An Exercise in Raw Judicial Power

Thursday, January 22, AD 2015

As we observe the sad forty-second anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that overturned all state laws banning abortions and effectively served as a judicial death warrant for tens of millions of innocents, I think it is appropriate to pay tribute to the two dissenting Justices, Byron White, a Democrat, and William Rehnquist, a Republican.  Here are the texts of their dissents:

MR. JUSTICE WHITE, with whom MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST joins, dissenting.

At the heart of the controversy in these cases are those recurring pregnancies that pose no danger whatsoever to the life or health of the mother but are, nevertheless, unwanted for any one or more of a variety of reasons — convenience, family planning, economics, dislike of children, the embarrassment of illegitimacy, etc. The common claim before us is that, for any one of such reasons, or for no reason at all, and without asserting or claiming any threat to life or health, any woman is entitled to an abortion at her request if she is able to find a medical adviser willing to undertake the procedure.

The Court, for the most part, sustains this position: during the period prior to the time the fetus becomes viable, the Constitution of the United States values the convenience, whim, or caprice of the putative mother more than the life or potential life of the fetus; the Constitution, therefore, guarantees the right to an abortion as against any state law or policy seeking to protect the fetus from an abortion not prompted by more compelling reasons of the mother.

With all due respect, I dissent. I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court’s judgment. The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers [410 U.S. 222] and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes. The upshot is that the people and the legislatures of the 50 States are constitutionally dissentitled to weigh the relative importance of the continued existence and development of the fetus, on the one hand, against a spectrum of possible impacts on the mother, on the other hand. As an exercise of raw judicial power, the Court perhaps has authority to do what it does today; but, in my view, its judgment is an improvident and extravagant exercise of the power of judicial review that the Constitution extends to this Court.

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15 Responses to An Exercise in Raw Judicial Power

  • “pregnancies that pose no danger whatsoever to the life or health of the mother”
    Any law that allows an abortion to be performed to preserve the life or health of the mother will prove unworkable. This was the position in Scotland before the Abortion Act 1967.
    In practice,
    (1) an unqualified abortionist was always prosecuted
    (2) the Crown Office would not challenge the clinical judgment of a salaried consultant or registrar, still less a professor, in a public hospital performing an abortion on an NHS patient; gratuity was seen as a sufficient guarantee of good faith.
    (3) an abortion performed by a doctor in private practice would be investigated by senior practitioners, nominated by the Crown Office, with indications of good faith including consultation with colleagues, such as a general practitioner, a gynaecologist, a psychiatrist; admission to hospital or a recognised nursing home; observance of normal professional etiquette, such as a consultant being called in only by the patient’s general practitioner; reasonable fees being charged and the keeping of proper records.
    How doctors chose to interpret the law varied enormously. According to the Scotsman (23 December 1966), one pregnancy in 50 was terminated in Aberdeen, compared to one in 3,750 in Glasgow. The difference resulted from the rival interpretations and clinical practice of the two Regius Professors of Midwifery, Dugald Baird at the University of Aberdeen and Ian Donald at the University of Glasgow, both of whom voiced their rival views in public. What was abundantly clear is that the Lord Advocate and the Crown Office had no intention of testing the limits of the law in the courts.
    Many saw the 1967 act as clarifying, rather than changing, the law and introducing additional safeguards (two doctors, licensed facilities) rather than expanding it. Many Christians in both houses, voted for the bill, believing it provided the greatest measure of restriction and regulation that Parliament would approve.

  • This is appropriate here because the U. S. Catholic Conference needs to read it.
    .
    Jesus wept tears over Jerusalem. Jesus wept tears of Joy over the heavenly Jerusalem coming down from heaven. Jesus wept tears of Joy for His Father.
    .
    THE NEW AGE, THE NEW SECULAR ORDER emblazon on the U.S. dollar is the Heavenly Jerusalem coming down from the sky. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Jesus wept tears of joy over the Heavenly Jerusalem coming down from heaven.
    .
    The righteous brother of the parable of the Prodigal Son refused to weep tears of joy at his father’s command to: ”Rejoice, your brother was dead but now he is alive.” Old righteous brother begrudged his father his tears of joy and his rejoicing and his father’s tears of joy and his father’s rejoicing. Righteous brother refused to bring gladness to his father’s heart. Even then, the father reminded the righteous son that “all that I have, is yours.”
    .
    Would it not have been great, if the righteous brother had brought his friends to the prodigal’s party to make merry with his father as is commanded in Deuteronomy 14: 22-29 about tithing: “and there before the Lord, your God, you shall partake of it and make merry with your family”? Instead he, (there is no other word, but the word I cannot write here) complained about not having enough, not enough heart to ask his father for his friends’ banquet, not enough heart to request to literally throw a party for his friends.
    .
    Deut.14: 28-29 continues, and this is particularly interesting because this passage impinges of the illegal alien. The words of God, Himself: “At the end of every third year you shall bring out all of the tithes of your produce for that year and deposit them in community store, that the Levite, who has no share in the heritage with you, and also the ALIEN, the orphan and the widow WHO BELONG to your community, may come and eat their fill; so that the Lord, your God may bless you in all you undertake.”
    .
    The individual conscience of the citizen CHOOSES to bring out his tithe, every third year, to donate to the community stores. Read food bank. It is not nice to fool Mother Nature, nor try to cheat God. The individual conscience of the man cannot cheat God without forfeiting his life and his immortal soul.
    Obama tries to square himself with God for abortion and legal sodomy by extorting tithe offerings from his fellow citizens without their valid consent or their willingness of conscience. He, then, donates his contraband to the poor, and blows his horn, adorns himself with crowns and gets the democratic party favors.
    .
    Getting back to the new Heavenly Jerusalem descending from God, (as Obama has tried to depict himself). cannot happen in the absence of Truth and Justice.
    .
    I was listening to Malachi Martin R.I.P. Malachi Martin was an exorcist for several decades. Martin said that coming into the presence of evil modifies the soul of even a good person. The soul of the evildoer is modified and the soul of the innocent person is modified. Martin called coming into the presence of an evildoer “dangerous”; an open door to Satan and Lucifer.
    .
    The government is demanding that the innocent proprietors of businesses suffer the entrance of evildoers into their midst as “the price of citizenship.” The state does not own the innocence, nor the soul, nor the sovereignty, nor the personhood, nor the informed consent, nor the CITIZENSHIP, nor the life of the citizen, any citizen.
    .
    For the state to impose regulations demanding that an innocent soul be “modified” by an evildoer is separation of church and state violated. The citizen constitutes and forms the government.
    .
    “Do not weep for me, but for your children”. If Jesus knew about the New World Order”, it was not new.
    .
    “A putative mother” is a very real mother, since the newly begotten child makes a mother of the woman. If the woman was not a mother, she would be a woman without a child. The woman hauled her child into court and demanded his extinction without “due process of law”, literally annihilating the Court.
    .
    The death of the mother is predicated on her imminent death, not a prognosis.
    .
    Snowflake babies, those frozen embryos adopted and gestated are citizens with sovereign personhood even as they are created and destroyed. Science, DNA, IVF and ABORTION, the destruction of humanity, have proven that a sovereign human being comes into existence at fertilization of the egg by human sperm. Enough with the ignorance, denial and tyranny.
    .
    I am sorry this is not better.

  • “I am sorry this is not better”.
    Your not in the position to apologize since your synopsis and arguments are clear and eloquent. You make sense Mary. Your pro-life efforts make a difference. Just consider the babies born that wouldn’t of had a chance if you and other lifers we’re not visible or present to these women who had a change of heart.

    One day in Gods glory, He might just open a book for you. Don’t be surprised if he shows these souls to you. Each and every one, given a chance for life.

  • MPS, your remarks are relevant exactly how?

  • Novus Ordo Seclorum= “A new order to/for the ages,” actually.

    It wouldn’t take much rewriting to apply White to the gay marriage case that will be before the court in a couple of months.

    I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court’s judgment. The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers [410 U.S. 222] and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes. The upshot is that the people and the legislatures of the 50 States are constitutionally dissentitled to weigh the relative importance of the continued existence and development of the fetus, on the one hand, against a spectrum of possible impacts on the mother, on the other hand. As an exercise of raw judicial power, the Court perhaps has authority to do what it does today; but, in my view, its judgment is an improvident and extravagant exercise of the power of judicial review that the Constitution extends to this Court.

  • Ernst Schreiber: “Novus Ordo Seclorum= “A new order to/for the ages,” actually.”
    .and that would be to follow our conscience to vocation through freedom and the pursuit of Happiness.
    .
    I love Byron White. Byron White defended against Hugo Black the right to a relationship with almighty God in public square, prayer.
    .
    The one word I would change in his writing is the word: “constitutionally dissentitled.” to constitutionally disenfranchised. The word “disenfranchised” brings the weight of our civil rights to bear as “We, the people…” especially since the scientific proof of the newly begotten child as having constitutional civil rights to Life as our constitutional posterity from the very first moment of his existence.

  • The Supreme Court was as wrong in the Roe v Wade decision of the late 20th century as it was in the Dred Scott decision in the mid 19th century. When the issue is important, the Justices sitting on the bench render the most unjust decisions possible. They fail to realize in this life that the Supreme Justice is NOT a disinterested spectator in the events of human affairs, but they will find out in the next. Yesterday a black man was not a human being and today a baby is not a human being. God sees this. The first time He allowed a bloody civil war to punish us. What will He allow today?

  • Art Deco wrote, “your remarks are relevant exactly how?”
    As the dissenting justices both acknowledge abortion to be lawful in some circumstances, any attempt to restrict or regulate it wouldbe, in practice, have proved futile.
    Things would have been no different, if the majority had upheld the Texas statute, but subject to that limitation. The Scottish experience shows why.

  • Robert Bork wrote a devasting critique of the case in clear language,exposing it as a complete sham.His book should be required reading for anyone going to DC to march.

  • “Things would have been no different, if the majority had upheld the Texas statute,”

    Complete and total rubbish. The number of abortions exploded after Roe, the best estimates indicating a doubling in number.

    Additionally there is quite a difference between a country having a high murder rate and the same country legalizing murder.

  • The very nature of liberty requires a free people to allow and accept behavior from others that is both repugnant and benighted.

  • It does not require that people allow the destruction of innocent human life.

  • On the bright side, Roe v Wade was a 7-2 decision. Most decisions upholding abortion since then have been by the thinnest of margins, many only 5-4.

  • Denver, you are describing license, not liberty.

  • Denver: “The very nature of liberty requires a free people to allow and accept behavior from others that is both repugnant and benighted.”
    .
    Snowflake babies, eggs fertilized, frozen and gestated have grown into “people”. (44,000 in U.K.) You say “a free people” must be given due process of law. “a free people” ought not be murdered.

So Impeach Him

Wednesday, July 2, AD 2014

If the Legislature shall fail to pass legislation that the President deems essential, the President shall have the authority to unilaterally pass such legislation via Executive Order. – US Constitution, Article II, Section 5, as envisioned by Barack Obama.

One would think that, having unanimously been rebuffed by the Supreme Court yet again for executive overreach, President Obama would be somewhat chastened. Of course the person who thinks that obviously doesn’t know Barack Obama.

President Barack Obama appeared equally annoyed and frustrated with House Republicans on Tuesday, dismissing their recent threat of a lawsuit and promising to continue with the executive actions that have so bothered the GOP.

“Middle-class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff,” Mr. Obama during a speech along the Georgetown waterfront. “So sue me. As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something.”

Since there is no imaginary codicil in the Constitution that permits the President to act unilaterally, even if “middle-class families” can’t wait, President Obama is technically quite wrong. Leaving aside the dubious analysis that middle-class families are anxiously awaiting some kind of immigration reform, the President’s self-congratulatory statement about trying to do “something” is constitutionally and politically noxious.

The constitutional problem is obvious. We still liver under a republican form of government, one that is largely built upon the foundation of checks and balances and separation of powers. To concentrate powers into one hand is to set a course for tyranny. As our constitutional scholar of a President has no doubt read:

But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

Reading a little further down, Madison writes, “In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates.” Yes, the legislature is to be dominant, with the president afforded necessary checks to make sure that the legislature doesn’t get out of control. But that check on the legislatures comes in the form of a veto pen. The president’s power is essentially a negative one, ensuring that the Congress does not abuse its constitutional authority. Notice, however, that Madison does not prescribe an affirmative check to the presidency. He does not advocate  – nor would almost any of the Framers – presidential ability to act outside of Congressional authority (save in times of rebellion) on his own initiative. The president’s job is to restrain Congress, not for him to get out hand himself when he doesn’t like legislative inaction.

The policy aspect of Obama’s arrogant message is that at least he is doing something. It doesn’t really matter what he is doing or whether what he’s doing actually works, but the main thing is he’s doing something. And that sums up the progressive movement in a nutshell. “Don’t just stand there, do something” has been the official motto of the progressive movement for the past century. The details are of niggling importance. That the proposal might, at best, be unhelpful and, at worst, deprive citizens of their liberty, is not given much consideration.

Of course Obama is merely treading in the same path as progressive presidents that have preceded him. Woodrow Wilson (aka the reason we shouldn’t allow Ph. Ds in the White House, says this Ph. D) wanted to radically re-orient the American polity towards a Prime Minister model. FDR threatened to expand the size of the Supreme Court until he got what he wanted. President Obama is simply acting out the aspirations of Wilson, FDR and their many progressive boosters. Congress? Bah, unhelpful. The Supreme Court? Bah, we’ll just ignore those old codgers.

Unfortunately the president’s arrogance is justified. After all, what is Congress going to do? Speaker Boehner’s going nowhere lawsuit is a futile and pathetic attempt to reign in Obama. Republicans may very well sweep the midterm elections, but we all know that this president is not going to be impeached, and assuredly will not be removed from office. No, President Obama will certainly still be in office until noon on January 20, 2017. So he can taunt Congress all he wants knowing full well that they can’t and won’t do anything to him, and that a large chunk of the public doesn’t even care that this is happening.

Please don’t take this as yet another criticism of those feckless Republicans. Admittedly their options are narrow, and they are narrow because of the reckless fecklessness of Congressional Democrats. There was a time in this country when it was thought that we had in essence four parties: Congressional Democrats and Republicans, and then the Presidential Democrat and Republican parties. All members of Congress jealously guarded their own powers and protected the institution, even when presidents of the same party were sitting in the Oval Office. Those days are gone. There is really nothing short of premeditated homicide caught on film that would spur Congressional Democrats to join in any impeachment proceedings, and even then it might only be a 50/50 vote in that caucus. This is a bipartisan problem to some extent, though the progressive left is even more invested in the idea of a single, centralized authority benevolently guiding us towards utopia.

That is why I think Jonah Goldberg’s criticism of Charles Murray’s piece, in which Murray tries to distinguish between the liberal left and the progressive left, hits the mark. Murray is somewhat right that there is a distinction to be made between “liberals” on the left who, while they agree with the favored policy choices of the progressive left, nonetheless deplore the tactics employed, especially as regards to the stifling of dissent. Yet these liberals don’t kick up too much of a fuss when those tactics achieve their preferred policy outcomes. I don’t see too many liberals complaining about executive overreach – well, not when the overreach is coming from the hands of Barack Obama.

And so here we are, with a president openly thumbing his nose at the republican form of government, and roughly half of the country is yawning at or cheering on this development.

Mr. Franklin’s sage wisdom echoes through the ages.

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38 Responses to So Impeach Him

  • I think the distinction Murray is trying to make is generational. George McGovern is dead and Nat Hentoff is real old. As for the succeeding cohorts, fuhgeddaboutit.

    As for the President, do you detect a note of petulant rage that there are people and impersonal forces that thwart him? Do not most of us get over that by age 53? Is there not a clinical name for that?

    ‘Roughly half the country’ would be about 41% thereof with a declining secular trend. Truman, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Bush – it never really got any better for them from this point forward (quite the contrary in the case of three of the five). It did for Eisenhower, but this point in his tenure was just after the end of a sharp recession and his party still got shellacked in the 1958 federal elections. Wagers when BO is at the end of the line, 2/3 of the public will have had quite enough of him.

  • do you detect a note of petulant rage that there are people and impersonal forces that thwart him?

    No doubt, Art. The man has got to be one of the most thin-skinned people to ever hold that office. He is not somebody who likes to be challenged, as is evidenced by the way he has constructed his cabinet and network of advisers. For all the grief that GWB received from the left, he was clearly someone who not only only tolerated but even seemed to promote some level of dissension among his advisers. This president – not so much.

  • The legislature can bring any executive to heel through the power of the purse-strings.
    If the executive can neither raise nor spend money, it is reduced to impotence. Many a British monarch was brought to heel by parliament threatening to refuse supply.

    Perhaps, they could start with a motion to reduce the President’s salary and expenses to, say, $100 a year.

  • Congratulations on writing “reckless fecklessness”. It was a truly honorable act. I feel elevated simply by cutting and pasting it.

  • Sometimes I’m a poet, and I don’t even know it.

  • Obama is calling their immigration bluff, isn’t he? The establishment Republicans want “comprehensive” immigration “reform” too, and so have no words with which to tell him why doing nothing is better than doing something. No principled position they hold as a party. Jeff Sessions has been trying to feed them their lines, but…

  • Perhaps, they could start with a motion to reduce the President’s salary and expenses to, say, $100 a year.

    We have a bicameral legislature, with the upper house run by a man who has managed to accumulate a net worth of $6.7 million after nine years of small-city law practice and forty years of public employment. Among his more choice interventions in public discussion was to accuse the Republican presidential candidate of being a tax cheat sans details (though we can now guess the DNC has operatives in the IRS) and to accuse Koch Industries of being nefarious agents of influence.

    (This last is the partisan Democratic meme d’annee. Of the top 16 contributors over the last generation to campaigns and political parties, 12 favor the Democratic Party and 4 regard politicians as fungible. The top Republican contributor is number 17, which shells out 1/3 of what the top Democratic contributor does. The Democratic intertubez are obsessed with the contributor ranked 60, Koch Industries. As Alinsky said, “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. ” Sad to say, the political opposition has turned into a hate group. Not happy we over here).

  • “Sometimes I’m a poet, and I don’t even know it.”

    You could have employed alliteration. But, it would be unacceptable in this forum.

    The zero can’t be impeached. He enjoys a 99% approval rating from the lying, liberal media and owns 100 million government dependents/employees that he feeds and clothes.

  • I like the idea of reducing the salary. Donald answered my question a few weeks ago about why impeachment won’t work. I also think we could let him know we are cutting the money to ex presidents…. and other benefits too, like special security forces once they are no longer in office. Presidents need to realize their is real life with the rest of us once they are out of office. They really think they are special. 🙂 and, especially for Obama, that “I am special” seems to be the root of the defiance problem he exhibits when it comes to following the rules.
    It irks me that he went to MN to stump for Al Franken for some of the sound bites we were treated to a few days ago, like a campaigner. Going to MN is sweet and easy for him…I think we should redirect Air Force One to Brownsville or Tucson and ask him to get out and stump there.

  • A president’s salary and expense budget can’t be reduced during his term. Any change in compensation could only apply to the next administration.

  • I also think we could let him know we are cutting the money to ex presidents…. and other benefits too, like special security forces once they are no longer in office. Presidents need to realize their is real life with the rest of us once they are out of office.

    1. Build a records center in Kansas City and move the archival material there. Then deed the physical plant and the gew gaws of those presidential libraries over to the county government in question and never build another one.

    2. Remove the grandfather clause which requires perpetual security details for presidents serving prior to 2001 (the Bushes get 10 years). Richard Nixon lived the last 6 years of his life without a security detail and if it worked for Nixon, it works for the rest of them. IIRC, Harry Truman went round without one in spite of the assassination attempt against him which killed a member of his detail. We could have paid for home health aides for Ronald Reagan. He did not need cops looking after him. Was Lady Bird Johnson’s life ever in danger? Why did she have 37 hours of 24/7 protection, and why did Henry Kissinger and Stansfield Turner receive none?

    3. Pay for some secretaries to answer the mail they get.

    4. Withhold from them some of their pay as retirement savings. No need to have an actuarially unsound pension. Few of them were bad earners and all but two recent occupants were in late middle age, old, or wealthy when they took office. Maybe Clinton have behaved better if he needed that law license of which he was stripped.

  • Obumbler does not care what opinion polls say about him. He will do what he wants to do. He has his backers and they will support him no matter what.

  • Thank you, Paul Zummo.
    .
    When a president acts outside of the U.S. Constitution, he violates his oath of office.
    Obama has promised us everything and forgets to keep his promises.
    .
    Obama blatantly announces that he will violate his oath of office and act outside of the Constitution
    Let the Executive Orders Obama writes be the grounds for impeachment. In them, Obama has arrogated to himself powers that are not constitutionally his. It is past time.

  • Impeach him? Maybe necessary.
    As you say though, good luck with that one.

  • “The legislature can bring any executive to heel through the power of the purse-strings.”

    They can, but they won’t. Remember last year’s “government shutdown”?
    Obama knows very well that all he need do is wait for the media to make a laughing stock of the Republicans, then they’ll capitulate.

  • The house republicans need to be “impeached” at the ballot box this Nov. Through their obstruction they have caused more damage to this country then any executive order. They have not done the job they were elected to do and they deserve to be removed.

  • “Through their obstruction they have caused more damage to this country then any executive order.”

    Utter rubbish on stilts. The House of Representatives have sent many bills to the Senate with needed reforms and Harry Reid has made certain each and every one dies in the Senate to prevent Obama having the political risk of vetoing common sense legislation.

  • The house republicans need to be “impeached” at the ballot box this Nov. Through their obstruction they have caused more damage to this country then any executive order. They have not done the job they were elected to do and they deserve to be removed.

    Obstruction of what? What’s so urgent, John?

  • Everything that that Siegmun guy just wrote is bu!!$#!+.

  • Obama’s progressive agenda is a tragic fiasco. Sorrowfully, the oversupply of resentful/wrathful and ignorant/unintelligent people, like Siegmun, continues to expand.

  • We talk disdainfully of sound bites, but it is obvious that they work! Too many people by into the bite-size bits I’ misdirection that are fed to them daily

  • “Buy in” to sound bites

  • “The zero can’t be impeached. He enjoys a 99% approval rating from the lying, liberal media and owns 100 million government dependents/employees that he feeds and clothes.”
    .
    100 million government dependents/employees whom he feeds and clothes are fed and clothed by “We, the people…”. Obama does nothing. The feeding and the clothing will go on in the next election cycle because the taxpayers feed and clothe the government dependents/employees…and Obama and more than some other criminal takers, like Obama. Perhaps some people buy into Obama’s lies about he, himself, doing these wonderful acts of charity, but Obama’s lies come with the threat of, the constant threat of, this charity ending, so reelect Obama for more lies and threats, especially if Obama institutes euthanasia. Then it will surely end…abruptly.
    .
    Abortion and euthanasia are the foundation of Obamacare. Someone will never need surgery, if he is dead.
    .
    Our Constitutional Republic will go on, long after Obama and Hillary and their lies about Benghazi, “you can keep your doctor, your insurance and have a 30% decrease in premiums.
    .
    “We,” the taxpayers need to rid ourselves of liars, manipulators and Chief Executive Executive Orders.
    .
    God created all things and keeps them in existence. “We, the people” made our government and keeps it in existence.
    .
    “…governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.” fromThe Declaration of Independence

  • Everything that that Siegmun guy just wrote is bu!!$#!+.

    If you begin with the assumption that ‘the job they were expected to do’ was to be an extension of Mr. Siegmun’s will or BO’s will, I guess it makes a sort of sense. Of course, few of their voting constituents actually think that. Given past experience, I suspect Mr. Siegmun will be quite disappointed this November.

  • Legislation enacted by Congress during the period running from 2009 to 2011 included the stimulus (a waste), Obamacare (fiasco) and Dodd-Frank (latent fiasco). Maybe we are better off if they are on vacation.

  • “Legislation enacted by Congress during the period running from 2009 to 2011 included the stimulus (a waste), Obamacare (fiasco) and Dodd-Frank (latent fiasco). Maybe we are better off if they are on vacation.”
    .
    The stimulus was a carefully ochestrated giveaway to those who would support Obama. Nancy Pelosi’s husband, who owns Star Kissed tuna, was given a stimulus. Solyndra was a payback in vengeance for the solar industry.
    .
    You are correct Art Deco, the stimulus was a waste for the people, but it was a boon for Obama.

  • Has anyone found my “r” from orchestrated?

  • Siegmund,

    The truth about the source of legislative obstructionism. (A quick hint, its not Republicans.):

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/368369/harry-reids-obstructionism-andrew-stiles

  • It’s rright here, Mary.

  • Pingback: Thoughts on Impeaching President Obama | Mr. Christopher Smith, OP
  • Oh, Thank You, Mike. I was afraid that I would have to become a Chinaman.

  • “But can’t he borrow the power to do these things?”
    .
    Of the 923 Executive Orders written by Obama, this one, 11921 actually disables Congress. Who will enable Congress once Obama has shut Copngress down?
    .
    -EXECUTIVE ORDER 11921 allows the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency to develop plans to establish control over the mechanisms of production and distribution, of energy sources, wages, salaries, credit and the flow of money in U.S. financial institution in any undefined national emergency. It also provides that when a state of emergency is declared by the President, Congress cannot review the action for six months.
    .
    In six months Obama can run this country into his bank account. If the people are all dead, the country will belong to Obama.

  • In addition, June 9, 201, Executive Order 13575 Rural Councils allows the government agents to come onto private farms and confiscate them if the agent does not like the way the farm is being run, or the government may not like the owner of the farm.
    .
    The Fifth Amendment, the takings clause allows eminent domain, the taking of private property for public use with just compensation. Public use became public purposes without the change having been ratified by three quarters of the states. Public purposes has now become complete usurpation of private property at the whim of government without just compensation. Very few people knew of this because of Weinergate
    .
    Obama also took control of all other executive orders, Clinton’s taking of all public lands and waterways. Very few people knew because of Monicagate. It was adultery stratigically placed to allay the people’s fear of totalitarianism.
    .
    And so it goes. Very few people knew or learned of this because of all the promises of benefits to look the other way. “We, the people” have lost our country to a very small man’s opinion and greed for power to rule the world.
    .
    Clinton was reelcted by the million illegals he made legal. Perhaps the 500,000 illegals made legal by Obama might just make him emperor, but in effect, Obama already did that in EO 11921. Just saying.

  • “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”
    – See more at: http://the-american-catholic.com/2014/07/04/the-declaration-of-independence-4/#sthash.T2w5x3VQ.dpuf

    So, impeach him.

  • 1 Kings 8 Then Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who had desired a king of him.
    “And he will take your fields and your vineyards, and your best olive-yards, and give them to his servants.” Rural Councils Executive Order 13575
    .
    “Moreover, he will take the tenth of your corn, and of the revenues of your vineyards, to give his eunuchs and servants.” The stimulus
    .
    “Your servants also and handmaids, and your goodliest young men, and your asses he will take away, and put them to his work.” Executive Order 11921
    .
    “Your flocks also he will tithe, and you shall be his servants.” Taxation without representation, constituency denied, religious liberty denied, freedom of conscience denied. (10- 22)
    .
    So, Impeach Him.

  • In the bush, witch doctors wear hideous masks, do violent contortions and shriek incantations to ward off evil spirits.
    .
    In Washington D.C , the only incantation a citizen has to permantently ward off evil spirits is impeachment.
    .
    Obama, Clinton, Bill and Hillary, have impeached themselves. It is up to “We, the people” to make it permanent, document it in the public domain, so that their Executive Orders to denude the people of their sovereign rights and others of their real estate, become empty words, so that these unauthorized, usurped authorities have no validity in and out of the Constitution.
    .
    So that the oaths that they have taken and violated impeach them. Murder of the Constitution has no statute of limitations.
    .
    So Impeach Him.

Steven Crowder and Bad Arguments for Pot Decriminalization

Wednesday, November 28, AD 2012

Via the Right Scoop comes this video from Steven Crowder, exposing some of the more ridiculous argument from those who support the decriminalization (or legalization) or marijuana:

Please note that Crowder does not address the constitutional issue surrounding federal marijuana prohibition. In fact he goes out of his way to emphasize that there are legitimate arguments to be made that this is not an issue that justifies federal intervention. But as the video highlights, none of the people he interviewed brought up the constitutional argument. Instead, his interviewees relied on tropes that are untrue. He also makes a point about prohibition that I have often made: namely, that the 18th Amendment prohibited the use of a substance that was already legal and widely used by most Americans. Marijuana legalization would make available a previously criminalized substance used by a minority of Americans.

Like Crowder, I believe that the constitutional arguments against federal marijuana prohibition are, at a minimum, compelling. But if you are going to take up the cause of decriminalization, at least make better arguments than these people.

Continue reading...

114 Responses to Steven Crowder and Bad Arguments for Pot Decriminalization

  • Ok. Well, seeing as how I’ve been discussing this on my own latest post, I may as well move the discussion here.

    There are many arguments against marijuana prohibition. What I find fallacious is the idea that all of these arguments are merely “tropes.” What these kids are expressing, I believe, is based on their own personal and seemingly extensive experience with the drug itself. You can say it isn’t scientifically accurate, but that’s not quite the same as saying that it has no connection to reality.

    When you have teenagers admitting they are regular users of the drug who obviously aren’t psychotic, it isn’t so easy to sell the argument that marijuana always and necessarily causes some sort of permanent damage. I smoked it myself in high school and so did virtually my entire peer group. Very few psychotics in that group. Most of us used it casually and lightly at parties; some were dedicated potheads who probably weren’t too brilliant to begin with.

    Ultimately I reject the idea of a nanny state. Let’s say marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol. My personal experience doesn’t bear this out (having witnessed and been involved in dozens of violent situations due to alcohol and never one related to pot), but I’ll accept the statistical findings. It still isn’t as dangerous as crack or meth, not even close. It might cause a person to have certain problems but when people compare marijuana to alcohol, they’re thinking of the danger posed to society, which in most people’s experience is about equal. So I don’t believe there is any moral imperative to outlaw the drug. Using coercion to force people to make the right choices is a violation of human dignity.

    That said, I also believe in localism. If cities, counties and states want to control a substance, I don’t object. In this pluralistic federal republic we ought to be able to find alternatives if we don’t like the way things work in one area.

    Finally, I object to the use of my tax dollars for prosecuting people who are doing what I believe they ought to have a right to do. Even if people don’t end up in prison for marijuana use, their lives can be disrupted in all sorts of ways by the state. In keeping with theme of my post, organic, natural society imposes penalties on irresponsible drug users as well – drug tests by current and potential employers have deterred far more people from smoking pot that I have I known than Puritanical arguments against intoxication. I do believe that “freedom works”, and that a free society can still impose costs and risks upon such behavior that are probably far more fair and effective than the intrusive nanny state.

  • Spicoli, you might discipline yourself by composing a piece of commentary which does not make use of the first person singular.

  • Oh, that means a lot coming from the most pedantic and pompous blowhard to ever grace these comboxes.

  • Children, behave yourselves or I am turning this car around.

  • . He also makes a point about prohibition that I have often made: namely, that the 18th Amendment prohibited the use of a substance that was already legal and widely used by most Americans. Marijuana legalization would make available a previously criminalized substance used by a minority of Americans.

    It’s worse than that– one is a plant used by a small number of folks, the other is a substance that can be made on accident with most food stuffs, has been used in all but a few known cultures and has been seriously proposed as a reason that civilization exists.

    Totally. Not. Similar.

  • Why does the number of people even matter?

    I don’t care if only 10 people want to smoke pot. The question still remains, should they be persecuted by the state for doing so?

  • Foxfier, marijuana was legal and used by many, many societies for many, many reasons and in many, many ways for 12,000 years under the name of hemp or cannabis. It was only made criminal, and began being commonly called marijuana, in 1937 and the criminalization was done by a conspiracy between Anslinger, Hearst and DuPont, for the reason of greed, to demonize it to congress and the American people. Marijuana “is one of the safest therapeutic substances known to man, and safer than most common vegetables” – DEA Judge Young, 1988. People really should do ALL the research before discussing this subject.

  • Plus, they can tax the hell out of weed.

    “Prohibition” likely is worse than the scourge it is meant to end.

    The US may as well devolve into the “Land of the Lotus-Eaters.” See The Odyssey.

    Youths might as well “turn on and tune out.” Once Obama’s completed the confiscations and/or destruction of the evil, unjust private sector, there will be nothing for you.

  • Pretty weak tea. Let’s take a few of the arguments made in the video one at a time and see how they hold up.

    Hypocrisy – “some people support legalizing cannabis, but want to ban big gulps!” I suppose that’s true, but the problem with most of these left vs. right hypocrisy charges is that they can be turned around on the accuser. The “conservatives” who think that, e.g., a mere tax on soda would be an outrageous example of the “nanny-state” run amok, but who have no problem with the complete criminal prohibition of cannabis are also hypocrites. You either believe in liberty or you don’t.

