Category Archives: History

Dred Free

My latest from The Rebel:

On May 26, 1857, Dred Scott got his freedom. Yes, the plaintiff in the all time worst piece of judicial activism, Dred Scott v Sandford, was actually freed shortly after the Supreme Court essentially ruled that there were no free states in the U.S., precipitating the Civil War. And it happened because where law failed, some human hearts succeeded, with some former owners funding his court challenge and another, after he lost, making sure he was freed. It’s a humbling reminder that we can always do the right thing in our own time even if the world is wrong or indifferent.

You can find the audio-only version here:

Robson Rebel, May 26 - Download This Episode

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The end of the world news

While politicians are gassing on, here’s the sort of thing that really matters: the Washington Post reports on a superbug resistant to last-resort antibiotics, and liable to share its genes with other more sinister bacteria, that has reached the United States.

People tell me, oh, I wouldn’t want to live in the Middle Ages because they didn’t have antibiotics. Well, we did and we squandered them.

Three cheers for modernity.

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King Justin

In my latest column for the National Post I argue that Trudeau manhandling MPs was not just rudeness to colleagues. It was an assault by the executive branch on the legislature and, therefore, on Canadian citizens, who elect MPs to control the government on their behalf.

One more reason we urgently need to fix our Constitution. Please back our documentary project and help us show the way.

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Legion de Elba

My latest for The Rebel: On May 19 the French Legion d’Honneur was established. In 1802. By Napoleon. The famous dictator and failed aggressor. Many recipients have been outstanding human beings., But the Legion d’Honneur underlines the tragic difficulty in places without the Anglosphere’s tradition of liberty under law successfully maintained in finding aspects of their heritage worth celebrating and rallying round in the name of good government and civic virtue.

The audio-only version is available here:

Robson Rebel, May 19 - Download This Episode

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AAAAA

In my latest piece for The Rebel, I note that May 12 is the date in 1933 that FDR signed the Agricultural Adjustment Act into law, a brilliant government plan to increase prosperity by destroying wealth, specifically to feed a hungry nation by plowing food right back into the dirt. This approach has of course caught on in the public sector. But it’s also the date the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous first met, in 1935, and by creating a group reliant on voluntary organization, fellowship and humility has done far more to help mankind than any government War on Drugs, the welfare state or virtually any government program to make us better off by making us worse off.

The audio-only version is available here:

May 12, 2016 Rebel - Download This Episode

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Never the wrong time, but…

In my latest Rebel Media piece I say it’s never the wrong time to do the right thing. But if you’ve left it far too late, as when King Louis XVI summoned the Estates-General, France’s pseudo-parliament, in 1789 for the first time in 175 years and the last time ever, it may well fail regardless. The right thing to do was develop a functioning parliamentary system… in the Middle Ages. Like England.

The audio-only version is available here:

Never the wrong time, but... - Download This Episode

 

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Trump chump

It seems that Donald Trump will indeed win the Republican nomination for president. For months I have been predicting, at first blithely and more recently grimly, that it would not happen. And now I am eating crow. I got it badly wrong and I apologize.

I have no excuse. I don’t even have an explanation. I have great faith in Americans and a great deal more faith in Republicans than most commentators around the world and even, I often feel, in the United States. And perhaps I allowed wishful thinking to distort my sense of what was likely to happen.

The GOP has nominated candidates I did not approve of in the past. So have the Democrats. But normally I could find some sort of explanation, even for Hillary Clinton, who I think would make a pretty bad president. For Trump I just can’t. It makes no sense to want this man as your leader or your representative. You can’t admire his grasp of the issues, his consistent adherence to a philosophy, his suavity, his gravitas.

Sure, he annoys the right people. But so did Ted Cruz and any number of other potential nominees. Ronald Reagan drove them berserk, as did George W. Bush. You didn’t need Trump for that, and I have no idea what anyone does think they need him for. And annoying people may bring a certain sour private satisfaction. But it cannot drive political conduct anywhere you want to go.

I’m not abandoning my faith in the United States or in American conservatives. But I am saying this outcome, and with Ted Cruz suspending his campaign after his crushing defeat in Indiana it seems inevitable that Trump will be their nominee, reflects badly on both the nation and the movement.

It’s too early to risk a prediction about what will happen in the general election especially given how wrong I was about this nomination race. But I am certain that those who backed Trump will eventually be very sorry they did.

As for me, I’m already sorry. In both senses.

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I’ll drink to that

On Friday a Provincial Court judge in New Brunswick struck down a duly enacted law and I couldn’t be happier. It was a section of the provincial liquor act limiting the right to buy beer next door in Quebec and it was clearly unconstitutional.

Now it might seem that I like judicial activism when it goes my way. But it’s not that at all. It’s that properly designed constitutions are set up to keep government limited even when the ambitions of politicians or a temporary lapse in the good sense of the public push them to expand, and to guarantee that rights are respected even when expedience seems to argue for violating them. When courts strike down laws that infringe basic constitutional guarantees of liberty, it’s not activism. It’s proper checks and balances against legislative or executive activism.

There is in the end no paper defence against people genuinely heedless or contemptuous of their own liberties and those of others. But the American Constitution is famously an appeal “from the people drunk to the people sober” and so is ours even when the issue is the right to buy beer. As a Macdonald-Laurier Institute press release praising the judgement rightly notes, our Constitution deliberately forbade the provinces from engaging in petty internal protectionism.

The release links to a paper I had the privilege of coauthoring with Institute Executive Director Brian Lee Crowley and the late Robert Knox back in 2010 explaining what our Founders did and why and how, and how the federal government could and should act to make their vision a reality. It’s excellent that a court has taken the right view of this matter and I hope the ruling is not appealed or, if it is, that it is upheld.

I also hope the federal parliament will be emboldened to legislate and end to all such protectionism. It clearly has the power and not just the right but the duty.

Meanwhile our own draft constitution, part of our “True, Strong and Free” project, will not only reiterate but strengthen the constitutional provision against internal protectionism just to be safe. But here’s one case where a court has acted in the genuine spirit of the constitution and of upholding legitimate rights not inventing unworkable ones. And it deserves our applause.

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Hanging fire

My latest for The Rebel: April 28, over 500 years ago, in 1503, saw the first decisive victory due to small-calibre gunpowder weapons in the otherwise totally obscure battle of Cerignola. It was a long journey from that generally forgotten clash to the transformed tactics and “empty battlefields” of the Boer War and both World Wars, in which accurate rifles and lethal machine guns meant to be visible was to be dead. But that’s how technology always starts… very small.

The audio-only version is available here:

Rebel, April 28, 2016 - Download This Episode

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