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August 2012 Archives

August 18, 2012

Need for Voter ID is Validated

An Associated Press story on the organized mailing of voter registration forms to dead people, illegal aliens and even pets should phave ut to rest the charge that requiring voter ID for registration and voting amounts to discrimination. An outfit called Voter Participation Center has sent out millions of such forms over the years and claims much success in registering people. Just sign here, send in the form and you can vote--often by absentee ballot. (Dead people would be considered among the most absentee, one supposes, though pets would be a close competitor for that prize.)

"Brenda Charlston (of Seattle) wasn't the only person to get documents for her pet (a dead black labrador retriever): A virginia man said similar documents arrived for his dead dog, Mozart, while a woman in the state received forms for her cat, Scamper."

This constitutes disregard of the law, if not fraud. In a country where self-righteous political passions are running high it is not beyond some people to use such forms to allow voting more than once or to vote for themselves or someone else illegally (e.g., a non-citizen or imprisoned felon or a resident of an alzheimer hospice). Critics who call voter ID racist or otherwise discriminatory assert that no proofs of fraud exist. Actually, this story alone is full of such proofs. Put it this way, if anyone who got a form filled out for an ineligibile person (or pet!), that on its face is fraud.

Yet the Department of Justice under Eric Holder is suing Florida and harrassing other jurisdictions for purging voter rolls. Yet such purging of names of people who have died or moved away is not only justified, but usually required by state law. If someone by some very rare accident finds his name stricken from a voting list, he can show voter ID and get a provisional ballot that then will be cleared and counted. However, there is no recourse when a fraudulent form is registered and a fruadulent ballot based on it is cast and counted. ACCORN, most famously, has been engaged in such practices.

Oddly, while there is intense media interest in wealthy conservatives and the causes they back, there was no mention in the AP story of who funds groups like the Voter Participation Center.

The recent NAACP convention railed against Voter ID laws. But, hypocrisy of hypocrisies, the organization admitted attendees to the convention itself only if they could show government ID!

There is no need for anyone to apologize for defending voting integrity. Once that safeguard goes, tyranny has few obstacles left. It used to be said in Chicago that unless you could win by ten percent or more against the machine, the machine would "find" the ballots it needed to prevail. Is that where we are headed nationally?

UPDATE: A Pennsylvania judge has ruled against opponents of voter-ID. John Fund describes in a National Review article online.

August 17, 2012

Buy This Land

Buy This jpg

Chi-Dooh ("Skip") Li created a non-profit organization called Agros about thirty years ago to help poor farmers in Central America to purchase their own property and become landowners. It was a simple but profound aim. Breaking a four hundred year tradition of servitude, Skip Li realized, would help a middle class develop and introduce the Jeffersonian virtues of the self-sufficiency and personal dignity to lands where those virtues are too rare. Now he has committed his experience and lessons to a surprising book, Buy This Land, that shows the way Americans can meld personal skills (in his case, law and negotiations) with hard work to perform real, lasting works of service.

Skip Li is a Chinese American whose diplomat father from the Republic of China (now Taiwan) was posted to Guatemala and Colombia in the late 40s and early 50s. Skip today is fluent in Chinese and Spanish, as well as English--quite an unusual combination. Also as a young man he became a U.S. citizen and was able to take advantage of the tremendous educational opportunities this country affords, and became a lawyer. He also became a serious Christian who wanted his education to pay off for the world as well as himself and his family.

The true history of America is made up of stories like Skip Li's. Many social entrepreneurs, like him, are motivated and fortified by faith. In such stories there often is a central insight, which in Li's case was the importance of land ownership. There often are practical principles such pioneers have learned in their philanthropy, and Skip Li describes a number of them. For him, one is the importance of having aid recipients repay the loans they take out. That is for their spiritual and mental benefit, not just the ability of the philanthropy to stretch its dollars. "I have seen firsthand how a man or woman's work ethic can be destroyed by a culture of giveaway," he reports, giving examples.

A lesson that has to be taught to donors, in return, is the essential willingness to stay with projects until they are finished, and not just to engage in philanthropy tourism.

