Cass Sunstein on Star Wars

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Cass Sunstein has been blogging on his new book on the Star Wars movies.  He loves them and finds a variety of things to say about them that are more serious than Star Wars.  One post is about why success is so hard to predict, another is about the hypothetical writers behind texts, and a third is about the separation of powers.  It is hard to tell without reading the book if Sunstein saw all of this in Start Wars or just loved the movies so much, that he tried hard to find interesting things to say about them.

Will Baude, another law professor, reviews  Sunstein’s new book in the New Rambler.  Baude’s main concern is that the producers of the new movie, the Force Awakens, announced that they would ignoring the large canon of books that have been written about Star Wars and that George Lucas always followed.  This might seem like a minor thing to most movie viewers, but Baude is on strong ground in noting the importance of “world building” in the sci fi/fantasy world and how a large number of books can powerfully develop such a world.

My own objection to the Force Awakens is that it was essentially a remake of the first movie.  It shows the artistic bankruptcy of modern movie making.  To watch the best art on film these days, one should turn to shows on HBO and Cable TV.  That is where the creativity.  Baude and I agree that the new movie should have told a different story about a different part of the Star Wars universe.  Of course, the producers would have probably made less money that way, which helps to explain why so many movies suck these days.

Here, I want to briefly comment on one of Sunstein’s posts on the delegation of legislative power to the executive.  Sunstein notes that Posner and Vermeule argues in favor of no limits on delegations on democratic grounds.  Posner and Vermeule write, “If we care about democratic self-government, we should accept, rather than abhor, grants of discretionary authority, so long as they reflect democratic self-government in action — as they often do.”

One might respond that democracy is not the only value.  One might also respond that with delegation, democracy is not safe.  To his credit, Sunstein uses the Star Wars movies to argue for the second position, noting how delegation led to the end of the Republic.

It’s a good thing that Sunstein takes the risk of delegation seriously.  Unfortunately, Sunstein opposes the nondelegation doctrine for what he opaquely describes as “the usual reasons.”  I suppose he is referring to the difficulty of drawing a clear line between permissible and excessive delegation and the power this would give to the courts.  Yet, there are other ways of constraining delegation, such as prohibiting regulations that exceed more than a certain amount of costs (as in the REINS Act).  It would have been good if Sunstein had indicated that he favored or was open to those reforms.

In a future post, I plan to talk more about the dangers of delegation.