An excellent book, brief, to the point, a great help in focusing on the essential, and a powerful and incisive refutation of the errors in fashionable/progressive constitutionalism. Though focusing on specific issues like "judicial activism", Sandefur provides a comprehensive account of the basic tasks and features of the Constitution.
Particularly interesting are his accounts of
the tug-of-war on the issue whether to vest citizenship and sovereignty in the states or on the federal level,
how state precedence was an important shield for the anti-abolitionists,
how the 14th amendment was intended to bring about an appropriate balance between state and federal power that would give citizens, in Madison's words, "a double security" as "the different governments will control each other,"
by giving the federal government "power ... to protect by national law the privileges and immunities of all the citizens of the Republic and the inborn rights of every person within its jurisdiction whenever the same shall be abridged or denied by the unconstitutional acts of any State," [p.63], and
"the Slaughter House Court removed the most potent protection against state overreaching and threw that double security out of balance." (p.70)
I am looking for similar books, preferably not too voluminous, that give the reader a concise notion of the essence of the American Constitution and the arguments behind it. I will be grateful for recommendations in the comment section.
Bad news for the wailing libertarian, bad news for those whose belief in liberty makes them feel menaced and inundated everywhere by arbitrary power and injustice, decline and misery, evil and peril.
Depending on how you look at her, freedom is either a concept, or an aspect of reality, a vast and pervasive one, if we are lucky. As a concept it demands perfection and completeness, as part of reality it must accept a position, however prominent, next to other phenomena many of which may not square with the demands of liberty.
The best that we can hope to achieve for freedom is an open society which gives her plenty of space to unfold. However, an open society will never be congruent with freedom. An open society will always be a mixed society in terms of liberal and illiberal elements. With their countless different views of freedom, liberals are among the first to feed the blend of contrasting components that make up an open society.
"The truly great social catastrophes do not arise from a misapplication of the basic principles of a market economy. They arise from a wholesale disrespect for individual liberty, which is manifested in tolerated lynchings and arbitrary arrest, and from a total contempt for private property, through its outright seizure by government forces intent on stifling its opposition or lining its own pockets. The reason why Great Britain and the USA did not go the way of Germany and the Soviet Union in the turmoil of the 1930s was that the political institutions in both our countries were able to hold firm against these palpable excesses even as they went astray on a host of smaller economic issues."
If there are good things happening in this world, we cannot ascribe them to freedom alone, as if all the hindrances in her way no longer matter. If there are good things happening in this world, then this is because of a tolerable, perhaps even felicitous mix of freedom and unfreedom. Thus, a more complete view of freedom ought to accommodate the manner and means by which freedom and unfreedom coexist to bring about a world that gives us Reasons to Be Cheerful.
It is easy to pick up a newspaper, watch television or look on a blog and assume the end is nigh. Between foreign affairs crises, demographic time bombs, debt icebergs and having only hours left to save the NHS (more on that another time…), it would not be unreasonable for us all to assume the world has got a lot worse – that capitalism has failed, inequality has sky-rocketed, and we are living shorter, sadder and more violent lives.
Happily, this is not so. Thanks to capitalism, free trade and globalisation we live in the most prosperous, healthy, safe, equal and free period in human existence. Across the globe, as liberal economic policy and capitalism have left communism and command economies in the dustbin of history, we are seeing remarkable falls in worldwide poverty, hunger, disease, inequality and (despite current humanitarian disasters) deaths from war and natural disaster.
It is worthwhile (as Free Enterprise Award winner Matt Ridley does) looking at the reasons to be happy with our world today and to be optimistic for the future.
The two major problems with modern liberalism (European meaning) are a lack of
(1) theoretical fortitude to generally deal with the vast fields of contingency and indeterminacy opened up by greater freedom, and more specifically, a lack of
(2) doctrinal maturity to guide it in political participation.
Both deficiencies have a common source. The model of social order underlying modern liberalism is the market. But the market is only a subset within the broader social order.
Hume or Smith were never in danger of reducing the system of liberty to a mechanism that describes free markets. But when Hayek speaks of spontaneous order, he is already propagating the narrower vision.
I do not know when and why it occurred, at any rate, the tragic turn of liberalism looms when sight is increasingly lost of the spontaneous order of society at large.
Why would liberalism suffer such constriction? Maybe because its roots lie in a precapitalist world, and more importantly in a world where government could not possibly be anything but very small by later standards. Maybe because its heyday coincided with the breakthrough of commercial society. Small government and commerce looked like the essence of liberalism. They appeared to offer liberalism's ultimate formula for success.
Now, let me explain what I mean by "the vast fields of contingency and indeterminacy opened up by greater freedom."
