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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

 

Religion or Liberty?

Peter Schwartz wrote an article on February 20, 2007 on the website for Capitalism Magazine titled Religion vs. Liberty. In that article he listed a condition needed for individual freedom and the direction to which our government is currently going with each religion and liberty. Schwartz believes that secularism is a condition that must be present in society in order for freedom to exist. The Constitution seems to agree with his belief, as do I. Freedom includes the right of an individual to control their own lives and to pursue their own means of happiness. Many individuals would be upset if rule by religion was able to take this away. I would be one of them.

While it doesn’t seem so clear to me to say that there can be no religion in government, it seems logical to think that if our government ruled by protecting our rights, instead of making decisions based upon religion, that liberty would be better protected. However, does this mean that we wouldn’t be better off overall with a faith based government to guide us? I imagine some might think so. The true question is do we believe that we have to be at one extreme end or another, or can we find a place in the middle to meet.


 

Merck Suspends Lobbying for HPV Vaccine to Become Law

What a great idea this was!!! When I first heard about this initiative, I heard it was being introduced by a Texas lawmaker. My first thought was an obvious case of rent seeking. Merck was the first to develop the vaccine, therefore, by requiring it to be law, Merck's sales would be through the roof. My immediate second thought was the implications on liberty and freedom. Could this law be Constitutionally correct?

When there is a public concern for health, such as the flu, which is transmitted by casual contact, then there can be a case for mandatory vaccines, even those subsidised by the government. However, in this instance, this is a vaccine for HPV which is contracted through sexual contact. This is immediately recognizable as a controllable type of disease- abstinence works best. There would be absolutely no instance for the government to force parents of girls, as young as 9, to get this vaccine. One of the arguments against this is that it could promote sexual activity among young girls. I think this follows the same logic as distributing condoms in public school.

I don't think it is the job of the state to police sexual activity of our children. It was wise for the government to prepare for the bird flu, but we did not get mandatory vaccines for it and, as it turns out, there have been few, if any, cases here in the U.S. (It just so happens that the market actually worked in getting the bird flu under control- economic pressure was put on states (et. China) to get control of the situation, otherwise business and commerce would stop coming to that part of the world). HPV can be prevented by abstinence, testing of partner, use of protection.

Since this was a blatant attempt by Merck to gain profits. it was wise for them to back down. No, if only the lawmakers can see their errors and back down as well.

 

The government and their power of eminent domain.

In his article Taking Away Your Property on MSNBC.com author Dan Caplinger discusses the different aspects of eminent domain in the United States. He explains that while the power of eminent domain is very old and is supposed to allow the government to take private property from individuals for the benefit of the public with just compensation, this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes they take the land so that it can be used to build bridges, roads or schools on, which is okay for the public. But in other instances the government takes ownership of a private parcel of land from an individual and gives it to a contractor to develop. In this situation many people believe that the land was taken for private use and that they were wronged.

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution states that “no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”(1, l.10) Our government should not be going beyond what is deemed to be their constitutional right. Infringing upon individual’s rights by taking land for private use is wrong. It will be interesting to see how the signing of a bill by President Bush to limit takings to where they only benefit the general public affects future takings. The hope is that future takings by the government will be minimal and only out of necessity for public use.


Monday, February 26, 2007

 

Eminent Domain Abuse Issues in WA

The author of this article Mr. William Maurer, is the Executive Director of the Institute for Justice, Washington chapter. Mr. Maurer also recently wrote a book regarding eminent domain issues that the nation is facing as a result of the decision from the Supreme Court ruling in the Kelo case. That ruling prevents Federal courts from interfering with local governments regarding the condemning of private property for economic development. In this article Mr. Maurer discusses the effects of the Kelo case on Washington state.

The Kelo case regarding private property issues in the state of Washington (and other states) are really more of abuse of police and state powers. For example, an old statute called Washington's Community Renewal Act has been used to condemn whole neighborhoods and transfer the property rights to the city development contractor. The city planners simply describe that a particular neighborhood is one that is "blighted" -a word which has a very vague meaning but leads one to believe that the neighborhood is in desperate need of repair- and they have the power to remove the neighborhood and replace it entirely. Because of the Kelo case decision the Supreme Court cannot intervene regarding this city enforced "blight" issue. Although in the Kelo ruling the Supreme Court stated that the local governments could provide more protection from such abuses of private property if it deemed appropriate. The biggest issue now is that citizens cannot sue the city or state for breach of the Constitution in order to protect their property. There is no chance for the citizen to win. Mr. Maurer believes that if cities and states were more responsible and if the courts enforced the local government constitution, there would not be such an abuse of power.

