The Big Think

September 3, 2013

A Wooden Boat Story

Filed under: Maker,Woodworking — jasony @ 9:20 pm

Wherein a guy who’s been in the wooden boat business for a century finally decides to build his own vessel by hand. Three years and countless trees later he put to sea in a 50 foot sloop you have to see to believe. All the more wonderful because he did it himself.

The video may require a subscription to watch but I just gave it a junk account. Well worth the viewing if you have the time (90 minutes)


A Nation of Laws, Not Men

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:30 am

It looks like a virus is spreading among public officials creating delusions that any one of them may unilaterally decide a law is unconstitutional and decline to follow the law or defend it in court. Setting aside for a moment the same sex marriage context of these actions—we could be talking about environmental laws or gun control or taxes—is it really the case that a single federal, state, or county official is free to make a judgment about the constitutionality of a law and decline to execute, enforce, or defend it? Are we no longer what founder (and second president) John Adams called “a nation of laws and not of men”?

First and foremost, a unilateral decision by a public official not to follow or defend a law he or she considers unconstitutional is a constitutional problem. Part of the safeguards built into our constitutions, both federal and state, is a separation of powers among the three branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial. Each branch has a purpose and generally no one branch alone can make law.

By the same token, no single branch, save the judicial, should be able to undo a law. This is part of the controversy surrounding President Obama’s recent decision to suspend aspects of Obamacare, which a member of the executive branch should not be able to do to a law passed by the legislature and signed by the president. It smacks of exactly the sort of monarchical power the founders sought to avoid.

The only branch of government able to declare a law unconstitutional on its own is the judiciary. Judges have legal and constitutional training and experience that is not required of those in the executive branch. Judicial procedure allows for extensive testimony, a “day in court” for both sides, and a deliberative weighing of the evidence….

A more specific constitutional problem with public officials who will not enforce or defend laws they believe are unconstitutional is the conflict with their own oaths of office. Virtually all executive branch officials take an oath to support and defend the constitution and the laws of their jurisdiction.

Indeed, what is the meaning of their Oath of Office if they can choose to ignore, not enforce, or unilaterally declare a law moot? We have a serious problem on our hands. It’s not about gay marriage, gun control, or any of the other controversies du jour. It’s about some of the the fundamental agreements behind our Republic. If we lose those, what do we have left?


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