Tag: weekly standard

Schools for Misrule Reviewed

Today was a banner day for my new book on legal academia, Schools for Misrule. It was reviewed at the Wall Street Journal by John McGinnis, professor of law at Northwestern, and at the Weekly Standard by George Leef, director of research at the North Carolina-based John Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. (One or both reviews may be behind subscriber screens.) Both reviews were highly favorable.


American law schools wield more social influence than any other part of the American university. In ‘Schools for Misrule,’ Walter Olson offers a fine dissection of these strangely powerful institutions. One of his themes is that law professors serve the interests of the legal profession above all else; they seek to enlarge the scope of the law, creating more work for lawyers even as the changes themselves impose more costs on society.


At most law schools—and emphatically at elite ones such as Obama’s Harvard—students are immersed in a bath of statist theories that rationalize ever-expanding government control over nearly every aspect of life. … They learn that the concepts of limited government and federalism are outmoded antiques that merely defend unjust privilege. … Schools for Misrule explains how most of the damaging ideas that lawyers, politicians, and judges are eager to fasten upon society originate in our law schools. …

The most recent explosion of legal activism involves making the United States subject to international law. Olson notes that at a New York University Law School symposium, speakers declared that international law requires nations to guarantee all people the right to health, education, “decent” work, and freedom from “severe social exclusion.” Columbia has created a campaign called “Bring Human Rights Home,” which is intended to generate pressure to make American policies consonant with the collectivist notions of “the international community.”

For readers who’d like to hear more about the ideas in the book, I’ll be giving lunchtime talks tomorrow (Tuesday) at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. and on Thursday at the Heartland Institute in Chicago. And on Thursday night I’m scheduled to appear on one of radio’s premier discussion shows, WGN’s Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg. The book as of this afternoon had reached #1,009 in the Amazon standings, #1 in the One-L category, #2 in Legal Education (following an LSAT prep book), and #7 in Law (with only one policy-oriented book, The New Jim Crow, ahead of it; the others are true-crime and student-prep books).

Logan vs. Kagan on Military Spending

In January, Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution wrote an epic-length cover story for the Weekly Standard urging that not only should military spending not be cut, but that it should be increased. 

I disagreed, and responded with an article in the April 2011 issue of the American Conservative that is now available online.  Here’s the basic gist:

[Kagan’s] argument centers on three claims. First, [he] alleges that America faces a dire threat environment in which a more restrained strategy would only amplify the dangers. Second, he argues that cutting military spending can’t solve our fiscal dilemma. And finally, he asserts that America simply cannot change its grand strategy, for we have always been interventionists.

Each claim is wrong: America could make substantial changes to its grand strategy that would save hundreds of billions of dollars per year without endangering our national security.

Read for yourself and see if you think I moved the ball forward at all.  We debate, you decide.

P.S.: I have a polemical side, but the “Beltway brigadier” trope in the subhead was not mine — in case anyone at the, uhh, “National Institute for Civil Discourse” is concerned.

Robert Kagan for the Defense

The calls for cutting the federal budget continue to build in Congress as the new GOP members try to make good on their promise to rein in the deficit.  And, right on time, the latest issue of the Weekly Standard features an article by Robert Kagan critiquing the chorus of calls for cuts to military spending. 

I think Kagan’s critique is reasonably fair, certainly more so than others of the recent past.  But his basic premise, that national security spending is unrelated to the national debt, simply is not true.  At the The Skeptics, I address this:

It is of course true that entitlements and mandatory spending pose the greatest threat to the nation’s fiscal health, but $700+ billion [in defense spending] isn’t chump change. The question of what we should spend on the military ought to take into account the trade-offs, an argument that Dwight Eisenhower advanced in his farewell address just over 50 years ago, and that Charles Zakaib and I highlighted last week. (See also James Ledbetter’s discussion on this point.)

Actually, it is a question of fairness, but not the one that [Kagan] proposed. Because security is a core function of government (I think one of the only core functions of government), it would be a mistake to treat military spending as synonymous with spending on, say, farm subsidies. But Kagan’s writings presume that other countries’ governments do not – and should not – see their responsibilities in the same way. Kagan contends that American taxpayers should be responsible for the security of people living in Europe or East Asia or the Middle East. Or anywhere in the world, really… It simply isn’t fair to ask Americans to pay for something that other people should pay for themselves. For reference, the average American—every man, woman and child—spends two and a half times more on national security than the French or the British, five times more than citizens living in other NATO countries, and seven and a half times as much as the average Japanese.

Justin Logan is in the process of authoring a lengthier response for publication, but in the mean time click here to read the full post at The National Interest.

Conservative Rift Widening over Military Spending

More and more figures on the right – especially some darlings of the all-important tea party movement – are coming forward to utter a conservative heresy: that the Pentagon budget cow perhaps should not be so sacred after all.

Senator-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky was the latest, declaring on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that military spending should not be exempt from the electorate’s clear
desire to reduce the massive federal deficit.

His comments follow similar musings by leading fiscal hawks Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, a presumptive contender for the GOP nomination in 2012.  Others who agree that military spending shouldn’t get a free pass as we search for savings include Sen. Johnny Isakson, Sen. Bob Corker, Sen.-elect Pat Toomey—the list goes on.

Will tea partiers extend their limited government principles to foreign policyI certainly hope so, although I caution that any move to bring down Pentagon spending must include a change in our foreign policy that currently commits our military to far too many missions abroad.  To cut spending without reducing overseas commitments merely places additional strains on the men and women serving in our military, which is no one’s desired outcome.

