Streetwise Professor

April 4, 2013

We Have Met the Enemy, and He is “Us”

Filed under: Economics,Energy,Politics — The Professor @ 9:11 pm

Obama is on a roll.  A roll of idiocy.

I can hear you say: “Uhm, so what else is news?”

Let me tell you.

Item 1: in a political rally in Colorado, Obama offered us this disquisition in political theory:

“You hear some of these quotes: ‘I need a gun to protect myself from the government.’ ‘We can’t do background checks because the government is going to come take my guns away,’ Obama said. “Well, the government is us. These officials are elected by you. They are elected by you. I am elected by you. I am constrained, as they are constrained, by a system that our Founders put in place. It’s a government of and by and for the people.”

This, mind you, was from an alleged Constitutional Law professor.  For one thing, Constitutional Law is frequently abbreviated to “Con Law.”  Well, with Obama, that formulation fits, with an emphasis on the “Con”.  For another, he wasn’t a professor.  A lecturer.  (Read what Richard Epstein has written about Obama’s lack of intellectual engagement at Chicago.  Not a surprise.  He knew-knew-he was a pretender who had no chance of prevailing in an actual intellectual interchange at a Chicago workshop or lunch table.  No chance.  So he distanced himself from it. My ex-boss Dan Fischel offered Obama a professorship.  Which Obama declined.  Fischel obviously made the offer for political and AA reasons.  And by AA I don’t mean “alcoholics anonymous.”)

Where to begin?  This seems to presume that “us” is some monolithic, reified thing.  That there is some “will of the people.”

What about the tyranny of the majority? What about the tyranny of minorities that can occur in any democratic or representative system?

The whole freakin’ reason behind a bill of rights is that even in a democratic (or, more properly, republican) system, individual rights can be trampled and abused by a government responsive to the whims of a majority, or an empowered minority.  That’s why we have a Bill of Rights.

In Obama’s formulation, not only would the 2d Amendment be superfluous, but so would the 1st and 5th (and 3d and 4th etc. etc.) No one need fear the denial of their freedom of speech or worship or assembly or right to a fair trial, because hey, the government is just us, and we would never harm us, would we?

It is hard to overstate the cluelessness-or, more accurately, disingenuousness-of Obama’s formulation.  “We’re from the government, and here to help you, ‘cuz we would never ever hurt us, right?”

So I would ask Obama point blank: OK, Mr. Con Law Poser “Prof”, are you advocating the abolition of amendments 1-10 of the Constitution (or perhaps 1-27)?  Because under your “the government is us” theory, they are completely superfluous.  QED.

Let me state clearly: Too often, the government is not us.  The government is too often the anti-us.  Which is precisely why elections are an insufficient constraint on its predations, and why Constitutional constraints on the legislative and executive branches are imperative.

Obama traveled from Colorado to California to raise money from the Bay Area elite.  Mr. I’m Fighting For the Middle Class sucked up to the very, very small fraction of the 1 percent in order to raise money for the campaign to regain the House in 2014.

Put aside the truly risible things he said, like his remark that Nancy Pelosi never let ideology cloud her judgment: that would presume that she had judgment to begin with, and there is incontrovertible empirical evidence that she has no judgment-or brain-to speak of.

No, let’s look at the spectacle of his abasing himself before the execrable hedge fund billionaire Thomas Steyer, a hard core green, and opponent to the Keystone pipeline:

Appearing at the home of an outspoken critic of the Keystone XL pipelinePresident Obama on Wednesday night told a group of high-dollar donors that the politics of the environment “are tough.”

. . . .

In the face of those pressures, at the fund-raiser on Wednesday — and at a second one at the home of the billionaire philanthropists Ann and Gordon Getty — the president sought to reassure his supporters that he would continue to fight for environmentally friendly policies.

Excuse me while I wipe away the tears.

The Steyers and the Gettys have theirs.  (The Gettys acquired their wealth by oil, ironically.  Not that Gordon actually did jack to create it.) They will live large regardless of whether energy is cheap of expensive.  Large, hell: they’ll live huge.

