Thursday, July 30, 2009

Threatened With Health Care

Mary Catherine Hamm over at the Weekly Standard caught this exchange on--what else? the health care legislation hanging over our heads like the sword of Damocles. Paul Ryan, an exceptional young Republican Congressman more than holds his own--and our own--against the two administration propagandists posing as MSNBC hosts. This media absorption into the democrat party is a serious problem converging on a bad joke.

My favorite is Katrina vanden Heuvel, whose family fortune has allowed her to, like William F. Buckley, helm a national magazine without having to make a living at it. She however uses her wealth to make sure no one else ever attains such filthy lucre, while posing as one of the "little people." She is owner and editor of that beacon of international socialism, The Nation. And like every other committed leftist, she and her magazine do not let bourgeois notions like facts deter their narrative. Not even leg-tingling Chris Matthews, another MS-LSD host, could allow her outright deceit going out over his air: while making a point about "understanding the poor", she validated it by saying she lived in Harlem. Matthews, in a moment of journalistic integrity, interjected that she lives in a multimillion dollar townhouse in ultra-tony Morningside Heights. No doubt she watches--and understands--from her upper story veranda through binoculars as the poor shuffle around gathering what ever it is they gather in those shopping carts.

In this segment with Congressman Ryan, vanden Heuval has the utter audacity--and mendacity--to attempt to argue (along with the president, by the way) that a "public option"--i.e., Medicare for everyone--would be good for the insurance industry because it would foster competition, and wouldn't you agree Congressman Ryan that competition is the American Way? If only every Republican were as quick on his feet as Ryan. Vanden Heuval, the consummate progressive/socialist/communist, trying to pass herself off as someone concerned for traditional American values like free markets and competition, is directly refuted by Ryan--much as Chris Matthews would not allow her Harlem dwelling lie. Someone needs to do the same with Obama, who has been a Saul Alinski poseur from the beginning.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Doing Our Individualism Together

In the recent issue of The City, the fine journal that comes out of Houston Baptist University, Wilfred McClay reflects on what cities mean for our souls ("The Soul and the City;" it's not accessible online but you can and should subscribe for free). Large urban centers are not unambiguously good things, but they are also far from unmitigated evils, or what Benjamin Rush compared to, "abscesses on the human body," which is to say, "reservoirs of all the impurities of a community." After first reflecting on the shape of our surroundings which not only we have shaped, but which then have shaped us in turn, he backs up and asks a fundamental question: Never mind cities; why do we bother with each other all?

Our reflections need to begin, then, with a consideration of what cities are, and are for, what they accomplish that can be accomplished no other way. Indeed, given the strong emphasis on the individual in our times, we would do well to begin with an even more fundamental question. Do we really need to dwell together?

That's easy: Yes, we do. It's a fundamental part of our nature. Aristotle argued that man is by nature a political animal, and that a man who lives outside of the city is either a beast or a god. For Christians, this emphasis on relationship is at the very foundation of things, because God Himself is, in the Trinitarian understanding, defined by relationship in his fundamental being. The Bible consistently relies on our human and natural relations to explain God's nature to us: as Father and Son, for example. Or as in the act of marriage, as laid out rather mysteriously in the Letter to the Ephesians, which explains and is explained by Christ's relationship with His Church, which is also His body, or the body of which He is the head. For our purposes, what this means is that relationship with others is not something we do but something we are--we may shape our relationships, but we are more fundamentally shaped by the need for them, and we cannot understand ourselves without reference to them (pp. 8-9).
Americans are individualists to their core, and, it seems, always will be. But that does not mean we are, or have always been, simply individualistic. Just as America has always been a mix of classical, Christian, and modern Enlightenment influences, though, as the United States, we were formed primarily by Enlightenment thought (Bacon, Locke, Montesquieu etc.), so too we have always thought and acted for the most part as self-reliant individuals, but humanized and civilized by Christian charity and classical notions of honor. As we have, on the one hand, thrown off Christianity, and on the other hand forgotten how to blush, our life together has become ever more unmanageably individualistic, resulting in both socially pathological solipsism and slavish submission to statism. Individualism needs the covenant life of Christianity as well as the ancient aesthetic appreciation for noble deeds and revulsion at what is shameful in order to correct it excesses and make its virtues sustainable.

Strangely, David Brooks wrote on the same topic in his column yesterday, "The Power of Posterity." Prodded by a blog he likes to read (Marginal Revolution), he attempts to think through the consequences of an imaginary pulse from the sun that sterilizes one side of the planet (let's assume it's our side). Essentially, it's nothing much at first, but with no hope of another generation to follow your children (if you have children), he reasonably projects that people would start living for the moment, i.e., for themselves. They would become ever more radically individualistic and for that reason unambitious. (We generally think for the most ambitious people being the most individualistic. But it's not simply so.)
Without posterity, there are no grand designs. There are no high ambitions. Politics becomes insignificant. Even words like justice lose meaning because everything gets reduced to the narrow qualities of the here and now.
If people knew that their nation, group and family were doomed to perish, they would build no lasting buildings. They would not strive to start new companies. They wouldn’t concern themselves with the preservation of the environment. They wouldn’t save or invest.
There would be a radical increase in individual autonomy. Not sacrificing for their own society’s children, people would themselves become children, basing their lives on pleasure and ease instead of meanings to be fulfilled.
Aristotle gave classic expression to that organic view of the meaning of the life we live together. After more than 2,300 years, we continue to see sage insight in his statement that,

[I]t is evident, then, that the city (polis, political community) exists among the things that exist by nature, and that man is by nature a political animal. He who is without a city through nature rather than chance is either a mean sort or superior to man....For it is peculiar to man as compared to the other animals that he alone has a perception of good and bad and just and unjust and other things [of this sort]; and partnership in these things is what makes a household and a city....One who is incapable of participating or who is in need of nothing through being self-sufficient is no part of a city, and so is either a beast or a god (The Politics, 1253a1-28).

Passing from general revelation through the mind of the philosopher to the special revelation that God gave through his Apostles, Paul wrote to the church in Corinth regarding how the covenant community of Christians, God's redeemed community of new humanity, is to view the life of the body politic in Christ.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
The seventeenth century poet, John Donne, wrote, "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main" ("Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions").

