Mercy and Liberty

March is Women’s History Month. But virtually ignored is one woman who played a central role in American history—Mercy Otis Warren—who died 200 years ago this October.

Termed “The Conscience of the American Revolution” and called a genius by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, Mercy Warren was a leading force behind our freedom. Sister of James Otis and wife of James Warren, both revolutionary leaders, Committees of Correspondence were born in her house and she hosted groups including the Sons of Liberty. However, her writing—pro-independence plays, poetry, and correspondence, objections that the U.S. Constitution omitted a bill of rights and a three-volume eyewitness account of the revolution–made her someone we should heed, along with our founding fathers.

[O]nce aroused to a consciousness of the native freedom and equal rights of man, every one revolts at the idea of servitude.

The game of deception is played over and over…that mankind in general are incapable of the enjoyment of that liberty which nature seems to prescribe…

Mankind may amuse themselves with theoretic systems of liberty…but we can only discern its true value by the practical and wretched effects of slavery…

[T]he perfectibility of man…may be left to the dreaming socialist…while that rational liberty, to which all have a right, [must] be exhibited and defended by men of principle and heroism who better understand the laws of social order.

[G]overnment is instituted for the protection, safety and happiness of the people…[who] have an incontestable right to check the creatures of their own creation…to guard the life, liberty and property of the community.

The rights of individuals ought to be the primary object of all government, and cannot be too securely guarded by the most explicit declarations in their favor.

[E]very domestic enjoyment depends on…the right of personal liberty, which everyone justly claims…

[W]hen the first rudiments of society have been established, the right of private property has been held sacred.

[A] sacred regard to personal liberty and the protection of private property were opinions embraced by all who had any just ideas of government, law, equity, or morals. These were the rights of men…

America has fought for the boon of liberty…guard it on every side that it might not be sported away by the folly of the people or the intrigue or deception of their rulers.

It is necessary to guard at every point against the intrigues of artful or ambitious men who may subvert the [constitutional] system…most conducive to the general happiness of society.

Any attempt [to]…subvert the Constitution, or undermine the just principles which wrought out the American Revolution, cannot be too severely censured…The principles of the Revolution ought ever to be the polestar of the statesmen, respected by the rising generation…the advantages bestowed by Providence should never be lost by negligence, indiscretion, or guilt.

It is necessary for every American…to rescue and save their civil and religious rights from the outstretched arm of tyranny, which may appear under any mode of government.

[T]here are still many among us who revere [Liberty’s] name too much to relinquish the rights of man for the dignity of government.

[America’s] principles…may finally…spread universal liberty and peace as far at least as is compatible with the present state of human nature.

Mercy Otis Warren believed that we should “rejoice in the prospect of liberty,” and held high hopes of the continued freedom and prosperity of America. She was highly esteemed by our founding fathers and was an important influence in supporting and spreading American ideals. As John Adams wrote her husband, “God Almighty has entrusted her with the Powers for the good of the World which…he bestows on few of the human race.” Her stirring commitment to liberty as one of our most influential founders still has a great deal to teach us.

(Gary Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University in Malibu.)

Some Old Wisdom on Politics

America’s so-called public servants have supported ethically questionable policies, picked our pockets and eroded our rights. Yet they simply pretend that fact away, tar opponents for everything and pitch themselves as America’s unifiers. That is breathtakingly mendacious. In sharp contrast to their rhetoric, the competition to control government to help friends out of others’ pockets is the primary source of American disunity.

This is not new. John C. Calhoun, a central player in an earlier contentious era in Washington, recognized it long ago. Described by John F. Kennedy as “a masterful defender of the rights of a political minority against the dangers of an unchecked majority,” his Disquisition on Government found that the battle for political dominance and its spoils guaranteed not unity, but bitter divisiveness. For his March 18 birthday, it is worth revisiting his insights.

[G]overnment, although intended to protect and preserve society, has itself a strong tendency to disorder and abuse of its powers, as all experience and almost every page of history testify…

[S]uffrage…only changes the seat of authority, without counteracting, in the least, the tendency of the government to oppression and abuse of its powers.

[S]uffrage…[aims] to obtain the majority–and, thereby, the control of the government and the advantages it confers…aggrandizing and building up one portion of the community at the expense of the other…

In such case, it would be indispensable to success to avoid division and keep united…This, in process of time, must lead…to the conversion of the honors and emoluments of the government into means of rewarding partisan services, in order to secure the fidelity and increase the zeal of the members of the party…

[A]s the struggle became more intense…principles and policy would lose all influence in the elections; and cunning, falsehood, deception, slander, fraud, and gross appeals to the appetites of the lowest…would take the place of sound reason and wise debate.

