Norm Pattis posts about a radio debate he had with a fellow named Jerome Corsi:
A natural born citizen, according to Corsi, is a person not just born in the United States, but also spawned by two parents who are also citizens. . . .
Support for this interpretation of the phrase is gleaned from the writings of an eighteenth century Swiss writer, Emerich Vattel. Vattel wrote: “The natives or natural born citizens are those born in the country of parents who are citizens.” There it is, plain as day. An eighteenth century writer asserted that natural law made this so. . . .
This is the sort of logic that gets pro se litigants in trouble all the time. A little bit of knowledge is, the aphorists teach, a dangerous thing. Natural law has a disturbing tendency to reflect the preferences and biases of those who seek to discern it. Aristotle taught then some were slaves by nature; most of us think otherwise today, and thankfully so. I am with Jeremy Bentham on the topic of natural law: it is little more than nonsense on stilts.
Natural law is nonsense? What should guide legislators, then? So soon you’ve given up on Spooner? Of course I agree that natural law arguments, i.e. arguments about what is right and just, won’t get you far in trying to persuade judges. But I don’t see the connection of Vattel’s claim to natural law.
I don’t see Vattel that way either, but Corsi does. As for natural law, I just don’t believe in right reason. I suppose I am a methodological anarchist and believe simply in juries serving as a counterweight. As for justice: What’s that?
I tried to reply as follows, but Norm’s blogging software apparently doesn’t like comments longer than 5 sentences:
Justice, I think, is the absence of crime. Which I think amounts to a very strong presumption against punishment, because even Blackstone held that the only legitimate purpose of the criminal law and of punishment is to prevent future crime. Whether punishment does so is speculative. Punishment itself, on the other hand, resembles crime. The jury, and especially its requirement that the jurors be unanimous before a person is convicted of a crime, embodies procedurally that presumption against punishment. None of which, I acknowledge, tells us anything about what a “natural born citizen” is.
Of course, I’ve said almost the exact same thing before in a number of posts on this blog, but I repeat it because I was frustrated by Norm’s blogging platform and because I regard it as one of my minor contributions to the practical blawgosphere: Saving the word “Justice” for zealous criminal defense. (Although I haven’t really called attention to it before, I note that Tony Serra’s biography is titled Lust for Justice.)