English language and a pinch of French.
There’s been a crack pandemic in Paris, France, these last years, with an area now known as Crack Hill (la colline du crack) in the North-Eastern parts of the city. Neighbors talking of “hell,” “nightmare” and other such words has become commonplace. Authorities are pouring millions of taxpayer money in a so-called crack plan doing nothing but distributing under police surveillance new crack pipes every Thursday to the 1.500 crackheads (they know the numbers!) roaming on Crack Hill, and paying for 400 hotel rooms for crackheads.
Thus the bureaucracy’s sole policy is to prevent the crackheads’ habit from turning them into blood felons, with the result that they will remain an endless source of unpunished misdemeanors, an everlasting nightmare for the neighborhood. – This in a country where the numbers of police officers per inhabitant are extremely high.
« Le Gilet jaune Jérôme Rodrigues relaxé » (Le Parisien 7/3/21) : une bonne nouvelle, bien que je ne comprenne pas le jugement. Rodrigues avait traité de « bande de nazis » des membres d’un syndicat policier et le ministre de l’intérieur avait saisi la justice pour injures. Le juge dit que les propos « visaient non l’ensemble des policiers mais les méthodes de certains d’entre eux » et que le syndicat « ne se confond pas avec l’administration publique qu’est la police nationale ». Oui et alors ? Rodrigues était poursuivi pour injures et non pour diffamation envers un corps constitué (la police nationale), donc le fait que les propos ne visaient pas le corps mais certains membres de ce corps ne disculpe pas en soi de l’injure.
La question est de savoir si traiter les gens de « nazis » est une injure. Or comment cela ne serait-il pas une injure alors que la loi française condamne pénalement l’idéologie nazie et que donc un nazi est un hors-la-loi ; si traiter quelqu’un de voleur est une injure, traiter quelqu’un de nazi est forcément une injure, qui doit être condamnée en tant que telle. Il est donc évident que le ministère public ou le ministre auteur de la plainte va faire appel et a bien des chances de gagner, suite à un jugement sans queue ni tête (du moins tel que rapporté par le journal). Le calvaire de Jérôme Rodrigues est loin d’être fini. « Allez en dictature »…
The ‘shield’ for ‘extremist’ views is the First Amendment
The Wikipedia page ‘Gab’ (the internet platform) says: “Gab claims that it promotes free speech and individual liberty, though these statements have been criticized as being a shield for its alt-right and extremist ecosystem.”
Under American law an “alt-right ecosystem” has no need of a shield, its shield is the law (First Amendment), so the critics alluded to are irrelevant unless the problem is the very shield American law offers alt-right ideas, that is, the problem is free speech.
The construction “Gab claims… though” is objectionable, there can be no “though” here. Free speech is indeed what it is all about. When one creates a business for money laundering, as money laundering is illegal, then the business is a “shield.” Therefore, as alt-right views are shielded by the First Amendment, describing Gab as a “shield” is libelous.
It strikes one as odd, given the First Amendment law, that still some Americans, like the author(s) of this Wikipedia page, seem rather to have been raised in a European legal environment where freedom of speech exists only for what the powers that be allow, and everything they label extremist is doomed to endless persecution.
Finnish minister says sexist online comments about female politicians is a “threat to democracy.”
The utterance is even more ominous when one thinks that under Finnish democratic law derogatory comments on public figures such as elected officials might be prosecutable and severely punished. I’m not saying this is the case, as I don’t know Finnish law, but that wouldn’t surprise me given the state of the law in my and other continental European countries.
Pro-liberty Skidmore students blocked from creating a club after “cancel mob” organized against them.
Before cancel culture there’s the heckler’s veto, a cancel mob is a heckling mob. I don’t know how a “Student Government Association,” which blocked the club’s creation under pressure of a heckling mob, relates to government, if at all, in free speech law (any form of government support would suffice) but the doctrine about heckling is: “the core concern … is that allowing the suppression of speech because of the discontent of the opponents provides the perverse incentive for opponents to threaten violence rather than to meet ideas with more speech.” (mtsu.edu) Link
Instagram deletes post of President Biden falling up the stairs under its “violence and incitement” policy.
MSNBC analyst says Biden falling meme could incite violence.
They expect him to fall a lot…
Joe Biden has been would-be candidate for POTUS for 35 YEARS.
Here’s what Robert H. Bork wrote for year 1987: “Senator Biden’s presidential aspirations came to a sudden end, probably for all time. The campaign staff of Governor Michael Dukakis gave the press videotapes demonstrating that Biden had plagiarized speeches by other politicians such as Britain’s Neal Kinnock. In addition, the press learned that Biden had misrepresented his law school record. As the damaging facts began to pile up, Biden at first tried to explain and finally had to hold a press conference at which he withdrew as a candidate for his party’s nomination.” (The Tempting of America, 1990)
For a discussion of Robert Bork’s ideas, see Lesson 8.
‘It started with words’ so free speech is not okay?
Biden appointee Timothy Wu once questioned whether the First Amendment was “obsolete,” has questionable free speech views.
A fair statement is that all elected officials and their appointees have questionable free speech views, because a political class will always want to mutate into a political cartel, which requires speech control and suppression, so the condition for free speech is a truly independent judicial power and irremovable judges, something that apparently does not exist in this world except in the USA (God bless America). Do not make as if Republican majorities had no questionable free speech views: the many anti-BDS laws, which will be struck down one after the other, and the sooner the better, are a recent example of the tendency.
Force is the one thing we’re not allowed to advocate.
