By Melancton Smith •
Monday June 29, 2015 6:31 PM PDT •
Today, the Supreme Court in an ongoing effort to micromanage state laws and procedures reviewed whether a certain chemical cocktail used by Oklahoma in executions is constitutional. In a 5-4 decision, the Court rejected the challenge to the use of the chemical midazolam.
What is especially of interest is a dissenting opinion in which two justices (Breyer and Ginsburg) stated that they would hold that the death penalty is unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. Never mind that the Fifth Amendment provides that “[n]o person shall be held to answer for a capital . . . crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury,” and that no person shall be “deprived of life . . . without due process of law.” In other words, the Constitution specifically contemplates a punishment—the death penalty—that two justices would hold is inherently unconstitutional.
Tags: Capital Punishment, Constitution, Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause, death penalty, Eighth Amendment, Glossip v. Gross, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, U.S. Supreme Court
By John R. Graham •
Monday June 29, 2015 9:53 AM PDT •
I spent the weekend in Denver at the excellent Western Conservative Summit, where I spoke about health reform with Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner. Mr. Klein has written Overcoming Obamacare, in which he describes three schools of free-market reformers: The “reform school,” the “replace school,” and the “restart school.” (I belong to the “replace school.”) The panel was moderated by Dr. Jill Vecchio, a radiologist and Senior Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Centennial Institute.
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Healthcare, Regulation
By Sam Staley •
Monday June 29, 2015 9:23 AM PDT •
Tragic events provide platforms for political opportunists—remember we can’t let a good crisis go to waste—and the mass shooting of African Americans by a white racist at a Charleston, S.C., church has created a plethora of opportunities. The one on my radar screen today is New York film critic Lou Lumenick’s argument for banning the Academy Award–winning film Gone with the Wind. It’s a great reminder of why we don’t want film critics in charge of social policy.
Lumenick notes, accurately, that the film, based “on a best seller by die-hard Southerner Margaret Mitchell, ‘Gone with the Wind’ buys heavily into the idea that the Civil War was a noble lost cause and casts Yankees and Yankee sympathizers as the villains, both during the war and during Reconstruction.” Lumenick also says that the movie, and the Confederate flag, represents slavery and a defense of slavery.
Tags: censoring speech, film, free speech, Gone with the Wind, lou lumenick, state sovereignty, states rights
By Melancton Smith •
Sunday June 28, 2015 6:26 PM PDT •
Among the friends of liberty, there is much confusion about whether the Supreme Court’s Obergefell opinion is a vindication of liberty or an usurpation of power. When thinking about the opinion we should be aware of two different modes of analysis: policymaker and judge. How we see Obergefell depends on which mode we have switched on. Let me explain.
I was an undergraduate when I first encountered the case of Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 405 (1905). Lochner dealt with a New York statute prohibiting bakers from working more than 60 hours per week and/or 10 hours per day. The state argued that the statute was a simple exercise of the police power—the reserved power to pass general legislation for the health, safety, and welfare of the people. The Supreme Court, however, held that the statute deprived bakers of liberty without due process of law contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment. Asserting that bakers were not “wards of the state,” the Court found “no reasonable ground for interfering with the liberty of person or the right of free contract by determining the hours of labor, in the occupation of baker.”
Tags: due process, Fourteenth Amendment, Lochner v. New York, marriage, Obergefell, same-sex marriage, Supreme Court
By Melancton Smith •
Friday June 26, 2015 2:55 PM PDT •
To no one’s surprise, five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court held that “the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.” The full opinion is here.
For example, Robby Soave over at Reason blasts the dissent from Justice Scalia and observes that he is no friend to libertarians. Also, Ilya Shapiro at the Cato Institute gives a thumbs up to the Court’s decision. Undoubtedly many readers of this blog share these sentiments and cheer today that homosexual couples can marry just like opposite-sex couples. However, before you get caught up in celebrating this “victory” for liberty, think about several things.
Tags: 14th Amendment, Antonin Scalia, Constitution, due process, Equal Protection, Fourteenth Amendment, freedom of religion, Gay Lesbian Bisexual, gay marriage, Liberty, marriage, Obergefell, same-sex marriage, Supreme Court, traditional marriage
By John R. Graham •
Thursday June 25, 2015 5:20 PM PDT •
Where is your money going? Increasingly, the answer is health care. This morning’s third estimate of first quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was not as awful as previously estimated – a real decline of 0.2 percent, not 0.7 percent.
