Law

Crises Bring Out the Toddler in Power-Hungry Politicians

Thwarted politicians rant, pout, and are outraged by anybody who pushes back.

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The closest approximations to eternal toddlers in our society may be government officials told there are limits on the extent to which they can screw with human lives. They rant, they pout, and sometimes they even vow to poke and prod others anyway, daring anybody to make them stop. The distilled essence of a thwarted brat was on prominent display last week when New York City's mayor raged at the United States Supreme Court for daring to say that, even during a time of perceived crisis, a government agency can't unilaterally let people squat on private property.

"A group of right wing extremists just decided to throw families out of their homes during a global pandemic," Mayor Bill de Blasio responded to a decision voiding the Biden administration's extension of the national eviction moratorium. "This is an attack on working people across our country and city. New York won't stand for this vile, unjust decision."

The reaction was especially off the wall given that the Supreme Court warned that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have no authority to suspend property rights. Even President Joe Biden conceded that his executive branch didn't have the authority the CDC asserted during both his and the preceding Trump administration.

"The bulk of the constitutional scholarship says that it's not likely to pass constitutional muster," the president admitted on August 3. Not that a lack of authority held him back.

"But, at a minimum, by the time it gets litigated, it will probably give some additional time while we're getting that $45 billion out to people who are, in fact, behind in the rent and don't have the money," Biden added, explaining that he was going ahead with the eviction moratorium despite a lack of authority to do so because it's all for a good cause. 

That should be an interesting precedent for future officials who decide that a lack of authority is no reason to refrain from bypassing checks and balances or even outright ignoring fundamental rights while the matter "gets litigated." After all, Biden is far from rare among government officials in invoking good intentions as justification for wandering far beyond the bounds of permissible authority.

"Today's decision is a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period," California Gov. Gavin Newsom snorted after a federal judge struck down the state's ban on some semi-automatic rifles. He ignored the court's finding that the type of firearm restricted by the law "is the kind of versatile gun that lies at the intersection of the kinds of firearms protected under District of Columbia v. Heller" landmark 2008 Supreme Court Second Amendment decision.

"What's not up for debate is that our early and decisive action saved lives," sniffed Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf after another federal judge pointed out that "the Constitution cannot accept the concept of a 'new normal' where the basic liberties of the people can be subordinated to open-ended emergency-mitigation measures."

Maybe it's something in New York's water, but former President Donald Trump sounded positively de Blasio-esque in 2017 when a judge thwarted his will (or, perhaps more accurately, de Blasio later emulated his former constituent's lead).

"The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!" Trump huffed after a federal judge overturned his ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Then again, this was the same guy who told an audience, "I have the right to do whatever I want as president but, I don't even talk about that."

That got a lot of coverage at the time, but the conduct of many officeholders makes it clear that Trump just said what other officials believe. Since then, as Wolf, Newsom, Biden, and now de Blasio illustrate, saying the quiet part out loud has become increasingly popular. Politicians and their supporters resent restrictions on the exercise of power, lash out at anybody who would keep their actions within any sort of limits, and openly exercise authority that they publicly acknowledge doesn't exist.

Undoubtedly, people who go into government have always chafed at any effort to make them live within legal and constitutional constraints. Government, after all, is defined by the use of coercive power. That the power is supposed to be exercised only within limits must be frustrating to people who were attracted by the opportunity to coerce others for reasons that they always argue are the very best.

Worse, recent years have seen growing animosity between political factions in the United States which have grown impatient with protections for the rights of their enemies. Driving this, in part, is "'partisan moral disengagement,' which entails seeing the other party as evil, less than human and a serious threat to the nation," as political scientists Lilliana Mason and Nathan Kalmoe wrote earlier this year. Why, many people ask themselves, respect restraints that stand in the way of purging evil from this world?

Then the pandemic, involving real public health threats as well as exaggerated fears, ruptured limits on the exercise of power.

"Governors in most states possess the power to act unilaterally and without need for any legislative approval, in ways not fully appreciated prior to the coronavirus, and in ways that are already leading to a reconsideration of some state emergency-power arrangements," John Dinan, a Wake Forest University professor of politics, noted last year. It was an updated acknowledgement of Robert Higgs's observation that crises drive growth in government power (and it rarely returns to its original state).

Even before the stresses and strains of the last few years, government officials were already attracted to power and inclined to test its limits. Factionalization and crisis have eroded the restraints on that power. And now, like toddlers, the people who rule over us feel justified in doing what they please to those at their mercy and are outraged by anybody who pushes back.

NEXT: Brickbat: Perks of the Job

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  2. Excuse Me, “Throw families out of ?their? homes….”
    What is it about leftards that make them think whatever they see, where-ever they are, how ever it happens is ?THEIRS?……..

    Oh yeah; That’s right – It’s the indoctrination of communism. What’s your is ours and what’s ours is mine.

    Greedy, Selfishness, and Justification for Theft on full display.

