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April 03, 2005

Steyn on Schiavo

Mark Steyn has a typically insightful Spectator column on the Terri Schiavo matter. (The Chicago Sun-Times and Washington Times will carry shorter, edited versions today and tomorrow.) He puts down the larger reaction to apathy and truth-avoidance than to actual malice, although political decisions can get made both ways. In this case, people simply didn't want to put in the effort to see past the comforting medical and legal euphamisms. As is his wont, he also ties in larger demographic trends.

During my orientation Friday, I got into a brief discussion of the matter with the company patent attorney, and I thought it was telling that his greatest personal affront was reserved for the cost of flying in Congress to get involved in the issue. "That's my tax money!" he cried. Well, doing the math, it comes out to at best a dime per taxpayer, and only civility prevented me from offering to cover his share.

One of his other arguments, that the Congress was clearly not representing the public will, given 70% poll approvals of the courts' decisions, seems irrelevant. We have elections. If people are truly upset that Congress got involved, they'll have an opportunity 18 months from now to do something about it.

When I pointed out that the ABC poll was factually flawed, his response was that no poll had shown less than 60% approval. Even if we had government by plebiscite, this would barely be enough to get cloture.

I think lawyers and law professors have had a tendency, since they understand the legal issues better, to excuse the whole matter on those grounds. "Yes, there's a tragedy, but..." The Federal courts don't like being backed into a corner, and the judges probably believed that Congress was trying to dictate procedure. I understand the need for an ordered legal system as much as anyone, but to cavalierly kill someone so you can stick your thumb in Congress's eye over a turf battle strikes me as a case of badly misplaced priorities.

The latest issue of Tradition, published by the Rabbinical Council of America, discusses Orthodoxy in the public square. Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik begins his symposium paper with a story from the Talmud where the rabbis override the clear halacha in the interests of public policy, to avoid a coarsening of society.

They never made a habit of doing so. But if the sign of wisdom is knowing when to go that direction, we have a court system notably lacking in the wisdom we've assumed it's cultivated over time.

Posted by joshuasharf at April 3, 2005 03:25 PM | TrackBack

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