Liberty & Power: Group Blog
Broder cites constitutional scholar Louis Fisher, who says that over the last 2+ years, much of the blame for our current foreign policy dilemma can be placed on the legislative branch. He's right. Since 9/11, Congress has shirked its constitutional power over war and peace in a disgraceful orgy of buck-passing and ass-covering. When it comes to the war power, Congress has said to the president, in essence,"hey, it's your call!"
The use-of-force resolution Congress passed immediately after September 11, 2001, is a blanket delegation of authority to the president, authorizing him to make war on ''those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons'' [emphasis added]. By its plain terms, the resolution leaves it to the president to decide when the evidence that a target nation has cooperated with al-Qaeda justifies war. It's an invitation to abuse, and it's amazing that it hasn't been abused thus far, to justify war with other nations on the neocon hit list.
The Bush administration, which continues to fall into the fallacy of dividing people in the Middle East into neat and tidy anti-U.S. terrorists/pro-U.S. freedom fighters categories, should take note.
The Supreme Court has upheld the fascistic campaign-finance law, which limits how much money people can give to political parties (who’d want to do that?) and, even more egregiously, bans political “issue ads” by private groups in the last 60 days of campaigns. The 5-4 majority said the appearance of government corruption justifies these restrictions. In other words, the distributive state requires the suppression of free speech and private property (money). Or in still other words, if the powers that be can make people think the system isn’t corrupt, it can carry on indefinitely.
Oh, one last thing: this is one of the bills that President George W. Bush didn’t veto. (He hasn’t vetoed any, actually.)
Thomas Friedman, who supports the war in Iraq, notes in his Sunday New York Times article,"Presidents Remade by War," that the events of war often transform presidents. Such men as Lincoln and Wilson moved toward broader,"bigger purpose" in the wars in which they were engaged. What started out for Lincoln as a war to preserve the Union became a war to fulfill the promise of the Declaration of Independence. What started out as a purely European mess for Wilson became a war to make the world safe for democracy. And what started out as a war to strip Iraq of weapons of mass destruction has now become a war of democratic nation-building, in the hands of George W. Bush.
It should not be forgotten, however, that both the Civil War and World War I entailed massive increases in the scope and power of government—increases that simply became institutionalized in the postwar period, as a means to achieving such"bigger purpose." As Jeffrey Rogers Hummel argues, the history of the American Civil War was one of Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men. It entailed a face-off between Republican neomercantilism and confederate war socialism, and while slavery ended, the war had perennial deleterious effects on American political institutions and culture. And, as Thomas Fleming argues, US involvement in World War I only provided The Illusion of Victory. It resulted in a massive increase in US government power at home and abroad, and laid the basis for the nightmarish events that would engulf the globe in a Second World War and beyond.
It matters not if such wars are pursued for petty reasons or for"bigger purpose." Cliche though it is, the road to hell is paved with good...
I suppose I should say a word or two about myself. I work quite happily as senior editor at the Cato Institute, though in anything I write here or on my own website, I'm speaking for myself, not my employer. I also live inside the Beltway, though my neighborhood looks more like El Salvador than K Street. I prefer it that way.
I know, I'm supposed to say how awful it is to live and work in Washington D.C. But I like it. If you've got a sense of humor and a taste for the grotesque--which you'd better if you make your living following politics--living in D.C. gives you ringside seats. Besides, liberty isn't totally dead in the nation's capital. We still allow smoking in bars.
A case in point is Hal Lindsay, the author of the Late, Great Planet Earth, and a zealous supporter of the war. Lindsay believes that the entire Jewish population will be wiped out in the end times, except for 144,000 Jewish “Billy Grahams.” His views on American foreign policy, including support for the war, are in great part motivated by these beliefs.
When Horowitz leads by example and starts exposing and criticizing the Hal Lindsay faction in the pro-war movement, he might be able to make a more credible case.
When Horowitz leads by example and starts exposing and criticizing the Hal Lindsay faction in the pro-war movement, he might be able to make a more credible case.
That's the profoundly provocative message of L&P colleague Arthur Silber in his essay"Please Do Not Call Me an 'Objectivist'," at the Light of Reason blog. And it's a message with which I find myself largely in agreement.
