Vol. 124 No. 3 Constitutionalism is often analogized to Ulysses binding himself to the mast in order to resist the fatal call of the Sirens. But what is the equivalent of Ulysses’s ropes that might enable a political community to bind itself to constitutional rules? The positive puzzle of
constitutionalism lies in explaining the willingness and ability of powerful political actors to
make sustainable commitments to abide by and uphold constitutional rules even when these
rules stand in the way of their immediate interests. Why, for example, would a popular
President choose to abide by constitutional limitations on conducting what he and the
majority of the country believe to be a vitally necessary war to preserve the Union or to fight terrorism, or a critical intervention to save the country from the Great Depression or the collapse of the financial system? The puzzle generalizes to how intertemporal political
commitments of any sort are possible. We might wonder, along similar lines, how a political
community can credibly and durably commit itself to repaying its debts, refusing to bail out
financially reckless banks, or refraining from war.
Vol. 122 No. 7 International law has long been viewed with suspicion in Anglo-American legal thought. Compared to the paradigm of domestic law, the international legal system seems different and deficient along a number of important dimensions. This Article questions the distinctiveness of international law by pointing out that constitutional law in fact shares all of the features that are supposed to make international law so dubious.