Last month the Cato Institute hosted a panel celebrating Repeal Day
with me, alcohol policy expert Michelle Minton of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Stacia Cosner of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and Cato Digital Marketing Manager Kat Murti as moderator.
On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, supposedly ending our nation’s failed experiment with prohibitionism. Yet, 81 years later, modern-day prohibitionists continue to deny the laws of supply and demand, attempting to control what individuals can choose to put into their own bodies….
Some links related to the discussion:
- All the panelists quoted from Daniel Okrent’s excellent history of Prohibition, Last Call. You can find out more about the book at the author’s site.
- I quote from a speech by the late Christopher Hitchens delivered ten years almost to the day before our panel. It is excerpted in this David Boaz post.
- Radley Balko wrote a 2003 Cato Policy Analysis, “Back Door to Prohibition: The New War on Social Drinking“. More: The federal Centers for Disease Control, as I noted, has been an agency of choice for public health campaigners because of its legacy of scientific credibility, yet this credibility is itself put increasingly at risk as the CDC lends its name to propaganda. Jacob Sullum provides examples from the agency’s elastic application of the term “binge drinking” to the trouble it seems to have acknowledging that minor alcohol consumption does not seem to correlate with poor health outcomes;
- As I mention, the Prohibition episode was important in eroding constitutional protections against various law-enforcement tools, especially search and seizure, the law being inherently aimed at contraband goods. The same is true of the nascent Drug War undertaken following the Harrison narcotics act of 1914. You can read about one of the resulting Supreme Court cases here.
- The role of exorbitant cigarette taxes in contributing to New York’s giant black market in cigarettes came to wider public notice following the police custody death of Eric Garner on Staten Island; more here, here, etc. The New York Post reported that Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the city law department to refrain from filing an intended press release over a would-be landmark suit filed over untaxed cigarettes the week of the Garner grand jury decision, because it interfered with City Hall’s efforts to downplay the role of the tobacco black market.
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Register here for the 5 p.m. Cato event. Description:
Featuring Walter Olson, Senior Fellow, Center for Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute & Editor, Overlawyered.com (@walterolson); Stacia Cosner, Deputy Director, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (@TheStacia); Michelle Minton, Fellow in Consumer Policy Studies, Competitive Enterprise Institute (@michelleminton); moderated by Kat Murti, Digital Marketing Manager, Cato Institute (@KatMurti).
On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, supposedly ending our nation’s failed experiment with prohibitionism. Yet, 81 years later, modern-day prohibitionists continue to deny the laws of supply and demand, attempting to control what individuals can choose to put into their own bodies.
Please join the Cato Institute for a celebration of the 81st anniversary of the repeal of alcohol prohibition. Panelists will discuss modern prohibitions—from the Drug War to blue laws; tobacco regulation to transfats—drawing connections with their earlier antecedent.
Alcoholic beverages and other commonly restricted refreshments (bring on the trans fats!) will be served following the discussion.
#CatoDigital (formerly #NewMediaLunch) is a regular event series at the Cato Institute highlighting the intersection of tech, social media, and the ideas of liberty.
This event will be live-streamed and questions may be submitted via Twitter using #CatoDigital.
If you can’t make it to the Cato Institute, watch this event live online at www.cato.org/live and follow @CatoEvents on Twitter to get future event updates, live streams, and videos from the Cato Institute.
On Monday I moderated a panel at Cato on Damon Root’s splendid new book on the long debate over judicial activism from the Civil War to the present (blurbs). Commenting were prominent legal journalist Jeffrey Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, and Roger Pilon, director of Cato’s Center for Constitutional Studies, whose work figures prominently in the book. From the description:
What is the proper role of the Supreme Court under the Constitution? Should the Court be “active” or “restrained”? Or is that even the proper way to look at the question, however much we’ve heard it put that way for several decades now? In his new book, Damon Root traces this debate from the Constitution’s conception to the present. His central focus, however, is on the emergence of the modern libertarian approach, which cuts through the often sterile debate between liberals and conservatives and points to the Constitution itself by way of determining the proper role of the Court under it.
Last week Cato held its annual Constitution Day celebrating the publication of the new 2013-14 Cato Supreme Court Review, with articles from such contributors as Roger Pilon, David Bernstein, Eric Rassbach, Andrew Pincus, Richard Epstein, and P.J. O’Rourke. They discuss most of the big and a few of the not-so-big cases of the past term, including Hobby Lobby, Canning, Schuette, Bond, McCutcheon, and Harris v. Quinn. The panel above (also available as video and podcast download) looks forward to the upcoming October term; it’s moderated by the review’s editor, Ilya Shapiro, with panelists Michael Carvin, Tom Goldstein, and Richard Wolf. The review concludes with an essay on the same general subject by Miguel Estrada and Ashley Boizelle.
This year, the contents of the review are available for immediate download (although we also encourage buying hard copies, of course.) As I’ve said while singing its praises before, it’s distinguished from conventional law reviews not only by its Madisonian point of view, and by its extreme speediness (published only three or so months after the conclusion of the Court’s last term) but also by its unusual readability and style, pitched to intelligent readers whether or not they are specialists in the law.