The First Amendment allows one to advocate force. “Advocacy of illegal conduct” is protected speech, what is not protected is “incitement to imminent lawless action” (Brandenburg v. Ohio), the word to emphasize here being “imminent.” Case law explains that, for speech to be unprotected, the lawless action it advocates must be not only imminent but also likely to follow from speech. I would argue that there is an intrinsic impossibility for online speech to be incitement to imminent action, the law is aimed at speech “brigaded with action,” that is, speech to and from among a mob prone to act, or, in the classic example, shouting fire in a crowded theater.
It’s legal, but it will still get you banned.
Being legal it depends on the carriers’ policies whether speech is suppressed and so far they have had quite discretionary powers.
Given what I just said about online speech I am surprised that a former shareowner of a platform, namely Parler, is raising funds for his legal counsel in view of a Congress hearing about the platform’s responsibility for the Capitol storming. It looks like rogue intimidation. I question the legality of any step by the legislator that compels private citizens to legal counsel expenses. The judiciary, not the legislative, is the power that examines particular responsibilities.
Is there rationality in the affirmation that as blacks make a disproportionate part of prison inmates in America the American society is racist? Looking at the figures of wealth beside the figures of prison inmates, one finds consistence across the two sets, that is, the less wealthy group is also the group with disproportionate numbers of prison inmates, which makes perfect sense on the merely economic and sociological level as poverty is ridden with deprivation and incentives to illegal conduct. As it is to be sociologically expected that crime be more rampant in poor neighborhoods than in wealthy ones, it is also to be expected that blacks have more prison inmates, as the figures show they are poorer in the main.
Therefore, although the affirmation according to which the society is racist can be inferred from prison inmates figures is hardly challenged because of the fear the challenge could be construed as a claim that blacks are intrinsically (like genetically) more criminal as a race, in fact there exists an entirely economic cause for penal figures.
This shifts attention to the cause of economic inequalities, as one might then ask if there is something intrinsic to racial groups that some thrive more and some thrive less in the economy? If inequalities in prison figures can be inferred from wealth group status, the latter cannot be inferred away, so to speak.
The anti-racist idea is that, given equal opportunities, all racial groups must and would equally thrive in the economy. So, as there are economic differences between racial groups, it must be that the society does not give equal opportunities to all and this because it is racist. Thus the American society is to be called racist as long as each racial group does not have the same proportions of wealth and poverty as the global average, that is, as long as they are not all the same in terms of wealth.
That this can and will result from the free market is, I am sure, what no one among Americans believes, so the fact that Americans keep talking of their economy as a free-market economy, having at the same time an anti-racist agenda, is questionable.
As you know, ex-post-facto legislation is expressly prohibited by the US constitution.
(On the eve of the sesquicentennial of Ohio’s Statehood in 1953 it was discovered that while the Ohio constitution had been ratified, the territory of Ohio was never formally admitted to the union. President Eisenhower made a joke about Ohio state officials drawing salaries under false pretenses and then had congress RETROACTIVELY ratify Ohio’s statehood.)
In its purity the principle holds in criminal law only, but such a construction may be argued to be unconstitutional indeed:
“Thomas Jefferson described them [ex post facto laws] as ‘equally unjust in civil as in criminal cases.’ Over the years, however, when deciding ex post facto cases, the United States Supreme Court has referred repeatedly to its ruling in Calder v. Bull, in which Justice Samuel Chase held that the prohibition applied only to criminal matters, not civil matters, and established four categories of unconstitutional ex post facto laws.” (Wikipedia)
Like Jefferson I see no reason why the principle should be limited to criminal law, because even if ignoring the principle must be particularly dramatic in criminal law it doesn’t mean such neglect is benign in other legal domains.
Multipartyism is a corrupt form of people’s government
Multipartyism is a corrupt form of people’s government. The point is to bring not more than two platforms to the electorate’s choice because that’s the only way to ensure that the elected majority will apply the electoral platform rather than coalition pacts bargained behind closed doors between various elected parties. The platform itself is the result of primaries so what Perot and others do as third parties could well be done in the frame of one or the other party.
In multipartyism parties run for platforms they know they will amend behind closed doors the very day after election day!
That is, if no party gets absolute majority (50 percent or more of the votes, that is, of the seats). With two parties competing one will get absolute majority, but with more than two parties competing absolute majorities are exceptional and coalition pacts must be reached between parties to form majority governments. Where absolute majorities are not exceptional one may talk of a de facto bipartisan system.
La différence entre un Français et un Américain, c’est que l’un chante « Aux armes » et que l’autre a le droit de porter des armes. « Vous chantiez, j’en suis fort aise… »
On Legalizing Polygamy
Polygamy is as good as nonexistent in the Arab Gulf states:
“Today, because of higher standards of education and additional leisure time to spend, compatible spouses are more desired. This issue also contributed to the almost complete eradication of polygamy in Gulf. Although permitted under Islam, the custom even in the past was rarely practiced. Often women include specific paragraphs in their marriage contract prohibiting the husband from taking a second wife.” (Article Marriage, in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab States Today: An Encyclopedia of Life in the Arab States, Maisel & Shoup ed., 2009)
The phrasing is ambiguous. “Eradication” would not make one expect the following sentence: “the custom even in the past was rarely practiced.” Because if it was rarely practiced in the past, then it was already “eradicated,” in the sense that it was rare already, and the conclusion is that the custom is as uncommon today as it was in the past, so there has been no change, and certainly no eradication. The situation was and is that only the wealthiest men, typically of the ruling families, had and have multiple wives. Besides, this “monopoly” must by necessity be consolidated by the rent economy, as one fails to see how individual males depending on the state for their income would be allowed several wives without the state correspondingly increasing their income, which would be perceived as unwarranted by the rest of males, whereas coming from the free market this kind of perception does not obtain.