Another lesson for donors that Agros exemplifies is the priceless worth of "private initiative." The government just can't do as good a job as small, private groups. USAID in the 80s, when Agros was starting, threw hundreds of millions of dollars at land reform in Central America and had little to show for it. "Getting involved with their money still means stepping into a quagmire of red tape and bureaucracy with endless forms to fill out and reports to write," Li states. Government is so eager to avoid waste that it often wastes everything.

Skip Li and his wife Cyd live in Seattle's University District. There they are co-owners of four houses that offer alternative housing for University of Washington students and mostly attract evangelical Christians. The Li's provide a home-like atmosphere with sincere, caring adult presence. Again, patience and caring make the difference.

Caring is crucial. Li doesn't boast of his faith, but it plainly animates him. "Loving the poor" as individuals means more to him than helping to "solve" the problem of poverty. "When a man or woman has known nothing but abject poverty for a lifetime it is not money or even a title deed alone that will lift that person out of poverty and overcome the mindset that goes with poverty and oppression," he writes. "The human spirit itself must be lifted up and ecouraged--and that takes time."

Agros now has established 42 villages, mostly in Central America. Skip Li dreams of "1,000 villages". That would change the culture of entire countries. But meanwhile, serious charity like Agros, already has had life-changing influence on the thousands of people it has touched.

August 2, 2012

Is Capitalism the Problem or the Solution? This Tuesday, Ask Dr. Jay Richards

Thumbnail image for Jay ALG2 jpg.jpg

For many people, "capitalism" is a dirty word. It dredges up mental images of destruction and exploitation: crowded sweatshops, smoggy cities, cleared forests, and gluttonous businessmen. Some consider free market capitalism to be a struggle for the survival of the fittest, accepting it as the most efficient system, but certainly an ugly one that facilitates greed, egoism, and consumerism.

But whatever word you want to use, we at the Discovery Institute's Center on Wealth, Poverty, and Morality aim to show that economic freedom is more than a necessary--or unnecessary--evil. The essence of the free market is not mere conflict, but collaboration, creation, and ultimately beneficial competition. Rather than seeing a clash between the "haves" and the "have-nots," we are witnessing the development of a global network of people--laborers, entrepreneurs, inventors, and consumers alike--that interact and respond to one another's needs and wants. By building communities instead of bureaucracies, we affirm our connection with and responsibility to our fellow man. This isn't exploitation; it's relation.

Advocates of a free market recognize the incredible potential contained in human enterprise, creativity, and even genius. They also recognize man's fallenness, and believe that a free market, by definition framed by the rule of law, is the best way to channel both man's creativity and cooperation, as well as his fallenness. The free market, far better than the alternatives, allows man to flourish by the work of his hands and mind.

While the free market is the best known way to achieve widespread even if uneven prosperity, it does not promise a utopian end to economic hardship. Rather, it humbly acknowledges that no government, indeed, no human being, has the knowledge or ability to create a better economy than the one that emerges from humans acting in freedom within the rule of law.

But the details are complicated. That's why we hope that you will bring any questions and objections to the table during a live Q&A session with Jay Richards. Our goal is to provide the opportunity for an open discussion that will be rewarding and constructive to everyone involved. To participate, log in to Twitter at 2pm PDT/5pm EDT on August 7, 2012 (this Tuesday!) and tweet your question along with the hashtag #AskACapitalist. Jay Richards will be reading your tweets and responding from his personal twitter handle, @FreemarketJay.

We look forward to hearing from you!

August 3, 2012

Religious Liberty Becomes Surprise Issue

If you made a list of issues that Americans care about--or even social issues they care about--you probably would not find religious liberty at or near the top. But it is one of those issues that is not important to people until suddenly it is. We assume a broad scope for religious liberty in this country and are startled to find it questioned. When basic values are seriously challenged they suddenly become serious issues indeed.

A few decades ago Americans, most of whom hold standard theistic beliefs, tended to overlook problems in this field. That was especially so as most cases in law were meant to find a right to dissent from religion of a civic sort; e.g., prayer in schools. Now, however, the practice of freedom of religion is under assault.

