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The American Creed/Limited Government
Topic: The American Creed/Limited Government (Read 8550 times)
The American Creed/Limited Government
June 12, 2009, 12:33:50 PM »
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I didn't see a topic for 'limited government' - maybe since it hasn't been pursued by either party in our lifetimes. Could be put as 'way forward for conservatives' but even more important to me is to get reasonable Democrats to remember the value of concepts like 'limited government'. - Doug
June 12, 2009
New Bill Ends Government-Run Companies
By John Thune
The federal government currently holds various ownership stakes in over 500 private companies. This alarming fact, along with the events of recent days in the auto industry, should serve as a wakeup call for all those concerned about preserving the free market principles upon which our nation was founded. As we have been so rudely reminded, government ownership of private companies threatens the fairness of markets, creates coercive business conditions, and allows government bureaucrats to dictate business decisions.
Government ownership interests in private companies create an uneven playing field. Companies aided by the government are given an unfair competitive advantage that private companies do not enjoy. Because of this influence, government entities distort the competitive process and lead to inefficient market outcomes which favor the government-owned entity.
Greater government involvement in private companies also fosters coercion and government manipulation. In the last six months, the federal government has fired CEOs of major corporations, intervened in advertising and production decisions, pressured businesses to make certain decisions and take certain public policy positions, and coordinated "pre-arranged" bankruptcy filings designed to reward the government's "friends." Instead of the private hand of the market guiding market activities, the cold hand of political power is shaping business decisions.
The federal government now finds itself in the strange position of owning 60 percent of General Motors, one of the nation's oldest and largest car companies, and eight percent of Chrysler. To reach this point, creditors who thought they held positions superior to other creditors were sent to the back of the line so that government-favored creditors could receive favorable treatment. Those who opposed the government-imposed solution and the outrageous division of assets were branded as trouble-making "speculators."
Now in control of several private institutions, the federal government will have the power to make management decisions. Instead of being guided by the discipline of the market, however, government owned companies are free to pursue the social goals of government bureaucrats, whether they be certain kinds of cars, loans to preferred demographics, or the latest demands of government-favored unions. Whether these experiments are unprofitable may not matter in the same way that it would for privately-owned companies. Unlike their privately owned counterparts, these government owned companies benefit from untold billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars, without any guarantee of repayment in the future.
This state of affairs sounds so strange because it is so new. The heightened degree of government control of our economy is a major deviation from our nation's free-market philosophy. From the beginning of our republic, the economic sector has largely been dominated by privately owned firms competing with one another without the government dictating how these firms should act. But with little warning, we have entered a brave new world in which a large number of private firms are now subject to government control, an economic model perhaps familiar in Europe or South America, but not the United States.
Neither the citizens of this republic nor their elected representatives in Washington voted for this degree of government control over private businesses. Instead, what was supposed to be a short-term program to relieve financial institutions of toxic assets morphed into an uncontrolled and unauthorized bureaucracy extending its tentacles into hundreds of private businesses. With no explicit vote of Congressional approval, the federal government is now in the business of running banks, insurance companies, and car manufacturers.
To stop this dangerous course of action, I have introduced the Government Ownership Exit Plan Act. This legislation would put an immediate end to government purchases of additional direct ownership interests of private companies. It would also prohibit government officials from making or influencing business decisions when it comes to the companies in which the government already has an ownership interest.
It is equally important to set an exit strategy for this unprecedented government intrusion. The Government Ownership Exit Plan sets a hard deadline for the final termination of government ownership interests in private companies and puts our economy back on the path to competitiveness and private ownership, not governmental control. The legislation would require the Treasury to sell any ownership stake in a private entity by July 1, 2010. Revenue from the sale of these assets would be used for debt reduction.
If we do not act now, government ownership of these private entities could persist for decades. If we want to once again promote free market principles and the private ownership of business, it is time to act.
Thune is a Republican Senator from South Dakota.
Last Edit: June 22, 2009, 08:06:57 AM by Crafty_Dog
Re: Limited Government
Reply #1 on:
June 12, 2009, 02:56:22 PM »
I agree that we need something for what you want to address here , , , Are you aware of this thread?
Should I bring it over to this forum?
Re: Limited Government
Reply #2 on:
June 12, 2009, 03:58:05 PM »
Crafty, You decide, but...
The constitution says: "promote the general welfare", which has come to mean bridge to nowhere, high speed rail, HDTV, fast internet, universal healthcare, private takings, spread the wealth around, regulating toilet flush volume and french fry fat content, freckled frog studies, borrowing in the trillions per year, and a thousand and fifty social welfare programs BEFORE W and Obama accelerated the pace.
Like you, I love the arguments over Supreme Court decisions, constitutional interpretations and what the founding fathers would think about what we have done lately. But voters eyes seem to gloss over when we refer to the constitution in reference to things we are already doing. Seems to me we need to sometimes argue for the concept of limited government for its own sake separate from its meaning that has long been discarded from our founding.
For example, the feds can promote the general welfare by buying up auto companies to avoid widespread job loss. A Bush-Clinton-Obama court could rule it constitutional. Still across the heartland it violates people's personal value of limited government which could and should politically shift the power back away from the powerful central government. JMO. - Doug
Re: Limited Government
Reply #3 on:
June 13, 2009, 09:34:10 AM »
I like the new thread.
Re: Limited Government
Reply #4 on:
June 13, 2009, 09:39:22 AM »
What about retitling the thread to: "The American Creed/Limited Government"?
Unions Expand Government Scope
Reply #5 on:
June 13, 2009, 11:57:49 AM »
Maybe a forced fit here, but it was the closest topic easily found:
June 11, 2009, 4:00 a.m.
Blame the Unions
The real reason California is in such bad shape.
By Chris Reed
In covering California’s endless budget woes, the media are always quick to trot out tired clichés about the Golden State’s being ungovernable because its clueless residents want costly programs but balk at paying the taxes needed to cover them. Over the past month, writers for the New York Times have weighed in five times with veiled or direct condemnations of California’s constitutional requirement that tax increases be approved by two-thirds of state legislators. In a May 25 column, Paul Krugman endorsed this conventional wisdom and added a pot shot at the landmark 1978 California ballot initiative that capped the rate at which property taxes could increase: “The seeds of California’s current crisis were planted more than 30 years ago, when voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 13, a ballot measure that placed the state’s budget in a straitjacket.”
The major network-news shows have offered a similarly simplistic framing. On June 2, ABC News reporter Laura Marquez said that the Golden State’s schools and social services were in dire straits because of laws that make raising taxes a “virtual impossibility.” This was in keeping with ABC’s party line, spelled out on the May 24 edition of This Week with George Stephanopoulos. The host — to the earnest agreement of Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne — said that more federal help for California should come with conditions. Just as the federal government attached strings to its aid for New York City in 1975, said Stephanopoulos, Washington should force California to abandon its two-thirds rule on tax hikes and to “do away with Proposition 13.”
Despite its superficial appeal, this narrative is unconvincing. For instance, the claim that California voters balk at paying for what they want is easily refuted. There is no evidence that the public wanted the state and public-schools work force to explode by 24 percent — from 719,000 to 895,000 — between 1997 and 2007. There is no evidence that the public wanted never-ending pay and benefit increases for these public employees, in particular an obscene 37 percent raise given to prison guards. There is no evidence of public support for a 1999 law that allows many of these workers to retire in their 50s with pensions of up to 90 percent of their last annual salary.
