Thinking Minnesota: Fall 2012
Over a Decade of CAE Symposiums
Educating Voters on the Photo ID Amendment
Challenging Unconstitutional Rental Home Searches
Aristotle and Locke Revisited
American Experiment Adds Eight New Directors
An Evening with Fr. Robert Sirico
Over a Decade of CAE Symposiums
By Mitch Pearstein
Elsewhere in this newsletter (p. 4) there’s a very good essay by political scientist Laurence Cooper of Carleton College about what our country might come to look like if families remain as fragmented as they currently are, or perhaps even more so. Professor Cooper, who’s also an American Experiment Senior Fellow, wrote it for the Center’s just released symposium: Fragmented Families and Splintered Classes: Why So Much Churning? What Can be Done? What Will America Come to Look Like?
Needless to say it’s a very good piece, but it’s just one of 34 in this newest installment of a series stretching back a dozen years now. I started wondering how many such anthologies we had published since 2000, entailing how many writers. Peter Zeller quickly pulled together the information, and I was surprised to learn we have published 14 symposia of this sort; 15 if you include one of a different sort (noted below).
Totaling up everyone who had contributed pieces, the number came to a quite remarkable 586 ideologically and otherwise diverse men and women. Granted, many of them have written multiple times, but that’s still a lot of people with lots of things to say.
Annotated with a sentence or two each time, here’s the roster of symposia.
- Heart and Soul: A Symposium on Aim and Tone in American Conservatism. 30 writers. Summer 2000. This collection was pulled together as part of American Experiment’s 10th anniversary. The format has come to be one of the Center’s signatures.
- Marriage and Children: A Symposium on Making Marriage More Child Centered. 18 writers. Summer 2001. This is the anthology of a different sort, as instead of inviting contributors of all occupations and backgrounds, guest editors Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, a historian, and David Popenoe, a sociologist, recruited top-flight scholars and other experts on the issue from around the country.
- After the War is Won: Downsizing Government without Degrading National Defense. 30 writers. Winter 2001-02. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, this symposium pertained to the war against terror. Given that the war has yet to be won, related questions about “downsizing government” would seem to be moot.
- The Supremes Belt Out a New Hit: School Choice in Minnesota after Cleveland. 27 writers. Fall 2002. This was in response to a great Supreme Court decision declaring vouchers for private, including religious schools were constitutional if they were constructed properly. Fair to say that many of us were overly optimistic about the progress that would be made over the next decade.
- The Bush Doctrine: A Preemptive Path to Peace or a Recipe for Perpetual War? 34 writers. Summer 2003. American involvement in the war in Iraq has been lengthy and our involvement in Afghanistan even lengthier. Then, again, our homeland has been remarkably, some might say miraculously free of large-scale terror ever since September 11, 2001.
- “They Beat the Hell Out of Each Other Up There”: Civility in Minnesota (and National) Politics. 44 writers. Winter 2003-2004. The first half of the title of this symposium came from something journalist Jack Germond had said on TV’s “McLaughlin Group” when another panelist suggested that politics in Minnesota was all sweetness and manners. Not so, Germond laughed knowingly.
- The 2004 Elections: Are They as Pivotal as the Candidates Say? 44 writers. Summer-Fall 2004. What do you say eight years later?
- Should Medicare be Means Tested? 28 writers. May 2007. The number of people declining to write for this one, given the importance of the topic was intriguing. I mostly attributed it to how Medicare can be just too arcane and confusing for non-specialists.
- What Does It Mean to be an Urban Conservative? 40 writers. January 2008. Peter Bell, one of the co-founders of the Center, suggested this topic, which remains one of my favorites. A particularly imaginative and vital idea.
- Learning from Lincoln: Principle and Pragmatism: Getting the Balance Right. 29 writers. July 2008. This was one of our contributions in celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday the following year.
- How Can Conservatism Better Allay the Economic Fears of Working-Class and Middle-Class Americans? 34 writers. March 2009. Suffice it to say, conservatives (and others) are still working on this one.
- What Would It Take for You to Start or Expand a Business in a Low-Income Neighborhood? 20 writers. December 2009. Very much on purpose, this topic was thematically tied to the one before it, as the Center, from Day One and our very first event, has been keenly interested in matters of opportunity.
- How Can We Better Encourage and Reinforce the Most Entrepreneurial and Talented Among Us?
22 writers. August 2010. Speaking thematically again, this was a forerunner of our current favoring of a public, selective STEM high school for Minnesota.
- What Governmental Services and Benefits are You Personally Willing to Give Up? 34 writers. July 2011. We had previously conducted a fast-turnaround email survey on this question and about the only thing people seemed prepared to give up were Saturday mail delivery and bike paths. Ideas in this more substantial effort were more substantial.
