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Thomas Jefferson’s 275th Celebration 

Studying Jefferson should be a guiding star.

Jamie Gass and Will Fitzhugh write: “Students of reading, writing, and common arithmetick . . . Graecian, Roman, English, and American history . . .,” Thomas Jefferson advised that democratic education “should be… able to guard the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens.”

Mid-April marks the 275th anniversary of Jefferson’s birthday. Given his world-changing achievements, this milestone is worthy of recognizing – and of being taught in our public schools. His contributions to the American civilization are incalculable; he was a revolutionary, statesman, diplomat, man-of-letters, scientist, architect, and apostle of liberty.

Rather than forcing a titan like Jefferson to conform to our era’s often Lilliputian-style narcissism, we should study history by entering the past with imagination and humility.

In drafting the Declaration of Independence, the most elegant and universally quoted political document in history, Jefferson displayed his greatest talents. He powerfully combined literary language and self-evident truths to shape the legal and political future of the United States.

The first member of his family to attend college, Jefferson loved books and classical learning. He could read six languages, including ancient Greek and Latin, while his 18th-century education taught him timeless principles.

Jefferson’s trinity of great thinkers – Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and John Locke – embodied what’s been called the Enlightenment’s “science of freedom.”

But his favorite writer was the ancient Roman historian Tacitus – a brilliant chronicler of warped, tyrannical emperors. Jefferson’s liberal-arts-centric education instilled in him a vigilance for liberty, which made him ever wary of threats to his republican experiment in ordered self-government.

Legal scholar David Mayer effectively summarized Jefferson’s strict federalism: “constitutions primarily [served] as devices by which governmental power would be limited and checked, to prevent its abuse through encroachments on individual rights…” Jefferson despised the corruptions of kings, standing armies, banks, and cities, which he identified with the Roman and British empires. Read the rest of this entry »

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[VIDEO] Senate Confirms Neil Gorsuch to Be Next Supreme Court Justice

Replacing Scalia, a conservative icon, the ideological tilt of the bench is not likely to shift. He will restore a 5-4 majority that Republican appointees have held on the court for years.

Lisa Mascaro and David G. Savage report: President Trump’s nominee, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, was confirmed Friday for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, filling a 14-month vacancy after a dramatic Senate showdown that risked long-lasting repercussions to both institutions.

The confirmation will deliver a much needed political victory to Trump, whose administration is struggling in its first 100 days to make progress on many campaign promises amid infighting in the White House and on Capitol Hill.

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The Senate confirmed Gorsuch, 54-45, for the seat that had been vacant since the 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The Republican-led Senate had refused last year to consider President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, fueling partisan rancor and Democratic opposition to Gorsuch.

Only three Democrats joined Republicans in voting to confirm Gorsuch. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) all represent conservative-leaning red states that Trump won in the election. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who is recovering from surgery, was absent.

It was the narrowest approval of a Supreme Court nominee since the 52-48 confirmation of Clarence Thomas in 1991.

Vice President Mike Pence presided over the vote as Republicans sat in their seats and onlookers, including conservative legal activists, filled the visitor galleries. But Friday’s vote, arguably Trump’s most enduring achievement to date, was largely upstaged by the U.S. airstrikes in Syria, which dominated news coverage.

The 49-year-old Gorsuch, who is expected to be sworn in on Monday, is a respected conservative who has worked for years on the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. He is expected to bring a “textualist” approach to the court, relying on an exact reading of legal language.

Supreme Court Affirmitive Action

Since he is replacing Scalia, a conservative icon, the ideological tilt of the bench is not likely to shift. He will restore a 5-4 majority that Republican appointees have held on the court for years.

“He’s going to make an incredible addition to the court,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “He’s going to make the American people proud.”

Democrats had staged a highly unusual filibuster to block the nominee. Republicans responded by changing long-standing Senate rules to allow filibusters of Supreme Court nominees to be broken with 51 votes rather than the previous 60.

Now Trump and future presidents will find it easier to choose Supreme Court nominees without needing much consent from the minority, opening the door to more ideological and partisan appointments. Read the rest of this entry »


[BOOKS] David Harsanyi’s ‘The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy’

torches-paris-street

Democracy may be one of the most admired ideas ever concocted, but what if it’s also one of the most harebrained? After many years of writing about democracy for a living, David Harsanyi has concluded that it’s the most overrated, overused, and 51SYk6is6ZL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_misunderstood idea in political life. The less we have of it the better.

[Order David Harsanyi’s bookThe People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy” from Amazon.com]

“Democracy” is not synonymous with “freedom.” It is not the opposite of tyranny. In fact, the Founding Fathers knew that democracy can lead to tyranny. That’s why they built so many safeguards against it into the Constitution.

Democracy, Harsanyi argues, has made our government irrational, irresponsible, and invasive. It has left the American people with only two options—domination by the majority or a government that can’t possibly work. The modern age has imbued democracy with the mystique of infallibility. But Harsanyi reminds us that the vast majority of political philosophers, including the founders, have thought that responsible, limited government based on direct majority rule over a large, let alone continental scale was a practical impossibility.

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In The People Have Spoken, you’ll learn:

  • Why the Framers of our Constitution were intent on establishing a republic, not a “democracy”
  • How democracy undermines self-government
  • How shockingly out of touch with reality most voters really are
  • Why democracy is an economic wrecking ball—and an invitation to a politics of envy and corruption
  • How the great political philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Burke and Tocqueville predicted with uncanny accuracy that democracy could lead to tyranny

Harsanyi warns that if we don’t recover the Founders’ republican vision, “democracy” might very well spell the end of American liberty and prosperity.


Who Flunks Constitution Quiz? Elected Officials

I found this in my Evernote archive, when browsing my collection of items from last year, this is a good time to revisit it.

The people we entrust with public office, and who swear an oath to protect and defend the constitution of the United States, know less than the average American about what’s in it. 

I’m reminded of this William F. Buckley quote:

“I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.”

Turns out, he wasn’t speaking figuratively.

Then of course, there’s this [VIDEO]

–The Butcher

Elected Officials Flunk Constitution Quiz

By Richard Brake

Jan 14, 2011 – 6:00 AM

When the Republican House leadership decided to start the 112th Congress with a reading of the U.S. Constitution, the decision raised complaints in some quarters that it was little more than a political stunt. The New York Times even called it a “presumptuous and self-righteous act.”

That might be true, if you could be sure that elected officials actually know something about the Constitution. But it turns out that many don’t.

In fact, elected officials tend to know even less about key provisions of the Constitution than the general public.

For five years now, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute has been conducting a national survey to gauge the quality of civic education in the country. We’ve surveyed more than 30,000 Americans, most of them college students, but also a random sample of adults from all educational and demographic backgrounds.

Included in the adult sample was a small subset of Americans (165 in all) who, when asked, identified themselves as having been “successfully elected to government office at least once in their life” — which can include federal, state or local offices.

The survey asks 33 basic civics questions, many taken from other nationally recognized instruments like the U.S. Citizenship Exam. It also asks 10 questions related to the U.S. Constitution.

So what did we find? Well, to put it simply, the results are not pretty.

Elected officials at many levels of government, not just the federal government, swear an oath to “uphold and protect” the U.S. Constitution.

But those elected officials who took the test scored an average 5 percentage points lower than the national average (49 percent vs. 54 percent), with ordinary citizens outscoring these elected officials on each constitutional question…

More

via Constitution Quiz