Scanning the week’s national news, views and clues with you and yours in mind
“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”—George Washington
Each week, we’ll be monitoring the web to find the most interesting, challenging, or important items for those who are concerned about liberty, accountability, and big government. Here are some of the highlights from the past week:
Though I have been fortunate enough to have never needed to make use of a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, I do imagine that if I had, the nutritional content of my side dishes would not exactly have been a pressing issue for me. But in New York City, even the homeless aren’t exempt from Mayor Bloomberg’s nanny-state dreams. As the New York Post has reported, homeless shelters in New York now have to turn away food donations (even from organizations that have been donating food for years) because of new nutritional rules handed down from a mayoral task force and the Health Department. Because the Department of Homeless Services isn’t able to measure the nutritional content of donated food, gifts to the homeless like one synagogue’s regular donation of kugel and pastries, are now disallowed. It’s really amazing how much community harm a group of bureaucrats can do when they set their mind to it: not only are they discouraging the sense of community and charity that prevents people from treating the homeless as problems and castoffs, while exercising a belittling amount of paternalism against those they are supposedly helping, but they also manage to eliminate something that would help cut their costs. It’s difficult to fathom that New Yorkers, of all people, would countenance these continued intrusions on personal and private decisions. Are they in some sort of secret “Biggest Nanny-State” contest with San Francisco?
Currency markets and interest rates are . . . well . . . confusing. When the Chairman of the Federal Reserve announces that they’re going to lower one or raise the other, many of us sort of cross our fingers and hope that they know what they’re doing. As a system, this is obviously somewhat flawed, and we have inexplicably discarded the notion that a stable currency (such as one that existed under the gold standard) would be better for our economy, both on a large and small scale. As Charles Kadlec explains, you can see this even in the price of oil. Few realize that the erratic but inexorable rise of gas prices cannot be blamed on gas companies alone—the price of oil is up in part because the Federal Reserve has driven the value of the dollar. The most damming proof? Since 2002, if the dollar had been as strong as the Yen, the price of gas right now would be $2.75, and if it had been as strong as the Swiss Franc, we’d only be paying $2.50 at the pump. In other words, if you ever listened to the news and thought, “that doesn’t sound like such a great thing for me,” when you heard that the Fed was once again lowering the value of the dollar, then you have better economic instincts than you realize.
Every so often, we (as a country) get enamored with some “green” idea that’s going to save our planet. And, with typical enthusiasm, we embrace it, rushing into creating government subsidies and other “incentives” to pave this new idea’s pathway to success. Unfortunately, what we tend to forget about is taking a careful look at the details of the thing to see if it is truly effective and check for unintended negative consequences. Which brings us to the rusting wind turbines on the Big Island. As the Daily Mail explains, our brief infatuation with wind energy had all the worst features of this impulse: greedy “green” companies throwing up poorly constructed projects for a chance at government largesse, a lack of consideration of the possible problems it would cause (in this case, on top of inefficiency, mechanical problems, and being a nuisance to locals, they also managed to further threaten endangered species), and finally, neglect and abandonment once the moment—and the money—had passed. It should be a salutary lesson on federal subsidies for “green” tech, but I can’t help but wonder: Why do we have to learn about this from a British newspaper?
If pop culture is any guide, we are a country that loves to meditate on apocalyptic scenarios. Whether it be zombies, aliens, or angry transforming robots, we definitely like to think about what would happen to us all in case of catastrophe. Interestingly, however, no matter how determined the zombie horde, no one ever says, “Don’t worry, the federal government has taken over the economy!” It seems, however, that President Obama feels, unsurprisingly, that emergencies (unnamed) require more government, not less. As Paul Jacob explains, the controversial Executive Order on National Defense Resources Preparedness (winner of this month’s “Most Incomprehensibly Bureaucratic Name” Award), is just another step in a historical trend toward central planning. I’m just worried because I’m not sure I know how to tell the difference between a zombie and a government defense resource preparedness officer.
No one needs to explain the virtues of federalism to the Right. Republicans and conservatives have seen local control and decision-making as one of their last protections against intrusive federal government. Unfortunately, however, the term has become so loaded with perceived (and badly understood ) meaning that many on the Left dismiss it as a dodge for segregationist language or an expression of “States Rights” with all the unpleasant anti-civil rights baggage that the term carries. In truth, everyone who care about maintaining the unique character of their community should favor federalism, no matter where they might fall on the political spectrum. As Jonah Goldberg explains, federalism can be as helpful to the liberal enclave as it is to the conservative one. And fortunately, some are finally starting to realize that. Think about it—if the Left learns to love federalism, than we will have another (rather unexpected) ally in the fight against big government.
Views expressed in this column are intended to promote creative thought, educate, and, we hope, prompt comment. Accordingly, thoughts expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii or the author.
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