America

Philip Hamburgers New Book is a Rare Find

Michael McConnell, a Law Professor at Stanford, offers this in a First Things review of Philip Hamburger’s new book titled Law and Judicial Duty:

Hamburger traces the development of modern conceptions of the law to the realization, in Europe and especially Britain, that human reason rarely provided clear answers to moral questions and therefore that an attempt to ground law in divine will, or a search for abstract reason and justice, would inevitably lead to discord. As a result, “Europeans increasingly located the obligation of law in the authority of the lawmaker rather than the reason or justice of his laws.” The task of judges, then, was not to seek after elusive notions of justice and right reason but to enforce the law of the land. Natural law shifted in emphasis from moral content to legitimacy and authority, and increasingly to an understanding of authority based on the will of the people.

This seems to me a profound explanation of how and why we understand law today the way we do. It simultaneously shows you what is wrong with the modern conception of the law and what is right.

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We Are Americans, Not Europeans

Isn’t it obvious that most of our American ancestors came over from Europe because they wanted life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?  They fled totalitarian regimes, socialist governments, and anti-Christian repression for the freedom that is afforded all Americans.

We have the best health care in the world precisely because it is not operated by the government.  Private industry drives innovation, government regulation or government-run health care eliminates innovation, awards bureaucrats, and ultimately leads to marginal health care in the long run.

We are Americans, not Europeans.  Yet President Obama, Congressional Democrats, and well-meaning liberals and progressives want to emulate European health care programs.  What Europeans have is not necessarily right nor good.

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A Plan For Palin, A New Contract With America?

Sarah Palin

[Updates at the bottom of his post]

Governor Sarah Palin recently announced her resignation as governor of the great state of Alaska and there has been a flurry of analysis of her motives, her character, and her future plans.  Some of this analysis were sincere, others were borderline antagonistic.

This is all occurring in the midst of an Obama presidency steering both Democratic controlled chambers of Congress that have substantially increased spending and enlarged the government to the detriment of our freedoms.  Couple this with the lack of a clear Republican plan to challenge all of this, the American people are in need of a leader to guide us out of this wilderness.

I believe Governor Palin can and should play this important role.  She stated in her final address as governor of Alaska that she wants to do what’s best for her state.  If she is a person of principle and a patriot then it is logical to presume that she wants what’s best for America.  And what’s best for America right now is to have a strong and vigorous counterweight to the liberal agenda of President Obama and his enablers in the Congress.

The plan that Governor Palin should pursue is to proactively lead Americans to take back Congress as part of the pact with America.  She should do what then House Leader Newt Gingrich did in 1994 with the Republican Party’s Contract with America that gave the Republicans control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years.

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Jesuitical 7: Jesuits and Polarization

Father Drew Christiansen, SJ-Current Editor in Chief of America

Part 7 of my continuing series commenting upon the follies of modern day Jesuits.  None of the following of course applies to Jesuits who are orthodox in their faith and are often among the harshest critics of the antics perpetrated by their brethren.  An editorial in America, the Jesuit magazine, expresses concern about the dangers of polarization in the Catholic Church in America.   Father Z, the Master of the Fisk, in one of his finest efforts, gives the editorial a fisking to remember here.

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The Future of American Elections: Online Voting?

It seems that technological development has made its mark on all sectors of daily life. Why not the democratic process?

The arguments seem reasonable.

The city of Honolulu, Hawaii implemented an “all digital” election in recent local elections, i.e. the ballots were cast either on the Internet, or by phone. This experiment hasn’t made a statement either way for other levels of government. But what would it mean, if millions of people voted from the comfort of their own home — how much hassle and money, in terms of state and federal spending, could be saved if we employed a “digital democracy?”

There are more than 500 million units of fixed-line and mobile telephones in a country of about 305 million. And some 223 million Americans enjoy internet access, the majority of which is broadband.

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Book Review: Empires of Trust (Part I)

It may seem like overkill to write a multi-part book review, but historian Thomas F. Madden’s new Empires of Trust: How Rome Built–and America Is Building–a New World explores a thesis I’ve been interested in for some time, which has significant implications for our country’s foreign policy and the wider question of what our country is and what its place in the world ought to be.

