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January 22, 2011

The Rule of Law

The rule of law is to be preferred to the rule of man. We do not permit a man to rule but the law because a man rules in his own interest, and becomes a tyrant but the function of a rule is to be the guardian of the justice and, if justice then of equality. --Aristotle

The Rule of Law protects against man's tendency to bask in the light of his own shining intellect--to imagine himself superior to all decision makers who have gone before, to have such confidence in his own judgment as to no longer require the collected wisdom of precedent, and to feel so magnificent about himself as to believe his individual decision making powers are greater than the combined judgment of the voting public and representative legislative bodies.

So we give judges authority, not power. And we make them swear an oath to uphold the law--by definition, a thing that already exists, not one's newly minted personal views. We entrust judges with the authority to weigh the law and to apply it objectively as if blindfolded--blind to all other considerations.

But as careful as the framers of the Constitution were, the system has not been robust enough to stand-up to the precise threat it was designed to protect against. The rule of law is being attacked from within by those who care nothing about it and yet are entrusted to protect it. For the last 60 years, the trend has been toward greater and greater numbers of pathologically arrogant warthogs on the bench who treat the authority entrusted to them as power--as their big opportunity to do as they please, to reshape the world the way they see fit. These judges--almost all from one particular side of the ideological aisle--are more interested in making law than applying it, and this is done openly, without even a pretense of blindfolded objectivity. Thus, there has been a growing amount of reverse jurisprudence--arguing backward from a desired outcome and twisting legal reasoning to support the view. This has nothing to do with applying law and has everything to do with the attempted use of power to exert one's will over others. These self-indulgent despots have abandoned what it means to be a judge. Their open disinterest in impartiality and upholding the law--documented easily enough--is a clear violation of their oath, and, in my view, it is grounds for removal from office.

So that we don't get run over.

This reminds me of Tolkien. One cannot wear the Ring of Power. Aristotle may have said it first, but Tolkien said it best when he talked about the corrupting power of the One Ring:

[S]o great was the Ring's power of lust, that anyone who used it became mastered by it; it was beyond the strength of any will (even his own) to injure it, cast it away, or neglect it.
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posted by rdbrewer at 04:28 PM

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