The Locker Room

December 22, 2010

Original meaning of the commerce clause

Posted by George Leef at 12:47 AM

Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, legal scholar William Watkins digs into the meaning of "interstate commerce" for the drafters of the Constitution. Read his piece here. In short, they wanted Congress to protect the free flow of goods.

Through word play, our authoritarian rulers want to stretch "regulate interstate commerce" to cover a federal mandate to purchase something. That's sheer deception. If the drafters had meant for Congress to have such power, they'd have included it in Article I, Section 8. Nothing in that section, listing the powers of Congress, suggests in the least that it was supposed to have the power to compel people to make certain purchases. Can you imagine the reaction if someone had said to James Madison in 1789, "This phrase about regulating interstate commerce -- it means that Congress can pass a law to make us buy government-approved candles, right?"

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The Machine Rolls Merrily Along

Posted by Jay Schalin at 10:16 AM

It’s good to see that top aides to powerful Democratic politicians can still find a lucrative home in the UNC system when they want to move on. Governor Perdue’s budget director Charlie Perusse will join incoming UNC president Tom Ross’s administration as the vice president for finance in March.

Perusse is taking over from the retiring Ernie Murphrey, who held the job for one year after replacing Rob Nelson, who retired in March of this year.  Nelson’s retirement caught many off guard, and Murphrey seemed an odd choice to replace him, since he struggled greatly with the job’s public appearance demands.

The uber-confident Perusse will have no such problems. He has held the top financial slot in Perdue’s administration for two years, and he was Governor Easley’s deputy budget director and, briefly, acting budget director for the six years before that. (In other words, he is at least as much an insider in the state’s Democratic machine as is Ross.)

His appointment raises a question: why does the top financial official in the state—who oversees the Office of State Management and Budget—get a whopping $77,000 annual raise when he leaves that position for the UNC job, which deals with only 14 percent of the state budget? Shouldn’t the bigger job have the bigger salary?

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Government expansion week

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 10:14 AM

What is it about Friday afternoons and the week before Christmas that leads to announcements of bad news and government takeovers? Jim Harper sees more than coincidence

Politicians know—and the heads of independent agencies are no less political than anyone else—that the public loses focus after elections. That’s the time for agencies to quietly move the agenda—during the week before Christmas, for example.

So it’s not the spirit of giving—it’s the spirit of hiding—that has these independent agencies moving forward right now. It’s up to the public, if it cares about liberty and constitutionally limited government, to muster energy and outrage at the latest moves to put the society under the yoke of the ruling class.

The toll so far this month? Baby cribs, online business, health insurance prices, and government control of the internet.

Remember that it was Christmas Eve 2009 that the Senate, before Scott Brown became the 41st Senator, passed the ongoing national nightmare known as ObamaCare.

Constant vigilance

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Abolish the FCC

Posted by George Leef at 10:03 AM

Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi argues here that Congress ought to respond to the FCC's internet power grab by abolishing it.

I agree and suggest as a good precedent the Civil Aeronautics Board, which was abolished in 1978. The CAB just got in the way of airline competition. Its demise was a good thing, lamented only by the functionaries who drew their paychecks from it. Communications is a marvelously competitive industry and there is no need for federal regulation. Save taxpayers some money. Save the Internet from slow strangulation by government. Abolish the FCC.

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College for the credential, work for the education

Posted by George Leef at 08:56 AM

That sums up David Bass's approach to college in this week's Pope Center Clarion Call.

David explains that he decided on getting his college degree entirely through online courses because he calculated that he would save a lot of time and money that way, and interfere minimally with his journalistic work. That's where he thought his most valuable learning would happen, not taking courses. His college classes, just as he had thought, did little to advance his journalistic capabilities in comparison with all the on-the-job training he got while working as an intern and freelancing.

Going to college certainly is not the only way for a young person to accumulate knowledge and skills. For many, it is a very costly and sub-optimal way of doing so. The mantra that everyone should go to college is just as foolish as the mantra that everyone should own a house.

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James Q. Wilson on the future of blame

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:48 AM

James Q. Wilson has spent decades dissecting public policy — filtering fact from fiction and seeking the course of action that will lead to the best results, not the course designed to help policymakers feel better about themselves.

Wilson collects 15 of his best articles in the recent book American Politics, Then & Now and Other Essays. Among the most interesting pieces is a discourse on "the future of blame."

As science exposes more and more of the genetic basis of anti-social and criminal behavior, some people make the case against punishing those genetically predisposed to act outside the law. If young men are most likely to commit crime, should they face the same type of punishment as others who break the law?

Wilson's answer is yes.

A young man loaded with testosterone, lacking interest in other people, and driven by impulses rather than reflection may find it much harder to avoid crime than a young woman who has little testosterone, is closely attached to others, and is shy about acting impulsively. To avoid criminal behavior, the male has to climb a steeper hill than the female. It may therefore seem unfair for the law to treat their behavior equally.

But it is actually the man who benefits more from a system of laws that attribute blame and responsibility. Because he must climb the steeper hill, he is in greater need of the incentive and guidance the law will provide. If the hill were made flat to save him from the unfair exertion — so that each person was expected to behave only as biology might direct — we would make life only superficially easier for our aggressive young man, and much harder for both the better-behaved woman and for society more broadly. For if we allow ourselves to think that explaining behavior justifies it, then we will have reduced the incentives for people who are likely to behave wrongly to avoid that behavior. We will also have reduced the likelihood that people behaving well will recognize that they are doing the right things.

Wilson's observations might prompt you to ask: What are the John Locke Foundation's ideas about the best way to address crime? Jon Sanders addressed the topic during a March briefing for legislative candidates.

