Republikansk selvransagelse

Præsidenten for American Enterprise Institute Christopher DeMuth har skrevet en fremragende artikel kaldet “unlimited government“. Artiklen demonstrerer på glimrende (og skræmmende) vis, i hvor høj grad den herskende amerikanske politiske kultur afviger fra hvad “the founding fathers” havde i tankerne samt, at den amerikanske forfatnings ord og ånd  dagligt krænkes af politikere og embedsmænd i Washington. Her blot nogle udpluk men artiklen skal læses i sin helhed:

Thomas Jefferson played the pivotal role in choosing the site for our national capital, and selected what was essentially a malarial swamp. He had been in Paris when the Constitution was drafted, and he was not much impressed by its parchment provisions for limited government. So—anticipating the old dictum that “no man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session”—Jefferson added a climatologic backstop. Long, miserable summers were to serve as a natural deterrent to the growth of our national apparatus.

It worked beautifully for more than a century. Legislators, lobbyists, and executive officials fled the capital en masse most summers, right through the late 1920s—when air conditioning was introduced. With the deployment of that subversive technology, there began a notable expansion of the federal leviathan.

The emergence of 24/7/52 legislating is one of many ways in which modern American government has become much busier and more businesslike than it used to be. While busyness is a virtue in most of life, the men who founded our nation would not have considered it advantageous to government. They carefully contrived a state that would be cumbersome and inefficient at getting its act together, with divided and contending powers both inside Washington and between Washington and the states, and a profusion of checks and balances throughout. They wanted government to be robust and decisive in a limited sphere, but also considered government a threat to freedom and happiness, and worried it would engross private society, property, commerce, and culture. “Government,” said John Adams, “turns every contingency into an excuse for enhancing power in itself.” “Government,” said George Washington, “is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” And those were the Federalists.

Let me offer two examples of practices that are unquestionably un-Constitutional yet are hardly questioned at all. Neither even came up at Chief Justice Roberts’s confirmation hearing. The first concerns taxation.

[..]The framers, regarding taxation as the most politically sensitive of government powers, required that all bills for raising revenue must originate in the people’s chamber, the House of Representatives. This is the sort of fussy procedural formality that is just a damn nuisance when it comes to running a modern, efficient government. Accordingly, twice in recent years Congress has empowered agencies to devise and collect taxes all on their own—first the Federal Communications Commission in 1996, and then the new Public Company Accounting Oversight Board established by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002. Both agencies decide how much they want to spend, set a tax that will generate the desired funds, and increase the tax as needed to keep their business plans on track.

[…]My second example concerns federalism. Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in a famous opinion that federalism fosters “laboratories of democracy,” where policies can be tried in individual states and their good or poor results noted elsewhere. The growth of federal power has shuttered many of those laboratories. A federal government that can ban the personal use of medical marijuana grown right in your own backyard—which is plainly neither “interstate” nor “commerce,” yet was easily upheld by the Supreme Court last term—can do just about anything to blot out local policy choices.

Even more striking are the new coast-to-coast regimes being constructed by state officials like New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. He candidly admits that his mission is the wholesale restructuring of entire industries on a nationwide scale. The agreements he has imposed on Merrill Lynch and other financial services firms make detailed requirements of how the firms are to be managed in the future. This has created, thanks to collaboration with officials in other states, new national regulatory programs established entirely outside the legislative process and outside the public rule-making procedures of regulatory agencies. Instead, the deals are cut in lawyers’ offices. The results are policy cartels with no exit for any firm or customer, no policy competition or experimentation, no federalism.

The emerging phenomenon is one of multiplying special-purpose national governments operating in parallel with the official national government and without any coterminous political accountability. This has come to pass because of the desuetude of several Constitutional provisions, none more important than the Compact Clause, which provides that “no State shall, without the Consent of Congress, enter into any Agreement…with another State.” The requirement of Congressional approval is unqualified and it is fundamental. For a gang of states to go off on their own and set up independent governing regimes is, politically, a form of partial secession. Yet this protection has lapsed through judicial neglect.

[..]the principle of limited government is not a bit less urgent today than it was two centuries ago. It has now been 25 years since Ronald Reagan arrived in Washington announcing his intention to “check and reverse the growth of government.” That quarter century has been governed mainly by Republican Presidents, and increasingly by Republican legislatures, and even the one Democratic President declared that “the era of big government is over.” Yet the federal government’s annual domestic spending doubled during the period, from about $900 billion to about $1.8 trillion (in 2000 dollars). Today the federal government’s fiscal imbalance—the excess of projected future expenditures over projected future revenues—is close to $70 trillion. About $20 trillion of this enormous sum was tacked on just in 2003, with the addition of a massive, unfunded Medicare entitlement to prescription drug benefits. Increasing taxes to pay for our standing policy commitments would move U.S. rates to the levels prevailing in today’s socialist European nations.

At artiklen allerede har haft effekt kan ses på National Review, hvor Jonah Goldberg, som undertegnede ellers ofte har det svært med, roser artiklen til skyerne og under overskriften “Republican Reformation” argumenterer for, at amerikanske konservative skal “genfødes” som tilhængere af en begrænset stat. Hvis det er den fremtidige linje hos toneangivende konservative såsom skribenterne hos National Review som ellers ofte går mere op i moralske spørgsmål end at begrænse den føderale stat, så er der håb for, at den næste republikanske præsident fører (klassisk) republikansk politik og ikke som den nuværende bruger penge “som en fuld sømand på orlov” som en punditokrat for nyligt udtalte det på tv.

5 thoughts on “Republikansk selvransagelse

  1. Limagolf

    “som en fuld sømand på orlov”Det er vist John McCain der oprindeligt står bag det citat. Indtil han selv fik smidt en gang pork i retning af Arizona…/Limagolf

  2. David Garby

    Ja, det bliver spændende at se om fremtidens republikanere vil sige nej til at få en ny motorvej, en militærbase eller en tilbygning til en folkeskole placeret i deres kongresdistrikt – jeg tillader mig at tvivle.

  3. Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard

    Kære David,Det gør jeg desværre også. Men der er dog undtagelser. Uden iøvrigt at “endorse” de pågældende på alle fronter, så er der faktisk enkelte Republikanske politikere, der er ret kompromisløse, også når det gælder “pork” til egne distrikter. En af dem er den nyvalgte Senator Tom Coburn, der decideret har gjort en mærkesag ud af det ( En anden er Rep. Ron Paul ( Liberty Caucus (som jeg tidligere har omntalt) rater iøvrigt hvert år alle kongresmedlemmer ud fra, hvorledes de stemmer m.h.t. økonomisk frihed og personlig frihed. Deres seneste rating af kongressen er her:

  4. Rasmus Ole Hansen

    Republican liberty caucus er ret underholdende.Kunne være sjovt, hvis der fandtes noget tilsvarende for danske politikere.


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