The Decline Of Conservative Wonkery

November 19, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Ryan Streeter interviews Ross Douthat. What Ross would most like to change about the GOP:

I suppose I would just create a stronger interest in actual policymaking, among elites and the grassroots alike. … The Republicans just won an election promising to cut government without having to tell people what they'd cut. But it tends to be a problem across every public policy issue: Republicans just don't think as hard as they should about what the actual work of governing entails, and Republican voters too often reward politicians for mouthing slogans rather than substance.

It's great that Marco Rubio can give a stirring speech about American exceptionalism, for instance — but in the long run, actual American exceptionalism will stand or fall on whether Rubio and others like him can figure out a way to bring the budget back into balance. And that requires policy specifics, and hard work, and probably some messy compromises. Rhetoric is necessary, but insufficient.

Amen. We've gone from The Public Interest in the early 1980s to Mark Levin's radio show. Could the decline be any steeper? (Which is as a good a moment as any to say that Yuval Levin's new journal "National Affairs" is more than welcome.)

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The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

With deer hunting on the decline some recommend recruiting kids under 10

November 15, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Today is the opening day of deer hunting season and about 720,000 people are expected to try to shoot a white tail deer between now and Nov. 30, according to the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources and Environment.

The number of hunting licenses sold this year is down by about 600,000 from last year. The decline is a concern for state officials because many functions of the MDNRE are funded with revenue from license sales.

The Michigan United Conservation Club says that part of the problem is that not enough kids are hunting. The hunting age in Michigan is 10. MUCC says this age limit is too restrictive.

Lane Blackmer of Michigan State University’s Capital News Service reports:

Dave Nyberg, a lobbyist with the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, said for every 100 adults who no longer hunt, there are only 26 replacements.

“Youth are gobbled up by busy schedules and the media buffet that’s at their disposal,” he said. “This is a national problem, not just a Michigan problem.”

Michigan recently lowered the minimum age for bow hunting from 12 to 10 years, and for firearm hunting from 14 to 12, but MUCC plans to propose legislation to eliminate the hunting age, though it would require adults to accompany young hunters.

“It’s defined to improve youth hunting safety but also designed to improve hunter recruitment,” Nyberg said. “Michigan is one of the most restrictive states when it comes to getting kids outdoors to hunt.”

The DNRE estimates that deer hunters contribute $ 1 billion to Michigan’s economy each year.

Michigan Messenger

Symposium on Bruce Ackerman, The Decline and Fall of the American Republic

November 15, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Here are the collected links to the various essays in the symposium:

Stephen Griffin, Ackerman’s Dark Moment

Stephen Guardbaum, Empire Rises

Sandy Levinson, Paul Revere or Cassandra? The Dilemma of Iconoclasm

Bruce Ackerman, It Can Happen Here


At G20, Obama Tastes ‘Bitter Reality’ of America’s Decline: Financial Times Deutschland, Germany

November 13, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

This is a challenging moment in history, and according to columnist Peter Ehrlich of Germany’s Financial Times Deutschland, President Obama is a victim of it: The United States, relative to other nations, is growing comparatively weaker. And with economics rather than military prowess the modern measure of true influence, Ehrlich contends that presidents of the United States, starting with Barack Obama, will have to adjust.

I’d like to insert a personal note on this narrative to say, that what is happening today in terms of the relative drop in U.S. dominance reflects the unalloyed success of American policy since the end of World War II. We encouraged the rest of the world to embrace free markets and personal choice for their own good - and ours. Now that they have, we are relatively weaker - but by no means weak. And as Peter Ehrlich emphasizes, it is a world more characterized by economic competition than military.

For Germany’s Financial Times Deutschland, Peter Ehrlich writes in part:

SEOUL: In times of peace, thankfully, there’s no need for historic battles like those of Trafalgar or Waterloo to change the balance of power in the world. These days, change happens little by little, day by day - only becoming noticeable at meetings like the G20 Summit in Seoul. What we witnessed was the end of American global dominance. The “American Century” is over.

