On Up with Chris Hayes, the first panel discussed the drone policy that was leaked this past week regarding justifications for killing Americans who are suspected of joining al Qaeda leadership, and who have become a threat to US national security now or sometime in the future. The same arguments we've heard all week were brought up on the panel, with a split in how this policy is viewed. Jeremy Scahill is sceptical, to say the least, that the administration is using utmost care to carry our drone strikes, especially against Americans. Scahill and an ACLU representative took the civil libertarian position, denouncing such power given to a President. I don't know where Hayes stands -- but I suspect he takes the civil libertarian position, although he's torn over how this position puts Obama is a very bad light. Professor Richard Epstein held the most troubling views, and his views appear to reflect the views of the administration.
When Hayes presented a hypothetical situation regarding a possible al Qaeda cell in Utah, and how it could be blown up with no due process, or with flimsy evidence, according to the drone policy, Epstein said we don't need to worry about what could happen, but what has happened and if drone useage has actually been abused. This represents the thought process of most liberal and neocon apologists I've read so far. These are dangerous ideas. First, as Hayes brought up, we don't have good information from the administration regarding policy abuse, of drone use in general, the number of innocents killed by drones or the evidence used to decide to kill Anwar al Awlaki -- we have no information why Awlaki's son was killed, except Robert Gibb's chilling statement that the 16 year old had the wrong father. Beyond that is the logic of giving a President powers not given in the Constitution, then justifying the expansion of executive power by saying it hasn't produced any terrible results.
If a President is given great powers, this includes the power of secrecy and cover-up, as the President is protected from real oversight. One of the greatest dangers regarding this way of thinking is that it opens the door to tyranny. Epstein might say we shouldn't worry about what might happen, but this is a recipe for thoughtless surrender of liberty. It's not rightwing conspiracy thinking to imagine a regime in power abusing powers that are practically limitless. The Founders attempted to limit government power, presidential power included, exactly because of what might happen down the road. They might trust a Washington, but then they knew Nixon's would exist. This is the issue, and it has to be settled. Let's say it's a call to reconsider limits on government power. Let's say it's a call to question our recent wars.
Other reasons to consider limits on government power were presented during the segment Krugman was interviewed and the panel discussion afterwards. Krugman is a statist. The participants on the panel are statists. They all believe in government interventions in the economy to solve recessions, inequality, environmental problems, discrimination, employment, etc.. I submit that decades of government interventions have created the situation they worried about in the discussion -- companies sitting on huge amounts of cash while unemployment is high and wages are falling. The effects the panel discussed are so far removed from orginal causes, it's practically impossible for such a panel on a morning news show to trace the effects back to original causes. The confusion among the panelists regarding what problems are primary and what solutions we should pursue reflect the complexity of economic matters and the futility of central planning. Smart business people have played the statist interventions in the economy, and they have become very wealthy. Some powerful corporate players were recruited by government to create a government/corporate alliance that keeps order and prevents the "chaos" of the free market. To the power elite in government and Big Business, the small, innovative, creative players are disruptive, thus government manages the economy with the help of chosen corporations. Is it any wonder that in this game the middle class and the poor lose? All that the politically unconnected can do is try to get as much from the statist system as they can, becoming dependent on the system in the process. Yes, we need government limits.
Dean Baker and Paul Krugman agreed that when policy makers make long term deficit reduction plans that kick in a decade or so down the road, it's just a game, because the congress in place down the road will do what it wants to do. One reason we need limits on power is so that each new congress doesn't intervene in their unique ways, thus, as is the case now, finally causing complete uncertainty as to what intervention is next and what it will cost. It's not the large corporations who are confused, it's the person planning a startup, the angel investor, the small businesses considering expansion, the consumer buying a home. We need limits on government power, and businesses need to know the rules and how much their government is going to cost.