Global Warming Alarmism Wrecks European Economy

Many Europeans complain about their high energy costs, largely due to their increasing dependence on renewables — the most costly energy sources. But European political parties as well as a majority of people still want government to promote costly options, especially wind and solar power.

This is killing European economies. Electricity costs in Europe are more than double the cost of electricity in the U.S. High electricity costs make it difficult for businesses to operate if they need a lot of electricity. Their cost of electricity is high, and they might not be able to pass it on to consumers when consumers are free to patronize businesses operating where electricity costs are much lower. Many businesses under pressure are likely move to a lower-cost location, and jobs will go with them. Antonio Tajani, European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, warned: “We face a systemic industrial massacre.”

The Germans probably have done more than anyone else to promote high-cost wind and solar power. Other types of renewable energy, like hydro power and geothermal power, usually are limited to a small number of suitable sites. The Germans want to have renewables account for 80 percent of their electricity. Their experience illustrates consequences of such a policy.

The most obvious consequence is lots of subsidies and taxes. The German government has arranged for renewable energy producers to sell the power grid their electricity at more than 6 times the wholesale electricity market rate. Nature reported that in 2012 renewable energy producers “cashed in an estimated €20 billion for electricity worth a mere €3 billion.” Counting the costs of electricity from all sources, the Institute for Energy Research reported that “Germans pay 34 cents a kilowatt hour compared to an average of 12 cents in the United States).”

Big gap between low U.S. energy costs and high European energy costs

Americans, of course, benefit from the fracking revolution, despite President Obama’s efforts to discourage it. Fracking is responsible for natural gas prices that are one-third to one-quarter of what Europeans pay for Russian gas. As we know, fracking has boosted oil production in America, too. Since 2005, U.S. electricity rates have remained substantially the same, while European electricity rates have jumped about 40 percent. The expansion of pipelines from Canada, along existing permitted routes, will make it possible to tap larger continental reserves, even if Obama continues to block or severely restrict the Keystone pipeline. Cheap, reliable American energy helps cover sins like the world’s highest corporate income taxes. By contrast, in Europe mere talk about fracking can be enough to set off riots.

The Boston Consulting Group affirmed that electricity is one of the biggest factors that determine manufacturing costs. The cost of U.S. natural gas has come down by half since 2005, and more and more utilities are switching to natural gas, so the outlook is for U.S. electricity rates to remain steady or decline further, whereas European electricity costs seem likely to go higher as more wind turbines and solar panels are installed.

Because crude oil costs less in the U.S. than in Europe, feedstocks are cheaper for companies manufacturing plastics, pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals and other products. Neither wind nor solar power produce feedstocks. IHS, an international market research firm, projects that by 2020 U.S. chemical production will double, but European chemical production could fall by about a third.

That sucking sound of European business going to the US

The Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) reported that its surveys indicated many German business executives would rather move operations to the US than remain handicapped by high European electricity costs as they try to remain competitive in world markets. DIHK Chief Executive Martin Wansleben acknowledged that “The U.S. has become much more attractive to companies than Europe.”

It’s no wonder more European companies are opening or expanding facilities in the U.S., and more U.S. multi-nationals are shifting overseas operations back home:

  • Airbus is building an aircraft assembly plant in Mobile, Alabama. It will produce A320 jets for the American market. Der Spiegel noted that Airbus “could save on manufacturing costs compared to its plants in Hamburg, Germany, and Toulouse, France.”
  • Siemens, a German multi-national engineering and electronics company, is making turbines for fossil fuel power plants in Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • BASF, the German chemical company, has opened a $33 million facility expansion in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.
  • Michelin, the French tire producer, is developing a $750 million facility in Greenville, South Carolina.
  • BMZ GmbH, a German company, opened its U.S. facility in Virginia Beach, Virginia for research, development, assembly and distribution of lithium ion rechargeable batteries.
  • SO.F.TER Group, an Italian plastics compounding company, is building a new plant in Lebanon, Tennessee.
  • Prufrex Innovative Power Products, a German producer of digital ignition systems and electronic control units, is spending $7.3 million to build a manufacturing plant in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
  •  Thomas Magnete GmbH provides engineering services and hydraulic equipment for the automobile, agricultural and construction industries, and it will be opening a manufacturing facility in Brookfield, Wisconsin.
  • Wacker Polysilicon, which makes hyper-pure poly-crystalline silicon, is opening a $5 million pilot plant and training center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
  • Kayser Automotive, a German producer of metal and plastic components for cars, will build a $1.5 million manufacturing facility in Fulton, Kentucky.
  •  British-based Rolls Royce decided against expanding a plant in the U.K. and instead built a plant in Prince George County, Virginia for producing engine parts.
  •  The Kűbler Group, a German manufacturer of motion sensors, opened a U.S. production facility in Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • The Austrian steelmaker Voestalpine AG is building a $715 million plant near Corpus Christi, Texas.
  •  Royal Dutch Shell, headquartered in the Netherlands, announced it would build a multi-billion dollar petrochemical plant in Pennsylvania.
  • Dow Chemical closed facilities in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and the U.K., while opening a plant in Texas.

European taxpayers soaked to subsidize high-cost wind and solar power

The German government tried to stem the outflow of investment capital and jobs by making electricity available to aluminum, chemicals, steel and other big energy-intensive German companies at subsidized low rates. Naturally, many more companies began lobbying for those subsidized low rates, and the government expanded eligibility by changing the official definition of “energy-intensive” from those using more than 10 gigawatt-hours annually to those using more than 1 gigawatt-hour annually. Some retail chains, for instance, qualified by adding up energy consumed by all their stores for lighting, heating and air-conditioning. The soaring cost of subsidies was paid by a special tax on German consumers and on businesses too small to qualify for subsidized low rates.

There were howls about unfairness from German consumers and small business people as well as foreign companies competing with German companies that benefited from subsidized low rates. Complaints were filed with the European Commission, and European Energy Commissioner Gűnther Oettinger declared the subsidies were unacceptable. While renewables might make many people feel good, it seems nobody wants to pay the high costs, and they cause ill will all around.

If, as seems likely, the European Commission strikes down Germany’s subsidized electricity rates, German businesses will be hit hard. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has acknowledged that subsidies will have to be cut. Sharply higher electricity costs could accelerate the de‑industrialization of Germany, knocking Europe’s strongest economy into a depression.

This would make it difficult if not impossible for Germany to provide financial assistance for spendthrift European governments during the next debt crisis. The high cost of electricity makes it harder for the economies to function and for European governments to make payments on debt.

Why wind and solar power are so costly

Wind and solar power are costly because they’re intermittent. The amount of wind and sunlight often vary considerably from one hour to the next. Sometimes the wind doesn’t blow, and the sun doesn’t shine (especially at night). Many wind turbines are reported to generate power only about one-third of the time. According to the London Telegraph, output from renewables averages about 17 percent of capacity in Germany and 25 percent of capacity in the U.K.

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Consequently, maintaining consistent power requires back‑up from fossil fuel power systems. The general policy is that fossil fuel power isn’t used if enough power is available from renewables, but this means turning a fossil fuel power plant on and off a lot which is very costly. The Dutch and Poles have liked getting free German electricity when the wind blows and the sun shines, but apparently they have complained about having to pay the cost of maintaining back-up fossil fuel power.

In addition, offshore wind farms — where winds tend to be steadier — cost between 200 percent and 300 percent more to build than land-based wind farms, and they cost more to maintain. The most bizarre case involves an offshore German wind farm about nine miles from the North Sea Island of Borkum, where diesel engines make the blades spin. Financial support for this wind farm collapsed after it was built but before it was connected to the power grid. Investors lost confidence because of soaring costs, and apparently there weren’t enough government subsidies. The utility, Offshore Windpark Riffgat, was concerned that if the turbines remained stationary, there would have been a build-up of rust because of exposure to salt water. The idea was that if the turbines were kept moving, they might prevent rus from building up, and someday subsidies might be available to finish the project. Thus, the need for diesel engines.

Solar power is the least efficient renewable energy technology. It consumes half the subsidies Germany has spent on renewables, while producing only 20 percent of the electricity from renewables. The German Physical Society reported, “Photovoltaics are fundamentally incapable of replacing any other type of power plant.” Solar power, one might add, isn’t well-suited for the Germany’s temperate climate that includes many cloudy days.

