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Tuesday, November 14, 2006
A Favorite Quote
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:20 am

I know I have brought this up before, but a comment at OTB made me think of it, so I thought I’d share one of my favorite quotes on politics from the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy:

The major problem - one of the major problems, for there are several - one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them. To summarize: it is a well known fact, that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.

Those of you familiar with political philosophy may recognize the influence of Plato here. From the Republic:

And this is the reason, my dear Thrasymachus, why, as I was just now saying, no one is willing to govern; because no one likes to take in hand the reformation of evils which are not his concern without remuneration. For, in the execution of his work, and in giving his orders to another, the true artist does not regard his own interest,
but always that of his subjects; and therefore in order that rulers may be willing to rule, they must be paid in one of three modes of payment: money, or honour, or a penalty for refusing.

[…]

And for this reason, I said, money and honour have no attraction for them; good men do not wish to be openly demanding payment for governing and so to get the name of hirelings, nor by secretly helping themselves out of the public revenues to get the name of thieves. And not being ambitious they do not care about honour. Wherefore necessity must be laid upon them, and they must be induced to serve from the fear of punishment. And this, as I imagine, is the reason why the forwardness
to take office, instead of waiting to be compelled, has been deemed dishonourable. Now the worst part of the punishment is that he who refuses to rule is liable to be ruled by one who is worse than himself. And the fear of this, as I conceive, induces the good to take office, not because they would, but because they cannot help -not under the idea that they are going to have any benefit or enjoyment themselves, but as a necessity, and because they are not able to commit the task of ruling to any one who is better than themselves, or indeed as good. For there is reason to think that if a city were composed entirely of good men, then to avoid office would be as much an object of contention as to obtain office is at present; then we should have plain proof that the true ruler is not meant by nature to regard his own interest, but that of his subjects; and every one who knew this would choose rather to receive a benefit from another than to have the trouble of conferring one.

Indeed, I have long thought that Adams’ Man in the Shack (a.k.a., “The Weirdo”) was, after a fashion, the ultimate Philosopher-King (or, at least, a wickedly funny parody thereof).

Filed under: Political Philosophy/ Theory | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
The Rebranding of a Blog
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:11 pm

ProfessorBainbridge.com is currently semi-closed (there is currently only one post and I think that the archives are inaccessible) as Steve seeks to “rebrand” away from general punditry:

I’ve pretty much decided to rebrand ProfessorBainbridge.com by repositioning it as what it started out to be; namely, a niche blog focused on business law and economics.

It is an interesting move. I wonder how much of it is a response to the general malaise that is settling over politics these days and how much has something to do with blogging burnout and the intermixture between academics and blogging and how such a person wishes to present themselves to the general public.

While I still enjoy “punditry” (although I prefer to think of it a analysis and commentary) I have for some time felt less and less interested in partisan discussions, per se-something which I engaged in more in the earlier days of this blog. While I remain more than willing to engage in philosophically-based commentary, I find myself less and less “partisan”-indeed, I believe that blogging has made me less partisan (at least in my own mind) than I used to be, even though it initially made me, I think, more-so.

Some of this is, no doubt, a reflection of the various messes made by this administration and the current congressional leadership. However, I really do think that daily blogging has made me think more about a panoply of issues, insofar as I have had to deeply examine why I think what I think if I am going to be making arguments in public. Further, reading a great deal of rabidly partisan blogging (from both sides of the aisle) has enhanced my distaste for such approaches to politics. That distaste has extended to other media. For the longest time I was quite the consumer of political talk radio, but for almost two years I have found my interest in such to have radically waned. I mostly listen to sportstalk now.

Further, I would far prefer to be taken seriously as an analyst (even if one known to have certain philosophical predilections) than to attract an audience of red-meat devouring partisans. Part of that is simply my own intellectual temperament, and part it is my academic orientation.

I wonder how much of these issues play into Steve’s decision.

And to be clear: while there is plenty to be frustrated with in terms of the political at the moment, my perspective on these issues as outlined above have been present in my mind for over a year. See, for example, there older posts:

Those posts are mostly about the mean-spirited nature of overly-partisan blogging, but fit my evolving point of view on the issue of partisan lenses in general, and specifically as they apply to blogging.

