Friday, June 30, 2006

Global Warming in Perspective

World Climate Report has a post about a pending case in which the U.S. Supreme Court will

review whether or not the federal government is currently required by law to limit emissions of carbon dioxide, the major human emission implicated in global warming. . . .

This case is a result of a pleading by several state Attorneys General, enviro groups, and assorted other hangers-on, arguing that carbon dioxide is a “pollutant,” and therefore must be regulated by the EPA.

The author (unidentified, but presumably the blog's proprietor, Pat Michaels), zings global-warming hysteria with this:

Folks on my side of the issue, know that there’s not a suite of regulations and/or technology that can significantly alter the course of the earth’s temperature evolution for the life of anyone on this court, or, for that matter, for any of the next several appointees. By then, society will likely be producing or using energy in ways that are so different than today that this huge catfight will look like what it really is—a silly diversion, compared to some real-world problems, like nutsos with nuclear weapons, or people flying airplanes into skyscrapers for the love of a bevy of non-experienced women.

Because Michaels is a bona fide scientist who is on the faculty of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, he offers convincing evidence to back up his position.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

One Small Step for Literacy

Steve Burton (Right Reason) writes: "100th anniversary". That's precisely the right way to put it, as opposed to the wrong but increasingly common ways, such as "five-year anniversary" or, more barbarically, "six-month anniversary."

The word "anniversary" means "the annually recurring date of a past event." To write or say "x-year anniversary" is redundant as well as graceless. To write or say "x-month anniversary" is nonsensical; what is meant is that such-and-such happened "x" months ago.

Ms. Pelosi's Inadvertent Wisdom

Nancy Pelosi, leader of the minority party of the U.S. House of Representatives, opines:

Congress is Recessing While the Urgent Needs of Americans Remain Unmet

Until There Is an Increase in Minimum Wage, We Will Not Support Raise in Congressional Salaries

We Must Pass Comprehensive Legislation That Will Protect Our Veterans and Their Private Information

The good news is that while Congress is in recess it cannot pass laws that make it harder for Americans to meet their urgent needs through hard work, innovation, and entrepreneurship -- all of which Congress discourages through taxation and regulation. (Note to Congress: Take a longer vacation. I'll call you when I need you.)

The other good news is that Congress may not increase the minimum wage -- in which case I expect Ms. Pelosi to be a woman of her word about congressional salaries. (Note to Congress: If you're going to take longer vacations, why should I give you a raise?)

The even better news is that Ms. Pelosi cares about persons who have served in the armed forces. (Or is it that she's just a cynical, vote-pandering, Bush-bashing pol? You decide.) The fact that there already are laws against theft and fraud would never stop a Congress-critter from seeking to pass a new law.

Finally, there's this, from Kim Priestap at Wizbang!:

Nancy Pelosi is thrilled that terrorists' rights are protected

Oops, that's not wisdom, is it? Well, neither was the rest of it.

The Lessons of the Hamdan Decision

The Supreme Court today handed down its 5-3 decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. According to SCOTUSblog,

[t]he Supreme Court ruled . . . that Congress did not take away the Court's authority to rule on the military commissions' validity, and then went ahead to rule that President Bush did not have authority to set up the tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and found the commissions illegal under both military justice law and the Geneva Convention. In addition, the Court concluded that the commissions were not authorized when Congress enacted the post-9/1l resolution authorizing a response to the terrorist attacks, and were not authorized by last year's Detainee Treatment Act. The vote against the commissions and on the Court's jurisdiction was 5-3, with the Chief Justice not taking part.

The Court expressly declared that it was not questioning the government's power to hold Salim Ahmed Hamdan "for the duration of active hostilities" to prevent harm to innocent civilians. But, it said, "in undertaking to try Hamdan and subject him to criminal punishment, the Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails in this jurisdiction."

Okay, so here are the lessons:

1. Don't hold ememy combatants at Gitmo.

2. Try again after the retirement of Justice Stevens (author of the majority opinion).

3. Let the Court enforce its own rulings.

4. AJ Strata says, "can't try them, so fry them."

More Takes on the New York Times

Michael Barone asks -- and answers -- the question "Whose side are they on?"

Ann Coulter opens with this question: "When is the New York Times going to get around to uncovering an al-Qaida secret program?"

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Parsing the Vote on the Flag-Burning Amendment

The U.S. Senate yesterday failed, by one vote, to adopt S.J. Res. 12, which proposed this amendment to the Constitution: "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." The House already had passed the same "flag burning amendment," and so it would have gone to the States for ratification had one Senator voted "yea" instead of "nay."

I am against any statute (e.g., campaign-finance "reform") or amendment to the Constitution that limits freedom of speech. (I might favor a law making it treasonous to publish, knowingly, classified information pertaining to the conduct of an on-going war, which is not speech as the Framers understood it.) I am therefore against any amendment to the Constitution that limits symbolic speech, such as flag-burning. Let the flag-burners and their ilk be known for the post-patriotic, post-Americans that they are.

That said, I wonder what motivated the 34 senators who voted against the flag-burning amendment:

Akaka (D-HI)
Bennett (R-UT)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Carper (D-DE)
Chafee (R-RI)
Clinton (D-NY)
Conrad (D-ND)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Kohl (D-WI)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (D-CT)
McConnell (R-KY)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Obama (D-IL)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Schumer (D-NY)
Wyden (D-OR)

Those who undoubtedly voted nay to defend freedom of speech are easy to identify. They are the two conservative Republicans who broke ranks with their party: Bennett of Utah and McConnell of Kentucky.

I'm sure that many of the Democrats voted nay for the same valid reason as that of Senators Bennett and McConnell. But many others, I am equally certain, voted the way they did for one or both of these reasons:

  • They can no longer find it in themselves to believe that America, in spite of its faults and mistakes, is better than its enemies.
  • Their partisanship so consumes them that they oppose the Republican president's efforts to defend America -- of which the flag is a reminder.

I won't name names. That's an exercise for the reader.

What about the 66 senators who voted for the flag-burning amendment? The lineup on the yea side consists of yahoos and panderers -- patriotic though they may (or may not) be. The yahoos are those who sincerely believe in restricting freedom of speech. (John McCain, take a bow.) The panderers are those who voted yea to placate "the base" or to take a stand that might help them win re-election in the fall.

What might have happened if the proposed amendment had gone to the States? A look at Senate votes by State offers a clue. The States that probably would have gone against the amendment are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin. That's 12 States, one shy of the number required to block ratification of the amendment.

In other words, the flag-burning amendment might well have been ratified had the Senate approved it. One senator's vote averted national embarrassment. I hope it was cast by a senator who believes in freedom of speech, but I fear it was not.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Wages of Publicity

From the Devil's handmaidens at The New York Times:

Group Tries to Block Program Giving Data to U.S.

By DAN BILEFSKY, International Herald Tribune Published: June 27, 2006

BRUSSELS, June 27 — A human rights group in London said today that it had lodged formal complaints in 32 countries against the Brussels-based banking consortium known as Swift, contending that it violated European and Asian data protection rules by providing the United States with confidential information about international money transfers.

It speaks for itself.

The New York Times: A Hot-Bed of Post-Americanism

Proof, if any were needed, that The New York Times's publication of details of classified defense programs is politically motivated:

The New York Times, 9/24/01

by Hugh Hewitt

The New York Times, editorializing a long time ago, when the Trade Center ruins were still burning:

The Bush administration is preparing new laws to help track terrorists through their money-laundering activity and is readying an executive order freezing the assets of known terrorists. Much more is needed, including stricter regulations, the recruitment of specialized investigators and greater cooperation with foreign banking authorities. There must also must be closer coordination among America's law enforcement, national security and financial regulatory agencies....If America is going to wage a new kind of war against terrorism, it must act on all fronts, including the financial one.

