A few weeks ago, the Drug Policy Alliance had its annual convention in Denver. I was on a panel that addressed jury nullification. The other panelists were Clay Conrad (author, Jury Nullification: The Evolution of a Doctrine), Kirsten Tynan (Fully Informed Jury Association), and Steve Silverman (Flex Your Rights). Steve Silverman transcribed the discussion. Here is an excerpt:Clay Conrad
Today judges tell jurors to commit injustice in the name of the law, and we call that progress –Clay Conrad
Clay Conrad is currently a lawyer in private practice. He discusses the history and background of jury nullification. (Jump video of Clay’s talk.)What is Jury Nullification?
“Jury nullification is the act of a criminal trial jury in refusing to convict on conscientious grounds in spite of proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, because they think the law is unjust, the law is misapplied, or the punishment is inappropriate.”
“Juries have always had [a political] role. That’s what the founders intended to protect in the 6th Amendment, and that’s what’s guaranteed in the constitutions of all 50 states.”
“The understanding of the phrase ‘judges of both fact and law’ has changed over the years because our understanding of where the law comes from has changed. Back in that period of history, people believed in natural law doctrine. That was the generally accepted view of where the law comes from. Law was considered part of natural science to be discovered.”
“Today we have a much more technocratic understanding of the law. Natural law doctrine has given way to a positive, formalistic conception of law. But under natural law doctrine when you say the jury is the finder of fact and law, it means they can determine where justice lies, because justice is what the law was. It was the understanding of what was just that was their understanding of the law.”
“Today judges tell jurors to commit injustice in the name of law, and we call that progress.”
Cato will soon be releasing an e-version of Clay Conrad’s book.
Daniel J. Ikenson
The future of multilateral trade has presented some vexing questions for policy watchers over the past few years. With the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations hopelessly stalled and the proliferation of regional and bilateral agreements in its stead, contemplation and debate about the fate of the World Trade Organization, its successful adjudicatory body, international trade governance, and globalization have been all the rage.December continues to shine a particularly bright light on these issues, as U.S. and EU negotiators are in Washington this week discussing the proposed bilateral Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Last week, negotiators from the United States and 11 other nations met in Singapore in an effort to advance the regional Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. The week prior, representatives of 159 WTO members were in Bali, Indonesia for the Ninth Ministerial Conference (MC-9), where a multilateral agreement was reached on a set of issues for the first time in the WTO’s 19-year history.
The significance of the Bali deal depends on whom you ask. Those heavily vested in the current architecture of the multilateral system tend to hail Bali as proof that multilateral negotiations are back in business and that there is renewed promise for completing the long-stalled Doha Round. Frankly, taking 12 years to forge an agreement on trade facilitation (basically, reform of customs procedures, which constitutes a tiny fraction of the Doha Round’s objectives) plus some concessions to permit more subsidization of agriculture in the name of food security is not exactly convincing evidence that Doha Round negotiators have demonstrated their cost effectiveness or the utility of this approach.
The most enlightening (and liberating) conclusion from Bali is that the agreement killed the Doha Round. By peeling off the trade facilitation negotiations and reaching agreement, Bali circumvented what has been, arguably, one of the greatest obstacles to the Doha Round’s success: the commitment of negotiators to the “single undertaking,” which pledges that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
With Bali a direct hit on that unwieldy concept, WTO negotiators are free to take-up Doha Round issues in other, more manageable fora, thus liberating governments to pursue global trade barrier reduction in myriad new ways. Why not have a series of mini-rounds and pursue fewer issues at a time by matching negotiations on, say, agricultural and industrial liberalization? Or by matching talks on services with talks on rules, like antidumping? Yes, there need to be adequate tradeoffs in a world of reciprocity-based trade agreements, but the notion that everything needs to be on the table to accomplish those tradeoffs has been rendered quaint–if not inutile–by the changing composition and interests of the WTO membership. If particular governments are the problem, why not pursue more plurilateral deals? Why not establish a mechanism in the WTO through which demonstrably successful provisions from the universe of existing and brewing bilateral and regional agreements can be adopted as best practices by taking up these issues and voting on an annual basis? These approaches could facilitate liberalization and give the WTO new credibility.
But Bali doesn’t only offer guidance to WTO negotiators. Before U.S. and EU negotiators get too far along–where they are near certain to get stuck in the deep mud created by trying to resolve dozens of highly contentious and highly technical issues on “one tank of gas”–they should consider the alternative of taking the negotiations in smaller bites. Despite the original announced deadline of 2014, negotiators are quietly acknowledging that projection is overly ambitious. But so too are 2015, 2016, and 2017. There are simply too many issues on the table and too much suspicion that local autonomy over traditionally domestic matters is up for bargaining that the amount of time needed for public debate has been vastly underestimated. Meanwhile, it is unclear that government’s can stay committed to the TTIP agenda if it drags on for several years.
This short paper explains in greater detail the rationale for breaking the TTIP up into three, two-year negotiations that yield three successive agreements. The ideas conveyed are certainly bound to raise objections and even scorn. But by exposing the single undertaking as an obstacle to liberalization, the Bali Agreement has some lessons that TTIP negotiators would be wise to understand.
Though the NCAA still runs ads suggesting that college sports is all about students who happen to be athletes, big-time college football and basketball programs have basically given up the pretense of being about anything other than big bucks and big wins. See, for instance, the latest power play by the “BCS” football conferences.
That’s fine – better they be open about what drives them. Unfortunately, as I write in this SeeThruEdu post, the rest of higher ed is similarly self-interested. Problem is, it won’t admit it, and uses the notion that it’s all about the “common good” to get taxpayer money, often without producing any real benefit for the people paying the bills.
In the wake of a tragedy, there is a natural and understandable desire to prevent something similar from ever happening again. Unfortunately, legislators too often respond hastily to the passionate demands that they “do something” without thinking through the consequences of their actions. This phenomenon gave rise to the morbid truism that “dead kids make bad laws,” such as “Kyleigh’s Law” in New Jersey. In the wake of a fatal car accident involving a teenage driver, the state legislature passed a law requiring teens to drive vehicles with special decals to make it easier for police to enforce an 11:00pm curfew. When irate parents raised concerns that the decals put their children at risk of being followed by pedophiles, 13 legislators who had initially voted for the law filed a bill to repeal it.