[T]he numerical majority will divide the community…into two great parties, which will be engaged in perpetual struggles to obtain the control of the government…The great importance of the object at stake must necessarily form…attachments on the part of the members of each to their respective parties…and antipathies to the opposite party, as presenting the only obstacle to success.

[M]utual antipathies [are] carried to such an excess as to destroy, almost entirely, all sympathy between them, and to substitute in its place the strongest aversion…devotion to party becomes stronger than devotion to country–the promotion of the interests of party more important than the promotion of the common good of the whole, and its triumph and ascendancy objects of far greater solicitude than the safety and prosperity of the community…

[It will] overpower all regard for truth, justice, sincerity, and moral obligations…falsehood, injustice, fraud, artifice, slander, and breach of faith, are freely resorted to, as legitimate weapons–followed by all their corrupting and debasing influences.

[E]ach faction, in the struggle to obtain the control of the government, elevates to power the designing, the artful, and unscrupulous, who, in their devotion to party–instead of aiming at the good of the whole–aim exclusively at securing the ascendancy of party…to promote the interest of parties at the expense of the good of the whole…

While both sides of the partisan aisle talk of unity, we experience little beyond coercion and wedge issues designed to divide us rather than concern for the principles and unalienable rights that unite us. It is what John C. Calhoun recognized as “a struggle…[to] determine which shall be the governing, and which the subject party,” where political victory dominates everything else. The result is proliferating political power and dictates that expand at the expense of individuals and their own choices.  Unfortunately, that is the only unifying principle in politics today, which makes us all losers from what Frederic Bastiat recognized over a century and a half ago as the “attempt to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else; to make plunder universal under the pretense of organizing it.”

(Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University in Malibu.)

Combining Constitutional Distortion and Extortion

If you were allowed to use four steps of your choice, valid or not, in a logical argument, you could reach any conclusion you liked. That is why the recent boom in First Amendment litigation is so unbelievably far from the Establishment Clause.

It is certainly hard to find any other explanation for how “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” can be taken to ban crosses, the Decalogue and even Boy Scout meetings on state or local government property, or even historically accurate crosses on county seals (as in Los Angeles). None of them involve Congress, none involve passage of a law and none establish a particular religion.

However, four major changes have generated just such results–a dramatic redefinition of the Establishment Clause’s meaning, a vastly expanded scope of government activities, a radical reinterpretation of the 14th Amendment, and the evolution of the application of the 1976 Civil Rights Attorney’s Fees Awards Act.

The first step was the creation of the “separation of church and state” precedent. Neither the words nor the concept of separation of church and state are contained in “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” But the Supreme Court transformed one into the other in Everson v. Board of Education (1947), supposedly based on Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists.

Treating Jefferson’s phrase as authoritative Constitutional re-interpretation was mistaken. He was not even in America when the Constitution was written and debated.  His letter was written a decade later, at a time when some states still had established religions, without Constitutional challenge. Jefferson’s letter was personal and private; not official. No other phrase from private correspondence has been allowed to override explicit Constitutional language.

Jefferson also quoted the Establishment Clause immediately before “thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” Since it restricted only Congress and not any religious group, Jefferson’s wall was necessarily a “one way” wall (echoing Roger Williams’ much earlier statement that “When they have opened a gap in the…wall of separation between the Garden of the Church and the wilderness of the world, God has ever made his Church a wilderness”). It kept Congress from intruding into religious matters, but did nothing to prohibit religion’s public influence.

The Baptist inquiry’s main premise was that “the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor.”  Jefferson endorsed their view, blatantly inconsistent with current church and state interpretation, which allows government expansion far beyond its delegated Constitutional limits to increasingly crowd out any public influence of faith.  And he wrote to specifically allay their fears (based on previous ill-treatment from Connecticut’s Congregationalist church) that a nationally established church might be imposed on them. He was explaining how they were protected by the Establishment Clause, not redefining it into a much different “two way” wall.

Justice Hugo Black’s majority opinion in Everson simply redefined the Establishment clause into a very different separation of church and state precedent, adding “That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.” Justice Wiley Rutledge went further, writing that “a complete and permanent separation of the spheres of religious activity and civil authority” was required. This took a restriction preventing the federal imposition of a religion and turned it into a denial of virtually any public role for religion.

