It’s Coming From Inside the Courthouse

Disorder in the Court title 1936
The real “Disorder in the Court” isn’t the anarchy of the Three Stooges in their 1936 comedy classic but the discord built into the institution. Public domain.

“Recent Supreme Court rulings have threatened the rights of New Yorkers to make decisions about their own bodies and our right to protect New Yorkers from gun violence,” proclaimed New York state governor Kathy Hochul in a statement released from Albany on the first of July.

That New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen struck down New York state restrictions on what items its citizens can carry on their bodies, and that supporters of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision see it as offering protection from violence, shows the inconsistencies in the very divisions entrenched by the Court.

Gerald Ford noted in a 1974 Presidential address that those realizing that “a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have” are nonspecialists who “are a lot better economists than most economists care to admit.” Giving the Supreme Court outsize power to override the legislative and executive branches of government has likewise been the sort of blunder in political strategy made by the most devoted political strategists.

For partisans aiming to scare their bases into line, nothing beats a Supreme Court balanced like Humpty Dumpty on the edge of the wall of polarization between the red and blue states. The toppling of that balance has cracked what protection they gave to civil liberties on one side or the other of the culture wars. The dissipation of what Clint Eastwood called the “liberal dither over Miranda rights” has been made clear by how ignored their overruling by Vega v. Tekoh has been compared to the overturn of Roe v. Wade. And all the efforts of the kingmakers will never unscramble it.

Eric Flint, a science fiction writer whose prognostications are informed by a history of hard-nosed activism, observed in 2018 that the notion that “the Supreme Court is the all-powerful institution in American politics” was disproved by its history.  “Slavery, segregation, slavish obedience to corporate welfare, grossly unconstitutional internment … are gone. Not thanks to the Supreme Court” — whose Justices consistently upheld them all — “but thanks to the struggles of the millions of men and women who fought against these injustices through the various means for mass action in a democratic society.”

The way out of the political disorder that was inevitably going to be unleashed by the Supreme Court’s essentially elitist nature lies in society routing around it, not just via more responsive and local sectors of governance but by expanding the realms of individual choice without waiting for its go-ahead.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


  1. “It’s coming from inside the courtroom” by Joel Schlosberg, Reno, Nevada Gazette Journal, July 10, 2022
  2. “It’s coming from inside the courtroom” by Joel Schlosberg, USA Today, July 10, 2022
  3. “It’s Coming From Inside The Courthouse” by Joel Schlosberg, Ventura County, California Citizens Journal, July 10, 2022
  4. “It’s coming from inside the courthouse” by Joel Schlosberg, Sidney, Montana Herald, July 10, 2022
  5. “It’s coming from inside the courthouse” by Joel Schlosberg, Elko, Nevada Daily Free Press, July 11, 2022
  6. “It’s Coming From Inside the Courthouse” by Joel Schlosberg, CounterPunch, July 12, 2022

On “Democracy” Metrics, the US Lags Britain

A Saturday sitting in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom to debate the renegotiated Brexit deal, 19 October 2019. Photo by UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Stephen Pike. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
A Saturday sitting in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom to debate the renegotiated Brexit deal, 19 October 2019. Photo by UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Stephen Pike. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom’s scandal-saddled premier, is finally stepping down as leader of the Conservative Party — which, as British politics are structured, means he’s also stepping down as prime minister.

In conjunction with America’s recent annual July 4th celebration of independence from the British monarchy as declared in 1776, it seems worth noting that our former rulers seem to have long outdone us when it comes to claims of “representative democracy.”

For one thing, the British get more democratic representation than Americans. A LOT more.

Their House of Commons, the equivalent of our House of Representatives, numbers 650 for a population of  68 million, or roughly one MP for every 10,500 citizens. Our “people’s house” numbers 435 for a population of 330 million, or roughly one US Representative for every 750,000 citizens.

Their House of Lords — an even rougher equivalent to our Senate — boasts 767 members to our 100.

What’s more, while Americans are saddled with our political “leaders” for fixed terms (two years for the House, six for the Senate, four for the presidency), barring extreme measures such as impeachment, a prime minister can be sacked and replaced by the majority (or majority coalition) party any time that party loses confidence in him or her, and “snap” elections for the House of Commons can be called at, seemingly, the drop of a hat.

