One Week Under the Usurper

Today marks the first full week of Biden the Usurper’s reignHe assumed the throne one week ago today.  Where are we after one week of his fraudulent tenure?

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Idaho’s Regulatory Reset

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The big, exciting news in conservatism this week is the sunsetting of all of Idaho’s state regulations.

It’s a curious situation:  all of Idaho’s regulations sunset annually, but the Idaho State Legislature usually renews all of them as a matter of course.  This year, after a contentious legislative sessions, the legislature failed to reauthorize the regulations, so the entire body of state regulations expires on 1 July 2019.

Libertarians and small government conservatives are rejoicing, and this retirement is, indeed, revolutionary—it’s essentially an opportunity to “reset” the State’s regulatory regime, starting from scratch.  That will provide a great deal of opportunity to reinstate what worked in a regulatory sense, and to keep the rest of the chaff on the threshing floor.

The Mercatus Center’s piece on the Idaho situation also points to another welcome change:  the burden of proof now shifts to new regulations, rather than those seeking the repeal of old ones:

Governor Brad Little, sworn into office in January, already had a nascent red tape cutting effort underway, but the impending regulatory cliff creates some new dynamics. Previously, each rule the governor wanted cut would have had to be justified as a new rulemaking action; now, every regulation that agencies want to keep has to be justified. The burden of proof has switched.

An enduring frustration for legislators seeking to cut regulations must be the “Helen Lovejoy Effect“:  constant emotional appeals that cutting or revising this or that rule will breed dire consequences of catastrophic, apocalyptic proportions.  The Idaho legislature’s fortunate lapse in consensus has flipped the script.

Another item of note here:  it’s intriguingly paradoxical how legislative disagreement and gridlock ultimately brought about an opportunity for real reform.  While most legislative gridlock seldom ends with such dramatically positive results, this situation demonstrates the usefulness of hung legislatures:  sometimes, getting nothing done is preferable to getting something destructive done.

From the perspective of liberty, a government not taking action is often the better outcome.  That’s why conservatives were so rankled when President Obama promised to govern via executive fiat (“I have a pen and a phone”) on the grounds that congressional gridlock necessitated such drastic action.  The Framers of the Constitution baked inefficiency into the cake:  our national legislature is supposed to act slowly and deliberately.

Of course, the total repeal of all regulations is not all sunshine and unicorn hugs.  Contra hardcore libertarians, some regulations are useful, and their benefits far exceed their costs (although the opposite is often likelier).  The challenge for Idahoans is to figure out how to get back the useful regulations without reinstating the corrosive ones.  To quote the Mercatus Center again:

The main constraint now facing Idaho state agencies is time—they could use more of it. Regulators have just two months to decide which rules should stay and which should go. With more time, they might be able to tweak and modernize those regulations deemed necessary; instead, many rules may simply be readopted without changes.

So, in the haste to reinstate beneficent regulations, the detrimental ones could also get thrown back in.  If that happens, Idaho will have squandered a virtually unprecedented opportunity to remake its regulatory regime into a more streamlined, pro-liberty apparatus.

If, however, Idaho can pull it off, it will serve as a model to other States looking to streamline their regulatory agencies and services.  That’s a promising outcome, and one that all lovers of small- and limited-government should endorse.

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End the Income Tax

Today is tax day.  Despite President Trump’s signature tax reform, I ended up owing money to the feds for the first time in my adult life (although I’ll be getting a bit back from the State of South Carolina).

The income tax used to be unconstitutional in our Republic.  Indeed, the primary way that federal government gained revenue was from tariffs on imported goods and excise taxes on certain products, like whiskey.  Alexander Hamilton advocated for high protective tariffs to protect young domestic industries from British manufacturers, who were “dumping” cheap British goods into the infant nation (a practice China has taken up today).  Only during times of war, such as the American Civil War, did Americans have to endure a tax on incomes.

Like most odious, liberty-killing measures, the income tax was a Progressive Era project, ratified in the 16th Amendment (followed shortly thereafter by the 17th Amendment, which made US Senators directed elected, and the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the manufacture, sale, and distribution of alcohol).  Progressive reformers assured Americans that only a very small proportion of Americans would ever pay the income tax, which was graduated from the beginning.

