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Scott Pruitt vs. the EPA, Part I

Kim Strassel’s latest column highlights an exciting possibility for the American people. What’s exciting is a nerdy subject but a subject that might teach the average person the virtues of the system that our Founding Fathers gave us. Ms. Strassel opened her article by writing “Donald Trump had barely finished announcing his pick to lead […]

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The Electoral College: Beyond the Conventional Wisdom

The matter of how the U.S. President is to be selected was a tough nut for the delegates in the Constitutional Convention in 1787 to crack. Mason observed the following in convention, “In every Stage of the Question relative to the Executive, the difficulty of the subject and the diversity of the opinions concerning it have appeared.”[1]The alternative proposals centered around the Congress, State legislatures, the governors, the people, and electors designated for the specific purpose as the possible determiners. Although the delegates were men of considerable experience, their best judgments about how the alternatives would play out were subject to error as well as the confines of their times. In re-assessing the Electoral College, we could do worse than adjust those judgments and rid them of circumstances pertaining to them that no longer apply. For example, the Southern States no longer have slaves, so the question of whether those States would be disadvantaged by going with a popular vote no longer applies; the alternative of going with the popular vote nationwide no longer suffers from that once-intractable pickle. Yet lest we rush headlong into a popular vote without respect to the States, we are well advised not to dismiss the points made by the convention delegates, for we too are constrained by our times, and we may thus not be fully able to take into account points that have been forgotten.

The full essay is at “The Electoral College.”


1. James Madison, Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Reported by James Madison (New York: W. W. Norton, 1966): 370.

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Trump, Hillary and dead voters: America is screwed!

The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was held last night. Depending on whose camp you’re in, the performance of these equally reprehensible candidates helped your guy and hurt the other. As a devout #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary…

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DC Appeals Court approves voting by illegal immigrants

A little over a week ago, I wrote about a proposal by Obama and Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson, to nationalize our elections, effectively seizing control from the states which is contrary to the Constitution. Like much of…

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Great Lakes Water in the U.S.: Treating a Union as a State

Squabbling amongst states in a federal system may be an inherent feature of federalism. How much the jealousies and petty interests manifest in terms of policies may depend on the balance of power between the federation itself and its member-states. In the case of the E.U., the spat at the state level over how to allocate the tens of thousands of refugees from the Middle East and Northern Africa effectively stymied federal action that could have assuaged the angst. It is no accident that the state governments hold most of the governmental sovereignty in the E.U. federal system. By contrast, the case of the U.S. demonstrates that nearly consolidated power at a federal level can obviate, or stifle, strife between state governments. This alternative is not optimal either, for interstate differences tend to be ignored, resulting in increasing pressure on the federal system itself. How to handle municipal requests for drinking water from Lake Michigan is a case in point.


The full essay is at “Great Lakes Water: American Federalism.” 



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Migrants Overwhelming Europe: Unfairness Impeding the E.U.

More than 100,000 migrants, many of them refugees from conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, entered Hungary from January to August 2015, the vast majority en route to the more affluent northwestern E.U. states. A record 50,000, many of them Syrians, reached Greece by boat from Turkey in July alone. Meanwhile, Hungary was building a fence along the state’s border with Serbia, where 8,000 migrants were staying in parks, to keep more migrants from entering.[1] I contend that the disproportionate power of the state governments relative to that of the federal government accounts in part for the difficulty that the E.U. has faced in coming to grips with the tremendous influx. This case suggests why redressing the imbalance in the federal system has been plagued with difficulty.

The complete essay is at “Migrants Overwhelming Europe.” 



