So Who Am I, Anyway?

James Hanley

James Hanley is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.

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45 Responses

  1. MFarmer says:

    Just as I thought. Thanks for the clarity.

    M — from deep, deep in the southReport

  2. Matty says:

    I’m sympathetic with a lot of this but think this is overstated.

    It’s not that left-leaning governments can’t also be authoritarian, but really we’re talking about the difference between contemporary Labour Party England and Franco’s Spain.

    I’m not convinced that conservatives in general actually want anything like Francoism and if we’re comparing worst case scenarios it would suely be fairer to put something like Venezuela under Chavez on the left side.

    The idea of New Labour in a socialist revolution had me chuckling though, they’d probably have given the revolutionaries ASBO’s.Report

  3. Scott Hanley says:

    come the revolution, I’ll be on your side.

    What good is that? Neither of us owns a gun.Report

  4. James Hanley says:

    Scott–I have friends with guns, lots of guns. More than they can shoot at once.

    Matty–I’m fairly persuaded that the right-wing in this country would happily install an authoritarian regime. But if we go from old Labour left into Chavez left (or Ba’ath Party left, for that matter), then I’m off the bandwagon. But I think the prominent liberals in the U.S. (both of the remaining ones) only want social democracy, while the prominent rights want social order.Report

  5. dexter45 says:

    What is wrong with the South? I used to travel a little and found the only difference between a northern redneck and a southern redneck is that the Yankees talk funny and, at least here in Louisiana, we have better food. On a more serious note, thanks for the bio and thanks.Report

  6. James Hanley says:

    MFarmer–Tea Partiers and the religious right crowd.

    dexter–I’m a midwesterner who also loves the mountain west. I find the northeast/mid-atlantic tolerable, but am frankly somewhat bigoted toward the south, despite having had numerous southern friends over the years. I don’t consider deep-fried-whatever-we-hit-on-the-road to be good food, although I recognize Louisiana as having a distinct cultural tradition that involves wonderful cuisine. The south’s evils include NASCAR (only open-wheel cars constitute real racing after one’s high school years), the Students Escaping Classwork athletic conference, turducken, religious moralism, and the corruption of the once respectable Republican party. The south did give us jazz and the blues, but that wasn’t the white folks so it counts in a different column, and bourbon–the only cultural achievement in which southern whites can legitimately take pride.

    Besides, the south has humidity. I blame all their political and cultural woes on the humidity.Report

    • dexter45 in reply to James Hanley says:

      I don’t do NASCAR or racing in general and I can’t remember the last time I had fried anything beside potatoes. The anti-SEC sounds more like sour grapes than reality. I do relate to the religious moralism and present day republicans. My wife’s family were instrumental in starting the republican party in Louisiana and her first cousin was the first republican governor since reconstruction, but she left it when Buchancan’s southern stratagy turned into racism, or as she likes to say, it left her. He is the last republican governor that I respect and feel sorry for the way that Edwards shafted him with the bills that came due after Edwards left office. I grew up in Colorado and truly miss mountains. But, we have Williams and you get Hemingway. I lived in Alaska for several years and am truly convinced that cold makes you think while heat makes you stupid. But, proof that there are different strokes for different people, a friend of mine down here left Michigan because he hated the weather up there.Report

    • MFarmer in reply to James Hanley says:

      You really think the tea partiers would be happy with an authoritarian government? Really?

      I can’t trust anyone who has such a screwed up understanding of the south and the Tea Party. It tells me you are probably ignorant in many other ways. Why do you hate on southern whites? Isn’t that a form of racism?Report

      • James Hanley in reply to MFarmer says:


        I don’t think a white person “hating on” other whites is racism. I admit to a certain bigotry against the south, but that’s just because of their politics. Some of my best friends are southerners.

        You do understand that the South has traditionally been the most authoritarian region in the U.S., right? The South was the region that most promoted and stuck longest with a system of enslaving their fellow humans. After that system was eliminated, they carefully constructed a political order that systematically denied political rights to the descendants of those slaves, and sucked tax dollars from them to build public amenities from which they were barred. They traditionally had a single-party system (thank god that’s breaking down). The classic political science distinction (by Daniel Elezar) of state political cultures lists the southern states both uniquely and almost exclusively as consisting of “traditionalistic” (as opposed to moralistic (tendency toward progressivism) and individualistic), meaning in part a resistance to change, a belief that politics is for an elite and a disdain of active and effective involvement by the masses, and a dislike of challenges to established authority. In general, traditional political cultures tend to be very hierarchical and a major focus of their efforts is to ensure the continuation of that hierarchical order.

