From pot to crony capitalism, here are suggestions for the Republican-controlled Congress.
So Republicans have taken back the Senate and in January will control both houses of Congress. That brings them to the question posed by a famous political book: You won — Now what?
[Glenn Reynolds‘ book “The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself“ is available at Amazon]
The problem for Republicans is that because they do not have a veto-proof majority, they can pass bills but can’t get them past President Obama. It doesn’t mean that they’re doomed to futility. They can pass three kinds of bills: those Obama will want to sign; those he won’t want to sign but will have to; and those he’ll veto, but where a veto is unpopular. With that in mind, I have six suggestions for the new GOP-controlled Congress:
1. End the federally imposed 21-year-old drinking age. The limit was dreamed up in the 1980s as a bit of political posturing by then-secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole. It has been a disaster. College drinking hasn’t been reduced; it has just moved out of bars and into dorm rooms, fraternities/sororities and house parties. The result has been a boom in alcohol problems on campus. While drunken driving has declined, it was declining before the age was raised and has declined just as fast in Canada, where the drinking age is 18 or 19 depending on the province.
As John McCardell, vice chancellor of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., writes, “If you infantilize someone, do not be surprised when infantile behavior — like binge drinking — results.” Easing pressure on states to raise their own drinking ages is consistent with GOP ideals. Obama hasn’t been hot on lowering the drinking age, but it’s hard to imagine him vetoing this.
2. Decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. Many states have legalized marijuana, but it remains illegal under federal law. That’s bound to change sooner or later — and the GOP might as well get ahead of it. Would Obama veto it? Doubtful. Read the rest of this entry »
Eric Holder has announced that he will be stepping down as attorney general as soon as a replacement can be named. And already, National Journal notes that with Holder’s departure, President Obama will be losing one of his few friends in Washington.
“…Holder’s role has been not so much law enforcement as ‘scandal-goalie,’ ensuring that whatever comes out in the news or in congressional investigations, no one in the government will go to jail…”
[Glenn Reynolds‘ book The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself is available at Amazon]
As the article by George Condon notes, in choosing a friend, Obama was following in the footsteps of presidents going all the way back to George Washington, who named Revolutionary War comrades-in-arms to the slot.
“Writing in Above The Law, Tamara Tabo notes that Holder’s stonewalling, which led him to be the first attorney general ever found in contempt of Congress, has poisoned relations between the Justice Department and legislators, ensuring a rocky reception for whoever Obama names next.”
John F. Kennedy named his brother Robert to be attorney general, and Richard Nixon named his law partner, John Mitchell. In many ways, this makes sense: The attorney general of the United States is at the top of the law enforcement apparatus, and in that position, you want someone you can trust.
Life is hard. It’s harder still when an entire class of people with their hands out stands between you and success.
Unfortunately, that’s increasingly the problem, all around the world. A recent New York Times piece tells the story of a Greek woman’s efforts to survive that country’s financial collapse. After losing her job, she tried to start a pastry business, only to find the regulatory environment impossible. Among other things, they wanted her to pay the business’s first two years of taxes up front, before it had taken in a cent. When the business failed, her lesson was this: “I, like thousands of others trying to start businesses, learned that I would be at the mercy of public employees who interpreted the laws so they could profit themselves.”
[Reynolds‘ book The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself is available at Amazon]
This phenomenon isn’t limited to Greece, or even to capitalistic societies. Dissident Soviet-era thinker Milovan Djilas coined the term “the New Class” to describe the people who actually ran the Soviet Union: Not workers or capitalists or proletarians, but managers, bureaucrats, technocrats, and assorted hangers-on. This group, Djilas wrote, had assumed the power that mattered in the “workers’ paradise,” and transformed itself into a new kind of aristocracy, even while pretending, ever less convincingly, to do so in the name of the workers. Read the rest of this entry »
Preventing services like Uber and Lyft from operating discourages competition and innovation.
For US News, Craig Westover reports: Everyone seems to love rideshare services Uber and Lyft. Everyone, that is, except regulators and the government-imposed transportation cartels they defend. You know, the ones who have been working off the same tired model of service since the days of the horse and buggy? Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles recently fined the operators of both innovative car services, and last week the government issued cease and desist orders demanding both stop operating or their part-time drivers would face more fines.
