Amit Ghate has a new OpEd in the September 12, 2010 edition of PajamasMedia, “Risk and Regulation“.
Here’s the opening:
Every day we witness regulators denying people their freedom of action: The FDA prevents patients from taking potentially beneficial drugs; the SEC restricts the types of securities investors can buy; the FAA sets such detailed “guidelines” that airplane designers and owners find it difficult to innovate and operate profitably. Beyond these are the innumerable regulatory obstacles which individuals and firms must constantly surmount.
As economic activity dwindles, and tea party activism rises, some Americans are now beginning to question the most flagrant of these rules and regulations. But that alone won’t suffice. If we’re to truly effect fundamental and long-lasting change, we must identify, examine and challenge the basic premises responsible for the regulatory state…
This video of Brigitte Gabriel discussing the barbarity of Islam has been making the rounds on blogs and social media recently:
(Note: This is a multi-part video series.)
Diana and I heard Brigitte Gabriel speak at the same LPR 2009 conference that Yaron Brook spoke at. She is a staunch Christian who took an uncompromising stand against the Islamic threat to America. She told some heart-rending stories of life as a Christian under Islamist rule in Lebanon. She made a compelling case that the Islamists want destroy America. And she had the mostly-conservative crowd eating out of her hand.
And she’s just one of many eloquent Christian conservatives out there on the lecture circuit making their case against the Islamic threat — and arguing that the only solution is for this country to recommit to Christian values.
For this reason, I regard her and her allies as a serious long-term danger to America, even though her criticisms of the barbarity of Islam are correct. She correctly identifies the current problem, but she also offers the wrong solution.
Let me explain why I regard the Christians as the greater long-term danger to America — even while I also agree that the Islamists are the greater immediate short-term threat to this country.
Based on my reading of American culture and sense of life, I personally don’t think this country can actually be conquered by the Islamists. Yes, the Islamists will try as hard as they can. And yes, they could do a tremendous amount of damage (with more 9/11-style attacks or worse). And yes, they could kill many Americans in the process. But they couldn’t actually take over and impose Sharia law on us.
There’s still a general “ornery streak” alive and well amongst many Americans that would reject any such an attempt to subjugate us to Sharia law. Many Americans would fight back by any means necessary — especially in the much-maligned “Red states” where that ornery streak runs deep and where the populace is well-armed.
(This is in contrast to Europe, where I think many of those countries could fall under Sharia law due to their internal weaknesses).
But I do think that if the Islamists successfully committed more major terrorist attacks on US soil, it would arouse a backlash by decent Americans seeking some kind of forceful response. Conservatives like Brigitte Gabriel would exploit this and use pro-American rhetoric to rouse Americans against the Islamists. And this breed of conservatives might even implement a somewhat better foreign policy, at least for a while.
But they also would couple that with appeals to Christianity, sacrifice, faith, etc. — all in the name of being “pro-America”. Those are the sorts of appeals that the neocons, John McCain, and other bad conservatives have been making for many years — and which would strike a renewed chord in an America shaken up by a string of deadly attacks at home and abroad. Americans would likely reject our current policy of appeasement (correctly seeing it as having weakened this country), but would instead embrace an even worse nationalism. And without a firm commitment to individual rights, any new conservative nationalist government would very likely impose a variety of “emergency” measures that might be superficially reasonable (and might even be appropriate in short-term wartime settings), but would somehow never be repealed.
If dictatorship ever comes to America, it won’t be an Islamist one. Instead, it will more likely be a Christian one, but one which would arise as a direct result of our current weak approach to the real and immediate Islamist threats. Furthermore, such a Christianist regime could gain traction here in a way that an Islamist regime never could because the Christianist regime would have a superficially “pro-American” veneer.
Tellingly, polls taken in the past few years show the following:
Given these facts, I think a Christian dictatorship could appeal to many Americans in a time of crisis, especially if it came to power on a platform of fighting back against the Islamists — and if it were viewed as the only moral alternative to the policies of appeasement and secularism that allowed such attacks to happen in the first place.
Hence, it’s critical to both oppose the immediate and serious Islamist danger, but also be alert to the Christian totalitarian threat.
Back in 1980, many Americans (correctly) recognized the USSR as a threat, but also thought that we could use the Islamist mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan as allies against the communists. Of course today the USSR is no more, but the Islamists are now a real danger to us in a way that few (myself included) anticipated 30 years ago.
But as more conservatives start speaking out against Islam, I want to highlight the importance of closely examining what they stand for in addition to what they are against.
And on a positive note, I also wanted to highlight the importance of offering Americans an alternative principled self-interested approach to foreign policy that doesn’t rely on appeals to faith, altruism, and sacrifice. Fortunately, we have such an approach to offer. Let’s hope our message reaches enough Americans before it’s too late.
My theme is that our government’s ever-increasing demands for access to our personal data while simultaneously preventing us from gathering information about it threatens to turn America into a chilling “interrogation room society” where transparency only goes one way. Hence, Americans must demand government transparency as a corollary to the broader principle of properly limited government.
Here is the opening:
When President Barack Obama took office, he pledged to make his administration “the most open and transparent in history.” However, government officials are now demanding ever-increasing amounts of information about ordinary Americans, while preventing citizens from gathering similar information about government operations. If this ominous trend continues, this “transparency” will be in one direction only — which bodes ill for the future of our republic.
What do the following disputes — running the cultural gamut — have in common?
