Ignoring the Supreme Court -- Restoring the Constitution or an Invitation for Chaos?
Most people who regularly post here know my basic political temperament. At the core, I'm essentially a progressive/socialist with a few odd libertarian and federalist streaks. What puts me solidly in the libertarian camp on federal issues is my strict constructionist/originalist view of the Constitution. For instance, I really like the idea of social security, Medicare, the welfare state, etc., but in my view the Constitution authorizes no branch of government to create these programs. The Supreme Court has ruled otherwise.
The problem here is that what I believe the Constitution says and what the Supreme Court believes it says are divergent. In the grand scheme of things, my opinion is worthless except to me. When advocating policy, I often say that a certain government program is a good idea, but it is not constitutional. But then I don't decide what is and what isn't constitutional. So even though I believe that the Constitution doesn't authorize Social Security, for example, it actually does, or at least the Supreme Court says it does.
An article somewhere on the Internet brought up this point, which I hope to convey as well as they did.
Staunch strict constructionists/originalists sometimes advocate simply ignoring Supreme Court decisions they do not agree with. They say that an ever-changing, living constitution is chaotic since one can never really know the limits of government power. Ignoring judicial activism would stabilize the Constitution and provide clearly defined boundaries on government power. The counter argument is that simply ignoring decisions would be even more chaotic because there would be no real check on congressional power except the presidential veto; judicial restriction of the executive branch would be even more futile. Since the judiciary relies on the executive to enforce decisions, any inaction on the part of the executive would render any decision a solely intellectual exercise. This absence of a check on government power is especially the case when the majority in Congress and the President are of the same party. The Supreme Court would only restrict the other two branches as much as they wished to be restricted, which I would guess would be not at all. Certainly this would be an overall setback for liberty.
This brings me to my main "crisis of faith". My originalism is a means to an end. I believe in well-defined boundaries for the government so that one can always know what powers the government has and does not have. These boundaries should not change except by amendment and the language should be evaluated in most cases by the plain meaning of the words at the time they were written. I believe in this philosophy even if I do not agree with the exact boundaries that have been laid out. The problem is that a strict originalism may be much more chaotic in the long run, thereby negating my preference for well-defined government powers (and limitations).
Should we ignore decisions by activist judges? Is doing so at our own peril, or are we restoring the intent of the Constitution by doing so?