Why renewables cause costly problems for power grids and energy users

As renewables account for a higher percentage of total energy output in Europe, it becomes more difficult to maintain consistent power. The Institute for Energy Research warned that “The [German] government’s transition to these intermittent green energy technologies is causing havoc with its electric grid and that of its neighbors-countries that are now building switches to turn off their connection with Germany at their borders. The intermittent power is causing destabilization of the electric grids causing potential blackouts, weakening voltage and causing damage to industrial equipment.”

That’s not all. According to the Institute, “More than one third of Germany’s wind turbines are located in the eastern part of the nation where this large concentration of generating capacity regularly overloads the region’s power grid, threatening blackouts. In some extreme cases, the region produces three to four times the total amount of electricity actually being consumed, placing a strain on the eastern German grid. System engineers have to intervene every other day to maintain network stability.”

Der Spiegel reported that for “high-performance computers, outages lasting only a millisecond can trigger system failures. For example, at 3 AM on a Wednesday machines suddenly ground to a halt at Hydro Aluminum in Hamburg. The rolling mill’s highly sensitive monitor stopped production so abruptly that the aluminum belts snagged. They hit the machines and destroyed part of the mill.”

More industrial companies are going off Germany’s power grid. They’re having to spend money on batteries as well as generators to avoid problems caused or aggravated by intermittent renewable power sources. Such problems must make some executives wonder how much longer they can afford to operate in Europe.

About 8 percent of German electricity production comes from wind and 5.3 percent from solar. By contrast, in the U.S., about 3.5 percent of electricity production comes from wind and 0.1 percent from solar. So businesses and consumers in the U.S. benefit from much less exposure to such high-cost electricity sources.

Europeans find themselves stuck with it, because of Green Party politicians from various European countries who began coordinating their efforts for bigger government during the late 1970s. The European Federation of Green Parties was established in 1993.

In 2011, after the catastrophic meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, Chancellor Merkel persuaded the Bundestag — Germany’s legislature — to pass a law for phasing out all 17 of Germany’s nuclear reactors. The Fukushima meltdown was caused by an earthquake and a tsunami. Germany doesn’t face such serious risks. Its most seismic areas are in the Rhine Rift Valley and the northern edge of the Alps. Eight reactors — providing about a fifth of Germany’s electrical power — were closed immediately, and the rest are to go by 2022. Germany also aimed to slash coal-generated power and aggressively expand wind and solar power. “We want to reach the age of renewable energy as fast as possible,” Merkel declared.

Almost overnight, Germany switched from being an energy exporter to being an energy importer. Ironically, although German politicians are avowed foes of nuclear power, the government has been importing nuclear power from France (which gets about 80 percent of its power from nuclear plants) and from the Czech Republic (about a third of its power from nuclear plants that have had problems). In addition, Germany has been importing energy from Poland, produced in old coal-fired plants. Also, Austria imports nuclear power from the Czech Republic to pump water uphill, then lets it flow downhill through turbines, generating hydropower for Germany.

Should your government promote noisy 40-story high wind turbines in your neighborhood?

Undermining European economies is bad enough, but there’s worse to come. Subsidized wind power and solar power systems disfigure the landscape. Because they’re so inefficient, both wind turbines and solar panels require tremendous amounts of space. Germany’s largest solar facility, Lieberose Solar Park, covers almost 2 million square feet of ground with solar panels. Germany’s largest onshore wind farm — with more than 80 turbines spread across the landscape — is in Ribbeck, a town near Berlin.

Sometimes it seems there are wind towers everywhere you look, because they must be very tall to rise above the earth’s surface where winds are erratic and reach heights where winds are likely to be steadier. Wind towers can be almost 600 feet high — approximately the equivalent of a 40‑story building. Imagine something like that in your neighborhood! The blades are big, too: some as long as a football field and weighing perhaps 30 tons.

“With the prime coastal locations already taken,” Der Spiegel reported, “operators are increasingly turning to areas further inland. Flat-bed trucks laden with tower segments make their way slowly across boggy fields. Cranes crawl up narrow forest paths to set up outsized wind turbines on the tops of mountains. Plans call for some 60,000 new turbines to be erected in Germany — and completely alter its appearance.” Germany currently has more than 22,000 wind turbines, so you ain’t seen nothing yet. Would Americans ever be tempted to go for something like this, subsidized and promoted by the government?

A single German state — Brandenberg — has more than 3,100 of these things all over the place. You wouldn’t want to find that there are plans to build one or more near you, because they’re noisy. One German, who lives about a fifth of a mile from a wind turbine, was quoted as saying “It whirrs and hisses, and then it drones like an airplane about to take off.” There have been lawsuits about wind turbine noise, and in at least one case the operator had to set the turbines at a slower speed between 10 PM and 6 AM, which meant generating less electricity and losing more money.

Some doctors have reported patients complaining about how their health suffered after a wind turbine was built near them. For example, Dr. Nina Pierpont, author of Wind Turbine Syndrome, reported in Counterpunch that the symptoms include “(1) Sleep disturbance, (2) Headache, (3) Tinnitus, (4) Ear pressure, (5) Dizziness, (6) Vertigo, (7) Nausea, (8) Visual blurring, (9) Tachycardia, (10) Irritability, (11) Problems with concentration and memory, (12) Panic episodes associated with sensations of internal pulsation or quivering, which arise while awake or asleep. None of these people had experienced these symptoms to any appreciable degree before the turbines became operational. All said their symptoms disappeared rapidly whenever they spent several days away from home. I found a statistically significant correlation between the telltale symptoms and pre-existing motion sensitivity, inner ear damage, and migraine disorder.”

You commonly see wind turbines pictured in scenic settings, but there are safety issues. An overheated wind turbine caused a fire that burned an estimated 220 acres. J.A. Doucette was crushed when he was unloading tower sections from a truck, and one of the sections rolled onto him. Robert Skarski was erecting a small turbine, the tower collapsed, and he fell to his death. Tim McCartney fell from a tower while removing a turbine, and his body was found nearby. Part of a turbine housing blew off, killing Bernhard Saxen. Jens Erik Madsen was electrocuted as he serviced a turbine controller. Mark Ketteling was near the base of a tower when a sharp piece of ice fell down from it and, like a guillotine, cut his body in half. John Donnelly became caught in the turbine machinery, suffered multiple amputations and died. There have been fatal auto accidents where a wind turbine suddenly comes into view, distracting drivers. A 16-year-old boy climbed a tower to remove a broken coupling, and his clothing was caught by a rotating blade, strangling him.

Wind farms kill millions of birds

The number of birds killed by wind turbines is reckoned in the millions around the world. Among the slaughtered species are eagles, hawks, kites, cranes, ducks, swans, geese, gulls, vultures, owls and grouse. Often the area around a wind turbine is littered with severed heads, wings, other bodily parts and lots of torn feathers. Sometimes a bird is hit several times, its body chopped into many pieces. Today’s environmental movement provides the curious spectacle of nature lovers promoting a monumental slaughter of species.

To be sure, U.S. wind farms produce plenty of carnage, too. For example, the Journal of Raptor Research published a study that showed at least 85 bald eagles have been killed by wind farms in 10 states since 1997. This doesn’t count the death toll in Altamont Pass, northern California where about 60 bald eagles are killed annually. The number of dead bald eagles at wind farms in Idaho, Montana and Nevada is also unavailable.

In the U.S., the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (1940), amended in 1962 (16 U.S.C. 668c; 50 CFR 22.3) provides a $5,000 fine or one year in prison for anyone convicted of killing or wounding a bald eagle. Repeat offenders are subject to a $10,000 fine and two years in prison.

The Obama administration has exempted politically-connected wind farm operators from fines and prison terms when their turbines kill species that are protected by the Endangered Species Act (1973) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (1918) as well as the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Is high-cost energy destroying European economies for nothing?

Conceivably it might make sense for government to promote high-cost electricity and cause all the resulting conflicts and dislocations if it’s true that (1) carbon dioxide causes global warming, (2) global warming would devastate the earth and (3) promoting renewables would save us from devastation. If one or more of these propositions is false, then the mad pursuit of renewables and the de-industrialization of Europe would be utterly pointless.

As it happens, more and more people are becoming skeptical about global warming. Everyone is aware that there have been significant warming and cooling cycles before human beings appeared on earth. Dinosaurs thrived amidst abundant plant life during warm periods, and dinosaurs became extinct when global temperatures plunged — we’re still not sure why they plunged. The Ice Age limited the ability of people to produce food, and human populations were small. They expanded dramatically when global temperatures subsequently rose, glaciers melted, and there was much more land for crops.

