Donald Trump was a big fan of boasting on the campaign trail. He said he was a great builder – the best in the world. He said he had a secret plan to defeat Isis in 30 days. He said he had a good brain and the best words. Continue reading
The Roman genius was, in many ways, channelled through and marshalled in its creativity. Monuments, great feats of cultural and civic engineering, the notion of a long-lasting and unifying empire – all of these stand as testament to the legacy of Rome. An aspect of this abundant ingenuity can be found in the history of Roman law, and in its applications to other, later legal systems. Many of them owe a great deal, even if it is unspoken, to what came before. In this instance the hand of history is a heavy one; and since the rule of law and its corollaries are so essential to the equitable and prosperous arrangement and maintenance of society, such a subject is ripe for both study and – one hopes – interest.
Congress is never without its critics. And who, to an extent, can blame them? With various flavours of anti-political and anti-establishment candidates now leading the pack in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, it might be said with some accuracy that the ordinary way of doing things is on the run. The reasons for this wider trend need not concern us at present, but it is interesting to assess the extent to which this feeling – which, though it may be relatively without antecedent, remains something of a standard refrain – can be personified in the problems associated with the legislative branch. The famously inane joke of choice for would-be critics – ‘If pro is the opposite of con, what’s the opposite of progress?’ – shows this sentiment is hardly new. It could, however, be said to be growing – and this merits its study in judicious and expeditious a fashion. Continue reading
According to the ‘Imperial President’ theory as put forward by Arthur M. Schlesinger, the office of President of the United States has been steadily and repeatedly accruing powers towards its own advancement. A modern president has increasing control over the federal bureaucracy, for instance, and his orders on extra-judicial matters are likely to be stronger now than they have been in a long time. The imperial president gains many of his powers in times of war; and as the United States has spent most of the last half-century fighting one war or another (in various guises), it is suggested that this has led to increasing powers for the presidency in our own times. But there is a flipside to this famous declaration: presidents may also eschew matters imperial, and instead of that particular moniker, they may have the sobriquet of ‘imperilled’ – in the words of Shakespeare’s Malvolio – ‘thrust upon ‘em’. Barack Obama is one such president.
When examining the significance of federal action in the progress of African-American civil rights, it is important to acknowledge that this is not a narrative which climbed inexorably upward. As well as great instances of advancement, there were times when the lot of African-Americans deteriorated, or when progress was lessened, by the actions of the federal government. Similarly, it is also vital to remember that said government consists of three branches: Congress, the Presidency and the Supreme Court, and that this means talking of the federal government as a unitary authority presents a lack of both understanding and nuance. Continue reading