Monday, January 31, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: Zarqawi Loses

The key test of a terrorist insurgency is its ability to instill fear in a country's population. With voters showing up in large numbers—and terrorists powerless to stop them—the Iraqi election may be the moment that breaks the back of the insurgency.

Top News Stories
• "The Voters Were Completely Defiant"
• The American Empire's Bridge to Iraq
• The Heartless Welfare State
• A Long-Term Investment in Social Security Accounts
• After Social Security, Medicare
• Commentary: The Democrats' "Suicide Note"

Departments
• Human Achievements: Ayn Rand's Life
• Things of Beauty: Wave and Mountains

Feature Article
The Metaphysics of "Normal Life"
by Robert Tracinski
From Ukraine to Iraq, Never Underestimate the Power of Freedom's Example

The Metaphysics of "Normal Life"

From Ukraine to Iraq, Never Underestimate the Power of Freedom's Example

by Robert Tracinski


Reports from the front lines (literally) of the Iraqi election have begun to solidify in my mind a new integration—one that makes me relatively optimistic about the outcome in Iraq, despite all of the problems and dangers.

I have quietly been gathering evidence for this connection in the back of my mind, without fully realizing it, and all of that evidence crystallized for me last weekend when I heard a single phrase repeated by several Iraqi voters in different cities. They were voting, they told reporters, because they wanted Iraq to be "a normal nation."

This is a phrase that I have heard in reports from a variety of countries, in different variations, over the past few years—all of them in the context of some kind of struggle for liberty against a long tradition of backwardness and tyranny. The repetition of this formula is too persistent to be a mere coincidence. I read it in a newspaper report about a rally of Afghani women just outside of Kabul after the fall of the Taliban, when one woman told a reporter that they longed for the chance at "a normal life." I heard something similar in reports from Ukraine's Orange Revolution, where opponents of the corrupt Kremlin-backed regime talked longingly about moving closer to the "normal" nations of Western Europe. I have even heard hints of it as the driving force behind China's abandonment of doctrinaire Communism; one television expert described the "Chinese dream" as being the desire to "become one of the wealthy nations"—another version of what is "normal."

The crucial question raised by this phrase is: normal—by what standard?

One of the Iraqis who was interviewed (see the first news link in today's TIA Daily) said, "We want to lead a normal life, just like people in neighboring countries." But Iraq's neighbors are Turkey, Syria, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait. Poverty, oppression, and violence are (both historically and, to a greater or lesser degree, at present) the actual norm in these nations. I don't think that's where all of the Iraqi voters are getting their concept of what is "normal."

Where did they actually get it? And where did the people in Afghanistan, in Ukraine, and also, I suspect, many people today in China and Russia, get their concept of what a "normal life" is?

They got it, clearly, from the free nations of Western Europe, and above all from America. From the way I have seen it used, a "normal life" means, to these people: prosperity, representative government, a mixed-to-free economy, and the rule of law. I don't mean to imply that everyone who uses this phrase grasps that those are the ingredients—and I certainly don't believe that more than a small fraction of them grasp, with any accuracy, the philosophical, cultural, and political requirements for this kind of "normalcy." They seem to grasp it only as a vague, half-understood approximation, as nothing more exact than the phrase itself: "a normal life."

The fact that they don't know its philosophical roots and requirements—and that there is hardly anyone in today's world who can tell them—means that such progress as they make toward this vision of a "normal life" will be slow, halting, tortuous, and constantly endangered. But when I describe their understanding as "vague" and "half-understood," I don't mean that in a disapproving way. Given the context of the societies in which they have been raised, a half-understood approximation of the kind of life possible in a free society in enormous progress. It is the first step toward a fuller understanding.

What seems to be contained in the phrase "a normal life" is not the details of what constitutes a free society, but rather a vision of what kind of life is possible to man when he lives in such a society: prosperity; a profusion of opportunities for education, for expression, for advancement; a life free of physical fear.

The "normal life" we experience in America has not been "normal" as a statistical average of man's life, either throughout history or around the world today. So that makes the fact that it is now starting to be regarded as "normal" all the more extraordinary. "Normal," in this context, is not a statistical term. Neither is it a political or even a moral term—which is why those who use it do not understand its full moral and political meaning. "Normal," in this context, is a metaphysical estimate. It means: that which is possible to man in this world.

I am still trying to grasp the deepest significance of this idea and to gather evidence for my conclusion—but based on what I have been seeing over the past few years, here is my hypothesis. The existence of a free society in the United States for the past 200 years, and of essentially free societies in Western Europe and Japan for the past 50 years, has created a new global standard for what kind of life is metaphysically possible to man. The life of man in a free society has become—for millions around the world—what they long for as a "normal" way of living.

This vision of a "normal" life is still vague and poorly understood, and it is a vision that can still be lost—but it is also a vision that, I suspect, is already beginning to change the world, from Ukraine to China—and, possibly, from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Friday, January 28, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: Our New Iraqi Leaders

On the eve of this weekend's Iraqi elections, Jack Wakeland provides a detailed rundown of Iraq's electoral politics, including the most hopeful sign: the surprising strength of pro-American secularism. This long piece is the best overview I have seen of the meaning and potential of Sunday's historic vote.

Top News Stories
• Our New Iraqi Leaders: Bush's Confidence
• Our New Iraqi Leaders: The Reporters
• Our New Iraqi Leaders: The Electioneers
Our New Iraqi Leaders: "We Want to Be Like the Rest of the World"
• First Details on Private Accounts
• Commentary: The Valor of the Vote

Departments
• Things of Beauty: Rare Earth Magnet Jewelry

Feature Article
• Voting for List No. 169
by Jack Wakeland
Will Iran or Iraq Become the Invader of its Neighbor's Political System?

Our New Iraqi Leaders: "We Want to Be Like the Rest of the World"

I have pointed out that liberty requires more than just a "yearning of the human heart"—that it requires certain cultural and intellectual foundations. But the lesson of Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" is that we should not underestimate the intellectual power of the example set by the free and prosperous West—a force captured here in one Kurd's declaration that "we want to be like the rest of the world."

"In Kurdish North, Campaign Turns into Street Party," Jackie Spinner, Washington Post, 1/28/05

"IRBIL, Iraq, Jan. 27—Adnan Ismael raced to the back of the campaign bus carrying supporters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and frantically pulled aside a dark blue curtain so he could see out. Hundreds of honking cars were following behind in an impromptu rolling celebration late Thursday afternoon through this ancient city. Passengers hung out of vehicles, shouting and waving the yellow flag of the KDP and the red, white, and green flag of the Kurdish semiautonomous region here in northern Iraq. Ismael turned from the window, a stunned look on his face.... 'We were dreaming for this day to come,' said Ismael, the KDP leader for Irbil's Tajil district, who darted back and forth to get a look at the scene unfolding on every side of the bus. 'Now we will all choose our representatives for the future. Every Kurd wishes to see this day.'...

