To say that that the First World War was the greatest cataclysm in human history since the fall of the Roman Empire is to put it mildly. The war destroyed so many good things and killed so many good people that civilization has not recovered and probably never will. Long after it officially ended, it continued to cause millions of deaths and tragedies, most obviously during its encore performance of 1939-45. But it did not stop even then. Many of its worst consequences came during official periods of peace and are unknown or forgotten, or remain unconnected with it in the public mind.
European history is easily tailored to suit the seasons: France in spring, the Balkans in winter, German-speaking nations in autumn, and in summer, Greece. I therefore held off reading Roderick Beaton’s new history of the Greek War of Independence, Byron’s War, until the sun was shining bright enough for me to imagine myself on the Kalamata waterfront, dragging a café table into the knee-deep waves like Patrick Leigh Fermor, who pioneered this dining arrangement in the 1950s in cooperation with a singularly unflappable Greek waiter.
Alas, in Beaton’s book the high adventure of the Philhellenes’ story is crowded out by a great deal of close analysis of Romantic poetry. A far better book is William St Clair’s That Greece Might Still Be Free: The Philhellenes in the Greek War of Independence (1972). St Clair relegates Lord Byron to the walk-on role he deserves compared with the more active members of the London Greek Committee, who far from being Romantics were radical Benthamites almost to a man.
The groundbreaking decision Monday in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, in which the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Obamacare’s contraception mandate violates the religious freedom of two closely held corporations, will be dissected heavily for days, and studied for weeks, years, and decades.
For consistent civil libertarians, one of the most remarkable — and favorable — aspects of the majority opinion by Justice Samuel Alito is its no-holds-barred defense of corporations asserting rights of “persons.” As my Competitive Enterprise Institute colleague Hans Bader explains, this case dealt with statutory rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and did not directly involve constitutional liberties. Alito, however, implied strongly that corporations — even if set up for profit — should enjoy all such “personal” rights.
In an earlier political life, then Republican Charlie Crist made a fuss about being a conservative when that was the label necessary to win Florida primaries and general elections. The most recent example of this being his failed attempt to out-conservative Marco Rubio for a U.S. Senate nomination in 2010.
When elections were not imminent, Crist mostly favored the label of “populist.” He even made up and encouraged the saccharin sobriquet of “the people’s governor” when he, to the surprise of many, held that office for four years. Now that he’s an Obama Democrat and all-progressive all the time, we don’t hear the word populist all that often. But Crist still likes being referred to as having been the people’s governor. And he wants the office back. However, the current Charlie isn’t all that keen on Florida’s people when they get crosswise with leftist orthodoxy.
BOSA, Sardinia—That is right, you read “Bosa, Sardinia.” Well, you might ask, how did I get into this place high atop vertiginous hills along the Temo River in western Sardinia with not another Yank for miles and only the Internet to keep me abreast of the Obama Terror.
My Italian adventure began last summer in Rome. There my wife and I were sitting, having dinner with an Italian friend of forty years, Antonio Martino, and his wife Carol. In his distinguished career he began teaching his Italian countrymen free market economics, which had he learned at the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman. Eventually Italy came alive, and he served in the Berlusconi government as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defense. Through the evening we had much to talk about, and when we shut down he invited us back to his summerhouse this summer.
If you’re still on social media after yesterday, you’re profoundly masochistic, in need of a stiff drink, or both. Take this moment to examine your Twitter timeline for evidence of the following words: “slippery slope,” “minefield,” “ban,” and “birth control.” Use them as a drinking game and get yourself most of the way into a bottle of Smirnoff. If there were ever an excuse for day-drinking, it’s the amateur constitutional lawyering happening across the Internet. Let’s not mention the Oval Office, where the “constitutional lawyer” in residence stridently disagrees with the professional justices on the Supreme Court.
When does life begin? The question has vexed society for decades, but the Supreme Court has finally settled on a definition of personhood. According to the court’s Hobby Lobby decision Monday, we can now say that life begins at neither conception nor birth. Life actually begins at any time during the last half of the tax year, when more than 50 percent of the value of one’s outstanding stock is, directly or indirectly, owned by five or fewer individuals.
You see, the ruling in Hobby Lobby only applies to “closely held” corporations — family businesses and such — as defined in IRS Publication 542. Not that such a decision lends itself to consistency, as Justice Samuel Alito admitted, in his stirring confutatio. “The term ‘person’ sometimes encompasses artificial persons,” he wrote, “and it sometimes is limited to natural persons. But no conceivable definition of the term includes natural persons and nonprofit corporations, but not for-profit corporations.”
The Left remains in a lather over the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case, treating it as a shocking act of judicial invention. It is the “first time” businessmen who run closely held corporations have been accorded religious freedom, says Hillary Clinton, among other liberals. This claim would surely have come as a surprise to the framers of the Constitution. They never viewed employers at family-owned businesses as instruments of state secularism devoid of religious freedom or conscience rights.
A view of businessmen as cogs in the secularist machine is of recent vintage and it is baldly unconstitutional. The Founding Fathers would have been appalled by the assumption implicit in Hillary’s post-ruling musings on Monday that businessmen lose all right to religious freedom the moment they decide to open a business. Such an assumption is worthy not of a constitutional republic but of a totalitarian state that grants an hour of “freedom of worship” on Sundays.
Organic activists are forever trying to convince American consumers that modern production agriculture is somehow unethical, that the food at the local grocery store is somehow unsafe. Now they'll likely take a new tactic, pioneered by a judge in Australia who is on his way to creating a legal environment that will spur countless lawsuits between farmers planting biotech crops and their neighbors using conventional seed. If these activists are successful Down Under, their counterparts in the United States will doubtless try to follow suit, dealing a blow to modern agriculture and American farmers in the process.
During the Australia’s fall harvest-season way back in 2010, an organic farmer by the name of Steven Marsh noticed some of his neighbor’s genetically-engineered canola had blown onto his fields. So he decided to sue his neighbor, Michael Baxter, a person with whom he had been friends until that fateful day, based on the global organic industry’s and his organic certifier’s “zero tolerance” for genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that thousands of home-based caregivers in Illinois—and perhaps hundreds of thousands in eight other states—are not required to pay union dues as a condition of employment. The case involving Hobby Lobby and contraceptives will garner the most headlines, but this ruling on union dues (Harris v. Quinn) will have lasting implications for organized labor and signals the court’s growing disgust with forced unionization.
How did we get here? Hundreds of thousands of disabled individuals in this country require the assistance of a caregiver. In order to avoid institutionalizing these patients, a federal Medicaid program provides assistance for in-home care. Many patients are cared for by a friend or family member; the petitioner in this case, Pamela Harris, provides round-the-clock care for her adult son Josh, who was born with a genetic disorder.