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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Veto Power of the U.S. President

On September 12, 1787, in the U.S. Constitutional Convention, Gerry claimed that the "primary object of the revisionary check on the President is not to protect the general interest, but to defend his own department" (Madison, Notes, p. 628). Gerry was stressing the value of maintaining the separation of power that was to exist between the three branches of the U.S. (General, or federal) Government. I believe he was inordinately fixated on his point--missing the presiding function of the U.S. President. Also on September 12, Madison averred that the "object of the revisionary power is twofold. 1. to defend the Executive Rights 2. to prevent popular or factious injustice" (Madison, Notes, p. 629). In addition to be an advocate of the separation of power within the U.S. Government, Madison was concerned that a large faction in the majority might oppress a minority faction and he viewed the expanded republic of the union as a means to minimize such tyranny. He too was slighting the presiding role of the president.

The full essay is at "The Veto Power of the U.S. President."


Source: James Madison, Notes in the Federal Convention of 1787 (New York: Norton, 1987).

Judicial Ethics: Friendship and Philanthropy

Harlan Crow was a Dallas real estate magnate and a major contributor to conservative causes. He did many favors for his friend, Clarence Thomas, “helping finance a Savannah library project dedicated to Justice Thomas, presenting him with a Bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass and reportedly providing $500,000 for [Virginia] Thomas to start a Tea Party-related group.” The two friends spent time together at “gatherings of prominent Republicans and businesspeople at Crow’s Adirondacks estate and his camp in East Texas.” Crow also “stepped in at Thomas’ urging” to finance the multimillion-dollar purchase and restoration of the cannery that had employed the justice’s mother. Crow’s restoration “featured a museum about the culture and history of Pin Point that has become a pet project of Justice Thomas’s. . . . While the nonprofit Pin Point museum is not intended to honor Justice Thomas, people involved in the project said his role in the community’s history would inevitably be part of it, and he participated in a documentary film that is to accompany the exhibits.”

News “of Mr. Crow’s largess provoked controversy and questions, adding fuel to a rising debate about Supreme Court ethics. But Mr. Crow’s financing of the museum, his largest such act of generosity, previously unreported, raises the sharpest questions yet — both about Justice Thomas’s extrajudicial activities and about the extent to which the justices should remain exempt from the code of conduct for federal judges. Although the Supreme Court is not bound by the code, justices have said they adhere to it. Legal ethicists differed on whether Justice Thomas’s dealings with Mr. Crow pose a problem under the code.”

The code says judges “should not personally participate” in raising money for charitable endeavors, out of concern that donors might feel pressured to give or entitled to favorable treatment from the judge. In addition, judges are not even supposed to know who donates to projects honoring them. . . . (T)he restriction on fund-raising is primarily meant to deter judges from using their position to pressure donors, as opposed to relying on ‘a rich friend’ like Mr. Crow, said Ronald D. Rotunda, who teaches legal ethics at Chapman University in California.” On the other side of the argument, Deborah L. Rhode, a Stanford University law instructor who has called for stricter ethics rules for Supreme Court justices, said Justice Thomas “should not be directly involved in fund-raising activities, no matter how worthy they are or whether he’s being centrally honored by the museum.”

The ethical analysis is at "Judicial Ethics."



Source:

Mike McIntire, “Friendship of Justice and Magnate Puts Focus on Ethics,” The New York Times, June 18, 2011.

The Flemish and Walloons: Worlds Apart?

I contend that the cultural differences between the Flemish and Walloons within Belgium have been exaggerated to such an extent that the state government of Belgium has been paralyzed and solutions have eluded the Belgians. Reducing the fear-induced swelling of the admittedly real differences within Belgium may therefore facilitate relief from the paralysis. In other words, the added perspective from viewing the cultural differences as less traumatic can help the Flemish and Walloons to either live together or, ironically, be able to separate. That’s right—a more realistic assessment of the differences can actually facilitate the separation of Belgium into two (or three) E.U. states (or Flanders joining the Netherlands and Wallonia joining France—and the German-speaking area joining Germany). Exaggerating differences can snuff out consideration of such alternatives and enable continued paralysis.

The full essay is at "Flemish and Walloons."


                                            

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan’s extolling of individualism amid the problem that he saw as government itself resonated with the religious overtures of American divine providence as a city on a hill—a promised land akin to the New Jerusalem. Even as material self-interest taking advantage of unbridled markets under the guise of competition was not Reagan’s primary orientation, greed could easily trump the force of Reagan’s normative envelop, human nature such as it is.

The full essay is at "Ronald Reagan."

Banning Corporate Earmarks: Too Broad?

In March 2010, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee banned earmarks to for-profit companies. Had such a ban been in place in 2009, it would have meant the elimination of about 1,000 awards worth a total of about $1.7 billion. Many of those earmarks went to military contractors for projects in lawmakers’ home districts. The committee seemingly meant to end a practice that has steered billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to companies and set off corruption scandals. However, it is also possible that the vote was a “dog and pony show” not meant to result in any eventual law. Such a show would give the American public the illusion of Congressional effort to reduce the impact of business on the elected representatives.

The full essay is at "Banning Corporate Earmarks."


 Source:

 Eric Lichtblau, “Leaders in House Block Earmarks to Corporations,” The New York Times, March 10, 2010.

The Keynesian Drug: America’s Achilles' Heel

Keynes posited that government deficit-spending could boost an economy’s output of goods and services when it is short of full-employment. In the context of an economy near full-steam, tax cuts and/or more government spending could trigger inflation while adding little to GDP. To maintain balance in the government accounts, government surpluses during the ensuing upswing are used to pay off the accumulated debt. This is the theory. Unfortunately, it seems to be at odds with representative democracy. Specifically, a systemic bias exists in favor of recurrent deficits, and thus accumulating debt.

The full essay is at "The Keynesian Drug."

Sources:

Brutus, Letter 8, January 10, 1788, 2.9.95, in Herbert J. Storing, ed., The Anti-Federalist, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985).

Alan Simpson, Newsweek, December 27, 2010, p. 28.

On the Ethics of Legislating

The means by which a bill becomes a law are sometimes referred to “how sausage gets made” because they are not suited for public display.  The belief is that were the citizens to see what goes on in the process, they would demand that it be changed. Perhaps this means that it should be changed.

The full essay is at "On the Ethics of Legislating."