The Politics of Hate

by Anita on September 21, 2015

Posted by Anita Folsom

Why are so many people fueled by hate these days?  A good question.  The answer:  We are reaping the results of decades of bad ideas taught by activists who want equality in society – total equality.  And total equality is not only impossible, it’s a theory that leads to disaster.

Total equality was the goal of the communist governments of eastern Europe, led by the former Soviet Union.  Their people were all equal:  Yes, equally poor, equally suppressed, equally without good medical options.  These people finally threw off the yoke of this political theory and embraced free market ideas.

For example, in Estonia, the tiny Baltic state that had been a satellite of the USSR, conditions by the early 1990s were so bad that the government required families to have three children before they could purchase milk at state-run grocery stores.  Then in 1992, Mart Laar was elected prime minister, and with the fall of the Soviet Union, Laar implemented the free market ideas he had read in Milton Friedman’s Free To Choose.

Estonia became “the Baltic Tiger,” with an economic turnaround that startled the world.  Laar’s administration implemented the flat tax, removed restrictions on buying and selling of goods, and allowed entrepreneurs to own their own businesses.  The people prospered.

But in the United States, the theory of total equality – meaning that all citizens must have the same outcome in life as other citizens – has been taught for decades and is still being taught.

Protesters feel wronged.  They’ve been told, over and over by liberal college professors and activists alike, that society owes them – owes them a house, owes them a living, owes them medical care.  When they don’t have those benefits, regardless of their own personal actions, society has done them wrong and they are angry.

I saw another example of this recently from an unexpected source.  I was watching Ken Burns’ documentary, “The Civil War,” now being re-run on its 25th anniversary.  First released in 1990, Burns and his staff produced nine hours on the history of the Civil War and its effects.  In many ways, it is a masterpiece.

During the last hour of Burns’ production, however, historian Barbara J. Fields of Columbia University answers the question, “Who won the war?”  Fields admits that President Lincoln, General Grant, and the entire Union Army won the actual war, and the war in essence ended slavery.  But she also makes a key provocative point:

“You can say there is no such thing as slavery anymore.  We are all citizens.  But if we’re all citizens, then we have a task to do to make sure that that too is not a joke.  If some citizens live in houses and others live in the street, the Civil War is still going on.  It’s still to be fought and, regrettably, it can still be lost.”

In other words,  twenty-five years ago, Fields was demanding equality of condition for all Americans.  If anyone is a U.S. citizen, that person should have what others have.  And if one person doesn’t have what others have, the goals of the Civil War haven’t been met.  She is demanding a fight, a war no less, for equality of condition:  “If some citizens live in houses and others live in the street, the Civil War is still going on.  It’s still to be fought….”

Fields is illogical in this argument.  Government redistribution of goods and resources would never stop and would simply lead to more inequality. Eastern Europe under the communists has been a perfect example of this problem.

She is also ignoring many of the successes that occurred after the Civil War.  Hundreds of teachers worked in the South after the end of slavery to educate former slaves.  In 1870, only 19% of African Americans were literate.  By 1930, 84% of African Americans could read.

By contrast, since the federal government began directing education in the 1970s, scholastic scores for all groups, especially minorities, have gone down and literacy has steadily declined.

I cannot guarantee that another citizen will have what I have, but I can stand for the right of each citizen – guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution – to have equality of opportunity in the United States.  Citizens have the responsibility to chart their own course and to build their own lives.

Yes, black lives matter, and blacks prosper when they have equal opportunity and take responsibility for their own lives.  When citizens know that they have equality of opportunity, the hate subsides because each individual is responsible for his own outcome. Equality of opportunity is the bedrock of the American system, not equality of outcome.






{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Why Did We Drop the Atomic Bomb?

by Burt on August 12, 2015

Posted by Anita Folsom

These questions come up year after year: Why did the U.S. drop the atomic bombs on Japan? Was this the right strategy? Was it morally the right thing to do?

