Monthly Archives: April 2010

Passage Of ObamaCare Leads People To Line Up For Their “Free” Health Care

This is utterly depressing:

WASHINGTON — Two weeks after President Barack Obama signed the big health care overhaul into law, Americans are struggling to understand how — and when — the sweeping measure will affect them.

Questions reflecting confusion have flooded insurance companies, doctors’ offices, human resources departments and business groups.

They’re saying, ‘Where do we get the free Obama care, and how do I sign up for that?’ ” said Carrie McLean, a licensed agent for eHealthInsurance.com. The California-based company sells coverage from 185 health insurance carriers in 50 states.

Is this what Americans have been reduced to ?

Oh yeah, it is.

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Peak Liberty

This is a post I wrote at my personal blog back in June 2005. I was reminded of it today, as many of the points Doug touched on in his post this morning were in the same vein as points I made back then, and after a search I was surprised that I’d never cross-posted the old post here. Even today, infringements on personal liberty such as the individual mandate are only making the situation worse, and the piece, while 5 years old, hasn’t lost its relevance. So here it is.

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America has been, throughout the course of our history, a nation that values liberty. In 1787, at the time of the Constitutional Convention, liberty was on the brain. A Constitution was written to ensure that all people in this nation, for all time, would enjoy the blessings of freedom. Freedom from tyranny of government, which was ensured by the protections of a document that limited its powers and a Bill of Rights that enshrined personal liberty into its hallowed wording. And a nation whose freedom was guaranteed based upon the rule of law as written in that document, not the whims of an electorate or the legislature of the day.

There were flaws at that time, to be sure. The nature of our nation did not yet live up to that document’s billing. “Freedom to all” meant freedom to land-owning white males. Everyone else was out of luck. The work of millions of people helped to change that fact. The souls of hundreds of thousands of young men were lost in a war to bring freedom to the slaves, only to take another 100 years to bring true equality with the end of Jim Crow. Racial equality came to pass. Gender equality came to pass. Even today, these battles are still being fought for the rights of same-sex couples. Since the day this country was founded, you have seen the liberty of unpopular groups gain hold and reach parity with the rest. In a country that is based upon the right to be safe in unpopularity, the march of history has been remarkable to make that a reality.

But there’s another current at work. We are slowly seeing social liberty for all groups reach parity. Parity, however, can be equally great or equally poor. As unpopular groups have raised their level of acceptance and been granted the same rights as those of the popular, liberty has been defined down for all.

We have reached a point, socially, where government regulation intrudes on our lives and decisions from the time we wake until the time we retire, and all through our slumber. Rights, from what one can ingest into his body, be it benevolent medicine to malevolent narcotics, are decided by government. Free speech has survived, mostly, as long as you have a legal degree and training to comply with McCain-Feingold. The 2nd Amendment is still alive, and you’re allowed to own firearms, as long as you apply to the right bureaucrat to inform the government where to look for them. You have the freedom to practice religion, as long as you make sure not to do it anywhere approximating a “public” place. You have the right to be safe from unreasonable search and seizure, provided, of course, that you never visit the library. Seemingly innocuous laws such as the requirement to wear a seat belt in a car or a helmet on a motorcycle may be in your own best interest, but forcing such behavior is tyranny nonetheless.

Economic liberty, of course, has become a joke. It is almost unnecessary to even go into the details, but we must remember what we’re up against. The land of the founding fathers was one where government and business were more separate than religion and government are now. Starting with the anti-trust acts (probably before, of course), continuing through Wickard v. Filburn, through the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation of 2002, the government has a hand in regulation of every business in this nation. On the personal level, nearly every monetary transaction performed is taxed through a myriad of different local, state, and federal rules, you only own as much of your income as government allows, and likewise you only own as much of your property as government allows. You exist economically not as an individual, but as a servant of the state.

It is obvious, that as some personal liberties may be slowly advancing, many other liberties are quickly dying. So we ask ourselves, how did it get so bad? Can we turn it around? Jon asks in this comment at Dadahead whether we should start thinking of it as Peak Liberty. I.e. just like the extraction of oil from the ground might eventually hit a point where the increase in demand and limited supply lead to global catastrophe, have we reached a point of no return in our loss of liberty? Have we reached a point where our only options will be an eventual slide into tyranny, requiring nothing less than a bloody revolution to turn around? And if so, how do we know the “Peak”? Has it happened yet?

