Stephen E. Gottlieb purports to criticize Chief Justice John Roberts’ leadership of the Supreme Court for failing faithfully to interpret the Constitution to protect democracy. What Unfit for Democracy: The Roberts Court and the Breakdown of American Politics really shows is that Gottlieb, a law professor at Albany Law School, disagrees with some of the Roberts Court’s decisions.
The trip to Hawaii I wrote about in my previous post yielded some interesting Ricardian, Schumpeterian, and Hayekian lessons, as I noted. It was also enlightening in terms of how prevailing conceptions of our 50th state compare to its actual history.
The reader of James L. Haley’s excellent 2014 book, Captive Paradise: A History of Hawaii, will see sobering disparities that match a larger trend in our society: the tendency to distort the historical record so as to exaggerate the vices of the early European settlers while exaggerating the virtues of pre-contact indigenous cultures. This revisionism has the (desired?) effect of minimizing the benefits of Western influence, and even—in the case of Hawaii—calling into question the legitimacy of its statehood.
You wouldn’t think a Hawaiian vacation would offer a Texan lessons about economic change, comparative advantage, and creative destruction—but my trip to Maui did.
The “Rooney Rule” is the latest debasement of academia. The controversial halftime show at Super Bowl 50 demonstrated–if any proof was needed–that the NFL is in the entertainment business. The football cartel's ratings-conscious bean counters carefully assessed television demographics to maximize the spectacle's appeal to the broadest possible audience–bread and circuses for the masses. It worked. The musical trifecta of Coldplay, Beyoncé, and Bruno Mars was a cynical mishmash of genres that helped attract a viewing audience of nearly 112 million people to an otherwise boring game. Professional football is big business, and it was fitting that the 50th iteration of…
Proposals for a “convention of the states” roil the Left and Right.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott made news early this month when he advocated an Article V convention of states to amend the U.S. Constitution to rein in the overreaching federal government, and restore the proper balance of power between the states and the federal government.
It is hard to imagine what the world of a conservative intellectual looked like in 1953. In our present age of talk radio (led by Rush Limbaugh), Fox News, national conservative magazines and blogs, and the New York-D.C. axis of Right-leaning think tanks, we regard the conservative movement as ubiquitous—and inextricably linked to politics and public policy.
“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.
Since Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the U.S. Supreme Court has viewed itself as the enlightened molder of social consensus, leading the recalcitrant political branches to reach progressive outcomes demanded by social justice. Sometimes (as with desegregation) the Court manages to get in front of the parade of public opinion, and sometimes (as with same-sex marriage) the Court forces unruly voters to accept a particular end result. But, as with abortion, sometimes the Court miscalculates, becoming enmired in an intractable political dispute. And in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), the Court—fueled by the conceit of its superior wisdom—divined a “solution” to disparate race enrollments in higher education that has proven to be a quagmire.
We’ve come a long way from Merle Haggard’s 1969 anthem to Middle America, “Okie from Muskogee.”
As John McGinnis explained in his recent series of posts regarding the Constitution’s design for creating civic virtue (here, here, and here), a free society depends on a responsible citizenry, strong families, and thriving civic associations that foster social cohesion. According to McGinnis, the success of the Republic depends, not necessarily on religion per se, but on the presence of informal discipline (self-control, deferred gratification, thrift, etc.) and a “morality of self-restraint.”
That, of course, leads to the subject of country music (or it does if you live where I do—Austin, Texas, with one of the nation’s most vibrant music scenes, where I moved after I retired as a lawyer).
Seeing the star of Vice President Biden finally begin to fade with his decision to not seek the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination reminded me of the rather sad spectacle that occurred during his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1987. When my friend, the late Bernard H. Siegan, was nominated by President Reagan for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that February, he faced a firestorm of opposition due to his seminal advocacy of property rights and economic liberties.