Various & Sundry, 4/16/15

– Many are rightfully upset with the two parties in this country, but here’s a reminder that countries with multiple party systems are not fairing any better. Instead of one and a half meddlesome, anti-liberty parties they’ve got five of them in the UK. David Cameron makes John Boehner look like Ted Cruz. No matter the party setup, as long as a significant proportion of the population actively seeks government control at every juncture of life, change is all but impossible.

– Speaking of which, a crystal clear example of why the government gets away with taking more of people’s money: it’s the popular thing to do.

There it is in a nutshell. How much revenue the government collects, the state of the federal deficit or the morality of double taxation aren’t of any concern to Ed Kilgore and his ilk. In the end, the true evil in America is the specter of wealth and success. Purporting to speak for “the commonwealth” in their unwashed masses, liberal spokesmodels are mostly upset at anyone who buys into the “perceived morality of capitalism.” This underpins virtually every argument we have on economics and tax policy. Liberals have their own vision for America and it is one where success is something to be ashamed of and which should be punished wherever it is found. If everyone can’t have everything, then we should all share in the pain regardless of personal merit. The Left embraces socialism wholeheartedly, but most of the time they are at least embarrassed enough about it to lie and come up with some other argument as cover. Kilgore is, in a way, providing a refreshing bit of honesty here.
That doesn’t mean that the effort to repeal the death tax will come without cost. As Noah explained last night, good policy is not always good politics and it would be foolish to completely ignore that warning. It is true that populism is a powerful totem, and during tough economic times it’s easy to wave a red flag in front of the masses and urge them to take up their pitchforks and torches against those they perceive as “the rich.” But everyone with any interest in honest work and the ambition to make a better life for themselves and their family eventually realizes that their own success will become the target if they embrace such policies.

The soak the rich, screw ’em all attitude is not limited to the secular left. Far too many Catholics think obedience to Catholic teaching entails taking as much from the taxpayer, especially the “rich” taxpayer, as possible. I guess the tenth commandment is as out of vogue as the tenth amendment.

– Speaking of issues Catholics foolishly get behind, the living wage/minimum wage comes to mind. In the interests of advancing their agenda, many will claim that Walmart’s low wages are in effect subsidized by the government in the form of food stamps. Eh, not so much.

– Not all Republican politicians are craven cowards. Example Number One: Mike Lee.

We can do this first by influencing the attitudes of those around us, making every effort to persuade friends and neighbors that constitutionally limited government not only matters but is essential to our prosperity as a nation. Second, we have to remind elected representatives in Washington that the power to make laws belongs to Congress, not unaccountable bureaucrats, and encourage them to enact regulatory reform measures like the REINS Act, which would help put Congress make in charge of lawmaking. Finally, we have to bring our knowledge of the Constitution back to the ballot box and vote differently—especially when it comes to federal offices.

This is just the conclusion of an otherwise sterling essay examining the ways we have drifted over the years.

Of course Lee hasn’t single-handedly ended Obamacare or repealed the entirety of the tax code, so he must naturally be as bad as the rest.

– While Lee is right that we’ve gone far astray from the original constitutional design, some suggested remedies are worse than the disease.

Many on the right have contended that a Convention of States is distinct from a constitutional convention. What’s more, they might say, that process could be the only way to rein in the unelected elements of the federal government, like the judiciary or the nation’s unwieldy and proliferating regulatory agencies. Some on the right contend that the Constitution has been so perverted that it is already essentially defunct. But these same conservatives, who often lament the fact that Republican lawmakers are so regularly rolled by left-wing organizations and liberal politicians, would be foolish to vest in these GOP officeholders the authority to remake the system entirely. They would quickly find that conservative politicians who regularly fail to outmaneuver liberals in Congress don’t find their luck has improved on the convention floor.

I have never understood the call for a constitutional convention. There is zero possibility that what would emerge would be an improvement over our current situation. It would open pandora’s box to any number of bad ideas that would only further weaken the nature of our limited constitutional republic.

– Commenter Phillip has brought to our attention the troubling case of a Priest who seems to have been wrongfully convicted, and his inability to become freed.

Chris Matthews is a nut, but we knew that already. What’s funny is that on the left’s own terms the Republican presidential field is probably the most culturally diverse in history, while the Democrats have more of the same white faces. You would think Matthews would be celebrating that diversity, not mocking it.

– Fascinating story about Jackie Robinson. Long story short, a black man was booted by the New York Post for being too biased in favor of Republicans. Times have changed.

Churches vandalized by homosexual activists and/or their supporters. Somehow I don’t see this being national news.