Then perhaps somewhere it peaked and we’ve been sliding downward, living on the backside of the bell curve for a while now. We’ve peaked and have entered liberty’s long emergency. As with peak oil, defining peak liberty might not be clear except in hindsight. Was it the Civil War? Was it Brown v. Board of Education? The Sherman Anti-Trust Act? The Civil Rights Act of 1964? Was it landing on the moon? ADA?

Or was it some act against democracy that defined the peak (Dred Scott? ERA fails? NAFTA?) Is protecting against “flag desecration” just one more drop out of a near empty tank? Does our ‘democracy’ function like our suburbs now, sprawling, messy and without some sense of direction other than growth?

It is a valid question. After all, we can look at the possible peaks. The Civil War, where slavery was ended but the concepts of federalism were greatly weakened and the federal government made more powerful? The 16th Amendment, where we first determined, as a nation, that the ability to keep ones income was a privilege, and the extent allowed was determined by the whim of government? The New Deal, where many people were helped, but where it was taken as fact that individuals were subservient to “society” and the government thereof? The sixties, where we reached our greatest heights in the civil rights movement, only to transition to the even more obtrusive welfare state of the Great Society, and the victim politics that arised? Or was it today, when our Supreme Court decided that private property rights no longer matter? Or has it not happened yet? Are we still on the upward trend (doubtful).

I can’t answer where the peak was, but it certainly seems like we’re on the downslope. Peak Liberty, as a theory, has some serious flaws. After all, liberty is not a finite resource. It is elastic, and greater liberty can be enjoyed by all. So no matter what happens, it can be reversed. It is certainly possible that an equilibrium point can be reached. It may be argued that Europe has reached that point, and only something as silly as a “European Union” can move them farther down the slope. But the effort and ease at which that reverse occurs depends greatly on what point of the downslope has been reached. If we act in time, we can defeat tyranny at the ballot box. But history has shown that people do not respond to the lack of liberty until it is too late. If the slide continues, the day will come where government will not tolerate our attempts to restrain it, and that government must be replaced, by any means necessary.

Peak Liberty, like Peak Oil, can happen. Each can also be avoided. Peak Oil, of course, is a completely different topic, so the aversion strategies are beyond the scope of this post. But to avoid Peak Liberty, it simply takes education. Oddly enough, our own government has provided us all the lesson plans we’ll ever need. Pissed off about Social Security? A failure of government. Pissed off about the inefficiencies of the IRS? Blame government. EPA declared your home “wetlands” and not letting you build that inground pool? Overreaching intrusion of government on your private property rights. Government educational system in your locale a morass of corruption, lack of discipline, excess of political correctness, and not doing a thing to educate your kids? Ask why we rely on government as the primary source of education in this country? And first and foremost, trumpet Kelo v. New London to everyone in earshot. People listen to what affects them personally. Nothing is more personal than the government seizing your house for what they determine is just compensation, only to turn it over to another private entity.

Peak Liberty, like Peak Oil, relies on current trends. We may have reached Peak Liberty, but by changing trends we can step back from the abyss. Our current populace cares about nothing but bread and circuses, and our current political crop is perfectly willing to erode their liberty while providing those diversions. We can change the trends, but to do that, we need to win the hearts and minds. We can’t change government without changing the minds of voters, so let’s get cracking. There may be dangerously little time left.

Memo To Libertarians: There Was No Golden Age Of Liberty

David Boaz has a great piece over at Reason today on the historical blinders that some libertarians seem to have when looking at America’s past:

When we look at our own country’s history—contrasting 2010 with 1776 or 1910 or 1950 or whatever—the story is less clear. We suffer under a lot of regulations and restrictions that our ancestors didn’t face.

But in 1776 black Americans were held in chattel slavery, and married women had no legal existence except as agents of their husbands. In 1910 and even 1950, blacks still suffered under the legal bonds of Jim Crow—and we all faced confiscatory tax rates throughout the postwar period.

I am particularly struck by libertarians and conservatives who celebrate the freedom of early America, and deplore our decline from those halcyon days, without bothering to mention the existence of slavery. Take R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., longtime editor of the American Spectator. In Policy Review (Summer 1987, not online), he wrote:

Let us flee to a favored utopia. For me that would be the late 18th Century but with air conditioning….With both feet firmly planted on the soil of my American domain, and young American flag fluttering above, tobacco in the field, I would relish the freedom.

