URLs du Jour

2020-01-06

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson has a good idea that will go nowhere. Repeal Authorization for Use of Military Force: Congress Must Take Back War-Making Powers. (NRPLUS, so ?)

    Nancy Pelosi complains that the Trump administration’s decision to assassinate Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani was “provocative and disproportionate” and that it “risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence.” Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders also have denounced the killing.

    Pelosi further charges that the operation was unauthorized.

    Specifically, Pelosi says the action was taken “without an authorization for use of military force against Iran.” But the airstrike happened in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, not in Iran. The Trump administration argues that the Iraq AUMF empowered the president to take this action, a position shared by many critics not ordinarily inclined to view the president with a great deal of indulgence, my friend David French among them. The administration’s case here is not obviously implausible.

    Kevin's solution to resolve this Constitutional quandary was right up there in the headline: Congress should repeal the AUMF.

    And the reason this won't happen: it would involve (re)taking responsibility. Which is much less fun than finger-pointing and pearl-clutching.


  • Campus Reform's Celine Ryan covers the latest inanity from the University Near Here. UNH Prof: Asking black people to speak out about anti-Semitism makes you a ‘garden variety racist’.

    University of New Hampshire physics professor Chanda Prescod-Weinstein took to Twitter on New Year’s Eve to explain why anti-Semitism is exclusively a “white” problem, and why it is inappropriate to discuss anti-Semitic acts committed by black people.

    Prescod-Weinstein began her tweetstorm by explaining that it is “anti-Black” and “dangerous both to non-Jewish Black people and to Jews” to consider violent attacks against Jews by Black people “equivalent” to “white antisemitism.”

    Uh, fine. In case you're wondering if Prof CPW was misquoted or taken out of context… well, you can't check for yourself, because she's protected her Twitter account.

    We'll give her credit for the last half of her surname, however, and devoutly hope she's not victim of any counterexamples to her assertion about Black anti-semitism. For example, I wouldn't advise hanging with the (so-called) Black Hebrew Israelites.


  • Tyler Cowen has a provocative post that has stirred up some discussion in the libertarianosphere: What libertarianism has become and will become. He advocates for "State Capacity Libertarianism".

    Having tracked the libertarian “movement” for much of my life, I believe it is now pretty much hollowed out, at least in terms of flow.  One branch split off into Ron Paul-ism and less savory alt right directions, and another, more establishment branch remains out there in force but not really commanding new adherents.  For one thing, it doesn’t seem that old-style libertarianism can solve or even very well address a number of major problems, most significantly climate change.  For another, smart people are on the internet, and the internet seems to encourage synthetic and eclectic views, at least among the smart and curious.  Unlike the mass culture of the 1970s, it does not tend to breed “capital L Libertarianism.”  On top of all that, the out-migration from narrowly libertarian views has been severe, most of all from educated women.

    There is also the word “classical liberal,” but what is “classical” supposed to mean that is not question-begging?  The classical liberalism of its time focused on 19th century problems — appropriate for the 19th century of course — but from WWII onwards it has been a very different ballgame.

    Along the way, I believe the smart classical liberals and libertarians have, as if guided by an invisible hand, evolved into a view that I dub with the entirely non-sticky name of State Capacity Libertarianism.  I define State Capacity Libertarianism in terms of a number of propositions:

    … and what follows is 11 of those propositions. And also contrasts State Capacity Libertarianism with (so-called) "liberaltarianism".

    It's interesting. Recommended. As are replies, starting with…


  • … Arnold Kling, at his blog:Should libertarians heart state capacity?. A couple of his notes:

    I don’t think that it follows that we need more state capacity. Private coalitions can put together rules. The Internet Engineering Task Forces are an example. If you respect technocrats, fine. Just don’t pretend that government does a great job of hiring and incenting them.

    In a democracy, politicians specialize in instilling fear. I see the climate issue as an illustration of fear-installation rather than as an issue where our best hope is more state capacity.


  • And also check out Reason's Nick Gillespie: The Libertarian Movement Needs a Kick in the Pants.

    I don't intend this post as a point-by-point critique of Cowen's manifesto, whose spirit is on-target but whose specifics are fundamentally mistaken. I think he's right that the internet and the broader diffusion of knowledge encourages ideological eclecticism and the creation of something like mass personalization when it comes to ideology. But this doesn't just work against "capital L Libertarianism." It affects all ideological movements, and it helps explain why the divisions within groups all over the political spectrum (including the Democratic and Republican parties) are becoming ever sharper and harsher. Everywhere around us, coalitions are becoming more tenuous and smaller. (This is not a bad thing, by the way, any more than the creation of new Christian sects in 17th-century England was a bad thing.) Nancy Pelosi's sharpest critics aren't from across the aisle but on her own side of it. Such a flowering of niches is itself libertarian.

    Cowen is also misguided in his call for increasing the size, scope, and spending of government. "Our governments cannot address climate change, much improve K-12 education, fix traffic congestion," he writes, attributing such outcomes to "failures of state capacity"—both in terms of what the state can dictate and in terms of what it can spend. This is rather imprecise. Whatever your beliefs and preferences might be on a given issue, the scale (and cost) of addressing, say, climate change is massive compared to delivering basic education, and with the latter at least, there's no reason to believe that more state control or dollars will create positive outcomes. More fundamentally, Cowen conflates libertarianism with political and partisan identities, affiliations, and outcomes. I think a better way is to define libertarian less as a noun or even a fixed, rigid political philosophy and more as an adjective or "an outlook that privileges things such as autonomy, open-mindedness, pluralism, tolerance, innovation, and voluntary cooperation over forced participation in as many parts of life as possible." I'd argue that the libertarian movement is far more effective and appealing when it is cast in pre-political and certainly pre-partisan terms.

    There you go. I think this discussion is healthy. And also pointless, given the current unpopularity of free market capitalism, individual liberty, and government fiscal sanity. Folks like us (I think) will just have to watch things crash, and say "I told you so" when it does.