Quick Roundup 539

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Man Behind the Curtain

Dan Henninger of the Wall Street Journal writes a column full of interesting observations regarding the ways in which the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf has exposed the non-omniscience of the government. Along the way, he describes an act of mercy Barack Obama dis not deserve.

People sometimes say if only a Jack Welch, the legendary GE chairman, were put in charge, he'd get government to hum. That's a fantasy. Jack Welch, Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs: They'd all fail. After James Carville went off on the president, David Axelrod bemusedly replied, "What I haven't heard is exactly what he thinks we should do." Professional politicians must be amazed, and thankful, at this credulousness.
Amazed and thankful, perhaps, but undeserving: They all run on a platform of omniscience and omnipotence, don't they?

Although Henninger does say at one point that, "[T]he Gulf mess is the moment for the American people to reconsider just what they think government can do, or should do," he doesn't hammer home that "should." Perhaps it's because he doesn't believe it, as his characterization of one leftist's defense of the nanny state as "honest" may indicate. In any event, all he would have had to say was something like, "Using the government for anything but the protection of individual rights would be worse than using a hammer for anything but driving nails."

The Seventeenth Band-Aid

Some Tea Partiers are advocating a repeal of the seventeenth amendment, which mandates popular election of Senators, as opposed to their selection by state legislatures.
Two Republican nominees for House seats -- Ohio's Steve Strivers and Idaho's Raul Labrador -- have expressed sympathy for repeal. And Tim Bridgewater, one of two Tea Party candidates who last month knocked off sitting Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, argues that "if the states elected their senators, legislative monstrosities like ObamaCare or [No Child Left Behind], with their burdensome mandates, would never see the light of day."
I empathize, but disagree. There might be a case that such an amendment would cut down on the use of the unfunded mandate as a mechanism for expanding the government. Nevertheless, so long as the welfare state enjoys popular support, what difference would it otherwise make for state legislatures to choose the Senators? The welfare state funded by some other mechanism still violates my rights.

I suspect that such a selection process could make the Senate slower to change, politically, in either direction, because a sufficient number of state legislatures would have to change in composition substantially before they would select enough senators to, say, enact a radical agenda to bring the federal government back into its proper scope.

Unfortunately, that last is something that needs to happen as soon as possible. At the same time, an amendment effort would take a comparable length of time as a battle for public opinion, and waste the energy of those who ought to be fighting to win minds, rather than to erect a Maginot Line of dubious value.

The energy of activists for limited government would be better spent on changing the composition of the Senate via direct elections involving a populace better educated about the nature of individual rights and proper government. Let's save bringing back legislative inertia for such a time as it would once again actually be beneficial to have it.

Fascism in College Sports

With Congress likely to meddle in a potentially nationwide realignment of college football, this European model for finding and developing professional sports talent looks better and better to me every day.

College football acts like a business when it's convenient and suckles at the government teat when it's convenient. How 'bout this? Let's privatize education and let the colleges sort out for themselves whether to remain affiliated, as farm teams, with professional sports. And, in any case, let the colleges and sports teams run -- and fend for -- themselves. And at their own profit or loss.

Speaking of Suckling

This news story says it all.
The original adult breast-feeding fatwa was issued three years ago by an Egyptian scholar at Egypt's al-Azhar University, considered Sunni Islam's top university. Ezzat Attiya was expelled from the university after advocating breast-feeding of men as a way to circumnavigate segregation of the sexes in Egypt.
Yep. That "theology malfunction" is still going on.

Chalk up the implicit notion of a proper function of theology in the above to poetic license.

-- CAV


Park said...

RE the 17th amendment repeal, I think you don't give it sufficient consideration. The idea is not simply to slow the passage of legislation, but to alter the current balance of federalism. If the US senate represents the interests of the state legislatures, will they approve laws that create huge concentrations of power in the federal government? Generally no, because the state legislatures don't want to get hit with the "spray" of unfunded mandates, or lose their powers. You may say that replacing the giant, destruction-bent ogre of national regulatory agencies with 50 smaller ones may not be so much a step ahead. However, it is conceivably possible to work reform on the state level. For example, most states have abolished their independent smog testing stuff for personal vehicles that was nationally popular back in the 70's and 80's. You think that would have happened if EPA retained those powers? Not a chance.
Also, many states have made leaps and bounds in improving the protection of individual rights vis-a-vis firearms in the last 20 years. Would those have happened if Jane Reno's ATF and Obama's Congress were wholely empowered to make gun laws? Again, not a chance.
So, I would say that the proposed repeal of the 17th amendment would in fact make the fundamental political sea-change you call for much more possible and much more probable. Whether it's possible? Meh, probably not, sadly. But we'll never know if everyone dismisses it out of hand.

Gus Van Horn said...


You raise some good points regarding how a decentralization of power can allow some states to become havens from some bad federal laws, but so what? These changes all happened with the 17th amendment in force.

In addition, as the end of Jim Crow showed, some states would also violate individual rights MORE than they do now in the hands of a less-powerful federal government.

My argument here is not that repealing the 17th amendment is wholly without merit. It's that it is the wrong battle to fight now. The political sea change I want depends on changing the minds of a decent proportion of voters. If that doesn't occur, we would be in deep trouble no matter how we picked the Senate. And the amount of time repealing that amendment would take is, I am afraid, comparable to the amount of time doing so would buy, assuming it would buy time.