    1. Let’s go a bit deeper too.

      The good old federal (Yet UN-Constitutional) bribes of FHA, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, Land Hording, Money Printing, Excessive Taxation is the very reason so many don’t *own* their homes. It’s also the very reason real estate giants started making massive incomes on real estate inflation. If people had to buy houses like they bought them before all this garbage the price would represent the value and nothing else. Spending 50-years of labor for a box of wood isn’t market pricing… It’s federal corruption pricing.

      1. Keeping up with the Joneses hasn’t helped either. Need to buy an X square foot house with Y bedrooms and Z bathrooms. And a Q car garage.

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  3. Politicians are free to open up their home(s) to the recently evicted.

    1. Apparently the Power-Mad one’s think they are ?free? to open up YOUR home(s) to them also. What’s yours is theirs.

  4. It’s a mystery to me why anybody would invest money in rental properties these days. You’d get a better return spending it all on hookers.

    1. Or Hunter Biden art – – – – – –

    2. I like to give a large tip to all the hookers I rent.

      1. Just the tip?

    3. My rental properties have averaged something like 20
      23-28% CAGR since I started buying, including price appreciation and mortgage paydown. If you go just cash flow divided by cash to acquire, in the last year it’s over 11% cash on cash. I manage them myself, so there are a good number of headaches, but the early retirement will be more than worth it. Not one of my tenants missed a single rent payment since COVID started.

      1. My rental properties have averaged something like 20
        23-28% CAGR

        The 1 year return on the S&P 500 is 34%, and that’s a whole lot less work.

        And it’s mostly inflation anyway.

      2. Well, goody for you. You felt impelled to tell us this why?

        1. …btw, did you even get the message of the subject of this article? There’s nothing other than current fashion to prevent the Newsoms of the world from declaring that not only cannot you evict your tenants but that their obligation to pay you rent is not merely deferred but void. And that you can’t deny anyone tenancy. Particularly if Court-packing schemes succeed. But YOUR properties will perform just fine, right, because you’re so perspicacious?

    4. “”You’d get a better return spending it all on hookers.””

      So Charlie Sheen was ahead of the game?

  5. That anyone believes politicians go into politics for anything else than power is a mystery to me.

    1. Some citizens fed-up with Power-Mad politicians run to curtail that power. I.e. President Trump.

      1. In fairness, he was definitely power mad himself.

  6. “Crises Bring Out the Toddler in Power-Hungry Politicians”

    Enough about Trump refusing to accept the election results! Jeez!

    1. Nope, you arent a lefty shill at all.

      Only the 2016 election was complained about, not the 2000 or 2004 elections, or the Georgia 2018 election….

      1. *2020
        Add 2016 with the others

      2. Democrats always accept election defeat with quiet dignity.

        1. And support recalls as a fundamental aspect of Democracy.

    2. Still addled like Joe Biden and consumed with TDS.

    3. Hans von Spakovsky: Missing Ballots in Three States Exceed Joe Biden’s Victory Margins

      Biden’s margin of victory in Wisconsin was approximately 20,000 votes despite the number of ballots “missing or undeliverable” in the state amounting to 83,000, von Spakovsky noted.

      “Remember the margin of victory in Wisconsin was only 20,000 votes, and that basically 82,000 ballots were either lost or undeliverable or were rejected,” von Spakovsky said on Wednesday’s edition of SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Daily with host Alex Marlow. “That’s four times the margin of victory.”

      “Those are the numbers that the Wisconsin Election Commission itself reported to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission,” he added.</i

      1. “Racine failed to comply with state laws, including obtaining from the (Wisconsin Elections Commission) a prior determination of the legality” of the conditions the third-party groups placed on the city in return for more than $940,000 in “safe, inclusive, and secure” voting grant funding, the complaint states.

        1. Milwaukee becomes the fourth of the so-called “WI-5” cities to be accused of election law violations under state law and the U.S. Constitution as more details emerge about the cities’ cozy partnerships with the “safe elections” groups. The complaints have been filed with the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which has sought outside counsel because its administrator is accused of being conflicted.

          The Chicago-based Center for Tech and Civic Life handed out more than $8 million in “election safety and security” grants to Wisconsin’s five largest and most heavily Democratic cities — Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine. The brunt of that — $6.3 million — was distributed as part of a controversial contract between the center and the cities. CTCL received more than $300 million from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, ostensibly to “help” local elections offices administer “safe and secure elections.”

          1. “Hundreds of millions of dollars purchased local election offices in 2020 to benefit one political candidate, paying salaries of election officials and literally dictating the manner in which the election should be managed,” Phill Kline, director of The Amistad Project said in a press release. “Evidence in Green Bay proves this shadow government ran the election and now it is time those involved come clean.”

    4. You seem confused. What crisis are you suggesting was the reason that Trump didn’t “accept” the stolen election?

      (Actually, he “accepted” it too readily, btw.)

  7. Shorter version, government sucks and politicians like to grab power.

    Wow!

