American Elephants


Why Small Government by The Elephant's Child

It seems clear that our nation’s economists are not only well qualified at the dismal science, but know a thing or two about presentation as well. Enjoy.



The Tyranny of the Administrative State by The Elephant's Child

wy-pond-550x309You will be hearing a lot more about “the administrative state” in the coming days and weeks. The name sounds way too bureaucratty to be of interest, but phrased a little differently, more like—the Progressives are a bunch of control freaks and want to ruin your life and your freedom with a constant flow of regulation to satisfy their own egos.   That’s much clearer, and unfortunately true.

This seems especially clear because I’m just back from a trip to Home Depot for lightbulbs. If you have recently faced the lightbulb display at Home Depot or any similar store, you know what I mean. The federal government decided that the fear of global warming justified banning our dependable, cheap, incandescent bulbs and thrusting upon us all sorts of unsatisfactory junk from China—twisty bulbs, 40 watt bulbs that are now supposed to light as well as 75 watt but don’t use up so much energy and so on. What was once a simple shopping trip has turned into a confusing nightmare. Besides, I personally believe that this has nothing to do with “saving energy” and everything to do with the fact that the lighting companies would make a lot more money if they could force us to use the noxious new bulbs made in China, that being why they have all those lobbyists in D.C. (crony capitalism).

Conservatives talk a lot about Liberty and the Constitution, but I’m afraid that that just passes millennials by. Our founding fathers were only recently subjects of England, and they had revolted and fought  a war to escape what they considered tyranny and a far too administrative state. When they were writing a new constitution for the country, Liberty was paramount in their minds. How could they insure that generations hence would not lightly lose all that they had fought for? They were deeply familiar with ambition and greed, power-seeking, and all the other flaws of humanity. So they devised a system of three equal branches, so that no one branch could exert control over the others—and in general, it has worked pretty well.

When the European Union was being devised to prevent the continual wars that had plagued the continent, Valery Giscard d’ Estang, a former French President, was elected to the commission to devise a constitution for the EU. The commission looked at the U.S. Constitution, but could not imagine devolving so much power to the people. So the EU became the unaccountable body to which much of Europe is revolting and considering leaving, as Britain is now doing.

Here’s an example of how the modern administrative state tramples all over the separation of powers from Steven Hayward’s new book: Patriotism Is Not Enough. A classic paragraph from Boston University law professor Gary Lawson, in his 1994 Harvard Law Review article “The Rise and Rise of the Administrative State.”

The [Federal Trade] Commission promulgates substantive rules of conduct. The Commission then considers whether to authorize investigations into whether the Commission’s rules have been violated. If the Commission authorizes an investigation, the investigation is conducted by the Commission, which reports its findings to the Commission. If the Commission thinks that the Commission’s findings warrant an enforcement action, the Commission issues a complaint. The Commission’s complaint that a Commission rule has been violated is then prosecuted by the Commission and adjudicated by the Commission. This Commission adjudication can either take place before the full Commission or before a semi-autonomous Commission administrative law judge. If the Commission chooses to adjudicate before an administrative law judge rather than before the Commission and the decision is adverse to the Commission, the Commission can appeal to the Commission. If the Commission ultimately finds a violation, then, and only then, the affected private party can appeal to an Article III court. But the agency decision, even before the bona fide Article III tribunal, possesses a very strong presumption of correctness on matters both of fact and of law.

It’s only funny until they start coming after you. We’ve reported on Gibson Guitars, and the Sacketts case in Northern Idaho, and rancher Andy Johnson building a stock pond  (above) on his property, but those are only a few of the big ones. Notable because they were so outrageous and so stupid. But excellent examples of the administrative state at work. How do you fight fines of $35,000 a day? How about telling all the school kids in the country what they have to eat for lunch? Or how about ordering all the bathrooms and locker rooms to be open to anyone who wants to come in?



Human Nature is Fixed, Unchangeable and Immutable by The Elephant's Child

awhittleparty

 

Every form or progressivism bases itself on the claim of a special, “scientific” knowledge of what is wrong with humanity and how to fix it. The formula is straightforward: the world is not as it should be because society’s basic “structural” feature is ordered badly.

In one version or another it always boils down to the fact that they don’t like human nature. (Why can’t they be more like — Us?) The quotation is from an essay in the current Claremont Review of Books by Angelo Codevilla. Progressives, Communists, Socialists, in all their forms find human nature deeply flawed, and believe that they can fix it. For our current crop, the avenue seems to be “diversity.”

When they have made everybody equal and all neighborhoods are diverse, and schools are diverse and everybody believes exactly the same diverse things, then there will be no more problems like wars, and high crime rates in the cities run by progressives. The administrative state will take care of keeping the diversity diverse.