        The conservative ideology of “the South” (i.e., that type of southerner to whom I am referring) and the Tea Partiers is nearly identical. They trumpet the phrase “limited government,” but they mean only that they don’t want progressive social programs. They are entirely comfortable with a militaristic political authority. They are likely to scream in outrage about national health care, but wonder why anyone would object to Bush claiming the right to hold American citizens indefinitely without trial.

        Yes, I call that authoritarian.

        I don’t completely hate on southern whites, though. I’ve been there, and I know southern hospitality is for real (even if it always comes with a revoltingly large dollop of mayonnaise on the sandwiches and, shudder, iced tea). I’ve travelled throughout the whole U.S., and no other region offers hospitality as southerners do. If their politics had the generosity of their hospitality, they’d be a truly great people.

        you are probably ignorant in many other ways.

        Well, duh. I don’t claim to be omniscient.Report

        • MFarmer in reply to James Hanley says:

          I see. Thanks for explaining the south to me. I was joshing about the racism. I actually don’t care what you think about the south, just having a little fun. It’s always a pleasure to get feedback from Michigan.Report

            • James Hanley in reply to MFarmer says:

              The only thing we can learn from Michigan is not to do anything it’s done. Somehow I’ve managed to spend a good portion of my life in California and Michigan, perhaps the two most politically buggered states in the union. Good people in both, but dreadful politics.Report

              • MFarmer in reply to James Hanley says:

                Yes, I’ve been to Michigan — very hospitable people, but backwards, and a little too condescending for my tastes. I had just left Atlanta which was booming, and looked around in Michigan at all the failure. Most still viewed the south as it was in 50s and 60s, apparently unaware of what happened in the last few decades. It was sad.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to MFarmer says:

                Economically, Atlanta’s clearly got it over almost all of Michigan, except, arguably, for Grand Rapids. I just can’t personally like Atlanta–too spread out, and whose idea was it to name every single street after peaches? 😉

                Michiganders are, overall, pretty nice people. But I doubt you’ll find many that would allow a young church group to stay overnight in their house while they’re out of town (the owners, that is), as happened to me a few times in the south.Report

              • Michael Heath in reply to James Hanley says:

                I think you might know this James but I’ve spent two stints in California as well, one the Bay Area and another in San Diego, both working in the tech sector. I’m proud I was able to vote to recall Gov. Gray Davis and vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

                I think California’s problems are more difficult to determine but far more relevant in benchmarking what states and even the federal government should do and what not to do. I think they prove a republican form of government with an empowered executive and legislature is far superior to the democratic form they’ve evolved to, a form which restricts the executive and legislature in managing their budget and allows spending bills without cuts to be voted on by the public.

                Michigan on the other hand is a great example of mistakes made primarily by liberals with the exception of our becoming a one-industry state where responsibility lies with all of us along with auto execs several decades ago negotiating union deals where benefits were not indexed to company performance and made us uncompetitive in a global economy. However it seems to me the Democrats and the states have learned from those lessons and therefore we’re not a good modern day example to change current behavior.

                The one lesson we can learn from Michigan is how the federal stimulus effects were counter-acted due to many states including Michigan putting in budgetary restrictions that guaranteed their inability to defend their economies in business down cycles. That’s had an enormously negative effect on unemployment and the recovery of economic growth rates in this recession. Another lesson is that if we don’t have economically literate government executives that have the power (freedom) to respond with basic recessionary economic principles, stupid policies are enacted. E.g., federal stimulus funds coming into Michigan protected state jobs in the education sector in spite of the fact we need to consolidate schools. We needed the stimulus but it should have went towards improving infrastructure to improve our business climate, not defend jobs in dying school systems.

