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Adrian Vermeule

  • U.S. Supreme Court building, looking up towards the sky from the bottom of the stairs.

    Harvard Law faculty weigh in: The 2021-2022 Supreme Court Term

    June 25, 2022

    Harvard Law School experts weigh in on the Supreme Court’s final decisions.

  • What Common Good?

    April 7, 2022

    Just as the Supreme Court is poised to achieve many of the stated aims of the conservative legal movement, including overturning Roe v. Wade and striking down affirmative action, leading conservative thinkers are hotly debating alternative approaches to interpreting the Constitution. Originalism—the notion that the words of the Constitution should be read according to some version of their original historical meaning—has been the standard-bearer for decades, promoted initially as a strategy to undermine national economic regulation and limit the protection of civil rights. But a conservative competitor to originalism has recently emerged in “common good constitutionalism.” For its leading proponent, Adrian Vermeule, a Harvard law professor, the point of constitutional interpretation isn’t to discern what the Founders thought or what some legal text meant to ordinary readers when it was enacted. Instead, the aim is to promote the “common good.” Vermeule claims that within the “classical legal tradition”—which extended from the Roman Empire through early modern Europe—political officials, including judges, understood that the purpose of the state is to secure the goods of “peace, justice, and abundance,” which he translates now into “health, safety, and economic security.” But in Vermeule’s telling, American conservatives have lost sight of that tradition and its influence on our own legal system. They have been blinded by originalism, which has become a stultifying obstacle to promoting a “robust, substantively conservative approach.

  • An Extraordinary Account of a Hasidic Enclave

    February 24, 2022

    In an old joke, a secular Jew sits down on a park bench next to a man with a large black hat and a long black coat. The secular Jew turns to the darkly garbed man and says, “What’s the matter with you Hasids? This isn’t the Old Country—it’s the modern world. You people are an embarrassment to the rest of us.” The man turns around and says, “Hasid? I’m Amish.” The secular Jew immediately replies, “It’s so wonderful the way you’ve held on to your traditions!” ... They will be regarded as ‘options’ within the liberal frame, and while suspect in the broader culture, largely permitted to exist so long as they are nonthreatening to the liberal order’s main business.” [Adrian] Vermeule, a conservative scholar at Harvard Law School, agrees with Deneen’s assessment but considers his prescription altogether too quietist, proposing instead the cultivation of clandestine agents who might “come to occupy the commanding heights of the administrative state,” where they “may have a great deal of discretion to further human dignity and the common good, defined entirely in substantive rather than procedural-technical terms.” (One can’t help but think of jurists like Amy Coney Barrett.) Brooks, a commentator, has fewer qualms about liberalism per se, and thinks the focus ought to be on the renewal of a culture of civic righteousness.

  • Supreme Court Justices Have Forgotten What the Law Is For

    February 4, 2022

    An op-ed by Adrian Vermeule: Justice Stephen Breyer last week announced that he will retire at the end of this Supreme Court term. If the recent past is any guide, whoever is nominated to replace him will face a barrage of attacks from political opponents. Every Supreme Court nomination is now a battleground, featuring slander and even angry demonstrations, as when protesters of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination invaded the Senate building and attacked the very doors of the court.

  • Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s legacy in administrative law

    January 31, 2022

    Justice Stephen Breyer's decision to retire from the Supreme Court has led to the usual frenzy over who his replacement might be. But it's also worth noting how he shaped important areas of the law - one of them, administrative law. Now, that might sound like a boring, dry topic, but it actually really matters. Administrative agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency or the Centers for Disease Control play an important role in determining policy in key areas of life, like how much of a certain chemical is safe enough to have in drinking water or implementing vaccine requirements. ... For that, we've called Adrian Vermeule. He is a constitutional law professor at Harvard University School of Law, and he is one of the co-authors of the book "Administrative Law And Regulatory Policy," along with Justice Breyer, and he is with us now. Professor Vermeule, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.

  • Can Catholic Social Teaching Unite a Divided America?

