The Constitutionalist


Robert H. Bork

Robert H. Bork, we all know, didn’t sit on the Supreme Court. His legacy thus cannot lie in votes cast and opinions written. You have to look elsewhere, and you certainly could begin with his earliest work at Yale Law School, which was in antitrust. In a series of law review articles and ultimately a game-changing book, The Antitrust Paradox, published in 1978, Bork worked out a powerful critique of the case law. In showing its defects, he influenced the movement toward deregulation.

As important as Bork was to that development, however, his name will forever be associated with the great debates of the past half-century regarding the Supreme Court and its exercise of judicial review. And it is here that his achievement was especially remarkable.

By the 1960s the power of federal courts to examine government actions for their constitutionality, known simply as judicial review, had ...

Thomas More

More’s Maxims


At the Mass of Christian Burial conducted for Robert Bork on December 21, the program for guests included two quotations from Thomas More, traditional patron saint of lawyers. They were presumably favorites of Bob Bork’s, or perhaps the family felt they exemplified the principles ...


Dug In

Partisan warfare in the 113th Congress.


Entrenched Partisans

Last week the 113th Congress met for the first time, with Republicans in control of the House and Democrats in charge of the Senate. The Obama administration is optimistic that it can work its will over this legislature, driving a hard bargain on sequestration and the debt ceiling and pushing through reforms on immigration and gun control.

This is extremely unlikely. In fact, for a host of reasons, expect the new Congress to resemble the one that just finished—mired in stalemate with the president, lurching from one short-term, ad hoc budget deal to the next, with none of the biggest issues facing the country being addressed.

The most significant impediment to legislative action is ideological division. With 234 House Republicans and 55 Senate Democrats, the 113th Congress will be the most ideologically polarized in recent memory. ...

Starve the beast

Starve the Beast...

Protect the middle class.


Almost everyone is under-estimating what Republicans have just achieved in the fiscal cliff deal, including many Republicans who supported the deal.

Regardless of what politicians have been saying in public, ...

Traffic Jam

March Madness

The fiscal cliff was just a warmup.


It is easy to think of the avoidance of the fiscal cliff as merely a financial deal, aimed at solving our fiscal problems. That would be wrong. The really important fact is that the deal is still another step in President Barack Obama’s drive ...


GOP Chaos on Capitol Hill?

Not really.


Perhaps the least surprising headline in the aftermath of the tax deal last week was the one in Politico declaring that congressional Democrats are planning to run against “chaos” in the 2014 midterm elections. It’s unsurprising because Democrats have been working, with considerable ...

The press carries Obama

The Four-Year Honeymoon

Will the press ever give Obama tough coverage?


President Obama never disappoints. When the monthly unemployment rate fails to drop, forget it. What’s important is the number of jobs created. But when the rate actually does drop, forget the growth (or lack of it) in jobs. It’s the rate that matters. And don’t blame ...

The US Constitution

Dispensing with the Constitution

Obama’s executive caprice.


We are in the midst of a crisis of federalism and we don’t even know it. In November, the states of Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana use, while 16 other states and Washington, D.C., already permitted the medical use of marijuana. Yet at the same time, the ...

A psychic reads a crystal ball

The World of 2030

It won’t be what the intelligence community ­predicts.



"The world of 2030 will be radically transformed from our world today. By 2030, no country​—​whether the United States, China, or any large country​—​will be a hegemonic power.” However, the coming transformation will ...


Pop Goes the Culture

One man’s quest to preserve and defend the good, the true, and the beautiful


Ken Myers

Ken Myers grew up in a conservative Christian household in Beltsville, Maryland, during the 1960s. When he was in tenth grade, two important things happened to him.

His high school music teacher introduced him to the music of Bach, taking eight months to teach Myers and the rest of the boys’ choir how to sing the motet Jesu, meine Freude. And he fell upon a copy of the Saturday Review.

Saturday Review is pretty much forgotten today. (A number of people still remember Bach.) The magazine began in the 1920s and flourished in the postwar years. Its writers ranged widely over the arts, from music and literature to painting and drama, cultivating a readership of strivers​—​professional and college educated, if not brainy by nature​—​who were eager for self-improvement and a kind of intellectual diversion that was sophisticated and accessible. The ...

The Salvation Army

Compassionate Conservatism

Properly understood


Defeat, like death, concentrates the mind wonderfully. It also liberates the mind. People venture to think the unthinkable, or at least, the impermissible. A new generation of conservatives may be moved to reconsider some ideas that have fallen into disuse or even disrepute. ...

Boehner on the ropes

Small Ball

Why our fiscal debates amount to nothing


For fiscal hawks of all political stripes, the last two years have been awfully frustrating. Budget politics has been front and center almost constantly, yet we have made almost no progress toward reducing our deficits and debt.

