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Ingenious Circumventions

The left has gotten creative at ignoring written protections of our rights.


All the written guarantees in the world will not protect your rights in the absence of the spirit of liberty. Today, the modern left has a hundred ways of circumventing written protections that were intended to guard citizens from having a liberal ideology imposed on them. The question is whether the right will shrug off these impositions as long as they are within the letter of the law or fight to defend the substance of liberty as well as its formalities. 

Take the NGOcracy that exists in many cities today. From New York City to the Pacific Northwest, urban governments have contracted out to nonprofits the services that used to be provided by city agencies, everything from running homeless shelters to summer programs for at-risk teenagers. Sometimes the contracts are for awareness or advocacy, which is as close as you can get to just giving money away. These NGOs are not subject to the same scrutiny as government offices, so they can pay their executives lavishly, engage in radical activism, or otherwise get up to mischief at taxpayer expense.


In this issue, Jonathan Ireland’s feature “Patronage for Progressives” tells of a particularly shocking horror story of urban NGOs run amok. The city of Seattle dumped buckets of cash on a nonprofit that turned out to be run by convicted felons. Murderers, gang rapists, drug dealers, child killers—and the city council either didn’t know or didn’t care, probably the latter, since when the truth was revealed the city council showed no remorse at having spent the people’s money in this way.

As long as city governments see NGOs as a convenient way to rain money on their friends and escape public monitoring, the law-and-order backlash that would otherwise be provoked by the rising disorder on our streets will not materialize.

Another workaround that the left has perfected is the lawsuit and settlement game. A left-wing activist group brings a lawsuit against a friendly government target, which puts up the most token of defenses before agreeing to a large settlement. Usually this takes the form of cash on the barrelhead, but it can also involve changes to policy or programs—changes the people’s representatives in the legislature never agreed to.

Tom Flanagan’s feature in this issue describes how this playbook has been used over and over in Canada to shake money out of the government for Indigenous groups and individuals. It started with the fight over residential schools, and repeated iterations have now brought the total sum spent on various Indigenous settlements to more than $60 billion. (In 2018, the total federal budget of Canada was less than $350 billion.) 

Fighting back against these ingenious circumventions will require a revolt from below. Just such a revolt took place at the recent annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. The leaders of the denomination wanted to surrender on the issue of female pastors, but a grassroots effort forced an up-or-down vote on an amendment to reaffirm the biblical position. William Wolfe was on the ground in New Orleans for this showdown, and his report is a highlight of this issue.

The cover story is a profile of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has been talking a lot of good sense in his campaign to win the Democratic presidential nomination. The profile is written by Harry Scherer, who for the past year has been the Intercollegiate Studies Institute editorial fellow here at TAC. His year with us is over and he is moving on to bigger and better things, but as readers will see, he leaves on high note. Good luck, Harry.


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