On the matter of Robert Bork

Watching this interview of Robert Bork from around 20 years ago:

1) I have sympathy for the arguments that conservatives have regarding a strict reading of the constitution when you consider that as a piece of text you have to ask whether it is something look into it like some self re-enforcing device that re-enforces what you already hold be true. The argument that a conservative might make is that if you believe that text is infinitely malleable then you open it up to judges playing linguistic gymnastics that not only can expand the scope of freedom but also be used conversely to restrict freedom. Take the Chinese constitution where article 35 guarantees “citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession, and of demonstration” but we all know what happens in reality. The value of the constitution has as much to to do with what is written down as those doing the interpretation and the enforcement of that interpretation with the question being how flexible can an interpretation be whilst still being true to the original source (the ‘spirit of the document’) whilst accepting that society does move forward and thus our understanding evolves on social matters.

2) He conflates being a libertine an liberalism or more correctly conflate the ‘lonny left’ aka ‘destroy the system’ crazies with normal people on the right and the left who don’t want the whole system overturned but rather tweaked around the edge so that it ‘sucks a little less’. Although on many occasions I may speak like a radical the reality is that I’d sooner preserve the status quo with measured improvements going forward rather than radically overturning the system resulting in something that discards both the good and the bad in this naive view that a clean and fresh start will enable something automatically better. That being said through there is a time for radical rethinking when something is a horrible compromise from the outset with the best example of that being the healthcare system with the Untied States and the compromise that exists today in the form of the ‘Affordable Care Act’ but when it comes to ‘same sex marriage’ you have most people ‘lets expand it’ rather than the radicals who wanted to get rid of marriage completely.

Going back to the original point regarding libertine and liberalism, he conflates the lack of government imposing of social morays as some sort of example of liberalism failing her as a conservative who would argue for a smaller state he contradicts himself with the claim that the government should be small but at the same time have the largess to regulate the private lives of its citizens. Long story short he makes the claim through his bemoaning of ‘kids these days’ is that the solution needs to be top down rather than a call to individual responsibility and communities at the ground level ensuring that certain behaviours are no tolerates through a shared set of values that the community enforce at home as the first port of education for young people. I would argue that a hallmark of a civilised society is one where the individuals are raised to be self regulated where by their self regulated is born out of reason and rationalism rather than because of some behemoth of a state is imposing ‘the good’ upon the people via various ordinances be it central or local government.

It is important at this point to remember that there is a difference between being conservative versus being a reactionary. A conservative does one progress forward but at a measured and considered pace – nothing radical, nothing that disrupts the system but rather retaining the good aspects of what exists but fine tuning to deal with the negative aspects. The problem is that there is conflation of someone being a reactionary to being conservative or mores specifically the best example being the South Park use of the ‘member berries’ – romanticising the past and believing that a better society exists in a child like view of the world as understood through your youthful eyes when in reality it ignores in large part what actually made that time great. It is like when I hear social conservatives talk about the good old days but they never talk about the high taxes, the large involvement of government in the economy, the expansionist welfare state, the regulation of industry and banking to ensure that things didn’t go belly up every 7 years etc. all of that is ignored unfortunately in favour of this make believe time that never actually existed in reality.

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