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Finding common ground

January 31, 2019

Nadine Strossen, Judge Michael Mukasey debate abortion, discuss how to speak civilly across the political divide at ASU event

On Thursday, President Donald Trump tweeted that Democrats are becoming the “party of late-term abortion.” The contentious issue took up much of an hourlong debate that evening between Judge Michael Mukasey and Nadine Strossen at Old Main on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus.

Their debate was part one of a three-part event that also included a discussion on the necessity of civil discourse and a question-and-answer session with the audience. “How to Have a Civil Conversation Across the Political Divide” was the seventh event in the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership’s yearlong lecture series, “Polarization and Civil Disagreement: Confronting America's Civic Crisis.”

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law are co-sponsors of the series.

Strossen, a chaired professor at New York Law School and the first woman to serve as president of the American Civil Liberties Union, describes herself as a “liberal-tarian” and added that politically, she falls on the liberal end of the spectrum and has even been called a “bleeding-heart liberal” on issues like abortion and the death penalty.

She kicked off the debate by reminding the audience that both Sandra Day O’Connor and Barry Goldwater, both revered Arizona Republicans, were supporters of reproductive freedom during the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case, which concluded that a woman has the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy up until the point that a fetus has become viable, or potentially able to live outside the mother's womb.

Mukasey, who served as the 81st attorney general of the United States and as a district judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, took issue with the term “viability.” He noted that the state of New York just legalized abortion for the entire period of gestation, up to and including nine months, which he called “barbaric.”

“That road leads to places like Philadelphia, where there is a doctor who is snipping infants’ spinal columns,” Mukasey said, referring to Kermit Gosnell, who was who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter of one woman during an abortion procedure and of murdering three infants who were born alive during attempted abortion procedures.

Furthermore, Mukasey argued that abortion should not be a constitutional issue.

“The country was well on its way toward resolving issues related to abortion before Roe v. Wade,” he said. “Instead, that conversation was cut off and we have a really bitter atmosphere as a result.”

In Mukasey’s opinion, the issue should be resolved by culture, not the courts.

Widely recognized as an expert on constitutional law and civil liberties, Strossen pointed out that abortion is one of those rights that is not explicitly outlined in the Constitution but that is protected by substantive due process.

“Substantive due process is the vegetarian hamburger of constitutional law,” Mukasey replied. “If somebody hands you a vegetarian hamburger, you’re not entirely sure what you’re going to get but one thing you’re damn sure not going to get is a hamburger.”

Despite their disagreements, the two found common ground in that they both consider abortion to be an important issue of morality and ethics that should not be used for political gain.

The other major subject of debate Thursday evening was the implications of free speech and religious liberty laws forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Moderator James Weinstein, professor in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, referred to the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which dealt with whether owners of public accommodations can refuse certain services based on the First Amendment claims of free speech and free exercise of religion, and therefore be granted an exemption from laws ensuring non-discrimination in public accommodation.

The case arose when Colorado baker Jack Phillips refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple on the basis of his religious beliefs. Mukasey called it a “classic free-speech case.”

“However, that is not what this case is about,” Strossen countered. “The baker Jack Phillips was completely free to say whatever he wanted, express religious beliefs in any way he wanted. What he is not free to do is hang out his shingle, open a commercial business that is open to the general public but say he’s not going to provide services to particular people because of who they are.”

She noted that the same argument was made by opponents of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, claiming that interracial dating went against their religious beliefs.

“You can voice your views, but you cannot implement them through discriminatory conduct,” Strossen said.

Both Mukasey and Strossen were in agreement in response to an audience question about how to restore moderation in political parties that seem to have gone to extremes.

More progress could be made, Mukasey said, if people were willing to align themselves with people they agree with about most things instead of insisting they agree on everything.

“Those who tend to be the most active are the ones who have the strongest views,” Strossen added. “But just as you have the responsibility to vote, you have the responsibility to be active.”

