Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Rand Paul Makes The Case Against Socialism

As self-proclaimed “democratic socialists” continue to rant and rave against capitalism, the need for principled, liberty-minded leaders is more imperative now than ever. Rather than being assailed from without by communist foreign powers, American liberalism — defined by its belief in the power of personal liberty and economic freedom – is being infiltrated from within.

Fortunately, the battle for the soul of America is not yet lost. Though few and far between, there still remain dedicated men and women willing to wade into the intellectual fog-of-war that is American politics and stand resolutely for those our nation’s founding principles. Chief among these champions for liberty is Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

In his latest book, “The Case Against Socialism,” Paul — in typical fashion — refuses to pull any punches. Rather than kowtow to the prevailing winds of revisionism seeking to paint world history in broad, red strokes, Paul directly challenges proponents of new-wave socialism like Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). What’s more, he unabashedly demolishes the Oliver Stone-esque perception that socialism “really isn’t that bad.”

Before even concluding the introduction, Paul jumps straight to the heart of the matter, informing the reader that “[t]his is the story of an evil well documented and yet somehow still enticing … of socialism in all its drab and dreary machinelike destruction of individual thought, creativity, and ambition.” He continues, “This is the story of socialism in all its violence, bloodshed, and tyranny. It is a cautionary tale of how America has so far eluded the siren call of something for nothing … but also of how close we still are to succumbing to socialism.”

To begin his unvarnished look into the history of socialism, Paul wastes no time in attacking the misinformed “Hollywood socialists” who praise the likes of Hugo Chavez, Nicolás Maduro, and Fidel Castro. He reminds us that, not very long ago, important American figures like Noam Chomsky and then-Representative Bernie Sanders praised the election of Hugo Chavez, pointing to poverty statistics as evidence of socialism’s virtue.

Yet, as history has consistently proven time and time again, the fruits of socialism quickly give way to oppressive violence, food shortages, and utter devastation. Contrary to what “democratic” socialists in Congress might have you believe, in the words of Venezuelan professor Daniel Lahoud; “I have known the reality of the failure of socialism in my own flesh. And as I live in Venezuela, I want to show that this is an absolute failure always and everywhere.”

Simply pointing out the failures of despotic socialist regimes is not sufficient for Paul to fully discredit socialism. For this, he addresses the common misconception of Scandinavian socialism. Countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are often used as props that American socialists can point to as evidence of socialism’s success. Unfortunately for them, this assertion falls flat once it gets beyond a sound bite. So strong is this misconception that the Prime Minister of Denmark reprimanded Sanders “and asked him to stop insulting his country as ‘socialist.’”

According to Paul, the apparent successes of Scandinavian socialism are leftover byproducts from pre-socialist policies. For example, longitudinal analysis of Sweden’s economic development shows consistently strong growth from the 1870s until the rise of socialism in Sweden in the 1970s.

Since then, Sweden has seen massive increases in government spending as a percentage of GDP that correlates with a faltering economy as a direct result of socialist policies. In deriding the left’s obsession with Scandinavia, Paul correctly points out that Scandinavian countries have been moving further away from socialism as they have begun to feel the long term effects of such policies.

Socialism is a scourge on the human condition. Time and time again, elites and intellectuals have sought to remold society only to fail miserably. What’s more, the centralized planning of men like Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot resulted in some of the worst atrocities in human history. Yet, democratic socialists in Congress continue to believe that things will be different this time. This time socialism will work. Such a belief is not only foolhardy and ill-informed but downright dangerous. To make matters worse, this notion is once again being promoted from the ivory tower by political elites and intellectuals, not everyday Americans.

In an essay published in 1967, “The Intellectuals and Socialism,” Friedrich Hayek tackled a similar rise of socialist intellectualism in the United States; pointing out that the move towards socialism has always started with the elites and intellectuals. At the conclusion of this essay, Hayek cuts to the heart of the issue:

“We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage … We need intellectual leaders who are willing to work for an ideal, however small may be the prospects of its early realization. They must be men who are willing to stick to principles and to fight for their full realization, however remote.”

The case against socialism is simple; it has never worked and it never will work. No amount of flowery campaign speeches or enraged table-thumping will change this. For this reason, it is important that, in such a divisive time as this, we support those “who are willing to work for an ideal … [those] who are willing to stick to principles,” which are, the principles of liberty. It is just as important that we support those who are willing to stick up for the truth of history against the revisionism of political elites. Paul is each of these things, and I am proud to consider him such a strong ally in the battle against socialism.



How Trump’s New Executive Orders Protect the Public Against the Administrative State

Washington may be burning with talk of impeachment, but President Donald Trump is not fiddling.

He’s continuing to deliver valuable results on regulatory reform. On Oct. 9, he issued two executive orders (here and here) that protect the public—the people, their employers, and their communities—against unknown agency interpretations of the law that could cost them their money or their jobs, or that could land them in prison.

These new orders go beyond deregulation and cutting red tape. They help to secure individual liberty through the advancement of timeless, nonpartisan principles, such as fair notice, due process, transparency, accountability, and rigorous, analytical decision-making.

The orders are a win-win—a win for good government and a win for the American people.

The goal of the orders is to fix the regulatory process by returning it to its original design. The president isn’t burning down the house; he’s restoring it.

