May 12, 2009

Richard Posner: “Religious Criteria in the Selection of Public Officials” (Partially) to Blame for Death of Conservatism

Posted in Atheism, Law tagged , , , , at 2:22 pm by Andrew

Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner has a new blog post up entitled Is the Conservative Movement Losing Steam?, in which he laments the current state of conservativism in the U.S. (as being “at its lowest ebb since 1964”). The cause?

The major blows to conservatism, culminating in the election and programs of Obama, have been fourfold: the failure of military force to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives; the inanity of trying to substitute will for intellect, as in the denial of global warming, the use of religious criteria in the selection of public officials, the neglect of management and expertise in government; a continued preoccupation with abortion; and fiscal incontinence in the form of massive budget deficits, the Medicare drug plan, excessive foreign borrowing, and asset-price inflation.

Lawyers know Posner as the guru of the law-and-economics movement, an unbelievably smart guy who always seems to be on the short list of potential Republican Supreme Court nominees. But before reading this, I would not have associated Posner with any sort of sympathy towards secularism; I’ll have to go back and read his Establishment Clause decisions.

Shorter Posner: “Monica Goodling? You’ve gotta be kidding me….”


  1. Shamelessly Atheist said,

    The real question is, if they fix all this, could they still call themselves ‘conservative’?

  2. Andrew said,

    It depends on what you mean by “conservative,” of course. I think a plausible definition is something like “a fundamental distrust in governmental power over the individual,” which would subsume beliefs from John Locke to Robert Nozick — both of whom I would consider to be allies of secularists.

  3. Siamang said,

    I would argue that the primary failure of the American right is that they have abdicated their role in public policy by abandoning conservatism in pursuit of authoritarianism.

    These aren’t reality-based pragmatists we’re talking about anymore. The leaders of the party are much more comfortable talking within micro-realities of their own invention. However if they say anything that makes sense here in shared reality, the denizens of Rushbostan excoriate them.

    Also, I think there’s something to what Bill Mahr has remarked: These people *hate* government… which is why they’re so bad at running one.

  4. Mathew Wilder said,

    Martha Nussbaum has written highly of Posner on several occasions, and he seems like the hard-headed realist sort I might like. I’ve been meaning to read his book on the futility of moral theorizing for awhile. From the little I know about him, he doesn’t seem to be sympathetic toward religion.

    OT: I had never heard of Cass Sunstein until your posts mentioning him. I looked him up online and am now reading his Tanner lectures. Quite interesting, thanks! I think he has a place on my favorite judges/lawyers list with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and Clarence Darrow. Is it weird I have favorite judges and lawyers? lol

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