Adrian Vermeule, The Bourbons of Jurisprudence (Harv. Pub. L. Working Paper, Paper No. 22-31, 2022).
Abstract: In what follows, I offer a short response to a review by William Baude and Stephen Sachs of Common Good Constitutionalism (Polity 2022). The response is by no means exhaustive, but focuses on the central and crippling deficiencies of the review, deficiencies that specialists in jurisprudence have previously pointed out in their work. Baude and Sachs confidently imagine that their particular, highly idiosyncratic versions of positivism and originalism provide the yardstick against which all public law theories should be measured. They present as unquestioned axioms of legality and legal interpretation in our legal order what are, in fact, highly controversial views, which do not correspond to or derive from any recognized version of positivism in jurisprudence. Indeed they go so far as to imply at several points that agreement with their nonstandard approach is the sine qua non of genuine scholarship. Baude and Sachs’ approach in effect tries to pass off as a deep sociolegal consensus claims that are highly contestable and contested, claims for which they provide essentially no evidence.The main consequence of these errors is that Baude and Sachs silently assume away the non-positivist premises of the classical legal tradition. This fundamental error infects all the subsidiary points in the review, which repeatedly misconceive the claims of the classical legal tradition by treating those claims as erroneous or unnecessary positivist arguments, rather than trying to understand them on their own very different terms. Unless and until Baude and Sachs learn to learn, as it were, they will remain unable to engage in any interesting way with the rich variety of American legal theory.