The story that gave rise to “Teddy’s Law” (Senate Bill 248) in Ohio is similarly heartbreaking and the legislative response has been similarly misguided. After teachers reported their suspicions about abuse to Children’s Services, Teddy Foltz-Tedesco’s mother pulled him out of school under the pretense that she would homeschool him. Instead, her boyfriend, Zaryl Bush, tortured and killed the 14-year-old Teddy. Bush is now serving life in prison.
Teddy’s story is a tragic failure of the system to protect him after years of warning signs and reports from neighbors. However, the legislators’ response goes in the wrong direction. Rather than address why social services failed to act on repeated reports of abuse, “Teddy’s Law” treats all would-be homeschooler parents as child abusers until proven innocent. The legislation further assumes that all children belong to the state, as it requires families to seek permission from the government to homeschool their own children. They would have to submit to background checks and a social services investigation in which parents and children are interviewed separately. The law grants the agency the authority to deny the right to homeschool if it “determines it is not in the best interest of the child,” without providing any guidelines as to how that determination should be made.
And while it unconstititionally treats all parents as possible criminals, the Home School Legal Defense Association argues that “Teddy’s Law” likely would not have even saved Teddy:
Even if, as SB 248 would require, his mother had sought social service’s approval to homeschool and was denied, he still would have been at home subject to abuse after school. Regardless of where he went to school, Teddy was left by authorities in a home where they knew abuse was occurring.
Clearly, SB 248 would not have saved Teddy.
SB 248 turns fundamental American values upside down. Parents have been deemed by the United States Supreme Court in Parham v. JR to act in their children’s best interests. In Pierce v. Society of Sisters, the Court ruled that parents have a fundamental right to direct the education of their children. This law replaces parents with unqualified social workers to make educational decisions for children.
Moreover, as HSLDA notes, by treating all parents as child abusers, “Teddy’s Law” diverts scarce resources away from focusing on parents actually suspected of child abuse. Instead of protecting children like Teddy, the misguided law would make it more likely that future Teddys would fall through the cracks.
North Korea’s “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il has been dead not quite two years, but his son, Kim Jong-un, appears to have taken control. And in a much bloodier fashion than predicted, with the execution of his uncle and one-time mentor Jang Song-taek. However, no one knows whether the regime is stabilizing or destabilizing.
The ascension of Kim fils never seemed certain. Not yet 30 when his father passed, Kim had had little time to secure the levers of power. Moreover, Pyongyang is a political snake-pit.
Over the last two years hundreds of officials, many in the military, have been removed from office. Until Jang the most dramatic defenestration was of army chief of staff Ri Yong-ho. His departure in July 2012, alleged for reasons of health, was dramatic and sudden.
Of greater concern to the West was North Korean policy. The country had established a reputation for brinkmanship and confrontation. The new government reinforced this approach.
For instance, rhetorical attacks on and threats against South Korea and the U.S. rose to unprecedented heights. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea recently detained an 84-year-old American Korean War veteran and tourist for six weeks on bizarre charges.
Equally important, there is no evidence of reform, either economic or political. Observed Bruce Klingner of the Heritage Foundation: Kim Jong-un “has increased public executions, expanded the gulags for political prisoners, and increased government punishment for anyone caught with information from the outside world.”
Now comes Jang’s ouster. There is no reason for the West to mourn his passing. But previously family members only disappeared.
Jang’s execution could demonstrate that Kim Jong-un is solidifying his rule. Removing another minder appointed by his father would seem to leave Kim more securely in charge. Moreover, a willingness to execute likely deters anyone but the most determined or desperate from challenging the leadership.
Nevertheless, the DPRK could be heading for further instability. The episode is unprecedented, which suggests that something is amiss in paradise. Jang could have been the casualty of a messy power struggle likely to grow worse. If he can be taken down, no one is safe. Fear may widen leadership divisions, spur internal resistance, and draw in the military.
Political uncertainty in Pyongyang almost certainly will reduce the already minimal likelihood of domestic reform and foreign engagement. If Kim truly has consolidated power, he might feel freer to act. However, even then orchestrating a wider purge would absorb time and effort. And if he fears continuing opposition to his reign he probably will put off any potentially controversial policies, especially if they conflict with the interests of the military, which still potentially wields ultimate power.
Further, Jang was associated with economic reform and China relations. After his death Jang was criticized for his economic activities. It is hard to imagine economic reform speeding up in a government sundered by a power struggle in which a top economic official was just executed.
The greatest danger is that Kim Jong-un’s apparent ruthlessness may be less constrained internationally than that of his father and grandfather. If the younger Kim is taking on full dictatorial power, he might misperceive domestic authority as translating into international strength. Or if his authority is under challenge at home, he might be tempted to provoke a foreign crisis.
The DPRK long has been the land of no good options, the geopolitical problem with no good answers. Even if Jang’s execution changes nothing, it reminds us that North Korea remains a threatening yet mysterious presence in Northeast Asia. And the ongoing leadership transition—whether solidified or unsettled—isn’t likely to bring peace or stability to the region.
Paul C. "Chip" Knappenberger and Patrick J. Michaels
Global Science Report is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science, where we highlight one or two important new items in the scientific literature or the popular media. For broader and more technical perspectives, consult our monthly “Current Wisdom.”
We hear that there is looming banana crisis in Costa Rica—the world’s 2nd leading exporter of the fruit—as this year’s crop is being threatened by an infestation of mealybugs, scale insects, and fungal infection.
Petulance, plagues, disease? It must be climate change, of course!
The Director of the Costa Rican Agriculture and Livestock Ministry’s State Phytosanitary Services, Magda González, told the San José Tico Times, “Climate change, by affecting temperature, favors the conditions under which [the insects] reproduce.” González estimated that the rising temperature and concomitant changes in precipitation patterns could shorten the reproduction cycle of the insect pests by a third. “I can tell you with near certainty that climate change is behind these pests.”
This is bananas.
But there’s a method to Gonzalez’ madness. In it’s recent Warsaw confab on climate change, the UN has made it abundantly clear that one of its endgames is compelling “reparations” for climate damages cost by dreaded emissions of carbon dioxide. The more that poorer nations make these claims—however fatuously—the more momentum builds to extract capital from me and thee.
