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The Libertarian Dream Team
Professor Ilya Somin joins me Sunday on Strengthening the Guardrails of Democracy
With this gem, Clark Neily has won Twitter for the week, the month of August, and quite possibly the entire year of 2022:
Commentators across the political spectrum are scrambling for the hottest take on the raid of President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, with Jonah Goldberg and Kurt Schlicter taking opposing views. But only the libertarians like Neily are consistent in condemning abuses of government power across the board.
If only there was a way to step back from heated partisan debates and the 24-hour news cycle to assess what is fundamentally wrong with our democracy and propose a remedy. Indeed, my wish has been answered in the form of another brilliant thought experiment from the National Constitution Center, which assembled a libertarian version of the Dream Team to lay out a plan for Restoring the Guardrails of Democracy. They also solicited reports from Progressive and Conservative teams, but this Sunday my show will focus on the Team Libertarian’s report.
Team Libertarian includes both Clark Neily and Walter Olson of the Cato Institute, as well as frequent guest and friend of the show, Ilya Somin, who returns this Sunday to summarize the team’s findings. The report puts a strong emphasis on criminal justice reform – something that the former President is likely to appreciate more now that he has been a victim of overzealous prosecution and the weaponization of the law. Their solution involves greater citizen participation, mainly through the restoration of jury trials as the norm in criminal cases, as opposed to plea bargains.
Team Libertarian also takes Ilya Somin’s ideas in Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom as a meaningful way to strengthen small-d democracy. Ballot voting, of course, is only one component of a healthy democratic system. When “voice” fails, citizens need many “exit” options to guarantee their liberties.
📦 So… what happened at Mar-a-Lago?
"I once asked, 'If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?' Now I know the answer to that question." – President Donald Trump
Joe Lancaster of Reason documents Trump’s long and complicated relationship with the 5th amendment’s right to remain silent (Donald Trump Pleads the 5th After Years of Saying Only Guilty People Do That). Lancaster cites countless examples of people interpreting silence as guilt when it’s politically expedient, while treating it as a sacrosanct principle of the American legal tradition when using it to defend themselves.
Charles Ortel sees in the FBI raid the warning signs of a banana republic in the making. Ortel calls the raid “a byword for government overreach,” while Schlichter has even stronger words, and says we shoud “Stop Assuming the Legitimacy of the Corrupt Establishment’s Actions.”
Jonah Goldberg disputes these declarations, noting that most commentators espousing this view would like to see the same mechanics in operation – but simply coming from the Republicans against the Democrats:
“But what I can’t get my head around is the idea that the solution to our allegedly bananifying regime is to put that browning, mealy, giant banana back into power. …
If you’re worried about America looking like a banana republic, please don’t tell me that the first president in American history to defecate on the peaceful transfer of power is the antidote to the rot of Third World corruption of our regime. He is the rot.”
Elizabeth Nolan Brown identifies a recurring pattern epitomized by the response to the raid in another wise Reason article, “The Mar-a-Lago Raid Starts Another Cycle in a Partisan Feedback Loop.”
The short version:
“The raid: On Tuesday, the FBI took about 12 boxes from a basement storage area at Mar-a-Lago, according to Trump lawyer Christina Bobb. She indicated that the FBI's search warrant said they were investigating violations of the Presidential Records Act and laws regarding classified material.
If this is all true, it suggests Trump's team may very well have brought this on themselves by refusing to turn over things they were supposed to turn over. But it also suggests the Justice Department is possibly being a bit petty; unless there was some imminent danger from Trump having whatever documents he's suspected to have kept, raiding Mar-a-Lago to obtain them seems drastic.”
📈 Inflation Tracker
John Phelan reports on a common economic fallacy that attributes inflation to the so-called wage-price spiral. In reality, rising wages stem from money creation (i.e., inflation), and not the other way around.
As Milton Friedman famously said: “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon in the sense that it is and can be produced only by a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output.”
While it may be tempting to blame businesses for raising their prices, the fault still lies firmly at the feet of the Federal government and central bank. Follow John on Twitter.
💸 The IRS Just Doubled its Workforce
Speaking of the weaponization of government agencies for political ends, the IRS is getting a new army of 87,000 new tax collectors, and many are rightly nervous about the potential for magnified abuses of power – including crackdowns and audits on the working class. Brad Palumbo writes:
“New legislation expanding the IRS ‘provides 14 times as much funding for ‘enforcement’—as in fishing expedition audits—than it does for ‘taxpayer services’ such as answering the phone,’ according to Ben Susser of Americans for Tax Reform.”
Much like the discourse around pleading the 5th, many commentators are saying that only the guilty have anything to fear.
“But that bizarrely assumes benevolence and good faith from a rogue agency that has displayed the opposite in recent history,” notes Palumbo (Congress Is Supersizing the IRS. Here’s Why That’s Bad News for Everyday Americans).
🌽 Finally, some good news…
Ronald Bailey continues to serve as the perennial foil of all prophets of doom (both religious and ecological), reporting on the “New Green Revolution in the Offing.” The first Green Revolution was brought about by agronomist Norman Borlaug’s insights into crop breeding and artificial selection. Further advances since the 1970s continue to supercharge rice and wheat crops, which require less fertilizer to grow. Bailey writes:
“This new biotech-enabled Green Revolution promises a future in which more food from higher yields grown using less fertilizer means more farmland restored to nature, less water pollution, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.”
🔈 ICYMI - Arizona’s School Choice Reforms:
Catch the podcast and condensed transcript of my interview with Matt Beienburg of the Goldwater Institute on the huge victory for school choice coming out of Arizona: