‘If Someone Like Scalia Can … Decide That Wickard Isn’t a Binding Precedent, Then the Idea of Binding Precedent Is Essentially Empty’
Justice Scalia spent his career as a lawyer, law professor and judge in that legal world – a world in which Wickard was no more eligible for serious reconsideration than Brown v. Board of Education or Marbury v. Madison are today. It ought to be obvious that if someone like Scalia can, at this point in a half-century-long career, decide that Wickard isn’t a binding precedent, then the idea of binding precedent is essentially empty, which in turn highlights the inevitable emptiness of the idea of any useful distinction between law and politics.
But this is not obvious, least of all to Justice Scalia, who I have no real doubt actually believes the things he says and writes, no matter how many times his public acts contradict his avowed beliefs. Scalia believes in a version of the rule of law whose existence is refuted by nothing so well as his own career. And that ultimately is more disturbing than a career dedicated to the most self-consciously manipulative Machiavellianism.