Marian L. Tupy writes: Marx’s disciples from Cuba and Venezuela to South Africa and Zimbabwe are committing the same mistake today.
Marxism was supposed to have brought about a lot of positive changes, including the creation of a classless society, where everyone lived in peace. To these ambitious goals can be added substantial reduction in the amount of labor required from the proletariat.
As Rodney G. Peffer from the University of San Diego put it in his 2014 book Marxism, Morality, and Social Justice:
Marx believed the reduction of necessary labor time to be…an absolute necessity. He [claimed] … that real wealth is the developed productive force of all individuals. It is no longer the labor time but the disposable time that is the measure of wealth.
Little did the German economist know that free markets would achieve his objective with aplomb.
The number of hours worked per day has fluctuated throughout human history. Based on their observations of extant hunter-gatherer societies, scholars estimate that our foraging ancestors worked anywhere between 2.8 hours and 7.6 hours per day.
Once they secured their food for the day, however, they stopped. The foragers’ workload was comparatively low, but so was their standard of living. Our ancestors’ wealth was limited to the weight of the possessions they could carry on their backs from one location to the next.
The total number of hours worked rose because people were willing to sacrifice free time in exchange for a more stable food supply.
About 12,000 years ago, people started to settle down, cultivate crops and domesticate animals. The total number of hours worked rose, because people were willing to sacrifice free time in exchange for a more stable food supply. Since artificial lighting was prohibitively expensive, daylight regulated the amount of work that could be done on any given day.
In summer, most people worked between six and 10 hours in the fields and an additional three hours at home. In winter, shorter days limited the total number of work hours to eight. For religious reasons, Sunday was a day off and a plethora of feasts broke the monotony of agricultural life.
Our expectations as to what constitutes a good work-life balance are obviously very different from those of hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists. It makes sense, therefore, to compare today’s workload to that at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
In 1830, the workweek in the industrializing West averaged about 70 hours or, Sundays’ excluded, 11.6 hours of work per day. By 1890 that fell to 60 hours per week or 10 hours per day. Thirty years later, the working week in advanced societies stood at 50 hours, or 8.3 hours per day. Read the rest of this entry »
The democratic cause is on the defensive, and China’s pragmatic authoritarianism now offers a serious rival model, based on economic progress and national dignity.
David Runciman writes: In his 1992 book “The End of History and the Last Man,” Francis Fukuyama famously declared the triumph of liberal democracy as the model of governance toward which all of humankind was heading. It was a victory on two fronts. The Western democracies held the clear advantage over their ideological rivals in material terms, thanks to their proven ability to deliver general prosperity and a rising standard of living for most citizens. At the same time, to live in a modern democracy was to be given certain guarantees that you would be respected as a person. Everyone got to have a say, so democracy delivered personal dignity as well.
Results plus respect is a formidable political mix. The word “dignity” appears 118 times in “The End of History,” slightly more often than the words “peace” and “prosperity” combined. For Mr. Fukuyama, that is what made democracy unassailable: Only it could meet the basic human need for material comfort and the basic human desire for what he called “recognition” (a concept borrowed from Hegel, emphasizing the social basic human desire for what he called “recognition” (a concept borrowed from Hegel, emphasizing the social dimension of respect and dignity). Set against the lumbering, oppressive, impoverished regimes of the Soviet era, it was no contest.
“Democracies, because they give everyone a say, are bound to be fickle.”
Yet today, barely two decades into the 21st century, the contest has been renewed. It is no longer a clash of ideologies, as during the Cold War. Western democracy is now confronted by a form of authoritarianism that is far more pragmatic than its communist predecessors. A new generation of autocrats, most notably in China, have sought to learn the lessons of the 20th century just like everyone else. They too are in the business of trying to offer results plus respect. It is the familiar package, only now it comes in a nondemocratic form.
Since the 1980s, the Chinese regime has had remarkable success in raising the material condition of its population. Over that period, nondemocratic China has made strikingly greater progress in reducing poverty and increasing life expectancy than democratic India: People in China live on average nearly a decade longer than their Indian counterparts and per capita GDP is four times higher. The poverty rate in China is now well below 10% and still falling fast, whereas in India it remains at around 20%. The benefits of rapid economic growth have been made tangible for many hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens, and the regime understands that its survival depends on the economic success story continuing. But China’s rise has been underpinned by more than just improved living standards. There has been a simultaneous drive for greater dignity for the Chinese people. This is not, however, the dignity of the individual citizen as we’ve come to know it in the West. It is collective national dignity, and it comes in the form of demanding greater respect for China itself: Make China great again! The self-assertion of the nation, not the individual, is what completes the other half of the pragmatic authoritarian package.
