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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1042

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal:  Hillary’s Soft Despotism, by William McGurn:

Donald Trump is Hitler. Donald Trump is a fascist. Donald Trump is a dictator. Certainly Mr. Trump has a mouth, and he’s not afraid to use it. He also speaks to adoring crowds who cheer when he says to respond in kind to activists trying to disrupt his rallies. Even so, the over-the-top claims that Mr. Trump is the new Il Duce may be distracting attention from the soft despotism that Tocqueville deemed the far likelier menace to American liberties. This kind of authoritarianism doesn’t come with goose steps or brown shirts or large populist movements. It prefers bureaucracy to bombast. It presents itself as a solution to the complexities of modern government, and it’s called the administrative state.

Philip Hamburger—a Columbia law professor and author of the 2015 book “Is Administrative Law Unlawful?”—defines the administrative state as the substitution of regulatory edicts for laws passed by the people’s elected representatives. In the American iteration, at least, this often means the same federal agency that writes the rules also enforces and adjudicates them—a confluence of powers Madison once called the “very definition of tyranny.” ...

Now, it’s certainly possible that a President Trump would seed the federal agencies with men and women who would abuse their powers for Trumpian outcomes. In real life, however, the compulsion to decree to one’s neighbor what’s best for him (and use the federal government to enforce it) is an affliction of modern American liberalism. In other words, the kind of people Hillary Clinton, if elected, would rely on to fill the federal bureaucracies, every last one of them eager and willing to impose rules on the American people that would never fly in Congress.

What kind of rules and regulations? Here are a few instances from recent years:

  • In the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, the IRS targets groups regarded as enemies of the president—pro-Israel, pro-life, pro-tea-party, etc. When this became public, its officials, including the new IRS commissioner, John Koskinen, make clear their contempt for congressional panels trying to investigate.

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Comments

“[T]he compulsion to decree to one’s neighbor what’s best for him (and use the federal government to enforce it) is an affliction of modern American liberalism.” Really? I can’t think of a single liberal who wants to require women to have vaginal probes. Or restrict access to books. Or birth control. But then, the WSJ. Because.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Mar 16, 2016 8:32:26 AM

"Or restrict access to books"

You lost it with that one Publius - there is currently a plague of liberals who want to remove any book that is insufficiently sensitive or too pro-Western/white/capitalist/colonialist/patriarchal/yougetthepoint from school curriculums.

Traditionally conservatives want to regulate the moral sphere and liberals want to regulate everything else. Only us crazy libertarians want to truly set people free to live their own lives.

Posted by: Todd | Mar 16, 2016 10:10:29 AM

Mr. Publius Novos: How about liberals that have shut down free speech on college campuses? Or Obama's DOJ Title 9 enforcers who force colleges to expel men merely accused of a sexual crime? The IRS has admitted culpability in shutting down hundreds of conservative groups last cycle. They got away with it because the MSM refuses to cover the scandal except in their "nothing to see here, move on" mode. You know who created Trump? Obama did.

Posted by: VoteOutIncumbents | Mar 16, 2016 10:54:27 AM

Trump, or any of the other candidates, might act like Obama but only two of them have campaigned on emulating and surpassing Obama's abuse of government, Hillary and Sanders.

And isn't it funny people are worried about Trump acting like Obama and not Obama acting like Obama?

Posted by: wodun | Mar 16, 2016 11:59:15 PM