    February 8, 2021

    President Joe Biden, the second Catholic in history to hold the office, has made religion a prominent element of his public role. He attended Mass on the morning of his inauguration, quoted the theologian and philosopher St. Augustine in his inaugural speech and placed a photograph of Pope Francis, whom he has praised as a personal inspiration, behind his desk in the Oval Office...Perhaps inevitably, the start of the Biden administration has kicked off a debate over how Catholic his policies actually are... “In a society with very few strong moral paradigms left, Catholic social thought is a well-organized tradition that has something for both left and right,” said Adrian Vermeule, a conservative professor of constitutional law at Harvard University. “Catholicism, despite or because of our polarized age, is becoming something like an organizing common language for a great deal of American public life.”

  • On the Bookshelf: HLS Library Book Talks, Spring 2018 2

    On the bookshelf

    December 15, 2020

    In the unusual year of 2020, Harvard Law authors continued to do what they always have: Write.

  • The Vatican’s just-renewed agreement with China follows an ancient pattern

    October 30, 2020

    An op-ed by Gladden Pappin and Adrian VermeuleIt’s the last full week of presidential campaigning, so Americans might be excused for having missed news that the Vatican renewed its preliminary agreement with China over the appointment of bishops. The agreement has drawn the ire of many American conservatives, not least Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who charges that a compromise with Beijing erodes Rome’s moral witness. Pompeo’s concerns deserve to be taken seriously. They reflect not only the view of the Trump administration, but that of many Catholics, including Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong, and other senior churchmen. There is no denying that in Beijing, Rome faces an authoritarian regime that has persecuted people of faith, Catholics especially, from its founding. Yet Americans should also consider what the church sees when she looks to China with eyes ultimately fixed on transcendent, theological horizons. The key here is that the agreement is sharply limited in scope. It primarily addresses the appointment of bishops, the very composition of the church herself. For the church, what matters above all is the mystical embodiment of Christ in the structure of pope, bishops and laity. By giving priority to the question of bishops in the preliminary agreement, the Holy See merely follows the proper sequence of events from the church’s standpoint: First, the lines of authority have to be made clear; then, in subsequent talks, other aspects of the relationship may be clarified. Critics go wrong assuming the agreement is some sort of general charter governing relations between Beijing and the Roman church. The agreement isn’t a concordat. A concordat involves the establishment of official diplomatic relations. The Holy See, which still recognizes Taiwan, is the most important sovereign entity not to have diplomatic relations with China, and that remains true under this agreement.

  • book cover of The Connected Parent

    Books in Brief: Fall 2020

    October 20, 2020

    New works on redeeming the administrative state, navigating parenting in a world in which children are immersed in technology, and understanding the importance of understanding how much information you need.

  • ‘Law & Leviathan’ Review: Self-Government Minus the Self

    September 24, 2020

    The U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers is a concession to man’s fallibility. Man tends to abuse power, so the Founders dispersed it. To preserve liberty and promote the public interest requires not just intentions but also institutions. Yet when we think of our institutions merely as safeguards, we sell them short...Justice Thomas and other judges and scholars have grown increasingly vocal in challenging the administrative state’s constitutional legitimacy. They question the statutes and judicial precedents that undergird the administrative state. In court-made doctrines of judicial “deference” to agencies’ legal interpretations, these jurists see abdication of the Constitution’s “judicial power.” In old statutes giving some agencies substantial independence from presidential control, they see violations of the Constitution’s grant of “executive power” to the president alone. And in old statutes empowering agencies to regulate with minimal limits, they see violations of the Constitution’s vesting of “legislative powers” in the Congress alone. All of these, they argue, undermine republican government and the rule of law. Cass R. Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule reject that position in “Law + Leviathan: Redeeming the Administrative State.” Mr. Sunstein was President Obama’s White House regulatory coordinator and is perhaps the leading regulatory thinker in Democratic policy-making circles. Mr. Vermeule is an intellectual leader for a rising generation of conservatives who demand a much more explicitly paternalistic and moralistic constitutionalism. While the two Harvard Law professors surely disagree on many things, they both believe that the administrative state doesn’t undermine the rule of law but exemplifies it. Drawing inspiration from “The Morality of Law” (1964), a major work of legal philosophy by Lon Fuller, they argue that “American administrative law has its own internal morality,” which “embraces many of the concerns and objections of those who are deeply skeptical of the administrative state” and which ultimately serves to “both empower and constrain the administrative state.”

