Letter to a Young Conservative: Chapters 16-17

October 24, 2012 | Marian

Last week, our author dissected postmodernism, leftist professors, and biased journalists. Continuing his census of cultural liberalism, he next writes about modern judges.

He argues that a social revolution has occurred, but not one driven by the people – rather, one that was imposed by the courts, regardless of the people’s wishes. Admittedly, both liberals and conservatives would profess that judges should rule based on the Constitution.

However, conservative judges typically limit themselves to what is explicitly stated in the Constitution, while liberal judges are more willing to base rulings on societal preferences, or presumptions of what the Founders may have “meant” but didn’t say.

The issue is whether judges should have the power to make a ruling that specifically contravenes the Constitution and also goes against the wishes of the American people. Here the liberals generally say yes, and the conservatives generally say no. (127)

The author gives several examples of outside-the-Constitutional rulings (school prayer, obscenity, separation of church and state, right to privacy, abortion) while emphasizing that he is not necessarily opposing these ideas, but rather the right of the courts to invent additional parameters outside of the Constitution.

The role of judges is like that of an umpire in a baseball game. The umpire does not make the rules. The rules are given to him. His job is to apply the rules. The fairness of the game depends on whether the umpire performs this neutral function. The liberals, however, want their judges not to be umpires but to be players. (127-128)

The judicial standard has drifted far to the left, he explains, and here there is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek suggestion: In order to return to a Constitutional balance, we need not only judges who will resist the temptation to overstep their role, but furthermore…

What is needed… is a couple of decades of right-wing judicial activism. (128)

This made me smile. He admitted a desire to give liberals a “taste of their own medicine.” But, vengeance aside, if a retreat from overreaching government and micromanaging laws is our goal, this smirking suggestion might be one of the straightest lines to get us there.

* * *

With these letters intended as a primer for conservatism, it was only a matter of time before guns would surface in the discussion. Gun-control has notoriously divided liberals from conservatives for decades, and the case laid out in this letter is pretty predictable.

The author calls guns “a great equalizer” (134), saying they provide the best overall defense against attacks. He notes that even liberal politicians and celebrities tacitly acknowledge the effectiveness of weapons, since they employ gun-toting bodyguards.

Adding evidence to his anecdotal arguments, he cites a study by John Lott.

‘ More Guns, Less Crime’ is the largest [study] ever conducted on the effort of gun control laws. After examining every county in the nation over two decades, Lott and his colleagues found that the more restrictive the gun laws in a given county, the higher its crime rates. (132-133)

He stresses that this isn’t just because twice as many bullets are exchanged when an attack is attempted; rather, just the possibility of an unexpectedly-armed victim is a disincentive.

The reason for these outcomes is not merely that gun-owners are in a position to defend themselves against criminals, but also that criminals are more likely to be deterred when they don’t know who is armed and who is not. (133)

Of concern to everyone is the possibility of a gun accidentally firing, and harming a curious child. D’Souza answers this worry with a casual, practical tone, noting that:

The number of children who die by setting off a firearm is very small; between thirty and fifty a year. Of course, even one death is tragic, but vastly more children drown in pools and bathtubs, or are killed in automobile accidents, than die from self-inflicted gun wounds. (133)

Agreeing that guns are indeed dangerous and adding that he opposes “recklessness,” D’Souza says certainly “we do need gun laws” and “education.”

But the single-minded liberal focus on the dangers of guns can blind us from seeing that guns, like cars, also make our lives better and more secure. (134)

Like the author, I’m a fan of the 2nd Amendment. I think it’s a wonderfully American idea, to encourage self-defense of our lives and property. But, this letter felt a bit cursory to me. I don’t think the issue is quite as simplistic as it sounds, or else we wouldn’t still be debating it.

Nonetheless, this chapter is thought-provoking and ever readable; it could stimulate some great after-dinner discussion. And if you happen to be new to the whole gun-control debate – here, have a neat four-page orientation to the traditional, conservative viewpoint.

Next week, we’ll read chapters 18 and 19, “How to Harpoon a Liberal” and “Lies My Teacher Taught Me!”

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