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Everyone has the right to an opinion on anything, in the Constitutional sense.  Even in places where that liberty isn’t established or protected, it exists as a matter of fundamental human rights. We should each be able to think what we want, and say it out loud to others. But is it true that everyone is equally entitled, in a moral sense, to say what they want on any topic?

Only women have abortions. Does that give them more of a right to express a position on the issue? Only combat veterans -- and the civilians who have lived in war-torn...

January 11, 2013

The board of insurance giant AIG is apparently considering joining a lawsuit against the United States government for, essentially, not giving it enough bailout money when it took control of 80% of the firm to save it from bankruptcy. I don’t need to add to the already voluminous criticism of AIG for this staggering hubris – lots of well-directed adjectives have already been deployed. But two side aspects of the story are interesting.

I noticed the other day that AIG was running TV ads thanking the American people for the bailout. I...

January 09, 2013

One comfort to contemporary presidents when they’re under political assault is the withering criticism faced by their famous predecessors. Obama, Bush, and Clinton all endured harsh attacks on every possible aspect of their policies, personalities, and performance. But so did Lincoln, FDR, and John Adams. Each was loudly denounced as dictators, incompetents, and fools.

The hard part is separating the valid criticism from the partisan attacks. Just because you and Lincoln were tagged with the same invective, doesn’t mean it’s not true about...

January 08, 2013

In Washington, everybody polls. Interest groups, parties, and lobbyists are constantly running public opinion surveys to figure out how to influence national policy. Most of it is a waste of time and money, yielding little useful information and swaying few.

I should note, first, that all this polling is a great sign for our democracy. The huge amount of money spent on surveying public opinion means that the public’s opinion matters a lot. With all the valid concern about the influence of political money and interest groups, the...

January 07, 2013

Eighty-nine senators voted to support the fiscal cliff deal, which is pretty remarkable bipartisan support for anything, especially a package that includes tax rate increases. But a lot of the focus has been on the eight senators who voted no. One particularly notable no was Republican Marco Rubio of Florida. 

Rubio is a conservative Tea Party favorite, which should be enough to explain a vote against rising tax rates. But many equally conservative senators – Toomey of Pennsylvania, Inhofe of Oklahoma, Risch of Idaho – voted to support the...

January 04, 2013

If you want a fairer and simpler tax code, lower long-term deficits, and more revenue for worthwhile federal programs, the just-passed Fiscal Cliff deal is good news.  Not because the deal delivers most of those things, but because it creates a political path to achieve them in the coming months. 

Despite the desire of President Obama, and maybe (in his heart) Speaker John Boehner, negotiators failed to achieve a Grand Bargain that would have addressed taxes, debt, entitlements and other issues. As many have noted, however, there will be...

January 03, 2013

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