Posts Tagged ‘cult of the presidency’

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Just shut up and president

January 23, 2017

My late mother-in-law (may she rest in peace) was a big fan of the British royal family. She even subscribed to magazines about them. ‘Struth. As you might imagine, the Windsor family was a topic we didn’t talk about often. But we got on extremely well otherwise.

Once, while touring Britain with my in-laws, we stopped for the night at a pretty cool old English inn called the Wheatsheaf hotel. I think it was this place in Lincolnshire but I’m not certain. (‘Wheatsheaf’ is the name of several inns and hotels in the UK.)

Since we’d arrived late in the day, we headed for the public room to find a cool glass of and to meet the locals. We succeeded. And before long, I heard MIL telling some of those locals that she thought the U.S. needed a royal family too. Sigh…

So I liked this post by Warren Meyer at Coyoteblog. Plus, it’s a three-fer: Meyer, Boudreaux, and Williamson all make good points on this topic.

A Modest Proposal: Let’s Adopt A Ceremonial Royal Family for the US To Safely Absorb People’s Apparent Need for Powerful, Charismatic Presidents

I have been watching the Crown as well as the new PBS Victoria series, and it got me to thinking. Wow, it sure does seem useful to have a single figurehead into which the public can pour all the sorts of adulation and voyeurism that they seem to crave. That way, the people get folks who can look great at parties and make heart-felt speeches and be charismatic and set fashion trends and sound empathetic and even scold us on minor things. All without giving up an ounce of liberty. The problem in the US is we use the Presidency today to fulfill this societal need, but in the process can’t help but imbue the office with more and more arbitrary power. Let’s split the two roles.

Update: Don Boudreaux writes:

A Trump presidency comes along with awful risks for Americans. Yet one very real silver-lining is that Trump’s over-the-top buffoonery and manic barking like a dog at every little thing that goes bump in his sight, along with his chronic inability even to appear to be thoughtful and philosophical and reflective and aware that he is not the center of the universe, might – just might – scrub off some of the ridiculous luster that has built up on on the U.S. Presidency over the course of the past 90 or so years. Let us hope.

He also links a good article from Kevin Williamson on the cult of the Presidency

In this vein, I recommend Gene Healey’s book The Cult of the Presidency. You can read it for free.


Here’s an interesting anecdote that I read recently: many Swiss people can’t tell you who their president is. It turns out that the Swiss president is simply the presiding member of the seven-member Swiss Federal Council.

Wouldn’t that be a nice change? A president who does the job in quiet anonymity? A servant of the people who doesn’t think of the job as director of a reality TV show?

Where’s Calvin Coolidge when you need him?

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What he said (7)

December 24, 2015

Here’s a good article by John Stossel. RTWT.

Politicians Without Borders
Today’s politicians seem to have few limits.

When driving on treacherous roads, guardrails are useful. If you fall asleep or maybe you’re just a bad driver, guardrails may prevent you from going off a cliff.

Recently, The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel used the phrase “no political guardrails” to point out how many of today’s politicians seem to lack any constraints, any safeguards against their use of power. She’s onto something.

“Mr. Obama wants what he wants. If ObamaCare is problematic, he unilaterally alters the law,” Strassel writes. “If the nation won’t support laws to fight climate change, he creates one with regulation. If the Senate won’t confirm his nominees, he declares it in recess and installs them anyway.”

Hillary Clinton does it too. In fact, she promises that once she becomes president, that is how she will govern. If Congress won’t give her gun control laws she wants, she says she’ll unilaterally impose them. Likewise, if Congress rejects her proposed new tax on corporations , “then I will ask the Treasury Department, when I’m there, to use its regulatory authority, if that’s what it takes.”

Whatever it takes. So far, the public doesn’t seem to mind.

Donald Trump’s poll numbers go up after he promises “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” says that “there’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am,” says that he’ll make Mexico “pay for that wall” and so on.

Apparently lots of people like the idea of a big, strong mommy or daddy who will take control of life and make everything better. Constitutional restraints? They’re for sissies. We want “leadership”—someone “strong” to run America.

I don’t. I’m an adult. I don’t want to be “led.” I will run my own life. Also, a president doesn’t “run America.” The president presides over just one of three branches of government, and there are strict limits on what he can and should do.

The Constitution was written to limit political authority. Those limits left individual Americans mostly to our own devices, which helped create the freest and most prosperous country in the history of the world.

Now, advocates for both parties are off the rails. Some Republicans demand that the IRS audit the Clinton Foundation. Part of me wishes that it would. I suspect their foundation is largely a scam, a pretend charity that props up the Clintons’ egos and pays Hillary’s political flunkies. Heck, in 2013, it raised $144 million but spent only $8.8 million on charity!

Shut it down! But where are the guardrails here? As Strassel put it, “When did conservatives go from wanting to abolish the IRS to wanting to use it against rivals?”

Today, politicians act as if guardrails are just an annoyance. And they get rewarded for that. […]

I think Mr. Stossel nails it with the last two sentences above. Constitutional limits? Who needs ’em?

This article reminds me of Gene Healy’s Cult of the Presidency.


Update:
Here’s something John tweeted today. “What he said” for Mr. Read too.
stossel-quotes-read

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