoing by a Clinton Administration.

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Jane Austen’s Memorable Con Woman


Whit Stillman made his name in 1990 with Metropolitan, an Oscar-nominated low-budget charmer that remains fresh and enjoyable today. Stillman wrote and directed the film, which focused on a group of mostly well-heeled college freshmen who spend Christmas break frequenting elegant parties and late night bull sessions in what one character calls the “urban haute bourgeoisie” haunts of Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

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With the Old Breed

old breedEditor’s note: This essay was originally posted on Memorial Day 2013.

I’ve been reading With the Old Breed, Eugene Sledge’s classic account of his experiences in the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. Many have come to know his story from the successful 2010 HBO Series The Pacific that relied in part on his diary of these two battles. Sledge enlisted for the duration of the war +6 months in 1943 and, owing to his intelligence, was part of a military training program at Georgia Tech. There he could have earned his degree and joined the war effort in a highly skilled position of some kind, remote perhaps from actual fighting. However, he withdrew from the program, as many of his fellow classmates did, and joined the Marines to fight as a rifleman. And so he did.  The narrative “Sledgehammer” provides is compelling, horrific, and fascinating.

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Blessed Memorial Day

Veterans Cemetery

Uwe E. Reinhardt is a celebrity prof (economics and public affairs) at Princeton. I’ve never met him but have read some of his stuff, on account of my passing interest in health care economics. I can’t judge it but it’s consistently informative, and leavened with a healthy sense that “we economists really do not know how the world works.” (They should nail that sentence over every door jamb at the Federal Reserve.) Professor Reinhardt’s most recent publication, which I suppose is rattling around on a thousand sites but deserves an additional shout-out here, is about the dead—specifically, “The American Dead in…

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Religious Belief, Religious Liberty, and the Art of Taking Rites Seriously

A row of Church pews

Some years ago at the law school at Texas Tech University, I delivered a lecture on the question of whether the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) in public schools would violate the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause. During the question and answer session afterward, a professor from one of the university’s science departments exclaimed: “Your talk consists of cleverly disguised religious arguments.” To which I immediately replied, “I’m relieved. I was afraid you were going to accuse me of making bad arguments.”

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The Rational Objectivity of a Man of Letters


When David Hume died at the age of 65 in the year of the American Revolution, he was rich, famous, and often misunderstood.

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