Top photo: Nadine Strossen and Michael Mukasey (right), along with moderator Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law Professor James Weinstein, hold a conversation Thursday that intended to model a civil, mutually respectful and vigorous exchange of ideas on issues that challenge American society, such as abortion. Strossen is a professor at New York Law School and former president of the American Civil Liberties Union. Mukasey served at the 81st attorney general of the United States, appointed by President George W. Bush. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Emma Greguska

Reporter , ASU News

(480) 965-9657

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Unite the country? Reach out to the peripheries of society

Social scientist Arthur Brooks: We must conquer our fears and connect to others.
January 24, 2019

Leading conservative thinker to audience at ASU lecture: Use weakness as strength

Your strengths are your weaknesses. Take more risks. And reach out to the margins of society.

That is how we can bring a deeply divided country back together again.

That was the message of Arthur Brooks — social scientist, musician, contributing opinion writer for The New York Times and the president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank — when he spoke Thursday evening at Arizona State University.

Brooks has authored 11 books on topics including the role of government, economic opportunity, happiness and the morality of free enterprise. His latest book is the New York Times bestseller "The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America."

“You want to bring people together?” Brooks told the crowd at Old Main on the Tempe campus. “Give them more opportunity. ... The question is: How do you do it?”

Brooks — whose talk was part of the “Polarization and Civil Disagreement: Confronting America's Civic Crisis” series, sponsored by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, together with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law — looks at data on poverty and pathways to success.

“That’s what people want: the story of going from the bottom to the middle. ... What do these people have in common? ... If we can do that together, we can come together.”

Brooks embarked on a three-year investigation across the country. “It was the people on the margins of society who gave me the secrets to this.”

Two secrets, to be specific.

He looked at the criminal justice system. Twenty-three million ex-cons are in society.

“These are the most marginalized people in society,” he said. “That’s a disaster for our society.

“I urge you to join me in seeing them as assets, not liabilities.”

He found a prison entrepeneurship program in Houston. Twenty-five convicts are chosen a year before their release. The thinking is if they can become entrepeneurs, they can create their own jobs. Usually, about 50 percent of ex-cons wind up back in prison a year after release. Seven percent of the men who went through the program returned.

Brooks talked to men in the program. They had in mind opening a barbecue joint or a landscaping business, not launching a biotech startup. Program data showed only 16 percent actually opened their own businesses, though. The rest had gotten jobs.

“When they are trained to think like entrepeneurs, they find jobs,” Brooks said. “They didn’t have to start businesses. ... That was the secret I found.”

Brooks called it “treating people with radical equality.”

“That is the secret to the startup life,” he said.

Secret No. 1: Take more risks: “If you conquer your fear, you’re going to be happier.”

Secret No. 2: Use your weakness as a source of strength: “The source of your power is your connection to other people. People are connected by their weaknesses.”

At 30, Brooks earned his bachelor’s degree from a correspondence school, which he hid for years. When he became the head of the American Enterprise Institute, called the most academic think tank in Washington, he was terrified The New York Times or Washington Post would find out (even though his resume clearly stated he was a graduate of Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, New Jersey). AEI was being run by someone who went to a correspondence school. He had been rejected for grad school at Harvard, and here he was hiring Harvard grads.

The fact eventually came to light (through an academic he hired at AEI, not a journalist). He put some thought into his situation.

“If it hadn’t been for that ... I wouldn’t run AEI ... and I wouldn’t be here tonight.”

He wrote a column for the Times about his very cheap — and very valuable — education ($10,000, including books and a bumper sticker he was too scared to put on his car).

“You know my problem? I’m an elitist against myself, which is the worst kind of elitist,” he said. “All of my work should go to people at the margins of society. ... This is how we bring the country together. Reach out to the people on periphery.”

Top photo: Arthur Brooks speaks to a crowd of around 300 people as a part of the "Polarization and Civil Disagreement: Confronting America’s Civic Crisis" series, Thursday evening on the Tempe campus. Photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News

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Bipartisan hosts of 'The Pollsters' podcast analyze midterm elections at ASU event

November 13, 2018

Key takeaways: Campaign messaging matters, blue and red states are an outdated concept, GOP lost key voting blocs

It’s official: Arizona is now a battleground state. This, according to Margie Omero, one half of the “The Pollsters” podcast duo rounded out by Kristen Soltis Anderson.

