Greg Weiner

Greg Weiner teaches political science at Assumption College. His latest book is American Burke: The Uncommon Liberalism of Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

The Moynihan Report at 50: Greg Weiner Replies

In assessing the Moynihan Report at 50, I have the privilege of far more thoughtful interlocutors than Daniel Patrick Moynihan—who was subjected to a digest of calumnies for the rest of his life—enjoyed on the original product. I am grateful to Scott Yenor, Robin Fretwell Wilson and Susan Love Brown for their thoughtful commentaries. Yenor and Brown present challenges to the Moynihan Report itself, and Yenor to my analysis of it, while Wilson calls for a renewed emphasis on family policy, especially for the role of family law in it. Yenor mounts the most frontal assault. It is formidable but also…

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Two Cheers for the Moynihan Report . . . Or One

Knowing what we know today about family breakdown among Americans and across the modern industrialized world, it seems that Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s The Negro Family: The Case for National Action mistakes the particular for the general and might reflect a misunderstanding of the decline of the family. Moynihan’s 1965 Report emphasizes the ways in which…

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From Moynihan to Murphy Brown

If there is one thing Pat Moynihan taught us, it is that talking about the family can be fraught with peril. Published at a time when nearly one in four African American children was born outside of marriage—seven times the rate for whites (see Figure 1)—the Moynihan Report gave a “faithful contemporaneous portrait” as Greg…

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Owning the American Past

One of the advantages of looking at The Negro Family: The Case for National Action after 50 years is perspective. Perspective is a form of knowledge that allows us to see from a different vantage point and to bring new information to bear on a problem. In responding to Greg Weiner’s essay, I bring the…

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Fools Rush In?

Don’t get into theological arguments with Masters of Divinity, and don’t argue Daniel Patrick Moynihan with his most astute intellectual biographer! That is a good rule of prudence, but fools rush in . . . sometimes. Moynihan is mostly known in conservative circles for his emphasis on the limits of social policy, and my question concerns…

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The American Flag Is Particular, Exclusive, and Nationalistic. Not That There’s Anything Wrong with That.

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Broken clocks tell the right time twice daily. The academic Left does not stumble across the truth quite that often, but Matthew Guevara, a student in the University of California-Irvine’s School of Social Ecology—mission: “transformative research to alleviate social inequality and human suffering”—has. He put a resolution before a student-government committee to ban the American flag—okay, all flags, but still—as a particular, separating, and yet also a simultaneously homogenizing symbol that ought to be excluded in the name of inclusivity.

Conservatives were outraged. Multiculturalists, likely not recognizing this assault on the concept of culture, surely applauded. Lost in the din was that Guevara’s premise was right even if his conclusion wasn’t. Premise: The flag is particular and exclusive. That is the point of political identity. The font of wisdom flows as to the conclusion, namely: Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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Evaluating the Moynihan Report on the Negro Family 50 Years Later

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A half-century after its publication, the Moynihan Report—The Negro Family: The Case for National Action—endures. It does so for many reasons, its prescience and courage chief among them. But the Report is more than a faithful contemporaneous portrait, and deeper than an accurate projection. It is a political document in the noble sense, reflecting searching and enduring principles about the nature of society and the place of political institutions within it. Assessments of the Moynihan Report at this milestone should therefore be more than historical. Its method of capturing truth in generality would enrich social science in 2015.  Its insights could…

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Responses

Two Cheers for the Moynihan Report . . . Or One

Knowing what we know today about family breakdown among Americans and across the modern industrialized world, it seems that Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s The Negro Family: The Case for National Action mistakes the particular for the general and might reflect a misunderstanding of the decline of the family. Moynihan’s 1965 Report emphasizes the ways in which…

Read More

From Moynihan to Murphy Brown

If there is one thing Pat Moynihan taught us, it is that talking about the family can be fraught with peril. Published at a time when nearly one in four African American children was born outside of marriage—seven times the rate for whites (see Figure 1)—the Moynihan Report gave a “faithful contemporaneous portrait” as Greg…

Read More

Owning the American Past

One of the advantages of looking at The Negro Family: The Case for National Action after 50 years is perspective. Perspective is a form of knowledge that allows us to see from a different vantage point and to bring new information to bear on a problem. In responding to Greg Weiner’s essay, I bring the…

Read More

The Moynihan Report at 50: Greg Weiner Replies

In assessing the Moynihan Report at 50, I have the privilege of far more thoughtful interlocutors than Daniel Patrick Moynihan—who was subjected to a digest of calumnies for the rest of his life—enjoyed on the original product. I am grateful to Scott Yenor, Robin Fretwell Wilson and Susan Love Brown for their thoughtful commentaries. Yenor…

Read More

Fools Rush In?