    Cannabis vs. alcohol – sorry, but you’re way off on this one. Cannabis is not just safer than alcohol. It’s much, MUCH safer, and by every objective metric. Alcohol is toxic. People can and do die from alcohol overdose every year. And because alcohol has a large number of dangerous drug interactions, it also plays a role in many fatal poly-drug overdoses. Cannabis is non-toxic. It is incapable of causing a fatal overdose. Alcohol is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. It turns out that drinking poison isn’t good for you. Cannabis use is not associated with increased mortality. Alcohol is addictive. In fact, you can be so addicted to alcohol that you can literally die FROM WITHDRAWAL. Cannabis is not physically addictive in any meaningful sense. If you want to talk about “psychological addiction,” be my guest (of course, that’s also possible with alcohol… or sex, or shopping, or video games, or a thousand other things that humans find pleasurable), but let’s at least acknowledge that there’s no cannabis equivalent to delirium tremens. Alcohol, as a disinhibitor, is a MASSIVE contributor to violence. It’s involved in something like HALF of all violent crimes and 70% of domestic abuse cases. (Stop and think about those numbers for a second.) Cannabis has never been linked to violence. If anything, it DECREASES the risk of violence by pacifying the user. While they can be overstated, there’s a reason we have the stereotypes of the “belligerent drunk” versus the “mellow stoner.” I know which one I prefer to be around.

    Few people go to jail for marijuana possession (they’re in jail for “distribution”) – Let’s assume that’s true. Who cares? It’s sort of like arguing that “we hardly ever burn witches at the stake” in an attempt to justify a law against witchcraft. The fact that ANYONE is in jail for marijuana possession is an outrage. And the argument that many people are actually in jail for “distribution” (as opposed to possession) doesn’t do much for me. Locking someone in a government cage for the “crime” of growing a plant or engaging in a mutually-beneficial exchange for its sale is equally barbaric.

    Legalizing pot won’t reduce crime (because criminals will find another way to make money) – Sorry, but this is economically illiterate. It’s pretty simple. Cannabis prohibition empowers and enriches criminal thugs by giving them a monopoly on a lucrative market. And black markets are inherently violent because of things like unenforceable contracts, large cash transactions, the inability to use the courts or the police to challenge intimidation, etc. Prohibition fuels violence because it IS violence. It’s the policy of sending men with guns to arrest and incarcerate the sellers of (certain) drugs and their customers. That will ALWAYS produce reactive violence.

    Marijuana and drugged driving – Again, cannabis is not alcohol. Alcohol is a massively-impairing disinhibitor that promotes risk-taking behavior. Cannabis is a mildly-impairing euphoriant. Drunk drivers tend to underestimate their impairment level and frequently drive FASTER than they would when sober. People who consume cannabis are much more likely to overestimate their impairment level and either refuse to drive or compensate adequately for their impairment by driving more slowly and cautiously. Drunk driving is a huge source of traffic fatalities. “Stoned driving” simply isn’t. And alcohol and cannabis are SUBSTITUTES. States that legalized medical marijuana saw a 9% decline in traffic fatalities compared to non-mmj states, a result that appeared to be largely attributable to a decline in drunk driving deaths. In any event, the whole drugged driving argument is a red herring. It’s illegal to drive while impaired, and cannabis relegalization won’t change that.

    The conservative case for reform – Finally, if you don’t like the arguments that “the left” uses on this issue, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. There are plenty of “conservative” arguments that work just fine. Conservatives are supposed to believe in principles like limited government, individual liberty, respect for the 10th amendment, and opposition to the nanny-state. And conservatives are supposed to want to to end hugely-expensive government programs with a proven track record of failure. It’s pretty hard to square any of those with support for the war on (some) drugs. At the end of the day, the question is not whether cannabis is “harmless.” (Very few things in this world are.) The question is not even whether the benefits of cannabis outweigh its risks. The question is who decides in a free society: adult citizens for themselves or politicians and bureaucrats for all of us.

  • Nice work Roger. Especially on the last paragraph.

  • Almost all stoners I have encountered, heavy, routine users of marijuana, are guilty of the same offense Papillon was guilty of:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGpMLIayQEo

    I would cheerfully beat the tar out of anyone who attempted to have my kids get involved with this tribute to human stupidity.

  • Besides, anything which inspired those hideous Cheech and Chong movies should be banned as a matter of public mental health!

  • There are already multiple stringent restrictions placed upon tobacco and alcohol; I see no reason why a combination of those restrictions could not be placed upon pot. No smoking in public places, no sale or distribution to minors, no driving under the influence, and tax it to the skies. But if you smoke it in your own home, on your own time, with your own friends, that’s no one’s business but yours.

  • Which I’ve NEVER done, by the way, and wouldn’t start doing even if pot were legal. But in light of the fact that Illinois state law already hugely restricts smoking the still perfectly legal substance of tobacco, it seems to me the same restrictions could easily be applied to marijuana.

  • “and tax it to the skies.”

    One of the illusions of proponents of marijuana legalization Elaine is that it would eliminate the illegal sale of it. “Taxing it to the skies” would ensure that the illegal sale of it would continue to flourish. As to driving under the influence, I found this study to be significant:

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2012/02/09/smoke-and-mirrors-driving-while-on-marijuana-doubles-ones-chances-of-a-serious-car-crash/

    Many DUI offenders I have represented were also smoking marijuana. Most did not get caught for the marijuana because consent is normally withheld for the blood test.

  • Donald: Ok, so you found a study which suggested that marijuana DOUBLES your risk of a serious car crash? How about a little context? Let’s assume the study’s findings are accurate. That’s comparable to the risk increase you get from driving 5 mph over the speed limit. (So the penalties for both should be similar, no?) Also, driving with a BAC of 0.08 (right at the legal limit) increases your crash-risk 11-fold. And driving while texting evidently makes a crash 23 times more likely. (Take the Oprah pledge!) Again, a recent study showed that the passage of a medical marijuana law was associated with a 9% DECLINE in traffic fatalities.

    http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2011-11/todays-study-debate-medical-marijuana-laws-reduce-traffic-fatalities

    And again, no one is suggesting that it should be legal to drive while dangerously impaired by ANY drug. That is a completely separate issue.

  • Fast and Furious. $70B a year to the Mexi Cartels. 800,000 people a year in jails around the country. Inner city crime. Gangs. And I can still have a pound of weed on my front porch by day’s end with one phone call. Yep. Sure works for me!

    How many drive-by shootings have there been lately over bootleg hooch?

  • “One of the illusions of proponents of marijuana legalization Elaine is that it would eliminate the illegal sale of it. ‘Taxing it to the skies’ would ensure that the illegal sale of it would continue to flourish.”

    Well, sure if you set the tax rate high enough, I imagine that it EVENTUALLY becomes the functional equivalent of prohibition. But that rate has to be pretty darn high to get there. Right now many states have astronomically high taxes on cigarettes. But we don’t see rival cigarette cartels engaging in shoot-outs over turf. Is there a “grey market” for untaxed cigarettes? Yes, but it’s only a very small FRACTION of the much larger market. (And legal sales continue to generate a tremendous amount of tax revenue.) And the problems associated with that grey market are much, much smaller than the problems associated with the black market for illicit drugs. Similarly, do we still have moonshiners? I guess (if you can believe everything you see on the Discovery Channel). But what share of the alcohol market do you think they control? Now compare the current situation to the one we saw during alcohol prohibition.

  • “And again, no one is suggesting that it should be legal to drive while dangerously impaired by ANY drug. That is a completely separate issue.”

    If that is the case, then that would indicate that if marijuana is eventually decriminalized throughout the country then it would have to be regulated. What sort of regulations would you be in favor of? The same that apply to alcohol? The same that apply to prescription drugs? What impact would this have on the continuance of a black market in marijuana following decriminalization?

    In regard to driving and marijuana we really don’t know how many automobile accidents it causes each year in this country, because it is so rarely tested for, unlike alcohol where if there is the slightest odor, out comes the breathalyzer.

    “Is there a “grey market” for untaxed cigarettes?”

    Actually there is a thriving illegal trade of cigarettes from low tax states to high tax states. This is also comparing apples to rock salt. We have a very large legal apparatus to sell cigarettes. No such apparatus exists for marijuana. I suspect that few large companies would wish to get involved in the cannabis trade and bear the social stigma, along with the law suits, that would doubtless be aimed at a company that would wish to provide legal marijuana, especially since marijuana is probably a carcinogen like tobacco. The “sin taxes” on marijuana would likely be far higher than the “sin taxes” on cigarettes as a result.

  • Ok let’s tax prostitution and legalize that too! It’s all about the money with some of you legalizers. Freedom ! Liberty ! Get real ! I was a drug case prosecutor for 17 years. 90% of the cases I had involved defendants who began using pot before selling it or using or selling hard stuff. Oh I know…you can find someone who smokes on the weekend and say, “Why not let the guy smoke?” The answer, like in many aspects of life, is that when you BALANCE out the good and bad, legalizing pot and and now say to the kid or young adult who has NOT used, “Oh we were wrong, go ahead!,” you in effect say, “It’s ok.GO AHEAD.” Oh ..and stop with the “we will regulate it and keep it from kids !” Never works. Pot users get probation here, with some community service. Sellers, young and first timers get drug court. Take away the risk of punishment and you encourage it ! I don’t want my kids to walk to the grocery store and see “Joe’s Pot Shop” next to the Kroger’s Grocery store, or see adds for it on TV or billboards. If you could promise me the dopers would stay in their own home and never get out, and never cause family problems, wrecks, their own physical problems, get fired because of drug use, never go to the hospital and make me pay for their drug treatment…sure let ’em smoke themselves to death. But that doesn’t happen. And by the way…fellow “Catholics,” It is a sin to use drugs !! So,read this about the effects of pot. And hiow can you say what you do when it is now shown that kids are in rehab more for pot than booz ! Read something and fight this crazy legalization crap.
    http://www.casacolumbia.org/templates/PressReleases.aspx?articleid=358&zoneid=61
    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/27/early-marijuana-use-linked-to-to-i-q-loss/

  • When we regulate something we do NOT automatically condone it’s use; the regulations concerning alcohol and tobacco are there to protect us from the vast increase in criminality that would otherwise exist if these substances were prohibited.

    A regulated and licensed distribution network for all mind altering substances would put responsible adult supervision in between children and premature access to drug distribution outlets (illegal street dealers). Regulated and licensed distribution would reflect and respect society’s values, thus preventing children obtaining easy access to these dangerous substances. What we need is legalized regulation. What we have now, due to prohibition, is a non-regulated black market to which everybody has access and where all the profits go to organized crime and terrorists.

    If you support prohibition then you support bank-rolling criminals and terrorists. There’s simply no other logical way of looking at it.

  • “Almost all stoners I have encountered, heavy, routine users of marijuana, are guilty of the same offense Papillon was guilty of.”

    Are people who smoke pot all day, every day “wasting their lives”? Maybe. Are alcoholics who get drunk and stay drunk wasting theirs? I think so. But while “wasting your life” might be a “crime” in the philosophical sense, it’s not one the state has any business punishing you for. The most important word in the phrase “wasting your life” isn’t the first one. It’s the second. And if your goal is to prevent people from “wasting their lives,” locking them in a government cage seems like an odd way to go about it.

  • “Ok let’s tax prostitution and legalize that too!”

    Er…. well yeah, prostitution SHOULD be legal in a free society. I’m less crazy about the taxation.

  • “especially since marijuana is probably a carcinogen like tobacco.”

    Donald, I’d love to chat more, but I’ve got to run to work in a minute. But no, that is absolutely not correct. Cannabis is not a carcinogen. In fact, there’s much better evidence that it has anti-cancer properties. Cannabis smoke, on the other hand (like all smoke) DOES contain carcinogens, but shockingly even smoked cannabis doesn’t appear to increase your risk of cancer. (Google “Tashkin study.”) The largest study ever done showed that cannabis smokers had a somewhat LOWER risk of cancer than their non-smoking peers (although this suggestion of a protective effect wasn’t statistically significant). The tobacco smokers had a 20-fold increase in cancer risk. If you’re interested in learning more, I’d recommend “Marijuana is Safer.” Heck, just download the free kindle sample and read that. Have a great day!

  • Like most things marijuana related the question of whether it is a carinogen is subject to debate. I think that the weight of the evidence is that it is a carcinogen:

    http://lungcancer.about.com/od/causesoflungcance1/f/marijuana.htm

  • “Are people who smoke pot all day, every day “wasting their lives”? Maybe. Are alcoholics who get drunk and stay drunk wasting theirs? I think so.”

    Alcohol has wreaked and continues to wreak havoc in our society. I don’t see why we should allow marijuana an opportunity to do the same. As for “locking people in cages” it is a colorful image, but I have been practicing law for 30 years in Central Illinois and I have rarely seen people suffer more severe penalties for cannabis use than I see people suffer for underage drinking. The only person I can recall being sent to prison for cannabis was a fellow who was attempting to transport a truckload of marijuana through the state and had the misfortune to get involved in an automobile collision in Livingston County where I reside. Heavy cannabis users who I have represented have been in cases where they were facing charges for selling other drugs including heroin and meth. Of the drug addicts I have represented I can’t recall any who didn’t use pot in addition to their other drugs of choice.

  • Prostitution is a grave evil that harms all concerned. It should be criminalized to the extent the law can be prudently enforced. Libertarianism is grounded in the myth that the consequences of actions can be quarantined within obvious borders. That is simply not the nature of the human condition, and the Church recognizes that.

  • What is forgotten in this discussion was pointed out by Charles Murray some years ago: drug prohibition was instituted in 1914 at a time when the discipline of the labor market was a good deal more vigorous than is the case today. The alternatives to working were state poorhouses of the sort where Annie Sullivan lived, reliance on family, train yards, and skid row. Also, families had more authority over their members than is the case today. In other words, their were structural constraints on dissipation that have been removed. Even in that environment, the legislators of the day thought the detritus of a free market in all sorts of intoxicants was too much to bear.

  • People who imbibe do not typically do so to a point of intoxication. With street drugs, intoxication is the whole point.

  • Smoking is not required to gain the benefits of cannabis, whether for medicinal need or just for enjoyment. Any potential health hazards due to smoking are not the hazards of cannabis, but of smoking.??

    Vaporization is proven safe,  less expensive, and preferred by patients over smoking by a margin of 7:1 in peer reviewed research published in 2007.
    ?http://www.cmcr.ucsd.edu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=149:vaporization-as-a-qsmokelessq-cannabis-delivery-system&catid=41:research-studies&Itemid=135

  • Dr. Donald Tashkin spent a few decades doing research to prove that cannabis causes lung cancer with the blessing of the ONDCP and NIDA. It almost made me feel sorry for him when he conceded that there is no “positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use,” he said. “What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.”
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/25/AR2006052501729.html

    After presenting these unwanted results the prohibitionist parasites threw him under the bus. But it didn’t stop them from using his previous research to try to get people to infer that cannabis causes lung cancer.

  • “Like most things marijuana related the question of whether it is a carinogen is subject to debate. I think that the weight of the evidence is that it is a carcinogen:

    http://lungcancer.about.com/od/causesoflungcance1/f/marijuana.htm

    The weight of the evidence? You haven’t even met your burden of production. 😉 Your own source deals with SMOKED cannabis and concludes (in the face of conflicting evidence) that it “probably” increases your risk of cancer, but that this risk “most likely pales” in comparison to the one posed by smoked tobacco. But smoking isn’t required to gain the benefits of cannabis. It can be vaporized or made into edibles or tinctures. You take it as a given that smoked cannabis’ association with cancer should be controversial. It’s actually quite surprising. We KNOW that cannabis smoke (again, like all smoke) contains carcinogens, and yet AT BEST (and despite lots of government money spent searching) we have conflicting evidence, some studies showing a modest decrease in risk and others showing a modest increase for certain populations.

  • ” Alcohol has wreaked and continues to wreak havoc in our society. I don’t see why we should allow marijuana an opportunity to do the same.”

    Yes, alcohol use creates tremendous problems for a non-trivial minority of its users. I don’t think that’s a sufficient justification to take away EVERYONE’S rights, but I can still (sort of) understand how the supporters of alcohol prohibition achieved the super-majority required to pass an amendment to the constitution. I can DEFINITELY understand how the opponents of prohibition achieved the super-majority required to repeal that same amendment in a little less than 14 years. Alcohol prohibition didn’t eliminate the problems associated with alcohol. It amplified them and created an entire new class of prohibition-related problems: empowering organized crime, fueling gang violence, undermining respect for the law, promoting official corruption, diverting scarce law enforcement resources away from solving real crimes, sowing distrust between communities and police, etc. We see the same thing today with drugs-other-than-alcohol prohibition. And don’t forget that alcohol and cannabis are substitutes. To the extent that cannabis prohibition is successful at deterring use, one of the results is likely increased use of infinitely more dangerous booze.

  • Mr Mc Clarey is correct

    I have known, when I was a defense attorney, (after prosecuting for 17 years)many persons who have stopped drug use, sale, whatever because of the deterrant of further punishment and the offer and use of rehab plus a bunch of community service and a fine. There are plenty of folks who dont use drugs because it is illegal and they also know it is terrible for their health, eithe rafter arrest or prior to it. Old pot heads who just bonged for the fun of it (like another poster– I bet) can’t see past their brownies to make a cogent argument. There are plenty who make the same arguments as some here about coke or meth. They handle it fine and say we should tax it, “regulate it,” and legalize (many say) all drugs. The bottom line is that, ON BALANCE, more harm would be done in legalizing pot or any other drug.Roger can’t be a Catholic …can he?….he suports legalizing prostitution (as he said earlier.) How does Our Lord feel about the idea of the society placing a stamp of approval on sinful activity??

  • “If that is the case, then that would indicate that if marijuana is eventually decriminalized throughout the country then it would have to be regulated. What sort of regulations would you be in favor of? The same that apply to alcohol? The same that apply to prescription drugs? What impact would this have on the continuance of a black market in marijuana following decriminalization?”

    This right here demonstrates just how anti-big government libertarians really are, which is they are not. Anyone who has even a cursory understanding how government has become bigger in this country should be able to see that decriminalizing pot would invite a bigger, more intrusive government.

  • Previous poster—-
    “Alcohol prohibition didn’t eliminate the problems associated with alcohol. ” Well. duh ! Alcohol legalization has produced many more physical ,societal and mental problems than were present when there was Prohibition. Legalization = more use= more problems !!The legalization will mean many MORE problems than exists now. That’s the point !!
    Alcohol was much more acceptable prior to Prohibition and part of society than pot is now…not even close.

  • ” How does Our Lord feel about the idea of the society placing a stamp of approval on sinful activity??”

    You’d have to ask Him. But just because we don’t use the violence of the state in an attempt to prohibit a particular activity, that doesn’t mean we personally endorse it. Any suggestion to the contrary is creepily totalitarian. I wouldn’t think legal policy re: prostitution (as opposed to moral teaching) would be a matter for the church. That seems more like Ceasar’s territory, no?

  • “There are plenty of folks who dont use drugs because it is illegal ”

    Who are these folks? They aren’t teenagers or young adults, I can tell you that. I have never known a single person who really wanted to smoke pot, and would smoke pot if it were legal, but refuses not to simply because it is “against the law.” Without exception the people I know who believe that marijuana ought to be illegal don’t smoke it and wouldn’t smoke it if it were legal.

    In any case, it really saddens me that the main issues are never addressed. Are we really justified in using taxpayer money to fund coercive violence against what is, in the vast majority of cases, a socially harmless activity? The answer in my book will always be “no”.

    And as for this notion that legal approval of sinful activity amounts to a moral endorsement, it is completely alien to Catholicism. The Church has always taught that it may be necessary or prudent to permit certain evils in order to avoid even greater evils. Doctors of the Church have held that prostitution might be legalized if it would prevent greater evils.

    I’m not even convinced that moderate use of marijuana is “evil”, and certainly not therapeutic use. It wasn’t against the law until the 1930s, for heaven’s sake. We’re not talking about some perennial principle of Western civilization here.

    Don said,

    “Alcohol has wreaked and continues to wreak havoc in our society. I don’t see why we should allow marijuana an opportunity to do the same.”

    People are allowed to drink alcohol without having the police and the courts screw up their lives, provided they do so responsibly. I don’t see why adults with full cognitive faculties shouldn’t be allowed to exercise their free will in this matter, to be punished only when their habits cause them to violate another person’s rights.

  • “Alcohol was much more acceptable prior to Prohibition and part of society than pot is now…not even close.”

    This is a non-argument. It offends me that it is even made. Abortion is a huge part of our society now, 1.5 million babies murdered every year. That certainly hasn’t changed our attitude about its legalization!

  • The “conservatives” who think that, e.g., a mere tax on soda would be an outrageous example of the “nanny-state” run amok, but who have no problem with the complete criminal prohibition of cannabis are also hypocrites.

    Or, possibly, they have the brains to figure out that there’s a difference between foods containing sugar and a mind altering substance.

    But by all means, continue with the false accusations! I’m sure it will work on someone that doesn’t already agree with you.

    Is there a “grey market” for untaxed cigarettes?

    If you don’t know enough about the situation to know there is a black market for smuggled tobacco– when I was a young adult, the biggest drug bust by value was made in Washington… it was black market tobacco.
    If you’ve ever been near an Indian reservation, you should have also noticed how many people go there to buy their cigs without taxes, too. (and hope not to get caught on the way back)

    Seeing as I’m familiar with how people get into jail on “possession,” I don’t have a lot of respect for the supposed outrage of people being in jail for it.
    My car was broken into by a crime ring. They stole all papers so that they could also steal my ID, took the radio and everything of value they could find…including my left front tire. They were caught when one of the criminals felt cheated on his cut of their drug dealing business and called the police to complain. They were caught red handed with thousands of dollars worth of stolen goods, proof of ID theft, a large amount of pot and a very nice detective returned my tire. (one criminal had been missing a rim before, and the detective matched the actual rubber to my other three)
    A year or so later, I got a letter that they’d been given suspended community service for possession. Imagine what it would take to actually be sent to jail for the plea bargained charge of possession!

    Pot is definitely not the same as alcohol– not only is it usually pretty obvious who has smoked pot recently but not who has had a few drinks, I notice that those folks I know who used more than once or twice become utterly, bat-crud irrational about the subject at the drop of a hat. We’re talking along the lines of how evangelical atheists act when someone says “bless you!” after a sneeze.

    But it is useless to try to discuss it rationally, because all unwanted evidence will be ignored. It just doesn’t matter. Show that it’s associated with a huge jump in mental issues? You just hate pot, and freedom, and people get pissy if they’re drinking, and really you’re worse than these other people…. *eyeroll*

    Huge waste of time.

  • It offends me that it is even made. Abortion is a huge part of our society now, 1.5 million babies murdered every year. That certainly hasn’t changed our attitude about its legalization!

    ….

    You are comparing outlawing a drug to chopping up small babies, and you’re the one that feels offended.

    Thank you so much for giving an illustration of how this always devolves into one side being unable to make the most basic of distinctions between very, very different things.

  • Foxfier:

    You dianosed a widespread epidemic affecting the entire political spectrum: its sufferers use evidence/facts the way drunks use lampposts – for support not illumination.

  • Alcohol prohibition didn’t eliminate the problems associated with alcohol. It amplified them and created an entire new class of prohibition-related problems: empowering organized crime, fueling gang violence, undermining respect for the law, promoting official corruption, diverting scarce law enforcement resources away from solving real crimes, sowing distrust between communities and police, etc. We see the same thing today with drugs-other-than-alcohol prohibition.

    Spicoli, you would be hard put to find one category of crime of any importance more prevalent now than in 1980. The Sicilianate mob is moribund. If you take an interest in corruption, why not delve into why an investment bank would have hired Rahm Emmanuel a dozen years ago, given that his previous employment in the private sector consisted of cutting meat for Arby’s? Cops stealing from the property clerk’s stash is penny ante.

  • You dianosed a widespread epidemic affecting the entire political spectrum

    I really, really hate that formatting of a response. It’s generally a fancy way of saying “everybody is guilty of it, so it doesn’t matter.”

    I know you were probably just setting up for the lovely old quote about drunks and lampposts, but getting very tired of it.

  • Paul,

    At the risk of sounding pedantic, there is an inaccuracy in your post when you say that “the 18th Amendment prohibited the use of a substance that was already legal and widely used by most Americans.” The 18th Amendment prohibited the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcohol, but it did not prohibit either its possession or consumption.

    Personally I am inclined to support legalization of all drugs, for more or less the reasons given by William F Buckley. But I understand that is probably a nonstarter, whereas marijuana legalization is not. At the very least, it seems like this is an issue that should be decided by the states rather than having a federal policy.

  • Personally I am inclined to support legalization of all drugs,

    Are you inclined to support comprehensively dismantling the welfare state?

  • Are you inclined to support comprehensively dismantling the welfare state?

    Pretty much, though I don’t expect that will be happening any time soon either.

  • Fox,

    I’m not going to let this go. You said,

    “You are comparing outlawing a drug to chopping up small babies, and you’re the one that feels offended.”

    No. That is NOT what I am doing. I am rejecting argumentum ad populum. I am rejecting the absurd notion that the prohibition of alcohol was wrong because it was a substance enjoyed by and approved of the majority of Americans, while prohibiting marijuana is ok because only a minority enjoys it (far more people than you think are probably causal pot smokers, but whatever).

    Abortion is the clearest example of why the majority isn’t always right. Even people who claim to be pro-life, in the majority, approve of some abortions. So I am not comparing the ACTS, but rather pointing out that majority approval is morally irrelevant, and that what people who make this argument are supporting is, in my view, the tyranny of the majority.

  • I will add: I don’t see comprehensively dismantling the welfare state as being a prerequisite to drug legalization. For one thing, the costs of feeding and housing non-violent drug offenders are enormous. For another, experience in other countries suggests that you can deal with the harms of drug abuse just as well by treating it as a public health matter as by treating it as a criminal matter (and at a lower cost both to the state and to society generally).

  • I’m not going to let this go

    Nor am I.
    YOU are the one who said, basically, “oh yeah? Well, abortion kills thousands every year, but I don’t support it being legal!”

    Thus drawing a comparison between an inherent evil, like chopping up babies and… banning pot.

    If you wanted to say it was a logical fallacy, you could, with arguments to support that claim.

    Instead, you committed a false analogy, and one which used dead babies.

    That you can’t see why this is a really bad thing does not help your side of the argument, nor does the way you seem to have missed that the argument you claim to be refuting was in relation to why alcohol isn’t pot. Shortly, even if they were functionally identical— a really, really big “if”– the effects of “prohibition” are not similar.

  • Oh, side note:
    far more people than you think are probably causal pot smokers

    Gee, appeal to popularity? Thought you didn’t like that– and you couple it with mind-reading, too!
    You’d be surprised how obvious it is to those who are not, especially when this topic comes up.

    ************************

    For one thing, the costs of feeding and housing non-violent drug offenders are enormous.

    Ever try figuring the costs they impose by being “nonviolent drug offenders”? Had a former drug dealer in one of my Navy shops; he thought it was hilarious how his “customers” would steal anything that wasn’t nailed down, from Christmas presents to jewelry from anyone foolish enough to allow them in the house. He claimed to feel a little bad about getting food stamps, though, especially if he knew they had little kids. Ditto when they’d bring in the kids’ birthday presents. Watched his “baby-mamma” very closely to make sure she wasn’t selling the things he bought his son, or sharing them with his son’s half-siblings. (Wasn’t formally charged with anything, so he had “no record” when he signed up for the Navy. Yay, plea-bargains. Another guy in the shop had used most every drug under the sun…and it was pretty obvious.)

    Then again, the druggies and dealers who broke into my car weren’t violent either, were they?
    Just cost me several hundred (I had insurance, so it didn’t go into a thousand or more) dollars I didn’t have, and stole my identity, along with that of who knows how many others. Put my car out of service until I could get a new wheel.
    Nobody was harmed, though!

  • Fox,

    I didn’t say that, I didn’t use a false analogy, and my point has nothing to do with “the effects.” Let’s try this again.

    You and others basically argued that marijuana prohibition was not similar to alcohol prohibition because a majority of Americans used it – in fact, you claimed it may even be the foundation of civilization.

    My argument is that whether or not the majority approves of something is never a sufficient reason to persecute a minority, as is clearly evidence by the example of abortion on demand. Abortion is supported, to varying extents and degrees, by the majority of American citizens. Only a minority want it banned in all cases. Does this have any bearing on whether or not abortion ought to be legal? No, it doesn’t. It wouldn’t matter if one person was against it and everyone else was doing it, just like it doesn’t matter if one person wants to smoke pot and no one else personally approves of it. It’s completely irrelevant to whether or not a person should be persecuted by the state.

    So, I really have no idea what you are talking about when you say I am “drawing a comparison” between the act of smoking pot and the act of killing a baby. I’m not.

  • “Gee, appeal to popularity? Thought you didn’t like that– and you couple it with mind-reading, too!”

    It was an aside. Get over yourself.

  • You and others basically argued that marijuana prohibition was not similar to alcohol prohibition because a majority of Americans used it

    That’s not exactly the argument I am making (I can’t speak for other commenters as it is now far too late for me to go back and read carefully through all the comments now that I have a moment of free time). It’s not a populist argument, but rather a key point to keep in mind when considering the different effects of the prohibitions. When we passed the 18th amendment, we curtailed (okay, not prohibited) the use of something already widely legally in use, whereas we are currently prohibiting something that has not been legal and is not widely used. So the effects of ending that prohibition would probably be somewhat different.

    It’s not a definitive argument in favor of continued marijuana prohibition, but it is merely something to think about as we proceed.

  • For one thing, the costs of feeding and housing non-violent drug offenders are enormous.

    1. Nonviolent? How many of them are comprehensively averse to robbery and assault? That aside..

    2. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has a budget of about $6.9 bn. The Department of Justice attributes about $3.5 bn to the warehousing of those jailed on drug charges. About 30% of those jailed on drug charges are housed in federal penitentiaries. The gross cost of warehousing drug dealers and such would appear to be around about $12 bn.

    3. The net cost of housing these goons would be the gross cost less the cost of housing them on other charges derived from any crimes they might commit absent the drug trade (e.g. robbery, numbers-running, loan-sharking, and the other sorts of activity favored by the seedy and unscrupulous).

    4. Medicaid spending by state and federal authorities clocks in there at around $470 bn.

    5. Do not forget to calculate the cost of disability benefits for people who ruin their health snorting cocaine. It’s amazing what you can fit up your nose.

  • Look, Fox, you’re a regular commenter here, and I don’t want to burn bridges over something like this. My comparison offended you. Fine. We aren’t going to agree, so I’m going to drop it. I apologize for the snark. I don’t apologize for my contrast, because I think it was perfectly accurate. I’m done. Merry Christmas.

  • “It’s not a definitive argument in favor of continued marijuana prohibition, but it is merely something to think about as we proceed.”

    Well, that’s fine, when so stipulated.

  • “Do not forget to calculate the cost of disability benefits for people who ruin their health snorting cocaine. It’s amazing what you can fit up your nose.”

    I have represented a drug addict on various charges by court appointment since 2009. Both she and her drug addict spouse are on disability. Their only disability I am aware of is their addiction to drugs.

  • For another, experience in other countries suggests that you can deal with the harms of drug abuse just as well by treating it as a public health matter as by treating it as a criminal matter (and at a lower cost both to the state and to society generally).

    Which other countries? Do not say Britain. The joys of the ‘British system’ for handling heroin addiction were debunked by James Q. Wilson a generation ago.

  • It was an aside. Get over yourself.

    After you.

    I didn’t say that, I didn’t use a false analogy, and my point has nothing to do with “the effects.”

    You might want to read what I wrote again; the second half there makes it very clear you didn’t get the point.

    My argument is that whether or not the majority approves of something is never a sufficient reason to persecute a minority, as is clearly evidence by the example of abortion on demand.

    Which assumes that the minority that recognizes unborn humans as persons is the same as the minority that smokes pot.

    That is an utterly disgusting notion, as well as being false. It is a false analogy. Opposing an inherent evil is not the same as wanting to get high.

    And you’re still missing that the supposed “non-argument” was about the effect from prohibition, not the morality of it.

    Go on killing the strawmen, though. You seem to be having fun, at least when you’re not getting huffy and offended when someone supposedly uses an argument in the same format that you, yourself, then actually use.

  • Look, Fox, you’re a regular commenter here, and I don’t want to burn bridges over something like this.

    Fellow contributor, actually, although I’ve been pretty busy with the babies and haven’t been posting even at my own blog, beyond sharing links.

    I’m done. Merry Christmas.

    Fine. Merry Christmas.

  • Art,

    I was thinking more of Portugal.

  • Please read the work of Caitlin Hughes on the Portuguese approach. About what you could say was that policy adjustments did not make things worse. If you have an a priori objection to prohibition, that is motivating. If you do not, not so much.

    The very modest observable declines after 2001 in some metrics of drug use in Portugal were no more than you might anticipate from cycles in collective taste and less pronounced than you saw in this country in the years running from 1979 to 1992 (when enhanced prohibition was the order of the day).

    By the way, there is really no such thing as a ‘public health’ approach to addressing drug abuse. Physicians and allied trades only address the detritus of drug abuse and epidemiologists only describe it by making analogies. Drug abuse is a problem of human misbehavior. You either set standards, coerce, and rely on the subject so informed to redirect his will, or you hire people to inveigle and manipulate him. Not surprisingly, people who inveigle and manipulate for a salary or for fees tend to favor the latter approach.