“One of the striking features of the last century’s battle of ideologies was that the rivals to liberal democracy always had their vocal supporters within democratic states. Marxism-Leninism had its fellow-travelers right to the bitter end … “
Chinese citizens do not have the same opportunities for democratic self-expression as do citizens in the West or India. Personal political dignity is hard to come by in a society that stifles freedom of speech and allows for the arbitrary exercise of power. Nationalism is offered as some compensation, but this only works for individuals who are Han Chinese, the majority national group. It does not help in Tibet or among Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.
On the material side of the equation, China’s pragmatic authoritarians have certain advantages. They can target and manage the benefits of breakneck growth to ensure that they are relatively widely shared. Like other developed economies, China is experiencing rising inequality between the very richest and the rest. But the rest are never far from their rulers’ minds. The Chinese middle class is continuing to expand at a dramatic pace. In the West, by contrast, it is the middle class, whose wages and standard of living have been squeezed in recent decades, who feel like they are being left behind.
There are several great things about living in a non-democratic society. Here’s my top-ten list.
You’re not responsible for what happens to your country. Your kids won’t be asking you, “How did you guys allow these morons to ruin our health care/ education /defence?” Your conscience is pristine.
You spare lot of time and effort consumed by civil activity and the fight for your interests. Why did China become so strong and wealthy in so short time? Because they were busy making money, not rallying in the streets, or shouting slogans at each other.
If the regime gets repressive, you can make a few good career moves snitching on your colleagues and neighbors, doing little else.
Noisy minorities, bums and panhandlers disappear from the streets, which visibly enhances the urban environment.
Police violence and corruption disappear for good. Effective order maintenance takes its place.
There is much more stability in the corridors of power. It makes relationship-building much more predictable, if you know who you want to make friends with, and how to do it.
The yoke of political correctness is gone. Your rulers, your boss, and the police are the only ones who you might offend, and you always know what they do like to hear, and what not. Read the rest of this entry »
Yuval Levin writes: Some of President Donald Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters in 2016 were motivated to overlook his shortcomings by desperate fear that our system of government was near death and only the most extreme measures could save it. A poll conducted by PRRI and the Atlantic immediately after the election found that more than 60 percent of Trump’s voters believed the 2016 election was “the last chance to stop America’s decline.” As one pro-Trump essayist famously put it, things had gotten so bad that it was time either to “charge the cockpit or you die.”
” … Levitsky and Ziblatt essentially ignore core conservative complaints about the ways in which the left has undermined our constitutional norms and institutions. The progressive celebration of executive unilateralism, of the administrative state, and of a politicized judicial branch are left unmentioned. But even though they do not amount to autocracy, of course, these long-term trends are surely threats to American democracy and of at least the magnitude of President Trump’s tweets.
And yet to say so, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest, would itself amount to an attack on our institutions. Without a hint of irony, they note that one of the ways the Tea Party movement undermined political norms was that it lodged the accusation “that President Obama posed a threat to our democracy.” Later they say, regarding Republican critiques of Obama, that “such extremism encourages politicians to abandon forbearance. If Barack Obama is ‘a threat to the rule of law,’ as Senator Ted Cruz claimed, then it made sense to block his judicial appointments by any means necessary.” Presumably this means that if you write an entire book arguing that Donald Trump threatens to bring the death of democracy, you are similarly justifying resistance to his administration by any means necessary.
Political commentator and actor Steven Crowder decided to set up an experiment to see just how well people that want “common sense” gun control knew about firearms.
He set up a tent for “Citizens Coalition for Common Sense Gun Reform” to ask people that do not own or are interested in guns to see how much they knew about firearms and which ones should be banned based on “common sense.”
Crowder quickly finds out that the people who are in favor or “common sense” gun control know very little about guns in the first place and what they are capable of. The people justdecided which guns should be banned based on how it makes them feel.
For example, many people wanted more “tactical looking” firearms banned, but yet other kinds of rifles displayed on the table were fine, such as hunting rifles. Crowder does point out on the side that the AR-15 is actually a popular small game hunting rifle but because it looks tactical, it should be banned.
People were also not well informed on what types of guns were used in crimes and thought that the AR-15 is used in many cases, but as Crowder points out, from 2007 to 2015, 70% of shooting murders are from handguns.
“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong”.
— H. L. Mencken
Democracy? In Moderation, Please.
Buried somewhere in the above Daily Beast article is probably a perfectly decent, arguable case for a certain kind of small-ball, incremental legislation. Unfortunately, but predictably, its case is comically undermined by hateful, shallow, silly, dishonest writing.
