Friday, June 27, 2008

Religious Right = A Leave Us Alone Coalition?

I haven't paid much attention to Grover Norquist although I can respect some of his views on limited government and the idea of a "Leave Us Alone" Coalition. However, in a recent article in the Financial Times, Norquist writes:

Social conservatives – the so-called religious right – are a parents’ rights movement that wishes to be left alone with their faith and families. They organised in the late 1970s when the government threatened Christian radio stations and Christian schools with new regulations.

This is what Norquist in his most in his most recent book Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government's Hands off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives. It is also why I could not continue reading his book, especially after the brief and appallingly bad discussion on gay rights. While there are perhaps some (or very few) social conservatives, like my father in-law, who genuinely believes in live and let live (i.e. believes in marriage as being between a man and a woman but would never support a ban on same-sex marriages), it approaches absurdity to suggest that social conservatism as a political force has primarily been a "leave us alone" bunch when:

1. They have advocated amending our Constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman (hence, using government to define marriage is for the rest of us - that's hardly leaving me alone).

2. Demanded that the federal judiciary intervene in a case that was solely within the jurisdiction of the State of Florida, and when that failed, a vicious and mostly misguided assault on the judiciary ensued. Of course, it didn't seem to occur to many of them that the federal government really does have no jurisdiction over these matters leaving (us alone?) the matter to the states. I should note that the whole Justice Sunday mess did not help matters.

3. Similar to Point 2 above, believe that it is perfectly legitimate for a majority to use government to violate the rights of others at will, even when such prohibited actions or arrangements in no way shape or form violates the rights of anyone. This is hardly a characteristic of a group that belongs in a "Leave Us Alone" coalition.

I could go on, but I think I've made the point.

One has to have their head in the sand to think that the group of people he associates with the "Leave Us Alone" coalition really belong. I think it's somewhat of an affront to libertarians or limited government types who have witnessed the likes of Tom DeLay, Rick Santorum, and others running roughshod over those principles to see them being described in this way.

Norquist can put as much lipstick on that pig as he likes but it will still be a pig no matter how hard he tries to hide that fact.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Major Announcement: A Libertarian Supergroup

As some may have already noticed, I am proud to announce a major change here at Publius Endures. Effective today, I am happy to say that I am no longer the sole author of this blog. Instead, I am now joined by the anonymously named, but always thoughtful, East Coast Libertarian of the site of the same name (his excellent first contribution to this site is here). But that's not all! Also joining us at Publius Endures will be Nick Bradley of Confessions of a Right Wing Libertarian (and, notably, occasional contributor at and the equally outstanding Tony from RollingDoughnut.

I am proud to have these three joining me here - all of them are outstanding bloggers in their own right, all are libertarians, and all have a history of making cogent, logical arguments that tend to avoid the demagoguery that is all too typical of the blogosphere. To paraphrase Andrew Sullivan, they are all what you might call "libertarians of doubt." There will nonetheless be plenty of issues on which we disagree, but the respectful disagreements I have had with each of them are a major reason I am so proud to have them join me.

So what drove this change? First of all, there was the decline in my own blogging that resulted from the birth of my daughter and my career change. At the same time, I found that the quality of my blogging is best when I stick to what I know best - i.e., the discussion of factions, interest groups, and political coalitions. So for me to maintain a blog that had frequent (daily or bi-daily), high quality posts was becoming increasingly difficult, and I decided that it would make sense for me to join or create a group blog.

Oddly, at the same time as this was going on in my life, I learned through various postings and discussion threads that these three bloggers were going through very similar changes in their personal lives that would likely reduce their blogging output. Since all three were already among my favorite libertarian bloggers, it only seemed natural to me that we should combine our forces to create something of a libertarian blogging supergroup. Thankfully, they all agreed, and the resulting merger should make this site relatively unique in the libertarian blogosphere, with each of us able to focus our posting on areas where he have a particular interest.

So welcome to ECL, Nick, and Tony, and thank you all for growing this little corner of the blogosphere.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A couple of thoughts on the death penalty and Kennedy v. Louisiana

Regarding Kennedy v Louisiana, Ilya Shapiro at Cato-at-Liberty writes:

I won’t say much about Kennedy, other than that, as he has so, so many times in the past, Justice Kennedy again shamelessly substituted his own policy preferences for the will of the people. Regardless of one’s views on whether certain types of crimes short of murder(aggravated rape, child rape, treason, etc., etc.) warrant the death penalty, this is an issue properly left to the people and their elected representatives in state legislatures. We do not pick nine (left alone five) black-robed lawyers to be our moral arbiters, philosopher-kings, or bureaucrats-in chief. Kennedy versus Louisiana indeed!

Two (somewhat long) thoughts:

First, reasonable people can (and do) disagree on the outcome. Shapiro's comment on leaving these matters up to the states is likely the position I would have taken in the Roper v Simmons ruling, which addressed the death penalty for 16 or 17-year olds. As for the rest of his post, I do believe that Justice Kennedy was accused of "shamelessly substituting his own policy preferences for the will of the people" in the very libertarian-oriented Lawrence v Texas so I don't know if I would go down the "will of the people" road because libertarians understand, rightly, that the "will of the people" is a far greater threat to liberty than any so-called judicial tyranny.

Second, I would have rather seen this decision "flow" from Coker v Georgia (see Kipesquire's analysis on the issues here and here) rather than the "evolving standards of decency". On principle, I wouldn't want any branch of government making the determination of what is decent and what is not. I rarely spend time studying Eighth Amendment jurisprudence so I am admittedly out of my element here, but if Coker describes a theory of justice and punishment that is consistent with the text of the Eighth Amendment, then why not build off of that?

Otherwise, the subjectivity of making a "national consensus" determination just makes a mess of things. For example, Justice Alito's dissent argues that "misunderstandings" of previous case law (specifically Coker v Georgia, which addressed the unconstitutionality of the death penalty for rape of an adult woman) has worked to prevent a "national consensus" because states that were considering the death penalty for child rape decided not to pursue these laws because of a (possible) misunderstanding of Coker. Also, Jim Lindgren over at the Volokh Conspiracy posts old poll data that suggests a different "national consensus" different than the one put forth by Justice Kennedy. Why base a legal opinion on a concept that can be so widely disputed that it can completely undermine the decision? Again, these are questions for lawyers and not people like me.

For the record, I make two disclosures:

1. I oppose the death penalty on practical grounds. I do believe, however, that capital punishment is a just punishment for the taking of another human life.

2. I believe that the taking of another life is the only justification to administer the death penalty, and I think it can become incredibly problemmatic. Punishment should be proportionate to the crime committed. While I have no problem with locking up child rapists and throwing away the key (for good), I can not accept that the death sentence for child rape, adult rape or any violent crime where the victim survives is somehow proportional. Revenge and, as Kip puts it, "naked bloodlust" are not legitimate reasons to elevate crimes that understandably shock the conscience to capital offenses.

Maybe these views bias me on the issue, as I think the Court did reach the right conclusion although I think the legal reasoning is a bit suspect.

Last, I want to thank Mark for inviting me to post over at this blog. As I love his work, I do take it as an honor and I'm glad to be here.