This week in Say More, PS talks with Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School and the author of the forthcoming How Antitrust Failed Workers.
Project Syndicate: You’ve written that a right-wing Supreme Court is a major headwind for Joe Biden’s administration. But increasing the number of seats, you warn, is a “favored tactic of despots,” and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s attempt to use it “caused lasting political damage to his presidency.” Biden has now created a commission to examine a number of possible reforms, including introducing term limits for justices. What changes, if any, could mitigate the risks to Biden’s political agenda from an ideologically hostile Supreme Court while preserving America’s constitutional order?
Eric Posner: The Supreme Court will not be reformed. There just isn’t sufficient political support. Biden convened the Commission to buy time, not to reform the Court.
If I could wave a magic wand, the reform I would like to see is the creation of a procedure so that Congress could overturn Supreme Court decisions with a supermajority or some similarly reasonable hurdle. Term limits are not a bad idea, but will not by themselves solve Biden’s problems unless they’re applied retroactively to sitting justices, which is not going to happen.
We ask all our Say More contributors to tell our readers about a few books that have impressed them recently. Here are Posner's picks:
by José Saramago
The basic premise is simple: a clerk at the city’s Central Registry – which keeps records of births, marriages, divorces, and deaths – tracks down the identity of a recently deceased woman. But this novel is narrated in a surrealistic and weirdly appealing stream-of-consciousness style that emphasizes the discontinuous nature of thought.
by Edmund Fawcett
Essential political terms like “conservatism” and “liberalism” seem to have lost their meaning in public and even academic discussion. Only a historical narrative tracing the evolution of these terms offers any hope of restoring it. That is what Fawcett supplies: a balanced and informative history of conservative thought. It pairs well with Helena Rosenblatt’s The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century, which also impressed me when I read it a few years ago.
by Ryan Schmidt
Schmidt offers a nicely illustrated history of the mechanical wristwatch. If you despair about modern consumer madness – exemplified by the new obsession with non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – this book will help. Read about the Romaine Jerome Titanic DNA Day & Night Tourbillon, a watch whose mechanism incorporates steel from the wreck of the Titanic, but whose face lacks hands and numerals (it will, however, tell you whether it is night or day, in case you live in a submarine). This $300,000 watch displays a “full commitment to the abandoning of time,” as Schmidt drily puts it.
From the PS Archive
In “Why Try Trump?” Posner says the trial of the former US president by the Senate is clearly legitimate, but questions the charge. Read more.
In “Biden’s Precarious Victory,” Posner predicts that the Biden administration will face Republican hostility and congressional sabotage from day one. Read more.
Around the web
In a New York Times opinion article, Posner advises Biden not to shy away from the full power of the presidency. Read the commentary.
In the Clauses and Controversies podcast, Poster elucidates the complexities of invoking force majeure – a once-obscure civil-law concept that has drawn substantial attention during the coronavirus pandemic. Listen to the discussion.