  • ‘Which assumes that the minority that recognizes unborn humans as persons is the same as the minority that smokes pot.”

    It assumes no such thing. That’s all.

  • “Or, possibly, they have the brains to figure out that there’s a difference between foods containing sugar and a mind altering substance.

    But by all means, continue with the false accusations! I’m sure it will work on someone that doesn’t already agree with you.”

    Well, SOMETHING sure seems to be working. 🙂

    http://assets.blog.norml.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Legalization-Gallup-2011.jpg

    What were the margins’ on CO and WA’s legalization votes? 55-45? It’s over friend. I understand that you might want to “stand athwart history, yelling STOP,” as suggested by conservative (and good Catholic) William F. Buckley, Jr. But the time to do that was in the early 1900’s when the idiocy of cannabis prohibition was first foisted on us. Another great William F. Buckley quote: “Even if one takes every reefer madness allegation of the prohibitionists at face value, marijuana prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than marijuana ever could.”

  • What were the margins’ on CO and WA’s legalization votes? 55-45? It’s over friend.

    Over where, Spicoli?

  • “Over where, Spicoli?”

    Everywhere. The prohibitionists have lost the debate and they are hemorrhaging supporters as more and more people recognize which way the wind is blowing. Take a look at that graph I linked to (national Gallup poll on support for cannabis legalization by year) and tell me if you notice anything about the trendline. And support gets stronger the younger the demographic. In fact, the only age group that continues to support cannabis prohibition in any kind of meaningful way is the 65+ crowd. It’s over. Or at least it soon will be. Colorado and Washington were the first states to relegalize. They won’t be the last.

    BTW, I still haven’t seen that movie, but it’s on my list. 😉 Have a blessed day!

  • Over where, Spicoli?

    Macho Grande.

    As for Roger’s response, I’ve tweaked it a bit.

    The pro-traditional marriage people have lost the debate and they are hemorrhaging supporters as more and more people recognize which way the wind is blowing. Take a look at that graph I linked to (national Gallup poll on support for gay marriage legalization by year) and tell me if you notice anything about the trendline. And support gets stronger the younger the demographic. In fact, the only age group that continues to support traditional marriage in any kind of meaningful way is the 65+ crowd. It’s over. Or at least it soon will be. Maryland and Minnesota and Maine and Washington were the first states where people voted for gay marriage. They won’t be the last.

    Vox Populi certainly is not Vox Dei.

  • “Vox Populi certainly is not Vox Dei.”

    Certainly not. But I wasn’t aware that God had staked out a position on the use of state violence against people for the “crime” of possessing one of His plants (unless you count Genesis 1:29). BTW, excellent “Airplane” reference!

  • What were the margins’ on CO and WA’s legalization votes? 55-45? It’s over friend.

    Your side got plus ten in vote fraud central and you want to offer it as proof of a landslide starting? On a topic that the trustfund babies want to happen? You do realize we only just got rid of state liquor stores, right? Every silly thing that comes along, Washington tries, takes damage and then eventually might grudgingly stop.

    People naturally assume most people agree with them, and that more are doing the same thing they are than actually do so. Legalization will have the one upside that the problems will become more obvious, and less blamable on “prohibition.” (Though I’m sure that people will manage.)

  • But I wasn’t aware that God had staked out a position on the use of state violence against people for the “crime” of possessing one of His plant

    I believe it starts with “render unto Caesar….” Unless you’re going to try to prove that God’s law requires getting high?

  • “Human law,” says St Thomas, “cannot exact perfect virtue from man, for such virtue belongs to few and cannot be found in so great a number of people as human law has to direct.” [ST 2-2.69.2.1.]

    Again, human laws “leave certain things unpunished on account of the condition of those who are imperfect, and who would be deprived of many advantages, if all sins were strictly forbidden and punishments appointed for them.” [Quaestiones disputatae de malo 13.4.6]

    Where to draw the line is a matter of the prudential judgment of the legislator.

  • Art says: Please read the work of Caitlin Hughes on the Portuguese approach. About what you could say was that policy adjustments did not make things worse. If you have an a priori objection to prohibition, that is motivating.

    I think Art means “other objections” when he says “an a priori objection.” If so, then we are in agreement.

  • “Your side got plus ten in vote fraud central and you want to offer it as proof of a landslide starting?”

    Come on, friend. I think you realize how weak a response that is. Do you REALLY believe that these victories were attributable to voter fraud? The results tracked the pre-election polling pretty well. And you’re NOT impressed by a 10-point margin of victory on an issue that polled nationally at 35 percent or so as recently as 2005? Talk about moving the goalposts!

  • I think you realize how weak a response that is.

    No, not really; the weakness is in the original claim that it’s refuting.
    Seeing as I had to contact the county clerk several times to try to get them to stop sending ballots to my folks’ house, and the only thing that finally stopped it was when I legally changed my name, I think you simply don’t understand how common vote fraud is here– especially if someone is going to college in-state, or has a second house.

    And you’re NOT impressed by a 10-point margin of victory on an issue that polled nationally at 35 percent or so as recently as 2005? Talk about moving the goalposts!

    1) Washington is not the nation. “We’re weird” would be an understatement; think Cali, but less desert and not quite as far gone.
    2) if it’s that volatile, you should really avoid using polls on the subject as some sort of magic symbol of rightness.

    *****************

    Where to draw the line is a matter of the prudential judgment of the legislator.

    Bingo.

    If it’s the law and the law isn’t inherently wrong, then God says it can be enforced.

  • You’ve named two states, Spicoli. You’re going to have to do better.

  • I think Art means “other objections” when he says “an a priori objection.”

    Nope.

  • I’m not sure “volatile” is the right word for what we’re seeing in the opinion polls. That sort of implies that support is moving up AND down. That’s not what I see when I look at that Gallup graph.

  • Art,

    In that case you might want to look up the definition of a priori.

  • Roger- I can do nothing about what you believe from seeing someone’s graph of a poll question, nor do I care what you think a word that means prone to quick change “sort of” implies.

  • Foxfier: Also, I didn’t cite to polls as some “magical symbol of rightness.” I cited to them in response to your suggestion that my arguments (and by extension, those of other reform advocates) weren’t “working.” I think the evidence clearly shows that they are. (Obviously, the credit that I personally deserve is infinitesimal.) But you’re correct, the popular opinion isn’t always the right one. Having said that, I don’t think polls are COMPLETELY irrelevant to the ultimate question. There’s a line in Kipling’s classic poem “If”: “if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too.” I’d ask yourself if you’re making sufficient allowance for the rapidly-growing number of Americans who doubt your thinking on this issue.

  • I cited to them in response to your suggestion that my arguments (and by extension, those of other reform advocates) weren’t “working.”

    You mean where I told you that false accusations– calling people hypocrites for making a rational distinction between sugar and pot— don’t change minds?

  • “If it’s the law and the law isn’t inherently wrong, then God says it can be enforced.”

    But that doesn’t say that you, as a Christian, must SUPPORT all of “Ceasar’s laws” (or oppose all changes to those laws). We’re not talking about whatever moral objection to cannabis you might have. We’re really talking about the appropriate use of coercive force, i.e., violence.

  • “No, that’s different” is always the response of the hypocrite. And yes, I firmly believe that pointing out the inconsistency of conservatives who claim to support limited government, individual liberty, federalism, etc. IS effective. Heck, it worked on me. I used to be a straight-Republican-ticket-voting “conservative” before becoming a libertarian. Recognizing the chasm between Republican rhetoric and their actual stances on issues like the drug war was a big part of that shift. Anyways, gotta get back to work. God bless!

  • “No, that’s different” is always the response of the hypocrite.

    No, it’s the reasoned response of someone who isn’t ensnared by dogmatic ideology, and who cannot think outside of the realm of theory. Political ideologies are important in providing thoughtful parameters in thinking about political issues, and I am not one to discount them. The problem with libertarians is the absolutism inherent in the ideology, where “liberty” becomes nothing more than a buzzword to allow individuals to cease thinking outside of abstract theory.

  • In that case you might want to look up the definition of a priori.

    Don’t need to.

  • No, it’s the reasoned response of someone who isn’t ensnared by dogmatic ideology, and who cannot think outside of the realm of theory.

    More precisely, the theory addles people in its reductionism and is not nearly as omnicompetant as they think. See Marxism, psychoanalysis, sociobiology, in addition to libertarianism. This can be true not merely with social theory but with contrived dispositions. Read samples of Gloria Steinem’s writing before and after 1971 and see how an engaging magazine journalist ruined her mind.

  • “The problem with libertarians is the absolutism inherent in the ideology, where “liberty” becomes nothing more than a buzzword to allow individuals to cease thinking outside of abstract theory.”

    That’s the problem with all ideologies. But libertarianism does a valuable service by forcing people justify their advocacy for the use of organized coercive violence in the furtherance of their OWN ideologies. In the case of marijuana use and trade, I don’t think that justification has been provided.

  • I had a conversation with a gentleman who worked in the parish district attorney’s office. (Parish = Louisiana county) The issue at that time was the impact of the legalization of gambling in surrounding parishes. Did it reduce crime as proponents said or increase it? Without hesitation, he said the workload in the office doubled.

    The number of illegal gambling rings decreased, but many other crimes increased: fraud, theft, embezzlement, etc. All of the increase was some how linked to the legalization of gambling, crime committed to feed a population of new addicts.

    So while it’s true the costs in prosecuting illegal gambling went down, law enforcement and prosecution costs went way up. The same is and would be true of legalization of narcotics. Not just monetary costs but costs in lives, biologically and socially.

    Crowder is spot on and so are his facts. Even a humor magazine gets it… (I think some will like #2.)
    http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-pro-marijuana-arguments-that-arent-helping/

  • Roger_Murdock says:
    Friday, November 30, 2012 A.D. at 11:46am (Edit)
    “If it’s the law and the law isn’t inherently wrong, then God says it can be enforced.”

    But that doesn’t say that you, as a Christian, must SUPPORT all of “Ceasar’s laws” (or oppose all changes to those laws). We’re not talking about whatever moral objection to cannabis you might have. We’re really talking about the appropriate use of coercive force, i.e., violence.

    You tried to imply God did not have a position on enforcing laws. I pointed out that He does have one on laws which are not inherently immoral.
    Please do not try to change the subject. You keep doing that, and it’s just annoying.

  • But libertarianism does a valuable service by forcing people justify their advocacy for the use of organized coercive violence in the furtherance of their OWN ideologies

    Because, you know, it would never occur to someone to dispute a proposed regulatory ordinance without consulting Murray Rothbard’s corpus of writings.

  • “You tried to imply God did not have a position on enforcing laws. I pointed out that He does have one on laws which are not inherently immoral.”

    Sorry, if that’s how you interpreted it, but that wasn’t how I intended it. Do you disagree with my (hopefully-clarified) position about what your Christian faith requires? And BTW, I’d argue that cannabis prohibition IS inherently immoral. Again, prohibition is enforced through violence. And when it comes to violence, I take sort of a “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”-type of stance.

  • “No, it’s the reasoned response of someone who isn’t ensnared by dogmatic ideology, and who cannot think outside of the realm of theory.”

    Well, in fairness, it’s the response of both. Whether or not there are in fact important differences between the two situations is what determines if the hypocrisy charge is justified. And in the case of cannabis vs. sugar, I’ll admit that there ARE some differences that one might arguably use to justify differential legal treatment. Sugar is much, MUCH more dangerous. Many more people die each year as a result of excess sugar consumption than as a result of excess cannabis use. Sugar is a huge culprit in causing our current obesity crisis. Interesting side note: recent research suggests that cannabis can help regulate weight and REDUCE the risk of obesity.

    “Researchers analyzed data from two large national surveys of the American population, which together included some 52,000 participants. In the first survey, they found that 22% of those who did not smoke marijuana were obese, compared with just 14% of the regular marijuana smokers. The second survey found that 25% of nonsmokers were obese, compared with 17% of regular cannabis users.”

    http://healthland.time.com/2011/09/08/marijuana-slims-pot-smoking-linked-to-lower-body-weight/#ixzz2Do0nR57A

    Sugar is also far more addictive (and I’m speaking from personal experience on this one). I’ve abstained from cannabis for months at a time without difficulty. I tried the “Paleo Diet” a few years ago. Let’s just say that those were the longest 36 hours of my life. 🙂

    In addition, human beings have been consuming cannabis for thousands of years for medical, spiritual, and recreational purposes. In contrast, refined sugar has only been a part of the human diet for the past 200 years or so. The forms (and the quantities) in which humans are consuming sugar today are unprecedented.

    But having said all that, I’m still inclined to allow people to exercise sovereignty over their own bodies and minds. More to the point, I’m NOT inclined to use the violence of the state in an attempt to substitute my judgment for theirs.

  • Again, prohibition is enforced through violence. And when it comes to violence, I take sort of a “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”-type of stance.

    This is non-sensical. Are we to legislate only on matters where nobody engages in the behavior being legislated?

    Sugar is much, MUCH more dangerous.

    Well now you’re getting to the heart of the matter. Indeed food in general has much more adverse health effects when consumed in gluttonous proportions. Excess use of alcohol, sugar and other foodstuffs is bad for one’s health. However, the simple use of marijuana and other narcotics is intended to produce altered states of mind. There is no purpose to these drugs other than to get the user high. Sugar is a necessary element of a human diet. So you’re going to have to do better than that.

  • “The problem with libertarians is the absolutism inherent in the ideology, where ‘liberty’ becomes nothing more than a buzzword to allow individuals to cease thinking outside of abstract theory.”

    I think Bonchamps gave an excellent response to this charge, but I just wanted to add a few things from my personal perspective as a libertarian. First, I’m much less motivated by the abstract “buzzword” of “liberty” than I am by the all-too-concrete phenomenon of violence. Are there dogmatic libertarians? Sure, but (as Bonchamps pointed out) that’s true of any ideology. For me, libertarianism is less a “complete theory of everything” than it is a general framework for beginning inquiry on political issues. It’s essentially just a reminder that the state operates through violence. Thus, the question is not whether we should “allow” a particular activity. It’s whether we should use the coercive force of the state in an attempt to forbid it. I think that threshold should be set pretty high. I don’t think the possession of a non-toxic plant that happens to be capable of use as a mild euphoriant comes ANYWHERE CLOSE to meeting it.

  • “This is non-sensical.”

    Tell that to Jesus. 🙂 But seriously, read my more recent post.

  • Tell that to Jesus

    Ah yes, because Jesus preached anarcho-libertarianism. Snippy retort, but ultimately far of the mark.

    First, I’m much less motivated by the abstract “buzzword” of “liberty” than I am by the all-too-concrete phenomenon of violence.

    Yes, you’ve said this a few dozen times, but none of what you have written has indicated that you understand how your philosophy is supposed to achieve this aim. In fact the danger of an extreme form of libertarianism is that lacks even a minimal amount of coercive laws will in fact descend into violence.

  • And BTW, I’d argue that cannabis prohibition IS inherently immoral. Again, prohibition is enforced through violence. And when it comes to violence,

    You have conflated violence with force. Any regulatory ordinance makes use, ultimately, of force. We are not commanded to political anarchism.

    For me, libertarianism is less a “complete theory of everything” than it is a general framework for beginning inquiry on political issues.

    Well, for me it’s cheese doodles and Shaun Cassidy records. Political terminology does not describe if it is applied haphazardly and idiosyncratically. Sorry, but libertarian discourses a set of theories of everything in the realm of social relations. The Reason Foundation, the Foundation for Economic Education, the von Mises Institute, and the Ayn Rand Institute as well as the purveyors of ‘law and economics’ and ‘economics of the family’ have different theories, but they do traffic in the notion that these are comprehensively descriptive of everything social theory considers.

  • Roger_Murdock-
    you say you can argue things, but you mostly assert them– with a notable lack of accuracy, as Art most recently pointed out in your conflation of violence with gov’t force.
    When challenged, you either offer nonsense such as that corrected by Paul, claim that God is on your side (without support, in spite of being corrected about the Church’s teachings on enforcing laws) or try to change the subject– usually either by calling people names, or shooting off in a different direction. When none of those work, you ignore the points– such as your ignorance of the black market for untaxed tobacco.

  • “You have conflated violence with force.”

    I see a distinction without a difference. If a man with a badge and a gun tells you you’re under arrest, and you respond with “no, thank you,” what follows is violence.

    “Any regulatory ordinance makes use, ultimately, of force.”

    Exactly. And that’s why I believe we should be so cautious before passing laws.

    “Political terminology does not describe if it is applied haphazardly and idiosyncratically. Sorry, but libertarian discourses a set of theories of everything in the realm of social relations. “

    Before I was too dogmatic. Now I’m not dogmatic enough. 🙂

    “When challenged, you either offer nonsense such as that corrected by Paul, claim that God is on your side (without support, in spite of being corrected about the Church’s teachings on enforcing laws) or try to change the subject– usually either by calling people names, or shooting off in a different direction.”

    I don’t think I called anyone any names. Are you referring to the charge of hypocrisy against conservatives who support cannabis prohibition but oppose the “nanny-state” vis-a-vis things like soda taxes? If so, I’m sorry if I offended. I truly didn’t (and don’t) intend any animosity. But I probably should have stuck to “ideologically consistent” since “hypocrite” is a pretty loaded term. I was CALLED “Spicoli” a few times by Art, but I’m assuming he uses that as a term of endearment. I actually make a conscious point to be courteous in my comments. Just because I’m challenging your argument or position, that doesn’t mean I’m attacking YOU. And just because we might disagree on this issue (or any other), that doesn’t make you my enemy. And even if it did, I’d still be called by Christ to love you!

    “When none of those work, you ignore the points– such as your ignorance of the black market for untaxed tobacco.”

    Sorry, I’m really not trying to deliberately ignore anything, but it’s hard to respond to everything. (We’ve covered a lot of topics.) I actually thought I’d addressed the issue of “black markets for untaxed tobacco.” (I used the term “grey market” to refer to illegal sales of an otherwise-legal product.) Here’s the relevant quote:

    “Right now many states have astronomically high taxes on cigarettes. But we don’t see rival cigarette cartels engaging in shoot-outs over turf. Is there a ‘grey market’ for untaxed cigarettes? Yes, but it’s only a very small FRACTION of the much larger market. (And legal sales continue to generate a tremendous amount of tax revenue.) And the problems associated with that grey market are much, much smaller than the problems associated with the black market for illicit drugs.”

    What part of that specifically do you object to?

  • “Ah yes, because Jesus preached anarcho-libertarianism. Snippy retort, but ultimately far of the mark.”

    Jesus preached love, peace, and forgiveness. And while I WAS being a little snippy 🙂 I’m not convinced the story of the adulterous woman is COMPLETELY off the mark.

    8:3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
    8:4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
    8:5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
    8:6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
    8:7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
    8:8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
    8:9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
    8:10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
    8:11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

  • And that’s why I believe we should be so cautious before passing laws

    Right, because it’s not like there’d be any violence and coercion WITHOUT laws that compel people to do stuff.

  • “We are not commanded to political anarchism.”

    No one argued that we were. There is a difference between libertarianism and anarchism. One recognizes the legitimacy of a limited government to protect natural rights that would otherwise be insecure – the other does not. I don’t believe that drug prohibition has anything to do with securing natural rights, and in fact violates them. On the other hand, natural law and the free market are more than sufficient to punish people who abuse drugs.

    But go ahead and call me “Spicoli” again, because references to 80’s movies continue to make you look so darned cool and relevant.

  • I’m curious if our fellow libertarian theoreticians have any practical, real world experience with drug addicts. As someone else earlier in this thread pointed out about liberalization of gambling laws, the effects are not salutary. Similarly, talk to people who work at drug treatment centers and similar social service organizations that deal with drug users (not just addicts). Or have a career police officer father like I do. You’ll find that they almost universally oppose more liberal drug laws. Surprisingly, they do see marijuana as a gateway drug. Their testimony contradicts all the “studies” that say otherwise. They see it happen in real life, they’re not living it out on a blog.

    I don’t see how this type of “limited government” is in any sense securing natural rights. If anything, it degrades them.

  • No one argued that we were.

    Oh yes he did.

  • I see a distinction without a difference.

    Sorry, this is a Catholic blog, where the distinction is recognized.

  • because references to 80?s movies continue to make you look so darned cool and relevant.

    Being cool and relevant is not my stock in trade now and was not in 1982. Calling a spade a spade is (from time to time).

  • I’m not convinced the story of the adulterous woman is COMPLETELY off the mark.

    I am.

    Or at least as it pertains to this topic, because it really has absolutely no relevance to this discussion.

  • J. Christian,

    “I’m curious if our fellow libertarian theoreticians have any practical, real world experience with drug addicts.”

    I do.

    “As someone else earlier in this thread pointed out about liberalization of gambling laws, the effects are not salutary.”

    This is not as important to me as a person’s rights and dignity, which includes the freedom to make bad choices so long as the rights of others are not violated.

    Ultimately, however, as I have said many times, I don’t mind local governments doing whatever they like on this issue, as long as people are free to choose localities to live in.

    “Similarly, talk to people who work at drug treatment centers and similar social service organizations that deal with drug users (not just addicts).”

    What they have to say isn’t going to change my opinion about natural rights, and it isn’t going to make me forget that I’ve known dozens of casual pot smokers who have done nothing to warrant state intervention in their lives.

    I accept that marijuana can be and often is dangerous. Unlike other hard narcotics like crack or meth, it can also be consumed in moderation and for medical use.

    “Or have a career police officer father like I do. You’ll find that they almost universally oppose more liberal drug laws.”

    Of course. Every law we do away with is one less reason for an intrusive police presence in our lives.

    “Surprisingly, they do see marijuana as a gateway drug. Their testimony contradicts all the “studies” that say otherwise. They see it happen in real life, they’re not living it out on a blog.”

    I’ve seen, again, many people in “real life” casually use marijuana and not use other drugs. I’ve also seen and been involved in many drunken brawls. When people get violent because of liquor, we punish the violent act. I’ve never known people high on pot to engage in the sort of reckless, anti-social, violent behavior I’ve seen drunks engage in. They mostly just relax and enjoy themselves. Personally I can’t stand the stuff, because I’m already depressive.

    “I don’t see how this type of “limited government” is in any sense securing natural rights. If anything, it degrades them.”

    Then you don’t understand natural rights or dignity, I’m afraid. It is a greater harm to a person’s dignity to choose the right thing for them than for them to choose the wrong thing on their own.

  • “Calling a spade a spade is (from time to time).”

    You think you’re accurate in calling me “Spicoli”?

    I never even watched that stupid movie. And I don’t smoke pot. I’m addicted to stimulants, not depressants.

  • I was referring to the social workers, not just the police, Bonchamps. They don’t have an interest in an intrusive police presence. Neither did my father, for that matter.

    You sound young. I used to sound the way you do when I was younger. You’ll grow up someday.

  • What patronizing nonsense. My age begins with a 3. God help me if I ever become a busybody interfering with other people’s legitimately private business.

  • I mean seriously, if getting older means becoming more willing to force people to do what I think they ought to be doing, someone should just put a bullet in me right now.

  • Okay, this thread has reached the end of its useful life.

Benjamin Franklin’s Speech on Signing the Constitution

Friday, September 21, AD 2012

A woman to Benjamin Franklin at the close of the Constitutional Convention:

“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”

  Benjamin Franklin “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

September 17 of this week was the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution on  September 17, 1787 at the close of the Convention.  The speech of Benjamin Franklin on this occasion has always struck me as being chock full of wisdom.  Here is the text of his address:

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3 Responses to Benjamin Franklin’s Speech on Signing the Constitution

  • Thank you, Donald! Statesmen like that are sorely needed today.

  • It is worth recalling that several of the Founding Fathers expressed grave reservations about the Constitution.

    Washington that at one period of the deliberations the Constitution promised to satisfy his ideas, but that the great principles for which he contended had been changed in the last days of the convention. He meant the law, which required a majority of two-thirds in all those measures, which affected differently the interests of the several States. He said “that he did not like throwing too much into democratic hands.”

    “It is my own opinion,” said Hamilton, “that the present government is not that which will answer the ends of society, by giving stability and protection to its rights, and it will probably be found expedient to go into the British form.” “A dissolution of the Union, after all, seems to be the most likely result.” Like Washington, he was suspicious of democracy, “There are certain conjunctures when it may be necessary and proper to disregard the opinions which the majority of the people have formed. There ought to be a principle in government capable of resisting the popular current. The principle chiefly intended to be established is this, that there must be a permanent will.”

    Jefferson, by contrast, was a Jacobin, pure and simple – “Every people may establish what form of government they please; the will of the nation being the only thing essential. I subscribe to the principle that the will of the majority, honestly expressed, should give law. I suppose it to be self-evident that the earth belongs to the living; that the dead have neither powers nor rights in it. No society can make a perpetual Constitution or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation. Every Constitution then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of thirty-four years.”

    The wonder is that men of such different principles should have reached an agreement at all.

  • Pingback: Catholic Phoenix

What’s a Constitution Between Friends?

Saturday, June 16, AD 2012

The federal DREAM Act failed to pass Congress; however, President Obama has never been one to let a pesky little thing like the U.S. Constitution to get in the way of achieving his policy objectives.

The Obama administration will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives. The election-year initiative addresses a top priority of an influential Latino electorate that has been vocal in its opposition to administration deportation policies.

The policy change, described to The Associated Press by two senior administration officials, will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation. It also bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the so-called DREAM Act, a long-sought but never enacted plan to establish a path toward citizenship for young people who came to the United States illegally but who have attended college or served in the military.

Let’s take a look at Article II of the Constitution (the article dealing with the presidency, for those of you in Rio Linda). Hmmm, we’ve got length of term, eligibility requirements, the electoral college, Commander-in-Chief, state of the Union, adjourning Congress . . .  don’t see anything here about just ignoring the will of Congress when they don’t implement policies you approve of.

Oh. Wait. There it is. It’s right between the penumbras and emanations guaranteeing the right to privacy and abortion. My bad. Clearly my Ph. D training was incomplete.

Now you might be upset with this decision, but do not question President Obama’s fealty to the Constitution. This is a man who has been a zealous guardian of the Executive Branch’s duties and responsibilities. And if you don’t believe me, just take a closer look at the tremendous work the Justice Department has done in fighting for the Defense of Marriage Act. No, that president would never let partisan politics prevent him from faithfully upholding the laws of our land.

In all seriousness, this is another power grab that would be impeachable in a saner world. Make no mistake, this is not about the policy itself. That is a topic for another discussion, and is absolutely not the point of this post. The merit of the policy is irrelevant to the concerns over constitutional authority and power. Last I checked this was still a constitutional republic, not an autocracy, and the president of the United States cannot simply make policy absent a grant of legislative authority.

What’s troubling to me is seeing a handful of Catholics applauding this decision, including Archbishop Schnurr of Cincinnati. I understand why these individuals support the overall policy, but again, the policy itself is beside the point. You should not applaud a policy when the manner in which it is implemented so flagrantly violates the Constitution.

So let me say this bluntly: if you approve of the president’s actions in this particular case, then you have absolutely no standing whatsoever to to complain about the constitutionality of the HHS mandate. If you support this action but think the HHS mandate is a tyrannical show of force, then you are a complete hypocrite. You’re essentially signalling that you are okay with usurpation of constitutional authority when you agree with the policy outcome. Just as we can’t be cafeteria Catholics, we don’t get to be cafeteria constitutionalists either. You don’t get to pick which parts of the Constitution you uphold. Now of course constitutions, unlike dogma, can be amended and changed, though I suspect permitting the president of the United States to do whatever he likes whenever he likes would not be an advisable change.

This president has absolutely no regard for the Constitution, and this action only helps underscore this undeniable fact.

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53 Responses to What’s a Constitution Between Friends?

  • “So let me say this bluntly: if you approve of the president’s actions in this particular case, then you have absolutely no standing whatsoever to to complain about the constitutionality of the HHS mandate. If you support this action but think the HHS mandate is a tyrannical show of force, then you are a complete hypocrite.”

    Speaking of hypocrites, John Yoo, who famously claimed that a wartime president had the legal authority to torture anyone he wanted, including crushing that child’s testicles, now claims executive overreach on the part of Obama:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/303038/executive-overreach-john-yoo

    My own feeling is that the president does in fact have an obligation to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” Congress should fund enforcement adequately, but we know they don’t. And when resources are stretched, sometimes the prudent thing to do is go after the worst violators. Obama’s action may or may not be prudent. I’m opposed to the HHS mandate either way.

  • Sometimes I think Obama is the culmination of everything that is evil in this country, and maybe that is part of God’s plan. He must draw unto his person everything that is wicked – media, hollywood, academia, unions, the illegals, abortionists, homosexuals, etc., and when the time comes, all of this will be taken out in one big swoop. I can dream can I?

  • “Sometimes I think Obama is the culmination of everything that is evil in this country…”

    How is this policy/excecutive overreach pertaining to illegal immigrants “evil”? It may be imprudent, it may be unconstitutional for all I know, but I don’t see it as evil. How are illegal immigrants “wicked”?

  • The way in which it is being done Spambot I would say is evil. There are laws on the books regarding deportation. Obama by presidential fiat is now saying that he is not going to enforce those laws. Such action is lawless and goes to the heart of whether we are ruled by law. His action is destructive of the Constitutional order by which Congress makes the law and the Executive, Obama, enforces the law. His action instructs each and every citizen that when you disagree with the law you have the right to ignore it. Yes, evil is the term I would apply to this.

  • Paul

    You missed the latest amendments to the constitution.

    Preamble

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    We, Barrack H Obama, in Order to form a more perfect Commune, establish Fairness, insure domestic Tolerance, provide the Nomenklatura’s Defense, promote the Welfare system, and secure the Benifits of Multiculturism to ourselves and our (unaborted) Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.</i?

    SNIP

    Article 1 Section 8

    1: The Congress shall have Power [Delete to end and replace with] to legislate the wishes of Barrack H Obama

    Snip

    Article II Section 1

    1: The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. Barrack H Obama. He shall hold his Office ,during the Term of four Years, for life

    From
    A new Constitution

    Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

  • Donald, thank you.

    An analogy: Congress does not fund the IRS sufficiently to audit every income tax return, so the Executive Branch conducts audits on the returns that are flagged as suspicous and/or contain egregious errors. Tax returns of wealthy income earners are more likely than poorer Americans to be audited. Penalties for those caught cheating on returns might differ, too. Those caught cheating in big ways might face criminal prosecution, while those caught cheating in small ways may be let off relatively easy.

    This approach to enforcement of income tax laws does not seem evil, even if Congress did not authorize it.

  • A better analogy Spambot would be the President proposing that the IRS stop auditing tax returns below a certain income threshhold. Legislation to accomplish this is defeated in Congress. The President announces that he will simply order the IRS not to audit such tax returns anyway, any existing laws regarding the auditing of such tax returns to not be enforced by his administration.

    When a President has a blank check not to enforce laws that he does not like we are pretty far down the road to tyranny.

  • Illegal immigration IS a great evil. They know they’re breaking our laws, they know they’re stealing from our treasury, and they know they’re pulling down our workers salaries and eventually taking the bread out of the mouths of OUR children. They are not displaced people – they have a country and they have chosen to invade mine. Their presence in this country is an insult to the proper citizens who ancestors built it and to those who have legally and legitimately entered this country, sometimes taking them years to do so and at the cost of thousands of dollars! They are also willing pawns of a larger agenda of a wicked ruling class that wants to crush and depose the founding people so they can impose their communist agenda! I have very little sympathy for these criminal invaders.

  • D. McCleary ” Obama by presidential fiat is now saying that he is not going to enforce those laws.” Agreed. Just what I was about to say although ” Fiat” dignifies his actions– could just call it “power grab” I am willing to use the term evil.
    Not enforce of DOMA
    Overreach past local school boards
    1st Amendment
    2nd Amendment
    5th Amendment
    Zimmerman endangerred by him
    voter fraud, I.D.
    voter protection
    hope martial law doesn’t occur to his Hench-people

  • The USCCB is a toothless tiger in the fight for the preservation of our Constitutional freedom of the free exercise of religion because in part it openly supports this latest usurpation of due process through Congress:

    http://www.usccb.org/news/2012/12-110.cfm

    I am thoroughly disgusted with the American Roman Bishopry. At heart they are Democrat and always will be. Social justice crap has always been more important to them than conversion and repentance.

  • What is more disappointing than Obama’s action is the reaction from the majority of the citizenry and the opposition party. It will be a little hand wringing here and there and then nothing.

    This movie scene is for the bishops council and Spambot…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDBiLT3LASk

    How many more trees are you willing to see cut?

  • Jobs . . .

    Where are the jobs?

    Maybe jobs would be created if he decided to not enforce the penal (as in Federal prison) sections of the Internal Revenue Code.

    Maybe Obama, the genius, can concoct something – anything – unConstitutional or otherwise, that will create jobs for 23,000,000 Americans who can’t get work.

