March 24, 2005

Small Government

I'm not a lawyer, or a constitutional scholar, and this is something I'm honestly confused about. I'm hoping someone out there can explain it to me in little tiny words I can understand. My confusion is basically this: conservatives who are angry with the President and Congress for taking on the Terri Schiavo case. They say it's "big government". Now, I'm all against big government, but to me big government is huge programs like trying to run local schools from a Federal level. Not sure that's the best example, but there you go. To me, this seems like "small government" -- our elected officials taking the time to be concerned with one woman, one citizen. Not some huge bureaucracy, but a single person, like you or me. Who, if not our elected representatives, should we be able to turn to when all else fails? Isn't a matter of life and death worth the time and attention of those we elect to represent us? I frequently get notices in the mail from my congressman with his office hours and contact information if I need to ask for his help with something. Seems to me that's what they're there for. Are we supposed to be at the mercy of the courts? Are they the final arbiters of all aspects of our lives?

So explain it to me if you would.

Posted by Ithildin at March 24, 2005 10:09 AM | PROCURE FINE OLD WORLD ABSINTHE

It seems to me that those who are arguing for states' rights in this context don't have a particularly good grasp of the system actually in place in the US Constitution. I know that's slightly different from a big vs. small government philosophical distinction, but legally, the bill recently passed by Congress was well within its express constitutional authority to 1) regulate the jurisdiction of the federal courts and 2) enact legislation enforcing the 14th Amendment. Those are the same legal bases by which it authorizes federal court review of state criminal convictions, which happens every day. If this was an illegitimate intrusion of federal power onto state prerogatives, then so is that; so too, even more so, is federal court regulation of abortion, based on rights only implied from the federal constitution rather than expressly in its text.

I suppose the political question is whether Congress SHOULD have done this, and maybe that's a close call, but the legal question of whether they CAN seems to me to be much less close. Yes, of course they can.

"Are we supposed to be at the mercy of the courts? Are they the final arbiters of all aspects of our lives?"

That does seem to be the position taken by people who opposed the congressional action in this case. On one hand they'll say, "oh, you have to let the courts follow the law," but then when the legislators CHANGE the law (which is what they're elected to do), then following the law is suddenly no longer a priority. Part of the problem is that, while the majority of the public may not actually agree with that position, they let it get by because they naively have more respect for and deference to judges than politicians, thinking they're somehow outside and above politics.

Does that help?

Posted by: Dave J at March 24, 2005 10:25 AM

Thanks for your explantion. :)

Posted by: Ith at March 25, 2005 4:36 PM