A selection of analyses and opinions from Harvard Law School experts.
An op-ed by Mark Wu. Many Americans who think free trade can be good for them nevertheless doubt whether the same can be said for the international trade agreements that are actually being written, often in conditions of secrecy. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement that the US is negotiating with 11 Pacific Rim countries, is a case in point. Beyond the few paragraphs on the White House website, most Americans have little idea what it contains. Even members of Congress have to go to a secure room in the basement to read the latest negotiating text…As a former trade negotiator, I know that so-called trade promotion authority and some degree of secrecy is vital for getting a deal done. But the current level of secrecy may be going too far. Instead of dismissing critics as misguided, the White House should strike a better balance between retaining flexibility for negotiators and keeping the public informed during the process.
An article by Samuel Moyn. Imagine that one man owned everything. Call him Croesus, after the king of ancient lore who, Herodotus says, was so “wonderfully rich” that he “thought himself the happiest of mortals.” Impossibly elevated above his fellow men and women, this modern Croesus is also magnanimous. He does not want people to starve, and not only because he needs some of them for the upkeep of his global estate. Croesus insists on a floor of protection, so that everyone living under his benevolent but total ascendancy can escape destitution. Health, food, water, even paid vacations, Croesus funds them all. In comparison with the world in which we live today, where few enjoy these benefits, Croesus offers a kind of utopia. It is the one foreseen in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), a utopia that, though little known in its own time, has become our own, with the rise in the past half-century of the international human rights movement — especially now that this movement has belatedly turned its attention to the economic and social rights that the declaration promised.
An op-ed by Mark Roe. Headlines about banks’ risks to the financial system continue to dominate the financial news. Bank of America performed poorly on the US Federal Reserve’s financial stress tests, and regulators criticised Goldman Sachs’ and JPMorgan Chase’s financing plans, leading both to lower their planned dividends and share buybacks. What was also of interest was Citibank’s hefty build up of its financial trading business that raises doubts about whether it is controlling risk properly. These results suggest that some of the biggest banks remain at risk. And yet bankers are insisting that the post-crisis task of strengthening regulation and building a safer financial system has nearly been completed, with some citing recent studies of bank safety to support this argument. So which is it: are banks still at risk? Or has post-crisis regulatory reform done its job?
An op-ed by Noah Feldman. In retrospect, it seems inevitable that Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would get the death penalty. He’s a self-acknowledged terrorist who killed and maimed adults and children in the middle of a major American city, which happens to be my own. The jury that sentenced him was limited to citizens who apparently believed that capital punishment was justified under at least some circumstances. If he’s not going to be sentenced to death, who is? Yet I confess that, despite this ironclad logic, I still feel surprised and unsettled by the verdict — because here in Massachusetts, where I was born and have lived most of my life, the death penalty has over the last several generations come to seem distant, foreign and unfamiliar.
An op-ed by Nancy Gertner. We all chose death for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Make no mistake about it. The death penalty law was passed in our name. Attorney General Holder and US Attorney Carmen Ortiz are employed by the government we elected. They sought death for Tsarnaev for the victims, including the Richard family, whose tragedy they highlighted, even though the Richards were opposed to Tsarnaev’s death. The government sought it for Boston — also a victim — even though the majority of the citizens of the city opposed it. The verdict in the United States v. Tsarnaev was literally brought in our name.
An op-ed by Nancy Gertner. The first phase of the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was supposed to be about liability. In reality, it felt like a penalty hearing, albeit in slow motion. Now that Tsarnaev has been found guilty for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the jury will deal directly with the only critical question — should Tsarnaev get life in prison or the death penalty? But, even at this late stage, the real question is: Why was this trial necessary? Why did the US attorney general insist on the death penalty here, while calling for its moratorium elsewhere? Why did the US government press for the death penalty when the defendant would have pled to life without parole? That was, after all, the defense message from the outset with the opening statement of Judy Clarke, Tsarnaev’s lawyer — “it was him.” “We will not sidestep Tsarnaev’s responsibility for his actions,” she said, actions which were “incomprehensible” and “inexcusable.”
An op-ed by Noah Feldman. It was sleeting hard in Boston on Wednesday afternoon as the jury returned a guilty verdict on all 30 counts against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for carrying out the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed an 8-year-old and two women and wounded at least 260 people. Somehow the weather seems appropriate, even though it’s after Easter. Throughout this intensely cold, snowy winter in Boston, the specter of the Tsarnaev trial has been a constant and unwelcome reminder that for all its liberalism and toleration, this city isn’t immune from the troubles that plague the rest of the world.