Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Constitution’

One of the many great things about America’s Founding Fathers is that the Declaration of Independence refers to “unalienable rights” including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” But there’s not even a suggestion that it is the job of government to provide happiness.

Brazil’s politicians have a different view of such matters. They’re considering an amendment to the nation’s Constitution that would create a similar right, but with the expectation that it would be the job of government to provide happiness.

There are two huge problems with this approach. First, government can’t give something to one person without first taking it from another. So if politicians decide that this new “right” to happiness means more redistribution of food and housing (things supposedly “guaranteed” by the Brazilian Constitution already), then that means more government coercion through the tax system. Second, happiness isn’t achieved by being a moocher. Dependency breeds resentment, not joy.

It would be simple to dismiss this proposal as a hollow political stunt, but there actually are many things that Brazil’s government could do to open doors for the poor, such as enforcing property rights, opening markets, deregulating the economy, and lowering tax rates. Then poor people would have the ability to achieve true happiness by improving their own lives rather than kowtowing for crumbs from a corrupt political elite.

Here’s a report on Brazil’s Orwellian happiness proposal.

…a bill to amend Brazil’s Constitution to make the search for happiness an inalienable right is widely expected to be approved soon by the Senate, which reconvened Tuesday. The bill would then go to the lower house. …supporters say the happiness bill is a serious undertaking despite the revelry, meant to address Brazil’s stark economic and social inequalities. “In Brazil, we’ve had economic growth without the social growth hoped for,” said Mauro Motoryn, the director of the Happier Movement, a non-governmental organization backing the legislation. “With the constitutional amendment, we want to provoke discussion, to seek approval for the creation of conditions in which social rights are upheld.” Similar explorations of officially finding happiness have been pushed by other governments. Both Japan and South Korea include the right to happiness in their constitutions, and earlier this month, the British government detailed plans to begin a $3 million project to measure citizens’ well being. …The bill before Brazil’s Congress would insert the phrase “pursuit of happiness” into Article 6 of the constitution, which states that education, health, food, work, housing, leisure and security – among other issues – are the social rights of all citizens.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I refuse to allow myself to get too excited about the chances of Obamacare ultimately being declared unconstitutional, but I’m definitely semi-psyched that this horrid law has been declared void by another federal judge. Here’s what the Washington Examiner has to say.

The full text of the decision from Federal Judge Roger Vinson is not available yet, but according to reporters who’ve seen the decision, he’s ruled the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. The ruling favors of the 26 state attorney generals challenging the law. The judge ruled the individual mandate that requires all Americans to purchase health insurance invalid and, according to the decision, “because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void.”

By the way, my skepticism has nothing to do with the legal merits. I have no doubt that our Founding Fathers would be horrified by much of what happens in Washington, and there is no doubt in my mind that Obamacare is wildly inconsistent with the original intent of the Constitution.

But the courts have done such a lousy job of protecting economic liberty ever since the 1930s and 1940s that I’m afraid some appeals court will give Obamacare a free pass.

But, at least for today, let’s celebrate.

Read Full Post »

Very few things that happen in Washington are legitimate functions of the federal government. I’ve already posted about the need to dismantle the Department of Transportation and send it back to the states, but some things  shouldn’t even be handled by state and local governments. Housing is a perfect example. There should be no role for government in building or subsidizing housing, period.

But I’ll be happy if we can simply get rid of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington. This $53 billion turkey should be the top target for GOP reformers.

Fealty to the Constitution should be the only reason lawmakers need to abolish HUD, but if they’re looking for some tangible examples of how the Department squanders money, J.P. Freire of the Washington Examiner opines on the issue, citing some devastating findings in a report from the Center for Public Integrity.

In the more than 3,000 public housing agencies nationwide funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and particularly inside the 172 that HUD considers the most troubled, ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity found a struggle to combat theft, corruption, and mismanagement. According to the report, one official embezzled $900,000 and bought a mansion. Other funds went to support sex workers. In other words, this is a perfect illustration of why recommending cuts to such assistance programs is not heartless but actually wise — waste is rampant:

The problems are widespread, from an executive in New Orleans convicted of embezzling more than $900,000 in housing money around the time he bought a lavish Florida mansion to federal funds wrongly being spent to provide housing for sex offenders or to pay vouchers to residents long since dead. Despite red flags from its own internal watchdog, HUD has continued to plow fresh federal dollars into these troubled agencies, including $218 million in stimulus funds since 2009, the joint investigation found.

These are horrific examples of government waste, and they are tailor-made for soundbites and blog posts, but waste, fraud, and corruption are not the real issues. HUD should be abolished even if every penny of the budget could be accounted for. If Republicans can’t get rid of HUD, voters should get rid of Republicans.

Read Full Post »

Regardless of what one thinks about abortion, it is preposterous for the federal government to be subsidizing the procedure. Yet that is what happens thanks to annual subsidies of as much as $363 million for Planned Parenthood.