That claim was true… for the first year.  Immediately, Congress began ratcheting up tax rates and requiring more Americans to pay it.  Governments are hard-pressed not to exploit a newfangled method of raising revenue.

The income tax is not all bad:  it’s a more stable source of revenue that tariffs, which depend upon foreign imports.  No imports, no taxation.  Advocates for the graduated income tax, like Tennessee Congressman and future Secretary of State Cordell Hull, argued that, in the event of a major war in Europe (which broke out a year after the 16th Amendment was ratified), international trade would fall, bringing collected duties down with it.  That was a prescient observation, and a strong argument in favor of some kind of domestic tax.

That said, the income tax is incredibly invasive.  Every year, I lament that the federal government has to collect so much information about me:  where I worked during the fiscal year, how I saved my money, etc.

According to Scott Rasmussen, 52% of Americans favor repealing the 16th Amendment.  Count me among them.  The income tax gives the government far too much influence over our lives, and the federal tax code is so byzantine and full of carve-outs and exemptions, it’s become the purview of the well-connected.  It’s become a corporatist monstrosity.

What would replace the income tax?  Given that it’s likely never to be repealed—governments don’t typically diminish their power (or access to other people’s money)—the question is largely academic.  Still, it’s worth considering.

While I think tariffs can serve a useful purpose (see also: bringing China to heel), and that there’s an argument for some mild protectionism, high protective tariffs like Republicans championed after the Civil War would be ruinous to trade.  The deadweight loss (destroyed economic activity) associated with tariffs—especially from the inevitable retaliatory tariffs other nations would pass in response—would do more harm than good, and could result in a Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930 situation (i.e., the Great Depression).

The only realistic alternative that I see currently (from my admittedly myopic position) is a national sales tax.  There are some serious drawbacks to this approach, to be sure, but it would be the cleanest, most efficient way to generate revenue.

A national sales tax would encourage saving and work, both of which are currently disincentivized under our current tax regime.  Instead, purchases would be disincentivized, which would hurt sales, but encourage people to hold onto more of their money.  Further, it would not require the government to keep elaborate tabs on every worker; the Internal Revenue Service could be greatly reduced, or even eliminated.

Of course, any tax is a necessary evil, and a national sales tax would make it more difficult for high sales tax States to raise revenue (as it would limit those States’ ability to increase their taxes if necessary).  It would also slow purchasing, and necessarily raise prices (by definition, especially if you’re tacking 15-25% on top of a good).  There’s also the question of whether a sales tax should just apply to consumer goods, or if it should be an uber-expensive value-added tax, with each economic transaction along the chain of production getting taxed.

Those are sticky questions for wonkier types than I to sort out.  But wouldn’t it be nice to build an economy on the production of real value—of stuff—rather than one built on ever-expanding sales, purchasing on credit, and debt financing?

Regardless, the federal income tax is a major imposition, an invasive intruder that enters our lives every April, borrowing from us (without interest!) throughout the year, and intimidating us with the looming threat of disruptive audits.  It seems everyone would be happier—even, in a way, the feds!—if it were eliminated.

Lazy Sunday VII: The Deep State

It’s been a good weekend, and today’s post marks another milestone in this blog’s brief history:  fifteen weeks of consecutive daily posts.  After a change of pace last Sunday, I’m back to Lazy Sunday. This week’s edition looks back at posts about the administrative Deep State that exists in the federal government.  Indeed, it’s an unholy alliance of D.C. insiders, corporate elites, academic Leftists, and social justice warriors, all arrayed against President Trump and his agenda.

The Deep State is, as I’ve written, very real.  We can no longer trust judges to dispassionately rule on or uphold the Constitution; bureaucrats to execute faithfully the president’s orders; or government officials to act in the best interest of the American people.  Further, we cannot trust our elites to even abide by the outcome of a fair, free election.  The long, expensive Mueller probe represented a vague, politically-motivated witch hunt, all designed to de-legitimize President Trump.  That our unelected intelligence agencies played an active role in such treasonous activity further highlights the dire situation in which the Republic finds itself.

Indeed, we’ve entered into a period of praetorian rule in the United States.  No longer is the Constitution respected.  If the people make the “wrong” choice for president, then the full apparatus of the Swamp will swing into action to “correct” the wrongthink of the plebes.  Most Americans do not appreciate how far we’ve passed through the looking glass.  I would urge President Trump to restructure radically our intelligence agencies, making them accountable to elected officials and, therefore, the American people.

