The Thirteenth Amendment as a Conservative Counterrevolution

  In “If Slavery Is Not Wrong, Nothing Is Wrong,” I proposed that the Civil War was fought to restore the original unity of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and that the Thirteenth Amendment, adopted in 1865, was the culmination of that colorblind restoration. In the antebellum period, opponents of slavery could not specify what would result once slavery was ended. Would free blacks have equal rights? Vote? Intermarry with whites? Thus did Stephen Douglas mock Abraham Lincoln. The post-bellum answer of universal freedom nonetheless preserved much of the antebellum distinction between being anti-slavery and being anti-black. While Black Codes prevailed…

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Civil Rights and Constitutional Moments

Bruce Ackerman of Yale Law School is one our most renowned constitutional law professors.  His most famous theory is that of constitutional moments–one of the many alternatives to originalism offered in the academy.   As a positive matter, a constitutional moment is period of heightened concern and deliberation about the Constitution. Controversially, as a normative matter a constitutional moment can change the Constitution without going through Article V.  Here is a simplified synopsis of  that theory: One  political party proposes enactments of statutes that are not permitted by the Constitution as interpreted at the time, the people send this party to power, the party puts their program into effect and the opposition party acquiesces in the program when it comes to power. For instance,  through his theory of constitutional moments Professor Ackerman has justified the transformation of the federal government’s enumerated powers that happened during the New Deal.

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Friday Roundup, March 14th

Comes now Joel Alicea opining in this month's Forum on Richard Epstein's essay "In Defense of the Classical Liberal Constitution." Hank Clark of the BB&T Center for the Study of Capitalism at Clemson provides our feature Books essay this week on George Smith's The System of Liberty: Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism. David Henderson @ Econ Lib catches noted inequality czar Thomas Piketty dodging a straight-forward question on inequality in America. In an interview with New York Times columnist Eduardo Porter Piketty was asked: Might inequality in the United States be less damaging than it is in Europe because the very…

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The Conscience of a Madisonian Conservative

Nathaniel Peters’ review of Robert George’s Conscience and Its Enemies is an insightful introduction to the Princeton scholar the New York Times Magazine resident anthropologist of conservatives, David Kirkpatrick, described as “this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker.” Aptly titled, “The Dynamic Unity of Conscience,” the essay was almost entirely devoted to George’s understanding of marriage and the philosophic analysis that supported it. In summarizing George, Peters elegantly illustrates how conscience is the first pillar of a decent society, followed by marriage, justice, education, and wealth. Conscience is the central philosophic issue to be sure, but a broader audience might appreciate how George’s understanding of the conscience influences his public policy choices.

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Negroes and the Gun

I have been away from this page for several months, working on book that is now nearing completion. Thought I would say hello again and give a preview of the book. You may recall my posts responding to eruptions from Bob Costas, Jason Whitlock and Danny Glover. Those posts tried to retrieve the debate from the swirl of myths, absurdities and glib chatter that often afflict the intersection of race, gun rights and firearms regulation. I have spent a substantial part of my scholarly effort over the years within that intersection. The culmination of that work so far, is my…

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Obama as Originalist Orator

obama lincolnMuch of President Obama’s speech commemorating the 1963 civil rights March on Washington deserves praise–or at least admiration. Speaking from the Lincoln Memorial, he began by reciting the most famous lines from the Declaration of Independence. He reminded his cynical audience that the cause of civil rights comes from the heart of our national existence. And he reinforced that principle by later quoting Lincoln, in his brief speech on the meaning of the Declaration, that “the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance.”

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Quotas for Criminals

No, not traffic cop ticket-writing quotas: Government-mandated quotas for hiring criminals. We’re that close to them.

The latest decrees, from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), would virtually prohibit employers from using criminal background checks to screen job applicants. But unlike earlier passivity, the outrage from employers is now actually provoking a rebellion, including the improbable combination of BMW and Dollar General stores—both of which are united in their need for trustworthy employees.

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The Theologico-Political Question (Part II): A Review of “42”

Early in one of the best sports movies, Knute Rockne, All-American, the immigrant kid Knute learns to play football with the neighborhood boys, including a black one.  The logic of the movie, following the recognition of Catholics in higher education, is that the opportunities will open up for blacks, too. 42, another biopic of baseball star and civil rights pioneer Jackie Robinson, takes the next step from that classic.

Frankly proclaiming Robinson’s importance for America, Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey opens the movie by declaring to his assistant, “I have a plan.”  In fact Rickey and Robinson deserve comparison with Martin Luther King. Claiming to be interested in winning and thus in profits, Rickey’s signing of Robinson exemplifies Tocqueville’s observation that Americans say that they are interested in profit but in fact often have higher motives. He is Tocqueville’s American, a self-professed Methodist focused on acting righteously, doing good while doing well.

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