Monday, September 22, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
It takes a family to raise a village. Without the family, the village itself can not function. If the family breaks down, or fails to form in the first place, the “village” can not possibly provide adequate help to repair the damage. In any good society, the government must do what only the government can do: keep order internally and externally, enforce agreements and defend property rights. The market must do what only the market can do: create wealth and provide employment by combining goods and services that satisfy consumers. But only the family can create the next generation of human beings who will become citizens and consumers.
Sociologists have correctly diagnosed the perfect storm that created the "me" generation -- sudden postwar affluence, sacrificing parents who did not wish us to suffer as they had in the Great Depression and World War II, and the rise of therapeutic education that encouraged self-indulgence.
Perhaps the greatest trademark of the 1960s cohort was self-congratulation. Baby boomers alone claimed to have brought about changes in civil rights, women's liberation and environmental awareness -- as if these were not prior concerns of earlier generations.
We apparently created all of our wealth rather than having inherited our roads, schools and bountiful infrastructure from someone else. And in our self-absorption, no one accepted that our notorious appetites created more problems than our supposed "caring" solved.
Our present problems were not really caused by an unpopular president, a spendthrift Congress, the neocon bogeymen, the greedy Saudis, shifty bankers or corporate oilmen in black hats and handlebar moustaches -- much less the anonymous "they."
The fault of this age, dear baby boomers, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.
Some might say that all those teenagers "wasting time" on Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 are actually the warfighters of tomorrow, training themselves at zero cost to the U.S. taxpayer. In fact, when offered the choice between the traditional airplane controls and gamepad controls, many younger soldiers pick the thumbsticks that are familiar to them. "There is an absolute age difference," says Bigham. "We call it the ‘jihad of game controllers.' You get kids that are in their low 20s that are gamers, and they go right to the game paddle. And they don't know why us old timers like using the F-16 hands-on, throttle-and-stick controllers."
There is, of course, a real concern that appropriating the game interface into the military space will also bring with it an emotional and moral disassociation from the act of fighting wars, and experts say that the answer may be to experiment with even more immersive technologies that allow soldiers to feel the full impact of the battlespace. And it may well be that game system developers will lead the way to such systems. Already, Bigham says that Raytheon has been experimenting with Wii controllers to explore the possibilities for training simulators and other applications that require physical movement. Just think, one day, the R&D that Nintendo put into Wii bowling could end up influencing basic training.
All the books that I have seen about the science and economics of global warming, including the two books under review, miss the main point. The main point is religious rather than scientific. There is a worldwide secular religion which we may call environmentalism, holding that we are stewards of the earth, that despoiling the planet with waste products of our luxurious living is a sin, and that the path of righteousness is to live as frugally as possible. The ethics of environmentalism are being taught to children in kindergartens, schools, and colleges all over the world.
Environmentalism has replaced socialism as the leading secular religion. And the ethics of environmentalism are fundamentally sound. Scientists and economists can agree with Buddhist monks and Christian activists that ruthless destruction of natural habitats is evil and careful preservation of birds and butterflies is good. The worldwide community of environmentalists—most of whom are not scientists—holds the moral high ground, and is guiding human societies toward a hopeful future. Environmentalism, as a religion of hope and respect for nature, is here to stay. This is a religion that we can all share, whether or not we believe that global warming is harmful.
