For the last year or so I’ve been traveling around the country debating David Callahan, a senior fellow at Demos. The debates have focused on the fundamental issues underlying politics and economics: individualism and collectivism, capitalism and government intervention, democracy and limited government, and so on. Here’s the video from our latest event, which took place in Chicago.
As with any debate, we were only able to briefly touch on most of the issues. Let me know if there is anything that came up which you’d like Don or me to address in more detail.
This list comes courtesy of our friend Larry Salzman, an attorney with the Institute for Justice. I have not read most of these books myself, so buyer beware—but I’m definitely adding the rest to my reading list. -Don
The Guardian of Every Other Right – James Ely. Ely’s history of the relationship of property rights to the Constitution is easy to read and the most informative single volume on the subject.
Economic Liberties and the Constitution – Bernard Siegan. I strongly recommend the first edition, which is out of print but always available used from Amazon. The second edition was badly edited and added a lot of extraneous new content that does not advance his argument. It is dated (written in 1980), but was a primary source for modern advocates of reviving protection of economic liberties under the Constitution and is still sound in all respects. [From the Amazon description: Siegan “contrasts the benefits of a free, deregulated economy with the dangers of over-regulation and moves towards socialized welfare most specifically as happened during Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency. Supporting his thesis with historical court cases, Siegan discusses the past and present status of economic liberties under the Constitution, clarifies constitutional interpretation and due process, and suggests ways of safeguarding economic liberties.” –DW]
The Right to Earn a Living – Timothy Sandefur. Sandefur’s book reviews the history of the economic liberties under the Constitution and how Progressive Era thinking influenced the adjudication of economic liberties cases. The book gives special emphasis to occupational licensing.
How Progressives Rewrote the Constitution – Richard Epstein. This short volume is a concise tour of the history of major legal changes from the 19th through 20th centuries. It is a little heavier on legal doctrine than some other books, but still directed at non-lawyers.
The Dirty Dozen – Chip Mellor and Bob Levy. This book details 12 Supreme Court decisions that had bad effects on liberty generally, about half of which are related to economics and property rights.
Rehabilitating Lochner– David Bernstein. As the title suggests, this book deals only with the history of one case, but that case became an epithet during the 20th century to dismiss serious consideration of the protection of economic liberties under the Constitution. Siegan’s 1980 book inspired many scholars to begin reconsidering the actual history of economic liberties under the Constitution and particularly Lochner and Bernstein’s book demonstrates with unanswerable concretes that the disparagement of economic liberties during the 20th century is often sustained by a Big Lie. [My colleague Tom Bowden has written about this book here. –DW]
Liberty of Contract – David Mayer. No economic liberty has been more maligned than the liberty of contract. David Mayer’s careful discussion of so-called Lochner-Era cases traces the Supreme Court’s understanding of that right and its extinction as a constitutionally protected right by the end of the New Deal.
To borrow the title of Charles Sykes’s latest book, we are increasingly living in a nation of moochers.
A new report from the Medicare Trustees acknowledges the disastrous problems that lie ahead for Medicare. The Obama administration released its own report on the health entitlement, which John Goodman aptly characterizes as “Bernie Madoff Accounting for Medicare.”
John Cochrane on “How to lie with statistics.” The bottom line is that figuring out who pays how much in taxes is really, really hard. We should be skeptical whenever we hear pronouncements about how much this or that group is paying.
A few unnecessary concessions (“No one denies that appropriate federal regulation can encourage innovation and healthier corporate behavior“), but an otherwise good piece detailing the destructive regulation of the financial industry.
To the extent inequality is a problem in America, it’s because some significant part of that inequality is created by government. “The relentless expansion of credit by the Fed creates artificial disparities based on political privilege and economic power.”
A profoundly important principle from George Will: “The Constitution is a document, one understood—as America’s greatest jurist, John Marshall, said—‘chiefly from its words.’ And those words are to be construed in the bright light cast by the Declaration.”
“We know who the active [climate] denialists are—not the people who buy the lies, mind you, but the people who create the lies. Let’s start keeping track of them now, and when the famines come, let’s make them pay. Let’s let their houses burn. Let’s swap their safe land for submerged islands. Let’s force them to bear the cost of rising food prices.” Well, I guess that’s better than the wishing death on all of humanity, which is a recurring theme among the greens.