Topic: Law and Civil Liberties

Securing Land Rights for Chinese Farmers

A critical determinant of China’s long-term economic growth and social stability will be whether the wealth of its economic boom can reach the majority of its 700 million farmers, who make up approximately 56 percent of the total population. In the new Cato study, “Securing Land Rights for Chinese Farmers: A Leap Forward for Stability and Growth,” authors Zhu Keliang and Roy Prosterman confirm one fundamental cause of the widening rural-urban income gap: most Chinese farmers still lack secure and marketable land rights that would allow them to make long-term investments in land, decisively improve productivity, and accumulate wealth.

Universal Coverage: Check Your Freedom at the Door

Today, the Cato Institute releases a study by attorney Kent Masterson Brown titled, “The Freedom to Spend Your Own Money on Medical Care: A Common Casualty of Universal Coverage.”  Brown addresses a dark side of universal coverage that proponents tend to de-emphasize:

Most people would agree that a patient should always be able to spend his own money on the health care services he desires. Yet that freedom is often threatened or denied when government tries to provide universal health insurance coverage, as in the U.S. Medicare program, which provides health insurance to seniors and people with disabilities. Over the past 20 years, the Medicare bureaucracy—and to a lesser extent Congress itself—has limited the freedom of Medicare beneficiaries to purchase medical services with their own money. Those limitations violate beneficiaries’ right to privacy, undermine a tool that could reduce the burden Medicare imposes on taxpayers, and may deny care to Medicare beneficiaries outright, or deny them access to the highest quality care available.

Brown was the lead attorney in Stewart et al. v. Sullivan (1992) and United Seniors Association et al. v. Shalala (1999), two cases challenging Medicare’s efforts to eliminate beneficiaries’ freedom to spend their own money as they wish.

Note that New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, and others want “Medicare for All,” while Hillary Clinton wants to open Medicare or a similar program to all Americans.

This debate is going to be fun.

Debating the Law of the Sea Treaty

The Law of the Sea Treaty (dubbed LOST by opponents, and LOS by supporters), represents the culmination of a decades-long project to clarify the rules governing the oceans, from the seabed to the waves. The treaty, first rejected by President Reagan in 1982, has been revised over the years; now prominent Republicans, including Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, are urging passage. The Bush Administration has quietly endorsed the process.

Doug Bandow, who wrote a paper for Cato on the subject two years ago, makes a strong case for why the Senate should reject the treaty and continue with the status quo. He squares off this week against Raj Purohit of Citizens for Global Solutions in an online debate at the Partnership for a Secure America.

If you haven’t followed the issue closely, Doug and Raj do a good job of spelling out the relevant arguments for and against.

Mississippi Scandal

Several years ago there was a scandal in West Virginia when people discovered that one of the state’s medical examiners, Fred Zane, did sloppy work and just made things up as he was giving so-called “expert testimony” in criminal trials. Radley Balko seems to have uncovered a similar scandal in Mississippi

For more about Radley Balko’s investigative reporting from Mississippi, read this

Governor Spitzer Gets It Right

In a Cato TechKnowledge newsletter issued today, I’ve updated the world on the status of the REAL ID Act.

One of the more interesting recent developments is the decision by New York Governor Eliot Spitzer to break the link between driver licensing and immigration status. He and the Department of Motor Vehicles commissioner announced the policy September 21st.

De-linking driver licensing and immigration will reduce unlicensed driving, uninsured driving, hit-and-run driving, insurance costs for legal drivers, and roadway injuries. Linking driving and immigration status is a requirement of REAL ID, and Spitzer’s move is another nail in the coffin of this national ID law.

In my TechKnowledge piece, I laud the governor’s action as follows:

Spitzer is not willing to shed the blood of New Yorkers to “take a stand” on immigration, which is not a problem state governments are supposed to solve anyway.It’s a welcome — and somewhat surprising — move, to see a Democrat and law-and-order-type former attorney general resist mission creep in a state bureau and hold fast to the federal system devised in the constitution. But he’s done the right thing. Thanks most recently to Governor Spitzer, and to state leaders from across the ideological spectrum, REAL ID is in collapse.

The move has subjected Spitzer to withering political attacks from Republicans. The attack most embarassing to witness, though, comes from “relatives of 9/11 victims.”

More Reckless Raids?

Today’s NYT reports on reckless pre-dawn raids by immigration officials in New York. Excerpt:

“These were like dragnets being cast over entire houses,” said Nadia Marin-Molina, director of the Workplace Project, an immigrant advocacy organization in Hempstead that has gathered many of the complaints.

The complaints echo a federal lawsuit filed last month in Manhattan contending that immigration agents unlawfully force their way into the homes of Latino families in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unreasonable searches.

“We have been inundated with calls,” said Cesar Perales, director of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which filed the lawsuit. “People are terrified by these indiscriminate raids.”

It is a familiar tale of agents bursting into homes when the occupants are asleep and without having done sufficient investigative work in advance of the raid.  Such tactics produce unnecessary violence.  Sometimes the residents, understandably, think their home is being invaded by criminals. 

The Antitrust Religion

Many successful American businesses have been accused of anti-competitive practices. In The Antitrust Religion, a new book published by the Cato Institute, attorney and author Edwin S. Rockefeller argues that much of the conventional wisdom about antitrust is wrong. Drawing on 50 years of experience with U.S. antitrust laws, Rockefeller sheds light on why lawmakers, bureaucrats, academics, and journalists use arbitrary and irrational laws and enforcement mechanisms to punish capitalists rather than promote competition.

Rockefeller also participated in a Cato daily podcast about the book.