06/28/2007 05:53 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Conservative Supreme Court Betrays Authentic Conservatism

I just today finished a piece of heavy academic writing about political philosophy in which I found myself (to my surprise) praising the great original of modern conservatives, Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797). I was writing about the tragic outcome of 20th century efforts to force communist perfection on vast populations in the manner of Lenin and Stalin and Mao. I was commending Burke's critique of the prototype of those tragedies -- Robespierre's reign of terror in the last stages of the French Revolution. Burke's essential point was that you should never, as a conservative, ignore the accumulated structures and lessons of history and try to impose some abstract ideal upon a real society of real people who live within those structures.

But here's the way Justice Roberts summed up the majority's decision to upend school diversity programs in Seattle and Louisville:

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

Cute, in a clever, Ivy League score-points-for-the-debate-team sort of way. But a complete betrayal of historical and social realities. In his worst nightmares, Edmund Burke could not have conjured up a better example of abstract ideological tautology.