Ever since ...

Books & Arts

Starting from Scratch

An infinite number of theories of existence.


The ‘grand design’ spiral galaxy, M81

In Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall, there’s a wistful character named Prendergast, who had been a contented rural curate until he was suddenly beset by  “Doubts”—not about God’s existence, but:  “I couldn’t understand why God had made the world at all.” His bishop tries to reassure him, saying that “he didn’t think the point really arose as far as my practical duties as a parish priest were concerned.” But Prendergast resigns his living and ends up teaching at a dismal school in Wales.  

Jim Holt, a writer who hangs out at the intersection of science and philosophy, is vexed by similar doubts. Why is there Something rather than Nothing, which would have been so much simpler? What is the universe doing here? Who invited it? Exactly how did it get here, and why, in this somewhat disheveled condition? But Holt, instead of resigning his living, just writes a book, and it’s far from dismal, despite circling ...

Henry J. Kaiser at the wheel

Armed and Prosperous

The CEOs who mobilized American war production.


It is universally recognized that the Allied victory over Japan and Germany in World War II could not have happened without America’s becoming, in Franklin Roosevelt’s words, “the arsenal of democracy.” The basic figures of American war production are simply ...

John Allison

Money for Nothing

Who caused the financial collapse? Just about everyone.


To appreciate this landmark work it is necessary to know a bit about the author’s background. 

John Allison is not only a banker-entrepreneur; he is also a recognized intellectual leader of American business. Moreover, Allison’s financial ...

The governor of Mecca and members of the Saudi royal family at the Kaaba, 2008

Riddle of the Sands

A view through the two-way mirror of Saudi Arabia.


If I were of a cynical nature, I might suspect that this volume possesses an agenda beyond explaining the world’s most important and least predictable Muslim country to Westerners. But an awkward combination of a pretentious title and a lightweight ...

Tracy Spiridakos, Billy Burke, Daniella Alonso, Paras Patel

Rebels with Cause

Power tends to corrupt, and lack of power inspires rebellion.


NBC’s Revolution (Mondays, 10 p.m. ET/PT) features swordfights, gun-fights, and crossbow fights, chases on horseback, chases on trains, and chases on foot. It is gripping, loud, and entertaining. Who cares that its high-concept premise (all ...

Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman

Sing You Sinners

There are bumps along the way, but Les Misérables is worth the trip.


Les Misérables grabs you by the lapels from the first moment and never lets you go. In this respect it is little different from the stage musical from which it derives—and not so different from the Victor Hugo novel from which the stage musical derives. How you respond to its ...


Slick Subscriber

Joseph Epstein, magazine marauder


A monkey and a magazine

I'm a sucker for a cheap subscription. For years I subscribed to Vanity Fair because I was able to get it for $1 a month. I paged through each thick issue, gazing upon countless pages of advertising for gaudy watches, men’s colognes, hideous Italian suits, and other merchandise I should not care to own. I did not so much read as glimpse the magazine, ending, always, on a note of slight disappointment, with the Proust Questionnaire or brief celebrity interview at the back of each issue. When they raised the subscription price to $36, I bailed out.

I ponied up 12 bucks for a one-year subscription to a magazine called Details, which, as I recall, also gave me a gym bag along with my subscription—so handy for a man who doesn’t go to any gym. I soon enough discovered that male vanity was featured in the pages of Details: moisturizers, Prada garb, $900 shoes, and all that. God, the architects say, is ...


The Sean Penn Piñata

Sean Penn

You could tell it was a vacation week because The Scrapbook found itself, one idle afternoon, reading an essay by the actor Sean Penn on Huffington Post. These are two activities—perusing HuffPo, imbibing the wisdom of Sean Penn—that The Scrapbook customarily avoids.

But like any new experience, it had its rewards and it had its frightening moments as well. Mr. Penn has a reputation as a “thinking” actor—the New York Times once hailed him as “the actor of his generation,” and we always enjoy listening to worshipful interviews of him on NPR—so we settled down to read his essay in the spirit of friendly inquiry.

We were not disappointed. Bearing the slightly mysterious title “Breached Piñatas,” it began with an allusion to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School—a predictable, but certainly defensible, choice of subject—but ...

Al Gorzeera

Al Gorezeera

Last week Al Gore and his partners sold their foundering cable channel, Current TV, to Al Jazeera. Whether that will provide the Arab satellite TV giant with the access to the American cable market it has long sought is still unclear. Al Jazeera America, what the new ...

Coin of the Realm

It’s come to this: Serious people in Washington are discussing a hypothetical solution to the next debt ceiling crisis—minting trillion-dollar coins. There are legal restrictions on how much paper money the government can circulate, as well as gold, ...


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