What an absolutely astounding admission former Fed boss Alan Greenspan makes about his new book The Map and The Territory: “Not a single major forecaster of note or institution caught it [the 2008 crash]. The Federal Reserve has got the most elaborate econometric model, which incorporates all the newfangled models of how the world works—and it missed it completely. I was actually flabbergasted. It upended my view of how the world worked.”
Archives for November 2013
Technical prowess notwithstanding, US communications intelligence is dumb congenitally. In a previous column I explained that NSA’s use of sensitive antennas to capt the electronic spectrum, of supercomputers to record “the take,” and of sophisticated algorithms to search it suffer from the same deadly lack of quality control (counterintelligence) that afflicts human collection; moreover that elementary countermeasures reduce even the possibility of capting useful information. The latest revelations that the NSA has been listening to such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s private conversations as well as to Cardinals at papal conclaves highlight a more fundamental flaw, namely US government officials’ misunderstanding of intelligence, of the very reason for spying.
Mark Helprin, award-winning novelist, former member of the Israeli Army and Air Force, foreign and military policy strategist, comes to Liberty Law Talk to discuss his latest novel, In Sunlight and In Shadow. Strange, you say, for a site devoted to law and political thought to devote time to a novel, a love story at that. However, Helprin's book is a story of many things that all seem to connect and hold together. The tapestry created is of love, honor, dignity, and the freedom to act heroically within a democratic political and social order that trims, calculates, and forgets the…
Kevin D. Williamson has posted an excellent takedown at National Review of a National Journal assault on the Constitutional regime. This latter piece, a polemic by Alex Seitz-Wald, argues that the founding document, while innovative in its time, no longer reflects humanity’s best constitutional erudition. Williamson’s critique is definitive—he notes, among other points, that the regime is not defective simply because it has failed to produce results in accordance with a critic’s proclivities—but I would amplify one point. Seitz-Wald argues for a sort of latter-day constitutional technocracy arising from science and divorced from experience that describes neither what happened at Philadelphia nor that for which any political society ought to wish today.
Seitz-Wald writes: “What was for the Founders a kind of providential revelation—designing, from scratch, a written charter and democratic system at a time when the entire history of life on this planet contained scant examples of either—has been worked into science.” Actually, the entire history of planetary life contained the British constitution, which the convention delegates much admired, and, more important, upwards of a century-and-a-half of uniquely American experience with self-government from which constitutional institutions evolved.
Obamacare is on the ropes. As everyone is beginning to understand, the malfunctioning website is the least of it. There’s the millions of canceled individual policies, skyrocketing Medicaid enrollments … and much more trouble ahead. As previously reported, four pending lawsuits challenge an IRS rule that would extend the ACA’s coverage mandates and subsidies into states that have declined to establish a state exchange and are now operating under healthcare.gov. Sean Trende has a tremendous piece on the four cases here. Two of the cases were brought by states (Oklahoma and Indiana). The other two were cobbled together by the Competitive Enterprise…
A Realist Who Preached Jeremiads: Will Hay in our feature essay this week reviews an expanded sixtieth anniversary edition of George Kennan's American Diplomacy. Hay writes: American Diplomacy originated in the Charles Walgren lectures Kennan gave at the University of Chicago in 1951 after he left government for the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton. The published version became a standard text for courses in diplomatic history and international relations that went through several editions with new material added. Kennan expressed surprise to an audience at Grinnell College in 1984 that it remained in print. A new anniversary edition includes the…
In this, its centennial year, Charles Beard’s 1913 An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States retains its hold on both the publication market and, at least in certain circles, the popular imagination. Its claim that the Founders were possessive aristocrats out to protect the property of the privileged has, to be sure, been demolished in the scholarly literature, most notably by Forrest McDonald. But it may be time for those who respect the Framers to acknowledge at least one deep vein of truth in Beard’s thesis and reply with an even deeper one. Call it “the Seinfeld defense”: Yes, they wanted to protect property—not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The idea that the Founders had to be redeemed from Beard’s charge has so framed the response to the Progressive historian that the charge itself has been too little examined. But while Beard’s assessment of the personal economic stakes of the Philadelphia delegates was, as McDonald and others have shown, mistaken, his deeper point cannot and indeed ought not be dismissed: One purpose of the Philadelphia project was the protection of property.