George F. Will: writes: Much is wrong with Washington these days, including much of what is said about what is wrong. Many Americans say there is “too much politics” in Washington. Actually, there is too little. Barack Obama deplores “politics as usual” here. But recently Washington has been tumultuous because politics, as the Framers understood it, has disintegrated. Obama has been complicit in this collapse.His self-regard, the scale of which has a certain grandeur, reinforces progressivism’s celebration of untrammeled executive power and its consequent disparagement of legislative bargaining. This is why Obamacare passed without a single vote from the opposition party — and why it remains, as analyst Michael Barone says, the most divisive legislation since the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act.
Don’t interrupt the conversation of civilization
“…there’s a strongly held view in Hollywood and D.C. that says that without the government in Washington American society would descend into anarchy almost instantaneously.”
Jonah Goldberg writes: Hidden law was a term coined by Jonathan Rauch, who basically updated a lot of ideas familiar to readers of Burke, Hayek, Oakeshott, and Albert Jay Nock. Calling himself a “soft communitarian,” Rauch put it very well so it’s worth quoting him at length:
A soft communitarian is a person who maintains a deep respect for what I call “hidden law”: the norms, conventions, implicit bargains, and folk wisdoms that organize social expectations, regulate everyday behavior, and manage interpersonal conflicts. Until recently, for example, hidden law regulated assisted suicide, and it did so with an almost miraculous finesse. Doctors helped people to die, and they often did so without the express consent of anybody. The decision was made by patients and doctors and families in an irregular fashion, and, crucially, everyone pretended that no decision had ever been made. No one had been murdered; no one had committed suicide; and so no one faced prosecution or perdition.
“The enemy of hidden law is not government, as such. It is lawyers.”
Hidden law is exceptionally resilient, until it is dragged into politics and pummeled by legalistic reformers, at which point it can give way all at once. The showboating narcissist Jack Kevorkian dragged assisted suicide into the open and insisted that it be legalized (and televised). At that point, the deal was off. No one could pretend assisted suicide wasn’t happening. Activists framed state right-to-die initiatives, senators sponsored bills banning assisted suicide, and courts began issuing an unending series of deeply confused rulings. Soon decisions about assisted suicide will be made by buzzing mobs of lawyers and courts and ethics committees, with prosecutors helpfully hovering nearby, rather than by patients and doctors and families. And the final indignity will be that the lawyers and courts and committee people will congratulate themselves on having at last created a rational process where before there were no rules at all, only chaos and darkness and barbarism. And then, having replaced an effective and intuitive and flexible social mechanism with a maladroit and mystifying and brittle one, they will march on like Sherman’s army to demolish such other institutions of hidden law as they encounter.
The enemy of hidden law is not government, as such. It is lawyers. Three years in law school teach, if they teach nothing else, that as a practical matter hidden law does not exist, or that if it does exist it is contemptibly inadequate to cope with modern conflicts. The American law school is probably the most ruthlessly anti-communitarian institution that any liberal society has ever produced.
Greg Gutfeld writes: Last week, Nelson Mandela died. There were more than enough touching eulogies, and any attempt by me would be shoddy, with the depth of a contact lens. Better to sit back, shut up, and think about a lesson to learn from this great man’s life.
I remember in college avoiding the apartheid issue because it wasn’t part of the way I saw the world. As a staunch anti-communist, I could not abide by the African National Congress, who were backed by the USSR among other nondemocratic entities. I was on the right team, no doubt, as history has shown, but I was wrong on where my allegiances took me, regarding South Africa. I wasn’t supportive of the place. I just wasn’t crazy about any of the players.
My point: The danger of dedicating yourself to “the team” is an immunity to critical thinking. You avoid having to make tougher decisions, or listening, or admitting you might be wrong if you adhere completely to the ideology of the group you’re in.
Don’t get me wrong. The fight against communism was the fight worth having. But it prevented me from seeing that, despite the relationship between communism and Nelson Mandela, I should have been able to handle several thoughts and truths. Why can’t I renounce communism, want to win the Cold War, but accept the necessity of Mandela’s fight? I can enjoy both death metal and poppy electronica — so why can’t I be a cold warrior and a proponent of legitimate revolution? It’s a shallow comparison, but I am a shallow person.
Obama and his tea party adversaries have something important in common — disdain for the practice of politics within the Framers’ institutional architecture. He and they should read Jonathan Rauch’s “Rescuing Compromise” in the current issue of National Affairs quarterly. Read the rest of this entry »