September 2013 Archives
September 2, 2013
To Fix Economics
Another post in our long line of "What We Are Reading": this time, summer reading on John D. Mueller's "Redeeming Economics".
First, the author: John D. Mueller is the The Lehrman Institute Fellow in Economics at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He was an economics advisor to Jack Kemp and helped write some of the Republican bills during the Reagan years. He has also been a market advisor to businesses for decades. He has abiding contact with both scholarly and real-world economic activity, and has been in the thick of things affecting policy. He is someone whose capstone work bears some attention.
The theme of “Redeeming Economics overall is to present the basic pattern for a new (and old) paradigm of economics, which he terms “Neo-Scholastic economics.” He insists that it really is a scholastic theory he is just brushing off for refurbishment, and I am a little skeptical of that, though there is no doubt that he relies heavily on prior work.
The book divides largely into first a general survey of prior economic thought, and then a proposal of how to go forward fixing the problems, difficulties, and errors of the past. Not that he is trying to be absolutely comprehensive, he isn’t. He is proposing a path for other economists to use, to get their hands dirty and solve specific problems in policy, market structures, etc. His survey of the history of economics just hits the highlights of most of the heavy players, going into enough detail to grasp the big picture but not spending a ton of time on any one of them. Although this is a serious book, it is not a tome written for scholars alone, Mr. Mueller is writing for the intelligent everyman. And he succeeds – this is truly readable. This won’t drill you into sleep at every third page, as books like “The Unintended Reformation” will, it is quite lively and engaging.
September 4, 2013
Inquisition and plutocracy
This tale of Modern Inquisition needs to be read in full, so that at least we might understand whither we are tending as the slow dreary night falls on prosperity. Go ahead: read it. I have only the time for another bare and vulgar sketch of how it fits in with other matters of importance.
When prudent and honest men cannot invent, market, and distribute products, for fear that lawless bureaucrats, impelled first by idle folly of inertia, and next by vindictive inquisition, might undertake successfully to ruin them; we can surely say that free enterprise is being replaced by anarcho-tyranny.
Set this lawless vendetta-style stuff against the coddling of the financial and the cronyism of agricultural sector, and what you get is plutocracy. The small owner is trussed and the distant landlord liberated; the entrepreneur is harassed, the established crony upheld. For small businessmen there is naught but pretty words concatenated by oily politicians; for the legacy proprietor and the connected financier, there may be idle verbal rebukes, but there is always the oily handshake promising future favors.
Nor should we neglect all the many thousands and tens of thousands of principled enterprises whose prospect is darkened by the machinations of the Sexual Inquisitors. For there is no Puritanism like that of the Libertine.
Already a state supreme court has brought legal coercion to bear on the artistic decisions of a photographer: the art, where it is sold in a business transaction, must of necessity celebrate fashionable innovations in human sexual couplings, or it will be regarded as criminal activity. California is on the verge of removing the tax-exempt status of the Boy Scouts, Little League, Pop Warner Football, the 4-H Clubs, and many other stalwarts of American civic organization; and in the logic of the proponents of this bill, there is no reason why these organizations should not be proscribed.
The Inquisitors in California, in other words, are prepared to blacklist historic American civil society. Conformity to their orthodoxy on sexual matters requires nothing less than a proscription list of traditional civic institutions.
Those who hope for compromise and reconciliation with the Inquisition should reflect on the profound sanctimony that animates it. The governments and bureaucracies of this land are crawling with little Nanny Bloomberg clones, each imbued with a crusading spirit. Their self-righteousness is unyielding.
It was over ten years ago that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, reasoning from premises now much more brazen and implacable, adjudged a belief in traditional marriage to be nothing but “invidious discrimination.”
Meanwhile, it’s been over five years since the Great Bailout of the usurers commenced. I believe we are just ten days short of the five year anniversary of Hank Paulson’s legendary meeting with the nation’s leading financiers, when the US federal government socialized the losses of Finance Capitalism.
After all, the Inquisition must be financed somehow.
September 6, 2013
Why Christian parents get nervous about evidence
It's been a while since we had a post on Christian evidences.
