Jeremy Waldron is University Professor at the NYU School of Law. His latest book is Dignity, Rank, and Rights. (October 2015)

The Vanishing Europe of Jürgen Habermas

Jürgen Habermas, Vienna, 2004
Of the many voices raised in Europe against Angela Merkel’s and Wolfgang Schäuble’s handling of the debt crisis in Greece, one of the most strident and uncompromising has been that of the eighty-six-year-old German philosopher Jürgen Habermas. Long regarded as Europe’s leading public intellectual, Habermas denounced the July 12 deal …

It’s All for Your Own Good

Why do people get so angry at Cass Sunstein? Glenn Beck has called him “the most evil man, the most dangerous man in America.” What explains the hostility? Much of it is simple animus against big government, compounded by resentment of academics in office. But there is also a core of genuine worry, and I want to use Sunstein’s writings about nudging to try to bring that worry into focus.

Unfettered Judge Posner

In ancient times, in the Middle Ages, and in the early Renaissance, people wrote books known as “mirrors of princes.” They would describe the life and character that a princely ruler ought to have, providing a catalog of princely virtues, and setting out tips and recipes for a princely education …

How Politics Are Haunted by the Past

What do we need to know about Bartolus of Sassoferrato? Most of us have never heard of him, but in his time—he was born in 1313 in the Marche region of Italy—Bartolus was famous as a political thinker. Though he roamed between Italian cities like Bologna, Pisa, and Perugia, Bartolus …

Where Money & Markets Don’t Belong

James Dean signing autographs during a Valentine’s Day dance at his old high school, Fairmount, Indiana, 1955
Pecunia non olet, we are told. Money doesn’t stink. All it does is open up the way to making exchanges; it’s a liberating medium for connecting one set of preferences to another. But doesn’t money taint the goods it is exchanged for, when those goods have not normally been distributed …

A Cheerful View of Mass Violence

Steven Pinker, Boston, Massachusetts, October 2005
Some books make modest claims. Not this one. Steven Pinker says that the process he is tracing is perhaps “the most significant and least appreciated development in the history of our species.” Grand claims like this are often made in the spirit of a jeremiad: We are less civil (or …

Right and Wrong: Psychologists vs. Philosophers

Moral philosophers, naturally enough, want to make ethics look good. They want to make people look capable and respectable as moral agents. But they are working with difficult material. Humans are not as tidy, as thoughtful, or as disciplined as the moralists would like them to be. Not …

Free Speech & the Menace of Hysteria

The United States, says Anthony Lewis, is the most outspoken society on earth: “Americans are freer to think what we will and say what we think than any other people.” If I were to write that George W. Bush is the worst president we have ever had, and that his …

When Is It Right to Invade?

When Michael Walzer’s best-known work, Just and Unjust Wars, was published in 1977, it was criticized by some reviewers for being too deferential to national sovereignty.[^*] They viewed the traditional doctrine of sovereignty as a shabby and outdated relic, whose main effect was to protect states against military invasion even …

Is This Torture Necessary?

How much liberty should we be willing to give up in order to make ourselves safe from terrorist attack? Few deny that some trade-off is necessary. The terrorists who attacked New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, took advantage of the liberties we enjoy and some of those liberties …

Temperamental Justice

Do we have Justice Antonin Scalia to thank for the fact that Roe v. Wade was not overturned in 1992? For a while, in the run-up to the decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey[^1]—a decision upholding Roe v. Wade—it had seemed as though there were six votes on the Supreme …

What Would Hannah Say?

Hannah Arendt was born in Lower Saxony on October 14, 1906. She grew up in Königsberg and studied philosophy with Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers. In the early 1930s, she lived in Berlin and worked for a German Zionist organization, collecting evidence for publication abroad about anti-Semitism in German society.

How Judges Should Judge

Everyone believes in the rule of law. But how do we tell what the law is, especially for new and difficult cases? Can judges and lawyers just look it up—read it out of a book? Many people—politicians especially, when they are debating the confirmation of federal judges—say the answer is …