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John Adams Blog

The blog of The Antient and Honourable John Adams Society, Minnesota's Conservative Debating Society www.johnadamssociety.org

Friday, March 25, 2005

Federalist Absolutionists

Nothing has bugged me more about that Schiavo case then the so called federal absolutionists. These whiners are apparently so upset about Congress involving themselves in the debate that they are predicting the end of the world. Take this statement cited today by Glenn Reynolds:

I'm Republican voter, voted for Bush twice, with high enthusiasm both times... Today you asked: "In November 2006, voters across the country will turn against the GOP because they fear that Congress will pass individually-targeted laws that prevent patients from being deliberately starved to death?" This voter might. I am very, very unhappy right now. Use whatever language you like. This "law," using the word loosely, makes a mockery of federalism.
First, I think Reynolds is being fooled by this statement. It's hard to believe that any reasonable voter would jump ship because of a trivial private law. Reynolds, however, does not give up. He seems to think that we must ignore morality to maintain our principles:

Regardless of the merits, Congress's involvement in this case seems quite "unconservative" to me, at least if one believes in rules of general application. Florida has a general law, and it's been followed. That people don't like the result isn't a reason for unprecedented Congressional action, unless results are all that matter.
This is ludicrous. Does Reynolds believe that Congress should just ignore morality as it goes about the people's business. Martin Luther King, Jr. says it better:

there are two types of laws: just and unjust. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all"

Under Reynolds view of the world, Congress is obliged to stick to procedure as if Congress is the Good Samaritan who refuses to help because to do so would violate procedure or worse yet, be hypoctritical.

A former law professor of mine, Ann Althouse, believes that Congress is behaving unprincipled in its passage of the private law:

Congress ought to have felt constrained, knowing that it would not routinely give special treatment to other persons like Terri Schiavo. Its unwillingness to write a general law betrays a lack of commitment to any principle -- principle demands general applicability and not favoritism. And don't tell me it was too much of an emergency for it to be possible to draft a generally applicable law. Terri Schiavo's case has been around for years.

Professor Althouse appears to believe that Congress is giving Terri Schiavo special rights and attention with the legislation. This view is understandable if you trust the state courts. But, Congress did not trust the Florida courts, thus they were trying to make sure Terri Schiavo had basic rights, not additional rights.

The Schiavo case is a unique situation and Congressional action (to order further review) did nothing more more than provide another look by the Federal Courts. Federalist tyrants like Reynolds should realize that Congress has other things to do besides threatening the right to die rights of libertarian America.

Update: Ann Althouse responds that I need to consider her overall argument on the Congressional action to fully understand her position.

Specifically she states:

One could say that the new federal statute embodies federalism values, because it attempts to restore the choice made by the democratic branches of state government and to remove the obstacle set up by the state court.

To expand on this point, perhaps Congress' real motive is outright distrust of Courts in general. It is clearly obvious to many that courts (both federal and state) are running amok these days on democratic rule. Eventually, the general mistrust of courts will start to show its weight in democratic action. If Congress views the Florida courts as being corrupt, they have a duty to investigate. If there is no time for proper investigation and no time to pass a well thought out and debated law that would apply to all terminal cases where courts are thought to be corrupt, then Congress should act on individual cases, which is precisely what they did in the Schiavo case.

Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

In effect, these law professors are objecting to "congressional review." Right now, the judicial branch asserts it gets the last word on every decision (judicial review) and they are appalled that the legislative branch is pushing back and they are fighting it tooth and nail.

7:37 AM, March 25, 2005  

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