                Conservatives share blame in both states for creating term limits which has resulted in more partisanship and a more idiotic set of legislators who are illiterates on the policies they must face and incapable for working across the aisle (primarily on the conservative side in Michigan, both parties deserve blame equally in California if not Dems a little more as they protect state union workers in education and the prison system).

                Creating these more conservatively democratic forms of government has also increased spending and debt with little ability by the state to cut spending in other areas or match revenues to spending needs. It also doesn’t help when the people receiving services are able to transfer the cost of those benefits to others. In Michigan that would be primary residence owners avoiding the portion of their property taxes that fund our school systems, which puts the burden on businesses, landlords/renters, and vacation homeowners to pay for their children’s public education.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Michael Heath says:


                If I read closely enough I might find something to quibble with in that, but on a quick overview, yeah, I’m basically in agreement with you about the root problems of both states.

                Although you’ve previously expressed your reservations about Snyder, I can assume you’re not heartbroken that Bernero didn’t win the governorship?Report

              • Michael Heath in reply to James Hanley says:

                I voted for Republican Rick Snyder for a couple of reasons. One was to send a signal to the Republican party they should continue to promote candidates like him rather than than the illiterate social conservatives which have come to dominate the party at the national level. Another was because he brings the very type of resume and approach to governance I seek in an executive though I think Democrat Andy Dillon was far more qualified than Gov.-elect Snyder (he lost to Bernero in the primaries for those not up on MI politics).

                I was disppointed that Mr. Snyder acted like a typical conservative in the campaign by hiding from debates and lying, e.g., he misrepresented the actual language in the federal health care reform bill regarding federal funding of abortion. He perpetuated this lie in an interview directed at social conservatives, I assume to portray himself as a proud Liar for Jesus in order to utilize the politics of identity. This misrepresentation of this legislation had me holding my nose while I voted.

                My wife canceled out my vote with a vote for Bernero. The antics of the Republican party at the national level since 2001 has pushed her into being a straight-ticket Democrat where before she voted for the person.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Michael Heath says:

                My wife canceled out my vote with a vote for Bernero.

                So you both should have just slept in?Report

        • Heidegger in reply to James Hanley says:

          Well Mr. Hanley, I have to hand it to you–you’ve been slapped, smacked , kicked in the groin, suckered punched, insulted, ridiculed, and pretty much, bandied about from all directions—and you’re still standing! One must, at the very least, admire your tenacity. Okay, back to reality—I have no idea what you mean by this statement: “They are entirely comfortable with a militaristic political authority.” (when, where, why, and how?) And the statement following that one: “They are likely to scream in outrage about national health care, but wonder why anyone would object to Bush claiming the right to hold American citizens indefinitely without trial.” I’m sorry, but that seems like very large reach—outrage over Obama care somehow translates to acceptance of Bush’s right to suspend habeas corpus–it was actually the Military Commissions Act of 2006, passed by the Senate with a 65-34 vote that gave the president the right to suspend habeas corpus rights for detainees who it was determined to be enemy combatants who want to kill any and all Americans whenever possible. You really have a problem with that?Report

          • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Heidegger says:

            I’m sorry, but that seems like very large reach—outrage over Obama care somehow translates to acceptance of Bush’s right to suspend habeas corpus

            Logically, it’s a reach. Demographically, the evidence is all around you.

            it was actually the Military Commissions Act of 2006, passed by the Senate with a 65-34 vote that gave the president the right to suspend habeas corpus rights for detainees who it was determined to be enemy combatants who want to kill any and all Americans whenever possible.

            First, speak of the president’s powers here, not rights. Precision is important. Second, the MCA was only passed after it became publicly known that the president had already been doing this, without any authorization.

            You really have a problem with that?

            Yes! And if you had any principled objection to Obamacare, this ought to be an easy call, and you should be on our side here, too.Report

            • Heidegger in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

              Jason, you are correct sir! That is, re rights vs. powers. Would I be correct in saying, a right is innate and can’t be taken away and powers are those priviliges granted by the state?

              Don’t be too taken in with Obama’s rhetoric–remember he has his own version of suspending habeas corpus with “Indefinite Preventative Detention” which is seems to serve the same purpose of Bush’s detenti0n of enemy combatants.Report

              • MFarmer in reply to Heidegger says:

                Obama is a miserable failure in the civil liberties department. Yes, he talks, but that’s all.Report

              • Michael Heath in reply to MFarmer says:


                Obama is a miserable failure in the civil liberties department. Yes, he talks, but that’s all.