If, as far as climate is concerned, the only choices we have are warming and cooling, then warming is better (we’re not talking about boiling). Cooling — especially if it means another ice age — makes life far more difficult. More people die from extreme cold than die from extreme heat. Indur M. Goklany, a science and technology analyst in the U.S. Department of the Interior, calls extreme cold “the deadliest natural hazard.”

Since the point has been raised, does CO2 cause global warming? Well, if it did, then global warming should always follow higher CO2 levels.

Phil Jones, the University of East Anglia (UK) climate guru who wrote embarrassing emails intended to help promote global warming orthodoxy and suppress research by global warming skeptics, reportedly acknowledged that there hasn’t been any global warming since about 1995. Yet CO2 levels have gone up. Whatever causes global warming, CO2 doesn’t appear to be it.

The National Academy of Sciences has admitted — in the most under-stated way possible — that global warming orthodoxy has been wrong. Look at this: “Enormous progress has been made in the past several decades in improving the robustness of climate models, but more is needed to meet the desires of decision makers who are increasingly relying on the information from climate models.

The Committee on a National Strategy for Advancing Climate Modeling was a little more candid, stressing the need for “climate models to evolve substantially in order to deliver climate projections at the scale and level of detail [meaning accuracy] desired by decision makers.”

According to the Daily Mail, a leaked report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — whose pronouncements have been gospel in global warming circles — acknowledged that “scientific forecasts of imminent doom were drastically wrong.” The IPCC probably phrased the point more delicately. When there has been global warming, it has been less than half as much as previously claimed by IPCC experts, which is to say there has been little.

It’s interesting that a poll suggests weather forecasters generally have been unimpressed by global warming doomsayers who issued dire predictions about what they were sure would happen during the next 20, 50, 100 or more years. Weather forecasters are constantly reminded of all the frequently-changing factors that make it difficult to develop accurate forecasts for the next 5 days. Weather forecasters know that beyond 5 days, accuracy tends to go down dramatically.

In any case, far from being a bad thing, CO2 is a good thing. For example, rising CO2 levels can act like a fertilizer, stimulating plant growth. Geophysical Research Letters published a study by four Australian scientists who analyzed satellite evidence that foliage increased more than 10 percent during the last three decades. They focused on arid regions rather than, say, temperate forests or tropical jungles, since in arid regions it’s easier to identify the effects of CO2 from other factors that affect plant growth. Increased foliage was observed in places like the southwestern U.S., the Australian Outback, the Mideast and Africa. More CO2 expands potential land suitable for growing crops and feeding hungry people.

There are many questions for which global warming orthodoxy doesn’t appear to have answers. For example, the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that during the last 12 months, satellite images showed Arctic Sea ice expanded about 60 percent, from covering 1.32 million square miles in September 2012 to covering 2.35 million square miles in August 2013. This extraordinary expansion of ice occurred despite global warming doomsayers who had predicted that there wouldn’t be any Arctic ice. Incidentally, polar bear populations, said to be falling, appear to be booming. Some scientists wonder if we might be at the beginning of a global cooling trend.

A number of scientists are looking beyond the earth for possible insights about our climate. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration reported finding evidence that Mars is warming: namely, deposits of frozen carbon dioxide have shrunk. Obviously, there haven’t been any coal-fired power plants, internal combustion engines or other human activity on Mars, so it cannot be the cause of warming there.

Other scientists suggest that the sun — the hottest thing in our corner of the universe (about 27 million degrees Fahrenheit at its core) — is probably responsible for global temperature cycles. Sometimes there are bursts of solar particles that damage satellites and electronics on earth.  A solar storm knocked out power in a Canadian province. The strongest solar storms occur in 11-year cycles. It’s hard to predict how a solar storm will interact with the earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere. There’s some speculation that a solar storm might have blown away Mars’ atmosphere — we cannot assume that something has always been the way it is now.

During the 1990s, the Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark suggested that solar radiation affects the earth’s climate because of the impact on cloud formation. He explained, “All we know about the effect of [carbon dioxide] is based on computer models that predict how climate should be in 50 or 100 years, and these compute models cannot model clouds at all, so they are really poor. It’s a well-known fact that clouds are the major uncertainty in any climate model.”

CERN, the Swiss-based European Organization for Nuclear Research, is now testing Svensmark’s proposed theory. The idea is that cosmic radiation — charged particles from exploding stars — bombard the earth from outer space. This radiation breaks apart the molecules of atmospheric gases, and the resulting particles become nuclei for water droplets to condense and form clouds. These reflect sunlight, cooling the earth. At night, they retain some of the heat that the earth had absorbed during the day. During periods when there are bursts of radiation from the sun, it provides a magnetic shield from much of the cosmic radiation. There tend to be fewer clouds, the earth is warmer during the day, and more of the heat is lost at night. There are cycles of higher and lower levels of solar activity.

The point here is that there are a lot of things we don’t understand very well, like the reasons why there have been warming and cooling cycles since the earth began. Scientists aren’t sure about many things, like how the molten earth came to have so much water and how life began on earth.

It’s quite possible that factors beyond our control — such as solar phenomena — have played a major role in global warming and cooling cycles. We know that the earth tilts on its axis every year. Seasonal warming occurs in the hemisphere tilted toward the sun, and seasonal cooling occurs in the hemisphere tilted away from the sun.

With such factors beyond our control, it would be crazy to adopt energy policies that disrupt the economy and make millions of people worse off, in the vain hope of, say, taming the sun or changing the earth’s tilt.

What we probably can do is adapt to climate changes, as living things have adapted to all sorts of challenging circumstances through the ages. Meanwhile, we should unshackle economies and let them grow.

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The best thing for a company to do is honestly to maximise its profits

Suppose you owned a pharmaceutical company. Why would you want it to manufacture a dangerous drug? Set aside the moral considerations. Imagine you were one of those inhuman capitalists that fill the fevered imaginations of Occupy types. Wouldn’t you none the less see that bumping off your customers was bad for business?

I ask the question having just watched a thriller called The East. I don’t want to spoil the plot: it’s rather a good film. Let me just say it involves wicked corporations poisoning children, contaminating rivers and generally torturing Gaia. The producers evidently felt that such behaviour needed no explanation: film-goers would take it for granted that this is what businesses do.

I’m amazed by how many people think this way. Do you remember the main argument against rail privatisation? The rail companies, we were forever being told, would Put Profits Before Safety! No one bothered to explain how crashing trains would increase their profits. And, sure enough, accidents fell following privatisation – as did the public subsidy. Profits and safety turned out to be complementary.

What about a corporation that is harming, not its customers, but someone else? Economists call such harm “externalities” – costs that are borne by third parties. An example would be a mining company whose activities caused neighbouring land to be flooded.

The extraordinary thing is how adept our common law system is at dealing with such cases. The first time a coalmine flooded someone else’s land, more than two centuries ago, the judge, necessarily lacking precedent, ruled that compensation must be paid because of the long-standing principle in English law that someone “who has a dangerous thing in his possession” had a duty to keep it under control.

Companies are covered by the same general laws as the rest of us. If they lie about what they are selling, or breach their contracts, or adulterate their produce, they can be taken to court. Common law, growing like a coral, case by case, continuously adapting to new circumstances, is generally a better redress than a parliamentary statute, which will generally create unintended costs and injustices.

I can think of three important exceptions. One is where the externalities are diffused, making it hard to identify a specific victim: acid rain, say, or leaded petrol. A second is where the cost falls upon something other than a legal person – the suffering involved in battery farming, for example. A third is where ownership rights alone cannot prevent the depletion of a resource: quotas to keep fish stocks sustainable are the obvious instance. In these cases, even the most ideological libertarians generally allow that state regulation is beneficial. In general, though, businesses want good reputations, strong brands and loyal customers. They are as entitled to a presumption of innocence as anyone else.

“But companies are only interested in making money”, people complain. As opposed to what, precisely? Scottish country dancing? Blue period Picasso? Companies are supposed to be interested in making money. It’s when they lose money that problems arise. („The worst crime against working people”, the American trade union leader Samuel Gompers used to say, „is a company which fails to operate at a profit”.)

