George Will’s column today is really a doozy. Quoting from a book by Illa Somin, a law professor at George Mason Law School, he spends most of the column reciting a familiar litany of facts about most peoples’ very limited knowledge – political and otherwise – a list that many, many, many others have cited before.
But then Will takes a mighty leap off what might be called the “anti-populist cliff.” He says:
Political ignorance, Somin argues, strengthens the case for judicial review by weakening the supposed “countermajoritarian difficulty” with it. If much of the electorate is unaware of the substance or even existence of policies adopted by the sprawling regulatory state, the policies’ democratic pedigrees are weak…
… An engaged judiciary that enforced the Framers’ idea of government’s “few and defined” enumerated powers (Madison, Federalist 45), leaving decisions to markets and civil society, would, Somin thinks, make the “will of the people” more meaningful by reducing voters’ knowledge burdens. Somin’s evidence and arguments usefully dilute the unwholesome democratic sentimentality and romanticism that encourage government’s pretensions, ambitions and failures.
Take away the five-dollar words and overactive thesaurus and what you have here is a prescription for overriding the people’s democratic choices because “unwholesome democratic sentimentality” (AKA belief in majority rule) allows the plebian riff-raff to make choices that encourage the government’s “pretentions and ambitions.”
But no worries mates, no worry at all. Good old Captain George Will has your best interests at heart. After all, letting conservative judges make decisions for you will make the “will of the people more meaningful by reducing voters’ knowledge burdens.”
Gee, what a swell guy he is. What a pal. He’ll let all us dummies relax and watch TV while we leave all that complicated “decision stuff” to smart guys like him who know what’s really best for us.
It would almost be funny if it wasn’t also genuinely and profoundly disturbing.