Jeff Shesol's Supreme Power


Author: Timothy Sandefur

California Lawyer's October issue includes my review of Jeff Shesol's book Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt And The Supreme Court. The bottom line:

One's allies are always principled, while the other guys' are always pigheaded. But Shesol's repeated failure to describe the actual views of the New Deal's opponents weakens his book in comparison with Amity Shlaes's The Forgotten Man, Hadley Arkes's The Return of George Sutherland, or Robert Higgs's Depression, War, and Cold War, all of which have shed new light on the conservative side of the Depression-era debate. In Shesol's version, the New Deal's opponents are moved more often by character flaws and psychological fixations than by their understanding of constitutional law. Shesol is certainly entitled to cheer for the side he thinks is right, but a scholar should fairly describe and confront the real merits of the opposition's arguments. Shesol's good-guy-versus-bad-guy story makes an exciting political melodrama, but without a fair account of the period's legal and economic disputes, Supreme Power can make no serious contribution to understanding the most crucial episode in 20th-century American law.