Everson also sharply departed from prior Court interpretations. For example, Reynolds v. United States (1878) summarized Jefferson’s meaning as “the rightful purposes of civil government are…to interfere [only] when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order,” very different from mandating a complete disconnect between church and state.

As Justice William Rehnquist concluded, “the wall is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned.” He was right. But instead, other changes have compounded the damage it has wrought.

The second step has been the expansion of federal power far beyond that allowed by the Constitution, which has massively expanded application of the church and state distortion. The Constitution, and especially the Bill of Rights, constrained the federal government to strictly limited, enumerated powers. Those limitations restricted the federal government from infringing on religion, except for the possibility of establishing a federal religion, as was then common in Europe. The Establishment Clause prohibited that. But since then, the federal government has grown so far beyond its enumerated powers (enabled by Supreme Court rulings that violated its central task of defending the Constitution against unwarranted encroachments) that its tentacles connect to virtually every church-related activity and ministry, including health care, aid to the needy, education, rehabilitation programs, etc. The “separation of church and state” is then invoked to crowd religious involvement out of areas government crowded itself into, rather than protecting rights to religious expression against federal encroachment.

The third step involved expanding application of the First Amendment from the federal government alone to the states (and cities, counties and other local government entities, which are creatures of the states), as well. This happened in spite of the fact that states were acknowledged to have powers with regard to religious matters. For instance some state-established churches continued long after the Constitution’s ratification (e.g., the Congregational Church was established in Connecticut until 1818, and from 1780 to 1833, Massachusetts not only required church membership, but allowed those churches to tax their members). This fact was also recognized by President Jefferson in his second Inaugural Address, when he stated, “[religion’s] free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the general government, I…have left them, as the Constitution found them, under the direction and discipline of State or Church authorities,” which cannot be squared with current interpretation supposedly based on his views.

The First Amendment’s ban on a federally “established” church or federally imposed worship was expanded to every government body by creative judicial interpretation of the Reconstruction Era’s Fourteenth Amendment (See Raoul Berger’s work on the Fourteenth Amendment for a thorough treatment). The result is that any state or local government act with an even tenuous connection to something with religious overtones can now trigger an Establishment Clause lawsuit, despite the First Amendment’s explicit application to the federal government alone. The result is a plethora of government interactions with every religious issue, extending even to depictions involving religious imagery in any way related to government property, which provide plenty of lawsuit material despite their vast distance from establishing a religion.

These three steps have turned the Establishment Clause on its head, undermining the moral basis of our liberties, expressed in George Washington’s admonition that “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” But yet another little-recognized step has expanded the crusade against any religious connection to any government activity.

The fourth step was the 1976 Civil Rights Attorney’s Fees Awards Act and its subsequent evolution into something very different. It was originally applied to poor clients in racial discrimination cases, so they would not be deterred from seeking justice. But the meaning of civil rights has since been broadened to include suits seeking to enforce the current mistaken “separation of church and state” view of the First Amendment. As a result, non-profit organizations such as the ACLU, which represent clients claiming First Amendment violations for free, are now entitled to their lawyer’s fees from the government’s they are suing, if they win at any level of the proceedings. Since these fees can be very large, to the point of threatening smaller government jurisdictions with bankruptcy if they choose to defend their actions, the ACLU can thereby steamroll them into capitulation. Some governments have even given in when law firms offered to defend them for free, because of potential lawyer’s fee awards.

Such attorney’s fee settlements have included $540,000 in the Roy Moore case in Alabama, $280,000 in the Mount Soledad case, $950,000 in the San Diego Boy Scout case, and $1 million (negotiated down from $2 million) against a small Pennsylvania school district in the Kitzmiller case. The result is that every conceivable link between any government body and religion, however preposterous (e.g., the tiny cross on the Los Angeles County seal), can be used to make that jurisdiction an involuntary ACLU donor. Government bodies, faced with paying plaintiff attorney’s fees, as well as their own, out of strapped budgets, are being extorted into submission. And the cash cow of successful fee awards (effectively a tax on any government that won’t sever every connection to religion) are leveraged into still more lawsuits.

