In a blog dedicated to formulating and promoting classical liberalism, it is useful at year’s end to evaluate the state of these ideas in the politics and culture of our nation. And sad to report, classical liberalism is now weaker than it has been for decades.
Archives for December 2015
Usually when we decide that a sci-fi author has become “fashionable” again, we only mean that filmmakers have grabbed the idea behind his or her stories and run with it.
The police situation in the United States is distressing. Amidst charges that the police regularly engage in misconduct, especially towards minorities, it seems like much of the country is split into two camps: 1) those who believe the police often engage in misconduct and therefore more needs to be done to address their misbehavior and 2) those who believe the police almost always behave properly and who emphasize that harm that occurs to minority communities when the police are unable or discouraged from doing their job.
I don’t really understand why one needs to choose one or the other of these camps. On the one hand, it seems obvious to me that many police officers often engage in wrongful behavior, ranging from the relatively unimportant (requiring citizens to treat them with great deference or hassling them when they don’t) to the horrific (shooting citizens in the back for no good reason). Also quite distressing are the special rules, promoted by police unions, that grant officers charged with wrongdoing special privileges and the code of behavior of officers who lie and cover up for another.
On the other hand, it seems equally obvious that many police officers who are accused of wrongful conduct actually behaved properly, that being a police officer is a dangerous job, and that the good they can do (by protecting the public from violence) is enormously valuable. Good police officers deserve our respect and gratitude.
“Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” U.S. Constitution, Amendment V
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes coined many pithy aphorisms, including the frequently-cited cliché that “hard cases make bad law.” Sometimes this may be true, but in reality “bad law” has many sources, often sloppy or unprincipled reasoning by the judge(s) in question. It is particularly infuriating when easy cases make bad law, highlighting the potential for error (or, worse, dishonesty) in judicial decision-making.
There are no doubt many causes of the renewed rise of political correctness on campus, but one of the most important is the increasing power and size of universities’ diversity bureaucracy. The recent events at Yale began with an e-mail from a collection of no fewer than thirteen university bureaucrats (e.g, officials of LGBTQ Resources, Gender and Campus Culture, Native American Culture, La Casa Culture, to name just a few) who advised students how to dress for Halloween. Similarly, at Harvard the Office of Diversity, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion created politically correct place mats for “social justice” to help students confront benighted family members on the issues of the day.
Cornell University distributed guidelines on the public display of holiday symbols (short version: avoid religious symbols but mistletoe too). That ukase issued from the Department of Environment Health and Safety, since it also included fire safety tips. But there can be little doubt that advice on how to be inclusive came from diversity bureaucrats. The rules have the Orwellian touch we have come to know from these officials: promote diversity by preventing people from offering in public evidence of their diverse religious sentiments. As in 1984 War was Peace, in 2015 Diversity is Uniformity.
Diversity bureaucracies are proliferating for three reasons.
Final grades were due a few days ago, and for those of us who teach, grading season has just come to a close. With visions of student papers dancing in my head, I can’t keep from thinking, Rashomon is a perfect movie for our culture.
Under the Obama Administration, the executive branch has engaged in numerous actions where it has refused to follow statutes – either on the grounds that the statute implicitly allows it discretion or that the Constitution renders the statute unconstitutional. As has often been noted, these actions are often quite questionable on a legal basis. But there is little that can be done if no one has standing to challenge the action in court unless the Congress is willing to bring impeachment charges, which is generally politically unattractive. In a previous post, I discussed using anti-severability provisions in statutes. While that can help, it will not deter a very willful President. Here, then, I have another statutory reform.
Congress should pass a law that would establish a “court like entity.” The entity would consist of 5 judges, to serve for 10 year terms, selected from retired judges who had served on the U.S. Supreme Court or the federal circuit courts. One of the judges would be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. Two would be appointed by the Speaker of the House, with the advice and consent of the House of Representatives. And the final two would be appointed by the Senate Majority Leader, with the advice and consent of the Senate. The appointments would be staggered, so that a new judge would be appointed each year. The court should also be required to be bipartisan, with three members of one party and two of the other party.
What Miracle on 34th Street Teaches Us About the Virtues of Capitalism.
Earlier this week I found myself watching Miracle on 34th Street. I never before noticed what a fine job it does explaining the connection between the market economy and virtue. If I taught economics rather than history I might use a few clips from the movie in class.