The Chick Fil-A kerfluffle is a new example of free speech expressly based on religious convictions eliciting not-so-veiled threats from government officials. Our Sr. Fellow Jay Richards and his co-author of Indivisible, James Robison, write about it today in the Wall Street Journal's "House of Worhip" space.

Meanwhile, the new Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) suffered a rebuff in court recently when a Colorado judge ruled with the business owners who object to the law's mandate (as interpreted by the Administration) to provide free contraceptive coverage for employees, including abortion-inducing drugs. The judge's ruling was not definitive or final, but it is a warning shot accross the bow of the Obama Administration's legislative flagship. Discovery Sr. Fellow Wesley J. Smith writes about it in the new Weekly Standard. Instructively, the judge's ruling has not been a big news story.

August 4, 2012

What to Do About Worsening State Woes

Probably the top reporter/commentator on cities and states is Neal Peirce, who now describes the new Volker-Ravitch State Budget Crisis Task Force report on the condition of state finances. It makes for grim reading.

In a time without the dangers the economy as a whole faces, this might be front page headline material. It still should be.

"States' pension funds are already seriously underfunded and unlikely to produce the high yields (6 to 7 percent yearly) predicted before the recession. Plus, states and localities, without any reserve funds for the purpose, have promised workers hundreds of billions of dollars worth of retirement health benefits.

"Today Medicaid is states' biggest budget challenge. The program has already surpassed state outlays for K-12 education and is likely to grow somewhere between 8.1 percent a year, if the health care reforms of the Affordable Care Act are implemented, and almost as rapidly, 6.6 percent yearly, if they aren't."

Mr. Peirce wonders why the report failed to consider the solution of freeing cities to raise property taxes to whatever levels they like. He also suggests new taxes on professional services and print and Internet advertising

Continue reading "What to Do About Worsening State Woes" »

August 6, 2012

Christian Theology in The Dark Knight Rises (spoiler alert)

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By Jay W. Richards, Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute

I finally got the chance to see The Dark Knight Rises (in IMAX). It's not at all a stretch to argue, as Andrew Klavan has done, that this is a fundamentally conservative film:

The movie is a bold apologia for free-market capitalism; a graphic depiction of the tyranny and violence inherent in every radical leftist movement from the French Revolution to Occupy Wall Street; and a tribute to those who find redemption in the harsh circumstances of their lives rather than allow those circumstances to mire them in resentment.

The politics in the film seem almost "snatched from the headlines" of recent Occupy Wall Street silliness. Thuggish protesters are mostly thuggish protestors. Cops are basically good guys.

The more interesting story, however, is how overtly Christian the film is, in the structural and symbolic sense. The Dark Knight (one of my all-time favorite movies) had some of this, what with the Man of Sorrows taking the blame for the sin of others, so that his Gotham might live in peace.

But The Dark Knight Rises is jam-packed with Christian and specifically Christological symbolism. And unlike most Hollywood fare, The Dark Knight Rises affirms that symbolism. These elements seem more fundamental to the film than the political elements.

Even at the surface, it's a pretty Christian-friendly film. A Catholic boys' home is an important part of the story. It is run by a nice, normal priest--the kind familiar to most Catholics but as rare as iridium in Hollywood productions. But the Christian themes go much farther than merely allowing a decent Christian or two in character roles. I do not know anything about the religious views of the Nolan brothers, or of Christopher Nolan's wife and production partner, Emma Thomas. But there is absolutely no way that these theological elements are an accident.

Photo Credit

Continue reading " Christian Theology in The Dark Knight Rises (spoiler alert)" »

August 7, 2012

Clever VP Choice Could be Bad Choice

There comes a time in the vetting of vice presidential possibilities when a candidate for President already is known and his staff start finding out what is wrong with all the standard choices. At that point new names become enticing. That time is now for the Romney camp.

