Archive | California

Constitutional Law Professors: 87% Support Same-Sex Marriage, But Only 54% Believe It Is Constitutionally Mandated

Eighty-seven percent of constitutional law professors back marriage for same-sex couples, and 7 out of 10 believe the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, but only a slight majority of 54% think the federal Constitution requires states to recognize same-sex marriages. That’s the result of a survey of 485 constitutional law professors that I conducted this summer with the help of my indefatigable and indispensable research assistant, Minnesota 2L Samuel Light. In this post, I want to highlight some of the main results from the survey.

The survey was prompted by a comment from a pro-SSM law professor that the constitutional debate on the issue among scholars was over.  According to him, there was no remaining doubt among specialists that recognition of SSM is required by the Constitution. I suspected this claim was too strong.  Despite a common criticism, many constitutional law professors pride themselves on being able to separate their policy preferences from their constitutional views.  (Whether they succeed in doing so is a different question.)  So I wanted to test the hypothesis that the matter of same-sex marriage has been settled by asking professors themselves.

The survey was also prompted by the progress of some major cases challenging anti-SSM laws.  One of the cases challenges California’s Prop 8; others take on the Defense of Marriage Act. These cases are teed up to reach the United States Supreme Court in the 2012 Term.  (The Court will consider whether to take the Prop 8 case and at least one of the DOMA cases at its September 24 conference.)  The cases don’t necessarily call for a comprehensive answer to the question whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, but that large question will definitely be in the background. 

The views of constitutional law professors do not determine [...]

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My Wandering Summer Reading

Although only mid-August, school will be starting up for me only too soon … during the summer months, I make a vow (at best half kept most years) to spend two hours a day reading stuff, anything that is not strictly driven by a current writing project.  I’ve found that if I can persuade myself to stop surfing the web, put aside the immediate reading for whatever I’m writing, and read across a wider range of things, I am storing up – marinating, possibly – ideas for the future.  I haven’t done so well on that assignment this summer, but I thought I would share a couple of items on the wandering list of summer reading, ranging from things that are about current writing projects, to beach reading – well, not actual beach reading, because I didn’t go to the beach, but books I read in California while on a not-quite vacation while daughter looked at colleges.  Also some things I was listening to.  Below the fold … [...]

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California’s Woes and Prop 13

I guess a better title would be “California’s Woes and Prop 13, Not.”  Also, never let it be said that Our Volokh Conspiracy – and its commenters – do not drive the intellectual agenda.

William Voegeli, a couple of whose articles on California’s finances have been linked here (see California tag), and who also provided a nice short commentary for VC on the topic, has a new piece in CityJournal on the legacy of Prop 13.  He told me in an email that it got started on account of being struck by how many VC commenters on his earlier post attributed California’s parlous fiscal state to Prop 13.  Hence the new article, “Don’t Blame Proposition 13.” Likewise I’m pleased to announce the publication of his new book, Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State. Here is a bit from the California Prop 13 article :

According to liberals in politics, journalism, and academia, Proposition 13 is the reason for California’s worsening fiscal nightmare and the declining quality of the state’s public services, and the motives behind it were deplorable. And because Prop. 13 ignited a national tax revolt that remains potent, the Left also blames the measure for much of what it thinks has gone wrong in American political life generally over the past three decades.

Yet no matter how often their moral and intellectual “superiors” denounce them, California taxpayers continue to insist that the problem isn’t their purported stinginess but their government, which makes lousy use of the considerable funds that it continues to receive. On this point, the voters aren’t being stubborn, greedy, or stupid. The voters are right.

The first thing to recognize is that Proposition 13 did not destroy the tax base of California’s local governments. True, the average property-tax rate has fallen from 2.67 percent in

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How Do California and Greece Compare?

(Update.)  Thanks, Glenn, for the Instalanche!  Let’s add this front page article in the Financial Times today, Tuesday, February 9, 2010, “Traders in Record Bet Against the Euro.”

(You might also want to see my more general discussion in a post above on the directions of the EU regarding the unstable position of currency union without political/fiscal union.  Some people have raised some objections particularly to that post’s closing paragraphs regarding how the Obama administration views Western Europe – essentially losers in the globalized world, and no one worth paying attention to because anything of value that might have been learned from the internal European social democratic model has already been absorbed and priced into Obamism.  But I think it’s right – and I think that is the conclusion that European leaders have been drawing about what, not just Obama, but his senior cadre of intellectuals and elites think about Europe.

That’s quite apart from thinking that the Obama administration has so thoroughly absorbed the European lesson that a massive internal democratic socialist welfare state means geopolitical decline, that Obama is not just a weak leader in foreign policy – personally weak, as Sarkozy clearly thinks – but structurally weak as well, meaning that the foreign policy weakness is built into the structure of domestic policy shifts to a massive social democratic state.  These European leaders know better than anyone on the planet how the shift to their domestic social model implies geopolitical decline.  So they have no doubt as to where Obama is taking the US in foreign affairs.  As I said in the later post, we Atlanticists should have read Aron more recently.)