  • Paul,
    If you want to know what happened to the Catholic Church in this country, please read Bella Dodd’s “School of Darkness”. The Church was infiltrated and compromised a long time ago. With few exceptions, I have no faith in the Bishops to stand tall and fight Obama on the HHS mandate. I believe a schism is coming and the authentic Church will be greatly persecuted. I pray I’m wrong.

    http://catholicism.org/bella-dodd-%E2%80%94-from-communist-to-catholic.html

  • Oh no, Siobhan, you are sadly 100% correct.

    John 6:22-27 describes this people and their Bishopry so very well:

    22 On the next day the people who remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 However, boats from Tiberias came near the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the people saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27* Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.”

    —–

    This people and their Bishopry are not interested in the Gospel of conversion and repentance. They are not interested in saving souls from the eternal fires of hell (for they believe not that such a place exists except as myth to scare school children). For them the gospel is all about social justice, the common good and peace at any price. Oh how how I despise and loathe those three phrases!

    So they will welcome the illegal immigrant whole heartedly into this nation to suckle off the teat of the public treasury, Constitution and Laws to the contrary be damned, while they, by their inaction on and apathy towards the true Gospel of conversion and repentance, damn the souls of these same immigrants to hell.

    Ezekiel 34:1-10 rings loudly and clearly. The US Council of Catholic Bishops had better start listening in this life because it will be too late before that Great White Throne of Judgment in Revelation 20:11-15.

    No Democracy. No two wolves and one sheep voting on what’s for dinner!

  • Interesting observation about the parallel between the cafeteria Catholic phenom and that of the cafeteria Constitutionalist phenom. Neither wants to abide by or acknowledge any authority above its perverse self.

  • Exactly, Paul. In my eyes, when the Bishops support amnesty, they tip their hand and reveal themselves as frauds. They always talk about “welcoming the stranger”, but how about “THOU SHALL NOT STEAL”, which is a mortal sin! The illegals are not only STEALING our money, they are attempting to steal what they did not build in this country, and our sense of nationhood. That the bishops cannot see the obvious tells me that they are either completely out of touch with reality or they are complicit in the destruction of this country. Plus, in catering to the hispanics, they are also dividing the Catholic Church between english speakers and spanish speakers which will be very destructive. Though, with all of this, we musn’t give up hope because there are signs of renewal with the young and dynamic priests and religious coming up today. We’re still in the darkness, but I do see light at the end of the tunnel. I just hope our country will survive.

  • I’ve always been a little bit unclear to the extent to which the executive branch is permitted to determine its priorities when it comes to enforcement of laws. Let’s say for the sake of argument that the United States was not able, because of budgetary constraints, personnel limitations, or some other practical matters, to apply 100 percent effort to the enforcement of all federal immigration and border control laws and regulations. Every deportation costs money and personnel, after all. Is it perhaps within the executive branch’s authority to set enforcement priorities? (E.g. to focus on deportation of people who have committed crimes besides immigration violations, or on people who arrived in the country voluntarily). After all, it is in the legislature’s authority to write laws more stringently and to assign budget dollars more specifically, and it remains with the people to vote an executive out of office if we judge that he sets priorities poorly. And I don’t know — maybe it’s possible for a state to sue the U. S. in the Supreme Court to force enforcement if they can show harm from the feds’ refusal to enforce some part of the law?

    Don’t get me wrong — the *announcement* of such a policy is obviously a campaign move, and I recognize that there are good arguments for why this makes bad immigration policy. But I’m not entirely convinced that priority-setting is outside the bounds of the executive branch’s powers. Yes, the executive branch has a positive obligation under the constitution to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” but as we know from Catholic moral doctrine, positive obligations usually come with an “unless.”

  • “this is another power grab that would be impeachable in a saner world.”

    One of the offenses for which Gov. Blago was impeached by the Illinois General Assembly was his attempt to implement a health insurance program for low-income families by executive rulemaking alone, without any approval from the legislature (which had not appropriated any funds to pay for it). The offense was NOT that he tried to obtain healthcare for poor families (a good end) but that he attempted to do so without proper authority (bad means).

    I believe that, as a Catholic, one can argue either way about the justice or injustice of allowing illegal immigrants who were brought to this country as minors (and therefore cannot be faulted for choosing to break the law themselves) to stay. Remember, illegal immigration, in and of itself, is NOT a criminal offense but a civil offense — it is still wrong, but not on the same level as murder, rape or robbery.

    That said, the means which Obama has chosen to do this is wrong even if the end is just or justifiable. The separation of powers must be respected. In my opinion it would be just as wrong if a future president who was a devout Catholic and staunchly pro-life were to attempt to outlaw abortion or gay marriage nationwide by executive fiat alone, without approval of Congress or of the states.

  • Speaking of hypocrites, John Yoo, who famously claimed that a wartime president had the legal authority to torture anyone he wanted, including crushing that child’s testicles, now claims executive overreach on the part of Obama:

    Why not provide quotations verbatim and in context ‘ere making particularly inflammatory remarks?

  • AD:

    Facts!?

    Facts?!

    Obama-worshiping imbeciles don’t need no bloody facts.

    The Executive branch executes laws passed by the Legislative branch. The executive doesn’t have power to ex post facto veto any law nor to pick and choose which law it will enforce and which law it will flaunt.

    Sic semper tyrannis.

    The common good and social justice form the alibis of all tyrants.

    It seems bishops et al place a progressive, liberal temporal narrative ahead of the salvation of souls.

    St. John Chrysostom: “The floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.”

  • So what IS the proper use of an executive order? I am unclear on that. For the record, Archbishop Schnurr didn’t say anything about the president. The quote is from an archdiocesan official.

  • Obama is pandering to just about any groups for votes but what I don’t understand is that Hispanics in general are Catholics & conservatives but yet they support him. I can understand illegals supporting him but most legals do too. Of course, they know many illegals so they don’t want them deported. Why didn’t he do this when the democrats were in control two years ago if he believed in it so strongly. He once said he couldn’t do because it was illegal but, of course, he needs votes.

  • “So what IS the proper use of an executive order?”

    I don’t know all the details of federal law on this question, but based on my own experience in Illinois state government, I would say that executive orders are properly used to manage or change details of a program or policy that has been legislatively authorized, or to reorganize executive agencies (e.g., merge them or change their names). Oftentimes the legislature will authorize a program in law and insert a clause in the law saying that such-and-such agency will have charge of the program AND will adopt rules for it. Also, executive orders in Illinois don’t become effective unless ratified by the legislature within 60 days. Again, this doesn’t directly relate to how federal law works but I’m offering it as an example of how legislative/executive power COULD be balanced (the only example I’m really familiar with).

  • T. Shaw — While I may (or may not) be an imbecile, please do not imply that I am “Obama-worshiping”.

    Art Deco — Do you really need me to introduce you to Mr. Google?

  • No, you do not.

    Mr. Google will introduce me to 1,001 online rants from people like you, about which I do not give a rip and cannot be bothered to read. Show me a published article or intra-office memorandum where he develops an argument which can be fairly characterized the way you do it.

  • Paul Zummo: for what it is worth. June 17, 2012 10:16 AM
    The Mexican constitution forbids Catholicism and therefore, religious freedom. All the illegal Mexican immigrants may have sought political asylum for religious freedom had they been educated to the fact. It may be too late since the United States no longer has any religious freedom.
    When Obama learns that the Mexican aliens have come to America for freedom of religion, will he allow it?
    Right-wing extremists, as Obama likes to call pro-lifers, returning veterans of war and individual citizens who disagree with him, are trying to save humanity by keeping to “the laws of nature and nature’s God” (from The Declaration of Independence) and by serving “WE, the people”(from The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.) Obama, Pelosi, Sebelius and Obama’s 32 czars, Thomas Malthus, Paul and Ann Erhlich with their book Population Bomb, along with Uncle Hitler are trying to save humanity from extinction by a bloody, and obscene massacre of “our constitutional posterity”.
    The Mexican constitution outlaws the Catholic Church, priests and freedom of religion to this very day to protect freedom for humanity.
    The Mexican government does not give freedom. God gives freedom. The Mexican government does not give life to humanity. God gives life and liberty to His children. The Mexican government tells God how God’s people will experience God. Satan, the devil said: “If you eat the apple you will be like God – infinite.” The Mexican government killed the priests and citizens who dared to profess that Christ is King. The Mexican government tortured and killed a fourteen year old boy for being Catholic. The young man had not reached the age of legal majority, emancipation at eighteen years of age, and is considered to be an infant in a court of law. In “a court of law” is not one of the tenets of the Mexican constitution.
    Will Obama give the Mexican aliens protection from Mexican tyranny, asylum and a homeland to practice their freedom of religion and their free will and their observance of the precepts of their conscience? Will Obama give protection from tyranny to U.S. citizens to practice their freedom of religion, their free will and their observance of the precepts of their conscience?
    Only atheists, secular humanists and communists have religious freedom in the United States. This is why we have no religious freedom to petition Divine Providence in the public square for the blessings of Liberty and prosperity. Only atheists can petition Divine Justice for relief from prayer, other persons’ prayer, other persons’ speech to God, other persons’ assembly to pray, other persons’ petition for Divine Justice. Communism, atheism, and secular humanism is the diabolic intervention of the devil in human affairs.

  • applaud Mary De Voe
    thanks for the great link Siobahn

  • Anzlyne. Many Hail Mary’s for you and yours. Please pray for me and mine, one Hail Mary.
    Siobahn: Let us pray too, that the Cardinals planted by the Communists coverted to the Catholic Church.

  • It may be too late since the United States no longer has any religious freedom.

    All right, let’s dial it back a little. We haven’t quite reached Soviet status in this country. This administration has been bad enough that we don’t need to exaggerate what has happened.

  • Paul Zummo makes a point we are not quite at the extreme of the soviets, but I do think there are several things communist already in the US.

  • Not sure about the exact relevance of the Mr. Yoo reference, but I did see the piece and Spambot seems pretty accurate about Yoo being comically hypocritical about presidential overreach. But again, so what? Bush and Obama are both guilty of overreach – is that supposed to exculpate one or the other?

  • But again, so what? Bush and Obama are both guilty of overreach – is that supposed to exculpate one or the other?

    No, you are right about that, cmatt. I was just providing a counterbalance to Paul’s inference in the original post that a Catholic bishop was “a complete hypocrite” for supporting this one particular action by Obama while opposing an unrelated action by Obama. I suspect the constitutionality of each action will be determined on grounds unrelated to each other (not that I’m the expert).

    It’s been said that President Bush selected judicial appointees who favored his vision of a strong “unitary executive” — a president with broad and complete authority to execute the laws and prosecute the wars, including the war on terror. My memory is that people on the left complained most about a strong “unitary executive”, while people on the right were generally supportive, because the context was often treatement of captured terrorists. Now, the shoe is on the other foot.

    Anyway, that was all my mind when I read Paul’s piece that I may be a hypocrite.

  • The concept of the “unitary executive” is one of the most misunderstood concepts in our political lexicon. To put it as succinctly as possible, all it means is that the executive branch of the federal government is under a single head – the president of the United States. He is ultimately responsible for all executive decisions of the federal government. So even with the labyrinth bureaucracy that exists today, the buck stops with the presidency, and he and he alone is responsible for executive branch action. It does not mean, and was never meant to imply that the chief executive has plenary decision making power over all the government. He only has the ultimate authority within his own sphere (or branch), a concept that our Founding Fathers would heartily have endorsed.

    So, your counter-example of hypocrisy falls flat.

  • The concept of the “unitary executive” is one of the most misunderstood concepts in our political lexicon.

    Maybe it’s easy for me to get “misunderstood concepts” about the definition or extent of “unitary executive” because of what John Yoo stated in testimony. He said in so many words that unless a treaty or law explicitly forbade the president from crushing a child’s testicles during lawful prosecution of a war, then the president had the power and authority to do so.

    I think my counter-example is a pretty good one: John Yoo is a complete hypocrite for pushing broad powers to the president then, but regretting it now.

  • I think my counter-example is a pretty good one:

    Just thinking it doesn’t make it so.

    John Yoo is a complete hypocrite for pushing broad powers to the president then, but regretting it now.

    Even if your depiction of what he said is true, so what? You’ve proven that another person is a hypocrite. Congratulations, but you haven’t in any way made you or anyone else who supports the president’s actions any less of a hypocrite.

  • By the way, even your example doesn’t exactly hold up as a case of hypocrisy. I think Yoo has a too expansive view of executive authority, but his theoretical exercise is still distinct from the situation under discussion. According to Yoo, presidential authority is expansive absent a Congressional prohibition. In this particular case, President Obama is essentially defying a law enacted by Congress (and passed under previous administrations).

    Of course this is still beside the larger point, but I’ll give you points for trying to change the subject.

  • Even if your depiction of what he said is true, so what? You’ve proven that another person is a hypocrite.

    Paul,

    In your original post, you called out one particular individual as a hypocrite, and then used that as a launching point to say like-minded persons were also hypocrites. I’m just following your lead.

    …but you haven’t in any way made you or anyone else who supports the president’s actions any less of a hypocrite.

    The legal basis/justification for (or against) the HHS mandate would seem to be completely unrelated to the legal basis/justification for (or against) the new amnesty policy. Your original post complained of “usurpation of constitutional authority” which I believe still needs to demonstrated in both instances. My man-in-the-street view of my 1st Amendment rights is that HHS over-reached and intruded into my free exercise of religion.

    On the subject of amnesty, the administration complained of inadequate resources to faithfully execute the laws preventing illegal immigrants from entering the country, and now choose to enforce them selectively, picking on the “worst violators” for severe treatment. The allocation of resources would be more of a judgment call than a constitutional issue.

  • In your original post, you called out one particular individual as a hypocrite, and then used that as a launching point to say like-minded persons were also hypocrites. I’m just following your lead.

    My lead doing what? I said that any individual who holds a certain viewpoint is a hypocrite. Instead of arguing the case, you pointed out another person’s supposed hypocrisy on a completely different issue. What does one have to do with another? This is called a red herring argument.

    The legal basis/justification for (or against) the HHS mandate would seem to be completely unrelated to the legal basis/justification for (or against) the new amnesty policy.

    The point I was trying to make is not that the issues are the same, but that you can’t cry about unconstitutional decision making in one area, and then excuse it another. As I said, you can’t be a cafeteria constitutionalist.

    The allocation of resources would be more of a judgment call than a constitutional issue.

    But it didn’t end there. The president of the United States issued a directive that said a law would not only not be enforced, but went above and beyond to essentially declare that a federal law (or aspect of a law) is nullified. This is far beyond the powers of the presidency.

    By the way, though I disagree with your assessment of the constitutionality of this decision, that’s a legitimate argument to make. This Yoo red herring, on the other hand, doesn’t advance the ball for anybody.

  • …and maybe I should add that if the amnesty action is a constitutional issue and it withstands a court challenge, John Yoo should be the last person to complain.

  • Spam Buddy,

    This is not about John Yoo or illegal immigrant salutatorians being denied the opportunities to give Spanish orations at their graduation ceremonies.

    This is about distracting and confusing the people about Obama’s policies and their horrid effects on Yoo and me.

  • It may be too late since the United States no longer has any religious freedom.

    All right, let’s dial it back a little. We haven’t quite reached Soviet status in this country. This administration has been bad enough that we don’t need to exaggerate what has happened.
    I was thinking of the aborted children who have had all of their constitutional rights taken from them. These persons have no religious freedom, taken from them by a government that ought to protect them and their constitutional rights.

  • Aside from issues of constitutionality, I oppose the HHS policy outright, but am ambivalent on immigration. I’ve always favored an orderly process for immigration and this new policy has long-term disadvantages in that regard for various reasons people have pointed out. Catholic bishops have supported the DREAM act as “a practical, fair, and compassionate solution for thousands of young persons.” So, the is the basis for my tentative support of the policy, as long as the causes of mercy and justice are served.

    The question about executive overreach is something the courts will need to decide. I don’t think Archbishop Schnurr of Cincinnati is a hypocrite for expressing his opinions for how these complex matters should be resolved.

  • There are as many as 20 million illegals in the country, according to many estimates. Nobody knows the actual numbers. But what we do know is that they came to America unlawfully and more than 80% are from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
    Mexico, which is responsible for around 57% of the total, has done nothing to stop the unlawful exodus until, ironically, it issued a warning to its citizens not travel to Arizona, which was forced to toughen immigration laws because the federal government failed to do so. Notwithstanding its concern for its own people, Mexico has managed to export drug cartels, kidnapping rings and criminal gangs to the U.S., all of which have rightly caused fear and loathing by lawbiding U.S. citizens.
    When he placed his hand on Lincoln’s Bible back in January 2009, Barack Obama swore to “faithfully execute” the laws of the United States of America. But is he?
    . As Pat Buchanan wrote: “(Obama) is siding with the law-breakers. He is pandering to the ethnic lobbies. He is not berating a Mexican regime that aids and abets this invasion of the country of which he is commander in chief. Instead, he attacks the government of Arizona for trying to fill a gaping hole in law enforcement left by his own dereliction of duty.
    “He has called on the Justice Department to ensure that Arizona’s sheriffs and police do not violate anyone’s civil rights. But he has said nothing about the rights of the people of Arizona who must deal with the costs of having hundreds of thousands of lawbreakers in their midst. Obama has done everything but his duty to enforce the law.”

  • The question about executive overreach is something the courts will need to decide

    This is a very dangerous attitude. I don’t fault you, spambot, for expressing it because it’s been so deeply rooted into our collective psyche. But the Courts are most definitely not the sole repository for adjudicating constitutional matters. What’s more, when it comes to inter-branch squabbles, the Court is generally reluctant to act.

    So while the Court can intervene, we should shake off this attitude that dictates that we await their say and only their say.

    I don’t think Archbishop Schnurr of Cincinnati is a hypocrite for expressing his opinions for how these complex matters should be resolved.

    I’m not saying he’s a hypocrite for expressing an opinion, but for being okay with violations of the constitution that are in accord with his personal policy preferences.

  • Thank you, Paul Zummo for responding to my comment. My opinion is dialed back to reset.
    Mary De Voe

  • No worries, Mary. I’ve been known to engage in hyperbole from time to time.

  • Not sure about the exact relevance of the Mr. Yoo reference, but I did see the piece and Spambot seems pretty accurate about Yoo being comically hypocritical about presidential overreach. But again, so what? Bush and Obama are both guilty of overreach – is that supposed to exculpate one or the other?

    The Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice has a handy website providing links to legal opinions issued by the office since 1995 or thereabouts. Included among them are four (4) opinions issued during 2001, 2002, and 2003 bearing the signature of one John Yoo, Esq. I am not an adept of this, so maybe you and Spambot can read through them and tell us all where we can find the text about crushing children’s testicles or something remotely related thereto.

    When you are done with that, maybe we can have a panel discussion between you, Spambot, Mark Shea, Zippy, Daniel Nichols, Ronald Dworkin, and any three members of the Gitmo Bar where you can all discuss the circumstances under which we should have boards of judges on battlefields (helpfully advised by white shoe lawyers and professors) reviewing tactics and strategy.

  • Art Deco,

    John Yoo’s comments that I referenced are not posted to the OLC website that I am aware.

  • Obama is doing what he said he couldn’t and wouldn’t do. He is flaunting the law. I think he (and the DOJ) should be should be impeached. Only..I am afraid that if he were impeached the left thinkers see that he has no support and no leg to stand on, they might try to convince him to let another democrat run instead of him, and then Romney would have a harder time.
    Borrowing trouble?

  • Not to be picky, Anzlyne, but believe you meant “flouting,” not “flaunting.”

  • ok — you are right Joe
    I could say that he flaunts his education and knowledge of the Constitution… : )

  • Joe I hate it when I make mistakes like that because then you look at the mistake and not at the content of the comment. Maybe not such a worthy comment but I’ll ask:

    Are we too close to the end of his term for an impeachment process to get started? Can the actions and authority of the DOJ be scrutinized?
    Even if his time as president is over, shouldn’t an investigation be done, so that our system of government is protected from this kind of breaking the Constitution.

    I hope he is out of office soon, I hope we vote him (and all his appointees out) but I wouldn’t be surprised if the bad guys pull a fast one and try to run someone else if he gets too much more unpopular… or like LBJ, just pull out – then it would be quite a different race

  • Anzlyne,

    Who would they run – Barney Frank?

    Your comment’s content is perfect.

    November must mark the end of an error or the USA could well be finished.

    Re: this latest ill-advised campaign ploy/Exec Order: Which is served social justice or common good for 20,000,000 American citizens and legal immigrants that cannot find work, when the Anointed “Won” doles out extra-special work benefits to 600,000 extraneous persons who absconded into the USA?

    Joe, Did I correctly use the word “absconded”?

They Said If I Voted for John McCain the U.S. Would Engage in Endless Middle East Conflict with No Concern for Congressional Approval

Thursday, March 8, AD 2012

And they were right.

For those who didn’t watch the video, skip to about the 3:35 mark where Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta responds to a question about creating a no-fly zone over Syria.  He states that the administration would seek international approval and then inform Congress about its actions.

That’s right – international sanction for military action would take precedence over Congressional authority.  And that makes complete sense, because in the United States Constitution it clearly states right there in Article I, Section 8 that international bodies shall have the power to declare war and therefore bring the United States into armed conflict.

Oh.  Wait.  It’s Congress that has the power to declare war.  Silly me.  But we live in an international age, and if the Supreme Court can rely on international law in order to decide cases, then by golly the President of the United States should be able to commit American troops to armed conflict with a nice note from the U.N. or some other international body.

And at least he’ll be nice enough to let Congress know.  Maybe he’ll text Speaker Boehner about it, but only after he gets off the phone with Sandra Fluke.  Priorities.

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5 Responses to They Said If I Voted for John McCain the U.S. Would Engage in Endless Middle East Conflict with No Concern for Congressional Approval

  • I think this might become a major issue:

    “WASHINGTON — The US offered to give Israel advanced weaponry — including bunker-busting bombs and refueling planes — in exchange for Israel’s agreement not to attack Iranian nuclear sites, Israeli newspaper Maariv reported Thursday.

    President Obama reportedly made the offer during Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington this week.

    Under the proposed deal, Israel would not attack Iran until 2013, after US elections in November this year. The newspaper cited unnamed Western diplomatic and intelligence sources.

    Netanyahu said Monday that sanctions against Iran had not worked, adding that “none of us can afford to wait much longer” in taking action against Iran’s controversial nuclear program.”

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/international/attack_offered_israel_advanced_weaponry_vJzadL8Qw5XoQ7akSRO9yK

  • Paul and Donald, et. al.,

    If the attacks on Libya without congressional approval did not become a major issue, and Solyndra did not become a major issue, I would not hold my breath.

    –Jonathan

  • No one cared about Libya Jonathan because it was a no casualty war, and most members of Congress thought that it was a good idea to take out Khaddafi. I think that this story is quite a bit different. It is all over the conservative blogosphere already and Fox is running with it. Let us see what happens.

  • Ahh, Donald. That’s just my “Federalism and separation of powers” idealist showing up again.

  • Well, as a side note to all of this. I think it’s an awful idea to insert ourselves into Syria.

    From all the reporting I have seen Christians generally support Assad only because what comes after him would be much worse. I think the Christians on the ground understand as bad as Assad and the Alawites have been they can only look forward to an even worse oppressive Islamic government taking hold. They see what is happening in Egypt and the Coptic Christians.

    Syria: bishop says government must crush uprising
    http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=18424

    Maronite Patriarch: Violence turning Arab Spring into winter
    http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/03/04/198548.html

George Will on Obama’s Militaristic Rhetoric

Saturday, January 28, AD 2012

George Will has a superb column on Obama’s rhetoric in the State of the Union Address:

Obama, an unfettered executive wielding a swollen state, began and ended his address by celebrating the armed forces. They are not “consumed with personal ambition,” they “work together” and “focus on the mission at hand” and do not “obsess over their differences.” Americans should emulate troops “marching into battle,” who “rise or fall as one unit.”

Well. The armed services’ ethos, although noble, is not a template for civilian society, unless the aspiration is to extinguish politics. People marching in serried ranks, fused into a solid mass by the heat of martial ardor, proceeding in lock step, shoulder to shoulder, obedient to orders from a commanding officer — this is a recurring dream of progressives eager to dispense with tiresome persuasion and untidy dissension in a free, tumultuous society.

Progressive presidents use martial language as a way of encouraging Americans to confuse civilian politics with military exertions, thereby circumventing an impediment to progressive aspirations — the Constitution and the patience it demands. As a young professor, Woodrow Wilson had lamented that America’s political parties “are like armies without officers.” The most theoretically inclined of progressive politicians, Wilson was the first president to criticize America’s founding. This he did thoroughly, rejecting the Madisonian system of checks and balances — the separation of powers, a crucial component of limited government — because it makes a government that cannot be wielded efficiently by a strong executive.

Wilson is of particular importance here.  Wilson’s dissatisfaction with the Constitution stemmed from the many limitations said document placed on the government.  Not only did the Framers grant few specified powers to Congress, they instituted various mechanisms that made it even more difficult for government to enact the reforms that Progressives like Wilson so desired.  Wilson wanted to convert the United States government into a parliamentary system.  Under this kind of design, instead of a legislature-dominated government complicated by checks and balances, we would have an executive-led government with few checks on the Prime Minister’s power.

Wilson was unable to transform the government to his liking.  The Constitution still divides power in so many ways that it would be theoretically be difficult for the Progressive reformers to get all that they wanted.  So instead of working within the system, the left has basically just ignored that pesky ancient document.

Franklin Roosevelt agreed. He complained about “the three-horse team of the American system”: “If one horse lies down in the traces or plunges off in another direction, the field will not be plowed.” And progressive plowing takes precedence over constitutional equipoise among the three branches of government. Hence FDR’s attempt to break the Supreme Court to his will by enlarging it.

In his first inaugural address, FDR demanded “broad executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.” He said Americans must “move as a trained and loyal army” with “a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife.” The next day, addressing the American Legion, Roosevelt said it was “a mistake to assume that the virtues of war differ essentially from the virtues of peace.” In such a time, dissent is disloyalty.

Yearnings for a command society were common and respectable then. Commonweal, a magazine for liberal Catholics, said that Roosevelt should have “the powers of a virtual dictatorship to reorganize the government.” Walter Lippmann, then America’s preeminent columnist, said: “A mild species of dictatorship will help us over the roughest spots in the road ahead.” The New York Daily News, then the nation’s largest-circulation newspaper, cheerfully editorialized: “A lot of us have been asking for a dictator. Now we have one. .?.?. It is Roosevelt. .?.?. Dictatorship in crises was ancient Rome’s best era.” The New York Herald Tribune titled an editorial “For Dictatorship if Necessary.”

Commonweal. Some things never change.

And so now we’ve arrived at Obama’s America, and the left’s impatience with the Constitution manifests itself again.

Obama, aspiring to command civilian life, has said that in reforming health care, he would have preferred an “elegant, academically approved” plan without “legislative fingerprints on it” but “unfortunately” he had to conduct “negotiations with a lot of different people.” His campaign mantra “We can’t wait!” expresses progressivism’s impatience with our constitutional system of concurrent majorities. To enact and execute federal laws under Madison’s institutional architecture requires three, and sometimes more, such majorities. There must be majorities in the House and Senate, each body having distinctive constituencies and electoral rhythms. The law must be affirmed by the president, who has a distinctive electoral base and election schedule. Supermajorities in both houses of Congress are required to override presidential vetoes. And a Supreme Court majority is required to sustain laws against constitutional challenges.

“We can’t wait!” exclaims Obama, who makes recess appointments when the Senate is not in recess, multiplies “czars” to further nullify the Senate’s constitutional prerogative to advise and consent, and creates agencies (e.g., Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board and Dodd-Frank’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) untethered from legislative accountability.

Like other progressive presidents fond of military metaphors, he rejects the patience of politics required by the Constitution he has sworn to uphold.

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14 Responses to George Will on Obama’s Militaristic Rhetoric

  • Dan in Philly commented at another blog.

    “Let me be clear, O is and always has been an ordinary political hack who was picked up by a brilliant campaign because he happened to be in the right place at the right time. This brilliant campaign ran him, and ever since he’s been trying and failing to lead the country. He’s been a failure from the beginning because he’s been a fraud from the beginning.”

    Paraphrasing Camus: The “general welfare” will be liberals’ alibi for our enslavement.

  • The human being is created with body and soul, rational and immortal. The citizen constitutes government to protect and defend his unalienable rights and his freedom. For this duty taxes are levied. The present administration has decreed that all people will purchase Obamacare or pay penalties and heavy fines. The freedom of the citizen to exercise his conscience has been eradicated from the First Amendment and from the definition of man as having a free conscience, rational and immortal. With the redefinition of the citizen as having no freedom of conscience to be acknowledged by the government, the free man, who exercises his conscience in freedom is not represented by the very government that he has constituted and funds with his tax dollars. This is taxation without representation. The fines and penalties to be extorted from the citizen who exercises his freedom of conscience are just that: EXTORTION, the buying of insurance to protect oneself from damage and penalties.
    The very existence of the United States of America is contingent upon the eternal truths, inscribed in our founding principles, in our Declaration of Independence and in our U.S. Constitution, being acknowledged and practiced, to guarantee, as Abraham Lincoln said: “that government of the people, for the people and by the people will not perish from the face of the earth”.
    The American Civil Liberties Union, while ecstatically enjoying the display of brute force by our government is not exempt from the extortion or tyranny. As soon as the government decides it needs the ACLU’s land, the government will take the land under the Rural Councils Executive Order 13575. When the government decides that it no longer needs someone, or that someone begins to think for himself, or becomes a loose canon, that person may be detained indefinitely, without charges under the National Defense Authorization Act . This is the denial of free will and a rational and immortal soul.
    What Obamacare does not accept is that you cannot kill a person twice. After all the abortions are done, the immortal soul remains to indict the murderers. The immortal soul of the innocent victims cannot be silenced nor murdered twice. Obama, being a student and adherent to Saul Alinsky’s philosophy of: “Take as much as you can, as fast as you can”, has not yet put two and two together. Alinsky asked God to send him to hell. Alinsky, therefore, acknowledged God, the immortal soul, eternal life and the eternity of hell. Obama needs to get on board the next barge to be ferried by Sharon across the River Styx.

  • T. Shaw: Our reliance on Divine Providence, which John Mills’ utilitarianism and Paul Erhich’s Population Bomb, Thomas Malthus’ demographic projections, and Roe v. Wade have rejected, is simply, Our Creator providing for his children. The atheist does not and cannot speak for our founding principles: our Declaration of Independence, and our Constitution. The “general welfare” absolutely includes the Preamble: “to secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to our posterity”, all future generations. Less is not more. If one notices that the “more” one is promised, the “more” one gets is less. The Israelites saw Goliath and fainted at his size. David saw Goliath as the biggest target…EWTN

  • Richard the Lion Heart’s (and it seems all saxon monarchs’) Motto: “Dieu et mon droit.” I translate trust in “God and my strong right arm.”

    Henceforth, I apply the following to Obama, “pharaoh.”

    The pharaoh must go.

  • What T Shaw said – the Pharoah must go.

  • Good post, Paul. I remember Goldberg talking about this tendency toward militarizing peace time in his book Liberal Fascism. Wilson wanted to see agenda items having a “moral equivalency” to war, i think that was his term. This kind of fascist thinking was considered good by liberals back then–case in point: the “mild dictatorship” advocated by Commonweal as Will mentions. I think the only difference is the terminology used–they are more careful not to use certain words.

  • This concept deserves a nice glass of Maker’s Mark and a cigar. The connection never occurred to me.

  • I learned that the OWS folk call demonstrations ‘battles’. On a college campus in Chicago I overheard one OWSer say to another, “I’ll see you at the battle”. None of these folks could last one day in basic training. It’ funny/pathetic in one regard, but scary in that they seem to crave violence.

  • 1. Most constitutional states function passably with parliamentary institutions. Separation of powers is quite atypical, characteristic of the United States and three or four other well- established electoral systems; none of the others are ensconced in a state with a population larger than Belgium’s.

    2. During that portion of the Wilson Administration which preceded World War I, the ratio of federal expenditure to domestic product was about 0.014.

    3. One consequence of the collision of social crisis and extant political forms during the Depression was that those occupying the salient positions in all three branches of government took to simply ignoring inconvenient constitutional provisions rather than organizing a campaign to amend the constitution to alter the range of delegated powers. You might interpret that as a mark of collective faithlessness. Then again, you might interpret that as a mark of institutional inadaptability.

  • Indeed Gingrich did talk about this in Liberal Fasicsm, and he also had his own article yesterday which I should have linked to. Here it is.

  • Separation of powers is quite atypical, characteristic of the United States and three or four other well

    Precisely.

    During that portion of the Wilson Administration which preceded World War I, the ratio of federal expenditure to domestic product was about 0.014.

    I never suggested that Wilson was particularly successful, merely that he wanted to transform the governmental structure of the U.S. FDR was the one who more ably picked up the Progressive mantle.

  • It appears that for government officials to want to change our form of government and our founding principles, they do not understand nor appreciate them, nor do they have the power to change our founding principles without two thirds of the states ratifying the change. Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations was the forerunner of The United Nations. The United Nations, like global world government will force The United States to violate her sovereignty, and become subserviant to what has become one government under the World Bank. The Vatican came out with one economic world government under God, our Creator, one citizen at a time. Divine Providence. AWESOME.

