Initial comment below by Jonah Goldberg. Follow the various links for more info:
People who've read my book know that one of its major themes is how liberals never take ownership of their errors. Rather, they ascribe their errors to the long bill of indictment of America's sins. They then use these sins to justify - what else? - more liberalism. Conservatism is wrong. America is wrong when it is conservative. But liberalism endures blameless, sinless and pointing ever upward toward goodness, truth and light.
There are few better examples of this tendency than the use and abuse of the Tuskegee experiments. I cannot begin to count the number of conversations with liberals I've had where they've used Tuskegee in just this way. Anyway, that's what my column is about today. An excerpt:
The infamous Tuskegee experiment is the Medusa's head of black left-wing paranoia. Whenever someone laments the fact that anywhere from 10 percent to 33 percent of African Americans believe the U.S. government invented AIDS to kill blacks, someone will say, "That's not so crazy when you consider what happened at Tuskegee."True enough. And what the U.S. did at Tuskegee was indeed bad, very bad. But it didn't do what these people say it did. Source
But it is crazy. And it's dishonest. Wright says the U.S. government "purposely infected African-American men with syphilis." This is a lie, and no knowledgeable historian says otherwise.
And yet, this untruth pops up routinely. In March, CNN commentator Roland Martin defended Wright, saying, "That actually did, indeed, happen." On Fox News, the allegation has gone unchallenged on Hannity & Colmes and The O'Reilly Factor. Obery Hendricks, a prominent author and visiting scholar at Princeton University, told O'Reilly "I do know that the government injected syphilis into black men at the Tuskegee Institute. Now we know that the government is capable of doing those things."
To which O'Reilly responded: "All right. All governments have done bad things in every country."
Jonah follows up some points above here and here
Something else that is seldom mentioned about the Tuskegee experiment:
It takes little imagination to ascribe racist attitudes to the white government officials who ran the experiment, but what can one make of the numerous African Americans who collaborated with them? The experiment's name comes from the Tuskegee Institute, the black university founded by Booker T. Washington. Its affiliated hospital lent the PHS its medical facilities for the study, and other predominantly black institutions as well as local black doctors also participated. A black nurse, Eunice Rivers, was a central figure in the experiment for most of its forty years.
AP EXPLAINS TO YOU WHY ISRAEL SHOULDN'T EXIST
By Barry Rubin
If I would choose one article in the Western media that I have read over many decades as the worst piece of anti-Israel propaganda of all, it might well be Karin Laub’s April 26, 2008 piece, “Palestinian plight is flip side of Israel's independence joy.” Why? Because many articles have slandered Israel on various points or told falsehoods ranging from the disgusting to the humorous or been based on assumptions that were at odds with the truth. But in this case, the article encapsulates the way in which much of the world has turned from admiration to loathing of Israel, and the way in which Israel’s destruction—which in other contexts would be seen as genocidal—has been justified.
Sound exaggerated? No doubt, reading the above two paragraphs would shock the author who, I believe, had no conscious intention of perpetuating such a verbal atrocity. It is, once again, the unchallenged myths that are blithely assumed, that do so much damage.
Let me explain, first briefly and then at length. Israel is the only country in the world which is regularly slated for extermination and it is certainly the one most reviled. Without entering into a discussion of why such extraordinary double standards are maintained the core issue is that Israel is allegedly an illegitimate country because it is founded on the theft of other’s property and the suffering of other people.
This is the modern equivalent of the blood libel, which held that Jews murdered Christian children to use their blood for the Passover matzoh. But if that myth is too exotic for people remember that its “secular” equivalent was responsible for even more anti-Semitic persecution. That was the idea that any Jewish prosperity was based on the blood-sucking of Christian peasants or of society at large. In this case, Israel is said to have murdered, ethnically cleansed and otherwise persecuted the Palestinians. Therefore, nothing it does can be good, no achievement of itself counts, and it has no right to self-defense. Obviously, such claims are often greatly diluted but nonetheless rest on this basis.
The Laub article is a systematic restatement of this thesis. To begin with, it is extraordinarily long for an AP article, 1,724 words. If this isn’t a record for an AP dispatch, it must be up near the top. Obviously, this is a message that the AP editors are especially eager to convey: that everything Israel has is at Palestinian expense.