I've recently been led to reflect on the fact that there remains a Christian subculture that is somewhat uneasy with Christian evidences. Here I'm not referring to modernists or even postmodernists. I'm not referring to the unorthodox who don't like evidence because they like to keep Christianity hazy so that they don't really have to believe anything. I'm thinking of the fervent and utterly sincere, orthodox, Bible-believing Christians who nonetheless feel a bit...worried, somehow, if their young people start asking questions about the evidences for Christianity. Worried even if the young people are studying and reading and getting answers. Why might that be?
September 8, 2013
More vindication for the ethical nature of iPSCs
I've written before about iPSCs, which are reprogrammed cells that mimic the behavior of cells derived from embryos, only without requiring the destruction of any embryos. I want to stress up front that iPSCs are similar to embryonic stem cells in that there is for both a cancer risk arising from treatments using them. However, it appears that iPSCs should be able to be used for all the research purposes for which scientists wanted embryonic stem cells.
Some people have continued to raise questions over whether iPSCs are really ethical. In the case of those on the left, it's pretty obvious that this is sour grapes. After declaring loudly and pompously that pro-lifers are blocking the course of science and causing sick people to die and what-not, they find it difficult to admit that ethical science has proven them wrong. So they obfuscate. I write about some of that obfuscation, as carried out by a science writer named Paul Krzyzanowski, here.
On the pro-life side, there has been some genuine confusion on this subject. One person who keeps pushing such confusions (which I realize she does not take to be confusions) is a Dr. Dianne Irving. I did not write a blog post about this LifeSite News article, but I did respond to it in the comments section here.
September 10, 2013
Federal court supports 1st amendment against Dearborn (again)
The City of Dearborn has been somewhat too blatant in its attempts to cater to agitating Muslims and shut down both evangelism and criticism of Islam. Repeatedly the city has been slapped down by courts. For example, Dearborn was forced to allow Christians to pass out literature and "proselytize" at the Dearborn Arab festival, and eventually they canceled the festival itself for 2013.
Last year I reported on what one might call an innovative attempt by Dearborn to shut down Christian freedom of speech in the city: They tried to require Terry Jones to sign a sweeping hold harmless agreement as a prerequisite for receiving an "event permit" for a rally near a mosque. As I pointed out at the time, the wording of the hold harmless agreement was so broad that it could have been taken to indemnify the city for all manner of shenanigans, including (if they chose) simply arresting Jones for criticizing Islam or speaking in favor of Christianity.
Now a federal judge has agreed with that interpretation of the nature of the hold harmless agreement and has issued summary judgement. Her ruling is that the hold harmless agreement appeared to require plaintiffs to waive their right to hold the city liable for its otherwise actionable conduct as a condition of exercising their right to free speech. Therefore, that requirement is unconstitutional.
Heaven knows, freedom of religion and speech and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure are under unprecedented attack in America. It seems that every day brings a new piece of bad news of one kind or another. It's nice to see a story like this occasionally where the system actually works.
September 11, 2013
What happened on this day twelve years ago may be stated simply: The Jihad delivered against America a most grievous and staggering blow. Conceived in blind bitter hatred, plotted in treachery and skulking malice, it was also a spiritually impotent blow. To make a great symbol of resistance to the power of the infidels, these heroic operatives made their emasculated war on the defenseless and unwitting.
September 11 was not a blow delivered against the American fighting man. Against him the Jihad has generally withered or taken flight.
We demean the word by calling what happened on September 11th a battle. It was treachery against men and women the great majority of whom never had even a moment to contemplate self-defense. That some Americans — who we venerate today where their mortal remains lie, in the wide fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania — gave battle to these brigands, in the end conquered them by thwarting their conspiracy, shows indeed common American valor, but does not grant the murderers the honor of the title Soldier.
The crown of honor on that day was won above all by the police and firemen of New York City, whose losses were terrible; these men who more than self their country loved. O beautiful, for heroes proved in liberating strife!
The Towers fell; the Pentagon burned; Lower Manhattan became a crematorium. It was the Jihad in brutal summary. The guilt of its victims, according to ancient doctrine, was fixed by their unbelief. America stood as the citadel and champion of Infidelity. There could be no innocents here.
And so honor, innocence, charity, kindness, courage, nobility, valor — all must kneel at the feet of the obligation of the Jihad to make war on the powers of Infidelity. America is the greatest of those powers. Whatever our foreign policy, whatever the interventions of our military, whatever the skill of our diplomats, whatever the character of our statesmen - still we shall attract, at least for the time being, the boldest stratagems, the cleverest sedition, the cruelest bloodlust of the Jihad. Even now its agents and operatives are maneuvering against us. Even now they plot terror and mayhem and torture.