More to explorer


  1. No matter the party setup, as long as a significant proportion of the population actively seeks government control at every juncture of life, change is all but impossible.

    No, that would be with our institutions. In Britain, the problem is that there is something approaching an elite consensus against a system of natural liberty, as there was prior to 1975. The crew in charge since 1990 has not engineered an economic wasteland such as prevailed in Britain ca. 1978, so you do not have intramural pressures to replace the Conservative Party governing stratum, currently led by a most unedifying careerist. Also, the British public is happy to chow down on swill, by and large (re the prosperity of the Scottish National Party is the grossest example).

    I have never understood the call for a constitutional convention. There is zero possibility that what would emerge would be an improvement over our current situation. It would open pandora’s box to any number of bad ideas that would only further weaken the nature of our limited constitutional republic.

    Come again? You think the only thing holding the line against ‘bad ideas’ is the practice of vesting the task of proposing amendments in Congress? The utility of such a convention would be to propose amendments which run counter to the professional interests of members of Congress or which are bottled up due to the Senate’s inane parliamentary rules. The election of delegates to such a convention would processes public preferences or public interests (such as they are) on the subject of political architecture, removing some confounding vectors (as Congress has responsibility for the full range of public policies). Any amendments proposed still have to be ratified by state conventions or state legislatures. Consider the following:

    1. Rotation in office or term limits.
    2. Limits on public sector borrowing.
    3. Limits on tax preferences.
    4. The question of conditionality in the distribution of inter-governmental transfers (or, using state and local governments as conduits).

    You’re not going to get the first out of Congress, and likely could not get any of them, no matter how much public support you had.

    While we’re at it, we do not have a ‘limited constitutional republic’. We have an irreparable institutional mess, about which nothing much can be done within the limits of the text itself.

  2. Mr. Zummo does not understand why there are calls for a national constitutional convention.

    I spent five years in Washington, DC. I understand completely why there is a demand for a constitutional convention.

  3. I’ve spent longer than that here, PF, and I guess I understand. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say I don’t agree with it, for the reasons outlined in the linked post. Considering the state of our nation I think the odds are much greater for things to take a turn a worse rather than the better.

  4. I suspect that, were push come to shove, rather than risk a runaway convention, Congress would itself take up any slate of proposed amendments that was coming close to garnering the necessary state support.
    Furthermore, the check on a runaway convention is the fact that the States would still have to ratify whatever came out of it.

  5. Matthew 25:37; “I was in prison and you visited me.”

    Thanks Paul Zummo for opening the door of this prison to readers of TAC.

    Father Gordon has been suffering an extended incarceration for a crime he did not commit. Money fueled the false allegations and contempt for holy priests locked the jailhouse door.

    Visit this prisoner via the blog.
    It’s our Lord we serve when we serve our neighbor.

  6. Prayers for Father Gordon. IN GOD WE TRUST
    The Canadian government has just outlawed prayer, the invocation of God before its official meetings.
    The Canadian government is rather presumptuous in assuming that God will be enduring their insult and respond by giving each and every person life, when in fact, God gives to whom He pleases.
    When, not if, for all persons are dying at all times, (the poets say that man begins to die at conception), any person dies while attending a government controlled meeting, denied his civil right to petition God for mercy and the grace of a happy death, each and every person is being denied the same freedom, the same civil right to a relationship with God, to worship God, to speak with God, to reference God, and to peaceably assemble with God.
    In effect, the government is telling the very people who constitute the state as a legal person to go to hell. Saul Alinsky chose to go to hell. I do not. I wish for the Beatific Vision of God in heaven. And the government most certainly does not any authentic authority to detour its constituents to hell, nor to detain its constituents on earth without recourse to almighty God.
    It is particularly disturbing that the government officials who are themselves dying do not wish to entertain the vision of God as help in our final agony. This is the imposition of atheism. At one time against the First Amendment.

  7. I think PZ does get it – it’s not that a Constitutional Convention is a bad idea per se, it’s a bad idea given the current state of our political class and our citizenry. Who are going to be the delegates at this convention? Who is going to elect them? How will they get support? It will be run by the same political machinery that has us in this current mess. It’s unfortunate, but the only thing that seems capable of creating change is some form of widespread unmitigated disaster.

  8. “Saul Alinski chose to go to hell.” -Mary De Voe.

    The devotee’s of Alinski run the risk of hell as well.
    Thanks Mary for your prayers for Fr. G.

    As for Canada??…oh canada..poor canada.

  9. cmatt, these yours questions, not true objections, and since you’re not willing to think it through yourself, they have the quality of chaff thrown in everyone’s face.