May we humbly suggest that calling Ms. Gonzalez’ claim “fatuous” is really being too nice. She should actually propose compensating the United States for all the excess bananas that are associated with warmer temperatures.
Figure 1 shows banana production in Costa Rica from 1961-2011. Figure 2 shows the temperatures there over the same period. We hate to burst anyone’s climate-change-is bad-bubble, but the correlation between these two variables is positive. That is, higher temperatures are associated with greater banana production (and yield).
Figure 1. Annual production (tonnes) and yield (Hg/Ha) of bananas in Costa Rica (data from FAOSTAT)
Figure 2. Annual temperature anomalies in Costa Rica, 1961-2011 (data from Berkeley Earth).
And as far as precipitation goes, the trends down there are all over the place—some stations show trends towards increasing rainfall amounts, while others nearby, towards decreasing amounts. The geography of the country, along with all sorts of external influences including tropical cyclone activity, sea surface temperature patterns, and larger-scale circulation systems in both the Pacific and Atlantic makes for a very complex pattern precipitation variability, both temporally and spatially, across Costa Rica. It is virtually impossible to assess the influence of recent human-caused climate change in such a complicated and highly variable natural system.
So you have a situation where annual precipitation variability is high and where warmer conditions seem to be associated with greater banana yields.
While it is probably not out completely out of the question that some sort of weather influence may, in part, play some role in the current affliction of the Costa Rica banana crop, to implicate human-caused global warming, you’d have to have gone completely…, well, you know.
But climate policy has always functioned best in a data-free environment, about the only way a cheap hustle like that of the Costa Rican National Phytosanitariest merits any attention at all.
Michael D. Tanner
Welfare advocates regularly urge Americans to look to the European welfare state as a model. At least in the case of the Netherlands, they might be on to something.
The Dutch have just announced a massive reform of their welfare system, designed to reduce dependency and put a new emphasis on work. For example, welfare applicants will now be required to prove that they spent at least 4 weeks actively searching for a job before they become eligible for any assistance. And once they begin to receive benefits they will either have to work or perform volunteer community service. Dutch welfare recipients would be required to take available jobs even if they had to move or commute up to three hours per day.
Given that just 42 percent of U.S. welfare recipients are engaged in even broadly defined work activities (including job training, college, or job search), and that an attempt to restore work requirements to the food stamp program has been met with a storm of resistance, the Dutch appear to be much more pro-work than we are.
Other reforms would reduce benefits by treating families as a single unit, rather than as separate individuals. For instance a mother with two children would receive a single payment rather than three separate payments. The combined payment would be less, based on the assumption of “shared expense.”
According to the Dutch government, the reforms will ensure that welfare is seen as “a safety net, rather than a right.”
What the Dutch apparently understand is that, in the long run, welfare dependency hurts the very people it is designed to help. Making poverty a bit more comfortable may be satisfying in the short term, but the real goal should be to reduce the number of people in poverty. To do that requires people to take more responsibility for their own lives.
That’s a lesson in European compassion that the U.S. could learn from.
K. William Watson
Some members of Congress are upset that other countries around the world are taking action to protect their citizens from the U.S. spy machine. But rather than doing something within their own power to address the economic backlash from U.S. policies by, say, changing the policy, these members of Congress are blaming others and threatening to bully them. According to an AP report:
Germany has asked European Union officials to consider restrictions that would prevent U.S. companies from processing commercial and personal data from customers in Europe. That could affect the flow of information and hurt U.S. businesses such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.
A bipartisan group of House members — 12 Democrats and six Republicans — has sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, insisting that nations abandon such efforts as a condition of pending trade pacts. (emphasis added)
Maybe reducing the ability of Americans to do business with foreigners is the only way to keep terrible harm from coming to U.S. companies impacted by this scandal. I’m skeptical, so let’s ask them:
Lawmakers sent the letter a week after a coalition of businesses including Google, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft penned its own, asking Obama to curb the surveillance programs.
Silicon Valley has been fighting in the courts and in Congress for changes that would allow them to disclose more information about the secret government orders they receive. Several companies are introducing more encryption technology to shield their users’ data from government spies and other prying eyes. (emphasis added)
Since option B solves the problem and increases liberty, let’s try that one first, please.
(I would be remiss not to point out the House Intelligence Committee’s strident condemnation just last year of Huawei, and their subsequent recommendation that U.S. companies avoid doing business with the Chinese telecom giant to ward off vague dangers of cyber espionage.)
Last fiscal year Uncle Sam had some budget good news. After running $1 trillion-plus deficits four years in a row, Washington had to borrow “just” $680 billion in 2013.
True, that was the fifth highest deficit in history, 50 percent greater than the pre-financial crash record. But it’s only the taxpayers’ money, so what’s the big deal?
Now Republicans and Democrats have come together on Capitol Hill to increase both outlays and taxes. Bipartisanship in action!
That the Democratic Party wants to spend more is hardly surprising. But the GOP has demonstrated yet again that its principal role in Washington is to hold the coats of Democrats who raid the Treasury.
The legislation adopted by the House drops sequestration, which actually trimmed federal outlays, and hikes spending over the next two years by $62 billion. In return, Congress promises to lower the collective deficit over the next decade by $85 billion.
The accord raises revenue, including $12.6 billion in airline taxes. There are a few spending reductions—kind of.
in the same bill the House GOP voted to drop discretionary spending cuts for 2014 approved just two years ago. Yet the new entitlement caps are slated to take effect after two presidential elections and four congressional elections. Which means the reductions will never occur.
Of course, holding only the House means the Republican Party has to compromise, as it learned during the recent health care battle. However, a budget fight would have been far easier. The GOP merely had to support the fiscal status quo, sequester included, unless the Democrats offered equivalent alternative cuts.
Earlier this year the Congressional Budget Office highlighted the stakes: “Between 2009 and 2012, the federal government recorded the largest budget deficits relative to the size of the economy since 1946.” The debt-GDP ratio “is higher than at any point in U.S. history except a brief period around World War II, and it is twice the percent at the end of 2007.”
Today the national debt exceeds both $17.2 trillion and runs nearly $150,000 per taxpayer. Before the GOP cave-in the CBO figured that in the best case Uncle Sam would add $6.3 trillion more in red ink over the next decade. Starting in 2016 deficits would begin another inexorable rise.