Unfortunately, some members of the environmental movement have also adopted as an article of faith the be-lief that global warming is the greatest threat to the ecology of our planet. That is one reason why the arguments about global warming have become bitter and passionate. Much of the public has come to believe that anyone who is skeptical about the dangers of global warming is an enemy of the environment. The skeptics now have the difficult task of convincing the public that the opposite is true. Many of the skeptics are passionate environmentalists. They are horrified to see the obsession with global warming distracting public attention from what they see as more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet, including problems of nuclear weaponry, environmental degradation, and social injustice. Whether they turn out to be right or wrong, their arguments on these issues deserve to be heard.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
People ask me why I've become more libertarian because of writing this book. The simple answer is that the one thing libertarians grasp better than conservatives or liberals is the danger of the category error when it comes to the role of government. While there are certainly plenty of radical individualists swelling the ranks of libertarianism, libertarianism is not in fact an ideology of radical individualism. Or at least it need not be. The fundamental insight of libertarianism is that the government is the government. It cannot be your mommy, your daddy, your big brother, your nanny, your friend, your buddy, your god, your salvation, your church or your conscience. It is the government. A big bureaucracy charged with certain responsibilities, some of which it is qualified to carry out, many of which it is not.Now, I would invest more cultural authority in the government than a typical libertarian would (see Jim Manzi's post here for clues as to why). And generally speaking, conservatives, because of their patriotism and faith in a culturally coherent and sovereign nation, are prone to over-romanticizing the government. But libertarians are simply immune to this temptation. This immunity sometimes blinds them to the poetry — for want of a better word — inherent to politics, but it also blinds them to the totalitarian temptations hardwired into human nature. That's not a bad trade-off.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
IS THE U.S. FOUNDED ON CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES?
Thanks for forwarding that item on this question. I agree with its sentiments, and liked its common sense approach. I certainly agree that our country has departed from our founding principles. I do not agree, however, that the foundation of our regime is "The Gospel of Jesus Christ." I believe that our founding principles are rooted in and directly derived from the natural law, not the Gospel as such except indirectly. This distinction is important because the natural law foundation allows non-Christians to be citizens of the Republic and to hold elective or appointed offices in good conscience. Ours is not a sectarian regime. The Constitution establishes no religious test either for office or for citizenship. Our regime was not founded to be a new Christendom. It forbids the establishment of religion while protecting its free exercise.
This does not mean that our Founders intended to found a secular regime, as that term is understood today. They did not mean to kick God out of the public square. They believed that self-government in the political sense is dependent on government of himself by each citizen. And they believed that individual self-government requires virtue and morality in each citizen, both of which are impossible for most humans without religion. The regime they intended was not hostile to religion, but dependent upon it if it were to long endure. Also, the Founders believed that for the most part there is no contradiction between Christianity and the natural law with respect to morality.
Did you know that the Declaration of Independence explicitly recognizes God in four places, and in four roles?
1. God as Law-Giver: "The laws of nature and nature's God" justify this act of separation (i.e. revolution) and distinguish it from mere rebellion.
2. God as Creator: "All men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights...." (God created us and made us naturally equal [only] in that respect.)
3. God as Supreme Judge: "Appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions...." (You can judge the rectitude of our action because the facts of our situation and the principles of natural law are accessible to reason. But only God can know our real intentions, so judge them and us--as indeed He will.)
4. God as Providence: "[F]or the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honour." (You can also believe that our intentions are right and honorable because we stake all on this endeavor, even our sacred honor. You should support us because our just cause will be vindicated by Divine Providence, which governs all and protects men of good will.)
The theology of the Declaration is a natural theology grounded in both the laws of nature and the laws of nature's God. [The latter "laws" could be a reference to Revelation and the laws knowable only by Faith ( e.g., in "The Gospel of Jesus Christ"). But I doubt it. More probably it is a reference to the fact that the natural law is not morally obligatory if not rooted in Divine command (which is law to his creatures), or in what St. Thomas [Aquinas] called "the eternal law."] I believe that the Declaration's principles and argument refute the claims of the Secularists who would kick God out of our politics, laws, and customs. Nor do they support the claims of those Christians who proclaim that our regime is founded on the Gospel or its Christian principles. Compatibility is one thing; identity is another.
Our regime does not recognize a triune God whose essence is love. Our regime is ordered to freedom and justice, not to the advent of the Kingdom of God. Nor does our regime command either love of God or love of neighbor as does the Gospel. Finally, Christ founded a Church, not a polity. Salvation is to be found only in Christ and through Christ. It is not to be found in politics, or through politics, or through the founding or reconstitution of the political and social order. That belief is idolatry.
(I realize that the author of the item you sent did not preach that idolatry , and was not endorsing those Christians who have reduced Christianity to "The Social Gospel.")
