George Will devotes his column today to a case well-known to reason.tv viewers: the family-owned Arizona bar/restaurant getting hassled and fined nonstop by local nanny-boos for allowing its customers to dance. Will—who has been writing this season's most withering attacks on John McCain (1, 2, 3, 4)—makes an interesting point about the necessary role of judicial activism in rolling back such nonsense:
Beyond the weeds there is this mighty oak of a principle: There must be a judicial leash on governments to prevent them from arbitrarily asserting that the plain language of a statute means something that it plainly does not say.
The 14th Amendment's guarantees of equal protection and due process of law should mean that government may interfere with a citizen's economic liberty only to promote important government interests that cannot be advanced through less restrictive means. Under today's weak "rational basis" standard, courts validate virtually any abridgement of economic liberty, no matter how tenuous the connection to even a minor public purpose. Conservatives, note well: Restoring economic liberty requires a kind of judicial activism—judges judging rather than merely ratifying government's caprices.