(HT: LegalXXX who posted this in June, 2004, and to e-mailer Mary Beth S. who pinged me as to the existence of the editorial, which she found on this FreeRepublic thread.)


What has changed since September 24, 2001? Only this: The New York Times has become ever more partisan -- so much so that the Times feels compelled to oppose and undermine the war on terror simply because Bush is commander-in-chief. How post-American.


Courtesy of The New York Times

From the International Herald Tribune:

BRUSSELS Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt of Belgium has asked the Justice Ministry to investigate whether a banking consortium here broke the law when it aided the U.S. government's anti-terrorism activities by providing it with confidential information about international money transfers.

The group, known as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or Swift, has come under scrutiny following a report last week by The New York Times….

Heather MacDonald and Gabriel Schoenfeld explain the recklessness of the New York Times here and here.

Posted by Daniel McKivergan on June 27, 2006 12:10 PM |

But why worry, if you're a post-American? The terrorists surely will spare the Times. Hah!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Post-Americans and Their Progeny

What are post-Americans? Mark Krikorian, writing at NRO, explains:

Let me be clear what I mean by a post-American. He's not an enemy of America — not Alger Hiss or Jane Fonda or Louis Farrakhan. He's not necessarily even a Michael Moore or Ted Kennedy. A post-American may actually still like America, but the emotion resembles the attachment one might feel to, say, suburban New Jersey — it can be a pleasant place to live, but you're always open to a better offer. The post-American has a casual relationship with his native country, unlike the patriot, "who more than self his country loves," as Katharine Lee Bates wrote. Put differently, the patriot is married to America; the post-American is just shacking up.

Now, there are two kinds of post-American. David Frum, in his "Unpatriotic Conservatives" article for NR last year, highlighted what I think is the less important kind: Those who focus on something less than America, whether white nationalists or neo-Confederates, etc. The second, more consequential and problematic kind are those who have moved beyond America, "citizens of the world," as the cliché goes — in other words citizens (at least in the emotional sense) of nowhere in particular.

What does post-Americanism lead to? Among other things -- such as The New York Times's deliberate efforts to sabotage the war on terror) -- it breeds home-grown al Qaeda wannabes. Consider this, by Jim Wooten (ThinkingRight):

So who’s surprised, then, that we see the emergence of the well-fed, well-clothed, no-worry wannabes, bored and “angry,” willing to join al-Qaida in worldwide revolution? “They were persons who for whatever reason came to view their home country as the enemy,” said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in announcing the seven arrests.

We live in a country where immigrants are invited to have dual loyalties, where a liberal’s “highest form of patriotism” is trashing the President and the nation’s military efforts in Iraq, where being “worldly” is granting no favoritism, nor making any distinction, between dictators and democracies, or considering a room that’s too warm and terrorist butchery to be equally-condemable forms of “torture.” All the recordable anger of the Left is directed inward, not at themselves, but at this country.

That's because the post-American Left is just waiting for a better offer. But it will never come. We "buried" Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Tojo, Krushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev, Ulbricht, Jaruzelski, Ceauşescu, Saddam, etc., and we will "bury" Castro, Putin, the Chinese cabal, Kim jong-il, Osama and his supporters -- and all the rest of Hitler and Stalin's spiritual heirs -- as long as we do not succumb to post-Americanism.

Related posts:
Getting It Wrong: Civil Libertarians and the War on Terror (A Case Study) (05/18/04)
The Illogic of Knee-Jerk Privacy Adocates (10/06/04)
Treasonous Blogging? (03/05/05)
I Dare Call It Treason (05/31/05)
Shall We All Hang Separately? (08/13/05)
Foxhole Rats (08/14/05)
Treasonous Speech? (08/18/05)
Foxhole Rats, Redux (08/22/05)
The Faces of Appeasement (11/19/05)
We Have Met the Enemy . . . (12/13/05)
More Foxhole Rats (01/24/06)
Calling a Nazi a Nazi (03/12/06)
What If We Lose? (03/22/06)< A Political Compass (03/24/06)
Moussaoui and "White Guilt" (05/03/06)
In Which I Reply to the Executive Editor of The New York Times (06/25/06)

More "Crunchy Cons"

I linked yesterday to several posts, reviews, and articles about "Crunchy Cons" (the cult) and Crunchy Cons (the book). Matt Peterson of The Claremont Institute points me to a book review that I had not seen. It's by Douglas Jeffrey, and it appears in the Summer 2006 issue of The Claremont Review of Books. It's also available online, here. I commend the review. Here's a taste:

In appearing to promote an extension of the social safety net to guarantee the ability to home-school, he [Rod Dreher, the author of Crunchy Cons] does not acknowledge, much less engage, the considerable scholarship over the past 40 years suggesting that the welfare state has proved destructive of the family, both here and (more dramatically) in parts of Western Europe. Nor does he betray cognizance of the school-choice movement into which Milton Friedman and others have poured so much effort in recent decades. The irresponsibility that plagues this book reaches one of its crescendos when he writes: "What kind of an economy should we have, then? I don't know; I'm a writer, not an economist" (emphasis added).

Sunday, June 25, 2006

In Which I Reply to the Executive Editor of the New York Times


From The New York Times, Sunday, June 25, 2006. Reproduced in its entirety. My comments in brackets and italic boldface. The underlying story is here.

June 25, 2006

Letter From Bill Keller on The Times's Banking Records Report

The following is a letter Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, has sent to readers who have written him about The Times's publication of information about the government's examination of international banking records:

I don't always have time to answer my mail as fully as etiquette demands, but our story about the government's surveillance of international banking records has generated some questions and concerns that I take very seriously. As the editor responsible for the difficult decision to publish that story, I'd like to offer a personal response.

Some of the incoming mail quotes the angry words of conservative bloggers and TV or radio pundits who say that drawing attention to the government's anti-terror measures is unpatriotic and dangerous. (I could ask, if that's the case, why they are drawing so much attention to the story themselves by yelling about it on the airwaves and the Internet.) [Because, you idiot, you've already let the cat out of the bag. The damage is done.] Some comes from readers who have considered the story in question and wonder whether publishing such material is wise. And some comes from readers who are grateful for the information and think it is valuable to have a public debate about the lengths to which our government has gone in combatting the threat of terror. [A public debate that divulges the details of a classified anti-terror program that has been effective? Anyway, you forgot to mention the Lefties -- yourself and your staff included -- who simply want to shut down the war on terror because it offends your sensibilities.]

It's an unusual and powerful thing, this freedom that our founders gave to the press. Who are the editors of The New York Times (or the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and other publications that also ran the banking story) to disregard the wishes of the President and his appointees? And yet the people who invented this country saw an aggressive, independent press as a protective measure against the abuse of power in a democracy, and an essential ingredient for self-government. They rejected the idea that it is wise, or patriotic, to always take the President at his word, or to surrender to the government important decisions about what to publish. [But it is neither wise nor patriotic to undermine the government's lawful efforts to prosecute a war, and that is precisely what the Times and other publications have done.]

The power that has been given us is not something to be taken lightly. [But you have done just that in your zeal to sell newspapers, win Pulitzer prizes, and push your writers' books.] The responsibility of it weighs most heavily on us when an issue involves national security, and especially national security in times of war. I've only participated in a few such cases, but they are among the most agonizing decisions I've faced as an editor. [Because your "agonizing" always seems to lead to the same conclusion (publish), I doubt that it's really agonizing at all.]

