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Antonin Scalia, Live at Lunchtime Tomorrow, Or, Why a “Living Constitution” Means a Dead Democracy

At the Sheraton Hotel here in Palo Alto tomorrow at noon–again, that’s tomorrow, Friday, at noon–I’ll be interviewing Mr. Justice Antonin Scalia about his remarkable new book, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts. And you’re all invited.

Just listening to the Justice will represent a feast of course, but (to be mundane) lunch will be included in the price of admission, which is $40 for ordinary folk and $20 for students. To get your name on the list at the door, please note, you must register here.

I hope to see some of the California Ricochetti tomorrow–and in the meantime, a taste of what to expect. From Reading Law:

Do the people want the death penalty? The Constitution neither requires nor forbids it, so they can impose or abolish it, as they wish. And they can change their mind—abolishing it and then reinstituting it when the incidence of murder increases.

images-1.jpgWhen, however, Living Constitutionalists read a prohibition of the death penalty into the Constitution— and no fewer than four Supreme Court Justices who served during the tenure of your judicial coauthor would have done so—all flexibility is at an end. It would thereafter be of no use debating the merits of the death penalty, just as it is of no use debating the merits of prohibiting abortion. The subject has simply been eliminated from the arena of democratic choice. 

And that is not, we reemphasize, an accidental consequence of the Living Constitution: It is the whole purpose that this fictitious construct is designed to serve. Persuading five Justices is so much easier than persuading Congress or 50 state legislatures—and what the Justices enshrine in the Constitution lasts forever.

In practice, the Living Constitution would better be called the Dead Democracy.

  1. Mendel

    One further plug: a few of us will be meeting up after the luncheon for an informal social hour in the hotel lounge.  Any Ricochet members in the Palo Alto area are invited to join us for some Friday afternoon libation.

  2. Trace

    I also have it on good authority that in addition to Mendel and myself, one can expect a sighting of the rare Venetian Blue Yeti (though he will be “on the clock” so autographs could be awkward.):

    Blue-Yeti.jpg

  3. Dad of Four

    I will be there for the event and the post meetup

  4. Bereket Kelile

    I am looking forward to this event as well. A friend of mine from the College Republicans will be coming down. I’m trying to get a couple more but we’ll see. 

  5. Peter Robinson
    C
    Keith Rice: I wish I’d had more notice, it’s a 7 hour drive from Redwood country making it a day’s journey. · 24 minutes ago

    You’ll be able to watch the interview on Uncommon Knowledge in just a week or so, Keith.

  6. Hang On

    If the five justices thing is the real problem, get five justices to vote to abolish yourselves? (My preferred solution.) No more problem.

  7. Gus Marvinson

    I always enjoy interviews with Justice Scalia, and would love to see Justice Thomas on UK–an invitation that I assume has been extended at least once.

  8. Mendel

    I have arranged for a Ricochet poolside table in the Sheraton lounge starting at 2:15.  If anyone not attending the talk wants to join us, just walk through the lobby and go left at the pool.

  9. Peter Robinson
    C
    bereket kelile: I am looking forward to this event as well. A friend of mine from the College Republicans will be coming down. I’m trying to get a couple more but we’ll see.  · 31 minutes ago

    Thanks, Bereket–and I appreciate your making the drive all the way down from Sacramento.

  10. Keith Rice

    I wish I’d had more notice, it’s a 7 hour drive from Redwood country making it a day’s journey.

  11. SgtDad

    Well, I couldn’t make the meet-up, but I hoped to listen to the podcast.  Except the iTunes link is broken & I can’t download the audio-only version.

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