Stephen Carter
Professor, Yale Law School; Novelist

A Pretty Good System

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America has developed a system that manages change well.

Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He has taught at Yale since 1982. Carter is known for his legal and social policy writings, which include Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby, The Culture of Disbelief, and God's Name in Vain: The Wrongs and Rights of Religion in Politics. He has also written novels, including New England White and The Emperor of Ocean Park. Carter's areas of expertise include constitutional law, contracts, intellectual property law, secrets and lying, and law and religion. He clerked for Judge Spottswood W. Robinson III of the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals for and Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court. He was educated at Stanford University and Yale, where he earned his law degree.


Topic: A Pretty Good System

Stephen Carter: I’m inspired by the American system. I don’t mean that America is the greatest nation on earth. It may or may not be; but I think we’ve worked out a system over time that’s actually a pretty good one; that’s a system that’s allowed to work . . . simultaneously gives a kind of safety valve to let off steam as ___________ revolution; but enables us to change over time also, but change over a measured pace. It’s very, very hard in America to do big and dramatic changes; but it’s also very hard for one group to take over and never allow any change. So we tend to change. We tend to make progress, but at the kind of measured pace that avoids a lot of backlash that we might otherwise have. I find that a very inspiring system; and we let it work, I think it tends to move us in the right direction. It doesn’t mean America’s always right. America’s often wrong, as any country is. It’s not that we are “righter” than other people. I think we have a system that’s a little bit better than others at managing change and yet allowing change to happen.

Recorded on: 7/25/07