We’re #1!

… and we can’t let anyone else catch up. That’s why writing the Americans with Disabilities Act into international law was such a wicked idea that the Republicans had no choice but to block it. What part of “American exceptionalism” don’t you understand?

Naturally, the anti-American, socialist-sympathizing Democrats are all in an uproar because the Republican minority in the Senate blocked ratification of a treaty that basically writes the Americans with Disabilities Act into international law.

What part of “American exceptionalism” don’t they understand?

If we let all those other countries, full of funny-looking people with weird names, imitate our laws, then what will be special about the Greatest Country on Earth? Moral leadership is all well and good, but to lead you have to be ahead, and stay ahead. So we can’t let everyone else catch up with us in treating people with disabilities decently.

And yes, Marco Rubio voted against it. Here’s looking forward to wheelchair blockades of every Republican fundraiser and Presidential debate in 2016.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

18 thoughts on “We’re #1!”

  1. There is something quaint about the USA’s reluctance to ratify ‘world consensus’-type international agreements, a tendency that has been around since at least the founding of the League of Nations. I wonder if it’s a mild strain of the “UN = evil world government” meme that does the rounds among conspiracy theorists.

    1. Good link, Karl; thanx.

      At that blog, I also red this reply to the concern, by Rahul, December 8, 2012 at 7:52 am:

      >>If as Tyler says the IP clause is the sticking point wouldn’t the more reasonable course be to ratify but after filing a formal reservation? Isn’t that exactly what reservations are for?
      >>Other than this IP clause does Tyler see any other substantive reasons how this would hurt American interests?

      1. Haven’t read any. Cowen seems to mildly support the treaty, recognizing (I assume) that if problems arise, they generally are resolved in favor of the richest and strongest parties.

      2. Article 46 allows for reservations that are not incompatible with the object and purpose of the convention. So, I don’t see a problem for the most part with a reservation that rules out unintended side effects for copyright owners.

        One issue, however, might be the principal incompatibility of DRM with accessibility software. (I have no love lost for DRM, but there are the usual suspects that might be rather unhappy if DRM got weakened as a result.)

  2. Refusing to ratify this (or any other) treaty does not prevent other countries from “imitat[ing] our laws.” No country that wants to replicate the ADA needs US assistance or acceptance to do so.

    As the first commenter notes, the US is often quite reluctant to ratify multilateral treaties, even when they do little more than replicate US laws. One reason for this is that ratified treaties become part of the Supreme Law of the land and, in some instances, become judicially enforceable. There is also no guarantee that the treaty will, over time, be interpreted in line with US law. A related reason is that the US treats its treaty obligations very seriously. Other nations, not so much. In the environmental arena, for instance, it is common for foreign countries to ratify treaties they have no intention of following. For the US, that approach is not an option. As a consequence, the US refuses to ratify all sorts of treaties that seem wholly unobjectionable. See, e.g., the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

    1. The US views its treaty obligations very seriously? You mean, like the Bush Administration viewed the Geneva Conventions?

      1. The sarcasm sees to indicate that “treats its obligations seriously” is synonymous, in your vocabulary, with “never makes an exception.” In my life I take some things “seriously” that I neverthelss take occasional exceptions. Jonathan’s point is still important.

        More important however, IMO, is that yes, we don’t need a treaty to tell us to do right for disabled folks, but we DO need to go along with treaties that other nations adopt when they are following our lead; the alternative is to cede our leadership. How are we expected to be taken seriously when the nations of the world go along with us, and then we do a Gilda Radner–“oh, nevermind.”

    2. Jonathan H. Adler: A related reason is that the US treats its treaty obligations very seriously.


      Ahem. Sorry, I lost it for a moment.

      Article 6bis of the Berne Convention may want a word with you.

      Or the entire UN Convention Against Torture, which defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions” and which states that “[n]o exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

  3. Interesting that this comes up on a website which often deals with drug policy. Maybe I don’t understand the nuances, but don’t treaty obligations make it nearly impossible to legalize pot?

    1. Good point. What is Uruguay planning to do on this when it legalises cannabis? Enter a formal reservation, or denounce the Single Treaty?
      Perhaps Jonathan Adler could take time off from giving us the minilecture “only the USA takes international law seriously and anyway international law isn’t serious” and help us out.

    2. It’s more of a political than a legal problem according to what I know.

      Article 46 of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs allows any signatory to denounce the treaty (“denunciation” being international law speak for “we don’t like the treaty anymore and don’t want to be bound by it, good-bye”) with one year’s notice. We could leave the SCND if we wanted to. (In fact, the United States are not even a signatory to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, so we may not even be bound by the rules on denunciation even if no such provision existed.) The problem is that the convention does not normally allow for a reservation with respect to Cannabis, so we couldn’t just re-accede with a reservation excepting it. We’d need to negotiate either an amendment to the convention or get permission from the other signatory states for a special Cannabis-related reservation. Or stop being a signatory altogether.

      In short, while denunciation would be a possibility, it would be a fairly radical, and probably undesirable step, unless it’s unavoidable.

    1. Along with laws on child labor, overtime, etcetera, etcetera. They’ll get around to the laws on indentured servitude eventually.

    2. This sort of rant is just as silly on our side as it is on theirs.

      The ideological right doesn’t want to renounce ADA; just to renounce any hint of oblibation vis-a-vis the rest of the world.

  4. Tyler Cowen has a problem. He’s a libertarian. Like many other libertarians, he identifies with Enlightenment values. But in practice he cares mostly about liberty of the rich not to share with the poor, so he allies himself with Republicans.

    But he doesn’t want to know that he’s working with bunch of Yahoos who hate the entire Enlightenment project. So he’d rather pretend that his allies were pimping for the Mouse than admit they were giving in to paranoid provincialism.

    How do we know that Cowen’s interpretation is false? Because no part of the IP lobby didn’t actually came out against the bill, and because none of the Dems who say “How high?” whenever the RIAA says “Jump!” opposed the deal. It was purely a Republican thing.

    1. Hey! I’m way over here on the left and I’d prefer to believe that this whole mishigas was a corporate subterfuge. It gets so darn discouraging seeing how few reasonable Republicans are left in office (make that “semi-reasonable”).

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