The title of this post is the same as a book that I am currently reading by one of my favorite authors. The author's name is Thomas Sowell, a brilliant economist and senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, Stanford University.
Today I read a selection that I was inspired to share, first because of how succinctly it states one of the major themes of the book, and second because of how poignantly it relates to the issue of realigning the Supreme Court with strict originalists. From page 114:
"In their haste to be wiser and nobler than others, the anointed have misconceived two basic issues. They seem to assume (1) that they have more knowledge than the average member of the benighted and (2) that this is the relevant comparison. The real comparison, however, is not between the knowledge possessed by the average member of the educated elite versus the average member of the general public, but the total direct knowledge brought to bear through social processes (the competition of the marketplace, social sorting, etc.), involving millions of people, versus the secondhand knowledge of generalities possessed by a smaller elite group. Moreover, the existing generation's traditions and values distill the experiences of other millions in times past. Yet the anointed seem to conceive the issue as one of the syllogistic reasoning of the past versus the syllogistic reasoning of the present, preferring to believe that improvements in knowledge and reason permit the former to be dismissed."
This disregard for not just the traditions of past, but the actual text and long history of interpretation and enforcement of the text of the US Constitution, in favor of an infinitely malleable application of meaning by a self-anointed intellectual aristocracy is at the heart of the cultural/philosophical/political battle in which the American conservative movement is engaged. And, as evidenced by the recent controversy over President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers as Supreme Court Justice, nowhere is this battle more intensely waged than in our judicial system. For in the face of a Republican controlled elected federal government, a non-elected handful of judges have handed a minority radical left in this country victories of their ideological agenda they could never have hoped to achieve in the electoral process for perhaps another generation.