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.

Strassel writes, "The more outrageous Mr. Trump is, the more his numbers soar. The more Mrs. Clinton promises to cram an agenda down the throats of her 'enemies,' the more enthusiastic her base. The more unrestrained the idea, the more press coverage; the more ratings soar, the more unrestrained the idea."

By contrast, humble candidates, quieter ones with modest plans—constitutional ones—get lost in the noise.

So does important government reform. While people argued whether Trump dislikes immigrants, Congress quietly reauthorized the Export-Import Bank, a huge and immoral subsidy for corporations.

A coalition of free-market and anti-corporate-welfare activists fought to get Ex-Im Bank funding eliminated and finally won—but then their work was quietly undone in a massive spending bill.

I once had lunch with Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.). He talked about reading Ayn Rand, and he emphasized the need to cut government spending. Now he's the speaker of the House who just oversaw a record-sized spending bill that doles out money to both parties' pet projects.

Little of that is authorized in the Constitution, which was intended to leave to the people or the states everything not explicitly mentioned in the document.

Today, we get a depressing combination of big, showy violations of constitutional rules—which distract us from the tiny, routine violations of constitutional rules.

Individual freedom, and limited government, is better.


NEXT: Asteroid Mining

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  1. "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."

    I know john stossel claims to be a libertarian but-- I've been watching him a while-- and concluded that he doesn't trod very far from where his fellow FoxNews "reporters" tread. So, is it ok if I just lump him in and say that I'm loving the plaintive wails of right-wingers concerning Donald Trump even if, in this case, the characterization is equivalent to mistaking an aquamarine crayon with one that is merely blue-green?

    1. What?!

    2. ...aaaaaand once again you miss the point entirely.

      No, its not ok if you just lump him in.

    3. What article did you just read? Did you not notice Stossel's incredulousness of ALL of these big government ideas.

      1. Also being a colorblind person, I am triggered and offended by your lack of "Colorblind Awareness". I think you need some courses on how to check your sight privileges.

        1. Slow down there just a minute! Isn't being color blind a microagression?

    4. "I know john stossel claims to be a libertarian but"

      Unless he's advocated and supported expanding the size and scope of government (Supports the Drug War, War on Terror, the National Security State, Obamacare etc.) then there is no "but"

      "he doesn't trod very far from where his fellow FoxNews "reporters" tread."

      Examples? Other than opposing Obama and Clinton when they've grown the size and scope of government or intervened abroad.


      You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.


      1. I watched some of this. Right-wing demonology is something of an obsession for me.

        What I'd say is that those are some pretty friendly disagreements. They're kind of like the discussions I have with liberal Democrats. Sure we're complicated people and thus have our disagreements, but I think we can work with them.

        1. Sure we're complicated people and thus have our disagreements, but I think we can work with them.

          In other words, we could probably lump you in with democrats.

          Yeah, I think I said that before, though you seemed to disagree last time.

          It makes sense. What's the difference between you and a democrat? Only that democrats hold their nose and vote 'D' even though their politicians triangulate with republicans, while you claim to do otherwise.

          Other than that, you're the same thing.

          1. You can call me a liberal. That's ok with me-- although I don't find it completely descriptive. Is it ok with you to call Stossel a conservative then? Why do *you people* get so tense?

            1. Gee, I don't know, racist.

              Wanna go nuts for a day again?

            2. This demonstrates the danger of parroting conservative agitprop. Conservatives worship coercion, prohibition and taxation, but abhor individual rights. When they hate "liberals" they are literally hating all who value freedom. Other statist looters exploit the niche to insert themselves as objects of conservative hatred, and through the fallacy of affirming the consequent become associated with love of freedom. In the real world the statolatry of nationalsocialism, the Inquisition and all communist faiths is identically anti-life, pro-torture and coercive.

              1. "Conservatives worship coercion, prohibition and taxation, but abhor individual rights"

                So basically they are progressives?

        2. There are wonderful places for for leftists like you. Complete Nirvana!

          I hear Cuba is nice this time of year.

          1. Make up your mind. I'm either a blood-thirsty revolutionary or a boring liberal.

            1. Boring liberal.

              You seem too pussy for blood-thirsty revolution.

              1. Call it a weak-kneed sympathy for systems of government that actually work. Sorry.

                I do get a little more militant and anarchistic when right-wing Republicans start killing hundreds of thousands of people in the ME though. I'm always at my best when faced with adversity, I guess.

                1. Go ahead: tell us all more about yourself.

                  After all, events on a national/global scale are really the most meaningful in that respect, amirite?

                  Such compassionate signaling is truly heart-warming.

    5. Ok. Slow down, take a deep breath, think about what you're actually trying to say, and write some concise statement that actually communicates whatever that is, you racist.

      1. I've stopped watching FoxNews for a while now. It was a nice habit, but ultimately one that took up too much effort at figuring out what lie or distortion was being told to me at that moment. So, you'll have to update me and tell me if FoxNews is still bitching about the IRS scandal, Obamacare, Constitutional restraints (libertarians care about the Constitution?!?), Clinton's ego, Hillary's flunkes, Ayn Rand, and cutting government spending.

        1. and cutting government spending.

          Otherwise, known as "taxing the rich more."

          1. They started talking about taxing rich people on FoxNews?!? In a context other than how lowering taxes on billionaires makes everything better and how you get more tax revenue when you cut taxes? When did this happen?

            1. american socialist:

              You've managed to falsely accuse someone of racism, engaged in elitist snobbery and now resorted to provincialism. You really are a snide type of swine...

              A page from the leftist/socialist playbook is a bitch, ain't it, racist?

              1. Is criticizing FoxNews snobbery or provincialism. You've stopped calling me racist. I miss the term.

  2. "Today, politicians act as if guardrails are just an annoyance. And they get rewarded for that."

    Couldn't agree more.

    1. Yep. This. Let's put it in the words of a typical candidate.

      What you mean I can't just become President and just declare whatever I want to? That's not how this country was founded? No man, I thought we were about freedom! You have freedom too? Don't make me laugh. Only what I care about matters.

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  4. "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."

    If only the sheeple understood this. I'll bet 90% of the voters do not. Too many see the POTUS as some sort of benevolent dictator. ;-(

    1. I'd bet it's more like 99%.

  5. "Little of that is authorized in the Constitution"

    Well it seems that anything the Federal government does is authorized. The fall back position is always that it "promotes the general welfare".

    Wallah. All is good. ;-(

    1. Whose "general welfare"??

    2. Also, voila. Not wallah.

  6. Additionally, they seem to have unlimited opportunities and power to pick the pockets of the citizen, all the while they trash the citizens rights.

  7. Much as I hate to agree with a looter demagogue, a tax on corporations, unlike a capitation tax or individual income tax, is not a violation of individual rights. Since both already exist, repealing the individual income tax FIRST would steal thunder from populist collectivists and rouse corporate welfare panhandlers into wakefulness. Before income taxes, political states had to deal with powerful merchants--not government-schooled semiliterates--in order to raise tariffs and excises. It makes sense to gradually move back along a familiar path when drafting platform planks for change to set before the voters.

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