Christiana Figureres, Secretary General of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, cheerfully admitted not long ago, that they weren’t really interested in saving the Earth from a climate disaster, but that it was their best chance of ridding the world of Capitalism.

Steven Hayward quoted a paragraph from Boston University law professor Gary Lawson, in a 1994 Harvard Law Review article “The Rise and Rise of the Administrative State.”

The [Federal Trade] Commission promulgates substantive rules of conduct. The Commission then considers whether to authorize investigations into whether the Commission’s rules have been violated. If the Commission authorizes an investigation, the investigation is conducted by the Commission, which reports its findings to the Commission. If the Commission thinks that the Commission’s findings warrant an enforcement action, the Commission issues a complaint. The Commission’s complaint that a Commission rule has been violated is then prosecuted by the Commission and adjudicated by the Commission. This Commission adjudication can either take place before the full Commission or before a semi-autonomous Commission administrative law judge. If the Commission chooses to adjudicate before an administrative law judge rather than before the Commission and the decision is adverse to the Commission, the Commission can appeal to the Commission. If the Commission ultimately finds a violation, then, and only then, the affected private party can appeal to an Article III court. But the agency decision, even before the bona fide Article III tribunal, possesses a very strong presumption of correctness on matters both of fact and of law.

Here’s Richard Epstein on “The Perils of Executive Power

One of the most disturbing trends in the United States is the relentless concentration of power in the federal government. Ever since the New Deal, the classical liberal vision of limited government and strong property rights has taken a back seat to a progressive vision of a robust administrative state, dominated by supposed experts, whose powers are largely unimpeded by legal constraints. Wholly apart from Congress, the new administrative state has adopted and enforced its own laws and regulations, and is defined by unilateral actions by the President and other members of the executive branch, all of which threaten the system of checks and balances built into the original constitutional design.

Obama’s agencies push flurry of ‘midnight’ actions

Federal agencies are rushing out a final volley of executive actions in the last two months of Barack Obama’s presidency, despite warnings from Republicans in Congress and the reality that Donald Trump will have the power to erase much of their handiwork after Jan. 20.

Regulations on commodities speculation, air pollution from the oil industry, doctors’ Medicare drug payments and high-skilled immigrant workers are among the rules moving through the pipeline as Obama’s administration grasps at one last chance to cement his legacy. So are regulations tightening states’ oversight of online colleges and protecting funding for Planned Parenthood.

Donald Trump has promised to wipe out as much of Obama’s regulatory agenda as he can, saying he will cancel “all illegal and overreaching executive orders” and eliminate “every wasteful and unnecessary regulation which kills jobs.”

So, there you go.



Not Constrained Anywhere Nearly Enough! by The Elephant's Child

obama-founders

We want so badly to understand just what is going on. Reports vary from “run for the hills” to “nothing to see here,” just move along. It’s pretty clear that the economy is not thriving, no matter how often Mr. Obama insists that it is. We are not happy with our economy, we are not happy with our government, and we’re not happy with each other.

Have you read the comments on any major website? It’s getting truly nasty out there. Black Lives Matter is successfully causing riots and attacks on police. Seventeen year-old Brian Ogle is fighting for his life after he dared to post “Blue Lives Matter” on his Facebook page. He was attacked and beaten and is in critical condition with three skull fractures.

We have an ideological war going on. The Democratic Party elite have moved far, far to the Left. I don’t know if the rank and file of the party is in line with that. There’s talk of globalists and anti-globalists, immigration and open borders, terrorism and inviting in unlimited numbers of Syrian refugees who cannot be reliably assured are even from Syria, or are not ISIS fighters. Matthew Continetti took that one on:

What is a “globalist’? They are, according to the Times, the “advocates of a more densely enmeshed world,” “concerned internationalists,” “humanitarians, leaders of nongovernmental organizations, donors, investors, app peddlers, celebrities,” a cast of managers, bureaucrats, apparatchiks, media figures and billionaires working across borders to solve problems such as climate change, the Syrian refugee crisis, Third-World poverty;, racial and sexual injustice, and interplanetary colonization. They are the busybody winners of the knowledge economy. And they are feeling glum.

I have a lot of articles attempting to explain what is going on, sitting on my desk, from John Fonte’s “Liberal Democracy vs. Transnational Progressivism: The Future of the Ideological Civil War Within the West”, to Ernest Sternberg’s “Purifying the World: What the New Radical Ideology Stands For.” to Angelo M. Codevilla’s “After the Republic” and from the anonymous Decius: “The Flight 93 Election”.
All excellent, a lot of reading, but worth your time if you have plenty to spare.

I think it evolves down to a simple fact: The radical Left does not like human nature, and they want to fix it. Our founders gave a lot of thought and worry to devising a Constitution to guide our country. They recognized man’s urge for power, the desire to enhance one’s own position and reputation, and they tried to insert checks and balances to keep us on the straight and narrow.