Unfortunately, CBO expected Congress to act like Congress—meaning to abandon fiscal discipline and avoid making hard decisions. The agency’s “alternative” fiscal scenario figures the added red ink over the coming decade could run $8.8 trillion.
Of course, the biggest long-term issue is entitlements. Explained CBO, absent serious and meaningful reforms in this area “debt will rise sharply relative to GDP after 2023.”
Putting everything together yields a mountain of liabilities. Economist Laurence Kotlikoff figured Uncle Sam’s total unfunded obligations exceed $220 trillion, around 14 years of our current GDP.
The only alternatives to spending reform are confiscatory taxation and irresponsible borrowing. However, warned CBO: “Increased borrowing by the federal government generally draws money away from (that is, crowds out) private investment in productive capital. … The result is a smaller stock of capital and lower output in the long run than would otherwise be the case.”
Which ultimately means a smaller economy and lower incomes even as government obligations increase. Concluded CBO, higher debts and marginal tax rates would “reduce real GNP by about 4 percent by 2038,” and as much as six percent. The more pessimistic but realistic “extended alternative fiscal scenario” yields even worse results, most likely a seven percent drop in GDP, and perhaps more.
As usual, the GOP is putting party politics before national interest. The Democrats do the same, of course, but at least they are less sanctimonious when doing so. Republican dishonesty and hypocrisy compounds Republican budget irresponsibility.
Ted Galen Carpenter
A relatively new development in Mexico’s ongoing drug wars is the increasingly active role of vigilante groups. That is especially true in Michoacán and other states in the western portion of the country. I discuss that development in a new article over at the National Interest Online.
The initial temptation might be to cheer on the vigilantes. After all, the rise of “self defense militias” indicates that a growing number of Mexicans are now willing to resist the power of the brutal cartels and fight back, if necessary. But for two reasons one ought to resist the temptation to applaud. First, the nature of many of the militias is exceedingly murky. Some of them may even be front groups for rival trafficking organizations seeking to displace the dominant cartel in a particular region.
Second, even in cases where the vigilante groups are genuine anti-cartel forces, the growth of vigilantism is a worrisome sign. It is an emphatic vote of “no confidence” in the government’s ability to maintain order and the rule of law. That is similar to what occurred in Colombia from the late 1980s through the early years of the 21st century. As the power of drug gangs and their radical leftist guerrilla allies surged, frightened and angry Colombians formed right-wing militias in many rural areas. But some of those groups soon became little more than death squads, and for a time, Colombia seemed to be heading down the path toward becoming a failed state. We certainly do not want to see a comparable trend in our next door neighbor.
The rise of vigilantism in Mexico is yet another reminder of the disastrous consequences of drug prohibition. That strategy greatly raises the retail price of a product that a large number of consumers insist on using. Creating such a lucrative black market premium fills the coffers of those willing to defy the law to traffic in that product. And the vast majority of individuals and groups willing to take that path are ruthless criminal elements. Prohibition, in short, empowers and enriches thugs.
Washington’s enthusiasm for and insistence upon preserving an international drug prohibition policy has caused enormous problems for Mexico and other drug-source countries. As the leading consumer of illegal drugs and the most powerful member of the international community, the United States largely determines the direction of policy on this issue. Fortunately, there are signs of changing attitudes on both the domestic and international fronts. Public opinion surveys show that a majority of Americans are now in favor of legalizing marijuana, the mildest of illegal drugs, and such states as Colorado and Washington have already adopted modest legalization measures. Uruguay has gone even further, legalizing not only the possession and use of marijuana but also commerce in that drug.
Uruguay’s course is the correct one. It’s not enough to legalize drug possession—the trade itself needs to be taken out of the hands of criminal syndicates. And if we wish to defund the cartels, abolishing prohibition must apply to all currently illegal drugs, not just marijuana. Our policy makers need to internalize the lesson that prohibition not only does not work, it causes horrific unintended consequences. That was true of America’s foolish crusade against alcohol in the 1920s and early 1930s, and it is true in spades of the current crusade against illegal drugs. The surge of vigilantism in Mexico and the threat of chaos it embodies should spur policy makers to finally recognize that reality.
Few could imagine a more troubling free speech and due process case than that of Hayden Barnes. Barnes, a student at Valdosta State University in Georgia, peacefully protested the planned construction of a $30 million campus parking garage that was the pet project of university president Ronald Zaccari. A “personally embarrassed” Zaccari didn’t take kindly to that criticism and vowed to retaliate.
Ignoring longstanding legal precedent, the Valdosta State University Student Handbook (a legally binding contract), and the counsel of fellow administrators, Zaccari ordered staff to look into Barnes’s academic records, his medical history, his religion, and his registration with the VSU Access Office. The federal district court found that Barnes’s due process rights had been violated and denied Zaccari qualified immunity from liability for his actions, but also interpreted Barnes’s First Amendment claim narrowly and sharply reduced his award of attorney’s fees.
In the first appeal of this case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (decided in 2012), Cato joined a brief filed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education on behalf of 15 organizations arguing that qualified immunity was inappropriate given Zaccari’s brazen violation of Barnes’s constitutional rights to free speech and due process. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of qualified immunity, restating that malicious public officials aren’t entitled to special protections when they clearly violate the rights of another.
Now again before the Eleventh Circuit on the question of damages, Barnes is appealing the district court’s narrow interpretation of his First Amendment claim and the way it handled attorney’s fees. Cato has again joined with FIRE and numerous other groups on a brief supporting the full vindication of Barnes’s freedom of speech.
In this latest brief, we argue that the district court’s ruling threatens to encourage further First Amendment violations by inexplicably letting the defendants off on lesser claims (which weren’t even pled)—even though Barnes’s complaint clearly set forth detailed allegations of First Amendment-violating retaliation. We also argue that the district court erroneously applied a severe across-the-board reduction of its attorney’s fees award, even though that amount was supposed to address costs already deducted from the total. The court even granted reverse attorney’s fees for some of the defendants who were held not liable, going so far as calling those claims frivolous solely because they were unsuccessful.
The Eleventh Circuit should rework the attorney’s fees award, especially given the incalculable public benefit derived from such suits. Students who stand up for their constitutional rights are rare, and imposing unfavorable fee awards will only make it more difficult for them to secure strong representation. (Barnes’s counsel is the renowned First Amendment lawyer, and friend of Cato, Robert Corn-Revere.) While the district court did acknowledge that Hayden Barnes’s First Amendment rights were violated, its remedy consisted of half-hearted half-measures We hope that the Eleventh Circuit corrects that mistake, sending university officials the loud, clear message that constitutional protections don’t stop at the edge of campus.