Our countrymen perished in the flames of this wicked system, this terrible institution of Jihad. Today we remember them, we honor them, we lift up those who mourn them in prayer; and we steel ourselves for the day when the Jihad will try again.
— THE EDITORS
September 12, 2013
Suffocated by Diversity: A Review of “Against Inclusiveness” by James Kalb
A guest post by Jeff Culbreath.
Inclusiveness is best described as the notion that distinctions of sex, age, religion, culture, race, ethnicity, sexual preference/orientation, and so forth should be of no consequence in public life. More specifically, it "requires that persons of every race, ethnicity, religious background, sex, disability status, and sexual orientation participate equally in all major social activities, with nearly proportional presence and success ..." The only distinctions that matter are distinctions of merit, measured scientifically and identified by credentials that are thought to demonstrate merit. Increasingly, though, even merit is suspect, as it is assumed that all those deficient in merit have been unfairly disadvantaged. Inclusiveness is therefore another term for radical egalitarianism. To publicly oppose “inclusiveness” today is, essentially, a one-way ticket to social, political, and economic marginalization. One is lucky to get away with mere exile and irrelevance while still being able to earn a living.
James Kalb, however, is not intimidated. His latest book is broadside against the “diversity regime”, and his name is on the cover. The strength of “Against Inclusiveness: How the Diversity Regime is Flattening America and the West and What to Do About It” is that the author understands the worldview of political liberalism and the complex motivations of its acolytes. He writes as someone intimately acquainted with the highest liberal patterns of thought. The best arguments present opposing views with justice, not caricature, and Mr. Kalb works hard to find rational coherence and high motives in the ideologies of those who are actively engaged in the destruction of our civilization. At times, one wonders if he gives them too much credit. Ultimately, though, this is a book that methodically exposes the fatal weaknesses and contradictions of the “inclusiveness” project – weaknesses that have compromised its proponents from the beginning, and which in Mr. Kalb’s opinion, will prove to be its undoing.
September 17, 2013
DC Government Much Worse than Scrooge
This story is unbelievably damning. The Washington, DC, city government sells small debts for property tax to private investors. The investors are empowered to go immediately to court to foreclose on homes worth orders of magnitude more than the property tax debt. The investors are also empowered to bill the homeowners for the legal expenses incurred in trying to take their homes away. If the homeowner can't pay the exorbitant legal bills on top of their sometimes quite minor original property tax owed (with interest), the home is sold, and the investor who purchased the lien gets everything. Not just collecting the original property tax owed. Not just collecting interest on the original property tax owed. Not even collecting only those things plus their own exorbitant legal fees incurred trying to take the home away. Everything. The entire value of the home.
September 22, 2013
Forced Home Visits? The scoop
In the past several weeks there have been various stories (see, e.g., here) about "forced home visits" being included in the funding for Obamacare.
The HSLDA is very concerned about 4th amendment rights, and it sent an e-mail to its members with a link to this analysis, which argues that coerced home visits are no more legal now than they were before. In other words, not legal. In fact, the HSLDA even got language included in the relevant law stating that states which accept money for home visitation programs must establish procedures to insure that each family's participation in a home visitation program is voluntary.
September 24, 2013
Treachery in Nairobi
We mourn the evil that has befallen Nairobi.
It is clear that, notwithstanding the details of the particular engagement of Jihadists' treachery, the kuffar are always directly targeted. Their race is not important; their age is not important; their incapacity of self-defense is not important; their nationality, their ethnicity, their gender -- all irrelevant.
Infidelity, that is the criterion. On that ground even the innocent child is slaughtered by a trained soldier with a lethal weapon. Oh, how brave the Jihadist who puts steel to the head of a two-year-old. What honor he has won by gaining advantage over unarmed families at a mall! Oh, what glory he is assured!
Let the Jihadist try the might of the American fighting man, even in his decline, and consider then his worth as a soldier. Let him wonder what glory he would gain if he walked into a mall full of armed American Marines.
When Saladin and the Crusaders came to arms, it was fighting man against fighting man; it was Frankish heavy cavalry against agile Arab archers and skirmishers. Discipline and mass against speed and elusiveness. It was military history, fascinating and thrilling in its own quality.
