Who Shall Judge? Who Shall Rule?

Stephen Macedo ("To Secure the Blessings of Liberty," Aug./Sept.) advocates interpreting the Constitution "in light of the moral ends toward which the Constitution itself…aspires." He cites moral ends which most people probably would agree with, such as public school desegregation, and concludes that any such desirable end therefore justifies interpreting the Constitution in ways that will support that end. While this sounds plausible and not only harmless but useful, consider the consequences. Such a policy leads most inexorably to every good end being somehow shoehorned into the Constitution.

Would it be a good idea to prohibit spitting on the sidewalk? Of course. Spanking children (which is indeed illegal in Sweden)? Then interpret the Constitution to find such prohibitions in it. The great, disturbing objection to all of this is that it makes Congress unnecessary—that is, the people no longer rule, the judges do.

If schools are to be desegregated, or spitting stopped, it should be by the will of the people expressed through their elected representatives. Anything else is the destruction of a democratic society. Macedo speaks as if decisions by judges are the only way good things can be made to happen. I object to this weakening of the people's powers and am disappointed that REASON seems to support judicial control of our society.

Rinehart S. Potts
Glassboro, NJ

Stephen Macedo should reconsider the advantages of the historicism he dislikes. It at least gives us something somewhat objective that the Supreme Court must pay lip service to.

Macedo's "principled judicial activism," by contrast, is an open invitation for judges to do as they please. Macedo gives us examples where judges would gain the ability to make libertarian-biased decisions. Instead, they have made many a statist decision.

It is not at all clear why we should want to be ruled by a small band of ancients unelected and nearly impossible to remove, who are selected frequently as political favors. Rather, we want curbs on their power just as we want curbs on all government power. Historicism is one such curb. We want it and the attendant point that the Constitution is a contract to be treated as such, which means the terms of it are not to be altered at the whim of a judge.

David Carl Argali
La Puente, CA

Giving Wildavsky a Zero

Aaron Wildavsky's article "Zeroing in on Peace" (Oct.) contains a number of inaccurate suppositions, illogical conclusions, wishful imaginings, and ignorance of history.

The first law of war is to win without fighting. Intimidation of Europe, not conquest, is the objective. Throughout human history, expansionist powers have attacked on the periphery to destroy another nation's allies and interests; they don't simply launch a frontal attack or do nothing, as Wildavsky argues. Frontal attack only comes later (or as a last resort) to mop up an already weakened and demoralized victim. And the assumption that Russia must first destroy the United States in order to gain objectives over smaller nations is directly refuted by the last 40 years of history.

Wildavsky also says that the "discovery of hidden [Soviet] missiles would create great problems for the USSR." Why? Rather, it would only further terrify the Europeans, get more subsidies and aid for the Soviet Union from them, and result in more voices in America urging more appeasement. If anything is proven so far, it's that the West will ignore Soviet treaty violations, hope for the best, and then try to negotiate another treaty.

And finally he supposes that one (unverifiable) treaty on medium- and short-range missiles will lead to another on long-range ones. Why? Past treaties haven't led to greater U.S. security, but less. Secretary Weinberger points out that the ABM treaty of 1972 was supposed to lead to further disarmament. Instead it led us to abandon defenses while the Soviets went on at full speed.

Jon Basil Utley
Washington, DC

Enjoying "The Economist"

I enjoyed the article about the London Economist in your August/September number very much. Forgive me, therefore, if I put you right on a few details. First, The Economist was not founded by Walter Bagehot. In 1843 he was only 17 years old. It was founded, and first edited, by his father-in-law, James Wilson. Bagehot took over as editor in 1858. Secondly, the main purpose of the Corn Laws was to protect the incomes of landowners, not of farmers, though farmers supported them.

A few further points. The English for American "editorial" is formally "leading article." This then becomes shortened colloquially to "leader." On a quality British newspaper (not the tabloids) the "leader writers" are the top men, and sometimes men of high distinction. I'll bet that this does not apply to the editorialists on American papers.

You are dead right in saying that The Economist is wrong on antitrust. But you are dead wrong, in my opinion, in saying that it is wrong on NATO.

Arthur Shenfield
Boulder, CO