EU Leaders Begin to Doubt “More Europe”

European union flag painted on dry cracked soil texture background.

Beginning pre-Brexit and ending post-Turkey coup, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published a series of articles under the heading, Zerfaellt Europa? (Is Europe Crumbling?). Interesting stuff. Naturally it’s all in German and that be difficult speak. I’ll supply links upon request but you’ll have to trust my summaries and translations. Or ignore this and the next post.

Jointly and severally, the articles—authored for the most part by past and present politicians—suggest several conclusions. First, the idea that there might be something wrong with the EU that can’t be fixed with the demand for “more Europe” and “ever closer union” has begun to occur to responsible politicians. Good.

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Judicial Rebellion Against Voter ID

ALLENSTOWN, NH - FEBRUARY 9: (Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Like unruly schoolchildren using the presence of a substitute teacher as an opportunity to misbehave, in Veasey v. Abbott, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, sitting en banc, has sent the jurisprudential equivalent of a spitball at the U.S. Supreme Court knowing that the deadlocked Court would probably take no corrective action.

On July 20, the Fifth Circuit, by a vote of 9 to 6, declared Texas’s voter-identification law unlawful even though the Supreme Court upheld a similar law eight years ago. The ruling was quite remarkable, coming as it does from a court of appeals generally regarded as the nation’s most conservative.

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The Wonders of Consumer Welfare: An E-Reader Story

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In these days when capitalism is under renewed attack and appears particularly unpopular among many of the young, defenders of classical liberalism need to tell stories as well as recite statistics.  One of the great fables of capitalism in general and free trade in particular is I, Pencil. This short essay shows how markets create a delusively simple implement only by facilitating  complex cooperation among far flung peoples. It is also important to dramatize the wonder of consumer surplus, showing how goods give more value to most consumers than the amount they pay.   Economists rightly stress that consumer surplus tends to…

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Justice Thomas on the Tiers of Scrutiny

In a prior post, I noted Jeffrey Toobin’s criticism of Justice Clarence Thomas for Thomas’s claim that since the New Deal, the Supreme Court’s constitutional doctrine has become an ‘unworkable morass of special exceptions and arbitrary applications.’”  Interestingly, Toobin never argues that Thomas’s claim is mistaken.  Toobin seems to feel that voicing the criticism of the Court is itself worthy of censure, whether or not it is true.  But in my view, Thomas’s claim is both true and damning.

In his dissent in the Court’s most recent abortion case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, Justice Thomas offers two basic criticisms of the Court’s tiers of scrutiny jurisprudence: the tiers are not in the Constitution and that they are followed only inconsistently by the Court.

1. The Supreme Court generally employs three tiers of scrutiny: rational basis, intermediate, and strict scrutiny. Thomas first argues that these tiers are not in the Constitution. He claims that the Court has made them up, which Thomas focusing his criticism on the famous case of Carolene Products.  Thomas argues that the Court, in a footnote that was “pure dicta,” attempted to justify its special treatment of certain personal liberties like the First Amendment and the right against discrimination on the basis of race.

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No Vacation from History

Bayern am Strand

My annual vacation in the Frisian Caribbean usually falls into what the German media call the Sommerloch (“summer hole”): nothing to report. Not so this year.

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A Tyranny Film Festival

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Summer is the time for big dumb action movies, but fans of intelligent and compelling filmmaking also have alternatives to superheroes, gross-out comedies, and Jason Bourne. Two newly released documentaries—Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism, and also Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief—are expertly crafted and explore the deepest questions about human belief and the nature of truth.

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Reason Bounded by Experience

The Constitution by Barry Faulkner, Mural the Rotunda of the Capitol. Source: National Archives

To say legislation is not a discretely rational exercise is not to say it is positively irrational. But what of the fundamental law that is often taken to be the apex of legislative reason: the Constitution of the United States?

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Millennials, Technology, and Short Attention Spans

Obviously, the way in which culture and ideas are presented have changed in recent decades.  One often hears that we are in a world of short attention spans.  Thus, people don’t read books anymore.  They read short pieces on the internet, like blogs.  People don’t listen to albums any more, they download songs instead.  This short attention span is also thought to be reflected in the use of cell phones, with people constantly multi-tasking and not being able to focus on one matter at a time.  All of this is sometimes thought to be a reflection on the undisciplined habits of mind of the younger generation.

But that’s not my view.  To begin with, it seems clear to me that the causation runs in the opposite direction.  It is not the short attention span or undisciplined minds of the young that is causing this.  Instead, it is the technology that promotes these behaviors that is the primary cause. Part of the proof for this is that older people, who presumably had more disciplined minds back in the day, often behave in much the same way as the younger people when using this new technology.

Another problem with a short attention span being the cause of this behavior comes from the world of modern TV shows, especially of the pay TV or cable variety.  The old style TV shows could be watched in any order.  They were designed that way.  One could watch All In The Family or ER in pretty much any order.  There was a reason for this: in a world with either no or limited VCRs, people could not be expected to catch every TV show in order.

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Fear Not, the Federal Reserve’s Relevance Is Declining by the Day

United States Federal Reserve System symbol.

“The sole use of money is to circulate consumable goods.” – Adam Smith

 

In a recent op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Morgan Stanley economist Ruchir Sharma observed that while the world is seemingly “turning inward,” this comes “in a period when countries are more beholden than ever to one institution, the U.S. Federal Reserve.” Interesting about Sharma’s piece is that if anything, it revealed the Fed’s growing irrelevance.

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Standards v. Diversity in Law School Accreditation

The ABA has generated a revealing debate between those who want to strengthen law schools’ accreditation standards and advocates of diversity. Given the many recent stories about law students burdened by huge debt and yet unable to pass the bar, the ABA is considering requiring law schools to get 75 percent of their students to pass the bar within two years to retain accreditation.. Put aside for the moment arguments that we should not require graduation from an accredited law school to take the bar—arguments with which I have some sympathy. Assuming states do accredit law schools, it hardly seems like a draconian requirement that a large majority of their graduates be able to pass the bar

But a variety of schools and groups have objected that this requirement will threaten diversity, because minority candidates from lower ranked schools fail the bar at substantial rates.  This argument seems a desperate one.

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