Limited Government

Real Reform Begins In The Ballot Box

I remember about a month ago there was a lot of bruhaha about Pennsylvanian Republicans trying to change their contribution to the Electoral College by divvying up the votes based on Congressional districts, like Maine and Nebraska. Naturally, a lot of people got upset with that, with some (like Doug Mataconis and George Will) saying we should keep the Electoral College just like it is now, and many others saying that we should instead move to a National Popular Vote system. Now with Occupy Wall Street taking over our media senses, some of that talk has been pushed aside, with people instead focusing on Wall Street rather than Pennsylvania Avenue.

I would like to go back to the Avenue, however, for multiple reasons. First off, I actually think that a lack of serious political reforms is the reason for much of the discontent we’re seeing in Zucotti Park. Second, we have Congressional deadlock, as always—but in recent years, the vitriol and polarization we have seen has increased dramatically. Third, even with the 2010 GOP landslide in the House, we still have a very high incumbent reelection rate—although it was lower in previous elections, it still stood at 87%. Fourth, we have not seen any new ideas with regards to the major issues of the day: our debt crisis, our flagging economy, our eroding civil liberties, or our overburdening government.

Clearly, the emphasis is on the egg and not the noggin in the egg nog, here.

Very little can be done to change or institute major reform, even though we need it, badly. Part of that is by design. The Founders wanted a system where it would be difficult to radically change it, in order to preserve the liberty they had fought so hard for. In the modern era, that backfired. Instead of preserving liberty, the system is preserving the corrupt bog from which liberty is being drowned in.

The GOP’s Energy Economy Short-Sightedness: It’s the Internet, Stupid

Though I didn’t notice it at the time, techPresident’s Nick Judd makes a very astute observation about the recent Bloomberg/Washington Post GOP presidential debate on the economy:

 

  • Number of times the Internet was mentioned by name in a debate about the economy: 2.
  • Number of jobs that were in the American information sector in 2007: 3,496,773.

 

Texas Governor Rick Perry will unveil his economic plan in Pittsburgh (emphasis mine):

My plan is based on this simple premise: Make what Americans buy. Buy what Americans make. And sell it to the world. We are standing atop the next American economic boom…energy. The quickest way to give our economy a shot in the arm is to deploy American ingenuity to tap American energy. But we can only do that if environmental bureaucrats are told to stand down. My plan will break the grip of dependence we have today on foreign oil from hostile nations like Venezuela and unstable nations in the Middle East to grow jobs and our economy at home.

VIDEO: Daily Caller Remembers 9/11, Examines Life Since

Via the Daily Caller’s video producer Sean W. Malone comes this new mini-documentary reflecting on the horrors of 9/11, and an examination of how America and the world reacted in terms of public policy. The video features Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson, Cato Institute vice president for defense and foreign policy studies Christopher A. Preble, Cato research fellow in defense and homeland security studies Benjamin H. Friedman, Heritage Foundation’s director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies James Carafano, Rep. Allen West (R-Fla. 22nd), and Antiwar.com’s development director Angela Keaton.

National security policy, like all other forms of public policy, involves an innumerable series of trade-offs. We should be applying the same rigorous cost-benefit analyses to the Pentagon and DHS budgets that we do to social welfare programs.

The best line in the whole video comes from Tucker Carlson, who quips,

The Real Tragedies of 9/11

As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches this Sunday, I cannot help but feel it will be a commemoration of not one, not two, but at least three different tragedies that have befallen the American people. The first is the obvious tragedy of the attacks themselves, which took thousands of lives in an act of barbarism and insanity. The second tragedy is what happened to the American consciousness afterwards. And the third is what our children understand about it.

I read earlier this week about a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The results were disquieting, to say the least. Some of the highlights:

  • 71% of Americans favor surveillance cameras in public
  • 47% support the government reading emails outside the US without a warrant
  • 30% support the government monitoring emails within the country
  • 58% support random searches involving full-body scans or patdowns at airports
  • 35% support racial or ethnic profiling at airports
  • 55% support the government snooping into financial transactions without a warrant
  • 47% support a national ID card to show to authorities on demand (a “Show-Me” Card, if you ever watched Fringe)
  • 64% believe it is “Sometimes necessary to sacrifice some rights and freedoms” in order to fight the war on terror
  • 53% think you can’t be too careful dealing with people (which is a slight improvement from 2002, I suppose, which was 58%, but…)
  • 54% would, between counterterrorism and civil liberties, come down on the side of civil liberties

Like I said, disquieting. All but the last should be far lower; the last should be far higher. Only 54% would go for civil liberties? That means 46% would put counterterrorism operations above what it actually means to be an American?

VIDEO: Cato’s Primer on Obama’s Jobs Speech

We can only hope the president will have time to preview this video before his address — but really, would it matter?

Video produced by Caleb Brown, host of the Cato Daily Podcast, and Austin Bragg.

VIDEO: Free Trade vs. Protectionism

Welcome, Instapundit readers!