" 'I am very happy,' said Faruq Nabil, 24, a laborer with thick black hair and green eyes. 'Since I was born, this is the first time I will go and elect the government. I want to thank Mr. George W. Bush for his efforts in making this happen.' Sarbaz Qader, who owns a small bicycle repair shop, said he was overwhelmed with joy. 'I will vote, and I am not afraid of anyone, whoever he is,' Qader said.... 'We waited for this a long time,' [Raqeeb Shekhan] said, his head wrapped in a black and white traditional headdress. 'We've ached for this freedom. We want to be like the rest of the world.' "


Thursday, January 27, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: Social Security Collectivism

A leftist college professor identifies the one fundamental issue in the Social Security debate: individualism versus collectivism. But then he demands the total subordination of the individual to the collective—an argument whose implications go for beyond Social Security.

Top News Stories
• Our New Iraqi Leaders
• The Blue-State Blackout
• The Mullahs' Mafia
China's Independent Minds: "Thank You, Internet!"
• Commentary: An "Alliance of Liberal Democracies"
• Commentary: Social Security Collectivism

Departments
• Things of Beauty: IR Astronomical Photo

Feature Article
• Eli Whitney and the Industrialization of America
by Shrikant Rangnekar
How One Inventor Revolutionized Production—And Helped America Fight a War

China's Independent Minds: "Thank You, Internet!"

The great contradiction of China's recent economic growth is that the country's leaders are trying to accommodate some degree of capitalism—including the embrace of computer technology—while trying to prevent freedom from spreading into the political realm. One mechanism they rely on is the "Great Firewall of China," which is supposed to keep young Chinese from engaging in a free exchange of ideas over the Internet. But this article indicates Chinese netizens' growing impatience with these restrictions.

"Cracks in the Chinese Wall," Emily Parker, Wall Street Journal, 1/27/05

"Indeed, the sudden media silence after Zhao's death only caused many to realize that something was seriously wrong. 'I'm too young, I don't understand the reasons or the results, I pay a silent tribute. This morning I couldn't connect to any overseas Web sites, and I realized that something had happened. What I really don't understand is...[why it's necessary to put so much effort into] blocking all overseas Web sites, it's as though they have a guilty conscience.' Another said, 'I live in Guangzhou, and that night I wasn't able to access two Hong Kong TV stations, so I realized immediately that something major had happened, it turns out that general secretary Zhao had died!... In this era, how much longer can you block information?'...

"China's leaders may hope that prosperity will help justify maintaining a wall to block information. But the cracks are beginning to show. Amid all the sadness and frustration expressed online, there was one ray of hope: 'Thank you, Internet, for giving us one last place to speak!' "


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: Hillary Moves Right

Taking seriously its own promotion of the myth that religious fundamentalists determined the 2004 election, the left is now drawing the logical conclusion: that they have to appease the religionists if they want to get back into office. Hence Hillary Clinton's recent overtures to the religious right.

Top News Stories
• Hillary Moves Right
• The Peace Process Road Map Back to War
• "A Vision for Ukraine"
• The Dog That Didn't Bark
The Trash-Worship Synthesis
• Commentary: The Social Security Contradiction

Departments
• Human Achievements: Infrared Photography
• Things of Beauty: Infrared Photography

The Trash-Worship Synthesis

This is a remarkable synthesis of two dominant trends in art and politics. The modern artists' worship of trash, decay, and degradation meets the environmentalists' obsessive hoarding of garbage (an activity they call "recycling") in a San Francisco program that attempts to turn the city dump into an "art gallery." The common thread is philosophical nihilism: the worship of non-values.

"A Makeover for Trash; Now It's Art," Patricia Leigh Brown, New York Times, 1/26/05

"It was the art opening of the season, and the cognoscenti gathered to sip chardonnay and wax poetic about the work on display at one of the city's most prestigious galleries: the dump. 'It's very textural, very architectonic,' said Hector Dio Mendoza, a sculptor from San Jose, speaking of his 15-foot plastic foam tree, a work of haunting, austere beauty representative of what might be called the Trash Can School. 'I love the way light reflects off the Styrofoam.'...

"Founded in 1990 by a local artist and administered by Norcal Waste Systems, the company that picks up and recycles San Francisco's garbage, the program has become a bona fide phenomenon here. It is deeply expressive of a place where recycling is practically a religion and personal expression and environmental politics are urban dogma....

The promotion of garbage as a 'visual resource' is meant to inspire the public to be less wasteful and to help the city achieve a recycling goal of 75 percent by 2010."


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: The Social Security Opportunity

A look at the 2005 budget shows that Social Security and Medicare dominate federal spending—and that their privatization is the single biggest opportunity to shrink the size and role of government.

Top News Stories
• The President's "Polite" Assault on Rights
• The Priorities of the Religious Right
• The FCC's Censorship Vigilantes
• Hillary Joins the Religious Right
Altruism vs. Social Security Reform
• Commentary: Optimism on the Iraqi Election

Departments
• Things of Beauty: Lava

Feature Article
• The Social Security Opportunity, by Robert Tracinski
The Only Way to Reduce the Size of Government Is to Privatize Social Security

Altruism vs. Social Security Reform

President Bush's attempt to argue for Social Security reform on altruist grounds is leading to predictable results. An attempt to reduce the absurdly generous future growth of Social Security benefits is being watered down into a redistributionist attempt to make Social Security taxes even more "progressive"—making the system even more of a raw deal for the most productive taxpayers.

"White House Looking for Ways to Ease Opposition to Social Security Overhaul," Edmund L. Andrews and Richard W. Stevenson, New York Times, 1/25/05

"The White House has already floated one approach to the issue of future benefits, suggesting that the benefits be based on price increases rather than on the current formula, which is based on economy-wide growth in wages. Since wages tend to rise faster than prices, the effect would be to set benefits at lower levels than promised under current law. But that approach drew intense criticism from Democrats and some Republicans. Administration officials are now reviewing an idea called 'progressive indexation.' The idea is in effect a compromise that would allow initial benefits for low-income workers to rise in line with their wages but would peg benefits for affluent workers to the inflation rate. The effect would be to direct relatively more benefits to lower-income people than to higher-income people. White House officials say that future benefits have to be reduced in order to close a long-term financial gap that the government estimates at roughly $3.7 trillion over the next 75 years....

The new approach would help protect people at the lowest rungs of the income scale. But it would not save nearly as much money. By one estimate, it would close about two-thirds of the projected shortfall."


