If there is anyone out there who thinks that the American body politic (as opposed to individual politicians) in any way lacks intellectual rigour, then they should spend just a few minutes listening to the debate here, in Congress and in the media, on the nomination of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Issues of constitutional subtleties, precedents and the hierarchy of rights are thrashed out in detail and in public.
Contrast that to the situation in the UK, where judges seem to emerge fully formed from some legal test tube plant, their views completely unknown to the public, or to its democratically elected parliament.
Before I get too dewy-eyed about the American way of doing things, however, it is intriguing to note that this open process has not led to a judiciary that commands more widespread respect than its British counterpart. On the contrary, American judges are often as mistrusted and vilified as many politicians.
In the 19th century, Walter Bagehot famously said that daylight should never shine on the magic of the royal family, lest it crumble under the glare. I would not argue that the same is true for the British judiciary. But the American experience suggests that democratic scrutiny of judicial appointments, while it may well be a good thing in its own right, is not necessarily a solution to the public's alienation from its judges.