How popular is Uber? Just this past week it was valued at more than $18 billion.
In a previous life, I worked for a Fortune 500 corporation at a time when “entrepreneurial spirit” was the buzz phrase of corporate America. While downsizing and rightsizing, America’s corporations in the 80’s adopted a “If-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them” attitude in the struggle to keep pace with the flexibility and adaptability of myriad niche marketers plundering their customers.
[Also see Glenn Reynolds‘ USA TODAY COLUMN: Regulation: Uber’s Problem Is That It Offers Insufficient Opportunities For Graft.]
“We want our managers to be more entrepreneurial,” our divisional vice-president wrote in a memo. “We want you to think like entrepreneurs. We want you to be innovative and take risks, but be careful.”
American colleges are fraught with petty politics and bad economics
For USA Today, Glenn Reynolds writes: As college graduates around the country fling their caps into the air, college and university administrators are ending the year in a less positive state. It has been a tough year for higher education in America, and it’s not especially likely that next year will be a lot better. As an industry, higher education is beset with problems, problems that for the most part aren’t being addressed.
[Glenn Reynolds‘ book The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself is available at Amazon]
One set of problems is economic. With tuitions climbing, and graduates’ salariesstagnant, students (and parents) are becoming less willing to pay top dollar. This has caused some schools — especially expensive private institutions that lack first-class reputations — to face real hardships. Yeshiva University’s bonds have beendowngraded to the status of junk. Credit downgrades have also hit several elite liberal arts colleges. Other private schools, such as Quinnipiac College, are actuallylaying off faculty. Georgetown in Kentucky cut faculty by 20%.
“If I understand college administrators correctly, colleges are hotbeds of racism and rape that everyone should be able to attend.”
It’s no picnic for public institutions either. “There have been 21 downgrades of public colleges and universities this year but no upgrades,” reported Inside Higher Ed. It’s gotten so bad that schools are even closing their gender studies centers, a once-sacrosanct kind of spending. Read the rest of this entry »
Investigators used the video of the Garland Avenue parking garage from Sunday to determine Julia Garcia’s report about being sexually assaulted there was false, according to the preliminary report released by the University of Arkansas Police Department.
Julia Garcia was arrested on suspicion of filing a false police report and released from the Washington County Detention Center without bond, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
“I like that they published her name and picture. When you file a false rape report, you’re not a victim.”
Garcia’s arraignment is scheduled for May 30, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The woman on Sunday reported to police that she was sexually assaulted in the Garland Avenue parking garage on campus. Officers immediately began searching for her alleged assailant, a 6-foot-tall man with a muscular build, according to the University of Arkansas Police Department.
Prosecutors too often abuse unrestrained powers
For USA Today, Glenn Harlan Reynolds writes: Here’s how it’s supposed to work: Upon evidence that a crime has been committed — Professor Plum, found dead in the conservatory with a lead pipe on the floor next to him, say — the police commence an investigation. When they have probable cause to believe that someone is guilty, the case is taken to a prosecutor, who (in the federal system, and many states) puts it before a grand jury. If the grand jury agrees that there’s probable cause, it indicts. The case goes to trial, where a jury of 12 ordinary citizens hears the evidence. If they judge the accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, they convict. If they think the accused not guilty — or even simply believe that a conviction would be unjust — they acquit.
[Glenn Harlan Reynolds is the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself, available at Amazon]
Here’s how things all-too-often work today: Law enforcement decides that a person is suspicious (or, possibly, just a political enemy). Upon investigation into every aspect of his/her life, they find possible violations of the law, often involving obscure, technical statutes that no one really knows. They then file a “kitchen-sink” indictment involving dozens, or even hundreds of charges, which the grand jury rubber stamps. The accused then must choose between a plea bargain, or the risk of a trial in which a jury might convict on one or two felony counts simply on a “where there’s smoke there must be fire” theory even if the evidence seems less than compelling.
This is why, in our current system, the vast majority of cases never go to trial, but end in plea bargains. And if being charged with a crime ultimately leads to a plea bargain, then it follows that the real action in the criminal justice system doesn’t happen at trial, as it does in most legal TV shows, but way before, at the time when prosecutors decide to bring charges. Because usually, once charges are brought, the defendant will wind up doing time for something.