I take it Mr. Tyrrell dreams of being a slave-owner. Because as he certainly knows, most of the people in those tobacco fields were slaves.

Tyrell isn’t alone in having those dreams of some wonderfully libertarian ante bellum America. There are examples all over libertarianism of those who think that President Lincoln was a tyrant intent on crushing the freedom of the South, or that the Confederacy was fighting for liberty instead of human bondage. Or, just those who believe that the American past was a golden age of liberty when the truth is that it was not:

Has there ever been a golden age of liberty? No, and there never will be. There will always be people who want to live their lives in peace, and there will always be people who want to exploit them or impose their own ideas on others. If we look at the long term—from a past that includes despotism, feudalism, absolutism, fascism, and communism—we’re clearly better off. When we look at our own country’s history—contrasting 2010 with 1776 or 1910 or 1950 or whatever—the story is less clear. We suffer under a lot of regulations and restrictions that our ancestors didn’t face.

But in 1776 black Americans were held in chattel slavery, and married women had no legal existence except as agents of their husbands. In 1910 and even 1950, blacks still suffered under the legal bonds of Jim Crow—and we all faced confiscatory tax rates throughout the postwar period.

In fact, it might even be said that America is more libertarian today than it has been at any point in it’s history:

Compare conditions now to how they were at the outset of the 1960s. Official governmental discrimination against blacks no longer exists. Censorship has beaten a wholesale retreat. The rights of the accused enjoy much better protection. Abortion, birth control, interracial marriage, and gay sex are legal. Divorce laws have been liberalized and rape laws strengthened. Pervasive price and entry controls in the transportation, energy, communications, and financial sectors are gone. Top income tax rates have been slashed. The pretensions of macroeconomic fine-tuning have been abandoned. Barriers to international trade are much lower. Unionization of the private sector work force has collapsed. Of course there are obvious counterexamples, but on the whole it seems clear that cultural expression, personal lifestyle choices, entrepreneurship, and the play of market forces all now enjoy much wider freedom of maneuver.

Does that mean that the infringements of liberty and encroachment of the state that we see today is acceptable ? Of course not, but it does mean that we need to recognize that the idyllic American past never really existed and that the fight for liberty is a fight for the future, not the dead past.

Quote Of The Day

Ezra Klein, reviewing Michael Lewis’ The Big Short, on the financial meltdown:

Like the poor, idiots will always be with us. In fact, we’ll frequently be among them. The seductions of group-think, the tendency to trust experts, the incentives for employees to go along with their bosses rather than contradict them and the need to deliver short-term profits even at the cost of long-term risk are more powerful than any regulation and will exist long after the visceral lessons of the subprime meltdown are gone.

Sounds like the exact problems facing Congress and most of the regulatory agencies, not just Wall Street.

The short version is that incentives and human nature matter and are more powerful than regulation. But Ezra goes on to show how new regulations will solve these issues, which I’m absolutely sure will be free of gaming and loopholes and lax oversight. I’m sure once we get new regulators, incentives and human nature will magically change. The King is dead! Long live the King!

And The Slimmed-Down Lady Sings – TLP Bracket Challenge

Jennifer Hudson might have slimmed down to sing “One Shining Moment”, but the NCAA seems to want to turn March Madness into a bloated flabby mess. It’s a stupid decision, but then again, the NCAA isn’t known for its desire to act in the fans’ best interests. After all, if basketball decided a champion the way it’s decided in football*, either Kansas or Kentucky would be celebrating this morning.

But they’re not. Butler made a strong run, but the team that fulfilled the dream is Duke.

That means we had a last-second change to the standings in the TLP NCAA Bracket Challenge:

1. William Satterwhite – 279
2. Nate McHugh – 277
3. nic stersic – 264
4. Brad Warbiany – 262
5. Doug Mataconis – 260

So congratulations, William! I’ll be contacting you offline soon to handle the guest posting opportunity, and if you don’t hear from me, contact me at the admin link listed on the left sidebar.

I’ll be planning to do this again next spring, and I definitely learned a few things. First, I initially worried that I biased scoring too heavily to the first two rounds, but William and the Duke Blue Devils proved that selecting the correct champion was still just enough to squeak into victory. That said, this year was significantly more upset-heavy than most, so in future years I’ll try to better balance scoring opportunities between rounds.