The folks over at Learn Liberty bring a new lesson from George Mason University economist Donald J. Boudreaux (who blogs at Cafe Hayek) on free trade and protectionism as matters of policy, and their impacts on wealth creation:

Protectionism today comes in the form of Buy American restrictions (which were reinforced in the so-called stimulus bill), whose proponents argue that forcing manufacturers to produce goods using inputs created by American firms, or that the government buy/contract goods and services solely from American firms through its procurement process, will help preserve and create jobs at home.

Building Codes and Zoning Laws Strike Again: “Battle for the California Desert”

I’ve spilled a lot of digital ink over the years writing about national politics and sea changes in public policy. If it wasn’t for some great professors, I probably would’ve never taken an interest in urban development policy — at least not until I acquired some property of my own and attempted to do something with it (I’m not a homeowner).

I argued at The Dangerous Servant earlier this year that

 

This is a game of concentrated benefits with diffused costs, and it takes the form — in this case — of zoning laws, but it also includes building codes.

City planners use zoning laws to create geospatial distinctions in an urban jurisdiction by restricting the ways in which property owners can use their land or buildings. When regulations help crowd economic activity out of a residential area, home prices rise artificially because the zone becomes less noisy, less polluted, and less congested. As a result, existing homeowners wind up paying a higher amount of property taxes each year the zoning rules are in effect. Any new developments designed to attract new residents to a jurisdiction also take on a disproportionate share of property taxes.

VIDEO: The Importance of Bars and Taverns in Political Movements

Compare to satirist P.J. O’Rourke’s preface to Republican Party Reptile:

So, what I’d really like is a new label. And I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way. We are the Republican Party Reptiles. We look like Republicans, and think like conservatives, but we drive a lot faster and keep vibrators and baby oil and a video camera behind the stack of sweaters on the bedroom closet shelf. I think our agenda is clear. We are opposed to: government spending, Kennedy kids, seat-belt laws, being a pussy about nuclear power, busing our children anywhere other than Yale, trailer courts near our vacation homes, Gary Hart, tiny Third World countries that don’t have banking secrecy laws, aerobics, the U.N., taxation without tax loopholes, and jewelry on men. We are in favor of: guns, drugs, fast cars, free love (if our wives don’t find out), a sound dollar, a cleaner environment (poor people should cut it out with the graffiti), a strong military with spiffy uniforms, Natassia Kinski, Star Wars (and anything else that scares the Russkis), and a firm stand on the Middle East (raze buildings, burn crops, plow the earth with salt, and sell the population into bondage).

There are thousands of people in America who feel this way, especially after three or four drinks. If all of us would unite and work together, we could give this country… well, a real bad hangover.

The Principled Politics of the AFL-CIO: An Open Letter to Richard Trumka

Dear Sir:

Compare your statement of January 21, 2010 (emphasis mine):

 

Today, the Supreme Court further tilted the playing field in favor of business corporations in public elections.  By allowing unlimited corporate treasury expenditures that explicitly support or oppose particular candidates, the Court has increased the already excessive influence that corporations exert in our electoral system.  And we believe the Court wrongly treated corporate expenditures the same as union expenditures, contrary to the arguments we made in our brief in this case.  Unions, unlike businesses, are democratically-controlled, nonprofit membership organizations representing working men and women across the country, and their independent speech should accordingly be given greater protection.

The AFL-CIO supports a system of campaign finance regulation that promotes democratic participation in elections by individuals and their associations; protects legitimate independent speech rights; offers public financing to candidates while firmly regulating contributions to them; and guarantees effective disclosure of who is paying for what.

 

with this story in POLITICO today, August 22, 2011 (emphasis mine):

 

The AFL-CIO is getting ready to pump even more money into elections by forming a super PAC and targeting developments in the states, the Associated Press reported Monday.

The Debt Generation and…Fireworks? Sort of…

Man, I looove me some fireworks. The bright flashes, the intense color, the wave of energy expanding across the room—

Oh, you thought I meant that stuff they light off at the Fourth of July. No, I was referring to the fireworks that occur in a debate. And what a debate we’re going to have!

The sparks started flying when Matt Yglesias, poster boy for the Center for Authoritarian Propaganda American Progress tweeted “David Boaz is dumb.” (Hmm, I wonder what he had to say about naughty rhetoric back in January…) Boaz then retorted that Yglesias had completely missed the point, which I guess is not surprising. Yglesias then decided to tackle Daniel J. Mitchell’s take on Paul Krugman’s…well, I’m not really sure what you could call it. Lunacy? Let’s be nice and just call it “absurdity.” Anyways, Yglesias basically stated that “money doesn’t matter” and that the broken window fallacy itself is broken. A very succint summary of modern progressive thought, I would imagine.

So why do I bring this all up?

Because tomorrow, Cato On Campus is hosting (at the Cato Institute, natch) a debate titled: “US Debt and the Millennials: Is Washington Creating a Lost Generation?” Attending will be Megan McArdle of The Atlantic, Matt Mitchell of Mercatus, and Matt Yglesias of Center for American Progress. Three guesses as to who will be moderating. Yes, Dan Mitchell of Cato.

 
 


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