So one point for allowing polygamy would be that it’d remain uncommon anyway, as it was and is in the Gulf states.
In an online summary of Edward Dutton’s book Why Islam Makes You Stupid… But Also Means You’ll Conquer the World (2020), I find Dutton includes among the reasons why Islam makes one stupid… and likely to conquer the world… polygamy. But on this he’s wanting on the side of sociological data, as polygamy is hardly more practiced by Muslims than by others.
I have already written on the issue on this blog (here), warning against assuming that the legality of polygamy translates into high degrees of polygyny, as the figures in fact show that polygyny is high in sub-Saharan countries (not all Muslim) and the Caribbeans (where polygamy is illegal).
Back to Dutton: How can Muslim polygamy, i.e., the legal acceptance/tolerance of it can be a factor of stupidity if it does not translate into major differences with countries where it is prohibited? That’s the same as saying that I would become dumber by tolerating my neighbor’s using intoxicants, without using them myself, as the dumbing effect (if there’s any) of intoxicants is limited to the user and does not extend to the one who tolerates it.
Therefore, when in the recent French bill against ‘separatism,’ commentators and, in the travaux préparatoires and debates, the legislators themselves conflate Islam with issues that are in fact connected with the culture of sub-Saharan migrants, be them from Muslim communities or not, namely polygamy and female genital cutting (same as with polygamy female circumcision predates Islam and has been maintained in whole communities, Islamic or not).
Of course it does not make sense to speak of an Islamic “tolerance” for polygamy, as the Prophet of Islam had several wives. Another word must be used to convey the idea that it is a good thing that some men at least have multiple wives even though almost all of them will have only one, as it probably turned out to be the case throughout the history of Islam in its main centers.
Polygyny can take many forms. No one really has to relinquish it in a state where polygamy is not allowed and only the legal institution of it does not exist; a polygynous man can adapt to any legal system, find arrangements within the law, for instance as to heirloom etc, and I fail to see what obstacles there are to de facto polygyny in the West. The French legislator thinks he has adopted measures just now (the bill I have been briefly discussing in ii) to prevent de facto polygyny in France but this will only serve to make the bureaucracy still more intolerably intrusive in all people’s lives. They can never think out of that box, it’s always more bureaucratic control, like readers of Tocqueville know.
The classic work of sociological literature, The Children of Sanchez, may be described as a case depiction of polygyny in Mexico. Sanchez, a restaurant waiter (I wouldn’t call that high status, although evolutionary psychology, EP, tends to associate polygyny with status), had several wives and children in various barrios of Mexico City, sharing his earnings between all of them, and all of them living in misery. – Polygyny is not legal in Mexico. Would Mexican authorities make it legal, they would adjust the legal system to the reality of their country. A migrant to Mexico from a country where polygyny is legal, would still think polygyny is permissible there, albeit not legal. By practising it, he would conform to a Mexican reality and couldn’t be accused to be a cause of disruption.
(In the U.S., what would be disruptive is the same migrant’s will to live in a nucleus family of single wife and children, as the de facto model is communal child-rearing under Amazons’ control. Wait and see.)
An alternative to consociationalism may be the American constitutional theory as exposed by Supreme Court judges:
“We are not an assimilative, homogeneous society, but a facilitative, pluralistic one, in which we must be willing to abide someone else’s unfamiliar or even repellant practice because the same tolerant impulse protects our own idiosyncracies. … In a community such as ours, ‘liberty’ must include the freedom not to conform. ” Justice Brennan, on Michael H. v. Gerald D. 1989
That may make America sound pretty much liberal but I still perceive it is more conservative than continental Europe (it is no accident, by the way, that of all European countries the UK left the EU), where they have got authoritarian liberalism whereas in the States it remains PC liberalism.
Kierkegaard Against ‘Christendom’
Isn’t it astonishing that one would need a “school of intelligence,” Epicureanism, to “contend” that we ought to look for pleasure? Is it something people need be told or rather they needn’t be told that they like and want pleasure more than displeasure? Kierkegaard is talking through me right now: He strongly objected to Christianity turning into a form of Epicureanism, with the indicting question: What is the point of making eternal bliss dependent upon what people want in this life? If the good life that leads to eternal bliss is what everybody wants without being told, namely a comfy pleasurable existence, then there was no need to warn them of eternal damnation. ‘Christendom,’ that is, Christianity as Epicureanism, is nonsense.
A call to a pleasurable life has no meaning except as opposition to the thought of an afterlife or a supernatural order of things, as ‘superstitious beliefs’ (in Epicurus’s words) can hinder one’s correct conduct on the way to a pleasurable life, leaving aside the question that the obstacles are also in the very craving for pleasure as it is more often than not self-contradictory and requires a method, a guidance which Epicurus proposed to delineate (with what success?) – Precisely because of Epicureanism’s rejection of superstition, the grounds are lacking for Christianity to be an Epicureanism, that is, to be of this world. This life is ultimately about winning the afterlife, not about making life comfy. For the latter one needs Epicureanism but for one who heeds the warning from beyond Epicureanism is miserable blindedness. One cannot reconcile both views, and this is the reason Christendom is anti-Christian. The idea that the routine observance of sacraments, received from priests, moreover, who are in nothing different from their herd except that they have a MORE pleasurable life than most of them (in terms of wealth –being high functionaries of the state in the Scandinavian Lutheran churches– and good name and family life and leisure and so on), is what a Christian life is about, is appalling when one thinks, like Kierkegaard, of it.
