The Corner

Grassley and Alito

Grassley asked the kind of questions that a ninth-grade civics teacher would ask his students, but that approach, while not always effective, elicited some interesting answers. At least since Oliver Wendell Holmes there has been a tendency to divorce judicial restraint and moral objectivity–to try to rest the case for restraint on a kind of relativism. So, for example, some proponents of restraint say that we should follow it because it will save us from particular, and therefore dangerous, conceptions of justice. Opponents of restraint, meanwhile, sometimes depict it as essentially amoral. Alito neatly cut through those confusions by explaining that his contribution to justice as a judge was precisely to follow the law. It may sound like high-school civics, but you’d be surprised at the number of sophisticated thinkers who miss the point.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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