I say"largely" because I know, deep down, that, in terms of the fundamentals of Ayn Rand's framework, both Arthur and I are certainly in sync with"Objectivism," the name that Rand chose for her philosophy. It is an integrated system of thought—of realism, egoism, individualism, and capitalism—and it irks me that those of us who embrace it may end up forfeiting the"Objectivist" label to those who undermine its essential radicalism. Given the fact that I've been calling myself a"dialectical libertarian" now for about ten years, I suppose I forfeited that label some time ago.
But it is hard to disguise one's disenchantment with what has become of"Objectivism" in an era of increasing US government intervention at home and abroad. Too many of its most visible spokespeople have become apologists for neoconservatism, at war with Rand's radical legacy, which I discuss here, here, and here.
I, myself, have suggested that there might be a developing distinction between"Objectivism" and"Randianism." As I argue here, it is conceivable that future...
A lot of people were outraged when Yasser Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 – a choice which people are still protesting.
I'm no fan of Arafat, but look at the list of folks he shares that dubious honour with. There are certainly some good people on that list (including, I believe, the only libertarian: French economist Frédéric Passy, recipient of the very first prize in 1901, and perhaps the only person ever to accuse Gustave de Molinari of not being sufficiently libertarian!), but it also includes such pestilent warmongers as:
Theodore Roosevelt – 1906As far as I'm concerned, the Nobel Peace Prize became meaningless as of 1906. Arafat is welcome to it.
Woodrow Wilson – 1919
Henry Kissinger – 1973
Mikhail Gorbachev – 1990
Now, whenever someone is extolling the virtues of government they invariably mention roads. However, it seems the Montgomery County Council does not see the snail’s pace traffic in the area as its responsibility. They have passed an ordinance which will fine all county businesses with 50 or more employees $75 a day if they fail to come up with “traffic mitigation plans” by January first (those with less than 50 have until next January).
A friend of mine has a much better plan to ease the congestion. He suggests the legislative and executive offices of Montgomery County be moved to Fairfax County, while those in Fairfax County be relocated in Prince Georges County and those in that county be shifted to Montgomery County. Once the legislators and bureaucrats have to deal with the results of their negligence on a daily basis, improvements will swiftly follow.
After reading today’s Philadelphia Inquirer , I can at least take small solace that I resisted the temptation to vote for his successor: “Overall spending is up at least 16 percent since he [Bush] took office, far more than the 2 percent average annual inflation rate over the same period....after adjusting for inflation, nondefense spending decreased 0.7 percent during Clinton’s first three years in office while it increased nearly 21 percent during the comparable period under Bush.”
I have argued, as have many others (including Friedrich Hayek, and historian Barbara Tuchman) that the idea of centrally-planned"nation-building" is a delusion doomed to failure, and that history conclusively demonstrates that not everyone in the world wants freedom in precisely the form in which it has manifested itself in the West, and particularly in the United States. This is simply a recognition of the inescapable fact that history and culture matter -- that it is not possible to graft a political system onto a country which has no social or, more importantly, intellectual traditions to support it.
There is nothing remotely racist about any of this. As I said, this is simply a recognition of the fact that the history of any given country is obviously crucial to what may be reasonably expected of that country in the future. Nonetheless, for stating these obvious truths, many hawks have irresponsibly accused people of viewing Arabs and/or Muslims as somehow innately"inferior," as being"unworthy" of"democracy." Such an accusation, at least insofar as it relates to the kind of argument I have been making over the last many months, is simply wrong and without foundation.
Lindsay Perigo, editor of The Free Radical, a New Zealand-based libertarian and Objectivist magazine, wrote a piece condemning"Saddam's Succours" to which I respond in the current issue. In" A Question of Loyalty: A 'Saddamite' Responds to Perigo," I reply to Perigo's criticisms of many who opposed the war in Iraq. Lindsay is a great pal and colleague of mine—I'm even Assistant Editor to the magazine (and you can start here for pics of his recent visit to Brooklyn)—but it doesn't stop us from disagreeing on so many issues. Here's some of what I have to say:
The long-term consequences of the Iraq war are slowly coming into focus. The most recent Bush request for another $87 billion—on top of the $45 billion already spent for military preparation and invasion—is more than double what the US is spending on “homeland security.” The war has contributed to a ballooning deficit that will be in excess of $500 billion next year, “but could reach a cumulative total of $5.8 trillion by 2013” ... The federal debt increases exponentially, even as the US aims to pay off Iraq’s $350 billion foreign debt, not to mention resettlement and reconstruction costs, estimated at another $200 billion over the next decade. And for those who thought Iraqi oil reserves would pay for this: Nice try. Oil revenues from a devastated Iraqi oil industry might...