  • The Very Structure of Modern Government Is Under Legal Assault

    September 15, 2020

    An article by Cass Sunstein and Adrian VermeuleMore than at any time since the 1930s, the administrative state is under constitutional assault. Some judges, lawyers and legal academics are calling into question the very structure of modern government. Four members of the U.S. Supreme Court, and possibly five, have indicated that they would like to revive the “nondelegation doctrine,” which would forbid Congress from granting excessively broad or uncabined discretion to administrative agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor and the Department of Transportation. Under their approach, important parts of the Clean Air Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act might be invalidated. So too, in eliminating the independence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in June, a majority of the Supreme Court cast a dark constitutional cloud over the long-established idea that Congress has the power to allow agencies to operate independently of the president. The court’s approach raises serious doubts about the legal status of the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Trade Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other such entities. These developments are just two of a large number of emerging efforts within the federal courts to limit the power of administrative agencies or perhaps even to abolish them, at least in their current form. We are witnessing the flowering of a longstanding attempt to see the administrative state as fundamentally illegitimate. (The legal assault on the administrative state has political resonance, too; think of the former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s call for the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”)

  • A straw hat with sunglasses on top of a pile of books on the sand, illustration of clouds, birds, and water in the background.

    Harvard Law faculty summer book recommendations

    July 30, 2020

    Looking for something to add to your summer book list? HLS faculty share what they’re reading.

  • Why conservative justices are more likely to defect

    July 9, 2020

    An article by Adrian VermeuleThe end of a Supreme Court term almost always sees one or more conservative justices vote to hand the liberal justices a narrow but important victory. In case after case, conservative swing justices appear irresistibly drawn to join the liberals. So it went this year. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. defected to strike down admitting-privileges regulations for abortion providers and keep in place protection for immigrants brought to this country as children. The chief justice and Justice Neil M. Gorsuch joined their liberal colleagues to create new anti-discrimination prohibitions for sexual orientation and gender identity. This is a familiar pattern. Last term, the chief justice dealt the administration a significant loss by frustrating its plans to add a citizenship question to the census. In the longer run, a string of 10 GOP appointments of new justices since 1973, compared to a mere four Democratic appointees, has produced little progress toward the central conservative goal of overturning Roe v. Wade, thanks in part to a series of dramatic defections from supposedly solid conservatives. Why do these defections occur? One theory is that there is nothing to explain; justices simply follow their best understanding of the Constitution, and let the chips fall where they may. No doubt that is that is what the justices themselves think: that they are earnestly seeking to get the law right. But this explanation fails to account for a basic asymmetry: While conservative justices often break ranks to give liberals a 5-to-4 majority, liberal justices rarely do the same in reverse. If the legal merits cut across political divides, there should be no such persistent imbalance. Some conservatives then claim that liberal justices are, despite their protestations, systematically less principled — a suspiciously partisan view that credits the reported experience of only some justices and discounts that of others.

  • Detail of Austin Hall

    Harvard Law excels in SSRN citation rankings

    April 6, 2020

    Statistics released by the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) indicate that, as of the beginning of 2020, Harvard Law School faculty members featured prominently on SSRN’s list of the most-cited law professors.

  • Beyond Originalism

    March 31, 2020

    An article by Adrian Vermeule: In recent years, allegiance to the constitutional theory known as originalism has become all but mandatory for American legal conservatives. Every justice and almost every judge nominated by recent Republican administrations has pledged adherence to the faith. At the Federalist Society, the influential association of legal conservatives, speakers talk and think of little else. Even some luminaries of the left-liberal legal academy have moved away from speaking about “living constitutionalism,” “fundamental fairness,” and “evolving standards of decency,” and have instead justified their views in originalist terms. One often hears the catchphrase “We are all originalists now.” Originalism comes in several varieties (baroque debates about key theoretical ideas rage among its proponents), but their common core is the view that constitutional meaning was fixed at the time of the Constitution’s enactment. This approach served legal conservatives well in the hostile environment in which originalism was first developed, and for some time afterward.

