Limits on government power

Mar 132013

Those of my fellow conservatives who think winning elections will fix things should read this article by Ivan Krastev, and ponder.

The nature of any political regime for self-correction is its major characteristic and it is the capacity of self-correction and public accountability that it is at the heart of any democratic advantage. There are now many in Kremlin who, on the contrary, think that excessive democratisation has been responsible for many of the problems that new country faces. Many envy ‘true’ Chinese authoritarianism. But the truth is that in many of its practices China is more democratic than Russia, and its decision-making is undoubtedly superior. Over the last two decades, when China was busy with capacity building, Russia seems to have been pre-occupied with incapacity hiding. When Western commentators try to make sense of the different performance of the new authoritarians, they would well advised to look beyond formal institutional design.

via Is China more democratic than Russia? | openDemocracy.

May 262011

My comment in response to Don Boudreaux’s article at The Freeman, “Stop the Bad Guys.”

“Excellent. I have for some time been saying the hubris of Obamacare’s invasion of our health care system is similar to the hubris of George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. I thought I was the only one to notice, but this article explains it a lot more completely than I ever knew.”

Mar 242011

The latest issue of The Weekly Standard just arrived.   It reminds me of the article in today’s WSJ, Forced into Medicare : A federal judge tells seniors to take it or lose Social Security.   That article has news to remind us that the left really doesn’t care about helping out the less fortunate so much as controlling people’s lives.   It’s another example of how the left finds it offensive that there are people who won’t take part in social welfare programs.   It makes me wonder if these people are in constant need some sort of Eroticism-of-Power fix.  (If there’s not a Latin name for that syndrome, there should be.)

Then I see The Weekly Standard, and I have to wonder the same thing about a certain type of conservative.    The theme is, “Once more into the breach.”   We are told that inside there are articles on the air strikes in Lybia:

  • Max Boot: Qaddafi must go
  • Thomas Donnelly & Gary Schmitt:  No substitute for power
  • William Kristol:  The party of freedom
  • Stephen F. Hayes: The slow-motion president

It makes me wonder if we can count on these conservatives to grok the concept of a government of limited powers.    Especially that Donnelly & Schmidt title makes me wonder.

Sep 032010

A couple of items in today’s news show that the love of learning has not completely disappeared in today’s society:

1. Vladimir Putin’s police conducted a raid on the offices of the New Times, an opposition magazine in Moscow. It’s part of what are called “investigative actions.” This desire to investigate could inspire a higher degree of intellectual curiosity than has been shown thus far by Barak Obama’s administration, which has been content to do no more than badmouth and marginalize its opposition news organizations.

2. Diana West reports on how back in 2003, Allen West, who is running for Congress in Florida’s 22nd District, fired a pistol near the head of an uncooperative Iraqi in order to get him to share his knowledge about assassination plots and ambushes directed against U.S. troops. He apparently realized that you can’t create an intellectually stimulating environment where you don’t have a free and open exchange of ideas.

Aug 202010

The Weekly Standard had a little too much fun with Todd Purdum’s lame defense of President Obama in Vanity Fair. Not that there is anything wrong with Obama-bashing per se, but sometimes it causes the practitioners to take their eye off the ball. Like this time, under the heading, “Excuses, Excuses“:

Todd Purdum explains in Vanity Fair that Washington is “broken.” The presidency is under too much pressure. “The modern presidency … has become a job of such gargantuan size, speed, and complexity as to be all but unrecognizable to most of the previous chief executives,” Purdum writes.

…And there’s not enough time in the day for the president. Well, you’ve heard all this before. It’s the too-big-for-one-person excuse first trotted out decades ago to minimize the stumbling and bumbling of Jimmy Carter. It didn’t boost Carter’s approval rating, nor is it likely to jack up Obama’s. But come to think of it, that excuse has the ring of truth. The presidency was a job too big for Carter—and it may be for Obama as well.

Obama may be too inexperienced, and Carter may have been a malicious fool, but George W. Bush wasn’t exactly Mr. Competent, either. And do we really want a president who can master the monster our government has come? Wouldn’t that require someone of Stalinist powers and Clintonian inclinations? No, the presidency ought to be a job that can be handled by any of hundreds of honest and talented persons in the country.

Instead of using the current situation as an excuse to point out the relative incompetence of President Obama, we should instead be using it to point out that Purdum is right. Government is too “gargantuan” and “complex,” and it needs to be scaled back in size and scope so it doesn’t live or die by whoever is at the top. It needs to be able to function when the top office is occupied by those who are not quite the best and brightest among us.

Apr 302010

My comment on an article at the WSJ titled, “The ACLU Approves Limits on Speech.”

If there are such limits [on corporate campaign contributions], then congressional earmarks need to count as corporate campaign contributions. Not only that, but if a member of Congress gets to identify himself with a DOE grant or USDA grant in his state or district, e.g. by putting his name on press releases about it, then that needs to count as a corporate campaign contribution as well.

