How would WE change the Constitution?
Plus: encounters with the new Star Trek, David Bernstein’s new book, and the ‘Rona
Please join us for The Hong Konger
On August 11, I’ll be co-hosting a free showing of The Hong Konger, a documentary about Hong Kong freedom activist Jimmy Lai, at the AMC Arizona Center in Phoenix. Afterward, we’ll discuss the movie with the film’s associate producer, Eric Kohn, and Ambassador Andrew Bremberg of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. It’ll be an interesting, moving, and important evening. Please join us!
July 4 in Utah
Every year, Christina and I spend July 4 in a different state, and this year was Utah’s turn. We headed out to Zion and Bryce, where Christina got some picturesque running done, and where we enjoyed the breathtaking views…
…before catching COVID. It turns out “breathtaking” might be a poor choice of words.
We actually made it through pretty well; we’re both vaccinated and boosted, and this was the relatively lighter strain, so aside from some exhaustion, soreness, and coughing, it wasn’t too terrible an experience—except the loss of the sense of taste, which was a bizarre and distressing experience for people who love food as much as we do. We were particularly disappointed that it did not lead, as we’d thought, to us eating less. On the contrary, we found we ended up eating more, perhaps because we kept hoping something would taste good. We’re mostly back to normal now.
Bureaucrats behaving badly
I recently talked with Chris DeSimone of Wake up Tucson! and with Armstrong and Getty about the Goldwater Institute’s latest lawsuit. We and Pacific Legal Foundation are defending a Tucson mom named Sarra against state Department of Child Safety officials who want to put her name on the “Central Registry”—essentially a “do not hire” list—for 25 years on the grounds of child neglect…because she let her son play in a public park by himself for a half an hour while she went to the grocery store. You can click on those links to listen, and you can learn more about the case here.
How would you change the Constitution?
John Stossel recently asked Christina and me what we would do to change the U.S. Constitution if we could. Our suggestion was: incorporate into it some of the protections for individual liberty that you find in some state constitutions:
In fact, a couple years ago, I joined Ilya Shapiro and Christina Mulligan to participate in the National Constitution Center’s project to revise the U.S. Constitution in keeping with certain political philosophies—we were “Team Libertarian,” of course—and we proposed incorporating many state constitutional provisions into our revised federal Constitution. You can look at our handiwork here, and listen to my conversation with radio host Bob Zadek about our project here.
Strange New Worlds
Christina and I finally took the time to watch Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Our verdict: pretty good! It certainly suffers from some flaws, but it’s the first actual Star Trek we’ve been given in 20 years. The best episode by far was “Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach,” which had enough philosophical heft that it might have qualified as an Original Series episode. (It came as no surprise to learn that it was based on an idea Roddenberry tried to make into an episode; based on “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. LeGuin.) The final episode of the season, based on the Original Series episode “Balance of Terror,” was interesting, but a) I’m not prepared to accept a black-haired Kirk, and b) they need to focus less on world-building, and more on telling interesting, stand-alone stories. Star Trek is at its best when it’s like The Twilight Zone, not when it tries to be like Star Wars.
Over at The Objective Standard, I reviewed David E. Bernstein’s new book Classified, which is about the insane ways the government categorizes people based on race. We often take for granted the idea that there are rational ways of distinguishing between different racial groups, but the reality is the opposite: the government’s racial classification systems are often arbitrary and illogical, based on politics rather than on anything legitimately resembling a principle:
The “Hispanic” classification [for instance]…was created by government fiat in the 1970s to encompass people whose ancestry is derived from Spanish-speaking countries. Basing a classification on language rather than history or biology is peculiar, given that language is not an immutable characteristic acquired at birth. But the Hispanic category also includes people who do not speak Spanish, such as Brazilians, who speak Portuguese, and immigrants from Spain who speak Catalan. What’s more, residents of Spanish-speaking countries do not call themselves “Hispanic,” and polls reveal that half of American-citizen Hispanics consider themselves white.
The results of this bizarre taxonomy are sometimes silly. When Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story appeared last year, studio publicists boasted that the cast would be racially “authentic” because the Puerto Rican character Maria would be portrayed by Hispanic actress Rachel Zegler. But Zegler is of Colombian and European ancestry and has no Puerto Rican heritage. “Exactly how casting a half-Colombian, half-European actress to play a Puerto Rican character is culturally sensitive was left unexplained,” writes Bernstein.
The Federalism Problems with the Indian Child Welfare Act
The second of my two-part series of articles on the constitutional flaws of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) has been published by the Texas Review of Law & Politics. This is the article that the American Indian Law Review accepted, and then tried to cancel when they decided that it was politically unacceptable to criticize ICWA. In my first article, I explained how ICWA violates the Constitution’s prohibition on race-based legislation. In this article, I put that aside and explore how ICWA violates the constraints of federalism—commandeering state executive and judicial branch officials and going far beyond what the Commerce Clause actually authorizes.
The Permission Society
I have an article in Discourse this morning about the implications of the recent gun-rights case for other situations in which government requires us to get permits.
It reminded me of a presentation I gave a couple years ago at Pepperdine University about my book The Permission Society. I was particularly proud of this talk, which incorporates some things I chose to remove from the manuscript before publishing the book (because it was already too long). In my presentation, I talk about the differences between rights and permissions, and explain why although the critics of natural rights theory like to pretend that they’re all realistic and scientific and rational, they’re actually engaged in magical thinking.
Coming next month…
August is already going to be very busy, with a couple new articles on constitutional law, some speaking events, briefs on economic liberty, and tons of traveling….