    What makes you think the delegates will be so troublesome that their work product will make things worse than they already are? First you have to get people who are lower quality or more corrupted than Congress, then they have to produce junk proposals, then the junk proposals somehow clear high ratification bars. I want to know why you think any of these is a risk, much less a probability.

  10. From cmatt above, “. . . bad idea given the current state of our political class and our citizenry”

    Truth. The elites are completely corrupt and incompetent, either pathological liars or imbeciles. The academy is no better. However, the most dangerous problem is evident in the past two presidential elections. It is that 51+% of the electorate appear to be amoral, debased, dilatory, immoral, indolent, witless beings that seem to be impressed with the idea that it is the government’s duty to provide stuff for them.

  11. Art, those “questions” are a polite way of phrasing the problem that could be rephrased as a misidentification of issues– it isn’t that the system is broken, it’s that there is an actual underlying problem which would not be fixed by changing the system.
    Unsupported assertion that it would be different doesn’t constitute an argument that needs to be responded to, it just states a baseline assumption.

  12. T. Shaw, if it makes you feel any better, there’s a lot of fraud going on– and apparently the folks doing it don’t think it’ll be enough, since now they’re pushing for a system to make it easier in one of the most openly fraudulent states around, mine. Vote by Email.

  13. it isn’t that the system is broken, it’s that there is an actual underlying problem which would not be fixed by changing the system.

    The system is broken (in addition to there being problems with the political culture most particularly manifest in the Democratic Party and the elite bar).

    A convention of states might be able to get some incremental adjustments on the table Congress would never consider. That’s all it can do; you’ve all got strange visions in your head of it proposing some unspecified yuck which is then unaccountably ratified by the states, but none of you have specified just what. The most imprudent thing that ever got through the amendment process was national prohibition, but that was a consequence of a popular movement which had been obtrusive for more than 25 years. What analogue do you have in mind now? The most troublesome amendment recently has been the 14th, but the time bombs therein were set off nearly ninety years after the amendment was ratified and required measures of shamelessness by appellate judges and law professors alike.

    About a generation ago, The New Republic asked a group of correspondents to suggest constitutional amendments and then printed the results. There were a mess of gag replies about the designated hitter rule, poses struck on ancillary matters (Victor Navasky wanted capital sentences disallowed) and one proposal which stood out for sheer inanity: that an amendment should be adopted to prohibit further amendments. The author of this was Walter Berns, who is unaccountably revered in certain circles.

    Mr. T. Shaw’s stated position in other fora is that it is impossible to improve a regulatory architecture through statutory changes because legislators are government officials and government officials make things worse every time they do anything at all. Walter Berns’ appears to have been that the constitution was absolutely optimal as was and that nothing could improve anything (or that he could not bear a mustache on his beloved Mona Lisa). We’re doing well here: our discussion of these matters runs the gamut from anarchism to antiquarianism.

    I keep hearing from people (e.g. the characters who used to run the Ashbrook Center) what a marvelous piece of work our constitution is with its checks and balances and what not, and if the social reality of its actual operation is unedifying, well, we’ve just got bad machine operators. If the constraints do not actually constrain, what good is it? Britain, Israel, and New Zealand get along passably with a body of constitutional law and no discrete instrument. If it’s the culture that’s at fault, why would we be worse off without that instrument?

  14. Art Deco wrote, “Britain, Israel, and New Zealand get along passably with a body of constitutional law and no discrete instrument.”

    The British constitution could be written on a postcard – “The Queen in Parliament can make and unmake any law whatsoever, including the laws regulating its own composition.”

    Of course, there is a vast body of customary and statute law that can be described as Public Law – but Parliament (that is any government with a Parliamentary majority) could change any or all of it tomorrow by an ordinary Act of Parliament. There can be no entrenched provisions, for a section requiring, say, a two-thirds majority for the Act’s repeal, could be repealed along with the rest of the Act by a new Act of Parliament, passed in the ordinary way.

    I would add that I am rather suspicious of constitutions – they are never there when one wants them. I remember being “read my rights” on the only occasion I have ever been arrested – “The President of the Republic has declared Paris to be in a state of siege; the constitutional guarantees have been suspended, &c, &c.”

  15. That would certainly be the case with French constitutions

    It lacks the concision and level of clarity of its American counterpart, but it did include some innovations which improved political practice in France and allowed for ministries which could last long enough to pursue some policy lines to partial fruition (30 months on average rather than the 12 months common during the 3d republic and the 6 month mean of the 4th republic). An interlocutor informed me (concluding a disquisition on the impossibility of anyone improving on the work such very wise men as the Founders) that I was a deluded Wilsonian Progressive technocrat if I would think such a thing an achievement. Some of these conversations have their comic aspect.

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