The PJ O'Rourke / Cato Supreme Court amicus brief that is making the rounds is well worth your time. A lot of it is funny, like this footnote:
While President Obama isn’t from Kenya, he is a Keynesian—so you can see where the confusion arises.
But my favorite is footnote 15 where they make fun of the Supreme Court
Driehaus voted for Obamacare, which the Susan B. Anthony List said was the equivalent of voting for taxpayer- funded abortion. Amici are unsure how true the allegation is given that the healthcare law seems to change daily, but it certainly isn’t as truthy as calling a mandate a tax.
The PJ Tatler has this bit on the arming of government bureaucrats:
Quin Hillyer discusses the increasing armed firepower of the federal government. Most people expect agencies like the FBI to be well armed for law enforcement purposes. But the Railroad Retirement Board? He reports that federal agencies far and wide now have armed agents, including the Small Business Administration. For what? To scare away phony 8(a) applications?? The United States Department of Education bought 27 Remington Model 870 12-gauge shotguns last year
I have no insight into what is going on in these particular agencies. But I can comment on another agency. Nearly every state parks organization has seen a proliferation of law enforcement titles among its employees. Seemingly every field employee nowadays needs to have a gun and a badge. Why?
Well, there are those who say that this arms race is necessary to keep the parks safe against some mythical crime wave. But I can say with some authority, since our company runs over 150 public parks across the country, that with very, very few exceptions, parks don't need this kind of on-site law enforcement support. Most problems can be handled with on-site customer service employees, with the occasional call the the sheriff if things get rough. In fact, customer service is actually improved without all the badges around. Rangers with law enforcement credentials tend to solve issues with their visitors by issuing citations. This is awful customer service -- I am sure McDonald's doesn't like it if someone messes up the bathroom or parks across two parking spaces, but you won't see them issuing citations to their customers.
The reason for this proliferation of law enforcement titles in parks is not demand for order, but incentives among employees. In most states, getting a law enforcement title in a parks organization gives one an automatic raise, participation in the far-more-lucrative state law enforcement pension plan, and training that can be valuable when one leaves the parks organization. Also, for some, it carries non-monetary benefits -- some folks think its cool to wield a gun and a badge.
Megan McArdle has a long excerpt from a PJ O'Roarke book that described a sudden acceleration panic around Audis in the the 1980s. You will be amazed at how similar it all is to the more recent Toyota panic.
I found this new blog called Whiskey and Car Keys by accident -- I actually am working on a regular writing column and thought about this as a title for the column (from the PJ O'Rourke quote about giving power to government being like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boy). Anyway, they ticked me off by grabbing a good name ahead of me, but I can't stay mad at a young group blog that seems to be focused on libertarian issues and burrito reviews.
A few posts ago I wrote my annual rant against Kwanzaa as a seven step program to socialism. I concluded that if blacks in America wanted to stay poor and under the power of others, they could take no better step than to pursue the seven values in Kwanzaa.
In a stunning gap in my reading, I have never read PJ O'Rourke's "Eat the Rich." However, David Boaz reports this interesting snippet from the book:
In Tanzania he gapes at the magnificent natural beauty and the
appalling human poverty. Why is Tanzania so poor? he asks people, and
he gets a variety of answers. One answer, he notes, is that Tanzania is
actually not poor by the standards of human history; it has a life
expectancy about that of the United States in 1920, which is a lot
better than humans in 1720, or 1220, or 20. But, he finally concludes,
the real answer is the collective "ujamaa" policies pursued by the sainted post-colonial leader Julius Nyerere. The answer is "ujaama"”they planned it. They planned it, and we paid for it. Rich countries underwrote Tanzanian economic idiocy."
For those not familiar with Kwanzaa, Ujamaa is one of the seven principals celebrated in Kwanzaa.