Either way, it’s been fun, and it should be a nice tradition to continue.
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Federal Appeals Court Strikes Major Blow Against Net Neutrality, Major Blow For Economic Freedom

The U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. today hand a major defeat to the Net Neutrality crowd:

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that the Federal Communications Commission lacks the authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their networks.

Tuesday’s ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is a big victory for the Comcast Corporation, the nation’s largest cable company. It had challenged the F.C.C.’s authority to impose so called “net neutrality” obligations.

The ruling marks a serious setback for the F.C.C., which is trying to officially set net neutrality regulations. The agency chairman Julius Genachowski argues that such rules are needed to prevent phone and cable companies from using their control over Internet access to favor some online content and services over others.

The decision also has implications for the massive national broadband plan released by the F.C.C. last month. The agency needs clear authority to regulate broadband in order to push ahead with some its key recommendations, including a proposal to expand broadband by tapping the federal fund that subsidizes telephone service in poor and rural communities.

The court case centered on Comcast’s challenge of a 2008 F.C.C. order banning the company from blocking its broadband subscribers from using an online file-sharing technology known as BitTorrent.

Melissa Clouthier over at Liberty Pundits sums up quite nicely what this really means:

Basically this means that a company can do business the way it wants to. What different internet providers have been worried about is having the “information spigot” turned off for them. That is, a user or provider who uses huge amounts of bandwidth could be denied, and that could kill business.

So companies like Google and other big providers wanted the courts to say that the FCC could control this and guarantee that everyone has as much bandwidth as they want.

But the court ruled that a company like Comcast has every right to decide what data it carries.

That is exactly how it should be.

In the case that was before the Court, Comcast had made the business decision that Bit Torrent users were utilizing an undue amount of a limited asset, bandwidth, and in order to protect it’s network and allow the majority of it’s users to be able to do things like check their email without having to worry about the network going down because some 21 year old is using Bit Torrent to download a bootleg copy of Avatar.

It’s Comcast’s network, they should have the right to decide how it’s used and to take action to protect it’s property and it’s other customers.

The Court got this one right.

Here’s the 36 page unanimous opinion:

Comcast v. Federal Communications Commission

Is The iPad Too Easy To Use?

First of all… No, I don’t own one. While I’m a techie, I try very hard to limit my gadget addiction. I try to make sure that when I’m buying a gadget, I’m buying something I’ll actually use, instead of something I’ll use for a few weeks and then let gather dust. For me, I think the iPad is a pretty cool gadget. But at the moment, I have a BlackBerry, I have a laptop, and I quite often have books.

When the iPad was first announced, I pooh-poohed it. I said it was too big to replace a phone, too limited to replace a laptop, too expensive to replace a Kindle (which I think is a bit too expensive to replace a book, at least for me), and that it won’t fulfill any of those functions better than dedicated devices. Essentially, my beef with the iPad is that it’s not functional enough to replace everything else, which means it is something you have to carry in addition to everything else.

But I’m walking back from that point for a moment. I think the iPad has potential to be much more. My mental picture of the iPad was how it might fulfill the functions of several existing individual devices. What I didn’t see is the possibility that it might open up a lot of new uses for which existing devices just aren’t well-suited. My wife uses her iPhone for more than I’d have originally thought, and yet she’s still an iPhone newbie. The iPad has the potential, with its larger size, to open up whole new game.

But it’s not without its detractors. Cory Doctorow, for one, thinks it’s a little too sterile, safe, and — above all — proprietary. He doesn’t much like a device that doesn’t let you get in and mess with its guts:

Then there’s the device itself: clearly there’s a lot of thoughtfulness and smarts that went into the design. But there’s also a palpable contempt for the owner. I believe — really believe — in the stirring words of the Maker Manifesto: if you can’t open it, you don’t own it. Screws not glue. The original Apple ][+ came with schematics for the circuit boards, and birthed a generation of hardware and software hackers who upended the world for the better. If you wanted your kid to grow up to be a confident, entrepreneurial, and firmly in the camp that believes that you should forever be rearranging the world to make it better, you bought her an Apple ][+.

But with the iPad, it seems like Apple’s model customer is that same stupid stereotype of a technophobic, timid, scatterbrained mother as appears in a billion renditions of “that’s too complicated for my mom” (listen to the pundits extol the virtues of the iPad and time how long it takes for them to explain that here, finally, is something that isn’t too complicated for their poor old mothers).