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Austrian School economists and the housing bubble

Posted by George Leef at 08:29 AM

A line we often hear from the mainstream media is that no one saw the housing bubble coming, as if it were like a terrible plague that hit without any warning. Nonsense, says Loyola University professor Walter Block. In this piece he shows that quite a few Austrian School economists foresaw the devastation that federal meddling in the housing market would inevitably bring.

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Barone sees a link between population growth and lower tax burdens

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:17 AM

While those of us in North Carolina ponder the meaning of 18.5 percent population growth in the past decade — vaulting the Tar Heel State into the No. 10 slot in overall population among the 50 states — Michael Barone is applying his number-crunching expertise to the national picture.

Here's one of the most interesting points Barone makes in his latest Washington Examiner article:

[T]he great engine of growth in America is not the Northeast Megalopolis, which was growing faster than average in the mid-20th century, or California, which grew lustily in the succeeding half-century. It is Texas.

Its population grew 21 percent in the past decade, from nearly 21 million to more than 25 million. That was more rapid growth than in any states except for four much smaller ones (Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Idaho).

Texas' diversified economy, business-friendly regulations and low taxes have attracted not only immigrants but substantial inflow from the other 49 states. As a result, the 2010 reapportionment gives Texas four additional House seats. In contrast, California gets no new House seats, for the first time since it was admitted to the Union in 1850.

There's a similar lesson in the fact that Florida gains two seats in the reapportionment and New York loses two.

This leads to a second point, which is that growth tends to be stronger where taxes are lower. Seven of the nine states that do not levy an income tax grew faster than the national average. The other two, South Dakota and New Hampshire, had the fastest growth in their regions, the Midwest and New England.

Altogether, 35 percent of the nation's total population growth occurred in these nine non-taxing states, which accounted for just 19 percent of total population at the beginning of the decade.

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Comparing the US with Argentina

Posted by George Leef at 08:00 AM

Argentina was a famously wealthy and stable country ca. 1900, but the 20th century was disastrous. No ruinous wars, but the steady progression of statism, with its attendant attacks on property rights, economic liberty, the rule of law, and sound money. In this piece Ron Holland provides an enlightening comparison between the Argentine experience with unchecked government and ours.

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Better to see them interviewing each other ,,,

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:09 AM

… in Newsweek than to see Sandra Day O’Connor and John Paul Stevens deciding Supreme Court cases.

Among the more interesting comments that flow out of their mutual admiration society is the following exchange:

O'Connor: I suppose the court has had occasion to change its view on certain issues over a period of years. Do you see any on the horizon that you think the court might well reexamine as things go on?

Stevens: Well, you know, Sandra, I dissented in a lot of cases, and I'd like [the court] to reexamine them all [laughs]. I don't expect them to, but I think they made a serious mistake in the [Citizens United] campaign-finance case, in which they overruled the portion of an opinion you and I jointly authored [on the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law]. And I think you might share my view.

O'Connor: I notice that myself, and when I am asked about it, I often say, "Well, the court overruled part of what I wrote." And leave it there. It is a source of concern today, the extent of campaign contributions and whether corporations and unions must be held to the [same] standard as an individual. These are tough issues for the nation and the court.

For an assessment of the Citizens United case that’s based on the Constitution — rather than the “concerns” of the retired justices — click here.

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Branson buys into climate alarmism and the peak oil myth

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:08 AM

One suspects that Newsweek’s chief promoter of climate alarmism, Sharon Begley, was happy to chat with Richard Branson for the latest issue.

Though the interview does not appear to be posted yet online, here’s an unedited exchange:

Are you surprised by the intensity of climate denialism in America, including among candidates just elected to Congress? The scientific community is not skeptical, you know. But let’s assume the odds [of climate disaster] were only 50/50. If you have a 50 percent chance of getting knocked over by a car crossing the road, you’re going to take out insurance, or you’re not going to cross the road. And it just seems to me that at the very least we should be taking out insurance. But more than that, in America I don’t even talk about global warming anymore. I just talk about the fact that the resources are being depleted fast. Even the skeptics must realize that we are fast running out of oil, that we’re only a few years away from demand for oil exceeding supply, which could create the mother of all recessions if fuel goes up to $150, $200 a barrel, and that the West should not be reliant o foreign oil from a stability point of view.

No skepticism, eh? It’s time for Branson to talk to people other than Sharon Begley.

While learning about the flaws in the climate alarmists’ arguments, Branson might also want to study the history of “peak oil” warnings.

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A scientist defends his faith

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:06 AM

In the latest Newsweek, National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins explains why he has no problem believing in both God and science:
Basically, science is the way to uncover valid, trustworthy information about how nature works, about things about the natural world. But if you limit yourself to the kinds of questions that science can ask, you’re leaving out some other things that I think are also pretty important, like why are we here and what’s the meaning of life and is there a God? Those are not scientific questions. I simply would argue you need to be thoughtful when you’re asking a question—is this a faith question or a science question? As long as one keeps that distinction clearly in mind, then I don’t see a conflict.

Collins’ words reminded me of a 2007 N.C. History Project presentation from Louisiana State political scientist James Stoner, who discussed the Founders’ interest in both science and tradition. Stoner rejected the notion that the American Founding represented a triumph of reason over traditional beliefs.

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:59 AM

Karen Welsh's new Carolina Journal Online exclusive explains how a government-subsidized bus route might put a Hickory-area private-sector company out of business. 

John Hood's Daily Journal shares three Christmas tales that shed light on charity, enterprise, and government.

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