For the second time in a month I've got an issue with Ramesh Ponnuru's Bloomberg View column. This time around, Mr. Ponnuru writes about the Supreme Court: "The court ought to be pro- business. It shouldn't twist the law to serve the interests of corporations. But there's no getting around the fact that the promotion of commerce -- and particularly its protection from politicians in the states who would exploit or block it -- was a major reason we replaced the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution in the first place....The real answer to whether we have a pro-business court, then, is no -- and more's the pity."
I actually think in this vein Arthur Goldberg, eventually a Supreme Court justice, got it right when President Kennedy named him as secretary of labor, and Goldberg said, "labor and management will both be making a mistake if they believe that the Kennedy administration is going to be prolabor." I take Goldberg as trying to make the point that he would strive for neutrality in enforcing and carrying out the laws that Congress enacted and the president signed. If, as Mr. Ponnuru says, the Supreme Court "shouldn't twist the law to serve the interests of corporations," then it shouldn't matter whether the court is pro-business or anti-business, because the law is the law, and justice is blind.
Even more broadly, though, Mr. Ponnuru fails to deal with the prospect that sometimes "pro-business" decisions are anti-liberty. Take Kelo v. New London, the case in which the Supreme Court said the city of New London, Conn., could seize Suzette Kelo's house for a development to be anchored by Pfizer. The "pro-business" side of the case was that of New London and Pfizer, not that of Ms. Kelo. But the justices who sided with Ms. Kelo — Scalia, Thomas, Rehnquist, and O'Connor — emphasized the property rights of individuals. Justice Thomas even memorably noted that in Michigan, the largely low-income and elderly residents of Detroit's Poletown neighborhood had been uprooted for the benefit of General Motors. It's an illustration of the problems that could easily develop from following Mr. Ponnuru's prescription for a pro-business court.