Conservatives understand (I mean genuine conservatives, not just the surviving classical liberals among us) that if American individualism is not to undermine and defeat itself, then, as the Founders of our nation understood, we need to give proper attention to our natural and spiritual ties with one another, supplementing the commercial spirit and the concern for simple self-interest with biblical love for God and noble love for country.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Harry Jaffa On His Life With Lincoln

Harry V. Jaffa, Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute, speaks with Peter Robinson on "Uncommon Knowledge," a National Review Online broadcast. Professor Jaffa talks about the genesis of his classic analysis of the Civil War, Crisis of the House Divided (1959; the link takes you to Willmoore Kendall's NR book review), and his lifetime of Lincoln scholarship.

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates with Harry Jaffa : Chapter 1 of 5

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates with Harry Jaffa : Chapter 2 of 5

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates with Harry Jaffa : Chapter 3 of 5

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates with Harry Jaffa : Chapter 4 of 5

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates with Harry Jaffa : Chapter 5 of 5

Powerline (Dec. 29, 2008) shares this on Crisis of the House Divided: "The prominent historian Allen Guelzo observed in the bibliographic essay that concludes his highly regarded biography of Lincoln that Crisis is "incontestably the greatest Lincoln book of the [twentieth] century." Bill Kristol discreetly recommends the book to the attention of President-elect Obama in his interesting Times column."

Professor Jaffa's latest book, his sequel to Crisis, is A New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the Coming of the Civil War (Rowman and Littlefield, 2004). Read the review by the Civil War scholar, Allen Guelzo.

Read what my colleague, David Corbin, has to say about this series of interviews at republican 101.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Don't Mess With Texas

The sagebrush rebellion of some years ago is flickering back to life, as the Tenth Amendment is being rediscovered in the face of the serious ramp-up of the Democratic party's decades old assault on the Constitution. Bob Dole's hapless candidacy against Bill Clinton in 1996 had as one its main slogans something like, "Return to the 10th Amendment!" It fell so flat no one even heard it. It has taken Obama's audacity of hope to reignite the brush fire that has been smoldering out West.

Rick Perry, governor of Texas and one of the leading lights of the resurgent conservative wing of the Republican party, came out swinging on Obama's socialized health care boondoggle. Perry is willing to go to court using the Tenth Amendment's guarantee of state sovereignty against the imposition of any such program. He also suggests in this Star Telegram piece, "Perry Raises Possibility of State's Rights Showdown with White House over Health care that several other governors are also prepared to stand up against the federal leviathan on this issue.

Good on 'em. It's late in the day to only just begin to bring our political order back into line with our fundamental law, but certainly better late than never. Governors and state legislatures have tremendous power to wield against the central government--it is one of the fundamental protections the Founders built into the constitution to prevent the dangerous side road we took throughout the 20th century in being talked into discarding the "antique" document our benighted forebears tried to saddle us with and taking up with the modern "progressive" ideas of scientific management and rule by experts.

Anyone who thinks he's smarter than James Madison along political science lines automatically signals with that very thought his inferiority. And somewhere there is a whole raft of anti-Federalists watching the encroachment on the States by the federal government saying, "We told you so." Maybe someone in the Republican party can suggest a new anti-Federalism as a way forward. We have a decent start with this 10th Amendment movement springing up.

Good Government and Building a Great Country

Lest we degenerate into kooky, anti-political, libertarian radicalism, small government conservatives should remember that some government regulation is good. Woodrow Wilson argued that in an industrial economy, there are appropriate forms of government health and safety regulation that are entailed by the government's responsibility to protect people in their lives and property. The food adulteraters and the workplace safety corner-cutters are the modern muggers. So modern government has a moral obligation to patrol these highways of public intercourse.

Here is an example from China. A tall building under construction simply fell over. This Asian website reports on it, drawing from various news sources ("Building Collapsed in Shanghai" - 6/27/09).

One source gives this account of the mechanics of the disaster.

(1) An underground garage was being dug on the south side, to a depth of 4.6 meters.

(2) The excavated dirt was being piled up on the north side, to a height of 10 meters.

(3) The building experienced uneven lateral pressure from south and north.

(4) This resulted in a lateral pressure of 3,000 tonnes, which was greater than what the pilings could tolerate. Thus the building toppled over in the southerly direction.

In the Lord's mercy, only one person was killed. China Daily reports that nine people linked to the building collapse, including the real estate developer, contractor and the supervisor for the project, have been put "under appropriate control."

Of course, the question before us today is: Has Wall Street been mugging investors? If so, how so? And what form of regulation and to what extent is appropriate in response for public safety? Just as good a question related to our toppled economy is this: have Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Barney Frank mugged low-income, aspiring homeowners by their government interference in the housing and mortgage markets?

Though I have used this as an illustration of the value of and necessity for appropriate forms of government regulation in the interest of public safety, this incident also illuminates the evil of government corruption. The wisest regulations aren't of any use if inspectors and other officials can be bribed--or insist on being bribed--to look the other way. This is the way most of the world operates, and it accounts for many of the world's problems.

As the Christian foundation of our culture erodes, as the tide of atheistic materialism washes away the foundations of our moral and political heritage, we should be vigilant against this kind of ethical slippage lest the edifice of our exceptional republic similarly come crashing down.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Limited Government and the Spirit of Liberty

In his spirited rejoinder to my "Thoughtful Conservatism" post, Harold alerts us to this very exciting development in American politics. There is a possible growing movement among state governments to reassert their status as sovereign states, and not just administrative units for implementing federal programs and taking care of some small stuff when the feds let them.

Here is an excerpt from "Palin to feds: Alaska is sovereign state: Constitutional rights reasserted in growing resistance to Washington" (WorldNet Daily, July 20, 2009) by Chelsea Schilling:

Gov. Sarah Palin has signed a joint resolution declaring Alaska's sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution – and now 36 other states have introduced similar resolutions as part of a growing resistance to the federal government.

Just weeks before she plans to step down from her position as Alaska governor, Palin signed House Joint Resolution 27, sponsored by state Rep. Mike Kelly on July 10, according to a Tenth Amendment Center report. The resolution "claims sovereignty for the state under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States."

Alaska's House passed HJR 27 by a vote of 37-0, and the Senate passed it by a vote of 40-0.

According to the report, the joint resolution does not carry with it the force of law, but supporters say it is a significant move toward getting their message out to other lawmakers, the media and grassroots movements.

Alaska's resolution states: "Be it resolved that the Alaska State Legislature hereby claims sovereignty for the state under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States. Be it further resolved that this resolution serves as Notice and Demand to the federal government to cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers."

