Three more members of the HLS faculty recently commemorated their appointments to endowed chairs with lectures.
Court should respect international law
The fact that the Constitution affects our relations with the world requires the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court to have a foreign policy of their own, said HLS Professor Noah Feldman in a Sept. 16 lecture marking his appointment as the Bemis Professor of Law. Feldman acknowledged that the Court has traditionally declined to exercise political judgments of the sort involved in making foreign policy, but said that, since the Constitution plays a major role in shaping America's engagement with the rest of the world, the justices have no choice but to involve themselves in questions that affect U.S. foreign relations. He urged them against the reflex of flouting considerations of international law, and praised the Court's recent decision upholding constitutional protections for detainees at Guantánamo for recognizing the practical necessity and importance of reassuring Americans and the world that the U.S. has not given up its role as the chief proponent of the rule of law worldwide. View a webcast of Feldman's lecture, "The Constitution and the International Order."
The challenges and promise of social production
Yochai Benkler '94 marked the occasion of his appointment to the Jack N. and Lillian R. Berkman Chair with an Oct. 14 lecture titled "After Selfishness: Wikipedia 1, Hobbes 0 at Half Time." He posed the question of why social production—the backbone of such phenomena as Wikipedia—has proved to be much more than a fad, and has instead become pervasive, both on the Internet and offline. Using examples as wide-ranging as the transformation of a once-failing General Motors plant to the rise of YouTube, Benkler identified structures of motivation evidently more powerful than the principles of scientific management, bureaucratic hierarchy and market incentivization, which had characterized systems of production in the earlier part of the 20th century. Collaborative systems, built upon freedom and altruism, benefit from the increased individual agency of motivated participants, he said. Newer systems are far more efficient and more capable of adapting to sudden changes. The task, said Benkler, "is to develop a general framework for analyzing human systems of all forms." View the webcast.
Ideology, the law, and situationism
Individual free choice, an idea that permeates common sense and legal theory, assumes that actions reflect the stable preferences of individual actors. Individuals are responsible for their preference-driven choices, and laws can therefore be designed on that assumption. But if that assumption is wrong, said Jon Hanson in a lecture commemorating his appointment to the Alfred Smart Professorship, then laws built upon it may not be advancing the ends they purport to serve. Hanson's view, steeped in interdisciplinary study in the mind sciences, is that the assumption of individual free choice is often faulty. The decisions people make, he said, are frequently determined by influential factors in the situation—that is, non-salient and often invisible factors that influence not only how they behave, but also how they make sense of their behavior. The lawmaking process must do a better job of taking that into account, he said. The lecture, titled "The Human Animal, Ideology, the Law, and other Situational Characters," can be viewed online.