Welcome to Liberrants, a blog dedicated to editorials, discussions, and studies of all things libertarian. Don't let the title mislead you; it's merely my attempt to be creative in describing myself as a "hopeful curmudgeon" who embraces the goal of the free, peaceful, economically vibrant society envisioned by America's founding fathers. Jump in! Contribute! Enjoy!

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Location: Tucson, Arizona, United States

A critically thinking curmudgeon whose goal, in addition to creatively venting about the imperfect world in which we live, is to induce critical thinking in others. The ultimate goal is to help bring about a peaceful world in which we can all live in freedom.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Roberts Nomination: A Lot of Meaningless Hot Air

Again violating my promise to myself not to post anything while on vacation, I guess I’ve found myself with a bit more idle time than I anticipated. In light of the incipient ruckus over supreme court (yes, those are lower-case letters) nominee John Roberts, I just thought I’d comment on some of the current controversy. While the full-fledged confirmation battle in the senate (again, small “s”) has yet to erupt, though indeed it will, I’d just like to make a brief observation on the current source of contention, which is Robert’s alleged membership in the Federalist Society.

According to its website, the society is a grouping of conservatives and libertarians whose mission is to promote the principles of republican government; to wit, the idea that “the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be.”

Admirable, most certainly. There is nothing here that any libertarian lover of freedom will disagree with. Nor do I (yet) have any reason to doubt that Judge Roberts himself personally adheres to the principles of the society of which he is a member. Furthermore, no one who has even casually observed congress (same spelling rule) in action over the last six decades will be the least bit surprised that Democratic members of that body, in particular, are horrified at the very idea of a non-activist judge ascending to the nation’s highest court. So far, so normal, as far as supreme court confirmation proceedings are concerned.

What the libertarian cynic who has lost all faith in the existing system will next ask is: Is there a snowball’s chance in the netherworld that Judge Roberts will either 1) be confirmed by senate that is at best spineless and at worst hostile once the extent of his involvement in FEDSOC becomes known; 2) adhere to his federalist principles once seated on the bench, or 3) prove himself to be a genuine libertarian who shows consistent and steadfast respect for the Constitution even when he is the in the minority, often as a lone dissenter on controversial decisions?

Recent history does not offer encouragement. While Justices Scalia and Thomas are currently held up on neon-drenched pedestals as the embodiment of “strict constructionist” jurists, time and again they have demonstrated that when it comes to a decision between the rights of the individual and the rights of the State, they will throw their lot in with the State every time (their recent dissents in the Kelo v. City of New London decision being more a matter of judicial mechanics than grounded in libertarian principles). In this alone there is little reason to believe that Judge Roberts will break the mold, particularly given the contempt with which modern presidential administrations have treated the Constitution. Dubya’s flagrant shredding of the Bill of Rights gives us little reason to believe that he has any genuine love of FEDSOC principles and that Judge Roberts’ membership in said organization is more likely an annoying detail in his curriculum vitae, an obstacle to be overcome in the confirmation process, than a principled selling point to the senate. Look for Bush and his coterie of enforcers to pressure the judge into downplaying his membership in FEDSOC, possibly culminating in the issuance of a mild apology for said membership.

So, in sum, look for the status quo (i.e., judicial dictatorship) to continue on its full-speed-ahead course in abetting the destruction of limited government and the checks and balances system. Since the addition of one strict-constructionist justice is a token gesture that will do nothing to check the high court’s appetite for expanding its own power, Roberts’ confirmation and accession to the bench will be meaningless in the extreme (the words “fat chance” come to mind when pondering the idea that anyone else with his credentials will be allowed anywhere near a seat on the high court). For libertarians to work themselves into a frenzy over the possibility of change is, once again, foolish and naïve in the extreme.

A Little Vacation Reading

I hadn't intended to post anything while on this vacation (mostly for want of steady access to the Internet), but I've been browsing a copy of David McCullough's new book 1776, his history of the beginnings of the American Revolution that my father ordered some weeks ago and that came in the mail the day after my arrival here in San Jose. Some of you may recognize McCullough as, among other things, the author of the Harry Truman biography that came out several years ago and as the narrator of Ken Burns' documentary series The Civil War. Whatever else you may think of McCullough's viewpoints on history or his politics, I've so far found 1776, at least my reading of the first one hundred or so pages of it, to contain some amazing parallels to (and lessons for) today's situation in Iraq. The descriptions McCullough cites by contemporaries, both British and American, of the early colonial army as a ragtag, undisciplined, poorly provisioned and poorly trained bunch of country bumpkins seem eerily similar to the derisive descriptions of the Iraqi "insurgents" causing so much havoc to American troops today. The attitude of the British Redcoats, particularly the officer class, is a carbon copy of the condescending arrogance mouthed by the "official" United States military that wishfully proclaims the rebellion to be in its "death throes", the rebellion's leadership "in desperation", and the rebels' caused to be futile and evil.

I've only skimmed forward through about half of 1776 beyond the first hundred pages that I've read, but it somehow feels eerily likely that the remnants of the U.S. military forces currently bogged down in Iraq will find themselves begging some third Arab or other regional Islamic country (Iran? Pakistan?) for guarantee of safe passage out of Iraq in much the same way that Lord Cornwallis descreetly begged the French for a guarantee of safe passage for the withdrawal of what remained of his Redcoat army from the Yorktown Peninsula.

I don't think McCullough even remotely envisioned or intended his work to serve as a libertarian historical allegory on just warfare or the morality and efficacy of Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW), but that may be what the astute reader will take away from it. At any rate, I just thought I'd let everyone know that even while I'm on vacation my tiny mind isn't completely idle (or any more so than normal in the eyes of my detractors). It's approaching 1:00 AM EDT (though only 10:00 PM PDT here), and since my body clock is still on East Coast time, I'm off to bed (prefaced be a little reading of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a Christmas gift seven years ago to my mother, who swore for years that she's wanted to read it but hasn't done so yet). I'll keep everyone posted on the continuing adventures as they unfold.

Cheers, and pleasant dreams!