While seven states – Tennessee, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Alaska and Louisiana – have had both houses of their legislatures pass similar decrees, Alaska Gov. Palin and Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen are currently the only governors to have signed their states' sovereignty resolutions.

The Tenth Amendment states that: "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." It has been largely ignored over the last 200 years, most glaringly in the last fifty to a hundred years when the federal government has been driving its hands into every aspect of American life.

Justice Harry Blackmun announced the irrelevancy of state sovereignty, and thus also of federalism and the Tenth Amendment, in Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority (1985). The Court faced the task of deciding the relationship between the scope federal power through its constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce (the "commerce clause") and the sovereignty of the states.

With this decision, the Court, ignoring the principle of stare decisis (ironically it is the author of Roe v. Wade who writes the opinion), overturns National League of Cities v. Usery (1976) in which the Court held, "The essence of our federal system is that, within the realm of authority left open to them under the Constitution, the States must be equally free to engage in any activity that their citizens choose for the common weal."

Justice Lewis Powell states his dissent quite forcefully:

Whatever effect the Court's decision may have in weakening the application of stare decisis, it is likely to be less important than what the Court has done to the Constitution itself. A unique feature of the United States is the federal system of government guaranteed by the Constitution and implicit in the very name of our country. Despite some genuflecting in the Court's opinion to the concept of federalism, today's decision effectively reduces the Tenth Amendment to meaningless rhetoric when Congress acts pursuant to the Commerce Clause.

In her dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor objects: "If federalism so conceived and so carefully cultivated by the Framers of our Constitution is to remain meaningful, this Court cannot abdicate its constitutional responsibility to oversee the Federal Government's compliance with its duty to respect the legitimate interests of the States." She sounds this alarm: "there is now a real risk that Congress will gradually erase the diffusion of power between State and Nation on which the Framers based their faith in the efficiency and vitality of our Republic."

She concludes:

The problems of federalism in an integrated national economy are capable of more responsible resolution than holding that the States as States retain no status apart from that which Congress chooses to let them retain. The proper resolution, I suggest, lies in weighing state autonomy as a factor in the balance when interpreting the means by which Congress can exercise its authority on the States as States. ...[T]he autonomy of a State is an essential component of federalism. If state autonomy is ignored in assessing the means by which Congress regulates matters affecting commerce, then federalism becomes irrelevant simply because the set of activities remaining beyond the reach of such a commerce power "may well be negligible."
In United States v. Lopez (1995), Chief Justice William Rehnquist, writing for a 5-4 majority, put the breaks on the Court's erasure of this fundamental principle of our system of republican liberty.

To uphold the Government's contentions here, we have to pile inference upon inference in a manner that would bid fair to convert congressional authority under the Commerce Clause to a general police power of the sort retained by the States. Admittedly, some of our prior cases have taken long steps down that road, giving great deference to congressional action. The broad language in these opinions has suggested the possibility of additional expansion, but we decline here to proceed any further. To do so would require us to conclude that the Constitution's enumeration of powers does not presuppose something not enumerated, and that there never will be a distinction between what is truly national and what is truly local. This we are unwilling to do.

America is a resilient nation. Just when it seems that she is laying down in the graveyard of civilizations, she draws new life from her Christian heritage and founding principles. Remember 1979? It would be just like this nation to rediscover and reassert the principle of limited government just when the pitch dark shadow of Leviathan's triumph seems to be suffocating liberty in the political equivalent of nuclear winter.

Now, can we also get up the courage to impeach Supreme Court justices who regard international law as authoritative in their decision-making?

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."
- John Philpot Curran (1750–1817).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Thoughtful Conservatism

History will praise this beautiful woman who became one of the most thoughtful leaders of the American conservative movement. Now, what single word in that statement alerts you that I am not talking about Sarah Palin? In fact, I'm speaking of Peggy Noonan who recently wrote an essay on Alaska governor that might just as well have been entitled, "The Emperor Has No Depth" ("A Farewell to Harms," Wall Street Journal, July 11-12, 2009).

She went on the trail a sensation but demonstrated in the ensuing months that she was not ready to go national and in fact never would be. She was hungry, loved politics, had charm and energy, loved walking onto the stage, waving and doing the stump speech. All good. But she was not thoughtful....She never learned how the other sides think, or why.

In television interviews she was out of her depth in a shallow pool. She was limited in her ability to explain and defend her positions, and sometimes in knowing them. She couldn't say what she read because she didn't read anything. She was utterly unconcerned by all this and seemed in fact rather proud of it: It was evidence of her authenticity. She experienced criticism as both partisan and cruel because she could see no truth in any of it. She wasn't thoughtful enough to know she wasn't thoughtful enough.

The notion that she is going to spend the next few years in research and reflection is naive and an example of tragically pitiful wishful thinking. "But she is a ponder-free zone," says Noonan. "She can memorize the names of the presidents of Pakistan, but she is not going to be able to know how to think about Pakistan."

Looking more broadly to the genuine leadership needs of the Republican Party, Noonan states the truth for out time: "This is a time for conservative leaders who know how to think." This is not only true on account of the great international dangers that surround us, but also because of the overwhelming surge of charming statism that is flooding the nation and suffocating liberty.

William Buckley died in February of last year, just months before John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate and everyone went ga-ga over her cutely stated conservative affirmations. The liberals went apoplectic with indignation and so we reveled in the wisdom of our nomination. But not only is Palin "no Bill Buckley," she is a caricature of the sort of conservative that Buckley managed to discredit within the GOP and replace with principled people devoted to the timeless truths that provide the indispensable intellectual foundation of the great American political experiment.

That is why, now that they have won the election and are vacuuming up power and control from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, liberals are lavishing attention on Sarah Palin with lots of flattering photographs, and celebrating her as the great hope of the Republican Party. (Time ran a cover story, calling her The Renegade.) But they're just baiting the elephant trap. says Noonan, "She makes the party look stupid, a party of the easily manipulated."

