Learn Liberty

Category Archive: Law

  1. Football Law: Changing the Rules of the Game

    5 Comments

    What happens when the rules of a game change?

    One of the most important parts of playing a game like football is that the rules remain predictable and consistent for all players. However, this doesn’t just apply to touchdowns and tackles – the rule of law is key to a well-functioning free market. The question at hand is whether or not this really exists in the US or – do the rich and powerful benefit from hiring lobbyists to get what they want and to protect themselves? Watch and learn from Professor Steve Horowitz what happens when the Rule of Law changes and its impact on our society, the economy, and YOUR life.

  2. How Dirty Laws Trash The Environment

    6 Comments

    Dirty Laws? That’s the confusing part of EPA regulations. While intended to do good, they end up doing quite the opposite. When a corporation dumps its toxic waste a few miles upstream from your tomato farm – sure, you can go to the EPA, but odds are the offending party has filed all the right permits that allow them to do their dirtiest and you’re screwed. Join Law and Economics Prof. Roger Meiners in this Learn Liberty video as he shows how an age-old, British, free-market concept called “Common Law” may be the best remedy – without bureaucratic trash to stink things up.

  3. Don’t Be A Victim | The Drug War and You

    4 Comments

    Did you know having “too much” cash on you can be used to prove possession of drugs? Or that being present at a drug deal can lead to life in prison under mandatory minimum sentencing laws? Hey, that’s just the tip of the iceberg of the harsh policies that can have put at risk, even if you don’t think you’re doing anything wrong.

    Join Prof. Alex Kreit from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego for this amazing one-week program with exclusive videos, a private discussion group and a rapid-fire Q&A session live to learn how you can protect yourself and stay safe.

  4. 4 Reasons to be Optimistic About Mandatory Minimums

    3 Comments

    Mandatory minimum sentencing laws have sentenced people to jail for decades, sometimes for doing something as simple as selling pot a few times. Is there any reason to be hopeful that things could change? Alex Kreit, professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, tells of four recent contributions to the reform of mandatory-minimum drug sentencing laws.

    Attorney General Eric Holder issued new guidelines on how federal prosecutors enforce drug laws. President Obama himself granted clemency for several drug offenders sentenced under mandatory minimum laws.

    Meanwhile, Senators Cory Booker and Rand Paul joined forces to advocate reform. Bipartisan action is rare, which makes this all the more impressive.

    There are several organizations joining the fight against these laws as well. A group called Families Against Mandatory Minimums is leading the battle against unjust sentencing under these laws.

    Are there reasons for optimism? Professor Kreit believes so, and you should too.

  5. 3 Things You NEED To Know About Mandatory Prison Sentencing

    4 Comments

    Our three most recent presidents have admitted to committing drug offenses in their youth, though they didn’t pay for their indiscretions with jail time. But most people caught up in our criminal justice system aren’t so lucky. Perhaps the worst aspect of the flawed system is mandatory minimum sentences. Consider Weldon Angelos, one victim — a former record producer who won’t get out of jail until he’s eighty and has served a sentence of more than twice what the hijacker of a plane would face. His crime? Selling marijuana twice.
    Alex Kreit, criminal law professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, explains three reasons why mandatory minimums are really, really, really bad. For one thing, the sentences can be longer than those for more serious crimes. Second, they get the wrong people, despite the intentions of lawmakers. Third, if the goal is to reduce drug use, they fail on their own terms. Among their targets in practice are people who have been convicted of such minor offenses as possession for personal use. Drugs are as plentiful as ever.

  6. You Won’t Believe Why These 3 People Were Sentenced to Life | Learn Liberty

    6 Comments

    A single mother addicted to drugs. A man so desperate to pay for medical treatment that he tried unsuccessfully to sell methamphetamines. A guy busted for selling LSD and another who got in trouble for selling marijuana.  One thing all four of these victims of the drug war have in common is that they’ve been sentenced to spend many years in jail, regardless of whether the judges of their cases even wanted that outcome. Listen to Alex Kreit, professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, explain why people like these can face jail time more than twice as long as if they’d hijacked an airplane, detonated a bomb in public, or even committed second-degree murder

  7. How They Beat the Oregon Trail IRL

    4 Comments

    How did more than 300,000 people avoid bloodshed and chaos when they crossed the American plains between 1840 and 1860? Trappers used to say there was no law west of Leavenworth, Kansas.

    No one established a government to rule the wagon trains — it’s true. But they governed themselves instead. They signed contracts that worked like voluntary constitutions. The contracts anticipated disputes among the various groups of travelers and laid out how to resolve them.

