Is There a Rise in Isolationism?

At the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog, I take a look at the new hysteria about "isolationism" in the Republican party. There's lots of hand-wringing at the American Enterprise Institute, and the Sunday morning shows were full of denunciations. But, I note:
What they’re really worried about is not so much the Republican leaders as the people. The country folk just don’t see the British coming any more. Rubin noted “a distinct isolationist streak that was very much in evidence in the questions from the audience last night.” Della Rocchetta’s main concern was “a growing isolationist sentiment espoused by the U.S. public”... But here’s the specter that is haunting the neocons, a graph from the Pew center (using Gallup data) showing a striking rise in “mind our own business” sentiment:
More here.

Posted on June 20, 2011  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Tonight on C-SPAN: Hayek!

Cato's panel discussion on Hayek's Constitution of Liberty, featuring Ronald Hamowy, Bruce Caldwell, Richard Epstein, and George Soros, will air tonight at 7:18 p.m. on Book TV, on C-SPAN2. C-SPAN schedule here. C-SPAN listing for this video here. Of course, you don't have to wait for tonight. Watch Cato's video, or read my summary.

Posted on June 19, 2011  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Washington Post Grows Nostalgic for Big-Government Bush

E.  J. Dionne Jr. has suddenly discovered the big-government George W. Bush, 12 years late, and he's feeling nostalgic:
Perhaps I should thank the current crop of Republican presidential candidates for providing me with an experience I never, ever expected: During this week’s debate in New Hampshire, I had a moment of nostalgia for George W. Bush.... Unlike this crowd of Republicans, Bush acknowledged that the federal government can ease injustices and get useful things done. Say what you will about his No Child Left Behind education-reform program. It accepted, correctly, that the federal government has to play an important part in reforming our public schools and held them accountable to a set of standards.... And while there are many problems with the way Bush chose to provide prescription drugs under Medicare, he was quite right to believe it had to be done.... Oh, yes, and I really do miss some of Bush’s early rhetoric. I cannot imagine a Republican today giving Bush’s 1999 speech in Indianapolis titled — shades of Barack Obama? — “The Duty of Hope.” Bush criticized the view “that if government would only get out of our way, all our problems would be solved” as a “destructive mind-set.” He scorned this as an approach having “no higher goal, no nobler purpose, than ‘Leave us alone.’?”
Stick with us, E. J. We could have told you this in 2007, when Michael Tanner published Leviathan on the Right; or in 2003, when I complained in the Washington Post about Bush's spending, education program, and entitlement expansion;  or in, ahem, 1999, when Ed Crane wrote in the New York Times:
Bill Clinton's impact on the American polity was never more evident than in the major address that the Republican Presidential aspirant George W. Bush gave in Indianapolis last week. The speech was, well, Clintonesque [in its] assumption that virtually any problem confronting the American people is an excuse for action by the Federal Government.
E. J. likes that view better than we do, but at least readers of the Washington Post will now realize that Obama's out-of-control spending, nationalizations, and health care interventions are an extension, not a reversal, of Bush's policies.

Posted on June 16, 2011  Posted to Cato@Liberty

President Obama and the Auto Industry

Back from vacation, I'm catching up on things I missed last week. Dan Ikenson did a fine job on President Obama's boasting about how he saved the automobile industry. But a few days later Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post's "Fact Checker," was more brutal:
We take no view on whether the administration’s efforts on behalf of the automobile industry were a good or bad thing; that’s a matter for the editorial pages and eventually the historians. But we are interested in the facts the president cited to make his case. What we found is one of the most misleading collections of assertions we have seen in a short presidential speech. Virtually every claim by the president regarding the auto industry needs an asterisk, just like the fine print in that too-good-to-be-true car loan.
Here's a sample of the specific analyses:
“GM plans to hire back all of the workers they had to lay off during the recession.”
This is another impressive-sounding but misleading figure. In the five years since 2006, General Motors announced that it would reduce its workforce by nearly 68,000 hourly and salary workers, creating a much smaller company. Those are the figures that generated the headlines. Obama is only talking about a sliver of workers — the 9,600 workers who were laid off in the fourth quarter of 2008.
And that's why President Obama's speech was awarded Three Pinocchios.

Posted on June 14, 2011  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Marriage and the Courts

In today's Britannica column, I write about yesterday's 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Loving decision and its relevance to the current Perry v. Schwarzenegger (now actually Perry v. Brown) case. It includes videos from Cato's recent forum, from the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and from the 1967 ABC News report on the Supreme Court decision. You really should watch that one. I also note some of the objections to the Perry case:
When it comes to the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case, there are legitimate federalist and democratic objections. One might say that marriage law has always been a matter for the states, and it should stay that way. Let the people of each state decide what marriage will be in their state. Leave the federal courts out of it. Federalism is an important basis for liberty, and that’s a strong argument. There’s also a discomfiting argument that a Supreme Court decision striking down bans on gay marriage is undemocratic, that it would be better to let the political process work through the issue. Some people, even supporters of gay marriage, warn that a court decision could be another Roe v. Wade, with decades of cultural war over an imposed decision.
For a response, read the column.

Posted on June 13, 2011  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Obama’s Spending and Palin’s Stumbling

At the Britannica Blog I note Sarah Palin's misstatement about President Obama's record on the national debt, and then ask whether that's the real problem:
Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann have both said in recent days that, as Palin put it, ”Look at the debt that has been accumulated in the last two years. It’s more debt under this president than all those other presidents combined.” And they’ve both been rapped by journalistic fact-checkers.... So what’s the real problem here? Is it Bachmann’s and Palin’s exaggeration of Obama’s record on deficits and debt? Or is it President Obama’s unsustainable spending?

Posted on June 6, 2011  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Thank You, America!

The Washington metropolitan area is the only major U.S. housing market where prices increased on an annual basis in the first quarter, according to a 20-city S&P/Case Shiller home-price index released Tuesday. The region was helped by relatively stable employment, fewer foreclosures and an abundant supply of house hunters. Other surveys indicate sales in the area are approaching boom-time levels.
--Wall Street Journal

Posted on June 2, 2011  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Sweet Commerce

A study on anti-Semitism in Germany offers the disturbing finding that "communities that murdered their Jewish populations during the 14th-century Black Death pogroms were more likely to demonstrate a violent hatred of Jews nearly 600 years later," during the Nazi era. But cities
with more of an outward orientation—in particular, cities that were a part of the Hanseatic League of Northern Europe, which brought outside influence via commerce and trade—showed almost no correlation between medieval and modern pogroms. The same was true for cities with high rates of population growth—with sufficient in-migration, the newcomers may have changed the attitudes of the local culture.
Free trade helps lead to peace, prosperity, and the erosion of prejudice.

Posted on June 2, 2011  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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