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Protecting The Promised Land

The Making of a Libertarian, Contrarian, Nonobservant, but Self-Identified Jew by Randy Barnett

Barnett’s father, a strongly identified Jewish atheist, took the lesson of the Holocaust to be that individual rights needed to be protected against the tyranny of the majority, which could easily turn against despised groups like the Jews. For him and his son, the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution made the United States a “promised land” for Jews, who were protected by its curtailment of state power. And as one of four Jews in his high school—“where anti-Semitism was common and not all that well concealed,” he said—Barnett learned early to distrust the wisdom of the crowd. (At the time, he was even “highly skeptical” of Zionism, popular among his Jewish peers, which he thought was “a really bad idea to get all the Jews in one place where they could be more easily exterminated.”)

Today, Barnett sees his libertarian advocacy—with its emphasis on “locking in” constitutional rights—as an effort to “preserve the form of government that made the U.S. a haven for me and for my family,” especially “as the world is now shrinking for Jews” with the rise of global anti-Semitism. What we have in America, he cautioned the conference attendees, “is not to be taken for granted.”

HKO

I would say that fairly sums up my view as well.

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Manufactured Consensus

From Daniel Greenfield in his blog Sultan Knish,  The Left is too Smart to Fail.

Excerpts:

That is why Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize for having good intentions. His actual foreign policy mattered less than the appearance of a new transformative foreign policy based on speeches. Gore promised to be be harsher on Saddam than Bush, but no one remembers that because everyone in the bubble knows that the Iraq War was stupid… and only conservatives do stupid things.

Liberal intelligence exists on the illusion of its self-worth. The magical thinking that guides it in every other area from economics to diplomacy also convinces it that if it believes it is smart, that it will be. The impenetrable liberal consensus in every area is based on this delusion of intelligence. Every policy is right because it’s smart and it’s smart because it’s progressive and it’s progressive because smart progressives say that it is.

Progressives manufacture the consensus of their own intelligence and insist that it proves them right.

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Rules vs Principles

red-tape

From The Wall Street Journal – Book Review: ‘The Rule of Nobody’ by Philip K. Howard

by Stuart Taylor, Jr.

Amid the liberal-conservative ideological clash that paralyzes our government, it’s always refreshing to encounter the views of Philip K. Howard, whose ideology is common sense spiked with a sense of urgency. In “The Rule of Nobody,” Mr. Howard shows how federal, state and local laws and regulations have programmed officials of both parties to follow rules so detailed, rigid and, often, obsolete as to leave little room for human judgment. He argues passionately that we will never solve our social problems until we abandon what he calls a misguided legal philosophy of seeking to put government on regulatory autopilot. He also predicts that our legal-governmental structure is “headed toward a stall and then a frightening plummet toward insolvency and political chaos.”

Mr. Howard, a big-firm lawyer who heads the nonpartisan government-reform coalition Common Good, is no conventional deregulator. But he warns that the “cumulative complexity” of the dense rulebooks that prescribe “every nuance of how law is implemented” leaves good officials without the freedom to do what makes sense on the ground. Stripped of the authority that they should have, he adds, officials have little accountability for bad results. More broadly, he argues that the very structure of our democracy is so clogged by deep thickets of dysfunctional law that it will only get worse unless conservatives and liberals alike cast off their distrust of human discretion.

Conservatives as well as liberals like detailed rules—complete with tedious forms, endless studies and wasteful legal hearings—because they don’t trust each other with discretion. Corporations like them because they provide not only certainty but also “a barrier to entry for potential competitors,” by raising the cost of doing business to prohibitive levels for small businesses with fresh ideas and other new entrants to markets. Public employees like them because detailed rules “absolve them of responsibility.” And, adds Mr. Howard, “lawsuits [have] exploded in this rules-based regime,” shifting legal power to “self-interested plaintiffs’ lawyers,” who have learned that they “could sue for the moon and extract settlements even in cases (as with some asbestos claims) that were fraudulent.”

As Mr. Howard notes, his book is part of a centuries-old rules-versus-principles debate. The philosophers and writers whom he quotes approvingly include Aristotle, James Madison, Isaiah Berlin and Roscoe Pound, a prominent Harvard law professor and dean who condemned “mechanical jurisprudence” and championed broad official discretion. Berlin, for his part, warned against “monstrous bureaucratic machines, built in accordance with the rules that ignore the teeming variety of the living world, the untidy and asymmetrical inner lives of men, and crush them into conformity.” Mr. Howard juxtaposes today’s roughly 100 million words of federal law and regulations with Madison’s warning that laws should not be “so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.”

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Bribery and Extortion

In short, we have come to believe the problem in Washington is a sort of legalized bribery. If outside interests can only be held at bay, we can and will get better leadership.

But what if we are wrong? What if the problem is not bribery . . . but extortion? What if the Permanent Political Class in Washington, made up of individuals from both political parties, is using its coercive public power to not only stay in office but to threaten others and to extract wealth, and in the bargain pick up private benefits for themselves, their friends, and their families?

What we often think of as the bribery of our national leaders by powerful special interests in Washington may actually make more sense understood as extortion by government officials—elected and unelected. Far from being passive recipients of money and favors, they make it happen. They leverage their positions to shake the money tree for themselves and their political allies. And as we will see, they do so using a variety of methods, many of which you probably have never heard of before.

The assumption is that we need to protect politicians from outside influences. But how about protecting ourselves from the politicians?

Excerpt From: Schweizer, Peter. “Extortion.” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (www.hmhco.com). iBooks.

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HKO

The concern about money and politics is worthy.  But the fixation on billionaires with influence, whether it is the Kochs or  Soros, is aimed at the wrong target.  The larger problem is the corruption of the political class who rigs the game to extort payments from those who can pay.

Once the government justifies its intrusion into every aspect of our commercial and private lives there is too much temptation from morally weak elected leaders to leverage this power into financial gain. Gridlock and temporary measures serve the financial objectives of the perpetual campaign.

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The Immortal Corporation

“Politics is a kind of island in the evolutionary stream—isolated, unchanging, incapable of learning because it is insulated against going extinct. Politics is the last monopoly, the Immortal Corporation. You’ll never see a capitol building with a GOING OUT OF BUSINESS sign hanging out front—even genuinely bankrupt, undeniably insolvent political regimes from Argentina to Greece for the most part go on about their business, even after defaulting on their financial obligations. If the bees in a particular hive make a bad decision about relocating to a new tree, those bees die, and if enough members of a species make similarly poor decisions, that species goes extinct. Consumer products follow a very similar pattern. And if a firm offers enough bad products or makes a sufficient number of bad financial decisions, it vanishes, too (unless it is a politically connected Wall Street bank or an influential manufacturing concern—more about that later). Firms learn from their mistakes and from the mistakes of others. And, like individual human beings, they learn by copying more successful efforts. Individual companies come and go, entire industries rise and fall, but the store of knowledge embedded in our aggregate economic practices continues to grow and to become ever more refined: We really do know how to make much better cars, telephones, and refrigerators than we did in 1960. But we do not have better politics. And politics here means both the formal structures of government and those nongovernmental institutions closely enmeshed with them, for example, the ethanol industry, which is a private, for-profit enterprise that by the industry’s own account simply would not exist without a federal mandate that all gasoline contain a minimum percentage of ethanol in the blend. Government-supported firms such as General Motors and General Electric are properly considered part of politics, as are the specific operations of other private firms that operate through the power of government, for example, Lockheed Martin’s defense-contracting wing.”

Excerpt From: Kevin D. Williamson. “The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome.” HarperCollins, 2013-05-01. iBooks.

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