At least since the First World War, the United States has been the most significant power both militarily and economically. Twenty years ago after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, it became the only remaining “superpower.” When then U.S. President George H.W. Bush spoke of a “new world order,” he was thinking of a Pax Americana. But from then on, it was all downhill.

Militarily, the U.S. still dominates, but today, even America can no longer afford to go it alone as it did in Iraq. Economically, it is still by far the most significant nation, but the fate of the global economy now lies in Europe and China. Barack Obama, who in contrast to Bush Jr. advocated a multilateral world order, now must bitterly experience what that means in practice. Once staunch allies like Germany now openly criticize the monetary policy of the U.S. Federal Reserve.

READ ON AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

The Moderate Voice

Despite new female faces in Congress, numbers in decline

November 10, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Washington (CNN) - Ask Republican Rep.-elect Nan Hayworth how important it is to have women in congressional leadership roles, and she answers that gender shouldn’t matter much.

“The overwhelming consideration to someone like me is merit,” Hayworth insisted.

CNN Political Ticker

Why Are We Not Surprised … Barack Hussein Obama … Bows in India then Acknowledges Decline of US Dominance

November 9, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

If it is Barack Obama, he is in a foreign country and he is among world leaders, what else can we expect but for him to bow.

President Barack O”bow”MA strikes again …

President Barack Obama bows and makes a greeting to the audience beside India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after delivering a speech at Parliament House in New Delhi, November 8, 2010. (REUTERS/Jim Young)

Does Obama not think that America and Americans are tired of his act? Obama certainly earns his -16%Daily Presidential Tracking Index.

Bowing, what else should we expect from a US President in Barack Obama who  acknowledged the decline of US dominance in the world in his speech in India. Nice, what a business strategy Mr. President. Weaken the US business machine by endless rules and regulations so that it can’t compete against foreign countries and then say its good that we have competition because it keeps us on our toes. No wonder the United States cannot get out of its current recession and no jobs are being created.

Implicitly acknowledging the decline of American dominance, Barack Obama on Sunday said the US was no longer in a position to “meet the rest of the world economically on our terms”.

Speaking at a town hall meeting in Mumbai, he said, “I do think that one of the challenges that we are going face in the US, at a time when we are still recovering from the financial crisis is, how do we respond to some of the challenges of globalisation? The fact of the matter is that for most of my lifetime and I’ll turn 50 next year - the US was such an enormously dominant economic power, we were such a large market, our industry, our technology, our manufacturing was so significant that we always met the rest of the world economically on our terms. And now because of the incredible rise of India and China and Brazil and other countries, the US remains the largest economy and the largest market, but there is real competition.”

“This will keep America on its toes. America is going to have to compete. There is going to be a tug-of-war within the US between those who see globalisation as a threat and those who accept we live in a open integrated world, which has challenges and opportunities.”

The 2012 election cannot come fast enough … Obama, you are next!

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Scared Monkeys

The Next Phase in our Decline and Fall?

November 8, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Now that the Republicans have swept into power in the House of Representatives, it might be imagined that America’s system of checks-and-balances guarantees a period of impasse — with lots of passionate talk generating very little action. But this bit of wisdom from Montesquieu is out of date. Divided government now sets the stage for a crisis in governability, leading to desperate efforts by Congress and the President to prevail through unilateral measures.

As I argue in Decline and Fall, the presidency has a decisive advantage in this competition. Congress can threaten to shut down the government, but as Gingrich has taught us, the use of the ultimate weapon can generate lots of collateral damage. In contrast, the White House has developed the capacity to transform domestic policy through top-down regulatory initiatives. These unilateral actions may be legally problematic, or worse.

This op-ed in Sunday’s LA Times sketches out the way in which the White House Counsel’s office, together with the Office of Legal Counsel, have overwhelming political incentives to endorse such power-grabs. In contrast to the titanic blast generated by a government shut-down, these executive initiatives may be moderately sized, but they can add up to very large shifts in public policy.

