Will the Secret Weapon Be Enough?: Brown’s Barnstorming to Make “No” as Inspiring as “Yes”

Three hundred and seven years ago, Englishmen and Scotsmen brought forth, upon the British Isles, a new Union, conceived in English insecurity and Scottish impecuniosity, and dedicated to the proposition that the two peoples, if not equal, at least had more in common than either did with the French.

The original Anglo-Scottish Union of 1707 was a “political necessity for England, a commercial necessity for Scotland,” as one historian put it. For contemporary champions of Union, the necessities that were the mother of its invention are as pressing as ever.

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The Successes and Failure of John Quincy Adams

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The public career of John Quincy Adams poses this paradox: he was the greatest ever Secretary of State but only a mediocre President. As Secretary of State, he concluded the Adams-Onis treaty with Spain and the 1818 convention with Great Britain. Both were diplomatic triumphs, gaining Florida for the United States and resolving border disputes with both nations. He was the architect of the Monroe doctrine, the cornerstone of American foreign policy in this hemisphere until the present day. He articulated more eloquently than any other Secretary of State a preference for America’s soft power over military deployment. The United States, he said, “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.”

John Quincy Adams’ presidency was a disappointment.

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Can Scotland Govern Itself?

Editor’s Note: This excellent post by Hans Eicholz on the need for the Scots to recover their former capitalist and free society enthusiasms if they are to govern themselves is worthy of re-consideration today.

 

What does it take to secure an independent, self-governing nation? Arguably it takes a self-governing citizenry. And what does that mean? Generally speaking, it means a citizenry composed of persons capable of independent thought and action—capable of sustaining themselves through much of the thick and thin of life through their own voluntary efforts in civil society.

A modern welfare state works directly against that capacity by encouraging ties of hierarchical dependence on political authorities. The modern fallacy is to believe that majority voting is sufficient to prevent the abuse of power; anyone familiar with the workings of government cannot seriously entertain that idea.

The wild increase in laws and more importantly, administrative agency rules, does not translate into the rule of law, but into the selective enforcement of special programs by those entrusted to administer them. That sort of re-feudalization of the economy and society was well understood by Mancur Olson years ago in his book, The Rise and Decline of Nations. But Olson was really only further developing the critique of mercantilism first put forward by Adam Smith.

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There’s No Telling Where the Money Went

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My buddy Chris DeMuth and I are about to embark upon a long-term research project on fines, settlements, and fees collected by federal agencies. If we manage to pull it off, you’ll hear more about it.

Why would otherwise sentient humans volunteer for such a green-eyeshades program? Because the government itself doesn’t collect the data—not in one place, and very often not at all; and it doesn’t keep tabs on the spending, either. To paraphrase a leading public finance expert (the late Robert Palmer), the trend is irresistible—and there’s no telling where the money went.  It appears, though, that a bunch of federal agencies have become profit centers for Congress. Our working hypothesis is that that’s bound to have incentive effects throughout the government. None of them, we suspect, are likely to be good.

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On Adam, Eve, Tribes, and Nations

The prospect of Scottish independence has spurred a great deal of discussion here and elsewhere. It’s worth remembering that the Act of Union of 1707, which drew England and Scotland together, factored into the story of the American Revolution. Thomas Jefferson and other colonists believed that each colony had the same relationship to Britain in the 1770s that England and Scotland had to each other before the Act of Union: as an equal state with a common monarch.[1]

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For Constitutional Federalism, but not the Dissolution of Nation States

I am all for vigorous debate on the site, but I am sorry to say that Michael Greve has misunderstood my post. I do not think it would be at all sensible for Scotland or other nations to secede from their nation states for some of the reasons that Michael discusses. In particular, I do not agree at all that security threats in Europe have declined so as to  justify dissolution.   In my original post, I say they are perceived to have declined, but  expressly observe that Putin should be a “wake-up call.” I am sorry that I was too subtle, but my observation that Europeans regarded Ukraine as  “faraway country of which they know nothing” was a sarcastic reference to Neville Chamberlain’s comment about Czechoslovakia in 1938, showing that I agree that ignoring security concerns is indeed partying like it is 1938. I also made an essential  distinction in my post between dissolution of European nation states and federalism within those nation states.  

