Advocates of single-payer health care in the United States often argue as though there has never been an experiment with a single-payer system in America. But the Medicare system, which provides health coverage to Americans over the age of 65, has been just such an experiment for decades. And the results make for a powerful case against a single-payer system and for consumer choice and competition as the path to higher-value coverage and care.
The revolution in the legal status of marijuana has been rapid and dramatic, in large part because of the effectiveness of the core argument of the pro-legalization lobby: that marijuana does not harm its users, or society more broadly. But the drug's misleading reputation for harmlessness is based on the fact that marijuana use is highly concentrated among a growing minority who use it daily or near-daily. Simply put, most marijuana users are healthy, but most marijuana use is not.
The Federal Communications Commission pursues some worthwhile goals, such as affordable access to communication networks, diverse media viewpoints, and competition. But the clumsy, heavy-handed way in which it does so undermines those very goals. For the sake of both good government and free speech, the agency should be dismantled, and its few essential functions reassigned elsewhere.
Over the last three decades, the federal government and the states have sought to crack down on sex-related offenses by instituting sex-offender registries, which are accessible to the public. Although effective in some respects at reducing crime, these registries have turned out to exhibit some serious problems. They are too inclusive, are overly restrictive, and end up hurting some of those they are intended to help. With some common-sense reforms, sex-offender registries could become far more effective in improving public safety.
Both the fallout from the Great Recession and several high-profile cases of police violence in recent years have highlighted the continuing disadvantages faced by black Americans. But some leading intellectuals and opinion shapers — perhaps most notably the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates — have diagnosed these disadvantages as functions of inexorable white-supremacist tendencies in American life. Such rhetoric may be succor for some, but it derails the conversation Americans must have if we are to practically better the lives of black Americans, now and in the future.
Constitutional originalism has long been the default interpretative approach of conservative legal scholars, but it has never truly been applied to the First Amendment — and especially to the freedom of speech. Apart from a handful of notable exceptions, even originalist Supreme Court justices have not attempted to evaluate the First Amendment under originalist premises. Doing so would require considering the framer's conception of free speech, which is quite different from how we now generally understand that freedom.
Classical liberalism, born of the Enlightenment and enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, called for the toleration and protection of political and religious minorities. But in its contemporary progressive form, liberalism risks eroding centuries of moral and political progress by emulating what its own forefathers sought to combat: an intolerant, doctrinaire, state-backed, established faith.
When we think about the technological revolution that is transforming our lives, we tend to focus on the remarkable quantitative leaps forward in speed, scale, volume, and accessibility of information that it has made possible. But our reflections on what such changes will mean — and especially on the effects they are likely to have on our political life — have generally been superficial. Taking up that question seriously, as a challenge to political theory, might reveal some surprising sources of hope for the future.
Our constitutional architecture has gradually evolved into a president-centered system that demands some extraordinary qualities and virtues from the federal government's chief executive; it looks to the president in particular to protect our republic against corruption. Such a system might have much to learn from Henry St. John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke, a great English exponent of the patriot-king as a remedy for republican corruption. The American founders drew inspiration from Bolingbroke, even as they rejected his monarchism, and Americans today would do well to read him too.
Americans have always viewed our country as distinct and exceptional. But what do we mean when we say that? The work of the late James Q. Wilson, who was among the foremost political scientists of the past half century, often combined an empiricism of small but telling details with an eye for deep distinctions and trends — a method perfectly suited to taking on the complex question of American exceptionalism. In 2008, Wilson co-edited a book in which he asked some of the nation's leading social scientists to consider exceptionalism in just that way. The results remain highly instructive for us.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan was, for decades, a Democratic senator from New York and one of the nation's leading liberals. And yet Moynihan had a real affinity with the original circle of neoconservatives. Did his outlook change over time? Did liberalism change? Did the neoconservatives themselves change? Considering these questions can help us better understand American intellectual and political life in the late 20th century.