Monday, January 24, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: "No Turbans" for Our New Iraqi Leaders?

The Shiite coalition favored to dominate this weekend's election in Iraq vows that it will install a secular government—but is this just a tactical maneuver by theocrats seeking to gain access to power before they inject Islam into Iraq's government?

Top News Stories
The Real "Third Rail"
• Our New Iraqi Leaders: "No Turbans in Government"
• China's Dilemma Deepens
• The FCC's Rule of Uncertainty
• Court Rules Against Living Death
• Commentary: George W. Bush, Philosopher?

Departments
• Human Achievements: A Brief History of Steam Engines
• Things of Beauty: Painting: Ship off a Stormy Coast

The Real "Third Rail"

This is another overview of the Republican resistance to Bush's proposed Social Security overhaul, and the common theme of these defections indicates the greatest danger to privatization. The threat is the right's inability (and unwillingness) to challenge the real "third rail" of American politics: the altruist theory that the essence of morality is to sacrifice the productive for the sake of the needy.

Republicans like Newt Gingrich are scared to death that they might be accused of decreasing the amount of government handouts—and President Bush can't inspire them with courage, after he twisted their arms to support 2003's prescription drug bill, which was itself a massive expansion of the welfare state designed to appease altruism.

"Bleed My Lips?" John Fund, Wall Street Journal, 1/24/05

"Newt Gingrich and former Club for Growth president Steve Moore caution against a plan under consideration by the White House that would bring the Social Security program into future balance by having benefits rise only as much as prices do, instead the current practice of having them rise as fast as wages do. While economists of all stripes endorse such a move, it would provide Democrats with a club to attack the very concept of reform. 'Any effort to change benefit formulas virtually guarantees stalemate,' Mr. Gingrich told me. 'If you allow them to create a slogan that includes 'benefit cuts' in it, they're going to prevail.'...

"Most Republicans in Congress understand the long-term political benefits of promoting an 'ownership society' that enhances individual responsibility and looks less towards government for societal solutions. They agree with White House aide Pete Wehner, who says that reform would rank 'as one of the most significant conservative governing achievements ever.'... But that will happen only with the greatest of foot-dragging unless the White House changes the nature of its relationship with Republicans in Congress. From Speaker Dennis Hastert down to lowly sophomores, the Congress is filled with members of the 'Bleeding Lip Club.' For four years, they have all bit their lips as a 'Lone Ranger' White House dictated the details of every major legislative item. The 2003 threats and strong-arm tactics that the White House ordered to push through the prescription drug bill (which ultimately had little political benefit for most members) was the last straw for some."


Friday, January 21, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: The Inconsistent Attack on Inconsistency

The "liberal" press revives on old Cold War chestnut: opposing a war against tyranny in Iraq—by condemning the US for not ending tyranny everywhere else.

Top News Stories
The Post's Inconsistent Attack on Inconsistency
• The New Capitalist Space Industry
• Russia's Retrograde Rebellion
• China's Tightrope
• Commentary: Coercive "Negotiation"
• Commentary: Religious Conservative Opposes Idealism

Departments
• Human Achievements: Candlemakers vs. the Sun
• Things of Beauty: Cave Tour in China

The Inconsistent Attack on Inconsistency

A Washington Post article lays out the "liberal" line of attack on Bush's "Forward Strategy of Freedom." If you recognize it, that is because this is a revival of the old Cold War accusation that America was evil because it supported dictatorships in South America and Southeast Asia—ignoring the fact that we did so in order to defeat a much stronger and more oppressive Soviet dictatorship.

Similarly, the purpose of this article is not to push the administration to take more vigorous action—including military action—against the governments of Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or Egypt. To the contrary, it vents the complaints of the pacifist "human rights" establishment—whose real objection is not that Bush has tolerated some repressive allies, but that America has used force to topple a dictatorship.

"Bush's Words on Liberty Don't Mesh with Policies," Washington Post, 1/21/05

"President Bush's soaring rhetoric yesterday that the United States will promote the growth of democratic movements and institutions worldwide is at odds with the administration's increasingly close relations with repressive governments in every corner of the world. Some of the administration's allies in the war against terrorism—including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Uzbekistan—are ranked by the State Department as among the worst human rights abusers. The president has proudly proclaimed his friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin while remaining largely silent about Putin's dismantling of democratic institutions in the past four years. The administration, eager to enlist China as an ally in the effort to restrain North Korea's nuclear ambitions, has played down human rights concerns there, as well."


TIA Daily Contents: Altruism vs. Liberty at the Inauguration

President Bush rests the case for Social Security privatization on the welfare-state morality of the New Deal.

Top News Stories
• The "Pre-Emption President"
• NYT Tries to Pre-Empt Bush Mandate
• Hillary Endorses the Religious Right
• Martha Stewart's Comeback
• History Repeats Itself in China's Potemkin Village
• Commentary: No Excuses for Republican Majority

Departments
• Human Achievements: First Steamboat Trip
• Things of Beauty: Alpine Travel Poster

Feature Articles
• The Protests Against Representative Government
by Robert Tracinski
Anti-Inauguration Protests Reflect the Left's Hostility to Liberty
Altruism vs. Liberty at the Inauguration
by Robert Tracinski
Bush's Altruism Undermines His Case on Social Security

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Protests Against Representative Government

Anti-Inauguration Protests Reflect the Left's Hostility to Liberty

by Robert Tracinski

A few minutes ago, while watching a bit of the inauguration coverage on television, I saw the gangs of leftist protesters who were screaming their rage at President Bush. I also noticed that the Inaugural Address itself was interrupted twice by screaming protesters.

I find this new trend of inaugural protests to be incredibly offensive--and revealing about the totalitarian mentality of the far left.

My objection is partly a general objection to this kind of protest. As a general rule, street protests are an un-intellectual tool of political expression; their purpose is mere physical disruption and harassment, not the communication of ideas. Notice, for example, how the protests at last summer's Republican National Convention devolved into mere harassment and name-calling aimed at Republican delegates. Rather than debate conservative ideas in the media, the left sought to physically disrupt Republican political activity--violating the right of the delegates to peaceably assemble to promote their political agenda. And notice that the dominant emotional tone of these protests is a screaming, incoherent rage.

But the leftist protests take on an especially evil significance when they attempt to disrupt the presidential inauguration. Other protests could be interpreted as an attack on a specific party, politician, or policy, not as an attack on the American political system as such. But the inauguration by its nature *must* be a non-partisan event. Its purpose is for members of all political parties and allegiances to affirm the legitimacy of the election result and support the peaceful transition of power.

