The Rule of Emperors


Bill Moyers on covering class war

This article originally appeared at Tom Dispatch.

I met Supreme Court Justice William Brennan in 1987 when I was creating a series for public television called In Search of the Constitution, celebrating the bicentennial of our founding document. By then, he had served on the court longer than any of his colleagues and had written close to 500 majority opinions, many of them addressing fundamental questions of equality, voting rights, school segregation, and -- in New York Times v. Sullivan in particular -- the defense of a free press.

Those decisions brought a storm of protest from across the country. He claimed that he never took personally the resentment and anger directed at him. He did, however, subsequently reveal that his own mother told him she had always liked his opinions when he was on the New Jersey court, but wondered now that he was on the Supreme Court, “Why can’t you do it the same way?” His answer: “We have to discharge our responsibility to enforce the rights in favor of minorities, whatever the majority reaction may be.”

Although a liberal, he worried about the looming size of government. When he mentioned that modern science might be creating “a Frankenstein,” I asked, “How so?” He looked around his chambers and replied, “The very conversation we’re now having can be overheard. Science has done things that, as I understand it, makes it possible through these drapes and those windows to get something in here that takes down what we’re talking about.”

12/23/2013 8:04:25 AM

The writer is correct in discussing how our government is getting too big and intrusive in our lives, but then asks for income redistribution when doing so creates an underclass whose personal information becomes evermore available to the government. Too bad we don't have personal charity as part of our creed any more, merely that the government will take someones money and give it to you if you enter the dragon. The funny thing is that the writer doesn't even seem to get it.

12/20/2013 8:10:29 AM

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