Monday, January 27, 2014

The New Tunisian Constitution Is a Model of Liberty

           Tunisia has succeeded in drafting a new constitution that respects liberty and rejects Islamism.  The document is expected to be approved by the Tunisian Parliament soon. 

The state that gave rise to the Arab Spring would thus become the second fruit of the movement for liberty in the Arab world, after Morocco.  See my post from June of 2011, Morocco, First Fruits of the Arab Spring,

Tunisia’s new constitution establishes a representative republican form of government and guarantees basic liberties, including the freedom of religion, as opposed to Sharia (Islamic holy law).  It also establishes equality for women, which is unusual in the Islamic world. 

The Tunisian constitution is the result of compromise between moderate Islamists, leftists and liberals, who worked two years to reach consensus on the document.  It will now up to the Tunisians to abide by their constitution in the same spirit of pluralism they demonstrated in drafting it. 

The resolution of the constitutional question is expected to bring stability to Tunisia, which should improve commerce and restore good relations with the United States.  I congratulate Tunisia and wish it well.

Just as Egypt, where Islamists were elected and created a constitution that entrenched them in dictatorship and did not respect human rights or the rights of minorities, served as a bad example for Tunisia, it is hoped that Tunisia will serve as a good example for Egypt.  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Extending Federal Unemployment Insurance Subsidizes Unemployment

            It has been said that if one wants more of something, subsidize it.  As studies have shown, extending federal unemployment insurance benefits for additional months subsidizes, and therefore incentivizes, unemployment. 

            Extending unemployment benefits for several additional months reduces the incentive to look for work seriously.  Many people receiving unemployment compensation turn down temporary or part-time work.  They also hold out for higher-paying jobs instead of accepting job offers for lower-paying employment.  People on unemployment compensation oftentimes do not start engaging in a serious job search until they are near the end of the period during which they receive benefits.  

In fact, it is not unusual for people receiving unemployment compensation to make half-hearted attempts at finding a job, or even phony ones, such as showing up at job interviews inappropriately attired.  Conversely, the approach of the end of the period of receipt of unemployment benefits is an incentive for people to accept the job offers they have received or to start looking for work seriously.   

Some people who receive unemployment benefits have no intention to return to the labor force because they do not need financially to work.  They stop their obligatory job searches immediately after their unemployment compensation ceases.  They are then counted by the federal government as “unemployed,” which exaggerates the unemployment statistics.  After a certain period, they are then counted as “discouraged” workers because they have stopped looking for work and are removed from the statistical ranks of the unemployed.  Regardless, they are not discouraged because of economic reasons, but were understandably enjoying the unemployment compensation for which they had paid taxes as a kind of insurance premium. 

The point is that government interference in the free market creates economic distortions that cause unintended consequences, like the time wasted by people and companies with phony job searches, let alone the statistical distortions – which, in turn, lead liberal politicians to call for more government help for the long-term unemployed.

As has been occurring during the Obama Administration, extending unemployment insurance benefits would have the opposite effect: decreasing employment and reducing productivity, thereby decreasing taxable revenue.  The current debate in Congress has centered on the demand of some conservative Republican members of finding offsetting spending cuts to finance the extension of unemployment benefits, but it is time to for Congress to question the efficacy of federal unemployment insurance in the first place. 

People can purchase supplemental unemployment insurance, which is a prudent idea.  It would be even better if the federal government eliminated unemployment insurance taxes, got out of the unemployment insurance business altogether and allowed the free market to provide whatever level of protection people desire to purchase with the money freed up from not having to pay unemployment taxes.  Then, if people opt not to take work, they would not be wasting taxpayer dollars, but their own allotment.  The increase in employment would create more taxable revenue for the federal and state governments and increase productivity, which would further stimulate the economy, thereby generating even more taxable revenue.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Federal Appeals Court Rules Bloggers Have the Same Protections as Other Journalists