The way you improve your iPad isn’t to figure out how it works and making it better. The way you improve the iPad is to buy iApps. Buying an iPad for your kids isn’t a means of jump-starting the realization that the world is yours to take apart and reassemble; it’s a way of telling your offspring that even changing the batteries is something you have to leave to the professionals.

I gotta say, this angle resonates with me. I’ve been using computers since I was 5 years old (the old Commodore 64). By the age of 7 we were on PC’s, and by the time I turned 13 I’d become the sysadmin for the household, writing batch file menu systems so my family could navigate to their programs without actually dealing with a command line more complex than hitting a number and the enter key. I then progressed through various operating systems (Win 3.1, OS/2 2.1, Win 95, OS/2 Warp, etc) — conveniently changing the OS as soon as my father learned how to use the one on the PC. This was in the heyday of the BBS world, and for a couple years I had an extra phone line into the house to cover incoming calls to my BBS (and my daily scheduled call into Fidonet to send/receive message board material). A few years ago I built my one homebrew MythTV DVR out of an old PC, and today I have a fully networked house between Windows and Linux machines, including a NAS and a dedicated HD media player to connect between the two.

As an old-school (for my young age) geek, the angle resonates — but it’s wrong.

As a geek, I used to think that other people wanted to know about the nuts and bolts. I used to think that other people actually were willing to put in effort to set up technology that would — once configured — make their lives easier. But they don’t. The average user wants one, and only one, thing: they want technology to work, easily.

I’ve often said that no technology can truly achieve mass acceptance until it doesn’t need a sysadmin to operate. As an example, I mentioned a dedicated HD media player that I own. It’s a very simple product, with an easy remote, network port, and really simple interface to go out looking for and connecting to network shares. I was pretty easily able to use my linux box to rip all my son’s movies (a 2 1/2 year old is not kind to DVDs), transfer them to the NAS, and give my wife an easy way to pull them up on demand. Simple as 1-2-432-pi-38484-3. One of my coworkers has the same device. He’s also an engineer, but a few decades senior to me and several sales positions removed from nuts & bolts engineering. He’s found a way to rip all of his families’ movies to a desktop machine, but has not been able to get everything on the network talking to each other to actually watch them without transferring them to a USB HDD. These are devices that are designed to be easy-to-use (I was amazed at how plug-and-play it was), but the prerequisite knowledge to use them effectively is beyond the grasp of most average home users. Fundamentally, it’s a geek toy, not a device that my mom would be able to set up, much less operate without written instructions.

The iPad and the iPhone, on the other hand, are easy to use. Much like the original iPods, they’re simply intuitive. The app store is easy to navigate. The OS, while locked up for most end users, is pretty well stable and won’t break. The downside, as Cory well points out, is that Apple becomes the gatekeeper. I’m a geek, and like Cory, I fundamentally don’t like that. But neither he nor I are average users, and to project our prejudices onto those average users misses the point.

The iPhone and the iPad are not intended to be geek toys and gadgets; they’re intended to be tools. As tools, they are built to be useful for as many jobs as they can meet but at the same time to be accessible to a very wide range of the public.

Is it the tool I’d choose? No, I’d prefer a more open Android-based platform than a closed Apple-based platform. Just like I prefer the control and configurability of Linux to Windows, and like I prefer the configurability and add-ons of Firefox to the vanilla of IE. But I’m not the average user.

The iPhone and iPad open up mobile computing platforms and a wide range of applications to a user base that otherwise probably would go without. There is downside to that approach, but the upside outweighs it by far.

Hat Tip: Economist Free Exchange Blog

Congress Begs For Intervention Due To Spending Addiction

Congress has a problem. They have a tough time cutting unpopular spending, but cutting popular spending is just impossible. They talk about their ability to be elected, go to Washington, and make the tough decisions, but when push comes to shove, they want to shove responsibility off to a third party. I believe it’s called “plausible deniability”:

The IPAB is a 15-person, full-time board composed of health-care experts and stakeholders. Members need to be confirmed by the Senate and will serve six-year terms, with one possible reappointment. But the important thing isn’t who serves. It’s how they vote. Or, as the case may be, don’t vote.

