Monday, October 10, 2005

Strict Constuctionism - Libertarians vs. Conservatives

It occurs to me that strict constructionism is a term that "conservatives" and "libertarians" both tend to toss around as an indispensible requirement for potential judicial appointments. However, I think that the 2 camps emphasize the importance of the concept for different and somewhat conflicting reasons. Conservatives, generally, endorse the doctrine of "strict construction" out of a somewhat reflexive tendency to protect tradition for the sake of tradition; whereas libertarians, who generally welcome liberal changes that expand liberty, view the structural limitations established and enumerated in the federal Constitution as the best way to limit the power of the state. In essence, conservatives value the literal constitution as the protectorate of tradition and custom while libertarians view it as a readily available shield of liberty. At the risk of over simplification, the issue of flag burning demonstrates this interpretive dichotomy. While libertarian "strict constructionists" are quick to protect such acts (and thus limit government power) as "speech" which "Congress shall make no law abridging," many conservatives do not equate "expression" with traditional notions of "speech" and thus welcome restrictions. As such, liberty and traditionalism are not necessarily one and the same.