Thwarting democracy to save it


Unless this is just a hoax, a troll, or a high-profile LARP, it’s a little alarming to read of an anonymous “senior official” in the Trump administration that think it knows better than to do its actual job: 

The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in [Trump’s] own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. […]

In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the “enemy of the people,” President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic. […]

Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.

On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.

Truthful or not, the op-ed points to a reality that has been obvious for some time, namely that the president is surrounded by numerous officials who are implacably opposed to core elements of his agenda. You may recall that protectionism and detente with Russia were two of Trump’s signature campaign promises, which the voting public effectively endorsed when they elected him. This process, whereby a candidate makes promises and voters elect him to implement those promises, is called democracy. I know it’s hard for many Washington bureaucrats to accept this, but surreptitiously thwarting the will of the electorate on such contested issues as trade and foreign policy is pretty much the opposite of what is implied by “preserv[ing] our democratic institutions.”

This will end well: South Africa edition

South Africa marks a milestone as the government moves to expropriate farm land without due compensation. More seizures are likely to follow under the new policy of “comprehensive land reform” — which doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, but it sounds better than “theft”:

THE South African government has begun the process of seizing land from white farmers.

Local newspaper City Press reports two game farms in the northern province of Limpopo are the first to be targeted for unilateral seizure after negotiations with the owners to purchase the properties stalled.

While the government says it intends to pay, owners Akkerland Boerdery wanted 200 million rand ($18.7 million) for the land — they’re being offered just 20 million rand ($1.87 million). […]

It comes as the South African government pushes ahead with plans to amend the country’s constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.

The seizures are intended to test the ability of the government to take land under existing laws, which the ruling African National Congress has previously stated is allowable if “in the public interest”. […]

If the seizures go ahead, it would be the first time the state refuses to pay market value for land. Since the end of apartheid in 1994, the ANC has followed a “willing seller, willing buyer” process to redistribute white-owned farms to blacks.

Here’s a bit more background on the new policy (August 1):

SOUTH Africa’s ruling party says it will push ahead with plans to amend the country’s constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the decision on Tuesday following a two-day meeting of the African National Congress, which had earlier signalled its intention to redistribute land under the current laws.

The South African parliament in February voted in favour of a motion, brought by the radical Marxist Economic Freedom Fighters and supported by the ANC, to send the matter to parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee.

“It has become patently clear that our people want the constitution to be more explicit about expropriation of land without compensation, as demonstrated in public hearings,” Mr Ramaphosa said in a video message addressing “fellow South Africans, comrades, friends”.

“The ANC [has] reaffirmed its position that a comprehensive land reform program that enables equitable access to land will unlock economic growth by bringing more land in South Africa to full use and enable the productive participation of millions more South Africans in the economy.”

If history has taught us anything, it’s that forced redistribution of land usually ends well, and rarely leads to large-scale violence and starvation.

Curiously, a Bloomberg article dated Thursday reduces all these recent developments to the following highly deceptive sentence: “South Africa has not seized or condoned the seizure of any white-owned farms to date and hasn’t changed its constitution, although it is considering doing so.”