- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 7, 2005

Our era might be described in the famous phrase used to describe the era of the French Revolution — “the best of times and the worst of times.”

It is the best of times in terms of life expectancy and economic prosperity exceeding anything our grandparents would have imagined. It is an era of technological wonders providing instant interactions by phone, fax or the Internet with friends in Europe, Africa or New Zealand, not to mention worldwide TV broadcasts and other scientific achievements.

Yet, within living memory, there was a time when we were not afraid to go out at night, even in low-income neighborhoods, when parents didn’t fear for their children’s safety in schools, much less teachers fear for their safety. Then pornography was not mass-marketed to adults, much less thrust on children.

There was a time when criminals had to fear the courts but honest people did not, a time when doctors did not have to spend tens of thousands of dollars a year for malpractice insurance to guard against frivolous lawsuits.

Look at which people and institutions have produced the best of times and which produced the worst: It is ironic that many of those who have created economic, technological and medical advances are less likely to be lionized and likelier to be sued.

Meanwhile, many of the signs of social degeneration can be traced to courts that are supposed to uphold law and order but which have too often become places for judges to indulge their egos and impose fashionable theories as the law of the land.

Some judges and Supreme Court justices may flatter themselves they are helping the poor and the disadvantaged but their arbitrary notions often most hurt the less fortunate.

Whose homes will be bulldozed to make way for a new shopping mall or hotel complex under the Supreme Court’s expanded notion of eminent domain? Mansions in Beverly Hills? Condos on Park Avenue? Or working-class homes and apartment buildings? The fact the NAACP and the AARP filed briefs on the side of the homeowners should be a clue.

When a handful of hoodlums can prevent a whole class from learning, as a result of judicial rulings that make it more dangerous for the school to crack down on classroom disrupters than to tolerate their destroying all the other children’s education, whose children are most likely to see their whole future lost this way? Children whose parents can afford to put them in private schools? Children in upscale neighborhoods who get much of their education at home anyway? Or poor children for whom a decent education is likely their only ticket out of poverty?

The civil rights organizations have not yet come to understand and protest the staggering lifelong price to be paid by a whole generation of low-income and minority youngsters when liberal judges create new “rights” for hoodlums in school.

When such judges find ever flimsier and more esoteric reasons to turn violent criminals loose, to whose neighborhoods will these criminals most likely return to resume their violence? The upscale neighborhoods where the judges and their families and friends live? Or the places where people at the other end of the economic scale live?

Although liberals like to flatter themselves they are friends of the poor, promoting dependency and subsidizing irresponsible behavior helps only that minority among low-income people who are a plague to the other low-income people who must put up with them living in their midst.

People of every income level and social background are made worse off when the rule of law dissolves into a fog of uncertainties created by “nuanced” judicial fiats. Frivolous lawsuits flourish in these uncertainties, crippling businesses, destroying jobs and driving up medical care costs to cover both lawsuits and defensive medicine meant to ward off lawsuits.

As to the havoc created by “mainstream” judicial activists, send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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