As an activist, you probably talk policy with a lot of people. It’s essential that we ask questions about potential federal, state and local laws, such as:
- What will this cost?
- Who does it help?
- Is it consistent with liberty?
- Is it consistent with the proper function of government?
Of course, those are just a few questions we should be asking.
Policy questions can be complicated. Everyone has different priorities and not everyone has the same idea of the proper role of the state.
As an activist, it’s up to you to find out the priorities of your audience — and work to persuade them through that lens.
That’s how an activist talks about laws in the legislature. But how does an activist talk about the role of our courts?
How do we persuade when we talk about courts?
Our judicial system is much different from our legislative branch. When we talk about courts, we assume that judges aren’t making decisions based on costs or their political opinion of the law.
The job of a judge is to interpret the law as it’s written, rather than what he would like it to be. When Congress passes a law, for example, the courts should have only one question in mind:
“Is this compliant with the Constitution?”
Test your knowledge
With that in mind, here’s an exercise:
Let’s say you’re discussing a law currently being considered by Congress with a friend. He says that the law will help millions of Americans. You disagree, believing that the law will actually make Americans worse off.
You believe that the law will radically expand the government’s power. You also believe that it may well be unconstitutional.
The law is being considered by the Supreme Court. Your friend says, “The Court should uphold this law. It will improve millions of lives. What’s more, it will cost relatively little to implement. There’s no reason for the Supreme Court to reject it.”
How do you reply?
- Not at all. This law will make people worse off. There are market-based solutions the Court should consider that would bring much greater benefit to Americans. On that basis, the Court should strike it down.
- This law is bad because it will expand government power into an area in which it has never ventured. That’s certainly not what the Founders envisioned. And it’s not what this country is all about. The Court should strike it down.
- Are you kidding? You think it will cost “relatively little”? We’re more than $20 trillion in debt! The Court should recognize how in-the-red we are and reject this law.
- I don’t agree with the content of this law. That said, the Court shouldn’t really be considering whether this law is useful at all. What they should consider is whether it’s constitutional. On that basis, they should reject the law. It certainly runs afoul of our Constitution. Maybe Congress can rewrite it to be more compliant.
If you chose answer (d), you know exactly how an activist should be talking about our judicial system. It means you understand the role of judges and the courts on which they serve.
If you’d like to learn more about our court system, attend the Proper Role of the Courts Insight to Action event from Grassroots Leadership Academy. Find out if it’s being hosted near you!