That this is a lie can be explained on many levels but at least two must be presented here. First, why is this measure applied only to Israel, and certainly only to Israel on an existential basis? It is well-known, certainly, that Germany has taken responsibility for Nazi crimes, and also there are applications for reimbursement of Jewish property seized in eastern Europe during the Nazi period.
Yet most countries are founded on expropriation, often of Jewish property. For example, Oxford University, where recently debates were conducted calling for Israel’s destruction, was started on property stolen from Jews expelled in 1290. Far more recently, many Arab states received a huge infusion of capital from the expropriation of Jewish property after Israel’s creation. Does France’s or Britain’s or Belgium’s independence day require discussion of colonial depredations? We don’t read articles that Japan’s independence day is blighted by Chinese or Korean suffering, though the Japanese did engage in mass murder of those people. What about the fact that every country in the Western Hemisphere is based on the suffering of the indigenous natives? Or even in the case of Russia, given Czarist and Soviet behavior? In no case, however, is far worse behavior said to have poisoned any other country’s very existence.
But perhaps even more important is the question of where true responsibility for Palestinian suffering lies. Here is how Laub’s article begins:
“JALAZOUN REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank - Mohammed Shaikha was 9 when the carefree rhythm of his village childhood, going to third grade, picking olives, playing hide-and-seek , was abruptly cut short. Uprooted during the 1948 war over Israel's creation, he's now a wrinkled old man. He has spent a lifetime in this cramped refugee camp, and Israel's 60th independence day, to be celebrated with fanfare on May 8, fills him with pain.Well, let us ask the following questions: How did Shaikha leave his “carefree” utopia of Palestine? Most likely because his parents decided to get out of the way while, they expected, the Jews were exterminated by Arab armies. He was in fact “kicked out” by an Arab decision to reject partition—in which case at worst he would be living as an Arab citizen of Israel and at best, depending on where he lived, be a citizen of Palestine celebrating its own sixtieth birthday.
"For 60 years, Israel has been sitting on my heart. It kicked me out of my home, my nation, and deprived me of many things," he said. And each Israeli birthday makes it harder for 70-year-old Shaikha and his elderly gin rummy partners in the camp's coffee house to cling to dreams of going back to Beit Nabala, one village among hundreds leveled to make way for the influx of Jewish immigrants into the newborn Jewish state.”
Consider a worst-case alternative history: Mohammaed Shaikha sat in his nice house and recalled how in 1948 his familyleft its village and moved a few miles into a village in the new state of Palestine. “It was rough for a while,” he said. “But with the compensation money we got for making peace and aid from Arab states I was able to build a very nice life for myself.”
In fact, it was the Palestinian and Arab leadership which—in contrast to every other refugee situation in modern history—insisted on keeping these people suffering and in refugee camps to use as political pawns. They, too, rejected every offer of peace and resettlement. For example, if Yasir Arafat had negotiated a solution on the basis of the framework proposed at Camp David in 2000, Shaikha and the other refugees would have shared out over $20 billion in compensation and a Palestinian state might be celebrating its seventh birthday. The PLO refused—a policy pursued since 1993 by the Palestinian Authority—to move people out of refugee camps. They must be kept there as tools with which to blame Israel and also to continue the fires of hatred and violence burning. A hint of the truth is inadvertently given in the article—though not explained—by a Palestinian ideologue:
“Anthropologist Sharif Kaananeh urges his fellow Palestinians to take the long view and learn from Jewish history: "If they waited 2,000 years to claim this country, we can wait 200 years."During those 2,000 years, however, Jews whenever possible built up their own lives and acted peacefully and productively. In Kaananeh’s version, he is willing to keep Shaikha and his descendants in refugee camps for 200 years. And why not since the media will blame their suffering on Israel and provide it as a reason why Israel should disappear or make endless concessions or be denied full support despite the assault on itself.
By the way, this is what the author prettifies as “perseverance” as if it were something admirable. Don’t make a peaceful compromise; keep fighting and spilling blood unless or until you achieve total victory. In any other situation, this would be decried as a foolish, bloodthirsty, and fanatical world view. If the Palestinians want to make this their strategy they certainly should not be allowed to blame this on Israel. The true nakba (catastrophe) was not Israel’s creation but the Arab failure to create Palestine and their continuation of conflict to this day. But only Israel is branded, in effect, as a war criminal nation. In this light, the hateful and vicious attacks on it make sense.