- This brings us to this year’s symposium on fragmented families and America’s future political, economic, and social landscape—which just happens to be the subject of a new book I’m working on. Let me take this opportunity to thank each of the 36 writers for giving me a lot of good ideas. ■
Educating Voters on the Photo ID Amendment
On November 6, Minnesotans will vote on whether to amend the state constitution to require voters to present a photo ID before voting. Opponents of the amendment have been waging a strong and steady campaign to convince voters the amendment will radically change Minnesota’s voting system.
American Experiment has been working hard to educate people on how the amendment will impact future elections. In short, there is nothing radical about strengthening the integrity of elections by requiring people to show a photo ID to vote. Nearly 100 democracies around the world require it.
In June, the ACLU filed a petition to strike the photo ID question from the ballot. In response to this action, Peter Nelson, our Director of Public Policy, penned a short legal brief for the Star Tribune explaining why the ACLU’s claim should be rejected based on longstanding court precedent.
Then in July, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie—the state’s chief election official—announced he was changing the title of the amendment on the ballot, an overt and over-the-top effort to influence the outcome of the election. Nelson’s previous brief already explained why Ritchie has no authority to replace the Legislature’s title. And in another Star Tribune commentary, Senior Fellow Kathy Kersten highlighted Ritchie’s abuse of his office.
August brought very welcome news: The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled against the ACLU and Ritchie on every point. This meant the ballot question and title would appear on the ballot just as the legislature had written them. Also in August, Peter Nelson and Harry Niska were featured in Bench & Bar Magazine in a debate with Hamline professor David Schultz.
All along opponents have been arguing the amendment would be costly to implement—up to $77.5 million by one estimate. We found the numbers hard to believe and investigated the cost ourselves. Our report, published in September, estimates the cost to be around $2.9 million in the first election and less thereafter, nothing even close to the tens of millions opponents claim. This report attracted substantial media attention—with no fewer than 28 media hits—and very much changed the conversation. Opponents’ wild estimates were no longer accepted as fact.
In September, we hosted a lively, standing room only debate between Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and John Fund. The debate then moved online as Ritchie continued to press his position in MinnPost and Nelson again countered, citing clear testimony from the authors of the amendment and explaining how courts would interpret the amendment.
In sum, when information was lacking and when misinformation was prevailing, we stepped in again and again to fill in the blanks, providing credible info to help balance a very slanted public debate. ■
Challenging Unconstitutional Rental Home Searches
by Kim Crockett
Minnesota Free Market Institute at the Center has filed an amicus brief in support of several tenants in Red Wing, Minnesota who have resisted city inspections of their homes.
To protect landlords, tenants and, ultimately, all Minnesotans against unreasonable searches, the Institute for Justice Minnesota Chapter filed two lawsuits under the U.S. and Minnesota constitutions to stop the city of Red Wing from conducting involuntary inspections without probable cause and also to ensure that constitutional standards govern residential inspections. We were joined in our amicus brief by our impressive friends from Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, Libertarian Law Council and Electronic Frontier Foundation.
This is an important case because these kinds of ordinances are being adopted all over Minnesota and the United States. If the Minnesota Supreme Court finds the ordinance unconstitutional, the ruling will be an important bulwark against improper searches in Minnesota and the nation.
Here’s how we define the problem in the introduction from our brief:
To live in a [Red Wing] rental home, one must subject oneself to a government agent’s mandatory “inspection”—for constitutional purposes, a search—of one’s residence. This occurs even if the tenant and the landlord both do not want an inspection or believe one is necessary. If they deny consent, the city may proceed on an administrative warrant without offering any evidence of an individual, specific housing-code violation or other problem with the home. There is nowhere for residents to hide; the most private trappings of their lives are on display to government inspectors who are subject to few, toothless restrictions. The only theoretical avenue of escape is for owners and renters to pack up all their belongings and hide them elsewhere until the government agents have gone away—until the next inspection.
While we reject the argument that if you have nothing to hide, you should not object to this inspection, we do understand that the city has an interest in making sure that rental properties are safe. We, therefore, do not object to the inspection of vacant rental homes—or to inspections resulting from tenant complaints. But once a tenant has moved in, all the privacy concerns of citizens must be protected. People who rent their homes are not second class citizens.
Advocacy through amicus briefs is a new tool in the Center’s toolbox. You may recall that we filed an amicus brief in the Florida case against the individual mandate in Obamacare and another on behalf of a landowner in St. Paul. These are not lawsuits where the Center is a party to a case; we are filing as a “friend of the court” in support of a party. As general counsel I believe this is an important tool for the Center as we pursue our mission. You cannot have a culture of prosperity without respect for private property.
