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Opening Arguments

Power play

Whew! Cato Institute Vice President Gene Healy has announced his annual Worst Op-Ed of the Year winner, and it isn't me. The honor goes to New York Times thumbsucker David Brooks, whose winning entry explains "why we need to strengthen the presidency":

“This is a good moment to advocate greater executive branch power because we've just seen a monumental example of executive branch incompetence: the botched Obamacare rollout.” We suffer from “reform stagnation,” Brooks laments. It's too hard to push through “immigration reformtax reformentitlement reform and gun legislation” via the archaic "Schoolhouse Rock!" method outlined in Article I of the Constitution.

I was sort of rooting for another Times columnist, Tom Friedman, whose stuff is so awful he should be given a lifetime achievement awared for preposterous op-eds. But I can see the wisdom of the choice of Brooks. To advocate more power for the presidency at this moment in history, when we have a rogue chief executive who does pretty much as he pleases without regard to law or Constitution, is just jaw-dropping stupid. As Healy writes:

It might strike you as counterintuitive to imagine that a president with a drone fleet, a “kill list,” dragnet databases of Americans' personal information and increasingly arbitrary authority over health care's one-sixth of the U.S. economy has too little power—but that's how you know you're in the presence of an original thinker.

[. . .]

Awarding President Obama “the Worst Year in Washington,” the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza runs through the litany of scandals: IRS targeting of Tea Party groups; Edward Snowden's exposure of massive NSA spying; administration dissembling over Benghazi; and the “complete failure” of the federal health insurance exchange rollout. Which of these, exactly, is a result of too little power in the presidency?

Firedman, you may know, is also a big fan of totalitarians' ability to get things done and wishes we were more like China instead of having to rely on that messy old democratic process.

Watching both the health care and climate/energy debates in Congress, it is hard not to draw the following conclusion: There is only one thing worse than one-party autocracy, and that is one-party democracy, which is what we have in America today.

One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century. It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power. China’s leaders understand that in a world of exploding populations and rising emerging-market middle classes, demand for clean power and energy efficiency is going to soar. Beijing wants to make sure that it owns that industry and is ordering the policies to do that, including boosting gasoline prices, from the top down.

I cannot understand this childlike faith in authority and the utter lack of understanding about the corrupting influence of power. These guys will push one Mussolini after another at us and will never, ever get it no matter how many times their favorite "enlightened autocracy" turns thug.