  • Academia’s Holy Warriors

    September 13, 2019

    IIt was a Saturday night in May 2018 in Fox Hill, N.Y., and the Notre Dame political-science professor Patrick Deneen was talking about his garden. The occasion was a conference called “Beyond Liberalism,” organized around Deneen’s unlikely bestseller, Why Liberalism Failed (Yale University Press, 2018). The setting was the mess hall of a “Bruderhof” intentional community, patterned on those established by Christian pacifists in the wake of World War I. ... In the year and a half since the conference, other writers who have staked out public positions on the nonliberal right include the Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule, the First Things editor R.R. Reno, the former Washington Examiner managing editor Helen Andrews, and the University of Dallas assistant professor of political science — and deputy editor of the journal American Affairs — Gladden Pappin. One might add Mary Ann Glendon, the Harvard law professor and former ambassador to the Vatican, who in July was named the head of President Trump’s Commission on Unalienable Rights. (The commission includes professors from Stanford, the University of South Carolina, the University of California at Irvine, and Notre Dame.)

  • The anti-liberal moment

    September 9, 2019

    Shortly after its post-World War I creation, the foundations of Germany’s Weimar Republic began to quake. In 1923, Hitler staged an abortive coup attempt in Bavaria, the so-called Beer Hall Putsch — a failure that nonetheless turned Hitler into a reactionary celebrity, a sign of German discontent with the post-war political order. ... Liberalism “constantly disrupts deeply cherished traditions among its subject populations, stirring unrest, animosity, and eventually political reaction and backlash,” Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule, one of the most prominent of the reactionary anti-liberals, said in a May speech.

  • We’re in an anti-liberal moment. Liberals need better answers.

    June 25, 2019

    The gravediggers of liberalism believe that their moment has arrived. Hungary’s prime minister — who condemns “shipwrecked” liberalism — has weakened his country’s courts, changed the electoral system to favor his party and cracked down on universities. Poland’s Law and Justice party has followed suit. On the home front, President Trump openly praises strongmen, disparages judges and the free press, and disdains institutions like NATO that many people view as pillars of the postwar “liberal order” uniting Western democracies. Conservative intellectuals in this country don’t praise all these moves but have suggested they result from genuine frustration with the current political order...The current debate in the United States over liberalism’s worth might be traced to Notre Dame political theorist Patrick Deneen’s “Why Liberalism Failed,” an unlikely bestseller last year. The Roman Catholic right, to which Deneen belongs, has long been skeptical of liberalism. But while Deneen counseled that the faithful should drop out of national political life and focus on local communities, Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule, a Catholic convert, advocates for a more aggressive approach. He has expressed the hopethat “nonliberal actors” could “strategically locate themselves within liberal institutions and work to undo the liberalism of the state from within.”

  • What Are Conservatives Actually Debating? What the strange war over “David French-ism” says about the right.

    June 11, 2019

    In March the religious journal First Things published a short manifesto, signed by a group of notable conservative writers and academics, titled “Against the Dead Consensus.” The consensus that the manifesto came to bury belonged to conservatism as it existed between the time of William F. Buckley Jr. and the rise of Donald Trump: An ideology that packaged limited government, free markets, a hawkish foreign policy and cultural conservatism together, and that assumed that business interests and religious conservatives and ambitious American-empire builders belonged naturally to the same coalition...Then alongside these practical power plays and policy moves, the post-fusionists want something bigger: A philosophical reconsideration of where the liberal order has ended up. How radical that reconsideration ought to be varies with the thinker...Maybe it means reinventing the Catholic anti-liberalism of the 19th century, and embracing the “integralism” championed by, among others, Adrian Vermeule of Harvard Law School.

