On Friday, I’ll be in Cleveland to speak at the Federalist Society conference on eminent domain. You will be able to watch my presentation live on the web. Information on that will be forthcoming shortly on this website. The (short!) paper on which my talk is based is here. Unfortunately, I will not have time to go over all of it, so please read it!
One suspects that for a certain sort of infantile mind, pro-Confederacy statements provide the same sort of thrilling sense of nonconformity that Marxism has provided. This, I guess, explains the weird strain of pro-Confederate sympathy that one finds among a certain segment of libertarians. Or, of course, there’s always racism as an explanation—an explanation you’d rather believe didn’t apply, but that clearly does sometimes. Muller makes a pretty persuasive case that it applies here, and author Thomas Woods seems to have connections to some of those fringe libertarians.
That’s exactly right—well, I don’t know about whether Woods is a racist. But he’s certainly a crackpot. I read somewhere or other recently that Woods claimed Jefferson believed in secession—which at best is a ludicrous exaggeration. In fact, Jefferson argued that even under the Articles of Confederation, the Congress had the authority to coerce the states to remain in the union! See Answers to Questions Propounded by Monsieur de Meusnier, Jan. 24th, 1786, in 17 Writings of Thomas Jefferson 121-122 (A. Bergh ed., 1905) (“When any one State in the American Union refuses obedience to the Confederation by which they have bound themselves, the rest have a natural right to compel them to obedience.”) See also Letter to Edward Carrington, Aug. 4, 1787, in 6 id. at 217-218. Long before, Woods wrote an article for Ideas on Liberty, on the same theme. I wrote a response, which Ideas on Libertyrefused to publish (the editor claimed that they don’t engage in written debates). Woods wrote a reply here.
As I’m sure you’re aware, there are various problems with the “multiple state” solution. For example, Turkey *would not allow it. I know Turkey isn’t a dominant force in world politics, but they certainly have the ability to make the situation much worse. Beyond the problems with a multi-state option there is actually the argument that over the years the Iraqis have found a sense of nationalism. Most of the evidence of this national identity comes from the Iran-Iraq war in which a large portion of the Iraqi army was Shiite. The argument goes, why would Iraqi Shiites fight Iranian Shiites if their loyalty was greater towards their religion/culture rather than their state? Iraqi Shiites’ national sympathies must have a larger effect on them than their religious sympathies. A huge reason for this is that Iranian Shiites are Persian, while Iraqi Shiites are Arab. Just thought I’d chime in.
I was wondering about the murder charges for the fellow who derailed the Metrolink trains. Turns out California’s felony murder law says that “[a]ll murder which is...committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, arson, rape, carjacking, robbery, burglary, mayhem, kidnapping, train wrecking” or some other things, is first degree murder.
The section regarding train wrecking was added in 1990, but it was just a rearrangement of the penal code. In fact, it was in the 1890s that California adopted the Trainwrecking Act, which stated:
Every person who shall unlawfully throw out a switch, remove a rail or place any obstruction on any railroad in the state of California, with the intention of derailing any passenger, freight or other train; or who shall unlawfully board any passenger train with the intention of robbing the same; or who shall unlawfully place any dynamite or other explosive material, or any other obstruction, on the track of any railroad in the state of California with the intention of blowing up or derailing any passenger, freight or other train; or who shall unlawfully set fire to any railroad bridge or trestle, over which any passenger, freight or other train must pass, with the intent of wrecking said train, upon conviction shall be adjudged guilty of felony and shall be punished with death or imprisonment in the state prison for life, at the option of the jury trying the case.
See People v. Thompson, 111 Cal. 242, 244 (1896). The Thompson court, incidentally, criticized the Trainwrecking Act for its imprecision, noting that it was “crude—entirely too crude to leave the hands of a state legislature, especially when we consider the importance of the legislation....” For example, “[o]ne clause provides that any person is guilty ‘who shall unlawfully board any passenger train with the intention of robbing the same.’ The meaning of the phrase ‘unlawfully board any passenger train,’ by reason of its indefiniteness and uncertainty, but serves the purpose of giving work to the lawyers and worry to the courts....”Id. at 245.
A great post from David Giacalone about how laboratories of democracy never learn from their experiments.
The local laboratories thing has always bugged me. Of course it is true that a federalist system allows different states to try different responses to problems, and that this is a good way of experimenting with solutions to problems. I see no serious problem with that. The problem arises when people make the perennial mistake of representative government—of confusing the means with the ends. State sovereignty is not an end in itself, but a means to securing the liberty of the citizens. In other words, the authority of a state is limited by natural moral law; as the Declaration of Independence put it, the states may “do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do”—not everything, only those things which government may of right do.
Unfortunately, people tend to take the “laboratories” notion (most famously enunciated in the dissenting opinion in New State Ice Co. v. Leibmann), to mean that states are not limited—that these laboratories, in other words, may perform their experiments on unconsenting human subjects—and that this is somehow a virtue. Not at all! When the states violate the rights of citizens, the federal government may legitimately step in. State sovereignty was, to put it simply, not the point of the American Revolution. As Madison put it,
is it not preposterous, to urge as an objection to a [federal] government...that such a government may derogate from the importance of the governments of the individual States? Was, then, the American Revolution effected, was the American Confederacy formed, was the precious blood of thousands spilt, and the hard-earned substance of millions lavished, not that the people of America should enjoy peace, liberty, and safety, but that the government of the individual States, that particular municipal establishments, might enjoy a certain extent of power, and be arrayed with certain dignities and attributes of sovereignty? We have heard of the impious doctrine in the Old World, that the people were made for kings, not kings for the people. Is the same doctrine to be revived in the New...? It is too early for politicians to presume on our forgetting that the public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the attainment of this object.... [A]s far as the sovereignty of the States cannot be reconciled to the happiness of the people, the voice of every good citizen must be, Let the former be sacrificed to the latter.
How unfortunate that so many people—even those masquerading as defenders of freedom—would put the power of the state ahead of the freedom of the citizen: a mistake Madison (who wanted a federal check on state authority) would not have made.
John Kieneker:“Conservatives should not embrace every single book that criticizes Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, or Bill Clinton. We embarrass ourselves and do our work a disservice when we promote sloppy scholarship. We do ourselves more than a disservice when we promote books…that seek to discredit the principles of the American Founding.” The same is exactly true of libertarians, of course.