Friday, January 30, 2009

The Clash of Diversities...

A Dutch prosecutor has been filed against Geert Wilders, a prominent Dutch politician for "insulting Islam." The charges stem from Mr. Wilder's movie Fitna which is highly critical of Islam. Mr. Wilder's view of Islam was formed by personal experiences, including the murder of his friend Theo Van Gogh by a Moslem extremist, and repeated death threats against himself and his associate Ayaan Hirsi Ali by similar extremists.

In addition to Fitna, Mr. Wilders has used his position as a parliamentarian to communicate his preoccupations that the Islamic culture of the Netherlands's rapidly growing Moslem population is incompatible with the tolerant, pluralist spirit and institutions of Dutch society. One proponent of this vision was Pim Fortuyn, a popular and openly gay politician who feared that paradoxically in the name of diversity, the Dutch were inviting in people who have no tolerance for diversity. He based this on the correct belief that the vast majority of Moslems were intolerant of gays, Jews, women's rights, free speech and democracy itself. Tragically and ironically Mr. Fortuyn was murdered, for his beliefs, by Volkert van der Graaf, a left wing environmentalist, vegan and animal rights activists. In no way does Volkert represent the main stream left, but he is the extreme manifestation of the intolerance for diverse opinions that we see in many of the "champions of diversity."

Ironically, the prosecution of Mr. Wilders validates his belief that the multi-cultural dogma of the Dutch state is paradoxically leading to the erosion of free speech and open debate. This is relevant to the United States because the same philosophical and political forces that have eroded freedom in the Netherlands are taking hold in the United States:

The value of selective sensitivity has superseded intellectual honesty and open debate. In
the Netherlands, the sensitivity is selectively applied to Moslems, while there is a
tacit tolerance of the hateful speech against Jews and Christians that emanates from mosques
and marches. In the United States tremendous sensitivity is mandated towards select groups, but lacking when some "progressives" openly disparage "backward Mormons" and "redneck Christians." In regards to open debate we know that even though Obama has called for a "dialogue on race," in the current cultural Milieu few if any politicians would openly challenge Obama's monologue on race and diversity.

The ascension of group rights and interests over individual rights and general
American interests. In the case of the Netherlands, the collective rights of the Moslem
community not to be offended trump Mr. Wilder's right to free speech. In the US this
philosophical shift is seen in the growth of quotas, affirmative action and speech codes.

A selective affirmation of ethno-political group identity over individual identity. This
affirmation is selective, because In the case of the Netherlands, Moslems overwhelmingly
vote for socialist parties that (by their own description) openly pursue the interests of Moslems. Yet, when Mr. Wilders proposes that the native Dutch need to vote for their political and economic interests, he is called a "fascist." In the United States few if any politicians would dare call for the promotion of "white interests," while the Black Congressional Congress's openly pursues "the interests of African-Americans" and the National Council of La Raza pursues a "Latino agenda."

Of course the point of the last paragraph was NOT to encourage whites to "pursue their
interests," it's to discourage all individuals from pursuing group rights over individual freedom and from pursuing redistributive ethno-political interests over general American interests. And the mere belief that there are white, black or Latino interests is a negation of the individuality and diversity within these groups.

Thank God the United States has not reached the point where individuals are prosecuted for free speech. But, we must remain vigilant. History shows that freedom, peace and prosperity are never givens; a nation and a civilization must strive for many generations to achieve them. But, freedom, peace and prosperity are fragile and can be lost if but one generation slumbers.

To learn about the arrest of Geert Wilders:,2933,481665,00.html

To learn about Geert Wilders:

To learn more about the film Fitna:

To learn more about Theo Van Gough:

To learn more about Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

To learn more about Pim Fortuyn:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bleeding Washington...

While reading up on the founding fathers I learned that George Washington's doctors literally bled him to death. Washington approached them with a sore throat, who insisted on bloodletting, which made him even more ill, which prompted them to further bleed Washington.

This vicious cycle reached a peak in which Washington lost over a quarter of his blood in one day. To make matters worse, Washington was given a strong laxative and an emetic which caused vomiting. That day America's 1st and greatest president died in agony.

This terrible episode in American history best describes how the interventionist state functions. Very rarely do politicians successfully diagnose the cause of our economic and social ills...especially when their policies caused those very ills.

The "cures" that they propose are often worse than the "diseases." But, just like with Washington's doctors, the failure of their "cures" compel them to declare that the solution is to further administer them.

Any Chicagoan can tell you that even as spending has soared, our public schools have remained awful, with a graduation rate of approximately 50%. Yet the solutions are always the same: more spending and greater federal involvement.

