Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

So naturally the answer is to give them MORE power

CNN reports that in the past five years thirty-three highly-paid employees of the Securities and Exchange Commission visited porn sites on taxpayer time, using taxpayer-owned computers.  Apparently one senior SEC attorney "downloaded so much pornography to his government computer that he exhausted the available space on the computer hard drive and downloaded pornography to CDs or DVDs that he accumulated in boxes in his office."

Discussions - 5 Comments

Mr. Moser, is it really your solution to problems of labor discipline in a department of law enforcement to...abolish law enforcement?

Art D., I think you mistake John's point. I took it to be something like: If the people in question can't exercise minimal self-control at work, what does that indicate about their (in) ability to regulate and control others?

I don't know that I wrote anything close to what AD suggests. Paul is closer to the mark, but there's an additional point--if corruption on Wall Street is really what caused the recession, then before considering new regulations we ought to consider the extent to which existing regulations were actually being enforced. If they were not, presumably in part because the regulators had *ahem* other things to do, then all the new rules in the world won't fix the problem.

Mr. Moser, there is a certain irriducible quantum of trouble with labor discipline in any human organization. Nothing in your post even hinted at attempting to assess the absolute or comparative frequency of this sort of misbehavior at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Labor discipline will likely be systemically worse in a public agencies for a number of reasons. The thing is, law enforcement is a public function that cannot be subcontracted to philanthropies or commercial companies. You either work to build the most able public agencies you know how, or you give up on law enforcement.

The purpose of agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission is to inhibit economic inefficiencies and violations of community standards that derive from asymmetries of information. To evaluate a regulation, you need to evaluate first whether it works toward that end. Then you need to evaluate whether the institutional culture of the agency and the resources at its command permit enforcement. You may also have to ask if the regulation is so structured that it cannot be implemented by any public agency staffed with people of a calibre you can reasonably expect to recruit.

The trouble with this sort of discourse is that libertarianish pundits have an answer to the last question that is reflexive and unvarying. That is intellectually indolent.

Alternatively one could suggest that watching and downloading porn acts as a substitute for real relationships which might free up time. That is getting to be a senior SEC attorney requires a massive amount of study time in undergrad and a good law school which stunted the ability to socialize with the opposite sex and further encouraged pornography as a substitute. That is porn is filling a void that is the externality produced by the realocation of time to studying. Those who did not take up porn took up real relationships which by providing perspective and other interests hurt GPA, and discouraged career opportunities as attorneys at the SEC.

That is to say that evidence that 33 top lawyers at the SEC have porn problems really says something about the complexity of the problems they face and the amount of time they must allocate to getting a resume that would result in a job.

I am not saying this is Dr. Mosier's or AD's point, but it seems to me the real point, and this appart from the fact that we don't necessarily have evidence that this results in lower productivity. In fact I would argue that a plausible inference is that is these porn watching attorneys are highly efficient (else they never would have became senior attorneys).

In some sense then I don't necessarily think that Europe is completly insane when they declare vacations a fundamental human right. It may in fact be that vacations from productivity or the ability to lead a ballanced life is fundamental to human flourishing.

There are top level attorneys and doctors who take vacations or otherwise find time for familly, but during the formative years when other folks of similar age are getting married a good chunk of these are either studying, interning for the job or working it.

In some sense AD's charge against Dr. Mosier is not substantially all that different from Holmes's dissent in Lochner, and subsequent charges by the proggressives and legal realists that the "libertarianish pundits" are guilty of being intellectually indolent, according to Holmes: "a Constitution is not intended to embody a particular economic theory."

It is rather funny and no coincidence that the right to contract and Lochner was overturned by Muller v. Oregon in a semi-sexist decision concerned with procreation and familly life, if women would be free to contract for more than 10 hours of work: "healthy mothers are essential to vigorous offspring, the physical well-being of woman becomes an object of public interest and care in oder to preserve the strength and vigor of the race."

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