                My single major disappointment with President Obama and my only surprise relative to this campaign is his record in the federal courts; though I’m not surprised he didn’t lead an effort to criminally investigate the Bush Administrations war crimes. Glenn Greenwald and Ed Brayton have done outstanding jobs of blogging about the Obama Administration’s performance in the courts, especially their antipathy for 4th and 5th Amendment issues revolving around detainee rights and access to due process. In addition Ed’s covered Obama’s wins in federal court that extend executive powers via the so-called state secrets privilege (aka SSDoctrine).

                However it’s simply not true to claim he’s only a miserable failure on civil rights and all talk. His administration has rebuilt the civil rights department at the Dept. of Justice after President Bush destroyed it and has even able to restaff with the type of quality staffers present prior to the Bush Administration. GQ interviews AG Eric Holder who discusses in some detail here:

          • James Hanley in reply to Heidegger says:

            Heidegger, the presidents’ (plural, both Bush and Obama) claims go beyond the Military Commissions Act. They have claimed the right to evade any review by the Courts when they claim the state secrets privilege–what is supposed to be a very narrow privilege, but which they are using to simply try to keep any uncomfortable cases out of court. And let’s not forget that Bush approved the use of torture, and Obama has no interest in pursuing an investigation of the potential–I’d even say almost certain–crimes of the Bush administration in that regard.

            Let’s go back in time a bit, too. Conservatives loved our adventure in Vietnam, and our adventure in Grenada, and the one in Panama, and they wildly cheered our astoundingly foolish invasion of Iraq. Conservatives love militarism, and they don’t object to a government that denies due process. That’s what I mean.

            And yes, I really have a problem with the Military Commissions Act as a whole, including the right to suspend habeus corpus. Read the text of the habeus corpus clause in the Constitution, then try to persuade me that the U.S. is in either a state of rebellion or invasion. But you don’t hear the Tea Party people complaining about any of those constitutional abuses, which all lean toward a militaristic authoritarianism. No, what really gets them uptight–some poor lazy undeserving person might get healthcare. As much as I opposed the health care plan, and still believe it’s both unwise and unconstitutional, I think a proper sense of priorities puts that on the back burner when we have an executive that’s no longer balanced, and barely checked, by the legislative and judicial branches.

            Being a conservative yourself, I’m not surprised you don’t see it. I’ve rarely met a conservative who was uncomfortable enough with authoritarianism to actually take notice of the fact that it’s happening here. Instead they focus on comparatively minor, and in many cases completely faux, issues (e.g., is Obama a Muslim, where’s his birth certificate, etc. etc.) For example, consider this desperate attempt to find something for the daily criticism of Obama, an op-ed writer claiming Obama was “awol” on Veterans’ Day because he wasn’t in the U.S. Instead, he

            honored our veterans from afar by laying a wreath during a ceremony at an Army base in South Korea last night.

            That’s right–in the eyes of a conservative, honoring Veterans’ Day on a U.S. military base–spending the day with soldiers who are actually serving away from home–is treated as unpatriotic.

            There’s a deep deep sickness in American conservatism. Open your eyes and take a careful look.Report

  7. 62across says:

    I appreciate that you’ve laid out your ideal political system and yet tempered it with what is politically plausible. I share a lot of your vision, but the path there is the challenge.

    I look forward to reading more of your railing and pushing.Report

  8. steve says:

    If you are seriously taking on regulations. I would be interested in particular in their history. What happened when we went from highly, but bluntly regulated airlines, trucking industry, beer industry, etc.


    • James Hanley in reply to steve says:


      I don’t know much about the deregulation of the beer industry, although as a free marketeer and beer drinker I’m sure I’m all for it, but I do know some things about deregulation of trucking and the airlines. Both cases were great successes. Here are a couple of articles on deregulation of trucking.

      For airline deregulation, see the following.