Registration is open only until Monday for one of the Cato Institute’s premier annual events, the annual Supreme Court symposium celebrating Constitution Day and the publication of what will be the thirteenth annual Cato Supreme Court Review. The theme of the all-day event is “Past and Prologue,” looking back to the 2013 term and forward to the next, and panelists include Nadine Strossen, Tom Goldstein, Michael Carvin, and Eric Rassbach, as well as familiar Cato names like Roger Pilon, Ilya Shapiro, and Trevor Burrus. The program concludes with the annual B. Kenneth Simon Lecture, this year given by the Hon. Diane Sykes, judge on the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, who will discuss “Judicial Minimalism and Its Limits.” A reception follows. Register here.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled this morning in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus that a lower court challenge can proceed against Ohio’s law purporting to ban untruthful campaign speech. [decision, SCOTUSBlog, earlier Overlawyered coverage] The ruling was widely expected: “not a single amicus brief was filed on behalf of the state of Ohio, and even liberal groups conceded that allowing the state to arbitrate truth or falsity in political campaigns was troubling. During oral argument, the Justices seemed profoundly skeptical of the law’s underlying constitutionality.” [MSNBC]
The Court did not decide the First Amendment merits. Its ruling instead turns on the cluster of issues relating to standing: was there injury in fact from the law sufficient to support a challenge even though the original complaint had been dropped? While the two wings of the Court often divide on standing, they united in taking an expansive view this time. Here and there Justice Thomas’s opinion for the 9-0 Court does brush up against the underlying First Amendment problem of the chilling of speech, which will now move front and center as the lower court again takes up the case. A passage of particular interest from pp. 15-16 (footnotes omitted):
As the Ohio Attorney General himself notes, the “practical effect” of the Ohio false statement scheme is “to permit a private complainant . . . to gain a campaign advantage without ever having to prove the falsity of a statement.” “[C]omplainants may time their submissions to achieve maximum disruption of their political opponents while calculating that an ultimate decision on the merits will be deferred until after the relevant election.” Moreover, the target of a false statement complaint may be forced to divert significant time and resources to hire legal counsel and respond to discovery requests in the crucial days leading up to an election.
Here’s the entertaining and hilarious amicus brief (what a concept) filed by my Cato colleagues Trevor Burrus, Ilya Shapiro, and Gabriel Latner on behalf of humorist and Cato fellow P.J. O’Rourke (who explains his involvement; more from Ilya and Trevor). And Ilya has a reaction to the opinion at Cato at Liberty (“Chilling speech is no laughing matter… today was a banner morning for free speech and judicial engagement.”)
Peter Schuck, professor emeritus at Yale Law School, came to Cato in March to discuss his new book Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better. Caleb Brown of Cato interviewed him for this Cato podcast.
“…Most companies roll over.” [Tim Lynch, Cato; WSJ; related on Federal Energy Regulatory Commission enforcement]
On this coming Monday, May 19, the Cato Institute is hosting a lunch on the subject of “Mugged by the State: When Regulators and Prosecutors Bully Citizens,” featuring Kevin Gates, Vice President, Powhatan Energy Fund; William Hurwitz, M.D., Pain Treatment Specialist; Lawrence Lewis, Engineer and Building Manager; and William Yeatman, Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute; moderated by Tim Lynch, Director, Project on Criminal Justice, Cato Institute. You can watch live online at http://www.cato.org/live.
More: Cato podcast, brothers’ website, Philly.com (with an additional story of a man resisting the Delaware insurance commission after it took over his nightclub insurer). And: WSJ via John Cochrane on another FERC case.
Yesterday Yale Law professor emeritus Peter Schuck visited Cato to discuss his new book, and Arnold Kling commented, with me moderating. More about the book and its arguments is here, and a further note from Kling.
I’ve been blogging about a different political poster each day this week at Cato:
* Monday, “Socialism Would Mean Inspectors All Round,” 1929 British Conservative Party poster;
* Tuesday, “Come on, Dad! We’re going to vote Liberal,” 1929 British Liberal Party poster;
* Wednesday, “I Need Smokes,” World War One American poster;
* Thursday, Art Deco Prohibitionist traffic safety poster.
Update: and here’s Friday’s final installment, a contemporary freedom-of-the-press poster from Jordan.
Now online: Wednesday’s Cato Institute event at which Virginia Postrel discussed her new book The Power of Glamour: Persuasion, Longing, and Individual Aspiration with sparkling comments from economist Tyler Cowen and New York Times writer-at-large Sam Tanenhaus. Subtracting considerably from the glamo(u)r factor, I moderated and introduced. More here.
If you missed that fantastic lunch, you’ll really kick yourself if you miss our author lunch next Wednesday with the phenomenal Lenore Skenazy, founder of the Free-Range Kids movement. Click through and register now, while you’re thinking about it.
Tune in Tuesday night as Cato colleagues and I liveblog the State of the Union, or check Twitter at #CatoSOTU.
While you’re at it, do follow me on Twitter at @walterolson and @overlawyered, and at Facebook on both author and blog pages.
So will the federal government pay just compensation? The Supreme Court may decide that question in the pending case of Brandt v. U.S., in which the Cato Institute has filed an amicus brief. [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
On Thursday I was a panelist at the Federalist Society National Lawyers’ Conference discussing the rapid rise of litigation funding — specifically, well-capitalized firms that advance money to plaintiffs in commercial high-stakes litigation, often in exchange for a share in the proceeds. (A separate wing of the litigation finance business, which was not the panel’s primary focus, advances smallish sums to individual injury plaintiffs at high interest rates in a sort of analogue of payday lending.)
My opening remarks speculate about the future emergence of divorce trolls — excuse me, “marital rights assertion entities” — set up to buy out an ex-spouse’s stake in ongoing matrimonial strife and play it for maximum extraction value. While no one has yet rolled out that kind of business model, note that outside financiers have indeed begun to fund divorce litigation.
More seriously, I went on to argue that the rise of patent trolls and mass tort operations prefigures problems we are likely to see emerge from litigation finance, from the encouragement given to low-value claims to a settlement process skewed by the interests of the funders rather than the original disputants, and suggest that the age-old rules against champerty, maintenance and barratry might owe something to an appreciation of such dangers. A link to the video is here.
More: Check out Roger Pilon’s post on what else Cato people were up to at the Mayflower last week.