These posts detail the perfidy and duplicity of the Deep State.  They only scratch the surface.

1.) “Fictitious Frogs and Bureaucratic Despotism” – this piece examines, in brief, the excesses and abuses of federal agencies that have been delegated lawmaking powers.  Weak-willed Congress’s have readily given up their precious legislative powers, and out-of-control justices have approved this unconstitutional, cowardly activity.  The results have been both absurd and catastrophic, particularly with everyone’s favorite government-agency-to-hate, the Environmental Protection Agency.

2.) “The Deep State is Real – Silent Coup Attempt and Andrew McCabe” – disgraced Deputy Attorney General was going around bragging about his attempt to lead a 25th Amendment removal of President Trump from office, premised on the ridiculous notion—unfortunately axiomatic among Leftists—that the president is insane.  Despite no evidence to suggest as much, McCabe, like other Deep States progressives, merely wanted to remove the president from office.  Of course, to progressives, anyone who disagrees with them is either mentally ill or evil.

3.) “The Deep State is Real, Part II: US Ambassadors and DOJ Conspired Against Trump” – this post kicked off a few days of Deep State reflections.  It’s a “must-read,” as I explain how the notorious Steele dossier, a fake document used to obtain a FISA warrant to wiretap the Trump campaign phones, was commissioned by the Clinton campaign.  With all the claims of “Russian collusion” levied at President Trump, it’s an absurd example of projection:  Clinton was the one “colluding” with a foreign agent (Christopher Steele, the author of the dossier, is a former British spy) to influence the outcome of an American election—and using the backchannels of state power to eavesdrop on an innocent man’s presidential campaign.  That’s far more sinister than anything the Nixon campaign did in 1972 (at least the Committee to Re-Elect the President kept the Watergate burglary domestic).  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should be in federal prison.

4.) “Mueller Probe Complete, Trump Vindicated” – remarkably, even Robert Mueller couldn’t straight-up lie about President Trump.  I’ll end this Lazy Sunday on a positive note:  President Trump was cleared of any “collusion” with Russia (keep in mind, “collusion” isn’t even a legal term, and is vague to the point of meaninglessness, which is the point:  anyone can read into the phrase “Russian collusion” whatever dark fantasies they want).  Now that the probe is done, President Trump should act with all haste to DRAIN THE SWAMP!

Happy Sunday.  Rest up—we’ve got to take back America!

Other Lazy Sunday Posts:

Mueller Probe Complete, Trump Vindicated

The long national nightmare is overThe long national nightmare is over—the Mueller probe/expensive government boondoggle/politically-motivated, Deep State witch hunt is finally complete, and President Trump is in the clear:  there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Now that the world finally knows what we all suspected for the past two years, the Left is in complete meltdown mode.  The mental gymnastics to which they’re resorting is humorous, but sad.  A key lesson to remember is that what the Left can’t achieve politically or socially, it will achieve through the courts (or violence).

For two years, the Left assumed that their inside man, Robert Mueller, and the rest of the Clintonian, globalist Deep State would produce (or, if need be, fabricate) the “evidence” needed to oust a duly-elected President of the United States.

Now, they’re magic wand has turned into a limp stick, incapable of conjuring up the fabled “collusion” the Left dreamed about for two long years.

President Trump emerges victorious.  It’s a huge blow to the Deep State, and almost like Part II of the 2016 election:  an outside figure, facing enormous odds and an entire media-government-business establishment arrayed against him, has won a hard-fought battle, even with the deck stacked against him.

There are still investigations in New York involving the perfidious and mendacious Michael Cohen, but those will, most likely, similarly yield nothing but bitter fruit for the Left—and more vindication for Trump.

In the meantime, it’s a great day to be on the Trumpian Right.  MAGA MAGA MAGA!

–TPP

P.S.—Here’s a great video c/o my younger brother:

Out of Control Feds

A benefit of writing this little blog is that I read (and, usually, skim) a great deal of material from all over the web, and come away knowing more than I otherwise would.  My hope is to take some of the flotsam and jetsam I come across and condense and give context to it.