Meanwhile, the argument that the two-thirds requirement to raise taxes has subverted sound governance implies that this obstacle has kept taxes unrealistically low. Hardly. California has the nation’s highest sales and gasoline taxes, the first- or second-highest income tax (depending on how it’s measured), and the highest business taxes in the West.
The claim that Proposition 13 crippled California’s revenue stream also doesn’t hold up. Because assessments can be raised to current values when property changes hands, property-tax revenue went from $6.4 billion in 1980–81 to $43 billion in 2006–07. That’s a nearly 600 percent increase, which is far higher than the combined rate of population growth and inflation over the same period. In fact, property-tax revenue went up at a slightly higher rate than overall state revenue. Krugman’s assertion that Proposition 13 amounts to a budgetary “straitjacket” is further undercut by the latest Tax Foundation data, which rank California 19th (out of all 50 states) in property taxes as a percentage of total state taxes.
Given this backdrop, it’s simply daffy to blame California’s budget process, its voters, or Proposition 13 for the state’s inability to live within its means. Blame the majority Democrats in the state legislature who have done unions’ bidding for the past decade — spiking public employees’ pay and benefits, expanding government programs to offer ever more taxpayer-subsidized services, using borrowing and other gimmicks when revenue was weak and spending every last dime when it was strong, and constantly adding new burdens to business that hurt tax collections and drove employers (and jobs) elsewhere.
Once merely a powerful special interest, these public-sector unions now have a chokehold on the state. Here’s how extreme it is: For years, two of California Democrats’ top priorities have been enrolling more poor children in state health programs and encouraging individual homeowners and businesses to install solar panels to generate their own power. But at the behest of unions, Democratic legislative leaders killed a measure to allow parents to enroll their kids online because it might have led to layoffs of clerks at county social-services offices. They also killed a bill touted by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to create incentives for solar-panel installation because it didn’t mandate the use of union labor.
Such immense union power is the central reality of California politics. That is why Schwarzenegger spent his first two years as governor trying to rein it in. Unfortunately, he gave up in late 2005 after his reform initiatives were defeated in a special election. Since then, he has focused on becoming a Teutonic Green Giant on climate-change issues.
The next time the usual suspects spout the usual clichés about why the Golden State is ungovernable, turn down the sound or turn the page. When it comes to California, the Stephanopouluses and Krugmans of the world don’t know what they’re talking about.
— Chris Reed is an editorial writer at the San Diego Union-Tribune.
National Review Online -
Polls Suggest Support for Limited Goverment
Reply #6 on:
June 19, 2009, 10:35:15 AM »
Public wary of Obama policies: NBC/WSJ and CBS/NYT polls
By: Michael Barone
Senior Political Analyst
06/18/09 6:50 PM EDT
For all the favorable coverage he’s gotten on mainstream media, Barack Obama seems to be having a hard time selling the American public on his policies. That’s the message that comes through loud and clear from the NBC/Wall Street Journaland CBS/New York Timespolls made public today. Obama’s job approval is still high, though it’s down 5% from previous levels in both these polls. And on some policies he’s got majority or near-majority support.
But consider these findings from the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll:
● 69% say they have a great deal or quite a bit of concern about government ownership of General Motors and a 56%-35% majority opposes government aid to General Motors in return for a share of its stock
● 58% say the president and Congress should concentrate on keeping the budget deficit down, even if it takes longer for the economy to recover
● when presented with arguments for and against a government health insurance plan, it was favored by only a 47%-42% margin
● when asked the most important economic issue facing the country, 24% chose the budget deficit and only 11% chose health care
● a 52%-39% majority opposes closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay
Or consider these findings from the CBS/New York Times poll:
● when asked to volunteer the most important problem facing the country, 38% said the economy, 19% said jobs and 7% said health care
● only 44% approve Obama’s handling of health care, while 34% disapprove
● only 41% approve his handling of the problems facing the auto industry, while 46% disapprove
● by a 52%-41% margin they prefer reducing the budget deficit to stimulating the economy
● only 30% think Obama has developed a clear plan for dealing with the budget deficit, while 60% believe he hasn’t
I haven’t included some of the results that are more positive for Obama, and overall the polls are by no means devastating. But I do agree with the conclusion of my former boss, Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who with Republican Bill McInturff supervises the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll: “The public is moving from evaluating him as a charismatic and charming leader to his specific handling of the challenges facing the country.” He adds that Obama and Democrats “are going to have to navigate in pretty choppy waters.”
These results suggest a larger point, that despite the financial crisis and current economic distress, there has not been a drastic shift in American voters’ views of the balance between the market and government. The economic failures of the 1930s and successes of the 1940s convinced Americans to trust government more and markets less; the economic failures of the 1970s and successes of the 1980s convinced Americans to trust markets more and government less. These results show that American voters remain suspicious of centralized government power over the private sector and that they have great unease about the enormous far-larger-than-Bush’s budget deficits which experts project the Obama programs will produce. This strengthens my belief, set forth in my May 31 Examiner column, that Republicans should not move to the center but should run against the center—against centralized state power taking over the private sector economy. Voters get the message.
More of the Same Failed Medicine
Reply #7 on:
June 19, 2009, 04:08:34 PM »
Second post, placed here as it's the antithesis of limited government:
The Myth of Financial Deregulation
Government action caused the economic crisis, not the free market.
Anthony Randazzo | June 19, 2009
For the past nine months, Wall Street critics have painted a damning picture of the housing bubble as the product of deregulation and reduced governmental oversight. To read the Obama administration's new financial sector regulation overhaul proposal, the government didn't have anything to do with the current crisis. According to this view, our economy wouldn't be facing a recession with almost 10 percent unemployment if the government had been more involved with the market. This picture is about as historically accurate as the famous portrait Washington Crossing the Delaware.
On Wednesday, President Obama laid out his vision for changing the way Wall Street does business. From creating a council to oversee systemic risk to expanding the powers of the Federal Reserve to requiring hedge fund and private equity pools to register with the SEC for the first time, the proposal is a massive regulatory expansion.
Along with the president's speech, the White House released an 89-page "white paper" with all the nitty gritty details that make government bureaucracy so much fun. For instance, here's a real sentence from the proposal:
Last year, the IASB and FASB reiterated their objective of achieving broad convergence of IFRS and U.S. GAAP by the end of 2010, which is a necessary precondition under the SEC's proposed roadmap to adopt IFRS.
Government clarity at its finest. (See here for a breakdown and explanation of the whole proposal.)
The core problem of the regulatory proposal is its view of the causes of the crisis. Everything is built on a belief that the market failed and that deregulation created a system of excessive risk and irresponsibility. Ironically, it was government action that created incentives for financial firms to be less risk adverse, not a lack of regulation. As Washington prepares to debate regulatory overhaul this summer, it is more important than ever to wrestle the myth of deregulation to the ground.
Given all the talk of deregulation, you would expect to find dozens of deregulating laws put in place over the past few years. Surprisingly, there have only been three major deregulatory actions in the past 30 years. Ultimately, the data points to bad regulation as complicit in the creation of the financial crisis, not deregulation.
The modern era's first major Wall Street deregulation was the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980. This law repealed so-called "Regulation Q ceilings" that limited the amount of interest consumers could earn from savings and checking accounts. The law also expanded the types of financial institutions that could get overnight loans from Fed discount windows.