If tea partiers need the specifics they have been criticized for lacking in their drive for fiscal discipline, they need look no further than the Cato Institute’s DownSizingGovernment.org project.  As of today, that web site includes recommendations for over a trillion dollars in targeted cuts to the Pentagon budget over ten years.

Meanwhile, the hawkish elements of the right have been at pains to declare military spending off-limits in any moves toward fiscal austerity.  That perspective is best epitomized in a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Ed Feulner of the Heritage Foundation, Arthur Brooks of AEI and Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard published on Oct. 4—a month before the tea party fueled a GOP landslide.  (Ed Crane and I penned a letter responding to that piece.)  Thankfully, it looks like neoconservative attempts to forestall a debate over military spending have failed. That debate is already well along.

The House Health Care Bill — Transparent or Not?

The House health care bill is reportedly coming to the floor this weekend, and House Speaker Pelosi committed in September to a 72-hour delay between the time the bill is posted online and a final vote.

Is that 72-hour delay happening? Some say yes. Some say no.

On the “yes” side are some folks at the Sunlight Foundation. John Wonderlich wrote a post last Sunday called “72 Hours is Now.” He hailed the posting of the health care bill well in advance of a vote.

“Public outcry, partisan pressure, and rising expectations are forcing Congress’s hand,” he wrote, ”and it’s now (apparently) taken as a matter of course that this bill is online for a long weekend before its final consideration.”

Paul Blumenthal followed that up mid-week, sounding slightly more cautious notes but hailing the posting of the “final manager’s amendment.” His post restarted the 72-hour clock.

Which brings us to the folks who say no.

On the Weekly Standard blog, John McCormack says that Speaker Pelosi plans to violate the promise to post the health care bill online for 72 hours.

House members are still negotiating important issues in the bill — whether it will provide taxpayer-funding for abortions, for example. Pelosi is pushing for a Saturday House vote, and a number of big changes will be introduced, likely less than 24 hours before the vote takes place (if in fact it does).

Did Pelosi promise to post a bill? Yes — and she did, when it was pretty near final.

Meanwhile, though, the really tricky details — the stuff that matters to a lot of people — are still being hammered out. The spirit of the 72-hour pledge remains unfulfilled.

And this reveals a weakness in H. Res. 554, the preferred reform of the Sunlight-backed ”Read the Bill” effort. It would install a House rule giving bills 72 hours of online airing “before floor consideration.”

Floor consideration can and regularly does include the adoption of a “manager’s amendment” which can revamp a bill wholesale or add and subtract key details — things that matter.

H. Res. 554 has a loophole you can drive a truck through, and Speaker Pelosi is revving her engines.

This episode is a good, if regrettable, illustration that “self-reform” by a branch of government isn’t reliable. “Read the bill” is a good idea, but the genius of President Obama’s parallel “Sunlight Before Signing” pledge to hold bills coming out of Congress for five days before signing them is that it is based on interbranch rivalry. Especially, but not only, when there is partisan division between the president and Congress, competition among branches will promote the practice.

(More on “Read the Bill” and “Sunlight Before Signing” here.)

Getting Congress to hold up its own legislation for 72 hours, giving meaningful access to the public of every detail, is asking Congress to be altruistic. And Congress is anything but altruistic.

Deep Thoughts from the Weekly Standard


Republican Party platform, 2012?

Sad to say, neoconservatism is clearly the dominant foreign-policy ideology of the Republican Party.  George H. Nash apparently has written that “We are all neoconservatives now.”  And after the strategic and political masterstroke the neocons produced in Iraq, who could blame the Republicans for doubling down with them?

So sometimes it’s good to stroll by the Weekly Standard blog, just to see what those folks are thinking about.

Today, for example, it’s war with Russia.  (Now there’s a “stimulus!”)

If the Republicans were smart, they’d get rid of these guys before it’s too late.

Weekly Standard Wants to Use F-22s in Afghanistan

goldfarbThe Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb is particularly set off by the fact that the Senate has declined to continue funding the F-22 program for which SecDef Gates and President Obama requested no more funds.  He laments that Obama and Gates are representing their decision to expand the Army by 22,000 soldiers as being paid for by cuts in the F-22 budget.  Goldfarb remarks that this leaves us in a situation where

We may have more troops to patrol Afghanistan, but they’ll be patrolling on bicycles – because it’s a zero-sum game.

Is it impolitic to observe that “The F-22 has never been flown over Iraq or Afghanistan”?

Moreover, it’s my understanding that the Weekly Standard folks, Goldfarb included, believe in the importance of fighting a series of labor-intensive counterinsurgency wars across the Islamic world.  Based on Goldfarb’s remarks, he does not wish to support this objective by making cuts in capital to fund more labor.  What would be good to know, then, just to set up the debate, is how much he thinks we ought to be spending on defense.  We spend roughly (depending on how you count and whether you include the two wars we’re fighting) the same as the entire rest of the world combined.  Based on my consumption of the Weekly Standard’s foreign-policy output over the past several years, you could easily convince me that the between $600,000,000,000 and $800,000,000,000 American taxpayers spend each year on defense is insufficient to support the Weekly Standard’s foreign-policy aims.  But if there should not be a tradeoff like the one Gates pointed to in this discussion, how much is enough?  Inquiring minds want to know.