So the Motor City, through its emergency manager, has submitted to its numerous creditors a plan—still under wraps for now—to deal with its $18 billion debt. It’ll be interesting to learn what they propose to do about investors (screw ‘em, but how badly?); about pension costs; and about the city’s huge unfunded health costs. (Fearless prediction: a transfer of those costs to the feds, either through Medicaid or an ACA Exchange, will have to be part of any deal.) It will also be interesting to see just how the city proposes to pay its obligations going forward. That’s not just…
Archives for January 2014
I am grateful for to Peter Lawler for his interesting comment on my post. I agree with much of it. My focus in The State of Our Liberty—an implicit response to the State of the Union– was on the effects our government is having on liberty, which I think are generally not happy. Lawler believes, and I do as well, that technological developments may nevertheless help foster liberty.
Indeed, I am even somewhat more optimistic than Lawler in this regard, because I do not believe technology poses as much risk to equality as he appears to think. As I have written on this blog, technological innovation helps equality in important respects, because innovations create a pool of cheap and free goods that everyone soon enjoys. Middle class people and the very rich have more equal lives today than did the middle class and very rich in previous times, because both spend an increasing amount of time on the internet and their experience there is not dissimilar. And innovations like smart phones go down the income scale much more rapidly than do previous innovations like refrigerators.
Moreover, the social media of today equips a much broader group of people to spend a large part of their lives writing and otherwise expressing themselves through blogs and even Facebook postings. As Clive Thompson has written in his excellent book, Smarter than You Think, the personal creativity enabled by social media dwarfs that of the letter writing of old. Thus, I do not agree that even a robotic future will relegate people to lives of passive entertainment, which appears to be the view Peter Lawler ascribes to Tyler Cowen. They will be able to follow their passions in ways that are inexpensive and largely free.
A New Birth of the Old Freedom: David Upham in our Books feature this week reviews Gerard Magliocca's new biography of John Bingham and his Fourteenth Amendment: As to Magliocca’s second claim—the revolutionary character of the Amendment—the evidence that he presents is flatly contradictory. As far as Bingham was concerned, the Amendment served to renew and restore, and not overthrow, the Framers’ Constitution. While Magliocca concludes that Bingham and his colleagues “created” a “new multiracial Republic,” many Republicans, including Bingham, had always believed that the Republic was multiracial and had rejected Taney’s holding in Dred Scott in favor of the common…
I appreciate John McGinnis’s account of the state of our liberty. He’s right that by some objective measures liberty is on the decline. But, a consistent individualist might say, liberty is on the march when it comes to same-sex marriage, legalized marijuana, and the general front of “lifestyle liberty.”
In the past, I have blogged about both of these issues, and so I thought I would report some updates on them. First, the FDA is finally getting around to allowing additional college students access to the vaccine for meningitis B.
Ten months after a potentially deadly meningitis type B infection struck American college campuses, the federal government is finally getting around to making life-saving vaccines available to students at the affected schools.
Students at the University of California, Santa Barbara will have access to a vaccine broadly used to prevent the disease throughout the industrialized world, within “several weeks,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims, hopefully bringing one of the U.S. regulatory state’s most shameful chapters to a conclusion.
However soon the vaccines arrive in Santa Barbara, it will be too late for Aaron Loy, an 18-year-old freshman lacrosse player who underwent a double amputation after contracting meningitis B in November, more than eight months after the first case of the bacterial infection was isolated at Princeton University, 2,500 miles to the east. Loy is one of a dozen students who came down with the disease that kills, on average, 10 percent of those who contract it.
One of the great advantages of the ever-increasing plethora of rights conferred upon us by government (except that of keeping the product of our own labor) is that it requires lawyers to adjudicate between them when they conflict, as they so often do. It prevents unemployment among the ever-increasing number of lawyers: and you have only to consider the career of Robespierre to know where the disgruntlement of lawyers may lead.
The state of our liberty provides the best measure of the state of our union, at least in times of relative peace. It was liberty, after all, that our union was meant to secure. And the news here is not happy. Our economic liberty is on the decline as measured by the annual Heritage report. We have fallen out of the top ten of the nations with greatest freedom to create, trade and keep the fruits of our labor. While Congress had made some cuts in discretionary spending, the entitlement state is on track to take an ever greater share of GDP. And civil liberties have hardly been advanced by the systematic snooping of the NSA.
But beyond these objective indicia, there are deeper signs of trouble for our culture of freedom. The bailout of Wall Street suggested that the government protects the financiers and the one percent. This action in turn has energized the forces of envy that are always just below the surface in a democracy. The election of Bill DiBlasio as Mayor of New York on a theme of two cities shows that the movement is taking virulent political form.
Some might argue that Tea Party shows that the founding spirit of Don’t Tread on Me is alive and well.
My colleague at the University of San Diego, Matt Zwolinski, has done some great work on libertarianism. He is the founder of the Bleeding Heart Libertarian Blog and has been doing work on drawing out what might be termed left wing conclusions from liberarianism. Back in the day, when I used to work on libertarian theory, I was very interested in this side of things, often wondering whether unjust actions by the government might justify transfers to the poor. Matt recently wrote a piece seeking to explore the justifications of a guaranteed minimum income, and now he has written a follow…
Many Americans believe that the Fourteenth Amendment created “birthright citizenship.” By this logic, any person born on U.S. soil is an American citizen. That is an interpretation, and not the most natural one, of the phrase, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
The key question is what does the phrase, “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” mean? The prevailing view, at least in our political class, and among activists, is that it means subject to any jurisdiction. Hence most Americans, even lawyers who ought to know better, think that the children of people who came to America on tourist visas, or no visa at all, are American citizens.