      Some of the effects of airline deregulation are:
      –Passengers of large metro areas no longer subsidized passengers flying out of smaller regional airports. That sucks for the passengers of those small airports (I can’t get a flight out of Toledo, which stinks because it’s so much more convenient for me than Detroit), but on what basis do they get to claim the right to be subsidized by passengers of the larger airports?
      –Flying is much cheaper now. When ticket prices were regulated, they didn’t have price ceilings as much as price floors, so airlines couldn’t really compete on price. Since competition always drives revenue toward marginal cost, an inability to reduce net revenue should lead to an increase in marginal cost. In other words, airlines competed by spending more per passenger, rather than charging passengers less. So airline travel back then was great, with roomy seats, free drinks, real meals, etc. But only the relatively well off could afford to fly. Today ticket prices are often rock bottom (I flew to L.A.and back for less than $150 round trip this past summer), but in competing for customers on price (diminishing their revenue), airlines have had to reduce costs, so they fly more customers per plane, which unpleasantly crowds us in, they no longer offer free drinks, and instead of giving us meals, they singlehandedly prop up the peanut industry.

      So flying is much less pleasant now, but everyone can afford to do it. And apparently we want it that way, because we customers are clamoring for the lowest prices, instead of fighting to pay more for business class.Report

  9. Simon K says:


    Very interesting. I look forward to reading more about the possibilities of polycentrism.


  10. Michael Heath says:


    Perhaps you could do a post sometime in the future on how you stack-up with liberaltarians. I’m surprised you didn’t use term to help frame your position in this post.

    Did you monitor the recent vote in Michigan to broaden our access to alcohol sales on Sunday mornings? I thought wholesalers were trying to leverage that bill, which had popular support, to solidify their regional monopolies. Neither the freep or MLive’s articles mentioned the wholesaler lobbying efforts.

    I’m disappointed the law extends powers to local government to prohibit Sunday morning sales if they wish. I find that blatantly unconstitutional.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Michael Heath says:


      I’ve thought about writing a post about where I stand vis a vis liberaltarians. To do it right I need to study them a bit more closely to avoid misrepresenting them when I get down to details, so it probably won’t happen soon. But I have to admit the possibility that when I get down to the nitty gritty I might find I’m closer to them than I’ve suggested. I think, though, that in general they tend to be more willing to regulate economic activity than I am.

      I was only able to follow the Sunday alcohol sales a little bit, so while I find it interesting, I’m just not as up on it as I’d like to be. I did, however, catch that there was some wholesaler involvement due to some aspect of the law that enhanced their monopoly position. I want to read up on the law, though, because I’d like to use it as an example in my political economy class of rent-seeking. I regularly talk about Oregon’s liquor control laws, which are an example of government rent-seeking (by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission). Alcohol policy is not only a field ripe for rent-seeking behavior (did you notice that liquor store owners opposed a provision allowing restaurants to cater events using liquor they bought wholesale, and successfully got that stripped out of the bill?), but is a topic that really catches students’ enthusiasm (especially in Oregon, where students are perpetually pissed off about how early the liquor stores close–a function of state law).

      I’m not quite sure what you mean by the unconstitutionality of allowing local governments to prohibit Sunday morning sales. I assume you’re implying an establishment clause question? I would focus on the 21st Amendment authority of states to devise their own liquor control regulations, which indisputably allows them to delegate that authority to political sub-units of the state. But of course that doesn’t mean they get a pass on other constitutional provisions. They couldn’t, obviously, deny liquor store licenses to African-Americans and claim the 21st Amendment protects them from 14th Amendment challenge. So you might have an argument. But I’d be surprised if the USSC went along with you. I haven’t thought about it enough to state how I’d judge such a case–I’d need to read the full legal briefs of you and your opponents first!Report

  11. Rufus F. says:

    Are you sure you’re not an anarchist?Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I definitely have anarchist leanings. I despise authority in general and wholly agree with Lord Acton.

      But humans are social species, and you can’t find a social species that doesn’t have forms of organization that include authority. All groups face collective action problems, some of which can’t be resolved without delegating authority to a subset of the group. The knowledge I’ve gained as a political scientist conflicts with my internal preferences.

