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Algorithmic Governance and Political Legitimacy

In ever more areas of life, algorithms are coming to substitute for judgment exercised by identifiable human beings who can be held to account. The rationale offered is that automated decision-making will be more reliable. But a further attraction is that it serves to insulate various forms of power from popular pressures. Our readiness to…

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The Illusion of a “Marketplace of Ideas” and the Right to Truth

The traditional model of a “marketplace of ideas” was intended to justify freedom of speech in terms of its optimal outcome in the production of truth. But today our behavior on the internet, the main locus of the “marketplace of ideas,” is continuously monitored and processed through the analysis of big data. Complex algorithms categorize…

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Liberalism and the Invisible Hand

Liberalism as a concrete sociopolitical order rests upon a series of invisible hand systems: free competition in explicit economic markets, free competition in the marketplace of ideas, institutional competition among branches of government, and so on. Yet liberal faith in these systems far outruns any of the social-scientific mechanisms or evidence adduced to support…

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Reconstruction and the End of History

The years between 1865 and 1877 form the period in American history known as Reconstruction—reconstruction, in this case, meaning the rebuilding of the federal Union which had been dis­rupted by the attempt of eleven Southern states to secede from that Union in order to protect legalized slavery. It might have been a new era of…

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An Anatomy of Radicalism

What is radicalism really about? When does it make sense? Do we need it now? These seem to be impossibly abstract questions. At first glance, everything turns on the substantive commitments of those who purport to be radical. Do they believe in theocratic rule? In authoritarianism? In decentralization? In economic growth? In liberalism? In the collapse of liberalism? In property rights? In free markets? In self-government? In liberty? In freedom from discrimination on the basis of race and sex? In executing or imprisoning…

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Who’s Afraid of an Article V Convention?

There it is, on a platform in Independence Hall in Philadelphia—George Washington’s chair, the very one he planted his bottom on while presiding over the Constitutional Convention that gave birth to our republic in 1787. The wooden chair, with its carving of a gilded sun, is a relic, the only piece of furniture from the…

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Earmarks: Better Government through Honest Graft

George Washington Plunkitt, the notorious leader of New York’s nineteenth-century Tammany Hall machine, famously insisted on a distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft. When acting from honest graft, a politician is simultaneously pursuing both personal interest (including the interest in being reelected) and the public good. Our constitutional system, as Madison, Hamilton, and Jay…

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