  • Supreme Court Ready to Grant GOP’s Wish to ‘Roll Back the Administrative State’

    March 27, 2019

    This week the Supreme Court will hear a case that could hamstring how the federal government regulates everything from water pollution and organic tomatoes to overtime pay and veteran’s benefits. The case, Kisor v. Wilkie, concerns, on its surface, a Vietnam vet trying to get medical treatment from Veterans Affairs for PTSD, and whether a particular incident in his service is relevant or not to his medical condition. ... Trouble is, that doesn’t happen much either. An exhaustive study by two law professors yielded no evidence that agencies more often wrote vague regulations after Auer than before. In the words of one of them, Adrian Vermeule, “Let us pause to absorb this: Much of the clamor against Auer has been premised on an empirical claim about agency behavior now shown to lack any discernible factual basis.”

  • The White House with waving American flag

    Video: Sovereignty and the New Executive Authority

    March 22, 2019

    The Harvard Law School Library recently hosted Claire Finkelstein, professor of law and philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, for a discussion on "Sovereignty and the New Executive Authority," a volume of essays exploring the growing struggle to maintain the legal and ethical boundaries surrounding executive authority in the post- 9/11 United States.

  • This big Supreme Court case has united business, labor and immigration groups. But some see a right wing attack on government regulation

    March 21, 2019

    An unusual coalition of business, labor and immigration rights groups wants to change the way federal regulators interpret their own rules — but that effort has sparked fears that consumer and worker protections could be gutted in the process. The fight is due to play out in a Supreme Court argument set for Wednesday. The case involves James Kisor, a Marine veteran who is demanding that the Department of Veterans Affairs provide him with retroactive disability payments for post-traumatic stress disorder he developed while serving in brutal battles in Vietnam. ...And they say that, because much of the law that applies to regulation is interconnected, any broad ruling striking down Auer could have unintended consequences. "Cooking up a new approach to precedent yields a toxic brew that can be harmful even to its creators," wrote Adrian Vermeule, a professor at Harvard Law School.

  • RAO Nomination Exposes Fissures Within Conservative Legal Movement

    March 3, 2019

    The nomination of Neomi Rao to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit exposed oft-ignored fissures within the right-wing legal establishment, aggravating social conservatives who feel their priorities have been unfairly eclipsed. ... Professor Adrian Vermeule of Harvard Law School agreed that social conservatives are becoming less interested in legal method and more interested in pure results. He cited growing skepticism of free market ideology and a feeling of betrayal on issues like abortion as driving the religious right’s reorientation. “I think the real reason social conservatives are becoming more oriented to results is simply mistrust of the corporate, libertarian wing of conservatism,” Vermeule told TheDCNF. “And that mistrust emphatically extends to judicial nominees.”

  • No Wall, No Peace

    February 7, 2019

    President Trump lost a big one when he caved to Nancy Pelosi’s demand on the spending bill. Does that mean that “it’s all over for Trump,” as headlines have regularly blared? No. But it does mean that until he reasserts his authority, the locus of power is with the speaker and not with the president. Power unused is power lost. It’s a political truth that Democrats understand and Republicans pretend doesn’t exist. What is frustrating about this for supporters of border integrity is that the defeat was entirely self-inflicted. It didn’t have to happen at all. In fact, the president had the whip hand — if he had only recognized it and chosen to use it. Adrian Vermeule, a constitutional law professor at Harvard, noted on Twitter that “Trump’s advantage in various negotiations, for a time, was that he seemed crazy and capable of doing something genuinely rash if he didn’t get his way. Lately he (or his advisers) have become excessively rational, and they’re getting slaughtered.”

  • Who Read What in 2018: History and Journalism

    December 10, 2018

    ...Randall Kennedy: The most memorable book of the year for me was one I have read and reread at least annually over the past few years: Lee Baer’s “The Imp of the Mind: Exploring the Silent Epidemic of Obsessive Bad Thoughts.”...Adrian Vermeule: I’m somewhat at a loss, because I rarely read new books, on principle. Most are bad. Time, that piercing reviewer of books, relegates so many to obscurity; and time’s judgments often take decades to ripen. Two old books I’ve read in the past year have deepened my understanding of sovereignty—the concept from high political and constitutional theory that is much in the news and that underlies issues of elections, populism, borders and European Union membership.

