From my perspective as an outsider, most of the field of constitutional law seems intellectually corrupt. It seems that almost everybody does the following:
1. Start with a political philosophy–a view of what you want the government to be able to do and what you want to the government to to be forbidden from doing.
2. Take the Constitution as a given.
3. Reverse engineer a theory of constitutional interpretation such that it turns out–happily!–that the Constitution forbids what you want it to forbid and allows what you want it to allow.
When I read academic writing by constitutional legal theorists, it seems like basically everyone (conservatives, liberals, libertarians) does this. Isn’t that bizarre? For example, why don’t more libertarian legal theorists just say, “Yes, the Constitution allows X, even though X ought to be forbidden, and so to that extent, the Constitution is bad.” Why don’t we see more left-liberals saying, “A just society would allow X, but, alas, our Constitution forbids X and is to that extent a bad Constitution.” We do sometimes see this, but for the most part, people of every ideology tend to argue that the Constitution allows or forbids exactly what they would want it to allow or forbid. Isn’t the most plausible explanation of this that most legal theorists are intellectually corrupt? (They may be sincere, but they are suffering from terrible confirmation bias.)
Why does dental treatment cost so much, and why do we treat health problems of the mouth so differently from medical issues that afflict the rest of the body?
It is said, Lewis Lapham tells us, that Abbot John Trithemius of Sponheim, a fifteenth-century scholar and mage, devised a set of incantations to carry “messages instantaneously… through the agency of the stars and planets who rule time.” In 1962, Lapham adds, Bell Labs “converted the thought into Telstar, the communications satellite relaying data, from earth to heaven and back to earth, in less than six-tenths of a second.” Magic had become science. Today, the Pentagon is picking up the centuries old gauntlet, asking the brightest minds in academe — through its far-out research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA — to come up with a means for a 20-something-kid-cum-lieutenant or perhaps the military’s much-lauded “strategic corporal” to be wired into unprecedented amounts of information beamed down from the heavens above.
If art is a mirror, dreams are the back of the head. A work of art derives its effects from light, sound, and movement, but dreams unfurl in darkness, silence, paralysis. Like a recipe attempted in an ill-provisioned kitchen, “dreamlike” art relies on substitutions: dutch angles, forced perspective, absurdist juxtapositions, arbitrary transformations, and, as Peter Dinklage’s character points out in the film Living in Oblivion, a lamentable superabundance of dwarfs.
’ve long suspected, based on observations of myself as well as observations of society, that, beyond the psychological and cognitive strains produced by what we call information overload, there is a point in intellectual inquiry when adding more information decreases understanding rather than increasing it. Taleb’s observation that as the frequency of information sampling increases, the amount of noise we take in expands more quickly than the amount of signal might help to explain the phenomenon, particularly if human understanding hinges as much or more on the noise-to-signal ratio of the information we take in as on the absolute amount of signal we’re exposed to. Because we humans seem to be natural-born signal hunters, we’re terrible at regulating our intake of information. We’ll consume a ton of noise if we sense we may discover an added ounce of signal. So our instinct is at war with our capacity for making sense.
Otto von bismarck may have had his share of shortcomings, but a lack of ambition wasn’t one of them
My sense of this period and of the decade or so ahead is that it’s going to be one with — if we’re not careful, and I see no signs of us being careful — the same theme dominating conversation and politics everywhere. And that will be about inequality.