And of course we encounter this problem with our current economic crises.

Clearly government involvement was one of the major factors in the formation of the housing bubble, yet so many politicians and their pundits declare that the market is the illness and even more state intervention is the cure.

Massive debt and irresponsible spending in the public and private sectors were key factors that contribute to our economic ills, yet Bushbama proposes even more spending, which will lead to even more debt.

What irony - in 1799 Washington was bled by his incompetent doctors and in 2009 Washington bleeds our great nation.

Why the Crow Gets the Corn...

There once was a farmer with a beautiful, hard working wife; together they toiled in their fields from sunrise to sunset. They planned and planted, watered and weeded and finally their black fields turned green and gold from the corn that sprang from the soil and reached for the sun.

The farmer did his best to guard against the crows, always perched in the trees, eying his succulent corn. But, he would always awake to find several of his plants partially devoured.

The problem was that the crows had a far greater incentive to steal the corn, than the farmer had to guard it. A devoured plant could serve as a magnificent feast for the crow, but for the farmer it was only a small portion of his crops. The crow's raison d'ĂȘtre was to steal the farmer's corn, whereas the farmer divided his time between his roles as a farmer, father and friend. So, each night the crow would be victorious.

The farmer wasn't a greedy man and figured "it's my corn...but perhaps the crows are I guess I could share some of my corn with them..."

But, with each passing day, the number of crows grew and grew and each one became greedier and greedier until the farmer awoke to find that half of his field...half of his time and labor...had been devoured.

The farmer turned to his wife and asked her "how oh how did those little bastards devour half our field?!?" His wise wife responded "each of them took so little that we barely noticed...but together they can devour half our crops..."

Substitute "hard working tax payers" for "farmer" and "crows" for the multitude of connected corporations, special interests and unproductive citizens and you have a good sense of how our redistributive state works.

When the government grants billions of dollars of direct and indirect subsidies (tarrifs, preferential tax breaks etc.) to connected company and industires, they are ultimately usurping the fruits of the labor of hard working individuals and successfull firms.

The fundemental problem is that each subsidy only costs each tax payer a few dollar, but the windfalls for the recipients are always great. So, those who benefit from subsidies have huge incentives to fight for them, whereas the mass of tax payers rarely have enough incentive to fight against them. For example, the steel industry can afford to invest $100,000 in lobbying politicians for tariffs, because they stand to gain millions. On the other hand, it's beyond the realm of reason for a tax payer to match the steel industries lobbying efforts, because individualls they stand to lose only a few dollars via costlier and lower quality services.

Not only are welfare programs a tremendous windfall for the unproductive citizenry who receive them, they also are a windfall for the rapidly expanding number of bureaucrats who manage them. The fundemental problem is that the benefits to the recipients are large, direct and immediate, whereas the cost of each program to tax payers are small, indirect and are incurred over time. Tax payers in Cook County will grumble about rising sales and property taxes, but few will connect this to the ever expanding size of the state. And even fewer have the time, energy or resources to fight for their interests.

Each instance of economic redistribution may be small, but when you ad them up, it becomes clear why the tax burden has grown for productive citizens. But most politicians have little or no reason to go against the great regimen of redistribution. After all, individuals and interests who depend on a subsidy will be beholden them. And even so called conservative politicians like Bush dare not fight against these subsidies out of the fear of losing a rapidly exanding electoral block: voters who are dependent on the state.

For all his faults, the crow is a cautious creature who knows that there's only so much he can take before the he is pushed too far. Now we encounter a new and far more voracious predator - the wolf who steals from the farmer in broad daylight. Instead of stealing indiscernible bits of corn, the wolf sweeps down and carries off the farmer himself.

Of course I am referring to Bushbama's massive, unprecedented transference of wealth popularly known as the "stimulus plan." This plan will increase our national debt by 1 trillion dollars, which comes to approximately $10,000 per family. The government will eventually have to pay this debt on the back of the public, in the form of higher taxes, less services, a dollar debased through the printing of money to pay for this debt. What makes this so insidious is that this debt is fundementally a transference of wealth from future generations to our own.

Initial figures show that a large portion of these funds will be directed towards programs that in no way constitute an economic stimulus. At best, Bushbama's bailout is a way to push through questionable, costly programs and policies without the public's scrutiny. And the $187,000 - $250,000 cost per job created indicates that a large portion of the bailout funds will be consumed by the bureaucracies that will manage and distribute the funds. So, fundementally the bailout is a massive transference of wealth from productive individuals, businesses and segments of the economy to the state and its dependents.