It is interesting that Sarah Palin is an Evangelical Christian, a group that secular liberals consider stupid and easily manipulated. If conservatives and Evangelicals are going to be helpful to their country, we have to be more than right. We have to be thoughtful. We have to got beyond talking points and zingers, and return once again to a principled and persuasive understanding of the nature and foundations of political, economic, and spiritual liberty.

harold adds:

David, allow me to take the part of the Governor over against the oleaginous and unctuous Peggy Noonan. She was thrown into the imperial snakepit before her time, no question about that. But the only people that have any chance to survive that trial by slander, rumor, and humiliation are those who grew up with the boys and girls in that little club and are thus just like them. The savaging she has endured from the best and the brightest is unprecedented, and she has had zero--ZERO--support from the heroic elected Republicans inside the Beltway. In fact, some of the most outrageous attacks have come from the little backstabbing bedwetters inside the McCain campaign itself. As far as supportive pundits or journalists, I think it reduces to Bill Kristol and a couple of others at the Weekly Standard. (See Victor Davis Hanson's thoughtful reflections in "What is Wisdom? Sarah Palin and her Critics" ) With only support from the great unwashed, she has held her ground. And I don't know where this charge that she doesn't know anything comes from--aside from beltway ambush interviews. While being a mother of five, she dominated multi-party, multi-million dollar negotiations on a giant pipeline deal that had been mired for decades in the corrupt good old boy network and got a deal done. How did that happen? I notice hers is one of the few states in the Union that is in good fiscal condition--a veritable petro state awash in petro dollars, which few politicos would be able to keep their hands off of. She has, and the state of Alaska is positioned to be a leading economic factor when grownups get back in control of the national economy and energy policy. Oh, and as far as not being thoughtful, how about leading a meaningful reassertion of the Tenth Amendment as part of the conservative resurgence of constitutionalism among state legislatures and governors? This is just the first of many moves she will be making. She may not be destined for the presidency, but she will galvanize the conservative movement in ways Noonan never has or ever will, a factor that ought not to be overlooked when judging Noonan's analysis. And lets face it--it doesn't matter whose face is associated with conservatism, he or she is portrayed as either stupid or evil or both--e.g., Gingrich, Reagan, Thatcher. Besides, the left is brimming with really smart people who think they know how to run everyone's lives, and where has that ever worked out? Self organized, bottom up structures such as political self rule and free markets rest more on practical wisdom than the imperial court craftiness and scientific management principles the left prefer for their scheme to rule every last detail of our lives.

I don't think the left's attempts to hang Palin around our necks as some kind talisman of stupid is going to work, despite all of Peggy Noonan's good work. And regarding the Time magazine cover above (I agree with your assessment of what they are attempting), Palin will be around long after Time and Newsweek have died from lack of circulation. George W. Bush, the dumbest president ever, ran circles around them for most of eight years despite their shameless derogation of him. And remember that even Reagan was just an "amiable dunce" to these geniuses. Which leads me to a final thought. What would Noonan's old boss think of Sarah Palin? I'm guessing he would be her biggest supporter, and would be disappointed at Noonan's slide into lust for the cocktail party circuit at the expense of conservatism. I think Peggy Noonan left the reservation long ago, and I never read her anymore--not since she was caught on an open mic disparaging the rank and file of the party--something Ronaldus Magnus would never have done, or accepted.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Is Bing the Next Thing?

I saw a commercial for today, the new Microsoft search engine. (It also bills itself as a "decision engine," which horrified me. But since I have some decisions to make, I went there immediately.)

"Bing" is a good choice of name. Everyone likes Bing Crosby. It's a name people warm to, no matter who has it. And it can easily become a transitive verb, as the name "Google" did, but as Yahoo did not.

The first thing I did was a video search. I wondered, will it come up with YouTube, and nothing else? Here is my first search result. It is Harvey Mansfield explaining his discovery of the thought of Leo Strauss and of the joys of ancient political philosophy. He explains the difference between the ancients and the moderns. "The modern political philosophers--even those like, say, John Locke who look rather conservative to us today--were all fundamentally revolutionaries."

Yes, this is a YouTube video (I found no embedding), but there are also videos from, Boston College, and Comedy Central (I kid you not).

The photo is that of Leo Strauss (1899-1973), German émigré, University of Chicago professor, and the political philosopher who rediscovered the careful reading of great books, and radically confronted the problem of modernity.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

America Conforming to the 80/20 Rule

Listen to this conversation between a guy disputing his Verizon bill with a Verizon rep AND then the Verizon supervisor. The Verizon people simply cannot understand the difference between 0.002 cents and $0.002, thus they charged him 100x what they should have. In the end, the supervisor calls it a "difference of opinion"(!).

How can the republic--and our liberties along with it--survive with this sort of thing going on?

Remember Pareto's Principle, or the 80/20 rule. This rule is that a minority of input produces the majority of results. I suspect that 20% of the population is carrying the other 80%. Twenty per cent work hard. 20% are competent. 20% pay almost all of the taxes.

That is not what made America great.

Harold adds:

I hope someone at Verizon has the good sense to be embarrased at this exchange, which simply has to be heard to be believed. Adam Smith famously said "there is a lot of ruin in a country", and here in this recording of mathematically challenged employees of one of the largest high-tech companies in the world, whose entire business of digital communications is based on the understanding and manipulation of numbers, is a very large example of such ruin. It is unknown how much ruin is too much--Smith did not speculate on that, but I'm pretty sure he would be horrified to look into the future and see the enlightened, educated, and scientifically advanced nation he watched being born turn out illiterates like these two Verizon employees unable to distinguish a dollar from a cent. Maybe their paychecks should be rendered in cents instead of dollars.....

Monday, July 13, 2009

Global Warming in the Darnedest Places

Global warming, if it exists at all, may be a big, inescapable black hole of apocalyptic fate. It seems that even using the Internet is warming the planet at an alarming rate.

In "Greening the Internet," CNN reports that,

Dr. Alexander Wissner-Gross, an Environmental Fellow at Harvard University who studies the environmental impact of computing...estimates every second someone spends browsing a simple web site generates roughly 20 milligrams of C02. Whether downloading a song, sending an email or streaming a video, almost every single activity that takes place in the virtual environment has an impact on the real one....
A 2007 report from research firm Gartner, for example, estimates the manufacturing, use and disposal of information and communications technology generates about two percent of the world's greenhouse gases -- similar to the level produced by the entire aviation industry. Anti-virus software firm McAfee reports that the electricity needed just to transmit the trillions of spam emails sent annually equals the amount required to power over two million homes in the United States while producing the same level of greenhouse gas emissions as more than three million cars.