Since letting banks pay interest to their customers encourages saving, this aspect of deregulation certainly can't be blamed. And though it could be argued that more financial institutions borrowing money partially allowed for the housing bubble, that money was being borrowed from the government—hardly deregulation. And that doesn't even begin to address the fact that there have been multiple recessions and bubbles since this law was passed.
The second major deregulation was the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982. This authorized banks to compete with money market mutual funds. (Ironically, this bill was co-sponsored by then-Rep. Charles Schumer, a key lawmaker driving the current regulatory overhaul.) Garn-St. Germain has been linked to today's crisis because it loosened restrictions on issuing mortgages, allowing for the eventual development of subprime loans.
However, it wasn't Garn-St. Germain specifically that created a subprime mortgage riddled bubble—it was the surrounding body of poorly designed, bad regulations that created perverse incentives. Garn-St. Germain should have allowed banks more freedom to compete while also clarifying the role of the FDIC. But it failed, along with other regulations, to outline the role of the government in the case of financial institution failure. As a result, the implicit government guarantee for firms "too big to fail" skewed the risk assessment process that aids market efficiency. The promise of rescue was much more damaging than loosened lending standards.
It is worth noting that the impact of Garn-St. Germain has also been blamed for causing the Savings and Loan Crisis by allowing certain financial institutions, thrifts, to gamble with taxpayer insured investments. But in this case there was an implicit government rescue guarantee for massive failure that encouraged high-risk taking.
The third deregulation blamed for causing the financial crisis is the repeal of the famed Glass-Steagall Act in 1999. This law, passed in 1933, had kept deposit-bearing banks and investment banks from competing for over six decades. After this repeal, banks were able to maximize their resources and many grew large enough to be classified too big to fail. However, they really were too entwined to fail, and the problems came with fringe regulations related to the interconnectedness of financial institutions.
Had mark-to-market regulations been more flexible banks would have had more time to raise capital and sell assets. Had Wall Street firms not seen Washington as a lender of last resort that would bail out investments gone awry, they would have managed their risk better. Had capital reserve ratios been higher banks and investment institutions would have had more liquidity when prices dropped (though some firms, like AIG, simply became insolvent and wouldn't have been saved by higher reserves). Or, if qualified special purpose entities—an off-balance sheet accounting method—had required more transparency, banks would have had to keep more risky mortgages on their books, subject to reserve requirements.
Indeed, even if these three deregulations had no caveats explaining away their supposed link to the current financial crisis, they would still hardly constitute a historical trend. In contrast, historical periods of high regulation have proven decidedly unfavorable. Financial sector regulation during the 1970s was much heavier than today, and that did not prevent stagflation, with unemployment reaching nine percent in May 1975 and inflation nearly topping 14 percent.
Similarly, Europe currently boasts some of the world's tightest financial sector regulations, and its banks have suffered just as much, if not more than American banks in this recession. European banks made the same bad bets, the same poor investments, and the same over-leveraged mistakes—despite more regulation and government oversight.
None of this is to say that there shouldn't be regulatory change. The current regulation framework creates plenty of perverse incentives that stem from outdated rules. There is much to be desired in terms of governmental transparency and clarity.
However, the answer is not increased layers of government oversight. Giving regulators increased oversight of hedge funds, forcing the standardization of derivatives, or creating a systemic risk council will cause more harm than any good. Neither will expanding the Fed's powers ex post facto. Richard Fisher, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, told the Wall Street Journal last month that regulators had enough authority to prevent a crisis. They simply failed to do so.
A far more prudential regulatory response is to fix broken rules—like the government has done with mark-to-market—and to have regulating agencies do a better job of oversight for 21st Century financial products. In a world of continually innovative investment strategies, flexible regulation from a loose government hand will prove most beneficial to a sustainable economy. The worst thing Washington could do is buy into the false history of phony deregulation and create more oppressive rules and stifling agencies that extend our economic struggles.
Anthony Randazzo is a policy analyst for Reason Foundation. Read his Reason archive here.
Privatize the Post Office
Reply #8 on:
June 23, 2009, 10:02:30 AM »
Privatize the Post Office
Posted by Tad DeHaven
Another day, another story on financial troubles at the federal government’s mail monopolist. We don’t expect the government to make our blue jeans, transport fruits and veggies from the farm to the market, build computers and IPods,
or manage the manufacturing of automobiles
, so why must it continue to deliver first-class mail? The quality of the USPS’s “services” has been a punchline in my family since I learned to walk. But with technology rendering it’s clunky business model increasingly moot, Government Mail’s bottom line is looking uglier and uglier. It would cost me 44 cents to mail a letter to California, and it would cost me the same amount to mail that letter to the next town over. What sense does that make?
As today’s editorial in the Washington Post leads off:
THE POST office may be the next too-big thing. If it continues on its present course, the U.S. Postal Service stands to post $6 billion to $12 billion in losses by the end of the fiscal year. By the end of the second quarter of fiscal 2009, it had racked up an operating loss of more than $2 billion, almost equal to its total losses last year. So far, the Postal Service has depended on loans from the Federal Financing Bank, a federal borrowing agency, to help make up the difference, but it is fast approaching its $15 billion credit limit. Something has to give.
Kudos to the Washington Post for proceeding to acknowledge that the rest of the western world has been trending toward privatization of it’s government mail monopolies for years. My colleague Chris Edwards recently touched on the issue of privatizing the USPS as part of a larger piece on privatizing a plethora of federal operations:
The mammoth 685,000-person U.S. Postal Service is facing declining mail volume and rising costs. The way ahead is to privatize the USPS and repeal the company’s legal monopoly over first-class mail. Reforms in other countries show that there is no good reason for the current mail monopoly. Since 1998, New Zealand’s postal market has been open to private competition, with the result that postage rates have fallen and labor productivity at New Zealand Post has risen. Germany’s Deutsche Post was partly privatized in 2000, and the company has improved productivity and expanded into new businesses. Postal services have also been privatized or opened to competition in Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Japan is moving ahead with postal service privatization, and the European Union is planning to open postal services to competition in all its 27 member nations.
6 states want to opt-out Obamacare
Reply #9 on:
June 28, 2009, 06:57:42 PM »
From the WT forum:
6 States Want to Nullify Obamacare With Opt Out Law
Interesting question, is Obamacare even Constitutional?
Posted by Warner Todd Huston
Sunday, June 28th at 7:12AM EDT
Six states are currently looking to add an “opt out” law to their books to protect citizens from the possibility of a national healthcare plan imposed by federal fiat.
Arizona started the ball rolling by introducing the Health Care Freedom Act, a voting initiative that will be put before voters on the 2010 ballot. If accepted by the majority of the voters, Arizona will be able to opt out of any federal healthcare laws passed by Washington. Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming are considering similar measures.
The arrogance of Congress and the president worries many of these state lawmakers, some even consider Obama’s healthcare policies a naked power grab.
Some state legislators say they worry that a government-mandated program will effectively eliminate their traditional role in regulating health insurers — an important power base. Others raise constitutional concerns. “The real goal of national health insurance exchange isn’t competition — it’s a federal power grab that flies in the face of the Tenth Amendment,” says Wisconsin state Rep. Leah Vukmir, a Republican.
Just for a point of reference, here is the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Now, I’ve read the Constitution several times and I don’t see a single place in it where it talks about hospitals, doctors, or healthcare, nor especially where it might say that the federal government should control all such activities from Congress and pay for it all out of the national treasury. Then again, the Constitution hasn’t mattered to any Democrat for decades, so why worry about that now?
