Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Brad Delong commented on Scalia's speech, in which he claimed a divine right of government and the immorality of those that attempt to defy it. Odd that a sitting supreme court justice would say such things: not only is it (as DeLong pointed out) profoundly against American conceptions of rights, government, and justice (and therefore raises the question of what he's doing in a government that is supposed to reflect those beliefs); but it betrays a shocking ignorance of political philosophy in the exact opposite direction of Musil et al.

Musil made the mistake of thinking that there was no important political philosophy other than the Declaration, and that the Declaration invalidated anything that preceded it. Scalia, however, has somehow entirely ignored the works of John Locke, whose first treatise of government was based entirely on breaking down once and for all the notion of "the divine right of kings", which Scalia seems to be resurrecting for some bizarre reason. (Even staunch monarchists don't believe that anymore.) Since Locke's work is one of the pillars on which the American Constitution is built, the idea that Scalia as a supposed legal scholar is unaware of it is absolutely mindboggling.

I mean, this isn't even some sort of neo-Hobbesian argument as you'd expect an argument for strong government to be: although Hobbes supported a strong government, he did so because he felt it was the only way that people could protect their rights and escape the misery of the state of nature. God has nothing to do with it, except to hold a Damocles' sword of divine retribution over the King if he steps out of line and misuses the powers that the people have granted him. Scalia isn't claiming that people should behave the government because the alternative is chaos, madness, and death; he's arguing that you should behave because you'll go to Hell if you don't.

Naderites who may be reading this, this is why the Democrats are important. Not because there's a difference between them and the Republicans, but because the Republicans can and will fill the benches with Scalias with nary a peep from their more libertarian wing that might be uncomfortable with the idea. In some respects the deep and crippling division within the left might be a good thing, because it'll ensure that any theocratic Democrats are forced to stay in line, else the rest of the party will descend upon them en masse.

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