The clergyman in Christendom, when asked how to live the good life, might answer: “Be in my shoes.” Hinting not as much as to what is be done as a Christian, as to a collective situation where the good life is partly inherited (the bishop is the bishop’s son) and partly the result of worldly shrewdness that has nothing to do with Christian teachings and everything with an Epicurean quest for pleasure, including the pleasure to slit others’ throats (metaphorically speaking, at least, that is, as there are in the state church x or y bishop tenures then you’ll get x or y incumbents and the other candidates will be failures). Ultimately the guidance for Epicureanism is how to make this school of intelligence compatible with a state of things where people are not at each other’s throats all the time. We all know we want our pleasure and we all have some notions of how to get it (although our pleasures conflict with each other too), and yet it happens more often than not that our pleasure must depend on an object that we don’t own.
Last but not least, Epicurus wrote for a leisure class that doesn’t exist any longer. His thinking must be thus qualified that it answers the question of how to be happy with so much time on our hands, surrounded by slaves working for us, whereas in many cases we are not even able to secure the least bit of free time in our existence nowadays. So talking of Epicureanism to today’s public is like telling them “there were better days, you know.” Carpe diem, pluck the day, usually summarizes Epicureanism in a nutshell. Carpe diem makes sense if I can say the day is mine, if I am no floatsam, floating with the stream or winds of the workday from morning till night, with no direction but that of the steady flow. Floating is not what the vessel does but its wreck.
A few quotes from Kierkegaard’s Articles to The Fatherland and The Instant (from Attack Upon ‘Christendom’, translator Walter Lowrie, Princeton University Press, Tenth Printing 1991)
Articles in The Fatherland
28 the impudent fudge about Christianity being perfectible
35 in Protestantism, especially in Denmark, Christianity marches to a different melody, to the tune of «Merrily we roll along, roll along, roll along» – Christianity is enjoyment of life, tranquillized, as neither the Jew nor the pagan was, by the assurance that the thing about eternity is settled, settled precisely in order that we might find pleasure in enjoying this life, as well as any pagan or Jew.
37 I am not a Christian severity as opposed to a Christian leniency. By no means. I am neither leniency nor severity: I am… a human honesty.
38 as soon as the Christian requirement of poverty is brought to bear, family is a luxury
110 Imagine that a man with a loaded pistol stepped up to a person and said to him, «I’ll shoot you dead,» or imagine something still more terrible, that he were to say, «I’ll seize upon your person and torture you to death in the most dreadful manner, if you do not (now be on the watch, for here it comes)…make your own life here on earth as profitable and enjoyable as you possibly can.» This surely is the most comical speech; for to bring that about one really does not need to threaten with a loaded pistol and the most amazing kind of death; perhaps neither the loaded pistol nor the most agonizing kind of death would avail to prevent it. And so it is here: by the dread of eternal punishment (frightful menace!), by the hope of an eternal blessedness, to want to bring about…yes, to bring about what we are (…) that we may live as we most like to live–for to refrain from civil crimes is nothing but plain shrewdness.
165 If in the natural man there is any instinct so strong as the instinct of self-preservation, it is the instinct for the propagation of the race, which therefore Christianity tried to cool off, teaching that it is better not to marry, yet, if worse comes to worst, it is better to marry than to burn. But in «Christendom» the propagation of the race has become the serious business of life, together with Christianity; and the priest (this epitome of nonsense enveloped in long robes), the priest, the teacher of Christianity, of the Christianity of the New Testament, has even got his income fixed in proportion to his activity in promoting the propagation of the race, getting a definite amount for each child.
183 So there is a difference as wide as the earth, as wide as heaven, between the Mynsterish [Bishop Mynster’s] life-view (which properly is Epicureanism, enjoyment of life and the lust for life, belonging to this world) and the Christian view, which is that of suffering, of enthusiasm for death, belonging to the other world; yea, there is such a difference between these two life-views that the latter (if it were taken seriously, and not at the very most expressed rarely in a quiet hour) must appear to Bishop Mynster as a kind of madness.
185 By indifferentism one commonly understands having no religion at all. But resolutely and definitely to have no religion at all is something passionate, and so is not the most dangerous sort of indifferentism. Hence too it occurs rather rarely.
189 I am unable to endure this thought [«The situation is this: the more thou hast to do with God, and the more He loves thee, the more thou wilt become, humanly speaking, unhappy for this life, the more thou wilt have to suffer in this life»], and therefore merely investigate this true definition of what it is to become a Christian, whereas for my part I help myself to endure sufferings by a much easier thought, one which is Jewish, not in the highest sense Christian, the recognition that I suffer for my sins.
190 And only by the help of this canst thou see that the Christianity of the New Testament does not exist, that the little religiousness there is in the land is at the very most…Judaism.
205 [Christianity] that religion precisely which extols the single state.
215 man is reduced to insignificance by marriage
223 Christianly it is egoism in the highest degree that because a man and a woman cannot control their lust another being must therefore sigh, perhaps for seventy years, in this prisonhouse and vale of tears, and perhaps be lost eternally.
263 And inflexibly as the human race stands up for its will to punish, to punish even by death, those who are not willing to be like the others, just so firmly does eternity stick to its purpose of punishing with eternal perdition those who are tranquillized by being like the others.