In debates about the NSA’s mass surveillance of all our phone calling, pro-government lawyers have often tried to play a trump card called Smith v. Maryland. Smith is a 1978 Supreme Court decision as right for our times as laws requiring public buildings to provide spittoons. But lawyering rightly relies heavily on precedent, so there it was, the argument that people don’t have a constitutional interest in data about their phone calling because a suspected burglar and obscene phone-caller didn’t have such an interest back in 1976.
D.C. district court judge Richard Leon ruled today that Smith is not an appropriate precedent for considering the constitutionality of the NSA’s mass surveillance program. “[T]he Smith pen register and the ongoing NSA Bulk Telephony Metadata Program,” he concluded, “have so many significant distinctions between them that I cannot possibly navigate these uncharted Fourth Amendment waters using as my North Star a case that predates the rise of cell phones.”
When phone calling was home- or office-bound and relatively rare, people’s interest in the information about their calling was not as great as it is today. Cell phones now accompany most people everywhere they go every single day. “[T]he ubiquity of phones has dramatically altered the quantity of information that is now available and, more importantly, what that information can tell the Government about people’s lives.” (emphases omitted)
Judge Leon applied the “reasonable expectation of privacy” test in finding that he is likely to determine that the NSA’s data seizures are a Fourth Amendment violation, even though that standard has been thrown into doubt by recent Supreme Court decisions. But what is important is that his decision breaks the circular logic adopted by the panels of judges ratifying mass domestic surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. These panels believed they could act in secret because of the premise that Americans don’t have a constitutional interest in data about their calls. Their secret operations barred Americans from contesting that premise. And the band played on. Until someone leaked this mass domestic spying to the public.
Judge Leon’s assessment of the government’s interest is notable. He picked up on the fact that the government’s collection of data about all our calls is simply to make things a little quicker when they want to do an investigation.
“[T]he Government’s interest,” he writes, “is not merely to investigate potential terrorists, but rather, to do so faster than other methods might allow. … Yet … the Government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the Government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature.” (emphases omitted)
Databasing of all our calls is a convenience and not a necessity. That stacks up poorly against the privacy costs all Americans suffer by having their phone-calling catalogued in government databases.
There will almost certainly be an appeal, and there will be more cases coming up through the courts that explore the many dimensions of this issue. But now we can tell our lawyer friends who have been a little too slavish to precedent that Smith v. Maryland is not good law.
Thomas A. Firey
In the newspaper business, the most precious space is on the front page, above the fold, of the Sunday edition. In that space yesterday, the Washington Post trumpeted that the Obama White House had ”systematically delayed enacting a series of rules on the environment, worker safety and health care to prevent them from becoming points of contention before the 2012 election.”
The Obama administration has repeatedly said that any delays until after the election were coincidental and that such decisions were made without regard to politics. But seven current and former administration officials told The Washington Post that the motives behind many of the delays were clearly political, as Obama’s top aides focused on avoiding controversy before his reelection.
The number and scope of delays under Obama went well beyond those of his predecessors, who helped shape rules but did not have the same formalized controls, said current and former officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.
For many WaPo readers, this revelation may be shocking. For readers of the Cato Institute’s journal Regulation, it’s old news.
Last spring, the American Action Forum’s Sam Batkins and the Bush Institute’s Ike Brannon reported that federal data show the Obama administration’s regulatory activity had slowed in 2012. Their explanation for the “pause”: “presidents up for reelection typically delay controversial regulations that could anger various constituencies.” Because the administration felt confident of President Obama’s reelection, they saw little reason to push through rules in a mad dash of “midnight regulation” and instead kept their activities out of the voters’ sight.
Batkins and Brannon go on to say that now that the 2012 election has safely passed, we should not expect a mad dash of regulation. That’s not good news, however. As they explain, “a reelected president has little compunction to issue regulations quickly—not with four more years of governing in the offing. As a result, no one should interpret the regulatory pause in 2012 as evidence of a new ‘go slow’ approach by the Obama administration.”
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), a figure well known to Catoites, is among the few members of Congress for whom the description “libertarian” does not seem like a stretch. Chair of the House Liberty Caucus, Rep. Amash is famous not only for his strong stands on behalf of limited government and for leading left-right alliances on such subjects as NSA surveillance but also for explaining publicly the reasons for each vote he takes in the House, which he seeks to derive from the language and principles of the U.S. Constitution.
Inevitably, some Republicans as well as Democrats are not happy with what he’s up to, and financial consultant Brian Ellis has launched a primary challenge against Rep. Amash in his Third Congressional District. Ellis says western Michigan “is not a libertarian district, and I’m willing to stake my campaign on that.” Some GOP businessmen in and around Grand Rapids are backing Ellis’s challenge, though many others side with Amash.
Now the Weekly Standard is out with a piece by Maria Santos profiling the primary fight, which caught my attention with the following quote from Ellis:
“He’s got his explanations for why he’s voted, but I don’t really care. I’m a businessman, I look at the bottom line.” He has no use for Amash’s constitutional scruples, remarking, “If something is unconstitutional, we have a court system that looks at that.”
The first two sentences, at least as I would interpret them, basically amount to: “If you want someone to represent you who votes on principle and can explain his reasons, go ahead and stick with Justin because I don’t intend to decide on votes that way.” But it’s the follow-up that really caught me in mid-breath. As the House Clerk’s site explains, under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, each member of the U.S. House on assuming office takes an oath pledging to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” to “bear true faith and allegiance to the same,” and to “well and faithfully discharge” the office’s duties. There is a structural reason why the Constitutional oath is required of officers in the legislative branch, and not merely of those in the executive and judiciary. It is that lawmakers are just as capable of breaking faith with the Constitution as members of those other branches. The main way they do so is to vote, knowingly or through inadvertence, for bills that overstep its provisions.
In other words, it sounds as if Mr. Ellis has chosen to kick off his campaign by promising to violate his oath of office.
In the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan calls the Ryan-Murray budget deal a “step in the right direction,” which echoes a claim by Rep. Paul Ryan. She says the deal “goes in the right general direction, not the wrong one.”
