Saturday, August 03, 2002

Eric Alterman linked to a review of Robert Dahl's new book. The article painted the book in a positive light, and brought up quite a few valid questions about the superiority of the American system, and whether or not the Framers wouldn't have done things differently were they to have the experience that we have now. Slavery was the most egregious example of a bad constitutional judgement call, but the author of the article, Rick Hertzberg, was quite clear on how big a problem the composition of the Senate was, and how the concept of "equality of states" is problematic at best, and an example of smaller states holding the Union hostage at worst. He also brings up the fairly damning point that few other countries do it the same way, and those that have usually fail spectacularly.

All good stuff, and I was glad Alterman linked to it. Advantage: Blogosphere, and all that. Unfortunately, however, Alterman also linked to Instapundit's take on the whole thing, and upon being confronted with this reaction I was incredulous. Glenn doesn't like the article, but does a damnably poor job explaining why. He attempts to do so with claims that:

-the United States is a democratic republic, a claim meaningless to Dahl and Hertzberg's critique of its effectiveness and whether that form was really the ideal one that the founders could have chosen or would have chosen..

-that subsequent history "suggests that they were pretty damned smart to think that way", which is not only entirely unsupported, but contradicted by the examples that Hertzberg brought up..

-that attempts to make a "big deal about democracy" are somehow "propaganda", which is a transparent way of using a loaded term to delegitimize an idea without actually having to critique it..

-that liberals are only countermajoritarian until issues like school prayer or flag-burning come up ,which neatly confuses Hertzberg's critique of the structure of the Senate and the Presidency with the idea of constitutionally-supported rights, which Hertzberg does not attack and does not imply Dahl attacks,..

-that countermajoritarianism is somehow illegitimate or unethical, despite Hertzberg's arguments making a valid case that the opposite is the truth of it..

-and finally, the incredible and absolutely unsupported assertion that the "structural protections against tyranny have done more to protect freedom than the bill of rights", which flies in the face of the connection between the "countermajoritarian" aspects of the Senate and both the Civil war and the slaves that were at the center of it.

I have to wonder whether Glenn actually read the article in question, and how he was able to compose an entry with all that knee-jerking going on. I mean, half-assed attacks on political science aside... well, actually, the entire thing was half assed, so those were pretty much par for the course. This isn't a new thing, but I would have thought that the lauded and famed Professor Instapundit would put more effort into his critiques. As it is, I've read better on Newsmax.

While I'm glad that Alterman linked to an excellent article about an intriguing book, I've got to suggest to Eric that using his bully pulpit to unquestioningly link to this sort of unthinking, reflexive critique is a waste of both his time and that of his readers.

No comments:

Post a Comment