Whither goes federalism?

David Boaz, of the libertarian Cato Institute, notes that the current incarnation of the Republican Party has turned its back on federalism, abandoning the Reagan Revolution. Unfortunately, he’s right. (It still won’t convert me to the Libertarian Party, Tom, so don’t bother.) I love the dig on the Dems, though:

But most liberals can’t give up their addiction to centralization. Even as they rail against federal intervention in the Schiavo case — arch-liberal Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s delegate in Congress, discovers for the first time in her life that “the bedrock of who we are” is the “Founders’ limited vision of the federal government” — they push for stricter regulations on pesticides and painkillers, a higher national minimum wage, and federal gun control laws.

Right investing

I’ve been reading this fascinating essay by James, Piereson, “Investing in the Right Ideas.” His account of how the Democratic Party, once led by classical liberals, virtually overnight became the party of the whining, class-warfare, everyone-in-a-group, welfare-state cheerleaders we have come to know and loathe, is intriguing. In addition, the three states of how investing in modern conservative thinking came to be in this country is, of course, the focus of the essay and equally interesting.

Finally, liberalism itself came to be recast along interest-group lines. The welfare state was redefined from a package of programs through which Americans lent assistance to the poor, the sick and the disabled to a system through which certain defined groups could command government support as a matter of right and as compensation for past injustices. Society was cast as the guilty party, the recipients as its aggrieved victims. This sleight-of-hand in turn made it difficult for government to require the beneficiaries of its aid to adapt their behavior to the standards of middle-class life.

As liberalism gradually absorbed the adversarial assumptions of the age, group-based claims became ever more strident and accusations of discrimination and injustice multiplied. In time, the new order would erase those large-hearted features of liberal philosophy that had made it appealing to middle-class Americans from the 1930s through the 1960s.


The political world that these writers saw around them in the 1970s looked much different from the one that had so troubled Hayek in London in 1944. Instead of leading us down the path to collectivism, the welfare state had produced fragmentation, group conflict, disorder and a general loss of authority in society. In the United States, moreover, the welfare state had advanced itself not through the nationalization of industry but through incremental expansions of social programs and accretions to federal regulatory power. It was the intersection of these programs with the cultural revolution of the 1960s and ’70s that gave rise, as the neoconservatives saw it, to urban crime, illegitimacy, broken families and educational failure. The contemporary problem was thus not so much collectivism or socialism as the loss of morale and self-confidence that was in some ways characteristic of all affluent societies–a problem to which classical liberalism did not promise any obvious solution.

Memorial Day

Please take a moment today, amidst your cook-outs and shopping, to pause for a minute or so, to honestly and truly meditate on, and remember, those who have given their lives in service of our nation. They are the reasons you are cooking out and shopping today.
Jeff Jacoby offers the story of such an individual: Sergeant Rafael Peralta of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Marines, United States Marine Corps.

Give me a boost, will ya?

It’s so nice to know that when my cat came over minutes ago, rubbing up against my legs, purring, then pushing his head in to my hand when I dropped it down, it was all so that when I picked him up, he could use me as a ladder to get to the top of the high-back chair I’m sitting in.
And for this, I scoop the litter.

Foreign trespassers

Ron Olliff:

‘[I]llegal immigration’ is an oxymoron. If it’s immigration, it is not illegal, and if they are here illegally they are not immigrants, are they?

Maybe it’s time that a more accurate term be coined to describe these people. I’ll start the process — how about ‘foreign trespassers?’
This is now the official term in use at Retrophisch™ Central.

Filibuster schmilibuster

Jeff laments the fact that a compromise used to be a good thing. My response has always been, “It depends on the particular compromise.” The Senatorial filibuster agreement, made without the consent of the Republican or–and please correct me if I’m wrong–the Democratic Senate leadership, is not the sort of compromise one would find virtuous. Today’s OpinionJournal shows why:

This ballyhooed “compromise” is all about saving the Senators themselves, not the Constitution. Its main point is to shield the group of 14 from the consequences of having to cast difficult, public votes in a filibuster showdown. Thus they split the baby on the most pressing nominees, giving three of them a vote while rejecting two others on what seem to be entirely arbitrary grounds, so Members of both parties can claim victory. Far better to cashier nominees as a bipartisan phalanx, rather than face up to their individual “advice and consent” responsibilities.


And it’s cynicism squared in the case of the three nominees who will now finally be confirmed. Yesterday, 81 Senators voted to give Priscilla Owen a vote on the floor, after four years of Democratic filibusters. Apparently she isn’t such a grave “extremist” threat after all. The same also applies to Janice Rogers Brown (22 months in the dock) and Bill Pryor (25 months). Monday’s deal exposes the long Democratic campaign against them as “extremists” as nothing more than a political sop to People for the American Way and their ilk.


But there is a cynical irony here, too. To defeat a Supreme Court nominee, liberal interest groups will now be obliged to manufacture the very “extraordinary circumstances” that would give Democrats among the Gang of 14 an excuse to filibuster. Thus they will have even greater incentive than before to dig through a nominee’s personal and professional life for any mud they can throw against him. In the name of consensus and comity, in short, these 14 “moderates” have increased the chances that the Senate will witness a future, bloody Borking.
If anyone thinks this filibuster-busting “agreement” is going to grease the skids for judicial nominees beyond the next few months, they are living in a fantasy world.