The press and the government generally start out from opposite corners in such cases. [Why should that be, unless you place the Times's interests -- don't give me that baloney about "pubic interest" -- above the nation's.] The government would like us to publish only the official line, and some of our elected leaders tend to view anything else as harmful to the national interest. [Strawman alert!] For example, some members of the Administration have argued over the past three years that when our reporters describe sectarian violence and insurgency in Iraq, we risk demoralizing the nation and giving comfort to the enemy. Editors start from the premise that citizens can be entrusted with unpleasant and complicated news, and that the more they know the better they will be able to make their views known to their elected officials. Our default position — our job — is to publish information if we are convinced it is fair and accurate, and our biggest failures have generally been when we failed to dig deep enough or to report fully enough. After The Times played down its advance knowledge of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President Kennedy reportedly said he wished we had published what we knew and perhaps prevented a fiasco. [Irrelevant. Kennedy was second-guessing his failure of nerve. He was responsible for the Bay of Pigs fiasco.] Some of the reporting in The Times and elsewhere prior to the war in Iraq was criticized for not being skeptical enough of the Administration's claims about the Iraqi threat. The question we start with as journalists is not "why publish?" but "why would we withhold information of significance?" We have sometimes done so, holding stories or editing out details that could serve those hostile to the U.S. But we need a compelling reason to do so. [This entire paragraph is off the point. What the government might have liked -- or not liked -- in various cases isn't in question. What is in question is why the Times and other media outlets have chosen to divulge very real, very secret, and probably very effective measures, such as the surveillance of international communications and the tracking of financial transactions.]

Forgive me, I know this is pretty elementary stuff — but it's the kind of elementary context that sometimes gets lost in the heat of strong disagreements. [In other words, those who are enraged by the Times's actions are nothing more than right-wing hotheads.]

Since September 11, 2001, our government has launched broad and secret anti-terror monitoring programs without seeking authorizing legislation and without fully briefing the Congress. [The government has acted in accordance with already existing legislation.] Most Americans seem to support extraordinary measures in defense against this extraordinary threat, but some officials who have been involved in these programs have spoken to the Times about their discomfort over the legality of the government's actions and over the adequacy of oversight. [So, the Times favors disgruntled leakers over national security. Well we knew that, and the reasons for it, namely, the Times's zeal to sell newspapers, win Pulitzer prizes, and push its writers' books.] We believe The Times and others in the press have served the public interest by accurately reporting on these programs so that the public can have an informed view of them. [Actually, your purpose -- among others not so lofty -- was to discredit a Republican administration by running scare headlines.]

Our decision to publish the story of the Administration's penetration of the international banking system followed weeks of discussion between Administration officials and The Times, not only the reporters who wrote the story but senior editors, including me. We listened patiently and attentively. We discussed the matter extensively within the paper. We spoke to others — national security experts not serving in the Administration — for their counsel. [Yeah, but you knew all along what you were going to do, didn't you?] It's worth mentioning that the reporters and editors responsible for this story live in two places — New York and the Washington area — that are tragically established targets for terrorist violence. The question of preventing terror is not abstract to us. [Oh, play that violin! New York and Washington aren't the only potential targets, you narcissistic jerk. By your words and actions you have revealed that the question of preventing terror is abstract to you.]

The Administration case for holding the story had two parts, roughly speaking: first that the program is good — that it is legal, that there are safeguards against abuse of privacy, and that it has been valuable in deterring and prosecuting terrorists. And, second, that exposing this program would put its usefulness at risk.

It's not our job to pass judgment on whether this program is legal or effective, but the story cites strong arguments from proponents that this is the case. While some experts familiar with the program have doubts about its legality, which has never been tested in the courts, and while some bank officials worry that a temporary program has taken on an air of permanence, we cited considerable evidence that the program helps catch and prosecute financers of terror, and we have not identified any serious abuses of privacy so far. A reasonable person, informed about this program, might well decide to applaud it. That said, we hesitate to preempt the role of legislators and courts, and ultimately the electorate, which cannot consider a program if they don't know about it. [If they don't know about it, it's for a very good reason: Loose lips sink ships. Wars aren't won by discussing battle plans in town meetings.]

We weighed most heavily the Administration's concern that describing this program would endanger it. The central argument we heard from officials at senior levels was that international bankers would stop cooperating, would resist, if this program saw the light of day. We don't know what the banking consortium will do, but we found this argument puzzling. First, the bankers provide this information under the authority of a subpoena, which imposes a legal obligation. Second, if, as the Administration says, the program is legal, highly effective, and well protected against invasion of privacy, the bankers should have little trouble defending it. The Bush Administration and America itself may be unpopular in Europe these days, but policing the byways of international terror seems to have pretty strong support everywhere. And while it is too early to tell, the initial signs are that our article is not generating a banker backlash against the program. [No, but it does give the bad guys -- and potential bad guys -- better information about how to avoid the tracking of their banking transactions.]

By the way, we heard similar arguments against publishing last year's reporting on the NSA eavesdropping program. We were told then that our article would mean the death of that program. We were told that telecommunications companies would — if the public knew what they were doing — withdraw their cooperation. To the best of my knowledge, that has not happened. While our coverage has led to much public debate and new congressional oversight, to the best of our knowledge the eavesdropping program continues to operate much as it did before. Members of Congress have proposed to amend the law to put the eavesdropping program on a firm legal footing. And the man who presided over it and defended it was handily confirmed for promotion as the head of the CIA. [Off the point again. You fail to mention the bad guys and how your stories helped them avoid detection. Or don't you care about them?]

A secondary argument against publishing the banking story was that publication would lead terrorists to change tactics. But that argument was made in a half-hearted way. [Who says? Are you into reading body language?] It has been widely reported — indeed, trumpeted by the Treasury Department — that the U.S. makes every effort to track international financing of terror. [But not precisely how.] Terror financiers know this, which is why they have already moved as much as they can to cruder methods. [How do you know that? How can anyone know that? All one can do is track what can be tracked, but you've probably told terrorists more than they knew about how their money is tracked.] But they also continue to use the international banking system, because it is immeasurably more efficient than toting suitcases of cash. [Though they may use it less than before, or in more devious ways, thanks to you.]

I can appreciate that other conscientious people could have gone through the process I've outlined above and come to a different conclusion. But nobody should think that we made this decision casually, with any animus toward the current Administration, or without fully weighing the issues. [Regardless of your smug justifications, you did come to the conclusion that it was your right and responsibility to endanger American lives by exposing programs that help track terrorists. The First Amendment gives you the right to publish; it doesn't say that you must publish. Use your head, if you can retrieve it from the orifice at the other end of your torso.]

Thanks for writing.

Bill Keller

[P.S. I pay the President to defend the country, not you. If you want the job, run for it. Until you've been elected and inaugurated, keep your mitts off the war effort. You're on a par with a drunk who aspires to direct traffic, and about as qualified for the job.]

ADDENDUM: See this excellent fisking of Keller's letter by Hugh Hewitt.

ADDENDUM 2: See this "indictment" by Mark Henry Holzer of the Times and the leakers who have been passing classified information to the Times since 9/11.

ADDENDUM 3: Michelle Malkin has a roundup of blogospheric reactions.

ADDENDUM 4: Michael Barone asks (about those gentle folk of the Times) why do they hate us?

ADDENDUM 5: The American Spectator Blog reports that Keller has been caught lying about the amount of contact the NYT had with the White House and the vehemence of the government's objections to the story.

ADDENDUM 6: Treasury secretary John Snow piles on (in effect repeating some of what I say above).

Sunday Grab Bag

These are some things I've bookmarked in the past month. The subjects are global warming, rooting for the other side, and "Crunchy Cons."

Arnold Kling has had more to say about global warming:

Much, much more of the human activity that would cause global warming has occurred in the last 20 years than took place between 1900 and 1940. Also, much, much more of the greenhouse gas layer on earth consists of either water vapor or pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide.