      But that’s one of the reasons I’m much happier living in small towns as opposed to larger urban areas. While there is a particular danger of a corrupt elite running a small community as their private fiefdom, in the right circumstances you not only avoid that but live in a community where the rules and authority figures are minimal, in part just due to the math of small numbers v. high numbers,* and in part because you’re more likely to have people who share enough of a common mindset that fewer value disagreements requiring authoritative intervention will occur.

      That is, I like small towns because I’m an anarchist at heart. I know most anarchists cluster in cities because they dislike the conformity of small towns, but rally that just brings them into closer contact with a denser web of formal authority.

      * If any randomly selected person has a certain probability, p, of causing problems that require the intervention of authority, then we can compare a small town of, say, 1000 people to a city of, say, 100,000 people, and see that p*100,000 > p&1,000.Report

  12. c says:

    Hey, cool. Maybe James Hanley might be able to condemn the practice of awarding zeroes to students who don’t put the honor pledge on a paper. He blocked me from One Best Way when I delayed answering his question until he answered mine.Report

  13. James Hanley says:

    No, I won’t condemn the practice . I think I made that clear at TOBW. And you were blocked from there for being a ridiculous nuisance, no matter how you choose to spin it.Report

  14. c says:

    I’m not gonna look, but I thought you sort of claimed you did make a condemnation in a non-committed sort of way. And ridiculous nuisance is a bit of a stretch aka total fabrication. I merely replied to what you kept shoveling at me.Report

  15. James Hanley says:


    Look here.Report

  16. c says:

    Here’s your quote I was thinking of: “I said assigning the zero was not cruel and unusual punishment, but one could argue it’s unfair. That’s a far cry from “not condemning it.” I would condemn it if it is unfair.”

    You seem to say you won’t condemn it but you are not “not condemning it” which differs from your response above which states that you thought you made it clear which you did not. In fact, over at, you said it would be fair if students agreed to the zero for no pledge policy but they did not. Students, in their application to the institution in question, agree to abide by the honor constitution which says they will put the pledge on their papers, but it also defines a violation of the honor constitution as lying, cheating or stealing but does not include leaving the pledge off. Violations of the honor constitution are the purview of the honor council anyway and not the faculty. The faculty handbook says that instructors will create a positive learning environment. An environment in which threats of zeroes for no pledges on perfectly satisfactory work is a negative, fearful, intimidating environment and the punishment exceeds the crime. The school in question claims “academic freedom” as a justification but that term does not apply to this situation and relates more to freedom of speech in general. Regardless, all this back matter is not that important because such a policy as zero for no pledge is clearly cruel and unusual punishment by someone in power over a weaker party and I still am amazed that you won’t condemn the practice.”Report

  17. c says:

    correction in quote marks: …that you “won’t condemn the practice.”Report

  18. James Hanley says:

    OK, I would condemn it if you persuaded me it was unfair. So far I’m not persuaded it’s unfair. And I’m fully persuaded that calling it “cruel and unusual punishment” is beyond ridiculous, as though receiving a zero on a paper even remotely compares to, say, having an electrical generator attached to your genitals and revved up, or being locked in a cabinet too short to stand up in and too narrow to sit down in, or being left standing in cold water for hours on end, or being whipped with barbed wire and then having salt rubbed on your back? For a list of imaginative tortures that have really been used, see this from Solzhenitsyn. Compared to that stuff, complaining about getting a zero on a paper, for whatever reason up to and including sheer arbitrary randomness, is disturbingly adolescent.

    However I really give a rat’s ass what amazes you, and I have no interest in resurrecting and continuing the argument with you.Report

  19. c says:

    someday some poor sucker will take a case like this to court, but until then it will continue to sadden me that profs like you refuse to speak out against this sort of injustice and then they’ll lump waterboarding in with the gulag treatments you mentioned.Report

  20. c says:

    In summary, I do give a “rat’s *ss” about students and their mistreatment and I care about the security of our citizens. I even care about terrorists but having experienced waterboarding, I am not offended by the way it was used since 9/11.Report

  21. Scott says:

    Sorry, I have to disagree. I’d much rather live in the authoritarian south than in the socialist northeast. There are fewer unions practicing wage extortion and I can have my guns and my BBQ.Report

  22. James Hanley says:

    That’s the beauty of federalism.Report