Ohh! Those evil Republicans! They should be taken out and horsewhipped! Here, hold my drink. I’ll do it. Get outta my way. I’ve got some GOP ass to beat. Oh, never mind.
Never mind that this advocacy item masquerading as journalism doesn’t even attempt to demonstrate how the measures will have any impact whatsoever, to “avert mass shootings”. Which is understandable. One; averting mass shootings is not, and never was, the goal of activist gun-control legislation. And two; There’s no evidence that “averting mass shootings” can be accomplished by legislation in the first place.
Think the gun debate isn’t polluted with toxic stupidity from the Left? Read on:
“…But with the substantial distortion of our democracy around guns, they are the issue with which this particular method most adheres to the original intentions of the progressives who created it a century ago, at a time when large interests such as timber and railroads blocked popular reforms in legislative bodies around the country.”
The progressives who created it a century ago. Right. Wait, you mean the puritan, racist, anti-constitutional Wilsonian reformers of that era, the progressive activists who gave us segregation, prohibition, and Jim Crow laws, those guys?
The early 20th-century progressives’ “original intentions” are in stark contrast to the intentions of our founders. Cautious, deliberative men, keenly aware of the historically destructive effects of “direct democracy“.
Ever notice how our most sacred and treasured rights are intentionally safeguarded, hardwired in the Bill of Rights? Completely out of reach of voters?
Democracy may be one of the most admired ideas ever concocted, but what if it’s also one of the most harebrained? After many years of writing about democracy for a living, David Harsanyi has concluded that it’s the most overrated, overused, and misunderstood idea in political life. The less we have of it the better.
“Democracy” is not synonymous with “freedom.” It is not the opposite of tyranny. In fact, the Founding Fathers knew that democracy can lead to tyranny. That’s why they built so many safeguards against it into the Constitution.
Democracy, Harsanyi argues, has made our government irrational, irresponsible, and invasive. It has left the American people with only two options—domination by the majority or a government that can’t possibly work. The modern age has imbued democracy with the mystique of infallibility. But Harsanyi reminds us that the vast majority of political philosophers, including the founders, have thought that responsible, limited government based on direct majority rule over a large, let alone continental scale was a practical impossibility.
The Guojiang Subtitle Group, which is made up of about six dozen volunteers across China, subtitles American debates and uploads them to Chinese video sharing sites like Sina. But if the hope is that Chinese viewers would be more supportive of democracy after watching them, we are in for a disappointment. In fact, some Chinese viewers come away thinking democracy is a joke. “There isn’t that much discussion of policy issues. Many remarks are just sensational,” the New York Timesquoted a former business consultant as saying. Other viewers compared it to watching a reality show or a sitcom.
To be fair, the Chinese aren’t alone in laughing at The Donald and other ridiculous characters in politics. A debate moderator accused Trump of running “a comic book version of presidential campaign, and FOX News host Bill O’Reilly opened a segment of his show by imagining what the GOP primary contenders would be like if they were stars of a reality television show. Joking about politics is an international pass time.
Even in China, with its limited scope of political discourse, social media users mock local government officials and joke about corruption. One popular joke holds that in America, rich people get involved in politics, while in China people involved in politics get rich.
Still, from the many conversations and experiences I’ve had during the four years I’ve been living in China, it seems as if the Chinese public views the flaws in democracy as the rule rather than the exception. Americans have our complaints—and rightfully so—about politicians, but at the end of the day, most of us believe in Winston Churchill’s famous remark, “Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Politicians might say stupid things to appeal to the public, but isn’t that better than the public having no say at all? By contrast, Chinese people often look at countries with unstable or failing democratic systems and use those systems as examples of why democracy itself is flawed. Thailand (with its many coups), Libya, and Iraq are frequently cited examples in China in the past few years.
But the Chinese save their worst criticism and their favorite cautionary tales about the foibles of democracy for Taiwan…(read more)
Pro-Beijing Forces Target a Top School’s Leaders to Intimidate Professors.
The new school term in Hong Kong is off to a bad start. A year after university students led mass protests for democracy, the government is taking revenge against pro-democracy voices in the academy.
The crackdown is especially harsh at elite Hong Kong University, where the governing council last week blocked the appointment of former law dean Johannes Chan to the senior post of pro-vice chancellor. Mr. Chan was the only candidate recommended by a search committee.
The problem is that Mr. Chan is a human-rights and constitutional lawyer with moderate pro-democracy views. He has done academic work with his HKU law colleague Benny Tai, founder of the group Occupy Central With Love and Peace, which helped start the street protests last year.
