Sunday, April 5, 2009

Revolting Justification

“It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV. It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since, and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past.”
... Oliver Wendell Holmes, Justice, Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, The Path of the Law, address dedicating new hall at Boston University School of Law (January 8, 1897)

I ran across the above quote in the text of the Iowa Supreme Court decision. I've long argued that tradition alone does not provide justification for anything at all, particularly a tradition of harmful discrimination against minority groups, but never as colorfully or succinctly as Homes stated it.

Tradition can be quite wonderful, but as Oliver Wendell Holmes reminds us, it can also be quite disgusting.