Such was the situation with Jim Treacher, the pseudonym of Sean Medlock.  Treacher/Medlock is a lukewarm Never Trumper (from what I can gather) who writes for PJ Media.  Treacher wrote a piece earlier in the week about “conservative” website The Bulwark, which is unhinged neocon Bill Kristol‘s new pet project since The Weekly Standard was unceremoniously shuttered a few months ago.

That piece, “In What Sense is The Bulwark Conserving Conservatism,” is not the point of this post, but it is a disturbing read.  Treacher examines the self-righteous scribblings of Molly Jong-Fast, who covered CPAC for The Bulwark.  CPAC is the major event in conservative activism, and every year generates plenty of controversy between the warring factions of Conservatism, Inc.  Jong-Fast (hyphenated names make my skin crawl) basically spent the entire conference shuddering about how “anti-choice” the conference was, and making jokes about a group of conservatives wanting to limit the size and scope of the federal government.

What did you expect, baby?  CPAC isn’t a meeting of the D.C. Workers’ Soviet.  Yeesh.  Read the piece to get the full flavor for this foolishness.  It proves the claims from Dissident Right figures that modern “conservatism” doesn’t conserve anything, and yesterday’s Leftist utopia is today’s “conservative principle.”

Tough words to type, but in the case of Kristol and his ilk, terribly true.  Regardless, in the piece Treacher mentions in passing being struck by a State Department vehicle in 2010, which prevented his attendance at CPAC.

That took me down a frightening rabbit hole:  a State Department vehicle struck Treacher, who was in the crosswalk at the time.  The State Department agent driving the vehicle, Mike McGuinn, did not apologize to Treacher; indeed, Treacher was issued a ticket for jaywalking—while in his hospital bed!

Some key excerpts from The Daily Caller‘s piece about the incident:

An agent in the vehicle, Mike McGuinn, did not identify himself to Medlock at the scene, or apologize for running him down. Indeed, Washington, D.C., police drove to a local emergency room to serve Medlock with a jaywalking citation as he lay prostrate in a hospital bed, while a man who identified himself as “special agent” stood by watching and taking notes….

At the hospital, DC police officer John Muniz arrived to issue Medlock a $20 jaywalking ticket. Medlock was lying sedated on a gurney, so Muniz delivered the ticket to a Daily Caller colleague, who was at the hospital with Medlock. He looked embarrassed as he did so. Behind him stood a man dressed in a dark suit who identified himself as a “special agent.” He said nothing but wrote in a notebook.

Curiously, the ticket says that Medlock was struck at an intersection four blocks from where the accident actually took place. And it claims that Medlock was walking diagonally across the intersection at the time. In one of his strikingly short conversations with the Daily Caller, agent Mike McGuinn acknowledged that Medlock was not jaywalking at all, but walking “outside the crosswalk when the incident occurred.”

The question is: Did the federal agent driving the SUV, faced with potential liabilities from the accident, encourage local police to issue some sort – any sort – of citation to Medlock, to establish his culpability?

Three years later, Treacher wrote a piece for The Daily Caller detailing the State Department’s practice of hiring law enforcement personnel with checkered pasts.

Here we have a federal bureaucracy utterly indifferent to the lives of the citizens it ostensibly serves.  In Treacher’s case, I can’t tell if it’s malignant indifference, or rank incompetence.  Bureaucracies of all stripes try to avoid liability and controversy—they exist to protect and expand themselves, after all—but only the federal government could get away with running someone down in a crosswalk, ticketing that person, and never owning up to its mistake.

I wrote yesterday about the presence of Deep State, anti-Trump actors in the State Department, and of their collusion with the Obama administration’s Department of Justice.  If they have the gall to attempt the takedown of a duly-elected President, then imagine their contempt and disregard for us.

Now that the Mueller probe has ended (I think that’s the takeaway from the promise that there would be no more indictments), Deep State perfidy will only grow more sinister.  Gird your loins, President Trump.

The Deep State is Real, Part II: US Ambassadors and DOJ Conspired Against Trump

Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC) dropped a bombshell earlier this week:  Obama-era US ambassadors conspired with the Department of Justice against President Trump.  Every site I find points back to the original Washington Examiner piece linked above, although the blog Independent Sentinel has a bit more commentary, tying it back to the fake Christopher Steele dossier.

