David Boaz participates in the panel, “Unfinished Business: The Atlantic LGBT Summit”

Posted on December 10, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Happy Repeal Day

Today is a great day for freedom. On this day in 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified, thus repealing Prohibition. My former colleague Brandon Arnold wrote about it a few years ago:

Prohibition isn’t a subject that should be studied by historians alone, as this failed experiment continues to have a significant impact on our nation.

Groups like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, a key force in the passage of Prohibition, survive to this day and continue to insist that Prohibition was a success and advocate for dry laws.

Prohibition-era state laws, many of which are still on the books today, created government-protected monopolies for alcohol distributors. These laws have survived for three-quarters of a century because of powerful, rent-seeking interest groups, despite the fact that they significantly raise costs and limit consumer options. And because of these distribution laws, it is illegal for millions of Americans to have wine shipped directly to their door.

The website RepealDay.org urges celebrations of the “return to the rich traditions of craft fermentation and distillation, the legitimacy of the American bartender as a contributor to the culinary arts, and the responsible enjoyment of alcohol as a sacred social custom.” It’s easy! You don’t have to hold a party. Just go to a bar or liquor store and have a drink.

RepealDay.org says that “No other holiday celebrates the laws that guarantee our rights.” I think that’s going too far. Constitution Day and Bill of Rights Day do exactly that. And in my view, so does Independence Day. But that’s quibbling. Today we celebrate the repeal of a bad law. A toast to that!

Cato celebrated the 75th anniversary of repeal with this policy forum featuring Michael Lerner, author of Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City; Glen Whitman, author of Strange Brew: Alcohol and Government Monopoly; Asheesh Agarwal, Former Assistant Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Policy Planning; and Radley Balko, Senior Editor, Reason.

And last year panelists at a Cato Forum discussed modern prohibitions—from the Drug War to blue laws; tobacco regulation to transfats—drawing connections with their earlier antecedent.

Posted on December 5, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Woodrow Wilson’s Racism Isn’t the Only Reason for Princeton to Shun His Name

Presidential candidate Ted Cruz, a Princeton graduate, calls Princeton protesters who want Woodrow Wilson’s name removed from the university “pampered teenagers who are scared of an idea that challenges their world view.”

The protesters, led by the Black Justice League, are challenging the omnipresence of Wilson on campus. Wilson served as president of Princeton before going on to be governor of New Jersey and finally president of the United States. Both the prestigious Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and a residential complex, Wilson College, bear his name.

The protesters demand that “the university administration publicly acknowledge the racist legacy of Woodrow Wilson” and take steps to rename the dormitory and the Wilson School.

Racism isn’t the only aspect of Wilson’s character and career that should give Princeton pause about honoring him.”

Cruz agrees with the protesters that Wilson was an “unmitigated racist.” He re-segregated the federal workforce after gains made in the Reconstruction era, and removed black officials. This was no accident. In his 1901 book, “A History of the American People,” he extolled the Ku Klux Klan for helping “the white men of the South” to rid themselves of “the intolerable burden of governments sustained by the votes of ignorant Negroes.”

But here’s the thing: Racism isn’t the only aspect of Wilson’s character and career that should give Princeton pause about honoring him.

Most notably, President Wilson led the United States into an unnecessary and disastrous war. World War I has been called “probably history’s worst catastrophe.” Certainly it was the United States’ greatest foreign-policy mistake. British and then US involvement turned a central European conflict into a world war. The war and its consequences arguably led to the Communist takeover of Russia, National Socialism in Germany, World War II and the Cold War.

Wilson had long advocated a federal government with “unstinted power,” and as president he quickly set about expanding federal power. He pushed for the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank, to centralize control over money and credit.

He imposed the first income tax under the new Sixteenth Amendment, and then sharply raised rates. He signed the first federal drug prohibition.

When war began, centralization accelerated. Historian Robert Higgs writes that the government “virtually nationalized the ocean shipping industry. It did nationalize the railroad, telephone, domestic telegraph, and international telegraphic cable industries.” Notably, World War I was the first American war to be fought primarily with conscript soldiers, who made up 72 percent of the Army.

Wilson pressed for the Espionage and Sedition acts, which virtually outlawed criticism of the government, the armed forces or the war effort. More than 2,000 people were prosecuted under the acts, including Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene Debs, Socialist congressman and publisher Victor Berger, and Robert Goldstein, the producer of a film about the American Revolution, “The Spirit of ’76,” which was accused of bringing the British government into disrepute.

And that was before the Red Scare and the notorious Palmer Raids, carried out by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer in 1919-20. Sociologist and historian James W. Loewen wrote, “Neither before nor since these campaigns has the United States come closer to being a police state.”

A lesser-known feature of Wilson’s civil-liberties record was the administration’s attempt to hunt down, entrap and discharge gay sailors in Newport, RI, in 1919.

Wilson disliked checks and balances, saying that the government is a living organism and “no living thing can have its organs offset against each other as checks, and live.” More than a century after Thomas Jefferson refused to deliver a State of the Union address, calling it a “Speech from the Throne,” Wilson resumed the practice of speaking to a joint session of Congress.

There’s a reason that Ivan Eland rated Wilson last of all presidents on “peace, prosperity, and liberty” in his book “Recarving Rushmore.” And that’s reason enough for a great university to be embarrassed by its association with him.

Posted on December 4, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Not on My Dime

Posted on December 2, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Better Than NCLB? That’s Not Saying Much

Posted on December 2, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States Have Accepted Many Syrians

Posted on December 2, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Restarting India’s Faltering Economic Revolution

Posted on December 2, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Paris Whopper of the Day: The Sahara Is Expanding

Posted on December 2, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Obama Should Stay out of the Turkey-Russia Crisis

Posted on December 2, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Common Core Will Hurt School Choice

Posted on December 2, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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