In this third post on Original Methods Originalism, I want to conclude by explaining how original methods has the potential for signficantly limiting the discretion that judges exercise under an originalist approach. One of the key issues in recent originalist theory involves the distinction between interpretation and construction. For my purposes, it is not the distinction between interpretation and construction, but the distinction between interpretation and the construction zone that is important. Interpretation involves the process for determining the actual meaning of a constitutional provision. After applying the interpretive process, it is possible that the original meaning may not decide the…
Archives for June 2017
H.L. Mencken, one of the great journalists of the 20th century, once said that “Half the sorrows of the world, I suppose, are caused by making false assumptions.”
Look no further than a recent article in Politico for proof that the Sage of Baltimore was right. Jack Shafer and Tucker Doherty, two reporters for the web site, have crunched a lot of numbers to come up with a thesis.
It goes like this: Media bias is caused not by how people think, or the fact that reporters get hired based on pre-existing ideology; it’s caused by the atmosphere in which reporters are enveloped. That is, reporters are liberal because of the ambient liberalism of the cities in which most of them live and work. Like soldiers stumbling under a mustard gas attack, writers go to New York or D.C. as freethinkers, only to turn into political hacks and cultural ideologues.
Drew Faust, the President of Harvard, devoted her commencement speech to free speech at Harvard and universities in general. First, she defended its centrality to a university’s mission of free inquiry; second, she asked why it had become such a contentious issue in recent years; and third, she made suggestions to strengthen it for the future. She deserves credit for the vigorous defense in the first part of her remarks at time when many university Presidents are missing in action. But the rest of her speech was shallow.
For instance, she suggested that it is the decline of religious, class and ethic homogeneity that has led to a renewed debate over the value of speech: “Once overwhelmingly white, male, Protestant, and upper class, Harvard College is now half female, majority minority, religiously pluralistic, with nearly 60 percent of students able to attend because of financial aid. Fifteen percent are the first in their families to go to college.”
Here she substantially exaggerates the homogeneity of the Harvard past, at least the past of four decades ago when I was a student.
Regardless of where people are on the political spectrum, many Americans—in fact most—believe that something is gravely wrong with the political system today. According to a recent report from Pew Research Center, 55 percent of Americans are frustrated with the federal government. Similarly, popular trust in government is near historic lows. The Pew survey found that only 16 percent of Americans trust the government to do the right thing “most of the time.” A paltry 4 percent of respondents reported trusting the government to do the right thing “just about always.”