The Heterodox Liberal

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

"Rule of law?" the Sixth Circuit said, laughing and snorting milk out of its nose

This just in: do you want to match your conservative friends in their certain outrage at the Supreme Court's (good) recent decision re: Oregon's assisted suicide law? Do you, too, want to sputter with rage at the barbarism and incivility of the courts in this country? Well, go read this.

Backstory: last year, the Supreme Court ruled that two Ten Commandments displays on courthouses in Kentucky's McCreary and Pulaski counties were unconstitutional establishments of religion.

So the courthouse in Mercer County, also in Kentucky, put up an identical display -- which they put up in the middle of the McCreary County case -- and the Sixth Circuit upheld this thinly disguised show of Christofascist solidarity on the basis of its laughable "secular intent!"

Apparently they've forgotten what it means to be a "lower" court. Hint to Judge Suhrheinrich: it means you do what the Supreme Court tells you. Not just ignore their opinions.

Impeachment, anyone?

In other news, both on the rule of law, and, appropros of the previous post, Harvard: David Luban defames Machiavelli by blaming him for Harvey Mansfield. Machiavelli was actually a decent guy. It is believed in many quarters that The Prince was half sop to the Medicis to get him out of custody (he was put there when they took over Republican Florence) and back into public life, and half encoded critique of despotism. If you'll read Discourses on Livy, you'll see that old Niccolo was in fact in favor of institutions of government to check absolutist executive power. The same can not, alas, be said for Harvey Mansfield.

I quote Machiavelli:

On the other hand, those men are infamous and destroyers of Religion, dissipators of Kingdoms and Republics, enemies of virtu, of letters, and of every other art which brings usefulness and honor to human generations (mankind), such as are the impious and violent, the ignorant, the idle, the vile and degraded. And no one will ever be so mad or so wise, so wicked or so good, that selecting between these two kinds of men, does not laud what is laudable, and censure what is censurable. None the less, however, nearly all men deceived by a false good or a false glory allow themselves to drift either voluntarily or ignorantly into the ranks of those who merit more censure that praise. And being able to establish either a Kingdom or a Republic with eternal honor to themselves, they turn to Tyranny, nor do they see because of this action how much fame, how much glory, how much honor, security, and tranquil satisfaction of the mind, they lose; and how much infamy, disgrace, censure, danger, and disquiet, they incur. And it is impossible that those who live as private individuals in a Republic, or who by fortune or virtu become Princes, if they read the history and the records of ancient events, would do well living as private citizens in their country to live rather as a Scipio than a Caesar; and those who are Princes, rather as Agesilaus, Timoleon, and Dion, than as Nabis, Phalaris, and Dionysius, because they will see these (latter) to be thoroughly disgraced and those (former) most highly praised. They will also see that Timoleon and the others had no less authority in their country than had Dionysius and Phalaris, but they will see that they had had greater security for a longer time. Nor is there anyone who deceives himself by the glory of Caesar, he being especially celebrated by writers, for those who praised him were corrupted by his fortune and frightened by the long duration of the Empire which, ruling under his name did not permit that writers should talk of him freely. But whoever wants to know what the writers would have said of him freely, let him observe what they say of Cataline. And so much more is Caesar to be detested, as how much more is he to be censured for that which he did, than he who (just) intends to do evil. He will also see how Brutus was extolled with so many praises; so that not being able to censure him (Caesar) because of his power they extolled his enemy. Let he who has become a Prince in a Republic also consider how much more praise those Emperors merited who, after Rome became an Empire, lived under the laws (and) as good Princes, than those who lived an in a contrary manner; and he will also see that it was not necessary for the praetorian soldiers or the multitudes of the legions to defend Titus, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrai Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus, and Marcus (Aurelius), because their customs, the good will of the people, and the love of the Senate would defend them. He will also see that the Eastern and Western armies were not sufficient to save Caligula, Nero, Vitellius, and so many other wicked emperors, from those enemies which their bad customs and evil lives had raised up against them.

Preach on!


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