(1) Freedom brought about capitalism. (2) Capitalism brought about wealth. (3) Wealth required and enabled mass political participation, and wealth made possible government endowed with unprecedented resources. (4) Mass political participation brought about unheard of demands on the state. (5) Unheard of demands on the state brought about big government.
Freedom brought about big government.
It is useful to think outside the usual box, for a moment, and admit that there are not only silly and objectionable grounds for a larger state to happen. At least from stage (3) on, the delta of implications deriving from mass political participation and unprecedented publicly available wealth becomes much too broad and complicated, too contingent and indeterminate to simply wipe away any consideration of larger government as an expression of base doctrinal dazzlement.
However, this is exactly the error committed by the liberal movement. By its very structure, the liberal doctrine was conditioned, or at least predisposed to heavily underweight political processes and the dynamics of state institutions and government. Liberalism yields to this propensity at a time when these are becoming the most powerful forces in society, next to free markets and civil society, by which latter I mean the growing independence of humans and organisations from the tutelage of the powers-that-be.
The irony, nay, the tragedy is that liberalism becomes a creed of political abstention, just at the time when liberty is taking off in the biggest possible way. This is the dawn of the era of the paradox of freedom. Liberty proliferates and grows all over the world, but liberals hardly participate in shaping her fate. Those among them ready to accompany liberty in the political realm quickly amalgamate with other political schools uninhibited to regard politics as a welcome tool to bring mankind advances that the smaller governments of yesteryear were utterly incapable of. This is the reason why, for instance, the German liberal party has become yet another branch of social democracy a long time ago. A liberal party, a strong liberal force in politics is simply not conceivable under the core paradigm. A liberal must cheat or desert in order to become politically effective.
I must use the word for the third time: it is a tragedy that the audacious vision of perhaps the greatest liberals ever, and the unparalleled success of their political activism have not become the guiding light of modern liberalism. Instead, liberals live estranged from and often embittered by a time characterised by more freedom than has been experienced in any period before ours.
It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are for ever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.
(Federalist 1, par. 1)
The answer to this puzzle is not a foregone conclusion - it is an ongoing process of political activity producing partial answers.
Again, let me emphasise that participation in political competition, political engagement, and hence the work of politicians are of the essence in defending the system of liberty that underlies our civilization.
Just ponder these words of a politician:
…However, I leave the post with great misgivings about the power and irresponsibility of - to coin a phrase - the Green Blob. By this I mean the mutually supportive network of environmental pressure groups, renewable energy companies and some public officials who keep each other well supplied with lavish funds, scare stories and green tape. This tangled triangle of unelected busybodies claims to have the interests of the planet and the countryside at heart, but it is increasingly clear that it is focusing on the wrong issues and doing real harm while profiting handsomely. Local conservationists on the ground do wonderful work to protect and improve wild landscapes, as do farmers, rural businesses and ordinary people. They are a world away from the highly paid globe-trotters of the Green Blob who besieged me with their self-serving demands, many of which would have harmed the natural environment. I soon realised that the greens and their industrial and bureaucratic allies are used to getting things their own way. I received more death threats in a few months at Defra than I ever did as secretary of state for Northern Ireland…
Chris Berg of Australia's Institute of Public Affairs discusses "Too Big To Fail", and comes to a different conclusion than I do. He argues that the problem cannot be solved because it is an inherent concern of politicians to protect certain companies or institutions from terminal collapse.
I would argue, that only politics can change the present state of affairs. However, if libertarians are unwilling to participate in politics, eschewing the competition for political dominance of the state, matters are indeed bound to linger on in their unsatisfactory condition.
"Too big to fail" describes financial institutions, mostly banks, which have become so large and so deeply integrated into the financial system that if we let them collapse they would take everything else with them.
If a corporation is too big to fail, then, it follows, taxpayers have to bail them out.
It's quite a problem. A market economy is supposed to be dynamic, full of entries and exits. Firms that add economic value thrive. Those that do not go broke.
So bailing out failed companies makes the economy less efficient. More gallingly, it redistributes money from the poor to the rich. And it creates "moral hazard" - a belief by management that ultimately they won't have to pay for their mistakes.
Moral hazard is a particularly severe problem for banks. Banks trade on risk. A bank's basic job is to transform short-term highly liquid deposits into long-term extremely illiquid loans. Too much of the latter will prevent redemption of the former.
Too big to fail encourages banks to make riskier loans. Why wouldn't they? They're not the ones bearing the cost of failure. Taxpayers are.
So it would be great to get rid of too-big-to-fail. Or at least limit it somehow. The Murray Inquiry has a few ideas: higher capital requirements for bigger institutions, for instance, or new procedures for when banks do fail.
But the question isn't what should we do about too-big-to-fail but what can we do about it.
And the answer to that question is almost certainly nothing.