The Constitution defended citizens from being forced to participate in or support a federally established church, offering an important protection against government abuse. But subsequent interpretations and precedents have resulted in “transforming the constitutional guarantees against discrimination on grounds of religious differences into provisions that necessitate it,” in scholar Philip Hamburger’s words. That result, based on Constitutional distortion and extortion, should be of great concern to anyone who values our country’s founding vision, embodied in our Constitution.

(Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University in Malibu.)

Liberties Kept Safe by the Limitation of Power

The recent explosion in the reach of federal government has made limits on federal power once again the central political issue. Unfortunately, ignorance of our founding severely impoverishes that discussion.

A good example is Richard Henry Lee, born January 20. Lee made the motion calling for the colonies’ independence. He was a leader in the Continental Congresses, including as President. He was elected Senator from Virginia, despite opposing the Constitution’s ratification for lacking “a better bill of rights.”

Particularly important were Lee’s Letters from the Federal Farmer, an important impetus to the Bill of Rights.  Today, his arguments against what Garet Garrett called “octopean government” merit re-consideration.

I can consent to no government, which…is not calculated equally to preserve the rights of all orders of men…

[A] free and enlightened people…will not resign all their rights to those who govern, and they will fix limits to their legislators and rulers…[who] will know they cannot be passed…

[Hope] cannot justify the impropriety of giving powers, the exercise of which prudent men will not attempt, and imprudent men will…exercise only in a manner destructive of free government.

[W]hy…unnecessarily leave a door open to improper regulations?

[W]e cannot form a general government in which all power can be safely lodged.

Should the general government…[employ] a system of influence, the government will take every occasion to multiply laws…props for its own support.

[V]ast powers of laying and collecting internal taxes in a government …would be…abused by imprudent and designing men.

[W]e ought not…commit the many to the mercy, prudence, and moderation of the few.

[N]ational laws ought to yield to inalienable or fundamental rights—and …should extend only to a few national objects.

[M]en who govern will…construe laws and constitutions most favorably for increasing their own powers; all wise and prudent people…have drawn the line, and carefully described the powers parted with and the powers reserved…what rights are established as fundamental, and must not be infringed upon…

Our countrymen are entitled… to a government of laws and not of men… if the constitution…be vague and unguarded, then we depend wholly on the prudence, wisdom and moderation of those who manage the affairs of government…uncertain and precarious.

Liberty, in its genuine sense, is security to enjoy the effects of our honest industry and labors, in a free and mild government…

The people have a right to hold and enjoy their property according to known standing laws, and which cannot be taken from them without their consent…

In free governments, the people…follow their own private pursuits, and enjoy the fruits of their labor with very small deductions for the public use…

Our true object is…to render force as little necessary as possible…

[T]he powers delegated to the government must be precisely defined… that, by no reasonable construction, they can be made to invade the rights and prerogatives intended to be left in the people.

We must consider this constitution, when adopted, as the supreme act of the people…we and our posterity must strictly adhere to the letter and spirit of it, and in no instance depart from them…

According to Forrest McDonald, Lee was “imbued with an abiding love of liberty and a concomitant wholesome distrust of government.” In an era when the founding generation’s determination of the proper, narrow limits to impose on federal power has eroded to whether it is subject to virtually any limits, his insights are important.  He knew that “The first maxim of a man who loves liberty” was “never to grant to rulers an atom of power that is not most clearly and indispensably necessary for the safety and well-being of society,” and that “It must never be forgotten…that the liberties of the people are not so safe under the gracious manner of government as by the limitation of power.”  Americans today need to re-learn those same lessons.

(Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University in Malibu.)

Resolve to Advance the Only Object Which Benefits All Alike

People often make New Year’s resolutions. But despite facing an almost unbounded range of necessary reforms, politicians virtually never resolve to reform the principles on which they govern. That is a tragedy, given how much insight is easily available to them.

A good source is Lord Acton, born January 10. Stephen Tonsor called him “the most knowledgeable foreign observer of American affairs in the nineteenth century,” deeply concerned about “the threat to freedom from centralized governmental absolutism, the tyranny of the majority [and] bureaucratic administration.” Given the even greater threat to liberty they now represent, Acton deserves reflection and resolution.

Liberty alone demands, for its realization, the limitation of the public authority, for liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no sincere opposition.

Liberty and good government do not exclude each other…Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end.

[S]anctifying freedom…teaching men to treasure the liberties of others as their own, and to defend them…has been the soul of what is great and good in the progress of the last two hundred years.