Yet why don’t we see the following headline: “Israeli plight a flip side of Palestinian celebration,” or substitute “Israeli plight is flip side of [insert name of any Arab state name or Iran]” or “Israeli [or Jewish] plight is flip side of [insert name of any European state]”? This could be followed with interviews of displaced Jews (living in poverty since they never left post-World War Two refugee camps in Europe or the transit camps built in Israel to house Jewish refugees from the Arab world. Or interviews with Israelis who were maimed or whose families were murdered in wars or terrorist attacks? For, indeed, Israeli misery is built on the support of terrorism and hatred by Arab states, the incitement to murder and appeals for genocide among Palestinian groups.
Even in direct Palestinian terms, the irony doesn’t stop. The same week as this article was written, it was reported (by Reuters) that while Arab states have promised $717.1 million in aid to the Palestinians, only $153.2 million, that is a bit more than 20 percent, was actually delivered. If Palestinians are not well-off perhaps this is what one must examine, or at least acknowledge. How about this: “The 1948 war had largely separated Israelis and Palestinians, except for some 150,000 Palestinians who stayed put and became Israeli citizens.” No mention of the fact that those Israeli Palestinians have prospered.
And this: “The symbols of occupation, settlements, army bases, roadblocks, are visible across the West Bank.” No mention of the fact that Israel has withdrawn from large parts of the West Bank, in all the populated areas (except a section of Hebron) Palestinians have had self-government, with massive international aid for 14 years!
And this: “Palestinians under Yasser Arafat took to bombings and hijackings to make the world notice their existence….” So the sole purpose of terrorism was as a misguided public relations’ campaign so the world would take pity on Palestinian suffering, not an attempt to destroy Israel.
Or this, “Few refugees can realistically expect to go home again, because Israelis fear being swamped by a mass repatriation.” That makes the Palestinian predicament especially harsh, said Karen Abu Zayd, commissioner of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency which helps the Palestinian refugees.” While at least a motive is given for Israel’s refusal (though not that the problem here is not just a massive influx of Palestinians might overwhelm social services but that the “returnees” goal would be turning Israel into a Palestinian Arab nationalist or Islamist state through violence), no other alternative is presented, not even resettlement in an independent Palestine. That last point was, after all, the whole idea of the 1990s’ peace process. But the reporter collaborates with the Palestinian line: the only two choices are suffering or total victory, wiping out all other options.
I could literally write a book on the misstatements and misleading basis of this article. But it can be summarized as follows: This is the Palestinian narrative adapted by a large sector of the American media, as well as academia: It is a zero-sum game in which either Israel must be eliminated or poor Palestinians suffer. That the continued conflict—and their own suffering--is due to Palestinian actions or that it could be resolved by the kind of compromises Israel has long been advocating (and Palestinians rejecting) and taking risks to bring about is not mentioned. Equally, the perspective that Palestinian radical leadership (by both Fatah and Hamas) and doctrine must be eliminated as the source of Israeli suffering is understated or ignored.
The real victim here is both Israelis and Palestinians. The real cause of the suffering is Arab state intransigence and the kind of Palestinian leadership, strategy, goals, ideology, and behavior that this and so many media stories extol. Remember that the poisonous forest of hatred and violence grow from the acorns of articles like this.
Modern Liberalism at Wit's End
A BOOK REVIEW of a very mixed-up book: "The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics" by that self-confessed Leftist hater, Jonathan Chait
Chait's "true story" has only one point of confluence with our world: Supply-side economics -- if by that we mean tax cuts without spending cuts (aka the tax-cuts-will-pay-for-themselves doctrine) -- is indeed "crackpot economics." A theory that assumes what it has to prove, it has been rejected by virtually all economics departments -- as Chait correctly notes (p. 21). He even writes: "To be sure, economics departments are filled with conservatives who very much favor smaller government. But none of them share the basic supply-side view...." And yet the rest of his book -- its "thesis" -- soars past the stratosphere to cast supply-side sophistry as the unifying orthodoxy of "conservatism" and its ultimate implementation: the Republican administration of George W. Bush.