Filed under: US Politics, Political Philosophy/ Theory, Blogging, Academia | Comments (8) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Outside The Beltway | OTB linked with Drowning in a Sea of Blogs
Friday, October 6, 2006
Bush and Signing Statements
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:52 am

I have not written much about “signing statements” (a quick search of my archives only turns up this post, and it only references the issue in the context of a larger discussion). I will confess that my initial response when the topic first emerged was that the notion that the president was indicating his understanding of the law for the purposes of posterity (and future court battles) was legitimate. Indeed, the basic practice of such statements, symbolic and otherwise, goes back over a century.

However, it has been clear for some time that, in the guise of being a “war president” that President Bush has clearly been using these signing statements in an attempt to make himself an interpreter of the constitutionality of laws and to thereby expand executive power as he sees fit. I am going to say something that I am very, very reluctant to say, but there is no other way to put it: when a President of the United States seeks to ignore Congress’ will and to usurp powers that belong to the federal courts, because he simply thinks it is the right thing to do, there is no other word for that than authoritarian.

To be clear: I am labeling this type of action as an authoritarian action because it is a raw assertion of power.

The BoGlo has an interesting piece on a recent Congressional Research Service report that is critical of this President’s usage of signing statements.

The story (Bush signings called effort to expand power) notes a recent example:

Despite such criticism, the administration has continued to issue signing statements for new laws. Last week, for example, Bush signed the 2007 military budget bill, but then issued a statement challenging 16 of its provisions.

The bill bars the Pentagon from using any intelligence that was collected illegally, including information about Americans that was gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable government surveillance.

In Bush’s signing statement, he suggested that he alone could decide whether the Pentagon could use such information. His signing statement instructed the military to view the law in light of “the president’s constitutional authority as commander in chief, including for the conduct of intelligence operations, and to supervise the unitary executive branch.”

Bush also challenged three sections that require the Pentagon to notify Congress before diverting funds to new purposes, including top-secret activities or programs. Congress had already decided against funding. Bush said he was not bound to obey such statutes if he decided, as commander in chief, that withholding such information from Congress was necessary to protect security secrets. [emphasis mine]

While it is possible that rare circumstances might arise, especially in the pursuance of an international war that a President might have to make such radical moves. However, we are not engaged in an international national (as in between nations) war-I am not saying that we are not engaged in serious military activities, or even that we are not “at war” in some sense of the word with radical Islamic terrorist, but we are not in a war of survival with another state-the last time that was true was WWII.

The notion that the President can ignore federal law, because he deems it necessary is an abrogation of the constitutional order-and cloaking it in the magic word “for national security” shouldn’t be enough to make all of us, as citizens, say “ok, have it at, Mr. President.”

The Congress makes the laws, not the president. The courts have the power to interpret the laws in a formal sense, not the president. Further, the power of the purse constitutionally belongs to the congress, not the president. And the power to raise, maintain and regulate the armed forces constitutionally belongs to the congress, not the president.

Where are all the so-called “strict constructionists” in the Republican Party these days?

The AP has an further story (Bush says he can edit security reports) on this topic:

President Bush, again defying Congress, says he has the power to edit the Homeland Security Department’s reports about whether it obeys privacy rules while handling background checks, ID cards and watchlists.

In the law Bush signed Wednesday, Congress stated no one but the privacy officer could alter, delay or prohibit the mandatory annual report on Homeland Security department activities that affect privacy, including complaints.

But Bush, in a signing statement attached to the agency’s 2007 spending bill, said he will interpret that section “in a manner consistent with the President’s constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch.”

It is as if the notion is: you go ahead and pass your little laws, Congress, but I, the President, will decide whether or not to actually use them. I don’t recall that part of the Constitution.

On the topic of signing statements themselves, the piece notes:

The Senate held hearings on the issue in June. At the time, 110 statements challenged about 750 statutes passed by Congress, according to numbers combined from the White House and the Senate committee. They include documents revising or disregarding parts of legislation to ban torture of detainees and to renew the Patriot Act.

Need I remind the conservatives in the audience that one of the foundational principles of basic conservatism is distrust of human nature, and therefore distrust of government in the hand’s of fallible man? The idea that too much power in the hands of a small number of individuals, or a single individual is what promotes tyranny?

I will further say this: if the Democrats do obtain control of one or both houses of Congress in the elections and next year turns into hearing-o-rama on the Bush administration’s practices, then the administration will have no one to blame but itself.

