Donald Devine

Donald Devine, senior scholar at the Fund for American Studies, and the author of America’s Way Back: Reconciling Freedom, Tradition and Constitution, was director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management during Ronald Reagan's first term.

A Libertarian View of Francis’ Laudato Si

3D render of moon with stars and a tree silhouette

Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si (“Be Praised”) has been acclaimed by the international media as a call to action on global warming, to combat its threat to world survival. It has been praised in New York Times editorials and by Progressive Catholic intellectuals like E.J. Dionne on the Left while garnering scathing or dismissive responses from libertarian, free-market types on the Right. The papal document, however, is not fundamentally about climate change (who questions that weather changes?) or even global warming. (The Pope merely follows the scientific “consensus” and even qualifies it as a trend that “would appear” to “indicate” that…

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Elusive Discrimination

In what President Obama called its “thunderbolt” decision on same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges judgement has put the matter of discrimination at the very top of America’s social agenda.

If there is one certainty in our country, it is that everyone opposes discrimination. But it is difficult to get a precise handle on what constitutes discrimination. While there is a vast literature on the subject, there is surprisingly little scholarly appetite for defining illegal discrimination.

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The Enduring Tension That Is Modern Conservatism

Original caption: Magazine editor William F. Buckley, Jr., editor of the  holds a copy of the magazine as he makes a statement on the steps of the U.S. Courthouse.  on the cover if the title of an article the magazine published, "The Wheels of Justice Stop for Adam Clayton Powell, Jr."  Buckley, who admitted sending copies of the article to grand jury members investigating Powell, is facing charges of using improper influence on the jury. (Copyright Bettmann/Corbis / AP Images)

The preeminent conservative intellectual forum called the Philadelphia Society devoted its recent meeting to exploring the roots of its philosophy, especially conservatism’s mid-20th century rebirth at National Review magazine under William F. Buckley, Jr. and Frank Meyer. Discussants could not ignore an important fact: that the modern conservative movement was born bearing a revealing quirk.

To free American conservatism of its image as a defense of the status quo, new labeling was essential. Meyer, who had come on as National Review‘s literary editor in 1956, ruminated upon a philosophical grounding for the movement. In 1962, editor Brent Bozell characterized what Meyer had come up with as “fusionist conservatism” and, despite that this was supposed to have been a criticism of the movement’s (and the magazine’s) apparent dualism, the “fusionist” tag somehow stuck.

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When Is “the Law” Violated Under the Constitution, Anyway?

Supreme Court of United States

Recently a New York Times headline blared: “McConnell Urges States to Defy U.S. Plan to Cut Greenhouse Gas.” It was the first in a barrage of mainstream media stories to the same effect. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was telling the states to violate the law! An apalled ranking environmental committee Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said she could not recall another top politician actually “calling on states to disobey the law.”

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Equal Rights for All

青い地球を見つめる大勢の人々

Who would argue with the Declaration of Independence’s claim that “all men are created equal”?

But one immediately runs into trouble. What about the Declaration limiting it to “men”? Are women equal? They did not have the right to vote at the beginning. Yet, Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders certainly believed women were morally equal and were covered under the generic term “men,” for mankind. Was that enough?

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Christian Anti-Semitism and the Rise of the Modern State

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Over 10 million Google results confirm “Christian Anti-Semitism” as a widespread concern, a historical and continuing moral flaw embedded in Western civilization. The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal recently led their weekend book sections with reviews on the Holocaust and lingering Jewish stereotyping today.

It takes one cool academic to sort through the morass of relationships between Christians and Jews over time. Sara Lipton, historian at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, might just be up to the job. Her book Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography looks at all surviving pictorial representations of Jews across European history to evaluate at least elite views of this relationship.

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Miraculous Marriage

Bride and groom

Many worry that marriage is in its death throes these days, at least here in the prosperous West. Even Pope Francis commented at his recent conference on the family in Rome that “We now live in a culture of the temporary in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment.”

Many today see liberation from the commitment to marriage as a positive social gain. Francis responded that this “revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom but in fact has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.”

Isabel Sawhill’s new book Unbound: Drifting into Sex and Parenthood without Marriage reports the numbers for the United States. They suggest that the word “revolution” is not an exaggeration.

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Ebola’s Bureaucracy Lesson

CDC2Questioning the effectiveness of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has become the national pastime ever since two nurses in Dallas became infected with Ebola after following CDC protocols. Yet, one overriding fact rarely sees the light of day: CDC does not deliver medical care, none at all, and rarely ever sees or touches it. It is a data collection and analysis agency that makes recommendations to those who actually live with and treat the diseases.

CDCs legitimacy comes from its claimed abstract scientific expertise. President Barack Obama defended CDCs recommendation against state quarantine efforts to control the disease by insisting “We don’t just react based on our fears. We react based on facts and judgment and making smart decisions.” We rely on the “best science.”

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Is It Another Great Awakening?

GAEconomist editors John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge shocked the secular West in 2009 by announcing that God Is Back—starting with China, of all places. Here were two epitomes of British reasonableness explaining that Europe was the modern exception in viewing God as dead, an irrational shadow of the past, with its Continent declining in population and power, and the rest of the world resembling America in having religion as a part of their cultural dynamism.

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Psychiatry, Mental Illness, and the State

Dark Tunnel

Finally, here is a definitive discussion of the discipline of psychiatry, from an insider committed to the profession but who does not shy away from its profound difficulties. In Our Necessary Shadow: The Nature and Meaning of Psychiatry, Dr. Tom Burns reveals all even while insisting that at bottom “psychiatry is a major force for good.” Psychiatry is inherently controversial since it claims to know the psyche; but this touches, as he puts it, what “is most human in us,” our being, our “soul” which we cannot be neutral about. Psychiatry is a “hybrid” of “guided empathy” and detached cure—and the profession has swung wildly between them for years.

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