  • Book Review: Mind, Heart, & Soul

    November 27, 2018

    The Catholic Church in the United States has received staggering blows of late. The sinful and criminal behavior of a former leading prelate, the statewide investigations into clergy sex abuse across the country, the Vatican’s confused and vapid response – all have left many of the faithful in despair. Some American Catholics are even questioning their fidelity to Mother Church. It may seem curious, therefore, that comes now a new book recounting the conversion stories of sixteen leading intellectuals. Of course, there are no coincidences in the often-charming world of God. In Mind, Heart, & Soul: Intellectuals and the Path to Rome, Robert George and R.J. Snell offer a refreshing and inspirational reminder from some of today’s greatest minds of the many splendored reasons to be Catholic...Harvard Law Professor Adrian Vermeule matter-of-factly remarks that “the depths of the Church are not disturbed by the storms that pass to and fro on the surface.” Rather, he says , “the Church seems to me an institution whose foundations are as strong as iron. The turmoil will pass away; episodes, scandals and debates will come and go; but the line and witness of Peter’s successors will never fail.”

  • Empirical SCOTUS: With a little help from academic scholarship

    November 1, 2018

    Judges’ citations tell a lot about their dispositions. We can glean relationships between cases, judges’ perspectives on these cases and judges’ relationships with other judges based on case citations. For this reason, empirical scholars have spent much time and energy analyzing judges’ citation patterns. A slew of Supreme Court researchers have written fascinating pieces about the justices’ case citation...Professors at the University of Virginia were cited in the most observations with 13. Most of these cites were driven by UVA professors Caleb Nelson and Saikrishna Bangalore Prakash, who was cited in four observations (twice by Thomas and twice by Alito). The justices cited an assortment of Harvard Law professors, who accumulated 12 opinion-cites, with only one professor, Adrian Vermeule, cited in more than one observation. Following Harvard Law, University of Chicago Law’s faculty tallied 11 opinion cites, while faculty from Georgetown Law, Stanford Law and Yale Law each accumulated nine opinion-cites.

  • Christianity and the Common Good

    Christianity and the Common Good

    October 31, 2018

    A panel of legal and theological authorities recently gathered at Harvard Law School to discuss “Christianity and the Common Good” at a conference presented by Harvard with the Thomistic Institute, an organization that aims to promote intellectual Christian thought at universities. Conference guests included Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch ’91, who delivered the keynote.

  • How Identity Politics Can Lead to Violence

    August 28, 2018

    ...It’s true that “identity politics” are to some degree inherent to all politics. Adrian Vermeule, a constitutional-law professor at Harvard, recently said, There is nothing that isn’t “identity politics” of one sort or another, including the identity of “one who stands above tribalism.” The legitimate objection isn’t that “identity politics” is bad, but that it is an inescapable and therefore vacuous description. Vermeule is correct — even a belief in God or in the rule of law is an aspect of one’s personal makeup and identity, and allows oneself to be classified in a particular political or social category.

  • Twitter’s CEO doesn’t get how conspiracy theories work

    August 14, 2018

    ...In 2008, Harvard Law professors Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule penned an article on conspiracy theories and how they work. They argued that conspiracy theories — which they define as “an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role” — are, in their own way, quite rational. “Most people are not able to know, on the basis of personal or direct knowledge, why an airplane crashed, or why a leader was assassinated, or why a terrorist attack succeeded,” they wrote. As a result, they search for information that fits what they already believe about the world and is confirmed by people they trust. Conspiracy theories, Sunstein and Vermeule argued, spread in a variety of ways. One of these pathways, called an “availability cascade,” happens when a group of people accept a conspiracy theory because their preexisting beliefs about the world make them likely to believe it.

  • Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss, and the Woke Post-Liberals

    July 31, 2018

    Contemporary liberalism holds itself aloof from the deeper sources of human flourishing in religion, family, tradition, and culture and has become a fideistic dogma of choice and autonomy for their own sakes...The brilliant Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule tells us that liberalism is sacramental in character, and is a public ritual of overcoming superstition and bigotry in the name of reason and rationality. It needs a villain, someone to publicly condemn as a defeated enemy on its unending path to progress. Vermeule says liberalism needs enemies and voraciously — that is, rationally — searches for and destroys them. Liberalism’s gallows are always swinging.