Don’t get into theological arguments with Masters of Divinity, and don’t argue Daniel Patrick Moynihan with his most astute intellectual biographer! That is a good rule of prudence, but fools rush in . . . sometimes. Moynihan is mostly known in conservative circles for his emphasis on the limits of social policy, and my question concerns…

Read More

Judicial Activism Isn’t the Remedy Publius Prescribed: A Reply to Evan Bernick

philo-publiusTo gauge how carefully they have read Federalist 10, I often ask students on what constitutional institutions Madison relies to solve the problem of majority factions. It’s a trick question, the last refuge of the professor. The answer is none. Madison reaches the end of the essay, proclaiming a “republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government,” without mentioning the Constitution, a Bill of Rights or, significantly, the courts.

That has not dissuaded advocates of an assertive judiciary from quoting Madison on the “mischiefs of faction” to support their cause. The most recent is Evan Bernick of the Institute for Justice, who, at the Huffington Post, has taken my post on judicial restraint to pointed task. “Professor: Who Needs Judges?” the headline announces. “Let’s Put Our Constitutional Rights to a Vote.”

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How the Subservient Branch Declares War

Obama Asks Congress to Authorize War Against Islamic State

In the debate over the proposed new Authorization for the Use of Military Force, some have suggested that the President is asking to have his arms tied. In fact the move is cleverer. He is asking Congress to authorize what he has already done and therefore apparently thinks he can do anyway, and asking with enough modifiers—what is an “enduring” ground operation? who will decide how long it “endures”?—to vitiate any congressional limitations on his power.

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Who Are the Guardians of the Natural Rights Polity?

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The status of judges in the constitutional regime is fundamentally a question of the place of politics, rightly understood, in human life—a point illustrated by the thoughtful exchanges between Richard Reinsch and Randy Barnett in this space and at Volokh. Reinsch argues the danger of giving judges indeterminate power over unspecified natural rights. Barnett replies that these need not be specified; judges need only ensure that governmental power is reasonably used to promote permissible ends.

Theirs was a productive conversation, and it might be usefully expanded to the following question: Even granting a robust reading of the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments, what is the basis, and what are the costs, of empowering judges to safeguard the rights therein contained?

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Abolish the State of the Union Address  

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The enigma, and perhaps impetus, of swelling executive power is that when constitutionally asserted, the presidency is shrinking. Witness the White House’s apparent intent to use the State of the Union address to propose that—wait for it—Congress enact national standards regarding how quickly companies must inform customers of data breaches.

Now, hacking is bad and reporting it is good. But it is also time—and the constitutional conservative should reach this conclusion with due reluctance—to abolish the State of the Union address, whose most pernicious effect is its political imperative for the President to propose as many new ideas as possible, regardless of the need for them, while Congress occupies a supine posture of reaction.

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What’s the Matter with Kansas?

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A Kansas court has just ruled that it would be unconstitutional under that state’s founding document to spend $548 million on police, infrastructure, health care or welfare. The court’s ruling does not explicitly disclose this, of course, nor will the judges on the panel admit it. But this is what happens when judges, who reside in a magical, apolitical world shorn of scarcity and therefore tradeoffs, mandate hundreds of millions of dollars in new education spending: The money comes from someplace else.

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Torturing Prudence

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The knock on the CIA is that its interrogation program, exposed as ineffective and abusive in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s recent report, was lawless. But the agency’s worst excesses may have resulted from the attempt to be excessively lawful.

Such a paradox can only come about when what Edmund Burke called “the first of all virtues, prudence,” has fled the scene. The Intelligence Committee’s voluminous report (even its summary is 525 pages long) is an in-depth account of that decline.

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