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Obama answered a help-wanted ad for a position as a community organizer for the Developing Communities Project (DCP) of the Calumnet Community Religious Conference (CCRC) in Chicago. Obama was 24 years old, unmarried, very accustomed to a vagabond existence, and according to his memoir, searching for a genuine African-American community.Both the CCRC and the DCP were built on the Alinsky model of community agitation, wherein paid organizers learned how to "rub raw the sores of discontent," in Alinsky's words.One of Obama's early mentors in the Alinsky method was Mike Kruglik, who had this to say to an interviewer of The New Republic, about Obama:"He was a natural, the undisputed master of agitation, who could engage a room full of recruiting targets in a rapid-fire Socratic dialogue, nudging them to admit that they were not living up to their own standards. As with the panhandler, he could be aggressive and confrontational. With probing, sometimes personal questions, he would pinpoint the source of pain in their lives, tearing down their egos just enough before dangling a carrot of hope that they could make things better."The agitator's job, according to Alinsky, is first to bring folks to the "realization" that they are indeed miserable, that their misery is the fault of unresponsive governments or greedy corporations, then help them to bond together to demand what they deserve, and to make such an almighty stink that the dastardly governments and corporations will see imminent "self-interest" in granting whatever it is that will cause the harassment to cease.In these methods, euphemistically labeled "community organizing," Obama had a four-year education, which he often says was the best education he ever got anywhere.Is it any wonder, then, that Obama's Alinsky Jujitsu is making mincemeat of the woman who merely interviewed Alinsky, wrote about him, and spent the next 30 years in corporate law and in the lap of taxpayer-funded luxury in government mansions?
Friday, November 16, 2007
Here is my Creators Syndicate column for the week on the public employee unions and their enormous influence in the Democratic Party. I decided to write it because I think this influence is not widely understood and is certainly not much commented on. But the public employee unions exert enormous upward pressure on state and local government spending and enormous downward pressure on the accountability of public employees. Over time this will tend to increase the share of the economy devoted to state and local government spending, with significant macroeconomic effects. Nearly half of American union members are public employees—a vivid contrast with mid-century America, when only a small percentage, perhaps on the order of 10 percent (I haven't looked it up lately), of union members were public employees. And of course public employee unions are financed by the taxpayer: Their income comes from members' dues, which come from their salaries, which come from the public purse.
...the most frequent solution to income inequality, and the one advocated by [Paul] Krugman in nearly every interview about his book, is higher taxes on those at the top of the income scale. While this may give the appearance of lessening inequality, in actuality it does very little. Essentially, it is equivalent to twisting the ankle of the fastest runner in the world in an attempt to make other runners faster. In no way does this make other runners faster.
...income inequality is a static measure of well-being. Looking at an individual's or group's share of income at a given point in time tells us very little. In fact, even looking at the trends in income inequality is futile. The fact that individual's rarely remain in the same income group throughout their lives suggests that looking that a group defined as "poor" or "middle class" or "rich" is irrelevant...income inequality is a poor measure of prosperity. In reality, economic growth and innovation will do more to help the poor and the middle class than any conceivable government policy.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
But if we didn't go to war, then we probably would have kept up the containment policy.
The Democratic study on the "real costs" of the wars in Iraq ($1.3 trillion) and Afghanistan ($300 billion) from 2002 through 2008 will almost assuredly lead to a common perceptual pitfall. An explanation: Let's assume that the numbers on Iraq are more or less accurate. And let's stipulate for a moment that when you take into account "hidden costs" such as interest payments on new debt to pay for the war, the expense of long-term healthcare for our injured warriors, and the impact of higher oil prices, the total cost of Iraq is indeed twice what the White House has requested from Congress.Should we then assume that by not waging the war, Uncle Sam would be a trillion dollars to the better? That would be a questionable assumption, a product of a sort of "static analysis" that assumes if you change one critical factor, all the rest stay pretty much the same.
... a containment policy would cost anywhere from $350 billion to $700 billon. Now when you further factor in that 1) a containment policy might also have led to a higher risk premium in the oil markets if Iraq was seen to be gaining in military power despite our efforts to box it in, and 2) money not borrowed and spent on Iraq might well have been spent on something else given the White House's free-spending ways...