October 5, 2005
The Miers Question: Why Is Her Appointment So Critical?
When one reads the cascade of opinion pieces on the appointment of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court of the United States one should remember that most who are writing do so under a distinct conflict of interest. The journalists, law professors, lobbyists, and political and religious leaders that write and opine about Ms. Miers, neutral of whether they are supporters or attackers, have a stake in the importance of the event. When the event is made to be important, these folks get public air time and sell advertising or raise money or accumulate prestige. The public gets caught up in it all because, after all, many of us like a good spectacle now and again. Much of the writing then will quite naturally exaggerate the importance of the appointment.
The exaggeration comes with costs as it affects the debate. Is she the best credentialed, the most adroit thinker, the most deft legal philosopher, and so on? I would rather that the Supreme Court as an institution not require the very best thinkers in order to operate successfully. We put too much pressure on it. A Court that imposes such demands on its Justices is going to have a high rate of failure. Rather the Court ought to be able to operate adequately with decent people -- conscientious, clear minded, able to use logic. If the Court cannot function with able, decent people as opposed to unique mental giants, then the Court's function has been miscast. Simply put, we ask too much of the Court and we depend too much on the Court.
This is another illustration of a misplaced belief in what government can do--get the right people in government and government will be perfect and make social life in America perfect. If government fails it is because we have the wrong people in place. No -- it may be because government is inherently limited in what it can do for us -- if we expect too much we will inevitably be disappointed and disadvantage ourselves to boot. It will stifle our personal self-sufficiency and initiative.
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