Filed under: US Politics, War on Terror, Political Philosophy/ Theory | Comments (14) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

The Moderate Voice linked with Around The Sphere Oct. 7, 2006
PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » More on Signing Statements linked with [...] Last week I commented on some stories concerning President Bush and his use of signing statements and noted a link to a Congressional Research Service report that I noted that I would read and return to. [...]
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Line of the Day (Exactly!! Edition)
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:50 am

“Maybe, just maybe, radical islam is a kind of sui generis phenomenon that would be best understood on its own terms rather than desperately trying to glom it onto secular totalitarian ideologies of the past”-Daniel W. Drezner

The context was an attempt by Niall Ferguson to state that radical Islam was less fascist and more Leninist.

However, Drezner gets it right, and hits on one of many reasons why I don’t like the “Islamofascist” label-there is not good analytical reason to try and squeeze the phenomenon into some existing ideological box. It doesn’t serve the process of understanding in the least.

Filed under: War on Terror, Political Philosophy/ Theory | Comments (8) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Thursday, September 21, 2006
A Disturbing Comparison
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:21 pm

I teach a graduate seminar called “Theory and Ideology in International Relations” and one of the things I have the students do is review two books for presentation to the class. One is supposed to be from a commentator/pundit/ideologue and the other from a practitioner/academic. The idea is to provide an opportunity for the students to examine and discuss the ways in which ideology and theoretical assumptions made by authors affect their analyses.

One of my students chose for their commentator book Pat Buchanan’s State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America. The book, about which I have commented before, contains the following passage:

America faces an existential crisis. If we do not get control of our borders, by 2050 Americans of European descent will be a minority in the nation their ancestors created and built. No nation has ever undergone so radical a demographic transformation and survived.

[…]

In 1994, Sam Francis, the syndicated columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times…volunteered this thought:

The civilization that we as whites created in Europe and America could not have developed apart from the genetic endowments of the creating people, nor is there any reason to believe that the civilization can be successfully transmitted by a different people.”

Had Francis said this of Chinese civilization and the Chinese people, it would have gone unnoted. But he was suggesting Western civilization was superior and that only Europeans could have created it. If Western peoples perish, as they are doing today, Francis was implying, we must expect our civilization to die with us.

There was also a passage, noted by the the student in question, as to how the US was edging closer to becoming “a Third World” nation because 24% of the population was going to be of Hispanic origin by the middle of the century. In short: “white” = “American” and “Western Civilization” and “Hispanic” = “Third World” according to Pat Buchanan.

So, keeping that in mind, the story continues.

Now, it ends up that yesterday we were also examining fascism and National Socialism in the context of national ideologies. And we were looking at some passages from Hitler’s Mein Kampf which includes the following gems:

Everything we admire on this earth today - science and art, technology and inventions - is only the creative product of a few peoples and originally perhaps of one race. On them depends the existence of this whole culture. If they perish, the beauty of this earth will sink into the grave with them.

[…]

All great cultures of the past perished only because the originally creative race died out from blood poisoning.

The ultimate cause of such a decline was their forgetting that all culture depends on men and not conversely; hence that to preserve a certain culture the man who creates it must be preserved.

[…]

If we were to divide mankind into three groups, the founders of culture, the bearers of culture, the destroyers of culture, only the Aryan could be considered as the representative of the first group. From him originate the foundations and walls of all human creation, and only the outward form and color are determined by the changing traits of character of the various peoples. He provides the mightiest building stones and plans for all human progress and only the execution corresponds to the nature of the varying men and races.

In short: culture and achievement come from the type of person (i.e., race) in question.

As we were discussing the text, the similarity with Buchanan’s argument was quite striking and disturbing. It isn’t that I hadn’t considered Buchanan to be on the reactionary side of things, or that I had failed to notice that he brushes uncomfortably close to anti-semitism (among other things). However, it is difficult to look at his comments on culture, race and immigration and not see someone who deserves to be considered as having, for lack of a better term, neonazi leanings. I don’t know what else to call it.

And, I would note, that Godwin’s Law doesn’t obtain when the person you are speaking about can legitimately be compared to Hitler.

The disturbing part, ultimately is that while his voice isn’t what it once was, Buchanan still maintains a great deal of influence in some segments of US politics.