With [liberty] no human authority can be permitted to interfere. We are bound to extend to the utmost, and to guard from every encroachment, the sphere in which we can act in obedience to the sole voice of conscience, regardless of any other consideration.

[T]he interest of individuals is above the exclusive interest of the state. The power of the whole is not to be set in the balance for a moment with freedom… those who act on other principles are the worst of criminals.

In every age [liberty’s] progress has been beset by…ignorance and superstition, by lust of conquest and by love of ease, by the strong man’s craving for power, and the poor man’s craving for food.

Liberty is the prevention of control by others. This requires self-control…

Liberty enables us to do our duty unhindered by the state, by society, by ignorance and error. We are free in proportion as we are safe from these impediments…

It is easier to find people fit to govern themselves than people to govern others. Every man is the best, the most responsible, judge of his own advantage.

The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern.

Among all the causes which degrade and demoralize men, power is the most constant and the most active.

[P]ower…corrodes the conscience, hardens the heart, and confounds the understanding…

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

There are principles which override precedents…a higher law.

The public good is not to be considered, if it is purchased at the expense of an individual.

The will of the people cannot make just that which is unjust.

There are many things the government can’t do, many good purposes it must renounce. It must leave them to the enterprise of others. It cannot feed the people. It cannot enrich the people. It cannot teach the people.

Lord Acton was intensely concerned with America’s experiment in liberty. He recognized how important our founders were to liberty throughout the world, because “Their example…teaches that men ought to be in arms even against a remote and constructive danger to their freedom…On this principle of subversion they erected their commonwealth, and by its virtue…assigned a new course to history.”

Acton offers Americans a great deal of wisdom we now ignore. And he offers Washington a fitting New Year’s resolution—to reinvigorate the commitment to defending liberty as “the highest political end,” because it is “the only object which benefits all alike.” Unfortunately, however, the governing class seems to illustrate the truism that those most in need of reform are least likely to do so.

(Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University in Malibu.)

Preserving the Capacity of Providing for Our Own Good.

December 19 marks the birth of John Taylor of Caroline, who remains virtually unknown, despite being called “the most impressive political theorist that America has produced.”

Taylor, who served in the Continental Army, Virginia Legislature and U.S. Senate, opposed the overpowering central government that would grow if not tightly constrained. F. Thornton Miller wrote, “For Taylor, the Constitution was of worth only if it could serve the more fundamental cause of liberty.” So Taylor defended liberty and states’ rights, advocated a strict interpretation of the Constitution’s terms against federal overreaching, and vigorously opposed government favors and protectionism, which he called “the most efficacious system of tyranny practicable over civilized nations.”

Taylor’s positions stand abandoned today. Government has become ever more the dispenser of special treatment at others’ expense. That is why the argument in Taylor’s 1822 Tyranny Unmasked merits revisiting:

Political liberty consists only in a government constituted to preserve and not to defeat the natural capacity of providing for our own good…Governments able to do so uniformly sacrifice the national interest to their own…

As no government can patronize one class but at the expense of others…Is not their discord the universal consequence of the fraudulent power assumed by governments of allotting to classes and individuals indigence or wealth…

[P]ayments…extorted to feed either an oppressive government or exclusive privileges…degenerate into actual tyranny…Is there any moral difference between effecting a transfer of property by violence…or legal privileges?

The only reciprocity produced by [legislative favors] is between the corrupters and corrupted…If a man should combine with a government to take away another’s property, the tyranny of the act would not be obliterated by the power of an accomplice.

The nation which imagines that…government can by provisions convert fraud into honesty relies upon a moral impossibility for the preservation of its liberty.

[G]overnments, under pretence of supervising the affairs of individuals …enrich themselves and their instruments of oppression…The treasure extorted beyond the line of honest frugality is uniformly diverted from the end of defending to that of transferring property.

[T]he wealth of nations is best secured by allowing every person, as long as he adheres to the rules of justice, to pursue his own interest in his own way…

[L]iberty can only be preserved by a frugal government and by excluding frauds for transferring property from one man to another…How then is tyranny to be ascertained…except as something which takes away our money, transfers our property and comforts to those who did not earn them, and eats the food belonging to others.

[T]he transferring policy seems to suppose that the public has no property; and though legislatures have no moral or constitutional right to give one man’s property to another; yet that by combining the property of all men under the appellation “public,” they acquire both a moral and constitutional right to give the property of all men to one man.

There are two kinds of political economy. One consists of a frugal government, and an encouragement of individuals to earn, by suffering them to use; the other of contrivances for feeding an extravagant government, its parasites and partisans, its sinecures and exclusive privileges…[one] is liberty; the other is tyranny

A government…able to oppress, must…be weak for the object of preserving liberty…Every innovation which weakens the limitations and divisions of power, alone able to make a government strong for the object of preserving liberty, makes it strong for the object of oppression…government …founded upon a supposed necessity that men must be robbed of their property to preserve social order…invariably terminates in despotism.

John Taylor of Caroline deserves renewed attention. As F. Thornton Miller wrote, “with the continued increase in the power of the federal government and the pursuit of policies that benefit specific constituencies, the principles set out in Tyranny Unmasked are as relevant today as they were in 1822.”

(Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University in Malibu.)

Obama and U.S. Economic Suicide

Churchville, VA—President Obama is demanding, by Executive Order, what congress will not give him by vote. With winter approaching and the “Obamacare” mess hanging over his shoulder, he is now ordering the U.S. economy to hitch itself to more and more of the costly and erratic “renewable” energy sources. These have already bankrupted Spain and are about to bankrupt Great Britain and Germany.

Spain, Britain, and Germany are already years further down the road to the “renewable” blackouts President Obama now demands for America. Spain is already broke, and Britain is heading for mass energy poverty for its people. German industries meanwhile threaten to flee their country in favor of markets where they can get electricity that competes with coal in China and India.

In Britain, the government’s Energy Act demands the nation produce 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, up from the current government share of 12 percent. The target for 2050 is a whopping 80 percent! The high cost of building nuclear reactors has ruled out that option; the EU is demanding that coal be phased ou. Britain has big shale gas deposits, but the country has not approved fracking for the gas.

The only new power source the UK has left itself is thousands of huge, barge-mounted wind turbines in the turbulent North Sea! These sea-going windmills cost more to build and vastly more to maintain than land-based turbines—and could quadruple England’s future electric bills. British chemical plants are already starting to shut down, even as London newspapers predict fuel poverty (spending more than 10 percent of income for heat) for nearly half the population.

Germany’s Angela Merkel impulsively announced the end of German nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima tidal wave. Now Germany is burning more coal than ever, despite a national goal of getting 80 percent of its energy from renewable fuels, cutting greenhouse emissions by 80 percent and slashing electric usage by 25 percent.

Even without the hoped-for reduction in human CO2 emissions, the world has gotten no warmer since 1998, and today’s temperatures are little different from those of a century ago. The President nevertheless still believes what Greenpeace told him back when he was a community organizer—CO2 is the all-time threat to the planet.

Meanwhile, China demands that rich nations kick in $100 billion per year for energy subsidies in the poor countries that are not warming. India blames the industrial countries for the global non-warming and demands they “solve” it.

Even the International Panel on Climate Change is now admitting that the Medieval Warming and the Little Ice Age were global climate shifts, not unlike the Modern Warming. More and more evidence points to a long, natural solar cycle that we are still struggling to understand. The Antarctic ice expanded between 1979 and 2012 on both land and sea, and never mind the warming predicted for both poles. Even the Arctic has cooled sharply in the past few years, after a 30-year warming. This supports the Russian claim of a 70-year Arctic warming/cooling cycle. Worldwide, sea levels are rising no faster and droughts have not increased.

Most interesting of all, the IPCC says in its new report that the reduced trend in the earth’s warming has been due to “volcanic eruptions.” It is true that volcanic eruptions can darken the sky and reduce the solar heat that reaches the earth. Moreover, at the same time they add to the CO2 concentration in the air.

You ask which major volcanoes erupted during the 1998–2012 period? The reality is none. Meanwhile, the modest eruption of an Icelandic volcano in 2010 released more CO2 than was prevented by all of the ultra-costly human efforts to limit CO2 emissions.

With no recent warming, what new evidence do we have about CO2 being the world’s big problem? Again, the answer seems to be “none.” President Obama is leading us like lemmings into the same suicidal behavior that is destroying Europe’s prosperity—with no apparent impact on the CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere. Why the economic suicide, Mr. President?

(Dennis T. Avery, a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., is an environmental economist. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Years.)

The Only Reaction is One of Individualism

November 7 marks the centennial of Albert Camus, 1957 Nobel Laureate in Literature for work that “illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times,” when the specter of tyranny loomed large during World War II and its aftermath.

