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On the Acceleration of Lawfare; Friday Essays

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This past week on PolicySphere:

We interviewed Avik Roy of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity on what it’s like to start your own think tank.

We published exclusive analysis of Wednesday’s Biden Executive Order on the border.

We interviewed EPPC President Ryan T. Anderson on what it’s like to run a prestigious think tank and try to take it in a more results-oriented direction.

As is now traditional on Fridays, the Briefing includes the policy links and the Friday Essays.

Policy Links

#Lawfare – You understand that we try to steer clear from day-to-day politics and the horse race as much as possible. But this isn’t that. The obviously-politically-motivated prosecution of President Trump in New York is just the most visible example of a sustained effort by elements on the left to weaponize the American prosecutorial system against its political opponents.

As we have heard so repeatedly since 2016, any sort of republican system of government such as the one envisaged in the Constitution of the United States relies not only on written rules but on unwritten norms of behavior. These norms, in turn, at least in the theory we have all been taught, are sustained in part by a moral belief in their rightness, and in part by enlightened self-interest, specifically the idea that if one of the parties fails to abide by the norms it is only setting itself up for punishment by the other party down the line.

However, this game theory can work in a different way: if one party is convinced that the other party has abandoned all respect for the norms, then the rational choice becomes to abandon all norms oneself.

Steve Bannon, a former Trump aide and now a broadcaster, has been ordered to prison. As former State Department official Mike Benz points out, the prosecutors believed prison was justified in part because Bannon “mocks members of the Committee through offensive name-calling” and “ridicules the criminal justice system through hyperbole.” We can hardly think of anything more un-American.

Peter Navarro, Trump’s former trade adviser, is currently serving a four months prison sentence.

And it is not just former Trump officials who are targeted. As Chris Rufo notes, the “Biden Administration indicted a doctor who blew the whistle on the child sex-change program at Texas Children’s Hospital.”

Your correspondent founded PolicySphere in part in an attempt to help, in some small way, to return some sanity to the American political process. In a democracy, populism can be healthy when it functions as a canary in a coal mine, exposing ways in which the reigning policy consensus is broken. The Trump movement (and, to a smaller extent, the Sanders movement) has done this. But it also threatens to turn functioning democracies into banana republics. We can hardly think of anything more corrosive to any republic than establishing a practice of weaponizing prosecutions against political adversaries. This, also, is a policy choice. One that we dearly hope both sides reject.

#Space – The most important news of the past 24 hours is tangentially, but meaningfully, related to policy: SpaceX concluded a successful test launch and reentry of its Starship vehicle, which is designed to aid in settling and colonizing Mars. A truly historic achievement for American dynamism.

#Healthcare #Antitrust – Important from David Wainer at the WSJ: consolidation across the hospital industry has contributed to the higher cost of healthcare.

#FamilyPolicyInteresting article on the rising bipartisan support for parental leave, citing a RAND scholar.

#Infrastructure – Brookings with a reminder of the decaying state of American infrastructure.

#ImmigrationBreitbart: “Sen. Josh Hawley says President Joe Biden is giving “de facto amnesty” to hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens, using the federal government’s immigration courts.”

#Reg – In the US federal tax code, hard cider is subject to a special “bubble tax.” That is to say, literally, a tax on air.

#IndustrialPolicy – AIER’s George Leef makes the argument that lending by the government–all lending–is unconsistutional and undesirable.

Friday Essays

The other most notable event of the week was the anniversary of D-Day, which led to some beautiful meditations:

In particular, this obituary of the great American hero, the last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient, Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, by Jonathon Van Maren at The American Conservative.

Also at The American Conservative, Robert W. Merry reminds us that D-Day stands to us as an exhortation to be better.

At First Things, Jonathan Price meditates upon visiting the Normandy beaches that his grandfather stormed.

Of course, there were many good non-D-Day related essays this week.

The Spring 2024 issue of Modern Age, which has been thriving under editor Dan McCarthy, is out.

At Front Porch Republic, Hans Zeiger reviews and praises the new book by Jeffrey Rosen, The Pursuit of Happiness: How Classical Writers on Virtue Inspired the Lives of the Founders and Defined America, making an important point: in the classical view that the Founders were familiar with, the “pursuit of happiness” was inseparable from the pursuit of virtue.

At Law & Liberty, Alberto Mignardi tries to pop the balloon of AI hype: machines will never be more creative than their creators, he believes.

Also at Law & Liberty, in this era of disastrous college education, Robert C. Thornett explains how to be your own teacher.

At RealClearBooks, Stephen G. Adubato revisits Spike Lee’s 1989 classic Do the Right Thing.

At American Affairs, Jonathan Ireland studies the phenomenon of the “urban doom loop,” whereby “a falling population guts tax revenue, which forces cuts to services, thus reducing livability in a vicious cycle” and finds that “key contributor to this death spiral in progressive cities is outsourcing government to unaccountable nonprofits.”

At Tablet, Jeff Weiss appreciates the legendary French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg.

Chart of the Day

According to the research institute Epoch AI, large language models will run out of training data fairly soon.

Meme of the Day

“Just do it”

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