Thus, the link between human activity and global warming depends not on simple, obvious relationships in the data. It depends entirely on climate models of how these tiny (relative to the overall volume of greenhouse gases) human activities produce "feedback loops" on the rest. They are models of how much less than one percent of a phenomenon affects the entire phenomenon. They are much more faith-based than empirical.

It is possible that the models underestimate human-caused global warming. However, I believe that this is far less likely than that they over-estimate the human causal factor.

I believe that average temperatures have been rising. I have no reason to believe that they will stop rising. However, the most sensible position an empiricist can take is that human activity is not going to make much difference to global warming, one way or the other.

(An archive of related posts by Kling is here.)

Mike Rappaport wrote about the immorality of rooting for the other side:

[T]he more important point from [Michael Barone's] article is how strong a case he makes for the moral impropriety of the Democrats' behavior. Here is Barone's description [redacted by LC]:

A substantial part of the Democratic Party, some of its politicians and many of its loudest supporters do not want America to succeed in Iraq. . . .

Successes are discounted, setbacks are trumpeted, the level of American casualties is treated as if it were comparable to those in Vietnam or World War II. Allegations of American misdeeds are repeated over and over; the work of reconstruction and aid of American military personnel and civilians is ignored.

In all this they have been aided and abetted by large elements of the press. . . .

. . . One or two instances of American misconduct are found equal in the balance to a consistent and premeditated campaign of barbarism.

. . . I am not saying that all critics of the war or the Bush Administration fall into this camp. There are many legitimate criticisms of the war. But such legitimate criticisms do not include rooting for the other side -- including rooting that one does internally but does not admit to most other people.

There was plenty of this during the Cold War, which was reprehensible enough, but at least those people had convinced themselves that communism was not really bad. Few on the left believe that Islamo Facism is desirable.

There was plenty of rooting for the other side during the Vietnam War, as well. And look where it got us. An (initially) unnecessary war was (unnecessarily) lost, and thus America continued its downward spiral into defeatism, from which it has yet to recover fully.

Related to that, read this, by Austin Bay, about the publication by The New York Times and other papers of classified information about the war on terror. Bay concludes:

[S]ome headlines hurt – they damage our government’s Job One: national security. Perhaps the Times’ editors don’t believe we are engaged in a global counter-terror war against Islamo-fascism. We are. At one time there was hole in south Manhattan they could not ignore. . . . For America’s economic and media elites the war has been easy. . . . The US military has served with great distinction, despite major media attempts to “My Lai” Abu Ghraib and now Haditha. Moral compromise in war is inevitable; compromising legitimate intellgence operations is not. History may well conclude this is a war that didn’t need America’s media elites, and perhaps that suspicion curdles the gut of a couple of New York Times bigshots.

Jeffrey Tucker reviewed Rod Dreher's book Crunchy Cons. Here are excerpts of Tucker's review:

Dreher seems untroubled by serious issues of economics and politics. He has not put much thought into the political or the economic implications of what he writes. He is not the slightest bit curious about what his vision for his life and yours means for society at large. Though he imagines himself as a rebel against mass consumption, he seems completely unaware that he is purchasing his lifestyle choice just like everyone else, and that the market he loathes is precisely what makes his choice possible.

For those who haven't read about this new approach to conservative living, here is a quick primer. Dreher follows in a long line of writers dating back to the Industrial Revolution — and a certain strain of post WW2 conservative writers — who loath consumer culture, believe that mass production for the masses is sheer corruption, that free trade is deracinating us all from praiseworthy national attachments, that machines destroy souls, and that capitalism is the enemy of faith because it fuels change and progress. Dreher reports with disgust that America has become one big shopping mall populated by people driven by spiritually barren materialist motives who buy buy buy goods and services of shoddy quality to feed their frenzied desire to live decadently while eschewing friends, community, family, and faith.

And make no mistake: it is the free market that is his target. He even says that "the place of the free market in society" is precisely where he departs with regular conservatives (who he wrongly assumes love the market).

We should go another way, says he. We should cook at home, turn off the television, have kids, educate them at home, buy organic veggies, eat free-range chickens, bike not drive, buy from small shops and never Wal-Mart, live in cottages rather than gated communities, buy old homes and fix them up, and you know the rest of the story. . . .

It never occurs to the author that his crunchy way of living is a consumable good — nay, a luxury good — made possible by the enormous prosperity that permit intellectuals like him to purport to live a high-minded and old-fashioned lifestyle without the problems that once came with pre-capitalist living. . . .

[W]hat we have here is a grab bag of weakly argued policies to support his particular lifestyle, which he is not content to live on his own but rather wants to see legislated as a national program. Never mind whether any of this stuff is consistent or what the consequences would be.

For more about "Crunchy Conservatism," try these links, which I've been hoarding:

The "Crunchy Con" manifesto

A (defunct) blog by and about "Crunchy Cons"

Three posts at Right Reason (here, here, and here)

A review of Crunchy Cons at RedState

A three-part series at The Remedy (here, here, and here) about how "Crunchies seem to misunderstand the relation and distinction between politics and culture; they seem to misunderstand the true principles and ends of the American regime in which they live."

Friday, June 23, 2006

Mises on Liberty and the State

A key point of my series, "The Meaning of Liberty," is that liberty is not so much a rigid abstraction as it is a social phenomenon. It is the best "deal" we can make with those around us -- the set of compromises that defines acceptable behavior, which is the boundary of liberty. Those compromises are not made by a philosopher-king but through an evolving consensus about harms -- a consensus that flows from reason, experience, persuasion, and necessity.

Here to buttress my point -- on a grand scale -- is none other than Ludwig von Mises, writing in "The Idea of Liberty Is Western":

The idea of liberty is and has always been peculiar to the West. What separates East and West is first of all the fact that the peoples of the East never conceived the idea of liberty. The imperishable glory of the ancient Greeks was that they were the first to grasp the meaning and significance of institutions warranting liberty. Recent historical research has traced back to Oriental sources the origin of some of the scientific achievements previously credited to the Hellenes. But nobody has ever contested that the idea of liberty was created in the cities of ancient Greece. The writings of Greek philosophers and historians transmitted it to the Romans and later to modern Europe and America. It became the essential concern of all Western plans for the establishment of the good society. It begot the laissez-faire philosophy to which mankind owes all the unprecedented achievements of the age of capitalism.

Another way to put it is this: Easterners (even when left to their own devices) prefer a set of compromises about acceptable behavior that Westerners generally (though not always) would reject as being too constraining. That is not to argue for cultural relativism, however, because there are demonstrable differences in outcomes that favor the West. And it is only a deluded minority of cosseted Westerners who seek to follow Eastern ways, whereas Eastern authorities have long (and sometimes futilely) sought to prevent their subjects from becoming Westernized.

In the same essay, Mises also buttresses my belief in the inevitability of a state, whatever it may be called (see this, for example), when he writes:

Social cooperation under the division of labor is the ultimate and sole source of man's success in his struggle for survival and his endeavors to improve as much as possible the material conditions of his well-being. But as human nature is, society cannot exist if there is no provision for preventing unruly people from actions incompatible with community life. In order to preserve peaceful cooperation, one must be ready to resort to violent suppression of those disturbing the peace. Society cannot do without a social apparatus of coercion and compulsion, i.e., without state and government. Then a further problem emerges: to restrain the men who are in charge of the governmental functions lest they abuse their power and convert all other people into virtual slaves. The aim of all struggles for liberty is to keep in bounds the armed defenders of peace, the governors and their constables. Freedom always means: freedom from arbitrary action on the part of the police power.

Liberty therefore amounts to the operation of socially evolved norms (with voice and exit) under the aegis of a "night watchman" state.

