Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An Unwelcome Hand from the Government

It is ironic that just a few days before what is arguably the Tea Party election in which country rebelled against government overreach, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) instituted a new practice of "patting-down" air travellers in their private places to make sure they are not concealing any explosives.

Government’s chief function is to secure us in our persons and property against murder, molestation, and theft. We expressed this understanding in the fourth amendment to the Constitution, which reads:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In my Worldmag.com column, "Government Overreach at the Airport," I argue that Congressman John Boehner, who reportedly bypasses these screening methods, should take up this cause in a defense of our liberty.
Tomorrow, I will chime in again on the subject, and then perhaps I will have got everything out of my system.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Philosopher Presidents are Not for Us

Plato and Aristotle

A recent book by Harvard historian James T. Kloppenberg, Reading Obama, argues that the president is philosophically driven, coming from the tradition of American pragmatism. In other words, we have a philosopher president, the closest thing we can have in America to a philosopher king. Whether or not, he certainly does the royal aloofness thing well, and the I-can-run-your-life-better-than-you-can part of the job.

A couple of weeks back, I posted "Philosopher Kings and Our Republic" on Worldmag.com. I argue that the notion of a philosopher king, a person so outstanding in wisdom and moral virtue that he should simply have authority over everything, is fundamentally antithetical to republican government. "Because of his unparalleled wisdom and public-spiritedness, he would, of course, govern without the restraint of law."

Regardless of what Prof. Kloppenberg says in his book, it is remarkable what an emphasis President Obama has placed on the rule of science in his administration. (Modern science is the only form of philosophy that we recognize as having any legitimacy these days.) He first signaled this in his inaugural address:
“We’ll restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.”
Then, just before the election, he looked with pity on the poor benighted and angry voters for being so hostile to science in their hostility to his administration:
“Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does [sic.] not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we’re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country’s scared.”
Then there are all those big initiatives by which he has tried to centralize large chunks of American life, viz. health care, home financing, college loans, the auto industry, the financial sector. Central administration is the mark of a scientific society.

I conclude that he has been working (albeit unwittingly) from the wrong model: Plato, instead of Aristotle.

"In The Politics, Aristotle holds that, for a free people, i.e., a law-abiding people who are capable of participating in government intelligently and responsibly, the best form of government combines a strong executive, a selection of the best citizens, and an active role for the people at large. Under those circumstances, the benevolent but autocratic rule of a philosopher king would be unjust because it would deny capable citizens the chance to govern themselves."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's OK. I Work for the Government.

I don't know what these people are saying about airport body scans, but it looks funny, and some of the gags are visual. Here is the link.

Anthony Bradley has a good column on the subject in WORLDmag.com, "Saying ‘no’ to airport body scans."

When I recently flew out of Charlotte, N.C., I opted out and found myself being touched in ways that had me wondering if I had somehow accidentally wandered into my doctor’s office for a complete physical exam.

He reports this:

[T]hese new measures have no proven success in increasing airport security, according to Rafi Sela, an Israeli security expert. Sela recently testified before the Canadian government that these full-body X-rays are “useless.” “I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747,” he said. As such, the Israeli government does not use body scans in the Tel Aviv airport. Maybe our government could learn a lesson from the Israelis?

This is all an excellent argument for two things. (1) The federal government screws up everything it touches. (2) High speed rail.

I will not be flying until this stops.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Two Wasted Years

This election has been, as expected, a dramatic public rebuke to the president, his party, and the way they have spent most of their time since the 2008 election. Their two chief legislative accomplishments, the economic stimulus package in February 2009 and the ObamaCare earlier this year, were supposed to have saved the nation both economically and morally, but instead they have infuriated the nation. The $787 billion stimulus produced the Tea Party movement and ObamaCare gave Democrats a record to flee and a topic to avoid. More than half the country wants it repealed.

It's a strange way to campaign. "Vote for me. I have nothing to say."

In January, President Obama said, "I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president."

If he sticks to what he thinks is good, but which a majority of the people he serves clearly doesn’t want, then, in 2012, president and people may well arrive at a mutually agreeable arrangement.

Of course, this should be an occasion for humble self-examination on the president's part. But I don't think he has it in him. He is very much like his predecessor in that regard. No self-doubt, not even where it is obviously merited.

As this dark day of doom approached, starting in January with the election of Republican Scott Brown in liberal Massachusetts to the seat ted Kennedy vacated, Obama explained this political unhappiness by his failure to explain his policies and accomplishments well enough. (That is, the voters are thick headed.) He later said that the people are just scared, and so they are not thinking rationally. (The voters frightened animals.) Those are not words of political prudence.

In January 1985, after Ronald Reagan won re-election over Walter Mondale, Joshua Muravchik wrote in Commentary, “Why the Democrats Lost.” In 1989, he followed up with “Why the Democrats Lost Again,” after George Bush beat Michael Dukakis. Then in 1993, Bill Clinton’s first big year, he completed the trilogy with “Why the Democrats Finally Won.” There is usually a good reason why the electorate, on balance, chooses one party or one candidate over another. As long as politicians and parties explain their defeats by faulting the voters, the consign themselves to political Palookaville. For Barack Obama, that may be the next stop after Washington.
For my full reflection on Obama's disasterous and obnoxious record that has put him in this position, read "Midterm Smackdown" at Worldmag.com.