Man, reasoning rightly, can see that the slaughter at the mall was unrighteous in every way and is excluded from all possibility of bringing military glory. How Muslims can imagine their military history glorified by these latter-day razzias is a troubling question. Man has fallen far from Saladin to Muhammad Atta.
And yet, there are disturbing facts about Islam which must be faced. As, for example, that the enslavement of the innocent has ever been a feature of Muslim conquest. Hagia Sophia was filled with the innocent, doomed to be slaves, after the conquest of Constantinople. Multiple Koranic verses, some of which have been quite understandably taken to abrogate any earlier and apparently softer verses, mandate the slaying of the infidel if he will not convert. The sexual enslavement of captured women is expressly endorsed by Islamic texts. And Islam's “perfect man,” Muhammed himself, was by no means above mass slaughter. Those who say that there is “no excuse in Islam” for the terrorist acts we now see are as deluded in their own way as apologists who actually excuse terrorism.
It would be heartening if it were possible to return to the days of open, manly warfare. Then we might be able in some measure to honor our enemies even as we fight them. For terrorists, on the contrary, there must be no quarter as there is no respect.
Our Western governments often have little wisdom as they blunder about amongst the realities of the 21st century — the merciless Jihadists in our midst, their stark motivation, the seeming irrationality of their behavior, and the impossibility of “fighting them over there so we do not have to fight them over here.” As we confront the possibility of a Mumbai-style or Nairobi-style attack in the United States, we can only hope and pray that we will eventually have leaders who recognize the truth and are willing to act accordingly, rejecting the “religion of peace” and protecting us from it. Meanwhile, God rest the souls of these most recent victims of the Jihad — the war that does not end.
September 27, 2013
The Glory of Lost Causes (W4 version)
Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away (February 18, 2006, to be specific), I wrote this on our predecessor site, Enchiridion Militis:
I have long agreed with Jimmy Stewart as Mr. Smith that lost causes are the only causes worth fighting for. To put it more analytically, it is one of my most deeply held convictions that a man does not have integrity at all unless there is at least one thing, one good thing, for which he would die in a ditch, knowing that his side is lost but fighting to the last. He who will compromise on everything has lost his soul.
So I have collected, over the years, a small but precious stock of literary allusions to the glory of lost causes, and I propose to dole them out over a series of posts in lieu of other, more detailed politico-ethical reflections.
It did occur to me as I was thinking of these various quotations that some of them may seem to be “cheating.” Several of these are Christian in origin and hence contain the idea that we will not really lose in the final, eschatological sense, that Truth and Justice will finally triumph and hence that the appearance of losing here in this life is to some degree illusory. Yet they seem to fit with the theme of the glory of lost causes nonetheless. So my astute readers will have to forgive me for including in this series both quotations that imagine a final, heavenly reward and those that imagine none. And you can tell me what you think–does the point about lost causes get made better if we don’t believe in a heaven than if we do?
The first brief quotation is a stanza of “Am I a Soldier of the Cross.” We sang this at my little Anglican church on Septuagesima Sunday. (And if you don’t know what that is, you should!)
Thy saints in all this glorious war shall conquer though they die.
They view the triumph from afar and seize it with their eye.
The second (one of my very favorites) is an excerpt from the Anglo-Saxon poem, “The Battle of Maldon,” in which the good guys lose to the Vikings. I’d put it here in AS, but that would a) give the impression that I can actually read Anglo-Saxon, which is not true, and b) be impossible, as the requisite characters are not available to me here. This is Kevin Crossley-Holland’s translation.
…Then Wistan advanced,
the son of Thurstan; he fought with the Vikings,
slew three in the struggling throng
before he, Wigelm’s brave son, was himself brought down.
That was a savage fight; the warriors stood firm
in the struggle. Strong men fell,
drained by wounds; the dead dropped to the earth.
Byrhtwold grasped his shield and spoke.
He was an old companion. He brandished his ash-spear
and most boldly urged on the warriors:
“Mind must be the firmer, heart the more fierce,
courage the greater, as our strength diminishes.
Here lies our leader, hewn down,
an heroic man in the dust.
He who now longs to escape will lament for ever.
I am old. I will not go from here,
but I mean to lie by the side of my lord…”