Tuesday, November 20, 2007

_Is Democracy Possible Here?_ Holberg International Memorial Prize 2007 to Ronald Dworkin. No. 495.

Holberg International Memorial Prize 2007: Ronald Dworkin.

It is to Dworkin’s great credit that he has raised his voice eloquently and clearly against the American Academy’s dubious complicity with its Administration’s harsh and illiberal anti-terrorist ‘Patriot Act’ and executive measures and practices. In articles and speeches, and most recently in Is Democracy Possible Here? (2006) he warns that such measures constitute a dangerous compromise of the values that underpin US legality. He worries that the ‘Bush government’s dubious laws, practices and proposals have provoked surprisingly little protest in America.’ He rebuts all this hysteria forcefully and eloquently. He says:
‘It is true that the rights that we traditionally recognise impair our security to some degree. We might well be a safer society if we allowed our police to lock up people they thought likely to commit crimes in the future ... But we must decide not where our interest lies on balance, but what justice requires.’
This is admirable stuff. And it is brave stuff too, given the pressure that American academics appear to be under to run to the call of patriotism, whatever those who dictate the agendas of public life demand that to mean, require and excuse. Let us finish with a statement of Dworkin’s that captures what community values, and therefore patriotism, mean to him:

‘The US government has already gone too far in displacing the constitutional and legal rights that we have evolved as our own national standard. ... What our enemies mainly hope to achieve through their terror is the destruction of the values that they hate and we cherish. We must protect those values as well as we can, even as we fight them. That is difficult: it requires discrimination, imagination and candour. But it is what patriotism now demands.’

See Librarian 442.

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