Alright, you say, but shouldn’t they also behave morally? Isn’t there an obligation on them to go beyond the letter of the law?  The answer depends on our understanding of what a company is. Corporations might have legal personality, but they are not, and cannot be, moral creatures. An individual might visit prisoners or work in a soup kitchen or give to the poor. He might, indeed, do these things while being a company director. But his firm is a different matter. The best way for it to contribute to the general good is not to seek to mimic the ethical choices of an individual, but to remunerate its staff, meet its customers’ demands and pay its taxes.

I’ll go further. The most ethical behaviour for a company director is honestly to maximise his profit and then, from his share of that profit, to give carefully and intelligently to charity. If he instead pursues various forms of “corporate social responsibility” which diminish his profit, then he is in effect shuffling his charitable donations onto someone else: his clients or suppliers or employees. His behaviour becomes that much less moral, that much more selfish.

People misunderstand the purpose of a business. It isn’t supposed to redistribute wealth, or promote education in Africa, or combat racial discrimination. Nor is it there to pay its employees an arbitrarily fixed sum, nor source its materials in the way that a pressure group demands: these things will be set by market conditions. It will pay its employees what it can afford (and, as capitalism spreads, and employers compete for staff, that sum will rise). Of course, the people who make such criticisms are often hostile in principle to free enterprise and private enterprise. Fine: whatever’s their bag. It’s just that, so far, no one has come up with a better model.

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Time to Make „Unborn” the New Gay?

Last week marked 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his seminal „I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Fifty years ago, if someone had told the audience assembled at the National Mall that they would see a black man elected President in their lifetime, few would have believed it. It is truly remarkable how much America’s cultural landscape has evolved in the last half century. There are people alive today who can remember segregation and anti-miscegenation laws. They can remember a time when African Americans weren’t allowed to vote. But the laws changed, and slowly but surely, hearts and minds changed too. America still has a long way to go to heal the racial divide that for so long defined us, but the strides we’ve made are nothing short of remarkable.

Today there is a new civil rights movement underway, so we are told. This time, it’s not racial equality at issue, but marriage equality. And it’s not African Americans carrying the banner of protest, but homosexuals.

It’s been said by some that „gay is the new black.” In the same way that African Americans were once dehumanized, marginalized, and denied basic civil rights based on something they cannot control, i.e. the color of their skin, so today homosexuals claim that they are disenfranchised based on something equally outside their control – their sexual orientation. So successful has the LGBT community been in advancing this narrative, both the culture and the courts have gotten on board.

Organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center are leading the charge in this area. In California, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a ban on „conversion therapy” for minors, asserting that „California has authority to prohibit licensed mental health providers from administering therapies that the legislature has deemed harmful.”

Underlying this position is the belief that sexual orientation is fixed and immutable. Like race, a person’s sexual orientation is something they are born with and something that cannot be changed. Proponents of this view maintain that to suggest otherwise is not only wrong, it is bigoted and harmful. For parents to guide their children away from the homosexual identity is not only misdirected, it is a form of abuse. There is one small problem with this theory. Turns out, sexual orientation is not the same as race. As more research is done, more evidence emerges to indicate that human sexual orientation is „fluid.” According to the recent studies reported by the American Psychological Association, sexual orientation is not fixed from birth, but influenced by a variety of both biological and environmental factors.

So much for gay being the new black. All this talk about a new civil rights movement has got me thinking, however. For decades, one group has been persecuted, marginalized, and dehumanized based on innate factors completely outside of their control. This group has been the target of persecution more heartless and hateful than slavery and no less deadly than Hitler’s „Final Solution.”

Since 1973, over 55 million unborn children have been aborted in the United States. Why? Because when a tiny unborn person is deemed unwanted, or inconvenient, or imperfect, his or her human rights are discarded like yesterday’s trash. The unalienable rights articulated in our Declaration of Independence do not apply. If ever there was a civil rights tragedy in America, this is it.

Ironically, many gay rights activists are ideological bedfellows with the most radical of abortion-rights activists. Just check the websites of prominent Progressive „civil rights” organizations like the ACLU and you’ll see what I mean. These self-proclaimed defenders of humanity simultaneously decry the inhumane abuses perpetuated against gays and lesbians while championing the supposed „right” of women to kill their unborn child at any time for any reason.

If pro-lifers can learn anything from this sad state of affairs, it’s that there is great power in narrative. It’s all about winning hearts and minds. The LGBT community has successfully promoted a narrative that frames the same-sex marriage debate in terms of fundamental human rights. They have successfully brought the culture to the point where disagreeing with the gay lifestyle is tantamount to racism. And increasingly, the courts are buying into this narrative.

Those of us who view all human life as sacred, regardless of age, size, location, or whether it is wanted, need to take a page from this playbook. If gay is the new black, then we should do everything in our power to make „unborn” the new gay.

KEN CONNOR

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‘Green’ Activists Should Take A Hike

Chemical weapons are being used in Syria, Iran is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons, radical Islam is on the march in much of the world, American cities such as Chicago resemble a war zone, our health-care system is on the verge of collapse, and yet a growing number of our “best and brightest” college and university students have decided to take a stand against … coal, petroleum and natural gas companies.

Bravo.

At more than 300 colleges and universities across the United States, these “green” activists are demanding that their schools instantly divest evil fossil-fuel stocks from their endowments. With much of the world spiraling out of control, these “future leaders” have taken it upon themselves to attack companies that employ millions of middle-class Americans and power our nation.

Said one of these student leaders, “We look at our schools as a representation of ourselves. I would like to know my school is putting its money in companies that are looking out for the best welfare of people.”

If one needed more evidence that little or nothing of value is being taught at these liberal “institutions of higher learning,” this temper-tantrum being orchestrated by a collection of hypocritical spoiled brats should stand as a prime example.

Why hypocritical? Well, it’s a better than even guess that virtually all of these “green” student activists drive cars, avail themselves of public transportation, wear shoes, turn on the heat in cold weather and the air conditioning in the summer, text nonstop, and use computers, video games, and tablets. All things which use or are made from fossil fuels.

Maybe these student activists would have all the universities and colleges divest Exxon Mobil Corp. stock and invest in Solyndra instead. Whoops. Forgot. That particular “green” company, where our green-enabling president invested over $500 million in taxpayer money while posing for a photo-op, went belly-up.

Perhaps these environmentally aware student activists would have their colleges and universities invest in the rest of President Obama’s $80 billion “clean-energy” program. No. That wouldn’t work either, as most of the “green” companies aided by that initiative have either declared bankruptcy, gone out of business, or will never show a dime in profit while continually sucking money from hard-working Americans.

If these “green” student activists truly believe in what they are selling, then they should stop wearing any fancy running shoes (made with petroleum products), give up using all electronics and walk to a “green” open-air school located in some nearby field.

That, or if they really want to make a lasting statement and sacrifice, they could join the armed forces and serve with the heroic young men and women their own age who actually are making a difference every single day.

DOUGLAS MCKINNON

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The Millennial Generation Is Abandoning Liberalism

The media claimed that conservatives must become more moderate or face permanent irrelevancy after the supposedly solid liberal millennial generation of 18-29 year olds that overwhelmingly supported reelection of Barack Obama. These dire warnings reminded me of the media geniuses who proclaimed after Jimmy Carter’s presidential victory in 1976 that the 18-29 year olds of the Baby Boomer generation would always vote as a liberal bloc. Four years later, Baby Boomers abandoned liberalism and began reliably voting as Ronald Reagan conservatives for the next three decades. As Millennial support of President Obama has plummeted this year, it is liberalism that may again be facing decades of irrelevancy.

On Election Day in 2008, 37.4% of incoming freshman women and 30.5% men identified themselves as liberals or leftists, the most in 35 years. This corresponded four years later to 33% of Millennials describing themselves on Election Day 2012 as liberals. Given that Barack Obama lost a majority of the over 29 year old vote by 50% to 48%, it was his 61% to 36% support among 18-29 year olds that swung the election in his favor. The media proclaimed that Obama’s reelection was proof the Millennials would power liberalism to dominate American politics for the many decades.

Support for Obama has fallen by 9% since Election Day, but it is the 15% collapse in support by Millennials that is driving Obama’s fall. Furthermore, first-year college students self-identifying as liberals has also dropped by five points to 26.4% for men and 32.4% for women.