While best known as an existentialist and absurdist, Camus said the writer “cannot put himself today in the service of those who make history; he is at the service of those who suffer it.” On their behalf, “the two tasks that constitute the greatness of [the writer’s] craft [are] the service of truth and the service of liberty …rooted in two commitments…the refusal to lie about what one knows and the resistance to oppression.” To commemorate his 100th birthday, his defense of liberty against tyranny merits remembering.

In the twentieth century power wears the mask of tragedy.

The real passion of the twentieth century is servitude.

The tyrannies of today…no longer admit of silence or neutrality. One has to take a stand, be either for or against…I am against.

Totalitarian tyranny is not based on the virtues of the totalitarians. It is based on the mistakes of the liberals.

The principles which men give to themselves end by overwhelming their noblest intentions.

The welfare of the people…has always been the alibi of tyrants… giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience.

[P]olitical utopias justified in advance any enterprises whatever.

All modern revolutions have ended in a reinforcement of the power of the State.

Absolute domination by the law does not represent liberty.

The only conception of freedom I can have is that of the prisoner or the individual in the midst of the state. The only one I know is freedom of thought and action.

I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice.

Freedom is not a gift received from the State or leader, but a possession to be won every day by the effort of each…

Freedom is not a reward or a decoration that is celebrated with champagne…It’s a long distance race, quite solitary and very exhausting.

Freedom is nothing else but a chance to get better, whereas enslavement is a certainty of the worse.

[T]he tree of liberty [is] the sap of creation and of civilization…

Liberty ultimately seems to me, for societies and for individuals… the supreme good that governs all others.

Instead of killing and dying in order to produce the being that we are not, we have to live and let live in order to create what we are.

The current motto for all of us can only be this: without giving up anything on the plane of justice, yield nothing on the plane of freedom.

The aim of art, the aim of a life can only be to increase the sum of freedom and responsibility to be found in every man and in the world. It cannot, under any circumstances, be to reduce or suppress that freedom.

Being aware of one’s freedom, and to the maximum, is living, and to the maximum.

More and more, when faced with the world of men, the only reaction is one of individualism. Man alone is an end unto himself. Everything one tries to do for the common good ends in failure.

Albert Camus wrote when “the barricades of freedom have once more been thrown up. Once more justice must be bought with the blood of men.” The crucial importance of defending liberty against tyranny was clear then. But many have forgotten that essential recognition, despite the web of softer tyrannies that increasingly surround us. That keeps Camus’ insights, particularly the recognition that liberty is “the supreme good that governs all others,” essential today.

(Gary M. Galles  is a Professor of Economics at Pepperdine University.)

William Penn, Pre-Founding Father

October 14 is an important but overlooked day in American history.  It marks the 1644 birth of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania and an important influence on what would become America.

Before Pennsylvania was founded, Penn defended British rights on which Americans’ rights would be built.

Penn joined the Quakers at 22.  Because they dissented from the state religion and refused to take loyalty oaths, he became an outsider in British society.  He was expelled from Oxford and arrested several times.

Put on trial for preaching at a Quaker gathering, he asked to exercise his legal right to see the charges brought against him, because “if these ancient and fundamental laws, which relate to liberty and property…must not be indispensably maintained and observed, who then can say that he has a right to the coat on his back? Certainly our liberties are to be openly invaded…our estates led away…forfeits for conscience’s sake.”  Later, Penn wrote that “no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.”

The judge—the Lord Mayor of London—refused and pressed the jury for a conviction, but the jury found him innocent.  The Lord Mayor then sent him back to jail for contempt of court, and also fined and jailed the jury. From prison, they fought back.  The result wrested English juries from judicial control, so that verdicts could not be coerced and juries could not be punished for verdicts the government disliked, providing what Penn termed “the insurance which we have on our lives and property” against government abuse.

When Charles II died, a large debt to Penn’s father was settled in 1681 by granting him what would become Pennsylvania.  Penn implemented his authority over the colony in his 1682 Frame of Government, Pennsylvania’s first constitution, which provided for elected representatives, a separation of powers, religious freedom and fair trials, all incorporated later in our Constitution.

When in Pennsylvania, Penn led by example. He provided for fair treatment for Indians in disputes with whites. He insisted that their lands be purchased rather than conquered or stolen.  Voltaire praised his treaty with the Indians at Shackamaxon (commemorated in a frieze on the U.S. Capitol) as “the only treaty between [Indians and Europeans]…that was never infringed.”

