With so much attention on the turf war between Congress and the President, it’s easy to overlook another…
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Federalism on the Firing Line

With so much attention on the turf war between Congress and the President, it’s easy to overlook another, equally disturbing separation-of-powers crisis – the swift erosion of federalism.

Just as the U.S. Constitution assigns certain powers and duties to the three coequal branches of the federal government (legislative, executive, and judicial), so too does it differentiate lines of responsibility between the federal and state governments. This latter idea is known as federalism, and it’s in pretty bad shape according to a thought-provoking essay by Richard Epstein and Mario Loyola.

In particular, the practice of conditioning receipt of federal money on capitulation to federal regulations is turning states into mere enforcement officers.

“Federal officials exert enormous influence…[more]

July 31, 2014 • 02:46 pm

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Leaving the Heavens Behind: What the End of the Space Shuttle Program Means for America’s Future Print
By Troy Senik
Wednesday, July 27 2011
One does not have to be a cosmological romantic, however, to lament the passing of the space shuttle. Indeed, it raises many earthbound concerns, not least in the realm of national security.

“This is the way the world ends – not with a bang but with a whimper” – T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men
 
What Eliot said of the world we can now say of our quest to journey beyond it. Man’s early endeavors beyond his own atmosphere were nothing if not a series of bangs: the call to arms of the USSR’s Sputnik launch; the redeeming triumph of the American moon landing aboard Apollo 11; the valiant stoicism of the nearly-doomed Apollo 13, and the visceral tragedy of the Challenger disaster.
 
It was, in short, what exploration has always been: bold, dangerous, occasionally impetuous and, more than anything, illuminating – quite literally. After millennia earthbound, man found himself staring at his home planet from a cold and distant satellite for the first time with the moon landing in 1969. Yet just over 40 years later, the country that led the way in one of the greatest breakthroughs in human history left the new age of exploration behind with a whimper.
 
That faint noise issued from the landing pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the space shuttle Atlantis returned to earth in the early morning hours of July 21, never to touch the heavens again. Atlantis’s voyage to the International Space Station marked the final flight of NASA’s space shuttle program and marked a transition from an era in which the agency set out in search of worlds to explore to one in which it searched for budget line items to eliminate.
 
To be sure, many of the reasons for NASA’s decline were homegrown. Since the space agency was first established in 1958, it has held to the trend of nearly all organs in the federal government: watching its achievements decline while its payroll expanded. And in recent years, America’s manned spaceflight has generated little to inspire interest, let alone wonder.  Voyages to the International Space Station to study the effects of zero gravity on insects may be edifying for those who read the footnotes in journals of entomology, but they’re not the stuff of dreams – especially when an unexplored Mars looms in the distance.
 
One does not have to be a cosmological romantic, however, to lament the passing of the space shuttle. Indeed, it raises many earthbound concerns, not least in the realm of national security. With the shuttle grounded, America will now be dependent on the Russia of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev for its cosmic transit. The cost of a ride for American astronauts on the Kremlin’s dilapidated Soyuz spacecraft? $63 million a pop. That’s a hefty price to pay for second-class accommodations from (at best) a fair-weather friend.
 
America’s regression in space also has dire implications when considered in contrast to China’s interstellar adventurism. As the U.S. is mothballing its hardware, China is preparing for the launch of Tiangong I, the first module of its own space station, this fall. If this mission is successful, the Chinese could have a fully operational space station in less than 10 years. 
 
Were Beijing simply joining the U.S. in a quest for greater cosmic understanding, this development would be relatively anodyne. All indications, however, point in the opposite direction. Earlier this year, Gregory Schulte, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, referred to China’s military ambitions for space as a “matter of concern” for the U.S. And this diagnosis isn’t strictly prospective. In 2007, China blew up a weather satellite with a ground-based missile, creating so much space junk that the International Space Station had to change its orbit last year to avoid a collision. An America shorn of its capacity for celestial self-determination is certainly incapable of rising to meet challenges such as these.
 
In the end, perhaps we can take comfort from the fact that a small but growing group of entrepreneurs are looking to make space flight into the preserve of the private sector – a group that includes such luminaries as Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson. These dynamic risk takers create the hope of something bolder than the bureaucratic morass NASA found itself unable to escape in recent years. But on certain issues unresponsive to private sector calculations of profit and loss – protecting America’s national security interests in space, exploring the galaxy for exploration’s sake and scientific understanding – it’s unlikely that they’ll step in to fill the void.
 
In those areas, we still need a governmental role in space. Yet amidst the spending orgy of the Obama Administration, NASA has been virtually the only component of the federal government asked to scale back its mission. And thus did a president who campaigned on promises of transcendence gut the one government agency that has ever offered it. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Question of the Week   
Which of the following merged to form the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) within the Department of Homeland Security?
More Questions
Quote of the Day   
 
"Immigration has emerged as perhaps President Obama's worst issue -- definitely for today, and maybe of his entire presidency -- when it comes to public perception.  A new poll from AP-GfK shows more than two-thirds of Americans (68 percent) disapprove of Obama's handling of the immigration issue in general. Just 31 percent approve -- down from 38 percent two months ago. When you separate those…[more]
 
 
—Aaron Blake, The Washington Post
— Aaron Blake, The Washington Post
 
Liberty Poll   

Is significant, proven plagiarism sufficient to disqualify, in the minds of voters, any candidate for public office?