The media failed to understand that after the 18-29 year olds of the Baby Boomer generation swept Jimmy Carter into the White House in 1976, initial liberal views of youth do not necessarily lock a generation into a lifetime of liberal voting. Carter won heavy Baby Boomer support for his commitment to reestablish government „as good and honest and decent and compassionate and filled with love as are the American people.” But after 4 years of poor economic growth, high inflation, rising interest rates, continuing energy crises, and the Iran hostage crisis; Baby Boomers shocked the media by abandoning Carter’s well-intentioned liberalism for the blatant conservatism of Ronald Reagan.

In David Brinkley’s biography of Carter, Unfinished Business, the former president is described as crying on election night because he had:

„lost to a man he thought immoral to the core: an unprincipled but telegenic B-grade Hollywood cowboy who had ridden into the White House on such „patriotic” themes as abhorrence of government, xenophobia, and massive tax cuts. „Reagan is different from me in almost every basic element of commitment and experience and promise to the American people,” Carter had said at a town hall meeting in Independence, Missouri, two months earlier. Years later he would go further and state that „allowing Ronald Reagan to become president was by far my biggest failure in office.””

Carter would not acknowledge that his loss of the presidency was not about a failure to communicate as well as Reagan, but rather the failure of his liberal policies to give Baby Boomers a legitimate expectation that their economic future would improve. Carter promised to efficiently manage U.S. government resources to cushion the economic „malaise” the nation was suffering due to outside forces. Ronald Reagan blamed that malaise on our own government’s bloated nanny state, whose high taxes and incompetent meddling in the private sector stifled American prosperity. Baby Boomers abandoned Carter’s compassionate malaise and voted for Reagan’s plan for prosperity.

Barack Obama convinced Millennials to vote for him as the outside change-agent to repudiate the failed economic and foreign policies of both political parties. His campaign manager David Axelrod emphasized in 2008 that America was looking for „the remedy, not the replica.” Hillary Clinton and then John McCain were viciously mocked as Washington DC insiders beholden to powerful corporate elites. In 2012, the Obama campaign effectively mocked Mitt Romney as one of those corporate elites.

According to pollster John Zogby, Obama’s support from Millennials has suffered a big drop because he hasn’t delivered the results he promised in his reelection campaign. Millennials had „high expectations and feel a sense of ownership because of their strong support.” While Obama won 61% of the 18-29 year olds’ vote in 2012, only 46% now approve of his job as president. „For young people, the failure to stop the rise of student loan rates and the NSA revelations weigh in heavily,” said Zogby. Coupled with continuing economic malaise, the millennial generation appears to be abandoning liberalism.

CHRISS STREET

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When I was a rich kid, we were all pro-communist

When I was a rich kid living in Great Neck, NY, I remember standing on the lawn of my girlfriend’s house and listening to her parents talk about how my girlfriend’s grandfather fought for the communists in Spain.  They were proud of him.  While the father puffed his pipe on the lawn of their estate, they pontificated on their sympathy for poor people and their desire to have a classless society.

They actually didn’t know any poor people except the maid and the gardeners.  They feigned sympathy for the poor because it made them feel more generous.  Gramps thought that by taking from the rich and giving to the poor, he was bettering society.  He gave about ten percent of his income to charities and acted like he was donating ninety percent and had switched living establishments with the poor.  He didn’t know that communists wreck the fabric of ambition and destroy Darwin’s principle of the survival of the fittest, substituting it for survival of the weakest, which makes society feeble and non-productive.

My dad was sympathetic to socialism, and due to his influence, I semi-agreed with my girlfriend’s family.  I believed in communism and what would eventually become Obama’s simplistic fair share.  I thought that Senator Joe McCarthy was a beast because he was tough on communists and made it difficult for some spoiled screenwriters to get jobs after betraying our country.  Hollywood cries; people in communist countries die.  I didn’t realize that Senator Joe was defending the American way and supporting Emerson’s self-reliance rather than the nanny state.

In my sixties I played tennis with Ben Gitlow, the son of the original president of the American Communist Party.  Even he had turned against the party.  The party was not kind.  It hurt those it pretended to help.  Only inexperienced fools who knew nothing about government remained loyal to the Communist Party. People like Ben and his dad, who had actually met with Stalin, knew that communism wrecked the economy and stole one’s life force, one’s soul.

Communists back then pretended, like Obama today, to defend the middle class and spitefully attack the rich.  But communism actually decimated the middle class and created a new power-class out of the communist faithful.  It is a party built on jealousy.  The communists, like the Occupy Wall Street crowd, are so jealous of the rich that they are willing to destroy the business structure of Wall Street without leaving themselves a viable path to success.  Imagine those unemployed rich kids and rapists setting up a new business model on Wall Street.  Failure, thy name is inexperience and youth.

Jews, of which I am one, are particularly prominent among American communists.  Maybe it’s because they feel that communism is the antidote to fascism.  They don’t care that communism killed five times as many people as fascism.  Nazis were small potatoes compared to communists.

Communist Jews follow communism’s founder, anti-Semite Karl Marx.  They forget that Jews were never really popular in communist countries.  It was ironic to see communists rationing their food in the USSR while rich limousine liberals in New York insulted capitalism as they pretended to be men of the people.

How stupid that many communists are academics.  You’d think that they’d be smarter than that, but they can’t get out of the way of their own envy and hatred of successful people.

What’s ironic is that Nazism bears a terrible reputation, whereas communism gets a pass.  Communism hides behind the lie that it is trying to give everyone a fair shake and improve life on earth.  Liberals are derivative of communism and also think of themselves as great healers, when in reality they are wreckers of society and destroyers of the competitive urge of capitalism.

Both Nazism and communism hate the bourgeois and bury themselves beneath a blanket of totalitarianism.  Both are government-heavy and restrict individual freedoms.  Nazism, communism, socialism, and liberalism are imperialistic and create an ideological theocracy on Earth.  It’s like deductive logic — everything from the top, no inductive pragmatism.  It’s time we woke up and realized that communism is as bad as Nazism, that Obama’s liberal policies are the death knell of society.

In the seventies, my liberal parents visited Russia and discovered long lines for bread and bedbugs in their supposedly four-star hotel.  In fact, they could get water only every second day and had to brush their teeth with Coca-Cola or lemonade.  Yet all the liberals back in America looked up to the USSR.  They believed that communism was nice to the masses who were really starving in the streets.  Yet I don’t remember any New Yorkers brushing their teeth with soda.

Communists have done more ill than fascists.  Yet the liberals still pat them on the back.  They make anti-Nazi movies like Inglorious Basterds.  They make pro-communist movies like Warren Beatty’s Reds.  They make Nazis out to be monsters and communists into loving people who give out bread to the poor.

Back in the real world, Che Guevara, America’s rock star, was shooting people in the back of the head.  And Fidel Castro has taken a thriving economy and buried it in his arrogant demand for power.

The Nazis starved many Jews to death.  Chairman Mao starved more of his own people.

Communism is fascism’s sister.  It’s time that they were recognized as twins and that the liberals stopped seeing communism through rose-colored glasses.  Democrats remind me of the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields, where „Nothing is real and nothing to get hungabout.”

What they don’t realize is that when you don’t „get hungabout” the failures of communism, you end up hanging from a tree of your own neglect, dying in a noose of naïve optimism and the sophomoric fair-sharing of an unworkable society.

DAVID LAWRENCE

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No Race Has a Monopoly on Suffering

American descendants of African slaves have borne a heavy cross upon their backs in past generations—but a similar burden proved far more deadly for certain European groups that would provide stiff competition in today’s Victim Sweepstakes.  Does this sort of contest profit anyone?

I had put together most of the material for this little essay before hearing that Oprah Winfrey had loudly declared white racism alive and well in Switzerland (because some poor non-Anglophone sales girl hadn’t shown her a $38,000 handbag fast enough).  Well… all the better.  I had indeed already heard that Oprah had loudly equated Trayvon Martin’s being shot while beating someone’s brains out to the brutal gang-murder of Emmitt Till in Mississippi of the Fifties.  That was part of what started me down this path.  Tomorrow, Oprah will probably have blared to the world yet further evidence of bloodthirsty—and now global—white racism.  I just can’t keep pace with her.