For someone to protest the inauguration, therefore, carries a different message. They aren't just angry at President Bush; they are angry that the American people were allowed to choose a leader the left doesn't approve of. Their protest isn't against one particular leader; it is a protest against representative government itself.

This may sound like a contradiction for a group of people who align themselves with the "Democratic" party. But just as the unlimited mob rule of "democracy" is ultimately incompatible with representative government, so is the ideology of the far left. In domestic policy, the left believes that individuals are too helpless or immoral to make the right decisions about how to run their own lives, so they fight for their right to impose the "correct" course of action on those helpless masses by means of systematic coercion. If they don't believe that the individual is able to decide for himself what job to take, what wage to work at, what products to buy--how can they believe that he is competent to select his political leaders?

And we have no need to wonder about the ultimate political allegiances of the left. In foreign policy, they scream about the evils of the American system and consistently defend dictators and terrorists--especially when they are engaged in open warfare against the United States.

If a socialist economic dictatorship is their ideal, and if they regard Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat as the wronged victims of American foreign policy, then the left is right to protest the process of voting and the peaceful transition of power celebrated at today's inauguration--because they are enemies of a free society.

Altruism vs. Liberty at the Inauguration

Bush's Altruism Undermines His Case on Social Security

by Robert Tracinski

President Bush's second Inaugural Address turned out to be very interesting, and in ways I did not quite expect.

As has become the pattern for Bush, the first half of the speech was devoted to foreign policy. Also as usual, this section was stronger and more articulate than the rest of the speech.

Here, Bush re-stated the basic theory behind the "Forward Strategy of Freedom:

"After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical—and then there came a day of fire.

"We have seen our vulnerability—and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny—prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder—violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

"We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."

The good part of the "Forward Strategy of Freedom" is Bush's recognition of the connection between tyranny and war. Nations that murder and enslave their own citizens always seek to export those evils outside their own borders. So it is true that America's long-term interests come from the spread of liberty across the globe.

But the primary problem with Bush's theory is that he regards liberty as a causeless "yearning of the human heart" implanted there by God, which therefore requires no intellectual or cultural foundation. Notice that in Bush's speech the lack of freedom is regarded as the "deepest source" of terrorism—while "ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder" are regarded as mere by-products, as movements that opportunistically take advantage of the "simmering resentment" caused by tyranny.

And so, for example, Bush believes that deposing Saddam's regime and holding elections is all that is required to promote the spread of liberty in the Middle East. No Western institutions or ideas are needed—and indeed, he says later in the speech, "America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal insstead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way." That is the root of everything that is wrong with his administration's management of the occupation of Iraq.

The main difference between this speech and previous foreign policy speeches is that Bush stated the "Forward Strategy of Freedom" in far more sweeping terms.

"So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

"This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities..

"The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. America's influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America's influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom's cause....

"Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world:

"All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you. Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country. The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: 'Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.' The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people you must learn to trust them. Start on this journey of progress and justice, and America will walk at your side."

This is a manifesto of global republican revolution, sponsored by the United States—especially in that line about foreign dissidents being "the future leaders of your free country" and dictators not retaining their own freedom for long. We will see how much this Bush is willing and able to implement in his second term.

As for domestic policy, anyone expecting Bush to make a strong pitch for his reform of Social Security—as I was hoping—was bitterly disappointed.

The transition to the domestic section of the speech was promising, because it described domestic policy as an extension of the theme of advancing freedom:

"America has need of idealism and courage, because we have essential work at home—the unfinished work of American freedom. In a world moving toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of liberty."
But any talk about liberty was dramatically undercut in the next paragraph, when Bush invoked a "broader definition of liberty":

"In America's ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence, instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, and the GI Bill of Rights. And now we will extend this vision by reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time. To give every American a stake in the promise and future of our country, we will bring the highest standards to our schools, and build an ownership society. We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance—preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society. By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear, and make our society more prosperous and just and equal."

The "broader definition of liberty" endorsed by Bush is the same view of freedom promulgated by Franklin Roosevelt, complete with the worst of Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms": "freedom from want." Bush explicitly endorsed the welfare-statist view that freedom means a social guarantee of prosperity, to be provided by the state.

Thus, in proposing a semi-privatization of Social Security, Bush is not promising to lift the heavy hand of government out of our lives and reverse the disastrous legacy of the New Deal welfare state. No, he presents his reforms as a continuation and extension of Roosevelt's legacy, only in a newer, more practical form.

It gets worse in the next paragraph, where Bush makes liberty conditional on religious belief and altruism.

"In America's ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character—on integrity, and tolerance toward others, and the rule of conscience in our own lives. Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self. That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people. Americans move forward in every generation by reaffirming all that is good and true that came before—ideals of justice and conduct that are the same yesterday, today, and forever. In America's ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by service, and mercy, and a heart for the weak. Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another."
The only sop to a genuine pro-liberty viewpoint is one phrase: that the goal of his proposals is "making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny." But that, buried in amongst the rest, is too little to make much difference.

In today's speech, Bush advocated freedom—but within the constraint that we are our brothers' keepers. And he billed private investment accounts, not as a means of escaping from government control, but as an extension of the legacy of the Roosevelt-era welfare state.

A partial privatization of Social Security is the most important positive result we can hope for from a second Bush administration. Why that is, and what would constitute a good implementation of that reform, are topics I will begin to discuss in more detail in TIA Daily starting next week.

But his statements in his second Inaugural Address show that Bush is doing everything he can to undermine the case for privatization—or to ensure that it will be implemented in a twisted, compromised form.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: What Is the Matter with American Secularism

A mainstream defender of secularism points out the nearly century-old roots of the attack on the teaching of evolution—but then longs for an "accommodation" between science and religion.

Top News Stories
• A Wilsonian Inaugural Speech?
• The Second Term Ideology Deficit
• The Crisis That Is Not a Crisis
What Is the Matter with American Secularism
• Here We Go Again on the "Peace Process"
• Commentary: Target Syria

Departments
• Human Achievements: Carnot Inaugurates Thermodynamics
• Things of Beauty: Champagne Pommery Poster

What Is the Matter with American Secularism

Those looking to left-leaning mainstream intellectuals as defenders of secularism are bound to be disappointed, as indicated by this New York Times op-ed by the author of a book trumpeting the history of American secularism. Yet she blames the controversy over the teaching of evolution for destroying what she apparently regards as the ideal: "an accommodation between science and mainstream religion."

"Caught Between Church and State," Susan Jacoby, New York Times, 1/19/05

"Many liberals mistakenly believe that these controversies are largely a product of the post-1980 politicization of the Christian right. In fact, the elected anti-evolutionists on local and state school boards today are the heirs of eight decades of fundamentalist campaigning against Darwinism through back-door pressure on textbook publishers and school officials. Even efforts to cloak creationism with the words 'science' and 'scientific'—as in 'creation science'—is an old tactic, reminiscent of the Soviet Union's boasting about 'scientific communism.'...