For months Mr. Chan faced a smear campaign, with hundreds of articles in pro-Beijing newspapers condemning his “meddling in politics.” Critics accused him of mishandling a donation to Mr. Tai, but the governing council cleared him of wrongdoing earlier this year. Nevertheless the council denied his appointment last week by a 12-8 vote.
Though it has been in place since 1967, some of us don’t fully understand—or take advantage of—the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The act, often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government, requires federal agencies to disclose requested information. While there are nine specific exemptions, the FOIA grants citizens a wide range of information controlled by the U.S. government.
As election season nears, and in light of an outbreak of high profile investigations into government dealings, FOIA requests have gained currency as an indispensable tool to shed light on the inner workings of public affairs.
Especially in the internet age, citizens should have free and unrestricted access to government information. As an essential tool to gain access to the troves of electronic information at the heart of the biggest, most important government disputes, FOIA requests are crucial for a transparent democracy. But to tap into the heaps of information, electronic and otherwise, you need to know how to file a request and identify the nine exemptions. This infographic clearly details the process of filing a request under the act as well as what happens once a request is made.
Are you on the wrong side or the right side of history? Is there even a “wrong side” or a “right side”? What do those terms mean and why do politicians and pundits use them? Nationally syndicated columnist and best-selling author Jonah Goldberg explains.
“Most of the American electorate has probably been ready for a woman president for some time. But that woman must have the right array of qualities and ideally have risen to prominence through her own talents and not (like Hillary Clinton or Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner) through her marriage to a powerful man.”
Camille Paglia writes: Why has the U.S., the cradle of modern democracy, never had a woman president?
Incredulous young feminists, watching female heads of state multiply from Brazil and Norway to Namibia and Bangladesh, denounce this glaring omission as blatant sexism. But there are systemic factors, arising from the Constitution, popular tradition, and our electoral process, that have inhibited American women from attaining the highest office in the land.
The U.S. president is not just chief executive but commander-in-chief of the armed forces, an anomaly that requires manifest personal authority, particularly during periods of global instability. Women politicians, routinely focused on social welfare needs, must demonstrate greater involvement with international and military affairs.
“The protracted and ruthlessly gladiatorial U.S. electoral process drives talented women politicians away from the fray. What has kept women from winning the White House is not simple sexism but their own reluctance to subject themselves to the harsh scrutiny and ritual abuse of the presidential sweepstakes.”
Second, the president has a ceremonial function, like that of the British royal family, in symbolically representing the history and prestige of the nation. Hence voters subliminally look for gravitas, an ancient term describing the laconic dignity of Roman senators. The president must project steadiness, sober reserve, and deliberative judgment. Many women, who tend to talk faster and smile more than men, have trouble with gravitas as performance art.
Third, the complex, coast-to-coast primary system in the U.S. forces presidential candidates into well over a year of brutal competition for funding and grass-roots support. Their lives are usurped by family-disrupting travel, stroking of rich donors, and tutelage by professional consultants and p.r. flacks. This exhausting, venal marathon requires enormous physical stamina and perhaps ethical desensitization to survive it.
In contrast, many heads of state elsewhere ascend through their internal party structure. They are automatically elevated to prime minister when their party wins a national election. This parliamentary system of government has been far more favorable for the steady rise of women to the top. Read the rest of this entry »
Thankfully, this time there is no bloodshed or widespread mayhem. But Beijing’s local loyalists are using some of the same rhetorical tactics to isolate and intimidate pro-democracy figures.
“Now in Hong Kong opposition politicians and their supporters are routinely accused of consorting with and being funded by foreign powers; of advocating the violent overthrow of the state; and of perpetrating child abuse—the last charge based on the large numbers of young people who joined Hong Kong’s antigovernment protests.”
Back then the search was on for “traitors” who were named, shamed and then terrorized, often to a fatal degree. Now in Hong Kong opposition politicians and their supporters are routinely accused of consorting with and being funded by foreign powers; of advocating the violent overthrow of the state; and of perpetrating child abuse—the last charge based on the large numbers of young people who joined Hong Kong’s antigovernment protests.
“Less-high-profile individuals have also encountered employment problems. RTHK, the public broadcaster, is under relentless pressure to sack certain people. And in privately owned media, columnists have been removed and other journalists have been told that the time has come to toe the line.”
These sorts of accusations are routinely found on the pages of Hong Kong’s increasingly rabid Communist newspapers. While largely ignored by the bulk of the population, these publications are carefully scrutinized by the leaders of the local government because their content enjoys Beijing’s imprimatur.
“The Communist press has also been in the forefront of a wider campaign to “expose” the democratic movement’s leaders, accusing them of being in the pocket of overseas governments and in receipt of illicit funding.”