In any case, this is an interesting movement on the part of six brave states. Let us hope that this idea spreads to others and Obamacare, should we be so unfortunate enough to have it pas
AZ and Fed LEO units merging
Reply #10 on:
July 01, 2009, 08:20:53 PM »
Posted here because of its implication for erasing federal-state boundaries. Hard to argue with its logic though:
The state police and federal marshals are merging their special units that track Arizona fugitives in a move to save money while dealing with the growing number of arrest warrants waiting to be served.
"Basically, it's getting everyone in one room in one building working together instead of occasionally discussing cases of mutual interest. It's a great force multiplier," U.S. Marshal David Gonzales said.
The aggregation of acronyms brings together the state Department of Public Safety's Violent Criminal Apprehension Team, called VCAT, and the Arizona Wanted task force of the U.S. Marshals Service. The merger formalizes a relationship among agencies to share information and manpower to track the 60,000 wanted fugitives in the state.
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and a long list of other police agencies are also involved. The Sheriff's Office is the repository of all of the warrants in the county, but individual agencies execute them.
DPS' Violent Criminal Apprehension Team was formed in 2008 in the midst of the ongoing argument over illegal immigration in the state on the order of then-Gov. Janet Napolitano. DPS set up the unit, and $1.6 million was pulled from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office that was being used to fight human smuggling. The Legislature later gave the money back to the Sheriff's Office.
But the apprehension team remained and says that since its formation, it has made 730 arrests, clearing 920 felony warrants. DPS says that near the end of March, there were 54,872 felony warrants in Arizona with a little more than 40,000 of them in Maricopa County and 450 to 500 new ones issued every week. The new setup deputizes DPS officers assigned to the combined unit as federal marshals, extending their enforcement range.
Tempe Police Chief Tom Ryff said another goal of the new system is to minimize politics and maximize results. "What this means to the cop on the street is they come to work every day with precise information about individuals who have committed crimes in our community," he said.
Everyone pays their own way. Gonzales acknowledged that in tough financial times, everyone has "taken major hits to their budgets." More could be on the way as governments work out their spending plans in the slumping economy.
Gonzales said combining the units should have happened earlier in view of the number of new warrants pouring out of the courts.
"We cannot arrest our way out of this problem."
We still hold these truths , , ,
Reply #11 on:
July 02, 2009, 11:54:43 AM »
Independence Day 2009: We still hold these truths...
"Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" --Patrick Henry
As we celebrate the 233rd year of our Declaration of Independence, let us look at the common parlance associated with the polar spectrum of current political ideology (while such a review is still permitted by the state), and explore what is meant by "Left versus Right," "Liberal versus Conservative" and "Tyranny versus Liberty"?
Tyranny v. Liberty (poster available at PatriotShop.US)
First, a little history.
On July 4th of 1776, our Founders, assembled as representatives to the Second Continental Congress, issued a declaration stating most notably: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ... That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government..."
In other words, our Founders affirmed that our rights, which are inherent by Natural Law as provided by our Creator, can't be arbitrarily alienated by men like England's King George III, who believed that the rights of men are the gifts of government.
Our Founders publicly declared their intentions to defend these rights by attaching their signatures between July 4th and August 2nd of 1776 to the Declaration. They and their fellow Patriots pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor as they set about to defend the Natural Rights of man.
At the conclusion of the American War for Independence in 1783, our Founders determined the new nation needed a more suitable alliance among the states than the Articles of Confederation. After much deliberation, they proposed the U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1787, ratified in 1788 and implemented in 1789 as subordinate guidance to our Declaration of Independence.
Since that time, generations of American Patriots have laid down their lives "to support and defend" our Constitution -- and I would note here that their sacred oath says nothing about a so-called "Living Constitution" as advocated by the political left.
Given that bit of history as a backdrop, consider the lexicography of our current political ideology.
On the dark side of the spectrum would be Leftists, liberals and tyrants.
(Sidebar: One should not confuse "classical liberalism" with "contemporary liberalism." The former refers to those, like Thomas Jefferson, who advocated individual liberty, while the latter refers to those, like Barack Hussein Obama, who advocate statism, which is the antithesis of liberty.)
Statism, as promoted by contemporary American liberals, has as its objective the establishment of a central government authorized as the arbiter of all that is "good" for "the people" -- and conferring upon the State ultimate control over the most significant social manifestation of individual rights, economic enterprise.
On the left, all associations between individuals ultimately augment the power and control of the State. The final expression and inevitable terminus of such power and control, if allowed to progress unabated, is tyranny.
The word "tyranny" is derived from the Latin "tyrannus," which translates to "illegitimate ruler."
Liberals, then, endeavor to undermine our nation's founding principles in order to achieve their statist objectives. However, politicians who have taken an oath to "support and defend" our Constitution, but then govern in clear defiance of that oath, are nothing more than illegitimate rulers, tyrants.
(Sidebar: Some Leftists contend that Communism and Fascism are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. Properly understood, however, both of these forms of government are on the left, because both have as a common end the establishment of an omnipotent state led by a dictator.)
Over on the "right wing" of the political spectrum, where the light of truth shines, would be "conservatives," from the Latin verb "conservare," meaning to preserve, protect and defend -- in this case, our Constitution.
American conservatives are those who seek to conserve our nation's First Principles, those who advocate for individual liberty, constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and the promotion of free enterprise, strong national defense and traditional American values.
Contemporary political ideology is thus defined by tyrannus and conservare occupying the Left and Right ends of the American political spectrum, defining the difference between liberals and conservatives.
Though there are many devoted protagonists at both ends of this scale, the space in between is littered with those who, though they identify with one side or the other, are not able to articulate the foundation of that identity. That is to say, they are not rooted in liberal or conservative doctrine, but motivated by contemporaneous political causes associated with the Left or Right. These individuals do not describe themselves as "liberal" or "conservative" but as Democrat or Republican. Further, they tend to elect ideologically ambivalent politicians who are most adept at cultivating special interest constituencies.
That having been said, however, there is a major difference between those on the Left and the Right, as demonstrated by our most recent national elections. Those on the Left tend to form a more unified front for the purpose of electability; they tend to embrace a "win at all costs" philosophy, while those on the right tend to spend valuable political capital drawing distinctions between and among themselves.
I would suggest that this disparity is the result of the contest between human nature and Natural Law.
The Left appeals to the most fundamental human instincts to procure comfort, sustenance and shelter, and to obtain those basic needs by the most expedient means possible. The Left promises that the State will attain those needs equally, creating a path of least resistance for that fulfillment.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Right promotes the tenets of Natural Law -- individual liberty and its attendant requirements of personal responsibility and self-reliance.
Clearly, one of these approaches is far easier to sell to those who have been systematically dumbed down by government educational institutions and stripped of their individual dignity by the plethora of government welfare programs.
That easy sell notwithstanding, the threat of tyranny can eventually produce an awakening among the people and a reversal of trends toward statism. But this reversal depends on the emergence of a charismatic, moral leader who can effectively advocate for liberty. (Ronald Wilson Reagan comes to mind.)
For some nations, this awakening has come too late. The most notable examples in the last century are Russia, Germany, Italy and China, whose peoples suffered greatly under the statist tyrannies they came to embrace. In Germany and Italy, the state collapsed after its expansionist designs were forcibly contained. In Russia, the state collapsed under the weight of 70 years of economic centralization and ideological expansionism.
