Irish Democracy

Glenn Reynolds recently revived the strategy of “Irish Democracy” as a way of pushing back against unlimited Federal Expansion.  This policy was adopted by the Irish Republicans as an alternative to directly confronting the British Empire in the early 20th century.  For those unfamiliar with the idea, its clearest expression was given in the movie “Michael Collins”,  when the main character counseled the crowds against going head to head with London: “we have a weapon more powerful… than any in the whole arsenal of the British Empire! That weapon… is our refusal! … There is one weapon that the British cannot take away from us: we can ignore them.”


And that’s exactly what’s happening, Reynolds argues, across as a whole range of Federal Government programs from the War on Drugs, Border Control, War on Terror and even Obamacare.  They are becoming dead letters. They exist but not really. People aren’t exactly refusing to obey the laws. There are just so many regulations out there and so little time to obey them that inevitably 24 hours runs out before you can comply with them all.

That seems to be happening right now, in two very different areas. In one area, we have the refusal of people to sign up for Obamacare in anything like the numbers that were predicted, or needed to make it work. …

Meanwhile, on the marijuana front, the people of states like Colorado are engaging in an odd, 21st century variety of nullification. Unlike the 19th century John Calhoun version, state laws legalizing marijuana don’t purport to neutralize the still-extant federal laws banning cannabis. But the state, and millions of Coloradans, are simply ignoring the federal law and, in essence, daring the feds to do something about it.

State laws, of course, can’t neutralize federal law, as the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause makes clear. But, bloated as it is, the federal law enforcement apparatus isn’t up to the task of prosecuting all the marijuana users in Colorado. And if it tried, it would have to bring them to trial before juries in Colorado, who would probably acquit most of them. There would also be massive political backlash, amplified in the coming 2014 and 2016 elections because Colorado is a swing state. And in response to Colorado’s example, other states look likely to follow suit, making the feds’ problem much bigger.


It’s less IRA conspiracy and more the reign of chaos. Neverthless Reynolds’ use of the word “Irish” is particularly apt because the ringleader of the current uproar is that well known denizen of the Emerald Isles, Murphy. Murphy is present wherever incompetence, bankruptcy and overreach are to be found. And Murphy right now is all over the place.

Dr. Scott Atlas, writing in Forbes describes his very real attendance in Obamacare. In their hunger for authority Obamacare’s designers bit off so much that the president has had to walk things back, bit by bit, yard by yard, just to keep it lurching forward.

Clearly, there has been no shortage of pivots and ad hoc modifications to the ACA by the Obama administration. In fact, the president is coming under fire from eleven states’ attorneys and numerous legal scholars for acting outside the boundaries of his constitutional authority to unilaterally and selectively delay deadlines and modify parts of the law … Regardless of the legitimacy of the administration’s actions, the shifts were effected because the law was either literally impossible to obey as written, or because the consequences of the law became embarrassingly indefensible for President Obama personally.

Atlas notes the constant changes have made it a policy harlequin, like a clown whose garment is festooned with patches and checkered with adjustments, no two of the same color. Indeed one wag remarked that Obamacare is being repealed on installment by Obama himself. At the heart of the problem is the fact that it is inherently unworkable so it has to be held together by expensive expedients.  Twelve term Democratic Congressman Jim Moran explained it.


Jim Moran, an Appropriations Committee member who said this month that he will not seek re-election in 2014, said that not enough young people are signing up for Obamacare coverage to make the law work.

“I’m afraid that the millennials, if you will, are less likely to sign up. I think they feel more independent, I think they feel a little more invulnerable than prior generations. But I don’t think we’re going to get enough young people signing up to make this bill work as it was intended to financially.” …

“And, frankly, there’s some legitimacy to their concern because the government spends about $7 for the elderly for every $1 it spends on the young,” Moran said.

“I just don’t know how we’re going to do it frankly. If we had a solution I’d be telling the president right now,” Moran said.

Because the premises of the program were unrealistic to begin with it is holding together only by the application of subsidies and transfers, now at the stage where it needs a patch to fix the previous patch. It’s a problem the administration makes incomparably worse across the whole policy spectrum by the practice of “moving on” and “managing perceptions”. The fundamental solutions that Dr. Atlas pines for and which have eluded Congressman Moran are never seriously sought. There is only time for emergency repairs. The basic difficulties are simply buried as the administration moves things to the next news cycle.

Expedients are not limited to Obamacare, but in general to Syria, China, the deficit — every problem the administration faces. Out of money? Raise the debt limit. Next? The administration simply applies more and more spin.  But while this moves the subject off the front pages it does not actually fix anything. In the background Murphy continues to work his “Irish Democracy”. Illegal aliens continue to pour over the fence, the drug dealers swamp the streets, al-Qaeda takes one town after another, Iran continues to arm, China leaps ahead heedless of the “programs” designed to stop them.


Things fall apart because the world has one weapon that Obama cannot take away from it: it can ignore him. And it is ignoring him.

The harsh realities of dollars and cents, geopolitics and actualities are proceeding as if he never existed. The Navy is cutting down to two deployable carriers per cycle. Defense contractors are telling their shareholders that 2014 will be the worst year for revenue in recent record. The Washington Post reports the military may close the base commissaries to save money.

Nothing in his state of the union speech can change that. Murphy isn’t listening.

Paul Krugman may believe that the Fed can print money on any pretext — even against a fake space alien invasion — and is therefore omnipotent, but if so why can’t they print money to keep the commissaries open or the ships at sea?

Maybe Federal overreach is poisoning the Federal Government itself. It is self-generating its own overload. As it takes on more and more it can do less and less. “The last time I drove a car myself,” Hillary Clinton was quoted as saying by the Washington Post, “was in 1996”. The Post added “Clinton’s lack of experience behind the wheel isn’t all that unusual for a person who has been in public life as long as she has.”

And that perhaps captures better than anything else why the Federal Government may be bloating itself to death. Like a morbidly obese person who can no longer see his own feet, it can no longer even reach the steering wheel. It is suffocating itself with its own weight. And in the end Murphy will just show up with the shovel and the headstone. Here lies — and that’s a complete sentence.


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The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
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