Thursday, February 09, 2006

Scalia & Originalism

Justice Antonin Scalia's famous and influential 1988 Taft Lecture, entitled Originalism: The Lesser Evil, was a landmark in the movement away from original intent towards original public meaning. In earlier posts, I explained why, properly concieved, originalism is the only sound theory of constitutional interpretation. Scholars like Richard Epstein, and particularly, Randy Barnett (author of The Structure of Liberty) have defended the conception of originalism as meaning 'the oringinal intentions of the framers'. There has been many significant disputes over what counts as intentions, but most libertarian scholars of law have nevertheless agree on definition of originalism.
Yet as this post points out, Scalia is not with us on this issue. Since The Lesser Evil he has developed his ideas in an essay titled A Matter of Interpretation. Although Robert Bork (a failed Reagan nominee) could plausibly claim that he invented the idea in The Tempting of America, it was never developed extensively. Thus Justice Scalia can reasonably claim to have started the development of original-meaning originalism. What is most interesting from that post is the claim that Scalia no longer even follows an original-meaning originalism. The author claims he has shown infidelity to the original meaning of the Constitution as a whole:

"
I would conclude from his Taft Lecture and his behavior on the Court that Justice Scalia is simply not an originalist. Whatever virtues he attributes to originalism, he leaves himself not one but three different routes by which to escape adhering to the original meaning of the text. These are more than enough to allow him, or any justice, to reach any result he wishes. Where originalism gives him the results he wants, he can embrace originalism. Where it does not, he can embrace precedent that will."

On the current bench, Scalia is no real friend of liberty. Thomas Clarence is the best they've got.

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