  • “According to Truth”

    July 24, 2018

    An essay by Adrian Vermeule. One of the most curious features of life under political liberalism—for present purposes, the doctrine that the central task of politics is to promote individual autonomy and to secure its preconditions—is that all politics and political conversation happens at one step removed, one meta-level up. Instead of pursuing substantive excellence and justice, we have circuitous conversations about statistical properties like “diversity”; instead of deciding what ought to be permitted, what condemned, we debate “civility”; instead of discerning truth, we quarrel over “religious liberty”; instead of protecting the most vulnerable, we conceal our vices and crimes under the rubric of “choice,” in both market and non-market spheres (although to be fair there are almost no non-market spheres left any more). When we ask about Truth, liberalism answers “What is ‘Truth’? Your truth is not someone else’s truth, and it is no more legitimate to make your truth into public policy than it would be to force your taste in ice cream upon everyone else. All this is solely of private concern.”

  • Elite colleges are making it easy for conservatives to dislike them

    November 30, 2017

    An op-ed by Jack Goldsmith and Adrian Vermeule. Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard University, has been lobbying in Washington against a Republican proposal to tax large university endowments and make other tax and spending changes that might adversely affect universities. Faust says the endowment tax would be a “blow at the strength of American higher education” and that the suite of proposals lacks “policy logic.” Perhaps so, but they have a political logic. We hope that Harvard and other elite universities will reflect on their part in these developments.

  • Mentors, Friends and Sometime Adversaries 4

    Mentors, Friends and Sometime Adversaries

    November 29, 2017

    Mentorships between Harvard Law School professors and the students who followed them into academia have taken many forms over the course of two centuries.

  • How Have Harvard Scholars Shaped the Law? 3

    From Law’s Boundaries to the Law and Justice Gap

    November 29, 2017

    A sampling from the Harvard Law Review Bicentennial issue

  • A Christian Strategy

    October 12, 2017

    An op-ed by Adrian Vermeule. The problem is the relentless aggression of liberalism, driven by an internal mechanism that causes ever more radical demands for political conformism, particularly targeting the Church. The solution is an equally radical form of strategic flexibility on the part of the Church, which must stand detached from all subsidiary political commitments, willing to enter into flexible alliances of convenience with any of the parties, institutions, and groups that jostle under the canopy of the liberal imperium.

  • Fears of anti-Catholic bias rise on both left and right

    September 13, 2017

    In a judicial nominee hearing last week, Senator Diane Feinstein questioned whether the nominee's adherence to Catholic teaching should prevent her from a federal appointment. Less than twenty-four hours later, former White House strategist Steve Bannon lambasted the Catholic bishops for their support for DACA. Some have wondered if the two incidents indicate an uptick in anti-Catholic bias in the United States...These two cases - which happened in the span of one, shared 24-hour news cycle - have prompted some to wonder if anti-Catholic bias on both the political left and the right in America is on the rise. According to Adrian Vermeule, professor of constitutional law at Harvard University, “hostility comes in different varieties.” “Feinstein’s hostility is a kind of myopia, blind to the fact that liberalism is itself a structure of dogma,” said Vermeule.

  • The Catholic Constitution

    August 15, 2017

    Adrian Vermeule is Ralph S. Tyler, Jr. Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, where he writes and teaches on administrative law and constitutional law and theory. He recently spoke with "First Things" assistant editor Connor Grubaugh about three books on constitutionalism from a Catholic perspective.

  • ‘Without the Pretense of Legislative Intent’: John Manning delivers Scalia lecture

    March 13, 2017

    On March 6, John Manning ’85, Harvard Law School deputy dean and Bruce Bromley Professor of Law, delivered a talk, "Without the Pretense of Legislative Intent," as part of the Scalia lecture series at HLS.