Leftists do not like the free market, which relies on the individual decisions of thousands of people making their own choices. They do not trust mass choice, they want control. Free people have ideas about how things can be improved or about a new product that they are sure will be popular. Rich people often support a new product by paying exorbitant prices to have the newest thing — which in turn makes it possible to begin mass production and bring the cost of the product down. The Left doesn’t want rich people to be free to buy high priced goods, they want to tax their money away to be given to the needy.

The Left does not like needy people being needy, but they are unwilling to leave them free enough to begin the climb to their own riches. They are wrapped up in their own empathy, and feeling good about taking your tax money to succor the world’s poor. As Thomas Sowell wrote — the anointed, or self-consciously elite, are sure that they know what is good for society and who think that the good must be attained by expanded government action. It’s always a ‘crisis’ that must be solved by government action, and they, of course, are always correctly the government who solves stuff. Remember the crisis when it was said that some of our school children were obese?

Human nature: people are tribal. They belong to countries with borders and a language, and customs, and food, and a history and traditions. We establish our own smaller tribes as well, from bridge clubs to neighborhoods, to political groups and football fandom. We seek out those who share our ideas and interests. Haven’t you noticed the extent to which the government is trying to dictate where we live and with whom we associate? If our interest groups are not sufficiently diverse, they may come after us, and we will be called racist, or homophobic or Islamophobic.

They don’t like human nature, they don’t like freedom, they want to control everything — so they can shape us into something they like better. The problem is those three separate branches of government set up to prevent exactly that control. You have noticed, I am sure, how far the Obama administration has gone in bypassing the three branches, ignoring the Constitution and custom and the traditions of the office. He has made a study of what he can get away with by executive orders, actions by federal agencies, and other means to avoid having to work with Congress. He wants to do what he wants, without interference. Which is surely one of the reasons why we have Donald Trump and a lot of very angry Americans.



Red Tape Is Far More Than Annoying — It Has a More Sinister Purpose by The Elephant's Child

0314_CuttingRedTape_770
In a previous post, I linked to an essay by Myron Magnet from City Journal titled “Why are Voters So Angry,” and I added my usual “Do read the whole thing,” but most of you didn’t (I can tell because WordPress tells me how many clicked on each link). So I’m posting another  link and urging you to read the whole essay once again.

The problem is the Administrative State. Socialists, who abound on the Left, have given up on the government’s owning the means of production (and thereby enriching themselves). They have realized that they don’t have to own America’s businesses, they can just control them with government regulation. And their control is far advanced, and nobody seems to recognize just what is happening.

Myron Magnet starts at the beginning and explains just how we have lost control of our government and what we need to do about it. Most adults not part of the Loony Left recognize that socialism is not a good form of government, and ends up as Venezuela, Cuba or Stalinist Russia, in hunger and poverty and desperation. Most adults excludes, of course the Bernie-worshiping Millennials who don’t know about Venezuelans starving and dying without medicine, and just think he’s kind of cute with his great shock of white hair.

But if we cease to enshrine American exceptionalism at the heart of our culture—if we set equal value on such Third World cultural tendencies as passive resignation, fatalism, superstition, devaluation of learning, resentment of imaginary plots by the powerful, and a belief that gratification deferred is gratification forgone—the exceptionalism of our institutions becomes all the more precarious.

Supercharging American anger over illegal immigration and its consequences is the politically correct ban on openly discussing it, with even the most reasoned reservation dismissed as racism and yahooism. And political correctness generates its own quantum of anger among citizens, who think of freedom of speech and debate as central to American exceptionalism. But elite culture stigmatizes plain speaking, so that now a rapist or a murderer is a “person who committed a crime” or an “individual who was incarcerated,” says the Obama Department of Justice, or, according to the latest humbug from the Department of Education, a “justice-involved individual.” Implicit in these euphemisms is the theory that “society,” not the criminal, is to blame for crime, a long-exploded idea aimed at blurring the distinction between right and wrong.

Well, there you go. That’s what I have just been going on about. Here we are in a mortal battle for the future of our country with candidates we hardly would have chosen as our champions. Hillary has essentially promised to continue Obama’s current drift into catastrophe, if only we will allow her to be America’s first woman something or other, and Donald Trump who has recognized the anger and frustration and answered it  with a burst of pure populism.

Jobs are created by the private sector, which makes the economy grow. Jobs created by the federal government just mean another cost to the taxpayers for agencies that cannot fulfill the task assigned to the agency. I’m not sure I can find an agency without a scandal attached. They are paid 78% more than their counterparts in the private sector, and there isn’t really enough work for them to do. The average federal employee earns about $119,000 annually, including salary and benefits, compared to $67,000 for the private sector. And they are receiving that generous compensation for plastering the private sector with so many regulations and so much red tape that the private sector cannot provide the engine of free market capitalism at which they have been so successful.

