The Shamelessness of Harvard University

Friday, February 10, 2006
The intellectually mediocre Stephen Breyer is currently a United States Supreme Court justice. This man is a quintessential example of Harvard University’s vastly overrated status. I personally consider the school to be something of an intellectual whore house. Oh well, take a look at the following:

"I tend to emphasize purpose and consequences," said Breyer, who was nominated for the high court by President Clinton. "Others emphasize language, a more literal reading of the text, history and tradition — believing that those help you reach a more objective answer."

AP Report

Common sense dictates that Stephen Breyer is advocates legislating from the bench. He is implicitly saying that our Founding Fathers essentially wasted everybody’s time creating the American Constitution. This glorious document should be taken with a huge grain of salt and not perceived as the determining factor in how we interpret our laws. Breyer fails to realize that once you have opted to emphasize “purpose and consequences” over the actual wording of texts---all hell breaks out. This is how logically indefensible decisions like Griswold vs. Connecticut and Roe vs. Wade come about. One’s concept of morality is all that matters. The will of the voters is of no importance. We are to be ruled by an imperial judiciary.


Rick Ballard said...


I don't see how you can adduce all that from the AP report. Certain departments within Harvard are rather shameless in their advocacy of the "living" Constitution which Breyer appears to believe in but broadbrushing the entire institution for the advocacy shown by departments ruled by a commissariat isn't quite fair to those departments not ruled by politics. Would you refuse treatment by a Harvard trained physician?

Likewise, I do not believe that you can ascribe intellectual mediocrity to any justice of the Supreme Court. Ginsburg and Breyer are (to me) merely evidence of the fact that 'reason' is totally unworthy of worship. I would say that both of them are intellectually superior individuals though perhaps not as superior as favorable press accounts might lead one to believe.

While I agree with your assertion that the Court has been entirely too meddlesome in areas where no 'fix' (aside from what a legislature should provide) that was required, I disagree that "intellectual inferiority" was the cause. I would look first to hubris - the concept that a persons "reason" will provide an "answer" to a "problem" of large scope.

CF said...

There's a great article by Chen in today's American Thinker--how he and his family benefitted from alumni preferences and how Asians are harmed by his support for affirmative action which limits their admission to top public high schools and to all universities.

David Thomson said...

“Would you refuse treatment by a Harvard trained physician?”

On the contrary, I might even prefer a Harvard University trained physician. This is almost certainly a well trained individual who should be justly proud of their degree. My complaint has little to do with the hard science departments. Harvard University indeed usually attracts only the best and the brightest. This is beyond dispute.

Harvard’s intellectual whores are to be found in its soft science departments. Stephen Breyer’s central argument does not pass the laugh test. It is utterly ridiculous. Why is such stupidity therefore tolerated? One can only logically conclude that the law school is filled with a high number of leftist intellectual sluts. Truly bright people don’t say things as dumb as what comes out of the mouth of justice Breyer.

Rick Ballard said...

Chen's article is excellent and drives home the point that I find most appalling about the liberal viewpoint. I don't know how Breyer could go to work in the morning if he understood depth of his hypocrisy.

"Tis mete and just for thee, dear fellow, but never for me." A superior intellect unbound by self awareness. I'm sure Martin Heidigger could appreciate the precise level of intellectual sophistication exhibited by Breyer and Ginsburg.


Now, if we can just figure out how to pry the Gramscians out of the 'soft' departments (there very little "science" involved - that's just Marxist twaddle invented to legitmize his theories).

MeaninglessHotAir said...


the fact that 'reason' is totally unworthy of worship.

I believe the Muslim Brotherhood would completely concur with you there.

JB said...

'Reason' in quotes, MHA. If I understand correctly, it's code for "unmoored from reality, history or common sense ivory-tower theorizing."

MeaninglessHotAir said...


The problem with reason is that one man's reason is another man's insanity. I personally don't think we should worship reason but on the other hand don't see how we can get away from it unless we're ready to submit.

Rick Ballard said...

Yet it is reason which leads the Muslim Brotherhood to believe that there are sufficient numbers in the west willing to bend to extortion in order for them to achieve domination.

They believe enough in reason - derived from and informed by experience, not from the theorizing to which I was referring.

JB said...


At either extreme we submit to a different god. "The god of reason" is arguably marginally preferable to the god of the Muslim Brotherhood, but not particularly desirable. Muddling through seems preferable to me; historically it seems to have worked best.

terrye said...


That brush is pretty broad doncha think? Didn't Gonzalez go to Harvard?

In fact John Adams, one of the writers of the Constitution and the second President of the US went to Harvard.

And Griswald was overthrown because it was a dumb law. I did not go to Harvard and I believe that. In fact the new Chief Justice Roberts said pretty much the same thing in his confirmation hearings. So maybe it would be counter productive on your part to make such a statement.

Rick Ballard said...


The Griswold case is double edged if you're concerned about intrusion. David can speak for himself but I regard Griswold as an interjection of the federal courts into an area where they have no right to be. It's a creeping abrogation of the right of state legislatures to respond to the will of the electorate.

Stupid laws should be repealed and legislators may be replaced for passing them (or refusing to repeal them). Do you believe that Griswold would still be on the books absent the SC decision?

terrye said...


