Existential social facts

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March 16, 2003 by AK

Locke again: “Therefore America is not just founded on its Constitution, but on the existential social facts of 1789 and since.” Well, too bad for America. Or at least such is the neocon — and the moderate liberal — view.

“The founders were perfectly well aware of the trouble abstract ideology can cause: in the 18th century, it produced the French Revolution; in the 20th, judicial activism.” Oh no, Mr Locke, you needn’t contradict yourself! Do you believe that compromises only worked in 18th-19th century America, while absract ideas were at work in other countries? Sure Rousseauism had to do with the excesses of Jacobinism, but no reasonable jury would convict it of having caused the whole French revolution. In the same vein, I would take issue with anyone claiming Stalinism was “produced” by the Communist Manifesto.

As for the 20th-century judicial activism, it can be argued that a) it is a myth; b) if not a), then all the controversial SCOTUS decisions could have been arrived at through some kind of strictly constructionist speculation.


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