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Fruits and Votes linked with This just in: Pat Buchanan and George Allen are racists...
Tuesday, July 4, 2006
Two hundred and thirty years: From ‘revolutionary’ hope to institutional backwardness
By Matthew Shugart (guestblogger) @ 12:44 pm

I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions… But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the same coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

-Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, July 12, 1810

The above quotation, carved literally in stone on the fourth panel of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, District of Columbia, conveys a sentiment that is virtually forgotten in America today. In fact, Jefferson warned against what he referred to as “sanctimonious reverence” for the Constitution and its founders. Yet today-and especially literally today, on the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence-American culture practices an idolatry with respect to the Founding that has become an excuse for tolerating a form of democracy that is increasingly behind the times.

The quotation with which this post begins is quoted, in part, in the conclusion of an excellent piece in today’s Los Angeles Times by Mark Kurlansky. It begins:

SOMEONE HAS TO SAY IT or we are never going to get out of this rut: I am sick and tired of the founding fathers and all their intents.

The real American question of our times is how our country in a little over 200 years sank from the great hope to the most backward democracy in the West.

Indeed. And I very highly recommend the entire piece.

At Fruits and Votes, I have much more on this theme, and an extension of this post (or “planting” as I say over there).

Filed under: US Politics, Political Philosophy/ Theory | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Don’t hold your breath: U.S. soccer prospects linked with [...] te shock value to his primarily American audience. First, he promotes the view that we are the most backward democracy in the west (I assume he excepts France, gridlocked as it is by general strikes a [...]
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Kant and the Generals
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:18 am

In preparing for class, I noted the fowllowing quote from Immanuel Kant’s “What Is Enlightenment?”, which put me in the mind of the current debate over the criticism of Rumsfeld by various generals:

Thus it would be disastrous if an officer on duty who was given a command by his superior were to question the appropriateness or utility of the order. He must obey. But as a scholar he cannot be justly constrained from making comments about errors in military service, or from placing them before the public for its judgment.

That sets up the distinction that I find wholly acceptable in the current context: when they are in their capacity as soldiers, they are required to obey lawful orders, but as retired officers they have the right, perhaps even the duty, to engage in public discourse about their former profession. We, of course, have the right to reject their views if we so desire in the context of ongoing public debate.

And btw, Kant defines a “scholar” in this context as follows:

By the public use of one’s own reason I understand the use that anyone as a scholar makes of reason before the entire literate world.

Of course, in the 21st century, the definition may expand beyond the literate world to the world of those with television sets…

Filed under: US Politics, Political Philosophy/ Theory | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
A Quote to Ponder
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:05 am

“A good despotism means a government in which, so far as depends on the despot, there is no positive oppression by officers of state, but in which all the collective interests of the people are managed for them, all the thinking that has relation to collective interests done for them, and in which their minds are formed by, and consenting to, this abdication of their own energies. Leaving things to the Government, like leaving them to Providence, is synonymous with caring nothing about them, and accepting their results, when disagreeable, as visitations of Nature.”-J. S. Mill from Considerations on Representative Government, Chapter III, Section 2

I came across this while looking through a file for something else and the bolded part, in particular, stuck out at me. I included the rest for context.

Have I mentioned that I am rather fond of Mill?

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Saturday, December 24, 2005
A Little Christmas Eve Madison
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:40 am

This is probably my favorite passage from the Federalist Papers

From Federalist #51:

It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

Note: the context is in the discussion of separation of powers and checks and balances, and in the generic discussion of limiting government and preventing tyranny.

The contemporary context is my general disquietude about ongoing revelations regarding the Bush administration and its focus on security at the expense of adequate consultation with the other branches.

Government does many good things, but its capacity for evil is remarkable. I don’t wish to seem hyperbolic here, and I hardly find myself in the camp with would proclaim the constitution to already be in shreds. Still, it is troubling, and worthy of attention when those in positions of power start to think of themselves as wiser than the established institutions within which they work. It is doubly dangerous when they do so in the name of protecting the people, as the need for security is such that many (both in and out of government) will be seduced by the notion that the bending (if nor ignoring) of the rules is justified because the motivations are worthy.

Even if we assume a best case scenario in terms of motivations, the unmooring of governmental power from proper institutional constraints is always a bad idea. As I have been arguing for several days: if the current rules, procedures, and institutions are inadequate, then let’s have the proper debate and then alter them as needed, within the proper constraints of the system.

Unfettered, unconstrained executive power in the pursuance of security has, in the history of mankind, led to far more disasters than to stirring triumphs. I am not arguing that we are on some headlong fall into dictatorship, but I am arguing that we should be far more cautious in simply assuming that everything that is done in the name of protecting us from terrorists is, by definition, a good idea.