But how could a deal composed of spending and revenue increases possibly be the right direction when the government is already far too large? Noonan points to savings from “a little entitlement reform” that will “compound in the outyears.” She seems to be referring to planned health care provider cuts in 2022 and 2023, but those tiny trims are purely smoke and mirrors.
Noonan says “the deal breaks the caps for discretionary spending but fortunately leaves most of the sequester intact.” But that is not true for 2014, which is the only year that matters in a discretionary spending deal since appropriations is an annual process. Indeed, this deal proves that Congress can’t be trusted on caps or other sorts of promises for future discretionary spending restraint.
Before this deal, 2014 discretionary spending was to be sequestered $20 billion and capped at $967 billion. I had thought that GOP leaders would perhaps agree to put aside the $20 billion cut in exchange for some actual entitlement reforms. But the deal hikes 2014 spending to $1.012 trillion, or $45 billion above the current law amount. That’s not “moderate progress” as Noonan says, but a total GOP cave-in.
Noonan calls the deal a “confidence-building measure” that could “encourage both parties toward bigger agreements, such as tax reform.” In fact, approval of this tax-and-spending deal will blow the trust of fiscal conservatives that GOP leaders could negotiate any reasonable deal with Democrats on bigger issues such as tax reform. Rather than build confidence, this deal will undermine the confidence of conservative voters that Republican leaders are on their side. Sadly, this deal shows that today’s GOP leaders would probably be taken to the cleaners by the Democrats on a major tax or entitlement reform deal.
Many in New York’s professional and cultural elite have long supported President Obama’s health care plan. But now, to their surprise, thousands of writers, opera singers, music teachers, photographers, doctors, lawyers and others are learning that their health insurance plans are being canceled and they may have to pay more to get comparable coverage, if they can find it.
It’s a liberals’ nightmare:
It is not lost on many of the professionals that they are exactly the sort of people — liberal, concerned with social justice — who supported the Obama health plan in the first place. Ms. Meinwald, the lawyer, said she was a lifelong Democrat who still supported better health care for all, but had she known what was in store for her, she would have voted for Mitt Romney.
It is an uncomfortable position for many members of the creative classes to be in.
“We are the Obama people,” said Camille Sweeney, a New York writer and member of the Authors Guild. Her insurance is being canceled, and she is dismayed that neither her pediatrician nor her general practitioner appears to be on the exchange plans. What to do has become a hot topic on Facebook and at dinner parties frequented by her fellow writers and artists.
“I’m for it,” she said. “But what is the reality of it?”
But I noticed something that I haven’t seen any comments on: the way the Affordable Care Act is forcing people out of group plans and forcing them to enter the health insurance system as individuals:
They are part of an unusual, informal health insurance system that has developed in New York, in which independent practitioners were able to get lower insurance rates through group plans, typically set up by their professional associations or chambers of commerce. That allowed them to avoid the sky-high rates in New York’s individual insurance market, historically among the most expensive in the country.
But under the Affordable Care Act, they will be treated as individuals, responsible for their own insurance policies. For many of them, that is likely to mean they will no longer have access to a wide network of doctors and a range of plans tailored to their needs. And many of them are finding that if they want to keep their premiums from rising, they will have to accept higher deductible and co-pay costs or inferior coverage.
Libertarian scholars stress the importance of civil society. I wrote about it in Libertarianism: A Primer. David Beito wrote a whole book on the mutual aid associations that brought people together in social groups were replaced by “impersonal bureaucracies controlled by outsiders.” Tocqueville and his modern followers extolled the virtues of “mediating institutions” that stood between the lone individual and the all-powerful state.
Now it seems that Obamacare, perhaps unintentionally, is destroying some of those mutual aid organizations, those mediating institutions, in order to force individuals to deal directly with the state and/or the vast insurance corporations.
Left-liberals often accuse libertarians of favoring “atomistic individualism” – an absurd charge about people who regard cooperation as so essential to human flourishing that we don’t just want to talk about it, we want to create social institutions that make it possible. But now it seems we have another example of a big-government, left-liberal policy that is pushing people away from cooperation and community and toward atomistic individualism.
Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. "Chip" Knappenberger
The Current Wisdom is a series of monthly articles in which Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. “Chip” Knappenberger, from Cato’s Center for the Study of Science, review interesting items on global warming in the scientific literature that may not have received the media attention that they deserved, or have been misinterpreted in the popular press.
It’s guaranteed: every article which is “part of a year-long series that explores the places and ways in which climate change affects us” will paint a horrific picture, a part of the strange universe of global warming journalism.
Consider this: global warming has been with us as an issue for a quarter-century. Everyone knows that it lengthens the beach season, but we have yet to see one article showing nubile females and tanned hunks frolicking on the shore.In 25 years of global warming hype, why hasn’t one article noted that it will increase the number of beach days? Where’s the beef?
In a recent USA Today article “Diseases on the move because of climate change,” The Campaign Continues.
It’s biblical. Brain-eating amoebas. Killer ticks. A fungus kills many among us. About the only thing missing from this one is all the deaths that will result from hail the size of canned hams.
It’s mind-boggling. 0.8°C ago, around 1900, life expectancy was one half what it is now. Malaria was endemic. Food and water-borne illnesses were real killers. All have been pretty much vanquished, despite dreaded warming. Not a mention of this.
Such droning is probably why people tune this stuff out. There’s an epidemic of the real global warming-related malady, apocalypse fatigue,  and still the Society of Environmental[ist] Journalists hasn’t gotten the email.
There’s no need to bring out climate change to explain recent patterns of the diseases that can be thoroughly accounted for by any of a large collection of confounding factors. We meant human-caused climate change as that’s the pernicious kind (it’s too bad we can’t ask our ancestors how much they liked the very natural ice age).
First, the brain-eating amoebas. They prefer warm bodies of fresh water. They are nasty critters that are virtually always fatal when they set up shop inside their victims—which are usually young children. The latter attributes make them attention getters, although the former is why they find themselves a focus of the USA Today article, which states that they are “showing up in northern lakes that were once too cold to harbor [them].”
The evidence? There have been two, count ‘em, two cases (the first in 2010, another in 2012) from a single lake in Minnesota—where, according to the USA Today, “[t]he water in Minnesota had been too cold for [the brain-eating amoebas] to thrive.” “But August 2010 was the third-warmest in Minneapolis since 1891.”
