The dots appear to have been connected. Yesterday, I noted that the FBI had questioned the mass murderer (MM) in 2013, based on his claims that he knew terrorists. The FBI concluded that his claims could not be substantiated. But then in 2014 they discovered that MM actually had contact with a terrorist who engaged in a suicide bombing. The 2014 event confirmed that MM knew terrorists. What did the FBI do? They closed the investigation. It now turns out that, had they kept the investigation open, his mass murder might have been prevented. MM was placed on a federal watch list for 10…
In a 5-2 decision in Commonwealth of Puerto Rico v. Franklin California Tax-Free Trust (Justice Alito recused), the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico may neither avail itself of the protections of Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code nor, by way of a “Recovery Act,” authorize its municipalities and utilities to restructure debts owed to bondholders and various other entities (some $70 billion, at last count). Justice Thomas’s opinion for the Court rests on a strict reading of the statute, which says (in one provision) that Puerto Rico isn’t a “state” “for purposes of defining who may be a debtor under chapter 9” but defines the Commonwealth as a “state” for purposes of its preemption provision, which bars any state from enacting debt relief measures for municipalities outside Chapter 9.
William Ruger and Jason Sorens have identified a lacuna in both thought and rhetoric in the current conceptualization of individual freedom on the part of libertarians: an inability or perhaps unwillingness to engage arguments for virtuous self-government.
It is too soon to say much about the horrific mass murder in Orlando. But I cannot resist saying something, so I will ask some genuine questions. The mass murderer – I will not repeat his name, but simply refer to him as MM – apparently was briefly investigated twice by the FBI, but the Bureau concluded there was insufficient information to justify a continuing investigation:
FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Ronald Hopper said agents questioned him two times in 2013 after he allegedly invoked ties to terrorists during a dispute with co-workers.
“We were unable to verify the substance of his comments and the investigation was closed,” Hopper said.
The following year, agents talked to him again about his contact with suicide bomber Moner Mohammad Abusalha, a Floridian who joined a branch of Al Qaeda and blew himself up in a truck packed with explosives in Syria in 2014.
Hopper said agents “determined the contact was minimal and did not constitute a substantive relationship.”
The report about the 2013 questioning is ambiguous. Does it mean that the FBI was unable to verify that MM actually had ties to terrorists or that he had made the statements? The more likely interpretation is the former one. Let’s assume that the FBI was correct in reaching this conclusion.
To compare The Money Makers: How Roosevelt and Keynes Ended the Depression, Defeated Fascism, and Secured a Prosperous Peace to a 100,000-word inflationist op-ed by Paul Krugman would be unfair—unfair to Paul Krugman. It goes beyond Keynesian hagiography to Keynesian deification.
I am going to Paris this weekend, because the OECD invited me to present on law and technology. A visit to the city of lights should be a delight, but sadly it looks like mine will be darkened by national strikes. Unions are trying to pressure the Socialist government to drop mild reforms to French labor laws that would make it somewhat less expensive to discharge workers. Currently, workers who are not on short-term contracts have close to life tenure. The absurdity of this regime was underscored just this week, when a French labor tribunal held that a bank wrongly discharged a worker who had caused it billions of dollars of losses through illegal trades!
The sturm und drang about moving France ever so incrementally toward a free market shows the continuing importance of a nation’s founding principles. Our revolution and Constitution embedded principles of classical liberalism in the DNA of America. In contrast, the French Revolution created an enduring political norm demanding substantive equality, not merely equality under law. It is worth looking at the consequences of these different principles, because the renewed focus on inequality in the United States is fundamentally an attempt to make our core political concern be equality rather than liberty.
Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Cass Sunstein has been blogging on his new book on the Star Wars movies. He loves them and finds a variety of things to say about them that are more serious than Star Wars. One post is about why success is so hard to predict, another is about the hypothetical writers behind texts, and a third is about the separation of powers. It is hard to tell without reading the book if Sunstein saw all of this in Start Wars or just loved the movies so much, that he tried hard to find interesting things to say about them.
Will Baude, another law professor, reviews Sunstein’s new book in the New Rambler. Baude’s main concern is that the producers of the new movie, the Force Awakens, announced that they would ignoring the large canon of books that have been written about Star Wars and that George Lucas always followed. This might seem like a minor thing to most movie viewers, but Baude is on strong ground in noting the importance of “world building” in the sci fi/fantasy world and how a large number of books can powerfully develop such a world.
My own objection to the Force Awakens is that it was essentially a remake of the first movie. It shows the artistic bankruptcy of modern movie making. To watch the best art on film these days, one should turn to shows on HBO and Cable TV. That is where the creativity. Baude and I agree that the new movie should have told a different story about a different part of the Star Wars universe. Of course, the producers would have probably made less money that way, which helps to explain why so many movies suck these days.
It is good to be reminded, at the fourth centenary of his death, that William Shakespeare (1564-1616) approached the relationship between law and liberty as a matter of arguing both sides of an interesting question.
The Power and Independence of the Federal Reserve is an informative and provocative history of the Fed and its remarkable evolution over a hundred years’ time: a complex institution, in a complex and changing environment.
Very importantly, author Peter Conti-Brown has included the Fed’s intellectual evolution, or the shifting of the ideas that shape its actions as these ideas go in and out of central banking fashion. This account makes readers wonder what new ideas and theories the leaders of the Fed will adopt, reinforce by groupthink with their fellow central bankers, and try out on us in future years.
The recent violence at Trump rallies has been the work of protesters, not of his supporters. I am no fan of Trump, but he has as much right to speak without disruption as any citizen. Indeed, it is even more important to afford him that right than ordinary citizens, because he is the presumptive nominee of one of our two major parties. Violence distracts from the debating his ideas, such as they are, and will create greater political polarization at the expense of deliberation.
Sadly, there is a connection between this violence and the enforcement of political correctness in our educational institutions today. The disruptive protesters at Trump rallies are almost all young—recent products of our educational system. They are thus steeped in the unreformed religion that dominates our schools—one where error has no rights.
Indeed, when Trump 2016 was chalked on the sidewalk of Emory University, the administration began an investigation into who wrote it. More generally, college administrators have permitted events to be cancelled because of the threat of disorder without speaking out against such cancellations.