One of their current targets is Johannes Chan, former dean of the law school at Hong Kong University and a respected professor. His main “crime” is his association with another legal scholar, Benny Tai. Mr. Tai was one of the founders of the Occupy Central movement that morphed into the Umbrella Movement street protests last year.
The communist press has been busy darkly hinting that Prof. Chan is somehow involved in unlawful funding of the protest movement and that he neglected his academic duties. Following these accusations, his appointment to a pro-Vice Chancellor post was blocked.
Another academic targeted was political scientist Joseph Cheng, who was demoted prior to retirement and threatened with a denial of his pension. The accusations in this instance were even more extreme, ranging from charges of plagiarism to abuse of office.
The Communist press has also been in the forefront of a wider campaign to “expose” the democratic movement’s leaders, accusing them of being in the pocket of overseas governments and in receipt of illicit funding. Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Shapiro writes: A new poll from TransferWise shows that 35 percent of those born in the United States would consider ditching their home country to live elsewhere; that number skyrockets among those aged 18-34, the so-called millennials, 55 percent of whom said they would think of taking off if given the chance.
“Most of those millennials cite economics as a chief factor in their desire to leave: 43 percent of men and 38 percent of women said they’d leave if they could get paid more in another country.”
The rationales for staying in America, articulated by Americans, are particularly weak: 59 percent say they would stay because “it is home,” another 58 percent say they would stay thanks to romantic and family ties – and then the stats drop precipitously, with just 22 percent stating they would stay for the democratic society, 17 percent for the culture, 10 percent for the good future for children, 5 percent for wealth, 3 percent for low crime, and 2 percent for low taxes.
All of which makes sense, given that America has been moving in the wrong direction with regard to preservation of democratic society, a common culture, a good future for children, wealth, low crime, or low taxes. Read the rest of this entry »
“According to the leaked conversations published by the Oriental Daily, participants in the online chat included Jasper Tsang, a veteran pro-Beijing politician who is also the president of the legislature. The conversation shows Mr. Tsang was involved in the discussion last Thursday morning to orchestrate the timing of the vote.”
On Thursday, Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily newspaper published a series of conversations among a group of pro-Beijing lawmakers on the popular mobile messaging service Whatsapp, showing the internal debate before the vote took place and the politicians’ reactions afterwards.
An image of the Oriental Daily’s report on the leaked chats on Thursday. Isabella Steger/The Wall Street Journal
“That compromised Mr. Tsang’s obligation to remain neutral as president of the Legislative Council, opposition lawmakers said, with some demanding that he step down.”
“Everyone who could be a potential defector in the opposition has already spoken, it doesn’t look like there will be a change to the final result.”
— Mr. Tsang wrote in the chat, according to the leaked transcripts
The election plan, which for the first time would grant the public the right to vote for the city’s top leader, is opposed by pro-democracy lawmakers because it only allows pre-screened candidates to run. While pro-Beijing lawmakers hold a majority in Hong Kong’s legislature, the pro-democracy camp’s opposition to the measure denied it the two-thirds majority required for passage. Read the rest of this entry »
Isabella Steger reports: Hong Kong’s legislature is expected to vote down a proposal that would let the public directly elect the city’s chief executive in 2017 — but only from a prescreened slate of candidates. The showdown follows city-wide protests and a year and a half of efforts by Hong Kong’s leaders to sell the Beijing-backed election plan. Here are five things to know about the vote.
1. The Legislature Will Vote This Week
The proposal currently on the table will be put to a vote this Wednesday and Thursday. This is arguably the most critical of five stages in the election overhaul blueprint, laid down by Beijing and in accordance with the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution
2. Pro-Democracy Lawmakers Oppose the Package
The package lays out the rules for electing Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2017 within a framework formulated by Chinese authorities, in which all candidates must be nominated by a 1,200-member committee that is heavily pro-Beijing. After slight tweaks announced in April, the opposition maintains that the system is not democratic enough to allow one of their own candidates to stand.
3. The Plan Is Not Likely to Pass
27 pro-democracy lawmakers — who control a little more than one-third of the city’s legislature –say they will vote against the package, as has one lawmaker who isn’t part of the opposition camp. Read the rest of this entry »
Thousands march on the legislature to demand a freer vote
Joanna Plucinska reports: Nine months after the Umbrella Revolution began, pro-democracy protesters again took to the streets of Hong Kong to demand a say in the way the city’s leader is elected in polls slated for 2017.
“We’re not North Korea, we know what freedom is.”
