A couple of items in the news lately have brought the judiciary back into the consciousness of the American public; the announced retirement of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, and the recent decision by federal judge Barbara Crabb in Wisconsin in which she ruled that the National Day of Prayer is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In the rulings of both justices we find an egregious disrespect for the plain meaning of the Constitution, and it is a failure of the American people to learn the Constitution that has allowed us to stray so far.
As a nation, we have reached a point where we bestow upon the courts an unjustified level of deference to their perceived wisdom. In fact, the Founding Fathers created the judiciary to be the weakest of the three branches, vested as they are with lifetime appointments.
Thomas Jefferson wrote (in a letter to William C. Jarvis, 1820) that “To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men and not more so.” Yet today we have allowed the courts to be elevated to the level of an oligarchy, where we accept rulings that are clearly unaligned with the Constitution without so much as a whimper.
Apparently, there’s not much difference between the way in which a democratic republic (the United States) and an oligarchy (Russia) handle “economic crisis”. According to an article in The Moscow Times:
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev accused the government on Friday of bailing out billionaires at taxpayers’ expense in a letter co-signed by four businessmen and economists.
Gorbachev has until now been supportive of the Kremlin, and by speaking out he has joined a small but growing chorus of influential Russians who say the government’s tight control of the economy and politics is making the slowdown worse.
“The Russian authorities have turned their back on structural reform and instead satisfied themselves with inventing a mythical model of an ‘energy superpower,’” said an open letter whose signatories included Gorbachev.
Russia is an stark lesson in what not to do when transitioning from a command economy to a (supposedly) market economy, what not to do when (supposedly) liberating people from the boot of the state.
From that bastion of classical liberalism, the New York Times:
Gennady Veretelny was shot and wounded when he stepped forward unarmed 20 years ago to help stop a column of armored vehicles in central Moscow, one of the few casualties of the last, failed attempt to preserve the Soviet Union.
It was a moment when Russians, largely cowed and passive subjects of Soviet rule for 74 years, massed in the streets to support the future president, Boris N. Yeltsin, demanding democratic change.
“It is what it is,” said Mr. Veretelny, who has slipped from hope into passivity. “We just have to figure that this is what we ended up with.”
The writer Vasily Aksyonov captured the enthusiasm of many at the time when he called the 60-hour standoff “probably the most glorious nights in the history of Russian civilization.”
But almost 15 years after the standoff, the man who now rules Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, called the fall of the Soviet Union the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”
Recent opinion polls as the anniversary of the standoff approaches this Saturday come closer to the view of Mr. Putin than of Mr. Aksyonov. Few people said they viewed the events of 1991 as a victory for democracy.
Mrs. Komar, who works as a helper at a health club, still builds her life around the memory of her son. She echoes the view of Mr. Veretelny, saying, “If my son could have seen where the country was going, he wouldn’t have been at the barricades.”