For months the most obvious choices have been Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan and Rob Portman. Any of them is qualified to succeed Mr. Romney as President and any of them would be a good campaigner. Rubio is solid on state, national and international affairs and, as our friend Michael Medved says, is the best speaker in the GOP. He would help with the increasingly crucial Latino vote, and the potentially crucial youth vote. A few points move in either of those groups could prove decisive this year. Ryan knows the budget better than anyone in politics and knows how to handle all the national issues that Joe Biden or the media would send his way. He would help Romney win the state of Wisconsin, where Obama now leads. Portman is such a good debater that he has been used to help prepare past presidential nominees, including John McCain in 2008, and while he is not well known in Ohio, his presence would encourage that key state to swing toward Romney.

Continue reading "Clever VP Choice Could be Bad Choice" »

Moth Myth Debunked in New Experiment

When I was a student at Harvard in the early 60s the Peppered Moth experiment was offered as one of the defining demonstrations of the validity of Darwinian evolution. Had it been true (as students were assured it was; beyond criticism, in fact), the peppered moth story would have demonstrated only micro-evolution(change within a species), not macro-evolution (change from one species into another). However, as Jonathan Wells described in Icons of Evolution--12 years ago--the peppered moth experiment was not true. It was a fake.

Yet it is still in many textbooks. Now a new science experiment from South Korea describes the subject anew, with a valid--and revealing--experiment. The peppered moth "icon of evolution" has no business in science textbooks. Why is it still there?

August 8, 2012

Iran Showdown Soon


John Wohlstetter, author of the new book, Sleepwalking with the Bomb (just published by Discovery Institute Press), stated today that Israel may well attack Iran before the U.S. elections this November. You can get a good argument about the odds (John didn't give any), but if there is even a one in ten chance, don't you think that the subject should rank higher in campaign issues this year?

Speaking to an audience at the Discovery Institute in Seattle (covered by C-Span) Wohlstetter described the West's missed opportunities to make sanctions work against Iran. Slowly increasing sanctions, as the Obama Administration has done, fails, he said, because the target has time to adjust. Had the present sanctions taken force all at once a couple of years ago, and had the Administration supported the "Green" movement of the population in Iran, rather than ignoring it, we might have a cheerier prospect before us now.

One reason that people are not discussing a possible attack on Iran's nuclear bomb sites is that the subject of nuclear proliferation has all but disappeared from academic studies and media coverage. John's book therefore fills a yawning hole. Former CIA Director James Wolsey says of it, " For many years Sleepwalking With the Bomb will be the standard against which all other work on nuclear issues will be measured."

The book comes none too soon. Since the 1980s, when Reagan and Gorbachev made arms agreement progress, and especially since the fall of the USSR, people at all levels in America and Europe have become complacent about the danger of nuclear attack. Meanwhile, universities and think tanks that used to support study centers on nuclear issues have withered and blown away. We just don't have many nuclear experts around anymore and policy makers even have forgotten, it seems, the language of nuclear deterrence.

Something like this complacency afflicted the West on the general topic of terrorism before 9/11. The danger was known to exist, but people didn't want to stir it up by learning about it. No one wants to think about the threat of nuclear terrorism now, let alone nuclear war. That probably includes candidates. But the way to banish unpleasant realities is to deal with them.

John Wohlstetter, of course, is a senior fellow at Discovery and the author of The Long War Ahead on terrorism. He again has made a tough subject comprehensible to any intelligent reader. Now we need intelligent readers who are willing to be alerted.

August 14, 2012

Is Biden Ready to be President?

The latest perverse and destructive outburst from Vice President Biden is laughed off by some as, "Well, that's just Joe!" Saying to a mostly black audience that the Romney-Ryan team want to "put y'all back in chains" is the kind of slander that, if it were spoken by Paul Ryan, would lead to calls for his being removed from the ticket. It's another case of who is covering the news, rather than what they are covering.

Biden has been wrong about a long parade of issues during his career. For example, his solution for Iraq was to divide it into several sectarian segments.

During the Reagan years, when he was ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he opposed one conservative judicial appointment after another with the oleaginous smear: You have done nothing wrong; you're a fine person, but because charges have been made against you--correct or incorrect--you don't meet the "higher standard" that we must impose in this case. He did that repeatedly.