As of today, Australia no longer has the most expensive “carbon” price in the world. The voters didn’t ask for a tax in 2010, but it was forced on them in 2011. They rejected it wholeheartedly in 2013 but it still has taken months to start unwinding this completely pointless piece of symbolism which aimed to change the weather. The machinery of democracy may be slow, but this is a win for voters. 11:15am EST today: The Australian Senate passes the carbon tax repeal bill.
“Australia has become the first country in the world to abolish a price on carbon, with the Senate passing the Abbott government’s repeal bills 39 votes to 32.“ SMH
Now we need to turn off the tap to all the other green gravy rent-seekers who ignore the evidence.
I haven’t written anything here for quite some time. Lots of reasons for that, not the least of which is my ongoing campaign effort. I thought I might jot down a few quick thoughts/reactions from the campaign trail.
Those who read this blog, probably remember seeing that I did well in the Primary. Finished first out of two by a significant margin. Both of us advance to the General Election. I won’t be taking anything for granted though, and we have a fairly extensive plan underway for the next 110 days till the election.
We are in the midst of parade season. Probably half of the 39 towns and villages in the district have some sort of festival or fair during the summer months, and many of those include a parade of some sort. We’ve done four in the last few weeks, have two coming up this weekend, and then 3 or 4 others before the end of August.
I actually kind of enjoy the parades. Even though I’m something of an introvert, that doesn’t mean that I’m shy, or incapable of turning on bursts of extroversion. The nature of parades are such that even while you may be shaking a lot of hands and exchanging brief pleasantries with folks, you just don’t have time to invest yourself in extended conversation. I like conversation, but I tend not to be real good at initiating it.
Endorsements are crazy. Money is important.
While I’ve been blessed with extraordinarily generous friends around the country—many of them from inside the district—I don’t think I realized just how important those bigger PAC and corporate donations could be. I used to think I wouldn’t want to take them, but I learned pretty fast that they are critical to paying the bills and doing the things you really need to do.
The game playing involved in getting endorsements (and the money that goes along with it—sometimes) is exhausting. Everyone has a questionnaire for you to fill out. Sometimes the questionnaires don’t make total sense—even if you try to put yourself in the shoes of those who sent them. Sometimes you look at the questionnaires and realize that there’s no way you can win, or that there’s no help that a particular group could give you, and you opt not to fill out the questionnaire.
And then there’s always the problem of groups who *should* endorse you—because of philosophy, or experience, or whatever—and yet they don’t (sometimes they choose not to endorse anyone, sometimes they inexplicably endorse the other guy).
The hardest things for introverts (at least THIS introvert) to do in politics (although some of this may be a Midwestern personality thing, too):
Raise money. Asking people for money is incredibly difficult for me. In part, it’s because it requires me to puff myself up, brag on myself, convince people that I’m worthy of supporting, and I’m just not like that. I’m confident in my abilities, but don’t feel the need to tell other people that all the time. I’m having a fundraiser tomorrow night. Two sitting state senators and our candidate for governor are going to be there on my behalf. I was talking to someone who arranges a lot of these things the other night, and asked him about protocol—who introduces who, who gets to speak, etc. He said “Laura, it’s all about you—you get the best speaking spot.” Hmm. Introverts have trouble having things being about them.
Approaching strangers in public. Like I said, I like shaking hands and greeting people in parades—that doesn’t require me to get into people’s space for any extended period of time. I love Meet and Greets, where people choose to show up, ask me questions, and we talk. And I like sitting down over coffee with groups of folks, and chatting. I like real conversation that I can give real thought to.
Going to County Fairs and other public gatherings are ok. I don’t mind “waving the flag” so to speak, to show that I was there. But I hate disturbing people when they’re eating their dinner, or doing something with their family. I don’t go to public events (pre-candidacy) to have some politician come up and ask me what I think about water issues in the district (or whatever).
The best things about the campaign so far:
Volunteers. I’ve got great friends and volunteers. My family has been great. Friends in the district and outside of the district have answered the call to come and help with parades, canvassing, lit drops and the like.
Conversations with my kids. My two youngest have been on the road with me quite a bit. We’ve had quite a few car conversations about politics, and just about life, in the car. Sometimes, we turn on the Garth Brooks CDs, and have sing-alongs.
The people. There are a lot of great people in my district. We had “Meet Laura” events in probably a dozen little diners and bars in small towns during the primary season. Sometimes, people showed up, sometimes they didn’t. When they did, we had some great conversations about the direction that our state should go; when they didn’t, I had conversations with the owners of the establishment, and they’d introduce me to others who had walked in (but not for me), and we’d have conversations.
