The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court has sparked a debate over diversity on the Supreme Court.
Let’s look at Sotomayor’s life story: went to college, went to law school, became a government employee drawing a paycheck (source). This is remarkably similar to the life story of other senior government officials as well as politicians. No part of her story includes “was at risk of losing capital due to a change in government regulation” or “was at risk of losing job due to downturn in economy.”
Given that a large number of Supreme Court cases involve business disputes, important diversity on the court would be attained by adding a Justice with some experience in business. A lawyer, regardless of race or sex, who had started a dry cleaners and navigated the regulations associated with hiring a couple of employees would have a radically different experience to draw upon than the current Justices.
Consider George McGovern, one of the towering figures of 20th Century American liberalism. After a life in politics, he purchased a hotel. In a 1992 article, “A politician’s dream–a businessman’s nightmare”, he wrote “I also wish that during the years I was in public office I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.”
He added “I also lived with federal, state and local rules that were all passed with the objective of helping employees, protecting the environment, raising tax dollars for schools, protecting our customers from fire hazards, etc. While I never doubted the worthiness of any of these goals, the concept that most often eludes legislators is: `Can we make consumers pay the higher prices for the increased operating costs that accompany public regulation and government reporting requirements with reams of red tape.’ It is a simple concern that is nonetheless often ignored by legislators.”
More recently, McGovern authored a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed opposing the Democratic Congress’s current plan to make it easier for unions to organize workers. His sojourn in the business world changed his perspective to the point where he would no longer fit neatly into either the Republican or Democratic party.
There are plenty of Americans with experience in both law and business. Why shouldn’t we have one of them on the Supreme Court?