I came to appreciate the effectiveness of this approach as the named plaintiff in Crockett v. Minnesota Department of Public Safety, where the Institute for Justice stopped the state from enforcing a blanket ban on advertising or using the Internet to conduct lawful direct sales of wine. So you can thank me and IJ when you order that case of wine on- line after visiting a winery. Cheers! ■
Aristotle and Locke Revisited
By Laurence D. Cooper
|American Experiment’s latest symposium posed these questions: How might abridged mobility and starker class divisions play out for lower-income and minority men, women, and, in particular, children? What will it mean for their prospects? What about the commonweal itself? In what centrifugal ways might all this play out in the nation? In Minnesota? The contribution published here served up one of the most insightful answers of the 36 participants. Other contributions offered plenty of ideas too and they can be found in the full symposium available at AmericanExperiment.org.|
Continued high rates of family fragmentation would surely bring many unpleasant results—not only economic and social results, but political ones as well. I’d like to focus on one of the latter: The possibility—however remote—of the emergence of a powerful, organized, illiberal political movement. Such a thing is unprecedented in American history, but so are today’s high rates of family fragmentation, let alone the even-higher rates projected for tomorrow. America may be exceptional, but Americans aren’t exempt from the needs and tendencies of human nature.
The success—and in the long run, even the survival—of self-government requires more than a wise constitution and more even than a wise constitution supplemented by prosperity. Self-government also requires a citizenry with certain dispositions and character traits. Some of these traits, or virtues, are private or domestic. These are the qualities necessary for success and satisfaction amid a modern, commercial society: moderation, self-control, the ability to defer gratification, and the like.
Yet these qualities, as important as they are, are not enough to undergird successful self-government. In addition to the domestic virtues that make for peace and material well-being are public virtues, the qualities that make for spirited, intelligent, and responsible citizenship. These are the vigorous virtues—qualities like respect for the rights of others, protectiveness toward others, patriotism, and the ability and inclination to engage in civic life.
Thanks to the work of social scientists and commentators like Mitch Pearlstein, we are accustomed to recognize the importance of the family with respect to inculcating the domestic virtues. Where families fragment, we know the basis of economic success and social mobility erodes. What may be less well understood is that the family is important to the inculcation of the public virtues as well.
Political philosophers, ancient and modern, have argued persuasively that the family acts, among other things, as a kind of miniature polity in which children are trained in the qualities appropriate to the regime in which they live. In a family well suited to liberal democracy, parents model and teach loyalty and commitment, prudence and deliberation, affection and spirited defense.
Aristotle taught that rational and humane politics requires the moderation of men’s pride and tyrannical tendencies. Locke understood that liberal politics would require the emergence of the liberal family, in which paternal authority would become parental authority and parental authority would be limited authority. The premise: The attachment to and capacity for political self-rule requires prior training in personal self-rule. It seems to me that Aristotle and Locke have been vindicated by the facts. Historically, the successful transition to liberal politics from feudal and other illiberal practices was accompanied and aided by family re-formation.
If it’s true that self-governance depends on a certain kind of family life—not in every family, of course, but in society at large—then widespread family fragmentation might well threaten the stability and even the survival of our political order. What precisely that might mean is anyone’s guess. It could be that the consequences of disorder and discontent could somehow be contained à la feudal clientelism.
Still, dependence doesn’t just diminish, it also offends and degrades, angers and disappoints. It provokes, particularly among the young. Perhaps the provocation would lead to a wholesome reaction—to moral renewal grounded in religious awakening. Yet the danger also exists that dependency, discontent, and disappointment would also or instead provoke something darker—some form of the politics of resentment, possibly animated by an ideology that vindicates resentment.
The point is not that family fragmentation leads directly to illiberal politics, but family fragmentation does tend to lead to a pervasive sense of frustration and grievance and therewith humiliation. These unhappy sentiments can create fertile ground for illiberal politics. Think of the appeal of authoritarian ideologies to once prosperous peoples during the 1920s and ‘30s. Or, think of the appeal of militant Islam today, not only in majority-Muslim countries but also in European cities and, according to some reports, even in American prisons. Could such a threat arise in America in a serious way?
I said at the start that America has never known a powerful, organized, illiberal political movement. That was a bit of an overstatement. What I should have said is that no such movement has ever triumphed in America. A deeper and more wholesome political culture has always kept such movements at bay, but until recently, America has been a country of intact families. A future of increased family fragmentation would be a new kind of exceptionalism, a departure this time not so much from other peoples but from our own past. ■
Laurence D. Cooper is professor of political science at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota and an American Experiment senior fellow.
American Experiment Adds Eight New Directors
We are very pleased to introduce our newest board members, who were elected at the July board meeting:
Tara Anderson, Molly Cronin, Mike Hayden, Scott Honour, Sheila Kihne, Scott Peterson, Brent Robbins, and
Tim Walsh. ■
Tara Anderson is an attorney with Fafinski Mark & Johnson, focusing primarily on the representation of privately held companies, airlines and aviation leasing companies, and non-profits. She attended law school at the University of St. Thomas, where she was a President’s Scholarship recipient.
