The cost of a new U.S. Supreme Court justice is $123-million, newspaper reports say. I was taken aback. Surely law schools are not so horrifically expensive even in that lawyer-thick nation, and surely William H. Rehnquist, the recovered painkiller addict who designs his own court costumes, has not turned to Viktor & Rolf for couture inspiration.

But I had misunderstood. It is worse than I thought (all U.S. news is worse than I thought.) The $123-million, the Independent says, is the amount that will be spent by lobby groups to stroke/threaten recalcitrant senators, buy television ads, and finance demonstrations and letter-writing campaigns. In other words, it is a slag heap of dirty money to purchase a judge.

The Supreme Court’s role as devised by the Founding Fathers was to be an independent defender of the Constitution in the land of the free. This 2005 bought ‘n’ paid fer judge will be hired specifically not to uphold principle, but to uphold ideology. I call them “dollar decisions.” Great football writer Dan Jenkins calls them “life its ownself.” That man knows his country.

The court’s most recent and galling ruling was to kill ownership of private property, a purely dollar-based right-wing ruling to which the retiring moderate Sandra Day O’Connor took grave exception. It used to be that the U.S. government could buy at fair market price private homes that stood in the way of projects said to be for the good of the community — airports, highways and the like.

The court ruled that it is now legal for municipalities to tear down private homes to benefit private developers whose malls and hotels will bring in great rolling tumbleweeds of tax dollars. You can’t beat city hall unless you’re worth millions. Essentially, it means middle-class Americans who own their own homes only own them sort of.

The relevant ideology is money, pure and simple. It is not right-wing or neocon ideology, but a twisted version of communism to benefit the rich. Private property can be owned only by corporations or the oligarchs of the new Russia. Vladimir Putin would like this ruling. There isn’t a tyrant who wouldn’t.

But what interests me is not the privatizing of eminent domain, but the thinking behind it. It isn’t just a desire for economic supremacy rubber-stamped by a like-minded human legal travesty in a black gown. It’s a desire to win, to win at all costs, an American trait that the second (and final) Gilded Age has splattered across the land. Never has the display of hunger to crush the opposition, to crumple the rules on which a nation is based, been so open and so violent in its intentions.

The bitterness that has bubbled on the American right since Richard Nixon’s resignation has turned to acid and is eating itself. And it’s sliding into our country too. I notice that so many people — in public life and in our newspapers and in our neighbourhoods — cannot bear to lose an argument, even an argument they are not intellectually qualified to make because they do not read. The study of history matters. It teaches you context. It keeps you humble and tames your aggression.

It has gone past rage, sweat and spitting insults. The U.S. desire to win at any cost is a pathology. The ferocity Americans once brought to their sports, shopping and business dealings is now brought to bear on legal thought and to the just-concluded G8 meeting.

George W. Bush claimed that the entirely predictable terror bombing in London meant that terrorism was Fight Number 1 after all. In this sense, the bombing was a victory for him, since he thinks it proved him right. Despite the spin, there was no new deal on unconditional African aid and debt relief and a pathetic murmur on trade subsidies. The U.S. will continue to warm the globe. The G8 meeting was a failure as ever. Mr. Bush regards it as a win, but it was a defeat in disguise.

And Tony Blair, who invited terrorism to Britain with his dishonest, shameful invasion of Iraq, loses on climate change, on Africa and on Iraq being a win-win for Britain. Innocent Londoners paid the price. German bombs destroyed most of Tavistock Square; this time, that charming, raggle-taggle street suffered for Mr. Blair’s ego. Mr. Bush is a junk bond; Mr. Blair bought it; his loss is complete.

I used to want to know more about Canadian judges, especially why Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin has turned into an accountant. She now rules on whether the government can afford to apply the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to Canadians.

But I don’t want to destroy her. I want the logic of her fellow judges to persuade her that her approach is the wrong one. I don’t want to put new judges through a hell hearing and $123-million worth of abuse. You’ll get the judge you wanted, but you have not won. These are Cosa Nostra tactics.

I never want to win at all costs; your victims hate you. The Americans do. Bush makes that clear, even when he can’t win, as in Iraq. No one wins in global warming. Americans cannot grasp the concept of no-win. Even if the Christian right had won and “saved” Terri Schiavo, she would still be dead; they don’t get this.

I remember a businessman telling me that he hated negotiating with corporate Japan because they always had to win. With Americans, it isn’t the Japanese concept of “saving face,” though. Winning is a football metaphor. Padded, meth-ed, steroided giants run over the other team. What a triumph.

Winning is overrated. A narrow and angry mind can do great damage. We are starting to see this in Canada, where Question Period is unwatchable. Winning isn’t a pure state. It’s temporary. Total scorched- earth winning is a loss by any definition except the American one.