"Most people don't appreciate that the computer on your desk is contributing to global warming and that if its electricity comes from a coal power plant it produces as much C02 as a sports utility vehicle," said Bill St. Arnaud of Canarie, a Canada-based internet development organization. "Some studies estimate the internet will be producing 20 percent of the world's greenhouse gases in a decade. That is clearly the wrong direction. That is clearly unsustainable," added St. Arnaud.

People who read this and who are ecologically concerned and climatologically devoted must come to feel like young, Roman Catholic Martin Luther in the confessional. He was tormented by his inability not to sin. "I sin (produce carbon emissions) every moment of every day; I sin (produce carbon emissions) in thought, word, and deed; I cannot stop sinning (producing carbon emissions)."

At what point will these preachers of ecological doom utterly despair? Of course, when Luther despaired of his own efforts to overcome and correct his sin, he could turn to a savior: the crucified, risen, and reigning Christ who is offered in the gospel. But crusaders against global warming who find they are themselves warming the globe whichever way they turn, inescapably and ever increasingly, have no choice but suicide and to recommend the same to others.

If we see Al Gore leading streams of people to Jonestown, Guyana, it's time for intervention.

Harold adds:

Along with the idiotic hyperventilating over anthropogenic warming and the thought that we will somehow push the climate past a tipping point beyond which we cannot survive, comes the equally lunatic list of things such global warming is in turn causing. Here is an astonishing list of consequences someone has collected in one place for your horrified reflection, and hopefully, as David suggests, to get you to confess your sins and repent your profligate carbon dioxide polluting ways. Just the "A"s on this list will have you in Luther-like despair: Acne, agricultural land increase, Afghan poppies destroyed, Africa devastated, Africa in conflict, African aid threatened, African summer frost, aggressive weeds, Air France crash, air pressure changes, airport malaria, Agulhas current, Alaska reshaped, moves, allergy season longer, alligators in the Thames, Alps melting, Amazon a desert, American dream end, amphibians breeding earlier (or not), anaphylactic reactions to bee stings, ancient forests dramatically changed, animals head for the hills, animals shrink, Antarctic grass flourishes, Antarctic ice grows, Antarctic ice shrinks, Antarctic sea life at risk, anxiety treatment, algal blooms, archaeological sites threatened, Arctic bogs melt, Arctic in bloom, Arctic ice free, Arctic ice melt faster, Arctic lakes disappear, Arctic tundra to burn, Arctic warming (not), Atlantic less salty, Atlantic more salty, atmospheric circulation modified, attack of the killer jellyfish, avalanches reduced, avalanches increased,

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Nostalgia for an America That Once Was

In these days of Hope and Change, which are increasingly short on hope but scarily long on change, and that not for the better; in these days of change, those of us obtuse enough to prefer the virtues and distinctions of a better, vanished country are feeling nostalgic for a robust America, sure of itself, and not in need of an Apologist in Chief to go round to our enemies talking softly, throwing away the stick we once wielded, and attempting to emplace a therapeutic state to anesthetize the nation's pain. There are many ways to tabulate our decline as a nation, many of which have found their way onto this blog, it being the habit, I suppose, of conservatives not only to desire to conserve what has been hard won, but perhaps to be overly suspicious of the new. David and I attempt to point out here what is worth keeping of the old (much), and what is worth accepting of the new (not much).

It is an interesting paradox then, or perhaps a mere irony, that a nation unhealthily in love with the New, the Next, and the Novel, has at the same time become increasingly averse to risk, seeking primarily through the magic of legislation to remove the possibility of all sorts of harms, from manufactured items to services offered, from environmental catastrophes to man-caused disasters, in the words of one of our foremost Ministers of Risk Aversion.

This month of July marks an anniversary of one of the most spectacular--perhaps the most spectacular example of risk taking by an America unafraid of risk, and this year marks a generation-defining 40th anniversary of that event. I speak of the lunar landing of July 16, 1969, prior to the birth of most of you reading this. America was a different country then than the one you know, even though most of the social and cultural pathologies we struggle with today had their genesis in the '60's. What we still had then that was superior, that has not been passed down like most of the rest of the patrimony of self indulgence bequeathed by the baby boom generation (my generation) was the confidence--and the absolute courage in the face of enormous, incalculable risk--to proclaim to the world that we would put a man on the moon before the decade was out.

In a joint session of Congress in 1961, President Kennedy announced it in these words: ‘First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important in the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.’ He went on to say, and I'm paraphrasing from memory, that "we choose not to go to the moon and the other things we are doing because they are easy, but because they are hard."

That was electrifying then, and electrifying now. We demonstrated to the world--most especially the bellicose Soviets--that our achievement potential far exceeded anything they or anyone else in the world could hope to attain. The American way--ordered liberty under law, free markets and capitalism, and the largest possible scope for individual achievement, made us the indisputable hegemon of the globe, one which could be trusted for enlightened leadership not only politically but technologically. It is one of the accomplishments that will forever define America at the height of it powers, able to lead humanity and advance human history, and only the most purblind critics dismiss the value of the space program to America's sense of itself.

I remember that July night 40 years ago when the Apollo 11 mission touched down on the moon, a gripping historical event for a teenage boy just awakening to the wider world. My authoritarian father, never one to waffle on bedtimes, or much of anything else for that matter, let me stay up to watch the epochal event on television. We could hardly believe it, floundering for words adequate to what unfolded so agonizingly slowly through the night. I understood my father in a different way after that night, having shared a first ever event in the history of mankind, watching as he showed outwardly the same pride, astonishment, and philosophical reserve I was feeling myself. The whole nation knew it was touch and go, that any number of catastrophic failures could render the transmission mute, the staticy black and white picture dark.

I was thus taken by the nostalgic and elegiac "Monochrome" (listen here, track 24), a song by a ninety's era band, The Sundays, which describes another man's youthful experience of America's greatness and history's advance in July of 1969. David Gavurin, the writer, even titled the album "Static and Silence", pointing to Monochrome as the important track on a cd mostly comprised of the usual Brit pop inanities (albeit nicely styled inanities).

It's four in the morning, July of '69
me and my sister
crept down like shadows
they're trying to bring the moon down to our sitting room
static and silence, and a monochrome vision

They're dancing around
slow puppets, silver ground
and the world is watching with joy
we hear a voice from above and it's history
and we stayed awake, all night

And something is said and the whole room laughs aloud
me and my sister, looking like shadows
the end of an age as we watched them walk in a glow
lost in space, and I don't know where it is

They're dancing around
slow puppets, silver ground
and the stars and stripes in the sand
we hear a voice and it's history
and we stayed up all night

They're dancing around
it sends a shiver down my spine
and I run to look in the sky and
I half expect to hear them asking to come down

Oh, will they fly or will they fall?
to be excited by a long late night.