Seventy years ago, in August 1945, the United States dropped two atomic bombs that led to Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II. That’s when those questions began.

A prisoner of war who witnessed the atomic bomb exploding over Nagasaki gives a compelling argument that yes, dropping the bombs was exactly the right thing to do. Lester Tenney had joined the U.S. Army in 1940, thinking that he would get his military service over in a hurry, get back to civilian life, and finish his education. He was assigned to the 192nd Tank Battalion and sent to the Philippines, just in time to be there when the Japanese attacked. Lester was captured on Bataan, survived the Bataan Death March, and sent by his captors on a “hell ship” to Japan to work as a slave laborer.

Here is part of his story:

“In the late spring of 1945, I saw that the cruelty with which we prisoners of war were treated was only increasing. Our guards told us that Japanese units facing attack had received orders to kill all military and civilian POWs in their custody. They were to unburden themselves to focus on the fight. The executions were to begin August 17….

Early on the morning of August 9, from the POW camp where I was held some 30 miles across a bay, I saw the sky over Nagasaki change. It glowed red and the air tuned warm against my skin. Until then, red was the color of my subjugation. My Japanese guards were certain that red had a uniquely Japanese meaning. It wasn’t just the central color of their flag, it was viewed as emotionally representative of their pure spirit and sincerity. The red sky over Nagasaki ended those illusions.

“At that moment, I made a bet with a friend that soon we would all be set free. I was right.” (Wall Street Journal, 8/8/15)

Lester Tenney survived his captivity because World War II ended suddenly, with an announcement by the Japanese emperor to his people on August 15th that the war was over. Japan had surrendered.

If you wish to learn more about why the U.S. dropped the atomic bombs, go to for their brief video on “Was It Wrong to Drop the Atom Bomb on Japan?”

Also, read FDR Goes to War (co-authored by Burton and Anita Folsom).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Read Burton and Anita Folsom’s newest book, Death on Hold, released by Thomas Nelson Publishing on August 11th. This book is quite a departure from the Folsoms’ usual texts on economic history, but it is the riveting story of the transformation of a prisoner. Not a POW such as Lester Tenney in the story above, but a prisoner who was transformed by the grace of God.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

The High Cost of Crime and Punishment

by Burt on July 28, 2015

On the subject of crime, as Thomas Sowell has noted, liberals and conservatives often talk past each other. They don’t agree on what causes crime, or how it can be prevented.

Conservatives, for example, see crime in society as inevitable. Human nature is flawed, and thus some people will rob, cheat, or injure others if an advantage can be gained by doing so. To prevent anarchy in society, deterrents against crime (e.g. jails and fines) must be firmly in place and faithfully supported by law. Potential criminals need to see that the costs of being caught outweigh the gains from the crime. When institutions–families, churches, and schools–train children to behave lawfully, everyone gains.

Liberals, however, often disagree about the causes of crime. They see human nature as basically good. The problems come from within society itself. For example, poverty or poor education can sidetrack normally good people into lives of crime. The solution, therefore, is in government intervention–a war on poverty or more education so that the goodness in people will at last emerge and crime will decline.

Neither side is completely right or wrong, but the conservative view prevailed in the U.S. until about 1900, when the Progressive Era began. Since then, the liberal view has dominated prison reform, and we can see the signs of this everywhere.

Prison leaders in the 1800s believed in incarceration as a punishment and deterrent, but around 1900 they began stressing rehabilitation and parole for good behavior. Prisons became “departments of corrections,” with the implication being that prisoners had committed crimes because of false or inadequate knowledge. In prison, they would be rehabilitated, or “corrected”, and then released when that occurred.

In the last one hundred years, the massive increase in crime, the huge costs of operating prisons, and the stunningly high rate of recidivism suggest that the liberal view has failed. As many states teeter on bankruptcy, the high cost of crime and punishment has become a national issue. Thousands of inmates are being released due to overcrowding.