At the least he has terrible judgement. Yet this man a heartbeat away from the Presidency.

(Update: Rudy Giuliani shares a similar opinion.)

Gilder and Wealth; Why Reagan Agreed

Scroll to the 6 minute ant 50 second mark to hear President Reagan quote George Gilder.

George Gilder's bestselling economics book, Wealth and Poverty, came out in early 1981. The President was given a copy by Sen. Bob Dole and read it while convalescing from the Hinckley assassination attempt. It is not such a surprise then that President Reagan over his eight year tenure quoted George Gilder more than any other living author.

It was our idea at Discovery Institute that the economic disputes of today have a resonance with the late Carter years, though circumstances are different in crucial ways. (If anything, we are worse off now than under Carter.) Harry Crocker, Jr., editor at Regnery press, was excited at the suggestion that Wealth and Poverty should be re-published for a new generation, and so it is that the pub date is set for August 20, with a handsome new edition, including a new prologue and epilogue by George. There is to be a Wealth and Poverty sequel published by Regnery this winter, Knowledge and Power, but, meanwhile, if you haven't read W&P, this is your chance. Limited excerpts already are running in National Review and The American Spectator. Fox is running an opinion piece about W&P by Steve Forbes, and Larry Kudlow and Lou Dobbs are planning to have George on their broadcasts in the next few days.

If you think that capitalism deserves a defense on its morality, as well as its efficiency, Wealth and Poverty does the job.

Over the years lot of young people have been influenced by the book, including Paul Ryan. His staff says that he assigned it to new Congressional aides who wanted to know how he thought. (He is not the Ayn Randian people in the liberal media have made out. Indeed, Rand's last public speech was a denunciation of Gilder and an attack on Wealth and Poverty.)

Human Events just described how Ronald Reagan used Wealth and Poverty to defend the entrepreneurs of his day.

W & P jpgOne of Gilder's other great points that resonates today is that high tax liberals don't really threaten rich people; they make life hard for those aspiring to become rich. Those are the upward mobile businessmen, inventors, entrepreneurs and investors who create most of the new jobs. People who work on commissions or cash in investments to start up a company or to retire are particularly in danger. From time immemorial, the already-rich and the high tax crowd have reserved their true scorn for those folks. It's true again today. If you don't think so, look at the collective tax burden that will fall on the aspiring businessmen--income tax increases, capital gains taxes, inheritance tax (to at lest 35 per cent), Obamacare tax surcharges, Dodd-Frank regulations, etc. The already rich have lawyers and accountants to shield them from growing tax and regulatory burdens, and these actually represent a competitive advantage over business newcomers who lack such resources. Interestingly, the Republicans actually propose to repeal many such tax shelters for the rich in order to lower overall tax rates. Perhaps that is one reason you see the large attendance at $36,000 a plate dinners for Mr. Obama in New York and Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Who do you think can afford such affairs?

On the other hand, you see a leap in moderate sized contributions going to Romney this year, outpacing the incumbent, Obama at this point. Fortunately, there are vastly more middle and upper middle class people than the truly rich. In 2008 about 80 percent of the high income zip codes went for Obama. It won't be as strong this year, but he'll continue to get huge support there. The idea that Obama wants to correct our deficit condition by getting the rich to "pay their full share" has become one of the all-time worst political canards.

August 15, 2012

It Takes a World to Raise a Product

There is such simplistic nattering about "outsourcing," as if Americans could survive as an economy if we just grew all our own food and made all our own products. Sr. Fellow Jay Richards explains in Investor's Business Daily why that is a fable, and why the reality of how products develop is so complex and interwoven as to constitute a kind of miracle. Jay picks up on the old tale,"I, Pencil", to describe, "I, I-Phone."

August 17, 2012

Leaking of Security Secrets is Legitimate Issue

The Obama Administration should not be surprised that people in the military and intelligence fields object to the leaks of national security secrets by top levels of the government. The group of retired Navy Seals and CIA operatives who put out a 22 minute video chastising the President for the leaks have been gaining increased attention, with a YouTube program getting over 1,168,000 hits so far.

