Equality of Opportunity Is the Framework

by Burt on February 26, 2015

The subject of “equality” is the source of much political debate these days. Ever since the founding era, free-market thinkers have argued for equality of opportunity in the economic order. Equality, in other words, is a framework, not a result. In modern terms the goal is a level playing field. Government should be a referee that enforces property rights, laws, and contracts equally for all individuals.

What the free-market view means in policy terms is no (or few) tariffs for business, no subsidies for farmers, and no racism written into law. Also, successful businessmen will not be subject to special taxes or the seizure of property.

In America this view of equality is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence (“all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights”) and the Constitution (“imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States” and “equal protection of the laws”).

Much of America’s first century as a nation was devoted to ending slavery, extending voting rights, and securing property and inheritance rights for women–fulfilling the Founders’ goal of equal opportunity for all citizens.

Progressives and modern critics of equality of opportunity have launched two significant criticisms against the Founders’ view. First, that equality of opportunity is impossible to achieve. Second, to the extent that equality of opportunity has been tried, it has resulted in a gigantic inequality of outcomes. Equality of outcome, in the Progressive view, is desirable and can only be achieved by massive government intervention.

To some extent, of course, the Progressives have a valid point–equality of opportunity is, at an individual level (as opposed to an institutional level) hard to achieve. We are all born with different family advantages (or disadvantages), with different abilities, and in different neighborhoods with varying levels of opportunity. As socialist playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “Give your son a fountain pen and a ream of paper and tell him that he now has an equal opportunity with me of writing plays and see what he says to you.”

What the Progressives miss is that their cure is worse than the illness. When government, for example, tries to correct imbalances in family, ability, and neighborhood, government intervention produces other inequalities that maybe worse than the original ones.

Thomas Sowell writes, “Attempts to equalize economic results lead to greater — and more dangerous–inequality in political power.” Or, as Milton Friedman concluded, “A society that puts equality–in the sense of equality of outcome–ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.”

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Disturbing Parallels: Banzai and Allah Akbar

by Anita on February 19, 2015

Posted by Anita Folsom

Here are the headlines:

“Civilians Massacred!”

“Contest to Kill 100 Civilians with a Sword!”

“Hospital Bombed!”

Do these lines describe the Middle East today?  No, they describe atrocities in China 75 years ago.  The Japanese had invaded China in 1937, and until the end of World War II in 1945, the Japanese Army cut a path of murder, rape, and destruction across the conquered territory.  In Nanking in January, 1938, historians estimate that at least 40,000 Chinese civilians were killed.

Each conquest of new territory in China meant that the Japanese military believed it could do anything, even though its victories came against disorganized Chinese fighters with antiquated weapons and few leaders.  The myth of Japan’s power and strength against the world continued to grow, at least in the minds of the Japanese themselves.  They knew that the U.S. had only a token military presence in the Pacific. Japanese leaders believed that Americans were a decadent, soft people.

Japan’s early successes also emboldened the military faction controlling the country at home.  The Japanese media praised its soldiers in China and blamed all problems on the evil Chinese or the diabolical westerners from Europe and America who were trying to encircle Japan and humiliate it.  Such articles further inflamed the Japanese citizenry, who believed that their armies were invincible.

What was the reaction of the rest of the world?  For several years, mostly verbal protests, international meetings to proclaim that the Japanese were murderous outlaws, embargoes, and discussions about what action could be taken. The U.S. military was weak, poorly armed, and small in numbers, because President Franklin Roosevelt had skimped on military spending in order to fund social welfare programs that bought him millions of votes.  The United States wasn’t strong enough to do much.  (See FDR Goes to War, chapter 4.)

Then in December, 1941, the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and also the Philippine Islands, Singapore, Guam, and the Dutch East Indies.  As the Japanese Army advanced, its soldiers treated captured prisoners from Great Britain, Australia, and the United States little better than the Chinese.  Cries of “Banzai” from the Japanese regiments often filled the air as they celebrated their victories.

Today, each of us is all too familiar with the headlines of Isis’ atrocities.  Isis also fights disorganized, poorly trained groups for the most part, although the Kurds of northern Iraq have shown the ability to defend themselves when attacked.  Isis brutalizes anyone in its path, screaming “Allah Akbar!” as its war cry.

If we look at the lessons of history, both the Japanese in the 1930s and Isis today are international bullies, without law and without a conscience.  Force is the only way  to deal with such outlaws.  But again, our current U. S. president has undermined respect for the American military.  His “apology tours” and foreign diplomacy have made our enemies think that Americans are decadent weaklings.

Fighting the outlaws of Isis or any other international organization is a serious matter.  No one wants to see more American casualties overseas.  But the history of the Japanese in China shows that, if unchallenged, such murderers only keep going.  Isis must be defeated, and we must use such defeats to show the weakness of Isis’ leaders and ideology.