I have seen maximum-security prisons first hand every year for the last 32 years when I visit my friend Mitchell Rutledge, who is in an Alabama prison serving life without parole. Ironically, Mitch, who is ineligible for parole, is one of the few inside who is actually rehabilitated.

In 1983, TIME magazine wrote Mitch off as a hopeless case. “To most people,” TIME wrote, “the life of a foolish punk like Rutledge does not count for much. He is defective. His death would not be unbearably sad.” At the time, Mitch was on death row, illiterate and friendless. But he had just become a Christian and that spiritual change, not prison, would be his transformation. “I just want to let everybody know that I am sorry for what I did,” Mitch told TIME about his murder of a drug dealer.

Mitch’s words haunted me all day and night. I couldn’t sleep. I decided to write this inmate, and when I did I discovered one of the most remarkable human dramas one can imagine. My wife Anita and I have written a new book, Death on Hold, which is the story of Mitch’s transformation from that of an illiterate street kid to a mature, self-controlled man who is an elected leader in the prison honor dorm and a speaker to at-risk youth.

What about rehabilitation, and the high rate of recidivism? “The environment in prison,” Mitch says, “tends to be survival of the fittest. Most who leave here are worse off than when they came.”

The prisons do sometimes allow Christians to put on programs, and Mitch is encouraged by that. It leads to change from the inside out. That change seems to be far more effective than rehabilitation and corrections.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Death On Hold

by Burt on July 23, 2015

Did you ever visit anyone in prison? Or talk on the phone with an inmate there?

Sometimes those opportunities come from unexpected places. In 1983, my wife Anita and I read a TIME magazine article about the death penalty. The article quoted inmates from selected prisons around the country who were on death row, awaiting execution. I was struck by the story of one man, Mitchell Rutledge, who said he was sorry for what he had done. But the TIME article said, “The life of a foolish punk like Rutledge does not count for much. He is defective. . . . Let Rutledge sit and stew in his 8-ft. by 5 ft. pen in Alabama. Forget him.”

Mitch had been high on drugs and alcohol two years earlier when he shot a drug dealer. At the age of 21, he found himself in Holman Prison, awaiting execution in the electric chair. I couldn’t stop thinking about this young man who had led such a tragic life. I wrote Mitch a letter and he responded, beginning a friendship that has lasted to this day. Anita and I first visited Mitch in 1984, and our visits still take place regularly.

In the 32 years that my wife and I have known Mitch, he has become a leader in his prison community. He taught himself to read on death row, and after two re-sentencing hearings had his sentence reduced to life without parole. Once he was off death row, he earned his GED and then college credits. He was elected to office in the prison’s honor dorm, and his impassioned speeches to at-risk youths have been taped and distributed throughout the Alabama school system.

Anita and I tell the remarkable story of Mitch’s life in our new book, Death on Hold, to be released by Thomas Nelson Publishing on August 11th. This book is quite a departure from our usual texts on economic history, but it is the riveting story of a transformation.

By any measure, Mitchell Rutledge has been rehabilitated.

Mitch traces his rehabilitation to one event: his decision to trust Jesus Christ with his life. “You have to rehabilitate yourself,” Mitch says, “because the flow of prison life is negative. If you don’t have God as your anchor, you will probably be swept up by the overcrowding, the frustration, and the violence inside prison.”

Some argue that poverty and broken families create crime, but Mitch says they only create the conditions conducive to crime. “The issue is one of choices,” Mitch says. “We all make choices every day; I made some bad choices and now I make much better ones.” Mitch was born into poverty to a thirteen year old unwed black girl. She died when Mitch was a teenager, and he began living a life of crime in the streets.

During Mitch’s youth, he twice had contact with government programs: the public schools and Job Corps. Neither one motivated Mitch. Even though he couldn’t read, he was passed from grade to grade.

But when he was faced with a first-degree murder charge, he asked God to be a part of his life. Mitch changed from the inside out, and he began making choices that would give him a life and a future. Instead of being executed on death row, as Mitch says, “God put my death on hold.”

