Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Foreign Affairs

Mohamed Bouazizi

One year ago today, a 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire in the middle of the street outside of a Tunisian governor's office, igniting the Tunisian Revolution and the greater Arab Spring protests across the Middle East. For years the young fruit and vegetable salesman had been mistreated and abused by local police, and they were beginning to extort money from him and make his business impossible to run. After a local municipal official humiliated Bouazizi by publicly beating him and taking his electronic weighing scales away, he ran to the governor's office to complain and have his scales returned. When the governor refused to see him, Bouazizi bought a can of gasoline, stood outside of the governor's office, and lit himself ablaze with a match. His last words, shouted angrily at the symbol of the Tunisian government before him, were "How do you expect me to make a living?"

At the time, no one in these autocratic regimes nor in the West knew that one young man's self-immolation in a small town in Tunisia would so radically alter the geopolitics of our world and upend governments that had been in power for decades. After a few weeks in a coma in intensive care, Bouazizi died on New Years Eve. Two weeks after that, Tunisian President Ben Ali fled his country and ended his 23-year rule. Other dictators from Mubarak to Gaddafi would fall, and still others like Syria's Assad are fighting for their existence. The so-called Arab Spring is now a year old, and the fire is still raging and worthy of our intense attention. Fire, as we are learning, can be both a handy servant and a dangerous master. We must continue to hope that this Arab Spring improves the condition of man in the Middle East, but we must prepare for the alternative scenario that we are entering into a new, dangerous, and perplexing period of time in that ever-smoldering corner of the world.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


$15,000 Food Fight?

Plastic cutlery at the Ayers-Dohrns?  This is a sign of cultural rot.  Why is bankrupt Illinois still funding this outfit?

Or maybe plastique?

UPDATE:  State Humanities Councils receive support from the NEH.  The House should put the NEH Chairman before an oversight Committee.

Categories > Politics

Political Philosophy

A Rationalist Discovers Politics

Megan McArdle on debt crises:

As I think I've said before, I used to cover financial crises (from America) and wonder why governments didn't do things that seemed so obvious.  The answer, I now realize, is that politicians can't just do the "obvious best" thing.  There is no such thing as a perfect rational maximizer in policymaking.

Politicians are always limited by what their voters think is fair.  The voters may be right, they may be wrong, but in the end (hopefully), they're still the boss.


A Newtonian Quantum Leap

Contrary to Peter's post below, I think the most prudent conservative course of action is to vote for Gingrich--for now.  The problem is that conservatives have the choice between a dynamic right-wing Progressive with a flawed moral past, one temperamentally ill-suited for executive power, and a soothing flip-flopper who appears constructed along corporate specs.  Which will sell out conservative principles first?  Which even knows what conservative constitutionalist principles are? 

Unless some sort of white knight appears suddenly to save us (Paul Ryan, Clarence Thomas, Sarah Palin....), these are our choices.  I propose a test:  Vote for Newt, and see how tough, smart, and principled Mitt in return is.  Can he show that he is the true, electable conservative?  Will he respond with conservative arguments or try to emphasize his moderation?  This is not merely Gingrich blowing up and defeating himself.  Romney has to win it, and by showing that he is more conservative (not that he has led a better family life, etc.).  The only way we can test Romney is by voting for Newt, until he proves himself less of an electable conservative than Romney..

Might this not make Gingrich the winner?  True, this would give him victories in Iowa (important to crush Paul, btw), New Hampshire (or a close second), and down south.  But proportional delegate sharing will keep the second-place person close, and then we'll see who the strongest conservative will be, or whether we have a conservative at all.  Both may flunk the test, but that is a problem for another day.

It would be a bad thing for the future of conservatism to hand the victory to Newt Romney immediately.  We would be getting a flawed, erratically right-wing candidate, or a corporate construct who might have defeated Ted Kennedy by being more liberal.  Either would be better than Obama, but we can do better than the two choices as they present themselves now.  A long, drawn-out campaign will improve both candidates or reveal their fatal flaws.   

Categories > Conservatism


A Post That Is Mostly Not About Gingrich

1.  Here is Gingrich's Iowa ad.  The visuals reference Reagan's 1984 Morning In America ad, but the words of Gingrich's ad are nostalgic.  The words revive and restore are prominent.  The Reagan ad was for winners.  The Gingrich ad is for a dispossessed people.  "Some people say the America we know and love is a thing of the past."  Gingrich says in the ad. 

2.  Reihan Salam notes that, in 1983, the Reagan administration introduced as system of bureaucratically-directed pricing and open-ended budgeting for Medicare that increased use of higher cost procedures and increased medical costs throughout the system, and that this might be part of the reason why US health care costs outpaced those of most other wealthy countries in the 1980s.

3.  Gingrich's Medicare reform plan is a joke that will do nothing to bring down Medicare spending and Gingrich is demagoguing the Romney Medicare reform plan (just like he did the Ryan Medicare reform plan earlier in the year) by saying that it would apply to current recipients.  The man is a charlatan (though possibly not the only one.)