That will help even the playing field between incumbents and uppity upstarts. But even with that, we still need congressional term limits.

Feb 172010

I was pleased to see John Willson talking up George Washington’s reaction to the Newburgh Conspiracy over at Front Porch Republic. It’s a fitting topic to think about on President’s Day. My response is here:

Now there’s an idea! Let’s abolish the stupid President’s Day holiday and replace it with Newburgh Day on March 15.

King George 3 appreciated the significance of that event. We should, too.

Several years ago when some of us were compiling our lists of the Ten Most Significant Political Events of the Millenium, I put this Newburgh event close to the top of my list, if not at the very top.

Ah, I found it in my e-mail archives. What follows was my contribution back in the closing days of the last millenium.

1. Martin Luther’s speech to Emperor Charles V, ending with “Hier steh’ ich. Ich kann nicht anders.” Actually, he probably didn’t say those exact words, but the meaning was clear. This example paved the way for a later hero such as Linda Tripp to stand tall and resist the full force and fury of a trillion dollar government and its hate-spewing groupies.

2. George Washington’s gentle refusal to take part in the Newburgh Conspiracy in 1783. His willingness to relinquish power, and his refusal to grab more power when it was there for the taking, is an event almost without parallel even in American history, but it was the defining moment for the political history of the United States.

3. The invention of the Printing Press

My response to Dr. Willson’s response is below. I think we’re straying a bit from the original topic.

Dr. Willson, you could have written a lot about Martin Luther vs the Roman Church that could have set a Lutheran like myself to squirming. You could have taken the side of Thomas More in the debates over the issues of authority and unity, for example. You could have poked at Luther’s doctrine of sola scriptura. But to compare the courage of Luther with that of the Holy Roman Emperor? There was little risk of Charles having to give up life and fortune. He knew where his social status and bling-bling came from. He was taking the side that kept his bread buttered. As to his sacred honor, it would have been honorable to honor the safe-conduct that he had used to get Luther to come to Worms. Then he could have had the courage to give his speech to Luther’s face instead of talking behind his back after the good monk had escaped his treachery. Yes, Luther had an escape planned, and good for him. There was no need for him to be a passive martyr, any more than Linda Tripp or any of Clinton’s victims should have been criticized for having a possible “book deal” by which they might support themselves in the face of ostracism and blackballing. Luther needed an escape route. Charles V had no need of one.

It’s unfortunate that we’re not spending more time talking about how to celebrate Newburgh Day. Where do we buy Newburgh Day greeting cards, for example? What would be an appropriate gift for one’s spouse?

Feb 112010

President Obama says he is agnostic about keeping his campaign promises. That’s OK. I’ve been atheistic about him for a long time.

But here are some conditions before we even think about increasing taxes. These items should help offset the damage.

  • Abolish public employee unions and re-instate the Hatch Act.
  • Enact term limits for members of Congress. No, they do not need to be severe limits, but they do need to result in at least a 10 percent turnover. Yes, we need a Constitutional amendment to do it. So get cracking.
  • Eliminate ag subsidies. Cold turkey.

Otherwise there is little point.

Oct 182009

The following is what I wrote in response to the Battle Creek Enquirer article, “State to hear B.C.’s voice : Forum gives area residents a say in Michigan’s future.” I was especially responding to the part that said, “Michael McCullough, general manager and executive editor of the Enquirer, said the goal is to rise above partisanship for the good of the state.”

Rise above partisanship for the good of the state? Yeck. Sounds way too totalitarian to me.

And now I see that John Schwarz is involved.

What we need is more partisan bickering, not any “rising above bipartisanship”. Partisan bickering is what made our country great. (Think back to the terrible things that the Adams and Jefferson factions said about each other. They were both right in their nasty, vicious criticisms of the other side, and their comments still apply. But we got a workable system out of it, to some extent because they wouldn’t let each other get things done.

Oct 152009

“For some people, the urge to regulate is as strong as the urge to copulate.”

That is the commented I posted in response to a David Harsanyi article at the Denver Post:

Who is David Harsanyi? I never heard of him until I followed the links on a Russ Roberts article at Cafe Hayek. Now that I’ve looked at a sample, it looks like he will be a good one to watch.

Here’s how today’s article begins:

How can Americans be expected to wrestle with the myriad of dangers that confront them each day? Insalubrious cereal? Unregulated garage sales? Pools of death? Sometimes it’s too much to process.

You know what we are desperately crying out for? An army of crusading federal regulatory agents with unfettered power. Who else has the fortitude and foresight to keep us all safe?

Mercifully, as The Washington Post recently reported, many of President Barack Obama’s appointees “have been quietly exercising their power over the trappings of daily life . . . awakening a vast regulatory apparatus with authority over nearly every U.S. workplace, 15,000 consumer products and most items found in pantries and medicine cabinets.”

If there’s anything Americans are hankering for in their everyday lives, it’s a vast regulatory apparatus. Hey, it’s dangerous out there.