Read Myron Magnet’s essay on the Administrative State, and pass it on to family and friends. It is important that people realize what is happening to our country. Unfortunately the Left’s big ideas don’t work in the long term, or did you think that those quaint old cars in the Castro’s Cuba were there as theater for the tourists?

Save



Learning Early About the Perils of the Modern Marketplace by The Elephant's Child

20150711_USP006_0

From The Economist:

ZOEY and Andria Green, who are seven and eight respectively, only look innocent. With their baby faces and cunning, they managed to lure patrons to their illicit enterprise: a lemonade stand outside their home in Overton, Texas. The girls were in business for about an hour in June, selling popcorn and lemonade to raise money for a Father’s Day gift, before local police shut the operation down. Not only were they hawking without a $150 “peddler’s permit”, but also the state requires a formal kitchen inspection and a permit to sell anything that might spoil if stored at the wrong temperature. As authorities are meant “to act to prevent an immediate and serious threat to human life or health”, the officers understandably moved swiftly in.

They took away the teeter-totters, and the merry-go-rounds, and park playgrounds have become so boring kids don’t want to be bothered. Farmers’ markets proliferate, but who qualifies as a farmer? Goods made in home kitchens are a ‘grey area’. Some states have passed “cottage-food laws” allowing people to sell ‘Non-potentially hazardous food such as baked goods, sometimes permitted, but the rules are odd and fussy, and different locations have different rules. Rhode Island allows farmers to peddle their goods, but bans everyone else. Oklahoma rules apply only to bakers who may sell up to $20,000 worth of breads and cakes as long as the sales take place in their homes but not in a market. Minnesota allows the annual cap at $18,000 for sellers who register with the state and take a safety course. Across state lines, you run into federal law.

Health authorities worry about the risk of unlicensed kitchens, though just what the dangers of lemonade are is unknown. There are lots more cottage food laws, and no increase in botulism.

Alas for the Green girls, lemonade is not covered by Texas’s cottage-food law, as it might spoil if it is not properly stored. But the pair have learned a valuable lesson about commerce and regulation. They discovered that if they gave the lemonade away free, but put a box on the table for tips, they could still make money because the “payments” thus became donations. Their father must be proud.

Powerline outlines the perils of the Administrative State. It’s going to take a lot of unraveling.



Eighty Thousand Pages of Over-Regulation In 2013! by The Elephant's Child

1530434_684070008291362_2028440787_n

Senator Mike Lee ( R-UT) tweeted a picture of the 2013 Federal Register: 80,000 pages of new regulations.  That translates into nearly 158 million new paperwork hours for Americans and American business, time that could have been used productively instead of complying with bureaucratic busywork. Nearly $500 billion in new costs forced on businesses. Yet President Obama and the Democrats insist that over-regulation is not a problem.

In 1979, Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-MI) observed, “The only thing that saves us from bureaucracy is inefficiency. An efficient bureaucracy is the greatest threat to liberty.” That was when the Code of Federal Regulations contained about 30,000 rules. Today, the federal government has more than 180,000 rules. Yet when there are not many new jobs, when businesses don’t seem to be hiring much and when the economy still is not growing, it’s always “unexpectedly.”

Call it “Soft Tyranny.” Are Americans so increasingly unruly that we need so much more regulation?

Today, more than Tocqueville could have imagined, soft tyranny takes the form of a federal government that directs almost a quarter of the economy through its spending with 137,000 well-trained and highly educated regulators writing tens of thousands of pages of rules every year funded by a complex tax system that takes 14,000 pages to administer.

This regime of “small complicated rules” has been made possible by information technology. An efficient bureaucracy has arrived.

Since 1960 American productivity has increased 208%, meaning that each worker produces $3.08 in real goods and services today for every $1 produced then. Productivity has not bypassed the bureaucracy.

We don’t think much about regulation until we come directly up against it. Think lightbulb ban, ObamaCare, higher cost of energy, plastic grocery bag ban, without even venturing on the possibility of adding a room to your house, a bridge over a stream or — starting a small business. Bureaucrats prove their worth by churning out regulations. Congress is obsessed with the “do something disease.”

The 10 states with the least regulation, led by Texas and South Dakota generated an average of 22.4% growth in real private GDP from 2002 to 2012. The 10 states mired in the most soft tyranny, led by New  York and California, averaged only 13.7% growth in the same 10 years.

Congress must take back the enormous grants of power that they have allotted for convenience to the unelected professionals of the administrative state. They neeed to take direct responsibility for the regulation they impose on us, and all too often avoid applying it to themselves.

 




%d bloggers like this: