Posts Tagged ‘civil liberties’

I have just posted a couple of my working papers to SSRN for those who are interested. They are as follows:

  1. Public Policy and Quality of Life: An Empirical Analysis of Interstate Migration, 2000-2012
    Individuals and households choose their political jurisdiction of residence on the basis of expected income differentials and jurisdiction-specific characteristics covered by the general term “amenities.” In addition to fixed characteristics like climate and terrain, amenities may include public policies, as in the well-known Tiebout model of migration. Do Americans reveal preferences for certain public policies by tending to migrate toward jurisdictions that offer them? This article tests whether state government involvement in fiscal policy, business regulation, and civil and personal liberties more often reflects an amenity or a disamenity for Americans willing to move. As identification strategies, the article estimates spatial, matched-neighbors, and dyadic models of net interstate migration for all 50 states, covering the years 2000-2012. The evidence suggests that cost of living, which is in turn strongly correlated with land-use regulation, strongly deters in-migration, while both fiscal and regulatory components of “economic freedom” attract new residents. There is less robust evidence that “personal freedom” attracts residents.
  2. Civil Libertarianism-Communitarianism: A State Policy Ideology Dimension
    This paper investigates the existence of a second dimension of state policy ideology orthogonal to the traditional left-right dimension: civil libertarianism-communitarianism. It argues that voter attitudes toward nonviolent acts that are sometimes crimes, particularly weapons and drugs offenses, are in part distinct from their liberal or conservative ideologies, and cause systematic variation in states’ policies toward these acts. The hypotheses are tested with a structural equation model of state policies that combines “confirmatory factor analysis” with linear regression. The existence of a second dimension of state policy essentially uncorrelated with left-right ideology and loading onto gun control, marijuana, and other criminal justice policies is confirmed. Moreover, this dimension of policy ideology relates in the expected fashion to urbanization and the strength of ideological libertarianism in the state electorate. The results suggest that the libertarian-communitarian divide represents an enduring dimension of policy-making in the United States.

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Imagine two countries, each the size of the U.S. In one of them, the average tax rate is 1% (of income) lower than the other, but unlike the other it randomly selects ten innocent individuals for execution each year (perhaps ritual human sacrifice!). Assuming personal income of $12 trillion like the United States, the lower tax rate in this country allows for more freedom worth $120 billion a year, by our method. If the statistical value of a life is $7 million, however, the execution policy only costs $70 million a year in freedom. Thus, not only is the human-sacrifice state with a slightly lower tax rate “freer” by this crude metric, but it is not even close.

Which is truly the freer country, assuming they are exactly alike in all other respects? And by how much?

The first paragraph above comes from the forthcoming third edition of Freedom in the 50 States: Index of Personal and Economic Freedom.

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At Mother Jones, Adam Serwer details the Democratic Party’s platform’s ratification of the Obama Administration’s wholesale retreat on civil liberties. When stacking this sort of thing alongside the GOP’s attempt to become the Defenders of Medicare, I not only find it difficult to care who wins the next presidential election, but to understand why anyone else would.

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George Will has a good column today on civil asset forfeiture abuse. He highlights an ongoing case in Tewksbury, Mass., where the DOJ and local police department are colluding to seize a motel from the owners because some drug dealers have stayed there in the past. The government is not claiming that the owners knew or even should have known about criminal activity at the motel; they can seize the property anyway, accusing an inanimate object of committing a crime. The Institute for Justice, who put out the recent Policing for Profit report blowing the whistle on ongoing forfeiture abuse around the country, is representing the owners and challenging the forfeiture on both Eighth and 10th Amendment grounds.

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I’ve never voted for a Democrat or Republican for president at a general election. I’ve always voted for a Libertarian (in 2008 I voted for George Phillies, who was on the ballot as a Libertarian in New Hampshire in addition to the official candidate, Bob Barr), and I’ve never had reason to regret my vote. Throughout my adult life (I first voted in 1996), every U.S. president has been worse than the one before, and the major-party candidates they defeated would almost certainly have been just as bad.

One common argument I hear from Republicans is that libertarians should vote for Republican presidential candidates because of the Supreme Court. And indeed, libertarians generally share conservatives’ enthusiasm for the prospect of the Supreme Court’s overturning at least part of the PPACA. However, the recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision authorizing invasive strip searches of all arrestees shows us the other side of the coin: the Supreme Court’s conservatives are disturbingly willing to defer to the executive branch on issues of non-economic personal liberties. Most of the politically controversial cases with which the federal judiciary deals have to do with civil liberties and civil rights. Major Commerce Clause cases come around only once every few years — and even there, Scalia and Kennedy are unreliable.

