Lightning Round: Joining the Human Freedom Club is Kind of A Big Deal.

  • Radley Balko asks liberals whether they believe the Constitution puts any restrictions on the powers of the federal government, excluding the Bill of Rights. I'm going assume he means the power of federal government to encroach on individual liberty, and if that's the case then excluding the Bill of Rights is bizarre since those ten amendments were designed to specifically address various issues of individual liberty. And I'll agree with Scott Lemiuex and Matt Yglesias that the Constitution functions primarily as a blueprint for competing political institutions, which is supposed to keep overall government power in check, although the effectiveness of "checks and balances" is debatable.
  • I think Ross Douthat is essentially correct when he says that Mitt Romney's policy dexterity is so extreme that it renders judgment on his hypothetical presidential administration all but futile. I used to think that because Romney will bend in any direction he could be reasoned with, and thus could be a reasonable president. Not any more. The fact that we have no idea what he would do strongly suggests that he is no longer qualified for the office in the first place.
  • David Leonhardt reminds us of the long tradition of conservatives denouncing socialism, and the key point is, as I see it, that for an ideology regarded as nothing less than the stepping stone to totalitarianism, it sure seems like we've crossed the threshold many, many times. Which gets us back to a discussion from earlier this year about a lost "golden age" of freedom. In short, while the size of the federal government has increased (although I think "size" is an irrelevant metric) and there is greater economic regulation, recognizing the rights of women, blacks, gays, Jews, etc. has been a great advance for human freedom.
  • Remainders: A retrospective on the 111th Congress; Harry Reid can keep the Senate in session continuously until the 11th Congress expires, for all I care; and I'm skeptical that "communication skills" matter compared to partisan loyalty and economic performance in presidential elections.

--Mori Dinauer