Constitutional solutions to the problems of globalization and American sovereignty were left unclear at a symposium entitled “Constitutional Transformations: The State, the Citizens, and the Changing Role of Government” held at the William and Mary Law School Friday.
The Institute of Bill of Rights Law hosted the symposium, which brought constitutional scholars from around the United States together to discuss the changing role of constitutional law and study.
In his lecture, “Partisan Conflicts over Presidential Authority,” Jide Nzelibe, professor of law at the Northwestern University Law School, suggested partisan conflicts over presidential powers were normal.
“There is what you call the Downs Zen theory, where every issue is divided by a left and right perspective,” Nzelibe said. “Presidential constraints are determined by who is in power — the left or the right — at the time.”
According to Nzelibe, a good example of this was during the Clinton Administration.
“You get these strong views that are divided politically,” Nzelibe said. “The left and the right will switch according to what issue the president or themselves are backing. [Political parties] worry that the American people will empower the presidential authority that exists when their specific issue succeeds.”
Nzelibe admitted a clear solution was out of reach. Instead, the best bet is to rely on the system of checks and balances to do its job.
“The best we can hope is that issues become so bundled together, that the right and left are not able to each put in their pockets, and there is a general veil of ignorance,” Nzelibe said. “Both of them will come up [with] institutional models that will better reflect the issue that comes up.”
John Yoo, professor of law at the Berkeley Law School at the University of California-Berkeley, was equally ambiguous regarding a constitutional solution in his “Globalization and Structure” lecture.
Yoo argued that constitutional law is not keeping up with the changes of globalization. For that reason, any attempt to regulate the negative effects of globalization would have to transcend the Constitution.
“Global warming requires regulation that goes beyond the power of just one nation,” Yoo said. “At least all major industrialized countries need to cooperate for issues like global warming. In order to successfully administer these regulations, you need international institutions that can enforce and monitor these regulations.”
Incorporating constitutional law into these international organizations, according to Yoo, would only defeat the purpose of the organizations, whose sovereignty is supposed to transcend any one nation’s laws.