The overall drop of $7 billion was driven by a decline in exports and nonresidential structures. Personal consumption expenditures increased by $58.3 billion. However, $48.1 billion of that was services, of which $24.2 billion was health care. Almost half the quarterly increase in personal consumption was health care.
Tags: healthcare spending
By Abigail Hall •
Wednesday June 24, 2015 6:31 AM PDT •
Writing popular press pieces, you open yourself up to a lot of criticism. If you write about economic topics, you might as well be waving a red flag in front of a bunch of Spanish bulls. Without a doubt, I’ve received my fair share of critical commentary, been accused of pushing all kinds of agendas and being the worst of both political parties. Some comments, though, are pretty creative. Some of my personal favorites include,
“The author probably isn’t smart enough to tie her shoes.”
“The author is clearly a socialist.” (I was writing a piece which, in fact, was highly critical of socialism.)
“Someone forgot her meds this morning.”
I am not alone in my experience. Though these types of comments are often worthy of a smirk or occasional chuckle, some aren’t as amusing. I was once discussing reactions to popular pieces with another colleague who writes a regular column for a popular outlet. He stated that most comments don’t bother him. The exception was one commenter who, in responding to a policy piece, stated he hoped my colleague’s wife and children would die in a car wreck.
Tags: Civil Liberties, Free Market, Liberty, Personal Liberty, Rhetoric
By John R. Graham •
Tuesday June 23, 2015 8:53 AM PDT •
I have asked, and the Congressional Budget Office has answered. Well, not really.
Although, I have been urging the CBO to do a comprehensive estimate of all the effects of the Affordable Care Act, effectively for the first time since 2012. It did so last week. The main takeaway is that “repealing the ACA would increase GDP by about 0.7 percent in the 2021–2025 period, mostly because provisions of the law that are expected to reduce the supply of labor would be repealed.”
Tags: Budget and Tax Policy, Congressional Budget Office, Healthcare, Obamacare, Regulation
By Randall Holcombe •
Monday June 22, 2015 12:18 PM PDT •
Readers who want to get a flavor for the ideas of Friedrich Hayek will find an excellent introduction in Donald Boudreaux’s The Essential Hayek. The book can be downloaded free by clicking here.
Each chapter begins with a quotation from Hayek, but the book’s chapters explain Hayek’s ideas in Boudreaux’s words. Those ideas come from various works by Hayek, so the book is not a summary or discussion of specific works by Hayek, but rather an overview of Hayek’s ideas on the economy, on law, and on social organization more generally.
The book provides an excellent discussion of the advantages of free markets and limited government, and on the way that institutions can arise spontaneously without anyone planning them out, as a result of human action but not of human design.
The book is not a study guide to Hayek’s work, or a summary of his work, because, outside of the quotations that open each chapter, there are no references to the specific works of Hayek from which Boudreaux develops the chapter’s ideas. The book does end with suggestions for further reading, which can help guide those who want to know more.
Boudreaux’s discussion is insightful, clearly written, and provides an excellent introduction to the ideas of limited government. Rather than read what I have to say about it, read it yourself. It’s a free download.
Tags: Budget and Tax Policy, Civil Society, Constitution, Economics, Free Market, Law, Liberty, Money and Banking, Politics, The State
By John R. Graham •
Thursday June 18, 2015 4:38 PM PDT •
The House of Representatives voted today to repeal Obamacare’s medical device excise tax, the 2.3 percent tax levied on medical devices sold in the United States. The tax is certainly harmful. Whether it deserves the highest priority in repealing Obamacare, we’ll leave to discuss another day.
Although, repealing the medical device excise tax does nothing to repeal Obamacare. It just gives us a deficit-financed Obamacare. This is the second time the Republican-majority Congress has voted to increase deficit spending on health care this year, without winning any meaningful reform to any program.
With 46 Democrats joining the Republican majority, the votes in favor added up to 280, just 8 short of the number needed to override the promised presidential veto. We’ll see how it does in the Senate.
Tags: excise taxes, medical-device tax, Obamacare