— Carol Lo, a protester at Sunday’s rally
A crowd of 2,000 to 3,000 people—workers and families as well as students and democracy activists—marched on Sunday afternoon from Victoria Park, a traditional gathering place for protests, to the legislature buildings downtown. Many carried yellow umbrellas—adopted as the symbol of Hong Kong’s democracy movement after protesters took to carrying them during last year’s unrest to protect themselves from police pepper spray.
Riot police use tear gas against protesters after thousands of people blocked a main road at the financial central district in Hong Kong, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. Hong Kong police used tear gas on Sunday and warned of further measures as they tried to clear thousands of pro-democracy protesters gathered outside government headquarters in a challenge to Beijing over its decision to restrict democratic reforms for the city. (AP Photo) HONG KONG
Others carried signs that read “Citizens Against Pseudo-Universal Suffrage,” declaring their opposition to the form of democracy described in a political reform bill to be voted on by the city’s legislature on June 17. That bill will allow the central government in Beijing, and a 1,200 member electoral college composed mostly of pro-establishment figures, to vet all candidates for the position of Chief Executive, as the city’s top official is known. Similarly unrepresentative electoral methods helped to spark last fall’s Umbrella Revolution, and protesters are once again demanding broader political rights.
“I’m a genuine citizen of Hong Kong, I’m not from China. Most people from China are after money, but I’m after truth.”
— Protester and Uber driver Chao Sang
“We’re not North Korea, we know what freedom is,” said Carol Lo, 35, a protester at Sunday’s rally and a parent of a 9-year-old girl. Lo voiced fears for the political future of Hong Kong’s next generation: “How will [my daughter] survive, if this situation gets worse and worse?” she said.
Policemen rest following pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong on September 29, 2014. Police fired tear gas as tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators brought parts of central Hong Kong to a standstill in a dramatic escalation of protests that have gripped the semi-autonomous Chinese city for days. XAUME OLLEROS/AFP/Getty Images)
Another protester, Uber driver Chao Sang, voiced the growing tendency of many Hong Kongers to see themselves as politically, linguistically and culturally separate from mainland Chinese. “I’m a genuine citizen of Hong Kong, I’m not from China,” he told TIME. “Most people from China are after money, but I’m after truth.” Read the rest of this entry »
ADRIAN VERMEULE is the John H. Watson Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He is the author or co-author of eight books on public law and legal theory, most recently The Constitution of Risk (2014).
Adrian Vermeile writes: Although Dan Ernst ends his account of the emergence of the American administrative state in 1940, the true climax, at least from the lawyer’s point of view, occurs in 1932. In that year the great Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes undertook his titanic effort to forge a charter of compromise, a treaty of peace, between the administrative state and the rule of law. The case was Crowell v. Benson, involving an agency charged with deciding workman’s compensation cases involving injured maritime workers.
“The mid-century attempt to domesticate the American administrative state, described so skillfully by Ernst, ultimately came undone, and it is a live question whether anything else has taken its place.”
Hughes’s opinion in many ways laid down lines of demarcation that were written into the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946, the great framework statute or quasi-constitution of the administrative state. It is a tribute to Hughes that his effort created an equilibrium that outlasted the turbulent years of his Chief Justiceship — despite the intervening constitutional revolution of 1937, after which the courts stopped trying to enforce narrow readings of the national government’s power over interstate commerce, and stopped trying to police statutory grants of authority from Congress to the executive (the so-called “nondelegation doctrine”).
Having paid due tribute, however, it must be said that the equilibrium Hughes brought into being is a thing of the past. The line of demarcation between administration and law, the frontier of the administrative state, has shifted markedly, with law giving way to administration across almost every margin identified in Crowell — in large part because law has abnegated its authority to administration. Ernst is not wholly clear about whether the equilibrium he identifies persists all the way into the present, doubtless because the story from 1940 to the present is not the story he is trying to tell. But to understand the significance of his book, it is important to understand that what it offers is a portrait of a particular equilibrium, one that has since vanished. The mid-century attempt to domesticate the American administrative state, described so skillfully by Ernst, ultimately came undone, and it is a live question whether anything else has taken its place.
“Ernst’s narrative is highly readable and strikes just the right balance among the historian’s love of detail, the lawyer’s need for conceptual organization, and the political theorist’s addiction to high-level principles.”
Ernst’s narrative is highly readable and strikes just the right balance among the historian’s love of detail, the lawyer’s need for conceptual organization, and the political theorist’s addiction to high-level principles. Let me begin with the level of political and constitutional theory. The high-level frame of the book is a choice or contest among possible visions of the relationship between law and administration. Traditional lawyers were afflicted by “Tocqueville’s nightmare,” a vision of a centralized administration abusing its powers and trampling on legal rights. (The nightmare persists, of course, as Philip Hamburger’s recent book shows). The main alternatives or competitors may be understood as different conceptions of “the rule of law.”