Recalling Daniel Bell's 1963 talk of the "ideology" of the "right-wing Republicans," Chait laments that now "those right-wing Republicans have taken control of the party..." (p. 235). Say what?! The Goldwaterites were big-spending supply-siders? This, when Chait himself affirms that the theory "emerged from the writings and discussions of [Arthur] Laffer, [Jude] Wanniski, and the late Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Robert Bartley" (p. 22)? Nor is the GOP today in the hands of the "New Right" activists of the Reagan era: Howard Phillips and Richard Viguerie praise Ron Paul, not "presumptive nominee" John McCain (or "Dubya" himself, for that manner). Indeed, the president's embrace of supply-side isn't even his father's famous dismissal of it as "voodoo economics."
A thinking man would now begin to acknowledge the multiplicity of factors uniformly labeled "conservatism." But Chait thinks not. Conservatism is a "totalistic ideology" that "resembles that of communism much more than liberalism" (p. 236). Why, just consider: "It's no surprise that a disproportionate number of conservative intellectuals were once communists -- first, the National Review crowd in the 1950s (Whittaker Chambers, James Burnham, Frank Meyer, Wildmoore [sic] Kendall), then the neoconservatives of the 1970s (former Trotskyists Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz). They simply exchanged the primacy of the state for the primacy of the market."
Possibly this is an attempt to conscript red-baiting into the service of contemporary liberalism, but certainly it is fiction. Neither Chambers nor Burnham was in any significant way a free-market enthusiast, and Kendall, who favored Rousseau over Adam Smith, believed in the primacy of the majority. But this slant on the neocons! Kristol has written explicitly ("The Neoconservative Persuasion") that he and his fellow neocons do not dread the "growth of the state" and regard it as "natural, indeed inevitable." He disavowed such limited-government icons as Goldwater and even Hayek. In short, the "neoconservatives" believe in the same fundamentalism as the "liberal" Chait: the primacy of the mixed economy.
So, what's all this about the primacy of the "market"? Elsewhere in the book (p. 48), Chait informs us that the economic policy of current conservatism is "nothing that a Friedrich Hayek or a Milton Friedman would recognize as his own." And in a discussion of this conservatism's "material self-interest" (pp. 76-79) -- which is actually a listing of a few examples of corporate welfare under Bush 43 -- he asks, "How, one might wonder, could anybody regard this great mass of government subsidies as a triumph of the free market?" Rhetorician, answer thyself.
The best we get is this: "The rise of the business lobby has distorted -- and, finally, corrupted -- the Republican Party...," which is true -- if we were talking about the Progressive Era. But regarding that period Chait rehearses a superstition that puts the flat-Earth faithful to shame: "[M]any of the reforms the Progressives set in place were met by fierce opposition from corporations. Yet eventually much of the business community accepted them ... [including] reasonable regulation." "This history," he explains, "runs against the mythology ... in which American business is seen as a constant, thoroughly evil, and near omnipotent force" (pp. 48-50).
Chait's "history" has been exposed as mythology itself by the scholarly research of historian Gabriel Kolko, who documented how the Progressive regulatory agencies were "invariably controlled by leaders of the regulated industry, and directed toward ends they deemed acceptable or desirable ... [mostly] because the regulatory movements were usually initiated by the dominant businesses to be regulated," e.g., the Interstate Commerce Commission and the railroad industry. Kolko's work was embraced by free-market economists from the conventional Friedman to the radical Murray Rothbard, who all stressed the same point: Big Business loves "business regulation" (especially the funded-by-taxpayers and crippling-to-smaller-competitors parts). Chait concedes that by the Johnson administration corporate support for regulation became obvious to all, but he characterizes the regulation as something corporations accepted altruistically because they sincerely believed it benefited the "country as a whole." Yup, that's what he writes. Only under George W. Bush has corporatism become the special-interest pursuit of privileges for connected businesses.