Reasoned, measured consideration is needed, and proper safeguards need to be in place because regardless of which party is in power, we are not governed by angels, but mere human beings. And therefore the issue becomes not how to catch terrorists as much as it is how much power are we, and should we, be willing to vest in mere humans?

Filed under: US Politics, War on Terror, Political Philosophy/ Theory | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Thursday, December 1, 2005
Fifty Years Later
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:04 am

It seems illogical and anti-American that certain persons, because of an abundance of melanin, should have to surrender seats on public transportation to those who are amongst the melanin-deprived.

Yet, nonetheless, fifty years ago today, Rosa Parks was arrested for failing to surrender a bus seat to a white man (she being of darker hue).

So often one looks back and has to ask: what were we thinking? More unfortunately, we often have to ask what some of our fellow citizens still think.

There will be a march in downtown Montgomery to commemorate the day.

Also: Rosa Parks building named today in Detroit.

And remember: more than simple commemorating a single act, or even a specific person, noting this anniversary should remind of us where we were, how far we have come, and lso where we may yet need to go in assuring that we remember we are all human beings, equal in our rights and value.

More on the anniversary:

From the Birmingham News: Boycott’s unsung heroes finally heard.

From the BBC “On This Day” file: 1955: Black woman challenges race law

Filed under: US Politics, Political Philosophy/ Theory | Comments (5) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Arguing with signposts... linked with An eternal question
Fruits and Votes » Blog Archive » Remembering the courage of Rosa Parks linked with [...] a bus to someone who just happened to be of the more privileged skin color. Recommended: Poliblog’s post this morning. Block where planted: Politics (general) Pro [...]
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Drezner on Schelling
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:41 am

Thomas Schelling gets his due from Sweden — but not from Slate

Filed under: Political Philosophy/ Theory, Academia | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Fun with Quizzes
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:33 pm

I didn’t wholly like all the questions, and it seems like there needed to be a fifth “neutral” response category. Plus serious answers would require far more nuance than Strongly Disagree/Disagree/Agree/Strongly Disagree, but still, about where I would put myself, I guess.

Although, ideological labels make me itchy. “Social liberal” really doesn’t describe me, except in the sense that I don’t think that the government ought to be telling citizens what to do on a host of issues. Now, when it comes to what I think is right and wrong, I am far more socially conservative.

For example, I am a praying person who does not believe in school prayer.

If anything, I am a classic liberal-but then again, that all just gets to the linguistic fact that we don’t fully understand the term liberal in our (i.e., US) political discourse.


You are a

Social Liberal
(71% permissive)

and an…

Economic Conservative
(80% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Libertarian





Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating

Filed under: Political Philosophy/ Theory, Blogging | Comments (11) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Fruits and Votes linked with Sanders, socialism, and the ideological spectrum
PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » A False Dichotomy linked with [...] ervative” mean both in general terms and in the American political context (although I have noted before that I am not all that happy with those labels). Avoiding that discussion for at least th [...]
» Am I the real “moderate voice”? » Arguing with signposts… » Blog Archive linked with [...] Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid via another “social liberal,” poliblogger Steven Taylor. | RSS | Inlinks | Blogging | Politics • Tim [...]
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Perhaps the Fouth Time…
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:02 pm

Ok, I have finally figured out the main point of contention between myself, Scott Gosnell and Matthew Shugart. (At least I think I have).

I agree with Matthew and Scott that the federal government has the right to collect taxes and then spend that money on items not enumerated in the Constitution, and that the states have the right to refuse that money, at least in theory. As such, the core of federalism is maintained.

My overall objection, which the Byrd Constitution Day requirement brought to fore, is that Congress has been known to abuse this relationship in a way that I think tips the federal scales far more in their direction than ought be the case.

What do I mean by this? Well, it is one thing for Congress to say that, for example, that the federal government will give the states the money to fund the purchases that citizens make under the Food Stamp program so long as the state pays the administrative cost. The federal government, in this case, sees a legitimate public need, but lacks the delivery mechanism at the state level to provide the service, and the cost to develop such an apparatus separate from state institutions would be prohibitive, not to mention a duplication of existing capabilities. The state, on the other hand, has poor citizens in need of assistance, but may not be able to pay for such assistance, yet already has the ability to deliver services directly to citizens. So we end up with a useful policy synergy that involves both levels in our federal system.

