Make Voting Harder or Face the Rise of Pelosinomics

Voting ballot

Dispensing first with the obvious, that Nancy Pelosi’s suggestion that 16-year-olds be allowed to vote is asinine, and second with the obligatory, that any malevolent impediments to grownups voting ought to be removed, we may proceed to the particular premises behind the House Democratic Leader’s brainstorm and what they disclose about the sorry state of American politics. Speaking to Generation Progress, Pelosi warmed the audience by emphasizing a plan to allow refinancing of student loans, then dived, or rather wandered, in: [T]here is a direct connection between legislation and the quality of life the people enjoy, and elections.  To achieve what we…

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School Vouchers are a Victory for Liberty

The last hundred years have witnessed a great struggle between state control and more libertarian forms of social ordering. Now that socialism—the hard-edged way of state control—has been largely discredited, a softer edged way—government control over primary and secondary education—is perhaps the most important fault line in this battle.

Thus, it is very welcome news that in Hart v. State the North Carolina Supreme Court last week upheld a school voucher program. The plan would provide $4,200 to parents with income at 133 percent or below the poverty line to send their children to a private school of their choice. The case turned on the state rather than the federal constitution, because happily the Supreme Court has already upheld school vouchers against an Establishment Clause challenge.

I am not an expert in North Carolina constitutional law, but one argument in particular interested me. The dissenters in the case contended that the voucher program did not serve only public purposes, because the private schools did not have to comply with government standards to assure that students “would participate and compete in society” by receiving a sound education. The legislation did require that schools receiving vouchers require attendance, meet certain health and safety standards, and provide periodic standardized testing.  But these requirements were not enough for the dissent.

What was remarkable in my view was that the dissenters dismissed the capacity of  parental choice to promote education accountability and indeed excellence.

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Overruling Abood Will Correct a Travesty

My first two posts in this series discussed, respectively, the origins of the concept of “exclusive representation” in the NLRA and the Supreme Court case law leading up to Abood in 1977.   In this post, I will analyze the decision in Abood (which, it will be recalled, was roundly criticized in Harris v. Quinn (2014) and may be overruled in Friedrichs). 

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The Unconstitutionality of Social Security and Medicare

Government social insurance creates some of the most serious problems in western style democracies.  At best, these government insurance programs place tremendous strain on the economy and reduce work incentives.  At worst, they may result in the bankrupting of the society.  In the United States, Social Security pensions and Medicare are the worst culprits.

There are, moreover, alternative arrangements that would avoid these problems.  Some people may favor a fully voluntary system.  Others may favor more government involvement, such as a compulsory private system in which individuals are required to save certain amounts for their retirement or are required to purchase health insurance on some kind.  (For a discussion in the context of unemployment insurance, see here.  For a book comparing private and government insurance more generally, see here.)

While there are arguments for each of these systems, the important point is that they would not involve redistributions.  In particular, they would not require the massive redistributions that these existing systems make from one generation to another – redistributions that are unfair, inefficient, and cause serious political problems. 

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Ditching Drug Prohibition: A Dissent

Continuing from my initial post, the second main argument in favor of the legalization of drugs whose consumption (or at least possession) is presently prohibited is that the harms associated with drug-taking are caused more by their illegality than by their pharmacological or other effects. Their illegality means that their production and distribution are necessarily criminal activities; while the artificial expense of obtaining supplies that results from criminalization leads consumers, particularly addicts, into criminality in order to obtain sufficient money to buy them.

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Antitrust versus Market Dynamism

Businessman jumps the obstacle

Antitrust regulation of monopolies and mergers is largely a second-best policy. In a nation open to trade with well functioning capital markets and without regulations that burden incumbents and exclude entrants, monopoly prices are hard to sustain. Like a dinner bell, they are instead a signal to others to come and get some juicy profits. These profits not only encourage existing firms to expand their operations but also entice entrepreneurial individuals to enter these markets. But if regulations make markets less dynamic, the price mechanism won’t work nearly as well. Regulations can make it harder for new firms to enter and for incumbent firms to expand.

In applying its merger policy, the Justice Department should take more account of the relevance of economic dynamism — or the incentives to enter and exit markets — and thus of the regulatory landscape companies face. While I am not privy to all the details, two recent cases make me doubtful that it is doing so. In one, DOJ approved the merger of American and US Airways, and in the other, it sued to prevent Swedish- owned Electrolux’s proposed takeover of GE’s electric appliance business. But the airline merger took place in a marketplace burdened with regulations that make competition sluggish, while there seem to be few regulatory barriers to vigorous competition in the appliance market.

The obstacles imposed by government to competition from both new entrants and established players in the airline market are manifold.

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The Gung-ho Father of the Bomb

American nuclear physicist and father of the atom bomb Robert Oppenheimer (1904 - 1967), dressed in a three-piece tweed suit and hat, holds a zippered case and overcoat as he stands outside of a United Air Lines 'Mainliner 300' Douglas DC-6 airplane at LaGuardia Airport, Flushing, New York, New York, early to mid 1950s. Oppenheimer had just disembarked the airplane which had made its inaugural flight from San Francisco. (Photo by Pictorial Parade/Getty Images)

In the laughable Paul Newman vehicle Fat Man and Little Boy (1990), in which Newman plays General Leslie Groves, military leader of the Manhattan Project, its head scientist, J. Robert Oppenheimer, reacts to the project with politically correct disgust. The reality was different. As “Trinity,” code name of the nuclear bomb’s first detonation, passes its 70th anniversary this week, it is instructive to remember that Oppenheimer approached the project as a purely technical problem. It was only after the experiment worked that he allowed the moral dimension in. His background in literature—the choice of “Trinity” was his, after a John Donne poem that he liked—made Oppenheimer…

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Equality and the Civil Rights Act of 1866: A Final Response to Damon Root

Sensing that the constitutional foundation for his book is crumbling beneath him, Damon Root takes to his blog a second time and tries once more to rehabilitate his arguments about the Fourteenth Amendment by . . . not talking about the Fourteenth Amendment.

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