The Slippery Slope in New Jersey

From LifeSite:

New Jersey Looking to Harvest More Organs by Easing "Brain Death" Criteria

By Hilary White

NEWARK, June 16, 2006 ( – In some jurisdictions the effort to produce more organs for transplant patients is being aided by plans to “streamline” the medical criteria for “brain death” so that organs can be harvested from patients who are still breathing and have a heartbeat. . . .

If they slip by the abortion net, grab 'em while they're still breathing.

Related posts:
I've Changed My Mind (08/15/04)
Next Stop, Legal Genocide? (09/05/04)
Here's Something All Libertarians Can Agree On
It Can Happen Here: Eugenics, Abortion, Euthanasia, and Mental Screening (09/11/04)
Creeping Euthanasia (09/21/04)
PETA, NARAL, and Roe v. Wade (11/17/04)
Flooding the Moral Low Ground (11/19/04)
The Beginning of the End? (11/21/04)
Peter Singer's Fallacy (11/26/04)
Taking Exception (03/01/05)
Protecting Your Civil Liberties
Where Conservatism and (Sensible) Libertarianism Come Together (04/14/05)
Conservatism, Libertarianism, and Public Morality (04/25/25)
The Threat of the Anti-Theocracy (05/03/05)
The Consequences of Roe v. Wade (06/08/05)
The Old Eugenics in a New Guise (07/14/05)
The Left, Abortion, and Adolescence (07/21/05)
Law, Liberty, and Abortion (10/31/05)
Oh, *That* Slippery Slope (11/09/05)
Abortion and the Slippery Slope (11/20/05)
The Cynics Debate While Babies Die (11/29/05)
The Slippery Slope in Holland (03/05/06)
The Slippery Slope in England (03/15/06)
The Slipperier Slope in England (05/28/06)

(Thanks to my daughter-in-law for the link.)

Black Terrorists and "White Flight"

Michell Malkin reminds us that the Miami plot is one of a series involving black Muslims. There's more to the story than terror. There's also a cultural divide to be reckoned with.

Yes, there is a cultural divide in the country -- one that is perhaps deeper and more serious than the schism between the Left and the rest. The other divide -- the black-white divide -- is an old one that continues to this day, in spite of (and to some degree because of) the forced desegregation of private establishments, the perversion of the Voting Rights Act, affirmative action, and kid-gloves treatment by the media. The black-white divide has fostered the phenomenon known as "white flight," which is evident in the following statistics:

Sources: Fastest and slowest growing cities and rates of growth derived from U.S. Census Bureau release of June 21, 2006, Table 1: Annual Estimates of the Population for Incorporated Places over 100,000, Ranked by July 1, 2005 Population: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2005 (SUB-EST2005-01). Blacks as a percentage of each city's population derived from "fact sheets" at U.S. Census Bureau's American Fact Finder site (e.g., the "fact sheet" for St. Paul, Minnesota). Note: Persons counted as "black alone" (not also of other races and/or ethnic groups) comprised 12.3 percent of the population of the United States at the time of Census 2000.

There has been, of course, a general shift of population toward the South and West (see this), which the first half of the table reflects, in part. But for decades there also has been an exodus of whites from cities that have large black populations -- an exodus that continues, as the second half of the table indicates. Not only do most of the fastest growing cities have relatively small black populations, but most of the slowest growing cities have relatively large black populations. ("Outliers" such as Atlanta and San Francisco should be ignored; the story lies in the overall pattern, not in the exceptions.)

"White flight," de facto segregation, and cultural animosity will continue for as long as blacks generally marginalize themselves. For that is what a minority culture does to itself when it breeds crime, riots, and (now, it seems) terror plots.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Starving the Beast: Readings

I have written here, here, and here about the concept of starving the beast, which is to cut taxes in order to force reductions in government spending. I consider the concept valid. And I find that the present administration is no more (and no less) profligate than other administrations post-Great Society, when the profligacy ushered in by the New Deal became a permanent fixture of federal spending.

Several related items have come to my attention:

"Starving the Beast" Just Does Not Work, by Bill Niskanen (Cato@Liberty), repeats the arguments that I dealt with in the first and third of the above-linked posts.

Nick Schulz, writing at NRO in Tax Cuts = More Spending?, takes on three pundits whose perverted reading of Niskanen suggests (to them) that tax cuts actually cause spending increases.

Chris Edwards of Cato@Liberty writes in Starving and Feeding the State Beast about

a new report by the National Association of State Budget Officers [that] indicates a clear Starve the Beast pattern at the state level. (See Table 2 on page 3.)

In years when revenue growth was slow — early 1980s, early 1990s, and early 2000s — state legislators moderated their spending increases (they are generally required to balance their budgets each year).

Finally, and perhaps conclusively, there is a long-forgotten article by Henning Bohn, which appeared in the Journal of Monetary Economics (Volume 27, Issue 3, June 1991, Pages 333-359): "Budget balance through revenue or spending adjustments? Some historical evidence for the United States." This is from the abstract:

The paper provides a historical perspective on the issue of whether budget deficits are typically eliminated by increased taxes or by reduced spending. By examining U.S. budget data from 1792–1988, I conclude that about 50–65% of all deficits due to tax cuts and about 65–70% of all deficits due to higher government spending have been eliminated by subsequent spending cuts, while the remainder was eliminated by subsequent tax increases.

Consensus and Science Don't Mix

A needed reminder that science doesn't advance through consensus but through bold, originial thought.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Virginia Does It Right

Virginia does it right (from the law firm of McGuireWoods):

The leaders of the Virginia General Assembly have agreed to a 2006-08 state budget, with which the Virginia estate tax (often called the “death tax”) will be repealed for the estates of all Virginians who die on or after July 1, 2007. Since 2002, with the phaseout of the dollar-for-dollar federal credit for state death taxes, the state taxes remaining in some 20 states have been both an additional burden and a complication for citizens of those states and others owning property in those states. As of July 1, 2007, this will no longer be true of Virginia, if this budget agreement is given final approval by the General Assembly as expected, and Governor Kaine signs it into law as he has said he would do.

Those UN Gun Grabbers and the Second Amendment

Michelle Malkin joins the list of bloggers and other who are alarmed by the upcoming UN conference on global gun control. She points to a release by the Second Amendment Foundation, which includes this:

The U.N. Conference on Global Gun Control, scheduled June 24- July 7, poses a direct threat to our constitutionally-protected individual right to keep and bear arms, said Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF). Gottlieb will attend the conference, but he suggests that this may be an opportune time for Congress and the White House to reconsider this nation's level of financial support for an international organization that now wants to write a treaty that specifically attacks a cornerstone of our federal constitution, and the lynchpin to our liberty. . . .

"Yet, as we celebrate our 230th anniversary, global anti- gunners, under the guise of reviewing a U.N. program of action on small arms and light weapons, want to create a binding international agreement that could supersede our laws and constitution," Gottlieb said. "We have done much for the U.N. and in return, the organization has hosted despots, tyrants and dictators whose record of human rights abuses, aggression and genocide speaks for itself. And now comes an attack on our constitution, on our national holiday.

Gottlieb and other defenders of Americans' right to bear arms are justifiably alarmed by the UN's blatant anti-Americanism, of which the upcoming conference is but the latest manifestation.

It is my view, however, that the U.S. cannot effectively amend the Constitution and do away with the right to bear arms simply by virtue of its membership in the UN. I have made that point in connection with our right to declare war regardless of the UN's position on such a declaration. (See this, this, and this.) The same logic applies to the Second Amendment.

