Can America Remain a Nation of Immigrants in the 21st Century?

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We often call ours “a nation of immigrants.” It is a peculiar and paradoxical phrase. A “nation,” as generally understood, is a tribal, ethnic, or historical group. In the era of the American Revolution, a nation, a people, a tribe, and a race were often interchangeable terms. Nation, as the word is usually used by scholars, often retains some of that heritage. Hence a noted academic like Ernest Gellner could write in his book Nations and Nationalism (1983) that “nationalism uses the pre-existing, historically inherited proliferation of cultures or cultural wealth.” Nationalism presupposes some sort of historical unity. Meanwhile, immigrants are…

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Immigration Bolsters American Freedom

There is much to agree with in Richard Samuelson’s essay. My disagreement arises from three main sources. First, Samuelson undervalues how important relatively freer immigration is for maintaining American values and institutions. Second, his view of the country’s past assimilation of immigrants is too rosy. Third, his pessimism concerning the assimilation of current immigrants is…

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The Past, Present, and Future of American Immigration

Richard Samuelson has provided us with a thoughtful discussion of immigration in modern America, focusing on its philosophical meanings and its place in American society. He defends the idea of America as a “credal” nation built upon the political principles of the Founding era and sees the assimilation of immigrants to that Founding creed as…

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Assimilation is a Brutal and Necessary Bargain

Let me begin by acknowledging that I share Professor Samuelson’s concern that many immigrants today are not assimilating to “classic American values of thrift, hard work, and cooperation in civil society.” I, too, am uneasy at the prospect of immigrants being influenced by “trans-national” elites to the point where they, and especially their children, may…

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Law, Culture, and Immigration: Richard Samuelson Responds

I thank Peter Skerry, Vincent Cannato, and Alex Nowrasteh for their thoughtful comments about my essay. As I wrote more about the political context in which immigration and assimilation happen, perhaps I was pushing too far beyond what they take to be the topic at hand. That might explain some of the character of the…

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How to Secure America’s Peace

U.S. Soldiers at Camp Bucca in Iraq. Photo Credit: DAVID FURST/AFP/Getty Images

Our historically literate founding statesmen elaborated a foreign policy to shield Americans’ exceptional way of life in a hostile world through the timeless principles of statecraft. For more than a century, their successors held to the Founders’ purpose and to those principles. America grew great. Since the beginning of the 20th century, however, a new generation of statesmen, consciously abandoning the Founders’ way of thinking, has turned U.S. foreign policy from shielding the American people against danger to improving or otherwise leading the rest of mankind. Imagining that everyone, everywhere shares their good intentions, they have conducted America’s international affairs…

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Finding Fault in Our National Insecurity

Angelo Codevilla has been a legend in our house since the 1980s when my wife and I first encountered this Renaissance force of nature radiating virtú. Somehow Angelo manages a vineyard in California, a horse ranch in Wyoming, a large, loving family, a prolific academic career, and world travel without strain, indeed with unfailing ebullience.…

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A Trenchant Yet Flawed Analysis of American Foreign Policy

Angelo Codevilla’s analysis of the many problems associated with U.S. foreign policy provides an abundance of important insights. He is devastatingly on the mark when he contends that since the beginning of the 20th century, U.S. officials have transformed the Founders’ emphasis on shielding the American people against external dangers into an arrogant, unattainable objective…

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Principle and Prudence in American Foreign Policy

There is much with which to agree in Angelo Codevilla’s thoughtful essay. To the extent that he and I differ, it is with regard to means and not ends. We both agree that U.S. foreign policy is in shambles, characterized by drift and incoherence. It is at best a-strategic at worst anti-strategic, lacking any concept…

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Benevolent Hegemon, Illiberal, or Too Far Gone Already?

Walter McDougall writes: “Congress and the American people…want to believe their ‘indispensable nation’ can be a ‘benevolent hegemon’ doing good on the cheap and doing well by doing good.” As a description of how Americans view our role among nations, this is arguable. But it is a fair summation of our foreign policy establishment‘s view…

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Freedom of Religion and the Freedom of the Church

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It is widely accepted—in American law, in other countries’ laws, and in human-rights law generally—that “freedom of religion” is fundamental and that it should be protected, respected, and promoted. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, for example, called on all political communities to “promote respect” for the right to religious freedom and to “secure [its] universal and effective recognition and observance.” However, and to put it mildly, a commitment to religious freedom is easier to profess than to operationalize. Identifying the content, reach, and limits of religious freedom; working out its implications and applications; and constructing effective doctrines and…