Police disperse migrants at a registration place in Kos, Greece. Should the E.U. leave it to the state governments to handle the crisis? (Yorgos Karahalis/AP)

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The GOP Debate – Miserable Irrelevancy

Seventeen GOP candidates for president of the United States paraded in front of us in Cleveland on August 6th. The establishment media crowed enthusiastically to the viewers about the import of this gathering to our lives as Americans. Chris Wallace and his fellow questioners milked the affair for all the drama they could squeeze from it. Unfortunately this two-tiered debate was just one more exercise in the miserable irrelevancy of the media’s handling of “political affairs” in America today. With each passing year the nation drifts deeper into economic ineptitude, a macabre government intervenes further into all the nooks and crannies of our lives, and our culture sinks relentlessly into an abysmal preoccupation with gays, transsexuals, drug addicts, and other sundry oddities of life. Decadence and despotism loom all around us. There are scores of monumental issues that need to be discussed today openly and fervently by our media. But instead we got irrelevancy and default on the real problems that our country and culture face. Why were not the following paramount issues presented to the candidates in depth? 1) States’ rights versus Washington power. We as a nation were formed under the concept of “federalism,” which means that all […]

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How should Christians react to same-sex marriage?

Since Obergefell v. Hodges concluded, we’ve seen a rampant uptick of opinions from Christians and those in support of same-sex “marriage.” Just Google “same-sex marriage opinions,” and you can browse through all 18 million hits. But something has been left out of the equation. Through all the defense and counter articles from each side, I haven’t really seen many Christian resources putting the burden back on the alphabet community. We should provide a strong shield from the Word of God, but there are some questions I’d like to ask the LGBT collection. First of all, if you truly believe in love, and really feel the decision to force states to license same-sex marriages is justifiable because of how you feel about someone, why can’t Christians follow the teachings by someone we love? Christians love Jesus, yet we are told by you that we can’t exercise that love outside of the church. And if we advocated that your keep your same-sex love in your house, we’d be called intolerant, while getting accused of forcing our morals on you. Secondly, if it’s only about love to you, then why do you need the government to recognize the relationship? For the tax benefits? […]

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States rights, same-sex marriage, and the end of the road

For some reason, I made my way to PoliticsUSA.com the other day and I came across a headline that made me question whether or not people actually read. Oklahoma’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the state must remove its Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol because it violates the state Constitution. Article 2, section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution says, “No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.” Now, states are free to decide these types of issues among themselves. However, those who oppose this truth always seem to point back to the establishment clause in the First Amendment of the Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Merely having a 10 Commandments statue on the capitol is not an establishment of religion, especially if it is privately funded. If Oklahoma had been arresting and throwing their citizens in jail because they didn’t believe in the 10 Commandments, […]

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Washington Post touting virtues of PPACA

H/T: Erika Johnsen The Washington Post’s editorial touting the virtues of the PPACA is some of the worst writing I’ve seen. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: You wouldn’t think state leaders would need convincing to accept mountains of federal cash to help people with meager incomes obtain health insurance. But many Republican […] . . . → Read More: Washington Post touting virtues of PPACA . . . → Read More: Washington Post touting virtues of PPACA

Day of Rage

Friday, August 16, 2013: A day of anger as proclaimed by Morsi supporters in Egypt. A day of death and carnage. A day of intransigence on both sides. Just a day earlier, the U.S. government had cancelled planned joint military exercises. Besides being largely symbolic rather than real sanction, the exercises were due to be downsized anyway due to the ongoing, across-the-board, sequester of the U.S. Government’s budget. Can something so convenient be counted as even “sending a signal?” Meanwhile, American foreign aid to Egypt, $1.3 billion—second only to what the U.S. gives Israel—continued, as if there were no sequester. As a direct result of the financial complicity, thousands of protesters in Turkey were shouting anti-American slogans. The protesters were so well informed that they were protesting the decision of the Obama administration not even to decide whether there had been a coup in Egypt when the military deposed Morsi. Turkey had emerged as one of the fiercest critics of what it has called an “unacceptable coup.”[1]
 
It is not as though the American aid gives the U.S. much leverage with the Egyptian military; aid from Middle East states, including Saudi Arabia (whose statement on the Day of Rage voiced support for the military), dwarfs that of the United States. Meanwhile, the U.S. Government, fearful of something worse (for the U.S.) in Egypt than its military, was not fooling the Turks or the rest of the world. The sad truth is that Americans could be harmed as a direct result of their government’s attempt to hold onto whatever leverage existed.
 

