Lean Government

Has the Rule of Law been abandoned in the US?

I have always admired the US Constitution in general but most of all the strict adherence to the principle of Rule Of Law. This principle now seems fast to be eroding. During George W Bush the Rule of Law as regards to individual privacy all but disappeared  and now the Obama administrations behavior in the Chrysler bankruptcy has made it go away in business life as well.

Todd Zwycki writes in today Wall Street Journal and it makes me aghast, totally horrified.

Chrysler and the Rule of Law-The Founders put the contracts clause in the Constitution for a reason.

The rule of law, not of men — an ideal tracing back to the ancient Greeks and well-known to our Founding Fathers — is the animating principle of the American experiment. While the rest of the world in 1787 was governed by the whims of kings and dukes, the U.S. Constitution was established to circumscribe arbitrary government power. It would do so by establishing clear rules, equally applied to the powerful and the weak.

Fleecing lenders to pay off politically powerful interests, or governmental threats to reputation and business from a failure to toe a political line? We might expect this behavior from a Hugo Chávez. But it would never happen here, right?

Until Chrysler.

The value of the rule of law is not merely a matter of economic efficiency. It also provides a bulwark against arbitrary governmental action taken at the behest of politically influential interests at the expense of the politically unpopular. The government’s threats and bare-knuckle tactics set an ominous precedent for the treatment of those considered insufficiently responsive to its desires. Certainly, holdout Chrysler creditors report that they felt little confidence that the White House would stop at informal strong-arming.

And what if the next time it is a politically unpopular business — such as a pharmaceutical company — that’s on the brink? Might the government force it to surrender a patent to get the White House’s agreement to get financing for the bankruptcy plan?

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May 13, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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