Friday, April 2, 2010

The Delusion Of Impartiality

I don't get it.....all this concern and fear that potential judges might base their rulings on politics? Might? Of course they will rule based on politics! That is the whole point! Why would one suppose die-hard conservatives and bleeding-heart liberals find it so important that one of their own is chosen to judge? Presumably so these judges will make decisions that cater to their preferred political positions. Trouble is, it is guaranteed to piss off “the others”!

In my opinion, potential judges should ideally be apolitical. Could this ever happen? Is it even possible for anybody to rule impartially without politics getting in the way? Probably not. As the eminent Canadian physician-philosopher Sir William Osler told the Yale University graduating class in 1913, “every man has a philosophy of life in thought, word, or in deed, worked out in himself unconsciously.

The following analogy quite clearly exposes the absurdity of believing court rulings can ever be free of political preferences. Take a conservative judge and a liberal one. To digress slightly, the fact that these labels are acknowledged to begin with demonstrates the utter futility of trying to approach judgments apart from political preferences. In any case, suppose the conservative believes criminals should be judged to the full extent of the law. On the other hand, suppose the liberal believes criminals should be extended grace. Further suppose our “Book of Law” is the Holy Bible. Can each justify a ruling based on his preferred political position?

Certainly, because the Bible endorses both judgment and grace. Our Constitution is no different in this respect. This “gray” area is the cause of all argument and conflict. By advocating different perspectives, we can reach contradictory but equally valid conclusions. Which is “right”? Both or neither if you like. It is difficult if not impossible to avoid making decisions based on political inclinations! Especially from judges that outright claim specific affiliations.

In the same way, the U.S. Constitution supposedly calls for doing "whatever need be" to protect its citizens but then it also prohibits the torturing of enemy combatants. Do these guidelines seem contradictory at least in some cases*? Yes! Therefore, no matter whether we do this or that, it will justifiably be viewed as subverting the Constitution from one perspective or another! When difficult decisions like this are faced, YOU ARE DAMNED IF YOU DO AND DAMNED IF YOU DON'T!

*Because of the relativity of just about everything, one can easily craft definitions of things in such ways as to neutralize or at least mitigate these contradictions. For instance, those who wish to get information from enemy combatants in any way conceivable will thus define torture as something apart from what THEY do. Alternatively, those who want to coddle dangerous enemy combatants will thus argue that withholding the use of torture will not place any greater a danger on its citizens than will torturing them.

Therefore, there is no RIGHT answer. Or if you prefer, perhaps we could say there is no WRONG answer!

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