At the beginning of the 20th century, however, America was well on its way to an accommodation between science and mainstream religion, now a fait accompli in the rest of the developed world, that pleases neither atheists nor theocrats manques but works for almost everyone else.... The Scopes trial changed all that. Instead of being the nail in the coffin of creationism as many believe, the trial undermined the emerging accommodation between religion and science by intensifying the fundamentalists' conviction that acceptance of evolution would inevitably weaken any type of faith."

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: What Is Wrong with the Republicans

The fight has already begun for the direction of the Republican Party in 2008, and two new books reveal the unpleasant alternatives: a pragmatist who promises to serve the agenda of the religious right, and a pragmatist who wants to return to the days of the moderate "me-too" Republican.

Top News Stories
What Is Wrong with the Republicans
• Abbas Is the New Arafat
• The Substitute for Victory
• China's Long-Range Taiwan Strategy
• "Stalin Lite" Needs a New "Glasnost"
• The New Jersey Jihad

Departments
• Human Achievements: Carnegie on Watt
• Things of Beauty: Lighting Effects

What Is Wrong with the Republicans

Here, in a dueling pair of books fighting for the ideological heart of the Republican Party, is a microcosm of what is wrong with the Republican Party. On the one side is Newt Gingrich, who now adds, to his awful record as a grandstanding pragmatist, the further crime of turning himself into a mouthpiece for the religious right. On the other side is Christie Whitman, a compromising "Rockefeller Republican" whose alternative to religious dogma is to return to the days of "me-too-ing" the socialist left.

"Republicans Just Won; Is It 2008 Already?" Scott Martelle, LA Times, 1/18/05

"Gingrich describes a split America. On the one side are people 'who know how integral God is to American exceptionalism,' place American national interests ahead of international concerns, 'insist on a judiciary that understands the centrality of God in American history,' and see hard work as the underpinning of a good economy. They are opposed by "elites who find it acceptable to drive God out of public life.'...

Whitman attended her first Republican National Convention in 1956 as the 9-year-old daughter of prominent New Jersey Republicans, and describes her early political years as a 'Rockefeller Republican.' She's a fiscal conservative and supporter of legalized abortion who found herself isolated after accepting Bush's appointment to head the Environmental Protection Agency....

Whitman believes the party's future is to be found in the past. Despite a reputation as a conservative, she writes, Nixon presided as a moderate, opening détente with the Soviet Union and diplomatic relations with China, creating the EPA, urging creation of a national health insurance plan and increasing funding for the National Endowment for the Arts."


Monday, January 17, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: The Secret Heroes of the Orange Revolution

A new behind-the-scenes account of Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" shows how dictatorship was defeated because the "men with guns" stood up for the rule of law.

Top News Stories
• The Secret Heroes of the Orange Revolution
• China's Dilemma
• No "Grace" for Abbas
• The Islamist Death-style
• The Mathematics of Social Security Privatization
• Commentary: Multicultural Mathematics

Departments
• Human Achievements: The Miner's Friend
• Things of Beauty: Distant Dusty Lightning

Feature Article
Legitimate Force
by Robert Tracinski
Revolutions Are Still Made by Men with Guns

Legitimate Force

Revolutions Are Still Made by Men with Guns

by Robert Tracinski


In attempting to absorb and explain the fall of the Soviet Union—a seemingly devastating blow, as millions of Eastern Europeans rejected the leftist "utopia"—the left has developed a vast new rationalization. They have been trying to spread the myth that the Soviet Union was brought down by a mass non-violent protest movement, an Eastern European equivalent of the hippie street protests of the 1960s. Thus, they claim, it was the leftist legacy of "social protest" and "non-violent" pacifism that led to the collapse of Soviet tyranny—and not the military confrontation of the Cold War. The lesson they draw from this is not only that they were right to advocate "detente" and pacifism in the face of the Soviet threat—but also that we should adopt a strategy of "engagement" and pacifism toward Islamic dictatorships like Iran. Instead of relying on military confrontation, they tell us, we should rely on the home-grown non-violent protest movements within these countries.

Here for example, is the view of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, as described in my article "Altruism and Dictatorship," from the June 2004 print issue of The Intellectual Activist. Kristof devoted several columns to describing the resistance to tyranny by unarmed students in Iran and during the Tiananmen Square protests in China. But then, I noted:

"Kristof immediately advocates a policy of appeasement and 'engagement,' arguing that if we 'press Iran harder, Iran will halt its nuclear cooperation and evict inspectors, Israel will bomb a couple of Iran's nuclear sites…, and Iran's ayatollahs will benefit from a nationalistic surge to stay in power and rule more rabidly than ever.'

"So how does Kristof expect good people to confront a dictatorship? The answer is provided in a June 2 column in which Kristof provides a moving account of how he witnessed students being mowed down by troops during the Tiananmen Square massacre in China 15 years ago. He concludes, 'The Communist Party signed its own death warrant that night,' losing all claim to popular legitimacy. Then he again advocates the appeasing diplomacy of 'engagement,' asserting, 'The same forces [of "engagement"] would also help transform Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Burma, if only we would unleash them. We are doing a favor to the dictators in those countries by isolating and sanctioning them.'

"This, then, is the altruist plan for confronting dictatorship. Military threats from confident superpowers are bad; street rallies by unarmed students are good. To bring freedom to China, Iran, and other dictatorships, we should depend on the sacrifice of idealistic young dissidents, rather than the assertion of our interests."


The terrific New York Times article that leads today's news links in TIA Daily is a timely reminder that this "non-violent" view of the collapse of dictatorships is a delusion and an evasion. Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" is a long-delayed follow-up to the revolt against Soviet-inspired tyranny—and it is a reminder that revolutions are still made by men with guns.

The New York Times, for all of its leftist leanings and the awful stuff secreted onto its editorial pages, can still produce some real blockbusters in its international coverage, which has long been the greatest value the paper offers. Today's piece is one of the best pieces of reporting I've seen in a long time. It presents a previously untold story that has all the high drama of a great spy thriller—yet it is all taken from real life.

Its central message is that pro-Kremlin Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and his political clique failed in their attempt to rig the Ukrainian election because they lost control over "the last guarantor of power: the men with the guns." But they did not merely lose control; a significant number of the "men with guns" were actively working against the vote-riggers—and they threatened active, violent, armed resistance against the imposition of dictatorship. They issued warnings that "if [Interior] ministry troops came to Kiev, the army and security services would defend civilians," and that a crackdown would lead to bloodshed and civil war because the "demonstrators would resist." It was the threat of force in resistance to tyranny that broke the attempt to entrench a Kremlin-backed dictatorship in Ukraine.

