Bill of Rights
A couple of weeks ago, Senator Rand Paul did a courageous and unusual thing by visiting Howard University in DC. Howard is what is known as a “historically black university,” founded in the wake of the Civil War to provide opportunities for higher education to African-Americans. It’s not exactly home turf for Republicans, but that’s precisely why Paul went, in order to bridge a massive gap that is hurting the GOP.
Response to his visit was mixed, but yesterday, NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous wrote a generally supportive op-ed on CNN. Although noting that Paul missed his target in most areas, there is one area that has promise:
Paul struck out when he tried to equate today’s Republican Party with the party of Abraham Lincoln, while ignoring much of the 150 years in between. (He even acknowledged his mistakes shortly after). But his willingness to step up to the plate can provide a lesson for a GOP struggling to get on top.
Republicans will not win black votes by paying lip service to party history while attacking social programs and voting rights. But they can make inroads by showing a commitment to civil rights, something Paul managed to do briefly in his remarks.
Last week, in his historic filibuster, Senator Rand Paul provoked Attorney General Eric Holder to relinquish the right to assassinate American citizens on American soil - a claim previously made in a Department of Justice White Paper. In so doing, we have established the first real boundary for the use of drones in American foreign policy. Senator Paul has since stated the drone debate “isn’t over” and that this victory is “just the beginning.” Senator Paul is pioneering a winning strategy to incrementally advance freedom within a broader liberty movement.
Our friends at Outside the Beltway clipped a Washington Post story that sets up a new look at decades-old campaign finance law by the nation’s high court, just three years after their landmark decision in Citizens United v. FEC. Washington’s paper of record reports:
The Supreme Court reentered the controversial field of campaign finance Tuesday, agreeing to consider a Republican challenge to decades-old limits on the total amount a person can contribute to candidates, political parties and political action committees.
It is the court’s first major campaign finance case since its 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed unlimited corporate and union spending in elections. By extension, the decision led to the creation of super PACs, whose multimillion-dollar donations transformed funding of the 2012 presidential contest.
The Daily Caller just published a new editorial of mine, in which I critique Tennessee Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey’s proposal to protect gun rights by trampling property rights, and in which I offer the TN General Assembly a few alternative paths forward. Here’s an excerpt:
As Justice Antonin Scalia articulated in the majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, we find the Second Amendment’s roots in the English Declaration of Rights of 1689, which asserted what Scalia called an “ancient right” of people to not be disarmed by the Crown. The Founders also recognized this right, and were wary of a government — any government — that would disarm its citizens. Ownership and possession of firearms, they believed, separated citizens from subjects.
Ramsey’s supporters are rightly bothered by the current regime, under which a gun owner can receive a jail sentence if found in possession of a firearm where a “NO GUNS ALLOWED” sign is posted, even on private property. To that extent, threats of criminal charges and imprisonment have a chilling effect on the exercise of ancient rights. Nobody should doubt the deterrent effect of firearm possession on violent crime, and gun owners are right to want to carry in today’s society.
But the current law was borne out of a conflict of rights: the right of a citizen to keep and bear arms, and the right of a property owner to determine the conditions under which someone may enter his/her property. We should view the issue as one of voluntary bargaining between private actors in the market; this is not a cut-and-dry Second Amendment issue.
Last Friday, former FEC commissioner and chairman of the Alexandria, Virginia-based Center for Competitive Politics Brad Smith published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal on Koch Industries*** sending its employees letters about the upcoming presidential and congressional elections, and left-wing hysteria over those letters. Smith does a great job demonstrating why these types of corporate communications are good for employees:
A report released this week by the Business Industry Political Action Committee (Bipac) found that employees ranked their employer’s website as the most credible source of political information on the Internet, more than media sites or parties and candidates. Over 75% of the more than 500 respondents from a variety of industries indicated that employer-provided information was useful in deciding how to vote, and over a quarter said it made them more likely to vote.