Omero, principal at GBA Strategies with more than 20 years of experience managing all facets of qualitative and quantitative research, and Soltis Anderson, a pollster and co-founder of the research and analytics firm Echelon Insights, visited Arizona State University’s Tempe campus Tuesday evening as guest speakers for the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership’s final 2018 “Polarization and Civil Disagreement” public talk.

Over the course of a couple of hours, a room of about 200 students, faculty, staff and community members listened as Omero, a Democrat, and Soltis Anderson, a Republican, analyzed the results of the 2018 midterm election and reviewed stats, trends and key points.

“It’s really a source of joy to have this bipartisan moment,” Omero remarked at the beginning of the event. “I get a lot of questions about my friendship with Kristen. … We really do get along.”

School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership Director and Professor Paul Carrese moderated the discussion, which began with each speaker going over what she determined to be the biggest takeaways.

For Soltis Anderson, there were three:

1. “The polls are all right.”

Following the 2016 election, Soltis Anderson said she gave the polling industry a grade of C-plus because of some key marquee races that they got wrong. However, this time around, she said, “The pollsters got it pretty close to right,” upgrading her C-plus to a B-plus.

2. The idea of red states and blue states is increasingly outdated.

Though several headlines reported red states getting redder and blue states getting bluer, Soltis Anderson believes the density of the area in which you live might tell someone a lot more about how you vote than whether you’re in a “red state” or a “blue state.”

“The last couple elections, suburbs leaned slightly Republican,” she said, but this election showed that the GOP is losing them. “Even if it’s by a small margin, that will have huge electoral consequences, as we saw by the number of House seats Democrats were able to pick up. So looking at a map can be misleading,” because cities that are blue might appear smaller but are more population-dense.

3. Many hugely influential voting blocs moved away from the GOP.

“Typically in a lame election, one party is energized and the other is depressed,” Soltis Anderson said, providing the 2010 and 2014 elections in which Republicans were energized and turned out to the polls, whereas Democrats stayed home, as examples.

This year, though, the shoe was on the other metaphorical foot.

“Given the results,” she said, “President Trump should be nervous about his re-election chances.”

Specifically, Republicans failed to win over married women, and white women with college degrees — who used to split evenly — broke for the Democrats by 20 points. In addition, voters younger than 20 broke for the Democrats by a 30-point margin, the same margin that got Barack Obama elected in 2008.

“Republicans have got to catch up with the demographic of cultural changes (and convey) a message that speaks to a broader group of people,” Soltis Anderson said.

Omero's key takeaways:

1. The expectation that we would see an increase in female candidates and voters was correct.

There are now roughly 100 new members of Congress who are women, and two women ran against each other for a Senate seat in Arizona. Omero said this is something that doesn’t happen very often for a variety of reasons, but two that are notable are a majority of Americans who feel Trump doesn’t respect women and the fact that so many women voted in this election.

“Women really did set the pace, as voters and as candidates this time around, more than even before,” she said.

2. Campaigns and messages matter.

“It’s important to look at individual candidates and how their campaign was run,” Omero said.

Candidates who eschewed demonizing one party over the other and instead focused on issues like health care tended to do better.

3. Candidates struggled with how to talk about Trump.

Whether they were “Trump huggers” or “Never Trumpers,” candidates who expressed an opinion about the president one way or another tended to alienate voters.

ASU Professor Paul Carrese speaks at a lectern onstage

School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership Director Paul Carrese moderates the Tuesday evening event. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Following their debriefings of the midterm results, Carrese posed a handful of questions to the pollsters, ranging from how Republicans might interpret the outcome, to the absence of a dominant party, to how women in office might approach issues differently than their male counterparts.

“If I wanted to construct a case why this was a good night for Republicans, there are data points that would let me do it,” Soltis Anderson said. “However, that doesn’t necessarily mean this was a good night. If you lose a chamber of Congress, I think you in some ways lose the right to say you had a good night.”

Soltis Anderson also lamented the tendency of success to breed complacency.

“I think in politics, people think very short term,” she said. “I don’t think one party has figured out the magic formula and are going to be winning forever. … (At the moment), the polls are still trending … against Republicans.”

Though many are celebrating the unprecedented female presence in political offices following the election, Omero cautioned that it doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a sea change in governing.

