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A public policy blog from AEI
Nearly 40 years ago, in 1978, Robert Bork wrote The Antitrust Paradox: A Policy at War with Itself, a book whose influence on the law has been profound. His powerful arguments changed the Supreme Court’s direction in antitrust law by applying economic analysis to the legal issues the courts faced in this area and by making those arguments clear to judges. This past year, AEI historians managed to locate a first edition print of this book and now proudly house it in our new library at 1789 Mass Ave.
At the time of the book’s publication, Bork was already a familiar figure at AEI. He was an adjunct scholar before the Institute named its first resident scholars in 1972. The Institute’s board minutes record that he spoke at a luncheon for the Board of Trustees in 1971 when he was on the faculty of Yale’s Law School. Over a long and distinguished career he taught students including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Anita Hill, Jerry Brown, and AEI Senior Fellow John Bolton.
In 1973, he was named Solicitor General by Richard Nixon and after his service in the Nixon and Ford administrations, he became a resident scholar at AEI. In 1984, he gave the eighth Francis Boyer Lecture — then AEI’s highest honor which is now known as the Irving Kristol Award — on Tradition and Morality in Constitutional Law. He served on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia following an appointment by President Ronald Reagan in 1982.
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October 23rd marks the 30th anniversary of the battle over his confirmation to the Supreme Court after he had served five years on the federal appeals court. He had been confirmed unanimously by the Senate for that position. It is not necessary to repeat the words the late Senator Edward Kennedy used on the floor of the Senate to launch an unprecedented campaign against Bork, but many consider these words to be a source of the scorched earth political wars on judgeships, the deep partisan polarization that afflicts Washington, and the low uncivil dialogue that is a fixture of contemporary political discourse. Today, the verb to “bork” someone means, according to the OED, to “defame and vilify a person systematically.”
Although the rejection of Bork was a tremendous loss for the nation and for Bork personally, he continued to write and lecture widely. This summer his grandson, Robert H. Bork III, a student in economics and political science, was an AEI summer intern, participating in the Institute’s Summer Honors program.
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