Let us begin with the gruesome facts of racially motivated lynchings in U.S. history.  The following figures are probably in the right ballpark.  They correspond so closely to the statistics published on Wikipedia and other sites that one must assume all the writers to be drawing upon the same sources.  Yet the many nuances of tone in the piece below appear to be angling for an outpour of PC sympathy that has little to do with harsh historical realities:

From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States.  Of these people that were lynched 3,446 were black.  The blacks lynched accounted for 72.7% of the people lynched.  These numbers seem large, but it is known that not all of the lynchings were ever recorded.  Out of the 4,743 people lynched only 1,297 white people were lynched.  That is only 27.3%.  Many of the whites lynched were lynched for helping the black or being anti lynching and even for domestic crimes.(1)

“These numbers seem large”?  Compared to what?  I really don’t know what ratio of lynched people per capita per annum in a setting combining frontier elements with the anarchy following military invasion and economic collapse might be considered normal.  I’m afraid, though, that one lynching per day doesn’t shock me, given the circumstances.  “Only 1,297 white people were lynched”?  Is the author, then (who turns out to have been a college student, God bless him), expecting parity in the figures?  Or representation proportional to the number of whites in the general populace?  “Many of the whites were lynched for helping the black”?  Again, what percentage constitutes “many” here?  Was the number of Ox Bow Incidents, then—rustlers and horse thieves strung up from the nearest tree—negligible?  I assume that whites who were fitted with a hemp necktie after a frontier “trial” didn’t qualify as lynchees… but I doubt that many of their “jury of peers” would have passed a sobriety test.

Here’s my point.  The U.S. has a history of appalling racism which, at times, erupted into appalling brutality.  However, 1) the brutality of these times, while highlighted in the lynch mob, was not exclusive to that horrid custom: feuds were often settled by “bushwhacking”, and men often died in jail.  2) Most race-related lynchings were concentrated in certain pockets of time and place, where they indeed created a frightful atmosphere—but the terror was not spread with universal application throughout the South or throughout the post-Appomattox years.

Now please weigh these observations with a couple of others.  1) There are cultural/ethnic groups of “white people” (whatever those two words mean) who were butchered with the same appalling brutality by other Europeans during these years; and 2) the butchery amassed far, far greater numbers of victims than the American plague of lynchings.  To develop these points, I intend to ignore the near-extermination of many Native American tribes, the Jewish Holocaust of the Forties, the travail of the Poles, and other heartrending experiences not involving the history of today’s mainstream “white” Americans.  I will stay Celtic.

The Scots highlanders were the Indians of Britain, one might well say.  Pre-literate and tribal, they resisted the ways of their sophisticated neighbors to the south with a determination that one only finds in a clash of irreconcilable cultures.  After the decisive English military victory at Culloden, hundreds of women and children (there is no accurate tally) were at once put to the sword.  Thousands more starved to death during the ensuing years of the Highland Clearances.  Adjusting what records we have with reasonable estimates, perhaps a quarter of a million families (not individuals—families) were chased out of their huts and off their crofts before our Civil War.  Trying to estimate the number of fatalities involved in this systematic program of ethnic cleansing would be throwing darts blindfolded… but the total probably exceeded 4,743.

The Clearances were distantly related to a more general movement called the Enclosure, whose first seismic rumbles were deplored by authors as early as Thomas More.  Wealthy landowners were finding the medieval system of tenantry increasingly costly and ineffective.  With the growth of cities, they identified their maximum profit as selling their timber and dedicating their fields to grazing of beef cattle rather than leasing to peasant cultivators.  The small farmer merely got in the way: he was to be eradicated as tidily as possible.  In the case of the Highland Clearances, he enjoyed most of the anguish but none of the consideration of being a slave: i.e., an investment that must be managed to show a return.  He had no more political rights, and scarcely more legal rights, than a black slave in the South; and as for being free from having his family auctioned away, this privilege sometimes translated into the practical “advantage” of being able to watch all his children starve.

How often did fatal results actually occur?  Often enough to fill mass graves, during the Irish Potato Famine (which was largely a program of “persuasion” to remove these peasants, too, from the land).  Between 1845 and 1852, about a million Irish men, women, and children died in consequence of malnutrition and its effects.  These figures are once again extremely hard to pinpoint, not only because so many deaths went unrecorded, but also because deaths caused indirectly by the Famine are seldom considered.  The latter tally could run the figure into the vicinity of a million and a half if it includes the immense loss of life due to diseases like cholera as the starving émigrés were crammed onto ships bound for the New World.  Slave ships were relatively comfortable, in comparison.  A slave was worth nothing dead: hence those who had invested in him carefully allotted him enough space in the lower decks to stretch his limbs.  In contrast, the human cargo of Irish had already paid its fare before the ship slipped her moorings (or, to be exact, its fare had been paid: landowners often gave their uprooted tenants the price of a ticket if they would only leave).  There was no incentive to give this human baggage enough room to breathe, and much incentive to cram it in tighter.

These years were by no means a kind of Dust Bowl period in Ireland, by the way.  Harvests were indeed quite bountiful—but the Potato Blight decimated the staple of the poor man’s diet.  Tenants grew potatoes to feed themselves; other produce was dedicated to paying their rent.  Many therefore found themselves in the intolerable position of watching the food they had harvested leave in wagons and barges for cities, where it brought a handsome profit from rising prices.(2)  Lamented one ballad in English (rather hyperbolically, but not much mistaken as to cause), “To glut the rage of English Mammon / We mourn a yearly million slain.”(3)

The ripple effect of the ensuing diaspora was immense—and death spread in the ripples.  The onboard diseases of ships overloaded with malnourished waifs were lethal enough during the Atlantic crossing.  Even a long quarantine after reaching harbor, however, was sometimes insufficient to keep certain contagions from escaping into the mainland population.  One source offers this astonishing sequence of numbers to demonstrate the domino-effect of a single year’s exported misery to a single port.  In 1847, over 9,000 Irishmen perished during the passage to Quebec and in the quarantine that met the survivors.  Once ashore, about 4,000 of the supposedly healthy immigrants and the natives they infected soon died in Montreal, and about another 4,000 in Western Canada later on—this according to official documents, whose figures, here as elsewhere, often grossly under-reported actual deaths.(4)

One might protest that these wretches fell victim to nineteenth-century hygiene rather than to patent racism.  That response would overlook several causative factors, especially in the case of the Highland Scots; but we might also meet it head-on with the observation, “Yes—and many lynchings were an ignorant reflex to dismal economic circumstances whose frustration crystallized around a visibly distinct group.”  Inhumanity never takes a holiday in human history, and revenge upon a scapegoat race or tribe is one of its favorite pretexts.  I alluded last week to the stunning proportion of pacifists who died in British prisons during the First World War.  I had in mind a passage I had just read about the Welsh experience of the war years, specifically.  Read the testimony of one young Conscientious Objector who barely survived his treatment.  Had his reception by the authorities nothing whatever to do with his Welsh ethnicity, or with his working-class background?

I was beaten… for resisting authority on the first day for about ten minutes out of every quarter-hour steadily by two or three officers, and thrown all over the floor until my body was a mass of pains; and after they finished with me, I was put in cuffs for hours and left without a bit of food the whole day.  I got the same treatment the next day, except for their pointing guns at me and pushing me around so as to get me to march; and after they had set me to making sandbags, or to some other labor, or to drilling, despite having shoveled mud and stones in addition to the beatings and kickings, I was put a second time in cuffs and also a straitjacket, as it’s called—and to tell the truth, that, too, was pure pain…(5)

The author of this little history then observes that “of the 1,500 pacifists who were incarcerated, 71 died as a result of the treatment they received in jail.”(6)  Now, there’s a vast difference between a hundred and five thousand; but the figure for lynchings covers a period of eighty-six years, whereas these figures refer to the activity of a few months, once conscription began in 1916.  I don’t see how one reign of terror can be ruled more hellacious than the other.

I began assembling these thoughts as soon as I observed the response among certain vocal black leaders to the Zimmerman case’s verdict.  At about the same time, I was finishing up C. Vann Woodward’s classic, The Strange Career of Jim Crow.  I have the utmost admiration for Professor Woodward… but I actually remember the late-Sixties riots in places like L.A., Newark, and Detroit, and passages such as the following (added to the final edition of his magnum opus) give me pause:

Northern blacks began to ask what their problems had to do with freedom rides, sit-ins, and lunch-counter integrations—or, for that matter, with the ideal of racial integration and assimilation in general.  While they had been stirred by the march on Washington, thrilled by the heroism of Birmingham brothers, and moved by the drama of the Selma March, they could not see how such tactics were adaptable to the scene at Newark, Detroit, Chicago, or Harlem.  Granted the effectiveness of such crusading strategies for limited goals, even granting that they finally toppled the formidable but hollow legal defenses of Jim Crow—what now?  Now on the very eve of those triumphs the triumphs themselves suddenly appeared quaint and anachronistic.(7)

Is this really what brawny young men were thinking as they smashed in casement windows and carted off televisions?  If you had stopped one of these looters and asked him his motives, would he have answered, “Dr. King’s triumphs seem suddenly quaint and anachronistic”?