“Women don’t have to be better or even different in order to deserve parity in public life,” she said. “Women don’t have to be more collegial or more cooperative … or any of that. It’s just great to have more diverse representation.”

The evening closed with questions from the audience. Several came from students affiliated with the Young Democrats, the College Republicans, Bridge ASU and Undergraduate Student Government.

Hanna Salem, a member of the Undergraduate Student Government on the Tempe campus, asked about the role of student organizations to promote civic engagement.

While conventional wisdom says that young voters don’t participate, Soltis Anderson felt this election was an exception and that particularly on college campuses, peers have the power to influence one another.

“This is a really big school in what is now considered a battleground state,” Omero added. “You guys hold all the cards.”

The “Polarization and Civil Disagreement” series will continue in 2019, picking up Jan. 24 with a talk titled “Bringing America Together” with Arthur Brooks.

Top photo: Kristen Soltis Anderson (left) and Margie Omero, hosts of the podcast "The Pollsters," offer their bipartisan views on the 2018 midterm elections at the Memorial Union on Tuesday evening. More than 200 people listened to the discussion, part of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership's annual lecture series on "Polarization and Civil Disagreement." Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Video by Jamie Ell/ASU Now

Emma Greguska

Reporter , ASU News

(480) 965-9657

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Journalists visit ASU to discuss 'Religion in the Civic Sphere'

Experts wonder if evangelical women's support for Trump is waning.
NY Times op-ed columnist skeptical that Kavanaugh won't overturn Roe v. Wade.
October 17, 2018

Rousing discussion about evangelical votes, civil religion and more part of series looking at 'Religion, Journalism and Democracy'

Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict interim director John Carlson warned audience members at an event Tuesday evening on Arizona State University's Tempe campus that they’d better be having a late dinner.

“Many of us grew up being told not to talk about religion and politics at dinner, so I’m going to assume we’re all eating late tonight, because that’s exactly what we’re going to do now,” he said. “Tonight, we’ll be exploring the role religion plays in public life — the good, the bad and the ugly — with a focus on the civic sphere.”

Sponsored by the School for Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership as part of its “Polarization and Civil Disagreement” lecture series, “Religion in the Civic Sphere” featured New York Times op-ed columnist Ross Douthat; editor-at-large for the National Review Kathryn Jean Lopez; and Chicago-based journalist Amy Sullivan, who has covered religion and politics for TIME, Yahoo and the Washington Monthly. Carlson served as moderator, and the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict as a co-sponsor, along with the University of Mary.

The panel discussion was the second of three public talks related to a project spearheaded by the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “Religion, Journalism and Democracy” brings together journalists and religious scholars to exchange insights and expertise in a series of workshops, public talks and private luncheons throughout the fall semester.

“What makes this panel — and the center’s yearlong project — so exciting is the opportunity to advance public understanding about the role of religion in public life," Carlson said. "Religion has always been part of democratic life. The question we need to explore are the ways in which it informs or distorts our visions of what it means to be citizens in a republic.”

The third public talk, “A Conversation on Religion, Journalism and Democracy with Daniel Burke,” takes place Monday, Oct. 29, from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Cronkite First Amendment Forum on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

The conversation at Tuesday evening’s event was lively, ranging from religious female voting patterns to abortion to civil religion in the Donald Trump White House.

Much of what was discussed was framed by how it might affect the upcoming midterm elections in November. And the “perennial question,” Sullivan said, “is whether Trump is losing evangelical women or not.”

Panelists were uncertain, but Douthat said it’s likely that many evangelical women who voted for Trump did so while “holding their nose,” and that perhaps some of them regret it — something that will be revealed on Nov. 6.

Regarding concerns about freshly appointed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s stance on abortion rights, Douthat pointed out that while pledging her support for him, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins attempted to reassure the public that Kavanaugh would not overturn Roe v. Wade.

Douthat was skeptical: “Somebody is getting taken for a ride here, and we’ll find out who in the next five years.”

When conversation turned to the state of civil religion in the Trump administration, Sullivan shared an anecdote about her 4-year-old son, who made a comment about the president being mean. She felt it demonstrated how even young children are picking up on public sentiment that the current president is lacking in moral character.