Defenders of Planned Parenthood sometimes claim that federal money doesn’t actually pay for abortions, but that’s a silly assertion. Money is fungible, so if taxpayers are keeping an office open and lights on, it means they are subsidizing all of an organization’s activities. But that’s not the point. Even if Planned Parenthood didn’t perform abortions, it should not receive any money from taxpayers. Last time I checked, family planning was not listed in Article I, Section VIII, as one of the functions of the federal government.

This is not a “pro-life” or “pro-choice” issue. Indeed, it also would be wrong for the federal government to subsidize groups that counsel against abortion. Or abstinence groups. Or any other organization dealing with reproductive issues. The federal government shouldn’t be involved, period.

Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review makes all the right points in her column about how this is an issue that should unite social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, Tea Party folks, and libertarians.

It’s a question that we might see play out on Capitol Hill in the coming months as the new majority seeks to make the late pro-life congressman Henry Hyde proud, by defunding Planned Parenthood and prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortion.

…“Ending taxpayer funding of abortion and getting Planned Parenthood’s hand out of the pocket of taxpayers are clearly crossover issues,” says Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “Social conservatives as well as fiscal conservatives can generally agree that the government has no business being in the business of funding or subsidizing abortion.”

…Thomas J. Gaitens of Florida…goes out of his way to make clear that “the Tea Party movement has been purposeful in not getting into social issues, as not to dilute the fiscal, constitutional, and liberty focus; we do, however, see many ways we can impact this debate and remain steady with our positions.” …Gaitens absolutely agrees that such a person could naturally sign on to both the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” and nixing further grants to Planned Parenthood. Taxpayer funding for abortion — whether direct or through organizations such as Planned Parenthood — serves, he says, as “a prime example of government overreach.”

…An excellent question for social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and plain old voters is the one Chuck Donovan of the Heritage Foundation poses: “Why are U.S. taxpayers borrowing money at a record rate to, in part, provide grants to an organization, Planned Parenthood, which raised $388 million more than it spent from 2002 to 2007?”

Read Full Post »

I don’t know if this is a real letter-to-the-editor or if Major Caudill really exists, but this is a very strong statement in favor of the civilizing impact of firearms. And since I like to share good things that arrive in my inbox, it’s now yours to share.

I recall hearing saying that went something like this: “God made men, but Sam Colt made them equal.” I probably butchered that quote, but it captures the essence of this letter.

=====================

Letter to the Editor by Maj. L. Caudill USMC (Ret)

Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument or forcing me to do your bidding under threat of force.  Every human interaction falls into one of those two categories, without exception. Reason or force, that’s it.

In a truly moral and civilized society, people exclusively interact through persuasion. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some.

When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force. You have to use reason and try to persuade me, because I have a way to negate your threat or employment of force.

The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year-old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year-old gang banger, and a single guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats. The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender.

There are plenty of people who consider the gun as the source of bad force equations.

These are the people who think that we’d be more civilized if all guns were removed from society, because a firearm makes it easier for a [armed] mugger to do his job. That, of course, is only true if the mugger’s potential victims are mostly disarmed either by choice or by legislative fiat—it has no validity when most of a mugger’s potential marks are armed.

People who argue for the banning of arms ask for automatic rule by the young, the strong, and the many; and that’s the exact opposite of a civilized society. A mugger, even an armed one, can only make a successful living in a society where the state has granted him a force monopoly.

Then there’s the argument that the gun makes confrontations lethal that otherwise would only result in injury. This argument is fallacious in several ways. Without guns involved, confrontations are won by the physically superior party inflicting overwhelming injury on the loser.

People who think that fists, bats, sticks, or stones don’t constitute lethal force watch too much TV, where people take beatings and come out of it with a bloody lip at worst. The fact that the gun makes lethal force easier works solely in favor of the weaker defender, not the stronger attacker. If both are armed, the field is level.

The gun is the only weapon that’s as lethal in the hands of an octogenarian as it is in the hands of a weight lifter. It simply wouldn’t work as well as a force equalizer if it wasn’t both lethal and easily employable.

When I carry a gun, I don’t do so because I am looking for a fight, but because I’m looking to be left alone. The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded. I don’t carry it because I’m afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesn’t limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force. It removes force from the equation… and that’s why carrying a gun is a civilized act.

By Maj. L. Caudill USMC  (Ret.)

Read Full Post »

While some on the left were utterly contemptible in their efforts to blame the Tuscon shootings on anything or anyone other than the nut who pulled the trigger, it is perfectly legitimate for them to claim that the tragedy is a reason to impose gun control are erode constitutional rights.

But that doesn’t mean they’re right. I’ve commented on gun control issues many times, including here, here, here, and here, but let’s see what some real experts have to say. John Lott deals with the “concealed carry” issue for FoxNews.com, and here are some key excerpts.