The lesson here is that the way to resist dictatorship is not through an altruistic pacifism, not through the senseless sacrifice of unarmed students, but through an insistence on the legitimate use of force—that is, the use of force in defense of liberty.

Friday, January 14, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: A Conservative Student Rebellion?

An important new article profiles the rise of conservatism among students at today's top universities, knocking down one of the last impenetrable bastions of leftist dogma—but replacing it with what?

Top News Stories
A Conservative Student Rebellion?
• Newdow's Misplaced Crusade
• Majority Rule in Iraq
• The Zarqawi Strategy
• The "Peace Process" Leads to War, Again
• The Fall of Venezuela

Departments
• Things of Beauty: Steve Hanks Watercolor

A Conservative Student Rebellion?

The long, in-depth article linked to below chronicles the spread of conservatism among students at today's universities—long the impenetrable fiefdom of the far left. The swing to the right is largely a result of the glaring failure of leftist dogmas to conform to reality, combined with a student rebellion against the petty authoritarianism of leftist professors.

The bad news: conservatism does not offer any fundamental alternative, as seen in the conservatives students' immersion in popular culture and the young conservatives whose views are reflected by the nihilist "politically incorrect" satire of the vulgar television show "South Park." (Such "South Park Conservatives" are profiled in this piece and in a forthcoming book by the same author.)

"Right on Campus," Brian C. Anderson, OpinionJournal, 1/14/05

"Suddenly, on 9/11, this generation discovered that 'there are enemies and they wanted to kill Americans in large numbers, and that a good portion of what they'd been taught was drizzly pap.' Yet a deeper reason for the rightward shift, which began well before 9/11, is the left's broader intellectual and political failure. American college kids grew up in an era that witnessed both communism's fall and the unchained US economy's breathtaking productivity surge. They've seen that anyone willing to work hard—regardless of race or sex—can thrive in such an opportunity-rich system. 'I'm only 20, so I don't remember segregation or the oppression of women—in fact, my mother had a very successful career since I was a kid,' one student observed in an online discussion. 'I look around and don't see any discrimination against minorities or women.' Left-wing charges of US economic injustice sound like so much BS to many kids today. The destructive effects of 'just do it' values on the family are equally evident to many undergrads, who have painfully felt those effects themselves or watched them rip up the homes of their friends. They turn to family values with the enthusiasm of converts."

Thursday, January 13, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: Liberals Dinosaurs and Revolting Conservatives

Ted Kennedy urges the left to shout its statist goals more loudly, and march confidently on toward irrelevance—while congressional Republicans give him a hand by demanding that the president embrace a more statist approach toward immigration.

Top News Stories
• Objective Law and "Determinate Sentencing"
• Revolting Conservatives on Immigration
• Kennedy's Advice: Shout Louder
• Japanese Individualism
• The NYT's "Progress Paradox"
• Commentary: March of Freedom Passes by US

Departments
• Human Achievements: Levenger
• Things of Beauty: Seven Sisters

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: Congress's New Year's Resolution

Bush and congressional Republicans try to tighten their belts and freeze the growth of domestic spending—after spending the past four years gorging on taxpayer dollars.

Top News Stories
• Congress's New Year's Resolution
• The President's Religion
• The Second Term Agenda, Again
• Snow's Path of Destruction
• The Second Soviet Collapse?
• Commentary: The Iran-Syria Connection

Departments
• Human Achievements: Rachmaninoff 1927 Interview
• Things of Beauty: "The Syrinx"

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: The Religion of the Pursuit of Happiness

A survey of religious attitudes reveals that Americans believe in a "Deist" God who established natural laws and wants us to pursue our happiness in this earth—a two-century old American tradition that is antithetical to the agenda of today's Christian fundamentalists.

Top News Stories
• Social Security Crisis Hits in Five Years
The Social Security Enemy: Republicans
• Rats Scurrying in Ukraine
• NYT Defends "Frankenfoods"
• Commentary: The CBS Anti-Bush Crusade
• Commentary: The Multiculturalist "Suicide Cult"

Departments
• Human Achievements: The "Little" Things
• Things of Beauty: Industrial Landscape

Feature Article
• The Religion of the Pursuit of Happiness
by Robert Tracinski
What American Religion Means, from Tocqueville to Today

The Social Security Enemy: Republicans

Republicans in Congress and a few conservative pundits (William Kristol and Newt Gingrich) try to start a stampede away from Social Security privatization—openly declaring, as their justification, political cowardice. Gingrich offers this bold lesson in far-sighted leadership: "Why would you go home tomorrow having cut benefits in Social Security for a problem that might happen in 25 years?"

The real problem, however, is moral cowardice. Both Kristol and Gingrich have long counseled abandoning the fight against the altruist welfare state, seeking only to reform its details to make it more friendly to conservative "family values." Now, they seem almost panicked that someone might prove that this decades-long moral cave-in was unnecessary.

"In GOP, Resistance on Social Security," Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen, Washington Post, 1/11/05

" 'Why stir up a political hornet's nest...when there is no urgency?' said Rep. Rob Simmons (Conn.), who represents a competitive district. 'When does the program go belly up? 2042. I will be dead by then.'

"Simmons said there is no way he will support Bush's idea of allowing younger Americans to divert some of their payroll taxes into private accounts, especially when there are more pressing needs, such as shoring up Medicare and providing armor to US troops in Iraq. Rep. Jack Kingston (Ga.), a member of the GOP leadership, said 15 to 20 House Republicans agree with Simmons, although others say the number is closer to 40. 'Just convincing our guys not to be timid is going to be a big struggle,' he said. 'It's going to take a lot of convincing,' which he said can be done."


Monday, January 10, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: Four Elections

The resolution of the election in Ukraine show a successful struggle for representative government; the Palestinian election shows the futility of representative government when a population has not renounced killing; and contentious elections in Washington State and (upcoming) in Iraq, show how the representative government can be undercut by the philosophical premises of collectivism.

Top News Stories
• What Will Abbas Do?
• Yanukovych Loses (Again)
• Iraqi's Collectivist Voting System
More Democrats Against Representative Government
• More Victims of the Pajamahideen
• Commentary: America's Fifth Column

Departments
• Human Achievements: Vacuuming Robot
• Things of Beauty: Preening Egret

Feature Article
• The Army Reserve's "Can't Do" Memo
by Jack Wakeland
A General Helps the Press Promote the Myths Behind the Draft

More Democrats Against Representative Government

Like Florida in 2000, the Washington gubernatorial election highlights the problem with the obsession over making sure that "every vote is counted": it is impossible to count millions of votes with complete precision. What is really important is not which candidate gets that one extra vote that magically endows him with the "will of the people," but whether the votes are counted through an objective, lawful process.