Chait often frames Bush policies as outrages for which there's been no Democratic counterpart. "In 2003, Bush and the Republican Congress enacted a bill extending Medicare coverage to prescription drugs, representing the largest expansion of entitlements in nearly forty years" -- so much for the "primacy of the market," to say nothing of popular charges of rolling back the welfare state. Yet Chait is indignant that the legislation also contained "hundreds of billions of dollars of subsidies to health insurance companies, the prescription drug industry, and other supplicants" (p. 65). Does he really imagine that the current administration invented corporate welfare? That Democrats never threw a bone to Big Business while throwing one to the little guy? That people are delusional when they note the corporate ties of both parties? (Not for more than a polemical moment, after which he's left with only the argument that "Republican style" contemporary pork is porkier than Democratic "[c]lassic pork.") Since Chait never brings up Kelo, he at least doesn't blame Bush for the Court liberals' gifting corporations with "property rights" to other people's property.
The upshot of all this is to project onto "conservatism" the policies of what has been called "corporate liberalism" by virtually everyone but the corporate liberals themselves (though there is something to be said for Ralph Nader's preferred term: "corporate socialism"). This becomes glaring when Chait finally acknowledges the many conservatives who see President Bush as an enemy. But look at how he spins it. Once, conservatives revered George W., as exemplified by how "National Review's David Frum called Bush 'a resolute and even heroic president'" (p. 239). But then something happened: "After his reelection in 2004, Bush's popularity sank and his legislative agenda ground to a halt. In the conservative mind there was only one possible explanation: Bush had abandoned the faith. As the liberal writer Rick Perlstein has observed: 'Conservatism never fails. It is only failed.' ... The conservative press reverberated with denunciations of him as an ideological turncoat.... A previously unknown and unimaginable genre appeared: the conservative anti-Bush book, with titles like Imposter [by Bruce Bartlett] or Conservatives Betrayed [by Richard Viguerie]."
Let's get this absolutely straight: The Big Government "neoconservatives" who supported Bush then, support him now (in some cases with an obligatory qualification or two), and the libertarians and "paleoconservatives" who oppose him now, opposed him then. The point is not which side is right about the good or ill of the Bush presidency, but that both sides are right in recognizing whose ideas he embraces ... and whose he rejects.
But again, Chait refuses to make any such distinctions. He wants us to accept that "conservatism" has failed, that Bush never "abandoned" it, but in fact sustained it. Meaning ... what? That the president repealed all government involvement in the economy back to pre-Progressive levels -- and now we're all suffering the catastrophic results? Here's where Chait's notion of supply-side economics as the defining tenet of "conservatism" reaches its climax. He insists that the theory constitutes the "starve-the-beast strategy, which is the essential premise of conservative domestic policy. But the conservatives could not admit that their own theory had fallen short, that the strategy and the assumptions behind it had failed." Now to get this straight: The "essential premise" of supply-side -- viz., that at a certain point, a rise in taxes lowers revenue -- was a "strategy" to increase the efficiency of, not abolish or even just reduce, the great beast Leviathan.
Chait himself acknowledges (p. 109) that "when [supply-siders] have the opportunity to preach their case to liberals, they are happy to argue that tax cuts would produce a gusher of revenue that could fund more generous programs" -- a Medicare bill expanding both entitlements and subsidies, let's imagine. In stark contrast, the "essential premise" of "conservative domestic policy" (i.e., free-market reforms, rejected by corporate liberals and "neoconservatives" alike) has for decades been the very slaying of Leviathan. The biggest con is the conflation of these opposites as "conservatism," whether the perp's an Irving Kristol -- or our author. We won't find any support for a supply-side-as-starvation theory from Bartlett (who, contrary to Chait's blatant misrepresentation, in fact writes that "tax cuts actually seem to cause spending increases," which Chait should know: Imposter bears a cover blurb from him) or Viguerie or Victor Gold (Invasion of the Party Snatchers, which calls for a GOP committed "to the economic realism of Milton Friedman and Herb Stein, not the irresponsible debt-and-deficit economics of Arthur Laffer and Robert Mundell").
Chait simply cannot face the truth: George W. Bush the "conservative" is a conservator of corporate liberalism/socialism. Not raising taxes is his only break with tradition. Were Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, or even Bill Clinton the current president -- heck, we might as well go and throw in the Republicans (e.g., Nixon, to belabor the obvious) -- the nation would be exactly where it is today ... except with higher taxes.