The US has been often accused, of late, of being an empire. Madden effectively accepts that this is the case, but argues that this is not necessarily a bad thing at all. Among his first projects is to lay out three different types of empire: empires of conquest, empires of commerce, and empires of trust.

An empire of conquest is one spread by military power, in which the conquering power rules over and extracts tribute from the conquered. Classic examples would include the empires of the Assyrians, Persians, Mongols, Turks, Alexander’s Hellenistic empire, Napoleon’s empire and to an extent the Third Reich, Imperial Japan and Soviet Union. Empires of conquest are spread by war, and conquered territory is ruled either by local puppet rulers or by a transplanted military elite from the conquering power.

An empire of commerce is interested only in securing enough of a political foothold in its dominions to carry on trade, and is less concerned over political control or tribute. Examples would include the British and Dutch empires; in the ancient world the Pheonicians and Athenians; and later, medieval Venice. Empires of conquest are typified by a network of far-flung colonies directly controlled by the home country, at locations which are strategic for exploiting natural resources or trading with regional powers. They are less focused on conquering large swathes of territority than with controlling enough of a foothold (and enforcing enough stability in the surrounding area) to carry on their commerce.

The book, however, is primarily concerned with a third type of empire, the empire of trust, of which Madden gives only two examples: Rome and the United States. The term “empire of trust” itself requires some unpacking.

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The Narrow Atlantic

UCLA professor Peter Baldwin pens an interesting priece for the UK’s Prospect in which he argues that the differences between the US and Europe are not as great as is often claimed. Baldwin’s point of view strikes me as left of center, but his argument (mainly a comparison of statistics to see how the US really measures up to various EU countries on questions like poverty, education, environmentalism, etc.) is fairly non-ideological and the overall result is interesting.

Left open ended (though he provides a few thoughts on the matter) is the question of why both Americans and Europeans like to perceive such strong differences between themselves, and what exactly that means about the two cultures.

Religion in the U.S.

According to a recent study, the percentage of Americans who profess no religion has been increasing over the last 20 years:

The Catholic population of the United States has shifted away from the Northeast and towards the Southwest, while secularity continues to grow in strength in all regions of the country, according to a new study by the Program on Public Values at Trinity College. “The decline of Catholicism in the Northeast is nothing short of stunning,” said Barry Kosmin, a principal investigator for the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS). “Thanks to immigration and natural increase among Latinos, California now has a higher proportion of Catholics than New England.”

In broad terms, ARIS 2008 found a consolidation and strengthening of shifts signaled in the 2001 survey. The percentage of Americans claiming no religion, which jumped from 8.2 in 1990 to 14.2 in 2001, has now increased to 15 percent. Given the estimated growth of the American adult population since the last census from 207 million to 228 million, that reflects an additional 4.7 million “Nones.” Northern New England has now taken over from the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country, with Vermont, at 34 percent “Nones,” leading all other states by a full 9 points.

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Pope Benedict on America

“From the dawn of the Republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. The framers of this nation’s founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the “self-evident truth” that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature’s God. The course of American history demonstrates the difficulties, the struggles, and the great intellectual and moral resolve which were demanded to shape a society which faithfully embodied these noble principles. In that process, which forged the soul of the nation, religious beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force, as for example in the struggle against slavery and in the civil rights movement. In our time too, particularly in moments of crisis, Americans continue to find their strength in a commitment to this patrimony of shared ideals and aspirations.

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Dwight and Terrorism

I live in a small town, Dwight, Illinois, about 35 miles southwest of Joliet.  It is a lovely place, about 4400 people, set in the midst of a sea of corn and soybeans.   My wife and I moved here in 1985 and have been very happy.  Soon after we moved to Dwight I joined the local Rotary Club.  There I met Jim Oughton and his brother Richard Oughton.  Both had served in WW2, Jim as a naval officer, and Dick as a marine fighter pilot.  They were also the two richest men in town, the scions of a family that had been the wealthiest family in town for well over a century.

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