281 Worldly shrewdness is eternally excluded, despised and abhorred, as things are in heaven, more than all vices and crimes, because in its nature it of all things most belongs to this wretched world, and most of all is remote from having anything to do with heaven and the eternal. [Shrewdness=Klugheit (Kant)]
(Added March 20, 2021) the PDF:
In American law original understanding is the doctrine according to which judicial review should abide by the constituant’s original intent. This may sound pretty much like common sense, yet it is a minority opinion, which, as such, takes the name of ‘originalism,’ and the originals who defend it are ‘originalists.’
A major exponent of original understanding is Robert H. Bork, President Reagan’s failed nominee for the position of Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1987. His book The Tempting of America: The Political Seduction of the Law (1990) shall serve as a guideline to the present lesson.
Although there is much to be commended in Bork’s book, in the present lesson we are mainly concerned with laying down our disagreement with some of his interpretations.
‘‘The abandonment of original understanding in modern times means the transportation into the Constitution of the principles of a liberal culture that cannot achieve those results democratically.’’ (Bork, p. 9 of First Touchstone Edition, 1991)
Leaving aside the content part of the sentence, it sums up Bork’s technical opinion on judicial review as practiced in ‘modern times,’ namely, by judges who, feeling unconstrained by the constituant’s original intent, inject their own political views into judicial decisions. In the context with which he is concerned, this approach has served, according to him, to carry out a liberal agenda. And ‘democratically,’ here, means by elected legislatures (although, in a broader sense, nominated judges are as much part of the democratic life of a nation as elected legislatures, we’ll come back to this later).
The claim is that a judge cannot disregard original understanding without relinquishing neutrality. To stick to the original intent is the only way not to force one’s own political views upon the body politic in one’s judicial decisions.
Thus, according to Bork, a substantive due process clause of the 5th amendment (No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law) was invented by Chief Justice Taney in the Dred Scott decision of 1857, whereas the amendment only contains a procedural due process clause.
As a matter of fact, Bork denies that a right to own slaves was in the Constitution. However, in the Court’s decision, Chief Justice Taney refers to the rights of property, which are obviously in the Constitution. A slaveholder had a property right on his slaves and, as the right of property is protected, the right to hold slaves was to the same degree.
A few years after Dred Scott and during the Civil War, the 13th amendment was adopted, excluding slaveholding as a form of constitutional right of property (Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States). Was, because of Dred Scott, a constitutional amendment necessary? I might even doubt it (see below), and yet it does not affect Dred Scott, inasmuch as, back then, slaveholding was as constitutional as any other holding of property. The clause struck down by the Court was an unconstitutional abridgement of the right to property; it does not mean that slaveholding was protected as such by the Constitution, that is, that the legislator could not decide to exclude slaveholding from the right of property, but as long as it was included in the latter right, it was protected accordingly, and according to existing statutes compatible with the Constitution.
This fallacy, that the Court would have introduced in the Constitution a right to hold slaves that was not in it, is Bork’s departing point. According to him, the substantive due process clause is the essence of later judicial activism, of ‘judicial legislation.’ He quotes Justice Black saying deprecatorily that the substantive clause is not the ‘law of the land’ but the ‘law of the judges’ (In re Winship, 1970).
To refuse to see slavery in the Constitution before the 13th amendment and to claim that the Court introduced it itself, amounts to giving slavery a definition it has never had, which makes it heterogeneous per se to the right of property. However, the freedom to own slaves, in a Constitution the letter of which knows of slavery (Art. I, Section 2, clause 3; Art. I, Section 9, clause 9; Art. IV, Section 2, clause 3), is the same thing as the right of property.
Even in the hypothetical case where slavery were absent from the letter of the Constitution, it is not permitted to interpret the right as not including slaveholding, for three reasons:
1/Slavery existed in the states at the time of the ratification of the Constitution;
2/The Constitution did not abolish slavery;
3/The Constitution does not enumerate the goods that it is legitimate to own as property, so the right includes all kinds of goods that the law held as permissible at the time of the ratification, which included slaves.
The Supreme Court in Dred Scott said that to deprive a slaveholder of his property when entering a state where that property was banned by statute (like Illinois, by state statute, and Louisiana, by the Missouri Compromise of 1821, the states involved in the case) is violating the right of property without due process of law. This is not the same, I believe, as saying that to vote a statute excluding some kinds of goods, here slaves, from legitimate property is unconstitutional. It is true that Chief Justice Taney went further toward ‘substance.’ However, had the Court made it clear that it was striking down, in the Missouri Compromise, not the statutory exclusion itself but the proceeding attached to the statute, depriving citizens from other states of their property as soon as entering the territory of the state that passed the statute, it would have injected no ‘substance’ at all in the due process clause. (That the consequence might follow that it is also unconstitutional to confiscate illicit drugs, for instance, is not unlikely; that would not shock me, and those aware of recent debates about forfeiture will show no surprise either.)
According to the Constitution, ‘‘No State shall pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts.’’ This clause is held by Bork, contrary to the Supreme Court in Hepburn v. Griswold (1870), to apply to the States and not the Union.
However, what could be the meaning of such a limitation, when federal law is as binding as state laws in the respective states? What would be the aim of placing such a constraint on the states, which would have few if any effects on individuals (as the federal law could still impair individuals’ contractual obligations), and that in a domain which has little bearing on the relationships between the states and the federal government? No, one must accept that a written Constitution leaves many things implicit, if only because the constituant cannot foresee all situations in the future, and also because too strict a litteral approach favors bad faith maneuvers that seek the flaws in the letter to the detriment of the original intent.