Give a listen to this song, and get a feel for what America was capable of when she was confident, on the move, leading the world and history--and able to inspire people the world over.
Will America ever surpass this achievement? Not with leaders stuck in a "post" mentality--postmodern, post-Christian, post-America-as-world-leader. Parodoxically, or perhaps merely ironically, it will require a renunciation of progressivism and a resurgence of conservatism to make America a risk taker again, by reverting to the past virtues that made the true audacity of a moon landing possible.

David adds:

This clip includes Kennedy's moon challenge before the joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961, but also the image of the moon landing that Harold saw on TV. Read the text of it here.

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations--explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon--if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there."

-- John F. Kennedy, Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs, May 25, 1961

Here is Kennedy's 1962 "We Choose To Go To The Moon" Speech:

"Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, 'Because it is there.' Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked."

-- John F. Kennedy, Rice University, Sept. 12, 1962

Friday, July 10, 2009

Funny Flair

I don't accept "flair" on Facebook (buttons that say and depict things, and you collect them) because I think they are a waste of time (along with "poking" and personality tests). But I just read my wife's flair, and I found these ones really funny.

"War never solved anything...except fascism, communism, genocide, slavery, tyranny..."

"Silly liberal, paychecks are for workers."

"No thanks, I already have a Messiah."

"If guns kill people, do pencils misspell words?"

"Sarcasm: it beats killing people."

"I notice that everyone that is for abortion has already been born. -- Ronald Reagan

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Virtual Generation and Their Corresponding Selves

My wife, Jessica, recently posted this question to her Facebook friends in her "status update" regarding the effect of electronic social networking on relationships.

Do these constant updates meaningfully communicate to the people we love, or are they narcissistic compulsions brought on by an increasingly detached and disconnected society in which real life is being submerged under a weighty flow of chat, IM, email, twitter, and other forms of virtual reality?

Her colleague at the school, Jesse Clements, gave what I thought was a wise response.

As long as one primarily recognizes the playful superficiality of this type of discourse and does not mistake it for "meaningful" communication (as so many teens do), then it is harmless and even useful. But as I begin to notice kids who think simulating the symptoms of Tourette's at each other is adequate conversation, I have to wonder whether Facebook has completely erased any sense of entire personality that, say, a letter requires one to put forth. Given my virtual nostalgia for the epistolary age, I am enticed by this new kind of exchange but find it an inadequate, fragmented reincarnation. Letters were also vehicles for the creation of persona but at least one needed to be responsible for that creation and follow up on it. The new format provides too many opportunities for teens especially to hide behind broken or borrowed signposts as they do their clothes. When they see their friends at school, no one demands--it isn't even expected--that there be a correlation of selves.

Jessica Innes (B.A., Grove City College) teaches humanities at Grace Christian Academy, a classical Christian school in Merrick, NY, on Long Island. Jesse Clements (B.A., New York University) teaches humanities and Latin. Both have graciously given me permission to post the exchange.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Where Are The Manly Men For Public Office?

It is sad that it takes a woman these days to tell a man how he ought to behave. Dorothy Rabinowitz tells us "What Sanford Should Have Said" (Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2009).

"I come before you in what is clearly a predicament, but without, I hope any pretense. There's no pretense in having an affair -- affairs are real, very compellingly so. There are lies, yes -- to one's wife and family and staff -- but that's a different story. And while I'm on the subject, let me say the only apology I plan to offer in public is to the members of my staff I left in confusion about my whereabouts with nonsense about hiking on the Appalachian Trail.
"I have no intention of babbling about mistakes, or about problems of exhaustion and stress that could have led to my affair -- and no intention of standing here, like so many dolts before me, looking vacant and miserable, as though I'd just come through some kind of punishment camp that left me brainwashed.
"I had an affair, not an overnight encounter -- and an affair, as you ladies and gentlemen of the media know -- is about falling for someone in a way that makes you forget about everything and everyone else. It's true for men, it's true for women.
"I knew what I was doing, and, yes, I loved it, and all its pains, too. That is an affair. It works till its over, and the price can be high. I don't expect to allow that price to include talking about this to the media, or answering their idiotic questions about how my wife feels, or whether I've talked to my children, or whether I can still imagine myself a contender for the presidency.
"Furthermore, I've seen too many breast-beaters in my situation deliver public apologies to their wives and children before crowds of reporters. I have no intention of taking part in any such bizarre -- not to mention shameless -- spectacle. A man who apologizes to his wife and children, who holds forth tearfully about having betrayed them, for media consumption, is, anyway, too lacking in dignity to hold public office of any kind.
"So let's understand this. I plan to straighten my tie, button my jacket, maybe buy a new suit, and go forward to do what I have to do. Life's complicated, ladies and gentlemen, but there's work to be done. I'll have nothing further on this, count on it.
"All the best."
Rabinowitz knows what a manly response to the situation would be because, as a woman, she knows what a woman admires in manliness.
Now that Hillary Clinton has fired off her last round, are there any men left to take command in America? Let's not look to Sarah Palin to save us.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Memories of Canada

Another Dominion Day has come and gone. It is what foolish people tell us we should now call "Canada Day." The folks at The New York Times who wish that Canada would absorb America, and not the reverse, featured statements on their op-ed page from eleven Canadians on what they miss about their country ("Our True North"). Most of it is grumping about America by politically leftist Canadian expats.

Rick Moranis simply despises everything associated with whatever remains of British North America.

David Rakoff, an author, misses all the free stuff from the government. Perhaps I misread him. Perhaps it’s the moral superiority of having a government that treats its citizens like men who still live at home, and whose mothers still cook and clean for them. The generous welfare state. Other than that, he misses a particular mint that you can’t get here. A great nation indeed.

Sarah McNally, a bookstore owner, misses Canadian literature (which of course she can read in the United States). She says there is a national conversation in CanLit that you don’t see in American lit. But that's because Americans know who they are. Canadians are constantly in anguish about their identity. But if you reject your founding principle, i.e. British North America as a unique and noble project, an interminable identity crisis is sure to follow. It is interesting that, despite the superior worth of this literature and its importance to Canadians as a people (supposedly), she says that it “probably wouldn’t exist without government support.” What does that indicate about the sustainability, or even the reality, of Canada as one people? All the same, the government tells Canadians who they are supposed to be and what they’re supposed to like. I don’t miss that.

