What a year it has been. “Trump wins and the Resistance begins,” might sum it up. Into this maelstrom steps our annual “What would the Declaration say?” reflection. We could turn in three directions: toward Trump; toward “the Resistance”; toward the people who fall outside his devoted followers and fierce opponents, who wish to make some contribution to the commonweal in the midst of low-intensity civil war.
The three-fifths rule of the Constitution treated slaves as three fifths of a person for purposes of representation and direct taxation. This provision is puzzling in many ways (above and beyond its connection with slavery). One common way it has confused people is that people often regard the Clause as problematic because it did not treat slaves as 5/5 of a person. But if the Clause had treated slaves in that way, it would not have harmed but benefited slave states, since slave states would have enjoyed more representation in the Congress and the electoral college. But I am puzzled by…
Niall Ferguson calls his latest 300-page best-seller, Civilization: The West and the Rest “a history of the world, in which Western dominance is the phenomenon to be explained.” (xxv) It’s a rollicking fun read, to be sure, though one would hardly call it a “history.” It is more like an historical essay, woven together with cultural commentary that has a specific trigger in mind. The trigger is the financial meltdown of 2008, and the key questions it raises for the author are: Could 2008 be the harbinger of a sudden collapse of Western dominance and its replacement by an ascendant China? And: What, if anything, could the West do to avoid such an unappetizing prospect?
What is a tax, and what is a regulation or a penalty? That seems like a fairly straightforward question. But since Chief Justice Roberts released his opinion that Obamacare is constitutional because the “penalty” it imposes for failing to carry health insurance is really a tax, we have seen that it is, in fact, an interesting question.
Few have noted that this question was important in the early stages of the American Revolution.