Penn anticipated the ideals of the Declaration of Independence.  As he wrote in his First Frame of Government, “Men being born with a title to perfect freedom and uncontrolled enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of the law of nature…no one can be put out of his estate and subjected to the political view of another, without his consent.”

Penn’s experience of government abuse hands made him fully committed to freedom.  And his determination to enshrine it as the central principle of social organization led Voltaire to conclude that “William Penn might, with reason, boast of having brought down upon earth the Golden Age, which in all probability, never had any real existence but in his dominions.”

Jim Powell wrote “William Penn was the first great hero of American liberty…Penn established an American sanctuary which protected freedom of conscience…He gave Pennsylvania a written constitution which limited the power of government, provided a humane penal code, and guaranteed many fundamental liberties.  For the first time in modem history, a large society offered equal rights to people of different races and religions.”

Penn’s importance to America was great enough that President Ronald Reagan proclaimed him an honorary citizen, as one of “a small number of men and women whose contributions to its traditions of freedom, justice, and individual rights have accorded them a special place of honor in our hearts and minds, and to whom all Americans owe a lasting debt.”

In Jim Powell’s words, “Penn set an enormously important example for liberty. He showed that people who are courageous enough, persistent enough, and resourceful enough can live free…how a free society would actually work.”  At a time when our freedoms have been increasingly crowded out by expanding government control, Penn’s commitment to a free society needs rediscovery.

(Gary M. Galles  is a Professor of Economics at Pepperdine University.)

James Wilson, Liberty and the Constitution

James Wilson, born September 14, was one of America’s most important founders, but is now little known. One of only six to sign both the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution, his views were very influential.

Before the Declaration of Independence, Wilson’s Considerations on the Nature and Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament argued that Parliament had no authority to legislate for the colonies. It was widely read, including by those at the Continental Congress, to which he was elected in 1775. There, he was an influential voice arguing for complete separation from England.

Wilson was a member of the Committee on Detail, which produced the first draft of the Constitution. He also argued forcefully for ratification of the final version in Pennsylvania. In fact, his October 6, 1787, Ratification Speech before the Pennsylvania Legislature received more coverage than The Federalist.

George Washington appointed Wilson to the first Supreme Court in 1789. And beginning in 1790, in a set of law lectures, he became one America’s first legal philosophers, spelling out the thinking behind early Supreme Court decisions.

Perhaps most striking about James Wilson was his understanding that the purpose of government was to secure the pre-existing rights of its members and that the Constitution was crafted to create such a government. Remembering those ideas, seriously endangered today, would benefit Americans.

Wilson clarified our founders’ understanding of natural law: “The defense of one’s self, justly called the primary law of nature, is not, nor can it be, abrogated by any regulation.”  What does each individual’s self-ownership, and right of self-defense that derives from it, mean for government? “All men are by nature equal and free. No one has a right to any authority over another without his consent.”

Wilson spelled out the implications of government consistent with natural law: “The liberty of every member is increased…each gains more by the limitation of the freedom of every other member, than he loses by the limitation of his own. The result is that civil government is necessary to the perfection and happiness of man.”

In consequence, government “should be formed to secure and enlarge the exercise of the natural rights of its members; and every government which has not this in view as its principal object is not a government of the legitimate kind.”

Since all must be better protected to expand everyone’s rights and liberties, everyone had to be treated equally. No one’s liberty could be taken away; no one’s property could be violated. “In the enjoyment of their persons and of their property, the common law protects all.”  Therefore, his insight that “without a good government, liberty cannot exist,” was echoed by our founders.

Because of the centrality of a good government to liberty, “A good constitution is the greatest blessing which a society can enjoy.”  And because “in this government, liberty shall reign triumphant,” Americans were bequeathed “that system of government which would best promote their freedom and happiness.”

An important consequence then follows from the existence of those who would override our free choices with their dictates: “[A]mong the virtues necessary to merit and preserve the advantages of good government [are] a warm and uniform attachment to liberty and to the Constitution,” because “The enemies of liberty are artful and insidious…Against these enemies… the patriot citizen will keep a watchful guard.”

James Wilson was a great American statesman whose words reveal what was truly revolutionary about our experiment in liberty.  His discussion of “those principles upon which we ourselves have thought and acted” is especially valuable now, when government erodes liberty far more frequently than it defends it.

(Gary M. Galles  is a Professor of Economics at Pepperdine University.)