From the FT:

Traders and hedge funds have bet nearly $8bn (€5.9bn) against the euro, amassing the biggest ever short position in the single currency

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The “Demon Sheep” Video

[youtube][/youtube]I’m at an academic conference at Stanford Law School this weekend and have had my attention drawn to the latest internet sensation: The “Demon Sheep” Video.  The video was produced for Carly Fiorina’s Republican  Senate campaign.  It is a 3 and 1/2 minute “attack ad” against Tom Campbell, a respected former Stanford law professor and congressman. 

    To dramatize its claim that Campbell is a big-spending wolf in fiscal-conservative sheep’s clothing, the video contains, well, a demon sheep — a sheep with glowing red devilish eyes. 

  The ad apparently has more than 375,000 views is something of an eye-opener, leading Mary Ham to write at the Weekly Standard:  “Someday, when your children are grown and the election of 2010 has long past, people will ask where you were when the demon sheep first came to American politics.”  (Read the whole thing here.)

  The ad is being widely lampooned across the internet (example here).  To mock the ad, another opponent of Fiorina in the Republic primary (Chck DeVore) has website that is the “home” of SFTEODSFOPD, or Society for the Eradication of Demon Sheep from our Political Discourse.

  The ad seems a bit over the top to me.   While the ad’s defenders say it is attracting lots of attention to the Fiorina campaign, the kind of buzz it is attracting will test the old saw that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.  I close with [insert your favorite sheep pun here …]

Update:  A reader suggests I should have closed with any of the following:

1. The ad’s creator should take it on the lamb.
2. Ewe can fool all the voters some of the time, and some of the voters all of the time, but ewe. . . .
3. Fame is fleecing.
4. Baaaa humbug. [...]

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Golden California

The Times Literary Supplement has a nice cover review-essay on California – Golden California – and it is, happy to say, open access.  It’s by Michael Saler and reviews two books, Imperial (on the Imperial Valley, by William Vollman) and Golden Dreams (part of California historian Kevin Starr’s multivolume series on California history).  Although agreeing (as everyone does, of course) with Saler that California is a disaster, I probably wouldn’t agree with him as to the priority of causes, though there are surely enough to go around.  It is a finely written, graceful essay on a place I love, and wish I still lived.  (Well, maybe today I would prefer the Nevada side of the border on the Eastern Sierra, but still, Not Here in the Mid-Atlantic. [Or do  you mean “Middle Atlantic”?  ed.]  Hmm.)

The novelist Wallace Stegner once defined California as America, “only more so”, a statement whose restraint better expresses his own roots in Iowa than it does the seismic character of the Golden State. Its dynamism, whether in the direction of boom or bust, has commandeered the world’s attention for at least a century: more than any Hollywood epic, California is its own best box office. From the singular plenitude of its Native American cultures, to the extravagant dysfunction of its current government, California residents like to vie with the sublimity of their natural surroundings, doing nothing by halves.

Writers hoping to uncover the state’s essence are more likely to strike quicksilver than gold. Yet commentators continue to see California as a beacon, for better or for worse, of the future, even as it remains stubbornly sui generis. When it became the most populous state in the nation in 1962, the media celebrated it as a global bellwether. Like the hot rods roaring out

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Underfunded Public Pensions as “Stranded” Costs? Two Trillion Dollars?

The Financial Times runs a story today by Francesco Guerrera and Nicole Bullock on the looming problems of underfunded public pensions at the state and local level in the United States.  The news story cites a new study by Orin Kramer, chairman of New Jersey’s pension fund:

The estimate by Orin Kramer will fuel investors’ concerns over the deteriorating financial health of US states after the recession. “State and local governments are correctly perceived to be in serious difficulty,” Mr Kramer told the Financial Times.

“If you factor in the reality of these unfunded promises, their deficits will rise exponentially.”

Estimates of aggregate funding requirement of the US pension system have ranged between $400bn and $500bn, but Mr Kramer’s analysis concluded that public funds would need to find more than $2,000bn to meet future pension obligations.

Two trillion dollars?  One question about these obligations is whether taxpayers will stick around to pay them, or instead will vote with their feet.  (“Vote with their feet” is something that has been discussed in various ways at VC – as an aspect of a federal system and states with their own laws.)  Many of these pension obligations have been incurred by municipalities and others by states, and in some cases the obligations are intertwined.  But what happens if voters-taxpayers move out?

The assumption has long been that taxpayers are stuck, on account of jobs and other circumstance.  But query whether that is necessarily true as the baby boom generation retires.  In that case, it might find itself far more mobile, in circumstances where rising taxes at every level make relocation a more valuable decision at the margin.  For that matter, if otherwise desirable locales manage to tax their businesses away, will the baby boomers’ kids and grandkids have reason ever to locate in [...]

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The Robotic Kindness of Strangers

One small nugget I took away from the (absolutely terrific) Stanford Law School robotics panel last week was a much better appreciation of how robotics will interact with advanced societies aging – elder-care, health care for the old and infirm, and so on.  Japan leads the way.

