Rebel Yid on Twitter Rebel Yid on Facebook
Print This Post Print This Post

Whitewashing History

From Ben Shapiro at National Review, We Can’t Erase History — Or Simplify It

History is important only if we recognize that it isn’t some sort of Punch-and-Judy drama to be acted out with puppets in black hats and white. Most human beings throughout human history have stood with an evil of some sort or another. FDR, whom leftists embrace, interned the Japanese and turned Jews away from America’s shores during the Holocaust. JFK reportedly attempted to turn Sammy Davis Jr. away from his inaugural gala because Davis was dating a white woman. Bill Clinton drafted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and did nothing during the Rwandan genocide. Barack Obama opposed same-sex marriage until it became inconvenient to do so, and he stood by while Bashar al-Assad murdered tens of thousands of his citizens. Should all of their names be wiped from buildings? Or should we teach history as it actually happened, with all of its ugliness and all of its bravery?

Leaving names on buildings, and flags in churches, and statues on campuses isn’t about honoring those names, flags, and statues. It’s about recognizing the past, which is brutal and complex. Doing so reminds us that our present isn’t too clear-cut, either, and that anyone approaching current events with the smooth self-assurance of ultimate virtue simply hasn’t been judged by history yet.

Print This Post Print This Post

The Threat of Economic Nationalism

From National Review, Jonah Goldberg, Down with the Administrative State:

Rich Lowry and I have been going back and forth on nationalism vs. patriotism quite a bit. I’m not going to revisit all of that because it’s already gotten way too theoretical. But what I do want to say is that when nationalism gets translated into public policy, particularly economic policy, it is almost invariably an enemy of individual liberty and free markets. This should be most obvious when it comes to trade. The Trumpian case for economic nationalism is inseparable from the claim that politicians can second guess businesses about how best to allocate resources.

Bannon is desperate to launch a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure program in the name of economic nationalism. He thinks it will be as “exciting as the 1930s.”

Well, “exciting” is one word for the 1930s, but it’s not the one I would use and it’s not one that conservatives — until five minutes ago — would have used. FDR was a proud economic nationalist. The National Recovery Administration (NRA) was slathered in nationalism. It was run by Hugh Johnson, the man who ran the draft during the First World War and who tried to literally militarize the economy. Under the NRA, a dry cleaner, Jacob Maged, was sent to jail for charging a nickel under the mandated price for pressing a suit. Under the NRA, big businesses created a guild-style corporatist political economy.

Economic nationalism taken to its logical conclusion is socialism, with pit stops at corporatism, crony capitalism, and the like. When you socialize something, you nationalize it and vice versa.

Now I don’t think that Trump and Bannon want to go nearly that far. Many of their proposed tax and economic policies will help the free market. But nationalism has no inherent limiting principle. The alt-right nationalists despise the Constitution precisely because it is a check on nationalism. For the unalloyed nationalist mind, it’s us over them, now and forever — and the definitions of “us” and “them” can get dismayingly elastic. (“This is the core claim of populism,” writes Jan-Wener Muller in What is Populism, “only some of the people are really the people.”)

HKO

A fascinating thought on the distinction between nationalism, patriotism and socialism.

Print This Post Print This Post

Overreach of Bureaucratic Power

from The National Review, Matthew Continetti writes Who Rules The United States:

Here was a case of current and former national security officials using their position, their sources, and their methods to crush a political enemy. And no one but supporters of the president seems to be disturbed. Why? Because we are meant to believe that the mysterious, elusive, nefarious, and to date unproven connection between Donald Trump and the Kremlin is more important than the norms of intelligence and the decisions of the voters.

Nor is Flynn the only example of nameless bureaucrats working to undermine and ultimately overturn the results of last year’s election. According to the New York Times, civil servants at the EPA are lobbying Congress to reject Donald Trump’s nominee to run the agency. Is it because Scott Pruitt lacks qualifications? No. Is it because he is ethically compromised? Sorry. The reason for the opposition is that Pruitt is a critic of the way the EPA was run during the presidency of Barack Obama. He has a policy difference with the men and women who are soon to be his employees. Up until, oh, this month, the normal course of action was for civil servants to follow the direction of the political appointees who serve as proxies for the elected president.