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Freedom of the Church Not Freedom of Religion

I have long benefitted from Professor Garnett’s work in the area of law and religion. Given the sometimes contentious climate in and out of the academy, it is worth highlighting the tone of his writing as well as its substance. Both are admirable. One of Professor Garnett’s core scholarly pursuits has been to argue for a…

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Negotiating the Freedom of the Church

One of the challenges in commenting on Rick Garnett’s essay is that I think his deeply thoughtful and measured analysis is basically right on target. If we are going to take individuals’ freedom of religion seriously, we need take into account the importance of their religious communities. Exactly what that means is, unfortunately, hard to…

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With Non-Interference Comes Responsibility

Richard Garnett’s Liberty Forum essay argues eloquently for the importance of institutional religious freedom in our system of government and our broader society. As Garnett writes, some form of institutional religious liberty, or “freedom of the church,” is an “old but still important idea.” It’s an idea, moreover, that in one form or another has…

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Freedom of the Church

I am grateful to the Liberty Law Forum for publishing my short essay, Freedom of Religion and the Freedom of the Church and for securing thoughtful, helpful responses from John Inazu, Paul Horwitz, and Donald Drakeman. These three first-rate scholars are my friends and teachers; I have learned a great deal from their work and through…

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The Rise of Adversarial Corporatism

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Timothy F. Geithner, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and savior of the free world,[1] has lamented the intractable paradox of financial crises: government must lend freely to actors who by all rights should bear the price of their own reckless conduct and be wiped out. The post-crisis years have been marked by a related but somewhat different paradox: On the one hand, the government has recapitalized financial institutions, subsidized them, and drawn them closer to its ample bosom. On the other, it has hit those same institutions with an avalanche of prosecutions. Settling these cases is very costly; one…

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The New Cronyism of the Old Rent-Seeking State

Michael Greve’s essay vividly describes some deeply troubling trends in the relationship between the government and the economy. It provides a much needed perspective at a time when politics and policy-making are nothing if not adversarial, and more casual observers succumb to the temptation simply to choose sides without asking how we came to this…

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Does a Sophisticated Theory Miss the Facts?

Michael Greve introduces “adversarial corporatism,” a new conceptual lens through which to view the growing and contentious collaboration of industry and government. Adversarial corporatism takes the conventional story of crony capitalism and regulatory capture—a story appealing to critics on the left and the right alike—and adds a dose of a starker reality: the cooperation is…

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Adversarial Corporatism: Additional Thoughts

I am deeply grateful to Brian Mannix and to Peter Conti-Brown for their thoughtful, indeed profound comments on my “adversarial corporatism” post. I am equally grateful to Richard Reinsch and the Liberty Forum for hosting this exchange. To paraphrase the Boss, we learn more from three minutes on this blog than we ever learned in…

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Our Civil Rights Rest on Fundamental Arguments, Not Racial Ones

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Celebrations of the Civil Rights Act at 50 remind us just how anachronistic the common understanding of civil rights has become. They are treated as the product of a momentary movement in the latter portion of the 20th century or as a work of legislative artistry by President Lyndon Johnson. Today it seemingly suffices to name President Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to say all that is necessary about civil rights. Ironically, the observations most associated with each of these men undermine their claims to be advocates of civil rights constitutionally understood. In Johnson’s case, the observation was…

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Civil Rights, the Civil Rights Act, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is surely the most renowned piece of legislation enacted in 20th century America. It stands (with the Voting Rights Act passed the following year) as the culminating achievement of the Civil Rights movement, itself now enshrined in conventional opinion as the latest and greatest of America’s great awakenings. By…

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Restoring the Color-Blind Foundation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned much government and private-sector discrimination, mostly on the basis of race and ethnicity (“color” was specified in addition to “race,” and “national origin” was the term used instead of the now-more-common “ethnicity”), but often on the basis of religion, too, and sometimes on the basis of sex as…

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Race, Rights-Talk, and Equity

W. B Allen’s essay impresses upon us how different our understanding of civil rights is from that of the Founders and the authors of the Fourteenth Amendment. Back then “civil rights”referred to our most fundamental rights, those closely tied to and only slightly more expansive than our natural rights. Today most of us think of…

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The Great Society, a Half-Century On

