Sunday, January 29, 2017

Trouble in Capital City!

In my years as a university professor, I taught both the English Civil War (=Revolution) and the French Revolutions, and the American one as well, all of them at various levels of detail.  On all of them, I read far more material than ever got into my lectures.

I've always had an interest in constitutional law and constitutional change and so lots of facts and theories continue to rattle around in my head, waiting for a moment of relevance when they will pop out.

Here's today's moment of relevance.

It is a sign of real trouble to come that Trump has managed to alienate a large number judges in his first week in office.  Any political system that has a meaningful constitution (not necessarily a good, or  democratic or even a healthy constitution, just one that more or less functions) needs the support of the judiciary and the senior lawyers to get anything important done.  The collaboration (usually an uncomfortable one) between the elected officials and the judiciary etc. is a well-known feature of the American political system; but this applies to places like Pakistan where more than once a quite corrupt, autocratic and military-based government has been stopped in its tracks (or at least slowed down) by lawyers demonstrating and resisting.  (On at least one occasion I remember hearing that the lawyers brought clubs (which looked a lot like sticks of rattan!), whether for offensive or defensive purposes I don't know.

In both the English and French Revolutions, some of the earliest conflict was between the executive branch and the constitutional courts.  The judges, if I recall correctly, took a "conservative" stand, while the king and his  ministers were trying to introduce innovations (partly to raise money) and justifying their actions on the right of the king, or at least the crown, to tell everybody else what to do.  The argument over what was constitutional soon got out of hand.

I am not saying that we are on the brink of an American revolution.  But the situation has tremendous potential for instability.

Image:  Don't mess with this guy!

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