                                           The Egyptian military’s “No Tolerance” in action on the Day of Rage.  AP/Hassan Ammar 

It is not as though cutting off foreign aid to Egypt would be so “radical” that the option was not realistic. On the Day of Rage, Germany, ein Land—wirklich Staat—auf die Europäische Union, suspended $25 million in aid to Egypt for climate and environmental protection projects.[2] Meanwhile, Germany, Egypt’s largest trading partner, joined with the French Government in calling for a federal response from the E.U.’s Council of Ministers and presumably the E.U.’s Foreign Minister. Indeed, one of the reasons for creating the E.U. had been that the states would have more influence together than separately. The states’ rights ideology was yet again obstructing Europe from attaining that goal.
I suspect that the difference in the respective reactions of the E.U. and U.S. with respect to foreign aid have to do with the power of the Israeli lobby being greater in the U.S. than the E.U. The U.S. Government was thus vulnerable to the accusation of hypocrisy on its democratic principles out of a rather obsessive concern for Israel’s safety. Had both unions withheld both foreign aid and trade with Egypt, the question would be whether the foreign aid from within the Middle East would be sufficient to sustain the Egyptian military in power. Ich weiß es leider nicht. At any rate, it is unfortunate that democracy and human rights can be so eclipsed by politics in the U.S. and even the E.U., the latter behaving as though it had one arm tied behind its back.


[1]Clare Richardson, “Hundreds in Turkey Protest Against Egyptian Crackdown,” Reuters, August 16, 2013.

[2]Associated Press, “Germany Suspends Egypt Aid As World Continues To React To Crisis,” The Huffington Post, August 16, 2013.

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Hungary to the European Parliament: Back Off Slick!

One of the benefits of federalism is the checks and balances between the two systems of government existing in a federal system—that of the states and that of the federal government. That is to say, federalism can be thought of as a governmental system that contains two systems of government—that of the states and that of the federation. Either of these systems can go too far, and the other system should have the wherewithal to pull the other back without compromising its viability. This is why the consolidation of power in one system (e.g., the U.S. Federal Government) compromises the viability of a federal system at least with respect to its checks and balances. One other point: the two systems in a federal system are on the same level; that is, one is not “above” the other. Hence, the supremacy clauses in the E.U. and U.S. refer only to competencies or domains assigned to the federal government.

As an example of the checks and balances, Hungary passed a resolution in July 2013 “condemning” the European Parliament’s report critical of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his party curbing the powers of the state’s constitutional court, weakening the independence of the state’s judiciary, and limiting media freedom and the rights of churches and minorities (including the homeless).[1]In recommending the establishment of “an independent body to protect citizens’ rights and avoid creating double standards,”[2]the E.U.’s parliament sought to check excesses that would then be possible at the state level in Hungary. The parliament’s response is thus entirely consistent with federalism.

                                              The Joys of Being Checked and Balanced

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a debate in the E.U. Parliament, being “checked and balanced” by the federal legislature.

The ensuing resolution by the Hungarian state legislature condemning the federal parliament may not be so consistent; en fait, requiring “the EU to respect our rights” may imply that because the “Hungarians joined the European Union of our free will,” the state continued to be sovereign. In other words, the reaction of the state legislature suggests that any check on the state government by the federal system is invalid because Hungary requires the E.U. institutions to respect its rights. This stance handicaps the viability of the federal system in terms of the checks and balances that it can potentially deliver.

As a “reality check” for the Hungarian government, the state has been semi-sovereign since it became an E.U. state. Direct effect (i.e., the ability of a state’s citizens to use E.U. law in a state court—something that does not apply to international law), qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers and the E.U. Parliament (which correspond to the U.S. Senate and House, respectively), the supremacy clause enunciated by the European Court of Justice in Van Lend and Loos (1963) and Costa (1964), and the exclusive competencies (i.e., domains of authority) of the E.U. are all indicative of a transfer of governmental sovereignty from one of the systems of government (i.e., the state governments) to the other (i.e., the federal government) in the European Union.

