Back with a Whimper: Conservative Thought and SCOTUS Questions Worth Pondering

1. I’ve been back from Costa Rica for more than two weeks now, but even my celebratory blog post has taken back seat to a paper and symposium on David Estlund’s epistemic proceduralism I’m writing and editing with Steve.

2. The Parfit reading group is still on, but if I’m going to be writing each commentary we’ll be slowing down considerably. From what I’ve heard, none of the participants really mind: I get the impression that the pace was pretty hectic given the text.

3. I’m online right now reading this excellent article about new conservative thought. I like the Democratic Party fine, but there’s nothing worse than a single party state, and watching the Republicans implode has been no fun for any of us. The article quotes Luigi Zingales, W. Bradfod Cox, Megan McArdle, and Reihan Salam trying to offer innovative policies rather than simple rebranding.

  • Zingales is “pro-market and very strongly against business,” taking Woodrow Wilson’s “I am for big business, and I am against the trusts” one step further into the Progressive Party’s concerns about the ‘curse of bigness.’
  • Wilcox reminds Republicans that the biggest threat to the family is the single-parentt home, not homosexuality. While I think communities, not families, are the real unit of social cohesion, I suspect that Wilcox is right to direct our attention to what keeps families from cohering these days (hint: it’s the economy, stupid.)
  • Salam embraces big government libertarian paternalism, acknowledging that our problem isn’t state coercion as such but unwise and overly intrusive meddling.
  • McArdle is a blogger who supposedly brings a truly libertarian voice to conservatism. I’ve never read her blog before today, but what I’ve seen mixes fairly standard economic analysis with the blogging tradition of starting fights with other bloggers just to keep oneself occupied. The point that the Boston Globe article makes is simply that she avoided the standard ideological echo chamber/iron triangle that connects the Heritage Foundation to the National Review to the Washington Monthly, which is good because new thoughts won’t emerge if they first have to be crowned heir apparent by outmoded and disgraced thinkers. Fair enough, I suppose: she’s on my feed now and we’ll see if she deserves Tyler Cowen’s praise.

5. Forgetting conservatism for a minute, please check out the New York Times’s piece gathering questions for Judge Sonia Sotomayor from Kathleen Sullivan and Steven Carter, as well as some  idiotic ax-grinding questions from former members of the Bush administration and James MacGregor Burns, who’s apparently still pissed about Marbury v. Madison. (Ronald Dworkin’s questions are a little disappointing and uninsightful, but I guess they’re not idiotic.) Together, these questions spell out most of the issues bothering intelligent observers when they think about the role of the Supreme Court over the next few decades. Since Kathleen Sullivan is at the top of my personal shortlist to replace Justice Ginsburg, it’s nice to see her get top billing interrogating her maybe -soon-to-be-colleague.

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