It's not a matter of only economic policy. George Bush II is no Robert Taft II. He has become -- yes, in abandonment of his pre-election statements (e.g., America cannot "go around the world saying, we do it this way, so should you") -- the stalwart of an aggressive foreign policy, i.e., the policy of the iconic liberals above (as acknowledged by even Spite Right firebrand Ann Coulter). It was his Rockefeller Republican father who sent troops into Iraq -- and Democrat Clinton who kept them actively bombing there (to say nothing of the U.S. intervention in the Balkans). We forget that his sending of additional troops was originally presented as the escalation of a military action that had been in progress since Saddam had invaded Kuwait. We forget -- or at least they now hope we forget -- that mainstream liberals Biden, Clinton, Dodd, and Edwards voted for "his war in Iraq" (as Michael Kinsley dubs it in the cover blurb). And we should remember that it was the libertarians (e.g., Ron Paul, Milton Friedman) and "paleoconservatives" (e.g., Pat Buchanan, Samuel Francis) -- i.e., "right-wing Republicans" -- who opposed it. Again, the point is not which side made the wiser decision, but which side took which position.
And yet nothing dissuades Chait from his core premise: the polarity of all "conservatism" and all "liberalism" -- not even his inability to provide coherent definitions. The former is drawn so broadly as to include not only the conflicting thinkers we've seen thus far, but also Religious Right and other "right-wing" elements. However, despite all these different ideologies, he characterizes conservatism as an "ideological sect," with debate limited to only a few specific issues (p. 237). Liberalism, on the other hand, is drawn to exclude Marxists (p. 129) and "[l]eft-wing social activists and campus radicals" (p. 134), yet he calls it an "ideological coalition." What, then, is the ideology holding this "coalition" together? Answer: "[T]here is no agreed-on definition of what liberalism means." Oh. So liberals "freely accuse each other of all sorts of ideological sins" -- even though they literally don't know what they're talking about. Well, you can't say that Chait's book isn't proof of its own contention. (For a discussion of the inability of modern liberalism to maintain any philosophic integrity, see my "Liberalism: The Slippery Slope to the Left.")
Forget coherence -- you can't credit Chait even with any originality. Hasn't a certain Berra-esque deja vu crept in by now? You can discover its source by going to David Horowitz's May 15, 1998 essay -- on Up From Conservatism by Michael Lind. It's all there in the book: monolithic-extremist conservatives vs. centrist liberals ("consensus liberals," in Chaitspeak [p. 231]). It didn't take much sweat on Horowitz's part to wield example after example of "conservative" disagreements to hack away at the monolith Lind imagined. For what it's worth, Chait can find roughly the same point -- viz., that the only things "conservatives" have ever shared are a common tag and (from the end of World War II to the fall of the Berlin Wall) a common enemy -- in the August 31, 1992 John Judis article in a journal called The New Republic.
Chait insists that conservatism and liberalism differ in "not just goals but epistemologies" (p. 235). And what could that possibly mean at this point? "Conservatives," he elucidates, "believe government simply has no right to insert itself into economic life the way it has since the New Deal" -- evidently even when the party they "have taken control of" enacted "the largest expansion of entitlements in nearly forty years." He quotes as a representative of this belief Milton Friedman -- that's right, the same man earlier portrayed as a thinker discarded by today's conservatives. (Taking in the book's proliferating contradictions, you have to wonder if editors these days worry about anything other than dangling participles.) So, what does he have Friedman say? This: "Freedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself." Chait tells us that this (sans-context) statement shows that conservative beliefs about the harmfulness of government intervention in the economy, "while deeply held, are not necessarily determinative." And as for what that means, he pulls his trump, a quotation from Andrew Sullivan: "If faster growth were caused by a bigger government, a conservative would still back smaller government and individual freedom. Similarly, my hostility to a progressive income tax is because I believe it's hubristic over-reach. Why should a government have the power to penalize some individuals for their relative success while rewarding others for relative failure?" Now Chait reaches for the jackpot:
"So while conservatives believe, say, that progressive taxes inhibit incentives to work, they would not change this view even if it were proven wrong, because buttressing their position is a deeper belief about the immorality of big government.
