Beginning in the late 1970s, an offshoot of Marxism known as Critical Legal Studies took hold in the American legal academy. Born in May 1977 at a law and society colloquium at Madison, Wisconsin, Critical Legal Studies was an outgrowth of postmodernism. This school of thought held that the central project of philosophy is to “deconstruct” language and inevitably existing political and social institutions as well. Whoever controlled the law controlled society, the Crits noted, and they did their best to control the law where it counted most: the academy and the courts.
President Barack Obama took office in 2009 amid a major recession. He promptly exploited the economic situation to pursue a grand and sweeping agenda of growing government. The theories he embraced went far beyond his campaign rhetoric, as he pushed policies that sought to reshape fundamentally the U.S. economy and society. The liberal model he embraced was extreme and alien to most people who voted for him – but not the students and alumni of his alma mater, Harvard Law School (HLS), an institution whose aggressive liberalism shaped the beliefs and values of the future president (see Part 1).
Barely a month after entering the Oval Office, Obama signed a $787 billion “stimulus” package. Obama claimed the bill would create or save 3.5 million jobs over the next two years. This prediction proved wrong but provided useful political camouflage for the bold experiment he was beginning. The hefty appropriations ladled out pork-barrel spending to traditional Democratic constituencies and greatly expanded the federal fiscal footprint. While less than 5 percent of the spending invested in the nation’s infrastructure, some $252 billion went to income-transfer payments, cash or benefits to individuals unrelated to economic growth (unemployment, food stamps, and other entitlements).