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President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” speech is about to turn 50 years old. The speech, which the President gave as the commencement address at the University of Michigan on May 22, 1964, is a milestone in American history and instantly lodged that phrase in our political vocabulary. The most grandiose political slogan in a roster that includes the New Deal and the New Frontier, the Great Society was more than a set of policy objectives. Rather, Johnson described it as the commitment to undertake an eternal quest, one that would elevate American civilization by expanding the federal government’s responsibilities and capabilities.…

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The Politics of Dependency

William Voegeli’s essay reminds us of the absurdity of so much American political discourse of the past 60 years. The call for greater state-mandated redistribution and entitlements in order to “oppose the drift into the homogenized society” and “fight spiritual unemployment,” to combat “loneliness and boredom” and “build a richer life of mind and spirit”…

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Wind in the Willows

With the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s “Great Society” speech fast approaching, we are seeing a flood of historical remembrance and analysis, and there will be more in the weeks and months ahead. The television historians and talking heads will be swooning over how much was accomplished by an 89th Congress that was, in the…

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The Great Exception

The 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” speech offers us an opportunity to reflect not just on the speech itself but also on the half century of consequences that have followed in the wake of the grand project it announced. As William Voegeli notes, the commencement address Johnson delivered to the University of Michigan’s…

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Understanding Clarence Thomas: The Jurisprudence of Constitutional Restoration

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

When, on July 1, 1991, President George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to serve as Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, predicting that he would be “a great Justice,” calling him “the best person for this position,” and denying that Thomas’s race had entered into his nomination, many Americans were skeptical. They doubted Bush’s claims, as they doubted his nominee. Among those doubting Thomas were individuals from the civil rights community, convinced that he would abandon the life-long campaign for racial justice undertaken by Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice, whose seat he was to fill. Other…

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Sowing the Seeds of an Originalist Future

Not too long ago, I found myself discussing the U.S. Supreme Court with an acquaintance who does not particularly follow politics. During the conversation, I mentioned the name of Justice Clarence Thomas, which provoked the question, “He’s the one who doesn’t do anything, right?” I suppose there are worse ways that Justice Thomas could be remembered,…

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The Jurisprudence of Constitutional Restoration Is Originalism, but Not All Conceptions of Originalism

Dr. Ralph Rossum’s most recent book, Understanding Clarence Thomas: The Jurisprudence of Constitutional Restoration, performs the valuable service of cataloguing and synthesizing the jurisprudential work of one of America’s great living jurists. Rossum’s book joins other sympathetic—though not hagiographic—accounts of Justice Thomas’ work, most importantly Professor Scott Douglas Gerber’s First Principles: The Jurisprudence of Clarence…

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“Just, Wise, and Constitutional”: Justice Thomas’s Legacy in Law and Politics

Ralph Rossum has followed his indispensible volume on Justice Scalia with an equally indispensible analysis of Justice Clarence Thomas’s life and work. The two seem destined to be paired forever. Because they share so much in common, each is the other’s best foil. Professor Rossum draws such contrasts expertly, as have Randy Barnett and Lee Strang,…

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Thomas’s Full Throated Originalism: Ralph Rossum Responds

I am grateful for the thoughtful commentaries and kind words that Keith Whittington, Lee J. Strang, and Adam White have provided on my essay on Clarence Thomas’s jurisprudence of constitutional restoration. Since all three commentaries address the low value that Thomas, as an originalist, places on stare decisis, I will begin there. Antonin Scalia, the Court’s…

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In Defense of the Classical Liberal Constitution

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What follows is a short account of the central argument of a long book, of some 700 pages, that seeks to cover the basic outlines of constitutional law in three major areas: interpretation, structure, and individual rights. The theme that unifies these three separate topics is how they all relate to the quest for limited government. That task requires an interpretive method and an institutional design that is strong enough to allow for government rule, but not so powerful that it suffocates the very individuals whose liberty and security it is intended to protect. Conservative, Progressive, and Classical Liberal In dealing…

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The Skeptical Constitution

I’m terribly sorry. I seem to have come in late. I missed the part where the classical liberal gets to write the constitution. I know that a good many classical liberals, including my friend Richard, have offered their thoughts on the subject, but that’s not how I understand constitutions to be made. Sir Lewis Namier thought…

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Constitutional Compromise and Classical Liberalism

Across the conservative legal movement, there is a reassessment of the principles that have guided legal conservatives since the end of the Warren Court. Ideas that were once orthodoxy are now open to question. At the level of doctrine, the movement’s longstanding defense of Chevron has been replaced with the deep unease evinced by the…

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Due Deference to the Political Branches