Carlson explained civil religion as the guiding principles of the country that include such notions as freedom and human dignity for all.

“This president is not a real strong voice of civil religion,” Carlson argued, citing Trump’s reluctance to halt a billion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia despite the country’s apparent sanctioning of the alleged murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

What Carlson wanted to know from the panelists was whether we, as a nation, can recover from what he called a seeming moral descent.

“I do think we can recover,” Lopez said. “But it depends on who’s willing to fight for principles and party leadership.”

The discussion concluded with questions from audience members, one of whom posited a question in the same vein, about how a nation so divided can possibly come together again in light of major differences of opinion on political, religious and general life issues.

Lopez’s response was simple but poignant: “We all have something in common.”

Top photo: New York Times columnist Ross Douthat speaks during "Religion in the Civic Sphere: A Panel Discussion," on Tuesday in Old Main. From left, panelists Kathryn Jean Lopez, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute; Douthat; and Chicago-based journalist Amy Sullivan held a lively political discussion moderated by John Carlson, interim director of ASU's Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Ross Douthat was also a featured speaker at the lecture, "One Country, Three Faiths: America's Real Religious Divide," hosted by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

Video by Jamie Ell/ASU Now

ASU professor appointed as affiliate scholar for Faith and Liberty Discovery Center

October 10, 2018

Assistant Professor Karen Taliaferro, in Arizona State University's School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, has been named an affiliate scholar for the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center in Philadelphia. This center represents a $60 million investment to provide an immersive experience for visitors that explores the relationship between faith and liberty in America from its founding through today.

Taliaferro is a political theorist who researches the history of political thought, along with religion and politics, with a particular emphasis on Islamic thought. Her current book project, "The Possibility of Religious Freedom: Early Natural Law and the Abrahamic Faiths," examines the perennial conflict of divine law and human law, proposing a re-examination of ancient and medieval traditions of natural law to help mitigate the conflict. Professor Taliaferro's research focuses on intersections between religion and politics. Download Full Image

She was awarded a 2011 NSEP/Boren grant for Arabic studies and research on human rights curriculum in Morocco and has also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Morocco, focusing on health education and development training. She is part of the inaugural faculty team at the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership and will teach two CEL courses in the spring of 2019: Great Ideas of Politics and Ethics in Comparative Perspective and Political Leadership and Statesmanship.

“Professor Taliaferro helps to fulfill the crucial global dimension of SCETL’s mission, exploring pressing questions of religion and politics that transcend national boundaries and particular religious traditions,” said Adam Seagrave, associate director for the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. "These questions will continue to occupy American and global leaders for generations to come."

Patrick Murdock, the director of the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center, praised the great contributions Taliaferro has made to existing scholarship and what she will bring to the table. “Dr. Taliaferro shows how faith has governed American hearts and souls, while the state has regulated our behaviors. We look forward to having her help us showcase how, in the American experience, biblical faith has been what President George Washington once called an ‘indispensable support’ of political freedom and flourishing.”

Taliaferro says that religion played a “tremendous role” in the founding of our country and in the shaping of a unified identity of America.

“When we object to the use of religion in the public sphere today, we need to realize that this comprehensiveness of religion has historically informed so much of our American life. People aren’t divided so they are partly religious and partly civic; they are just people. They will worship and love a god, and they will serve a community, but in each activity, they are the same people.”

The Faith and Liberty Discovery Center is set to open on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall in the fall of 2020. Taliaferro joins the ranks of other highly esteemed scholars that include a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, the Librarian of Congress Emeritus, a legal historian whose scholarship has been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court and a member of the federal commission that is planning the 2026 celebration that will mark the nation’s 250th birthday.

Written by Myra Francisco

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ASU students advocate for the deaf in East Africa

September 27, 2018

Two sophomores traveled to three countries to incubate a grassroots movement for inclusive education

For seven weeks this summer, Arizona State University sophomores Courtney Langerud and Elliot Wasbotten traveled throughout East Africa, working with deaf organizations and schools to advocate for inclusive education for deaf and disabled children.