How will the current Court (more…)

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It’s not just Glenn Greenwald any more; other civil libertarians from the left are beginning to speak out. Jonathan Turley on NPR about his September 2011 LA Times op-ed:

They just have a very difficult time opposing a man who’s an icon and has made history – the first black president, but also the guy that replaced George Bush. And the result is something akin to the Stockholm syndrome, where you’ve got this identification with your captor. I mean, the Democratic Party is split, civil libertarians are split, and the Democratic Party itself is now viewed by most civil libertarians as very hostile toward civil liberties.

More here.

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The ACLU has just released a candidate report card on certain civil liberties issues. It includes all Republican candidates, Barack Obama, and Gary Johnson. It doesn’t provide an aggregate score, but it scores all candidates on the issue areas of “humane immigration policy,” “closing Guantanamo Bay and indefinite detention,” “gays and lesbians serving openly in the military,” “ending torture,” “ending a surveillance state,” “freedom to marry for gay couples,” and “reproductive choice.”

I have some issues with the scoring on some of these. For instance, opposing torture, including waterboarding, is apparently not enough to get you full marks on torture. More importantly, I would differ from their scoring of “reproductive choice.” My views are similar to Gary Johnson’s: Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided law and should be overturned, states should be able to make their own laws on abortion, but generally I favor legal abortion before viability and a strict ban with the only exception for the life of the mother after viability, as well as a ban on taxpayer funding for abortions.

Nevertheless, it may be a useful tool for Pileus readers in making judgments about whom to support in the primaries and beyond. In general, the only candidates the ACLU gives reasonably good marks on civil liberties are Johnson and Paul, with Huntsman and Obama clocking in at mediocre. The other Republicans are truly abysmal.

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So what do we think about the district court ruling overturning California’s same-sex marriage ban? To my knowledge, this is the first time a court has asserted a federal constitutional right to marriage.

As a longtime supporter of getting government out of marriage licensing and of legal equality for same-sex and nonmonogamous relationships, I am nevertheless somewhat ambivalent about the decision, because a nationwide ban on same-sex marriage bans would undercut the meta-ideological argument for decentralization of policy-making on controversial moral issues: majorities in different jurisdictions could have their own policies, leaving more people content with the regime under which they live than they would be with a single nationwide rule. For the same reason, I would be ambivalent about a federal court overturning all state and local gun laws. Some human rights are so basic that there should be a minimum federal standard, but when it comes to same-sex relationships, civil unions afford exactly the same rights without the terminology.


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UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, has opened up a public website on which British citizens can give their ideas for curbing government and restoring freedom. Given the social democratic tilt of the Lib Dems since the 1980s, this initiative seems promising. Here’s a sample of what Brits are saying about drug prohibition (the top-rated idea sounds as if it came straight of Harry Browne‘s mouth).

HT: Radley Balko.


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Antonym Contest!

There appears to be no widely accepted antonym for “civil libertarian.” So how about a contest? Please post your suggestions for a new coinage in the comments, and I will select a winner at the end of the day. The winner will receive a free Pileus t-shirt the approbation of the impartial spectator and one’s peers.

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Texas State political scientist William Ruger and I give our take on the Arizona boycott here. Quick take: the politicians denouncing Arizona’s “police state” need to take a good look at the planks in their own eyes.

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Britain’s general election is today, and recent polls show the Conservatives edging upward, close to the numbers they might need for a majority, assuming that the more complex seat calculators are right. Betting markets still give more than a 50% chance of a hung parliament, however.

What I don’t understand is how a Labour Party that has overseen the worst recession of any advanced country, ASBOs (which have been used to jail people for having noisy sex or going to a club), the creation of an Orwellian surveillance state in which camera monitors can nanny passers-by through installed megaphones, a smoking ban, and a national identity card can still be in striking distance of first place. Surely they must be down to their core vote – I’m just surprised that their core vote is so large.

UPDATE: In an odd footnote to the final day of campaigning, the former party leader of the UK Independence Party – perhaps Britain’s most classically liberal party apart from their immigration stance – who is also a parliamentary candidate with a good shot at winning a seat from the current Speaker, survived a serious plane crash this morning:

Nigel Farage plane crashRemarkably, he is reported to have suffered only moderate injuries.

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Today an Arizona bill allowing police to arrest anyone not carrying valid identification went to the governor’s desk for her signature. The bill also makes lacking proper immigration papers a state misdemeanor offense. In a shocking display of gutlessness, John McCain has endorsed the bill, presumably because he’s facing a primary challenge from hard-rightist J.D. Hayworth.

I’m a privacy-conscious person, and if I’m cycling or walking around town (i.e., not driving), I try not to carry identification. The growing “papers, please” mentality in this country is just one more disturbing indication of how far the civil liberties revolution of mid-century is being rolled back.

Arizona was #12 in personal freedom in a study I co-authored based on 2007 data. I’ve got to think that with laws like this, they are going to drop a peg or two. FWIW, according to Wikipedia 26 states allow you to refuse to provide identification to police, even if you are being legally detained.

HT: Hit & Run

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