The Red Chinese regime, having witnessed the collapse of the USSR, has so far avoided its own demise by combining an autocratic government with components of a free enterprise economic system. (My contacts in China, including that nation's largest real estate developers and investment fund managers, believe the Red regime will be gone within five years.)
Of course, there exists an American option for the rejection of tyranny: Revolution. And it is an essential option, because the Natural Rights of man are always at risk of contravention by tyrants. At no time in the last century has our Republic faced a greater threat from "enemies, domestic" than right now.
"Our individual salvation," insists Barack Obama, "depends on collective salvation." In other words, BHO's tyranny, et al, must transcend Constitutional authority. And in accordance with his despotic ideals, Obama is now implementing "the fundamental transformation of the United States of America" that he promised his cadre of liberal voters.
It is yet to be seen whether the current trend toward statism will be reversed by the emergence of a great conservative leader, or by revolution, but if you're betting on another Ronald Reagan, I suggest you hedge your bet.
Our Declaration's author, Thomas Jefferson, understood the odds. He wrote, "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground," and he concluded, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
Accordingly, George Washington advised, "We should never despair, our Situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times."
Indeed we must.
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Amercian Creed / Limited Government: Government Motors continued
Reply #12 on:
July 04, 2009, 08:14:45 PM »
U.S. Govt. sets out to design more efficient cars, picking winners and losers. Whatever happened to level playing field and equal treatment under the law? Let's see...we own GM, these contracts are to Ford, Nissan and Tesla. Can you imagine having a financial interest in the auto interest and NOT having a lobbyist well-connected in the Obama administration? Just as the founders envisioned it all...
U.S. to Start Financing Efficient Car Design
By LESLIE WAYNE
Published: June 23, 2009
After months of uncertainty, the Energy Department is beginning to lend money from a $25 billion loan program to develop fuel-efficient cars. Ford Motor Company, Nissan Motor Company and Tesla Motors are slated to get the first round of loans.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu is scheduled to make the announcement of the loans on Tuesday, according to several wire service reports that quoted unnamed sources. Absent from the loan program are General Motors and Chrysler, two companies that have asked for billions of dollars in loans, but are prevented from receiving aid under terms of the program because they do not qualify as “financially viable” companies.
Ford will receive $440 million to help convert a Michigan sports-utility factory to build small cars. The company, as recently as late last year, had sought a total of $11 billion from the program as part of a seven-year program to invest $14 billion in advance technologies.
Ford has plans to bring a battery-powered car to market in 2010, and other models by 2012. Ford had previously announced plans to seek federal loans to convert three large plants that make large trucks and S.U.V.’s into making smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.
The Energy Department program had been closely watched within the auto industry and Congress. It is one of the one of the few avenues of federal aid to build a new generation of fuel-efficient and battery-powered vehicles.
Uncertainty over the financial condition of General Motors and Chrysler slowed the program. About 75 companies, ranging from start-ups to the Big Three, had applied, asking for a total of $38 billion.
General Motors had said that the $8.3 billion it was seeking would be used for the development of the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid car. Chrysler had been asking for $5 billion. Both companies had been lobbying heavily for the money.
While the program was restricted to American automakers, Nissan submitted a plan for one of its American plants. The amount received by Nissan was not disclosed. Nissan is developing an all-electric car with 100 miles of battery range for release in 2010. The car is to be made in Japan initially, but eventually it would be built in Nissan’s plant in Smyrna, Tenn.
With Korea, Japan and China making advances in battery technology, there are concerns that if the United States does not make breakthroughs in this area, it will cede the electric-car market to foreign competitors.
The all-powerful government: Fuel standards killed GM
Reply #13 on:
July 05, 2009, 01:59:57 PM »
We killed it, now we own it? Some bad nightmare twist off of the Powell Doctrine?
"Will President Barack Obama provide Detroit auto makers with even more subsidies to pay CAFE fines?"
Economist Alan Reynolds in the Wall Street Journal points out some pretty obvious realities about GM and federal regulations that Obama's Treasury Secretary - or is it Secretary of Socialized Industries - didn't notice or advise his boss.
Fuel Standards Are Killing GM
By ALAN REYNOLDS
General Motors can survive bankruptcy far more easily than it can survive President Barack Obama's ambitious fuel economy standards, which mandate that all new vehicles average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.
The actual Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) results will depend on the mixture of fuel-thrifty and fuel-thirsty vehicles consumers choose to buy from each manufacturer -- not on what producers hope to sell. That means only those companies most successful in selling the smallest cars with the smallest engines will, in the future, be allowed to sell the more profitable larger pickups and SUVs and more powerful luxury and sports cars.
Sales of Toyota's Prius, Yaris, Corolla and Scion, for example, allow and encourage Toyota to market more Lexus 460s, Sequoia SUVs and Tundra pickups in the U.S. without incurring fines. Hyundai's success selling Accent and Elantra compacts allows it to sell 368-horsepower Genesis sedans.
Similarly, Ford has the Toyota-licensed hybrid Fusion and will soon produce the European Ford Fiesta in Mexico. Chrysler will soon have Fiats. But what does GM have?
No independent reviewer suggests that the Chevy Aveo and Cobalt are credible contenders in the small car field. Even the president's auto task force finds the electric Chevy Volt "unviable," since it will lose money unless priced above a Cadillac CTS. The Opel-engineered 2011 Chevy Cruze will face tough competition from Asian cars whose reliability is better established. Launching such new models will be even tougher in the future, now that GM has lost control of Opel.
GM accounted for about 19% of vehicle sales so far this year, but the company had a much smaller share of the market for small cars and SUVs (which accounted for 20% of total sales through May). To continue offering a Toyota-like array of larger cars and trucks under ever-tighter CAFE rules, GM would have to capture a much larger share of the market for small and/or diesel-powered vehicles. Unfortunately, European and Asian car makers have decades more experience building reliable subcompact cars and diesel engines for their local markets -- where consumers face steep taxes on gasoline and large engines.
General Motors does produce competitive cars and trucks, but not one of them is small. Consumer Reports recommends three GM cars and three GM trucks. The recommended cars are the Chevy Malibu (the unrecommended hybrid has been dropped), the large Buick Lucerne and the Cadillac DTS. Consumer Reports recommends the Chevy Avalanche and Silverado and the GMC Sierra trucks. Car enthusiast magazines insist on adding Camaro, Corvette and the 556-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V to that list.
Among those nine best GM vehicles, only the four-cylinder Malibu achieved as much as 25 mpg in Consumer Reports testing. The others get 12-17 mpg, yet they are no less fuel-efficient than comparable foreign brands. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the mileage of the Toyota Sienna van and Nissan Titan pickup as worst in their class, and comparable Chevys as best. Unlike GM, however, Japanese car companies sell enough small cars to offset the large and thus hold down the average figures.
General Motors is likely to become profitable only if it is allowed to specialize in what it does best -- namely, midsize and large sedans, sports cars, pickup trucks and SUVs. The company can't possibly afford to scrap billions of dollars of equipment used to produce its best vehicles simply to please politicians who would rather see GM start from scratch, wasting more taxpayer money on "retooling" to produce unwanted and unprofitable subcompacts and electric cars. The average mileage of GM's future cars won't matter if nobody buys them.
Politicians are addicted to CAFE standards because they create an illusion of doing something sometime in the future without voters experiencing the slightest inconvenience in the present. Tighter future CAFE rules will have no effect at all on the type of vehicles we choose to buy. Their only effect will be to compel us to buy larger and more powerful vehicles from foreign manufacturers. Americans will still buy Jaguars, but from an Indian firm, Tata, rather than Ford. They'll buy Hummers, but from a Chinese firm, Tengzhong, rather than GM. The whole game is a charade; symbolism without substance.
