Noted civil libertarian Janet Reno has signed an amicus curiae
brief objecting to indefinite detention of alleged enemy combatants.
Maybe Reno would have a more positive attitude if the Bush administration sentenced the detainees to live under Castro's tyranny
, sent them to jail for decades on bogus charges
, or simply launched a military assault
on the Guantanamo prison and killed everyone inside.
The New York Times writes
that Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is beginning to develop after being "held back by a half-century of war and privation."
A slightly more accurate statement would be that economic development in Vietnam has been held back by "a half-century of war and socialism." The privation was a result of the socialism, not a cause.
Richard Cohen speculates that New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg might spend as much as half a billion dollars of his personal wealth on a race for president. He could certainly afford to. His company may be worth as much as $25 billion, and it has recently been reported that ...
I hate to keep picking on Sen. Rick Santorum, but he's the most articulate and principled opponent of individualism and individual rights since Hillary Clinton first rose to prominence. I noted previously the NPR interview in which he rejected Ã¢â?¬Å?this whole idea of personal autonomy, . . . this idea ...
Richard Cohen speculates
that New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg might spend as much as half a billion dollars of his personal wealth on a race for president. He could certainly afford to. His company may be worth as much as $25 billion, and it has recently been reported
that he could realize $7 billion from a "leveraged recap" while retaining 70 percent of the company. And a top Republican fundraiser pointed out to me that if you don't have any fundraising expenses, then half a billion is the functional equivalent of a billion-dollar campaign fund. If a lunatic billionaire could get 19 percent of the national vote by spending $70 million in 1992, how much better could a sane and stable billionaire with ten times that much money do?
Cohen writes that "there is no doubt that Bloomberg has done a terrific job managing New York, and there is no doubt that the federal government is a mismanaged mess." True enough.
But if anyone thinks that a good manager can make the federal government run like a well-oiled machine, he's going to be disappointed. In the first place, the federal government is far larger than Bloomberg LP or even the New York City government. It's not amenable to hands-on management. And more importantly, government failure is systemic. It's not a product of stupid or lackadaisical presidents or Cabinet secretaries. It results partly from inherent disagreements about what would be good policy; a corporation may have one goal or mission, but a society does not. And if government is supposed to reflect society, then it can only have a clear mission as long as that mission is to protect citizens from rights violations and leave them otherwise free to pursue happiness in their own ways. Once government begins taking on broader duties, citizens will disagree about what it should do.
And then there are the institutional obstacles to lean and effective government. As Milton Friedman told President Bush
(pdf) in 2002, "if you spend someone else's money on someone else, you are not very concerned about how much is spent, or how it is spent." The problems of incentives, concentrated benefits and diffuse costs, the concentration of power, and bureaucratic self-interest cannot be solved by a hard-nosed manager who's good at hiring, firing, and delegating.
I hate to keep picking on Sen. Rick Santorum, but he's the most articulate and principled opponent of individualism and individual rights since Hillary Clinton first rose to prominence. I noted previously
the NPR interview in which he rejected “this whole idea of personal autonomy, . . . this idea that people should be left alone":
This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone. That there is no such society that I am aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.
Now Andrew Sullivan directs our attention
to a television interview from the same time last year in which the senator from the home state of Benjamin Franklin and James Wilson denounces America's Founding idea of "the pursuit of happiness." If you watch the video, you can hear these classic hits: "This is the mantra of the left: I have a right to do what I want to do" and "We have a whole culture that is focused on immediate gratification and the pursuit of happiness . . . and it is harming America."
Santorum has done some good things in the Senate, such as supporting Social Security reform
. But conservatives should call him out when he denounces individualism, personal autonomy, and the pursuit of happiness.