In a likely unintended political faux pas, Lisa Naftolin, a creative director, expresses her fondness for a Britishism, the “u” in color. She likely understands holding onto that "u" as an act of defying American cultural imperialism. What she doesn't see is that for the last fifty years and into the foreseeable future, Canada has three, and only three, models from which to choose for its identity: America North, British North America, or post-modern Euro-North America. Led by its left-wing intellectuals, Canada has chosen the Euro-model, and so is following (though not mirroring) Europe in its economic, moral, spiritual, and demographic problems.

Musician Melissa Auf der Maur, after mentioning cheese and pâté, recalls fondly the Canadian cultural mosaic in contrast to the evil American melting pot. The concept of the cultural mosaic as a national virtue was invented by the Trudeau government as a way of defusing the French-English conflict. In the 1970s, my high school taught us this like a catechism. They told us that we are not two nations, but a blend of many nations. As result, however, we became no nation. Americans are more of a melting pot because they have noble and ennobling principles worthy of embracing: political, economic, and religious liberty. It has nothing to do with ethnic food, traditional clothing, and folk music all of which people are free to cultivate and, much to everyone's enjoyment, they do.

Sean Cullen, a comedian, misses hockey highlights, “the height of civilization.” It is said that Canadian culture can be summarized in two words: hockey and beer. Perhaps an overstatement.

Malcolm Gladwell of The New Yorker (I should have known that a man named Malcolm could not have been born in the U.S.A.) misses the “true” account of the American regime and it’s founding history. According to this view, George Washington, Patrick Henry, and John Adams were just “ungrateful tax cheats.” The revolution had nothing to do with the principles stated in the Declaration of Independence. Isn't it strange that such a hoax could produce such an energetic and world-transforming nation?

Kim Cattrall’s career as an actress is finished. All she did was remember childhood games on beached logs, and failed to make any political point about global warming, acid rain, American economic imperialism, or anything like that.

Tim Long, a writer for “The Simpsons,” misses Canadian snow, but he has to throw in a jab at American health care (which people travel from around the world to use, by the way). In the end, he has one of the best reflections.

When I was a child, it wasn’t unusual for my 15-minute walk home from school to begin under clear skies and end in a blizzard. I remember once, when I was 8 years old, stumbling into my house, my hair covered in powder and my eyelashes frozen together, and screaming, “Why do we live here?!” My mother took my face in her warm hands and said, “Because it’s where people love you.”

Bruce McCall, a writer and illustrator, and A.C. Newman, a musician, miss certain foods. For Newman, it is Dai Ching bean curd or bean sprout chow mein, unobtainable in their familiar perfection outside Vancouver. McCall misses the Coffee Crisp chocolate bar, and he supplies a delightful appreciation and history of the confection. These are honest men. Aside from friends and family and particular terrains, food is what people really miss from their homelands. The rest is mostly political trumpeting, which in this article is all from the left.

I see my family from time to time. My friends have grown up, become family men, and set off on divergent paths. The familiar places have all changed. Toronto's downtown is more crowded, and the University Theatre where I worked as a blue-jacketed boy is gone. Georgetown isn't 1971 anymore. There's no going back.

But I miss Toronto fish and chips. Tender, flaky Halibut encased in thick, crisp, golden batter. Greasy, floppy fries. Also fresh, baked Whitefish from Lake Huron. Yum. Heaven, though its glory and chief delight is Christ himself, is nonetheless described as a banquet. I pray that the feast involves these Canadian delicacies.

But as for this world, with eyes turned now toward the fourth of July, I am grateful to be in the land of liberty and I would not have it any other way.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

TKC Grads Hit the Presses

Two recent graduates from The King's College in New York City have shown up in prominent print this week.

Anthony Randazzo (Class of 2008) published "The Myth of Financial Deregulation: Government action caused the economic crisis, not the free market" in Reason Online: Free Minds and Free Markets (June 19).

For the past nine months, Wall Street critics have painted a damning picture of the housing bubble as the product of deregulation and reduced governmental oversight. To read the Obama administration's new financial sector regulation overhaul proposal, the government didn't have anything to do with the current crisis. According to this view, our economy wouldn't be facing a recession with almost 10 percent unemployment if the government had been more involved with the market. This picture is about as historically accurate as the famous portrait Washington Crossing the Delaware. ...

The core problem of the regulatory proposal is its view of the causes of the crisis. Everything is built on a belief that the market failed and that deregulation created a system of excessive risk and irresponsibility. Ironically, it was government action that created incentives for financial firms to be less risk adverse, not a lack of regulation. As Washington prepares to debate regulatory overhaul this summer, it is more important than ever to wrestle the myth of deregulation to the ground.

Given all the talk of deregulation, you would expect to find dozens of deregulating laws put in place over the past few years. Surprisingly, there have only been three major deregulatory actions in the past 30 years. Ultimately, the data points to bad regulation as complicit in the creation of the financial crisis, not deregulation.

Those three major deregulatory actions were the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980, the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982 (co-sponsored by then-Rep. Charles Schumer, as Randazzo nicely observes), and of course the 1999 Glass-Steagall Act.

Anthony Randazzo is a policy analyst for Reason Foundation. Read his Reason archive here.

David Lapp (Class of 2009) gives us "For Better or for Worse: When Marriage Vows Get Creative" on the Houses of Worship page of the Wall Street Journal (June 19). (I have previously cited Mr. Lapp in my obituary for Richard John Neuhaus for his words introducing Rev. Neuhaus at his King's College Interregnum address.)

In this custom-made vows market there is plenty of opportunity for mockery, although it is also easy to dismiss the writing of one's own wedding vows -- or farming them out to professionals -- as a harmless exercise, just another way for a couple to personalize their love for each other....

But let's imagine for a moment that, instead of reciting the oath that his 43 predecessors have taken, President Barack Obama had insisted at his inauguration on personalizing it, perhaps replacing "I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States" with the more flexible "I will try as hard as possible to do the job of president of the United States." That sounds a little more natural and honest, he might have argued: How does he know if he'll always be able to live up to his word? Besides, he might have stated, "The traditional oath is what every other president has said. I want mine to be original."

