Friday, February 25, 2011

Anti-Obamacare Constitutional Amendment

So far twenty seven states have joined in the lawsuit against Obamacare. That is more than a majority, and most of the distance towards the thirty seven states that would be required to pass a constitutional amendment.

The last time a constitutional amendment was almost passed by a convention of the states was the repeal of prohibition. In order to maintain the precedent of constitutional amendments being passed first in congress, the congress acted quickly to pass the amendment before the states would.

Their concern is understandable, if base. The worry was that if the states were to pass the amendment it would be in effect a partial reversal of the trend towards the federalization of political power. This would embolden the states to constitutionally act against the federal government in other ways. Given that President Herbert Hoover was being very activist at the time to fight the Great Depression, sponsoring the programs that eventually were called the New Deal by President Franklin Roosevelt, any measure that emboldened the states against the federal government would be a disaster for federal power. Moreover a constitutional convention could easily go beyond whatever issues initially chartered it.

Given the polarized nature of the congress today, especially given that the Senate is controlled by the same party that passed Obamacare in the first place, it is unlikely that they would defensively pass any constitutional amendment that would weaken that measure. The constitution, meanwhile, forbids tampering with the amendment process.

Twenty seven states is still shy of the thirty seven states needed to call a constitutional amendment. Each additional state is that much harder to recruit. But if that number is reached by states joining the lawsuit then suddenly it becomes easy to call a constitutional convention.

The final problem is what would be the wording of the theoretical amendment. It is far too easy for this to go wrong, just as the congress that passed the twenty first amendment. The best possible outcome is for it to restore proper dimension to the Interstate Commerce Clause. Although Obamacare is a major expansion of the interpretation of that clause, it is a major expansion in the same direction as the previous major extension during the New Deal.

The best wording would be to restore the interpretation as understood by those who wrote it.

1. The federal government does not have the ability to regulate any commerce that takes place entirely in one state, no matter the effect that the intrastate commerce would have on interstate commerce.
2. The federal government does not have the authority to demand or forbid the manufacture, purchase, or sale of any good or service.

It may not be a perfect wording, but it is definitely a great place to start.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Why Rand Paul?

The libertarian opinion of Randall Paul can be stated pretty simply.
"So far he appears to be not as good as his father, but still shows lots of promise and is poised to be the best person in the Senate. So far he appears to not be as libertarian as Ron Paul, but is still demonstrating that he has some good solid leanings in that direction for as little time as he has been in the spotlight."

Libertarians could be wrong about him; he could actually be more radical than his father, or he could fail to demonstrate the promise he has shown so far. His vote against renewing the USAPATRIOT Act and his proposed $500 billion budget cuts that included the entire Iraq War and the entire Afghanistan War are not anything that libertarians would complain about.

So why then does there appear to be a more extreme reaction to Randall Paul among the liberal punditry? Even Rational Wiki expresses greater skepticism towards Randall Paul than to Ron Paul as evidenced by the tone of their articles.

Part of it could be that Randall Paul has a stronger Tea Party affiliation. While the Tea Party movement was started by Ron Paul, he is no longer a part of it while Randall Paul was elected as a part of that movement. That would give liberals two criticisms against him, libertarianism AND the Tea Party.

But that is not sufficient to explain the hysteria over Randall Paul. The reason they are so hysterical is because he really is a greater threat.

Even though Ron Paul's ideas are rapidly becoming mainstream, he still suffers from the stigma of being considered a kook for so many years by those who tell the public what to think. Randall Paul is too new to have been stigmatized. Moreover, since the Republicans are trying to absorb the Tea Party movement, the Republicans cannot criticize the star candidate of that movement. Since Republicans have to be silent, lest they lose on their effort with regards to the Tea Party, that leaves Democrats to have to bear the entire burden of telling everyone how they should feel about Randall Paul.

Ron Paul is also near the end of his political career. If he does run for president, his age would be a great liability. Randall Paul does not have that problem. He is not only a lot younger, he has already achieved much higher office than his father did. Even if he is more moderate than his father, he's in a position to achieve much more, and to go even father than he has already gone.

Democrats have to do this on their own without Republican help. The ideas of the Pauls are more mainstream than ever. Randall is a Senator poised to go much farther and do much more. Even though he might be more moderate than his father, he is poised to do far more for liberty than his father did. No wonder the left is hysterical.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

The Supreme Court Jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes once stated "Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society." It is a quote often repeated by statists towards libertarians in order to “prove” that libertarians are against having a civilized society. Plus there is the hope that any libertarian who would disagree with that statement would be cowed by the impressive credentials of the originator of the quote. The problem with the quote is that Justice Holmes was technically correct, but was lying by omission.

The full expression should be "Taxes are the price we pay for government, and government is the price we pay for a civilized society." It is very important to include the middle term. Including the middle term shows both what taxes actually pay for and where taxes actually go to. Including the middle term also portrays the government as a burden, a price that must be paid, instead of a blessing.

Breaking the syllogism down into its component parts makes it much easier to argue. "Taxes are the price we pay for government" defuses any argument that a statist might make about how libertarians, by opposing taxes, therefore oppose civilization. It expresses clearly that taxes are nothing more than the paycheck of the government, and that there is no direct link between taxes and civilized society

"Government is the price we pay for civilized society" is very arguable. Minarchists may agree; anarchists certainly don’t. It also makes a stronger case that the government can be the agent of disorder. If taxes are paid so that the government will provide stability and security, and the government not only fails to do so but causes the opposite, the expanded expression including the middle term shows that taxes should be withheld from the misbehaving government.

The shortened version popularized by Justice Holmes, while partially true, is dishonest in the extreme by what it leaves out. When shortened it is a pro-government argument, but when expanded it can be used by libertarians.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Tea Party Response

One week ago, President Obama delivered a rather uninspiring state of the union address. That was followed by an uninspiring Republican Party response. Then, rather curiously, there was a "Tea Party" response delivered by Representative Michele Bachmann.

Although the Democrats made appropriate noises about how this amounted to two Republican responses, because Representative Bachmann is a Republican, the choice of Representative Bachmann as the representative of the Tea Party was a curious one.

In the House of Representatives is the Representative Ron Paul, the god-father of the Tea Party, although he declined to join the "Tea Party Caucus" that Representative Bachmann formed. The biggest electoral victory of the Tea Party movement was the election of Senator Randall Paul. Either one would be a better representative of the founding of the Tea Party, although neither exactly represents what they are today. The last thing leaders of either the Democratic or Republican Parties want is giving Ron Paul a national platform through a response to President Obama.

By choosing Representative Bachmann, that makes her the face of the Tea Party, an arrangement that suits both the Republicans and the Democrats. The anti-war platform of the original Tea Party is replaced by Bachmann's refusal to take the nuclear option off the table when dealing with Iran. She brings the desire to have schools teach Intelligent Design to a movement that had never included it before.

The placement of Bachmann actually weakens the Tea Party movement as an independent movement and increases its role as an adjunct of the Republican Party. This weakens the threat the Tea Party poses to Republican Party leadership who were facing a grass roots rebellion. This brings the votes and energy of the Tea Party safely back in to the Republican fold, a great benefit to the Republican Party.

It is also a great benefit to the Democratic Party. Since Bachmann is considered to be less credible of an official, it enables Democrats to paint the whole movement with her lack of credibility. Moreover since the Tea Party movement was too uncompromising, unlike the standard Republican leadership for whom there are few actual ideological differences.

The choice of Bachmann benefits the Republicans and the Democrats at the expense of what independence is left in the Tea Party movement.