And, finally, the United Kingdom actually turns to “direct democracy” on some of the biggest questions. Case in point: The national referendum on “Brexit” under which the UK left the European Union. The US offers no such mechanism for “direct democracy” at the national level.

One effect (or at least characteristic) of the British system is that the Commons includes representative from no fewer than 11 parties (plus several “independents” and Sinn Fein, which wins seats but abstains from taking them), while the US is bogged down in a supposedly two-party system that really amounts to one party of two warring factions.

While I’m no big fan of government in general, and while democracy as such certainly has its flaws, the British way of doing things is both by far more representative, and  notably closer to the Declaration of Independence’s dictum that “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,” than the American system.

The comparative difficulty of replacing our rulers causes  otherwise short-term turmoils to drag on for years instead of getting settled. That sometimes produces gridlock (a good thing, in my opinion), but more often just allows the ruling party to continue down paths that the majority of Americans don’t support.

What can be done about it? Well, amending the US Constitution to make America democracy “more representative” is quite difficult (as amending the Constitution for any reason should be).

On the other hand, if enough states amended their constitutions to create their own UK-style parliamentary systems, the idea might catch on. Hardly perfection (that would be panarchy), but perhaps a good start.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Third Party? America Doesn’t Even Have a Second Party.

Whig Party Election Poster, 1834. Public Domain.
Whig Party Election Poster, 1834. Public Domain.

A June 29 Associated Press/NORC finds that 85% of Americans — including 92% of self-identified Republicans and 78% of self-identified Democrats — say “things in this country are headed in the wrong direction.”

Meanwhile, notional support for a “third” political party remains high — 62% as of last year’s Gallup Survey — yet no actually existing party outside the Democratic and Republican establishments seems able to get much traction.

The Libertarian, Green, Constitution, and numerous smaller third parties have labored in the vineyard of politics for decades (the Prohibition Party since 1869!) without ever coming close to shattering the “major party” duopoly.

Recent startups, also seemingly going nowhere, include Andrew Yang’s Forward Party and the New Jersey Moderate Party, both of which seem more inclined to endorse simpatico “major party” candidates than field their own.

Why can’t a third party break through? There are plenty of reasons, but they all come back to the fact that the “major party” duopoly is actually a monopoly.

The Republicans and Democrats aren’t really two separate parties. They’re a single ruling party comprised of two large feuding factions which continually re-balance power and divvy up the spoils between themselves through a burlesque of “representative democracy” rigged, by force of law, to preclude meaningful competition.

From gerrymandering to preserve “safe” districts for each of the two factions, to a death grip on candidate access to ballots (which, until the late 19th century, were printed by actual parties/candidates, or hand-written by voters), to the natural inclination of big campaign money to go to the party in power rather than  to upstarts and rebels, The Republican/Democratic uniparty guards its prerogatives as jealously as any banana republic or communist dictatorship.

For all the talk of “polarization” in American politics, the uniparty monopoly occupies the broad and massive center, dividing the largest and most powerful constituencies between its two factions and doling out largess to those constituencies.

“Third” parties have difficulty making inroads into those large constituencies. The “major party” benefits may be unsatisfactory, but they’re birds in hand. “Third” parties are limited to the birds in the bush, the smaller constituencies the uniparty doesn’t consider worth catering to.

The last really major American political realignment took place in the 1850s when the Whigs disintegrated due to their inability to unite on slavery (and Democrats split along north/south lines on the same issue), making room for the ascent of the Republicans.  And within a few decades, the Democrats and Republicans had coalesced as described above to make sure no such thing ever happened again.

Absent an issue of overwhelming concern to Americans which neither uniparty faction can co-opt for its own use, we’re never likely to vote our way out of this monopoly. It will end when the United States ends.

But that doesn’t make third parties useless. As we’ve seen with issues like marijuana legalization and same-sex marriage, third parties bring forward those issues the uniparty has to co-opt to remain in power.

Which is better than nothing, I guess.  But not much. And fortunately  not sustainable forever.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.