Archive for the 'law' Category

Calculating the police against citizen homicide rate

June 30, 2015

https://i2.wp.com/assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.2244131!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_635/stringham3e-1-web.jpg

by Edward Stringham

We hear of high profile cases of police killings, but few look at the larger picture of how often American citizens are killed by police. What is the rate at which police kill citizens and how does that compare to other homicide rates? Although official statistics have historically been scant, we now know that police killed 1,100 Americans in 2014 and 476 Americans in the first five months of 2015. Given that America has roughly 765,000 sworn police officers, that means the police-against-citizen kill rate is more than 145 per 100,000.

Let us put that into perspective. In most countries in Europe the national homicide rate is 1 per 100,000, so that means American police kill at 145 times the rate of the average European citizen. The two most violent countries in the world are Venezuela and Honduras with national homicide rates of 54 and 90 per 100,000. The U.S. government issues travel warnings stating: “The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens that the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high” and “violent crime in Venezuela is pervasive.” If you are not comfortable vacationing in those countries, it is little wonder why so many Americans are uncomfortable with police who kill at more than 1.5 and 2.5 times the homicide rates of the two most violent countries.

Continue reading in my latest OpEd in the New York Daily News here.

Income Inequality Matters

March 26, 2013

by Roger Koppl

Income inequality matters. Let me say that again so you know I meant it: Income inequality matters. This statement may be surprising coming from a self-described “Austrian” economist and a “liberal” in the good old-fashioned pro-market sense. It shouldn’t be. It should be one of our issues. The surprise should be that we pro-market types have not spoken up more on this central issue, thereby letting it become associated almost exclusively with more or less “progressive” opinion.

This indifference to income distribution is all the more mysterious because pro-market thinkers generally support a theory of politics that tells us to watch out for ways the state can be used to create unjust privileges for some at the expense of others. We should expect the distribution of income to be skewed toward the politically powerful and away from the poor and politically weak. In a representative democracy “special interests” engage in “rent seeking” to get special favors. Those special favors enrich some at the expense of others. That’s what they are meant to do! Read the rest of this entry »

Is Justice Roberts a Big Player?

July 9, 2012

by Roger Koppl

The Supreme Court upheld “Obamacare” because Chief Justice Roberts changed his mind. (It seems that “Obamacare” is no longer a pejorative.)  In this curious situation, a stalwart of the Federalist Society  has become a Big Player in healthcare markets.

A Big Player is a powerful actor who uses discretion to influence a market. In the long run, Big Players are government entities or the creations thereof. They are discretionary actors whose personal discretionary choices supplant known and simple rules. In other words, Big Players substitute the rule of men for the rule of law. The great theorist of the rule of law, A.V. Dicey, said in an important remark that the rule of law “means, in the first place, the absolute supremacy or predominance of regular law as opposed to the influence of arbitrary power, and excludes the existence of arbitrariness, of prerogative, or even of wide discretionary authority on the part of the government.”

Roberts has become a Big Player, and yet the Federalist Society is against that sort of thing. It is committed to the rule of law. Its attitude to the role of the courts is expressed in a passage from Federalist 78: “It can be of no weight to say that the courts, on the pretense of a repugnancy, may substitute their own pleasure to the constitutional intentions of the legislature…. The courts must declare the sense of the law; and if they should be disposed to exercise WILL instead of JUDGMENT, the consequence would equally be the substitution of their pleasure to that of the legislative body.” But the “judgment” of Justice Roberts in this case seems to be very much an “exercise” of his “will.”

Should we therefore castigate Roberts as a hypocrite or ideologue? I don’t think so.

The problem is not that Roberts secretly wishes to impose his personal will on the law. Indeed, the decision seems to be the most restrained possible. It was hardly an instance of “judicial activism” or “legislating from the bench” given Robert’s presumptive political opposition to Obamacare. The problem arises when sweeping measures such as the Affordable Care Act come before the Court. Such laws are ambiguous. Read the rest of this entry »

The Passions and the Interests in Forensic Science

April 17, 2012

by Roger Koppl

A front-page article  in yesterday’s Washington Post underlines the importance of establishing a substantive defense right to expertise in the US.

