Janice Brown vs. the Enlightenment

Can you say “off the wall”?

Anyone who doubts that the filibuster is sometimes justified should read this Janice Brown speech, which as Mickey Kaus notes is a manifesto for right-wing judicial activism. (Stuart Taylor does some detailed analysis from a doctrinal perspective.)

But the speech is much scarier than that. I thought of my earlier reference to the current Republican Party as an alliance between “the folks who want to repeal the New Deal and the folks who want to repeal the Enlightenment” as a pointed joke aimed at the theocratic pole of the plutotheocrat axis. Brown, however, comes right out and identifies the Enlightenment as the source of all modern evils (including, of course, the New Deal, which Brown mentions in parallel with the Russian Revolution).

Her speech consists mostly of the worst kind of dumb-Straussian ravings. (Having taught by smart Straussians such as Harvey Mansfield, I can tell the difference.) Parts of it are truly embarrassing, as when the Duc de la Rochefoucauld’s comment about hypocrisy as “the homage vice pays to virtue” is attributed to Gertrude Himmelfarb (?!), or when Alfred Marshall, the father of marginal analysis and the founder of the “classical” approach to economic theorizing which Keynes so profoundly challenged, is identified ominously as “the teacher of John Maynard Keynes.” Brown’s essay makes me think of the Kevin Kline character in A Fish Called Wanda, who thinks that misquoting important authors is a sign of great intelligence.

Read, as they say, the whole thing. And then ask yourself what GWB (or Karl Rove) was smoking when the Brown nomination was decided on.

Oh, but I forgot. Brown is African-American. Therefore if I notice that she’s a fool I must be a racist. Was that the point? To pick an African-American woman so off the wall that Democrats would have to oppose her? Ain’t strategery wonderful?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com