Last week, on January 16, America marked Religious Freedom Day. The day commemorates enactment of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom of 1786, a precursor of the First Amendment. Written by Thomas Jefferson, the Virginia statute disestablished religion in the commonwealth—“no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever”—and prohibited civil penalties for the expression of religious belief—“all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion.” Jefferson saw the statute as one of his three great accomplishments; along with the Declaration of Independence and the founding of the University of Virginia, he directed that it be noted on his tombstone.
Is it possible for a film’s musical score to undermine the film it supposedly serves? In the case of The Founder, the answer is yes.
The Founder stars Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the Chicagoan who took a small hamburger stop called McDonald’s and turned it into a billion-dollar global brand. The film depicts Kroc as an unstoppable force of nature but also a ruthless and dishonest businessman. Keaton’s portrayal is fantastic, his character at once a spry, hyper-focused visionary and a heartless SOB.
Connecticut’s Roger Sherman was the only Founder to help draft and sign the Declaration and Resolves (1774), the Articles of Association (1774), the Declaration of American Independence (1776), the Articles of Confederation (1777, 1778), and the U.S. Constitution (1787). As a member of the first federal Congress, he played an influential role in drafting the First Amendment.
Yet when Supreme Court justices have turned to history to interpret the Establishment Clause, they have referenced Sherman only three times. By way of contrast, Thomas Jefferson, a man who played no role in drafting or ratifying the amendment, is referenced 112 times.
President Trump more than any President in decades has embraced industrial policy. He not only wants government to favor manufacturing, but vows to use the tax law to prevent manufacturers who are here from shifting factories overseas. And auto manufacturing seems to be his particular focus. To be sure, in this respect his policy has some continuity with the Obama administration, which intervened in extraordinary ways—including bending the bankruptcy laws—to bail out U.S. auto companies.
Industrial policy fails to reckon with the ignorance of government. Central decisionmakers lack the information to choose the best services and products in which Americans should specialize. The past shows that what is best produced here tomorrow will not be what is best produced here today: many of our most productive lines of work did not even exist 20 years ago, let alone 50 years ago. An industrial policy that puts up barriers to companies from moving factories abroad creates a more static economy here at home, one less responsive to the seizing of future opportunities in an era of technological acceleration.
That policy clearly makes American consumers and American shareholders in American companies worse off, because companies will fail to locate where they would be most profitable and to deliver products to consumers at the lowest possible cost. But a government-directed industrial policy is also not good in the long run for the American worker, because the industries that can provide good jobs for the long run change over time, and change faster as technology speeds up.
While I am often critical of the left, there is one area where one must admire their accomplishments: the left is extremely good at designing institutions that promote their agenda. In fact, some of these ideas have been so good that the right has copied them, with success. One traditional area where the left has promoted its agenda is through “public interest” law firms. The various law firms, such as the ACLU and the NRDC, bring lawsuits that have had enormous impact. Over time, the right has formed its own law firms which have also had significant effects. Another area where the…
Do we need a theory of managerial class disintegration? Such an ambitious question can at the least be ventured given our headlines: Brexit, Trump, Le Pen, the European Union and the larger rise of the Euronationalist parties, and the questioning of postwar international institutions, to name a few.
In 1942, deciding the case of Wickard v. Filburn, the U.S. Supreme Court deemed the wheat grown by an Ohio farmer purely for his own use and consumption—not for sale—to “exert a substantial effect on interstate commerce.” This infamous decision led many to conclude that the scope of Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause is essentially unlimited.
Now that understanding may be upended by a tiny, blind arachnid known as the “Bone Cave harvestman” (scientific name: Texella reyesi). This cave-dwelling invertebrate, which resembles a spider, has been included by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the Endangered Species list since 1988. Pursuant to the Endangered Species Act and its enabling regulations, the “habitats” of endangered species cannot be modified or “degraded” without a federal permit.
False accusations of rape are no joke. Just ask the Duke lacrosse team or the University of Virginia fraternity brothers who were smeared in Rolling Stone magazine. Such high-profile travesties of justice are the tip of an iceberg that has now been documented in detail by KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor, Jr.
The atmosphere on many American campuses is thick with intimidation of anyone who might dissent from a poisonous version of feminist orthodoxy. Strident accusations and demands would not have been enough, though, without widespread acquiescence in politically driven lies about sexual assault. College bureaucrats, the media, and cowardly politicians, including some very prominent Republicans, have all contributed to a culture in which simple procedural fairness is treated as though it were part of a “war on women.” This problem will not be solved with a stroke of anyone’s pen. But some significant steps can be taken very expeditiously by the Trump administration.
I believe that the constitutional amendment process is essential to originalism and to a desirable constitutional law. One of the most disturbing things about recent generations is that no constitutional amendment has been proposed and ratified since the 26th Amendment guaranteeing the right to vote to 18 year olds was enacted 1971. (The 27th Amendment was proposed in 1789 and ratified over two centuries, receiving its last state vote for ratification in 1992). One result of this failure to employ the constitutional amendment process is that the process is atrophying. As a matter of political psychology, people do not think enough…