In the constitutional passage here, one fails to see what the constituant’s intent would be aimed at if he had intended to limit the states’ power to impair obligations of private contracts and not the Union’s, whereas, when both the states and the Union are held in check, one understands that the intent is to ensure the binding force of private contracts throughout the territory of the Union.
Here is a case where Bork asks the courts to adopt a litteral approach. Yet, in one major instance, a very important one in this thought, he asks them to do precisely the opposite.
Bork approves the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Slaughterhouse Cases (1873) involving the 14th amendment. The Court said the amendment applies to the newly freed slaves only. Yet the letter of the amendment (No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States) cannot lead to the conclusion that the amendment stops at racial questions. Indeed, in said cases dissident Justice Bradley asserted that the amendment was ‘embracing all citizens,’ and this would later become the line of the Court after it reversed its position†.
†Footnote: [On this particular clause of the 14th amendment, the Court is actually said to have maintained its position: ‘’The Court’s narrow restriction of the privileges and immunities clause continues to this day.’’ (J.R. Vile, on Slaugtherhouse Cases, in Essential Supreme Court Decisions, 2018) (Bork, for his part, says of this clause: ‘’The privileges and immunities clause, whose intended meaning remains largely unknown, was given a limited construction by the Supreme Court and has since remained dormant.’’ ) At the same time, as Bork emphasizes it time and again, another clause of the same amendment, the equal protection clause (No State shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws), has been interpreted as ‘embracing all citizens’, for instance: ‘’It is clear that the ratifiers of the fourteenth amendment did not think they were treating women as an oppressed class similar in legal disadvantages to the newly freed slaves. That is an entirely modern notion and written into our jurisprudence only recently by the Supreme Court.’’ (Bork, 329) Therefore, as a result of the Supreme Court’s stare decisis, in the same sentence of the same amendment, in one part of this sentence (the privileges and immunities clause) the word ‘citizens’ is understood in a restrictive sense as meaning Blacks, and in the other part (the equal protection clause) the word ‘person’ is understood as embracing all citizens. This is certainly peculiar and unlikely to enhance American citizens’ knowledgeability in their own law.]
Bork agrees that the 14th amendment was specifically framed for Black people, the newly freed slaves. He acknowledges that its redaction is more general, more ‘embracing,’ to speak like Justice Bradley, and his argument here (pp. 65-6) is that some other general dispositions are applied by courts in a limited fashion consistent with the intent of the legislator. (As if he were not warning us throughout his book that courts could take militant positions.)
With this guideline of looking for the intent, Bork argues that the Court could have, with the same result, been ‘originalist’ in Brown v. Board of Education, for ‘’the real principle was that government may not employ race as a classification’’ (79) (as the equal protection clause is nothing less and nothing more than a prohibition on racial classification, according to him), but that the unanimous Justices chose another, ‘un-originalist’ way of reasoning, to reach their conclusion. Bork’s point, contrary to the mainstream interpretation of the case, is that the decision itself is consistent with the original intent of the framers of the 14th amendment, no matter how the Court got there.
Leaving aside that (1) a Black-White racial classification is not the only possible racial classification and (2) one fails to see how the will to abolish a slave-master relationship, even when this relationship overlapped with a Black-White classification, must imply an absolute mandate to relinquish every kind of racial classification (an altogether different subject –slavery needs not function on racial dividing lines– and the Chinese Exclusion Act subsequent to the 14th amendment surely pays no heed to the amendment being a racial classification prohibition clause), one entirely fails to see why, if by the 14th amendment they wanted to strike at racial classifications only, the legislators would not say so explicitly and would use the word ‘citizens’ and ‘person’ instead.
Many will find my essays on Brown v. Board of Education, in the previous Lessons of this blog (Lessons 4-6), naive, as I seem to believe that the Court’s aim was to end not only legal but also de facto segregation. I admit I have difficulties with the notion that the undoing of legal segregation and the policy of busing (not to mention affirmative action) had nothing to do with contemplating the end of de facto segregation. Especially because, as the Court claimed that legal segregation was an obstacle to Blacks feeling equal, I fail to see how the obstacle to feeling equal is removed when Blacks cannot put the blame for their marginality in the American society on the states any longer but have to put it on themselves, as they are told that the obstacle to their integration has been withdrawn. Current de facto segregation is of a center-margin structure, no doubt about it. (At the relevant level, which is the reverse of the topographic level, where white suburbia is the periphery.)
As the Court from the outset has refused to address the question of de facto segregation (the dead-on-arrival decision Shelley v. Kraemer, striking racially exclusive covenants, notwithstanding), if the aim was to put an end to a psychological feeling of inferiority, the truth is that Brown was not addressing the issue even remotely.
It remains that the Court could not prove that legal segregation was necessarily causing a feeling of inferiority among Blacks, although the apodixis was formally required to order the ending of legal segregation rather than its reform on new grounds.
Bork blames the Court, in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) by which the Court struck down an anticontraception law, to have invented a tool for expanding ‘moral relativism in sexual matters’ but he has just explained in the previous pages that the anticontraception statute in question was not enforced (except in the present case, which was brought about as a test case, that is, intentionally by the claimants), and this means that moral relativism was already ensconced in legal affairs and that the Court, therefore, only affirmed it, not as an invention of the Justices, but as the current state of the law. It would have been different if the law had been enforced.
