07/11/2018

A New Judicial Era

James Coll, City Journal

President Trump’s selection of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy was met with the expected Democratic outrage and promises to derail his candidacy. Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearings, scheduled for September, will likely prove the political battle of the season. They will also mark a new era in High Court confirmation hearings: they will take place in a Senate that has done away with the filibuster.

Dating back to the nineteenth century, the filibuster is a procedural device that lets a numerical Senate minority effectively terminate a nomination or legislation by creating, or threatening to create, endless debate. Recognizing that one senator could use the filibuster to hold up the work of the chamber—remember Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington?—the Senate adopted the cloture rule in 1917 to terminate the action. Invoking cloture initially required a two-thirds vote, but the threshold was lowered to 60 votes in 1975.

History shows, however, that a 60-vote threshold is a high hurdle to clear. Over the last 50 years, one party has held more than 60 Senate seats for only three full sessions: 1967-1969, 1975-1977, and 1977-1979. Otherwise, the absence of a one-party numerical super-advantage necessitated a familiar plan for navigating Supreme Court confirmation proceedings: in need of bipartisan support, nominees would appear as moderate as possible.

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In Search Of History

4,000 Years Of Price Control

Tablets, said to be 200 years older than the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi ... show that the ancient kingdom of Eshnunna had wage control and price control. The news ought not to have come as a surprise. For the code of Hammurabi itself (unearthed in 1902), which was promulgated earlier than 2000 B.C., fixed prices, wages, interest rates, and fees. This makes price control at least about 4,000 years old. ...

 

Ironically, it is those who now wish to return to this ancient totalitarian device who are fondest of calling themselves “progressives.” They are also fond of saying that those who believe in economic liberty “are living in the nineteenth century.” These controlists have yet to learn that they themselves are still living, as the discoveries in Babylonia attest, in the nineteenth century—B.C.!

-- Henry Hazlitt,

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