I am not counseling complacency in the face of enemies abroad and dupes at home. I am saying that -- in the end and given the right Supreme Court (which we probably have on this issue) -- the Second Amendment will survive.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Prospects for Liberty and Happiness

Fundamental relationships:

Frequency of conflict = (Number of different persons encountered by one person, per unit of time) x (Fraction of population inclined to do harm to other persons)


1. The number of different persons encountered by one person per unit of time rises over time because of rising population density. For example, there is in a population of 2 persons an opportunity for, say, 1 encounter per person per unit of time if the encounter is for a specific purpose such as buying and selling an item; whereas, in a population of 10 persons there is an opportunity for as many as 10 x 9 = 90 different encounters per unit of time, provided that each person has business with every other person and each can transact with 9 other persons per unit of time. Transactions include not only buying-selling and other types of face-to-face interactions but also encounters via transportation and telecommunications networks.

2. For a given population, the rate of transactions per person per unit of time increases over time because of increases in the capacity of transportation and telecommunications networks, and in the availability and lethality of destructive materials. Those effects exacerbate the effects of population growth.

3. Non-harmful behavior generally is taken for granted. Harmful behavior, on the other hand, tends to engender similar behavior and to find encouragement among those who cannot see it for what it is. Given a population and a technology, therefore, harmful behavior tends to spread faster than non-harmful behavior. That effect is further exacerbated by population growth and technological advancement, and it can be alleviated only to the extent that (a) the harmful behavior is discouraged by deterrence and penalties and (b) non-harmful (beneficial) behavior is encouraged through parenting, role-modeling, and the teaching of respect for persons and property.


The extent to which our future is one of liberty and happiness depends very much on our willingness to

  • administer swift, unflinching justice
  • act strongly and uncompromisingly toward our enemies
  • limit the functions of government to justice and defense
  • tolerate -- and, better yet, encourage -- the teaching of Judeo-Christian values, so that liberty and happiness can better survive the realities of daily life.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Principles of Economics

Noted economist Greg Mankiw offers his 10 principles of economics. My list of principles is somewhat longer -- it comes in two installments -- and the principles are more fleshed out than Mankiw's. As a bonus, I offer this ancillary set of principles about the causes of economic growth.

And there's lots more where that comes from. Just go here and follow the links.

Thoughts for Father's Day

From Marianne J. Legato ("The Weaker Sex," The New York Times, June 17, 2006):

What emerges when one studies male biology in a truly evenhanded way is the realization that from the moment of conception on, men are less likely to survive than women. It's not just that men take on greater risks and pursue more hazardous vocations than women. There are poorly understood — and underappreciated — vulnerabilities inherent in men's genetic and hormonal makeup. This Father's Day, we need to rededicate ourselves to deepening our knowledge of male physiology. . . .

Thinking about how we might correct the comparative vulnerability of men instead of concentrating on how we have historically neglected women's biology will doubtless uncover new ways to improve men's health — and ultimately, every human's ability to survive.

From Bjorn Carey ("Men and Women Really Do Think Differently,", January 20, 2005):

The brain is made primarily of two different types of tissue, called gray matter and white matter. This new research reveals that men think more with their gray matter, and women think more with white. . . .

The results are detailed in the online version of the journal NeuroImage. [Main index here, related articles here: ED]

In human brains, gray matter represents information processing centers, whereas white matter works to network these processing centers. The results from this study may help explain why men and women excel at different types of tasks. . . . For example, men tend to do better with tasks requiring more localized processing, such as mathematics, . . . while women are better at integrating and assimilating information from distributed gray-matter regions of the brain, which aids language skills.

From Larry Cahill ("His Brain, Her Brain,", April 25, 2005):

. . . A generation of neuroscientists came to maturity believing that "sex differences in the brain" referred primarily to mating behaviors, sex hormones and the hypothalamus.

That view, however, has now been knocked aside by a surge of findings that highlight the influence of sex on many areas of cognition and behavior, including memory, emotion, vision, hearing, the processing of faces and the brain's response to stress hormones. This progress has been accelerated in the past five to 10 years by the growing use of sophisticated noninvasive imaging techniques such as positron-emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which can peer into the brains of living subjects.

These imaging experiments reveal that anatomical variations occur in an assortment of regions throughout the brain. Jill M. Goldstein of Harvard Medical School and her colleagues, for example, used MRI to measure the sizes of many cortical and subcortical areas. Among other things, these investigators found that parts of the frontal cortex, the seat of many higher cognitive functions, are bulkier in women than in men, as are parts of the limbic cortex, which is involved in emotional responses. In men, on the other hand, parts of the parietal cortex, which is involved in space perception, are bigger than in women, as is the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure that responds to emotionally arousing information--to anything that gets the heart pumping and the adrenaline flowing. These size differences, as well as others mentioned throughout the article, are relative: they refer to the overall volume of the structure relative to the overall volume of the brain. . . .

In a comprehensive 2001 report on sex differences in human health, the prestigious National Academy of Sciences asserted that "sex matters. Sex, that is, being male or female, is an important basic human variable that should be considered when designing and analyzing studies in all areas and at all levels of biomedical and health-related research."

Neuroscientists are still far from putting all the pieces together--identifying all the sex-related variations in the brain and pinpointing their influences on cognition and propensity for brain-related disorders. Nevertheless, the research conducted to date certainly demonstrates that differences extend far beyond the hypothalamus and mating behavior. Researchers and clinicians are not always clear on the best way to go forward in deciphering the full influences of sex on the brain, behavior and responses to medications. But growing numbers now agree that going back to assuming we can evaluate one sex and learn equally about both is no longer an option.

Finally, John Kekes ("The Absurdity of Egalitarianism," TCS Daily, April 12, 2004), addresses inequalities of all kinds:

Here is a consequence of egalitarianism. According to the Statistical Abstract of the United States, men's life expectancy is on the average about 7 years less than women's. There is thus an inequality between men and women. If egalitarians mean it when they say that it would be a better state of affairs if everyone enjoyed the same level of social and economic benefits, or that how could it not be an evil that some people's prospects at birth are radically inferior to others, then they must find the inequality between the life expectancy of men and women unjust. . . .

Egalitarians, thus must see it as a requirement of justice to equalize the life expectancy of men and women. This can be done, for instance, by men having more and better health care than women; by employing fewer men and more women in stressful or hazardous jobs; and by men having shorter work days and longer vacations than women. . . .

Yet a further policy follows from the realization that since men have shorter lives than women, they are less likely to benefit after retirement from Social Security and Medicare. . . . There is thus much that egalitarian policies could do to reduce the unjust inequality in the life expectancy of men and women.

However much that is, it will affect only future generations. There remains the question of how to compensate the present generation of men for the injustice of having shorter lives than women. No compensation can undo the damage, but it may make it easier to bear. The obvious policy is to set up preferential treatment programs designed to provide for men at least some of the benefits they would have enjoyed had their life expectancy been equal to women's. . . .

These absurd policies follow from egalitarianism, and their absurdity casts doubt on the beliefs from which they follow. . . . One may actually come to suspect that the familiar egalitarian policies do not appear absurd only because they are made familiar by endlessly repeated mind-numbing rhetoric that disguise the lack of reasons for them.

Can egalitarians avoid these absurdities? They might claim that there is a significant difference between the unequal life expectancy of men and women, and the inequality of rich and poor, whites and blacks, or men and women in respects other than life expectancy. The difference, egalitarians might say, is that the poor, blacks, and women are unequal as a result of injustice, such as exploitation, discrimination, prejudice, and so forth, while this is not true of the life expectancy of men.

A moment of thought shows, however, that this claim is untenable. . . . It is but the crudest prejudice to think of men as Archie Bunkers, of women as great talents sentenced to housewifery, and of blacks as ghetto dwellers doomed by injustice to a life of poverty, crime, and addiction. Many men have been victims of injustice, and many women and blacks have not suffered from it.

It will be said against this that there still is a difference because the poor, blacks, and women are more likely to have been victims of injustice than men. Suppose this is true. What justice requires then, according to egalitarians, is to redistribute resources to them and to compensate them for their loss. But these policies will be just only if they benefit victims of injustice, and the victims cannot be identified simply as poor, blacks, or women because they, as individuals, may not have suffered any injustice. . . . This more precise identification requires asking and answering the question of why specific individuals are in a position of inequality.

Answering it, however, must include consideration of the possibility that people may cause or contribute to their own misfortune and that it is their lack of merit, effort, or responsibility, not injustice, that explains their position. Egalitarians, however, ignore this possibility. . . . If the policies of redistribution and compensation do take into account the degree to which people are responsible for being in a position of inequality, then the justification of these policies must go beyond what egalitarians can provide. For the justification must involve consideration of the choices people make, as well as their merit, effort, responsibility. To the extent to which this is done, the justification ceases to be egalitarian. . . .

Suppose that egalitarianism is seen for what it is: an absurd attempt to deny in the name of justice that people should be held responsible for their actions and treated as they deserve based on their merits or demerits. A nagging doubt remains. It is undeniable that there are in our society innocent victims of misfortune and injustice. Their inequality is not their fault, they are not responsible for it, and they do not deserve to be in a position of inequality. The emotional appeal of egalitarianism is that it recognizes the plight of these people and proposes ways of helping them. Counting on the compassion of decent people, egalitarians then charge their society with injustice for ignoring the suffering of innocent victims. . . .

[T]he relentless egalitarian propaganda eagerly parroted by the media would have us believe that our society is guilty of dooming people to a life of poverty. What this ignores is the unprecedented success of our society in having less than 13 percent of the population live below a very generously defined poverty level and 87 percent above it. The typical ratio in past societies is closer to the reverse. It is a cause for celebration, not condemnation, that for the first time in history a very large segment of the population has escaped poverty. If egalitarians had a historical perspective, they would be in favor of the political and economic system that has made this possible, rather than advocating absurd policies that undermine it.

(This is a partial response to Joe Miller's recent post. More later.)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Hudson v. Michigan and the Constitution

Re: Hudson v. Michigan, which the U.S. Supreme Court decided yesterday. A post at SCOTUSblog gives the essence of the case in this brief paragraph:

The bare holding of the case is simple: if police have a warrant to search a home, and they enter in a way that violates their constitutional duty to knock first and announce themselves, the evidence turned up in the search can be used in a criminal prosecution.

The critical point is the assertion that police have a "constitutional duty to knock first and announce themselves" in the execution of a warrant. The Court accepts that reading of the Constitution. The syllabus that accompanies the Court's holding begins with this:

Detroit police executing a search warrant for narcotics and weaponsentered petitioner Hudson’s home in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s “knock-and-announce” rule.

Where is that rule found? It's not spelled out in the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

We have "knock-and-announce" for the reason given in Justice Thomas's majority opinion in Wilson v. Arkansas (1995):

At the time of the framing, the common law of search and seizure recognized a law enforcement officer's authority to break open the doors of a dwelling, but generally indicated that he first ought to announce his presence and authority. In this case, we hold that this common-law "knock and announce" principle forms a part of the reasonableness inquiry under the Fourth Amendment.

However, later in Justice Thomas's opinion we find this:

This is not to say, of course, that every entry must be preceded by an announcement. The Fourth Amendment's flexible requirement of reasonableness should not be read to mandate a rigid rule of announcement that ignores countervailing law enforcement interests. As even petitioner concedes, the common-law principle of announcement was never stated as an inflexible rule requiring announcement under all circumstances.

It's obvious that "knock-and-announce" is a patently absurd rule for those cases in which knocking and announcing would enable a suspect to destroy, hide, or abcond with the very items that are the subject of a search warrant. In fact, Justice Scalia's majority opinion summarizes the exceptions to "knock-and-announce."

Hudson v. Michigan is controversial mainly (solely?) because, as Justice Scalia states, "[f]rom the trial level onward, Michigan has conceded that the entry was a knock-and-announce violation." If the State of Michigan had not made that concession, Hudson would never have made it to the Supreme Court.

Here's my take: Because of Michigan's concession, the Court was bound to accept as "fact" that the entry into Hudson's house was a "knock-and-announce" violation. But the facts of the case suggest that it was not a clear-cut violation of "knock-and-announce." Again, from Justice Scalia's opinion:

Police obtained a warrant authorizing a search for drugs and firearms at the home of petitioner Booker Hudson. They discovered both. Large quantities of drugs were found, including cocaine rocks in Hudson’s pocket. A loaded gun was lodged between the cushion and armrest of the chair in which he was sitting. Hudson was chargedunder Michigan law with unlawful drug and firearm possession.

This case is before us only because of the method of entry into the house. When the police arrived to execute the warrant, they announced their presence, but waited only a short time—perhaps “three to five seconds,” App.15—before turning the knob of the unlocked front door and entering Hudson’s home. Hudson moved to suppress all the inculpatory evidence, arguing that the premature entry violated his Fourth Amendment rights. . . .

When the knock-and-announce rule does apply, it is not easy to determine precisely what officers must do. How many seconds’ wait are too few? Our “reasonable wait time” standard, see United States v. Banks, 540 U. S. 31, 41 (2003), is necessarily vague. Banks (a drug case, like this one) held that the proper measure was not how long it would take the resident to reach the door, but how long it would take to dispose of the suspected drugs—but that such a time (15 to 20 seconds in that case) would necessarily be extended when, for instance, the suspected contraband was not easily concealed. Id., at 40–41. If our ex post evaluation is subject to such calculations, it is unsurprising that, ex ante, police officers about to encounter someone who may try to harm them will be uncertain how long to wait.

Reading between the lines, the majority in Hudson v. Michigan believed that the case did not involve a "knock-and-announce" violation. But the majority could not change the fact of Michigan's concession that there was such a violation. So the majority did the next best thing; it prevented Hudson from getting off scot-free, in spite of the supposed violation. How? The majority found the "exclusionary rule" inapplicable and allowed the evidence found in Booker Hudson's home to be used against him.

By its action the majority also forestalled claims similar to Hudson's. The second-guessing by prosecutors and judges of reasonable judgments made by the police in the execution of their duties -- especially in the execution of lawful warrants -- is not a defense of liberty. Rather, it undermines liberty by making it easier for predators like Booker Hudson to elude justice, on the questionable theory that "it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer."

I contend, further, that a proper reading of the Constitution would require either "knock-and-announce" or a warrant, not both. At the time of the framing, when "knock-and-announce" was accepted law, warrants were not accepted law. As William J. Stuntz writes in The Heritage Guide to the Constitution (pp. 326-9):

. . . When the Fourth Amendment was written, the sole remedy for an illegal search or seizure was a lawsuit for money damages. Government officials used warrants as a defense against such lawsuits. Today a warrant seems the police officer's foe -- one more hoop to jump through -- but at the time of the Founding it was the constable's friend, a legal defense against any subsequent claim. Thus it was perfectly reasonable to specify limits on warrants (probable cause, particular description of the places to be search and the things to be seized) but never to require their use.

Hudson served justice, while remaining true to the original meaning of the Constitution.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

How the Great Depression Ended


Conventional wisdom has it that the entry of the United States into World War II caused the end of the Great Depression in this country. My variant is that World War II led to a "glut" of private saving because (1) government spending caused full employment, but (2) workers and businesses were forced to save much of their income because the massive shift of output toward the war effort forestalled spending on private consumption and investment goods. The resulting cash "glut" fueled post-war consumption and investment spending.

