What was once valuable tax relief now amounts almost entirely to windfall returns flowing to businesses that don’t need them. The credit has thus become a magnet for fraudsters scheming to vacuum up more taxpayer dollars. Instead of costing $55 billion, as initially expected, estimates from budget analyst Donald Schneider suggest the tab could exceed $550 billion.
When Amazon announced plans in 2017 to open a second headquarters (“HQ2”), it encouraged “local and state government leaders” to compete for the project. After receiving several multibillion-dollar offers, Amazon chose Arlington—directly adjacent to Washington, D.C. The state offered as much as $750 million in conditional grants for Amazon to build its campus in Virginia, and in April 2023, the company requested its first tranche of taxpayer funds—over $152 million. While phase one of the project was completed in May 2023, construction is paused indefinitely on phase two.
The sheer numbers are staggering, as the regulatory factory on the Potomac spews negative externalities, polluting the economy. 2023 closed with 90,402 pages of rules and regulations published in the Federal Register — you read that right… more than ninety thousand pages of rules. The Biden administration finished the year with the second-longest collection of all time. President Obama holds the record at 95,894, and President Biden just displaced President Trump’s record of 86,356 pages in 2020. To achieve this feat, the Biden administration beat its own record of 79,856 pages in 2022.
But the numbers are not the only challenge. Indeed, regulatory watchers find themselves playing whack-a-mole with the variety of rules and regulatory agencies. It is now a sadly quaint notion that Congress, and only Congress, makes the laws. The language of the Constitution is unambiguous, and it’s right there at the beginning, just after the Preamble, in Article 1, Section 1: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States” (emphasis added). Alas, this crystal-clear language, and the non-delegation doctrine which flows from it, are routinely ignored. Instead, we see an alphabet soup of rule-making agencies.
To be fair to him, it is simply beyond his poor powers of comprehension to understand that tariffs — he vows 10 percent on all imports from everywhere — are taxes paid by American consumers and producers. So, to a nation furious about inflation, he promises to raise the cost of living, especially for his lower-income idolaters, who necessarily devote disproportionate shares of their incomes to consumption.
The resignation of Claudine Gay provides a window into many pathologies of elite universities—antisemitism on campus, the prioritization of DEI over merit, and plagiarism among academics. But it also reflects their poor governance. The Harvard Corporation made mistake after mistake—first, in deciding to hire Gay, then, in defending her after a disastrous performance before Congress and substantial allegations of plagiarism. They even hired lawyers to threaten the media who were disseminating the truth about her research. Before the choice of Gay, the Corporation had permitted identity politics rather than merit to become such a comprehensive governing principle for Harvard that an objectively absurd candidate like Gay could seem a logical choice.
Do you notice that it’s the elite institutions that push for censorship? The reason why free speech is important is that it empowers the powerless to hold the powerful to account. They want censorship because they don’t like being criticized.
Matt Lutz describes liberalism as “a peace treaty.” (HT David Levey) Two slices:
By “liberalism,” of course, I don’t mean the political ideology associated with the Democratic party in the US. Nor do I mean the political ideology associated with Conservative parties elsewhere around the world (where the word “liberal” has the opposite political valence that it does in the US). I mean “small-l liberalism,” the idea that the government certainly, but also the majority of institutions in civil society, should not be actively interfering in how people want to live their lives. Liberalism is about promoting the kinds of freedoms guaranteed in the US First Amendment (freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, etc.). It’s the “live and let live” political ethos.
To understand this case for liberalism, it’s best to think about the fires in which this ideology was forged, the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe. This was a time when Catholics and Protestants butchered one another in huge numbers across the continent regarding points of religious doctrine that most people today would find rather esoteric. These wars stopped with the Treaty of Westphalia, which essentially enshrined “live and let live” as a political doctrine. Europe was divided into nation states; the ruler of each state could choose what the official religion of that state would be; and the citizens of that state were free to follow the official religion, or not, as they chose. Both internationally and intranationally, everyone agree to stop killing one another over religion, and the wars ended.