On that score, as this piece indicates, it is the Democrats, for all of their yelping about "vote fraud," who are typically trying to undermine objective voting procedures. Most shocking is the fact that Democratic officials in the county government are responsible for massive voter registration fraud—including hundreds of mystery voters whose "place of residence" is the King County administration building.

"Don't Count Rossi Out," John Fund, Wall Street Journal, 1/10/05

"A former liberal who worked for Michael Dukakis in 1988, Mr. Sharkansky calls himself a '9/11 conservative mugged by reality.' He uses his knowledge of statistics and probability to illustrate how unlikely some of the reported vote count changes are. He also uncovered the fact that in Precinct 1823 in downtown Seattle, 527, or 70%, of the 763 registered voters used 500 Fourth Avenue—the King County administration building—as their residential address. A full 61% of the precinct's voters only registered in the last year, and nearly all of them 'live' at 500 Fourth Avenue. By contrast, only 13% of all of King County voters registered in 2004. Not all of the voters at the county building are homeless or hard to find. A noted local judge and her husband have been registered at the county building for years. When I called her to ask why, she became flustered and said it was because of security concerns, specifically because 'the Mexican mafia are out to get me.' When I pointed out that her home address and phone number were easily found on the Internet and in property records, she ended the conversation by refusing to answer a question about whether she had improperly voted for state legislative candidates who would represent the county building but not her residence."

Friday, January 07, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: Aiding and Abetting the Enemy

Civilization is in danger, not because its enemies are strong, but because its defenders are aiding and abetting the enemy. In today's news, members of Congress protest against representative government, New York intellectuals long for the crime and poverty of the 1970s, college professors indoctrinate students in anti-Americanism, and Western aid for tsunami victims is in danger of being funneled to terrorists.

Top News Stories
Democrats Protest Free Elections
• An Iraq Overhaul?
• Warning: Lawsuits Are Hazardous to Rationality
• New York City Elite Plots to Destroy New York City
• A Pro-American Kuwaiti Confronts Anti-American Americans
• Commentary: Tsunami Aid Abetting the Enemy?

Departments
• Human Achievements: Fighting Spam
• Things of Beauty: Norwegian Night

Democrats Protest Free Elections

The ceremonies pertaining to vote counting, vote certification, and the inauguration of a president are important: they demonstrate a universal, bipartisan commitment to the transfer (or continuation) of power through peaceful means governed by objective laws. Yet this year, leftists plan to protest President Bush's inauguration, and yesterday a small cabal in Congress protested the certification of the election result.

This may seem like gross hypocrisy for people who call themselves "Democrats," but it is actually a consistent implementation of leftist ideology. The whole essence of the left's agenda is to use government force to impose on ordinary individuals a course of action that they are supposedly too stupid, ill-educated, or immoral to embrace of their own free well. Ultimately, what room is there in this ideology for voting?

"Democrats Contest Ohio's Votes," Stephen Dinan and Amy Fagan, Washington Times, 1/7/05

"Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio and Mrs. Boxer had objected to counting Ohio's 20 electoral votes, citing reports from that state of long lines and too few machines at Democrat-leaning polling places, voters leaving without having a chance to vote, disparities between counties in the percentage of provisional ballots counted and standards for voter-registration forms.... They said they wanted to raise a debate about national election standards.

"The debate in the House occasionally became bitterly personal, especially toward Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell. One Democrat, Rep. Maxine Waters of California, said she was 'ashamed to say' that Mr. Blackwell is black. Mrs. Waters, who is also black, said their ancestors would be rolling in their graves. Rep. David Dreier of California, the Republican chairman of the House Rules Committee, said the challenge could be seen as aiding the terrorists as US troops are fighting a war on terror. The debate 'clearly emboldens those who would in fact want to undermine the prospect of democracy, because there is no evidence whatsoever that the claims that are being made are valid.' "

Thursday, January 06, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: Charity and the Right to Exist

To paraphrase Ayn Rand, the issue is not whether the United States gives $350 million to tsunami victims. The issue is whether we have a right to exist if we don't.

Top News Stories
• The First Social Security Battle
• Republicans Try to "Tear It Down"
• Palestinians Want Breather from Killing Jews
• Finally, Opposition to Spitzer
• The Rise of a Religious Academia
• Commentary: Iraq and Afghanistan in Film

Departments
• Human Achievements: Atollo Building Set
• Things of Beauty: Breaking the Sound Barrier

Feature Article
• Charity and the Right to Exist
by Robert Tracinski
Exploiting Generosity to Promote the Morality of Self-Abnegation

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: NRO Revisits an Old Low

National Review's online counterpart rehashes an old attack on Ayn Rand—and reminds us why the philosophy of conservatism is ultimately hostile to liberty.

Top News Stories
• Sanctions on Syria
• Short-Range Military Spending?
• Microsoft's California Shakedown
• Opening Salvo on Tort Reform
• "Political Correctness" Meets Religious Tyranny

Departments
• Human Achievements: Transforming Concrete
• Things of Beauty: London Travel Poster

Feature Article
NRO Revisits an Old Low
by Robert Tracinski
A Half-Century-Old Attack on Ayn Rand Reminds Us of the Dark Side of Conservatism

NRO Revisits an Old Low

A Half-Century-Old Attack on Ayn Rand Reminds Us of the Dark Side of Conservatism

by Robert Tracinski


TIA Daily frequently links to articles posted at National Review Online, the online companion to National Review, the prominent conservative magazine. I link to it because NRO publishes works by many good authors with important things to say (e.g., Victor Davis Hanson and Michael Ledeen)—but it's important to recognize that NRO also publishes many bad authors and promotes some truly evil ideas, which I have occasionally criticized in TIA Daily as well.

Today's NRO is worse than usual: in its "flashback" section, which reprints articles from old issues of National Review, its editors chose to revisit the magazine's lowest low point: Whittaker Chambers's vicious 1957 pseudo-review of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. I actually recommend reading this article, because the review condemns itself, and the fact that it was published in the first place—and that NRO would feel no apparent shame in recalling it to readers' attention—says a great deal about the intellectual state of conservatism.