Justice Stewart called the anticontraception bill ‘an uncommonly silly law,’ yet it is a perfectly Christian law. The first and foremost deterrent to promiscuity is the possible consequence of unwanted pregnancy, and Christianity is ‘that religion precisely which extols the single state’ (Kierkegaard, The Instant N° 7). Obviously, for such a religion promiscuity must be a major evil. Had, on the other hand, Justice Stewart had STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and the preventative necessity to curb their spread in mind, he would have called the law dangerous, not silly, so he had not STDs in mind while making his comment, and so it is hard to know what he meant if not that Christianity is an uncommonly silly thing.
In Griswold the Court found especial fault in the fact that the law applied (or purported to apply, as it was not enforced, according to Bork) to married people and what they were doing in their bedrooms. Yet two spouses can be promiscuous with each other (the number of sexual partners is immaterial to the true definition of the word), so laws against promiscuity cannot leave spousal relationships out of their scope.
It is the same with antiabortion laws. As the best trammel to promiscuity is the risk of unwanted pregnancy, women must be compelled to bear the consequences of their sexual conduct in terms of pregnancy, in order for unwanted pregnancies to remain a deterrent. In the past, several, not all, antiabortion legislations made exceptions in case of rape, the result of which must be, however, that some women will want to terminate unwanted pregnancies by accusing the father, or any man, of rape, and such accusations, though baseless, may be hard to dismiss. (I believe many rape cases are decided mainly on the basis of conventional presumptions, such as, if the two individuals did not know each other before, rape, when alleged, is assumed, etc.)
And it is the same with antisodomy laws.
On Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), Bork makes the relevant following remark: ‘‘That rule [that only incitement to ‘imminent lawless action likely to produce such action’ falls outside the protection of the first amendment] … would not protect one who advocated a sit-in in a segregated lunch counter if the segregation was lawful and the advocacy produced a sit-in’’ (335).
Bork’s solution, however, is not acceptable: The right to advocacy of illegal conduct is a pillar of American freedom, the tenet that distinguishes it from all other nations in the world, which are police states and political caste (see below) states.
The solution must be, therefore, that incitement through speech is never a crime. How, anyway, does one reconcile criminalizing verbal incitement with the individualistic postulate of democracy? One is responsible for one’s actions; the law that criminalizes verbal incitement derives from another, archaic, opposite and incompatible postulate. While you criminalize verbal incitement, why do you not criminalize social conditions, systemic incitement? – Would you like to make an exception for crowds on the ground that crowds are irrational? Be aware that the social scientists who developed such theses, like the French Gustave Le Bon, also said that assemblies are crowds, legislative bodies are crowds.
Bork’s solution is the following: Advocacy of illegal conduct is not to be tolerated unless the conduct advocated is… lawful.
In his example above, he argues that, segregation being unconstitutional due to the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment, speech advocating a sit-in in a segregated lunch counter would be protected by the first amendment. The persons prosecuted for their speech could therefore invoke the unconstitutionality of segregation to demonstrate that, since segregation was unconstitutional, their speech was no advocacy of illegal conduct and was therefore protected by the first amendment.
To begin with, as executive authorities are no judge of the constitutionality of the laws they must enforce, if Bork’s solution were adopted prosecution would be unavoidable, and this in itself is repressive of speech, is bound to function as a form of censorship.
Then, the Constitution can be amended just as legislative statutes can be repealed, so there is no justification in allowing speech that incites conduct contrary to statutes (provided the statutes are proven unconstitutional) but not speech that incites conduct contrary to the Constitution.
This is why we suggest the rule of making unconstitutional all criminalization of verbal incitement.
One important thing omitted by Bork is that, in the separation of powers, irremovable judges must be a check to a political caste. But we are not really dealing with constitutional theory here, as the Constitution does not even know of political parties.
The lesser of two evils: ‘Judicial policymaking’ by irremovable judges is necessary to counter the underhand actions of a political caste, that is, to prevent the political class to become a political caste in the first place, and this is called for by the separation of powers itself, as a political caste cannot serve its vested interests without maintaining and increasing executive discretion and arbitrariness.
Bork is convinced that legislative policymaking is the result of a democratic tradeoff between political forces and that this tradeoff does not obtain in ‘judicial policymaking,’ but he ignores the common interest of a political caste in the absence of a sufficiently strong judicial counterpower. This common interest results, in questions bearing upon it, not in a political tradeoff but in caste unanimity against all other interests in the society. (Among other things, the caste suppresses speech, to prevent criticism.)
By caste we do not mean the traditional group structure based on the principle of heredity; we were only looking for a word that would make clear that in those democracies where the judiciary is weak the political class (and it is undeniable that there is a political class in the United States) degenerates into something else much more obnoxious.
The ‘liberal culture’ that Bork claims has been forced upon Americans by the US Supreme Court was on the other hand forced by their own legislators on European people. While reading the book, we hypothesized that the US Supreme Court may have set the precedent for legislations abroad, and that European legislators perhaps would not have passed such reforms as legalization of abortion, had not a great Western nation taken the lead, not by politicians but by nine judges. (In the media and political doxa, those European politicians are still held as ‘courageous,’ which implies that they went against the grain, against the mainstream, against the majority of the people.) The hypothesis is not historically supported as far as abortion is concerned. A chronology that would go from totalitarian legislation –Bolshevik rule in Russia (1920-1936, then 1955) and National-Socialist power in Germany (in the thirties)– to the US Supreme Court’s decision Roe v. Wade (1973) to European democratic legislations like France’s (1975), would leave aside a couple of legislative reforms in other countries (Mexico, Poland, Iceland in the thirties, etc).
For a common law judge, the legislator’s intent is not binding. The following quotation on the situation in Nordic countries will serve as an illustration, by the contrast it offers:
‘‘Such preparatory works [so-called travaux préparatoires to the adoption of legislative statutes] are therefore used extensively by the courts in Nordic countries as interpretive tools when facing legal uncertainties. The fact that judges both participate in the making of new laws and as the practical users of those laws can to some degree explain the willingness of courts to follow such interpretive sources without feeling unduly influenced by politics. (As a contrast, see Pepper v. Hurt , in which the British House of Lords –nowadays the Supreme Court– allowed for a rare consultation of political statements regarding the purpose of a law.) It might be said as a general observation that the courts in the Nordic countries try to stay loyal to legislative intent.’’
(Thomas Bull, in The Nordic Constitutions: A Comparative and Contextual Study, Krunke & Thorarensen ed., 2018)
Common law: the phrase is not to be found in the index of Bork’s book. Yet American judges are common law judges; Bork ignores it completely. His argument, in a nutshell, is that since the US has a written federal Constitution it is a regime of civil law (Roman law), but this is not the case, and one needs no modern constitutional theory, however liberal, to affirm that this is not.
For Bork, judicial policymaking must be interstitial, it must fill in the interstices of statutes, but in the philosophy of common law statutes fill the interstices of common law. – Coming from the very land hailed as the craddle of modern parliamentarism.
Bork’s concept of original understanding must by necessity make an entirely residual, insignificant power of the judiciary (like in France and other continental European countries) with the mere passage of time, for the simple and good reason that as time passes by the number and scope of situations that it is not possible to link satisfactorily to an original intent of the constituant must increase, so much so that the judge of 100 years from now will have to concede more power to the legislator than today’s judge, and the judge of 200 years from now more than the judge of 100 years from now. To prevent it, to maintain a balance of powers, the judiciary therefore must not approach the Constitution too literally, too narrowly, and this not in order to obtain new prerogatives but in order to avoid falling into insignificance, which would unavoidably lead to a despotic republic as warned about by Tocqueville (whom neither Bork nor his coauthors seem to have read).
To be sure, the Constitution can be amended to respond to evolutions. This power of constitutional amendment proves us right in the analysis of the passage of time. One must admit that its very existence shows that the original constituants have asked the posterity not to rely too much on their intent. Bork has little to say about this power of constitutional amendment that contradicts his claim that decisions of the Supreme Court are final. The fact that the legislator does not use this power more often against the decisions of the Court indicates that these decisions are not the will of ‘nine judges’ only. Bork advocates leaving many issues which the Supreme Court have dealt with recently to the legislative bodies, but the legislator has not used its constitutional power to oppose the Court’s decisions. To be sure, there exists an asymmetry between the decision procedure by the Court and the amendment procedure, the latter allowing for a minority veto, and that would confirm Bork that the will of the majority can be held in check. On the other hand, the Court’s decisions are allowed to be countermajoritarian only to a small degree, because if it were to a higher degree its decisions would be defeated by amendment more often than not.
To conclude, the following comparative law study will illustrate the tendencies of the political caste in continental Europe. (It is no accident that the United Kingdom of all European countries left the European Union: Common law is incompatible with this bureaucratic mess.)
In the US, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) defended the American Nazi party, in National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie (1977), and Nazi organizations are protected by freedom of association and freedom of speech. Needless to say, this is not the case in France, where civil liberties organizations would be on the frontline, and vociferously so, to oppose the legal existence of such parties. We know of a legal Nazi party in Denmark too, with swastikas and like paraphernalia, and we are trying to find more on the legal issues involved, as Denmark belongs to the EU and the Council of Europe, which have guidelines to fight ‘extremism’ so it should be easy to terminate these national protective laws but still the Danish Nazi party exists and is legal.
The position of some American Conservatives on free speech is disappointing, they tend to ask for a European model, like Justice Thomas on libel (US libel law is much more protective of speech than France’s) or Robert Bork on flag burning (constitutionally protected in the US whereas it is a criminal offense in France, where one may get six months jail time).
I agree with the latter, however, that pornography does not deserve the same protection. The US still makes a distinction between pornography and obscenity (which includes some pornography), allowing to prosecute the latter, which difference, of course, does not exist in France, where pornography is more protected than political speech.
The first amendment is good protection against state encroachments, but the issue is rising as to how one deals with private encroachments by internet platforms, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Their lobbyists argue that Section 230 protects platforms’ free speech as private actors. Their moderation and censorship is the platforms’ free speech, so the platforms would attack the repeal of S230 on first amendment grounds (cf previous Lessons). Yet they fail to see that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was needed because the Constitution does not protect minorities (ethnic, religious, etc) from private discrimination. As the 1964 Act stands in conformity with the Constitution, a bill that would prevent platforms to discriminate based on speech would equally be constitutionally unobjectionable. In the present state of the law, Twitter or Facebook could ban people based on the color of their skin and that would be legal and constitutional. The Supreme Court’s already named decision striking down racially exclusive private covenants (Shelley v. Kraemer) was dead on arrival, it has never been followed by other decisions, on the contrary the Court has ruled several times in the opposite direction, like in Evans v. Abney (1970) and Moose Lodge N° 107 v. Irvis (1972). Where the Civil Rights Act or Acts are silent, private discrimination is perfectly legal and constitutional in America. French legislators and courts have never granted private actors such room.
The European political caste, challenged by no judicial power worthy of the name, has forced the ‘liberal culture’ Bork is talking about on their people much more rabidly than the US Supreme Court on Americans.