One alternative, championed by Ernst Freund, was the German idea of the Rechtsstaat — the rule-of-law state founded on clear positive enactments that would fix the metes and bounds “where the sovereign’s will prevailed and where it yielded to the will of the individual” (p. 2). The Rechtsstaat ideal, however, lost out to a different conception of the rule of law, championed by Hughes among others — a modified and updated version of Albert Venn Dicey’s ideal that subjected all official action to review by ordinary common-law courts.
“…perhaps the major expansion of the administrative state since Crowellhas come not in the areas it addressed, but in an area it said almost nothing about: agency rulemaking. Agencies may act like little courts, as in Crowell, or like little legislatures, making general rules with the force and effect of law.”
After the emergence of the administrative state, the original version of the Diceyan ideal was a non-starter. Ernst shows convincingly that even some traditional lawyers came to understand and appreciate the expertise and efficiency of relatively nonpolitical agencies, who were more professional and less liable to be overrun by patronage politics than other potential suppliers of lawmaking, such as legislative committees, and more knowledgeable and less expensive than the common-law judges and the elaborate processes of litigation. Such lawyers reinvented themselves as transactional engineers, shepherding clients through the administrative process — not “officers of the court” but “officers of the state” (6). Yet lawyers like Hughes also worked to translate or adapt Dicey’s commitments in the new environment, developing an approach that retained a crucial role for judicial review of administrative action. As Richard Fallon has observed in a different but related context, the translated Diceyan approach attempted not so much to get every given case right, but instead to provide an overall scheme of review that would suffice to keep the administrative state within the bounds of law. Read the rest of this entry »
“This cartoon…is a symbol of freedom of religion, democracy, and secularism. It is this symbol that these newspapers refuse to publish.”
“Écoutez, we cannot blame newspapers that already suffer much difficulty in getting published and distributed in totalitarian regimes for not publishing a cartoon that could get them at best jail, at worst death,” he said.
HONG KONG— Mia Lamar and Isabella Steger reporting: Student protesters demanding greater democracy for Hong Kong said Thursday they are more seriously weighing a retreat from the roads they have occupied for more than two months.
The remarks were the latest sign of the narrowing options that the protesters face as police have increased their efforts to remove the demonstrators from the streets and public support for the occupation of busy city thoroughfares has faded.
“Occupying here doesn’t put enough pressure on the government. If it put enough pressure, we wouldn’t be here two months….In the end, we didn’t get what we want, but this movement inspired people that we can’t live like this anymore.”
— 18-year-old student Timothy Sun
The Hong Kong Federation of Students, a group of university students at the helm of the protests, and Scholarism, a teenage student protest group, could issue a decision over whether to retreat from the encampments within the next week, according to student leaders.
A street cleaner pushes her cart between rows of tents at the pro-democracy movement’s main protest site in Hong Kong’s Admiralty district. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Yvonne Leung, a spokeswoman for HKFS, made the remarks on a local radio program. Eighteen-year-old Scholarism leader Joshua Wong separately told The Wall Street Journal that his group, which works closely with HKFS, is also considering a retreat. Mr. Wong is in the third day of a hunger strike, along with four other teen members of his group.
“For me, I think it’s time to adjust tactics. Retreat doesn’t necessarily mean failure.”
— Student leader
Protesters are calling for the right of citizens to select their own candidates for the city’s top leadership post, not those vetted by Beijing as per a decision handed down by the National People’s Congress in August. Those calls have been rejected by the government as nonnegotiable under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, a “mini-constitution” held with Beijing. The city will vote in 2017 for its next chief executive, a five-year appointment. Read the rest of this entry »
If you’re a WordPress blogger and post something critical of the Obama Administration and Health Care legislation, do you ever find unrelated content suggestions promoting creepy or offensive content leaking into the Content Recommendations panel? Either this is innocently absurd (benefit of the doubt) or legitimate Op-Ed criticism is being suspiciously herded into a category that triggers “kooky conspiracy theory” suggestions.
Read this post and see if there’s anything that could possibly fit with “Adolf Hitler”, or “Barack Obama Citizenship conspiracy theories”. Didn’t find anything related to Obama’s citizenship? Didn’t find anything related to Adolf Hitler? Exactly. Me neither.
The above screen cap records the list of suggestions offered in the content recommendations tags list when I prepared this post. A short post with only 88 words. If any one of the 88 words in that post is related in any way to these obnoxious suggestions (Hitler? Really?) I fail to see a connection.
One episode does not make a pattern, so there are no conclusions to draw here. But if any other WordPress bloggers find similar nonsense appearing in content suggestions, please, make a screen cap, and post it.