Robert Higgs, research director of the Independent Institute, has a different theory, which he spells out in "Regime Uncertainty: Why the Great Depression Lasted So Long and Why Prosperity Resumed After the War" (available here), the first chapter his new book, Depression, War, and Cold War. (Thanks to Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek for the pointer.) Here, from "Regime Change . . . " is Higgs's summary of his thesis:

I shall argue here that the economy remained in the depression as late as 1940 because private investment had never recovered sufficiently after its collapse during the Great Contraction. During the war, private investment fell to much lower levels, and the federal government itself became the chief investor, directing investment into building up the nation’s capacity to produce munitions. After the war ended, private investment, for the first time since the 1920s, rose to and remained at levels sufficient to create a prosperous and normally growing economy.

I shall argue further that the insufficiency of private investment from 1935 through 1940 reflected a pervasive uncertainty among investors about the security of their property rights in their capital and its prospective returns. This uncertainty arose, especially though not exclusively, from the character of federal government actions and the nature of the Roosevelt administration during the so-called Second New Deal from 1935 to 1940. Starting in 1940 the makeup of FDR’s administration changed substantially as probusiness men began to replace dedicated New Dealers in many positions, including most of the offices of high authority in the war-command economy. Congressional changes in the elections from 1938 onward reinforced the movement away from the New Deal, strengthening the so-called Conservative Coalition.

From 1941 through 1945, however, the less hostile character of the administration expressed itself in decisions about how to manage the warcommand economy; therefore, with private investment replaced by direct government investment, the diminished fears of investors could not give rise to a revival of private investment spending. In 1945 the death of Roosevelt and the succession of Harry S Truman and his administration completed the shift from a political regime investors perceived as full of uncertainty to one in which they felt much more confident about the security of their private property rights. Sufficiently sanguine for the first time since 1929, and finally freed from government restraints on private investment for civilian purposes, investors set in motion the postwar investment boom that powered the economy’s return to sustained prosperity notwithstanding the drastic reduction of federal government spending from its extraordinarily elevated wartime levels.

Higgs's explanation isn't inconsistent with mine, but it's incomplete. Higgs overlooks the powerful influence of the large cash balances that individuals and corporations had accumulated during the war years. It's true that because the war was a massive resource "sink" those cash balances didn't represent real assets. But the cash was there, nevertheless, waiting to be spent on consumption goods and to be made available for capital investments through purchases of equities and debt.

It helped that the war dampened FDR's hostility to business, and that FDR's death ushered in a somewhat less radical regime. Those developments certainly fostered capital investment. But the capital investment couldn't have taken place (or not nearly as much of it) without the "glut" of private saving during World War II. The relative size of that "glut" can be seen here:

Derived from Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Income and Product Accounts Tables: 5.1, Saving and Investment. Gross private saving is analagous to cash flow; net private saving is analagous to cash flow less an allowance for depreciation. The bulge in gross private saving represents pent-up demand for consumption and investment spending, which was released after the war.

World War II did bring about the end of the Great Depression, not directly by full employment during the war but because that full employment created a "glut" of saving. After the war that "glut" jump-started

  • capital spending by businesses, which -- because of FDR's demise -- invested more than they otherwise would have; and
  • private consumption spending, which -- because of the privations of the Great Depression and the war years -- would have risen sharply regardless of the political climate.
UPDATE: Robert Higgs, in an e-mail to me dated 06/24/06, submitted the following comment:
I happened upon your blog post that deals with my ideas about why the depression lasted so long and about the way in which the war related to the genuine prosperity that returned in 1946 for the first time since 1929. I appreciate the publicity, of course. I suggest, however, that you read my entire book, especially, with regard to the points you make on your blog, its chapter 5, "From Central Planning to the Market: The American Transition, 1945-47" (originally published in the Journal of Economic History, September 1999. I show there that the "glut of savings" idea, which is an old one, indeed perhaps even the standard theory of the successful postwar reconversion, does not fit the facts of what happened in 1945-47.
Here is my reply of 10/12/06:
I apologize for the delay in replying to your e-mail about my post... Your book, Depression, War, and Cold War, has not yet made it to the top of my wish list, but I have found "From Central Planning to the Market: The American Transition, 1945-47" on the Independent Institute's website (here). If the evidence and arguments you adduce there are essentially the same as in chapter 5 of your book, I see no reason to reject the "glut of savings" idea, which is an old one, as I knew when I wrote the post. But, because it is not necessarily an old one to everyone who might read my blog, it is worth repeating -- to the extent that it has merit.

At the end of the blog post I summarized the causes of the end of the Great Depression, as I see them:
World War II did bring about the end of the Great Depression, not directly by full employment during the war but because that full employment created a "glut" of saving. After the war that "glut" jump-started
  • capital spending by businesses, which -- because of FDR's demise -- invested more than they otherwise would have; and
  • private consumption spending, which -- because of the privations of the Great Depression and the war years -- would have risen sharply regardless of the political climate.
In the web version of chapter 5 of your book you attribute increased capital spending to an improved business outlook (owing to FDR's demise) and (in the section on the Recovery of the Postwar Economy, under Why the Postwar Investment Boom?) to "a combination of the proceeds of sales of previously acquired government bonds, increased current retained earnings (attributable in part to reduced corporate-tax liabilities), and the proceeds of corporate securities offerings" to the public. It seems that those "previously acquired government bonds" must have arisen from the "glut" of corporate saving during World War II.

What about the "glut" of personal saving, which you reject as the main source of increased consumer demand after World War II? In the online version of chapter 5 (in the section on the Recovery of the Postwar Economy, under Why the Postwar Consumption Boom?) you say:
The potential for a reduction of the personal saving rate (personal saving relative to disposable personal income) was huge after V-J Day. During the war the personal saving rate had risen to extraordinary levels: 23.6 percent in 1942, 25.0 percent in 1943, 25.5 percent in 1944, and 19.7 percent in 1945. Those rates contrasted with prewar rates that had hovered around 5 percent during the more prosperous years (for example, 5.0 percent in 1929, 5.3 percent in 1937, 5.1 percent in 1940). After the war, the personal saving rate fell to 9.5 percent in 1946 and 4.3 percent in 1947 before rebounding to the 5 to 7 percent range characteristic of the next two decades. After having saved at far higher rates than they would have chosen in the absence of the wartime restrictions, households quickly reduced their rate of saving when the war ended.
That statement seems entirely consistent with the proposition that consumers spent more after the war because they had the money to spend -- money that they had acquired during the war when their opportunities for spending it were severely restricted. Not so fast, you would say: What about the fact that "individuals did not reduce their holdings of liquid assets after the war" (your statement)? They didn't need to. Money is fungible. If consumers had more money coming in (as they did), they could spend more while maintaining the same level of liquid assets -- because they had a "backlog" of saving. Here's my take:
  • Higher post-war incomes didn't just happen, they were the result of higher rates of investment and consumption spending.
  • The higher rate of investment spending was due, in part, to corporate saving during the war and, in part, to individuals' purchases of corporate securities and equities.
  • At bottom, the wartime "glut" of personal saving enabled the postwar saving rate to decline to a more normal level, thus allowing consumers to buy equities and securities -- and to spend more -- without drawing down on their liquid assets.
Granted, business and personal saving during World War II was not nearly as large in real terms as it was on paper -- given the very high real cost of the war effort. But it was the availability of paper savings that strongly influenced the behavior of businesses and consumers after the war.

Perhaps I am misinterpreting the evidence you present in chapter 5. And perhaps there is more in other chapters of your book that I should take into account. I will be grateful for a reply, if and when you have the time.
I will further update this post if Mr. Higgs replies to my note of October 12, 2006.