"History is a wonderful thing, if only it was true"

Friday, April 30, 2010

What does the public want?

Pending decision on the next member of the Supreme Court

Lexington: The next Supreme Court justice | The Economist:

"Americans need protection, but from whom?
Everyone agrees that the constitution is supposed to protect the weak against the mighty. But Republicans and Democrats differ sharply as to which mighty institutions pose the greatest threat to the little guy. Democrats, by and large, think big corporations are the problem. Republicans think big government is. For example, Democrats deride the court for ruling that companies may spend as much money as they like on political ads at election time. This will allow the likes of Exxon Mobil to drown the voices of ordinary citizens, they say. Many Republicans, in contrast, applaud the court for stopping incumbent politicians using campaign-finance laws to silence critical speech about themselves.

In this instance, public opinion favours the Democratic position, while the constitution favours the Republican one. But in general Americans are warier of government than of capitalism. They may not want the Supreme Court to strike down Mr Obama’s health reforms, as some conservatives urge. But they do fret that their government is growing ever more costly and intrusive, and they fear that liberal judges will do little to restrain it even when it acts unconstitutionally. Conservatives add that, on the contrary, some judges use devious tricks to nudge the law leftward, such as citing foreign precedents, which can be cherry-picked from Europe. Mr Obama once said that his ideal judge would show “empathy” for the poor. Polls suggest that most Americans would rather their judges upheld the law dispassionately. It is a debate worth having, and it has only just begun.

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