Make sure you read the fine print on our Amazon Product du Jour. Wouldn't want anyone to get the wrong idea here.
Methinks the headline on Jeffrey A. Tucker's article at the American Institute for
Economic Research would have worked better with a prepended "Dude",
so I'm putting it in: "Dude,
We Seriously Debating Capitalism vs. Socialism Again?"
The answer is yes, we are seriously debating capitalism vs. socialism again. As it should be. And herein lies the silver lining in one of the most alarming trends in public life: a self-described socialist is leading in the polls to win the Democratic nomination.
For nearly 100 years, public figures in America have dabbled in socialist ideology, learned from it, practiced it on a limited scale, imposed policies rooted in its logic, and been inspired by its conflict ethos that imagines markets to be inherently exploitative, unfair, and unjust. It makes some kind of weird sense that finally at the highest (?) levels of American public life, they would just finally come out and say it: we are all kind of socialist now.
To contradict that claim requires that you see the problem with socialism, and to see that problem leads one to think through the logic of markets and economics, which in turn leads one to see the virtues of commercial freedom. But doing that, taking those hard steps to understand scarcity, creativity, prices, and exchange threatens to undermine the ideological infrastructure of the Democratic Party itself. What has emerged instead is a “no enemies to the left” ethos that allows the extremists to control the messaging.
Obviously a fruitful discussion topic in the coming months.
The WSJ, probably paywalled, briefly notes
The Lorax on the Appalachian Trail.
To environmentalists, this must look like the perfect legal loophole. Congress gave federal agencies the power to authorize pipelines under the lands they control. But that law excludes “lands in the National Park System.” Who administers the Appalachian Trail? Bingo: the National Park Service.
Ergo, the greens assert, no agency may permit a pipeline to cross the trail, which runs 2,200 miles from Maine to Georgia. That would turn the footpath into a wall to development, since most of the route runs on federal property. A federal appeals court accepted this theory two years ago. On Monday the Supreme Court will hear the arguments to overturn it, in a pair of cases consolidated under U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association.
In 2014 Atlantic Coast Pipeline proposed a natural-gas pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina. The plan is to pass under the Appalachian Trail in the George Washington National Forest, by drilling 700 feet beneath all those hikers in biodegradable shoes. After three years the U.S. Forest Service signed off. Green groups reacted per their nature: Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and the Sierra Club gotta sue.
In 2018 that approval was voided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Here’s how its ruling wrapped up: “We trust the United States Forest Service to ‘speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.’ Dr. Seuss, The Lorax (1971).” In the absence of mustachioed orange cartoon characters, a panel of three life-tenured federal judges would do.
That's gonna be an interesting case to watch.
Good Riddance to the Roman Empire.
(A review of a new book Escape from Rome, Amazon link at
Walter Scheidel makes a dramatic claim in Escape From Rome: The collapse of the Roman Empire made the modern world possible. The release from imperial governance, he argues, had an outcome in Europe that was not replicated elsewhere. That in turn explains why Europe became the birthplace of modernity.
Hey, maybe! Anyway, placed on the to-read list.
At Reason, Stephen Davies bids
But we're not done talking about Rome, because at American
Greatness, Roger Kimball dissects
Mike Bloomberg, American Julianus.
I see that Mike Bloomberg is angling to become the Didius Julianus of our day. Historians refer to 193 A.D. as the “Year of the Five Emperors.” Julianus became the second contestant in that sweepstakes after the Praetorian Guard murdered the emperor Pertinax, who had been stingy about distributing the pelf they had come to expect. By this time, the Praetorian Guard was a law unto itself, much as the administrative state is today.
Pertinax only survived for about three months as emperor. Cutting to the mercenary chase, the Guard then announced they were auctioning off the office of emperor to the highest bidder. The main contenders were Claudius Sulpicianus, prefect of Rome, and Julianus, a rich politician and former consul under Commodus. Each made multiple offers until Sulpicianus reached the astounding sum of 20,000 sesterces per soldier in the Guard, several times their annual salary. Julianus saw and raised that bid, offering 25,000 sesterces per head.
Julianus lasted 66 days as Emperor, leaving as so many of them did: getting stabbed by a soldier. Here's hoping for a happier ending for Mayor Mike.
Tom Nichols writes at USA Today, letting us know that:
Bernie Sanders saw the Soviet Union through the eyes of a dreamy fool.
Sen. Bernie Sanders and I don’t have a lot in common. We both lived in Vermont, where I was one of his constituents, but I never voted for him because I thought then, as I do now, that he’s a fundamentally unserious person whose far-left politics are ridiculous.
But it turns out we’ve both been to the Soviet Union. In fact, as a scholar of Soviet and Russian affairs, I visited the USSR and later the new Russia several times. (I even speak Russian, although I’m a bit rusty.) Now I find that I face the unwelcome possibility that for the first time I might have to vote for Sanders — for president, no less.
As a Soviet expert and a politically homeless Never Trump voter, I am certain of three things when it comes to Bernie and the Soviets. First, his comments about the USSR show that his judgment is terrible. Second, he will be unable to wave away his comments merely by appending “democratic” to his preferred version of Soviet ideology.
And third, the Republicans will weaponize his remarks, and this will likely cost him the election. Indeed, it would be professional malpractice if Trump’s campaign people passed up this chance. Were I still a Republican and hoping for a GOP win, I could write those ads myself.
But I would be remiss if I didn't tell you the bottom line:
If the Democrats force me into this corner, I will cast my vote for Sanders, because I will take a fool and his dreamy notions about the Soviet Union over Donald Trump and the mafia state he and people like Attorney General William Barr are busy creating in America. If by some miracle Sanders wins, he will be an ineffective and embarrassing president, but if that’s what it takes to rid us of the caudillo in the White House, so be it.
I think Tom and I have different views on the purpose of voting, but I admit I am probably the unusual one there.