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by Christopher Chantrill
July 09, 2013 at 12:00 am
AFTER EIGHT years of listening to liberals hyperventilating about the illegalities of President George W. Bush, it is really annoying for conservatives to watch the utter disregard for the law coming from the Obama administration.
The jewel in the crown of this imperial presidency is of course the pre-holiday decision violate the text of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and delay the employer mandate for Obamacare by a year.
People have started arguing about whether or not Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution applies to the president: “he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed”. After all, the government has got so big and complex that the president can’t hope to dot every “i” and cross every “t” in every law that gets passed. He has to prioritize these things.
None of the above applies to Republican presidents, of course. They must obey the letter of the law, or else.
The Obama administration’s flight from the law was analyzed and predicted half a century ago by Friedrich Hayek. The whole point of Hayek’s thought, from The Road to Serfdom to the three volume Law, Legislation and Liberty was that big government had a fatal flaw in its heart. He argued that the complex responsibilities of modern government could not possibly be defined by cut-and-dried law. Big government necessarily required administrative flexibility if it was to work at all. But then, of course, it would no longer be a government of laws. That’s why the welfare state was a road to serfdom, the feudal rule of the administrative bureaucrats.
To the young liberal like Ezra Klein, the extralegal antics of Obamacare is not a problem (H/T Reihan Salam). Congress should just come back for another try.
Congress should use the next year to improve the employer mandate. There are plenty of better ideas out there: The Senate Health Committee’s bill used [blah blah blah]. The House bill tied [blah blah]. We can do better, and we should.
You would think that Congress is just planning a wedding, not how to force the entire health care system under the liberal yoke. The “we” in “can do better” has no place for anyone except liberals.
But there is a another problem with the president ignoring the law as written. It is the whole question of why we have law at all or any limits on the power of the government and the ruling class.
The reason we have laws and limits on government is not just an embarrassing holdover from the past. It is not just to give Republicans a chance to obstruct the president’s important initiatives.
The reason we require that the president “take Care that the Laws shall be faithfully executed” is that the governed in all places harbor a natural suspicion about their rulers. They tend to worry that the government will abuse its powers. Think liberal paranoia about Richard Nixon. Think liberal paranoia about, oh, anything conservative or Republican. The point of a government of laws is not so much to do the right thing. The point of a government that obeys the law is that it helps keep the opposition from crawling over broken glass to get to the polling booth at the next election and change its ruling class for another one.
That is the central problem of “czars” in the White House, of EPA closing down coal-fired electric generation, or Obamacare waivers, or Obamacare voided deadlines. It feeds the natural suspicion of any non-liberal American that their federal government is up to no good, and will make it difficult or impossible for the ordinary citizen to get a fair shake.
“Clanless, lawless, hearthless is he who is in love with civil war,” says Homer. And if we suggest that politics is civil war by other means, we can see that the lawless liberal is taking an oblivious first step to civil war.
Liberals in the Obama administration and elsewhere are so convinced of the truth of their issues, from health care to climate change that any means to advance their progressive agenda seems justified to them. The fact that they are forced to change a few deadlines, or push climate change through the EPA rather than Congress doesn’t seem like anything to get worked up about.
Liberals are wrong about this, as about so many things on which they refuse to listen to other voices.
Liberals may think that politics is just about issues, but they are wrong. Politics is about avoiding civil war; it is about calming the fears of the opposition. A ruling class that that doesn’t faithfully execute the law is provoking the opposition into raising a head of rebellion.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
Civil Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State
These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self
Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable...
[1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, Letter to Lord Lytton
What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph
In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, The Scientist as Rebel