  • Mary de Voe – I hope you’re not really calling for the president’s death – or his damnation. I don’t think we should be wishing people on Charon’s next boat.

    (Completely agree with your comment about extortion, by the way.)

  • If Obama won’t repent, then he deserves the fate that God award King Manasseh. It took 12 years of imprisonment in an Assyrian dungeon for him to repent. What will it take for Obama?

It’s In There Somewhere

Tuesday, January 10, AD 2012

I can’t tell you how many times that, when I’ve asked someone to cite the constitutional authority for the point they are arguing, they vaguely give me an Article and Section number without explaining how said article justifies their favored course of action.  Well, you will all be happy to know that our representatives in Congress are not any better at offering specifics.

At the beginning of the 112th Congress, as part of an effort to inject more transparency into the legislative process, the House adopted a rule requiring that each bill be accompanied by a Constitutional Authority Statement.  The purpose of the rule was to expose the cavalier attitude of those members who desire to legislate ‘just because they can.’

Well, after a year of legislating under this rule, it appears that we are in serious need of accountability measures to provide some clarity and specificity to the authority statement.  Otherwise, the rule will be regarded as yet another “transparency” gimmick of Congress.

Republican congressional staffers combed through almost 3800 bills and joint resolutions that have been introduced this year, in an effort to gauge the clarity and specificity of the Constitutional Authority Statements.  For the most part, the results are pretty pathetic.  Here are some of their key findings:

  • Overall, 945 bills contained authority statements which do not reference a specific power granted by the Constitution.  Many of these merely cited “Article 1” or “Article 1 Section 1” “Article 1 Section 8.” In other words, they just cited the fact that Congress has the power to legislate, but failed to divulge which constitutional power or specific clause is supporting their legislation.
  • There were 732 bills which only referenced the commerce clause, 660 which only referenced the general welfare clause, and 321 which mentioned the necessary and proper clause without reference to a previous Constitutional clause to which the necessary and proper clause might apply.
  • In total, there were 2658 Constitutional Authority Statements that were either questionable or vague.  That represents roughly 69% of all bills and resolutions introduced in the 1st Session of the 112th Congress.
  • While more of the vague citations are attributable to Democrat bill sponsors, many Republicans were lax in offering meaningful authority statements.  Almost as many Republicans used the inexplicit commerce clause as Democrats.

This highlights a number of problems with both Congress and our understanding of the Constitution in general.  First of all, attempts to reign in Congress are almost always futile because Congressmen are adept at skirting around clear legislative language.  After all, we’re dealing with a bunch of lawyers – both on staff and in Congress itself.  Lawyers are masters of finding, and then abusing the fine print.

But let’s not just chalk up to maliciousness what we can also chalk up to laziness.  Yes, these are all smart people, but they’re also lazy.  When staff drafts legislation* they don’t have enough time to be rummaging around 100-year old, dry old documents like the U.S. Constitution.  They can vaguely remember their Con Law class and some decision handed down by some FDR-appointed judge that says that the commerce clause covers that, and so VOILA!  Constitutional justification.

*: And, by the way, make no mistake about it – it’s Congressional staff that writes legislation.  Do you think Congress critters are the ones hammering away at their laptops drafting this minutiae?  Of course not.   Do you really think they’re busy putting together 2,000 page documents?  Uh uh.  No, we are governed by 30 year olds fresh out of law school who are just biding their time until they get a job with a K Street firm that will lobby Congress on the labyrinth legislation that said staffer just penned.  Meanwhile, the people who actually have to vote on these bills have, at best, skimmed them, trusting their personal staffers to give them the gist of what is written on paper.  Just what our Framers envisioned, right?

Finally, let’s be honest – the FDR appointed judge probably just muttered something about the commerce clause in the ruling, offering barely much more substance than the Congressional staffer.  Over the years the judiciary, through the beneficence of broad interpretation, has often stretched Constitutional meaning beyond the breaking point.  If staff were inclined to beef up their Constitutional Authority Statements, we would be no more satisfied with the end result.  It would still likely be utter malarkey, just better sourced and more specific-sounding malarkey.

Still, I think this exercise has one useful purpose.  We all knew that Congress was just making it up as it went along, and now we have written proof of that.

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8 Responses to It’s In There Somewhere

  • Defeated Illinois Democrat Congressman Phil Hare explains how most Congresscritters view the Constitution:

  • The Constitutional Authority Statement requirement is the most naive think I’ve ever heard of. It’s the kind of thing a high school US government class would come up with as the foolproof solution to legislative overreach. Other similar ideas include requiring legislators to read their bills aloud or keeping all bills under three pages. It’s a problem with populism in general. People are literate enough to know there’s a problem but not literate enough (or humble enough) to know that the obvious solutions are useless. Conservative thought should, in theory, be less susceptible to this sort of thing but a conservative frame of mind is not the same as political conservatism.

  • “The Constitutional Authority Statement requirement is the most naive think I’ve ever heard of. ”

    Oh, I’ve heard much more naive things than that RR. Now in regard to the Constitution the most dangerous thing I have ever read was said by Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes in 1907 when he was Governor of New York (Hughes would later resign from the Court and run for President on the Republican ticket in 1916): “We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is, and the judiciary is the safeguard of our liberty and of our property under the Constitution.” Of course this turns the supreme governing document of our country into a tabula rasa for lawyers wearing black robes to write what they wish. I can think of few thoughts on the Constitution further from the intent of the drafters of the Constitution. The truly dangerous thing of course is that most judges and attorneys would agree with this as both a statement of fact and something desirable.

    Another Hughes quote explains much of the convuluted development of Constitutional law in this country: “At the constitutional level where we work, ninety percent of any decision is emotional. The rational part of us supplies the reasons for supporting our predilections.” What an excellent explanation for Roe v. Wade!

  • ” . . . , promote the general Welfare, . . . ”

    And, we know from reading the Federalist Papers and the minutes and the assorted writings of the Framers that they wrote that in order to provide cover for community organizers.

    “The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants.” Albert Camus

  • An expansive understanding of the commerce clause power is pretty much settled law, and cannot be so easily dismissed as the idiosyncratic understanding of “FDR appointed judges.” Even the most conservative jurists acknowledge this. Scalia may look for a slightly more meaty nexus between a piece of legislation and interstate (or foreign) commerce than Breyer, but the concept that Congress can enact what amounts to police power legislation as long as there exists some significant interstate commerce effect is not only well-established, it is consistent with the text and impossible to police otherwise without examining legislative motives — something impractical. Neither Bork nor Scalia object to this, though I believe Scalia continues to reject the dormant or negative aspect of the commerce clause (but this is completely different). This is not to say that the Framers actually envisioned a legislative branch with such robust powers — they probably did not; but they allocated such powers all the same. The Framers did not envision Marbury v Madison and its implications in consigning tremendous policy powers to the “least powerful branch” either, but Marbury was rightly decided nonetheless. The consequences of legal documents — contracts, wills, statutes or even constitutions are never perfectly anticipated by their architects.

    That said, this does not mean that Obamacare does not present serious constitutional questions. Surely the imposition of an affirmative requirement to purchase a product or service that is not contingent on any voluntary act such as choosing to drive a car presents a fair constitutional question insomuch as it seems to suggest that Congress can prohibit a decision to *not* engage in commerce. But most federal laws, however imprudent and counterproductive we may think they be, are not unconstitutional.

    Just as liberals have a well-developed tendency to believe that any state legislation they do not like must violate the federal constitution under some contrived theory or another, conservatives tend to believe that any federal legislation they do not like must somehow violate the federal constitution. They are both wrong. For better or worse, the constitution gives pretty wide latitude for legislatures, state and federal, to express the will of voters through legislation. Congress may well do harm by its activism, but for the most part such activism is not of constitutional moment; judicial activism on the other hand is — when courts strike down legislation as unconstitutional all too oftern they are simply acting as super-legislatures substitution their own policy preferences for those of legislatures.

  • Congress may well do harm by its activism, but for the most part such activism is not of constitutional moment; judicial activism on the other hand is — when courts strike down legislation as unconstitutional all too oftern they are simply acting as super-legislatures substitution their own policy preferences for those of legislatures.

    Congress overstepping constitutional limits is no less egregious than the Courts doing it simply because it is the democratic branch. All three branches are bound by the same Constitution. This is why I don’t like the phrase “judicial activism.” I’ve made this comparison before, but think of two Supreme Court cases – Wickard v. Filburn and US v. Lopez. Both cases were based on Congressional reliance on the commerce clause. In the former, SCOTUS made a leap of logic in order to uphold legislation that was based on at best, a tenuous connection to the commerce clause. In the latter case, SCOTUS overturned legislation that it deemed unconstitutional because it did not really rise to the level of interstate commerce. Which decision was the correct one? The latter. Yet, that would be decried as activism based on the definition given above. The fact of the matter is that both cases involved Congressional acts of constitutional activism, but only in one case did SCOTUS act as an accomplice.

    Mike is correct in noting that not all bad legislation is unconstitutional. And, similarly, not all constitutional legislation is wise. Sometimes we do get lucky and there’s something that comes along that is both bad policy which also happens to be unconstitutional – like the individual mandate.

    But this is all besides the point. Even if we concede that this requirement is naive, wouldn’t it be nice for Congressional staff to at least make an effort to constitutionally justify their proposals? I’m not asking for 100 page briefs. I just want something a little more substantial than “uh . . . . commerce clause.” Say why the commerce clause (or 14th Amendment or whatever) allows for a certain action. Even if you’re wrong it’s still something more substantive than what we have now.

  • I just don’t see what good that would do. You can’t limit the courts ability to consider other arguments so it’s not a legally binding limitation. So you can mock it but you can do that anyway.

  • Paul, I don’t disagree about the seriousness of Congress overstepping its constitutional authority. I just think it rarely does. Wickard is perhaps the high water mark of Congressional regulation of interstate commerce. While a close call (and personally offensive) it is probably correctly decided. The purpose of the legislation was to drive up the price of wheat — clearly within the clause’s ambit — and the Court was correct that home production and consumption is inimical to that objective. Lopez was probably also correctly decided. When Congress is going to use the commerce clause to effectuate a social/police power objective it must at least articulate some economic/commerce clause rationale — something it did not do in connection with the gun legislation the Court struck down.

14 Responses to Constitution, Shmonstitution

  • There are still otherwise very smart and knowledgeable people who continue to support the little antichrist. Some I know in my own field of nuclear energy. Yes, most in my particular field despise and loathe the obamination of desolation. But many (even most) of those who are bloggers insist on continuing to drink from the fountain of purple koolaide and for the life of me I cannot fathom why what would otherwise be intrinsically obvious to the caual observer (i.e., how the teflon-coated criminal is ruining the economy and the military) is rejected wholesale as some sort of right-wing paranoid propaganda. These are people who know 100 times what I know about nuclear engineering and physics (and I have been in the field 30+ years), but they are still in love with that godless man of sin and depravity even though his appointee to the chairmanship of the US NRC is about as ruinous towards the peaceful use of the atom as one can be. Oh, they complain without end about Chairman Jackzo’s anti-nuclear policies, but they worship the ground walked on by the man who appointed Jackzo to the Chairmanship. I just don’t “get” it. The hold Obama has on these people is demonic! What hope is there for our nation when otherwise rational and logical people are so beguiled by the wickedness and perversion that plagues our society?

  • This is not GOP “Obama Derangement Syndrome”, as the Obama-propaganda machine would have you believe.

    This is about stopping the corrupt regime.

    Dodd-Frank (both should be in prison) Act set up an unaccountable, hugely funded monster to fundamentally change the banking world.

    Under the Act the commissar of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau is appointed (now without Senate advice/consent) who will set his own budget in the amount of 10% of “the combined earnings of the Federal Reserve System” in fiscal 2011. The Fed must transfer the funds without question, which is estimated at $400 million. Boss Cordray’s budget is not set by Congressional appropriation and cannot be reduced by anyone.

    The Fed can’t intervene in the Bureau’s functioning, “appoint, direct or remove any officer or employee” or “merge or consolidate the bureau . . . with any division or office of the Board of Governors or the Federal Reserve Banks.”

    And, what does the regime do with all the money? If the recent Countrywide discrimination settlement is any indication . . . give it to left-wing provocateurs.

    The MSM Obama propaganda machine will not report that the regime’s $335 million crisis discrimination crisis settlement with Countrywide Financial Corporation will not go to the ‘victims’ but to leftist groups not connected to the fabricated crisis.

  • T. Shaw & Paul Primavera,

    How about a gravatar for your comments?

    Go here: http://en.gravatar.com/

  • I do not know how to create a “globally recognized avatar or graphical depiction.” But from the link you provided, perhaps I can find out. Question: why would an avatar or icon depiction be necessary? Is it for ease of recognizing authors of comments, or is there another reason? Curious.

  • It’s easy to set up.

    As for your question, it makes The American Catholic look soooo much cooler if everyone had gravatars!

    Yeah, it’s a marketing answer, but it’s our commenters that really make our blog, why not spiffy it up with a pic (gravatar).

  • Hmmmm….I went to the web site and followed the directions. I wonder if it worked or if I am the victim of my own operator error.

  • OK, tell me how to link my gravatar to entries here at TAC. Thanks.

  • There is a video guide if you need direction.

    It can take anywhere from a few seconds to a day (max) for the image to begin appearing. So let’s see what happens by this time tomorrow.

    (that or you could ask a family member or friend more knowledgeable for assistance).

  • It works!

    Good job Paul!

    Now if T. Shaw would do something about his gravatar. . .

  • Sgt. Rock might be deemed a terrorist, though….

  • Thanks, Tito and Donald.

    I had translated Cicero’s orations against Cataline when I was in high school during the Watergate scandal – political corruption hasn’t changed all that much in 2000 years. I love Cicero. Some people say he was bombastic and hypersensitive and sometimes caved in when confronted. Well, I guess I have those defects of character at times. But he did want the restoration of the Republic, and when he incurred Anthony’s wrath, the politicians did what all politicians do everywhere if they can get away with it. Fulvia, Anthony’s wife, is said to have taken his decapitated head and repeatedly puncture his dead tongue with some sort of hair pin because his oratory had so inflamed her. In this day and age of a President thumbing his nose at the Constitution, perhaps that is a fate which awaits us all who dare speak out against dictators.

    Again, I still love Cicero. Nothing has changed for me in 30+ years except for the deterioration of my abilities in Latin and Greek. 🙁

  • Tibi multas gratias, mi amice!

A Short-Sighted Maneuver by PA Legislators

Wednesday, September 14, AD 2011

There is an effort underfoot in the Pennsylvania legislature to change the way the state awards its electoral votes.

PA Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi wants to allot Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes on a congressional district by district basis, rather than the current system of winner take all.

In a state like Pennsylvania, where Democratic candidates for President have won every election since 1988, it could be a way for Republicans to avoid a total loss.

For a number of reasons, I think this is a bad move.

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5 Responses to A Short-Sighted Maneuver by PA Legislators

  • Democrats hate the electoral college so even if splitting it puts a Republican in the White House the outrage over the change would be somewhat subdued.

  • Yes, both wings of the Democrat party – their left wing and their far-left wing – hate the Electoral College. So, if a state splits its distribution of Electoral College seats between the slates of two candidates and that puts a Republican in the White House you can bet that Democrats everywhere will be as mad as Wisconsin Democrats. Their screaming, name-calling and use of any excuse to bash the Electoral College will go on for years. It’ll be the trigger of the Democrats’ second “Selected, Not Elected” intifada.

  • further eroding the purpose of the electoral college.

    The Electoral College is a convention. It has no purpose.

  • Another post on this topic on NRO by Tara Ross. She brings up a good point.

    Looking beyond Pennsylvania, national adoption of the district system could change the focus of presidential campaigns in negative ways. Instead of “swing states,” we’d have “swing districts.” This could unfortunately encourage the federal government to become even more entangled in purely local matters.

    Pennsylvania legislators should not implement a congressional district system based purely on partisan considerations. Perhaps they believe that NPV advocates have their own partisan reasons. The does not make such motivations any less unwise. Every state can make its own assessments on these matters and should make its own decision. But Pennsylvania legislators will serve their constituents — and their country — best if they remember to honestly assess what would serve their state, rather than their political party.

  • This could unfortunately encourage the federal government to become even more entangled in purely local matters.

    It would be pleasant if she would provide for her readers the intermediate steps in this particular chain of reasoning.

NY Times Writers Argue For Dictatorship

Saturday, July 23, AD 2011

William Jacobson has a regular feature on his blog making fun of some of the more ridiculous bumper stickers he comes across.  Today he observes a typical moonbat parading his “thoughts” for the world to see.  Among the litany of bumper stickers he spotted was a classic: “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”  Yeah, there’s nothing particularly original or insightful with this bumper sticker, though it does display the leftist predilection to accuse conservatives of fascism.  The funniest part of this is that it overlooks what is obvious to those of us who kept studying history past high school, specifically that it is the left that more often proposes totalitarian policies.

For further proof of this, here’s a charming op-ed from the New York Times.

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51 Responses to NY Times Writers Argue For Dictatorship

  • I’m still a bit awed at the gall of of it all….

  • Why go through this charade every few years? Why do we even need a debt ceiling? it’s merely another excuse for tiresome political theater. As long as the full faith and credit of the U.S. is good — and despite being in the hole by 14 tril — it still is, why not just keep borrowing and printing?

    Secondly, why do the sheeple keep buying into the myth that the federal government is broke? Seems it always has plenty of dough to buy weapons and other crap it doesn’t need, spend on useless aid programs, including billions for foreign countries just to keep them in check, and countless other pork projects. Does the government ever lay off anyone? Stop hiring? All this nonsense about a “deficit” is horse crap. The governments, state and federal, are not broke but want you to think they are so you’d be willing to pony up more and “pay your fair share.” They’re awash in cash and credit, have hundreds billions tucked away in bullion and other reserves and untold assets in land, etc.

    This Obama-Boehner feud will come down to the wire, as all such fiscal drama inevitably does. A “deal” will be struck at the 11th hour with both sides trumping “compromise” and extolling “the national interest” and “the good of the nation.” The old folks and kids will be spared again from further pain and the threat of eating dog food and being starved at school, and the Republic will survive.

    Then we can go back to the important things in life, such as what Princess Kate is wearing and whether there will be pro football this year.

  • Golly, that’s nice to know– I’m not broke so long as I have a credit card!

  • Fox, you’re credit may run out but not the U.S. government’s. By the way, maybe American can raise a few tril by calling in all her markers over the past 60 years, like the nine-figures that Germany and Japan each owe us for rebuilding their countries and reparations. Both supposedly allies now, but back in the 40’s they drained us of tens of thousands of precious lives and billions in national resources. How soon everyone forgets.

  • The quote, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and a cross”, is merely a variation of the original saying by Huey “Kingfish” Long, late governor and senator of Louisiana. The original saying is,”When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag”. Jonah Goldberg in his “Liberal Fascism” makes a pretty good case that facsism has been wrapped in the flag by liberals and foisted upon the American people in various laws and social programs.

  • Fox, you’re credit may run out but not the U.S. government’s.

    Doesn’t address what I said, and fallacious to boot.

    Remember all those big “debt forgiveness” things? I know Clinton did several when I was a kid– you can’t call in markers you don’t have. (there’s some history involved, too)

    If you were being serious, I can think of a long list of things that we could cut to help balance the budget, starting with “stop buying land,” “don’t pay people to sue you” and “stop new programs.” (including regulations)

    Sadly, you don’t seem to be serious.

  • ” . . . the necessities of state, and on the president’s role as the ultimate guardian of the constitutional order, . . . ”

    Let’s just ignore the hyperbolic irony of the statement.

    Seems that was the justification for it in ancient Rome, and in every other failed republic in history. “It” is absolute tyranny.

    “We have buried the putrid corpse of liberty.” Mussolini, 1937

    Mussolini is dead and his heirs are credentialed imbeciles.

  • Seems it always has plenty of dough to buy weapons and other crap it doesn’t need, spend on useless aid programs, including billions for foreign countries just to keep them in check, and countless other pork projects. Does the government ever lay off anyone? Stop hiring?

    Uhhh…. Isn’t that the point of this whole exercise? You say that deficits are “horse crap”, and then you say it’s because the gov’t could always cut useless spending. Kinda the point everyone is making, isn’t it?

    Sure, the gov’t theoretically can’t go broke. Just print more money. Ask Zimbabwe about that. Or if seigniorage is not your bag, issue even more debt. But at some point (maybe not today), you have to take seriously the drag that increasingly higher debt has on investment and long term growth.

  • As a son of Italy, I cut Mussolini a little slack. After all, he got the trains to run on time.
    Fox, I am serious and don’t call me Sadly.
    Christian, sorry but don’t buy the ‘debt’ argument as long as we’re owed more than we owe. Screw the Chinese; what have they ever done for us except export crap to Wal-Mart?
    Trouble is we don’t have a president or a Congress with the balls to tell em to stick it. You need oil? You got all you ever need in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, which owe us big-time. You need cash? Call in your debts; if we have to pay, let others pony up, too.
    Yeah, I’m all for halting handouts. Take the 47 million off food stamps and send em a case of mac and cheese every week or better yet, put em on Jenny Craig. Most of em are already too fat anyway.
    Enough with the wars. End the Libya campaign, pull out of Afghanistan, stop already with the Pakistan drones; close 500 bases overseas that are Cold War remnants. Hell, we’ve been in Okinawa since ’46. Let the Japs have it.
    And, yes, some of this is tongue-in-cheek. Up to you to figure out what is/isn’t.

  • And, yes, some of this is tongue-in-cheek. Up to you to figure out what is/isn’t.

    Thank you for eventually admitting you’re not serious.

    Paul-I’m wondering where we’ll find the the similar outrage over the 800+ days and counting that the Dems have failed to pass a budget. It’s probably with the outrage over Obama demanding no requirements coming in, and having a big list of his own, right? Or over the flat tabling of the cut cap and balance bill?

  • Instead of dictating, Obama and the regime need to foster private sector economic growth and development. That would dig us out of this hole.

    Whether through incompetence or by plan, the regime has achieved the opposite.

    Giuseppe: Mussolini didn’t go to an Ivy. But, direct opposite of Obama’s failures, he brought prosperity to their peoples before death and destruction caught them.

  • Who the hell us Egan-Jones?

  • “fascism’, ‘constitution torn to shreds’.

    You need to sit down and listen to yourself a while.

  • In regard to fascism and the cross phrase, that has been erroneously attributed both to Sinclair Lewis and Huey Long. Neither said it. Socialist Lewis wrote a novel It Can’t Happen Here in which he postulated that an American fascist movement could come to power promoting patriotism and Christianity, but the phrase doesn’t appear in the book. Huey Long was once asked if Fascism would ever come to America. He said maybe, but we would call it something else.

  • Joe, Mussolini failed to make the trains run on time. His own comment about his government of Italy was that it was not hard to rule Italians, it was impossible!

  • Excuse me Art, but what would you call it when someone advocates handing over unilateral authority to the President because one doesn’t like it when the two elected branches can’t agree on a policy?

    I’m wondering where we’ll find the the similar outrage over the 800+ days and counting that the Dems have failed to pass a budget. It’s probably with the outrage over Obama demanding no requirements coming in, and having a big list of his own, right? Or over the flat tabling of the cut cap and balance bill?

    Foxfier – indeed the silence is deafening.

  • Don, I realize the trains comment was urban legend. Mussolini’s remark reminds me of De Gaulle’s about France: ‘How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?’

  • Excuse me Art, but what would you call it when someone advocates handing over unilateral authority to the President because one doesn’t like it when the two elected branches can’t agree on a policy?

    I would call it ‘someone advocating something of dubious legality for reasons of expediency’. No need to call up the specter of Oswald Mosely.

  • Oh ho hum, someone thinks the President should disregard the Constitution in the interests of bypassing the democratic process due to a perceived emergency. It’s not like that’s the exact playbook of all emerging tyrannies.

    Just because someone isn’t advocating that their opponents be placed in death camps doesn’t mean that their actions don’t lean in a fairly totalitarian direction. Playing on fears, perceived or imagined, in order to circumvent the constitution is precisely “shredding the Constitution.” Sure it’s a couple of egghead academics advocating it, but it doesn’t make it any less pernicious.

  • “Why go through this charade every few years? Why do we even need a debt ceiling?”

    Maybe because it draws attention to how hard the government is screwing us? Or how much money they’re wasting? Getting the public to pay attention to the fact that we’ve borrowed almost as much as the entire economy produces and think about whether or not it’s a good idea to keep that train rolling isn’t a bad thing, IMO. And Congress should have to think seriously about that, too. It’s a shame that this seems to be the only time within recent memory that our representatives have had to think through some of the implications of what they have done and are continuing to do to the nation.

  • The DeGaulle comment has always been linked in my mind Joe with the Mussolini comment!

  • Mandy P., the government is not screwing you, it just is drawing far to much on the capital markets to finance itself. There are systemic problems with the modus operandi of public agencies and some particular problems with American institutional culture and practice which render expenditure in excess of what a healthy agency would do to achieve a given purpose. There are aspects of public expenditure that politicians would be loath to defend without slipping into a sociopathic frame of mind: expenditure which cements deals between politicians, constituents, and advocacy groups. That might be 15% of the total. Then again it might not. Public spending is largely (though not entirely) driven by clear policy choices. There is a difference between ill-advised policy and scams.

  • Just because someone isn’t advocating that their opponents be placed in death camps doesn’t mean that their actions don’t lean in a fairly totalitarian direction.

    Quack quack down comes Groucho’s duck.

    It may be advisable or inadvisable to allow the executive discretion over whether or not to hold a bond sale. It certainly is not ‘totalitarian’. It is regrettable when politicians take action in contravention of law, but sometimes they do. A discrete act such as that does not change the nature of the political order in and of itself. Were Obama to instruct the Treasury to hold a bond sale, he would be committing a ‘process’ offense. There is nothing substantively nefarious about bond sales in either constitutional or authoritarian states.

    There are three questions here:

    1. How well adapted is the institutional architecture to the basic business of government?

    2. Are the habits and inhibitions abroad among salient parties in congruence with the law?

    3. And in congruence with good practice?

    The answers are ‘not very’, ‘no’, and ‘yes in 1947, not today’. Now, you can complain it is absolutely outrageous for the President to hold a bond sale without congressional authorization. The thing is that the Courts and the Congress and the prosecutocracy have long histories of behaving at a variance with Constitutional provisions. I am not talking about misbehavior of individual actors, but of large swaths of the Constitution which have been effectively abrogated. One more kid taking a dump in the latrine will make it only marginally stinkier.

    One thing we might attempt at a future date is some sort of consensual bargain which constructs an institutional set up which people are generally willing to live with as written, which is to say an actual working constitution and not an undertaker’s dressed up corpse of one. To do that, we would actually have to acknowledge what our working constitution is and blast trough the vested interests who like their current deal just fine. Ain’t gonna happen.

  • Art, I’ve got better things to do with my day than arguing with you as to whether the proposed idea is merely bad or totalitarian. Apparently you are in the mood top argue pedantic points. Very well.

  • Ah, the meaning of words. From Alice in Wonderland:

    ‘When I use a word… it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’
    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.’
    ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master—that’s all.’

  • I’m sorry, Art, but when they’ve borrowed and spent so much that effective tax rates would have to be at 70% for all Americans to even start making a dent, when my children and their children and their children will be stuck paying for this mess- assuming it doesn’t all collapse- what exactly do you call that? I call it getting screwed.

  • Especially since we’ve been talking about this train wreck and the need to fix it for literally my entire life. They’ve known it was coming all this time and still continued to borrow and spend, borrow and spend, borrow and spend. They’ve known that the legitimate “systems” needed to be fixed and what did they do? “Anyone who calls for reform wants to kill grandma and starve children!” borrow and spend, borrow and spend. There is no excuse for what’s happened here. And yes, I call that getting screwed.

  • Mandy,

    I’m sorry, Art, but when they’ve borrowed and spent so much that effective tax rates would have to be at 70% for all Americans to even start making a dent,

    This is not actually the case. Neither does the debt ceiling prevent congress from spending like a drunken sailor, nor would it be necessary to set tax rates at some ludicrous rate to make a dent in the debt.

    Art,

    While selling bonds without congressional authorization is not in and of itself dictatorial (come to that, neither was any of the stuff that King George did in the lead up to our revolution) the idea of keeping the purse strings in the hands of the legislature rather than the executive is a pretty basic piece of machinery involved in keeping our government from becoming one. The open suggestion the president simply take these new powers upon himself is particularly troubling given:

    – It’s in a media organ which has repeatedly talked about how nice it would be if our own government worked more like China’s.
    – The general trend in US history (as in late Republican Rome) seems to be towards soft dictatorship by the executive.

    Given that our country only exists because people got over exited about their political rhetoric in regards to procedure and checks and balances, it seems a little late to insist on less inflammatory discussion now.

  • There’s also the question of: What rates and buyers would be involved in a bond sale of dubious legality. I would assume that kind of move does not come free.

  • Thanks Darwin for, as usual, more calmly and clearly expressing my concerns.

  • “This is not actually the case. Neither does the debt ceiling prevent congress from spending like a drunken sailor, nor would it be necessary to set tax rates at some ludicrous rate to make a dent in the debt.”

    That assumes cuts, Darwin. If we continue spending at such high rates and don’t get the “mandatory” stuff under control, it will necessitate some pretty repressive tax rates. Also, my point at my first post was not that I thought the debt ceiling would stop Congress from spending, only that having it in place and the inevitable debate that comes any time the Feds want it increased is useful in calling attention to the amount of spending and our fiscal situation in general. People paying attention to and assessing the federal government’s stewardship of our tax dollars is a good thing, IMO.

  • Mandy, let’s posit the following:

    1. Initial federal debt as a ratio of domestic product = 119% (which I believe is the post-Reconstruction peak, reached in 1945)

    2. Nominal interest rates on Treasury issues = 7.5% (as high as it ever has been for any period longer than about a decade).

    3. Rate of increase in nominal domestic product = 4.4% (near historic averages).

    4. Budget balance (excluding debt service) over the course of each ensuing business cycle = 0. Stipulating there being no banking crisis or war of national mobilization (as there was not between 1953 and 2008), all new debt is retired within six years or so, perhaps less.

    5. Time span = 40 years (near the additional life span to be expected by a typical American adult).

    What share of domestic product do you have to devote to debt service in order to retire it in toto? The answer is (I believe) 5.3%, or a 6.4% assessment on personal income. That is a way’s away from 70%.

    Not that the political class would have the focus or commitment to actually do that, of course.

  • Art, that assumes that revenue procured by taxes is going to equal the same percentage of GDP as the percentage of the tax rate. That’s the fallacy of static tax analysis; (a) it doesn’t take into account that not everything produced is technically income, so a substantial portion of Product isn’t even in play as far as income taxes go and (b) it ignores that economic behavior, and therefore taxable income, is very, very changeable given the circumstances. In reality a tax of 25% on income does not get you revenue that equals 25% GDP. the two do not equate.

    Your figures also assume quite a bit that I think won’t be happening any time soon. Like a balanced budget and a 4.4% rate of growth. What you seem to be saying is that in the best of circumstances we could devote a small percentage of GDP to debt service and get out from under it. What I’m saying is that given the current circumstances, it’s going to take a heck of a lot more than what you’re insinuating.

  • I would also like to posit a question:

    Since almost half of all Americans do not pay federal income taxes, and even using a static analysis, what additional tax rate would those of us who do pay federal income taxes have to fork over to pay off the debt under the rosy circumstances you set out above? And what would be the effect on the economy?

  • A 4.4% rate of increase in nominal gross domestic product is unremarkable. That could be (for illustration) decomposed into an annual increase of 1.3% in per capita income (in line with the post-1973 mean), a 1% annual increase in population (ditto) and a 2% annual increase in prices (a goal of the Federal Reserve at times).

    If you add an exemption sufficient to exclude the least affluent 30% of the population (and a share of the income of those more affluent), you would have to raise the marginal rate to 8 or 9%.

    My figure on personal income came from the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the federal Commerce department. That is what they are counting.

    Yeeeessss, it was a back of the envelope calculation in need of some elaboration, as adding to the comparative size of the public sector (all things being equal) reduces economic dynamism. Sovereign default also puts you on a lower growth trajectory. It will not require a marginal rate of 70% on personal income to clear the debt, or anything close to that.

  • That assumes cuts, Darwin. If we continue spending at such high rates and don’t get the “mandatory” stuff under control, it will necessitate some pretty repressive tax rates.

    I realize I’m being the humorless pedant here, but FWIW:

    – It’s not particularly necessary to pay down the national debt, the problem is with it expanding at a rate significantly faster than the growth of the economy in the long term. (After all, buying government bonds is a standard way to save money, there’s a demand for bonds, and thus there’s essentially a demand for the government to maintain some amount of debt.)