4. Is Gingrich's combination of implied Reagan nostalgia and a Medicare plan that will do nothing to curb the explosive growth of Medicare (even as we head into bankruptcy) what older, right-identifying Americans want? 

5.  I think the answer is more no than yes, but I think Gingrich believes the reverse.      
Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs

Cameron Makes Bold Stand

British Prime Minister David Cameron is under fire from many corners of Europe and through much of the internationalist sphere for making a bold stand in defense of his nation's sovereignty. Even within his own Parliament and the British media he has come under hugely critical attacks, the future of his coalition government's reign coming under threat. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed before the Council of Europe a true fiscal union for the 27 member states, combining the fiscal powers of the continent in the hands of the European Commission in Brussels. It would allow the Union to enforce monetary policy--taxes and spending--throughout all of its members, effectively stripping the governments of those nations of one of their most basic functions. Germany has been the main muscle between this, believing that the best way for Europe to come out of its fiscal crisis is to enforce their strict budget discipline upon all of its nations. While I agree that German fiscal discipline ought to be a model, it ought not come at the price of sovereignty.

So, in order to preserve the power of the British people, David Cameron exercised his veto and halted the move towards fiscal union. Every nation in the European Union has the right to veto, and any major decision must be unanimous. 26 nations, some with reservations, voted in favor of Merkozy's proposal--only Britain stood apart. Cameron argued that the new treaty would have forced London's banks and financial services to become enslaved by various anti-competitive "harmonization" schemes in the EU; he sought exemptions for the UK from these taxes, but his wishes were denied. Now Eurocrats around the continent are accusing Britain of making the first step towards leaving the European Union, and British Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, Cameron's coalition partner, has said that the Prime Minister is isolating and marginalizing the United Kingdom. The spokeswoman for the opposition Labour Party declared Cameron's veto to be "the biggest failure of peacetime diplomacy in more than half a century."

Despite this heavy barrage of criticism, the young prime minister remains unshaken. He has brought into question the moral legitimacy of granting Brussels direct power over the pocketbooks of Europe's people, and asked where sovereignty truly lies. For this he deserves respect and applause. He is not isolating his nation; Britain is more internationally integrated than it has been since the height of its empire, through trade, technology, and culture. They have done more to help European integration than most, and more important than this is the fact the Britain's foreign policy is not geared only towards the European Union--it maintains global relationships. The EU insists on putting up more trade barriers and subsidizing industries; Britain looks to trade around the world. In standing up for his people and their sovereignty, David Cameron is not leaving the European Union---the EU is leaving the United Kingdom. The real blame for the failure of the negotiations rests with Merkel and Sarkozy, who thrust upon Cameron a deal that they knew he and his people could not accept. For now, it seems, the British people agree with their Prime Minister. Hopefully, with their trust and affirmation, Cameron is able to hold the line. The Fiscal Union should be stopped.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Hayward's Heresies?

Readers of this blog will be well served to take some time today and read Steve Hayward's very thoughtful and, apparently, wildly controversial essay entitled "Modernizing Conservatism" in the latest issue of Breakthrough Journal.  The thrust of his argument is that "starve the beast" appears to have failed and so conservatives now might be better served if they move on to a strategy of sending the voters the bill for all of the social and entitlement programs they appear to want. 

After reading the essay, do yourself another favor and check out the podcast with Steve at Infinite Monkeys--appropriately titled, "Inquisition Edition."  I will leave it to your own individual conscience to decide whether Steve acquits himself here or stokes the kindling for his own stake.
Categories > Conservatism


Rated R-17 For Graphic Violence

I'm sorry, but how seriously can we take advice from the writing team of Blood and Gore?
Categories > Journalism


Gingrich is not the one

There are many reasons why Newt Gingrich--the least conservative candidate--will not outlast Mitt Romney, George Will notes one big one: Gingrich faulted Romney for "committing acts of capitalism"   I also like the reference to Romney's "animal spirits," and also to Gingrich's "verbal ticks."  You might also want to read Ramesh Ponnuru's lengthy piece on Romney and why he should be elected.
Categories > Elections

Political Philosophy

Can Interfaith Dialogues Exist?

Our old friend Bob Reilly reflects on the difficulty of interfaith dialogues, taking the instance of Catholic-Muslim exchanges.  He sketches how interpreting the seemingly simple episode of Adam's naming of the animals leads to fundamental disputes.  The centrality of natural law and reason for Catholics does not appear to have an equivalent in Islam, making dialogue, as an exercise in reasoned speech, impossible on religion.  Reilly's book The Closing of the Muslim Mind is a thoughtful study of the development of a Muslim radicalism and its sharpening of attitudes essential to Islam.

Bob's column came to me as I am plunging into a vital work by one of the academy's major thinkers, Robert Sokolowski, Phenomenology of the Human Person. It seems to be trying, among other things, to relate Aristotle's two descriptions of man:  as the being with logos and the political animal by nature.  Language enables this connection.  Politics properly speaking requires persuasion, not brute force.  Barbarians only babble; political men debate and deliberate.  And for language to exist there must be grammar and syntax that enable us to distinguish between babytalk and real logos.