The article says, “Justice Department officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people, but prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled.” The DoJ begin investigating in the 1990s “after reports that sloppy work by examiners at the FBI lab was producing unreliable forensic evidence in court trials.” As the Post article chronicles, the investigation was very narrowly drawn in spite of evidence that problems were likely more widespread. Read the rest of this entry »

Russian Lesson on Term Limits

February 26, 2012

by Chidem Kurdas

The point of term limits is to prevent the buildup of political power by one person or group. In Russia’s ersatz version, Vladimir Putin merrily plays revolving door with his protégé Dmitry Medvedev. Mr. Putin may win the election on March 4th despite the persistent protests sparked by his latest round of musical chairs with Mr. Medvedev.

That means Mr.Putin could potentially be Russia’s president again for two terms lasting through 2024, bringing his overall reign at the top as either prime minister or president to almost 25 years.

I would like to know what Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one-time-Putin-crony-turned-arch-critic, thinks about this. But the Siberian prison camp where he is held is not welcoming visitors.  A documentary about him, starting to make the rounds of some US cities, is as close as we get to understanding what’s happened to Mr. Khodorkovsky, Read the rest of this entry »

The Real Culprit in Paternalistic Legislation?

December 16, 2011

by Mario Rizzo

Christopher Hitchens, the great journalist and essayist, has died. Mr. Hitchens was not always right but he often was. I saw at the Cato blog a brief piece, posted by David Boaz, that Hitchens wrote on Mayor Bloomberg’s Nanny State. (HT: Dave Johnson). It was in reaction to smoking restrictions, but could easily apply, more generally, to paternalistic legislation. Read the rest of this entry »

The Rule of Discretion versus the Rule of Law: Soros Gets Nailed

October 14, 2011

by Mario Rizzo

In a previous post I reported a Cato Institute panel discussion of Friedrich Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty (as reissued in a new edition by The University of Chicago Press). This discussion was among Bruce Caldwell (Duke University), Ronald Hamowy (Cato and the University of Alberta), Richard Epstein (New York University), and George Soros, the mega-financier.

In this discussion, ostensibly about the rule of law, Soros said that the complexities of the financial sector require a new class of regulations that may not be simple, predictable and transparent. They may require considerable discretion on the part of regulators. This is because financial markets are the locus of radical uncertainty. It is thus impossible to predict beforehand the kinds of financial-instrument developments that will occur and, especially, the consequences these will have. Thus the financial regulations must be able to be creative in dealing with such developments. This apparently means the rule of law in its traditional sense will have to be bent or compromised. Read the rest of this entry »

The Targeted Killing of Anwar al-Awlaki

September 30, 2011

by Roger Koppl

Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a drone strike today.  If you recognize the name Awlaki, then you know that he was bad guy.  He was a propagandist for Al Qaeda who seems to have inspired the Fort Hood shooting, in which Nidal Hassan killed 13 people.  He was also an American citizen, born in New Mexico.  He was charged with no crime.  No attempt was made to arrest him.  The United States government seems to have had no plan to try him or charge him with any crime.  He was simply targeted for killing, and killed. Read the rest of this entry »

Deregulated Lawyers and Regulatory Spread

September 22, 2011

by Chidem Kurdas

In their new book, First Thing We Do, Let’s Deregulate All the Lawyers (Brookings Institution Press, 2011),   Clifford Winston, Robert W. Crandall and Vikram Maheshri reach the surprising conclusion that America has too few lawyers rather than too many. They make a strong case but it raises a major question. Read the rest of this entry »

Fannie Freddie Lawsuit and Risk Arbitrage

September 6, 2011

by Chidem Kurdas

Last week the Federal Housing Finance Agency filed suits against 17 major banks and mortgage businesses for misleading Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac regarding the risks of mortgage securities sold to these government-sponsored enterprises.  Though it targets banks, the litigation shows the mode of operation of Fannie and Freddie.

This development is best understood against the background provided by a revealing new book,  Guaranteed to Fail: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Debacle of Mortgage Finance, by V. Acharya, M. Richardson, S. van Nieuwerburgh and L. White, professors at New York University’s Stern School of Business. Here’s a quote taken from a decade-old American Enterprise Institute compilation of warnings regarding GSEs from free marketers and left-wingers alike. This is from a Fannie Mae executive:

“We’re not casual about managing our political risk.” 

By contrast, they were casual about managing their credit risk, Read the rest of this entry »