How quaint. These days an architect of the overreaching and antidemocratic Waters of the U.S. regulation worries that her work will be overturned so she undertakes extraordinary means to defeat her potential boss. But a change in policy is a risk of democratic politics. Nowhere does it say in the Constitution that the decisions of government employees are to be unquestioned and preserved forever. Yet that is precisely the implication of this unprecedented protest. “I can’t think of any other time when people in the bureaucracy have done this,” a professor of government tells the paper. That sentence does not leave me feeling reassured.

But here’s the difference. Legislative roadblocks, adversarial journalists, and public marches are typical of a constitutional democracy. They are spelled out in our founding documents: the Senate and its rules, and the rights to speech, a free press, and assembly. Where in those documents is it written that regulators have the right not to be questioned, opposed, overturned, or indeed fired, that intelligence analysts can just call up David Ignatius and spill the beans whenever they feel like it?

HKO

Eisenhower warned of the Military Industrial Complex.  An independent and unaccountable federal bureaucracy is a far greater threat,

Print This Post Print This Post

Liberty and Democracy

From George Will at National Review, Where Justice Scalia Went Wrong:

There is no philosophizing in the Constitution — until the Founders’ philosophy is infused into it by construing the document as a charter of government for a nation that is, in Lincoln’s formulation, dedicated to a proposition that Scalia implicitly disparaged as impractical and unpragmatic. The proposition is that all persons are created equal in their possession of natural rights, to “secure” which — the Declaration’s word — the government is instituted. In Lincoln’s formulation, the Constitution is the “frame of silver” for the “apple of gold” that is the Declaration. Silver is valuable and frames are important, but gold is more precious and frames derive their importance from what they frame.

The drama of American democracy derives from the tension between the natural rights of the individual and the constructed right of the community to make such laws as the majority desires. Natural rights are affirmed by the Declaration; majority rule, circumscribed and modulated, is constructed by the Constitution and a properly engaged judiciary is duty-bound to declare majority acts invalid when they abridge natural rights.

Natural rights, which are grounded in nature, are thus “independent of” the Constitution. They are not, however, “outside” of it because its paramount purpose is the protection of those rights.

The Ninth Amendment says: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” If you believe, as Robert Bork did, that this amendment is a meaningless “inkblot” you must believe that the Framers were slapdash draftsmen about this, and only this, provision. Scalia believed that “the whole theory of democracy . . . is that the majority rules. . . . You protect minorities only because the majority determines that there are certain minority positions that deserve protection. . . . The minority loses, except to the extent that the majority, in its document of government, has agreed to accord the minority rights.”

HKO

For Will the Declaration is part of the Constitution. Our tension is between liberty and democracy.

Print This Post Print This Post

An Illiberal Media

from Jonah Goldberg’s G-File at National Review

I agree with pretty much all of the right-wing criticism of the mainstream media these days, or at least the intelligent stuff, of which there has been plenty. What the MSM still fails to appreciate is the degree to which they’ve spent the last 40 years — at least — presenting news as unbiased and objective when it was in fact coated with, saturated in, and bent by all manner of confirmation biases, self-serving narratives, assumptions, and ideological priorities that leaned left. No, it wasn’t all “fake news” (man, am I exhausted by the ridiculous misuse of that term), at least not most of the time [insert outrage over Duranty’s Pulitzer, Janet Cooke’s and Steve Glass’s fabulations, and of course that time Dan Rather climbed the jackass tree only to hurl himself down, hitting every branch].

I would even go so far as to argue that most of the time liberal bias isn’t even deliberate. Maybe because I’ve been reading so much public-choice theory and psychology stuff of late, I tend to credit conspiracy theories less and groupthink more for the wayward state of the mainstream media (though Mark Hemingway makes a good point about Plowshares’ sub rosa complicity in pushing the Iran deal). Still, the more you get to know elite “objective” journalists, the more you can appreciate that they are trying to do it right. But it also becomes all the more obvious that they live in a social milieu where the borders between the Democratic party, liberal activism, and liberal experts are very, very fuzzy.

For instance, last week I wrote about that ridiculous article in the Washington Post accusing David Gelernter of being “anti-intellectual.” Much of the Post’s “reporting” hinged on a lengthy, catty quote from a member of the Union of Concern Scientists. As I noted, the Union of Concerned Scientists has always been a political operation. It’s a classic example of an outfit that liberal journalists invest with non-partisan authority so they can pass off partisan views as “science” or some other objective expertise.