You’ll recall the Steele dossier is a document the Clinton campaign commissioned through back-channels (a law firm), which was then used to obtain a FISA warrant to wiretap then-candidate Trump’s communications.  That mendacious original sin spawned the odious “Russian collusion” narrative that lingers around the Trump Administration like a bad fart.  Andrew McCarthy in National Review calls the dossier a “Clinton-campaign product.”

Regardless, if Meadows is correct, it serves as further proof that the Washington “Deep State”—the “Swamp”—is very, terrifyingly real.  It will stop at nothing to disrupt President Trump’s America First agenda, and subvert a free and fair election.

What’s most chilling about all this chicanery is not that it targets President Trump particularly (although that certainly creates its own problems—few good, conscientious Americans will choose to run for public office, especially as conservatives, unless they have the cash and the guts to risk everything).  Rather, it suggests that our experiment in self-government is dangerously threatened by a group of unelected elites cloistered in the Washington foreign policy and law enforcement establishment.

America stands at a crossroads.  We’ve arrogated ever-more power to an unaccountable federal bureaucracy.  Many conservatives—myself included—hoped that the extended government shutdown would aid in the draining of the Swamp.  So far, though, it seems that the president is still surrounded by enemies.

We have a choice:  we continue down the current road, ceding more power to the government, and hoping against hope for some kind of “enlightened, constitutionalist despot” to restore as much of our constitutional framework as possible.  President Trump’s difficulties weeding out seditious bureaucrats suggest that path is incredibly difficult, and it will make presidential contests—as well as Supreme Court nominations—increasingly vicious.  The progressive Left has an edge in the culture, the institutions, government, and on the streets.

The other option is weed out the federal bureaucracy, strike down the administrative state, and restore power to Congress.  Restoring power to the States would also reduce the emphasis on national politics über alles.

But conservative politicians have been peddling those nostrums for years, without much headway.  Thus, we find ourselves struggling along with a feeble Congress, a dictatorial federal court system, an arrogant administrative regime, and a presidency that is both excessively powerful and, paradoxically, unable to control its own bureaucracy.

Something has to give.  President Trump has fought back ably overall, but one man alone cannot restore our constitutional order.  Indeed, that’s the whole point of our system—to diffuse power broadly.  He’s done what he could through the constitutional powers at his disposal.

I don’t know what the future holds, but if we want to continue the grand experiment in self-government, we have to hobble the Deep State—indeed, it must be destroyed.

TBT: What is Popular Sovereignty?

Today’s #TBT looks back at an essay entitled “What is Popular Sovereignty?”  It was a follow-up, of sorts, to “American Values, American Nationalism,” one of my most-read posts (a post that I still largely agree with, though I am moving away slightly from the idea of American as absolutely a “propositional nation”—I do think it was an outgrowth of a distinctly Anglo-American culture, though it’s proven remarkably adaptive as peoples of different nationalities and cultures have settled here).  A friend posted a Facebook comment taking issue with the idea of popular sovereignty as I presented it in that essay, and this was my attempt to address his objections.

As I point out in the essay below, I do think we should have some un-elected positions within government.  If the government is building a hydroelectric dam, I don’t want to hold an election for the lead engineer.  I’m also not advocating for pure democracy, which the Framers of the Constitution rightfully saw as an odious and dangerous form of government that would, inevitably, collapse into mob rule and, ultimately, tyranny.

What I do warn against is the law-making power invested increasingly in the hands of an unaccountable federal bureaucracy, one that is technically under the control of the executive branch, but which functionally operates independently—the “Deep State,” as it were.  If the President did have control over the bureaucracy, it would be bad enough—the executive would wield legislative powers.  But an unaccountable bureaucracy that even the executive cannot rein in is even more frightening.  At least we could hope for an “enlightened despot” executive who would minimize the damage of his bureaucracy, but if the bureaucracy runs itself, regardless of who holds the presidency, liberty is deeply threatened.

So, here is 2016’s “What is Popular Sovereignty?”:

On Wednesday, 8 June 2016, I posted a piece entitled “American Values, American Nationalism.”  In that piece, I discussed the “Five Core Values of America,” a set of values inspired by a government textbook I used to use with my US Government students.  The second value, “popular sovereignty,” is deals with the idea that power in our political system ultimately derives from the people–as Abraham Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address, our government is “by, of, and for the people.”