The farmer and wife gazed at their barren fields, turned to the crow and the wolf and said "it's all yours..." That winter the crow and the wolf starved.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Just the Facts Ma'am!

During my 1st day of university, I encountered a phenomena that has puzzled me for years: so many educated, articulate people were so wrong on so many issues. The consequence of this phenomena goes beyond university lecture halls, because many of these individuals find their way into the realm of politics...even the white house.

On that day, I encountered students and even professors who so skillfully argued the merits of socialism and state intervention over a free market. They clung tightly to their beliefs, even when presented with examples of nations (South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Estonia, Ireland, China and Chile) that had dramatically raised the living standards of their people through a strong shift towards the free market.

And of course they used their full rhetorical might to tap dance around the myriad of examples of nations that had ruined the lives of millions and millions of people through socialism. Naturally, good friends of mine who had grown up in socialist countries like Russian and Cuba found this highly puzzling.

As I rose up the academic ladder, this phenomena became even more pronounced. While working on my masters degree in education I was repeatedly told that "intact two parent families are no more advantageous to children than families run by single parents..." While researching this topic I encountered mountains of data that clearly indicated the huge correlation between single parenthood and poverty, crime, welfare dependency, low academic achievement and a host of other social pathology.

For an educated, intact, middle class couple to successfully attend to their career, while also attending to their children's social and spiritual needs is an exhausting challenge. So, common sense dictates that even for the most dynamic individual to successfully balance their parental, professional and personal responsibilities without the help of a spouse is next to impossible. And simple economics dictates that very few individuals can raise a family on a single salary, especially if you factor in the high cost of quality child care.

So, how or why do so many intelligent people so successfully divorce themselves from reality? Here are some answers that make sense to me:

1. Sometimes formal education and intelligence allows individuals to embrace theories and rhetorical tools that allow them to tap dance around unpleasant realities. And more often than not, logic is a tool used to justify what we already believe rather than help lead us to the truth.

2. Too many people and too many movements are judged on their "noble intents" and not on real results. This explains how people supported socialism even in the face of its obvious failure. Dare I say this also explains the religious zeal that many people hold for Obama, when he has no accomplishments to show beyond his rhetorical prowess.

3. Admirable crusades against racism, sexism, poverty etc. induce many people to go beyond a healthy idealism of intent towards a hazardous idealism of interpretation.

In the case of my professor, to admit that certain choices and behaviors, like single motherhood contribute to the social and economic ills of African-Americans and to a lesser extent Latinos, is beyond the pale, because it's tantamount to "blaming the victim." And of course it flies in the face of their idealistic narrative in which they are the "great protagonists" who battle "oppressors" on behalf of "oppressed groups."

A good question to ask yourself when you encounter an "innovative theory" is "what would a detective do?" In the case of my education class, after 5 minutes he would probably stand up and in a gruff voice declare "Just the Facts Ma'am...Just the Facts!"

If more people placed evidence over ideas and facts over feelings, bad ideas and failed policies would have much shorter lifespans and the politicians who promoted them would not get re-elected year after year after year...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Free Lunch with Toqueville!

179 years ago, the French writer Alexis de Tocqueville prophetically wrote that "the American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."

Toqueville's perfectly explains one of the main sources of our current economic and political ills, particularly our 10 trillion dollar deficit.

So many people don't realize that they will pay for every "free" service that the government provides them, be it welfare or warfare, in one or more of the following ways:

1. Direct taxation that burdens the rich and poor alike. Especially in our city and county, those who are too poor to pay an income tax are heavily burdened through a sales tax, corporate taxes (that raises the cost of the goods and services that they utilize) and property taxes (that are passed on to them in the form of higher rents.)

2. Creating massive public debt through continuous borrowing. Fundamentally this equals a transference of wealth from future generations to our own short sighted generation.

3. The inflationary tax that occurs when the government debases the value of the dollar by printing money to cover the costs of a massive state. The working and middle class know that costs are rising faster than their income, but few see the culprit as the government's expansion of the money supply.

Unfortunately a perverse form of natural selection occurs that virtually ensures the "bribery of the public" by grossly irresponsible politicians. As the elections of Bush, Blagojevich and Obama show, anyone who promises more "free" government programs and less taxes will almost certainly get elected. And anyone who is informed and honest enough to present the public with the painful choice between less government and / or more taxes will almost never get elected.

As a good friend of mine from Iran said "people usually gets the government they deserve."

To learn more about Tocqueville:

To learn more about Toqueville's great work - Democracy in America: