Donald Trump's narrow but momentous election victory can easily be both over-read and under-read. It was not the mark of a social revolution or a total transformation of our politics. But it also was not a fluke, or the sum of a series of bizarre coincidences. It was a declaration of discontent, rooted in a set of challenges that our complacent elites, on the right and left alike, had better take very seriously.
The 2016 election confronts conservatives with both great opportunities and serious risks. To navigate the coming years, they will need to understand the distinction between the conservative movement and the Republican Party. The two have been tied together for decades, and their fates remain connected, but it is now more important than ever to understand conservatism in its own terms.
The newly elected Republican president will soon nominate a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and it now seems likely that Republican nominees will dominate the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future. But will they be "conservative"? What would that really mean? And how does it relate to the debate about restraint and activism on the Court?
Efforts to reform and update federal labor laws have failed for more than a generation. Regardless of which side of the labor-management divide you sit on, the ability of national legislation to keep up with changes in the labor market now seems awfully limited. It's time for a new approach, which should look beyond the paralyzed national debates and allow the states to lead the way.
Americans rightly value medical innovators, but we tend to have the wrong idea about who they are and how they work. We have long imagined that basic advances happen at the intersection of public funding and academic research, while private firms simply profit off the results. Grasping that this story isn't true would be the first step toward unleashing future treatments and cures.
Increasing work rates is by far the most effective way to combat poverty. This fact is undeniable, yet highly controversial. And the refusal to confront its implications has sent our anti-poverty debates down a variety of blind alleys for decades. Those debates should focus on ways to increase work-participation among the poor.
Over the eight years of the Obama administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission has lost its way in a fog of partisanship. The problem is not just how the agency has come to regulate, but also what subjects it has claimed are within its purview. The time is ripe for a major reassessment of how the SEC sets priorities.
Debates about climate change often pit alarmism against complacence. The issue is clearly very hard to put into perspective. Indeed, the alarmists argue that it cannot be put into perspective — that climate change is an unprecedented and unique threat. But that extraordinary claim rests on very weak arguments, and does environmentalists no favors. They would be wiser to consider what rational concern about climate change might look like.
Our K-12 education system has a transparency problem, and our higher-education system is complicit in it. Teachers and administrators never want to tell parents that their children aren't prepared for college, and colleges admit students they know are not ready to succeed. Such deception is often well intended, but it sets students up for failure, and it needs to stop.
The idea of constitutional originalism has always harbored a deep division within it. Among judges, it has been best embodied by Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas and his late colleague Antonin Scalia. But its philosophical core can best be seen in part of the epic feud between Harry Jaffa and Walter Berns — both political philosophers rather than lawyers, and both ardent defenders and champions of the American republic.
By allowing some lands now owned by the federal government to become new communities — exempted from some state and federal regulations in return for meeting some key benchmarks and conceived as experiments in both new modes of self-government and new modes of agriculture — policymakers could draw on the best of the American tradition to revive America's lost faith in the future.
The year 2016 marked the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. And in the United States aficionados observed the occasion as though Shakespeare was a beloved native son. The year-long celebration demonstrated a distinctively American blend of quality and equality: the greatest writer ever both honored in worthy artistic productions and made palatable to a populace accustomed to cultural fast food.