This post received quite a few comments on my Facebook page, including this one from a good friend of mine:

Now watch as I set my progressive-libertarian friend straight–respectfully.

My friend raised a very valid point:  the Framers of the Constitution were suspicious, if not outright terrified, of democracy.  Aristotle had identified democracy as one of the “bad” forms of government that came when rule by the people went bad.  The Framers had seen the consequences of a federal government that was too weak, namely the barely-contained chaos of Shays’ Rebellion in 1785.  Naturally, they wanted a government by, of, and for the people–thus the requirement that the Constitution be ratified by 3/4ths of the States in special ratifying conventions (designed to circumvent the Anti-Federalist state legislatures)–but they recognized that unbridled populism would lead to demagoguery.  It’s pedantic to say it, but Nazi Germany is the quintessential example of a desperate people granting dictatorial powers to a charismatic individual.

Pure democracy, without any checks on the majority’s power, quickly turns to one-man authoritarianism.”

The French political philosopher Montesquieu argued that the English government succeeded because it balanced monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy effectively, which further influenced the belief of the Framers that government should filter the will of the people through a complex system of checks and balances, and a rigorous, jealously-guarded separation of powers.  Thus we have such institutions as the much-maligned (but quite brilliant) Electoral College, and a Senate that is designed to act as a break on the people’s (often fickle) will.  Indeed, before it was corrupted by the XVII Amendment, the Senate was intended to represent the interests of the States themselves, rather than the will of the people, which is represented in the House of Representatives.

***

So, how did I address my friend’s concerns?  Here is my reply (with some minor edits for clarity and brevity) to my friend’s remarks, and to elaborate on the concept of “popular sovereignty”:

You are correct in noting the skepticism with which the Framers viewed unbridled democracy. There was much wisdom in their skepticism, precisely out of concern that a well-positioned demagogue could, in the right circumstances, sway the fickle populous to his whims. Pure democracy, without any checks on the majority’s power, quickly turns to one-man authoritarianism.

When I write about popular sovereignty, then, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I mean “consent of the governed.” The people consented through our constitutional order when they elected delegates to special state ratifying conventions (circumventing the generally Anti-Federalist-controlled state legislatures). The people, then, ultimately gave consent to that government, and continue to do so through regular elections. Of course, a complex system of checks and balances tempers the will of the people (voiced primarily through the House of Representatives, which controls the power of the purse), balancing with it the will of the States, and vesting a great deal of authority to halt dubious legislation in the hands of the executive.

As for Thomas Jefferson’s love of revolutions and his proposal to rewrite the Constitution each generation, the actual Constitution provides a useful mechanism that makes such rewrites generally unnecessary, but possible: the amendment process. So far, every proposed amendment has come from the Congress, and all but two have been ratified in state legislatures (the other two were ratified, like the Constitution itself, in special state ratifying conventions). However, the Constitution provides another method–one that has yet to be used–to propose amendments: 2/3rds of the States can convene a constitutional convention to propose amendments. Texas’s current governor, Greg Abbott, is currently working on just such a convention of the States. In short, the Constitution provides us a way to change it to fit current needs without throwing out the whole document.

Of course, I would argue strenuously for an originalist reading of the Constitution and its amendments, all of which should be read in the context of those who proposed them. This still allows for changes through the amendment process, and for congressional elaboration. The Constitution is not meant to cover ever eventuality, and gives a great deal of space to Congress and (this is important and often forgotten) the States.

“It approaches something like tyranny when the President has the power to write laws (indirectly through the bureaucracy he manages) and to enforce them.” 


As for your comments about technocrats, perhaps I should clarify here, too. What I am primarily concerned about is the ability of federal agencies to write their own rules, many of which have the force of law. This practice is dangerous because most of these federal agencies operate within the executive branch and have little congressional oversight. Law-making powers are meant to rest solely within the Congress, and the job of the President is to duly enforce those acts to the best of his ability. It approaches something like tyranny when the President has the power to write laws (indirectly through the bureaucracy he manages) and to enforce them. Even scarier is the prospect that the federal bureaucracy has become so large that the President cannot exercise effective control over it, or even know what it’s doing! Many presidents–particularly our current one–have used bureaucratic rule-making to push unpopular measures without input from the people’s representatives. Congress is complicit in this, as it has delegated these powers to the executive bureaucracy, and the Supreme Court has allowed it to do so.