But Eric Boehlert, a senior fellow of the left wing Media Matters online journal, is criticizing the Op Sec team as "gutless" for not admiting that they are fronting for the Republican Party. To that Op Sec has reacted angrily.
Some of the OPSECTeam probably are Republican. Some probably are not. Scott Taylor seen on camera, is a former GOP candidate for Congress. Yet they also are quoting Democrats who were appalled that the White House would endanger secret personnel and sources in pursuit of political credit for what was, in fact, a military program. In any case, so what?

The breach of national security from the top is a serious business. Everyone knows the tight rules placed on classified information and classified programs. For the President and his staff to violate those rules is to complicate compliance elsewhere.

Doesn't it make it harder to pursue the likes of Julian Assange, whose Wikileaks revelations of US documents and communications endangered lives and compromised sources if the White House has done the same? Assange did it to hurt the US. Obama's team did it for political purposes. The distinction is real, but the motivation of the White House still doesn't stand scrutiny. It should be more of a public issue, not less.

August 20, 2012

"Scientists Say": We Need Science to Affirm Empathy

William Deresiwicz at the The American Scholar takes on our friends at The New York Times for another example of scientism: the need to use the authority of science to explain attributes of humanity that have been explained for years by, among others, novelists and playwrights.

John West has a book coming out (The Magician's Twin) on C. S. Lewis and his early warnings about scientism, that secular cult that tries to make materialism the judge of all things human. To oppose scientism is not to oppose science, of course, though the scientism practitioner would like to make it seem so. Properly understood, it really is a science heresy.

The Magician's Twin Trailer.jpg

See more at C.S. Lewis Web.

Ryan's Read Boosts Gilder's Book

Thumbnail image for paul ryan AP.jpgWhen young Paul Ryan became a staffer to Sen. Bob Kasten of Wisconsin, the senator's Chief of Staff, Cesar Conda (now Chief of Staff to Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida), according to ABC News, "gave Ryan two books that are classics among conservative economists: 'The Way the World Works' by Jude Wanniski and 'Wealth and Poverty' by George Gilder." AP also has the story.

The Way the World Works still may be available, but it is Wealth and Poverty that has gone through two revisions and reprints--and is enjoying new life right now. As of today, Regnery Publishing is releasing W&P as "A New Edition for the 21st Century." Updates include a new Prologue and Epilogue. Gilder has a current cover article in National Review and a major piece coming in The American Spectator. He is appearing on C-Span several times this week and next, and on The (Larry) Kudlow Report tonight, Lou Dobbs tomorrow, Fox News and various radio talk shows.

Thumbnail image for jpgWhat has not been reported yet (you read it here first!) is that Rep. Ryan himself has given at least some of his own staffers Wealth and Poverty to read. This is interesting, since he did not (as has been reported, but denied by ex-Ryan staffers) assign the reading of Atlas Shrugged, although he praised it strongly. Ryan obviously appreciated that novel's support of individual creativity as the basis of freedom. So does Gilder and many other people who nonetheless don't buy Rand's pessimism or atheism. You can appreciate a writer for some things and not others.

For example, Gilder says he still admires some things about Atlas Shrugged despite the fact that Rand's last speech was a heartfelt denunciation of Wealth and Poverty and George Gilder for their emphasis on giving as a motivation in capitalist endeavor. The greatest appeal of Wealth and Poverty for most readers lies in its defense of the morality of capitalism. That there is generosity in the entrepreneur (who offers a product before people have even demanded it) was odious to Rand. Too bad. Gilder's right, she's wrong.

Paul Ryan, like most serious politicians who actually read books, is not responsible for the views of other people. He probably doesn't agree with everything George Gilder has written. On the other hand, it's surely worth noting that he owns a dog-eared, heavily underlined book of the original Wealth and Poverty.