Why hasn’t the United States provided arms for the Kurds to use to defend themselves?  Where is the international coalition to fight Isis?  America needs strong leadership to overcome this murderous plague.  Otherwise, Isis will continue to recruit, to attack, and to murder the innocents.

 

 

 

 

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Is the U.S. an Unjust Nation?

by Burt on December 18, 2014

Yes, but only if we are judged by a divine standard. Indeed, by that standard we have many imperfections. One of our nation’s sins, for example, is that at different points in our history we have almost fully denied natural rights to several different groups: Blacks, Indians, Japanese during World War II, and even rich people (who were socked with a 90+ percent income tax for over twenty years). One sad lesson we have learned is that if you have a system that can deny natural rights to one group, then no other group is really safe from the political power of its government.

If we compare the U.S. to other nations, however, then we are probably the most just and most compassionate country ever to exist in the history of mankind. Our legal system, though it has had some failings, strives to protect all people and judge cases on the basis of merit. Early in our history, the U.S. became a haven and melting pot for Jews and other groups fleeing European wars, racism, and famine.

In the 1900s, we twice saved the world from itself. U.S. food and aid stopped famine and disease that struck millions of Europeans after World War I and World War II. In the case of WWI, after we had fed war-torn Europe, we literally doubled our own national debt in order to forgive the nations of Europe the debts they owed us. After WWII, we spent billions of dollars to revive industries in Japan and Germany, the countries that had started the war and had killed hundreds of thousands of our soldiers. Where else in the history of war have we ever seen the victors reaching out the hand of friendship by pumping cash into the defeated nations?

Maybe, in fact, the U.S. is too generous. President Obama is now trying to renew economic ties with Cuba. All is to be forgiven. We cut ties with Cuba more than fifty years ago because Fidel Castro seized all U.S. property in Cuba and refused to pay Americans any of the almost $2,000,000,000 that he owed them. (In today’s dollars, that amount would be more than $10 billion.) Will any of that money and property be restored to the rightful American owners? If not, what lesson does that send to other Latin American nations, which also hold massive amounts of American money and American-owned property?

If we study the Bible, the U.S. does not measure up to God’s best standard. But if we study history, the U.S. does very well, and we can see why so many millions of immigrants have come here, and are still trying to get here. Those who criticize America as unjust are rarely willing to judge themselves by the same high standard they judge the U.S.

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Let’s Not Relive The Day After Pearl Harbor

by Anita on December 8, 2014

Posted by Anita Folsom

In recent years, we have discussed the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese:  December 7, 1941.  This event led to the entry of the United States into World War II.  On that day at Pearl Harbor, 2,403 Americans died, the U.S. Pacific fleet was severely damaged, and 188 aircraft were destroyed on the ground.

This year, let’s discuss the day after Pearl Harbor, 1941.  What was happening in the world on December 8, 1941?

American military commanders were trying to understand the extent of the disaster and to make necessary plans to protect the United States from invasion.  As reports came in that the Japanese were also attacking the Philippines, Guam, and Singapore, fears of attacks on the West Coast were widespread.

What could the United States do to mount a counteroffensive?  Did we have the weapons for an immediate counterattack?   The answer:  the United States couldn’t do much of anything for quite some time.  President Franklin Roosevelt had spent years pouring money into government “make-work” projects so that he could buy the votes of the public and stay in office.  He had slashed the funding for the military even more than his predecessor, President Herbert Hoover.  The U.S. Army was still training with Springfield rifles produced before World War I.  The Army Air Corps was flying slow, outmoded aircraft.  The U.S. Navy needed ships, tens of thousands of recruits to man the ships, and more experienced officers.  The U.S. didn’t even have enough planes to patrol the East Coast and hunt for German submarines lurking offshore.

In Washington, D.C., the sorry state of the military was obvious for the world to see on December 8th.  “During the 1930s, the lax atmosphere in the neglected military meant that few men wore their uniforms to work [in Washington], preferring civilian jackets and trousers.  On the day following Pearl Harbor, military officers in the nation’s capital were ordered to report in full uniform.  Journalist David Brinkley described the results as ‘a rummage sale called to war.’ Some officers were in uniform purchased years before, and two sizes too small.  Still others didn’t have the insignia for their current rank or job description. Military headgear of all types and descriptions, some dating back to World War I, appeared in Washington.” (FDR Goes to War, p, 122-23.)

More serious shortages meant disaster for our fighting men overseas on Guam and the Philippine Islands.  The soldiers there discovered that four out of five hand grenades were defective.  One platoon fired seventeen mortar shells only to find that thirteen were duds. American soldiers and Marines throughout the Pacific were soon taken captive by the Japanese.

