Archive for November, 2011

From the Law School’s Front Lines

A former student of mine who is now attending a prestigious law school, writes:

I am coming to the end of my first semester. I’ll say this, it’s a lot harder than any other school I’ve done. I think they’re trying to weed us out by running us into the ground.

I’m at a nice school, but it has that same problem all super left schools have (and I say this as someone who identifies as a radical moderate). You know the answer to the question before the prof is finished asking it. Or at least you know what is the socially accepted answer.

I’d honestly rather be intellectually challenged than just get patted on the head for pointing out the fact the world is unfair to women, minorities and aboriginals. Tell me something I don’t know, that’s how I’ll learn). But, if that’s your only complaint about your faculty-that sometimes they’re embarrassingly socially minded-it’s not that bad at all.

Property law and Public law are my favourite classes so far-not surprising, I guess. We got a little bit of Locke in the former and the latter is just Poli Sci with case law so it’s right up my alley. Taking public law has taught me a lot about the nuts and bolts of the Canadian federation that I previously only understood in theory. But, it amazes me how many of my fellow classmates don’t know anything about the Canadian political system! I’m tutoring people after class on the separation of powers, judicial independence, the debate on judicial activism vs the supremacy of Parliament and statute interpretation. There are literally people in law school who don’t know what the left and right in politics are! I’m a little concerned about letting computer science majors be lawyers if they haven’t bothered to figure out how the legislature that creates the law they’ll be administering works, but that’s life I guess.

Of course I get a lot of flack for favouring Parliament as the place law should be made on controversial issues as opposed to activist judges … that doesn’t go over well in a heavily left class. And usually it goes down like a lead balloon with the kids who don’t actually know much about politics or political theory. I guess my feeling is that being wary of judicial activism is not a left vs right thing … it’s an are-you-worried-about-the-fundamentals-of-our-democracy issue. I get there’ll be times when the judges have to pull us forward, but well, I think that’s a symptom of an apathetic society that is taking the use of Parliament for granted. People fought so hard for our right to be represented way back in the day as opposed to lorded over by a monarch appointed by God and it’s like no one cares about that anymore. Nor do they seem to care that it’s technically our responsibility as the people to force Parliament to deal with the difficult issues via the ballot box rather than continuing to elect wimps who won’t touch the sticky wickets that need legislating while leaving it to the judges.


Parliamentry Developments in the News

  • Ian Brodie sends notes from a recent conference at which participants concluded that parliamentary democracies have made the transition to democracy in Eastern and Central Europe better than the presidential systems because they make room for opposition.
  • And I hope readers noted Chris Moore’s comments on recent events in Italy. Moore’s always good on parliamentary developments. I’m now citing Chris Moore’s Canadian History Blog:  “Italy’s new prime minister (and finance minister) Mario Monti, who does not hold a seat in the Italian parliament, has appointed a new cabinet, and none of its members hold a seat in parliament either.  It’s impressive how little concern anyone seems to express over this. They are technocrats, see, they have a job to do.  Democratic responsibility?  Meh. Now, in principle, anyone who holds the confidence of the legislative majority can serve in government in a parliamentary democracy.  Canada has had cabinet ministers and sometimes even prime ministers without Commons seats.  But the whole government?  And for years to come? What is the mechanism for accountability to the legislature, to the people’s elected representatives? It’s striking how little anyone seems to care.”

In Praise of Political Institutions


Pauline Beange, Political Science, University of Toronto, sends this quotation because she knows I will enjoy it (and I do!), and to celebrate the successful defense of her Ph.D. thesis.

“I hope ever to be found on the side of the people and of the Institutions of England. It is our Institutions that have made us free, and can alone keep us so; by the bulwark which they offer to the insidious encroachments of a convenient, yet enervating system of centralization which if left unchecked will prove fatal to the national character.” (Blake, Robert. 1967. Disraeli. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Thanks Pauline, and Congratulations.