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

What Is the Ex-Im Bank?

by Anita on May 7, 2015

Posted by Anita Folsom

The Ex-Im Bank (Export Import Bank) is in the news these days.  But what is it?

“Created in 1934, the Export-Import Bank was a product of [Franklin] Roosevelt’s New Deal.  FDR initially wanted the Ex-Im Bank as a foreign policy tool to make easy credit available to nations he liked….  The Ex-Im Bank often expected to lose money because it was making risky loans, or giving subsidies, to favored countries or favored American corporations.  The Ex-Im could lose money regularly and get replenished in annual appropriations” from the federal government.  (Uncle Sam Can’t Count, Chapter 7)

That spending pattern has continued to this day, and the Ex-Im Bank comes up for renewal in a few weeks.  But many Americans are waking up to the waste and political corruption caused by such a government entity.

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, former Texas Governor Rick Perry announced “Why I’m Changing My Mind and Opposing the Ex-Im Bank.” First of all,  on April 13 an Ex-Im loan officer, Johnny Gutierrez, pleaded guilty to accepting bribes on nineteen separate occasions from clients of the bank.  And that doesn’t include the 31 corruption and fraud investigations still pending in regard to mismanagement at the Ex-Im.

Perry admits that during his tenure as governor, he liked the fact that 1200 Texas businesses received help from the Ex-Im Bank in funding more than $24 billion in exports.  The economy of Texas was thriving and job creation was Perry’s number one priority.

Now Perry is pointing to the sluggish national economy, and he realizes that bank loans from the government don’t fuel a robust economy.  No one can overtax segments of the population to create prosperity in another segment without damaging the people’s ability to invest and create new jobs.  Here is Perry’s three-point plan to revitalize the American free market system:

(1)  Simplify the tax code and reduce corporate taxes.   The corporate tax rate in the U.S. is among the highest for industrialized nations.  Start-up companies face an avalanche of regulations just to open their doors.

(2)  Reduce the federal debt by reducing spending, and no new tax increases.

(3)  The U.S. needs a regulatory system that is stable.  Regulations under Obamacare, the EPA, and the IRS have grown by the thousands under the Obama administration.  If regulations change rapidly or constantly increase, businesses tend to locate in other countries, avoiding the U.S.

From 2008 until 2011, more American businesses closed their doors than opened them.  This dismal statistic serves as a wake-call to all Americans, including Rick Perry.  The Ex-Im Bank under both Democratic and Republican presidents has been a ready-made candy jar from which to dollop handfuls of cash – in the millions – to political allies.  That is what the Ex-Im Bank was set up to be, that’s what it has been for years, and that’s what it is today.  It is time to abolish the Ex-Im Bank.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Is This the Most Difficult of Times?

by Anita April 9, 2015

Posted by Anita Folsom Is this the most difficult of times for Americans?  As a comparison, let’s look at two earlier periods in our history. On this date 150 years ago, the Civil War finally came to an end as General Robert E. Lee surrendered to U. S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia.  About 620,000 men had died during […]

Read the full article →

I Paid My Income Tax Today

by Anita April 1, 2015

Posted by Anita Folsom “I paid my income tax today. I never felt so proud before, To be right there with the millions more Who paid their income tax today.”   (Song lyrics by Irving Berlin) Are you ready to sing those lyrics by the tax deadline on April 15? Probably not. This musical ditty was […]

Read the full article →

Basketball and Taxes

by Burt March 19, 2015

This time of year, Americans are thinking primarily about two things: basketball and taxes. As the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament gets underway, millions of fans are filling out their brackets. The winner of each game is easy to determine. Whoever has the most points wins the game. Taxes are a bit more complicated, because of […]

Read the full article →

Equality of Opportunity Is the Framework

by Burt 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 […]

Read the full article →

Disturbing Parallels: Banzai and Allah Akbar

by Anita 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 […]

Read the full article →