Ur-Porcher Caleb Stegall was recently sworn in to a seat on the Kansas Supreme Court. His fellow Kansan and sometimes interlocutor Russell Arben Fox (I’m pleased to call both men my friends) writes with characteristic generosity about why he, as a socialist, admires Caleb, though he’s bound to disagree with him on many things. Russell agrees with Caleb’s critics that he’s an “extremist” — and that’s why he likes him. Excerpt:
There are, of course, good extremisms and bad, and part of the whole reason of a free society is so that clashes of extremism can be expressed without trashing everything both interlocutors hold dear. And that’s the key point with Caleb–while I have plenty of reason to assume that I will generally dislike whatever judicial opinions he hands down, as he would very likely generally dislike mine if we traded places, we both hold the same thing dear: Kansas. Our place, our community, our peoplehood, our demos. There are many lawyers who get sucked into a kind of romance of the law: maybe they see it as some kind of Platonic-constitutional philosophical ideal, or as an aristocratic necessity to hold in the unwashed masses, or as embodying a serene technocratic-pragmatism, but however they view it “THE LAW” becomes their paean to something higher than, or better than, the people themselves and the cultures they build. The man that I interacted with, the man that helped to build Front Porch Republic, whatever else he believed, could never, I think, see the law as anything other than just one other attempt among many to organize and protect the manifold possibilities and struggles of human existence. That is, Caleb, as a member of the Kansas Supreme Court, may not be able to–and may not want to–engage in deep, revolutionary thoughts about building local communities and conservative Christian polities, but I can’t believe he would forget the very human thrill of trying to figure out how such a thing might be done, or if one might even want to. That’s a profound humility, a dispositional–if not philosophical–liberality which will keep him, I hope and I trust, far from the temptation to see the law as a sovereign foundation for his (or my!) preferred political project.
Reminds me of this old Peter Kreeft essay from First Things, in which he, as a traddie, realized that he had more in common with his socialist pal than with either of their Republican or Democratic friends.