The Corner

More from the Mailbag

Following up on my threat from last Friday, here’s more reader e-mail with my responses.

The first concerns an exchange I had with Roger Pilon of the Cato Institute (my original article, his response, me, him, me again, him again) about the role of the federal courts in the history of American freedom.

You let Pilon off too easily. He keeps citing Madison as saying that the courts are “an impenetrable bulwark” against legislative and executive encroachments on freedom, but the speech [from which that quote is taken] is a great illustration of your point that the courts’ role is often overstated. Madison is talking about the virtues of a bill of rights, and he includes judicial enforcement of them only after he talks about other ways they protect freedom. Pride of place goes to the way bills of rights ‘have a tendency to impress some degree of respect for them, to establish the public opinion in their favor, and rouse the attention of the whole community.’ In other words: The courts play a role but it was not meant to be the primary one. . . .

You’re right, I should have made that point. Thanks for making it for me! Around the same time I got your e-mail, I happened to be reading a law-review essay by Akhil Amar in which he argues that in referring to ”tribunals” as “impenetrable bulwarks” Madison probably meant juries, not just judicial review — further strengthening your point and mine.

I always know that I’m reading propaganda when I see ”unborn children” in an article on abortion. [Here‘s the article.] It’s a nonsense phrase. There is no child until birth. Late in pregnancy the fetus may have some moral status but it is still not a child. . . . If you are really interested in discussing this issue fairly you should [stop using “child”].

Merriam-Webster’s first definition of “child” is “an unborn or recently born person.” The phrase “with child” long pre-dates our controversies over abortion. The etymology refers to the Gothic kilthei (womb) and inkiltko (pregnant). Of course sound arguments about abortion do not logically turn on whether we call the human embryo or fetus a “child,” just as we do not have to call human newborns, toddlers, or adolescents “children” in order to know that it’s generally wrong and unjust to kill them. But the usage seems to me completely justified.

What are your thoughts about a higher inflation target given your support of the QEs? Have you weighed in on that?

I hadn’t at the time I got that email, but I did later. Short version: I think it would be a bad idea for the Fed to raise its inflation target.


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