Tag: roger pilon

Communitarians and Libertarians

Communitarian “guru” Amitai Etzioni debated Roger Pilon at Cato two weeks ago. Also me, 18 years ago. And last week he had two postings at the Encyclopedia Britannica blog. I offer some thoughts on individualism, communitarianism, and implausible misrepresentations of libertarianism at the Britannica today.

When I hear communitarians like Etzioni describe the libertarian view of individualism, I wonder if they’ve ever read any libertarian writing other than a Classic Comics edition of Ayn Rand….

There’s no conflict between individualism and community. There’s a conflict between voluntary association and coerced association. And communitarians dance around that conflict.

Do you believe that “The libertarian perspective, put succinctly, begins with the assumption that individual agents are fully formed and their value preferences are in place prior to and outside of any society”? Of course not. Who would? Read the Britannica column to find out who says you do.

DISCLOSE Near the End

The cloture vote on the DISCLOSE Act will soon be taken. It appears that its supporters lack the votes to close off debate.

Brad Smith explains some of the problems of DISCLOSE.

Roger Pilon notes other failings.

President Obama tried to rally the troops yesterday by taking a populist tone. I have never thought Obama was a very good demagogue, and his efforts at populism belie his strengths. President Obama and congressional Democrats are hoping a defeated DISCLOSE will be good for their fall campaigns. Historically, campaign finance issues have had little salience with the public. On these issues, more than others, hope does seem to spring eternal.

Conservatives vs. Libertarians on Judicial Activism

I should have posted this earlier, but if anyone interested in legal issues – should be everyone given that most things coming out of Washington these days have constitutional defects – hasn’t yet read Damon Root’s cover story in the July issue of Reason magazine, drop what you’re doing now and do so.

While not a J.D. – or perhaps because he isn’t – Damon paints a completely accurate picture on the differences between conservative and libertarian approaches to constitutional interpretation and judicial philosophy.  And I don’t mean a rehash of debates on social issues except in legalese; there are real subtleties involved, particularly when most people adhering to either of these camps call themselves “originalists” of one stripe or another.  Damon’s article is both deep and wide, surveying the landscape of relevant legal thinkers and explaining to non-lawyers why all this is so, so important.  (And no, I personally am not featured.)

What is more, you can now also watch Damon discussing his article and reporting in this area:

This is groundbreaking and important journalism.

Individual Mandate Is Constitutional - If You Rewrite the Constitution

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) was asked on Friday where in the Constitution Congress gets the power to force people to buy health insurance.  He said, “Under several clauses, the good and welfare clause and a couple others.”

As it happens, there is no “good and welfare clause” – which Conyers should know, as both judiciary chairman and a lawyer.  But even if you excuse his casual use of constitutional language, what he probably means – the General Welfare Clause of Article I, Section 8 – is not a better answer.  What that clause does is limit Congress’s use of the powers enumerated elsewhere in that section to legislation that promotes ”the general welfare.”  (So earmarks are arguably unconstitutional, though you can make a colorable argument that, when considering a pork bill as a whole, with all parts of the country getting something, that monstrosity is collectively in “the general welfare” – maybe.)  In any event, the General Welfare Clause doesn’t give Congress any additional powers – and I’d be curious to know what the other “several clauses” are.

Conyers  also noted that, “All the scholars, the constitutional scholars that I know … they all say that there’s nothing unconstitutional in this bill and if there were, I would have tried to correct it if I thought there were.”  Well, Mr. Conyers, to start let me introduce you to three constitutional scholars – not fringe right-wing kooks or anything like that, but respected people who publish widely – who think Obamacare is unconstitutional.  Now will you try to “correct” the bill?

Here’s video of Conyers’s full remarks on the subject (h/t Jon Blanks):

And for a survey of the various constitutional issues attending Obamacare, see Randy Barnett’s oped from Sunday’s Washington Post.