The orders start with a discussion of constitutional principles and the 73-year-old statute designed to protect them during the regulatory process (the Administrative Procedure Act).

The orders then note that agencies have at times circumvented those principles, with the results that the public doesn’t always receive the notice it needs, the opportunity to participate that it deserves, and the complete analysis (including an assessment of benefits, costs, and alternatives, including non-regulatory ones) that it wants.

People of good will across the philosophical or political spectrum agree on the problem and much of the solution. See, for example, recommendations from the Administrative Conference of the United States. The president’s new executive orders are important steps toward addressing this persistent problem.

One of those orders requires each agency to create a user-friendly database of all guidance documents that the agency has issued and intends to keep. All others must be rescinded.

The second order prohibits agencies from bringing enforcement actions against private parties for violating standards announced solely in guidance documents, not in acts of Congress or regulations issued through the Administrative Procedure Act notice-and-comment process.

Together, the two orders allow agencies to use guidance documents for their original purpose; namely, explaining what the agency does or thinks a law or regulation means—without putting the public at risk of being accused of violating a secret agency “law.”

What does that mean going forward? Significant new guidance will have to be proposed, not just issued. The public will have an opportunity to comment and object during that proposal period.

Agencies cannot issue “significant” guidance memoranda—generally, ones with economic effects of $100 million or more, ones that raise important legal or policy issues, or ones that create inconsistency with other government programs—until the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the White House’s Office of Management and Budget has the opportunity to review them.

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has long reviewed those memoranda under Executive Order 12866, but the new executive orders operate as a belt-and-suspenders measure to ensure that no significant guidance documents evade review.

They also give a private party an additional basis for challenging a government enforcement action due to an agency’s failure to comply with the new orders.

The orders complement other recent nonpartisan reforms. For example, they build on prior efforts to ensure that the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs can analyze rules (including guidance memoranda) to determine whether rules are “significant” for purposes of the Congressional Review Act.

They complement efforts to improve the quality of information used in regulatory decision-making and to incorporate the regulatory actions of the U.S. Treasury Department into the ordinary regulatory-review process at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

The Trump administration has successfully protected the public against regulatory overreach. According to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the administration imposed, on net, zero new regulatory costs during its first two years.

The administration has met its two-for-one goals even by the very conservative standard of comparing significant regulatory actions with significant deregulatory actions.

Trump and Congress also nullified more than a dozen agency rules via the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to “fast track” the repeal of rules. Finally, at last count, the administration removed or delayed some 1,500 unnecessary new regulations that were in the pipeline. 

The president’s new executive orders are important additions to the substantive and procedural reforms already accomplished.

These actions aren’t about deregulation or cutting red tape, but are about reforming the regulatory process itself to make it fairer and more accountable to the people. These good government reforms are necessary, important, and worthy of celebration.



SCOTUS to Hear Case Challenging the Constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Ever since it came into existence in 2011, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has been imperiled by its structure. Now, the Supreme Court is set to hear a case that challenges that structure and may force the agency to go out of business.

At issue is the unique independence of the head of the agency, who can only be removed  for “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.”

On the surface, this is a clear violation of the separation of powers. To constrain the executive's power arbitrarily was not something Congress can do.

The Trump administration has allowed the Justice Department to take the unusual position of arguing against a federal law -- something it rarely does.

Daily Caller:

“Vesting such power in a single person not answerable to the president represents a stark departure from the Constitution’s framework,” the Trump administration told the justices in  court filings.

In a short Friday order, the justices also asked the parties to address whether the contested removal provision can be severed from the rest of the Dodd-Frank law. That gives the justices a path to strike down the removal position without imperiling the landmark Dodd-Frank law.

The bureau may have stopped some predatory lending practices, but it has also put a stranglehold on credit availability for the middle class. Its mandate is "to regulate mortgage servicing, pay-day lending, and stop predatory scams."

The CFPB has severely damaged the payday lending industry, although many financial experts believe it should have been more tightly regulated in the first place. But the CFPB's rules have also negatively affected other lending institutions that service high-risk borrowers. There's such a thing as overkill and the CFPB does it regularly.

Since Trump became president, the Republicans have tried to roll back some of the more onerous rules. But until the agency is consigned to the dustbin of history, it will continue to micromanage the nation's financial institutions.

That's why this case could be a landmark decision that actually restrains the government.

The case now before the court involves a California law firm called Seila Law the bureau investigated for allegedly unscrupulous debt relief practices. In turn, the firm challenged the constitutionality of the bureau’s structure.
As a professor at Harvard Law School, [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren agitated for the creation of a consumer protection agency. Though former President Barack Obama tapped her to set up the agency following passage of Dodd-Frank, she was ultimately passed over for the directorship due to protracted opposition to her appointment in the Senate.

Like the CFPB, some federal agencies are chartered to operate with a degree of independence from the political branches. In the past, the Supreme Court has allowed independent multi-member panels like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or investigatory independent counsels. The administration argues those precedents don’t apply here, however, because the CFPB director exercises executive power alone with no accountability to the president.

If there were a clearer example of government overreach, I haven't seen it. While it's likely that the provision in question will be struck down, how the agency as a whole fares is anyone's guess.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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