Therefore, in acting on the basis of the basic principles of the E.U. (considered primary law), the European Parliament did not violate the rights of the Hungarian government in proposing a means to defend the rights of minorities in Hungary. Put another way, the Hungarian government’s claim that the European Parliament was going too far in encroaching on the remaining sovereignty of the state is erroneous. In fact, the reaction itself suggests that the European Parliament was providing a check and thus acting in line with federalism.


[1]Veronika Gulyas, “Hungary Resolution Slams European Parliament Criticism,” The Wall Street Journal, July 4, 2013.

[2]Veronika Gulyas, “Hungary Resolution Slams European Parliament Criticism,” The Wall Street Journal, July 4, 2013.

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Hungary to the European Parliament: Back Off Slick!

One of the benefits of federalism is the checks and balances between the two systems of government existing in a federal system—that of the states and that of the federal government. That is to say, federalism can be thought of as a governmental system that contains two systems of government—that of the states and that of the federation. Either of these systems can go too far, and the other system should have the wherewithal to pull the other back without compromising its viability. This is why the consolidation of power in one system (e.g., the U.S. Federal Government) compromises the viability of a federal system at least with respect to its checks and balances. One other point: the two systems in a federal system are on the same level; that is, one is not “above” the other. Hence, the supremacy clauses in the E.U. and U.S. refer only to competencies or domains assigned to the federal government.

As an example of the checks and balances, Hungary passed a resolution in July 2013 “condemning” the European Parliament’s report critical of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his party curbing the powers of the state’s constitutional court, weakening the independence of the state’s judiciary, and limiting media freedom and the rights of churches and minorities (including the homeless).[1]In recommending the establishment of “an independent body to protect citizens’ rights and avoid creating double standards,”[2]the E.U.’s parliament sought to check excesses that would then be possible at the state level in Hungary. The parliament’s response is thus entirely consistent with federalism.

                                              The Joys of Being Checked and Balanced

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a debate in the E.U. Parliament, being “checked and balanced” by the federal legislature.

The ensuing resolution by the Hungarian state legislature condemning the federal parliament may not be so consistent; en fait, requiring “the EU to respect our rights” may imply that because the “Hungarians joined the European Union of our free will,” the state continued to be sovereign. In other words, the reaction of the state legislature suggests that any check on the state government by the federal system is invalid because Hungary requires the E.U. institutions to respect its rights. This stance handicaps the viability of the federal system in terms of the checks and balances that it can potentially deliver.

As a “reality check” for the Hungarian government, the state has been semi-sovereign since it became an E.U. state. Direct effect (i.e., the ability of a state’s citizens to use E.U. law in a state court—something that does not apply to international law), qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers and the E.U. Parliament (which correspond to the U.S. Senate and House, respectively), the supremacy clause enunciated by the European Court of Justice in Van Lend and Loos (1963) and Costa (1964), and the exclusive competencies (i.e., domains of authority) of the E.U. are all indicative of a transfer of governmental sovereignty from one of the systems of government (i.e., the state governments) to the other (i.e., the federal government) in the European Union.

Therefore, in acting on the basis of the basic principles of the E.U. (considered primary law), the European Parliament did not violate the rights of the Hungarian government in proposing a means to defend the rights of minorities in Hungary. Put another way, the Hungarian government’s claim that the European Parliament was going too far in encroaching on the remaining sovereignty of the state is erroneous. In fact, the reaction itself suggests that the European Parliament was providing a check and thus acting in line with federalism.


[1]Veronika Gulyas, “Hungary Resolution Slams European Parliament Criticism,” The Wall Street Journal, July 4, 2013.

[2]Veronika Gulyas, “Hungary Resolution Slams European Parliament Criticism,” The Wall Street Journal, July 4, 2013.

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