    1. I get pissy when my rights are constricted. Oh! My rights are constitutionally protected.

      You are correct. Government sucks and politicians like to grab power.

    2. Indeed, the sky is dark at night. Lets only talk about celebrities.

      Just for the dumb like you: /sarc

  8. Bill DeBlasio and Gavin Newsom — the Smartest Guys in the Room — because even when a room is filled with imbeciles, fools and morons, someone is still the smartest among them.

  9. The closest approximations to eternal toddlers in our society may be government officials told there are limits on the extent to which they can screw with human lives.

    True enough. In contrast, cocktail party “libertarian” writers like Tuccille have graduated from “toddler” to “self-important teenagers”, beating off while spouting platitudes and imagining themselves to be insightful and profound.

  10. The Article 2 Trump quote was about the power he had over the Mueller investigation. Way to take it out of context.
    Fixing government is simple, prohibit it from initiating force. I suggest a 28th amendment, “Government shall not initiate force.”

    1. Also, his authority over foreign policy is rather extensive and his ban on countries did not include the largest Muslim countries, so arguing it was a Muslim ban was always idiotic.

      1. Don’t let facts get in the way of a good “Orange Man Bad”.

      2. Trump had explicit black letter law authorizing him to do what he did. He didn’t have to rely on “his authority over foreign policy”. The author of this article is brain-dead. Trump saying some ridiculous kritarchal ruling will be overturned (it was) is not the same as deBlasio or Newsom saying an obviously correct ruling will not be obeyed.

        The correct response to, say, the recent ruling by the 9th Circuit that the right to bear arms is a nullity is NOT “Well, let’s see what SCOTUS says.”

  11. For a minute I was worried that Trump couldn’t be dragged into it, but Tuccille managed it, as he always does.

  12. This article in 7 word: “because it’s all for a good cause.”

    Today’s crop of activist politicians [being those who pander to activists] would have us believe that “invoking good intentions as justification for wandering far beyond the bounds of permissible authority.”

    By any means possible; what could possibly go wrong? Literally paving a road to perdition.

    1. The word “literally” does not mean what you imagine it to mean.

  13. “This is an attack on working people across our country and city.”

    Wait a minute…

  14. IS it me or does it feel like Reason is throwing softballs when it comes to these things, and always with the Trump throw in. Sheesh, let it go.

    1. Always soft balls with the left. We all know the true threat to this country is MAGA spouting, red hat wearing, white supremacist domestic terrorists.

  15. “People are dying” bleat the sheep.

  16. And by toddler we mean “Literally Hitler”.

    1. You know who else was LITERALLY Hitler?

  17. Was a decent article and was enjoying it until I got to the “but Trump” section. Does Reason no longer have journalists who are NOT vying for a job at Politico or Salon or The Atlantic? Can no one at Reason write an article on their actual merits without invoking Trump’s name? Can we please ban the phrase “but Trump” from our lexicon?

  18. Reason backed this, Reason backed Biden, Reason backed the Democrats. I don’t want to hear Reason whine now.

    1. I kinda enjoy the squealing of clapped cheeks, myself. The buyer’s remorse is just barely weaker than the remaining TDS.

  19. I was actually enjoying the article until this clown had to “but Trump!” and then stopped reading. Can’t help themselves.

    1. Ok. Sorry, Billy Bones. I have no idea how I so thoroughly plagiarized your comment.

  20. “… former President Donald Trump sounded positively de Blasio-esque in 2017 when a judge thwarted his will…”The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump huffed after a federal judge overturned his ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.”

    But Trump was right. It WAS ridiculous and it WAS overturned.
    How is this like de Blasio declaring that property rights ought not be respected, again?

    1. Because if he didn’t include that, it would have been all about Democrats, and no Reason author can do that.

      1. That was my thought, without the generalization about Reason authors, who I don’t know well enough to generalize about. But, yes, the failure to make the distinction between sound and unsound reactions to kritarchy seemed diagnostic of SOMEthing.

  21. If people would just read the damn Constitution there would be fewer surprises.

    1. Reason writers don’t give a f*ck about the Constitution; they have their “libertarian” principles and they are going to stick to them. If the Constitution disagrees with their principles, then they believe the Constitution is wrong. And their “libertarian” principles are largely indistinguishable from progressivism.

    2. Constitution worship is misplaced. It’s not that well written, so you can know it by heart and still have little idea what it means or was intended to mean. Birthright citizenship, anyone? And what was that “militia” language there for?

  22. Where do I comment on how obnoxious the pop-up video that won’t take “x” for an answer is?

  23. I’m sure many a vigilante felt that they can put plenty of things right before everything is litigated. /s

  24. What you mean the President and the CDC have to follow the law??? Not these days and thought it has gone on a long time it seemed to escalate when Obama was in office. The could not get Congress to pass laws because they were scared to be put on record for his LEFTIST schemes. That might end thier political career. No we have a Socialist as the Author of a 3.5 Trillion Social Engineering Bill.

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