But I wonder.  Are they “us”?

So indulging enviro fantasies costs them nothing.  They are the very non-apocryphal modern embodiment of the apocryphal Marie “let them eat cake” Antoinette.  “They can’t buy gas?  Let them drive Teslas.”

But this is who Obama panders to, and who lionizes Obama.  They are ones who consider it only natural that they lord over “us”, and who quite openly attempt to buy influence.

Which is exactly why there needs to be constraints-hard, binding limits-on government power.  Contrary to Obama’s Schoolhouse Rock political theorizing, unconstrained democratic institutions are a threat to individual rights and liberties.  Not least because they are vulnerable to the manipulations of oligarchs.  Like Thomas Steyer, and Getty and Goldman spawn.

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  1. I’ve heard this a million times before. The argument generally comes down to this. Liberal believe in rights that they like. Rights that they don’t like aren’t rights.

    Comment by highgamma — April 4, 2013 @ 10:09 pm

  2. @highgamma. And it has been so since Rousseau.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 4, 2013 @ 10:15 pm

  3. Socialists/Progressives hate capitalism and the unmanaged freedom of lightly regulated human interaction (the market). They think that rational management by them can’t help but produce a boom in prosperity, compared to the market’s chaotic interactions.

    But, they also see the market as wonderfully robust, able to deliver wealth to their plans (taxes) in whatever amounts, and able to deliver cheaper electricity and higher-mileage cars by their simple decree. They give this great compliment while regarding the market as unfair and inefficient, run by greedy capitalists who would sell their grandmothers for cash.

    Obama strongly believes this. He ignored job creation because he believed that economic recovery “just happens”, so he concentrated on how to spend the great wealth to come. Socialists will never learn.

    Richard Epstein Discusses Barack Obama

    Richard Epstein is a law professor at the University of Chicago. He described his conversations with Obama [edited]:

    === ===
    The fundamental mistake of Obama’s entire world view is that he treats contracts as devices for exploitation, not as devices for mutual gain, and he assumes that redistribution can take place without any negative impact upon production.
    === ===

    This is the basis for Obama’s regulation and harassment of business in the US. The progressive and Democratic view is that business is theft. It must be closely regulated in detail to prevent the thieves from stepping over the line. If business is supressed along the way, then it is worth it to stop the thievery. In his view, if a business makes a profit, then its prices were not low enough or the wages paid were not high enough.

    Comment by Andrew_M_Garland — April 5, 2013 @ 6:59 pm

  4. Great essay, Prof.

    Hard to believe Obama would provide the premise for a tyranny-of-the-majority argument to supplant our enumerated rights. Disappointing and frightening at the same time.

    I’m reading about Karl Popper’s early life in Vienna just now and was struck by how the most highly evolved society in Europe could, within the space of a generation, descend into madness. The madness starts at the top — with the oh-so-clever inversions of the rules and mores that have allowed a society to achieve a highly evolved state of existence — and suffuses the general discussion and debate until an echo-chamber effect is produced in which only that which conforms to the new inverted narrative is heard. The rest is ignored completely. (Popper’s Open Society is worth re-reading every few years, as a tonic to the oh-so-clever agruments, informed as it is by the descent into madness he witnessed first-hand.)

    It’s good to remind everyone, as you did, we have a written Constitution, which, along with the Bill of Rights, is a contract between the governed and those governing; in our sytem, the latter draw their just powers from the former and vow to uphold and defend that contract. Our Constitution can be argued and defended. Jefferson and Madison knew what they were doing (viewing the Declaration as a preamble to the Constitution): the aggrieved always will be able to quickly draw up and present a bill of particulars to those governing against the will of those governed. The burden of proof is always on those governing, as it should be.

    Comment by markets.aurelius — April 7, 2013 @ 8:39 am

  5. Abolishing the 4th Amendment – isn’t it the Republican cause? The Patriot Act.

    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.[1]

    Comment by Vlad Rutenburg — April 9, 2013 @ 5:33 pm

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