Wednesday, August 6, 2014

“Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it”

That was the (most likely apocryphal) response President Andrew Jackson had to a decision by the Supreme Court led by John Marshall. The decision ruled states have no authority on Indian lands. Since the State of Georgia wanted the Cherokee lands it was upset. As was Jackson. So they ignored the law.

Walter McDougall, in "Throes of Democracy," argues Americans believe in the law as long as it is convenient
They hustled in the sense of scoffing at or finding a way around any law or authority that stood in the way of their pursuits of happiness.
Prohibition, and the widespread flouting of that law, and today's breaching of the laws on marijuana use suggest to me there is a rather complex relationship we have with THE LAW.

I think of all this when reading about President Obama's "lawlessness." Is he breaking the law when he unilaterally changes portions of Obamacare? Probably. But even the die-hard supporters of that law, if there are any left, admit the law was at best poorly drafted, while the more realistic recognize the law was also poorly constructed, while opponents contend the law was always doomed to fail. But what should we do? Let people suffer so we can comply with the law?

The situation on the border strikes me as another case where adherence to the law may do more harm than good.When George Will was asked about the children entering the US illegally he responded:
“I think we ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America. You’re going to go to school and get a job and become Americans.' We have 3,141 counties in this country. That’d be 20 per county. The idea that we can’t assimilate these 8-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous,”
 I agree with that, but is that legal? I doubt it. If the law is an ass, should we really obey it?

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