“The government holds a monopoly on violence. Any law that we vote for is ultimately backed by the full force of our government and military.”
For The National Interest, John Allen Gay writes: There was a minor kerfuffle in the press last week when reporters began picking through the academic writings of David Brat, the Virginian economics professor who bested House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Republican primary. Brat had written that “If you refuse to pay your taxes, you will lose. You will go to jail, and if you fight, you will lose. The government holds a monopoly on violence. Any law that we vote for is ultimately backed by the full force of our government and military.” That sentence, “The government holds a monopoly on violence,” was held up by a number of publications—the Wall Street Journal and the New York Daily News among them—as a sign that Brat was some sort of extremist. Of course, that phrase is actually a rather standard definition of a successful government: that there are no forces in the polity other than the government that use force in an organized manner. Governments without a monopoly on the use of force have trouble providing the basic social goods of government—security, order, some semblance of justice—or protecting their citizens’ rights.
A MONOPOLY ON IGNORANCE
French writer and entrepreneur Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry was dismayed by the media misread of Brat’s remark, seeing the failure of professional political reporters to recognize a basic political-science concept as symptomatic of a broad and dangerous trend. He writes:
In the understanding of both the great Ancient philosophers and, taking after them, of the thinkers who gave us the Enlightenment and the intellectual scaffolding for our prosperous liberal-democratic society, including the Founding Fathers, democracy did not simply happen. Democracy depended on a robust citizenship, and this citizenship, in turn, was a struggle of all the men (and, now, women) of the polity; it conferred rights as well as responsibilities. In particular, two of the most fundamental requirements of citizenship were virtue and a liberal education.
Liberal education, he says, “helps make us free” by showing us “not only the empirical scaffolding of our Universe–a.k.a. science–but also its conceptual scaffolding, a.k.a. the ideas, concepts and history which shape the world we live in.” Erode that education and you’re eroding freedom, citizenship and ultimately democracy itself. When the political elite doesn’t know politics, that’s a sign that liberal education is indeed being eroded. And Gobry suggests that the erosion is only going to continue as America retools its education system to produce more science and technology degrees: “Nobody stops to ask what education is for, because the answer is implicitly accepted by all: an education is for getting a job. It is, in other words, for being a cog in the giant machine of post-industrial capitalism. It is, in other words, for the opposite thing that our forefathers wanted for us.”
The fundamental division in U.S. politics is between those who take their bearings from the individual’s right to a capacious, indeed indefinite, realm of freedom, and those whose fundamental value is the right of the majority to have its way in making rules about which specified liberties shall be respected.
The argument is between conservatives who say U.S. politics is basically about a condition, liberty, and progressives who say it is about a process, democracy. Progressives, who consider democracy the source of liberty, reverse the Founders’ premise, which was: Liberty preexists governments, which, the Declaration says, are legitimate when “instituted” to “secure” natural rights.
Ilya Somen writes: An informed electorate is a prerequisite for democracy. If voters do not know what is going on in politics, they cannot rationally exercise control over government policy. Large-scale voter ignorance poses a serious danger to American democracy in the 2004 election and beyond. It is particularly troubling at a time when we face a close wartime election with major policy decisions at stake.
Inadequate voter knowledge has two major negative implications for democracy. First, it prevents democratic government from reflecting the will of the people in any meaningful sense, undercutting the “intrinsicist” defense of democracy as a government that reflects the voluntary decisions of the populace. Likewise, voter ignorance imperils the instrumental case for democracy as a regime that serves the interests of the majority, since ignorance potentially opens the door for both elite manipulation of the public and gross policy errors caused by politicians’ need to appeal to an ignorant electorate in order to win office.
In this paper I review the overwhelming evidence that the American electorate fails to meet even minimal criteria for adequate voter knowledge. I then examine the implications for American politics. Part I lays out minimal knowledge prerequisites for voter control of public policy, summarizes the massive evidence of voter ignorance that students of the subject have accumulated over the years, and highlights some of the most disturbing implications of those studies. Part II examines more recent evidence of widespread political ignorance. It shows that extensive voter ignorance plagued the 2000 presidential election and apparently continues during the current election cycle. These data are significant because the extremely close and controversial nature of those two elections might have been expected to cause an increase in voter knowledge. In Part III, I review and criticize theories that claim that “information shortcuts” enable voters to control government in spite of pervasive ignorance. Those mechanisms for dealing with voter ignorance are unable to overcome it and sometimes even exacerbate the problem. Part IV restates the argument that ignorance is largely “rational,” rooted in the very low likelihood of a single vote being able to influence electoral outcomes.