Wednesday, 14Oct09, at the University of Kansas School of Law in Green Hall, the KU student chapter of the Federalist Society hosted Robert A. Levy, Chairman of the CATO Institute’s Board of Directors. Mr. Levy was there to discuss the topic of his book,The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government And Eroded Freedom. The CATO Institute is a libertarian think tank in Washington, not connected to the Libertarian Party. In their own words: “the mission of the Cato Institute is to increase the understanding of public policies based on the principles of limited government, free markets, individual liberty, and peace.”
This event was sponsored by the Federalist Society, who are, in their own words, “a group of conservative, libertarian, and moderate students committed to preserving the mainstays of our free government: federalism, the separation of powers, and judicial fidelity to the text of the Constitution.” They are hosting a series of speakers this year, and I think this is the first one, but I’m not sure. At any rate, I’m looking forward to anything else they have lined up, because this was a very interesting lecture, even if what selling a book.
It was my first look inside Green Hall, the building that houses the KU School of Law. I’ve heard that it’s a whole different school in there, and that was definitely the impression that I got. It was a dreary, rainy day, with a lot of people skipping or hiding inside. When I went into Green it was bustling, and I sort of felt out of place. But, I walked in and there was pizza being handed out, so I knew I was in the right place. I didn’t eat any, but still, you know you’re at a proper college event if they’re handing out pizza or a T-shirt.
The speaker, Mr. Robert Levy, was well prepared and well spoken. He made sense, anyway. I took some notes, and one of the more interesting things he talked about was the concept of negative versus positive rights. A positive right obligates someone else to do something for you. So if you have a right to housing, a “progressive” idea kicked around by more radical liberals, then if you can’t do it, government will force someone else to build or buy you a house, right? A negative right is a right you have to act on your own that doesn’t obligate or impose on someone else. Negative rights would be something that I support, because positive rights necessitate a strong authority making you do things. Goodbye individual rights.
During the brief Q&A session afterward Second Amendment rights were discussed. The CATO Institute had taken part in a law suit in the District of Columbia challenging the most restrictive ban on firearms in the country. They filed in D.C. because it was NOT a state, so that the Supreme Court could issue a ruling on a federal level. This way, apparently, the federal government can use the 14th Amendment to force states to apply federal civil rights. The Second Amendment is near and dear to my heart, so this was of great interest to me. The latest news on this, I’ve learned, is that the next step involves a lawsuit in Illinois, McDonald v. Chicago, challenging a similar harsh weapons ban in a state.
I’m just now looking at my notes, and there are more things I could talk about that he talked about, but I think this is the gist of the lecture. I look forward to the next lecture that they put on. Good stuff.