May 31, 2014 at 1:00 am

Saturday Shorts: Other views

No, there shouldn't "be a law"

J.D. Tuccille in Reason : When horrific crimes hit the headlines, many people quickly demand that government “do something.” Blunt instruments that they are, politicians act in really only one way: by writing and rewriting laws. “That’ll be the end of that,” they say, as the ink dries on their latest legislative brainstorm.

In the case of the Isla Vista murders, we’ve seen calls for tighter gun control, mental health screening, and implications that misogynistic websites should somehow be reined-in. And something about Seth Rogen movies. Maybe a waiting period?

But the truth is that law is a pretty ineffective way to prevent people from doing what you don’t want them to do. While laws allow government officials to signal what they consider to be the boundaries of acceptable behavior, and to define the penalties for crossing the boundaries, they aren’t very effective at preventing people from stepping over the line.

The idea of laws as deterrents to behavior is an old one; but the escalation in the United States of penalties (now running up against staggering human and monetary cost) for a host of crimes is ample evidence that the laws themselves aren’t having the intended deterrent effect.

The Obama Doctrine

Fareed Zakaria in The Washington Post : “Because of his unsure and indecisive leadership in the field of foreign policy, questions are being raised on all sides,” the writer declared, adding that the administration was “plagued by a Hamlet-like psychosis which seems to paralyze it every time decisive action is required.” Is the writer one of the many recent critics of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy? Actually, it’s Richard Nixon, writing in 1961 about President John F. Kennedy. Criticizing presidents for weakness is a standard practice in Washington because the world is a messy place and, when bad things happen, Washington can be blamed for them. But to determine what the United States — and Obama — should be doing, we have to first understand the nature of the world and the dangers within it.

From 1947 until 1990, the United States faced a mortal threat, an enemy that was strategic, political, military and ideological. Washington had to keep together an alliance that faced up to the foe and persuaded countries in the middle not to give in. This meant that concerns about resolve and credibility were paramount. In this context, presidents had to continually reassure allies. But the world today looks very different — far more peaceful and stable than at any point in decades and, by some measures, centuries. The United States faces no enemy anywhere on the scale of Soviet Russia. Its military spending is about that of the next 14 countries combined, most of which are treaty allies of Washington.

Obama is battling a knee-jerk sentiment in Washington in which the only kind of international leadership that means anything is the use of military force. “Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail,” he said in his speech Wednesday at West Point. A similar sentiment was expressed in the farewell address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a strong leader who refused to intervene in the Suez crisis, the French collapse in Vietnam, two Taiwan Strait confrontations and the Hungarian uprising of 1956. At the time, many critics blasted the president for his passivity and wished that he would be more interventionist. A Democratic Advisory Council committee called Eisenhower’s foreign policy “weak, vacillating, and tardy.” But Eisenhower kept his powder dry, confident that force was not the only way to show strength. “I’ll tell you what leadership is,” he told his speechwriter. “It’s persuasion — and conciliation — and education — and patience . It’s long, slow, tough work. That’s the only kind of leadership I know — or believe in — or will practice.”

Maybe that’s the Obama Doctrine.

Defund the Democratic Party

Grover Norquist in The American Spectator : The Republican and Democratic parties are not mirror images of each other. They are built on radically different foundations. The Republican Party raises money and volunteers from the real economy. It cannot take anyone’s time or money by force. It has to ask. The Democratic Party lives off government spending and laws that force Americans to fund it. Much taxpayer money gets cycled through the organizations of the Left. Labor unions demand dues from workers as a condition of employment because Democrats have written laws to require it. Trial lawyers reap millions of dollars thanks to rulings from Democratic judges.

The political structures that inform, control, and fund the American Left—labor unions, trial lawyers, big city political machines, and beneficiaries of government spending, contracts, welfare payments, and grants—all depend on government. Without state power, their political muscle would atrophy. Now that Republicans have control of twenty-four state governments—the governorship and both houses of the legislature—they should repeal laws that fund and perpetuate the Democrats’ political machine.