Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Confirm That Man

John Roberts said something which, if he means it, ought to delight every conservative out there:

"John Roberts pledged Tuesday to respect established rulings if confirmed to the Supreme Court, saying judges must recognize that their role is 'not to solve society's problems.'"

In the upcoming political moron-fest to which we will all be treated this September, remember that now, in early August, I told you this. No one on the left, and almost assuredly no one on the right, in discussing Roberts' qualifications or whether he is "mainstream" or a radical rightist neocon theocrat, will stop to define the term "activist" as applied to judges. Oh, we'll see the word tossed around like a bong at Berkley, believe you me. But no one will bother to explain what it means, for two reasons: first, definitions don't make for good soundbites, and second, it is to no one's particular advantage to define terms, or otherwise facilitate rational debate.

But I'll tell you what I think the word means. An activist is a social engineer. An activist is a judge who hears evidence of actual practice in actual society and says "that's not good enough." I've discussed my thoughts at length here, in the context of a gay marriage decision in California.

Again, if he means it, Roberts' statement sounds nicely anti-activist. Judges adjudicate disputes between individual parties. As a practical matter, that also means they shape law, and law will shape society. But their purpose is not social architecture, it is to make sure our laws work well. Social engineering is properly left to elected officials, not unelected law-givers.

The fact is, people often deserve the society they have. If liberals manage to get electoral control of the Congress and White House again, and they start passing all sorts of liberal laws and liberal policies, that will be precisely what the American people deserve. And the notion that the intellectual elite, in their infinite compassion, will descend from on high to rescue us from our own mistakes, that's the kind of thinking that justifies the totalitarianism which has lead to the deaths of so many hundreds of millions who got in the way of "progress."

Far better to let society live with its mistakes, and resolve its own problems, than to impose legal perfection from above, by the Ruth Bader Ginsburgs of the world.