A significant portion of their advocacy work, done through the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, involved working to change the mindset of how deaf and disabled children were viewed in Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya.

"It really stemmed from a lack of education — people don't understand what a disability actually is," said Langerud. She encountered this particularly in Uganda, where a disability is often attributed to a curse or witchcraft.

Langerud and Wasbotten emphasized that it was important that they went to the communities as advocates and with an open mind.

"We wanted to learn the culture and customs so that we can see what they were doing, and then offer insight," Wasbotten said.

It wasn't just about working specifically with deaf or disabled children: 

"It was really a community effort," Wasbotten said. "We were in one classroom and I started signing just to let people know that, 'Hey, I can listen but I can also take the effort to communicate with someone who's deaf.' A big part of it was not only having that conversation, but giving that conversation the open space that it needed to reach these children and the community they live in."

Jamie Ell

Media Specialist , Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation


Constitution Day: A celebration of ideals

September 17, 2018

Editor's note: Monday, Sept. 17, is Constitution Day. School of Economic Thought and Leadership Associate Director Adam Seagrave penned this op-ed about how Sen. John McCain and Founding Father Thomas Jefferson might encourage us to celebrate the day.

In his recent farewell letter to the country he served so faithfully, Sen. John McCain described the U.S. as “a nation of ideals, not blood or soil.” This statement — particularly considering its author — is striking. McCain himself could be Exhibit A of the “blood and soil” model, as a male of white European ancestry who literally shed his own blood to defend American soil from foreign enemies. Adam Seagrave is associate director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership as well as associate director of the Center for Political Thought and Leadership. He teaches courses on American political thought and race and the American story. Download Full Image

McCain’s parting statement echoes one made by another “blood and soil” Exhibit A from two centuries ago, Thomas Jefferson. In his “Summary View of the Rights of British America,” Jefferson argued that “America was conquered, and her settlements made, and firmly established, at the expense of individuals. … Their own blood was spilt in acquiring lands for their settlement, their own fortunes expended in making that settlement effectual; for themselves they fought, for themselves they conquered, and for themselves alone they have right to hold.” This sounds like “America — and ancestral Americans — First.”

In a letter to Samuel Kercheval 40 years later, though, Jefferson firmly denied the relevance of ancestry to American national determination and identity, writing that “the dead have no rights. They are nothing.” Moreover, Jefferson’s larger point speaks directly to McCain’s parting advice and also to our celebration of Constitution Day each September — by insisting that our ancestors and old documents don’t provide our civic identity. “Some men,” he said, “look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence … they ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human.” For Jefferson, the framers of the Constitution were mere human beings and should be viewed as such by succeeding generations of Americans. They fall under the “blood” category that McCain explicitly excludes from the definition of American nationhood.

According to McCain and Jefferson, then, we shouldn’t celebrate Constitution Day as a commemoration of Sept. 17, 1787. That day came and went 231 years ago, and the 39 men who signed the Constitution are dead and gone. What, then, should we celebrate on this day?

Here again, McCain and Jefferson are clear. McCain urges us to remember and celebrate American “ideals” reflected in the Constitution. And Jefferson, though he had little reverence for the Constitution, gave his authorship of the Declaration of Independence top billing on his tombstone. Men like McCain, Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, John Adams or Alexander Hamilton live for a while and then are gone; true ideals, such as those expressed in the opening of the Declaration of Independence and passionately embraced by American heroes from Washington to McCain, have an ever-present life of their own.

In an early speech, Abraham Lincoln pointed to the Declaration as the key to making the Union “worthy of saving.” The political existence of the American Union as represented in the Constitution and embodied in the institutions it creates was not, in other words, self-evidently valuable. For Lincoln, the Constitution shouldn’t be revered simply because it’s our Constitution, nor should the Founders be revered because they are ours. The Constitution is valuable only because it follows and implements the self-evident truths of the Declaration — our God-given natural rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and to governments that equally secure those rights for all. The Founders achieved great things only by embracing and upholding these truths.

McCain’s profound point for our time is that ideas and ideals — not blood, soil, dead men, or paper constitutions — are the foundation of our nation and the core of our identity as American citizens. Let’s celebrate this Constitution Day, then, in the way Sen. McCain and Thomas Jefferson recommend: by recommitting ourselves to the kind of idealism that makes the Constitution and its framers worthy of commemorating.