Liberal support for bigger government, on the other hand, is entirely rooted in what liberals believe to be its practical effects. They support regulations on pollution because they believe it will improve air quality. They support tax credits for the working poor because they believe they will raise income for such workers. If liberals were to be convinced those programs failed to achieve their intended goals, they would withdraw support for them. Increasing the size of government does not, in and of itself, serve any greater purpose. Conservatives regularly cite the size of government as a measuring stick -- bigger government means they are failing, smaller government means they are succeeding. Liberals don't think this way. For them, bigger government is a means, not an end."
This is what we've been waiting for, isn't it? "Liberals" are open-minded and humanitarian; "conservatives," fanatically committed to their one nostrum and thus ultimately indifferent to its possible harmful effects on human well-being. For Chait, the conflict of the present age isn't between ideas true and false, but between people good and evil.
It is perverse that an author who so focuses on economics should essentially dismiss, rather than refute, the economic (i.e., "practical effects") argument of his opponents -- even when they are economists (e.g., Friedman, who in fact has always been a strong proponent of empirical falsification). The caricature that Chait draws from Sullivan's idiosyncratic statement -- an entity who would champion the market economy even if it were shown to starve the masses -- reflects no capitalist economist, from Adam Smith to Mark Skousen. Even the "moralist" defenders of the free market, those who do indeed maintain a "belief about the immorality of big government," do not ignore "practical effects." After all, what was Atlas Shrugged but a demonstration of the consequences -- for everyone, not just the John Galts -- of a collectivized economy?
On the flip side: Do liberals resemble Chait's portrait of them? Consider the nature of economic debate to date. Free-market economists still explain why, for example, the minimum wage won't help the poor, and "practical effects" liberals still respond that we need the minimum wage because the poor need help. So, does the hope that it helps the poor prove that it helps the poor? Does it prove at least that liberals are good people? (It is beyond the pale to speculate whether liberals are limiting their benevolence to the special interests of Big Labor.) Can liberals "be convinced [such] programs [have] failed to achieve their intended goals"?
In his Everything for Sale (which contains just such an it-helps-the-poor-because-the-poor-need-help advocacy of the minimum wage, including a total failure to address any of the arguments against it), Robert Kuttner seems to regard the law of unintended consequences not as a sober reality, but as a self-evident absurdity, which he mocks as the "Perversity Thesis": Claim a law will do something and "conservative" contrarians reflexively assert it will do the opposite. (Kuttner and kind might care to ponder the late-2007 AP reports that the "shortage of National Health Service dentists" in the U.K., which began when "[m]any dentists abandoned Britain's publicly funded health care system after reforms backfired in April 2006," has left a "growing number of Britons without access to affordable care." The reforms, e.g., a guaranteed income for dentists, were an "effort to increase patients' access." Even more thought-provoking is "Health Status, Health Care and Inequality: Canada vs. the U.S." from the National Bureau of Economic Research.)
So now the question about "bigger government" liberals becomes: Is there no "deeper belief" -- the immorality of a "common good" that's only the "sum of selfish individual goods" (Kuttnerese for any values pursued by free individuals) and the superior ethic of a "collective good" (ditto for anything imposed by majoritarian state coercion); uniformity of wealth/poverty; punishment for the sins of "materialism" and "greed"; or the above implied -- buttressing their position? As for Friedman, he was by no means declaring (at the very beginning of Capitalism and Freedom) that "economic freedom" is the supreme value irrespective of its "practical effects" on people's lives; rather, it is not only "an end in itself," but "also an indispensable means toward the achievement of political freedom" (emphasis added).
He rejected further the false dichotomy between freedom and "material welfare," and libertarians today reject in turn that between morality and practicality -- fundamentally, I would contend, between ethics and economics. That's because the two sciences are studying merely different aspects of the same reality, the same nature -- human nature. They can no more conflict than physics and chemistry. It is a "deeper belief" (explicit or implicit) in some standard of morality that determines both "intended goals" and the means to achieve them. As one liberal conscious of the need to account for the morality-practicality nexus, Kuttner subtitled another book False Choices Between Prosperity and Social Justice. Now, as to which ethic -- individual freedom or "social justice" -- truly coexists with economic abundance, one answer has long been clear: the contrast between the pro-prosperity Old Left and the pro-austerity New Left and its fellow travelers (e.g., affluence foe John Kenneth Galbraith, the Salieri of economics, now so irrelevant as to not even merit a mention from Chait). Here the supporters of "bigger government" continued to "back" it despite the demonstration of its actual relation to "growth."