Okay then. So is this a part of a trend towards warmer Augusts in the Black Fly state?
Just because of our experience with the facts never getting in the way of a good global warming scare story, we went to the website of the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and used their tool to plot the history of August temperatures in Minnesota from 1895 through 2013 (USA Today could have done this as well). Figure 1 shows the result. 2010 is warm, but it isn’t the third warmest. According to NCDC, which also ranks the data in tabular form, 2010 was seventh-warmest. Further, there are ten additional years within a degree of 2010. It is therefore reasonable to estimate that there have been 17 years in the climate record that could support the brain munchers.
And, as is obvious from NCDC’s figure, it’s impossible to see a global warming signal in the Minnesota August data—unless you think that the noisy up-trend from roughly 1910-1930 was because of dreaded greenhouse gas emissions—something no one would want to contend in a live debate format, for fear of professional death—and not from brain eating amoebas, but from brain-beating data.
Figure 1. August statewide average temperature history for Minnesota, 1895-2013, as compiled by the National Climatic Data Center (source: NCDC)
But in case you’re still scared of your brain being eaten because of global warming, the Centers for Disease Control can only find 128 cases of infection by the brain-eating amoeba in the entire USA since 1962. And, according to the CDC, “It does not appear that the number of infections has increased since CDC established its Free-living Ameba (FLA) Laboratory and PAM registry in 1978.” Figure 2 (from the CDC) shows the number of reported cases in each year.
Figure 2. Annual occurrence of infection by brain-eating amoeba, 1962-2012 (from the CDC).
Since 1962, there have been roughly 100,000,000 deaths in the U.S. Of those, 128 have been from brain-eating amoeba—a percentage so low my old-fashioned handheld calculator can’t figure it.
Perhaps USA Today could do better with its coverage of tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease?
USA Today tells us (who told them, we wonder) a generally warming climate along with changes in extreme weather are demonstrably responsible for more tick-to-human disease transmission, despite a whole list of other confounding factors—many which are included in the article itself, such as humans moving closer to forests, and forest regrowth, and still others such as greater recognition of the disease, improved medical detection technologies, not to mention questions concerning the accuracy of surveillance data.
A recent review of Lyme disease in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives described the history of the disease in this way [references removed]:
The infection’s sudden rise in the United States in the 1970s gave the impression that Lyme disease was caused by a newly invading pathogen, but the diaries of early American settlers reported abundant ticks, and the evidence now shows that [Borrelia burgdorferi, Bb] is an ancient infection in North America. Distinctive Bb genes have been identified in museum collections of ticks from the 1940s and of white-footed mice from the turn of the twentieth century, and studies of genetic variation in separate populations of Bb suggest the pathogen existed across much of the present-day United States many thousands of years before European settlement. Nevertheless, genetic analyses indicate that this genus of bacteria originated in Europe.
Bb is a microbe of forest habitats, and its history is tied to human land use. As European settlers moved west across the United States, they cleared great swaths of forest. Deer, one of the major hosts for black-legged ticks, were overhunted and dwindled to a few small, scattered populations. Populations of white-footed mice, an important reservoir host for Bb, also declined. But in some undisturbed spots in the Northeast and the Midwest, deer, white-footed mice, their tick parasites, and Bb all survived. With the abandonment of most northeastern farm fields in the mid-nineteenth century, forests regenerated, and the microbe traveled with its tick and vertebrate hosts into newly re-expanding habitats.
Lyme disease now appears to be expanding outward from long-time refuges.
In other words, the ticks are reclaiming their once-held territory that included most of the U.S., and in doing so, they are spreading Lyme disease—an ancient pathogen.
You get pretty twisted up trying to invoke anthropogenic global warming to explain a general (including southern, i.e., into already warmer climates) expansion of the ticks and their pathogen hitchhikers.
Is it possible that warming climate is facilitating the expansion northward? To some small extent, perhaps. But even under a scenario in which its influence is proven (which is not the current situation), climate change is just one contribution to a highly complex interplay of a large number of factors.
Identifying whatever climate change signal may exist in such a system and attributing that the a human casue, is darn near impossible.
Lastly, USA Today takes on Valley Fever—an infection caused by the inhalation of the spores of a fungus (Coccidioides spp.) which is found largely in the desert Southwest. The fungus prefers hot, arid environments, interspersed with periodic wet periods, and the spores are spread by soil disturbance mechanisms, including wind (and construction equipment, and tractors, and shovels, etc.). USA Today reports that there has been a large rise in the numbers of reported cases of Valley Fever during the past few years and that “Valley Fever is one of multiple diseases experts say are spreading in part because of climate change.”
But, the CDC explains that there are numerous factors that may lie behind the recent reported increase [references removed]:
This report describes statistically significant increases in the incidence rate of reported coccidioidomycosis in endemic states during 1998–2011 after adjusting for changes in population size and in age and sex distribution. Although the number of cases decreased in Arizona during 2007–2008 and in California during 2007–2009, incidence dramatically increased in 2010 and 2011. In 2011, coccidioidomycosis was the second most commonly reported nationally notifiable condition in Arizona and the fourth most commonly reported in California.
The reasons for the increases described in this report are unclear. Coccidioides exists in the soil and is sensitive to environmental changes; factors such as drought, rainfall, and temperature might have resulted in increased spore dispersal, and disruption of soil by human activity, such as construction, also might be a contributing factor.
Changes in surveillance methodology might have resulted in artifactual increases. California transitioned to a laboratory-based reporting system during 2010, which facilitated reporting and might account for the increase in reported cases in 2011. However, some highly endemic counties, such as Kern County, already had been using laboratory-based systems, so this cannot fully explain the recent increase. The observed increase in Arizona might be partially attributable to a 2009 change by a major commercial laboratory to conform its reporting practices to the 2008 CSTE case definition, whereby positive enzyme immunoassay (EIA) results were reported as cases without confirmation by immunodiffusion. One commercially available EIA test (Meridian Bioscience) commonly used to diagnose coccidioidomycosis has been described to have false-positive results in some instances, but the contribution of this phenomenon, if any, to the overall increase in cases is unknown.