Written by Adam Seagrave

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National Review's Jonah Goldberg discusses ‘Suicide of the West’

September 11, 2018

ASU lecture series confronts America’s civic crisis with lessons in statesmanship for common good

American democracy is eroding quickly, and it’s not being threatened by an outside force or another country. We’re doing it to ourselves — “identity politics” and hyper-partisanship are killing independent opinion and the free exchange of ideas, according to prominent journalist and media figure Jonah Goldberg.

“The problem we have today is that we’re supposed to take people as they are, how you find them. Instead we are reverting back to a very natural tendency of turning people who look differently than us, act differently than us, into abstractions. We are demonizing,” said Goldberg, senior editor at National Review and a Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, in front of a crowd of about 250 people at Old Main in Tempe on Tuesday. “This has been going on in the academic left for a long time and this breaks my heart, but conservatives, right-wingers, are embracing it, too.”

Video by Jamie Ell/ASU Now

Goldberg, also a nationally syndicated columnist and a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, was the inaugural speaker for the 2018-19 lecture series hosted by Arizona State University’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and LeadershipThe School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership is a new school at ASU that blends classical liberal arts education with experiential learning to prepare students to become leaders. Students confront diverse views on political, economic and moral philosophy; American political ideals; statesmanship and entrepreneurship.. Co-sponsored by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, this year’s theme is “Polarization and Civil Disagreement: Confronting America’s Civic Crisis.”

“The planning committee felt a duty ... to address one of the most contentious issues in higher education today: the hyper-polarization, extending to violence, about appropriate speech and invited speakers,” said Paul Carrese, director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. “We believe there is both intellectual and civic work to do in confronting this deterioration in higher education and in America’s capacity for self-governance.”

Carrese said selected speakers for this year’s series represent both ends of the political and social spectrum, hailing from academia and American public life and offering robust civil debate.

The majority of Goldberg’s Tuesday discourse stemmed from his new book, “Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy.”

Goldberg said that for 250,000 years, people existed on less than $3 a day. Only in the past 300 years has society reached a point where most people have been lifted out of mass poverty. He added that capitalism (which he called “The Miracle”) has produced an unbelievable “bounty of riches” and an “explosion of prosperity.”

However, he said, politics and divisiveness is threatening to turn it all upside down.

Goldberg said that lived experience, character and personality have been reduced to “thin abstractions” that flatten an otherwise dynamic populace and create tribes based on gender, race and party with little regard for diversity of opinion.

“What we need is variety. Let your flag fly free,” Goldberg said. “We have all of these arguments about going left toward socialism or right toward nationalism. But when you’re at the top of the mountain, left and right lose their meaning because the only direction you can go is down back into the muck.”

Goldberg said Americans are ungratefully throwing away what made the West the free and prosperous place it is today.

“We teach people not to be grateful for what we have,” Goldberg said. “If you don’t teach people gratitude, the opposite comes pouring in, which is a sense of entitlement and resentment. We teach people, ‘I gotta get mine.’”

Despite his diagnosis of civilization’s current ills, Goldberg did offer up some solutions and left the audience with this:

“There is no better system. There should be this understanding that we’ve got it pretty good," Goldberg said. "Have a little gratitude for where you are, because things could be a helluva lot worse."

The lecture series will continue on Oct. 11 with Mark Lilla’s presentation of “Identity and Citizenship.”

Top photo: Jonah Goldberg speaks on the "Suicide of the West" at an event hosted by ASU's School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership on Tuesday evening at Old Main on the Tempe campus. Photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU News


ASU director delivers inaugural address on 'The Constitution of Innovation'

Professor Ross Emmett defends 5 claims about innovation to kick off series 'Perspectives on Economic Liberty'

August 22, 2018

Last spring, Arizona State University's School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, in partnership with the W. P. Carey School of Business, welcomed Ross Emmett as the new director of the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty. The center is a hub for research and programs dedicated to evaluating the contribution of economic liberty to human prosperity and well-being.