Well I disagree and if Republicans want to lose the majority they have the best way they can do that is to go back in time and try to justify locking up people for providing birth control to married couples.

This kind of thinking simply plays to the claim of liberals that right wingers want to run your life and I resent being put in the position where I have the choice of supporting the "intrusion of the federal government" or the sex police. Hell, by the same token we could say that Lincoln was just "intruding" when he saved the Union or for that matter if some southern state required a poll tax for blacks well hell... that is their choice.

Just because the decision was used as a basis for Roe V Wade is no reason to attack the decision. It is quite possible to feel that Roe was a bad decision without having to make excuses for a bad law.

I am not a liberal, but this kind of argument is every bit as offensive to me as the race bating I saw at Mrs. King's funeral. Both are instances of demagoguery and narrow mindedness.

Rick Ballard said...


That's not my argument at all. If the SC is the arbiter and champion of "rights" in your opinion then explain Plessey v Ferguson. The court blows with political winds. To think otherwise is to ignore its history. Whether it is 'right' or 'wrong' will always depend on the personal views of the observer. My personal view is that when it meddles in matters that are correctable through legislation it is overstepping its bounds - it is exceeding the function for which it was designed.

Grabbing everything in sight to do with business and tossing it into the judicial pot for review on the basis of the Commerce Clause provides even more egregious examples than does the Courts delving into "racial equality" or privacy. Your 'rights' are safer when theorists are ensconced in professorships rather seated in the majority on the Court.

terrye said...


I am not going to go through all this again.

Suffice to say there have been a lot of Supreme Court decisions I was not personally crazy about.

But..... that has nothing to do with Harvard being shameless or Griswald or the right of privacy or this whole long tired argument about the Supreme Court and whether they have the right to overturn leglislation, a right that was established 200 years ago.

It just makes me tired to think of it.

terrye said...

And rick speaking of blowing with the political winds, so does the legislature. After all once upon a time it was legal to buy and sell people.

So puhleaze, let's not act as if the People are not subject to politcal motivations as well.

Rick Ballard said...

I understand Terrye, thought can be extraordinarily tiresome.

You choose to put your faith in five unelected invidivuals and I do not. That's fair enough and requires very little thought.

vnjagvet said...

My two cents for what it is worth is first, that all three of the branches of our federal government are "political" with a small "p", and second, Breyer's announced interpretative philosophy is not much different from Scalia and Thomas's or of any other decent judge, for that matter.

On the first point, Judges are selected differently than members of the other branches, but that selection is political nonetheless. Most federal judges have served in government in some capacity before they ascend (that's the word that's used) to the bench. While serving, they come in contact with politicians or are politicians themselves. Some of our more illustrious Justices, indeed were elected officials before becoming Justices (e.g., CJ Taft was a President, J Black a Senator)

On the second point, the "politics" of Constitutional Law is far more complicated than the labels used to describe judicial decision making.

For example, Breyer's "purpose and
consequences" is a shorthand for "ascertaining the purpose and consequences of the words of the Constitution on present actions".
In other words trying to apply words written over two hundred years ago to actions which were unheard of then. Unless you try something of that nature, you are limited to measuring only conduct or governmental activity actually within the minds of the framers at that time.

THe "purpose and consequence" method means nothing more to me than trying to use the "original intent" concept which is another way to get at the same problem. With "original intent" you look at the words themselves, how they got into the Constitution, and the conduct they were trying to regulate and then analogize to the situation to which the words are applied in the current case.

The point is these analytical abstractions are always necessary when trying to determine the "intent of the parties" as expressed in a document, whether that document be a commercial contract, a will, a statute or a Constitution.

In each instance, the Judge will say something like "our job is to determine the intent of the parties". Then s/he will go on and try to do just that. Over the years, many techniques have been used. Breyer's and Scalia/Thomas have but two.

terrye said...


Demagoguery is tiresome, not thought. I prefer to put my faith in the Constitution.

All you have to do is look at the changes in our own laws to know they are not written in concrete, so that means things do change.

Seneca the Younger said...

David --- Go for the Duke Med physician. Harvard grads are overrated.

(Seneca, Duke '88)

Buddy Larsen said...

Here's a WSJ essay I saved sometime back, by Willian Voegeli of the Claremont Institute, on a different topic but within the current theme: the way good people can get diametrically opposed action calls from the same fact set. Essay has some ringing paragraphs which load the word-guns real good. As one would expect from Claremont, the spiritual base of Declarationism, which holds the Declaration of Independence to be a legal document with Constitutional standing.

Buddy Larsen said...

a snip (my bolding):

The disappearance of the individual, of the private, was presented for the purposes of instruction in the city in speech imagined in Plato's Republic. Mr. Barber really seems to mean it. He reduces a complex and profound political reality to a simple dichotomy--either we are an atomized collection of "me's" or we are a cohesive, public-spirited "we." Since the former is bad, every move in the direction of the latter is good.

Buddy Larsen said...

Claremont's archive of essays (scroll to bottom). Good URL for that occasional political/cultural deep-reading urge.

terrye said...

Well I voted for Bush for a lot of reasons, one of them was to put some conservative on the Supreme Court. I belive in balance and things should swing back and forth over time, now is the time for the conservatives.