  • Law School receives Scalia papers

    March 7, 2017

    The family of the late Antonin Scalia, J.D. ’60, who was a leading associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, announced Monday that it will donate his papers to the Harvard Law School (HLS) Library...“We are deeply grateful to the Scalia family for donating Justice Scalia’s papers to his alma mater,” said John Manning, deputy dean and Bruce Bromley Professor of Law at HLS and a former clerk to Scalia...Adrian Vermeule, the Ralph S. Tyler Jr. Professor of Constitutional Law at HLS and also a former Scalia clerk, said, “Justice Scalia was, indisputably, the most influential and interesting justice of his generation, and a brilliant academic as well. His papers will be of surpassing value to future scholars, and it is fitting that they should find a home at Harvard Law School.”...Jonathan Zittrain, the George Bemis Professor of International Law and director of the library, said, “The Harvard Law School Library serves not only the campus community, but the world at large..."

  • Antonin Scalia

    Scalia family donates late justice’s papers to Harvard Law School Library

    March 6, 2017

    The family of the late Antonin Scalia ’60, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, has announced that it will donate his papers to the Harvard Law School Library.

  • The Flight 216 Selection

    February 2, 2017

    An op-ed by Adrian Vermeule. Judge Neil Gorsuch is a walking, talking Hollywood writer's pitch: “I've got it! Antonin Scalia meets Jimmy Stewart!” Gorsuch, who famously resembles Stewart, complete with lanky charm, also has the intelligence, skills, and pen of a worthy successor to Scalia. His opinions are clear, amusing, pointed, and legally acute. Scalia could reach greater heights of prose style, sometimes with an acid brilliance that Gorsuch is perhaps too courtly to employ. On the other hand, lower-court judging is a cramped stage, and a Justice Gorsuch would have more scope to unfurl his indisputable talents.

  • Trump and the law

    November 28, 2016

    At a recent event, several HLS professors discussed the scope and limits of a president’s executive and judicial powers, the role the courts may play, and the ways in which Trump could reshape the authority and operation of an array of government agencies.

  • Trump and the law

    November 27, 2016

    As President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office in January, the legal community has begun to ponder and prepare for the changes the incoming administration may make...Adrian Vermeule ’90, J.D. ’93, the Ralph S. Tyler Jr. Professor of Constitutional Law at HLS, sees two possible prospects for administrative law under Trump. One involves what he called “bipartisan retrenchment.”...Four major signposts during the first 100 days will show whether the Trump administration will transform executive authority or not, said Cass Sunstein, the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard. First, how does the Trump administration handle ostensibly independent regulatory commissions such as the Security and Exchange Commission or the Federal Reserve?...With the executive branch’s role leading the trends in America’s criminal justice system and criminal justice reform, the effect that Trump’s presidency will have in this realm, given that his positions on a number of issues are either unformed or shifting, is still unknown, said criminal law professor Andrew Crespo.

  • The “Thick Line” of 2016

    November 11, 2016

    An op-ed by Adrian Vermeule: In transitional justice, the "thick line" is a deliberate policy of forgetting what went before. I want to suggest a version of the thick line for the 2016 election campaign; more specifically, a one-year moratorium on pointing out the inconsistency or even hypocrisy of others, based on statements they made during the campaign.

  • Finding stable ground

    November 4, 2016

    An interview with Adrian Vermeule: In the midst of scandals, intra-ecclesial ideological battles, and a widespread attitude of indifference—if not scorn—toward religion in general and the Catholic faith in particular, a steady stream of courageous souls continue to convert from other confessions—or no confession—to the Catholic faith. ...Below, Adrian Vermeule, the Ralph S. Tyler Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, answers a few questions about his own recent conversion experience.

  • There is no middle way between atheism and Catholicism, says Harvard professor who has converted

    October 31, 2016

    A Harvard law professor who experienced a dramatic conversion to Catholicism has suggested there is no middle way between atheism and the Church. In an interview with Christina Dearduff, Dr Adrian Vermeule said that the logic behind his Catholic beliefs is inspired by Blessed John Henry Newman. He said: “Raised a Protestant, despite all my thrashing and twisting, I eventually couldn’t help but believe that the apostolic succession through Peter as the designated leader and primus inter pares is in some logical or theological sense prior to everything else – including even Scripture, whose formation was guided and completed by the apostles and their successors, themselves inspired by the Holy Spirit.”