As a matter of practical politics, rescuing GM from strangulation by CAFE will require offering economically literate environmentalists a greener alternative, i.e., one that works. Luckily, the government has two policy tools that, with minor modifications, really could discourage people from buying the least fuel-efficient vehicles.
One is the federal excise tax on "gas guzzlers," which could take some fun out of the horsepower race except that it applies only to cars, not to SUVS, vans and trucks. Why not apply this tax to all types of gas guzzling vehicles? Owners of trucks used for business could deduct the tax in proportion to miles used for business, as they do with other vehicular expenses. Phase it in after 2011 to encourage buyers to snap up the unsold inventory of gas guzzling trucks quickly -- a timely "stimulus plan."
Second, the federal fuel tax is highest on the most efficient fuel (diesel) and below zero on the least efficient fuel (ethanol). Cars get about 30% better mileage on diesel than on gasoline, and cars running mainly on gasoline get about 30% better mileage than they would using 85% ethanol.
To stop distorting consumer choices, simply apply the same 24-cent-a-gallon federal tax to gasoline and ethanol as we do to diesel. This would add funds to the depleted federal highway trust. More importantly, it would remove an irrational tax penalty on buying diesel-powered cars -- arguably the most cost-effective way to improve mileage without reducing car size or performance.
These two proposals are a greener alternative to CAFE, because they'll work. But they'll only work if Congress totally and permanently abandons the charade of CAFE. It is arguably worthwhile to accept a modest tax increase in exchange for an end to harmful regulations, but that exchange is effective precisely because it is not painless.
Unifying fuel taxes and broadening the excise tax on gas guzzlers makes sense as an alternative to CAFE. Otherwise it's just more pain with no gain.
If politicians insist on tightening fleet average mileage standards for bankrupt auto companies, how could those rules be enforced? The only penalty for violating CAFE rules is a big fine. If consumers keep refusing to buy enough small cars from GM and Chrysler to allow them to meet the CAFE rules, how are those companies expected to pay the fines?
The government is already planning to spend about $50 billion bailing out General Motors plus $7 billion for Chrysler. Will President Barack Obama provide Detroit auto makers with even more subsidies to pay CAFE fines?
Maybe so. That would be only slightly more bizarre than current plans to bribe folks with $4,500 to sell their "clunkers," or to offer huge tax credits to those rich enough to buy a $73,000 hybrid Cadillac Escalade or an $88,000 Fisker Karma.
The bottom line is that CAFE standards are totally unenforceable and ineffective. Regardless of how much damage the rules do to GM and Chrysler, Americans can and will continue to buy big and fast vehicles from German, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Indian car companies. CAFE standards might just be another foolhardy regulatory nuisance -- were it not for the fact that they could easily prove fatally dangerous for any auto maker overly dependent on the uniquely overregulated U.S. market.
Last Edit: July 05, 2009, 02:24:15 PM by DougMacG
Re: The American Creed/Limited Government
Reply #14 on:
July 05, 2009, 02:41:18 PM »
Update: Forgot to mention waking on the morning of the 4th to the sound and sight of 2 bald eagles on the dock 'cleaning' a fish they caught as if they were part of the festivities, leaving behind very few parts. Wish I had that image as the 3rd photo.
We celebrate the victory of our liberties so hard fought with sacrifice by our forefathers as a day off of freely giving away most of those freedoms without even a fight. In our neck of the woods we had the Minnesota Orchestra at lakeside performing until dusk followed by beautiful fireworks over the water.
Last Edit: July 07, 2009, 10:14:42 PM by DougMacG
Re: The American Creed/Limited Government
Reply #15 on:
July 05, 2009, 03:25:05 PM »
A quick yip of guidance for this thread. I'd like that this thread be FOR the articulation of the American Creed and the myriad examples to the contrary be placed more in threads such as Fascism; Poltical Economics; Programs; Tax Policy; etc.
Republic or Democracy
Reply #16 on:
July 05, 2009, 07:51:42 PM »
America: Republic or Democracy?
Re: The American Creed/Limited Government
Reply #17 on:
July 11, 2009, 03:12:18 PM »
The state despotic
by Mark Steyn
A review of Soft Despotism, Democracy's Drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville, and the Modern Prospect by Paul Anthony Rahe
On our gradual slide into servitude.
Driving north out of New York the other day, I heard a caller to Mark Levin’s show discuss his excellent book Liberty and Tyranny. The word she kept using was “inevitable”: The republic felt exhausted, and there was an “inevitability” to what was happening. A quarter-millennium of liberty seemed to be about the best you could expect, and its waning was—again—“inevitable.” As she spoke, the rich farmland of Columbia County rolled past my window. To many of its residents, the caller would have sounded slightly kooky. Were any of the county’s first families suddenly to rematerialize from their centuries of slumber, they would recognize the general landscape, the settlements, the principal roads, and indeed many of the weathered farmhouses. And they would be struck by the comfort and prosperity of their successors in this land. So what’s all this talk about decay and decline?
Ah, but I wonder if those early settlers would recognize the people, and their assumptions about the role of government. Mr. Levin’s listener was trying to articulate something profound but elusive. It’s not something you can sell the film rights for —there are no aliens vaporizing the White House, as in Independence Day; no God- zilla rampaging down Fifth Avenue and hurling the Empire State Building into the East River. No bangs, just the whimper of the same old same old civilizational ennui, as it gradually dawns that Admiral Yamamoto’s sleeping giant may be merely a supersized version of Monty Python’s dead parrot.
Paul A. Rahe’s new book on the subject is called Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift, which nicely captures how soothing and beguiling the process is. Today, the animating principles of the American idea are entirely absent from public discourse. To the new Administration, American exceptionalism means an exceptional effort to harness an exceptionally big government in the cause of exceptionally massive spending. The can-do spirit means Ty’Sheoma Bethea can do with some government money: A high-school student in Dillon, South Carolina, Miss Bethea wrote to the President to ask him to do something about the peeling paint in her classroom. He read the letter out approvingly in a televised address to Congress. Imagine if Miss Bethea gets her way, and the national bureaucracy in Washington becomes responsible for grade- school paint jobs from Maine to Hawaii. What size of government would be required for such a project? And is it compatible with a constitutional republic?
Professor Rahe knows the answer to that. The first three-quarters of his book are about Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Tocqueville, which is to say they’re really about us. Montesquieu’s prediction that “in Europe the last sigh of liberty will be heaved by an Englishman” seemed self-evident after the totalitarian enthusiasms of the Continent in the twentieth century. Today? The last sigh will be heaved by England’s progeny, in the United States, or perhaps, given the galloping ambition of twenty-first-century American statism, in Australia. Is “the last sigh of liberty” inevitable? A progressivist would scoff at the utter codswallop of such a fancy. Why, modern man would not tolerate for a moment the encroachments his forebears took for granted! And so in the face of the careless assumption that social progress is like the internal combustion engine—once invented, it can never be uninvented—it is left to a trio of dead French blokes to anticipate the long-term temptations of a republic none had ever lived in, and which at that point was technologically all but impossible.
