Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Quotes of the day

Authority should derive from the consent of the governed! Not from the threat of force!--Barbie, Toy Story 3

In his dissent in McDonald, signed by three liberal justices, Justice Breyer argues that gun rights deserve little or no judicial protection at least in part because they put lives at risk:
Unlike other forms of substantive liberty, the carrying of arms for that purpose [self-defense] often puts others’ lives at risk.... And the use of arms for private self-defense does not warrant federal constitutional protection from state regulation.
This argument ignores social science evidence suggesting that extreme gun bans like those of DC and Chicago cost at least as many innocent lives than they save. Still, gun rights probably do cause at least some deaths that might otherwise have been prevented. In that respect, however, they are no different from numerous other constitutional rights. Justice Breyer’s argument in McDonald is actually very similar to Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in Boumediene v. Bush, where Scalia warned that giving habeas corpus rights to War on Terror detainees “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.” That argument didn’t move Breyer, who voted with the majority to extend those rights.--Ilya Somin

Now we learn that language purporting to be the judgment of an independent body of medical experts devoted to the care and treatment of pregnant women and their children was, in the end, nothing more than the political scrawling of a White House appointee. Miss [Elena] Kagan’s decision to override a scientific finding with her own calculated distortion in order to protect access to the most despicable of abortion procedures seriously twisted the judicial process. One must question whether her nomination to the Court would have the same effect.--Shannen Coffin

Apparently scientific integrity only matters as long as it doesn’t somehow infringe on abortion.--Yuval Levin

The Kagan catch is that conservative senators cannot question her lack of judicial experience, nor may they rely on her actual words and acts to determine her fitness for the Supreme Court. Not only is this a catch, it is a complete inversion of Kagan’s own standard, in which she claimed that Supreme Court nominees with thin records such as her own should be subjected to more searching scrutiny and be expected to be far more open and forthright about their views. Not considering ourselves bound by the Kagan catch, we assert that such hypocrisy about the standards that should be applied to oneself should be granted great weight in determining whether a nominee is deserving of a seat on our most important court of law.--Brian Walsh

Kagan recognizes that the confirmation process is a charade designed to keep information away from the public, and to prevent the public from forming an informed opinion about who will sit on the Supreme Court. And she's chosen to participate in it anyway.--Radley Balko

Well, like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.--Elena Kagan, at her senate confirmation hearings

Only religious groups were required to admit students who did not share their views. An environmentalist group was not required to admit students who rejected global warming. An animal rights group was not obligated to accept students who supported the use of animals to test cosmetics. But CLS was required to admit avowed atheists. This was patent viewpoint discrimination. … It is no wonder that the Court makes no attempt to defend the constitutionality of the Nondiscrimination Policy.--Justice Samuel Alito's dissent on Christian Legal Society v. Martinez

I don’t see “wage stickiness as the #1 culprit” [causing high unemployment]. Here is an analogy. Suppose we observe engine failure once a month on jetliners. Each time the plane crashes. What’s the fundamental problem here, bad engines, or gravity? Most people would say bad engines. Now assume that every few years the Fed creates a negative nominal shock. Because nominal wages are sticky, it creates a temporary recession (until wages adjust.) What’s the fundamental problem here, sticky wages or monetary policy? I’d say monetary policy. To me, nominal stickiness is just a part of nature, like gravity. It is not something you’d think about altering with government policies. (BTW, it certainly isn’t the fault of “workers” most of whom don’t even set their nominal wage.) Just as gravity is something airplane engineers must take into account, nominal stickiness is something that the Fed must take into account. Of course there are government policies that increase real wage stickiness (minimum wages, extended IU benefits, etc) and those can make the problem worse. At the risk of making my airliner analogy even more ludicrous, these rigidities are analogous to installing giant magnets on the ground, which try to suck airplanes out of the sky. (Yes, I know that airplanes are aluminum.)--Scott Sumner

... we do not yet have uncontrolled inflation (or really, any sort of inflation) in the United States. And demand for US debt remains robust. So why wouldn't we try more stimulus? That's a plausible argument. But you have to balance it against another plausible argument, which is that all the countries who are now in trouble were once countries who found themselves able to borrow at surprisingly attractive rates. In fact, due to external market conditions, these rates were actually often somewhat lower than they were used to paying. This did not end well. Austerity is an expensive form of insurance against a true fiscal crisis. And though it doesn't necessarily seem like it when you're not having one, fiscal crises are much, much worse than austerity budgets. Fiscal crisis means that rather than unpleasant cuts, you have sudden, unmanageable collapses in things like public pension plans. The resulting suffering is not unpleasant; it is disastrous. A year or two ago, I'm sure some corporate executive at BP was asking why the company would consider installing expensive remote control valves on its offshore rigs, when this sort of spill is extremely rare, and the fail-safe might not even work. One could even argue that given the economic cost of higher gasoline prices, and the rarity of these spills, BP made a good bet. We might well . . . if the spill hadn't happened. But once it has, we're damn sure that we wanted them to be a lot more careful, no matter what the cost. Just as even before the spill, some environmentalists were sure they wanted the added protection at whatever cost, some fiscal hawks are sure they want the added protection from fiscal breakdown. Given that the odds of fiscal crisis are less than 100%, this is certainly arguable. But unless you know how much less than 100% they are, it's not exactly crazy to try to head it off by spending less than the bond markets are willing to let us.--Megan McArdle

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