Monday, June 20, 2016

Fighting City Hall

In the first few sentences of the very first essay (A Citizen’s Manifesto) in my book To My Countrymen, I suggest that a good citizen doesn’t run away from fighting City Hall, that he indeed engages City Hall when he must, and that he wins – every time.  I wrote this essay two decades ago, and I meant it to suggest that part of our collective powerlessness is our own doing.  If we aren’t willing to fight for what we want, it is our own damn fault that we don’t get it.  And that when we do fight, we always win (yeah, and I know that the fight takes time and effort, and sometimes persistence).

The Libertarian Creed

I have a friend who is going to vote the Libertarian line this election cycle, and I applaud him for it – over the wrong-headed protests of those who mindlessly chant “you're wasting your vote.”  He is right to vote third party, and I have argued the point over and over again in my book To My Countrymen, because we must break the stranglehold of our antiquated and mischievous two-party system.

The opening words of the 2016 Platform of the Libertarian Party of the USA are these: “As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others (shades of Ayn Rand).”  And “We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual.  …  We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.”  Damn, sign me up!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Judicial Review

The pre-eminent job of the Supreme Court is to decide whether a particular law is Constitutional.  This is what we have been taught for well over 50 years so it must be true, no?

No!  That is just so much bull-shit!  The Supreme Court is the court of last resort; it is the last place that an unlucky defendant can go for JUSTICE!

Deciding what law may or may not be Constitutional is called “judicial review.”  In Constitutional circles, the very idea that judicial review is a Constitutionally enumerated power of the Court is controversial.  John Marshall, in Marbury v Madison, 1803, asserted the Court’s power of judicial review, and he did so in a way that compelled his enemies to accept his decision.  So, we have over 200 years of the Court’s right to the power of judicial review.  Yet there are still scholars who claim that judicial review is not Constitutionally sanctioned as a power of the Court.


As abortion is one of America’s premier divisive issues, Americans should be pretty clear what “pro-life” means.  But I am not so sure; I think that there is a lot of confusion about who really is “pro-life.”

To start, I think that we can all agree that “pro-life” begins with an agreement that life begins at the moment of conception, that a soul is created in that instant.  But from there on, things get interesting.
  1. Are there not women who call themselves “pro-life” because they personally would never (with the possible exception of rape and incest) ever have an abortion themselves?  But they understand that this is only THEIR preference, they don’t have an opinion about what other women may or may not do, they just know that they would never have an abortion.
  2. Then there are those who take that one step further and believe that it is wrong to have an abortion, not just for themselves but for all women.  This group considers abortion a sin, but they stop short of wanting criminal penalties for the act: it is WRONG but “government stay away, it is none of your business.”
  3. And finally there are those, men and women alike, who go the last step: they believe not only that abortion is wrong personally, wrong universally, a sin universally, but it is also a crime, the crime of murder of an unborn human being.  And they believe that a woman who aborts an unborn child should be charged with a crime (there is a sub-group here that wants to charge the aborting doctor with the crime; the woman is innocent, she is merely the doctor’s victim.  But this is rank hypocrisy so I will not say anything more about it), the crime of murder.  This last group wants to roll back Roe v Wade; the first two groups don’t think about Roe v Wade, or if they do they don’t much care.

In the first instance, abortion is a matter of personal preference.  In the second instance, abortion is a philosophical and religious scruple.  In the third instance, abortion is a matter for the law.  In the first instance, for that kind of pro-life person, what another woman chooses is no concern of theirs.  In the second instance, abortion is a sin but that kind of pro-life stops short of recommending prison as an answer. 

But what about the other side, who is a “pro-choice” person?  Does a “pro-choice” person advocate that all pregnancies should be aborted?  Of course not.  Does a pro-choice person LIKE abortions?  Putting aside what that even means, it is clear that many pro-choice people are repelled by the act of abortion, they want nothing to do with it.  The only thing that all pro-choice advocates advocate is that the act of abortion should not be criminalized, that abortion is not murder in a legal sense.  Whether they share any other philosophical or religious scruples with each other is unknown; what is known is that they don’t want a woman who opts for an abortion to be charged with a crime, the crime of murder.

As we ought to be able to see, from a legal perspective, the first two kinds of “pro-life” people are on the same side as “pro-choice” people.

Politics does not concern itself with people’s individual preferences or philosophical or religious scruples.  Politics DOES concern itself with the law, with what actions the state will not tolerate.  For many people, the opposite of “pro-life” must be “pro-death,” and who in God’s name is pro-death?  And for many their religious scruples compel them to call themselves “pro-life.”  But politically, I wonder just how many Americans who call themselves “pro-life” really make common cause with folks who call themselves “pro-choice”; they don’t LIKE abortion, but they don’t want the all-powerful state to take any punitive action.  I wonder.