Molly Cronin is a wife, mother, and served on the MomThink.org advisory board. She previously worked as an associate director in account development at Digital River and was a corporate finance analyst at Piper Jaffray. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College.
Mike Hayden has been self-employed since age 26. He founded Hayden and Associates, an executive recruiting firm in 1970. He sold Hayden and Associates in 1990 and started Staging Concepts, Inc. In 2010 he sold a majority interest in Staging Concepts, Inc.
Scott Honour is chairman of FirstCNG, a comprehensive natural gas vehicle solutions provider. He earned a B.S. in Business Administration and a B.A. in Economics, cum laude, from Pepperdine University and an M.B.A. in Finance and Marketing from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Sheila Kihne is a former corporate sales executive and currently spends her time in support of the conservative cause. As an author and entrepreneur, she’s been featured on The Today Show, Fox News Channel, and over 50 radio programs across the country. She’s a graduate of the University of Minnesota and a Phi Beta Kappa member.
Scott F. Peterson is executive vice president and chief human resources officer for the Schwan Food Company. He previously held leadership positions at Select Comfort, Lifetime Fitness, Simon Delivers.Com, Diageo/Pillsbury and Quaker Oats. Mr. Peterson is originally from Duluth, and earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Marquette University of Milwaukee, and a master’s degree in industrial relations from the University of Minnesota.
Brent Robbins is Assistant General Counsel at General Mills, where he is the lead lawyer for General Mills’ Big G (cereal) and Mill City (baking products) Divisions. He and his wife Kristin live in Maple Grove and are active in politics and New Hope Church. They have three busy daughters who are thriving at Heritage Christian Academy. Brent regularly volunteers at HopeBridge Food Shelf and with the Volunteer Lawyers Network.
Tim J. Walsh is the founder of Ready Credit Corporation and has served as a director of the Company and its Chief Executive Officer and President since its formation in May 2005. He previously worked for Sagebrush Corporation, OnHealth Network Company, and founded Shopforschool, an internet venture that helped parents raise funds for schools. He also has extensive international experience managing businesses in Europe and Asia Pacific.
An Evening with Fr. Robert Sirico
For the past four summers Minnesota Free Market Institute has had a party in late July to mark the birthday of Milton Friedman (July 31st). This year marked Friedman’s 100th birthday. Ten thousand people gathered at 140 events spanning 44 countries, the District of Columbia and all 50 states to toast Dr. Friedman and the ideas he championed. We always try to reflect Freidman’s sunny but academically oriented optimism without getting too geeky—and we succeeded again this year. We had 125 plus guests—more than last year thanks to our merger with the Center. As always, people came early and stayed late.
This year we enjoyed the company of Fr. Robert Sirico from the Acton Institute. Sirico, who has been a guest of the Center’s in the past, published an important book, Defending the Free Market; The Moral Case for a Free Economy. Although we usually feature a local speaker, we wanted to make the moral case for free markets because we keep hearing how lousy conservative policies are for the poor and disadvantaged.
Father Sirico was a big hit with our guests. He has a gift for explaining why a free market economy and small government are better for all of us—but especially for the most vulnerable among us.
If you were there, you could probably smell and taste his Jewish neighbor Mrs. Schneider’s rugelach pastries from his childhood in Brooklyn as he described how he saw the series of blue tattooed numbers up her sleave as she handed him the pastries—and how he had no clue what they meant. Sirico told how his mother explained the numbers by asking why the cowboys on his Saturday morning cowboy movies brand their calves? The young Sirico responded, “So that all of the other cowboys know that that’s their calf” and his mother replied, “That’s what people did to Mr. and Mrs. Schneider.” “She didn’t have to draw the conclusion out,” said Sirico, “I was horrified.”
According to Father Sirico, that was a day that changed the trajectory of his life, a day when he began to learn from his mother that “the human person has by his or her nature an inate dignity.”
As Sirico explained, his talk was essentially a “summation of all of the years of looking for the truth of things.” Here are some further thoughts he shared on the dignity of the human person:
The human person is the greatest resource we have on this planet. … Human beings can create and sustain if they are free, if they have an understanding of their liberty and can defend it by virtue of right. Not by virtue of a gift that is given to us by the government, but by virtue of right. This was the genius of the Founders of the United States of America. They understood that rights inhere in the nature of the person.
And finally, as Dr. Friedman put it, “there is no free lunch”. So, special thanks go to our host committee, Mark Davis and Mitch Davis, and Rick Rice. And to the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice which gives us a grant for the event. Thank you for a great evening! ■