Monthly Archives: March 2010

Don’t Say You Want A Revolution

Over at United Liberty, Kevin Boyd puts forward the best case I’ve seen to date against the idea that we are anywhere near the point where rebellion is justified:

For those of you out there who think this is the time for revolution, please consider the following:

1) All political and legal options have not been exhausted. There are Congressional elections in November 2010 and Presidential elections in November 2012. Use this anger and energy to donate money and support candidates who support liberty and who will fix/repeal Obamacare. In addition, many states have filed lawsuits challenging Obamacare and those lawsuits need time to work their way through the courts.

2) The right to free speech and to petition grievances is still in effect. Obamacare opponents can still express their opposition views to the public. Such views are common place on talk radio, the Internet, the newspapers, and as a matter all over the place. Obamacare opponents are not being thrown in jail or being silenced by the state.

3) Obama and the Democrats did win the past two elections and have a mandate. Obama’s election victory in 2008 and the Democratic control of Congress by definition gives them the mandate to pass whatever legislation they want, as long as it is upheld as legal. That mandate can only be revoked by their electoral defeat in 2010 and 2012.

4) The Founders did not intend for revolution over trival matters. Before the Founders declared independence, there were numerous attempts at resolving the crisis with the British peacefully. Make no mistake, Obamacare is a trival matter in the scheme of things and does not rise to the matter of “taxation without representation”. The major reason why some Americans threaten revoluton over trival matters is the fact that after the last Civil War, the Union was far too kind to the former Confederates. By all rights, the Union should have executed the remnants of the Confederate government and the Confederate general staff for treason. Maybe this would have detered the trivialization of revolution that we see in this country.

Specifically, in the most important part of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson set forth the criteria for when armed rebellion is justified:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, ? That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of 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 shewn, 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

In other words, taking up armed rebellion is not something that should be done for light or trivial reasons. Nor it is something that should be done when there are other, less violent methods for effecting political change.

This also applies to all the rhetoric that we’ve heard, none of it serious and most of it dangerous, regarding secession since, as I explained several years ago, secession is little more than a form of rebellion and must be judged based on the same standards.

So let’s stop all this talk about rebellions. Let’s give up the silly idea that whatever state we live in is going to secede when ObamaCare finally comes into full effect. Neither of those are going to happen.

Finally, it’s also worth noting that the American Revolution is something of an historical anomaly. Most revolutions throughout history, whether in France in 1789, Central Europe in 1848, Russia in 1917, the myriad of anti-Colonialist revolutions that have, or Cuba in 1959, most revolutions have resulted in dictatorial government and misery for the people. We dodged a bullet one, history suggests we wouldn’t be so lucky a second time.

Kevin ends with the only productive strategy that is left:

What those of us who love liberty need to do is step back and channel our anger into more productive means than dreaming about and threatening revolution. We need to build our own political mandate, a mandate for liberty.


Will The Supreme Court Strike Down ObamaCare ? Don’t Be So Quick To Say Yes

The New York Times’ long-time SCOTUS reporter Linda Greenhouse takes a look at how the current court might look at the challenges to the health care reform law:

The challengers invoke and seek to build upon the Rehnquist court’s “federalism revolution” that flowered briefly during the 1990’s. In a series of 5-to-4 rulings, the court took a view of Congressional authority that was narrower than at any time since the early New Deal. The court struck down a federal law that barred guns near schools, on the ground that possession of a gun near a school was not the type of activity that the Constitution’s Commerce Clause authorized Congress to regulate. It ruled that Congress could not require states to give their employees the protections of the federal laws against discrimination on the basis of age or disability. It ruled that the federal government couldn’t “commandeer” state officials to perform federal functions like federally mandated background checks of gun purchasers.

As Greenhouse points out, though, the Roberts Court is very, very different from the 1990s Rehnquist Court when it comes to issues regarding the power of the Federal Government:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is not William Rehnquist, and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. is not Sandra Day O’Connor. John Roberts has made his career inside the Beltway ever since coming to Washington to clerk for Rehnquist. As for Sam Alito, I don’t believe that apart from a brief part-time gig as an adjunct law professor, this former federal prosecutor, Justice Department lawyer and federal judge has cashed a paycheck in his adult life that wasn’t issued by the federal government. Nothing in their backgrounds or in their jurisprudence so far indicates that they are about to sign up with either the Sagebrush Rebellion or the Tea Party.

Chief Justice Roberts appears particularly in tune with the exercise of national power. One of his handful of major dissenting opinions came in the 2007 case of Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, in which the court ordered the federal agency to regulate global warming or give a science-based explanation for its refusal to do so. That case was brought by a group of coastal states, which argued that climate change was lapping at their borders. Chief Justice Roberts objected that the states should not have been accorded standing to pursue their lawsuit. He denounced the “special solicitude” that the court’s majority showed the state plaintiffs. An early Roberts dissenting vote, just months into his first term, came in Gonzales v. Oregon, a 6-to-3 decision rejecting the United States attorney general’s effort to prevent doctors in Oregon from cooperating with that state’s assisted-suicide law.

And, as Damon Root points out, Antonin Scalia can’t be trusted on this issue either:

It’s also worth noting that conservative Justice Antonin Scalia did his part to thwart that “federalism revolution” by siding with the majority in 2005’s disastrous Gonzales v. Raich, which held that the intrastate cultivation and consumption of marijuana somehow still counted as interstate commerce, resulting in the Court striking down California’s popular medical marijuana law.

I noted last week that, as a matter of law, the odds are against the cases challenging the health care law. As Greenhouse and Root demonstrate, it also appears that we’re dealing with a Supreme Court that is not at all inclined to be sympathetic to arguments that limit the power of Congress.

Right now, I would say that the only vote that could probably be counted on to declare ObamaCare unconstitutional is Clarence Thomas’.

Quote Of The Day

Jim Harper @ Reason, on the security of electronic medical records (emphasis added):

Transferring control of health care to the federal government transfers control of health information to the federal government. The government has interests distinct from patients, and no matter how hard one fights to protect patients’ privacy interests, the government’s interests in cost control, social engineering, and such will ineluctably win out.

One of the “selling points” of healthcare reform has been that insurance companies make their profits by denying coverage; their incentive is to not pay whenever they can avoid it. The same people who make this argument assume that a government-run system won’t have these issues; its incentive will be 100% patient care.

Anyone who makes that argument does not understand government. In fact, most of the reason that people don’t comprehend the dysfunction of government is that they assume government’s stated objectives align with its incentives. When you start analyzing the actual incentives, as proponents of public choice theory do, it all starts to make perfect sense. Most of what we consider government incompetence, malfeasance, or dysfunction are simply based on people rationally following perverse incentives. Get your head around that, and it all falls into place.

Federal Court Gives Freedom Of Speech Another Victory Over McCain-Feingold

A Federal Appeals Court in Washington, D.C. put another nail into the coffin of the monstrosity that is the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law:

A federal appeals court on Friday handed another victory to conservative opponents of campaign-finance restrictions, striking down limits on individual contributions to independent groups who want to use the money for or against candidates in federal elections.

But in its unanimous decision, the nine-judge U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia also said that a conservative group called must disclose its donors and other details of its finances to the Federal Election Commission, a requirement that the group had sought to overturn.

Steve Simpson, an attorney who argued the case on behalf of, called the decision voiding contribution limits “a tremendous victory for free speech” and said it “ensures that all Americans can band together to make their voices heard during elections.” At the same time, the group decried the decision on disclosure and signaled that it would appeal the issue to the Supreme Court.

The ruling also amounts to a mixed bag for beleagured advocates of campaign-finance restrictions, who are relieved by the disclosure requirements but angered by the court’s decision to strike down limits on contributions to independent political groups. The decision follows from the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in January in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which found that corporations are akin to individuals when it comes to political speech and are free to spend as much as they like for or against candidates.

The libertarian Institute for Justice represented the Plaintiffs in this case and had this to say in a press release issued today:

Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Bert Gall said, “Critics of the Citizens United ruling should applaud the decision in v. FEC, which guarantees individuals and unincorporated groups the same First Amendment right to fund effective speech that Citizens United guaranteed for corporations and unions.”

Unfortunately, although the court’s ruling frees to raise money and speak, the court upheld other burdensome requirements identical to those struck down in Citizens United. Gall said, “Laws that are unconstitutionally burdensome for General Motors and the AFL-CIO have to be unconstitutional when applied to a volunteer group like The court’s ruling that must comply with political committee regulations is just flat wrong.”

Bradley A. Smith, CCP’s chairman and a former FEC chairman, added, “It’s unfortunate that the court did not recognize how political committee status regulation by the FEC places restrictive burdens on grassroots political groups. The court’s decision means that the FEC regulatory regime will continue to favor large, established special interests over ad hoc groups of like-minded citizens who gather together to enhance their voices in politics.”

Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice, said, “With this ruling, the D.C. Circuit has moved us one step closer to ending this nation’s failed 35-year-old experiment with campaign finance ‘reform’ and restoring the First Amendment to its proper place. The era when incumbent politicians could tinker with freedom of speech to insulate themselves from public criticism is coming to an end.”

And, when that day comes, it will be good for all of us.

Legalization Of Marijuana To Be On California Ballot In November

Advocates of marijuana legalization have succeeded in getting a referendum on the November ballot:

LOS ANGELES, March 24 (UPI) — California will again be the flashpoint in the smoldering debate on legalization of pot as officials said Wednesday the question will be on the November ballot.

Los Angeles County elections officials Wednesday submitted their official estimate of valid signatures collected in the county on a statewide legalization initiative, putting the number of signatures collected statewide over the 433,971 needed to put the measure on the ballot, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The move to legalize marijuana comes 14 years after California decided the controversial weed could be used for medicinal purposes. The initiative would permit people age 21 or older to possess up to an ounce of pot for personal use.

Proponents cite the financial and social cost of enforcing a marijuana prohibition and argue that marijuana isn’t as dangerous and addictive as alcohol or tobacco. Opponents counter with statistics of marijuana-related crimes, rising use among teens and the physical harm pot can cause.

Is this the beginning of the end of the War On (Some) Drugs ? I sure hope so.

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