Had Chait tried to understand his free-market subjects, he would have seen that for them limited government is not a fetish, but the yin to the yang of a thriving civil society -- in whole, a "free and prosperous commonwealth" (Ludwig von Mises). But he preferred to scribble his caricatures. Ultimately, Chait is not an FDR, JFK, LBJ, or even Clinton liberal -- he's a Norman Lear liberal. His conception of "conservatives" and "liberals" is no less one-dimensional than the characterization of Archie Bunker and son-in-law Mike. As stereotypes, they work not to educate or challenge others, but only to confirm one's own prejudices.
All this is not to say that Chait hasn't taught us anything inadvertently. Recall how he spoke of an ideology that "resembles that of communism." Indeed: a crafted mythology as official history; government growth as a declared inevitability; administration of the masses economically (professedly to benefit the lower classes, really to establish a political elite); the use of the term socialization to denote usurpation by the State of the institutions of society; the invocation of "wrecker" saboteurs ("reactionaries" and "conservatives") to prove that statism never fails, but is only failed; militarism in the service of "pacification." Corporate socialism and Communist socialism are of course not twin totalitarianisms, but they are kindred Orwellianisms: Fantasy is Reality -- reality, fantasy. Let us not be too surprised if Mr. Chait's next book-signing is at a convention -- seated right next to Peter David.
Australia: Imams say that the naughty bits in Islamic tradition must not be mentioned
The usual Islamic/Leftist respect for free speech, intellectual diversity and open discussion of ideas (NOT)
ANGRY Muslim groups have attacked the University of Western Sydney over an Islamic studies course they claim is too sexually explicit, promotes lesbianism and derides the Koran as misogynistic. Students, community members and the Australian National Imams Council have complained about the content of the course, Women in Arabic and Islamic Literature, being taught at the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies. They say it gives a negative view of women in Islam.
The imams council has circulated a petition recording its "deep concern with regards to the course structure and content", saying it involved "repeated and unjustified attacks upon Islam". Another group, Muslims for Peace, has branded the centre as "evil" and demanded lecturer Samar Habib be dismissed and the course abolished. "Now that its wicked nature should be crystal clear for all to see, Muslims should fear Almighty Allah and break all connections with this diabolical centre of Kufr (non-believers)," a bulletin on the Muslims for Peace website reads.
Dr Habib has declined to comment. UWS executive dean of the College of Arts Wayne McKenna said that, although the university was yet to receive a direct complaint, it was examining the content of the course.
The NCEIS, set up last year with federal government funds, operates out of three universities: the University of Melbourne, Griffith University in Queensland and UWS. It was established to advance knowledge and understanding of Islam and to play a leadership role in public debate on contemporary Islam. The course includes excerpts from The Perfumed Garden by Sheik Nafzawi, a book on Arabian erotica written in the 16th century and translated into English in 1886 that has been likened to the Indian Kama Sutra.
Dr Habib, who has written her PhD thesis on female homosexuality in the Middle East and has written an introduction in an erotic lesbian novel published overseas entitled I Am You, has been accused of promoting lesbianism. Homosexuality is forbidden in the Koran for both sexes. Dr Habib has also been accused by Muslims for Peace of teaching that it is not obligatory to wear the hijab, that the Hadiths (sayings of the Prophet Mohammed) are just Chinese whispers and that Muslim scholars can be ignored because they are males.
University of Melbourne's Sultan of Oman professor of Arab and Islamic studies, Abdullah Saeed, said concerns about the course had been raised at the centre's community consultative committee meeting this week. "Everyone has a right to express their opinion and views and that is what is happening," Professor Saeed said. "One of the essential things is to uphold academic freedoms and intellectual freedoms of students and the staff."
The imams council does not believe the course represents the normative traditional Islam as practised by most of the world's Muslim population. "The subject's emphasis on sexuality and its explicit sexual content is not reflective of normative Islam, which is what we thought the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies would attempt to portray," ANIC president Sheik Moez Nafti wrote.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.