Paul Saffo (Stanford professor, futurist, and technology journalist, and very smart guy) remarked that the last ten years had seen an important technological shift, crucial to robotics, in the development of cheap sensor devices.  Sensor devices that could harness the computational power of the chip and make it possible to interface with the real world and, combined with improvements in elements of motion and locomotion, gives the world genuine robots.  It is movement, sensing, and computational power in combination that makes it possible for robots to do things, and do things for us.

That leads to the age of robotics, and – depending in part on what happens to R&D budgets in health care – the care of the elderly is one natural area of application, as well as a source of revenue to fund the industry.  More, faster please, as Glenn Reynolds might say.  Saffo also remarked that in a certain way, old people coming to depend on robots to help and do things for them as the fulfilment of “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers” – robotic strangers, in this case.

I added, and think it more important in setting out future technology trends here than one might initially figure, that a driver of robotic care for the elderly will be that the elderly themselves prefer robotic strangers caring for them, rather than human strangers.  Particularly in all the intimate, intrusive, personal things like bathing and toiletting – I at least would vastly prefer to interact with [...]

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More on California Tax-Services Model – William Voegeli Responds to Comments

Last week I blogged about a very interesting article in the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal by Claremont Review of Books contributing editor William Voegeli titled “The Big-Spending, High-Taxing, Lousy Services Paradigm” (Autumn 2009).  It compared the tax-services models of California and Texas.  VC commenters were spirited as ever and raised a number of important questions.

Although I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting William Voegeli, I took the liberty of contacting him through the Claremont Institute and asked if he might have any additional thoughts for us, particularly responding to VC commenters.  Mr. Voegeli was kind enough to say yes, and has sent along the following response, below.  Let me add, on behalf of the VC community, myself as well as readers and commenters, our great thanks for engaging with us.  And let me add to the VC commenting community, that in the spirit of the original article, you might call Volokh Conspiracy a … Low-Taxing, High-Services blog!  Mr. Voegeli:

Dear Prof. Anderson:

Thank you for bringing my City Journal article ( on California and Texas to the attention of the Volokh conspirators, and for your generous and thoughtful analysis ( of the piece.  Your post elicited many . . . spirited comments.  It would be cumbersome to address them individually, but I can offer a few points that speak to some of the general questions your readers brought up.

My essay argues that it’s not enough to look at how much states and localities spend because how well they spend is very important.  I understand several people in the comments section to be saying that this principle applies to the tax side of the equation, too.  Thus, California’s problem is not so much that it is a high-tax state but, as one commenter says, that

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Law and Robotics Panel at Stanford Law School

If you are going to be around Palo Alto next Thursday evening, you might consider attending a panel discussion on robotics and law at Stanford Law School.  I’ll be on a panel alongside some very interesting and knowledgeable folks taking up varied aspects of robotics (my particular interest is robotics and war, but the panel will be considering many areas of robotics).  The particulars are below the fold.

(Update:)  Here’s the assigned topic for comments, following up on Laura’s opening comment … should the panel discuss the Three Laws?  Are they a useful ethical/legal frame for dealing with robots in various aspects of human life?  Did Asimov lead us all astray by proposing them?  Should we instead avoid discussing them altogether?  What would you propose would be a better set of principles/laws/guidelines for robot-human interactions?

(I’ll also be giving a lunch talk/discussion that same day sponsored by various student organizations at SLS specifically on robotics and armed conflict. And thanks Glenn for the Instalanche!) [...]

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The California versus Texas Model, and Public Choice

William Voegeli, a contributing editor at The Claremont Review of Books, has an excellent essay in Manhattan Journal comparing the economic performance of California and Texas.  (I believe a short opinion page version appeared recently in the LAT.)  Among other things, the article provides a good example for how a public choice analysis can be applied to show, in this case, capture of public revenues and the process of increasing public revenues by public employees in California.

The most interesting feature of the article, however, is that it does not start out from a position of hostility toward California and its high tax model.  On the contrary, it says that there is a tradeoff that different people will make differently with respect to high tax/ high public services jurisdictions and low tax/ low public services jurisdictions.  There is a perfectly good argument for the former as well as for the latter.

It’s true that many people are less sensitive to taxes and more concerned about public goods, and these consumer-voters will congregate in places with extensive services. But it’s also true, all things being equal, that everyone would rather pay lower than higher taxes. The high-benefit, high-tax model can work, but only if the high taxes actually purchase high benefits—that is, public goods that far surpass the quality of those available to people who pay low taxes.

I grew up in California and despite my Upper Upper NW DC address, will always count myself a Californian, product of its public schools and a proud graduate of UCLA.  I was a beneficiary of the high tax/ high benefits model, and gravitate toward it.  The problem, as Voegeli documents, is two fold.  First, California is today a high tax/ low benefits model, while Texas, even with relatively low taxes, has managed remarkably [...]

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