Obama to award Warren Buffett Medal of Freedom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama will name Warren Buffett as one of fifteen winners of the 2010 Medal of Freedom, a White House official said on Wednesday.

Buffett, one of the world's most successful investors who has donated a vast chunk of his multibillion dollar fortune to charity, will receive the medal at a White House ceremony early next year. The award is the highest U.S. civilian honor.

Buffett is one of Obama's closest defenders in the business community and the president has sought his counsel dating back to the 2008 presidential campaign and since.

Nigel Davies adds:

A person in Sage's position would be wise to support both sides so that whoever wins will be grateful.

Scott Brooks comments:

Whoever wins will go to him with cup in hand. He's a "made man".

Jeff Watson shares:

Barry Ritholtz, on his blog, crafted an excellent parody of the Oracle's thank you to Uncle Sam note in the NYT.

Scott Brooks adds:

We as a nation have foolishly allowed the federal government, which was set up to by the states to serve the states and endowed with less than 20 enumerated powers, to exceed it's mandate. Today, we not only have a nearly omnipotent federal government, that is controlled by two political parties that are only nominally different in key area's (i.e. they are taking different paths to the same destination), but we have a single leader that is so powerful that our entire country revolves around this one man, regardless of who "he" is.

We are learning the hard way that when we put together a "gang of voters" to elect a person ("our guy") to give us favors, that we are endowing that "office" (position) with the power. And when "our guy" is no longer in the office, power to "give favors" doesn't leave with him, they stay with the office and are/can be used the person who occupies that position next.

That is legacy of Lincoln playing out before our eyes. He saved our nation is a contiguous geographical/demographic cohort, but the ultimate legacy of his power laid the groundwork for what we are as a nation today. (that noise you just heard was Stefan's head exploding.)

Stefan Jovanovich responds: 

I can't argue with Scott about the disease– imperial Federalism; but he and I will always have very different opinions about its causes. Lincoln had no actual legacy; that is why he was a safe saint for everyone who wanted to ignore the 14th Amendment. Anyone who takes the trouble to watch Birth of a Nation will see that. What makes my hero, Grant, a universally-reviled figure is that he was willing to use his powers as Commander in Chief to enforce the individual rights granted to citizens by the Constitution (which is what the powers are there for) and, at the same time, he had no taste for having the government "manage" life in America or the country's money. The Big Lie in the tradition of American conservatism is how much the doctrine of "states rights" was about imposing slavery on the territories and free states by using the Federal power and how much it continued to be about keeping the darkies down and those awful immigrants away from our shores. Conservatives were more than happy to extend government's reach for those purposes. Roger Taney's career– first as the enabler of Jackson's "spreading the wealth around" with the state banks and then as Chief Justice - is the best evidence of this unavoidable historical truth.

I know it does not fit Scott's construct, but it is what happened. Thanks to Grant and his Republicans, the Federal government had far less power of citizens' lives in 1890 than it had in 1848; and, if you exclude the political tyranny over black citizens, the country's government as a whole was not only smaller and less expensive but also less authoritarian under Harrison than it had been under Polk. The modern expansion of Federal authority has its sources in the two World Wars and the Progressive reforms in banking and trade laws that preceded them. Lincoln can rest in peace. As for my head, the only thing that even gives it an occasional ache is the continuing belief of otherwise sensible conservatives that the tyrannies of county sheriffs and the state drug laws are somehow less offensive than those of the Department of Agriculture. As my favorite Justice– Hugo Black– once said, "No law means no law". We have far too much of all kinds in this country, and that - not the relative distribution of the presumption of authority - remains the problem.

Gary Rogan writes:

Once again an excellent educational post from Stefan. I just have a quibble with this statement: "As for my head, the only thing that even gives it an occasional ache is the continuing belief of otherwise sensible conservatives that the tyrannies of county sheriffs and the state drug laws are somehow less offensive than those of the Department of Agriculture." Without commenting on the "merits" of either form of tyranny, anything Federal IS more offensive because (a) the Founders' idea was that you could escape a state much more easily than the Federal government if the state becomes offensive, by moving to another state as opposed to leaving the country, thus actually providing feedback to the state that it has gone too far (b) ANY claim by the Federal government of non-enumerated powers is likely un-constitutional and against the spirit of the founding of the country.

Stefan Jovanovich responds:

 I wish what Gary wrote was true. Mobility in 1787 was practically non-existent. People rarely moved between counties, let alone between states. There were more French soldiers at Yorktown than American because the French could move on ships while the Americans had to march. Gary may know the Constitutional debates better than I do; but I can't find a single remarks by any of the Founders regarding the idea that a citizen could somehow escape state tyranny by moving. What the Anti-Federalists disliked most about the Constitution was that it placed real limits on the claims of the states to absolute authority. Patrick Henry is, in that regard, all too typical: brave words about tyranny followed by persistent lobbying that the boundaries of the state of Virginia should extend as far west as the Pacific Ocean. The Founders who voted in favor of the adoption of the Constitution wanted a Union that would guarantee citizens' Federal rights and a supremacy clause that would assure that those rights could not be abolished by State or local action. They wanted the doctrine of "non-enumerated powers" to apply as much to the states as to the Union, and they were so adamant about establishing a balance of authorities precisely because the states had behaved so badly during the Revolution. I should have recommended Calvin H. Johnson's book, Righteous Anger at the Wicked States: The Meaning of the Founders' Constitution before now. It is the best history on the subject, and - like Grant - it remains thoroughly unpopular because it refuses to accept the rightist cant of slave-states rights or the leftist fantasy of inherent Federal moral superiority.

As always, the historical truth struggles to get its boots on.

"A lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its boots." - This quote has been attributed to Mark Twain, but Twain stole it ("geniuses steal") from Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92), who said: "A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on."


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