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Season 6 - Episode 6
Defending the rule of law

Senior Circuit Judge Douglas Ginsburg was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1986; he served as Chief Judge from 2001 to 2008. He is a Professor of Law at the Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University, and visiting professor at the University College London, Faculty of Laws. He is also the Chairman of the International Advisory Board of the Global Antitrust Institute at the Antonin Scalia Law School, and serves on a number of other Advisory Boards.


Relative to the rest of the world, the United States is a good place to do business. It is more stable than most, and so continues to attract capital from all over. Importantly, says Judge Douglas Ginsburg in this edifying interview, it remains governed by the rule of law, along with countries like Canada, Britain, Germany, Japan, and Singapore.

Yet the rule of law has been eroded somewhat in the US, says the Senior Circuit judge. While the framers of the Constitution worried that the legislative branch of government would dominate, the opposite has happened over the past century. “The legislature has successfully delegated legislative power to executive agencies and to the president, time and time again.” As a result, senators and representatives can vote for “clean air” and leave the dirty work to the EPA, or let the president set tariffs on imports, for instance. This abdication of responsibility undermines the separation of powers.

In the judicial branch, federal judges are not elected but appointed for life. They don’t need to worry about re-election, or about what The New York Times thinks, or even about what the appointing president thinks. This gives them the independence they need to balance the other branches, and according to Judge Ginsburg, many presidents have been disappointed with their appointments!

What about concerns that certain multinational companies are just too big? “If they got large by serving consumers well, more power to them—and more money as it turns out, too.” Size itself, he points out, is not an offence. If a company gets big by suppressing competitors or deceiving consumers, that’s a different story, but each case needs to be examined on its merits, and judged accordingly.

Links of interest

Douglas H. Ginsburg / Antonin Scalia Law School