Emmett says his vision for the center is not as a policy think tank, but rather as a unit somewhere between academic research and implementation. Ross Emmett Center for the Study of Economic Liberty Ross Emmett, director of the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty. Download Full Image

"If you think of the production of knowledge as a triangle," Emmett said, "with academic research at the top, the translation of research via public intellectuals in the middle, and the various ways of implementing research in public policy at the bottom, then the center would sit somewhere in the space between the academic work and the public intellectual role.”

Emmett joined ASU from Michigan State University, where he taught political economy, political theory and constitutional democracy in James Madison College. His specific research interests are in the history of economic thought, and in particular, the work of Adam Smith, T. Robert Malthus, and Frank H. Knight.  

The moment he arrived on campus, after adjusting to the absence of snow, Emmett began setting big plans in motion to rejuvenate the center. In addition to teaching in the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, Emmett and his team are developing exciting research tools, publications and a lecture series, beginning this fall.

For the next year or so, the center will focus on the overarching theme of "perspectives on economic liberty," beginning with a lecture series of the same name. Emmett says that using the expression “economic liberty” is a way of talking about freedom in markets, freedom of individual choice and action, and the rule of law.

“The purpose of the series is to consider the cases for and against economic liberty, how it fits or doesn't fit with political liberty, and to ask, is one prior to the other, or are they companions?

“In these lectures, we will explore social and cultural issues around economic liberty as well as policy questions related to issues like trade and loss of jobs, minimum wage, right to work, labor regulation, and occupational licensing," he said. "These are all considerations of the benefits and potential costs in a world that accepts economic liberty.”

Emmett will kick off the series with a lecture on “The Constitution of Innovation,” in which he defines "constitution" not as a set of rules and processes, but as an environment in which systems can operate interdependently.

“Americans tend to think of ‘constitutions’ as pieces of paper that defend rights and define political processes," Emmett said. "The British tradition of constitutional analysis is more ecological: Winston Churchill compared it to daily exercise, which ensures that the various systems in our bodies function well together. FA Hayek had the British constitutional tradition in mind when he titled the only book he wrote while in America, "The Constitution of Liberty." There he argued that economic liberty undergirded economic progress because it created a societal constitution that encouraged Smithian innovation. Hayek worried that we might be about to lose that constitutional perspective. For a time, from about 1980 until the last few years, I argued that he was wrong. But perhaps we have reason to worry again. Willful disregard for the Smithian tradition threatens once again to undo a healthy constitution of innovation.”

Emmett’s talk takes place at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 23, in West Hall, room 135. RSVP here. The next two events in the series are talks by Tony Gill: "An Economic Defense of Tipping" and "Religious Freedom and Economic Liberty."

Ty Fishkind

Communications specialist, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


ASU In the News

Inmates who volunteer to fight California's largest fires denied access to jobs on release

As California struggles to contain the largest fire in state history, more than 2,000 inmates have volunteered to fight the flames.

But in a bitterly ironic twist, once inmates leave prison, they often can’t work as firefighters, despite their frontline experience. In California, nearly all counties require firefighters to become licensed emergency medical technician (EMTs) — a credential that can be denied to almost anyone with a criminal record. Inmate firefighters in Lakeport, California, on Aug. 1, 2018. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California’s firefighting felons are a particularly stark illustration of a growing, national problem. According to the American Bar Association, the nation’s occupational and business licensing laws contain over 27,000 restrictions on ex-offenders, including bans on working as barbers or hosting bingo games. Those barriers impose significant costs. Research by the Center for Economic and Policy estimates that in 2014, employment barriers for the incarcerated and those with felony convictions cost the nation’s economy up to $87 billion in annual GDP, equal to “the loss of 1.7 to 1.9 million workers.”

Not only do these policies slam the door on economic opportunity, they may also increase reoffending. A recent study from Arizona State University found that states with more burdensome licensing laws saw their average recidivism rates jump by 9%. By comparison, states with fewer licensing restrictions and no moralizing provisions had recidivism rates decline by 2.5%, on average. In fact, licensing burdens were second only to the overall labor market climate when it came to influencing recidivism rates.

Article Source: USA Today

Project Coordinator, Center for the Study of Economic Liberty