Friday, November 17, 2006

Thoughts for a Friday: Goodbye Milton & Religion & Fees

Yesterday, one of the greatest economists, Milton Friedman, passed away. I first read his works in College when I studied economics. I also read the works by his foil, Galbraith as well. I liked Friedman's models much better. The only thing I did not agree with was his theory that roads should be privatized, but apart from that, Freedman gave us the model used by Reagan and his contemporaries. A good article on Milton is published in today's WSJ. Read it here.

In another story, the WSJ journal reports of a settlement in the school district over the ACLU's lawsuit over the display of a Warner Sallman’s famous portrait, “Head of Christ,” (seen above) on a wall outside the principal’s office in Connecticut. I do not know all the facts of the case, and while I have no problem with the display of art work, if it is displayed solely for its artistic quality, I do have a problem if the intent is to display or endorse one particular religion.

The article also mentions a proposed bill, that will likely die due to the new Congress, the Public Expression of Religion Act, which would bar the awarding of attorneys’ fees in federal lawsuits involving the Establishment Clause.

As many of you may not know, any claim to enforce a federal statute or constitutional right against a public entity can only be brought pursuant to Title 42 USC s. 1983. To the prevailing party in section 1983 suits, such as those under the Establishment clause, the prevailing party is entitled to reasonable attorneys' fees under 42 USC s. 1988. Thus, public entities are faced with huge exposure (in fees to the ACLU) in these cases if they lose. The plaintiffs in the case usually get bupkis. In addition, the public entity also has to pay for it's own fees as well in these cases, which even if they win, they cannot recover their fees back from the Plaintiffs who usually do not have any dough. Thus, a plaintiff really has nothing to lose by bringing these lawsuits. While a complete bar would chill the ability to challenge invidious violations of the Establishment Clause, in a case where the challenge is over the hanging of a famous painting, I think we're getting a little to way happy folks. I do not favor a complete bar, but would be amenable to a cap on fees on these type of cases. For after all, the one who pays is the taxpayer. As I've said before, why should the taxpayer subsidize the ACLU. An interesting article anyways. Read it here.

Have a great weekend infidels!


Henry Louis Gomez said...

Friedman was brilliant. Not only did he influence Reagan and his policy-makers, but Margaret Thatcher as well. It was Friedman's ideas that saved the UK from going over the edge into socialism's economic abyss.

My degree is in economics and I had to take a senior seminar course. I chose a course about Friedman and his work. It was called "Power and Ideas: Milton Friedman and the Big U-Turn" The U-turn the professor was talking about was the one in the UK, away from nationalization and back towards privatization.

Of course Friedman's name is synonymous with The University of Chicago. It was because of him, that Pinochet sent young students to Chicago to learn economics: The Chicago Boys that turned Chile into an economic powerhouse in Latin America.

Something that most people don't know is that Friedman's brother in-law was the dean of the Chicago college of law and together they came up with brilliant thinking on antitrust and antitrust economics.

In short, monopolies can't survive for any real amount of time (unless it's a government monopoly or a government-sanctioned monopoly) because market forces always create competition.

People like Judge Bork were deeply influenced by this school of thought. I remember one glaring example of from Bork's book. A merger between the two largest grocery chains in California was disallowed by regulators because the number of single-store operators had been reduced drastically over the preceding years thereby "reducing competition". A little digging discovered that in fact the number of single store operator had gone down because many of them had opened a second store. The little guys were getting bigger, not being run out of business.

Michael Pancier Photography said...

In fact, my favorite jurist from the Seventh Circuit in Chicago is non other than Judge Richard Posner who is the number 1 authority on antitrust law. He was the court appointed mediator in the Microsoft trial. He's also written many books on constitutional law and other issues. He and Judge Easterbrooks are in the Univ. of Chicago mold and were appointed by Reagan. They would have been great on the Supreme Court. They are not idealogues; they have fashioned the utilitarian / methodolody to jurisprudence which again follows from the school of thought at UofC.