Originally published 05/23/2013
Michael Lind is the author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States and co-founder of the New America Foundation. Is it time, at long last, for the citizens of the United States to enjoy the constitutional right to vote for the people who govern them?Phrased in that way, the question may come as a shock. The U.S. has waged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan justified, at least in rhetoric, by the claim that people deserve the right to vote for their leaders. Most of us assume that the right to vote has long been enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.Not according to the Supreme Court. In Bush v. Gore (2000), the Court ruled that “[t]he individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States.” That’s right. Under federal law, according to the Supreme Court, if you are a citizen of the United States, you have a right to own a firearm that might conceivably be used in overthrowing the government. But you have no right to wield a vote that might be used to change the government by peaceful means....
Originally published 02/14/2013
Image via Shutterstock.How did it come about that people have a “right” to certain benefits from the state -- or “entitlement,” in the loaded language of our day? A fascinating new paper by legal scholar Karen N. Tani argues that the idea of “welfare rights” first became commonplace not amongst activists in the 1960s, but with a group of mid-level Roosevelt administration officials who in the late 1930s were trying to get an ambitious new state-federal assortment of anti-poverty programs off the ground.