Topic: General

Corruption Squared?

The Kenya head of Transparency International, a respected anti-corruption group, has been fired on the basis of allegations of …. corruption. That follows on the resignation (and departure for the United Kingdom, for understandable reasons) of John Githongo, who had prepared a scathing report on corruption in his capacity as Permanent Secretary for Governance and Ethics in the Office of the President of Kenya. Githongo made a powerful presentation at the Cato Institute shortly after his resignation.

We’ve learned from experience that one way to reduce corruption is to reduce the power of politicians and bureaucrats to create “artificial shortages of freedom” through their powers to approve or withhold permits, permissions, certifications, etc., etc. Limiting the powers of politicians and bureaucrats is not the only measure that will reduce corruption, but it is certainly a central element of a solution to the problem of corruption, theft, and shakedowns.

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“Crisis of Abundance” Makes Executives’ Reading List

The leadership of the National Chamber Foundation (the educational arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) recently recommended to its board of directors a list of 10 “Books that Drive the Debate.”  Among the recommended titles was Crisis of Abundance, a Cato Institute book by adjunct scholar Arnold Kling and the only health policy book to make the list. 

The foundation’s board is a bipartisan group of influential figures from the business, political, and policy spheres.  The NCF also plans to recommend the 10 titles to all Chamber of Commerce members.

The complete list is pasted below.  NCF chairman Bill Little told me today that Crisis of Abundance will be the first book they send out to their board members.

“Books that Drive the Debate”
NCF’s Top 10 Reading Selections

  1. Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy by Moises Naim
  2. Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East by Clyde Prestowitz
  3. The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy by Peter Huber and Mark Mills
  4. In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State by Charles Murray
  5. Our Brave New World by Charles Gave, Anatole Kaletsky, and Louis-Vincent Gave
  6. The Sarbanes-Oxley Debacle: What We’ve Learned; How to Fix It by Henry N. Butler
  7. An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths by Glenn Reynolds
  8. The Innovator’s Solution by Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor
  9. Crisis of Abundance: Rethinking How We Pay for Health Care by Arnold Kling
  10. Education Myths What Special-Interest Groups Want You To Believe About Our Schools – And Why It Isn’t So by Jay P. Greene

(Another Cato connection: in March, the Cato Institute held a book forum for Glenn Reynolds’ An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths.)

The leadership of the NCF evidently agreed with Marginal Revolution publisher Tyler Cowen that Crisis of Abundance “is one of the most important books written on health care.”

Karl Rove’s Paean to T.R.

Gene Healy beat me to the punch in commenting on Karl Rove’s Time essay on Teddy Roosevelt.

My colleague (and office neighbor) John Samples is always telling me that Bush supporters are capital-P Progressives. In the course of some parallel research a while back, I happened on an article by the historian William E. Leuchtenberg that explains the Progressives’ comfort with ambitious, activist government, both at home and abroad. Fudge the language a bit in places, and it sounds frighteningly similar to the Bush administration today.

[I]mperialism and progressivism flourished together because they were both expressions of the same philosophy of government, a tendency to judge any action not by the means employed but by the results achieved, a worship of definitive action for action’s sake, as John Dewey has pointed out, and an almost religious faith in the democratic mission of America. The results of the Spanish-American War were heartily approved not merely because the war freed subject peoples from tyranny, but because, since the United States was the land of free institutions, any extension of its domain was per se an extension of freedom and democracy. It was an age that admired results, that was not too concerned with fine distinctions and nice theories. The Progressives, quite apart from sharing in the general excitement of middle-class America in the rise of the United States as a world power and the sense of identity with the nation which imperialism afforded in a time of national stress, admired anyone who could clean up the slaughterhouses or link two great oceans, who could get a job done without months of tedious debate and deference to legal precedents.

The Progressives believed in the Hamiltonian concept of positive government, of a national government directing the destinies of the nation at home and abroad. They had little but contempt for the strict construction of the Constitution by conservative judges, who would restrict the power of the national government to act against social evils and to extend the blessings of democracy to less favored lands. The real enemy was particularism, state rights, limited government, which would mean the reign of plutocracy at home and a narrow, isolationist concept of national destiny abroad, which would deny the democratic mission of America and leave the brown peoples pawns of dynastic wars and colonial exploitation.

William E. Leuchtenberg, “Progressivism and Imperialism: The Progressive Movement and American Foreign Policy, 1898-1916,” The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 39, no. 3 (Dec. 1952), p. 501

“Bush’s Brain” on T.R.

Karl Rove has an essay about Teddy Roosevelt in the current issue of Time. In it we learn–or, at least, we read–that T.R. had “a larger-than-life personality”; that “leadership matters;” and that “Roosevelt holds a special place in the American imagination.” Edgy stuff. 

T.R.’s enduring appeal is an enduring mystery. What, after all, is so attractive about Roosevelt’s political philosophy, such as it was: a loudmouthed cult of maniliness; a warped belief that war can be a good tonic for whatever ails the national spirit; and a contemptuous attitude toward limits on presidential power?

Michael Chapman deflates T.R.’s legacy in this Cato Policy Report article [.pdf], and, starting this August, you’ll be able to buy Cato senior fellow Jim Powell’s new book Bully Boy: The Truth about Theodore Roosevelt’s Legacy.

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When a Billion Here and a Billion There DON’T Add up to Real Money

Warren Buffett is giving away $44 billion of his fortune, $30 billion of it to the Gates Foundation. Much of that money will go toward education. If it is used for more fiddling about with our existing school monopoly, it will have a negligible long term impact on American education. If it is used to help empower parents with an unfettered choice of public and independent schools, it will transform the lives of millions of children.

Soon we’ll find out how well Mr. Buffett’s investing acumen translates to the education philanthropy business.

Some Good News from the Court for a Change

The U.S. Supreme Court this morning struck down a set of restrictions on campaign finance enacted by Vermont. Six members of the court believed Vermont’s spending limits and extremely low contribution limits violated the First Amendment.

The six justices agreed that the Vermont law was invalid. But they disagreed about quite a bit, too. Justices Breyer, Roberts and Alito focused on the shortcomings of the Vermont law. Breyer and Roberts also rejected Vermont’s demand that Buckley v. Valeo be overturned. Justices Thomas and Scalia concurred in the opinion but rightly called for overturning Buckley in order to offer better protections for political speech. Justice Kennedy rightly expressed dismay with the Court’s recent campaign finance jurisprudence. In the larger picture, he seems closer to Thomas and Scalia than the other three in the majority.

This ruling was expected, but nonetheless good news. The majority opinion shows that we now have a majority of the court who recognize some limits on the power of the state over political speech. After McConnell v. FEC, it was far from clear than the judiciary would draw any lines limiting state restrictions on speech.

Still, this is hardly a robust affirmation of the First Amendment, and it is somewhat discouraging that the new justices, Roberts and Alito, were unwilling to overturn past errors by earlier majorities on the Court.