Tuesday, May 08, 2018
One of the larger points I try to make with my Constitutional Law students is nicely made by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein:
Our system of government is not self-executing. It relies on wisdom and self-restraint. In a democratic republic, liberty is protected by cultural norms as well as by constitutional text. Lawyers and judges bear great responsibility for implementing and explaining those principles. The further we get from the founding generation, the less we appreciate how much everything depends on people rather than paper.This really gets to the heart of what's wrong with American governance at this point in the 21st Century, and why the stubborn 40% think that what is happening in the country is just ducky. We are being overrun with people who cynically believe-- because they were told this by no less a personage than St. Ronnie-- that government is the problem, and that since government is bad the rules and norms that allow government to function are invalid. This is a kind of nihilism, although it is sometimes couched in terms of libertarianism, and the result is that the most basic norm in all of American culture-- Do Your Job-- seems to have lost its validity. It has been replaced by the adolescent whine, "Why should I?" Any prospect of meaningful discussion is completely lost when this argument is invoked. Change the subject when someone says this-- talk about sports, or your kids or something, because people who start from there have done no meaningful thinking in their lives.