The professor opens his study with a famous passage from M. de Tocqueville. Or, rather, it would be famous were he still widely read. For he knows us far better than we know him: “I would like to imagine with what new traits despotism could be produced in the world,” he wrote the best part of two centuries ago. He and his family had been on the sharp end of France’s violent convulsions, but he considered that, to a democratic republic, there were slyer seductions:
I see an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls.
He didn’t foresee “Dancing with the Stars” or “American Idol” but, details aside, that’s pretty much on the money. He continues:
Over these is elevated an immense, tutelary power, which takes sole charge of assuring their enjoyment and of watching over their fate. It is absolute, attentive to detail, regular, provident, and gentle. It would resemble the paternal power if, like that power, it had as its object to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks, to the contrary, to keep them irrevocably fixed in childhood … it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their needs, guides them in their principal affairs…
The sovereign extends its arms about the society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of petty regulations—complicated, minute, and uniform—through which even the most original minds and the most vigorous souls know not how to make their way… it does not break wills; it softens them, bends them, and directs them; rarely does it force one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting on one’s own … it does not tyrannize, it gets in the way: it curtails, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
Welcome to the twenty-first century.
“It does not tyrannize, it gets in the way.” The all-pervasive micro-regulatory state “enervates,” but nicely, gradually, so after a while you don’t even notice. And in exchange for liberty it offers security: the “right” to health care; the “right” to housing; the “right” to a job—although who needs that once you’ve got all the others? The proposed European Constitution extends the laundry list: the constitutional right to clean water and environmental protection. Every right you could ever want, except the right to be free from undue intrusions by the state. M. Giscard d’Estaing, the former French president and chairman of the European constitutional convention, told me at the time that he had bought a copy of the U.S. Constitution at a bookstore in Washington and carried it around with him in his pocket. Try doing that with his Euro-constitution, and you’ll be walking with a limp after ten minutes and calling for a sedan chair after twenty: As Professor Rahe notes, it’s 450 pages long. And, when your “constitution” is that big, imagine how swollen the attendant bureaucracy and regulation is. The author points out that, in France, “80 per cent of the legislation passed by the National Assembly in Paris originates in Brussels”—that is, at the European Union’s civil service. Who drafts it? Who approves it? Who do you call to complain? Who do you run against and in what election? And where do you go to escape it? Not to the next town, not to the next county, not to the next country.
In The Spirit of the Laws (1748), “the celebrated Montesquieu” (as both Madison and Hamilton called him) concluded that England had developed, in Professor Rahe’s summation, “a new form of government more conducive to liberty and graced with greater staying power than any polity theretofore even imagined.” The key words here, and the theme of Professor Rahe’s book, are “staying power.” Anyone can start a republic. The challenge that remains was posed by Ben Franklin: Can you “keep it”?
Examining England’s “crowned republic” in the wake of Montesquieu and Rousseau, Tocqueville wrote that, from the seventeenth century on, you could find “the classes mixed up with one another … wealth become power, equality before the law, equality in taxation, freedom of the press, public debate—all new principles that the society of the Middle Ages did not know. But these are precisely the new things which, introduced little by little and with art into the old body, reanimated it without risking its dissolution.” Monarchies do not always evolve, and republics seek to put their theoretical perfection into practice too instantly. If you abolish, wrote Montesquieu, “the prerogatives of the lords, the clergy, the nobility & the towns,” you’re on a fast track to “a state popular—or, indeed, a state despotic.”
Thus, Tocqueville’s great insight—that what prevents the “state popular” from declining into a “state despotic” is the strength of the intermediary institutions between the sovereign and the individual. The French revolution abolished everything and subordinated all institutions to the rule of central authority. The New World was more fortunate: “The principle and lifeblood of American liberty” was, according to Tocqueville, municipal independence. “With the state government, they had limited contact; with the national government, they had almost none,” writes Professor Rahe:
In New England, their world was the township; in the South, it was the county; and elsewhere it was one or the other or both… . Self-government was the liberty that they had fought the War of Independence to retain, and this was a liberty that in considerable measure Americans in the age of Andrew Jackson still enjoyed.
For Tocqueville, this is a critical distinction between America and the faux republics of his own continent. “It is in the township that the strengths of free peoples resides,” he wrote. “Municipal institutions are for liberty what primary schools are for science; they place it within reach of the people.” In America, democracy is supposed to be a participatory sport not a spectator one: In Europe, every five years you put an X on a piece of paper and subsequently discover which of the party candidates on the list at central office has been delegated to represent you in fast-tracking all those E.U. micro-regulations through the rubber-stamp legislature. By contrast, American democracy is a game to be played, not watched: You go to Town Meeting, you denounce the School Board budget, you vote to close a road, you run for cemetery commissioner.
Does that distinction still hold? As Professor Rahe argues, in the twentieth century the intermediary institutions were belatedly hacked away—not just self-government at town, county, and state level, but other independent outposts: church, family, civic associations. Today, very little stands between the individual and the sovereign, which is why schoolgirls in Dillon, South Carolina think it entirely normal to beseech Good King Barack the Hopeychanger to do something about classroom maintenance.
I say “Good King Barack,” but truly that does an injustice to ye medieval tyrants of yore. As Tocqueville wrote: “There was a time in Europe in which the law, as well as the consent of the people, clothed kings with a power almost without limits. But almost never did it happen that they made use of it.” His Majesty was an absolute tyrant—in theory. But in practice he was in his palace hundreds of miles away. A pantalooned emissary might come prancing into your dooryard once every half-decade and give you a hard time, but for the most part you got on with your life relatively undisturbed. “The details of social life and of individual existence ordinarily escaped his control,” wrote Tocqueville. But what would happen if administrative capability were to evolve to make it possible “to subject all of his subjects to the details of a uniform set of regulations”?
That moment has now arrived. And administrative despotism turns out to be very popular: Why, we need more standardized rules, from coast to coast—and on to the next coast. After all, if Europe can harmonize every trivial imposition on the citizen, why can’t the world?
Would it even be possible to hold the American revolution today? The Boston Tea Party? Imagine if George III had been able to sit in his palace across the ocean, look at the security-camera footage, press a button, and freeze the bank accounts of everyone there. Oh, well, we won’t be needing another revolt, will we? But the consequence of funding the metastasization of government through the confiscation of the fruits of the citizen’s labor is the remorseless shriveling of liberty.
Is it, as Mark Levin’s caller said, “inevitable”? No, not quite. But it seems like the way to bet. When President Bush used to promote the notion of democracy in the Muslim world, there was a line he liked to fall back on: “Freedom is the desire of every human heart.” Are you quite sure? It’s doubtful whether that’s actually the case in Gaza and Waziristan, but we know for absolute certain that it’s not in Paris and Stockholm, London and Toronto, Buffalo and New Orleans. The story of the Western world since 1945 is that, invited to choose between freedom and government “security,” large numbers of people vote to dump freedom every time—the freedom to make their own decisions about health care, education, property rights, and eventually (as we already see in Europe, Canada, American campuses, and the disgusting U.N. Human Rights Council) what you’re permitted to say and think.
I’m often struck by how much of our language has become metaphorical: A few years ago, a Fleet Street colleague accidentally booked himself into a conference on “building bridges” assuming it would be some multiculti community outreach yakfest. It turned out to be a panel of engineers discussing bridge construction. Yet in an important sense the ability to build real bridges is indeed an attribute of community. A friend of mine is a New Hampshire “selectman,” one of those municipal offices Tocqueville found so admirable. In 2003, a state highway inspector rode through and condemned one of the town’s bridges, on a dirt road that serves maybe a dozen houses.
