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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4161/hamilton-on-cronyism/

Hamilton on cronyism

October 3, 2005 by

Apropos the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, this passage from Hamilton in Federalist No. 76 is worth noting:

To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? I answer, that the necessity of their concurrence would have a powerful, though, in general, a silent operation. It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. In addition to this, it would be an efficacious source of stability in the administration.

It will readily be comprehended, that a man who had himself the sole disposition of offices, would be governed much more by his private inclinations and interests, than when he was bound to submit the propriety of his choice to the discussion and determination of a different and independent body, and that body an entier branch of the legislature. The possibility of rejection would be a strong motive to care in proposing. The danger to his own reputation, and, in the case of an elective magistrate, to his political existence, from betraying a spirit of favoritism, or an unbecoming pursuit of popularity, to the observation of a body whose opinion would have great weight in forming that of the public, could not fail to operate as a barrier to the one and to the other. He would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of coming from the same State to which he particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure.

Of course, Hamilton was speaking of a hypothethical chief executive who would be capable of feeling shame or fear, instead of the cloistered sociopath that is currently running amok in the White House.

And regarding the nomination itself, my initial thought is that the White House learned an important lesson from the Roberts confirmation–if you nominate someone with experience in the executive branch, you can hide that person’s work from the public by invoking “executive privilege” (which doesn’t exist under a “strict constructionist” reading of the Constitution.) The Democrats chose not to press this issue too hard during the Roberts hearing, specifically with regard to his work as a deputy solicitor general, but with Miers, document disclosure could become the central issue.


Harry Valentine October 3, 2005 at 11:30 am

There’s an old political adage that goes something like ” DO FOR THY POLITICAL CRONY AS THINE POLITICAL CRONY HAS DONE FOR THEE”.

Harry Valentine

Lowell R. October 3, 2005 at 11:49 am

I had no trouble supporting Roberts’ nomination. He was smart, well-versed in relevant legal issues, experienced, and didn’t advocate anything outlandish (approval of Korematsu, etc.).

And now I will have even less trouble opposing Harriet Miers. It is absurd for a president to nominate his former personal attorney to serve on the Supreme Court, especially when she has virtually no experience answering Constitutional questions.

Of course, Thomas didn’t have any experience either, but that didn’t stop him from one of the best two or three justices on the Court today. I hope Miers is like that. But frankly, I don’t know. If Bush’s appointment of Roberts was, as commentators said, calculated to make everyone happy (and a 78-22 vote showed that worked), this decision seems calculated to make no one happy. Dems will scream cronyism (as they should), while Republicans will protest that they’ve been given someone who’s more a potential Souter than Souter was (as they should — she gave money to Al Gore!).

Cheney will be appearing on the Rush Limbaugh show at 1:00 EDT to defend this pick, FYI.

Roger McKinney October 3, 2005 at 11:49 am

“cloistered sociopath?” Oliva makes the wild-eyed angry left seem reasonable.

Ryan Fuller October 3, 2005 at 3:00 pm

No, I think “cloistered sociopath” is exactly the sort of thing the Angry Left would say. I don’t think the allegation is relevant; all it does is alienate the half of the political scene that otherwise might be inclined to listen to Austrian ideas from time to time.

Aaron Kneile October 3, 2005 at 3:03 pm

“Cloistered sociopath,” is a clever but unnecessary phrase that in my mind detracts from an otherwise strong and eloquent argument.

A de-personalized argument for liberty is not as easily dismissed as one in which the author offers an attack upon his or her opponent. Such a personal attack steers the discussion away from the realm of ideas and toward winning the argument. We must stay focused on the ideas, for it is a great deal easier to prove an idea right or wrong than a person.

Attack the performance or policies. Attack an idea. Don’t attack a person; it shifts the argument away from objective analysis, where freedom is the logical victor.

I’m not sure I’d say “Angry Left” either.

Ryan Fuller October 3, 2005 at 3:27 pm

I use “Angry Left” to distinguish between the the part of the Left wing that calls Bush things like “cloistered sociopath” and the part that simply disagrees with his policies. I don’t mean to group the entire left wing under the term “Angry Left.”

Sag October 3, 2005 at 4:53 pm

It’s amazing. Call a spade a spade and somehow the “Angry Left” springs to some people’s minds. Could it be that the “half of the political scene that otherwise might be inclined to listen to Austrian ideas from time to time” are simply state worshippers of the Republican variety? The US president could never be a “cloistered sociopath” could he? Well, he is…

Andy D October 3, 2005 at 6:45 pm

Fine, but what is the point? How many other presidents have placed their cronies?

We all know what to expect from the government, on the left and the right.

Ryan Fuller October 3, 2005 at 7:16 pm

The point is that mixing personal attacks (justified or not) with arguments for freedom allows people to ignore the argument for freedom by focusing on whether the personal attack is justified or not.

If you want to make an argument for freedom, great. Don’t screw it up by mixing it up with an attack on the President’s mental health. Then you just get dismissed out of hand by the people who you otherwise might be able to influence for the better.

fancyleprachaun October 4, 2005 at 6:48 pm

If they are here, they’re already willing to listen to the logical arguments.

The meat is still there, it’s not an ad-hominem attack, it’s a logical attack with expletive spice.

Anything else, would be boring.

Ryan Fuller October 4, 2005 at 8:19 pm

The Right still pays lip-service to free market ideals. They may occasionally repost an article for a much wider (and less friendly) audience, if it doesn’t contain inflammatory remarks for “spice.”

Our arguments will be rejected out of hand by the Left. Whether the Right will listen to us from time to time depends on our ability to pick our battles. We don’t have to abandon our principles, we just have to keep our focus on one issue at a time so we don’t completely alienate every possible audience who doesn’t already agree with us before we can finish our arguments.

Sometimes libertarians seem to be playing a game, trying to see how long they can make good arguments without actually convincing anybody. Make an argument and maybe you’ll convince somebody. Throw in expletive spice and the argument will just be ignored by anyone who doesn’t like your flavoring.

Libertarian ideals would have a lot more influence in US politics if it weren’t for the libertarians.

Wild Pegasus October 5, 2005 at 6:43 pm

Score another one for the anti-federalists.

- Josh

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