The day after Pearl Harbor is not the type of day that we should ever experience again.  Yet today we have another president who has once again spent billions on “make work” government projects and slashed support and funding for the American military.  Our veterans haven’t received proper care in VA hospitals.  Those soldiers, Marines, and airmen on active duty often don’t have the most advanced weaponry because our government hasn’t funded research or replaced worn out  and outmoded weapons.

If we want to avoid reliving the day after Pearl Harbor, we should change the course of priorities in the U.S. government.  Military spending must become more robust and respect for the importance of a strong defense must grow.  Let’s avoid the mistakes of Franklin Roosevelt by cutting spending on ineffective social programs and instead fund a stronger U.S. military.

 

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Thanksgiving Peace In the Midst of Turmoil

by Burt on November 25, 2014

“A historic power grab!” “A naked political move to win over Hispanics!” “Unprecedented seizure of power!”

These are some of the alarmist cries that have filled the air waves after President Obama signed his executive order to legalize millions of illegal aliens. Pat Buchanan, an expert on presidential politics, called Obama’s power play the “beginning of the end of the United States as one nation.” Baloney.

Today, we also see the destruction in Ferguson, Missouri. Activists such as Al Sharpton are rushing there to express opinions. Sharpton often acts as though he speaks for America, even though he still owes $4.5 million in back taxes.

Will President Obama’s power grab – and Sharpton’s posturing – endure? What does history tell us?

Other leaders in our lifetimes have launched somewhat similar power grabs and all have failed–or at least have not dented America’s constitutional separation of powers.

First, President Franklin Roosevelt, basking in his landslide reelection in 1936, launched an effort to pack the Supreme Court–to add six new justices whom he would appoint. FDR wanted Supreme Court justices who would protect his New Deal programs from legal scrutiny. Throughout 1937, critics warned of executive tyranny, that FDR “the dictator” was carving up the Constitution. Gallup took a poll asking if voters thought we were headed toward dictatorship. Even as FDR offered key senators juicy subsidies for their states, Congress held firm and denied the president his new justices. Court packing was dead forever.

Second, FDR during World War II issued his infamous executive order to violate the constitutional rights of tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans and incarcerate them in relocation centers. He got away with it for over two years, but his cabinet demanded that it stop after FDR was safely re-elected in 1944. It was no precedent. It has never happened again, and in 1988 Congress granted $20,000 in reparations to each surviving Japanese-American citizen. Congress then denounced FDR’s actions as “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

Third, President Truman challenged the constitutional separation of powers in 1952 when he seized control of the nation’s steel mills and declared them under operation by the federal government. Truman did this because he wanted more steel output for the Korean War, and he was angry that the steelworkers union was threatening to go on strike and halt all steel production. Reporters and columnists fumed at Truman’s power grab, and some said it was the end of separation of powers in the U.S. But the Supreme Court rose to the occasion and struck down Truman’s decision in Youngstown Steel and Tube vs. Sawyer.

That result is likely to occur with President Obama’s effort last week to usurp power for his political ends. We Americans should give thanks this week for the enduring separation of powers in our legal system that has withstood repeated onslaughts by aggressive presidents. We still have a legal process that endures. The due process of law was followed in the Ferguson case. We are still a blessed nation.

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Whose Executive Order will be Worse—President Obama’s or President Roosevelt’s?

by Burt November 18, 2014

The big political talk of the last two weeks has been President Obama’s threatened executive order to grant amnesty to perhaps 4-5 million illegal aliens. The Republicans oppose this move, and cite their landslide election victories earlier this month as evidence that Americans want Congress to make laws according to the Constitution, not the president […]

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Midterm Election 2014: Have We Seen This Before?

by Burt November 6, 2014

The answer may be 1938. Seventy-six years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt, in the sixth year of his presidency, received a shellacking: 81 House seats and 8 Senate seats flipped to the Republicans. FDR’s drubbing resembles that received on Tuesday by President Obama, also in his sixth year. First, economic stagnation plagued the country during FDR’s […]

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The First Amendment

by Anita October 29, 2014

Posted by Anita Folsom​​ Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…. Thus says the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution.   But Mayor Annise Parker of Houston disagrees. Earlier this month, Mayor Parker subpoenaed the sermons of five pastors to “investigate” what […]

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Who Was the Last President to Have a Great Second Term?

by Burt October 21, 2014

Calvin Coolidge (1925-1929). Since Coolidge only served part of a first term (after Harding died), his case is unusual. But Coolidge finished his second term with the lowest misery index (unemployment plus inflation) of any president in the last one hundred years. He lowered tax rates, cut federal spending, and had budget surpluses every year […]

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Should We Sometimes Ignore Mass Murder but Condemn Lesser Sins?

by Burt September 29, 2014

Oddly, progressives often say “yes” to this question, and have been doing so for almost a century now. At the United Nations, President Obama stated: “In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri—where a young […]

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