Constitutional Rights are not a Finite Resource

Re/ A Time to Choose for the Supreme Court (NYT)

I read this opinion piece last week about the then-upcoming Gorsuch confirmation hearings and one section that called back to the Bork confirmation hearings has really stuck with me. It keeps coming back to me, surfacing in my mind daily, so it’s time to voice it here:

Senator Simon asked Judge Bork about a speech he had given two years earlier, in which the nominee said that “when a court adds to one person’s constitutional rights, it subtracts from the rights of others.” The senator asked, “Do you believe that is always true?”

“Yes, Senator,” Judge Bork replied. “I think it’s a matter of plain arithmetic.”

Senator Simon: “I have long thought it is kind of fundamental in our society that when you expand the liberty of any of us, you expand the liberty of all of us.”

Judge Bork: “I think, Senator, that is not correct.”

I was only starting 7th grade when the Bork hearings were happening, so I don’t remember much about them. I do remember, even then, having a good sense about Senator Paul Simon and his bow tie.

Now I have been totally struck by how incredibly sad it must be to live with Bork’s outlook as expressed in the passage above. What a horrible way to live your life, always miserly hanging on to rights and hoping to deny them to others. What a way to cast the entire idea of society and community in a negative light.

I am firmly in the Senator Simon camp on this one, with an expansive view of liberty and the hope that one day this liberty will be shared among all of us, for the good of us all.