If Congress approves the board’s recommendations and the president signs them, they go into effect. If Congress does not vote on the board’s recommendations, they still go into effect. If Congress votes against the board’s recommendations but the president vetoes and Congress can’t find the two-thirds necessary to overturn the veto, the recommendations go into effect. It’s only if Congress votes them down and the president agrees that the recommendations die. “I believe this commission is the largest yielding of sovereignty from the Congress since the creation of the Federal Reserve,” says Peter Orszag, who’s been one of the idea’s most enthusiastic supporters.

Only if a recommendation is so onerous that public ire is raised to the point where Congress can override a presidential veto will that recommendation be killed.

As legislation goes, this has some advantages, as it may have some credible cost-cutting ability. Granted, I don’t think “cost cutting” should be the same thing as “price fixing”, but rather as a result of market forces. Imagine the reduction in cost if 80% of the nation was on an HDHP/HSA plan rather than traditional comprehensive insurance, and those individuals were in constant negotiation through the market to set prices. But while I’m opposed to some unaccountable government panel setting payment rates for medical procedures, I’m somewhat comforted that it may cost me less money than letting Congress do it.

But how much of this sounds like an addict trying to control his fix? This is the alcoholic with such little self-control that he knows he can’t even be in the vicinity of booze because he’ll start binging again. Congress trusts themselves so little that they refuse to even take responsibility for VOTING on these cuts.

If they’re going to abdicate this responsibility, isn’t that just an indication that Congress never should have been allowed the responsibility in the first place?

The Case Against An Article V Constitutional Convention

Virginia Delegate James LeMunyon has an article in today’s Wall Street Journal where he makes an argument that I’ve been hearing with disturbing frequency lately:

The remedy is in Article V of the Constitution, which permits a convention to be called for the purpose of proposing constitutional amendments. Any proposed amendment then would have to be ratified by both houses of 38 state legislatures (three-fourths of the states). This entails 76 separate votes in the affirmative by two houses of the 38 state legislatures. (Nebraska, with its unicameral legislature, would be an exception.)

Interest in calling a first-ever Article V convention is growing at the state level. A petition for such a convention passed the Florida Senate last month, to propose amendments requiring a balanced budget and to restrain the growth of the national government. If approved by the House, Florida would be the 20th state with an active call to do so. In the Virginia House of Delegates, I introduced a resolution (H.J. 183) calling for a constitutional convention to restrain the national government as well. Requests by two-thirds or 34 states are required for a convention to be called.

Here’s what Article V says about a Convention:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States

It sounds like a pretty straightforward idea. If Congress is being stubborn about passing Amendments that the people deem necessary, why not call a Convention to go over their heads ?

Well, there’s a very good reason, and former Chief Justice Warren Burger put it bluntly in 1983:

I have also repeatedly given my opinion that there is no effective way to limit or muzzle the actions of a Constitutional Convention. The convention could make its own rules and set its own agenda. Congress might try to limit the convention to one amendment or to one issue, but there is no way to assure that the convention would obey. After a convention is convened, it will be too late to stop the convention if we don’t like its agenda. The meeting in 1787 ignored the limit placed by the confederation Congress “for the sole and express purpose.”

With George Washington as chairman, they were able to deliberate in total secrecy, with no press coverage and no leaks. A constitutional Convention today would be a free-for-all for special interest groups, television coverage, and press speculation.

Our 1787 Constitution was referred to by several of its authors as a “miracle.” Whatever gain might be hoped for from a new Constitutional Convention could not be worth the risks involved. A new convention could plunge our Nation into constitutional confusion and confrontation at every turn, with no assurance that focus would be on the subjects needing attention.

Burger, of course, was exactly right then and he’s exactly right now.

It’s worth noting, as Burger does, the historical context in which the 1787 Convention came to be:

On January 21, 1786, the Virginia Legislature, following James Madison‘s recommendation, invited all the states to send delegates to Annapolis, Maryland to discuss ways to reduce these interstate conflicts.[1] At what came to be known as the Annapolis Convention, the few state delegates in attendance endorsed a motion that called for all states to meet in Philadelphia in May 1787 to discuss ways to improve the Articles of Confederation in a “Grand Convention.”[1]

Instead of discussing improvement to the Articles of Confederation, though, the delegates quickly moved to the creation of an entirely new system of government that had no resemblance to the then-current national government and, when they were done, instead of complying with the amendment procedure provided for in the Articles, which would have required approval by Congress and unanimous consent of all thirteen state legislatures, they provided for a ratification process that completely bypassed Congress and the states. And they did that because they knew there was no way the new Constitution would have been approved by all thirteen states.