Improved awareness of coccidioidomycosis might have resulted in increased diagnostic testing (and thus reporting) in endemic and nonendemic states. Coccidioides has been found to be the etiologic agent in an estimated 15%–29% of community-acquired pneumonias in highly endemic areas. However, a 2006 study demonstrated that only a small proportion (2%–13%) of patients with compatible illness in an endemic area were tested for coccidioidomycosis, suggesting that the disease is greatly underreported. Further study is needed to understand if testing practices have changed. Despite the increase in reported cases, overall U.S. coccidioidomycosis mortality rates have remained fairly stable at approximately 0.6 per 1 million person-years during 1990–2008.
Like we said, it’s complicated.
As it is for climate change (as opposed to variability), Figure 3, shows the annual number of Valley Fever cases from 1995-2011 along with the temperature and precipitation history from Arizona (the state with the large majority of Valley Fever cases). Our figure clearly shows that the temperature and precipitation vary on annual to decadal (and even longer) timescales, but that there is nothing particularly unusual during the past couple of years associated with the large rise in Valley Fever cases.
Figure 3. (top) Reported cases of Valley Fever in the U.S., 1995-2011 (source CDC). (bottom) Annual statewide temperature (left) and precipitation (right) history from Arizona, 1895-2011 (source: NCDC).
While annual statewide averages probably don’t reveal the nuances of the complexity of the climate relationship with Valley Fever outbreaks, if you have to look this hard, and only at a couple of years, there is no way to conclusively implicate human-caused climate change. It is impossible.
If you want even more facts, have a look at Figure 4, from the CDC, showing several measures of mortality across the U.S. Even though the raw number of people dying each year is on the increase, this increase is a result of an increasing and aging population. Correct for these attributes (dark blue line) and you see that a large and on-going decline is taking place. If you want to go looking for an anthropogenic climate change signal, you need to go looking in (and shouldn’t lose sight of) this overall trend.
Figure 4. Number of deaths, crude and age-adjusted death rates: United States, 1935–2010 (source: CDC).
As is often the case in assessments of the impacts of climate change, including those from the federal government (see our critique here), authors quickly lose sight of the big, rosy, landscape, instead manufacturing a nanoscene of doom and gloom constructed with much whole cloth.
Jeffrey A. Miron
In a new working paper, economists Amitabh Chandra (Harvard), Jonathan Holmes (Harvard), and Jonathan Skinner (Dartmouth) (CHS) examine whether the recent slowdown in the growth of U.S. health expenditure reflects the Great Recession or Obamacare, taking issue with both explanations:
[H]ealth expenditure growth in the depths of the recession was nearly identical to growth prior to the recession. Nor can the Affordable Care Act (ACA) … take credit, since the slowdown began prior to its implementation.
… identify three primary causes of the slowdown: the rise in high-deductible insurance plans, state-level efforts to control Medicaid costs, and a general slowdown in the diffusion of new technology, particularly in the Medicare population.
As to whether the slowdown will continue, CHS
are more pessimistic, and not entirely because a similar (and temporary) slowdown occurred in the early 1990s. The primary determinant of long-term growth is the continued development of expensive technology, and there is little evidence of a permanent slowdown in the technology pipeline.
CHS’s bottom line, therefore, is that
over the next two decades … health care costs will grow at GDP plus 1.2 percent; lower than previous estimates but still on track to cause serious fiscal pain for taxpayers and workers who bear the costs of higher premiums.
Today is Bill of Rights Day. So it’s an appropriate time to consider the state of our constitutional safeguards.
Let’s consider each amendment in turn.
The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.” Government officials, however, have insisted that they can gag recipients of “national security letters” and censor broadcast ads in the name of campaign finance reform.
The Second Amendment says the people have the right “to keep and bear arms.” Government officials, however, make it difficult to keep a gun in the home and make it a crime for a citizen to carry a gun for self-protection.
The Third Amendment says soldiers may not be quartered in our homes without the consent of the owners. This safeguard is one of the few that is in fine shape – so we can pause here for a laugh.
The Fourth Amendment says the people have the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures. Government officials, however, insist that they can conduct commando-style raids on our homes and treat automobile drivers like prison inmates by conducting body cavity searches.
The Fifth Amendment says that private property shall not be taken “for public use without just compensation.” Government officials, however, insist that they can use eminent domain to take away our property and give it to other private parties who covet it.
The Sixth Amendment says that in criminal prosecutions, the person accused is guaranteed a right to trial by jury. Government officials, however, insist that they can punish people who want to have a trial—“throwing the book” at those who refuse to plead guilty—which explains why 95 percent of the criminal cases never go to trial.
The Seventh Amendment guarantees the right to a jury trial in civil cases where the controversy “shall exceed twenty dollars.” Government officials, however, insist that they can impose draconian fines on people without jury trials.
The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishments. Government officials, however, insist that a life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense is not cruel.
The Ninth Amendment says that the enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights should not be construed to deny or disparage others “retained by the people.” Government officials, however, insist that they will decide for themselves what rights, if any, will be retained by the people.
The Tenth Amendment says that the powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states, or to the people. Government officials, however, insist that they will decide for themselves what powers they possess, and have extended federal control over health care, crime, education, and other matters the Constitution reserves to the states and the people.
It’s a disturbing snapshot, to be sure, but not one the Framers of the Constitution would have found altogether surprising. They would sometimes refer to written constitutions as mere “parchment barriers,” or what we call “paper tigers.” They nevertheless concluded that having a written constitution was better than having nothing at all.
The key point is this: A free society does not just “happen.” It has to be deliberately created and deliberately maintained. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. To remind our fellow citizens of their responsibility in that regard, the Cato Institute has distributed more than five million copies of our pocket Constitution. At this time of year, it’ll make a great stocking stuffer.
Let’s enjoy the holidays–but let’s also resolve to be more vigilant about defending our Constitution. To learn more about Cato’s work in defense of the Constitution, go here. To support the work of Cato, go here.
The Bill of Rights, or the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, were ratified on December 15, 1791, 222 years ago today. However, it wasn’t until 1941, on the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, that Bill of Rights Day was recognized as a national holiday.
This Bill of Rights Day, the Cato Institute invites you to share what the Bill of Rights means to you.
Tweet your response using the hashtag #CatoForRights any time today. We’ll be sending a very special gift to the author of our favorite tweet. Make sure you’re following @CatoInstitute on Twitter to qualify.