    – I agree with the point that we’d have to significantly increase tax revenues in order to maintain entitlements (and other spend levels) at current growth rates in the long term — and I am definitely against this (and thus for cuts.) But it’s not so much that people would have to be taxed at 70% to pay for current spending growth rates as that we’d have to tax the whole population rather than just a minority of it. Countries with much more government spending than ours don’t necessarily tax their rich more more than we do, the big difference is that they tax their middle class and working class more than we do.

  • I think there must be some misunderstanding about the public debt among a lot of conservatives. There is no emergency or impending catastrophe when it comes to the debt, as Art Deco has pointed out. Yes, the rate at which it is growing now is a serious concern, which is why we’re having all these discussions about fiscal responsibility. But I bet a lot of us have mortgages that are multiples of our annual incomes, and yet we manage to pay interest on that debt… Don’t let the large numbers in absolute terms alarm you. It’s the ratios and rates that tell the story in a more meaningful way, and by historical standards, we’re not even close to our highest debt/GDP ratio.

    By all means, start turning the ship around — but the iceberg is not as close as you think.

  • Art,

    Again, that assessment assumes a balanced budget. Which ain’t exactly happening any time soon. At our current rate of growth as well as the current rate of spending including the current rate of increase, I highly doubt 8-9% increase in taxes on even the percentage that do pay into the system is going to do what you imply.

    Darwin and J. Christian,

    Obviously I’d prefer that we pay down the debt. However, I am very aware that it is the debt to production ratio that is so troublesome. And while we may not be at the all time highs, it is extremely important to point out that at the high debts of Post-WWII weren’t so devastating mainly because the US was the one of the few first world nations not decimated by the war. When you’re competing with nations that must spend their resources on rebuilding instead of producing, it’s likely that your growth in production will outstrip your debt fairly quickly. But we’re obviously not in that same climate. Couple that with the ever-growing entitlements and a shrinking tax base and we’ve got serious problems. I think you guy already know that, though.

  • Oh, Darwin, about taxing the lower classes. I greatly suspect that’s where we’re going to have to end up. The tax credits that are rumored to be on the nix list are, I think, the first steps in that direction. I’m not opposed to making sure that everyone pay taxes. Frankly, I favor it. I’d prefer a flat rate with either no or very limited deductions. I worry, though, with the soak the rich rhetoric we’ve been so privy to lately, that they’re going to try and squeeze more out of small businesses and other producers.

  • Mandy, a flat tax is an old idea that in theory sounds good. But the problem always has been on what exactly do you tax. Whether you raise or lower taxes, fiddle with rates, credits and brackets, the fundamental underlying trouble with the economy is not taxes, but as Marco Rubio says, not enough taxpayers. There are more consumers than producers.

    Which goes directly to jobs. With a real unemployment rate of about 17% and the Age of the Machine and Technology ever advancing, there either will be burger flippers or engineers in the future workforce. Manufacturing is all but dead in America except for airplane making and a few other industries. And lost in all of this is rising inflation while wages either are frozen or cut, diminishing rates of person income and savings.

  • The US is the number one manufacturing power on the planet:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41349653/

    What we are seeing is that we simply do not need a lot of workers in manufacturing to produce endless seas of product. As robotic science advances, our long term problem will be how to provide jobs for workers in an economy that needs fewer workers due to advances in technology. My solution of course is to train more surplus workers to be lawyers, as America can never have enough lawyers! 🙂

  • Again, that assessment assumes a balanced budget. Which ain’t exactly happening any time soon.

    It assumed a balanced budget because the problem under discussion was what the tax burden would be to liquidate the debt. If you intend to do that, you have to balance your books to begin with. A different object, to which Darwin refers, is the burden of reducing the significance of the debt. As long as the growth of the outstanding debt is outstripped by the growth in nominal domestic product, you can do that. You still have to balance your books better than we have been.

    There are, by the way, debt free countries. They have sovereign wealth funds. You do not need central government debt to save. There are many other instruments: savings accounts, certificates of deposit, commercial paper, municipal paper, municipal bonds, corporate bonds, foreign bonds, &c. My uncle was born in 1927, and is still in satisfactory health. In his lifetime, we have seen two banking crises, a war which incorporated a comprehensive national mobilization, and a rapid re-armament conjoined to a regional war. That would be one fiscal disaster every 21 years. I would prefer we save our public credit for these sorts of emergencies. That is when you really need it. Otherwise, balance the budget over the course of the business cycle, even if you piss off Robert Kuttner and Paul Krugman.

    When you’re competing with nations that must spend their resources on rebuilding instead of producing, it’s likely that your growth in production will outstrip your debt fairly quickly.

    The first four years after the war were quite difficult economically and there was little economic growth. The period running from 1949-54 was the most economically dynamic of the post war period, but you are still talking along the lines of production levels 10 or 15% higher than trend for the whole period. Again, the back-of-the-envelope calculation I gave you above assumed high interest rates and average rates of growth in nominal domestic product. These are variables public agencies may influence but not control.

  • Oh, Darwin, about taxing the lower classes. I greatly suspect that’s where we’re going to have to end up.

    Income distribution statistics are soft data. FWIW, the last set I looked at had it that that about 5.8% of pre-tax personal income accrued to the least affluent 30%. There isn’t a great deal of money to be had by attempting to tax them (above and beyond what payroll and sales taxes already take).

  • Age of the Machine and Technology ever advancing, there either will be burger flippers or engineers in the future workforce

    I have been hearing that for forty years. Never seems to come to pass. Funny.

  • There is no emergency or impending catastrophe when it comes to the debt, as Art Deco has pointed out.

    To clarify, I offered that it was possible and within reason upon a fiscal consolidation to retire the debt. We are at this time in an emergency, however.

  • OK, Art, I concede to a bit of hyperbole, but it seems to me that the number of jobs for skilled workers is declining. Robert Reich wrote tellining about this trend around 15 years ago.

  • Don, this your office by any chance? 🙂
    http://h1.ripway.com/golfwiscon/LawOffice.jpg

  • Ack! Sorry I disappeared. Had to get the kids in bed.

    About taxes on the lower classes, Art. I don’t propose expanding the tax base to include them as a driver of revenue. Only because I think that we all should be paying in something. It’s very easy to keep voting for people who are going to hand you a check when you don’t have any skin in the game. I see it as another incentive to pay attention. And for all the talk inthe media and political class of people paying their fair share I find it ironic that so many don’t pay anything at all.

  • I understand why you assumed a balanced budget in your figures. What I’m asking, and forgive me for not clarifying earlier, is what is the number when you include what it will take to balance the budget. That assumes that there are no spending cuts and no entitlement reforms, so the approx. $1.5 trillion deficit we’re running would be balanced with increased taxes alone (and ignoring the economic effects on growth, obviously). And let’s be honest, I don’t see any serious entitlement reform happening any time soon. I hope I’m wrong about that. But we’ve got Senators defending spending on “cowboy poetry” as necessary, so forgive me for some skepticism there.

    I’d also like to point out that for those who are not rich, like myself, a 8-9% bump in taxes would be pretty devastating. Heck, a 3% increase would be extremely painful. so getting this under control is not easy peasy. I don’t think you were necessarily implying it would be, but it is important to point out that we’re not just dealing with numbers here, but people and their lives and livelihoods.

    Off to mass, now! Have a great Sunday all.

  • The sum of expenditures was outside the scope of the problem. The problem was the additional increment necessary to service the debt. The sum of expenditures (on current consumption and debt service) would not require 70% marginal rates unless your baseline of expenditure was higher than has been the case in more than sixty years. (Given an exemption to exclude that 30% of the population, it would presuppose federal expenditures in the neighborhood of 40% of domestic product, not the 24% we suffer today).

    Whether you finance spending out of bond sales or tax assessments, you are re-directing income to common purposes (or politicians’ purposes). It is just a question of whose is re-directed and the future pressure the state faces from the bond market.

    Keep in mind also that the 9% in question is a marginal rate, not a mean rate. Your mean rate is going to depend on the size of the general exemption vis a vis your household income.

    The effect on your household expenditures from such an assessment would be influenced by how much of your budget was devoted to putting funds in money market accounts containing Treasury issues and the distribution of burdens resulting from excising deductions and special exemptions and increasing a general exemption (in addition to any tweaking you do with the rate structure).

Unilateral War Making by the Executive (Updated)

Friday, June 17, AD 2011

The Congress shall have Power . . . To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water; – Article I, Section 8

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment. – Article II, Section 2

It’s not a good feeling agreeing with Dennis Kucinich.  Finding myself on the same side of an issue as Kucinich makes me seriously reconsider my opinion.   But as they say, even a bind, deaf, paralyzed, rabies-afflicted squirrel finds a nut every now and again.

It’s less distressing to disagree with Charles Krauthammer.  He’s usually spot on, but he tends to go off the rails when it comes to foreign policy.  Not always, mind you, but in Krauthammer you can see the legitimate difference between neoconservatism and traditional conservatism.  Last night he had this to say about the War Powers Act and President Obama’s war hostilities kinetic military action in Libya:

KRAUTHAMMER: I understand why Congress wants to retain prerogatives, as does the president. I’m not surprised that Durbin would act this way. I am surprised that so many Republicans are jumping on the war powers resolution. They will regret it. If you have a Republican in office, you have isolationists Democrats trying to restrain his exercise of his powers under constitution and the Republicans aren’t going to like it.
I would not truck in war powers resolution. I have also think the administration’s defense of what it is doing is extremely week and misguided. Obama’s answer essentially is well, the resolution is out there. But it’s not relevant because it isn’t really a war, which is absurd.

BAIER: We’re not in hostilities.

KRAUTHAMMER: Right. What he should say I, like my other predecessor, I do not recognize the legality of this act and its authority over the presidency. That’s where he should make his stand.

BAIER: When he was Senator Obama he spoke the opposite.

KRAUTHAMMER: And as a president he is implicitly supporting the resolution saying it doesn’t apply here. It implies if it were a real war, as he pretends it’s not. I have to comply. No president ought to do that.

I agree with him with regards to Obama’s duplicity.  I also share his skepticism about the War Powers Act.  But he’s wrong about the rest.

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14 Responses to Unilateral War Making by the Executive (Updated)

  • Obama criticized Bush for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, then he does worse in Libya, and uses the Orwellian phrase, “Kinetic Military Action.” But the main stream media and the proudly liberal won’t see this hypocrisy, or seeing it, won’t acknowledge it.

    If the news media acts this way now so far from the 2012 election, then what will happen as the election draws nigh? Is there any hope of defeating this godless man of murder and depravity?

  • I have no doubt that the War Powers Act is an unconstitional infringement on the powers of the President as Commander in Chief. I also have no doubt that, absent an emergency, any President who goes to war without Congressional authorization is a fool.

  • It is only an issue if the president has an (R) behind his name.

  • I see this as two issues:

    1. What does the Constitution mean? Difficult question.

    2. What is the de facto law? Easy. The President can ignore the War Powers Act and do whatever he wants outside the US for as long as Congress will pay for it. That’s always been the de facto law.

  • The War Powers Resolution seems to be another attempt by the legislature to codify Retroactive Ratification. Alexander Linn suggests that it is a “realigning” of the war powers, that “in passing the Resolution, Congress sought to set parameters on the Executive’s ability to commit military forces to combat. The Resolution codified limitations on the ability of the executive branch to initiate unilaterally or to engage in military hostilities.” The form of the resolution itself suggests that Congress’ efforts were expended more to “define” than “realign.” (Alexander C. Linn, International Security and the War Powers Resolution, 8 Wm. & Mary Bill of Rts. J. 725 (2000).

    The Resolution affirms that the President, acting as Commander in Chief, my direct military action after a Declaration of War or with specific Statutory Authorization. Since both of these circumstances are spelled out in the Constitution of 1787, they cannot be a “grant” of such authority to the President. He already has such authorization. Only with the addition of a “national emergency created by an attack upon US interests” did the legislature stray beyond the established grounds of the original constitution.

    Congress asserted a check on this last point in that the President was thereafter required to “consult” with Congress “in every possible instance” before deploying troops and regularly through the deployment. Loose construction of the Resolution aside, this last point seeks to capture the breadth of presidential inroads on legislative powers. There is a close corollary to Retroactive Ratification in the consulting requirement, but the up-front determination of when a “national emergency created by an attack upon US interests” occurs. Critically, the limitations proscribe no particular type of presidential war power exercise, not even those exercised against Americans at home such as were illustrated in Korematsu, Kimball Laundry, and Youngstown. Linn suggests that “[n]otwithstanding that the President’s modern control over war conflicts with the Framer’s intent, the problem is not the increase in executive power. There are compelling reasons the Executive to hold a quantum of war power that contradicts the Framers’ intent.” Linn seems to suggest that the Constitution itself is not the benchmark of presidential power. This is to say that our constitutional jurisprudence, however muddled, holds the keys to limiting the powers of a runaway executive.

    Even Hamilton would have cringed at that notion.

    The War Powers Resolution places on the Executive the burden only that he must report what he has done to Congress within 48 hours and the need for deployment, the constitutional and legislative authority, the scope, and the duration of hostilities thereafter. More significantly, the President receives a 60 day “grace period” during which he can engage in military action without authorization and an additional 30 days if there is an “unavoidable military necessity.” If Congress fails to order the executive to pull back, their acquiescence can go on indefinitely.
    It does not appear that the War Powers Resolution places any new burdens on the President since our written constitution and our constitutional jurisprudence already placed similar limits on the executive. Perhaps the Resolution is little more than a touchstone for public discourse. If so, it serves more to subtly illustrate the underlying constitutional principles that the Congress is, by the text of the Constitution, the preeminent institution of government and that, however much presidential powers may lay claim to law making powers, he is still bound by an older order.

  • If the War Powers Act is unconstitutional it is because it delegates too much power to the President to initiate hostilities, not because it impinges on his powers as commander in chief.

    The practical reality, of course, it much as RR stated.

  • Congress only has the power of the purse over the military. The President is clearly commander-in-chief under the Constitution of the military. Congress has no more power to instruct the President as to what may be done with the military than the President has power to compel Congress to appropriate funds for the military. Congress of course, whenever it wishes, has the power to deny funding for specific military operations. Since this is difficult to do politically, we have flapdoodle like the War Powers Act, which is a simple attempt by members of Congress to avoid the heavy lifting of denying funds if they wish to terminate a military operation.

  • The item that is missing from most every discussion is just what is a “State of War”. A Declaration of War creates a State of War. There has always been lawful armed conflict existing outside a formal State of War. The War Powers Act attempts to deal with involvement in armed conflict outside of a formal State of War.

    1. A Sate of War can only exist between two independent countries. Declaring war is recognizing the other party as an independent country. The big example from American History is the Civil War. The North never declared war on the South, doing so would have recognized the legitimacy of the southern states succession. Instead Congress declared the southern states were engaged in an insurgency against the proper government.

    2. A State of War is between two countries as a whole every citizen of one is an enemy of the every citizen of the other. Take Libya, whatever the goals are we are supporting a faction in civil war we are not saying that evey Libyan is an enemy of every American.

    3. A State of War can only be formally ended by a peace treaty. It is somtes commented that a formal declarion of war is not so much an authorization to fight but a refusal to talk and let the issue be settled by arms.

    A declarations of war is clearly inappropriate for intervening in acivil war such as Libya. Given the nature of a State of War, modern nuclear weapons and the wording of the UN Charter formal declarations of war are pretty much obsolete.

    The clear meaning of the Constitution is that only Congress has the ability to declare a formal State of War.

    Lawful conflict outside of a State of War falls into a rather fuzzy boundary between Legislative and Executive powers. The War Powers act could only work with good faith cooperation between Congress and the President which we don’t have. The problem now is that th President did not seek that coopeation.

  • I hadn’t thought of that Hank, but wouldn’t it be better if we used a more literal definition of “state of war” as this would probably be more true to the founders’ meaning; keep in mind this is a term they don’t actually use. I can see your point though, about undeclared military excursions throughout early US history.

  • Ike

    Thank you. The definition I gave has been customary international law for several centuries, it can’t be ignored and is probably what was meant by the framers since almost all wars then were declared. I think there is in practice a domestic law “state of war” which applies in cases where a formal declaration is not appropriate. The War on Terror and Iraq War resolutions created this for their respective actions, but there is no resolution for Libya. Thus a problem.

  • Once hostilities commence, Congress has limited authority other than the purse, as Don said. It’s before hostilities commence where Congressional power is at its height, and that’s what I am concerned with here.

    Hank raises a good point, worthy of its own post. Modern warfare is certainly something different than what existed at the time of the Framing. So where do we draw the line? To me it boils down to this question: are we comfortable with the Executive taking unilateral action of this nature? Occasional air strikes are one thing, but in this specific situation where America has pledged military support to a long-term (not just a few strikes) military engagement, even if it’s another country’s civil war, Congress ought to approve before we proceed (or continue). No, this is not a declared war in the traditional sense, but it crosses the line into an area where it is within Congress’s legitimate Constitutional authority to intervene.

  • “Congress only has the power of the purse over the military.”

    You need to reread the constitution.

    Being the commander in chief doesn’t mean you have plenary authority to initiate hostilities (the commander in chief of Canada, for example, is Elizabeth II). If you look at the original understanding of the constitution it is quite clear on this point. The President has the authority to repel invasion, but to actually initiate hostilities he needs congressional approval. In practice it hasn’t been that way for a long time, but the same could be said of many other constitutional provisions.

  • “In practice it hasn’t been that way for a long time,”

    That will do for the understatement of the week! Whatever the initial intention of the Framers was, from the beginning the Constitutional provision granting to Congress the power to declare war has not acted as a restriction on the power of the President to use the military, as amply demonstrated by Presidential use of the military during the first 20 years after the drafting of the Constitution to wage war against Indian tribes, google battle of Fallen Timbers, foreign powers, France and the Barbary Pirates, and internal insurrections, the Whiskey Rebellion. If any of the Framers said a peep against any of this, all done without a formal declaration of war, I am unaware of it. A wise president will make certain that Congress supports such efforts, but it is clearly not required under the Constitution that he obtain such approval from the Congress, let alone seek a declaration of war, before using the military to engage in a war.

  • This is why I said it’s better seen as 2 separate issues, the academic question of constitutionality and the reality of the de facto law.

    On most other issues, one can sue to enforce the Constitution so the academic and the practical are one and the same. But how to conduct foreign affairs is a political question which the courts do not entertain on the merits. It extends, not only to military matters, but diplomatic as well (see, Goldwater v. Carter). Courts have heard and dismissed these kinds of cases before. Scalia, when he was on the DC Circuit, wrote the decision in Sanchez-Espinoza v. Reagan dismissing a war-powers-based challenge to US intervention in Nicarauga on the grounds that it was a “nonjusticiable political question.”

Nullification: A Terrible Idea Whose Time Hasn’t Come

Tuesday, January 25, AD 2011

There’s been some buzz lately about states kicking the idea of nullification around.  State legislators in Nebraska have been circulating a little tome by Thomas Woods on the subject, and there’s been some news reports of states considering the idea with regards to health care.  Before conservatives go trumpeting this idea as some way of saving the republic, let’s keep in mind something: it’s a bad idea that happens to be unconstitutional.

Whenever the idea of nullification comes up we inevitably hear about Thomas Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolution and James Madison’s Virginia Resolution.  They were penned in response to the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.  The key passages from Jefferson’s resolution is as follows:

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62 Responses to Nullification: A Terrible Idea Whose Time Hasn’t Come

  • Maybe something far better would be a constitutional convention called by some states to do some Spring cleaning in the form of several amendments:

    Clarify the limits of the 10th amendment and declare several dozen laws that violate that amendment to be null and void.

    Draw up a list of the top 100 federal judges who abuse the constitution and eject them permanently from the bench. Their failure as judges to do their job is what caused this in the first place.

    Clarify the 1st amendment, in particular that the free exercise and no establishment part means free exercise and no establishment. Establishment being along the lines of the Church of England.

    Put some sort of absolute size limit on the Federal Register–if one page goes in, one must come out.

    Just some ideas, but at this point, the country is clearly off the rails as far as the constitution goes. Short of leaving the union to one degree or another, maybe it is time for the fly-over states to band together and settle some issues. Sounds like a good cause for the tea party, and would place the constitution in front of the public debate. Was that more along the lines of what Madison would have endorsed?

  • Madison in his letter to Trist cited by Paul goes on in the next paragraph to state as follows:

    “It is remarkable how closely the nullifiers who make the name of Mr. Jefferson the pedestal for their colossal heresy, shut their eyes and lips, whenever his authority is ever so clearly and emphatically against them. You have noticed what he says in his letters to Monroe & Carrington Pages 43 & 203, vol. 2,1 with respect to the powers of the old Congress to coerce delinquent States, and his reasons for preferring for the purpose a naval to a military force; and moreover that it was not necessary to find a right to coerce in the Federal Articles, that being inherent in the nature of a compact. It is high time that the claim to secede at will should be put down by the public opinion; and I shall be glad to see the task commenced by one who understands the subject.”

    Scholarship in support of nullification then as now, was unbelievably shoddy. This is a case of knaves seeking to lead fools.

  • Mr. McClarey, it is you whose scholarship is shoddy. As Kevin Gutzman showed in the Journal of the Early Republic, Madison obviously changed his mind. Clearly, in the Report of 1800, he was indeed saying what everyone at the time took him to be saying. Madison also, in his later years, tried to pretend Jefferson had never even used the word “nullification” When the draft of the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 in Jefferson’s own hand was presented to him, he had to back down.

    Anyone citing the Supremacy Clause against nullification is not even entitled to an opinion on the subject. Yes, I realize nullification does not fall along the spectrum of approved opinion that ranges from Hillary Clinton to Mitch McConnell, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong — or, laughably, “unconstitutional.” If you understood the nature of the Union you would see why Jefferson’s position is so compelling. Instead, you repeat a few left-wing talking points and leave it at that.

    For an extremely basic primer, see http://www.StateNullification.com.

  • Presented with the actual words of the Founding Fathers, Mr. Woods resorts to name-calling and laughable assertions about the ideology of his interlocutors. I guess I know which historian to leave off my Amazon wish list.

  • Paul,

    Your statement about the Supremacy Clause is inaccurate for a few reasons.

    One- You left out the fact that the Supremacy close is only valid if the law passed by Congress is among those allowed Artcle I-Section 8. If the Congress wants to pass something outside that section, it isn’t Constitutional, thus null and void under the Supremacy Clause.

    Two- The 10th Amendment also limits the Supremacy Clause. Since it is an Amendment, it takes priority over the original text therefore it takes precedent. So again, anything not mentioned in Article 1-Section 8 falls back to the individual states and the people.

    We can debate on the interpretations of the Article 1-Section 8, but I do think the modern belief in these various clauses makes no sense. Everyone at the time of the founding believed the Federal Government should be limited. However, modern interpretations doesn’t limit the government.

    If the government can control what I grow on my own land even when I am not selling it and just using it for personal use, I believe that is a government that isn’t limited as the founders envisioned.

    You have another problem with your point of view. How does one make the case that these individual colonies that became individual states would give up the sovereignty you are suggesting when they just fought a war for their independence? Why would just turn around and create another nightmare government too much control over them without holding the belief that they can be a voice when the Federal Government oversteps it’s Constitutional authority.

    Sorry Paul, your point of view makes no sense.

  • Paul:

    It seems that it is the Federal government is the only party that can nullify treaties and laws that were made in good faith. The case of Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock is evidence to me that Congress can break their word with soveriegn indian nations with “plenary power.” Maybe it is high time that we have “chaos” and nullify laws of the federal government. Turnabout is fair play.

  • One- You left out the fact that the Supremacy close is only valid if the law passed by Congress is among those allowed Artcle I-Section 8. If the Congress wants to pass something outside that section, it isn’t Constitutional, thus null and void under the Supremacy Clause.

    Sorry, I didn’t realize there was a sub-clause to Article VI. Was this also written in the same invisible ink that guaranteed the right to privacy and abortion?

    If a law passed by Congress is unconstitutional, there are several remedies to addressing this issue. As a conservative it’s understandable to be irate at the massive growth in the powers of the federal government, especially when aided and abetted by one of the institutions designed to check Congressional action (the Supreme Court). The solution to unconstitutional aggression is not to resort to further unconstitutional aggression.

    If the government can control what I grow on my own land even when I am not selling it and just using it for personal use, I believe that is a government that isn’t limited as the founders envisioned.

    Again, we agree. But if the states become 50 unique arbiters of constitutionality, where does that leave us? What if the state acts unconstitutionally in deeming a perfectly legitimate law unconstitutional? Where does it end? There is one sovereign authority – not 50.

    You have another problem with your point of view. How does one make the case that these individual colonies that became individual states would give up the sovereignty you are suggesting when they just fought a war for their independence? Why would just turn around and create another nightmare government too much control over them without holding the belief that they can be a voice when the Federal Government oversteps it’s Constitutional authority.

    Sorry Paul, your point of view makes no sense.

    Take it up with the Founders, John. Read through the Federalist Papers and the other assorted documents. The revolutionaries didn’t throw off one form of government just to embrace the sort of democratic despotism that they feared, rightly or wrongly, was being created by the Articles of Confederation government.

    As I wrote in this post, the Constitution was specifically designed to increase the powers of the federal government. The Confederation government, the Framers argued, had grown ineffectual. What the Constitution did not do was grant unlimited authority.

  • I rather suspect that James Madison understood the Constitution somewhat more accurately than Mr. Woods. Of course Mr. Woods is not a dispassionate scholar. He is a paladin of a point of view that was defeated at Appomattox. His views of Nullification would no doubt be lustily cheered at a meeting of the League of the South, less so by non neo-Confederates.

  • Yeah Donald, and I guess breaking treaties with Indians was OK and that our occupation of those lands settled the issue. Why don’t you replace Appomattox with Sand Creek or the Battle of Washita.

  • My point Efrem is that like the Confederacy which is the apple of his eye, (don’t accept my statement for that, read Mr. Woods’ Politically Incorrect Guide to American history), Mr. Woods holds to doctrines which have been rejected in theory, in practice and on the battlefield. You cannot have a country where a state can unilaterally determine which laws of the Union will be followed within its borders and which ones will not. That is to replace government by anarchy. Mr. Woods uses a very strained view of American history in order to try to reach libertarian\paleocon ends as can be seen by reading some of his columns at Lew Rockwell. He is not engaged in academic debate, but is rather attempting to help raise support for his political point of view. He certainly is entitled to peddle any brand of politics to which he adheres. He is not entitled to twist the history of this nation to do so.

  • Because that would be a non-sequitur.

  • Mr. Zummo,

    I think we can agree that chasing the quotes of our founding fathers is ultimately a dead end here. You can quote Hamilton while Woods quotes Jefferson; and Woods can quote ‘1798 Madison’ while you quote ‘1835 Madison’. It’s going to be a wash.

    In light of this, I think it might be useful to try relying on our own brains/morals here.

    In that spirit, I have a genuine question for you: You say in this article that the states have “innumerable devices at their disposal to fight back against unconstitutional legislation.” I assume these “devices” to be elections, constitutional amendments, the Supreme Court, activism, etc. Now, nevermind the fact that the Federal Government has run roughsod over the states throughout the 20th Century… Let’s just consider the following scenario: The U.S. Federal Congress passes a law banning elections, the U.S. Federal President signs it into law, and the U.S. Federal Supreme Court confirms it’s constitutionality. Under this circumstance, are we simply resigned to the fate of a dictatorship?

    I don’t know about you, but a government that can mandate the kidnapping of slaves, the internment of over 100,000 people, that growing food for your own consumption is “interstate commerce”, and (now) that we purchase products from private companies, is not a government that you “play ball” with. It’s a government that you resist.

    History has shown us the horrors of centralized political power. Woods’ grasp of history is excellent, but his grasp of the inherently dangerous nature of centralized political power is what makes him great. I hope that you’ll consider the implications of Woods’ position in that context.

  • The point is Donald is that the question of nullfication is not settled with force like the Civil War just like the issue of Indian land soveriegnty was not settled with force via fraudulent taking of their lands.

  • “This brings us to the expedient lately advanced, which claims for a single State a right to appeal agst. an exercise of power by the Govt. of the U. S. decided by the State to be unconstitutional, to the parties of the Const, compact; the decision of the State to have the effect of nullifying the act of the Govt. of the U. S. unless the decision of the State be reversed by three-fourths of the parties.

    The distinguished names & high authorities which appear to have asserted and given a practical scope to this doctrine, entitle it to a respect which it might be difficult otherwise to feel for it.

    If the doctrine were to be understood as requiring the three-fourths of the States to sustain, instead of that proportion to reverse, the decision of the appealing State, the decision to be without effect during the appeal, it wd. be sufficient to remark, that this extra constl. course might well give way to that marked out by the Const, which authorizes 2/3 of the States to institute and 3/4. to effectuate, an amendment of the Constn. establishing a permanent rule of the highest authy in place of an irregular precedent of construction only.

    But it is understood that the nullifying doctrine imports that the decision of the State is to be presumed valid, and that it overrules the law of the U. S. unless overuled by 3/4 of the States.

    Can more be necessary to demonstrate the inadmissibility of such a doctrine than that it puts it in the power of the smallest fraction over 1/4 of the U. S. — that is, of 7 States out of 24 — to give the law and even the Constn. to 17 States, each of the 17 having as parties to the Constn. an equal right with each of the 7 to expound it & to insist on the exposition. That the 7 might, in particular instances be right and the 17 wrong, is more than possible. But to establish a positive & permanent rule giving such a power to such a minority over such a majority, would overturn the first principle of free Govt. and in practice necessarily overturn the Govt. itself.

    It is to be recollected that the Constitution was proposed to the people of the States as a whole, and unanimously adopted by the States as a whole, it being a part of the Constitution that not less than 3/4 of the States should be competent to make any alteration in what had been unanimously agreed to. So great is the caution on this point, that in two cases when peculiar interests were at stake, a proportion even of 3/4 is distrusted, and unanimity required to make an alteration.

    When the Constitution was adopted as a whole, it is certain that there were many parts which if separately proposed, would have been promptly rejected. It is far from impossible, that every part of the Constitution might be rejected by a majority, and yet, taken together as a whole be unanimously accepted. Free constitutions will rarely if ever be formed without reciprocal concessions; without articles conditioned on & balancing each other. Is there a constitution of a single State out of the 24 that wd. bear the experiment of having its component parts submitted to the people & separately decided on?

    What the fate of the Constitution of the U. S. would be if a small proportion of States could expunge parts of it particularly valued by a large majority, can have but one answer.”

    James Madison to Edward Everett, August 28, 1830

    http://www.constitution.org/jm/18300828_everett.htm

  • Paul,

    The federal government is out of control and ALL mechanisms to curb it have failed. It has run a muck to the tune of trillions in debt, rights are routinely trampled, even to the point that they state they give us our rights (in direct defiance as to what was written in the Declaration of Independence). We have even gone so far as to institute a patriot act that shreds the last semblances of the document. We should be marching on DC with our torches and pitchforks but, barely a word is spoken and now we get articles like this berating us that this is not the way. We as a people no longer have any semblance of sovereignty or of our republic, we are surfs to a huge monopolistic plutocracy that is for sale to the highest bidder. I don’t care if nullification is constitutional or is unconstitutional, whatever will help try to put this monster back in its box or kill it! One or the other.

    I also think that your even addressing nullification as an “unconstitutional” idea is laughable. Like anyone even pays attention to the Constitution, ESPECIALLY in our own government. Like most, your article only calls on the document to make some inane point much like people who call on the Bible to justify their adulterous behavior or their sins in general. You have no reverence for the document otherwise, you would look at every angle to try to insure its preservation. Everyone has some idea that this doctrine (nullification) will create chaos…our country is IN chaos and when the dollar crashes, it’s only going to get worse.

  • Like anyone even pays attention to the Constitution,

    So the answer to unconstitutional action is to engage in more unconstitutional action? That’s like incurring more debt in an effort to pay down one’s current obligations.

    I think we can agree that chasing the quotes of our founding fathers is ultimately a dead end here. You can quote Hamilton while Woods quotes Jefferson; and Woods can quote ’1798 Madison’ while you quote ’1835 Madison’. It’s going to be a wash.

    The people I am citing were actual authors of the Constitution. Madison’s writings from 1798 does not contradict what he said in 1835. If that’s your idea of a wash, then you are clearly not a very good judge.

  • Brett, the rest of your hypothetical assumes a rather far-fetched example of government over-reach. Obviously all human beings retain the right of revolution in case of true tyranny. But if this is the best example you can come up with to defend Woods’ train of thought, then I’m quite comfortable maintaining my position.

  • It worked for OJ Simpson — sorta.

  • Paul,

    Excuse me, I’m quite sure that I listed some very real examples of tyrannies that have already been perpetrated against the American people—(the Fugitive Slave Law, the internment of over 100,000 human beings during WWII, the confiscation of farmers’ personal produce, and now, the requirement that we purchase a private product).

    Let’s get this straight, Paul: If you were a state governor and the U.S. Federal Government ordered you to intern your fellow citizens, you would do it? Or would you refuse to enforce (nullify) it?

    Simple question. I cant wait to read your answer.