In education: Should creationism or evolution be taught in public schools? In science: Should we form de facto boards of inquisition to maintain the government-funded consensus on global warming? In arts: Should we support “diversity” in the form of the “Piss Christ”? Or should we engage in social engineering by funding art “that would show support for Obama’s domestic agenda”? And in a sad mixture of religion, politics, and science: Should taxpayers continue to support NASA with an annual budget of $19 billion so that it can pursue its new mission to “engage… with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science”?
The answer? Each seeks to determine which ideas taxpayers must fund and support. In so doing, each contributes to making modern politics more acrimonious and fractious than ever.
In a recent marketing move, GM donated a car to Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga after his perfect game was ruined by an umpire’s mistake. In the subhead to a feature article on the subject, the New York Times second-guessed GM, asking: “Was a prize to a pitcher for a near-perfect game, ‘some of the best dollars invested in publicity,’ or a squandering of taxpayers’ equity?”
Note that the car in question was a $53,000 Corvette; GM’s global revenues are on the order of $100 billion. It’s like asking whether a $10 million company should have purchased a $5 box of pens. Pace the NY Times, there’s nothing special about this particular decision; every business or enterprise makes similar ones daily.
And that’s the point. Previously we could take for granted that private individuals or enterprises would be allowed to make such decisions for themselves. But no longer. At the behest of our political and cultural leaders, we’re socializing property at an accelerating rate. The type of meddlesome question the New York Times poses is but one of its consequences…
Our friend Ray Niles has just published an article on the housing crisis in the George Mason University School of Law’s Journal of Law, Economics, and Policy, Vol. 6, No. 2, Spring 2010. entitled “Eighty Years in the Making: How Housing Subsidies Caused the Financial Meltdown”.
Diana and I have both had the pleasure of reading it, and I found it especially valuable because it presented a thorough historical overview of the many decades of government intervention in various aspects of the market that led to the housing bubble (and subsequent collapse).
I had read several prior articles that discussed one or more of these causes, but Ray’s article did a nice job of presenting all of that information in a nice integrated fashion, accessible to a layperson without specialized economic training.
The article is not available in downloadable form, at least not at present. But Ray has permission from the publisher to send PDF copies. So if you’re interested, send him an e-mail at: “rayniles (at) rcniles (dot) com”.
Yet some renowned economists, such as Professor James Galbraith of the University of Texas, are trying to convince us that the U.S. government should ignore our massive federal budget deficit and instead spend even more. Galbraith argues that calls for fiscal responsibility are “misguided” and that greater deficit spending will create greater prosperity.
Galbraith’s proposals are dangerous because they are based on the notion that you can get something for nothing. Unless we want to see a Greek-style collapse here in America, we must reject those ideas as economic “snake oil” and instead demand an end to our government’s fiscally irresponsible deficit spending.
James Galbraith is no street corner crank. Instead, he has a BA from Harvard and a Ph.D. from Yale, both in economics. He is a professor of economics at the University of Texas, Austin, and son of famous Keynesian economist John Kenneth Galbraith. Because of his impressive academic and intellectual pedigree, many Washington politicians and pundits take his ideas seriously. Hence, so must we…
The New York Times has published my LTE on former University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein, a leading advocate of so-called “libertarian paternalism”.
My LTE was in response to their May 16, 2010 article in the Sunday Magazine section, “Cass Sunstein Wants to Nudge Us” praising his work as President Obama’s director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to use his philosophy to push people into behaviours the government deems desirable.
The LTE will also be appearing this weekend in the May 30, 2010 print edition of the NYT in the Sunday Magazine section (as opposed to the main letters section of the newspaper). It’s the second one down:
Cass Sunstein explicitly compares Americans to Homer Simpsons requiring government guidance to live. In my view, the proper function of government is to protect individual rights and freedoms. Unless we violate others’ rights by force or fraud, the government should leave us alone to live according to our best judgment.
Of course, individuals may voluntarily “nudge” themselves to achieve long-term goals, like having your bank automatically deposit a portion of each paycheck into a child’s college fund. But each person must make these decisions for himself based on his goals and circumstances. These choices are his responsibility and his right — not the government’s.
Libertarian paternalism in essence says, “Don’t worry — we’ll do your thinking for you.” If Americans start surrendering their minds thus to the government, they will become easy prey for demagogues and dictators.
With Governor Jan Brewer’s signing of SB 1070, the battle lines were drawn. The prospect of empowering and requiring law enforcement in Arizona to enforce federal immigration law raises civil rights concerns on both sides of the debate. Many supporters seem torn between these concerns and the prospect of overwhelming schools, social services, and the police if illegal immigration is left unchecked. However, as someone who sympathizes with its proponents, I must say that SB 1070 is wrong for Arizona for reasons far beyond civil rights issues.
SB 1070 deserves only one fundamental criticism: It would fail to protect the individual rights of American citizens — even if it hermetically sealed our borders and the police never touched a single American hair in the process of enforcing it. This is because the biggest headaches attributed to illegal immigration are not caused by it at all…
Gus is absolutely right. Too many conservatives want to restrict immigration while failing to place the blame where it properly belongs — on welfare state policies that encourage an entitlement mentality amongst American citizens as well as immigrants (and often more among the former than the latter.)
Too many liberals want both open immigration and a welfare state — a recipe for disaster.
The only approach that respects individual rights is a policy of open immigration (which is not the same as unrestricted immigration) — and the abolition of the welfare state. For more on this, see Craig Biddle’s article in the Spring 2008 issue of The Objective Standard, “Immigration and Individual Rights“.
Congratulations, Gus, on getting published in PajamasMedia!
(Please feel free to add your own comments to the PJM site.)
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