August 12, 2006
Props for N.C.'s first federal justice
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 7:00 PM
Those who decry judicial activism within the U.S. Supreme Court point with scorn to any decision that strays from the clear, understood meaning of the U.S. Constitution at the time of adoption of the relevant article or amendment.
Long before discussion about "emanations," "penumbras," and the "mystery of human life," some of the nation's original justices tried to sidestep the Constitution to justify their decisions.
North Carolina's first representative to the U.S. Supreme Court -- James Iredell -- warned of the danger of ignoring the constitutional text. I quote from Gary L. McDowell's essay, "The Perverse Paradox of Privacy," which appears in "A Country I Do Not Recognize" (Hoover Press, 2005):
One of the earliest and most famous refutations of the idea that judges could recur to fundamental principles or natural law in reaching their decisions came from Justice James Iredell against Justice Samuel Chase's claim in Calder v. Bull in 1798. "If ... the legislature ... shall pass a law within the general scope of their constitutional powers," he wrote, "the court cannot pronounce it void, merely because it is, in their judgment, contrary to the principles of natural justice." The reason was plain: "The ideas of natural justice are regulated by no fixed standard: the ablest and the purest men have differed upon the subject; and all that the court could properly say, in such an event, would be that the legislature possessed of an equal right of opinion, had passed an act which in the opinion of the judges, was inconsistent with the abstract principles of natural justice."
Re: Hayek and the economics of the blogosophere
Posted by Jon Sanders at 01:03 AMGeorge, that's an excellent point. In his 1945 essay "The Use of Knowledge in Society," published in Individualism and Economic Order (Univ. of Chicago, 1948), Hayek wrote:
We must look at the price system as such a mechanism for communicating information if we want to understand its real function. . . . The most significant fact about this system is the economy of knowledge with which it operates, or how little the individual participants need to know in order to be able to take the right action.
I like how Prof. Richard Ebeling puts it in his May 1999 article in The Freeman, "Features: Friedrich A. Hayek: A Centenary Appreciation":
In this work [Individualism and Economic Order (1948)] Hayek emphasized that the division of labor has a counterpart: the division of knowledge. Each individual comes to possess specialized and local knowledge in his corner of the division of labor that he alone may fully understand and appreciate how to use. Yet if all of these bits of specialized knowledge are to serve everyone in society, some method must exist to coordinate the activities of all these interdependent participants in the market.
With regard to news reporting, the Internet is that tool that allows this coordination to take place so that that unique, specialized and local knowledge can serve everyone in society. And it has indeed obsoleted the "central planning" model of the old media.
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