          A Federal Appeals Court has ruled in a defamation case that a blogger has the same legal protections as journalists who are trained, professional, and engaged in conflict-of-interest disclosure. 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the defamation and negligence case, in which the defendant blogger had been held liable for $2.5 million, because the jury had not been instructed that negligence had to be proved.  In order to prove negligence, a defendant must have failed to “act with a reasonable level of care” and whether the author made the statements “in a good faith and reasonable belief that they were true.”  The Court noted the Supreme Court’s observation of the increasing difficulty of drawing a line between “traditional” journalists and other speakers.  Thus, although it did not define the blogger as a “journalist,” the Court afforded her the same protections by applying the same standard of proof as applies to professional journalists.  In fact, the Court did not require the defendant to adhere to certain professional journalistic standards, such as seeking both sides of a story, in order to be protected. 

The ruling proves that the freedom of the printing press is a freedom enjoyed by all, not only those who belong to a particular profession, whether one prints handbills or posts commentary electronically in blogs on the Internet.  Indeed, all freedoms and rights belong to all the people.  No freedoms or rights are limited to a few.

41st Annual March for Life

           Hundreds of thousands of people attended the 41st annual March for Life today in Washington, D.C. on the anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision that denied States the right to prohibit abortion.  It is especially moving that these pro-lifers attended despite the extremely cold weather. 

The theme for this year’s march was adoption, the alternative that pro-lifers have promoted over abortion.  Participants noted the reduction in the number of abortions and abortion clinics, as their efforts to promote the culture of life are having some success, both through persuasion and various state laws that have been approved over the last three years, such as those that ban sex selection abortions, limit late-term abortions, strengthen informed consent or parental notification/consent, and increase regulations of clinics to match those of healthcare facilities.  Many of the speakers discussed proposed state and federal legislation, such as legislation to prohibit the federal requirement of abortion in insurance coverage under United States President Barack Obama’s federalization of health insurance.

Although founded by Catholics and supported by a tweet from Pope Francis, the March for Life organizers made a special point this year of inviting Evangelical Protestant leaders to participate.  Their effort was successful, as several Evangelical leaders, as well as other non-Catholics, were among the speakers.  As always, the number of young people in attendance was striking.

There were a million elective abortions performed across the United States last year.  Although this number is down sharply from the peak of over two million per year, it remains a disturbingly high number.  The toll from Roe v. Wade has reached 55 million in 41 years.  Thankfully, the pro-life movement is saving lives, but much more work needs to be done to promote the most basic of all human rights.  Let us pray for the end of abortions and euthanasia and the respect for life for all human beings from conception to natural death.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Foreign Updates: Iraq, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Iran, Syria

            The Iraqi’s are confronting a resurgent al-Qaeda, which has taken the two major cities in the restive Sunni Arab province of Anbar.  They have requested and are receiving American arms, while further requests are pending approval by the United States Congress.  The Iraqi government is being aided by allied Sunni Arab tribal militias, which is significant because of continued al-Qaeda and other Islamists’ efforts to divide the Sunni Arabs from the Shi’ite Arab-led government.  The Obama Administration is right to continue to support its Iraqi ally in the War on Terrorism, especially after it withdrew American troops.

Central African Republic
            The new Muslim leader who had taken power by force has resigned.  Much of the violence from Muslim and Christian militias has been quelled, thanks to the resignation and international peacekeepers, but stability is yet to be established.

South Sudan
            Tribal warfare has killed thousands of people in the world’s newest independent state.  The situation was bad enough to send refugees fleeing even to war-torn Central African Republic.  Thankfully, peace negotiations have begun.

            Iran reached an agreement to implement a nuclear agreement it had negotiated with the five parties it has been in negotiations with for several years: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Russia.  As doubts about its effectiveness increase, efforts in the U.S. Congress continue to pass sanctions that would take effect should Iran cheat, despite a threatened veto by President Barack Obama.

            Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons continues to be destroyed, but the civil war continues on.  Al-Qaeda affiliates are increasingly dominating the opposition and they are frequently clashing with non-Islamist militants.