    Imagine the red tape if the government had gone with the settlers. Marvel at the ability of people to innovate rules and order in a most unlikely setting. That’s what Hill advises. Tune in to hear more.

  8. From Rags to Riches: The Cayman Islands Revolution

    5 Comments

    The rule of law, Hayek wrote, is “a rule concerning what the law ought to be”: It ought to be general and abstract; equally applied, with legal privileges for none; certain, not subject to arbitrary changes; and just. In this Learn Liberty Academy, Andrew Morriss sets sail to show how the law of the Cayman Islands conforms with Hayek’s ideals, how it got that way through astute political entrepreneurship, and how the world at large benefits from its legal wisdom. The benefits of Caymanian rule of law are so diffuse and far-reaching that we can even attribute the American poor’s high consumption of healthcare to it.  Embark on Morriss’s expedition — read, watch lectures, and discuss!

    Song credit: “Coconut Water” – Dan O’Connor

    Archival images courtesy of the Cayman Islands National Archive

  9. What’s Next in the Battle over NSA Surveillance?

    10 Comments

    Edward Snowden’s leaks of National Security Agency (NSA) methods has sparked a national debate about the legality of such surveillance. This program, led by a constitutional law professor, joined by national security experts from across the political spectrum, will focus on the legality of surveillance. The program will explore the meaning of individual privacy, its relationship to individual freedom, and the constitutional and statutory limits on surveillance undertaken for national security purposes. It will also explore possible means of changing the current regime, including modifications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and its special court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

    Learn Liberty Academy provides free, online educational programs so that anyone, anywhere can learn about the ideas that drive social change.

  10. Does the NSA Violate Your Constitutional Rights?

    11 Comments

    Many Americans do not know what their constitutional freedoms are or why they were established in the first place. The freedoms Americans have are rare and fragile. They were put in place to protect people and ensure our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    Professor James Otteson explains the importance of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Prior to the Revolutionary War, King George III issued what are called general warrants. Essentially, this allowed government officials to seek out and look for any wrongdoing without probable cause. Such general warrants were carried out on anyone in America, including among the people that would come to be our Founders.

    The Founders instilled in the Constitution rules requiring warrants to have probable cause and limiting them to specific times, places, and people. Why is this important? Prof. Otteson says it’s important “because with unlimited authority, officials inevitably find wrongdoing.” Witch hunts always find witches. Constitutional protections like the Fourth Amendment are especially important for people who want to do things differently than the majority. These freedoms enable Americans to find their own paths to happiness as free and equal citizens.

  11. The Marriage Cases: Legal Challenges to Prop 8 and DOMA

    12 Comments

    The 14th Amendment guarantees liberty and equal protection to every American. Do state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage violate that amendment? Is the federal government’s refusal to recognize a marriage that is legal in a state federal overreach? The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide the answers to these questions by the end of June 2013 in two cases related to same-sex marriage.

    Professor Dale Carpenter provides a brief explanation of the two cases before the Court. In 2008, California voters passed Prop 8, which bans same-sex marriage in the state. This law is being contested on the grounds that the equality principle is violated because opposite-sex couples have rights that are denied to same-sex couples. It is also contested on the grounds that every American has a fundamental right to marry. A similar case centers on the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) of 1996. This law limits federal recognition of same-sex marriages, thereby denying same-sex couples more than a thousand benefits otherwise available under federal law. This means that even when a couple is legally married according to the state, the federal government does not recognize the marriage.

    There are many possible outcomes in both cases. In the DOMA case, for example, Prof. Carpenter argues that “there is no legitimate federal interest in denying recognition to validly married same-sex couples.” He has submitted a brief to the Court asking it to strike down DOMA on federalism grounds. But will the justices agree? What do you think about these cases?

  12. SOPA and Three Ways to Think about Intellectual Property

    9 Comments

    The controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the United States and the attempts to shut down the peer-to-peer music-sharing website Pirate Bay in Europe have brought the debate over intellectual property to the fore. Professor Stephen Davies explains the three different ways people tend to understand intellectual property. Intellectual property:

    - May be considered a natural right with the same qualities as physical property.

    May be considered a special type of property created by governments that is time limited.

    May be considered intellectually incoherent and dangerous.

    Professor Davies holds the third view of intellectual property. He argues that it is dangerous because it limits the way people are able to use their physical property. He suggests that patents and copyrights may actually work to stop or hinder innovation in many areas. Whichever view you hold, the debate is complicated and divides people from all parts of the political spectrum. The argument over intellectual property has widespread implications, and we are going to see a lot more of it in the years to come.