Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Running on Empty

There's nothing much to say about politics these days, the dominant story is the earthquake/tsunami (about which I don't think I have anything original to say), and I can't think of anything to Photoshop. So if you see light posting, that might be because of unavailability, and it might be for lack of material.

I just got hired as a research assistant for my last semester, doing a First Amendment issue. That should be fun, although I think my relationship with Constitutional Law is best described as love-hate. I love it because there is no grander, more sweeping form of law, because it goes to the very machinery of our government. But it can be very irritating because there is no such thing as a rule. In criminal law, if there isn't a statute, there is no crime. In contracts for sale of goods, the UCC provides a rational framework for any issue that might come up.

In Constitutional Law, the source text is the Constitution, of course, but even that tends to be profoundly unhelpful. The Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, but never says what that right is. Does it include tanks? Automatic weapons? Grenades? The Eighth Amendment protects against cruel and unusual punishment, but doesn't say what "cruel" means, or whether "cruel" is defined by local norms, national norms, international norms, contemporary norms, or historic norms.

Constitutional Law is so inextricably infused with politics, and politics can be such a delicate game, that the word "law" itself is something of a misnomer. It is no coincidence, I should think, that in Bush v. Gore, the conservative or conservative-leaning justices went with Bush, and the liberals went with Gore. It is no coincidence that liberal justices vote against death penalty laws, and conservatives vote for laws limiting abortion.