The Articles of Confederation, of course, were a flawed document and it’s unlikely that the United States would have survived as a unified nation for very much longer had they remained in place. So, in some sense, Madison and the others at Philadelphia did the right thing.

But, as Burger says, we were lucky and there’s no reason to believe we’d be similarly lucky as second time.

Regardless of any of the arguments that LeMunyon and the others make about ways to limit the scope of the convention, the experience of 1787 makes it plain that, once called, there is no way to limit the scope of a Constitutional Convention, and no reason to think they we’d end up with an entirely different Constitution when it was over.

We were also lucky in 1787 because of the men who gathered to write the Constitution. The values they shared were values of individual liberty and small government. Does anyone truly believe that we’d be lucky enough to have delegates to a 2013 Convention, say, that were anywhere near the intellectual and moral calibre of Madison, or Mason, or Franklin ? Yea, I didn’t think so.

Finally, Burger’s point about the importance of secrecy in the 1787 proceedings is even more poignant today. In the era of the 365/24/7 news cycle, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, there wouldn’t be any way to keep these deliberations secret and making them public would just increase the likelihood that the end product would be one big mess.

The Constitution isn’t perfect and there are many things I would change about it, but I am not willing to take the risk of sacrificing the entire structure we’ve built over the past two centuries just for a chance to do it.

Obama’s April Fools Joke

Yesterday, President Obama announced a new plan that supposedly announced new drilling off the nation’s East Coast, Alaskan Coast, and Gulf of Mexico. State run media proclaimed it as Obama moving to the center and striking a balance between environmentalists and the “drill, baby, drill” crowd. However, once you look at Obama’s actual proposal the truth is much different.

Rick Moran writes a piece for Pajamas Media today that illustrates the bait and switch Obama pulls on the American people.

Sounding for all the world like someone who just experienced a “road to Damascus” moment on energy, Barack Obama embraced offshore drilling for oil and ordered wide swaths of previously pristine ocean open to the depredations of greedy and rapacious oil companies.

Or if you’re not one of Obama’s wacky green supporters, Obama gave the go-ahead for tapping the biggest expansion of energy reserves in history.

Or did he?

In fact, what Obama giveth with one hand, he taketh away with another. Some leases already in motion have been canceled while potentially huge deposits of oil and natural gas are still off-limits, including the entire Pacific coastline of the United States from the Mexican border to Canada. In addition, in order to expand drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the president must get the authorization of Congress. This would have been a snap when gas was $4 a gallon, but is much less a certainty today.

Other leases that had been approved in Alaska have also been canceled for further environmental study. Of course, the president didn’t even bother to mention the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — sacred calving grounds of the porcupine caribou — which would yield as many barrels of oil as all the areas the president opened for drilling combined. And the slow motion approval process guarantees that I will be retired and getting to and from our little grocery store here in Streator, Illinois, riding a donkey before a drop of that East Coast oil makes it to market.

What is the point of this welcome but ultimately less-than-half measure to expand our domestic oil production? Note the word “drill” used in just about every headline in the media about this story. The president is sending a signal to the American people that he has heard their cries of “drill, baby drill” and has deigned to respond favorably. Citizens will think better of him for it, despite the fact that it will not increase domestic oil production until the president is long out of office and considered an elder statesmen. Perhaps he will have been elected president of the world by then, but if we’re still in Afghanistan I wouldn’t bet on it.

Yeah, so much for “drill, baby, drill”. Plus, Obama made this announcement in front of a F/A-18 Hornet fighter that is slated to run on a mix of 50% jet fuel and 50% biofuels on Earth Day. This “drilling” announcement was designed to position Obama towards the center while at the same time bribing squishy Republicans who are open towards voting for cap and tax along with “moderate” and “conservative” Democrats who are reluctant to vote for it. As expected, state run media lapped it up and dutifully reported it as Obama wanted them to and to complete the disinformation campaign, they even found far left politicians and activists who were outraged.

Ultimately, this proposal is simply just an early April Fool’s joke by Barack Obama on the American people. It takes away existing oil leases and ultimately does not expand drilling in the US while at the same time giving Obama political cover to push cap and tax and the rest of his “green energy” subsidies. Unlike most April Fool’s jokes, this one is not funny. Instead, it will ultimately cost the average American family at least $1500 more a year in energy costs.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.
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