That’s the bad news. The good news was the 80/20 state/town funding plan, under which, if you applied to Concord for a new bridge, the state would pay 80 percent of the cost, the town 20. So they did. The state estimated the cost at $320,000, so the town’s share would be $64,000. Great. So the town threw up a temporary bridge just down river from the condemned one, and waited for the state to get going. Six years later, the temporary bridge has worn out, and the latest revised estimate is $655,000, such that the town’s share would be $131,000.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that, under the “stimulus” bill, they can put in for the 60/40 federal/state bridge funding plan, under which the feds pay 60 percent, and the state pays 40, and thus the town would be on the hook for 20 percent of the 40 percent, if you follow. If they applied for the program now, the bridge might be built by, oh, 2015, 2020, and it’ll only be $1.2 million, or $4 million, or $12 million, or whatever the estimate’ll be by then.
But who knows? By 2015, there might be some 70/30 UN/federal bridge plan, under which the UN pays 70 percent, and the feds pay 30, and thus the town would only be liable for 20 percent of the state’s 40 percent of the feds’ 30 percent. And the estimate for the bridge will be a mere $2.7 billion.
While the Select Board was pondering this, another bridge was condemned. The state’s estimate was $415,000, and, given that the previous bridge had been on the to-do list for six years, they weren’t ready to pencil this second one in on the schedule just yet. So instead the town put in a new bridge from a local contractor. Cost: $30,000. Don’t worry; it’s all up to code—and a lot safer than the worn-out temporary bridge still waiting for the 80/20/60/40/70/30 deal to kick in. As my friend said at the meet- ing: “Screw the state. Let’s do it ourselves.”
“Screw the state” is not a Tocquevillian formulation, but he would have certainly agreed with the latter sentiment. When something goes wrong, a European demands to know what the government’s going to do about it. An American does it himself. Or he used to—in the Jacksonian America a farsighted Frenchman understood so well. “Human dignity,” writes Professor Rahe, “is bound up with taking responsibility for conducting one’s own affairs.” When the state annexes that responsibility, the citizenry are indeed mere sheep to the government shepherd. Paul Rahe concludes his brisk and trenchant examination of republican “staying power” with specific proposals to reclaim state and local power from Washington, and with a choice: “We can be what once we were, or we can settle for a gradual, gentle descent into servitude.” I wish I were more sanguine about how that vote would go.
WSJ: The Seinfeld Hearings
Reply #18 on:
July 13, 2009, 07:30:29 AM »
By RANDY E. BARNETT
If you suspect this week's Senate confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor will be, like "Seinfeld," a show about nothing, you are probably right. To understand why, we need to revisit an era that remade how lawyers and the public think about law, and especially the Constitution.
In the 1930s, academics developed a philosophy they called "legal realism" to undercut judicial resistance to "progressive" statutes such as laws restricting the hours a baker or a woman could work. Legal realism elevated just results over the rule of law. It saw analysis of "the law" as an after-the-fact rationalization that allowed reactionary judges to conceal their empathy for the oppressed. Because legal realists believed judges inevitably made law when they ruled, they thought judges should decide cases with progressive ends in mind.
At the same time, and somewhat inconsistently, realist progressives also condemned judges who declared progressive federal and state laws to be unconstitutional as judicial activists who were thwarting the will of the people. Never mind that the Supreme Court was only tepidly enforcing the original meaning of the Constitution and was upholding the vast majority of enlightened regulations. Any interference of the will of the people was deemed to be undemocratic.
Today we live in a legal world in which many progressives and conservatives share the legal realists' preoccupation with results. So justices must be chosen who will reach the politically correct results or opposed because they will reach the wrong results. Judicial confirmation hearings are thereby turned into a game of gotcha, with questioners trying to trip up the other side's nominees, and nominees quite properly refusing to reveal the only thing their inquisitors truly care about: how they would rule in particular cases that are likely to come before the Court.
But postures must be assumed and questions must be asked. So senators and nominees opine about two empty concepts. The first is "stare decisis" or precedent: Will the nominee follow the hallowed case of U.S. v. Whatchamacallit or not?
Of course, the legal realists detested precedent, which in their time stood in the way of their progressive agenda. Nothing has really changed. Both sides only want to respect the precedents that lead to the results they like. No one thinks justices should follow every precedent, so the crucial issue is picking and choosing which to follow and which to ignore. But how? Well, by the results, of course.
Now, when it comes to the meaning of the Constitution, I agree that precedent should not bind the Supreme Court. The written Constitution remains fixed, regardless of whether past decisions have gotten its meaning wrong. I am grateful that the Supreme Court reversed Plessy v. Ferguson -- the 1896 case that gave us "separate but equal" and an unconstitutional system of racial apartheid. Unfortunately, neither Democratic nor Republican senators will decry the post-New Deal rulings that transformed our constitutional order from what Princeton professor Stephen Macedo has called "islands of [government] powers in a sea of rights" to "islands of rights in a sea of [government] powers." Unless they can explain how we know which precedents to follow and which to reverse -- apart from liking the results -- all pontificating about "stare decisis" is really about nothing.
The second empty issue to be discussed is the bugaboo of "judicial activism" and its conjoined twin, "judicial restraint," which today's judicial conservatives have inherited from New Deal progressives. But what exactly is "activism"? Is it activism when any popularly enacted law is held unconstitutional? Neither Democrats or Republicans truly believe this, however, since they want judges to strike down laws as unconstitutional when doing so leads to the ["]right result["] (but not when it doesn't). So judicial activism means thwarting the "will of the people" when critics agree with the people, while they complain about the "tyranny of the majority" when they disagree.
We can do better.
Supreme Court confirmation hearings do not have to be about either results or nothing. They could be about clauses, not cases. Instead of asking nominees how they would decide particular cases, ask them to explain what they think the various clauses of the Constitution mean. Does the Second Amendment protect an individual right to arms? What was the original meaning of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment? (Hint: It included an individual right to arms.) Does the 14th Amendment "incorporate" the Bill of Rights and, if so, how and why? Does the Ninth Amendment protect judicially enforceable unenumerated rights? Does the Necessary and Proper Clause delegate unlimited discretion to Congress? Where in the text of the Constitution is the so-called Spending Power (by which Congress claims the power to spend tax revenue on anything it wants) and does it have any enforceable limits?
Don't ask how the meaning of these clauses should be applied in particular circumstances. Just ask about the meaning itself and how it should be ascertained. Do nominees think they are bound by the original public meaning of the text? Even those who deny this still typically claim that original meaning is a "factor" or starting point. If so, what other factors do they think a justice should rely on to "interpret" the meaning of the text? Even asking whether "We the People" in the U.S. Constitution originally included blacks and slaves -- as abolitionists like Lysander Spooner and Frederick Douglass contended, or not as Chief Justice Roger Taney claimed in Dred Scott v. Sandford -- will tell us much about a nominee's approach to constitutional interpretation. Given that this is hardly a case that will come before them, on what grounds could nominees refuse to answer such questions?
Of course, inquiring into clauses not cases would require senators to know something about the original meaning of the Constitution. Do they? It would be interesting to hear what Sen. Al Franken thinks about such matters, but no more so than any other member of the Judiciary Committee. Such a hearing would not only be entertaining, it would be informative and educational. After all, it would be about the meaning of the Constitution, which is to say it would be about something.
Mr. Barnett teaches at Georgetown Law and is the author of "Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty" (Princeton, 2005).
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