Human beings are often little more than apes in clothes.  I’m sorry if my ancestors brutalized your ancestors, Oprah; but my further ancestors were brutalized at least as badly as yours—and, if you could delve far enough into your African heritage, you would find a few slave-owners and child-murderers in your own family tree.  We all descend from slaves, and we all descend from vandals and cutthroats.  God sees all, and God will exact the full debt from those who hacked fleeing women or starved out little children or whipped slaves or beat young Ithel Davies without an ounce of remorse, then or later.  You and your fellow race-crusaders are not the wrath of God.

Enough of this.  Enough.

Notes

1)  This passage was borrowed from what appears to be an academic website: www.chestnuttarchive.org/classroom/lynchingstat.html.  A heading reads, „This page was developed by a Berea College student as part of a course on [Charles] Chestnutt.”

2)  Niall Ó Ciosán, “Dia, Bia, agus Sasana: An Mistéalach agus Íomhá an Ghorta” Gnéithe den Ghorta, ed. Cathal Póirtéir (Baile Átha Cliath: Coiscéim, 1995), 159-160.  My translation from the Irish.

3)  Ibid., 162.  My translation.

4)  Pádraig Breandán Ó Laighin, “Samhradh an Bhróin: Grosse-Île, 1847,”  in Gnéithe den Ghorta (op. cit.), 217.  My translation from the Irish.

5)  Ifor ap Glyn, Lleisiau’r Rhyfel Mawr (Conwy: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2008), 77-78.  My Welsh is inferior to my Irish, but I believe I have translated this critical passage with no significant errors.

6)  Ibid., 78.  My translation.

7)  My copy of Strange Career is an e-book.  This citation appears in chapter 6, section 1.

JOHN HARRIS

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Does Your Religion Define How You Think About Economics?

The authors of a new Brookings Institution survey believe the American Dream is dead—or at least in trouble. And who’s to blame? Religious conservatives.

Progressives, on the other hand, want everyone to have equal opportunities in the name of social justice—but with a caveat: If you start out ahead in the race for the American Dream, you have to move back to whatever is deemed the “fairest” starting line.

The survey aims to identify which values Americans think should drive economic policy in light of their religious commitment. The authors define “religious progressives” as those who are dedicated to “promoting equality and fairness,” among whom, they discovered, are “religious, social, and economic liberals alike…the white working class, lower income Americans, young adults, African Americans, the religiously unaffiliated, white Catholics, and Democrats.”

And who’s left? Religious conservatives, who simply don’t fit into a neat political box. The authors are perplexed about these Americans, because they express strong social values but don’t embrace progressive policies:

One of the paradoxes of American politics: while social justice commitments largely unite religious Americans, this potentially progressive constituency does not cohere to the same degree as does the religious movement.

Many religious Americans, according to the authors, have mistakenly identified themselves as conservatives even though their commitments to social justice should align them with progressivism. They need to get with the program! They are getting in the way of a rise of religious progressivism and policies that would promote fairness and opportunity.

But instead of qualifying religious conservatives as paradoxical, the authors should be more open to a serious conversation about what equality of opportunity really means.

Obviously, everyone in America should have the ability to move up the economic ladder and improve his or her circumstances regardless of race, religion, or gender. However, Heritage’s David Azerrad draws an important distinction between “equality of opportunity” and “sameness of opportunity”:

Traditionally, equality of opportunity has meant the absence of legal impediments to getting ahead in life.… Sameness of opportunity, by contrast, requires that all should have exactly the same opportunities in life. It demands that the disadvantaged be given more opportunities (usually through government programs) and that the privileged or naturally gifted be denied certain opportunities.

Sameness of opportunity does not ensure a just society. In fact, it does the opposite. It’s one thing to say that Americans should not encounter unfair obstacles to opportunity, perhaps from lousy local public schools or racial discrimination. But it is quite another to see it as unjust that parents try to give their children a better start in life if they can.

Moreover, interesting new research from the authors’ Brookings colleague Scott Winship suggests that income and wealth differences don’t seem to be closely linked to economic opportunity and realizing the American Dream. And a Harvard-Berkeley study likewise finds big differences in opportunity in the U.S. that don’t seem to be linked to progressive concerns about starting points and economic inequality. More important, it seems, are cultural factors such as strong families and strong religious and social bonds—the kind of things those pesky religious conservatives emphasize.

If we are truly concerned about the American Dream, the answer can’t be found in the progressive economic policies that emphasize larger government and redistribution. The liberal notion of equality of opportunity really means a demeaning sameness of opportunity. Better to focus on removing the barriers to economic advancement present in government regulations and bad schools. Meanwhile, encourage a culture of charity and family stability, as religious conservatives argue. That is the way to keep the American Dream alive.

Mary Clare Reim

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Are We Solving the Mystery of Atlantis?

Ancient Greek literature is replete with intimations of lost civilizations, great floods, and slow renewals of human knowledge beginning at some unspecified point in a misty past.  The most famous of these intimations is Plato’s legend of Atlantis, a great naval power which was supposedly repelled by an equally great Athens more than nine thousand years before Plato wrote of it, and which then sank into the sea following an earthquake.

Now it seems that we, watching our Western civilization sink, may at last be granted the extraordinary privilege of bearing witness to the concrete truth about which the most daring thinkers of our past could only speculate.

Weeks before Rachel Jeantel popularized the issue during the Zimmerman trial, I read the following internet news headline: „Cursive writing facing extinction in face of technology.”  The headline itself hints at the problem suggested by the article: the author or an editor has merely tacked two stock metaphors together („facing” and „in face of”) in lieu of thinking clearly about word choice and meaning, and has thus produced a two-faced monstrosity of a headline.

The article’s content, however, though barely readable, is most thought-provoking.

[W]ith the increased presence of keyboards everywhere, the days of cursive writing may be numbered and schools are seeing the writing on the wall.

As the end of cursive writing appears to be nigh, many parents and educators probably find themselves wondering: should we still be teaching cursive writing?

There are at least 45 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces (Ontario and Quebec) that have nixed cursive writing as an official part of the curriculum[.] … And why should it be part of the curriculum? With limited time to cram everything in from the curriculum as it is, cursive writing is just one more thing teachers have to help students with in light of the pervasiveness of electronic communication.

Right.  With only a dozen years of compulsory schooling, with 12,000 hours of „socialization” and arbitrarily force-fed and quickly forgotten „general knowledge,” and with each „unit” in every subject having to be concluded with a lesson on how this topic relates to social justice and environmental sustainability, how are „parents and educators” supposed to find the time to „cram in” a few hours on something so inessential as the ability to communicate with other humans through time and distance without benefit of advanced technology?

The idea that the skill of writing one’s language in the manner in which adults have written it for hundreds of years is a dispensable frivol in a modern curriculum, while „How a Recycling Center Works” is essential knowledge, is more than just a sign of the times. It may be a sign of the end times. In the foreseeable future, there will be no one left who can read the Declaration of Independence in its original form — quite apart from the issue of understanding it. That document, and so many other extant testaments to man’s greatness, will thereafter be perceived as a mere picture, a collection of dainty lines and curves, and less comprehensible than Egyptian hieroglyphics. An important means of civilizational continuity will have been lost, as future generations will be forced to rely on „translations” to read their own language.

Here, I suppose, is where the devotees of progress will jump in to object that I am merely getting carried away with a romantic notion of „the good old days.”  I don’t think so.  I am far from being anti-technology; I rely on it every day, as we all do.  Regarding the present topic, I rarely write anything by hand these days, apart from rough notes.  But I fear losing the ability to handwrite, just as I fear losing the ability to perform simple mathematical operations in my head in the age of electronic calculators.

This math comparison is not just a rough analogy.  The ability to use a calculator is a skill that may itself become highly developed; but it is an entirely different, and clearly lower, skill than the ability to manipulate numbers accurately with one’s mind.  The first is mostly manual dexterity; the second is the skill that our great thinkers, from Plato to Locke, regarded as the natural precursor to the development of philosophical reasoning.