Of all the multiple victim shootings around the country in public schools, the Appalachian Law School, on city streets, churches, or in malls that have been stopped law-abiding citizens with concealed handguns, none, not a single one has resulted in innocent bystanders being shot. Indeed, rarely do the citizens with the concealed handguns actually pull the trigger, simply brandishing the gun stops the attack. Permit holders do not endanger others. Take Arizona, since that is where all the focus is. As of December 1, 2007, there were 99,370 active permits. During 2007, 33 permits were revoked for any reason — a 0.03% rate — cases that did not involve using the gun to harm others. …most of the academic research, including recent research on right-to-carry research by economists and criminologists do indeed show that the laws reduce violent crime. Among peer reviewed studies in academic journals, 16 studies examining national data find that right-to-carry laws reduced violent crime, 10 claimed that they found no discernible effect, and zero studies found a bad effect from the law. Five other non-refereed studies were more divided, with three finding drops in crime, one claiming to find no effect, and two saying that there were either no effect or possibly small increases in crime. But even “no discernible effect” is usually not the same as “debunking” or “refuting” a hypothesis. Rather it often means that the evidence is not sufficient to draw a conclusion. Both Kristof and Donohue link to a paper by Ayres and Donohue that supposedly “debunks” my research. That is hardly true. Even if we were to fully accept the wording of the research paper, which is questionable, they claim to have found a small temporary initial rise in crime, followed by a long sustained drop. Yet, even the initial increase is a result of a mistake in how they set up their regressions and even their own more precise estimates of the yearly changes in crime never show that increase.

And Robert Verbruggen, writing for NationalReview.com, undertakes the daunting task of trying to educate anti-gun zealots (i.e., journalists) about basic firearms knowledge. He makes a few suggestions that, if followed, would at least protect them from looking completely ignorant.

If a left-of-center reader turned to his favorite pundits this week to find out what to think about the Tucson massacre and gun laws, he’d have read nothing but clichés and half-truths. There are at least two reasons for this. First is that most of these columnists have no firsthand knowledge of guns or gun culture. Second is that they haven’t bothered to read any of the countless academic studies of gun control that have come out since John Lott published More Guns, Less Crime in 1998. …Here are some quick and easy tips for anti-gun columnists — if you follow them, you’ll still be wrong, but at least you won’t sound so ridiculous. 1. Don’t assume criminals follow laws. …2. If you’re going to write that a certain kind of gun is particularly dangerous, consult someone who knows something about guns first. …3. Don’t prattle on about “hunting” or “sport” — and more generally, don’t forget about self-defense.

Read Full Post »

Walter Williams has a column about the House GOP’s commitment to make sure legislation is consistent with the Constitution. As with most things he writes, it is very much worth reading. Walter starts by explaining what Boehner and the rest of the Republicans have promised to do. He then points out that – if they’re serious – this will require dramatic changes.

Here’s the House of Representatives new rule: “A bill or joint resolution may not be introduced unless the sponsor has submitted for printing in the Congressional Record a statement citing as specifically as practicable the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact the bill or joint resolution.” Unless a congressional bill or resolution meets this requirement, it cannot be introduced.

If the House of Representatives had the courage to follow through on this rule, their ability to spend and confer legislative favors would be virtually eliminated. Also, if the rule were to be applied to existing law, they’d wind up repealing at least two-thirds to three-quarters of congressional spending.

Walter’s column cites several Presidents that actually cared about the Constitution and vetoed legislation that would have expanded the federal government’s powers. The passages, from Presidents Madison, Pierce, and Cleveland, are inspirational – particularly compared to what we get from modern Presidents. George W. Bush, for instance, signed the McCain-Feingold legislation to restrict free speech, even though he recognized that bill made a mockery of the First Amendment.

Madison, who is sometimes referred to as the father of our Constitution, added to his veto statement, “The legislative powers vested in Congress are specified and enumerated in the eighth section of the first article of the Constitution, and it does not appear that the power proposed to be exercised by the bill is among the enumerated powers.”

Here’s my question to any member of the House who might vote for funds for “constructing roads and canals, and improving the navigation of water courses”: Was Madison just plain constitutionally ignorant or has the Constitution been amended to permit such spending?

What about handouts to poor people, businesses, senior citizens and foreigners?

Madison said, “Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”

In 1854, President Franklin Piece vetoed a bill to help the mentally ill, saying, “I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity. (To approve the measure) would be contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded.”

…President Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill for charity relief, saying, “I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit.”

Last but not least, Walter debunks the notion that the “general welfare” clause is some soft of carte blanche for Congress to grab powers not explicitly authorized in Article I. Section VIII, of the Constitution.

Suppose a congressman attempts to comply with the new rule by asserting that his measure is authorized by the Constitution’s general welfare clause. Here’s what Thomas Jefferson said: “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”

Madison added, “With respect to the two words ‘general welfare,’ I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: