Here are some highlights of my reading for this week.

President Donald Trump’s Manhattan Convictions are Unconstitutional

by Steven Calabresi, Reason, June 1, 2024.


President Donald Trump was convicted yesterday of allegedly altering business records to conceal his alleged payment of money to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, in order to influence the 2016 presidential election. But, altering business records under New York State law is only a crime if it is done to conceal the violation of some other law. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg alleged that the documents were allegedly falsely altered to conceal a contribution of money in violation of federal campaign finance laws or in pursuance of winning the 2016 election by defrauding the voters of information they had a right to know. Neither argument passes First Amendment scrutiny.


American Federalism Can Push Back Against Executive Overreach

by Ilya Somin, The UnPopulist, May 28, 2024.

Sanctuary laws are often analogized to “nullification”—the idea that states can render federal laws null and void within their territory. Nullification, of course, has a terrible reputation because of its association with southern states’ defense of slavery and (later) segregation. But there is an important distinction between sanctuary laws and nullification.

Nullificationists argue that the federal laws in question are completely void, and that states have the right to actively impede their enforcement on their territory. By contrast, sanctuary jurisdictions do not necessarily claim the laws in question are void. They merely deny them the assistance of state and local governments, particularly law enforcement agencies. For example, they refuse to help enforce the relevant laws themselves, or to provide information to federal law enforcement agencies engaged in enforcement efforts. But the feds remain free to try to enforce these laws using only their own resources and personnel.

Luxury Belief in Open Borders

by Bryan Caplan, Bet on It, May 27, 2024.


Do I believe that the U.S. can absorb “all the world’s poor”? It depends on the time horizon. Poland’s population grew by 6% in a few weeks, and it was fine. U.S. population grew by 1339% from 1800-1900, and that, too, was fine. There is no reason why the modern U.S. population could not grow as fast or faster. Going from 330M today to 1B tomorrow would be disastrous, but going from 330M today to 1 B in 50 years is totally doable. And thanks to diaspora dynamics, it’s the latter scenario that’s empirically relevant.

Unless, I freely grant, immigrants and their descendants remain on welfare until the end of time. Fortunately, this is not what normally happens under the status quo. And the countries closest to open borders — the Gulf monarchies and Singapore — do virtually the opposite, for obvious reasons: Both geniuses and janitors are well worth welcoming, but only as long as they pull their own weight.

DRH comment:

Given Bryan’s statement in the last sentence of the first paragraph above, I don’t get why he advocates open borders. If the empirically relevant thing is a tripling over 50 years, why not advocate restricting immigration to 7 to 8 million per year? Why 7 to 8 million rather than what the straightforward would show, with is about 13 million? [670 million divided by 50 = 13 million.] Because immigrants have kids. And if I’m overoptimistic about the number of kids, that’s fine. We would get to, say, 800 million residents instead of 1 billion.

Let’s take my lower bound of 7 million. If the government priced that at $50K per immigrant, it would bring in $350 billion per year. If it doesn’t waste that money on other spending (admittedly a big “if”), then it would come close to bringing future deficits down enough that the federal debt as a percent of GDP would actually remain stable or fall slightly. Would there be 7 million takers at $50K each? Absolutely. If anyone wants to see it, I’ll do a special blog post on this issue.