Justice Ginsberg Tells Egypt: Don’t Look to US for Your New Constitution

In my high school US History class (circa 1964) I recall implicit reverence expressed for the United States Supreme Court. Now, unfortunately, after seeing Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s appearance on Egyptian TV (video below), I can’t help feeling a bit like Dorothy when the curtain was pulled back on the Wizard of Oz. What a letdown. Sigh. On the other hand, Ginsberg did give us another powerful demonstration of how thoroughly Leftism has infected the highest levels of our government.

Why did Justice Ginsberg do this interview in the first place?

First, did she really think Egyptians would honor the opinion of a woman, an American, and a Jew? Isn’t that a hatred trifecta for Egypt’s vaunted Muslim Brotherhood as well as the “Arab Street”? Remember what happened to Lara Logan during the “Arab Spring” demonstrations? Why consent to an interview at all? Did she really think she’d reflect well on herself, the Supreme Court, or our country with this interview? It ended up being rather the opposite, I’d say.

Second, if Justice Ginsberg really must draw back that Wizard-of-Oz-like SCOTUS curtain, could she at least have shown a bit more respect and praise for the Constitution that she swore to preserve, protect, and defend? Evidently not.

Said Ginsberg to the Egyptians:

I would not look to the US Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.

I might look at the constitution of South Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, had an independent judiciary … it really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done.

Much more recent than the US Constitution, Canada has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It dates from 1982. You would almost certainly look at the European Convention on Human Rights.

Well, thank you, Madame Justice. I had no idea how inferior our Constitution was to Europe’s, Canada’s, and South Africa’s. And how noble and courageous you have been to suffer our dusty old Constitution so stoically for nearly 20 years.

But perhaps I do the Justice an injustice. What is it that Ginsberg finds so attractive in those other constitutions? Given her comments, I infer it must have something to do with what she means by “human rights”. So I looked first to the South Africa Constitution since Ginsberg singled it out as a “great piece of work.” It’s available online.

The first thing I noticed about the SA Constitution (1996) is its sheer size. The US Constitution is only 4400 words long, but the SA Constitution is over 43,700 words long. Much more stuff. And more means better? Anyway, it’s so big that I could never have read it all, so I focused mainly on Chapter 2, the SA Bill of Rights.

Our American Bill of Rights is rather short — just those first ten tersely worded amendments. The SA Bill of Rights is over 4600 words long and contains 33 major headings. Among these are many noble and proper declarations somewhat like our own, but there are others — namely, the ones that I presume Justice Ginsberg admires. Three in particular declare the following (with my emphasis added) as the supreme law of the land in South Africa:

24. Environment — Everyone has the right:

(a) to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and

(b) to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that

(i) prevent pollution and ecological degradation;
(ii) promote conservation; and
(iii) secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.


26. Housing:

(1) Everyone has the right to have access to adequate housing.

(2) The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of this right.

(3) No one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances. No legislation may permit arbitrary evictions.

27. Health care, food, water and social security:

(1) Everyone has the right to have access to:

(a) health care services, including reproductive health care;
(b) sufficient food and water; and
(c) social security, including, if they are unable to support themselves and their dependants, appropriate social assistance.

(2) The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of each of these rights.

(3) No one may be refused emergency medical treatment.

Isn’t this nice? What’s not to like? It sounds like an Occupy-Wall-Streeter’s paradise. It sounds like the promises made whenever socialism has been sold to a hopeful and unsuspecting populace. It reads as does the European Union Constitution, where attempts to deliver on promises like these threaten to collapse whole economies and lead to massive civil unrest.

Note that nowhere in the SA Constitution does it say that SA “rights” are to be conferred by any means other than those of “The State”. At virtually every turn, The State is the implied guarantor, provider, and benefactor.

However …

Note also the remarkable Item (2) in italics under Headings 26 and 27 above. The phrase “within its available resources” is a convenient way for The State to renege on the associated promised right. I interpret that clause in italics to mean: If we cannot squeeze enough money from selfish South African ‘makers’ to cover our promises to South African ‘takers, then this ‘human right’ may not be fulfilled after all. The State has few resources of its own, you see. So if these promises don’t come true, please remember to blame the selfish ‘makers’, not The State.

Note also the use of the interesting phrase “progressive realization”. What do they mean by “progressive”? It could mean gradual, which gives the state a way to put off demands for all these guaranteed freebies. Or it could mean Progressive in the political sense, which implies heavy taxation on those wealthy makers and little or no taxation on the takers. Either or both can help prolong The State’s hold on power.

So I’m left wondering whether Justice Ginsberg admires those SA Constitution human rights promises or those weasel-worded escape phrases. Perhaps it’s both(?).

Of course our own Bill of Rights is fundamentally different. Ours is about what the Federal Government cannot do to us rather than what it must do for us. To a Leftist like President Obama, we know that sounds like a defect — he’s told us so. But Conservatives know that the American approach has led to the most prosperous populace, at all economic levels, in the history of the world. And similar approaches have worked well in other places (albeit to varying degrees) such as Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, and Chile.

On the other hand, where the Left has had free reign and made the grandest of promises, like those in the South African Constitution, the results have been horrific beyond belief. Just listen to people who have lived through it in the 20th century (here, here, and here).

Scanning through the South African Constitution I found several other areas that may have attracted Justice Ginsberg’s admiring eye. To limit the length of this article, I’ll include just one more … namely, an amazing provision in “Chapter 1, Founding Provisions” that reads:

6. Languages

(1) The official languages of the Republic are Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu.

(2) Recognising the historically diminished use and status of the indigenous languages of our people, the state must take practical and positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of these languages.

(3) (a) The national government and provincial governments may use any particular official languages for the purposes of government, taking into account usage, practicality, expense, regional circumstances and the balance of the needs and preferences of the population as a whole or in the province concerned; but the national government and each provincial government must use at least two official languages.
(b) Municipalities must take into account the language usage and preferences of their residents.

(4) The national government and provincial governments, by legislative and other measures, must regulate and monitor their use of official languages. Without detracting from the provisions of subsection (2), all official languages must enjoy parity of esteem and must be treated equitably.

(5) A Pan South African Language Board established by national legislation must
(a) promote, and create conditions for, the development and use of (i) all official languages; (ii) the Khoi, Nama and San languages; and (iii) sign language ; and
(b) promote and ensure respect for (i) all languages commonly used by communities in South Africa, including German, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Portuguese, Tamil, Telegu and Urdu; and (ii) Arabic, Hebrew, Sanskrit and other languages used for religious purposes in South Africa.

In short, South Africa has 11 “official” languages and a Language Board that “promotes” 15 more. To a poor, benighted soul like me, this sounds like a politically correct polyglot run amok, but perhaps this too won Justice Ginsberg’s approval?

Well …

The Left, including Barack Obama, still loves to portray its socialist leanings as some sort of new, forward-looking, if-only-we’d-try-it philosophy of government that will finally bring us all social justice and fairness. But given its cataclysmic failures and atrocities in the 20th century, I’d say that Leftism and Socialism are both long past their sell-by date.


The road to serfdom begins with the belief you can overcome natural differences to create a tie at the finish line of life.
Herbert London