Constitutionally, this is a blatant abuse of police power. It is perplexing to me as to how can a state allow this to happen. Maybe the people of the cities and states in WA and other areas affected are not doing enough to raise this issue. Where is the city getting its approval to begin these developments or re-developments? Economically, the city is negatively affecting the ability for its own future growth. These "blighted" neighborhoods may be in an area that, if left alone, could become larger and provide more housing and economic growth. The economy of the real estate market could take a very large downturn if the city decided not replace the neighborhoods it removed, preventing more people from moving to the city.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

 

Philip Morris

Jessie Williams a chain smoker died at age 67 of lung cancer after smoking three packs of Marlboro cigarettes a day. His widow sued Philip Morris, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, accusing them of misinforming of the dangers of smoking. A jury awarded the widow $821,485.50 in compensatory damages and $79 million in punitive damages. The case was eventually brought before the Supreme Court on October 1, 2006 and decided February 20, 2007. In a 5 to4 decision the Supreme Court overturned the $79.5 million an Oregon jury awarded the widow because they thought the jury over calculated the harm smoking caused to other individuals other than the widow who brought the case.

The case's constitutionality was based on the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and how it imposes the states from imposing grossly excessive punishments (BMW v. Gore and State Farm v. Campbell)

I agree with the decision; however, I do not read this in the Fourteenth Amendment. I read that "nor shall any State deprive any persons of life, liberty, or property without the due process of law." I don't see anywhere where states can impose fines or punishments. I see that they can not deprive these things without due process of law. The damages were excessive to say the least. This case seems ridiculous to me that a jury would award so much money to a widow because her husband died from smoking cigarettes. Smoking was his choice! Philip Morris did not send a representative to sit there with a gun to his head making him smoke three packs a day. He could have quit when reports came out the smoking may not be that good for you.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

 

"Issue Ads"

The supreme court is deciding a case that deals with campaign ads and their rules. In the 2004 campaign there were three ads run by "Wisconsin right to Life" that did not adhere to funding rules. Ads funded by businesses, labor unions, and other groups -- can be banned 60 days before a general election, and 30 days before a primary. Issue ads cannot mention any candidates or party affiliations. The ads asked people to call specific senators and support certain ideas. The basis for these rules is the campaign finance reform laws from congress.

The appellate court acknowledged the entities first right amendment to free speech, but maintained that the Campaign Finance Reform laws were constitutional. the supreme court will rule whether or not these specific ads apply to the rules. I do not believe that they will overturn the laws set forth by congress.

My reading of the powers of Congress does not suggest to me that they have the power to make laws relating to campaign finance reform. The organization used its right to free speech and spent the money on the ads. The message of the ads are not directly causing harm to anyone. The government is attempting to regulate trade in this industry. The organization is willing to buy the ad space and the tv/radio companies are willing to sell it. The government is not protecting the liberties of these individuals.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

 

Wal-Mart Discrimination Case

The article refers to a lawsuit by women that claim discrimination against Wal-Mart of salaries and promotion eligibility. Initially there were 6 women with the claim, but through the appeals processes at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, there is the potential for up to 1.5M women to be part of the now class action lawsuit. They claim that from 1998 forward, the women's salaries were 5-15% lower than that of their male counterparts, and the women were overlooked for promotions that they had the qualifications and requirements to fill, but were not considered. Since the Court of Appeals in San Francisco decided that the number of plaintiffs could increase by up to 1.5M women, Wal-Mart is now considering an appeals hearing at the US Supreme Court level.

This is more of a protective state appeal if it does end up going to the Supreme Court. The plaintiffs could affirm that since it is concerning individual liberty under Amendment XIV in the "privileges or immunities" clause would apply. Whereas Wal-Mart could appeal to the same Amendment, but use the "due process of law" clause.

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