Presidents Clinton and Bush made very effective use of these techniques after the turn-over Congressional elections of 1994 and 2006. I urge Obama to resist the temptation to follow suit. By consolidating the unilateralist precedents of his predecessors, he will further consolidate presidential unilateralism and prepare the way for even worse abuses than Watergate or the “war on terror.” (For more, see Balkinization Symposium on on the book.)

My constitutionalist emphasis runs against the grain of liberal politics. From this point of view, it’s easy to condemn Obama ‘s naivete in reaching out to the “just-say-no” Republicans during his first two years — and to insist that it’s past time for him to use all his powers to engage in all-out partisan warfare. I can certainly share the frustration motivating this advice. But short-term partisan thinking shouldn’t blind us to the long-term constitutional stakes. If Obama continues down the path blazed by Clinton and Bush, he is taking the country down the grim path charted out in Decline and Fall.


Kinsley On American Decline

November 2, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Theories that America is in a decline like the later stages of the Roman Republic are one of the recurrent features of American politics during the last 50 years.  In the 1970s in the wake of defeat in Vietnam, the fading status of the United States in the world became an article of faith among many in academia and popular culture.  There was no small amount of perverse joy in some segments, where hating the United States became seen as proof of moral and intellectual superiority. Those predictions were frustrated, however, not only by the military and diplomatic resurgence of the 1980s culminating in victory in the Cold War, but also by the revolution in communications technology that spurred an American economic revival in the 1990s.

Since the Clinton years, however, American decline has become much more of a partisan football.  Many progressives (though those with political ambitions must often disguise it) champion the idea of American decline (especially when the electorate, as now, proves to be annoyingly resistant to progressive policy ideas).  On the flip side, for many conservatives embracing “American exceptionalism” has become a mandatory article of faith in the American civic religion — the penalty for any dissent is political death.

It might be more accurate, though, to cast American exceptionalism as a bipartisan disease of the mind, leading to the belief that the United States can support policies of both left and right that are impossible or unsustainable.  This is how Michael Kinsley sees it.

On the right, American exceptionalism leads to be belief that the United States can act militarily, diplomatically, and financially in the world in ways that the United States itself would never tolerate from other countries.  Rules of global behavior are for the Other Guys, not us, because we wear the white hats.  And when the consequences of imperial overstretch being to bite hard, American exceptionalism is the excuse to demand that the rest of the world bail us out or, if necessary, that our politicians simply up the ante to try to force the entire planet to bend to American delusions of grandeur.

Critics on the left are aggressive at highlighting this dysfunctional version of right-wing American exceptionalism, but in their pride they are blind to their own variety.  American progressives are aware of the limits of American power in foreign policy, but are often blind to the limits of American power in domestic policy.  Thus, they foreclose even the mere discussion of cutbacks in entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare as well as the lucrative jobs of government employee unions while insisting that the economic collapses and political crises that have occurred in other countries when such policies became financially unsustainable (e.g. Indonesia, South Korea, Russia, and Albania in the 1990s and Greece now) simply won’t happen in the United States.  That’s American exceptionalism just as much as the militaristic variety.

The bottom line is that the outcome of partisan elections going either way isn’t going to mean much until we give up the self-delusion that our American identity exempts us from the laws of economics.  Right-wingers need to accept that even the United States cannot physically control the entire planet.  And left-wingers need to accept that even the United States cannot create an endless stream of government largess.

The Moderate Voice

Chinese Professor Ad Highlights Cause of America’s Decline

October 25, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

A new political ad on how bad economic policies in Washington can change the balance of power in the world to the benefit of foreign rivals.
American Thinker Blog

The Decline Of Legislatures, Ctd

October 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Bernstein counters me:

[W]hat Sullivan calls serious attempts to take responsibility for debt are rare — for Republicans, who (rhetoric aside) simply support very high budget deficits.  Those attempts are not rare at all for Democrats, including Congressional Democrats. At least not over the last thirty plus years.

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