I think one of our biggest problems with politics is that people keep redefining terms. The April 4th Cato Podcast is a good example of the confusion that comes when people try to unilaterally change terms. In this podcast, Clint Block tries to argue for increased judicial activism. Clint Block wants jurists who actively strike down unconstitutional laws.
Apparently, Clint Block wants to replace the progressive-activists with conservative activists. While the statement is provocative, it also ends up mucking with accepted definitions.
The problem, of course, is that when you have this wholesale mucking with definitions, you end up destroying the ability of people to talk about an issue.
The current Wikipedia definition of activism is: "Activism, in a general sense, can be described as intentional action to bring about social or political change."
IMHO, what we want is a government where people are actively doing their job. A supreme court judge who is actively doing the job would be challenging the Constitutionality of new laws. Acting within one's own sphere of influence really is not activism. An activist-conservative is an oxymoron. A Supreme Court Justice who is actively defending the Constitution is not being an activist. Such a person is just being active.
It seems to me that many of the greatest problems of our day arise from political leaders who try to influence issues that fall outside their sphere of authority. In this regards, some of the greatest frustrations of George Bush is that he keeps trying to expand the authority of the executive into areas that people think is inaproriate. Even worse, he seems to be trying to expand the authority of the executive while failing to act on issues that people think require presidential action.
Bush has pushed courts aside in areas that people think a court's involvement is needed. Likewise, we see more and more legislation coming from the executive without sufficient debate or input from Congress.
I find Congress guilty of the same sin. Congress has a nasty habit of relinquishing in legislative authority to the executive and to the courts. Our Congressmen seem to spend most of them time performing administrative tasks in the form of constituent services and earmarked legislation. Congressmen love to globetrot and dabble in diplomacy in the form of fact finding missions. Even worse, it appears at times that the favorite act of Congress is to haul individuals and companies before Congress for political judgments in the form of Congressional inquiries.
The insatiable desire of politicians to act outside their sphere of influence has created a bastardized government where our judges spend their day making up and administering laws, our Congressmen spend their days micromanaging government and judging in Congressional inquiries, and our executive writes the majority of legislation and selectively obeys and ignores laws.
Our politicians seem to be driven by an insatiable desire to act outside the sphere of their influence.
Perhaps, much of the shrillness in Washington is a result of public servants who fail to do their jobs while running off on crusades to do other people's jobs.
Most of the Cato Podcasts are worthwhile. I am filing Clint Block's call for Libertarian-Activist judges as something that just muddles the debate. The world is in dire need of judges who understand their role and who actively engage in that role. The last thing we need is a new slate of judges seeking to use the courts as a pulpit to actuate social change.
I think one of the few positive things to happen in the Bush Administration is that Bush made a legitimate stab at nominating jurists who were interested in maintaining the integrity of the court, and not simply interested in pushing a conservative agenda.