Academia

Honor From the Dishonorable?

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At Glen Whitman's blog, esteemed NYU economist Mario Rizzo urges Nobel Laureate Gary Becker to decline the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

It is the Presidential Medal and George W. Bush is no friend of freedom. Here I can only list without proof several claims. First, it is clear, I believe, to all objective analysts that he lied us into a war. He intentionally exaggerated or cherry-picked the evidence to show that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Second, Bush has violated the UN Charter (to which the US is a signatory) by invading Iraq without any immanent or even medium-term threat to the US. Third, he has violated the Geneva Treaties and allowed, negligently or intentionally, torture of prisoners at Guantanamo. Fourth, his Administration has engaged in completely extra legal rendition of prisoners to other countries where he knew or should have known that they would be tortured. Fifth, and perhaps least important, he has allowed the explosion of government spending not seen since Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson.

[…]

The president is not in a position to convey honors to anyone, least of all to a truly great economist like Gary Becker. How can the dishonorable convey honors?

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  1. Eh, you salute the rank, not the man.

  2. Bush is certainly rank, but I wouldn’t salute him.

  3. It is difficult to argue with Mr Rizzo’s reasoning. I won’t even try.

  4. Mario Rizzo’s the man! He was one of the lecturers at an IHS seminar I went to, he’s awesome.

  5. RC, WTF IHS?

  6. All initials on my previous post. Cool!

  7. so, prof. rizzo makes several admittedly unproved assumptions, complete with misspelling and incorrect word usage, and we’re supposed to draw a conclusion from that? and this is an “esteemed economist?” perhaps we ought to pay attention to what he says about economics, but he makes a piss-poor case for political action.

    if you’re waiting for an honorable president, professor, you’ll have to wait a long time. i’m over the half-century mark, and there hasn’t been one in my lifetime.

  8. I don’t agree with his logic. George Bush is not nearly as bad as Hitler, who probably awarded iron crosses to soldiers who deserved it. Stalin butchered more than Hitler, but many of his soldiers got awards from him which they also deserved. Georgi Zukhov, Ivan Konev, etc., good soldiers of the fatherland, and many others of lower rank.

  9. George Bush is not nearly as bad as Hitler, who probably awarded iron crosses to soldiers who deserved it.

    And didn’t dare refuse it. You’re right that GWB isn’t that bad. You can, and perhaps should, publicly insult him.

  10. If I were to try to examine Prof. Rizzo’s rock solid analysis, I would do so on the following points:

    1) Bush Lied. It makes a nice bumper sticker, but really the prevailing opinion of intelligence agencies around the world at the time were all in agreement that Saddam Hussein had WMDs from previous use (Halabja) and ongoing programs. The bait and switch game with UNSCOM inspectors also lends credence to the notion that Hussein was behaving as if this were true.

    2) Violated UN Charter by invading Iraq. Well, the simplest rationale for going back in to Iraq is the repeated violations of the cease-fire agreement from 1991. Saddam Hussein’s failure to comply with the terms results in a de facto resumption of hostilities.

    3) Violated Geneva Convention. If Bush were really abiding by the Geneva conventions, then un-uniformed irregular fighters would be summarily executed on the field of combat, not sent to some semi-tropical holding pen with 3 hots and a cot, plus non-flushed Korans and a helpful directional arrow to Mecca. One must be a signatory to the convention to be held to its standards, something Al Qaeda does not appear to be.

    So, there are 3 quick counter-arguments to say the least. To my estimation, that does not make for a solid case on Prof. Rizzo’s part, especially unsubstantiated by any evidence for his claims.

  11. The best argument against accepting the Medal:

    He gave one to George “Slam Dunk” Tenet

  12. Accept it and melt it.

    Have you seen the price of gold?

  13. Damn, I was also going to suggest he melt it – then recast it when the nazis administration is out of power.

    J sub D –
    IHS = The Institute for Humane Studies
    http://www.theihs.org/

  14. It may not be necessary, but it’s been pointed out that getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom is a euphamism for failing spectacularly and publicly.

  15. I met Mario Rizzo at the 1969 YAF convention – he was with the Fordham Libertarian Alliance. Glad to see he is a Prof. and despite the know-nothings that have posted here, his reasoning in this matter is completely valid.