States could refuse the offer from the federal government, but there is no good reason to do so. All well and good—although I do think that this element of policy-making and implementation in the United States is poorly taught and poorly understood. Further, it does allow the Congress to involve itself in public policy areas not covered by Article I, Section (neither via the Expressed/Enumerated Powers nor via Implied Powers).

Ok, so what’s my objection and what in the world does it have to do with Robert Byrd and Constitution Day? Well, what I find irksome is when the policy relationship entered into between the state and federal governments can then be used by the feds to adjust its demands on the states. Byrd’s rider in the appropriation bill is just that sort of ex post alteration to the contract (i.e., a generic mandate made on the states that must be complied with, or funds will be withdrawn, but where said mandate had nothing whatsoever to do with the original policy partnership).

This is what Congress did in the 1970s when it mandated a lowering of the speed limit to 55. The states had been receiving highway funds for decades and were highly dependent on the money, and so when Congress said lower the speed limit or lose your highway funds, what choice did the states really have? I would argue none, and I would further argue that that type of action weakens federalism in a way that is not consonant with the Constitution.

In short, the amount of money involved, and the dire need of funds at the state level, means that the federal government can change the terms of the “contract�? at will, at least in practical terms. Sure, the states could stop taking the money and thereby halt the mandate, but that is simply not a realistic option.

So, when Byrd basically threatens to pull funds if states don’t celebrate Constitution Day, I see that an abuse, even if the goal is one that could be considered laudable.

Although, as I noted at Matthew’s place: give Byrd some credit, as he has gotten us to talk about the Constitution!

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Fruits and Votes linked with Federalism and Constitution Day once more
Friday, September 16, 2005
Short(er) Version of My Constitution Day Post
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:02 pm

Based on this post at a Knight’s Blog, it may be that I wasn’t wholly clear in my Constitution Day post below.

Setting any normative judgement concerning the evolution of policy making and federalism in the United States, I will say the following:

It is (to me, anyway) profoundly ironic that Robert Byrd has managed to get the whole country talking about the Constitution by using the Congress in a way that has almost nothing to do with the Constitution (at least in terms of direct, actual policy-power granted to Congress): he used the fact that educational institutions get federal funds to leverage those institutions to have Constitution Day events.

I find it ironic, because it is a utilization of federal power that the many of the Founders, especially Madison, would have been horrified by and because careful scrutiny of Byrd’s actions reveals a lot about how policy-making and federalism in the US has evolved in ways not wholly in keeping with either spirit or the letter of our Constitution.

This is simply fact, and should not construed as endorsing Alan Keyes’ ideas of returning to 19th Century federalism. However, I do think that citizens need to understand the fiscal nature of federalism in the current era, as it has clearly enhanced the power of Congress.

There is more to say about Scott’s post, but I will leave at that for the nonce.

(Part of today’s OTB Traffic Jam).

Filed under: US Politics, Political Philosophy/ Theory | Comments (5) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Random Fate linked with Constitutional irony
A Knight’s Blog » Happy Constitution Day — Again linked with [...] hole train rolling. . . . Steven Taylor continues to answer my previous post and examine (here and here) the problems “inherent in the system” of allowing Congress to use federal (taxpayer [...]
Thursday, September 1, 2005
Hobbes Returns
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:17 am

Via the NYT: Police and Owners Begin to Challenge Looters

Across New Orleans, the rule of law, like the city’s levees, could not hold out after Hurricane Katrina. The desperate and the opportunistic took advantage of an overwhelmed police force and helped themselves to anything that could be carried, wheeled or floated away, including food, water, shoes, television sets, sporting goods and firearms.

Many people with property brought out their own shotguns and sidearms. Many without brought out shopping carts. The two groups have moved warily in and out of each other’s paths for the last three days, and the rising danger has kept even some rescue efforts from proceeding.

While certainly disasters bring out the best in man, so too do they often bring out the worst.

And if looting isn’t bad enough, some idiots are shooting at military helicopters, which has caused a suspension of the evacuation of the Superdome.

Further, people in local hotels were rushing the buses intended for the Superdome evacuees, according to NPR.

No doubt more and more people still in the city will start to panic and further, some of the looting is likely linked to people looking for food and water.

Filed under: Political Philosophy/ Theory, Hurricanes | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
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