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Britain, “Austerity,” and the Lessons of Economic History PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Kyle Latham   
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 05:37

Economists and pundits alike are going wild over the United Kingdom’s recent “double dip” recession. The 2008-9 recession prompted the election of a conservative coalition led by Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron decided the best path for economic recovery was “austerity,” a program of reduced government spending and smaller government debt. The new coalition – with the aid of Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne – sought to drastically slash the government budget. With the addition of increased taxes, the plan was dubbed “Tax & Axe.”

Two years later, the United Kingdom is back in recession. Keynesian economists are enjoying a savory “I told you so” moment, as many pointed out the dangers of austerity during troubled times. The logic runs as follows: When businesses, households, and governments all try to pay back their debts at the same time, they spend less; as they spend less, national income falls, leading to even less spending; this sets off a cycle of decreased spending and economic collapse.

The Keynesian solution is government spending. It goes like this: Governments can increase spending during recessions to keep national income up, preventing the spending collapse. In short, more stimulus is the answer.

In turn, many progressives in the United States are arguing that any similar austerity here (such as Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget plan) would have equally bad results: another recession.

Unfortunately, this reasoning is based on a faulty premise. Here is the reality: There is no austerity in the United Kingdom.

 
Shikha Dalmia: Half-Right on “Right to Work” PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Kevin Carson   
Saturday, 12 May 2012 05:52

Shikha Dalmia, writing in Reason (“Are Right to Work Laws the New Slavery?,” April 26), dismisses most union objections to “right to work” laws. But she concedes that on one issue – the requirement that unions provide representation for scabs who don’t pay dues – unions are “on more solid ground.”

But, she continues, unions themselves are partly to blame. “They are required to represent all workers in exchange for monopoly rights over collective bargaining in the workplace. That is the Faustian bargain they made in the Wagner Act.”

The problem is that she makes this sound primarily like a perk for the unions. She neglects to mention its value to employers, or more generally the way Wagner reflects the interests of employers.

 
Strip-Searching America: The Supreme Court Favors Abuse Over the Bill of Rights PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Thursday, 12 April 2012 05:53

In a devastating 5-4 ruling that not only condones an overreach of state power but legitimizes what is essentially state-sponsored humiliation and visual rape, the U.S. Supreme Court on April 2 declared that any person who is arrested and processed at a jail house can be subjected to a strip search. The severity of the offense is irrelevant – they can be guilty of nothing more than a minor traffic offense – and police or jail officials don’t need to have a reasonable suspicion that an arrestee is carrying a weapon or contraband. The five-man majority rationalized their ruling as being necessary for safety, security, and efficiency – the government’s overused and all-too-convenient justifications for its steady erosion of our freedoms since 9/11.

 
A Whirlwind Tour of the Supreme Court’s Commerce-Clause Jurisprudence PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by David J. Porter   
Thursday, 05 April 2012 12:05

There is a widely held view that Congress has virtually unlimited power to legislate, especially concerning economic matters. Consider, for example, the passage of the controversial Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act two years ago. While Congress’ power to regulate the economy is not completely unbounded, it is very far-reaching indeed. However, it was not always so.

 
Has the First Amendment Become an Exercise in Futility? PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Wednesday, 15 February 2012 09:25

Living in a representative democratic republic such as ours means that each person has the right to stand outside the halls of government and express his or her opinion on matters of state without fear of arrest. That’s what the First Amendment is all about.

It gives every American the right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.” It ensures, as Adam Newton and Ronald K.L. Collins report for the Five Freedoms Project, “that our leaders hear, even if they don’t listen to, the electorate. Though public officials may be indifferent, contrary, or silent participants in democratic discourse, at least the First Amendment commands their audience.”

As Newton and Collins elaborate: “‘Petitioning’ has come to signify any nonviolent, legal means of encouraging or disapproving government action, whether directed to the judicial, executive, or legislative branch. Lobbying, letter-writing, e-mail campaigns, testifying before tribunals, filing lawsuits, supporting referenda, collecting signatures for ballot initiatives, peaceful protests, and picketing: All public articulation of issues, complaints, and interests designed to spur government action qualifies under the petition clause, even if the activities partake of other First Amendment freedoms.”

Unfortunately, through a series of carefully crafted legislative steps, our government officials – both elected and appointed – have managed to disembowel this fundamental freedom, rendering it with little more meaning than the right to file a lawsuit against government officials. In the process, government officials have succeeded in insulating themselves from their constituents, making it increasingly difficult for average Americans to make themselves seen or heard by those who most need to hear what “we the people” have to say.

 
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