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Should We Party Like It’s 1938?

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In further demonstration that this is a forum for vigorous debate among friends: I strenuously disagree with Brother McGinnis’s post on Scottish independence. As usual he gets the analytics right: no matter how the vote turns out, it will embolden independence movements elsewhere. John is also right in suggesting that the EU has by design and institutional logic fostered such movements. It has done so by design (for example, through regional transfer payments) on the theory that anything that is bad for nation-states must therefore be good for the EU’s federalism project. It has done so by logic because the overall umbrella of free trade (by and large) reduces the expected price of secession. They’ve come a long way. There’s no longer a point in obsessing over a Belgium without a functional government because there is no longer a reason to have a Belgium in the first place.

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Should Congress Adopt a New Independent Counsel Statute?  The Constitutional Issues

One of the principal concerns about the Obama Administration are the scandals and the claims that it is violating the law.  And sadly the congressional investigation process does not seem to be adequately doing its job.  Thus, it is worthwhile thinking about alternative institutions.

The principal method used back in the 80s and 90s was the independent counsel (IC). Unfortunately, the independent counsel was both unconstitutional (for the reasons discussed in Justice Scalia’s dissent in Morrison v. Olson) and subject to serious problems. But while the original IC statute had these problems, that does not preclude employing a reformed IC to investigate the executive branch.

Let’s start with the unconstitutionality of the original IC. Under the old regime, the IC was not subject to the direction of the President and therefore in my view was unconstitutional. In addition, the IC was appointed by a court on the ground that he was an inferior officer, even though he was clearly in my view a principal officer who could be appointed only by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.

Both of these problems are rectifiable. First, the IC could be made formally subject to the direction of the President. The statute might provide that the IC is subject to the direction of and removal by the President, but that the Congress believes that presidential direction of the IC would be problematic as a policy matter and requests that the President not direct the IC. The statute might also require the IC to disclose to the public if the President gave him a direction and to keep notes of what the direction was. It is likely under this arrangement that the President would not give any orders to the IC, because he would pay a significant political price for doing so.

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Bolivar with a Burr

The words that Lord Falkland is supposed to have said—that when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change—are a lesson that humanity and above all politicians are reluctant to learn.

There’s no profit in it for “projectors,” Edmund Burke’s term for those who place at the center of their own sense of importance change brought about by them.

And there’s no greater projector than the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Alex Salmond. Mr. Salmond does not so much promise to solve specific problems as arouse hope, a hope that is vague, general, and unfocused. He has been very successful at this, assisted as he is by the fact that there is good cause for discontent in Scotland. Deindustrialization has not been kind to the country, and there are parts of Glasgow, its largest city, where living standards and life expectancy are at levels found in the old Soviet Union.

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Telling the Truth about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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Comes now the great Daniel J. Mahoney, author of penetrating intellectual biographies of Bertrand de Jouvenel, Raymond Aron, and Charles de Gaulle, among other books, to discuss his latest work, The Other Solzhenitsyn. Mahoney, coeditor of The Solzhenitsyn Reader, offers in this discussion a tremendous introduction to the Russian dissident writer’s oeuvre and a rebuttal to his many critics.

We might say that some Western writers who, from their position of faux outrage, frequently critique their governments, societies, and cultures have Solzhenitsyn envy, earnestly wishing their work had even a fraction of the impact of the Russian anticommunist’s corpus of writings. Not that they admire Solzhenitsyn’s political or moral philosophy, or his belief that freedom is ultimately born of spiritual commitment. They only yearn to have it said that their words put a “sliver in the throat of power.” Such was the praise given Solzhenitsyn in 1962 after the publication of One Day in the Live of Ivan Denisovich.

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