This comes on top of past Bipac research showing that 47% of employees said that employer-provided information had “somewhat” or “strongly” increased their awareness of how various policy proposals affected their employers.
It should come as no surprise that employees want to know how government policies will affect their employers, and by extension their jobs. One might even argue that business leaders have an obligation to share with employees credible, accurate information on how public policies might affect the company.
For one thing, under an Obama presidency, Americans will be able to leave behind the era of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and “wiretaps without warrants,” he said. (He was referring to the lingering legal fallout over reports that the National Security Agency scooped up Americans’ phone and Internet activities without court orders, ostensibly to monitor terrorist plots, in the years after the September 11 attacks.)
It’s hardly a new stance for Obama, who has made similar statements in previous campaign speeches, but mention of the issue in a stump speech, alongside more frequently discussed topics like Iraq and education, may give some clue to his priorities.
In Federalist No. 51, a Virginia farmer named James Madison mused:
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.
Today — September 17 — is the day we celebrate the 225th anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution by the U.S. Constitutional Convention. This document, which sought to protect man from himself by placing limits on the powers that a representative government would try to wield, is a watershed triumph in the history of human freedom movements, despite some of the gross violations of human rights that have been perpetrated against African-Americans, women, Asian-Americans and other groups since the founding. As written constitutions go, the United States is something of an anomaly: since 1789, constitutions have lasted an average of only seventeen years. That statistic makes the U.S. Constitution a pretty special document.
We hope you’ll join us in celebrating by taking the Bill of Rights Institute’s Constitution quiz to see how well you know the document that framed the United States government!
There are dumb ideas…and then there are really dumb ideas. And then there are, so to say, Congressional politicians. We’re not quite at that level yet, but it seems like it. I am of course, referring to a rather silly piece in Slate magazine titled “Let’s Nationalize Facebook,” written by one Phillip N. Howard, a professor of communications and information technology from the University of Washington. His reasons for doing so are:
Over the last several years, Facebook has become a public good and an important social resource. But as a company, it is behaving badly, and long term, that may cost it: A spring survey found that almost half of Americans believe that Facebook will eventually fade away. Even the business side has been a bit of a disaster lately, with earnings lower than expected and the news that a significant portion of Facebook profiles are fake. If neither users nor investors can be confident in the company, it’s time we start discussing an idea that might seem crazy: nationalizing Facebook.
Based on this from Cato’s Roger Pilon, apparently, the National Rifle Association only cares about some parts of the Bill of Rights:
NPR ran a story this morning, “NRA Targets One Of Its Own In Tenn. Race,” that nicely illustrates the perils of single-issue politics, although you’d never learn the principle of the matter from the NPR account. It seems that the NRA has launched a $75,000 ad campaign against state Rep. Debra Maggart, a long-time NRA member and avid gun-owner who a year ago had an “A+” rating from the NRA. Her sin? She and several other Tennessee Republican officials opposed a bill that would have allowed employees to keep guns in their cars while parked in their private employers’ parking lots.
The NRA’s Chris Cox, who’s spearheading this political vendetta and, in the process, is supporting Maggart’s tea-party backed opponent, invokes both “our First Amendment right to assemble to petition our government” and, of course, the Second Amendment, seemingly oblivious to the fact that neither is relevant here. In fact, the issue could not be simpler: individuals, including employers, have a right to determine the conditions on which others may enter their property.
In a blog post yesterday morning, my former Cato Institute colleague Tom G. Palmer, who is openly gay and who once “brandished a pistol to scare off several men who he feared were about to attack him because of his sexual orientation,” discussed Boston Mayor Tom Menino’s reaction to Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s on-the-record remarks about his company’s multi-million dollar support for traditional marriage causes and advocacy. Mayor Menino, in an interview with the Boston Herald, subsequently threatened to lean on city planners to deny Chick-fil-A business licenses it would need to operate within the jurisdiction:
“If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult — unless they open up their policies,” he warned.
Menino also told the Herald that
“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion.”
Tom Palmer concluded his post, writing