I call this a "pseudo-review" because Chambers chose to say very little about Ayn Rand's novel—its characters, its plot, its theme, the many profound ideas that it discusses and dramatizes. He reveals in practically every paragraph how little attention he paid to what Ayn Rand actually wrote. He misspells the names of two major characters (Francisco D'Anconia and Ragnar Danneskjold); he asserts that every character "is either all good or all bad," ignoring several prominent characters of what Ayn Rand called "mixed premises" (e.g., Robert Stadler, Fred Kinnan, and the young bureaucrat nicknamed "the Wet Nurse"); he describes Ayn Rand as an advocate of "aristocracy" and of "philosophical materialism"; and the only quotations he cites to illustrate her philosophy are not from the novel itself—where there is no lack of philosophical discussion—but are lifted from the brief biographical postscript printed after the final page of the story.

All of this unmistakably suggests that Chambers did not even read Atlas Shrugged, that he is merely issuing a report on the results of a hurried attempt at skimming.

So what is the article about, if it is not really about Ayn Rand or Atlas Shrugged? Chambers uses Ayn Rand merely as a springboard for a rambling invective against the atheistic belief in the natural world (which he condemns as "materialism"); against certainty in epistemology (which he calls "arrogance"); against "black and white" judgment in morality (which he objects to as "inflexibly self-righteous"); against idealism in politics; and against stylization in literature (which he caricatures as "caricature").

The theme of the article, expressed in a pompously over-intellectual style, is anti-intellectualism. Chambers echoes the old subjectivist canard that too much rational certainty is what leads to dictatorship. Never mind that the common element of both of the twentieth century's great totalitarian movements—the racial determinism of the fascists and the "dialectical materialism" of the communists—was a thorough attack on the efficacy of the individual mind. As for the great totalitarian threat today, Osama bin Laden and his followers stand for religious dogmatism of the most primitive sort—the very opposite of a devotion to rationality.

Yet it is precisely a religious philosophy that Chambers is trying to prop up by knocking down Ayn Rand. His deepest complaint: "Randian Man, like Marxian Man, is made the center of a godless world." Chambers, like today's religious conservatives, presumably preferred a "God-centered" society—which some of NRO's authors are all too glad to enforce at the point of a gun.

This is a reminder that when it comes to a conflict between religion and the greatest philosophical (and literary) defender of liberty in the past century, the conservatives have chosen—and are continuing to choose—religion. It is reminder that conservative intellectuals like Whittaker Chambers—and those at today's NRO who agree with him—are ultimately the enemies of liberty.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: What Is Wrong with the World

Want to know why the world is engulfed by violent religious fanaticism abroad and a war between amoral subjectivists and authoritarian religious fundamentalists at home? The New York Times publishes a symposium in which today's intellectuals declare their contempt for the human mind.

Top News Stories
• The Conservative Welfare State Metastasizes
• UN Reshuffles Its PR Team
• The Gonzalez "Torture"
What Is Wrong with the World
• Mars Rover Keeps Going, and Going, and Going...
• Commentary: The Un-Humanitarian Altruists

Departments
• Human Achievements: eBay
• Things of Beauty: Bernini's Medusa

What Is Wrong with the World

Here, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with the world. A website asks America's scientific elite—the people who are supposed to be the opposite of the nutty religious right, the question: "What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?" The New York Times publishes the result ("God (or Not), Physics and, of Course, Love: Scientists Take a Leap," New York Times, 1/4/05), and the answer is that they believe anything and everything, with little more selectivity than the average Pentacostalist.

The most egregious statement of the doctrine Ayn Rand called "the primacy of consciousness" is this one:

"I believe that consciousness and its contents are all that exists. Space-time, matter, and fields never were the fundamental denizens of the universe but have always been, from their beginning, among the humbler contents of consciousness, dependent on it for their very being. The world of our daily experience—the world of tables, chairs, stars, and people, with their attendant shapes, smells, feels, and sounds—is a species-specific user interface to a realm far more complex, a realm whose essential character is conscious. It is unlikely that the contents of our interface in any way resemble that realm."


So the mind is omnipotent over matter—yet simultaneously helpless to discover the "true" reality.

Other leading intellectual lights tell us: "I do not believe that people are capable of rational thought when it comes to making decisions in their own lives"; "We can't even prove that other people are conscious"; that a "mix of faith-based humility and skepticism helped fuel the beginnings of modern science"; "I believe that human consciousness is a conjuring trick, designed to fool us into thinking we are in the presence of an inexplicable mystery." Then there are those who tell us that they believe God does not exist and evolution is true—and that they believe this as a matter of unprovable faith.

What is wrong with the world? There are no defenders, either on the left or on the right, of reason and the power of the human mind.

Monday, January 03, 2005

TIA Daily: The Ukraine-Iran Connection

The victory of the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine has emboldened some of Iran's dissidents. But they need moral, intellectual, and material support—and the US, oddly, has provided far more of that to the Ukrainians than it has to the courageous young people of Iran.

Top News Stories
• A Really Secret Ballot
Scurrying at the Global Cockroach Farm
• Eminent Domain vs. Free Markets
• Capitalist Disaster Relief
• The Ukraine-Iran Connection
• Commentary: The Ukraine-Iran Connection

Departments
• Things of Beauty: Stairs and Shells

Feature Article
• Human Achievements: Tsunami Detection System, by Gene Barth
Eternal Vigilance—At the Bottom of the Sea

Scurrying at the Global Cockroach Farm

Also skulking about in secret—and with much better reason—are a group Americans trying to save the UN. I recently described the UN as a "giant global cockroach farm" (TIA Daily, 12/28/04); well, this must be what happens when you begin to turn on the lights. But all of this scurrying is futile because these advisors think the problem is Kofi Annan's public image—not the evil policies of an organization dominated by dictatorships. And their panic—including their fear that the UN cannot survive if it isn't propped up by the US—is a sign that support for the UN may be permanently fading.

"Secret Meeting, Clear Mission: 'Rescue' UN," Warren Hoge, New York Times, 1/3/05

"The meeting of veteran foreign policy experts in a Manhattan apartment one recent Sunday was held in strict secrecy. The guest of honor arrived without his usual retinue of aides. The mission, in the words of one participant, was clear: 'to save Kofi and rescue the UN.'... [One participant] described the group as people 'who care deeply about the UN and believe that the UN cannot succeed if it is in open dispute and constant friction with its founding nation, its host nation, and its largest contributor nation. The UN, without the US behind it, is a failed institution,' he said.... The speakers also faulted the United Nations for the state of its public communications. 'Throughout the building there is fairly low morale, which stems from the lackluster way in which the institution and the secretary general's office have responded to the oil-for-food charges,' Mr. Ruggie said. He continued, 'The attackers of the UN for too long have had a free ride in exaggerating the magnitude of the problem, sometimes deliberately distorting the facts, escalating their accusations and demands for his resignation, and frankly the response on the part of the UN has been inept.' "