Recently, I heard an observation about liberals and conservatives that rang true to me: Modern liberals tend to view themselves as freethinkers no matter how rigidly they adhere to liberal orthodoxy. Modern conservatives often display the opposite vice, imagining they speak for the average citizen even when election returns contradict that belief. One consequence is that…

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Richard Epstein Responds: Personal Liberty, Private Property and Limited Government Are Still the Keys to National Prosperity and Success

I should like to thank my three commentators for their observations on my lead essay. Those remarks by Gail Heriot (my former student, I am proud to say) and Joel Alicea are decidedly in the friendly camp, and thus need little response. The comment by my friend Frank Buckley shows a good deal of Canadian…

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The Institutions of American Liberty

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I write of an American tradition of liberty rather than of Liberty as such. I write not of the liberty we would find behind a veil of ignorance nor of the undiluted, principled, liberty some moralists consume straight up. I focus instead on a heritage of liberty, forged out of the particular and peculiar experiences of American history, protected and internalized by a panoply of institutions, and that has produced an American temperament infused with affection and admiration for its unique inheritance. American liberty inspires gratitude and a spirit of improvement that is constructive rather than revolutionary. Unlike Liberty as…

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The Revolution in Ideas and Practice That Elevated American Liberty

Ted McAllister and the Liberty Law Forum at Liberty Fund are to be thanked for resurrecting a vitally important but seemingly forgotten, or, at least, neglected topic. The subject of McAllister’s essay is the American tradition of liberty, which he contrasts with perfect or abstract liberty. He asks two important questions: What is distinctive about…

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The Distinctive Spheres of American Liberty and the State

“The Institutions of American Liberty” is a nicely written and, for the most part, compelling encomium to the tradition of American liberty and the institutions upon which it rests. The author of this piece, as so many following Tocqueville have observed, rightly notes that American history displays “a fervor of institution building by people who…

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Piety, Benevolence, Self-Government, and Free Institutions

The Rev. Timothy Dwight (President of Yale, 1795-1817, leading Congregational and Federalist thinker, enemy of Thomas Jefferson), wrote about the three great good works: piety, benevolence, and self-government. Self-government meant the well ordering of one’s life so he could live as a free and responsible human being. If a person was well self-governed, he would…

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The Extinction of American Liberty? Ted McAllister responds:

Lamentably, I find myself in general agreement with the thoughtful commentaries on my essay by the three respondents, C. Bradley Thompson, Steven Grosby, and William Dennis. This is not to say that underneath this broad consensus there aren’t serious and enjoyable differences of philosophy that warrant sustained engagement. Taken as a whole, the body of…

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The Constitution’s Structural Limitations On Power Should Be the Focus of the Bill of Rights

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Ever since the Warren era of expansive individual rights jurisprudence, leading to the Court’s substantive due process jurisprudence culminating in Roe v. Wade, jurists, as well as the public at large, have grappled with the issue of judicial activism in the individual rights area. At the same time, by the time of the Warren Court, constitutional law had evolved to the point of denying the courts any meaningful role in enforcing the limited government principles incorporated in the Constitution. This essay, recognizing the continuing controversy over the Court’s individual rights jurisprudence, attempts to reconcile these two different strains in constitutional…

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Natural Rights and the Limited Government Model of the Constitution: A Response to Patrick Garry

There is much to commend Professor Garry’s essay. He is eminently correct in saying that the Constitution contemplated a limited government. Whether it adhered to a “limited government model” is a different issue. What is more than curious, however, is Professor Garry’s statement that the “the overall scheme of the original Constitution” is primarily concerned with…

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Limited Government and Individual Autonomy

Patrick Garry’s essay “The Constitution’s Structural Limits on Power Should Be the Focus of the Bill of Rights” contains many valuable insights. In particular, it re-affirms the proposition – lost for many years but perhaps gaining some new currency – that the so-called “structural” provisions of the Constitution are, and were intended to be, not…

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The Constitution Created an Expansive, not a Strictly Limited Federal Government

The revolution of 1787-1791 overthrew a constitution that strictly limited the federal government in favor of one with general welfare and necessary and proper clauses that allowed the federal government to absorb state powers over time. It also tossed out the dogma of separation of powers in favor of a more sophisticated balance of powers.…

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Patrick Garry’s Reply to Responders

I am honored to be a part of this debate on the Bill of Rights with such accomplished and knowledgeable scholars. The three responding essays by Dr. Bowling, Professor Erler and Professor Ramsey provide keen insights on constitutional law and history. Indeed, the historical discussions in the three essays are more detailed than is my…

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