Antonin Scalia

Antonin Scalia was an associate Justice of the US Supreme Court. Although Spartacus is not a legal scholar or lawyer (recall prior disclosure about being able to see his reflection in a mirror), Spartacus considers the late Justice Scalia was on of the best Supreme Court judges ever.

Nominated to the Supreme Court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, Justice Scalia also holds a special place in Spartacus’ heart because it was Scalia’s words that inspired Spartacus to write (to the extent that what he produces is actually “writing”).

In response to an interviewer question about whether he ever penned a reply letter to a newspaper or other hostile correspondence, Scalia replied that he has written many letters in response; and then binned them all. That, for Spartacus, was the invitation to put finger to keyboard.  Many years of Spartacus’ written rants also went into the bin.

Justice Scalia unexpectedly died in February 2016 and his replacement to the US Supreme Court was a political battle of the highest order. It could be argued that the battle to replace Justice Scalia contributed in some way to the election of President Donald Trump.

Upon his death, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland as his replacement. And so commenced a 12 month battle for the control of the US Supreme Court.

The US Constitution requires that Supreme Court Justices (and many other roles) be nominated by the President and confirmed by the US Sentate. The majority leader of the Senate then as now was Senator Mitch McConnell. Senator McConnell refused to even allow a hearing to consider the nomination of Judge Garland on the basis that it was an election year and the 45th President, whomever it would be, should be allowed to nominate the successor to Justice Scalia, rather than the lame duck 44th President (Obama).

It was a high risk strategy given the then expectations of a Hillary Clinton presidency.

To cut a long story short, Judge Garland was not appointed and Judge Neil Gorsich was. Many commentators have suggested that the appointed of Gorsich to the US Supreme Court has possibly been the most important, most consequential and most lasting decision made President Trump. At least so far.

But back to Justice Scalia.

Over the holidays, Spartacus has been reading a book on the collected speeches of Justice Scalia. It is called Scalia Speaks and here it is. Spartacus is perhaps 2/3 through, but the last speech read was by Scalia given in Poland in 2009. The speech was titled Mullahs of the West: Judges as Moral Arbiters. A copy of this speech is available here.

Like pretty much all of Scalia’s writings, the speech was clear, crisp and beautifully argued.

Obviously there are differences between the governing model of Australia and the US, but notwithstanding, Spartacus would commend this relatively short document to all Cats. Here is a small sample – connected but not contiguous sentences:

In the first half of the last century, American political theory was obsessed with the expert. The key to effective government, it was thought, was to take the direction of government agencies out of the hands of politicians, and to place it within the control of men experienced and knowledgeable within the various fields of government regulation.


It is fair to say that the project was a grand failure – for two basic reasons. First, and most important, it was discovered (and this should have been no surprise) that many of the most important issues to be decided by government agencies – even agencies dealing with seemingly technical fields such as telecommunications and transportation-have no right or wrong answers that experts can discover. They involve social preferences which, in a democracy, can only be expressed through the political process.

Australian energy, telecommunications and what other policies have been handed over to the “experts”.

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15 Responses to Antonin Scalia

  1. stackja

    X spurt – a drip under pressure of unknown quality.

  2. Tangerine

    I disagree (only with the last paragraph). It’s a very long time since any politician listened to an expert on energy policy. Energy policy has been highly uninformed extremely politicized for over a decade and it has not gone well.

  3. H B Bear

    Australia has some of the best experts money can buy – Gonski, Garnault, …

    No matter what the question is the answer is always more government.

  4. Rabz

    The only good fat learned parasitic waffling windbag is a dead fat learned parasitic waffling windbag.

    Less government, less fat learned parasitic waffling windbags.

  5. Exit Stage Right

    If he died unexpectedly even though there was no evidence of foul play, maybe he had something on the Clinton cartel.
    Just saying!

  6. Rabz

    If he died unexpectedly even though there was no evidence of foul play, maybe he had something on the Clinton cartel.

    Arkancide: The alleged cause of many a “mysterious fatal accident”.

  7. C.L.

    It would be fair to say there has never been a great ‘liberal’ justice of the US Supreme Court.
    Not one.

  8. Cementafriend

    H B Bear, Ganaut lost me as a shsreholder of Lihir because he knew nothing of hedging currency. He also was on the board of a copper mine (Ok Tedi) in PNG that cause pollution of the Fly river and caused hardship for thr people. He is an incompetent idiot who has zero technical knowledge and seems to have no understanding of economics other thsn Marxist doctrine. Nobody should have listened to him -his reports should have been put in the bin. I know nothing of Gonski but appears he has similarities to Garnaut. The coalition should have dumped the whole Gonski policy.
    Hope the spelling is ok I have big figures which can hit on the wrong letters.

  9. bobby b

    Many of your posts enrage me with their dishonest characterizations of President Trump, his accomplishments, his stated intentions . . .

    But no one who admires Justice Scalia can be all bad.

  10. Cementafriend

    Thanks Spartacus, being a failed director on the board of Fairfax I suppose is why Gillard and Labor liked him.

  11. André M.

    Spartacus, have you considered the opposite approach?
    Surely the government needs more boffins for vetting policy, not less?

    I mean, when a policy is suggested for solving a particular problem, team of experts should first:
    0. Be split randomly into a red team and blue team which are for and against a government response.
    1. Ensure the problem has been defined in a technical and concise way.
    2. Examine the available evidence to determine how well the problem is understood by experts and the public.
    3. Produce a few statistics (with error ranges) which characterize the extent and severity of the alleged problem.
    4. Additional to other extant guidance about whether government should intervene on that type of problem, no policy solution should be formulated unless the problem also meets statistical thresholds of reality and severity as found by the expert team.
    5. All the above reasoning and referenced evidence is available for public review, but the authors and expert reviewers are anonymous for a period of say 2 years, so the focus is on the reasons not the authors, but they can’t hide beyond anonymity forever.

    This would have surely stopped policy responses to CAGW dead in its tracks in 1997, and not much would have changed 15 years later.

  12. Fat Tony

    André M.
    #2601924, posted on January 5, 2018 at 11:31 pm
    Spartacus, have you considered the opposite approach?
    Surely the government needs more boffins for vetting policy, not less?

    Maybe the government could get some of their experts to look at your proposal?
    Guess what their recommendations would be……

    (ps I think it’s a good idea – and I hate having “agreeable” people around me when problem-solving)

  13. Botswana O'Hooligan

    Cement a friend, Garnaut is also persona non gratia in PNG for a few other bits and pieces including rooting their economy, but that would have been “rooted” very ably by any of the PNG politicians anyhow. The pollution slick from Lihir reached out for hundreds of miles off the coast and was visible from 45,000′ last I saw it. I tend to think that he was something to do with China under Gough Whitlam and thus making him guilty of all sorts of thing we don’t know about yet. How an economist and a ratbag like Flannery get the ear of any sane government is beyond the ken of this old bushie and doesn’t give one any confidence in any of them. Flannery buys waterfront property on the Hawkesbury instead of a tree house in Katoomba, floats the idea of droughts and huge sea level changes by the end of the Century, and we are supposed to believe him.

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