Despite anti-gun hysteria following shootings, the trend is toward expanding gun rights.
For USA Today, Glenn Harlan Reynolds writes: This past weekend, the Tennessee Law Review held a symposium on “New Frontiers in the Second Amendment.” It was a follow-up, of sorts, to a symposium held almost 20 years ago, and boy, has a lot changed since then.
“Overall, the trend of the past couple of decades seems to be toward expanding gun rights, just as the trend in the 1950s and 1960s was toward expanding free speech rights”
In 1995, Second Amendment scholarship had been almost entirely nonexistent for decades, and what little there was (mostly written by lobbyists for gun-control groups) treated the matter as open-and-shut: The Second Amendment, we were told, protected only the right of state militias (or as former Chief Justice Warren Burger characterized them, “state armies“) to possess guns.
Lower court opinions, to the extent they existed, were largely in agreement, and the political discussion, such as it was, generally held that anyone who believed that the Second Amendment might embody a judicially enforceable right for ordinary citizens to possess guns was a shill — probably paid — for the NRA. Whatever the Second Amendment meant, it did not, we were told, protect a right of individuals to possess firearms, enforceable in court against governmental entities that infringed on individuals’ gun possession.
But then came a wave of scholarship, much of it by eminent constitutional scholars ranging from William Van Alstyne, to Laurence Tribe, to Sanford Levinson, toRobert Cottrol, exploring the original purposes and understanding of the Second Amendment. By the turn of the millennium, it was well-established among scholars that the Second Amendment was intended to protect an individual right to arms, one that would be enforceable in court against infringements by states, municipalities and the federal government.
[Glenn Reynolds is the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself look for it at Amazon]
Glenn Harlan Reynolds: Americans Rising Up Against Government: Three Examples of Pushback Against the Ruling ClassPosted: February 24, 2014
America’s ruling class has been experiencing more pushback than usual lately. It just might be a harbinger of things to come.
“This is more “Irish Democracy,” passive resistance to government overreach.”
Many local police departments already use license-plate readers that track every car as it passes traffic signals or pole-mounted cameras. Specially equipped police cars even track cars parked on the street or even in driveways.
The DHS put out a bid request for a system that would have gone national, letting the federal government track millions of people’s comings and goings just as it tracks data about every phone call we make. But the proposal was suddenly withdrawn last week, with the unconvincing explanation that it was all a mistake. I’m inclined to agree with TechDirt‘s Tim Cushing, who wrote: “The most plausible explanation is that someone up top at the DHS or ICE suddenly realized that publicly calling for bids on a nationwide surveillance system while nationwide surveillance systems are being hotly debated was … a horrible idea.”
Order Reynold’s book “The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself” from Amazon
From the IRS to the NSA, Americans have reasons not to trust the Obama Administration
His answer: 9.5. Other tax experts on the panel called it “awful,” and said that it has done “tremendous damage.”
I think that’s right. And I think that the damage extends well beyond the Internal Revenue Service. In fact, I think that the government agency suffering the most damage isn’t the IRS, but the National Security Agency. Because the NSA, even more than the IRS, depends on public trust. And now that the IRS has been revealed to be a political weapon, it’s much harder for people to have faith in the NSA.
Maybe the next elected president will think before he enacts big change
Glenn Reynolds writes: Back when President Obama was first elected, the folks at Amazon offered a presidential reading list. My own recommendation for him was James Scott’s Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes To Improve The Human Condition Have Failed. Obama should have taken it.
Scott, a Yale professor and no right-winger, produced a lengthy catalog of centrally planned disasters: Everything from compulsory villagization in Tanzania, to the collectivization of agriculture in the Soviet Union, to the “Authoritarian High Modernism” that led to immense, unlivable housing projects and the destruction of urban life in cities around the world. The book stands as a warning to hubristic technocrats: You may think you understand how things work, and how people will respond to your carefully (or, often, not-so-carefully) laid plans, but you are likely to be wrong, and the result is likely to be somewhere between tragedy and farce. The world is more complicated than planners are capable of grasping — and so, for that matter, are the people who inhabit it.