Stephen Breyer on Globalization and the Supreme Court

Justice Stephen Breyer on how the forces of reason are sweeping the globe.
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TRANSCRIPT

Justice O’Connor and I were in India on 9/11. We had _______ there. We were meeting with their judicial . . . with judges of their Supreme Court. We arrived on that very day. On that very day. And of course the people there were horrified, and there was a tremendous outpouring of support, and people couldn’t have been nicer. And, but it was a time of thought for me. And really, it seemed to me . . . and I mention it because what was in our minds after a week there – we spent a week there – that the world is really divided into what I think of as the forces of reason and the forces of non-reason. And the forces of reason . . . well law is part of that. Law is part of it. Judges are part of it. Lawyers are part of it, and so is everybody else on . . . you know . . . other professions. The forces of non-reason, that’s the risk. That’s the danger. So I rather see that as something that’s unifying people across the world. Because people across the world do believe in democratic systems. They do believe in protecting basic human rights. They do believe in trying to create economies that will make their people prosperous. And they believe to a considerable degree in international settlement disputes. Things like that, too. But there are forces that they have to fight against which are obvious. So that’s in my mind. Maybe that’s how I was brought up, too. That was after World War II _______ cooperation. But as you look out today, and also I’d say my experience tells me that in a way, it’s like this . . . somebody weaving a loom. I mean I’m not a political figure. I’m not in politics. And I don’t . . . and people who do . . . are in politics and in very high levels in government may see these international institutions and global politics going on at a very high level. But I say to the lawyers and judges who are technical people, who are professionals, and at our level, whatever happens at the other, there’s a kind of knitting going on. It’s like workers at a loom. It’s happening in Europe. It’s happening in Africa. It’s happening in Asia. People are learning from each other, particularly in law. How does it happen? It happens in conferences. People talk to each other. Judges talk to each other. Lawyers talk to each other. It happens as different groups try to create laws. For example in Europe, they’re trying to create commercial laws, and bankruptcy laws, and tax laws, and laws that will govern several what were independent . . . . they are independent nations, but they’re trying to get together. And this is happening at the World Trade Organization. It’s happening across the world. It’s popularly called “globalization”. But what it involves are people in business, people in law, learning what each other are doing. And they adjust their laws accordingly. It doesn’t always have to be formal. We used to have a group called the Uniform Law Commissioners. And they’d go from state to state, and they’d say, “California does this.” And they’d go to Iowa, and they’d say, “Iowa, you know California does this. Maybe you should try it.” And that kind of thing goes on every minute as we speak. And then there are different organizations developing like the World Trade Organization. There are dozens of them. And there are free trade areas. There are health organizations. There are communications organizations. There’s the Internet. There are all these things we know about. They are all forces working to bring us together. So what I see as happening – and it’s not a political matter – what I see as happening is people who are lawyers and judges in America today have to be aware. And they have to have a system of being aware about what’s going on elsewhere. Because the cases in front of them will more and more depend on what’s happening elsewhere. Recorded on: 7/5/2007 at The Aspen Ideas Festival