The food. As I suggested above, I’ve eaten in a lot of little bars and diners in the last 6 months. The food is great (if not necessarily great for my cholesterol). The best hamburgers, steaks, chicken fried steak/chicken, breakfasts, and in one place, the most decadent, unhealthy and delicious sandwich I’ve eaten ever, I think—fried chicken breast with melted cheese and BACON, on a bun. It was huge, and tremendously good, and I’ll likely never forget it. Fortunately, parade season and door knocking was on the agenda when I was going through my tour of eateries, so no real damage was done on the scale.
The next 110 days will be busy, I’m sure. I hope to pop in here and chronicle things once in a while.
Thanks to Georg and (occasionally) Angela for manning the wheel around here. November will be here soon enough, and then maybe (regardless of the election outcome) I can post with a little more frequency.
We like to think of our age as one of enlightenment. In fact, we let ourselves be guided by myths in large measure, and use the power of the state to corrupt the sciences until they pander to our mythological preferences, as evidenced amongst others by the Great Global Warming Swindle or the Keynesian promises of magic. As for the latter, David Stockman has this story of Keynesian Japan:
What happened to Japan’s huge savings surplus? The government borrowed it! And wasted it on massive Keynesian stimulus projects that kept the LDP in power for decades but produced bridges and highways to nowhere that will be of no use to Japan’s retirement colony as it ages.
And the adverse demographic tide is indeed powerful as shown by the curve below on Japan’s working age population [see the source]. In a few short years what was a working age population that peaked at 88 million has dropped to 79 million; and it will plunge to below 50 million persons in the next two decades.
What the Keynesian witch-doctors who advised Japan to bury itself in fiscal stimulation since its financial crisis of 1989-1990 did not explain was how this inexorably shrinking population could possibly shoulder the tax burden needed to carry Japan’s massive public debt.
Yet there is no other way out of the Keynesian debt trap in which Japan is no[w] impaled. As the current account, also shown below [see source], continues to worsen, the need to import capital to fund the gap will drive interest rates sharply higher. The burden on Japan’s remaining taxpayers will become crushing.
So the graph below should be pasted on every US Congressman’s forehead. When the debt spiral goes to[o] far—it becomes a devastating financial trap. And it cannot ultimately be solved with money printing because if carried to an extreme—even for the so-called reserve currency—it will destroy the monetary system entirely.
Make sure to read the entire article at the source.
Steve Kates, my favourite economist absolutely nails it:
Economies are driven forward by increases in value adding supply and by absolutely nothing else. Others can tax, steal or otherwise appropriate the productivity of others and squander what they get. But this will NEVER lead to a recovery, not ever. So we have kept rates low and watched as nothing has happened. [...] And it’s not just consumer spending but all unproductive spending that is a draw down on productivity. Consumer demand is, of course, the reason for bothering with any production at all. But if we are thinking about growth and employment, consumer and government demand has nothing to contribute, nothing whatsoever. Nor does mis-directed investment spending. Nor do low interest rates.
However you look at it, this is the core issue of Keynesian economic theory and the policy that comes with it. If it is your conclusion that increases in non-value-adding public spending can contribute to growth and employment you are a Keynesian. If that is not your conclusion, that you think it will make things worse, then you are not. There is nothing else to it. At a minimum 95% of all economists practising today accept the Keynesian premise. At a maximum there may be 5% of the profession who do not. Even with the dismal and disastrous effects of the stimulus everywhere to be seen, either the stimulus was insufficient or it saved us from far worse are the standard answers. That we are now living out the consequences of a major and fundamental error in policy is virtually stated nowhere. The debate over Keynesian economic theory has not even begun never mind having been brought to an end.
Looking behind the veil of money, Patrick Barron gives us a good rundown of the Austrian (economists') objections to contemporary Keynes-inspired central banking policies.
Keynes' dogma, as stated in his magnum opus, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, attempts to refute Say's Law, also known as the Law of Markets. J.B. Say explained that money is a conduit or agent for facilitating the exchange of goods and services of real value. Thus, the farmer does not necessarily buy his car with dollars but with corn, wheat, soybeans, hogs, and beef. Likewise, the baker buys shoes with his bread. Notice that the farmer and the baker could purchase a car and shoes respectively only after producing something that others valued. The value placed on the farmer's agricultural products and the baker's bread is determined by the market. If the farmer's crops failed or the baker's bread failed to rise, they would not be able to consume because they had nothing that others valued with which to obtain money first. But Keynes tried to prove that production followed demand and not the other way around. He famously stated that governments should pay people to dig holes and then fill them back up in order to put money into the hands of the unemployed, who then would spend it and stimulate production. But notice that the hole diggers did not produce a good or service that was demanded by the market. Keynesian aggregate demand theory is nothing more than a justification for counterfeiting. It is a theory of capital consumption and ignores the irrefutable fact that production is required prior to consumption.
Central bank credit expansion is the best example of the Keynesian disregard for the inevitable consequences of violating Say's Law.