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Quote of the Day: Taxpayer Privacy and IRS Abuse

At CFIF, the issue of improving taxpayer privacy and protection against persistent abuse by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) remains among our most important missions.  Among the abuses that we've chronicled is the case of convicted criminal Charles Littlejohn, who rejoined the IRS in 2017 with the specific purpose of illegally breaching and leaking the private tax returns of Donald Trump and other Americans to radical left-wing organizations like ProPublica.

In The Wall Street Journal this week, one of those victims speaks out on his own experience and the need for greater taxpayer protection against this recurring problem that should terrify all Americans of every political persuasion.  Ira Stoll, whose tax information was passed to ProPublica, even helpfully details how…[more]

May 29, 2024 • 11:28 AM

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Justice Breyer: American Judges Should Internationalize Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, September 24 2015
Justice Breyer actually has it backward, and his is a dangerous idea.

Here's an odd, recurring and conspicuous contradiction. 

The political left ceaselessly preens its fealty to gauzy multiculturalism, ostentatiously maligning Western, European, Judeo-Christian, ODWM (Old, Dead, White Male) culture in fits of self-flagellation. 

Yet whenever it endeavors to uproot American norms it finds objectionable, the left just as ceaselessly selects western European cultures as superior social models that the U.S. should emulate. 

In his current presidential campaign, for example, Socialist Senator and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders cites Scandinavian nations as economic and social exemplars, nations that supposedly prove the merits of socialism.  Never mind that, as we highlighted last week, those nations actually rank alongside or even above the U.S. in global economic freedom following seven years of Barack Obama.  Why not instead cite truly socialist models like Venezuela or Zimbabwe or North Korea as examples of socialist success, if for no other reason than multiculturalism? 

The answer is obvious, of course.  The uniform performance record of truly socialist nations proves the wretched nature of that system.  One would expect, however, that leftists would at least tip their hat once in a blue moon toward a non-European nation. 

That curious habit extends beyond the political realm, unfortunately.  With the release of his new book "The Court and the World:  American Law and the New Global Realities," Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer demonstrates that the judicial left suffers the same intellectual contradiction. 

Despite his continuing defense of state-sponsored "affirmative action" racial discrimination in the interest of diversity, Breyer advocates that American judges incorporate foreign law, usually of the European variety, into their jurisprudence.  "In the multipolar, mutually interdependent world," Breyer says, "the best way to advance the values that the Founders set forth - democracy, human rights and widespread commerce - is to understand, to take account of, and sometimes to learn from, both legal and relevant nonlegal practices that take place beyond our shores." 

Justice Breyer actually has it backward, and his is a dangerous idea. 

Our Founders intentionally declared independence and created an unprecedented form of government with the specific purpose of being less like the rest of the world, and Europe specifically, rather than to emulate it.  Abraham Lincoln reaffirmed that ideal nearly a century later in his Gettysburg Address, when he observed, "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."  To this day, America remains the most prosperous, powerful, innovative, benevolent and attractive nation in human history because we lead the world, not because we follow it.  Because we are different from the rest of the world, not similar to it. 

In fact, America receives more citizens even in recent years from Scandinavian nations than they receive from America, and that disparity is even more pronounced when measured per capita.  People vote with their feet, and despite our current struggles we remain a comparative shining city on the hill, in the words of Ronald Reagan. 

On that logic, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia offer the superior alternative to Justice Breyer. 

"Domestic precedent," Chief Justice Roberts explained during his confirmation hearing, "can confine and shape the discretion of the judges.  Foreign law, you can find anything you want.  If you don't find it in the decisions of France or Italy, it's in the decisions of Somalia or Japan or Indonesia or wherever.  As somebody said in another context, looking at foreign law for support is like looking out over a crowd and picking your friends." 

In his prototypically saltier fashion, Justice Scalia has said, "Who cares?  We have our laws, they have theirs." 

In more moderated language, Scalia once emphasized in his dissent to a capital punishment ruling that, "We must never forget that it is a Constitution for the United States of America that we are expounding."  He continued, "Where there is not first a settled consensus among our own people, the views of other nations, however enlightened the justices of this court may think them to be, cannot be imposed upon Americans through the Constitution." 

That not only serves as a corrective to Justice Breyer, it returns us to the contradictory monoculturalism that the judicial and political left seems to elevate despite its professed commitment to multiculturalism and antagonism toward Western tradition.  On the question of capital punishment, for instance, why do the more liberal justices so often emphasize European Union sentiment?  It cannot be mere favoritism toward more economically advanced cultures, because Japan maintains capital punishment and its economy is larger and more advanced than any in Europe. 

More broadly, and regardless of that ongoing multiculturalism contradiction, wouldn't the rest of the world be better off if it recognized such American liberties as those protected by the Bill of Rights, particularly the First and Second Amendments, rather than American judges watering down our liberties on the basis of extraterritorial norms? 

As Americans evaluate the various candidates in the 2016 race, they should consider the underemphasized issue of judicial philosophy, not least because of the high likelihood of Supreme Court vacancies occurring during the next presidential term. 

Notable Quote   
"Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says Democrats have tipped their hand to their desire to unleash noncitizen voting by opposing his state's citizenship verification in court and he is urging elections chiefs in other states to fight such lawsuits.Georgia's citizenship verification system has prevented noncitizens from getting on state voter rolls, but the state had to defend it in court…[more]
— Natalia Mittelstadt, Just the News
Liberty Poll   

Which would be the most useful for voters: a televised presidential debate that only includes Trump and Biden or one that adds Kennedy?