  16. Toss the medal onto the tracks of the Metro station nearest the White House. See what happens.

    Better yet, get Kucinich to do it. He’s hobbit-sized.

  17. It is a shame that Rizzo relies upon talking-point examples for Pres. Bush’s status as dishonorable. As chunkstyle’s equally superficial knee-jerk apologetics demonstrate, they are not the strongest of arguments. But the president’s bona fides as an autocratic bunglar with little regard for law or decency have been well established here and elsewhere.

    This does seem like an odd argument for an ecomonist to make, however. To question the ability of one kind of thing (a dishonorable man) to convey its opposite (a token of honor) seems more of a metaphysical argument. To an ecomonist, though the things in question are of different kinds, their relative values are comensurable.

    He might have been better off saying that a token of honor from Bush is worth very little, and can be rejected as an unreasonable investment of time and effort to recieve.

  18. It makes a nice bumper sticker, but really the prevailing opinion of intelligence agencies around the world at the time were all in agreement that Saddam Hussein had WMDs from previous use (Halabja) and ongoing programs.

    Link, please.

  19. Violating the UN Charter? Dishonorable?

    Bush’s only dishonorable acts with regard to the UN are:

    1) Staying in it.
    2) Giving it money.
    3) Letting it continue to operate in the U.S.
    4) Lending it legitimacy by actually trying to get it to pass resolutions.

    The only times the UN isn’t useless is when it’s actively malignant. Fortunately, it’s usually just useless.

  20. Les asks for a link for :
    It makes a nice bumper sticker, but really the prevailing opinion of intelligence agencies around the world at the time were all in agreement that Saddam Hussein had WMDs from previous use (Halabja) and ongoing programs.

    I’m not sure what kind of link would change your mind, but I have a question. If the only person who thought Iraq had WMD’s was Bush, and everyone else knew that Iraq WITHOUT A DOUBT had no WMD’s, why were the inspectors still asking for MORE TIME to ‘make sure’ Sadaam had no WMD’S? Makes no sense to me. Even the media in the run up to invading Iraq were saying that we better be careful of being gassed as Iraq had used this WMD in the war with Iran.

    The war has at least kept Sadaam and his cronies in the U.N. from bastardizing the oil-for-food program, which of course led to the Amnesty Internationals of the world chastizing the U.S. (but never the U.N.) for the sanctions leading 5000 kids dying a month or week or whatever time frame it was.

  21. “First, it is clear, I believe, to all objective analysts that he lied us into a war’

    It is a good thing he used the “I believe” qualification, because every committee ever convened to objectively analyze this matter has found overwhelming evidence to the contrary. You would also have to believe that virtually every intelligence agency in the world was comprised of liars as well. The whole “he lied us into war” canard has been thoroughly debunked, whether crackpots want to accept it or not.

  22. Four unprovable assertions and a fifth (least important!) easily seen transgression of bloating government. Why no mention of the other easily proved crime of suspending habeus corpus while the courts are active and able to function?

    I’d throw out the medal just for the stupid blunders he made in the conduct of the war, but basically I agree with Edna — you’ll wait a long time to get an honorable president unless Ron Paul makes a miracle.

  23. “The whole ‘he lied us into war’ canard has been thoroughly debunked, whether crackpots want to accept it or not.”

    What world are you living in? Anyone with half a brain should have realized at least as early as Oct. 2002 that Bush and Co. were lying us into war. The subsequent failure to find WMD and the Downing Street Memo (among other things) have made the deceit abundantly clear.

    In any case, it has been documented countless times how experts in even our own intelligence agencies believed that the President was making claims that far exceeded what could be inferred from the available evidence. Internationally, I seem to recall the pre-war consensus being that Iraq may still have some old WMD from before the Gulf War but that there was scant evidence of active WMD programs.

    More important than the mere claim of the existence of WMD was how the President and his cronies portrayed Iraqi WMD as being an imminent threat to the U.S. and its interests. Don’t you remember that? The President and Co. making outrageous claims about smoking guns and mushroom clouds? All that fearmongering about ridiculous possibilities like Saddam selling nukes to terrorists? Remember that?

    How can you possibly contend that the President didn’t lie us into the war?

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