We, the people, would have been outraged -- and rightly so. The very specific words our Constitution requires the president to recite demonstrate the gravity of the obligations he assumes. They can't be reduced to the whims of one person.

Lapp draws attention to the place of marriage within a larger community, and, in a Christian context, within a covenant community. Also, he points out, he vows people write for themselves often reflect their own immaturity. The vows certainly express who they are as a couple, but they do not express who they should aspire to be, drawing on the wisdom of those who have preceded them in marriage, some of whom are present at the ceremony. "The more casual attitudes toward the vows are probably a symptom of our more casual attitude toward marriage."

I"m glad he was able to give Dietrich Bonhoeffer some spotlight, who told one couple, "it is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love." Words to the wise.

Lapp presents this practice of writing your own vows as something new. But I seem to recall that it was featured on an episode of All In The Family in the early 1970s when it became faddish. Certainly the practice of shopping for vows on the Internet is new. That reduces wedding vows to the level of a greeting card sentiment. Do people even know what a "vow" is?

So there you have it: two Christian philosophico opinion shapers for the twenty-first century.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Health Care Power Grab and the GOP

The Congressional wheels are turning to give us a government-run health care system before year's end. Everything the Obama administration is planning seems to threaten to smother what is left of our liberty, squander our prosperity, and lay us prostrate before our enemies abroad. The health care issue is no exception.

George Will argues that the President, like his party, has a "dependency agenda" ("The Stealth Single-Payer Agenda," Washington Post, June 21, 2009).

Why does the president, who says that were America "starting from scratch" he would favor a "single-payer" -- government-run -- system, insist that health-care reform include a government insurance plan that competes with private insurers? The simplest answer is that such a plan will lead to a single-payer system. ... The party of government aims to make Americans more equal by making them equally dependent on government for more and more things.

Will brings out the dishonesty in President Obama's rationale's for this government initiative: competition for a system with 1300 providers competing with each other, and coverage for the 45 million uninsured, almost all of whom are either illegal aliens or could get coverage if they wanted it, whether by enrolling in an existing program or just buying it. Yuval Levin and William Kristol expand on this in "Dare To Defeat ObamaCare." President Obama said recently: " One of the options in the exchange should be a public insurance option...[because] if the private insurance companies have to compete with a public option, it will keep them honest and keep prices down."

Levin and Kristol point out what should be obvious to everyone.
It's an interesting statement. We had thought that the role of government was to set rules for honest private competition, which does keep prices down and improve products. And there are reforms that could improve the important rule-setting role government should play, and could increase private competition and transparency. But Obama wants government to be one of the competitors--in the alleged interest of honesty and price reduction. When has a government alternative produced these results?

Consider where this argument leads. Why not a government bread company to keep food prices down and keep food producers honest? Why not a government construction agency to keep home prices down and home builders honest? Why not as parallel government auto industry? Oh, but we have one of those. And a financial sector too. Obama's deceitfulness is disheartening, but only to those who expected better from him.

The Obama plan is so shrouded in terrors that not only does no Republican support it, but several Democratic Senators have positioned themselves against it, and it is opposed also by the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, and AHIP, the association of insurance providers.

If ObamaCare fails to pass, Levin and Kristol see then a window of opportunity then opening up for a market-based Republican alternative, one this is more consistent with and even supportive of American liberty.

Karl Rove lists many of these criticisms of the government's health care reform proposal in "How to Stop Socialized Health Care: Five arguments Republicans Must Make." Above all, he says, the power grab would be irreversible. In "ObamaCare Isn't Inevitable," he shares the results of a Resurgent Republic poll that shows Americans generally satisfied with their health coverage, and suspicious of a government run health system and the significantly higher government spending that would attend it.

Americans are increasingly concerned about the cost--in money and personal freedom--of Mr. Obama's nanny-state initiatives. To strengthen the emerging coalition of independents and Republicans, the GOP must fight Mr. Obama's agenda with reasoned arguments and attractive alternatives. Health care must actually be an issue that helps resurrect the GOP.

This leads us to Regina Herzlinger's paradoxically titled article, "Why Republicans Should Back Universal Health Care" (The Atlantic, April 13, 2009). At first glance she seems to be making her peace with some form of government run health plan, but in fact she merely shows how the Republicans can pitch a market based system as universal coverage--and do it truthfully--and save the country at the same time. "With one brilliant foray, Nixon converted the massive threat posed by the isolated China into an asset, secured a favorable mention in history, and stripped the Democrats of a key issue. By embracing their own brand of universal health coverage, Republicans can do the same."

The health insurance system is approaching crisis proportions.

• "millions distort the efficient allocation of labor in our economy by opting for jobs in dying, big companies that offer health insurance, rather than productive ones in small companies that do not."

• "our employer-based health insurance system forces American businesses to pack our massive health care costs ... into the cost of their exports, a huge albatross in a globally competitive economy"

Though most Americans want a better system, and employers would love to be free of the responsibility for providing and paying for employees' health benefits, the public nonetheless has "substantial concern about the Democrats' reliance on universal coverage through a government-controlled system like Medicare." In view of the cost of a government-run, Medicaid style program, the public is also concerned about the inevitable rationing of services. Herzlinger points out that, "the truly sick constitute only 20 percent of health-care users, but account for 80 percent of health-care costs," and so the sick are "a politically vulnerable target for cost control through rationing."

In addition, either doctors will flee the country or people who would otherwise become doctors will choose a more lucrative profession, leading to a doctor shortage and waiting lists for everything from general practitioners to surgery.

There will be far less money for research. "Venture capitalists will find it too risky to invest in markets where one payer controls prices."

So Herzlinger tells the GOP to seize the opportunity to "offer a consumer-controlled universal coverage system, like that in Switzerland."
• "the Swiss choose from about 85 private heath insurers"

• "the Swiss poor shop for health insurance like everyone else, using funds transferred to them by the government"

• In that system, "The sick ... pay the same prices as everyone else in their demographic category"

The bottom line: "This consumer-driven, universal coverage system provides excellent health care for the sick, tops the world in consumer satisfaction, and costs 40 percent less, as a percentage of GDP, than the system in the US."

For more on Herzlinger's efficiency producing, consumer driven, liberty oriented proposal, see my post from February 2008 on Herzlinger's books and her address at The King's College, "Hope for the Health Care Mess."