September 9, 2006
An interesting critique of Textualism
Textualism is typically presented by its adherents as an interpretive practice that is motivated by respect for democracy and respect for the authority of the legislature. But in fact, textualism's preoccupation with ordinary meaning and literal application of statutes is motivated by constraining the legislature's ability to pursue broad regulatory policies. Authorities do not want to be understood literally. Authorities purport to govern, and governance requires cooperation in the spirit of its goals, not strict adherence to the letter of its directives.
Okay, I'll note criticisms of the other approaches for a while. Maybe it's just because I'm a political and social liberal, though, but the predominant view that textualism is so grand strikes me as an authoritarian view, and it bugs the heck out of me.
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