  • Oh and, for the record, the purpose of my (ostensibly hyperbolic) hypothetical scenario was to demonstrate the fundamentally flawed nature of the system that you appear to be defending—and to bring your logic to its proper conclusion. (Though, unfortunately, for many Americans there is nothing hyperbolic or hypothetical about it—eg the Japanese during WWII.)

    “The people I am citing were actual authors of the Constitution. Madison’s writings from 1798 does not contradict what he said in 1835. If that’s your idea of a wash, then you are clearly not a very good judge.”

    Extraneous. But you ignored Jefferson, why, exactly? Hamilton v. Jefferson = a wash, insofar as the opinions of the founders really comprise the point on which this issue pivots for you (which I highly doubt).

    You can’t just claim erroneously that you *know* the hearts & minds of the founders and then substitute that claim for actual arguments, especially when it comes to an issue as crucial as this.

    My point was that we should actually think about this issue for ourselves. I don’t think that that’s an unreasonable request.

  • What about the fact that nullification has been used, successfully at that, in the past. I wonder if the people that criticize Dr. Woods have even read the book or are they like the government, almighty and all knowing?

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  • One of the many hilarious things about this latest boomlet for nullification created by Woods and his cronies in crankdom, is how it flies in the face of American history, not only in theory but in practice.

    They seize upon the Kentucky Resolutions and the Virginia Resolution of 1798 without really understanding what was going on. These were part and parcel of the ongoing political war of the Republicans against the Federalists, and as political theater they were quite successful in helping rouse public fury against the Alien and Sedition Acts which led to Republican victory at the polls in 1800. Once the Resolutions had helped achieve success at the polls, they were quietly abandoned by the Republicans since they had served their political purpose.

    In the Nullification Crisis of 1832, South Carolina’s first attempt to destroy the Union and start a civil war, a compromise was ultimately worked out in Congress to lower the tariffs and the nullification movement in South Carolina collapsed, much to the chagrin of some fireeaters like Rhett who would still be around to help start the Civil War in the secession crisis of 1860-61.

    Modern day advocates of nullification attempt to dragoon the personal liberty laws passed by some Nothern states to attempt to get around the fugitive slave law into the nullification debate. (I suspect that this example is drug in to get around the fact that throughout the history of this country nullification has often been allied with racist movements.) Of course such attempts were futile as the US Supreme Court ruled in 1842 that such laws were unconstitutional, as they clearly were at the time. What of course ended the fugitive slave law was the Civil War and the constitutional amendments that resulted. Mr. Woods, to show his thanks for this, is welcome to join me and my family next summer when we go to Lincoln’s tomb to pray for the repose of his soul.

    Nullification was often brought up by segregationists in their “massive resistance” campaign against Brown v. Board of education. As in the rest of American history, nullification went nowhere fast in this less than stellar moment in our nation’s history. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to this in his I Have a Dream Speech in 1963:
    “I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

    What made nullification more than a historical footnote today is of course ObamaCare, and the justified opposition to it, which I fully share. However, the political process is working. The Republicans took the House,made gains in the Senate, and control most governorships and state legislatures, largely because the Democrats acted completely fecklessly with no concern for the public opposition they were building. Suits against ObamaCare are proceeding with some success in the federal courts. Crack-brained nostrums like nullification are not needed in America, while our political and legal systems are functioning, which they are.

    I do confess however, that I almost hope that one of the States is foolish enough to think that nullification could work. The first federal lawsuit over the issue would rapidly establish that nullification has as much standing in the federal courts as a flat earth has in a geography class. The state government would then be in a position of obeying the ruling of the federal court, or calling the national guard to arms. One guess as to which course they would choose. Of course if they chose to attempt armed revolution I assume that Mr. Woods and his friends will be on the barricades, although that would be somewhat more dangerous than writing books or debating on the internet.

  • Good points, Donald. It is almost a form of right-wing utopianism. Also, if you look at the arguments made on this thread it seems that even the advocated for nullification concede that it’s not really a constitutional measure – just that the system is so broken that we have no other recourse. Well, I’m not ready to give up on the legitimate means at our disposal to fight back against an encroaching federal government.

  • Brett,

    Thomas Jefferson was in Paris during the writing of the US Constitution. Alexander Hamilton was an actual participant of the constitutional convention, was one of its leading proponents (despite mis-givings about the end product), and an author of a series of essays that provides more insight into what the Framers were thinking than any other resource. So yes, I do take his interpretation more seriously than Jefferson.

    You can’t just claim erroneously that you *know* the hearts & minds of the founders and then substitute that claim for actual arguments, especially when it comes to an issue as crucial as this.

    I cited their actual words. I didn’t just make blustery comments making up imaginary interpretations of what they said. That’s what you guys do.

    My point was that we should actually think about this issue for ourselves. I don’t think that that’s an unreasonable request.

    I would take that claim more seriously if you didn’t just blindly accept Thomas Woods’ shoddy research as as Gospel truth.

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  • ***Paul,

    Excuse me, I’m quite sure that I listed some very real examples of tyrannies that have already been perpetrated against the American people—(the Fugitive Slave Law, the internment of over 100,000 human beings during WWII, the confiscation of farmers’ personal produce, and now, the requirement that we purchase a private product).

    Let’s get this straight, Paul: If you were a state governor and the U.S. Federal Government ordered you to intern your fellow citizens, you would do it? Or would you refuse to enforce (nullify) it?

    Simple question. I cant wait to read your answer.***

    P.S. I didn’t take any of Woods’ research as “Gospel truth”. If you recall, I said that it’s a wash. But completely discounting arguably the most influential founding father simply because he wasn’t physically at the Convention seems “shoddy” to me.

    In any case, I’ll cede the point—for lack of authority and sake of argument. You evaded my first (more important) comment (see above). I hope you’ll respond. Thanks.

  • Thanks Brett. I saw the question, but I thought my response was fairly obvious based on my previous comments. Maybe I need to type slower. In the case of clear government tyranny, we do reserve the right to revolution. If you can’t see the difference between your extreme hypothetical and the examples you cited, you clearly lack common sense and can’t be helped.

    Hamilton and Madison are more relevant because they would have a better understanding of the true intent of the Framers, seeing as they were actually there when the Constitution was written. Therefore I think they are in better position to interpret the Constitution than Jefferson.

  • Mr. Zummo,

    Tom Woods and John Lambert are correct. And for a respondent to say that Woods does not know his history demonstrates ignorance on the respondent’s side. Woods is a well-recognized scholar on the subject.

    As for Mr. McClarey’s comments about Madison, he is referencing a letter written nearly 35 years after the events in question. It is a well-known historical fact that in his later years, Madison contradicted much of what he, himself, had said in his earlier days, and also spoke and wrote much else that contradicted the recorded history of his own lifetime. Today we have a name for that: senile dementia.

    AT THE TIME OF ITS WRITING, the Virginia Resolution was clearly understood to advocate states “interposing” themselves between a usurping Federal government and The People. In effect this IS a call for nullification. Madison’s comments in his later life are simply not germane.

    The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions did not carry the political weight of the day, which statists are quick to seize as justification for saying that nullification is a failed doctrine. But what they consistently fail to mention is that a very few short years later, the Alien and Seditions Acts were actively being opposed by the people and their respective states, which refused to support the Acts and in some cases passed legislation rendering them of no effect… BEFORE the laws expired when Adams left office.

    McClarey also has his facts about the “nullification crisis” of South Carolina wrong. Or at least very distorted. For one thing, S.C. was not trying to “destroy the Union” at all. It was merely trying to assert its right to nullify a law that it perceived to be unconstitutional: an unreasonable tariff. (And in fact they were right: the tariff was an intentional attack on the economy of the South on the part of the then Northern-dominated Congress).

    The fact of the matter, which McClarey actually states before going on to contradict himself, is that South Carolina did not back down, even under military threat, until AFTER Congress changed the tariff to something more to South Carolina’s satisfaction. That puts it among the first SUCCESSFUL cases of state nullification. Let’s make no mistake about that.

    As has been stated here before, the States were concerned with an overweening Federal government, and insisted on protection from it before ratifying the Constitution. The intentions of the Founders in the Bill of Rights, and the Tenth Amendment in particular, which was intended to solidify that protection, are very clear in light of the writings of the day, including the Federalist Papers.

    Brett also makes good points, about later (actual, successful, and historically unequivocal) nullifications of the Fugitive Slave Law and other such situations. And then we have modern examples of same: effective (25 states) nullification of Real ID. There also have been ongoing nullification of other unconstitutional acts of the Federal government, such as marijuana laws.

    There is no mistake about this, and true scholars of history like Woods understand the historical meaning of the documents, and their words and wording. (And he is far from alone: true students of this period of our history are in general agreement about the matter, which makes me wonder what Kool-Aid Mr. Lummo has been drinking.)

    Revisionist history, like that presented by Mr. Lummo, will never prevail unless or until they manage to re-write the actual history books. Which I do not think will ever happen. Too many people respect the actual facts.

  • Pardon me, I wrote “Mr. Lummo” when I clearly meant “Mr. Zummo”. Those were unintentional typographical errors, not an intent to slight the author.

  • Woods is a well-recognized scholar on the subject.

    You are mistaking book sales for expertise.

    It is a well-known historical fact that in his later years, Madison contradicted much of what he, himself, had said in his earlier days, and also spoke and wrote much else that contradicted the recorded history of his own lifetime. Today we have a name for that: senile dementia.

    Ah yes, let’s make stuff up in order to disregard all the stuff that contradicts what we believe. Who can contend with such scholarly arguments?

  • Paul,

    Maybe *I* need to type slower. I made no mention of my (ostensibly hyperbolic) hypothetical in my last comment, did I? I asked you about a real-world historical event.

    I’ll try one more time, since you seem at least somewhat receptive: If you were a state governor and the U.S. Federal Government ordered you to intern your fellow citizens, would you do it or would you nullify it?

    If the U.S. Federal Government ordered you to kidnap slaves so that they may be returned to their owners, would you do it or would you nullify it?

    If the U.S. Federal Government ordered you to force your fellow citizen to purchase a private product that he or she did not want to purchase, would you do it or would you nullify it?

    There is nothing hypothetical about these examples and, call me crazy, but I *do* happen to believe that interning over 100,000 human beings without due process is “extreme”. Apparently you disagree?

  • Oh, and I’m glad that you at least believe that human beings reserve the right to revolt against government.

    And nullification is a form of contained and peaceful revolution. We don’t need a blood bath every time the U.S. Federal Government oversteps its bounds. We can, instead—relying on our healthy and rational fears of centralized power—refuse to enforce blatantly unjust Federal laws.

    Look at what happened to the Real ID Act of 2005. States are simply refusing to enforce it! Is that unacceptable? (http://www.tenthamendmentcenter.com/nullification/real-id/)

    Is this OK, or would you rather wait until the government becomes a full-blown dictatorship before you would grant us permission to resist?

    I think you would do well to give these questions serious consideration. You’re coming off as a bit flippant towards this issue.

  • “As for Mr. McClarey’s comments about Madison, he is referencing a letter written nearly 35 years after the events in question. It is a well-known historical fact that in his later years, Madison contradicted much of what he, himself, had said in his earlier days, and also spoke and wrote much else that contradicted the recorded history of his own lifetime.”

    Completely untrue. Contrary to Woods and his fellow myth makers, Madison was never in favor of nullification. He merely restated late in life what he had always held. As to your comment about senile dementia, I have absolutely no doubt that Madison on his worst day was sharper than you on your best. His writings attest to this.

    “McClarey also has his facts about the “nullification crisis” of South Carolina wrong. Or at least very distorted. For one thing, S.C. was not trying to “destroy the Union” at all. It was merely trying to assert its right to nullify a law that it perceived to be unconstitutional: an unreasonable tariff. (And in fact they were right: the tariff was an intentional attack on the economy of the South on the part of the then Northern-dominated Congress).”

    Where to begin. The “Tariff of Abominations of 1828″ was actually, wait for it, the brainchild of John C. Calhoun. In order to head off an increase in tariffs, Calhoun decided to craft a tariff increase laden with increases on imports popular in New England, assuming that the New Englanders would vote against it. Enough voted in favor of it to pass it. I think that Calhoun was so hot for nullification partly out of embarassment that he helped bring about this tariff. The tariff was a perennial battle field and the divisions were often not purely regional. There was a fair amount of opposition usually to tariff increases in New England, and often a fair amount of support for tariff increases in the border states and Tennessee.

    At any rate South Carolina, rather than engage in the usual political wheeling and dealing that surrounded tariff battles, decided to begin a campaign touting nullification and the necessity of the South to unite and possibly secede. The problem for the South Carolinians is that their position had little support throughout most of the South. Oh, white Southerners generally hated the tariff, but they weren’t ready to start a war over it. Jackson of course threatened to lead an army against South Carolina and hang every nullifier he could get his hands on. In the face of this South Carolina repealed its nullification ordinance on March 11, 1833. This resolution was helped by the Compromise Tariff of 1833 which set forth a gradual reduction in tariffs to the rates of 1816.

    A tariff reduction had been passed in 1832. It helped take some of the steam out of the nullification movement, but was unacceptable to most of the South Carolina nullification radicals.

    Robert Barnwell Rhett spoke for most of the most radical nullifiers when he spoke after the repeal of the nullification ordinance:
    ” Every stride of this Government, over your rights, brings it nearer and nearer to your peculiar policy. …The whole world are in arms against your institutions … Let Gentlemen not be deceived.It is not the Tariff – not Internal Improvement – nor yet the Force bill, which constitutes the great evil against which we are contending. … These are but the forms in which the despotic nature of the government is evinced – but it is the despotism which constitutes the evil: and until this Government is made a limited Government … there is no liberty – no security for the South.”

    Rhett believed that slavery was not safe until a Southern Confederacy was established. Rhett helped bring about the Confederacy in 1860 and lived to see slavery destroyed as a result.

    Contrary to present day devotees of nullification, the nullification crisis was not responsible for the reduction of tariffs. Tariff increases and reductions were part of the political landscape both before and after the crisis. Just before the Civil War the tariff of 1857 set tariffs at the lowest rate for the century. If anything, the hullabaloo created by the nullification crisis probably delayed a reduction in tariffs by temporarily stopping the normal give and take of politics and leading the competing factions to dig in their heels.

  • Maybe going back to the Confederacy of nearly sovereign states isn’t such a bad idea. The alternative tends toward union aggression and tyranny and, while good on paper, hasn’t worked in reality. In less than a hundred years after the Revolutionary War, we had Lincoln and the North, backed by the big business of the day, waging war against the South in order to take their riches to pay for their big government.

    I say let there be sovereign and free states who are linked by free trade and a very, very loose central government responsible largely for organization and management during times of crisis, such as war.

  • Mr. Zummo-
    Would you please enlighten us as to what made Madison change his mind so drastically? That would go a long way in determing whether Madison’s change of heart was for reasons to serve himself or for legitimate objections he felt.
    I doubt highly that any proponents of nullification truly believe that it is some method by which a utopia could be created. And if anyone has then I would seriously take issue with it. I could talk about how that is impossible considering the human condition, but would not hold relevance in this discussion.

    Mr. McClarey-
    So because the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions were nothing more than a means to a political end, they have no modern application? What about the Tenth Amendment? It seems highly questionable to maintain that we have recourse within a government that has failed, that we should depend upon a Supreme Court that has done much to inhibit liberty. Why would I want a branch of the Federal Government(the Judiciary)to be the final arbiter of the Constitutionality of any of my rights? When does protest and redress become futile? I can agree that we should work with in the system, but much like the health care law foisted on the American people, when does it become futile to carry on with a government that will not listen? This goes for Republican governance as well.
    If nullification is a viable solution because of it association with segregation, then neither is free speech, because segregationist made full use of their freedom of speech to stand behind their bully pulpit and rail about “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” I think we can agree that though there may exist a rub, what is to keep us from expanding on the thoughts and ideas of those who influenced and even wrote our founding documents? Should we depend solely on the words of the Founders, no. But it certainly does hurt to use them as a starting point.

    As far as the Civil War is concerned, I suppose if the government went to war with the people over a cherished liberty and won, then the issue is settled and the cherished liberty is no more.

    If the fear of nullification is based on the fear of anarchy, then what of the Tenth Amendment? If we have no right to decide, through our state representatives that a law passed by the Federal government is not Constitutional, then why the Tenth Amendment? Is not this an evisceration of the Tenth Amendment, and the 9th as well.

    Mr. Zummo and McClarey,
    Interesting question would you gentlemen be willing to see the repeal of the amendment to the Constitution allowing for the direct election of senators, as means to bring the closer to their representatives not in Washington, but in their own state capitals?

  • If anything I would base my personal views on nullification on this.

    1. That the Constitution of the United States said quite clearly that the Federal Government is one of limited powers. That all other rights belong with the States, or the People. To me this clearly implies that there are rights that the people retain, but obviously those rights are not delineated because they are potentially many. If I take this to be true, which I do, it is no great leap to assume that the States(People) have the right to review laws emanating from the Federal Government, and if they so choose to choose to refrain from enforcing those laws which are judged to be in contravention of the Constitution.

    The argument here seems to be based on what James Madison, or Alexander Hamilton did or did not say, and how James Madison changed his mind years after the fact. Should we be ultimately considering the words of a man who changed his mind, or the document to which he worked to create? I would judge that much of what is being argued here is very conflicting, 1798 Madison, or 1835 Madison, so much so that we should consider not the mans words in certain periods, but the document he worked on, and to me it is no real stretch to consider the right of a sovereign state to judge those laws, especially those which might contravene their rights under the Constitution, and to refuse to enforce them, thereby making them NULL, VOID, and of NO EFFECT.

    JDB

  • THis article makes a decent attempt to be honest but it confuses nullification with seccession. One is the void of federal laws within a state while the other is the departure from the union of states to be its own country. The south tried that. It never once did nullification.

    “The pausibility of this objection will vanish the moment we advert to the essential difference between a mere non-compliance and a direct and active resistance. If the interposition of the State legislatures be necessary to give effect to a measure of the Union, they have only not to act, or to act evasively, and the measure is defeated. ”

    THis was made when the federal government completely relied on the states to enforce federal law. Not acting, as this implies is the proper course, is nullification since that law can’t be enforced in that state since the state is simply not enforcing it.

  • Quote Mr. Zummo: “Ah yes, let’s make stuff up in order to disregard all the stuff that contradicts what we believe. Who can contend with such scholarly arguments?”

    What evidence do you have that this is “made up”? If you like, I can find numerous examples of exactly what I asserted. If you would like me to post them here, I would be happy to. Just say so. It will likely take up a lot of space.

  • @theunknown:

    Actually, South Carolina did do that, during the so-called “Nullification Crisis”. They attempted to nullify a Federal tariff on trade that was too high. (There is evidence that the Northern-dominated Congress had done that on purpose in order to hurt the economy of South Carolina and other Southern states.)

    South Carolina decided that the tariff was excessive and therefore unconstitutional, and refused to enforce or obey it. The Feds sent in troops.

    Statists are fond of saying that South Carolina then backed down. But the fact of the matter is, despite the military threat, they held their ground until AFTER Congress changed the tariff to a more reasonable figure that South Carolina was willing to live with. So in fact it was the first unequivocal case of SUCCESSFUL state nullification of a federal law. There have been many since. Mr. Zummo is loathe to acknowledge them, but they exist nevertheless.

  • No, there was no successful nullification of any federal law. The actual history is as I cited earlier contrary to your fevered imagination. No federal troops were sent in. Congress passed a force bill but no federal troops were sent to South Carolina since the nullification ordinance was repealed by South Carolina after both the Force Bill and the Compromise Tariff of 1833 were passed on March 1. As I also indicated in my earlier comment in the years to come the tariff both went up and down uninfluenced by South Carolina’s first attempt to start a Civil War. As before the nullification crisis, the tariff remained a subject of conventional politics and would go up and down depending upon shifting political coalitions in Congress and election results. The nullification crisis was completely unnecessary, probably delayed a lowering of the tariff and brought South Carolina close to war for the sake of an idiotic stunt. This is truly a foolish example for modern day nullifiers to cite as a “success”.

  • @ Donald R. McClarey:

    Pardon me. You are correct in that troops were not sent in. I was confusing that situation with another. Nevertheless, South Carolina did make military preparations to defend its decision, anticipating that Federal troops would be sent in, and which no doubt would have been sent in had not the tariff been lowered. As you state yourself, a Force Bill was passed authorizing just such a measure, however the tariff was also lowered to a point that met South Carolina’s satisfaction, which made the point moot.

    These facts remain: South Carolina did vote to nullify the law, the Federal government did authorize military intervention, and South Carolina was prepared to go to war, before they ACTUALLY GOT WHAT THEY HAD DEMANDED.

    If you don’t call that success, I would like to know what your definition is.

  • @Jonathan D. Boatwright:

    I would say that your assessment is correct.

    Later in his life, some 30 or 35 years after his involvement in forming the Constitution, Madison did not just “change his mind”, but denied he had even said or written much of what he in fact did say and write, according to the clear public record. He also denied the occurrence of events that were also clearly in the public record. Whether he did this just because he was a stubborn, headstrong ass, or because he had lost his mental faculties, is a matter for debate. I am inclined to believe the latter, because of the way his later statements so directly contradict the records. I do not see how a fully sane person could make such denials of demonstrable truth and expect to be believed.

    And Hamilton, it should be noted, was an avowed Statist (to use the modern term), fully in favor of a strong central government that would have unchecked power over the states. Hamilton helped to back the Virginia Plan at the Constitutional Convention, which would have, among other things, given the Federal government the power to veto legislation by the states. It is of considerable interest that this idea was soundly rejected by the Convention, and also my the strong majority of those who later participated in writing the Federalist Papers, before the Constitution was ratified. It is easy to show that Hamilton’s voice, while clear, was only that of a small minority.

    The Founders were of the opinion (with the exception of Hamilton and perhaps a couple of others) that the Federal government was nothing but a compact between the States, which delegated a small set of their OWN sovereign powers to the Federal government, in order to better carry out the common interests of those States, and that all other powers would be retained by those States. Note the word that appears in the Constitution and repeatedly in many other historical documents: “delegate”. It is impossible to “delegate” authority that you do not yourself possess.

    Further, along the lines of your last statement: the Federal government was never intended to be the sole judge of its own powers. That includes the Supreme Court, which of course is part of the government. That would be “putting the foxes in charge of the henhouse”, as it were. I refuse to believe (and historical documents back me up) that our Founding Fathers were that stupid.

    I think you may find some of the following quotes to be of interest. Madison’s quotes here are from well before he “changed his mind”, as you put it. That is to say, they are from when he was actively involved in governing Virginia and helping to form the Constitution. The first one is from his Report of 1800, to the people of Virginia:

    “The resolution of the General Assembly [the Virginia Resolutions of 1798] relates to those great and extraordinary cases, in which all the forms of the Constitution may prove ineffectual against infractions dangerous to the essential rights of the parties to it. The resolution supposes that dangerous powers, not delegated, may not only be usurped and executed by the other departments, but that the judicial department also may exercise or sanction dangerous powers beyond the grant of the Constitution; and, consequently, that the ultimate right of the parties to the Constitution, to judge whether the compact has been dangerously violated, must extend to violations by one delegated authority, as well as by another; by the judiciary, as well as by the executive, or the legislature.

    “However true, therefore, it may be, that the judicial department, is, in all questions submitted to it by the forms of the Constitution, to decide in the last resort, this resort must necessarily be deemed the last in relation to the authorities of the other departments of the government; not in relation to the rights of the parties to the constitutional compact, from which the judicial as well as the other departments hold their delegated trusts. On any other hypothesis, the delegation of judicial power would annul the authority delegating it; and the concurrence of this department with the others in usurped powers, might subvert for ever, and beyond the possible reach of any rightful remedy, the very Constitution which all were instituted to preserve.”

    The “parties” to the constitutional compact mentioned are, of course, the States. His meaning here is very clear: even the Supreme Court, while normally charged with deciding matters of constitutionality, was vulnerable to corruption and usurpation of powers. Therefore, the final arbiters of all were to be the States themselves, and The People.

    These other quotes are also relevant, in one way or another.

    “The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is to discover the meaning of those who made it.” — James Wilson (Delegate to the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence)

    “[T]he government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself.” — Thomas Jefferson, about the U.S. Constitution, in the Kentucky Resolution of 1798

    “With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.” – James Madison, letter to James Robertson, April 20, 1831

    “I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground that ‘all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.’ To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specifically drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, not longer susceptible of any definition.” — Thomas Jefferson

    “If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every State, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision of the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress. … Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for, it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America.” — James Madison, speech to Congress, 6 Feb. 1792 (Note the intentional sarcasm. But in fact today the Federal government has usurped the power to control some of those very things.)

    “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.” — Thomas Jefferson

    “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” — James Madison

    “…the government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.” — James Madison

    “A wise and frugal government… shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” — Thomas Jefferson

    “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.” — James Madison

  • I apologize but I simply haven’t had the time, nor will have much time in coming days, to address all of the arguments that have been put forth. There is one particular thing I’d like to address because it does get down to the crux of this whole matter.

    And Hamilton, it should be noted, was an avowed Statist (to use the modern term), fully in favor of a strong central government that would have unchecked power over the states.

    This has been posited by both foes and admirers of Hamilton, but it is not correct. Hamilton, it is true, desired the creation of a stronger and more energetic government to displace the Articles of Confederation. So did almost all of the Framers, including Madison. And while it’s true that Hamilton was perhaps less fearful of an over-reaching government than the rest of the Federalists, he by no means countenanced a giant leviathan state that we have now. Hamilton wanted the government to be active in a few select areas, notably national defense and commerce. However, he correctly realized that a government active in all facets of life would be ineffective, and so he, like the rest of the Federalists, believed that the government’s powers should be few and defined. I would recommend reading Federalists 23-34 to get a sense of what Hamilton was about, and in particular, if you wish, reading my analyses of these papers at Almost Chosen People.. I’ve linked to all of the Hamilton essays that I’ve discussed thus far.

    On the other hand, it is my contention – and was the subject of my dissertation – that it is in fact the Jeffersonian philosophy that leads precisely to the sort of big government leviathan that exists today. Jefferson shares many beliefs, knowingly or unknowingly, with Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau is, in the end, to the left what Edmund Burke is to the right.

    It’s easy to advocate populist mechanisms to curtail the government when the populace is to be perceived to be on your side. Unfortunately what most right-wing populists miss is that much of what has transpired over the past century has been fully approved of and sanctioned by the populace at large. The sweet song of nullification is appealing until one realizes that it can be a dangerous weapon to tear down measures that one approves of.

    This is probably going to be my last word on the subject, at least for a few days.

  • Regarding the Supremacy Clause, I think that an argument that it prohibits nullification ignores these important words:

    “…under the Authority of the United States,”

    Nullification is a solution proposed when the legislature EXCEEDS “the Authority of the United States.” Both Jefferson and Madison agreed upon one thing: that the federal government was only given authority related to specifically enumerated powers. Therefore, the Supremacy Clause would only bind the states when the federal government was acting within this authority. The document assumes that this will always be the case. When the legislature exceeds this authority, no remedy is provided in the Constitution, and therefore the parties to the contract (the states) have a right to consider it a breach of contract and not be bound by it.

  • The general rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and name of law, is in reality no law, but is wholly void, and ineffective for any purpose; since unconstitutionality dates from the time of it’s enactment, and not merely from the date of the decision so branding it… No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional law, and no courts are bound to enforce it.
    — 16 Am Jur 2d, Sec 177 late 2d, Sec 256

    Is not that in essence a form of nullification? I means interpreted properly doesn’t this mean that a law that is unconstitutional is NULL, void, and essnetially of no effect? If that is the case, then in essence for a state legislature, or the people of a state to offer an “opinion” or statement of fact that the law is in essence of no effect, is not so wrong as present academics would like to think.

    In Mr. Woods defense, the ignorant thing is to denounce him on the basis of Madison and Hamilton. Madison renounced what he said earlier, and as far as Hamilton is concerned I cannot think of one country under a central government that has all the authority that has survived.

    JDB

  • Madison renounced what he said earlier,

    NO, he did not. A lie repeated often enough does not become truth. You Woods acolytes keep aping this line without providing a scintilla of evidence. It makes it difficult to take any of you seriously when you cannot back up your ahistoric notions with actual proof.

  • Deafening, Mr. Zummo.

  • I repeat, Mr. Zummo: I can access a number of instances of Madison doing precisely that. Would you like me to post them here? It would likely take up a lot of space. The only reason I haven’t so far is that I haven’t wanted to spend the time. But you are simply wrong on this point.

    For now I will present just one example. In the early 1830s, Madison wrote a series of letters that were circulated publicly. (From “James Madison: Philosopher, Founder, and Statesman” by John R. Vile, William D. Pederson, and Frank J. Williams) In those letters, he stated that the Virginia Resolutions, “properly understood”, did not call for state nullification. Subsequently John Calhoun (correctly) accused Madison of abandoning his earlier principles.

    However, even a brief examination of Madison’s own Report of 1800 (part of which I have quoted above), 2 years after the Virginia Resolutions, puts the lie to Madison’s later claims. In that document, not only does he make it perfectly clear in that document that he *WAS* referring to nullification (or “interposition”, if you want to be technical, which effectively amounts to the same thing).

    In that Report, in fact, he called for it once again, in the case of usurpation of power by the Supreme Court. And again, the plain language of that part is quoted in my earlier post, if you care to read it and you can understand plain English.

    Madison even tried to deny that the Kentucky Resolution called for nullification, and he continued in this insistence until someone confronted him with an actual copy, containing that exact word, at which point he backed down.

    If you don’t call that denial, then what do you call it? There are numerous other examples.

    Since we are on the Report of 1800, I will go back and support some of my other points with another quote from it. He is here referring at first to England:

    “Hence, too, all the ramparts for protecting the rights of the people–such as their Magna Charta, their Bill of Rights, &c.–are not reared against the Parliament, but against the royal prerogative. They are merely legislative precautions against executive usurpations. Under such a government as this, an exemption of the press from previous restraint, by licensers appointed by the King, is all the freedom that can be secured to it.

    In the United States the case is altogether different. The People, not the Government, possess the absolute sovereignty. The Legislature, no less than the Executive, is under limitations of power.”

    And he later mentions in that same document, again as quoted above, that the Supreme Court is also under strict limitations. It’s right there in black and white.

    Mr. Zummo, you seem yourself to be somewhat in denial of facts that contradict your thesis (as evidence, your post just above). I am no amateur in this matter. When I say I can produce historical documents, I can produce them. Count on it. Even though you seem to be ignoring those I have already quoted.

    Just to be clear, here is the plain language from the Virginia Resolutions that has been the topic of discussion here:

    “That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government, as resulting from the compact, to which the states are parties; as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting the compact; as no further valid that they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them.”

    Note the word “interpose”. Madison is clearly stating that the states have both a right AND A DUTY to interpose themselves and prevent Federal usurpation of power. Thus the states MUST, logically, have the power and authority to do so.

    Madison later claimed that the state power he referred to was a collective one and not individual; this is in contrast to Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolution. However, he still clearly claimed such power FOR THE STATES.

    Again, there it is in black and white. Try denying that.

    Once again, to excerpt: “… as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting the compact; as no further valid that they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact;”

    There are those words again: limited; compact; ENUMERATED. Do you honestly think that is coincidence? That “limited” and “enumerated” were just meaningless words that were tossed around every day?

    Your quote, Mr. Zummo: “This has been posited by both foes and admirers of Hamilton, but it is not correct.”

    Please, show me where in the history books it states that Mr. Hamilton was NOT a supporter of the Virginia Plan at the Constitutional Convention, or that the Virginia Plan did NOT call for veto power over state legislation. I will wait. I expect I will be waiting a very long time.

    Mr. Zummo, it appears that you have been reading history books that nobody else has seen. If they are genuine, perhaps you could assist the genuine scholarship of history by making them public.

  • The only reason I haven’t so far is that I haven’t wanted to spend the time. But you are simply wrong on this point.

    Yes, Lonny, you fellows are good at repeatedly asserting things without proof. I know researching things and citing them is hard, but really not that difficult.

    Please, show me where in the history books it states that Mr. Hamilton was NOT a supporter of the Virginia Plan at the Constitutional Convention, or that the Virginia Plan did NOT call for veto power over state legislation. I will wait. I expect I will be waiting a very long time.

    I never denied this. I simply stated that Hamilton was not a big government statist. That’s all.

    Mr. Zummo, it appears that you have been reading history books that nobody else has seen.

    Yes, it’s called reading the actual words of the people I am talking about. I know it’s easier to rely on third rate historians who are more interested in book sales than in making carefully crafted academic arguments based on scholarly evidence, but some of us prefer to use our own brains.

  • Paul, that Phd you earned in this area, and your doctoral dissertation on Jefferson, just can’t compete with these Internet acolytes of the TRUE AMERICAN HISTORY! 🙂

  • Sheesh, can’t we all just get along?

  • Mr. Lonny Eachus

    I think it would be best to leave Mr. Zummo and his colleagues to preen their ruffled feathers in the sun of their academic understanding.

    ———————————————————–
    And Mr. Zummo……….Mr. Woods’ book is not my only source of knowledge on nullification, nor am I at the pinnacle of understanding on said topic. I am endeavoring to find further information to bolster my understanding. So, please, unless you know me personally do not make assumptions that I am Thomas Woods disciple, or that I reposed the totality of my understanding to the leafs of his book. Your “academic” attitude seems smug and off putting.