I have never been a fan of Al Sharpton, but he did a pretty good James Brown imitation during his monologue last night on"Saturday Night Live." On the campaign trail, Sharpton has been resident comedian of the Democratic Party. On hearing that President Bush wanted $87 billion for his new Great Society program in Iraq, Sharpton said:"Why doesn't Bush just run for president of Iraq?" But he's been no kinder to his Democratic foes. Asked if Democratic candidates should have more time to respond to questions during the umpteen debates that have been scheduled on the primary trail, Sharpton answered:"What are we really talking about? A minute or two? It's not like some of them were on the verge of brilliance and somebody cut them off!" Stay tuned. This guy won't be President, but he does have a future as a comedian.
I just posted some thoughts about Tony Kushner's extraordinary play,"Angels in America," which will be shown on HBO beginning tomorrow night. And I've offered some ideas about why, even though I disagree with all of Kushner's explicit political beliefs (he's a committed socialist), I find the play to be marvelously rewarding. Here is part of what I said:
The play is set in the mid-1980s, but I doubt that you'll find it dated at all. Even though a lot of the specific subject matter is about politics and AIDS, it's about many other things as well: about the nature of religion and religious beliefs, about the myths we seem to need in order to live (including founding myths, especially), about"[t]he space between what we'd like to be and what we actually are," about desire, about the connections that occur between the most unlikely people, about fantasy and delusion (including the self-deceptions so many of us also seem to need), and even more. One of the characters in the play remarks that"History is about to crack wide open"—a statement that seems remarkably prescient, given events of the last few years.
And to grasp just how damning Kushner's portrayal of conservatism is, consider this: one of the main characters is a young Mormon Republican (Mormons, and Mormon mythology figure very prominently in the play, in a variety of fascinating ways). This young man, Joe Pitt, is about to go to work for the Reagan Justice Department, with the help of Roy Cohn. Joe is an ardent devotee of the Reagan Revolution, and says at one point:"The truth restored, law restored—that's what President Reagan's done. ... He...
Oh great. The Bush people are looking for “unifying national goals” for the second term. Ideas being kicked around include going to the moon (again?), extending life spans, and eradicating childhood illnesses. According to the Washington Post, “One person consulted by the White House said some aides appear to relish the idea of a ‘Kennedy moment’ for Bush, referring to the 1962 call by President John F. Kennedy for the nation to land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth by the end of the decade.” (Groan.) An administration official “said Bush's closest aides are promoting big initiatives on the theory that they contribute to Bush's image as a decisive leader even if people disagree with some of the specifics. ‘Iraq was big. AIDS is big,’ the official said. ‘Big works. Big grabs attention.’”
This puts Bush squarely in the neocon “national greatest conservatism” camp. As he says on the campaign trail, he wants “great goals worthy of a great nation.”
As a libertarian I know likes to say, Are we to be spared nothing?
Can the Bush supporters spell “chutzpah”? On TV they are falling all over themselves to praise Bush for his political courage in scrapping the steel tariffs. Excuse me—but who put the tariffs on in the first place? His courage supposedly lies in his willingness to risk losing the swing steel states for the sake of free-trade principle. But the supporters neglect to point out that Bush was getting pressure from a swing steel-using state (namely, Michigan), as well as states such as Florida that would have suffered from European retaliation sanctioned by the World Trade Organization. His stated reason for ending the tariffs? They worked! By the way, he promised to protect the steel industry from"dumping." Some man of principle. Humbug!
Thanks, David, for the kind mention of our article at SCSUScholars on grade inflation. We've been concerned about this for quite some time. The issue for us is much worse, as I wrote earlier today:
When I first came to SCSU, students could retake classes to improve their grades and only the highest grade appeared on the transcript. Now, at least, if a student retakes a course the lower grade remains on the transcript. But like Alabama, it does not count in the student's GPA. Since students need a 2.0 to graduate, it is not altogether unusual to find students with a 1.9x retaking a course in which they already had a 'C' to try to buy up to a better grade to bring their GPA up to the standard. Or is that 'standard'?
As I've argued before, the larger issue is the fact that the courses students take nowadays are from departments that cannot enforce grading standards because there are no content-based learning objectives. The common denominator in these course objectives (try this one, for example) are phrasings such as"define and identify multiple perspectives","to expose and identify unexamined values". I simply do not know how one gets a D in this type of course, and from the grade distribution reports, neither do the people who teach the courses.