Purpose and Context, Activity
Ulysses S. Grant, the President who oversaw the Reconstruction of the United States. Wikimedia Commons
On this July 4th, 2018, the news is of the judges being considered for the Supreme Court. It is not clear how well people understand that while the decision is framed as “conservative” versus “liberal”, the real question is whether the people of the United States will have a “narrow” versus a “broad” interpretation of the founding document of their system of law.
The narrow view consistently supports the status quo, preventing government action that would rearrange things to be more just, to realize the potential and promise of a good society. That’s what the broad view would do – it sees where we need to go. The narrow view has always been the policy of the economically stronger, property-owning class, content with current arrangements, even if terribly unjust. It has been so since the days when the most insistent in that class were slave-owning. The idea that the least government is the best comes not just from those who escaped European aristocracy and religious imposition but also from the Southern states acting to ensure the North could not use the federal government to interfere with the slave economy.
Similarly, the narrow view, in which we don’t use our mutual freedom to shape a society that provides an ever-better place for our children, leaves prejudices and unfair practices in place, calling that freedom, as the slave owners spoke of equality and liberty in terms that referred only to their own.