    Furthermore, I think everyone engaging in this debate would like to know why you view Mr. Woods the way you do?

    JDB

  • Mr. McClarey,

    What is that supposed to mean, Sir? That because we all don’t fawn over Mr. Zummo’s protestations and his academic prowess we are some how less capable of understanding the topic being discussed?

    JDB

  • Thomas Woods and his acolytes made this thread about Thomas Woods. My post only made the barest allusion to his book – I made no comment about it at all pro or con. I’ve barely alluded to the man myself in subsequent comments. And if my tone is off-putting I apologize, but I tire of these conversations where only one side is putting up any real evidence or citing their sources. Merely asserting things repeatedly is not a form of argument. Those of Woods’ minions who have even attempted to quote the Founding Fathers have seemingly done so without any attempt to look at what was actually said to determine if it buttresses their arguments or not.

  • Mr. Zummo,

    For the record, I would say that my initial thoughts on the Nullification are based on my understanding of the Constitution, specifically the 10th Amendment.

    As far as I can tell, interpose, nullify, one way or the other is a means of a state to stand against a federal law that is clearly of no affect because it does not fall in to the realm of enumerated powers granted the government. Either way the State(s) refuse to enforce the law.

    If I take to hear the statement of “American Jurisprudence” then a law is a null the moment it becomes a law. And that the instruments by which a state may express are purely incidental to the fact of a law being unlawful and not being enforced by State governments on behalf of the people. If your argument is that the Supremacy clause disallows this, then please explain to me the relevance of the enumerated, because it seems to me that the laws emanating from the Fed. Gov. are only valid if they are in accordance with enumerated powers.

    JDB

  • For the record, I completely disagree with the knocks on Paul Zummo concerning Mr. Thomas Woods.

    This is about nullification, not about Thomas Woods.

    Let’s put aside my love of reading Thomas Woods books, those that are trying to make an issue between Paul Zummo and Thomas Woods are off-base.

    I can be a bit more explicit, but if we are all Catholics that strive to live the love that Jesus wants for each other, then these aversions to an imaginary issue between Paul & Thomas must stop now.

    I 100% completely back Paul in monitoring the comments on this thread and his discretion on what is approved and not approved. By the guidelines that we have put out for TAC authors, and backed by all TAC authors, cease and desist from making this about something this isn’t.

    In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph,

    Tito Edwards
    Chief Editor
    The American Catholic

  • Mr. Edwards,

    First off, I might be the only non-Catholic posting here, I am an Independent Baptist.

    Secondly, it is Mr. Zummo who has taken to calling those defending their personal belief in nullification “thomas woods acolytes” and “minions.” Granted he may not have engaged in this debate to talk about Tom Woods, but he certainly has done his part to keep it going.

    JDB

  • Jonathan,

    Point taken.

    And please stay here and continue to engage Paul Zummo and the rest of everyone else in this constructive and productive debate.

    In Jesus, Mary, Joseph,

    Tito

  • Mr. Edwards,

    I certainly will try to.

    JDB

  • Are all your readers here willing to read all of this?
    This really is great for those who are compiling their dissertation, but what percentage of people trying to understand this Government has the time to read or the knowledge to understand what you post here?
    I really want to know how we as citizens can stop the tyrannical advancements of our federal government.
    Would you like to help me and most other average citizens, or is your mission to throw dirt on those efficient orators that disagree with socialism?

The Constitution Then and Now

Thursday, January 6, AD 2011

I have just finished a rather thorough book on the history of the ratification debates written by Pauline Maeir, titled Ratification: the People Debate the Constitution.  The recurring theme throughout the debates from the Constitution’s opponents is concern that the Framers had created a centralized state that would, especially through its vast taxing powers, become corrupt and tyrannical.  I have been over this to some extent in a previous post, and I once again highlight the words of the Anti-Federalist writer Brutus because it is one of the best expressions of anti-constitutional angst:

Exercised without limitation, it will introduce itself into every corner of the city and country. It [the national government] will wait upon the ladies at their toilett, and will not leave them in any of their domestic concerns; it will accompany them to the ball, the play, and the assembly; it will go with them when they visit, and will, on all occasions, sit beside them in their carriages, nor will it desert them even at church; it will enter the house of every gentleman, watch over his cellar, wait upon his cook in the kitchen, follow the servants into the parlour, preside over the table, and note down all he eats or drinks; it will attend him to his bed-chamber, and watch him while he sleeps; it will take the cognizance of the professional man in his office or his study; it will watch the merchant in the counting-house or in his store; it will follow the mechanic to his shop and in his work, and will haunt him in his family and in his bed; it will be a constant companion of the industrious farmer in all his labour, it will be with him in the house and in the field, observe the toil of his hands and the sweat of his brow; it will penetrate into the most obscure cottage; and finally, it will light upon the head of every person in the United States.

Fast forward 223 years later (or more than 100 years if you’re Ezra Klein), where we witness the Constitution being read aloud on the floor of the House of Representatives.  Republicans have promised that in every proposed piece of legislation they will cite the constitutional authority for each provision – and contra what the New York Times may think, Congress, and not just the Judiciary,  has the authority and ability to interpret the Constitution for itself as a body (as does the President).  The reason for all this as that conservatives feel that a more filial observance of the powers – and limits to said powers – of the Constitution will reign in the federal government.  In other words, we need to more faithfully interpret the Constitution if we want the federal government to become less centralized and less tyrannical.

So were the Ant-Federalists right?  Reading Maier’s book, as well as any selection of the Anti-Federalist papers, one is almost tempted to label the constitution’s original critics as prophets as indeed many of their worst dreams came true.  Perhaps the most prescient prediction is that the federal government would, in essence, swallow up the states as state and local governments have diminished in power and authority over the years.

It’s also worth remembering that the Constitution was intentionally designed to increase the power of the federal government.  I cringe a little when conservatives claim that the Constitution was designed to limit the powers of the federal government.  Well, in point of fact the Constitution was meant to improve upon the Articles of Confederation and make it easier for the federal government to act.  Under the Articles of Confederation legislation required unanimous consent among the states.  Further complicating matters, some states refused to furnish needed funds to keep the national government solvent.  So the purpose of the Constitution was in fact to enhance federal authority.

But the story doesn’t end there.  The delegated powers were few and well-defined.  One of the principal Anti-Federalist arguments was that the Constitution lacked a Bill of Rights, to which the Federalists responded that the Constitution itself was a bill of rights.  The people need not fear that the federal government would engage in actions that were clearly outside of its delegated authority.  Eventually the first Congress would adopt a bill of rights, partially as a means to placate reluctant ratifiers.

And so now proponents of limited government turn to the Constitution in order to justify a more limited state.  Are we simply wrong?  Perhaps the Constitution’s grant of authority is as broad as the Anti-Federalists feared, and we are clinging to a mistaken notion of what the Constitution does and does not prohibit.  I’m sure several people reading this would tend to agree with that notion.  Anybody remotely familiar with my writing would not be surprised when I say that part of the crisis we face is due to a neglect of the original intent of the Constitution.  The problem lies principally with a judiciary that has mis-interpreted the Constitution so overwhelmingly that they have rendered large parts of it – especially the Tenth Amendment – practically null, while expanding and twisting other elements – notably the commerce clause and 14th Amendment – to fit their needs.  Personally I think the case of Wickard v. Filburn did more damage to the Constitution than any other decision other than Roe.  If you’re not familiar with the case, do read the opinion of the Court as handed down by Justice Jackson, and see how the Court – unanimously – decreed that eating food that you grew on your farm somehow affected interstate commerce.  Once such a tenuous connection was made between private activity and interstate commerce, the floodgates were opened, tempered only slightly by narrow Supreme Court decisions in the late 90s that did not fully reverse the reasoning behind Wickard.

At any rate, I find it mildly amusing that proponents of limited government have transformed from the most virulent opponents of the Constitution to its most vocal supporters.  I suspect that conservatives and leftists will have wildly varying opinions as to what that signifies.

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16 Responses to The Constitution Then and Now

  • I found your final paragraph quite poignant, and I, too, have wondered about that shift. As someone who is very sympathetic with versions of democratic liberalism, I am a strong advocate of limited government and, more specifically, wish to preserve the integrity of the Constitution. Yet I do not sympathize with many who are, as you say, today’s “most vocal supporters” of the Constitution. I think some of the disagreement runs much deeper than a dispute over whether government should be limited. It runs down to what exactly should set the normative standards of limitation. Is it a single right? A set of rights? Is it the nature of free and rational humans beings? Is it human well-being and participation in objective goods? I look forward to continuing to discuss these questions with you and others here on the blog.

    As for the book, I asked for it (but, alas, did not receive it) for Christmas. You’ve got me motivated to just go out and purchase myself. What did you think of it?

  • I enjoyed the book, though it does get somewhat repetitive, and focuses a lot on two conventions: Virginia and New York. Then again, those were probably the most contentious debates and the ones with the best records of the debates. It provides an excellent background into the maneuverings behind ratification, and frankly the Federalists come off as looking a little shady in certain states in finagling ratification.

    It’s also more of a narrative history – it’s not like a Forrest McDonald book that penetrates very deeply into the theoretical arguments. Maier just lays out the debates that took place, state by state, and how everything unfolded. As someone who has read a lot about this particular era, I have to say even I made some new discoveries. I definitely recommend it.

  • One could be of the view that the Articles of Confederation were useless and believe that the federal government should have more power than it had thereunder, but still be a proponent of limited government.

    Jefferson was a proponent of limited government, but wasn’t among the Anti-Federalists who objected to the Constitution. In fact, he supported the Constitution, albeit rather reluctantly unless it contained a Bill of Rights. The “Father of the Consitution”, James Madison, was, like his mentor Jefferson, also a proponent of limited government. (They both, however, seemed to be rather fond of the war powers of the presidency, at least as long as they were the ones wielding them.)

    So, I’m not sure your final paragraph is quite accurate in proclaiming that “that proponents of limited government have transformed from the most virulent opponents of the Constitution to its most vocal supporters”.

  • “At any rate, I find it mildly amusing that proponents of limited government have transformed from the most virulent opponents of the Constitution to its most vocal supporters.”

    Of course it was a fairly early transformation. The Democrats from the time of Jackson tended to strictly construe the Constitution, certainly as it applied to expenditures of funds for internal improvements funded by the Federal government. The Whigs and then the Republicans were for a looser interpretation to allow for internal improvements. Since that time proponents for the expansion of the power of the Federal government have tended to be in favor of a broad, or fanciful, interpretation of the constitution, while opponents of expanded powers of the Feds have taken a strict, or narrow, interpretation of the Constitution. Since the time of the New Deal Democrats have tended to stump for what they call a living Constitution and Republicans have found virtue in attempting to stay as close to the intent of the Founding Fathers as they can. It is easy to point to examples which indicate hypocrisy on both sides, but the broad categories are basically accurate descriptions for both sides most of the time.

    The basic problem of course is an out of control Federal judiciary that has taken a fairly straight forward document and de facto “amended” it thousands of times, and pays far more deference to what courts have written about the Constitution than the actual text of the Constitution. Our Federal Scribes and Pharisees in black robes have followed a well worn path of any group paid to interpret a document and who exercise power in the name of that document: over time their glosses and decisions obscure the meaning of that document and tend to benefit the power of those interpreting the document.

  • “Personally I think the case of Wickard v. Filburn did more damage to the Constitution than any other decision other than Roe. ”

    The first time I read it, I thought to myself, “this justifies a command economy.”

    “At any rate, I find it mildly amusing that proponents of limited government have transformed from the most virulent opponents of the Constitution to its most vocal supporters. ”

    Why amusing? A lot changes in over 200 years, and we have to take relativity into account: compared to what the social democrats in the Democratic Party have established, and would establish further if unchecked, the government established by the US Constitution IS a limited government.

    I agree that it would be useful for small-government conservatives to take the anti-Federalist case to heart, precisely for the reason you mentioned and everyone ought to know: that we would not have our Bill of Rights without their intervention. In another thread I posted Jefferson’s repeal of the Alien and Sedition Acts which I think articulates a vision of limited government that is neither “anti-federalist” in the strict sense of the word, nor does it praise expanding government as today’s social engineers would have it.

    I love the work Thomas Woods has done on the nullification issue, and I’m glad that he and others are restoring legitimacy to this much maligned and misunderstood principle. I think it is through a reassertion of 10th amendment rights that the power of the federal government can be curtailed.

  • Looking back, I probably should have re-worded that last paragraph. First of all, the phrase “limited government” is itself vague. Also, the Anti-Federalists weren’t uniform in their opinions, and some of them opposed the Constitution because it wasn’t active enough.

    Maybe a better way to put it is to observe how views of the Constitution have changed among those most apprehensive about the national government, with justification as you all have pointed out.

  • That is one of my favorite anti-Federalist quotes – from Brutus #6, I believe. You edited the last sentence of that paragraph, which states, “To all these different classes of people, and in all these circumstances, in which it will attend them, the language in which it will address them, will be GIVE! GIVE!”

    I tend to agree with you that Wickard v. Filburn was and is an extremely damaging precedent, allowing interference with local and personal decision making in a brutal way. We might also note that the legislation not overturned by WvF was itself an example of poor constitutional reasoning, so the executive and the legislative share much to blame there.

    I submit that the interpretation of the commerce clause which allowed government to regulate anything which MIGHT get into interstate commerce or MIGHT affect it in some way, combined with the expansive de facto interpretation of the general welfare clause taken by Congress and the courts has, in no small part, gotten us to where we are today.

  • An excellent and thought provoking piece. I hope to read book soon.
    It is possible that those who insisted on a Bill of Rights as an express limit on Federal power may have outwitted themselves. Consider that it is through the incorporation doctrine whereby provisions of the Bill of Rights, originally forseen as a limit on Federal action, are applied to actions of individual states and localities through the language of the 14th amendment, that so much Federal judicial overreaching has occured; from restrictions on school prayer, to lawsuits over nativity scenes, to Roe v Wade. There would have been no basis to intervene in these areas at least not by Federal judical fiat where there not a Bill of Rights to be misused and misapplied in the first place; whatever else to the good that one might want to say about it.

  • Chris,

    I am not sure it was entirely intended to be limits on Federal power alone. While that holds true in some cases (“Congress shall make no law”), in others it seems that the states are implicated.

    For instance, the Federal criminal law was fairly nonexistent for much of the early union, yet you have:

    “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury” and “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.”

    and

    “In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”

  • The Constitution is an old fiddle on which you can play any tune. Endlessly interpreted and re-interpreted, according to the shifting whims of the times and the prejudices of 9 flawed human beings, the document starts out with a magnificent preamble and then descends into much ambiguity and legal mumbo-jumbo that provides much grist but little clarity on the Law of the Land.

    Right off, the First and Second Amendments, i.e., outlining “freedoms” of speech and the right to bear arms, defy clear understanding and universal agreement and have caused arguments for 200+ years that continue to this day and will never be resolved as long as lawyers, justices and academics continue to parse every word for their “intended” meaning only to fall short time and again. Say, where’s the comma in that clause, is it parenthetical or dependent, and so on, ad nauseum.

    Cue the patriotic music while we hear the majestic words uttered with all due sanctity and solemnity in the “people’s House,” as tears well up in the eyes of the Speaker.

    Next up: reading of the Federalist Papers, to be followed by assorted selections of wise musings of the on-board Framers, leaving out Tom Paine or any other dissenter who might rock the Ship of State. Give me Jimmy Stewart, as Jefferson Smith, winging it on the floor instead. At least it’s entertaining.

    Conveniently ignore antislavery crusader William Lloyd Garrison’s assessment of the 1787 Constitution as “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell.” Forget the sins of slavery, wrought by the Founders, and Dred Scott, and the 120-year delay in granting full rights to half the human race.

    Let’s jump the the Fourth Amendment — which allegedly guards against unreasonable searches and seizure, or an inherent right to privacy by all citizens, now flouted at every airport, road block or public gathering place where citizens must prove they are not criminals.

    Several volumes await on “due process,” mentioned in the 5th, 6th, 14th, all wide open to whatever and whoever and whenever.

    Yada, yada, yada.

    Thanks, Paul, for playing some new tunes I hadn’t heard before. Always love to hear variations on a theme to keep from nodding off.

  • Jonathan, perhaps a Constitutional law expert could weigh in but my underanding is clearly that until passage of the 14th amendment, the Bill of Rights was viewed as a limit on federal not state actions. It was only through application of the 14th amendment for example that things such as Miranda warnings became binding on state and local police, not just federal law enforcement, or the principal of excluding illegally obtained evidence became binding in state and not just federal prosecutions. Likewise Federal Court decisions on matters involving local school boards or state laws governing abortion would have been unthinkable to the founders, and only crept into our law through application of the incorporation doctrine applying the protections of the Bill or Rights to state and local action via construction of language of the 14th amendment. Perhaps some learrned Constitutional Law scholar can illuminate further.

  • Chris,

    While most incorporation doctrine cases appeared in the late 1890s, textually, there is an inconsistency between the “Congress shall make no law,” included in the first amendment, and others where there is no specific limitation.

    A good place to turn prior to that time seems to me to be Justice Story’s Commentaries – http://www.constitution.org/js/js_344.htm, which appeared in 1833, and predates the series of incorporation cases. Story notes that, in regards to freedom of the press, “It is plum, then, that the language of this amendment imports no more, than that every man shall have a right to speak, write, and print his opinions upon any subject whatsoever, without any prior restraint, so always, that he does not injure any other person in his fights, person, property, or reputation.”

    And again, in regards to the right to bear arms, Story notes: “The militia is the natural defence of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers. It is against sound policy for a free people to keep up large military establishments and standing armies in time of peace, both from the enormous expenses, with which they are attended, and the facile means, which they afford to ambitious and unprincipled rulers, to subvert the government, or trample upon the rights of the people. The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”

    It seems difficult to believe, and Story does not mention the Federal government in either place (as he does in other places) that such rights could expressed for every man, yet have every state restrict the press severely or deny the right to bear arms, and not have these amendments be meaningless.

    I do think, however, that the Bill of Rights has been over-incorporated, and that a more careful jurisprudence would have incorporated some of the amendments, and not others.

  • We might also note that the legislation not overturned by WvF was itself an example of poor constitutional reasoning, so the executive and the legislative share much to blame there.

    Good point. I meant to emphasize that each branch of government has been complicit in all of these developments. In fact in the 90s cases I alluded to – US v. Lopez and another which suddenly escapes me – the Courts acted as a corrective on an over-reaching Congress.

    As for the Bill of Rights, that’s something worth untangling. One thing to keep in mind is that our view of the first ten amendments as something like a unified whole is a somewhat modern interpretation, a point which Maier helpfully makes. It just so happens that there were exactly ten at first, a convenient number that calls to mind the Ten Commandments. But they were not necessarily intended to be taken as a collective whole.

    First of all, there were twelve amendments originally penned by Madison during the First Congress, ten of which (after modification) were soon ratified. Another amendment wasn’t ratified until the late 20th century – the 27th Amendment, which concerns itself with Congressional pay raises. There was another amendment – not ratified – that dealt with representation, and which will also be the subject of my next post.

    It’s also worth keeping in mind that the entire amendment process was a result of developments from the ratifying conventions, and again Maier goes into great detail on this. After the first few states ratified, many of the later ratifying states approved the Constitution but also offered various recommendations for ratification – and there was another side debate in the anti-constitutional camp as many constitutional opponents wanted to offer only conditional ratification, but that’s another subject. There were a whole slew of proposed amendments, some contradicting the others. Finally 12 were penned, ten (and then eleven, but only after 200 years) were adopted.

    So I don’t think we should look at the first ten amendments as a collective. When it comes to the first amendment, the language couldn’t be clearer that it applies only to the federal government. However, it is certainly reasonable to interpret the rest as applying generally to the states.

  • One possibilty is that the states already had such protections in their state constitutions, and therefore the federal one just addressed fed limits. But I don’t know if that was the case. If not, then it seems your argument would be pretty strong.

  • “At any rate, I find it mildly amusing that proponents of limited government have transformed from the most virulent opponents of the Constitution to its most vocal supporters.”

    It’s not a shift at all. The worst-case scenario in the minds of the opponents of the Constitution was nothing compared to the reality of 1937 (or maybe even 1863). Let’s chart it out this way:

    Weak—a–b————-c———d–e–f—-Strong

    A is the limited-government position around ratification, B is the expansive government position of the same era. We breezed past C in maybe the Progressive Era. Now we’re at E, and the two parties represent D and F.

    The debate still stands as to whether there’s anything in the Constitution that prevents govenment from drifting stronger (rightward in my chart). But let’s not pretend that anyone is going to debate the Constitutionality of the food stamp program.

    Likewise, I don’t think it’s fair to say that the Constitution was intended to expand federal power. Sure it was, but on a completely different order of magnitude than we have today.

  • “It’s also worth remembering that the Constitution was intentionally designed to increase the power of the federal government. I cringe a little when conservatives claim that the Constitution was designed to limit the powers of the federal government. Well, in point of fact the Constitution was meant to improve upon the Articles of Confederation and make it easier for the federal government to act.”

    I am no constitutional scholar for certain, but what I remember from some articles on the Constitution’s framing, the Founders desired to build a limited government that could function, and the Articles of Confederation were simply too anarchical to allow the central government to operate effectively. A limited government that cannot act is no government at all. Advocating today for the Constitution our Founders left us is not a contradiction of limited government, but instead an embracing of it. The U.S. finds itself in the position of having a government that falls on the spectrum between the deficiency of anarchy and excess of tyranny someplace between the middle and tyranny. When the Constitution was being written, the government was between the middle and anarchy. This difference in perspective is significant.

    If we want to address the question of “right-sizing” government, I think there are two aspects to consider: form and virtue. With regards to FORM, authentic governance would be placed at the half-way point on the spectrum of forms tyranny and anarchy. With regards to VIRUE, and what all Americans seem to have no cognizance of, is that the integrity of government is built upon the integrity of the people inhabiting office. Likewise, the integrity of the office holders is dependent upon those who put them in office. This would apply to hereditary Monarchy as much as our constitutional Republic with democratic representation. It is true that there are forms of “government” that are intrinsically evil. What is also true is that good government is based more on the virtue of the members of society than it is on governmental forms.

    The danger we face now, and the deep irony is that, living in a country based on a constitution framed to protect faith and morals in temporal living (no matter the inherent flaws of it due to because of its conception in Protestant Rationalism) is seeing men use that same Constitution to erect a nation of faithlessness and immorality enforced by the very branches of government tasked to prevent such a thing from coming to pass. The need for faith and morals is so fundamental because, although God is King and Lord over all the Earth, He has given the governance of ourselves over to us – no matter the form – and we can only execute it to His glory and our good if we adhere to His Faith and Morals. What a fearful responsibility to lay upon such frail and flawed creatures! True governance can only be a gift from God.

Ezra Klein Lays It On The Line

Thursday, December 30, AD 2010

Ezra Klein recently appeared on a cable news show to discuss the Republican plan to read the Constitution on the floor of the House.  He called it a stunt, and then elaborated:

The issue with the Constitution is that the text is confusing because it was written more than a hundred years ago and what people believe it says differs from person to person and differs depending on what they want to get done.

So the Constitution is confusing because it was written over a hundred years ago (actually it’s over 200 years old, but let’s not let little details like that deter us)?  A fascinating comment  coming from a Jewish intellectual, because the Hebrew Scriptures are a wee bit more than a hundred years old.  Should we disregard the Bible because it was written centuries ago – and in several different languages?  Also, it’s not as though the Constitution was written in old English.  Sure there are some stylistic flourishes that were more common in 18th century America, but one doesn’t need some sort of secret decoder ring to decipher the meaning of the text.  One need not be a PhD in ancient languages to understand the Constitution.

Klein’s comment is quite revealing, though. 

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19 Responses to Ezra Klein Lays It On The Line

  • We recognize that if we turn the Constitution into a mutable plaything, ever changing with the times, then we might as well discard the thing and live under the temporary whims of whoever is in charge of the federal government.

    I’m not entirely sure, descriptively at least, that this would be much of a change. The Commerce Clause has been used as a license for Congress to regulate almost anything in practice. Requirements for procedural due process in the 14th Amendment somehow prohibit states from regulating abortion. In war, the Constitution has been found to permit massive relocation and detainment of U.S. citizens based on their ethnicity. I’m not saying there isn’t value in a written Constitution; just that there seem to be a long list of harms it does not remedy; and it may be better just to not have a Constitution (a la the UK) than one that serves primarily to provide footnotes to opinions from a third legislative branch. It would at least be more transparent.

    I’m not saying I agree with all of the above, just that I think the benefits of a written constitution seem to be oversold in the U.S. context.

  • I don’t take joy in defending Ezra Klein but I don’t think he said the Constitution should be disregarded. Replace “Constitution” with “Bible” in the sentence you quoted and it’s still an accurate statement.

    I think conservative support for originalism probably has more to do with the fact that originalism is better suited to accomplish conservative ends. Wouldn’t conservatives support an interpretation that considers fetuses as constitutional persons despite the fact that it’s almost certainly not the original meaning? Likewise, liberals love originalism if it means placing great emphasis on and strict adherence to the words “a well regulated militia.”

  • RR, speaking for myself, I would no more advocate twisting the Constitution for a constitutionally dubious policy that I happen to prefer than for one that I oppose. Tastes may vary.

    John, I agree with you up to a point. What you’re highlighting are the negative consequences of treating the Constitution as something that can be amended by judicial fiat or by temporary legislative whims. That being said, even Progressives largely maintain the fiction (currently) that they are attempting to live under the Constitution, at least as they interpret it. By and large Americans still have enough respect and reverence for the Constitution that we try to uphold its meanings. I don’t think we’ve reached the point where we’ve rendered it a blank paper by construction. Yet.

  • When RR writes: “I think conservative support for originalism probably has more to do with the fact that originalism is better suited to accomplish conservative ends”.

    he puts the cart before the horse. Defense of the Constitution comes first; it’s what makes a conservative conservative.

    What is curious is that so many Jews have become “liberal”. If ever there was a group that should be conservative, it is Jews. It is a subject discussed by Norman Podhoretz in his book on the topic. I suspect that it is a religious failure. And perhaps an attempt at assimilation.

  • I think conservative support for originalism probably has more to do with the fact that originalism is better suited to accomplish conservative ends.

    The way to test this hypothesis would be to look for cases where adhering to originalism would impede conservative ends, and see how people react. For example, suppose that you had a law vulnerable to the same sorts of Commerce Clause arguments as the individual mandate, except that instead of doing something conservatives didn’t like, the law did something conservatives generally support (say, prohibiting the consumption of marijuana for medical purposes, or dispensing lethal drugs to terminally ill patients).

  • Gabriel: A Jewish friend told me a few years ago that when you look at an Orthodox Jew, you’re looking at a GOP voter. (The Orthodox are usually pro-life, as well.) However, they are a small minority within a small minority. Most American Jews are Reform Jews, or entirely non-religious, and for those Jews, I suspect the Democratic Party and liberal causes take the place in their hearts and minds that the Torah once occupied in the hearts and minds of their ancestors.

    They haven’t “become” liberal – they tended to be liberal (and in some cases, downright radical) when they got off the boats at Ellis Island. Many of them were fleeing the pogroms in Czarist Russia. And the Democrat Party machines in the big cities reached out to poor immigrants (both Jewish and Catholic ones) in a way that the often nativist GOP did not. I certainly grew up thinking the GOP was the party of rich WASP’s – people who would despise me and my blue collar Catholic family.

    The difference is that as the Democrats became more radicalized after 1968 and Catholics descended from European immigrants became more professional, suburbanized and prosperous, many of us moved away from the party of our grandparents. The Jews in large part, did not, although they have certainly done well in America. Like I said, I think it’s partly because they now invest liberalism with the same fervor they once brought to their faith.

    Well, as Moses noted a long time ago, they are a stiff-necked people – but they’re hardly alone on that score. I’ve noticed the same phenomenon among lapsed liberal Catholics, specifically Irish Catholics, such as the recently deceased radical lesbian feminist Mary Daly, for instance. In the ’70’s at Marquette, I knew many milder versions of Mary Daly. They were so vehement. If they had been born 30 years earlier they might have been the stereotypically angry nuns I’ve heard about my whole life, but never actually met – instead that anger was poured into radical feminism and hatred of the Church and men. And *sigh* they got along just fine at MU, just as Daly flourished at another Jesuit university.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Daly

  • BA, that’s easy enough. Conservatives generally support the federal partial-birth abortion ban.

  • Pingback: Barney Fife and Ezra Klein « Almost Chosen People
  • This claim that Klein makes about “old” is common among radicals, liberals, and progressives. They believe that their ideas are the wave of the future, and anything that have come before them is out of date. So, unless established institutions embrace the new wisdom, they have to be denounced, slandered, libeled, to destroy their crediability, and to create faith in the brave new word that the Kleins wish us to have.

  • The Constitution, like any other text, is underdetermined as to its “meaning” if you choose to rely solely on the text itself. This is because you can never approach the text from the position of “nowhere,” as it were. So it’s a mistake to think that textual “originalism”, if implemented by every Justice, would result in agreement. (Note that this claim is *not* the claim that “anything goes” in interpretation.) This is just a hermeneutic point.

    Now you *can* aim for intentional originalism, in which you attempt to discern the propositional intent of the Framers behind the written document. But in order to do this you must rely on extra-textual material: you must do careful intellectual history, philology, etc. And even here you can only attain to a “best bet” hypothesis. There will still be disagreements, etc.

    What I am interested in, though, is the argument that seeking the original intent behind the clauses of the Constitution should be the aim for Justices on the bench. Why should this be the case? (I’m not saying that I hold to the “living Constitution” view myself–I’m a skeptic on this issue.) Also, it does seem odd to me that we could discern how the Framers wished a particular clause of the Constitution to be interpreted in situations that they could not have anticipated themselves. Here their “intent” itself seems to be underdetermined. (Usually considerations of this kind pull originalist-mided readers back to the “text itself”–but that is a non-starter, for reasons already noted.)

    In other words, I’m not claiming that we can’t get a good handle on how the Framer’s intended the COnstitution to function given the commercial, political, and social realities of the late 18th century. I’m skeptical of the view that we could discern and then apply this same intention to a radically different context.

  • All those who disagree with me, by the way, are not thinking like Catholics. 😉

  • “So it’s a mistake to think that textual “originalism”, if implemented by every Justice, would result in agreement.”

    No, but it would end such follies as reading a “right” to abortion into the Constitution, or that the Constitution, which speaks of the death penalty, requires us to ban the death penalty. Judges capable of such feats of sophistry defeat the purpose of a written constitution and use the constitution as a clumsy disguise for implementing their political agendas. Federal courts have the power of judicial review solely because of their role in interpreting the Constitution. When interpretation becomes “the Constitution is whatever a majority of us say it is, the written text be damned” the courts ultimately undermine their authority because of the intellectually dishonest methods they are using to impose a rule of judges on a free people.

  • I’ve decide to utilize my marginal bully pulpit in defense of what Ezra Klein was implying. He obviously was not clear enough, perhaps an analogy would do the trick:

    Ezra Klein In The Cross-Hairs Of Right Wing Outrage

  • Here’s some originalism for you:

    http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch8s41.html

    “[T]he government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers”

    That’s the most relevant point. And that language is over 200 years old. Anything in there you don’t understand?

  • Don Surber has a great post on this topic. (By the way, you’ll notice that Ryan’s comment here is repeated word for word there. You’d almost think that Ryan was going from blog to blog in an attempt to defend Klein and anyone who criticized him).

    Also, I apologize to WJ for not responding to his very good question, though Don and Joe have in part already. Who would have thought that being on vacation would have given me less time to blog. With five minutes to go before I depart for Church and another day of activities, I’ll have to be brief, but in short I don’t think the Constitution is quite as complicated or difficult to discern as is often made out to be. I’m not sure if it was Surber or one his commenters who made this point, but the Constitution has been made more difficult because of the way Judges have interpreted it, not because of its original design.

    The Constitution was a very general document laying out the framework of how our federal government was to operate. It wasn’t meant to be a detailed account of every power delegated to the government because the Framers could not foresee every political development. And it is general because it was intended to last, not be a temporary governing document amended every few years as Jefferson wanted. In fact, that’s why Jefferson’s “strict construction” method of interpreting the Constitution doesn’t work, but I don’t want to sidetrack us even more.

    Long story short, I think what we lack when we look at the Constitution nowadays is common sense. At the risk of simplifying too much, it might be best if we simply resorted to common sense when trying to interpret the Constitution in light of modern policy developments rather than reading into it all sorts of penumbras and emanations, and relying on some law school professor’s 100-page law review article full of abstractions and pet theories.

  • I just wrote out a rather detailed comment that for some reason got eaten. I don’t have time to repeat it, so for now I’ll just link to this Don Surber post and note also some of the comments there that address some of the comments made here. And Ryan, nice of you to go from blog to blog defending Ezra. How sweet.

  • I retrieved it from the spam file P