That being said, you are absolutely correct that there is a need for an intelligent, qualified, and motivated civil service, and, naturally, we want our dams to stay sealed tight and our roads to be paved and efficient. I would never dream of proposing we elect, say, the head of the South Carolina Department of Transportation. Here, again, the Constitution provides precedent: at the national level, the President appoints his cabinet heads, as well as federal and Supreme Court judges and justices. The Senate, however, has the responsibility of confirming these nominations, helping to prevent egregiously bad appointments.

If these proper checks and balances are maintained–if the different branches stick to their constitutional duties and limits, and if the proper relationship exists between the federal government and the several States–even a reckless executive can only do so much damage. If Congress vigorously protects its legislative prerogatives, an unqualified or authoritarian-minded president may still do some harm, but his ability to do so will be greatly diminished, and the damage can be contained.

***

This conversation went back and forth for a few more posts, which I will possibly include in future pieces.  In the interest of space–as this rumination is already quite lengthy–I will refrain from sharing them now.

However, I would ask that you permit me one parting thought:  we should be on guard against the lionization of the presidency.  The Congress–which represents the people and is, therefore the seat of popular sovereignty–may be consistently unpopular, but it is the proper branch to resist the huge expansion of the presidency.  Presidents increasingly attempt to speak for the people, but in a country that is divided between two entrenched, fundamentally incompatible political philosophies, it is nearly impossible to do so.  Indeed, attempting to do so leads to a Rousseau-style attempt to impose “the common will” on people–whether they want it or not.

Instead, let’s speak for ourselves.  We can do that through involvement in local politics, but also by communicating with our Congressmen and Senators.  Let them know that we expect Congress to reclaim its proper legislative powers from the executive bureaucracy.

Academic Leftism’s Sour Grapes

I received the following piece from a colleague at one of the schools where I teach.  The piece, entitled “The Academy is Unstable and Degrading. Historians Should Take over the Government Instead,” is indicative of how utterly clueless Leftist intellectuals are to their own dominance of not only academia, but the culture and government as well.

The author, Dr. Daniel Bessner, is an assistant professor of American foreign policy at the University of Washington, and, as he makes clear from the piece, an avowed socialist.  Indeed, the crux of the op-ed is as follows:  the academy is crumbling, as tenure-track jobs disappear (and, presumably, as Americans are wising up to its intense Leftist slant and poor track record in re: the job market), meaning Leftist “public intellectuals” need to find new worlds to conquer.  Dr. Bessner proposes the government.

In his diagnosis of the academy’s ills, he argues that the Left has focused too much on taking over the English Department (it’s at least refreshing to read a Leftist acknowledge that it was a self-conscious, deliberate march through the institutions), and not enough taking over the State Department, as it were.

He then proceeds to detail how libertarians moved from the fringes of political opinion to their relative ubiquity today, discussing the influence of Murray Rothbard and the Left’s favorite billionaire boogiemen, the Koch Brothers.

What’s rich about all this hand-wringing is the utter lack of self-awareness.  What about the legions of left-leaning banksters and billionaires pouring money into progressive organizations and schemes?  George Soros is our “boogieman” of the Left, but consider the entire entertainment, corporate (especially “Big Tech“), and academic apparatuses that are arrayed in favor of progressivism’s cause du jour.

The Left has dominated the culture from multiple perches for decades.  If the academy is falling into ruinous disrepair, it’s because Leftists have been running it since the 1960s.  They have only themselves to blame for the drying up of tenure-track gigs, rising tuition, and useless “assistant vice deans of diversity, inclusions, and LGBTQ2+MMORPG acceptance” positions.

One final note:  if President Trump were the dictator these Leftists soy boys make him out to be, they wouldn’t be identifying openly as socialists, nor would they be espousing a socialist agenda—as Dr. Bessner does in this piece—openly online.  That Dr. Bessner does so also demonstrates how successful his comrades have been at normalizing a fundamentally ruinous ideology in the United States (see also:  crazy-eyed Congressbabe Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, poster-child for over-credentialed, arrogant college grads who base their entire lives off what they learned in an English 101 survey course from an angry, radical adjunct).

God help us all if Dr. Bessner and his ilk insinuate themselves further into the government.  Drain the Swamp, President Trump!