Harper’s Notes (3/11)

The Harper Review’s weekly newsletter: SpaceX, the Second Amendment, shoulder pads, and more.

The editors

March 11, 2024

Saint Laurent’s Day: The best newsletter in men’s fashion, Show Notes, is delivered weekly by GQ fashion critic and sometimes-paramour of Ella Emhoff, Samuel Hine. This week Hine took a dive into Saint Laurent’s Fall/Winter 2024 menswear collection, which closed out Paris Fashion Week last Tuesday. A beautiful collection of oversized and often double-breasted suits, evoking the infamous personal style of Yves Saint Laurent himself, was a kind of “cosplay” that “didn’t feel at all dated,” Hine writes. As the show progressed, Saint Laurent’s creative director Anthony Vaccarello traded out heavy flannels and traditional canvassed construction for silk crêpe and airy flou structure, sending a suite of jewel-toned, shoulder-padded suits down the runway. Hine writes that by combining a classically masculine silhouette with the tailoring techniques of a dressmaker, Vaccarello has presented one of the most compelling recent visions of menswear’s possible future.

Federalists and unionists: When attorneys for SpaceX filed a lawsuit against the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) at the start of this year, they cited James Madison’s Federalist No. 47 as evidence of the Board’s “tyranny.” Tyranny, Madison and the SpaceX attorneys claimed, is defined by the concentration of legislative, executive, and judicial powers in a single body. The NLRB, which receives and arbitrates disputes between American labor and business, hardly meets such a characterization, columnist Ben Burgis argues in Compact. The NLRB, Burgis makes clear, is granted its limited arbitration powers by the legislative branch; has its members appointed by the supreme executive; and is still liable, as SpaceX demonstrates by filing a lawsuit, to judicial review. The real tyranny, Burgis writes, is American megacorporations pilfering the Founding Fathers for a convenient soundbite and using their economic and legal might to crush the regrowth of American organized labor.

Gun-crazy: In American jurisprudence, few legal disputes are as vexing as the ongoing debate over the meaning of the Second Amendment. Was the Second Amendment intended merely to curtail the federal government’s ability to regulate firearm ownership, or does it also limit the regulatory power of the states? Is the right to bear arms a moral urgency or an artifact of a bygone way of life? In their new book, To Trust the People with Arms: The Supreme Court and the Second Amendment, George Washington University law professor Robert J. Cottrol and Samford University law professor Brannon P. Denning analyze the different ways in which the Supreme Court has interpreted the Second Amendment over the years. In doing so, Cottrol and Denning trace how these interpretations have shaped American jurisprudence, history, and culture.

Inequality, then and now: In his new book Visions of Inequality: From the French Revolution to the End of the Cold War, Branko Milanovic imagines how six of the most influential economists in history would answer the following question: “How do you see income distribution in your time, and how and why do you expect it to change?” Milanovic, a professor of economics at the City University of New York, examines the works of François Quesnay, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, Vilfredo Pareto, and Simon Kuznets to determine not only how each author viewed economic inequality but how thinking about class and inequality evolved over time and varied among societies. Visions of Inequality, published by Harvard University Press, demonstrates that “inequality” is not a general concept. Rather, Milanovic argues, any understanding of it is inextricably linked to a particular time and place.