Photo Credits:
Paul Ryan
George Gilder

August 23, 2012

Year After Debt Downgrade, U.S. in Worse Shape

By: Scott S. Powell, Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute
(Published today in the Orange County Register)

Scott Powell Small.jpgA year ago this month, Standard and Poor's fired a shot across America's bow, downgrading the nation's coveted AAA rating to a AA-plus. S&P's rationale for the cut was that Congress's Budget Control Act "fell short of the amount ... necessary to stabilize the general government debt burden by the middle of the decade."

For several weeks, media pundits and Washington policy-makers were jolted out of denial about the assumption that deficit spending could continue in the same trajectory. Congress formed the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction - aka the Supercomittee - as part of the Budget Control Act. Its mandate was to make recommendations within three months to reduce federal expenditures over 10 years by at least an additional $1.5 trillion on top of the $917 billion already agreed to - for a total reduction of $2.4 trillion.
Three months passed without agreement by the Supercommittee on any spending cuts. The sense of urgency dissipated, and an historic opportunity to bring measurable and real discipline to spending was lost. Meanwhile, the federal government entered its fourth-straight year projecting a $1.25 trillion deficit without a plan or a budget. In the preceding three years of the Obama administration, the annual deficit averaged $1.34 trillion. Previously, in any single year in U.S. history, the worst deficit had been $459 billion.

Looking back, when Barack Obama took office in January 2009, total U.S. government debt stood at about $10 trillion. Since then, more than $5.5 trillion has been added to the national debt, which is about to hit $16 trillion. This out-of-control spending and debt is the primary reason why all three credit rating agencies, Moody's, Fitch and S&P, have negative outlooks on U.S. government debt, all but assuring further rating downgrades in the near future.

Continue reading "Year After Debt Downgrade, U.S. in Worse Shape" »

Surprising New Critic of Darwin's Theory

Next month, Oxford Press is publishing Mind and Cosmos by Thomas Nagel, one of the most prestigious philosophers in the country, and Darwinians are not going to like it. The giveaway is the subtitle, "Why the Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False."

Nagel, a professor at NYU, not only criticizes Darwinism, but also criticizes Darwinian critics of intelligent design. It's not that he agrees with ID (he doesn't), but that he finds the arguments of Discovery fellows Behe and Meyer compelling, and likewise David Berlinski. The latter also doesn't necessarily buy ID and, like Nagel, is an agnostic if not an atheist.

An atheist! Who is not a part of Discovery Institute. Who disagrees with Darwin and thanks ID scientists for their contributions to his understanding! It is enough to give the Darwinian establishment the fantods.

Maybe his genes made him take this position. John West has read the Nagel book in its Kindle version (already available) and has a good report.

August 24, 2012

Romney, Bain, and Me

George Gilder explains Mitt Romney even better than Mitt Romney. Gov. Romney has a good piece ("Mitt Romney: What I Learned at Bain Capital") in today's Wall Street Journal, but Gilder has a longer article, in the American Spectator titled Romney, Bain, and Me that actually gives the former Bain founder more credit than Romney gives himself. Romney's experience at Bain should be a calling card for the general public the same way it is for knowledgeable people in the business world.

The Gilder article is partly derived from the new edition of Wealth and Poverty, just published by Regnery.

Analysis by Medved Anticipates Obama Loss

The thing about predictions is that people can check later to see if you were right. Knowing this, Michael Medved still wrote a new e-book, The Odds Against Obama. He gives his explanation in a promo here. It will be interesting to see if the prediction is hedged in the book itself. Past precedents have a way of getting overturned in this country.

August 27, 2012

Lou Dobbs: "Embrace Capitalism" and Gilder Book

The re-launch of Wealth and Poverty, by Discovery co-founder George Gilder, was highlighted a couple of days ago on the Lou Dobbs program on FOX. Dobbs mentions the effect the book had on President Ronald Reagan and, more recently, Congressman Pual Ryan. It's a good interview, visible here.

August 29, 2012

Angela Merkel, De Facto Leader of Europe


Strong but reserved and temperate leadership is hard to make exciting. And maybe exciting is not a quality people are looking for in times that are so exciting that they are scary. In Europe, the Germans--of all people!--are turning out to be a source of continental common sense. They are exercising decisive influence on a middle course.

Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank (ECB), is among those backing Germany's refusal to go along with the "binary" choice of reverting to the Deutschmark, on one hand, or pushing ahead to some political union. Political union today would mean government by bureaucracy in Brussels and the further separation of nations' voters from decision making. It is anti-democratic. This is privately the view of Europeans almost everywhere and the public position of Germany under Angela Merkel.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel seemed out of sync with her people for a while, but she apparently is wearing well. Not because of her charisma; she doesn't have any. What she has is sensible, intelligent policies that garner sober respect. As a result, there has been a solidification of support for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) that she heads. It is up almost to 40 percent in the polls, which wouldn't be much in the two-party U.S., but is a lot in Germany. It's far ahead of the Social Democrats (26 percent). With the Free Democrat political allies at 5 percent, the CDU would seem likely to sweep in a parliamentary contest. Meanwhile, popular support, as well as Germany's relatively strong economy, gives Merkel growing clout in Europe.

August 30, 2012

Great Forbes Review of New "Wealth and Poverty"

The Wonders of Wealth, the Path Out of Poverty
by Bret Swanson (

bretswanson_136.jpgWhy didn't a trillion dollar stimulus and a $700 billion TARP revive the American consumer and thus GDP growth?

Why couldn't four years of zero interest rates and $2 trillion in additional Fed monetary reserves reflate the housing market?

Why can't the government produce innovation through green energy subsidies, forestall crashes with its armies of regulators, or boost tax receipts by taking its fair share from the one percent?

Because all these policies misunderstand the fundamental nature of wealth, and thus of the modern American economy. "Even if it wished to," writes George Gilder, "the government could not capture America's wealth from its one percent of the one percent. As Marxist despots and tribal socialists from Cuba to Greece have discovered to their huge disappointment, governments can neither create wealth nor effectively redistribute it, they can only expropriate it and watch it dissipate. Under capitalism, wealth is less a stock of goods than a flow of ideas and information, the defining characteristic of which is surprise."

Millions learned these lessons thirty years ago when they first read Gilder's Wealth and Poverty, an international bestseller and blueprint for the Reagan revolution. I was 15 when I pulled the first edition off my father's bookshelf. Paul Ryan, reportedly, read the book when he was 19. Turning on a dime after the the listless 1970s, Gilder's idea that ideas and entrepreneurship drive the economy fueled two decades of supply-side policy and a worldwide boom of freedom and growth.

Wealth, however, in another of Gilder's warnings, is too often taken for granted. Because it based on ideas, not stocks of goods, and because it is dependent on confidence in the future, it can vanish in an instant. The boom turned to bust as complacent American policymakers across the political spectrum forgot that the sources of wealth, such as hard work, invention, and policies that permit a free flow of information, must be constantly renewed.

Continue reading "Great Forbes Review of New "Wealth and Poverty"" »

August 31, 2012

What is the Chance for Radical Growth?

WSJ Gilder Article 8:30.jpg

George Gilder, who helped found Discovery Institute, describes in The Wall Street Journal today the challenge to the Romney-Ryan ticket and the challenge to the U.S.: How do you foster enough economic growth to raise us out of the current slough?

A couple of years ago George and I were in Los Angles and visited a wealthy man who lives down a deep canyon and has developed a computerized diagnostic tool for analyzing the current state of the U.S. economy. This man, a product of the new tech economy, had concluded that there was no way to save or cut our way out of the current federal deficit hole. I think it is fair to describe him as fatalistic and negative. What we suggested was that the way out was to grow out, to create not one but many new "Microsofts" and "Googles" each year.

Crazy? George thinks otherwise.

But it does take a favorable federal government, which is not what we have now.

Romney's Bain Experience is a Plus

Scott S. Powell, a senior fellow of Discovery Institute has an article in today's Investors Business Daily urging Mitt Romney to be more assertive about the value of his Bain experience. It is key to his case for a recovery.

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