National issues discussed at Constitution Week lectures

Illustration by Tyler Carpenter

Scholars and students gathered for four different panels to discuss free markets, property takings, economic policy in the era of President Trump and more as part of the Constitution Week Conference Sept 21.

The panelists consisted of scholars from diverse political backgrounds which allowed for open and inclusive conversations.

The Trump administration is not going to cut spending but will cut taxes and the debt will get worse, according to Michael Tanner, domestic policies scholar, during the final panel discussion.

Tanner discussed the 82 trillion dollars of U.S. implicit debt which consists of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. “We are partying and making you pay the bill,” Tanner said in regards to older American’s spending and the younger generation having to pay the debts later.

Julius Krein, an American conservative political writer, editor and panel speaker disagreed with Tanner saying the debt issue doesn’t matter and is much more complex than many think.

Eminent Domain law was also discussed as part of a series of lectures. Eminent Domain law is the inherent power reserved by the government to acquire private land by forced sale for public purposes on the condition that “just compensation” is provided to the original owners. The speakers not only addressed the historical significance of Eminent Domain law, but also provided modern context, allowing students to understand how these laws might affect them personally.

Chuck Cohen, former attorney and renown author, discussed the controversy around the famous supreme court case, Kelo v. The City of New London. The case stems from the government seizing and selling  private land to private developers as a means to create jobs and stimulate the local economy. This raises the question as to what “public use” truly means.

“If public use means anything the government thinks will be helpful, then there really is no limitation to the eminent domain power…” Cohen said.

Maureen Brady, an award winning scholar and Virginia University associate professor of law, urges students to observe how the Takings Clause might affect the compensation of private land owners in regards to more current issues such as public transit, the building of pipelines and potential solar rights.

“It’s important to know what our rights and limitations to our property are,” Rian Robinson, a freshman said. Bennet Dexter, another student in attendance, said, “Property is part of the American dream, so we have to protect and know about our rights. It’s interesting to see how we’re still dealing with the same concerns from so long ago.”

Rodney Smith, Constitutional Studies director, said, James Madison saw the First Amendment as a protector of one’s conscience and that every person is entitled to an unalienable right to expression.

“Madison maintained allegiance to this sense of expression, permitting the Tories…even at the point at which they [were] invading and burning the city of Washington, he still protected their right to speak,” Smith said. Smith emphasised Madison’s conviction to protecting man’s right to ownership of physical property, as well as a right to expression.

Panelists answer audience questions during Q&A of final Constitution Week event


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