Could the market help us solve our healthcare problems? Market economists and theorists say of course it could; big government/Progressive types say no. Let’s find out. As Franklin said when discussing his famous Kite, “let the experiment be made.” When the Obama administration was debating just how heavily to regulate America’s healthcare system, many on the Left wanted a truly government-run health insurance scheme, or “public option.” As Progressives’ default assumption is that government programs work better than the alternatives, they believed a “public option” would demonstrate the wisdom of turning to fully socialized medicine in the United States. Average Americans reacted sensibly:…
Over at the Law and Religion Forum, we are hosting an online symposium on a very interesting article by Professor Vincent Phillip Muñoz, “Two Concepts of Religious Liberty: The Natural Rights and Moral Autonomy Approaches to the Free Exercise of Religion.” Muñoz’s basic claim is a historical one about the nature of the Founders’ constitutional commitment to religious freedom: They supported a narrow, but powerful, right of religious free exercise that protected fairly absolutely what were thought to be certain core features of religiosity—such as worship—but that did not protect the panoply of religious “interests” that might be dear to any given constituency.
Harvard Law School’s dynamic AdLaw duo (Cass R. Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule) has struck again. In The New Coke: On the Plural Aims of Administrative Law the authors take aim at the insurgent fundamental assault on the legitimacy of the administrative state, under the banner of “the separation of powers.” The challenge is playing a growing role in separate [Supreme Court] opinions, and on occasion, it finds its way into majority opinions as well. Justice Clarence Thomas is the principal advocate, but he has been joined, on prominent occasions, by Justice Antonin Scalia and sometimes by Justices Samuel Alito and Chief…
In his brilliant book The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution Bernard Bailyn wrote: “English law—as authority as legitimizing precedent, as embodied principle, and as the framework of historical understanding—stood side by side with Enlightenment rationalism in the minds of the Revolutionary Generation.” The Constitution itself was a product of those same minds caught between the traditions of the common law and the axioms of the Enlightenment. Understanding the Constitution correctly depends on giving appropriate weight to its common law background.
The judicial duty of clarity along with judicial methods of clarification reflects the common law background of judicial review.
James Bradley Thayer’s article on judicial review is one of the most renowned pieces of scholarship in American constitutional law. It is famous for the “clear mistake doctrine”—his notion that legislation should be struck down only if it violated what any rational person would believe the Constitution to mean. “Clear mistake” thus embodies very strong judicial restraint. My article, The Duty of Clarity, shows why “clear mistake” is itself clearly mistaken.
Thayer’s strongest originalist support for the doctrine comes from the many cases around the time of the Framing that state that judges should invalidate legislation only when it is in clear or “manifest contradiction” with the Constitution. But Thayer misunderstands these cases because his own premises about law are so different from those of the Framers. He quotes the words of law without understanding the accompanying jurisprudential music.
First, unlike those in the Framing generation, Thayer believes that constitutional law serves a political function that differs fundamentally from other applications of law.
Philip Hamburger’s Is Administrative Law Unlawful? is a timely and major contribution to the most significant constitutional crisis of our time. As a work of scholarship it will inform and inspire future thinking on the administrative state for years. This book, however, will greatly contribute to an emerging consensus about the perils of the administrative state, and help shape the constitutional response. Therefore it may well be the most important book that has been written in decades. Scholars have been denouncing the modern administrative state as incompatible with American constitutionalism for years, but nobody has made the argument as thoroughly and…
My earlier post suggested that there might be something to learn from the liberal version of the German Rechtsstaat—the tradition that American Progressives ignored when they imported the most authoritarian versions of administrative law then circulating in Germany.
Philip Hamburger rightly calls attention to the Progressives’ selective acquisition, and he fully acknowledges that the liberal tradition, which over the long haul triumphed in Germany, has a great deal going for it. But he is diffident about the liberal Rechtsstaat because it remains rooted, he says, in a legal tradition that is inimical to the common law tradition that (according to Professor Hamburger) the Constitution seeks to enshrine.