Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hugo Chavez on the Potomac: Change Deranged?

With the braying of 328 yahoos -- members of the House of Representatives who voted for retroactive and punitive use of the tax code to confiscate the legal earnings of a small, unpopular group – still reverberating, the Obama administration yesterday invited private-sector investors to become business partners with the capricious and increasingly anti-constitutional government…The Toxic Assets We Elected, George Will, Washington Post, 3/24/2009

Will, a conservative writer who openly disliked the previous President’s policies, is a centrist conservative who usually tries his best to find the American, legal thread in any administration. He writes for the mainstream paper of the U.S. capital. He’s the one conservative frequently invited to CNN or other networks to provide alternative commentary. This column suggests an explosive break, an unbreachable polarization. In a way, Will’s J’accuse is as startling as the unconstitutional bill of attainder passed in the House last week trying to seize contractual, however ill-earned, payments from AIG executives.

Another embarrassing auditor of American misgovernment is China, whose premier has rightly noted the unsustainable trajectory of America's high-consumption, low-savings economy. He has also decorously but clearly expressed sensible fears that his country's $1 trillion-plus of dollar-denominated assets might be devalued by America choosing, as banana republics have done, to use inflation for partial repudiation of improvidently incurred debts…(Toxic Assets We Elected…Will, cont’d)

This is no small matter that Will illuminates. For several decades, China has willingly engaged in a game whereby the government of the PRC covers our government deficits while we look the other way on the sale of hundreds of billions of cheap, and often dumped, Chinese products in the United States. While a de facto arrangement, it has nonetheless been observed for several decades. To scorn that and force China to withdraw from the gaming table, the U.S. will risk having to dramatically expand the Fed’s purchase of American debt, printing money to pay bills, as the Fed did last week by buying $300 billion in U.S. bonds. Monetizing the debt, substituting newly printed paper for value, is what Argentina and other countries south of the border did for decades, bankrupting their societies in every meaningful sense to preserve the delusions of their governments.

Congress, with the approval of a president who has waxed censorious about his predecessor's imperious unilateralism in dealing with other nations, has shredded the North American Free Trade Agreement…Mexico has resorted to protectionism -- tariffs on many U.S. goods -- in retaliation for Democrats' protection of the Teamsters union…NAFTA, like all treaties, is the "supreme law of the land." So says the Constitution. It is, however, a cobweb constraint on a Congress that, ignoring the document's unambiguous stipulations that the House shall be composed of members chosen "by the people of the several states," is voting to pretend that the District of Columbia is a state…(Toxic Assets We Have Elected…Will, cont’d)

Another spit on the law – was NAFTA just another "living document"?

In each of these, one can find the essence of mob rule, the primary mark of a dictatorship. For over a decade, Democrats and their constituents have howled about the unfairness of a trade treaty which has brought sharp increases in exports in both directions, more employment on both sides of the border, and a sharing of north American wealth. The politics of feeling doesn’t measure actual consequences of this treaty, only the fear of constituents. The law is nothing to this kind of politics. The politics of feeling, mob rule, is lawlessness on a national scale.

For two and a quarter centuries, it has been generally understood that constitutional restraints on statehood representation in Congress for the District of Columbia actually meant that Congress could not simply decide, on the basis of DC residents who feel bad about this, to override the supreme law of the land on a populist whim. One can make a case for shrinking the district, to allow most of its citizens to be represented as members of Virginia and Maryland. But one cannot simply decide, without the mandated amendment process, to toss aside an article of America’s supreme law. To do that is to scorn all law, to become as lawless as Venezuela under Hugo Chavez. What the national legislature and the President have done in pushing this is not to show the constitution as a “living document” but as a dead letter.

Jefferson warned that "great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities." But Democrats, who trace their party's pedigree to Jefferson, are contemplating using "reconciliation" – a legislative maneuver abused by both parties to severely truncate debate and limit the minority's right to resist – to impose vast and controversial changes…This is but a partial list of recent lawlessness, situational constitutionalism and institutional derangement. Such political malfeasance is pertinent to the financial meltdown as the administration…tries to stabilize the economy by vastly enlarging government's role (Toxic Assets We Have Elected…, Will, cont’d)

This is the behavior of dictators and one-party governments, a history deep in human blood. How can Congress and the White House so blithely ignore the previous century of catastrophes led by such government behavior?

Theodore Dalrymple, the noted essayist whose columns are often found on City Journal, has strong thoughts on ideologically driven leaders:

One of the first to notice the politicization of intellectuals was the French writer Julien Benda, whose 1927 La trahison des clercs—"the treason of the clerks," with "clerk" understood in its medieval sense as an educated person distinct from the uneducated laity—gave a phrase to educated discourse. Today, people most frequently use the phrase to signify the allegiance that intellectuals gave to Communism, despite the evident fact that the establishment of Communist regimes led everywhere and always to a decrease in the kind of intellectual freedom and respect for individual rights that intellectuals claimed to defend…Benda meant something much wider by it…: the increasing tendency of intellectuals to pursue lines of thought not for the sake of truth, or for guiding humanity sub specie aeternitatis, but for the sake of attaining power by adopting, justifying, and manipulating the current political passions of sections of humanity, whether national, racial, religious, or economic… The Persistence of Ideology, Theodore Dalrymple, City Journal, 1/19/2009

Is Obama, a product of the most exalted side of American education, and a former professor at the University of Chicago, such an ideologue? How could he not be? For thirty years our colleges and universities have been dominated by a program designed by people whose pedagogy defines all relationships between human beings as matters of dominance – political, economic, cultural. Should it be any surprise that a product of that program would act as his professors hoped, taking any step, bearing any cost, in the pursuit of absolute power and all the unpredictable and terrifying change that implies?

Will took a big risk in writing this. His invitations to comment on CNN may start to decline.


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