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April 13, 2009

Has Clarence Thomas soured on the Bill of Rights?

NY Times writer Adam Liptak wants us to believe that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas isn't all that keen about the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution. He writes in an April 13 article:
[Thomas] turned up in a Washington ballroom the other night to respond to questions from the winners of a high school essay contest. His answers and the remarks that preceded them provided a revealing look at Justice Thomas’s worldview these days.

[...] though the dinner was sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute, he admitted to an uneasy relationship with the whole idea of rights.

[...] The event, on March 31, was devoted to the Bill of Rights, but Justice Thomas did not embrace the document, and he proposed a couple of alternatives.
Wow, that sounds pretty bad. Is it possible that Liptak misunderstood the nature of Thomas' complaint? Why, yes he did, as should be apparent by a quick read of the very next paragraph.
‘Today there is much focus on our rights,” Justice Thomas said. “Indeed, I think there is a proliferation of rights.”
The rights in the first ten amendments are specific and enumerated. How can there be a "proliferation" of enumerated rights in those amendments? Further, the rights in Amendments 1 through 10 are focused on protecting individuals and institutions from the abuse of government power.

Thomas isn't complaining about that. He's complaining about a proliferation of other "rights", ones not found in the Constitution, ones focused on the presumed entitlement of individuals, ones which are always exercised at the expense of others. One might go so far as to say that the exercise of many of these "rights" depends of the abuse of government power.

The distinction is obvious in this paragraph:
He gave examples: “It seems that many have come to think that each of us is owed prosperity and a certain standard of living. They’re owed air conditioning, cars, telephones, televisions.”
I, for one, join Justice Thomas in his complaint.


Michael said...

Why don't they pay attention to the real problem in the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She is the one who wants to bring foreign laws into the US court.

Tim said...

Hello, Michael -

By "they", do you mean the New York Times? It seems to me that they're comfortable with the left's notion that we should be more like Europe, so they wouldn't necessarily see the harm in consulting Europe's "wisdom" in judicial matters (never mind that no country in Europe has ever embraced the idea of individual rights and separation of powers to the extent that we have).