Similarly, the ability to produce preformed letters with a keyboard is a useful manual skill, and the technology that allows us to do it borders on the magical; but the ability to form the letters and words of one’s language in one’s own hand is magic of a much higher order.  We are barely aware of this as we learn the skill in childhood, but there is nevertheless something ennobling in the realization that we have the capacity to translate our thoughts and feelings through our own fingers into a complex of lines and dots that may be understood by men a hundred miles away, or a hundred years hence.  Not knowing how to produce those lines and dots — the real windows to the soul — we would be reduced to relying on machines that can produce them for us on demand.

The keyboard is the calculator of writing, allowing us to produce without mental effort that complicated interplay of thought and symbol, nature and convention, which constitutes one of mankind’s definitive triumphs.  The imminent demise of cursive writing will be more than the death of an obsolete tool.  It will spell the end of humanity’s direct experience of the spiritual significance of written language as the most sublime interaction of mind and body, the mysterious bridge linking our animal bulk to our divine spark.  And after we have burned that bridge, will we still have access to what once lay on the other side?  Or will we be left, as increasingly appears to be the case today, to make do with the decaying remnants of our former commerce with our souls?  Will language continue its slide into virtual disuse as anything but our economy’s hammer and nails, or a ritualized way of grunting and squealing?

The manual formation of the letters and words of our native language is one of the most complex skills we learn as children.  And this early activation of the mind’s attentiveness to detail, precision, and the subtle connection between mind and motion contributes greatly to subsequent cognitive development.  „The Chinese are better at math,” we casually say, meaning not that their expert mathematicians are superior to those of other nations, but that the average Chinese youngster seems more adept at math than other average students.  If we seek to explain this at all, we typically fall back on causally unhelpful abstractions about IQs.  But take a look at their written language, and think about how much mental discipline is required of their children in learning how to read and write those thousands of minutely differentiated characters.  I suspect a strong connection here.  If we stop teaching children how to write their own language by hand, we are stunting the development of a wide variety of skills and habits necessary for an advanced mental life: patience, memory, attention to detail, an eye for subtle distinctions, concern for precision and accuracy.  These, among others, are the learned capacities that Miss Jeantel, like most of her generation and its teachers, defensively dismisses as „old school.”  Simply put, when handwriting becomes obsolete, and is completely replaced with the mental shortcut of technology-assisted communication, complex reasoning (including moral reasoning) will become obsolete with it.  The cognitive nexus is natural and possibly inescapable.

But why cursive?  Might not hand-printed language, which bears a greater resemblance to our standard word processing fonts, perform this same function in our intellectual development?  Apart from creating the need, noted above, for „translations” of many of the seminal documents of our civilization, or of our own family histories — for scholarly specialists to tell us what Thomas Jefferson and Aunt Mimi were talking about — perhaps hand-printing would be an adequate substitute for cursive.  The problem is that the case for dumping cursive is also the case for phasing out hand-printing: the ubiquity of keyboard-based technology and the practical necessity of keyboard skills for modern life seem to obviate the need for any kind of hand-produced language.

And, if we accept the premises of the argument against cursive, this process of antiquation will only accelerate in the coming years.  Every child will have a smartphone, a tablet, or some subsequent technology in his possession continually.  Schools, parents, and governments will demand that such technologies be in use at all times, and as all communication will be required to be produced in electronic form (for uniformity, for convenience, and for government data-collection purposes), hand-printing will soon be another outdated skill that we just won’t have time to „cram in.”  In a generation or two, virtually no one — no parent and no government „educator” — will know how to produce language by hand; an entire civilization will have placed itself at the mercy of electronic technology for all its efforts to preserve and communicate its thoughts in a visible form.

But here comes the „Atlantis” question modernity never asks: And then what?

Paradoxically, the ancients, who had relatively little known history at their disposal, were obsessed with eternity — with the inadequacy of mere time-measurement as a means to understanding our ultimate place in the cosmos — whereas we moderns, with access to a much broader and deeper historical perspective, have resolved to trip along contentedly with the existential confidence of the profoundly narrow-minded.  Modern political progressivism is our peculiar form of tyranny because it is the model most suited to an age that presumes a rectilinear conception of time.  Imagining we are moving in an unambiguous straight line comprising discrete points, and hence that the past is materially irrelevant, it becomes easy to believe that our gradual changes indicate irreversible forward development — i.e., „progress” — thus reinforcing our disrespect for the past.

The Greeks, by contrast, favored a cyclical conception of historical development.  Time itself was understood as circular — exactly the opposite of our „progressive” assumptions, whether of the Enlightenment rationalist or the Marxist historicist sort.  Perhaps this is no paradox after all.  The Greeks, perceiving their civilization as something fundamentally „new” in the known world, drew from this perception an inference that perhaps only they could draw: this cannot be the first time mankind has risen.  This noblest form of humility is perhaps bound to dissipate over time, as the evolving civilization loses direct contact with its beginnings, and hence loses the jarring effect of the juxtaposition of the infinity of being and the brevity of known history.

Thus, the ancients tended to be exquisitely aware of the precariousness of their existence, and the severely limited moment they occupied in the grand calendar.  We, on the other hand, take our existence for granted, and assume that we occupy a privileged moment in time — namely, the „latest” moment.  This is why the most profound ancient minds imagined the soul’s journey through the afterlife in three-thousand or even ten-thousand-year increments, although they had little solid historical knowledge stretching even a thousand years back, whereas we, who casually discuss the universe in terms of billions of years, can barely remember what happened last week, and never engage in serious speculation on life ten thousand years hence — let alone our own lives ten thousand years hence.

Atlantis was Plato’s mythical speculation (or development of a received speculation) regarding a more advanced human civilization that reason seemed to indicate must have existed at some point in the unending sweep of time.  Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis revived that speculation, but projected it into a semi-realizable future — as a practical hope, rather than a quest for cosmic understanding — thus demonstrating a chief intellectual difference between the ancient and modern West.  (This difference may also be observed by comparing Darwinian evolution to its most famous ancient counterpart, that of Empedocles, who conceived of a never-ending cycle, encompassing both evolution and devolution.)

This brings us back to the gradual, and seemingly inevitable, disappearance of handwritten language, and my question as to what might come next.  Our age’s progressive impulses are rooted in a foolish sense of indestructibility and irreversibility, and in dreams of impending „transformation.”  Cursive writing, like so many of our noblest and most valuable traditions, now seems disposable; we don’t need it, because technology has rendered our former needs obsolete.

And if that technology should fail?  Progressive authoritarianism has lived parasitically off the dwindling blood of Western liberty for so long, and we are so entangled in Marxist historicist fantasies about socialism as the natural completion of modern scientific man, that we may underestimate the invariable historical fate of authoritarian irrationalism: societal ruin, moral decay, economic collapse — and the loss of previous knowledge.  In the known periods of such ruin, the loss has typically remained incomplete, either because the collapse was regional, and the collapsed region resuscitated by its conquerors or neighbors, or because the past was preserved in limited form by scholarly devotion and linguistic or cultural continuity.

We know beyond any doubt that modern warfare in general, and specific modern weapons such as the widely discussed electromagnetic pulse bomb, are capable of destroying or disrupting our technological civilization in short order.  And absent such a sudden calamity, modern progressive totalitarianism, whatever its advocates’ best-laid schemes, will tear industrial society to the ground in the long run, if it is permitted to smother man’s last breath of hope and initiative.  As a global movement (made possible by the technology it is bound to destroy), progressivism’s precipitated collapse will not be regional — there may finally be no advanced (i.e., free and rational) civilization on the outside from which the world’s competing progressive rulers may steal, or to which a tattered post-progressive world may turn for restoration.

If, by one means or another, our technological society should grind to a halt, much would depend on the ability of the people around at the time to carry on the human heritage in the physical reality of 1750.  And while it may seem a trivial concern now, with a keyboard in everyone’s pocket, how would the physical reality of 1750 play out if no one — or no one outside the ruling elite — knew how to form letters and words by hand?  We are already a civilization in which fewer and fewer young people in each generation are able to comprehend, let alone compose, anything but simple, brief, ungrammatical text punctuated with electronically prefabricated emoticons to fill in the gaps in meaning where unknown vocabulary ought to be, and without any shared reference points outside today’s popular culture.  A century of compulsory public schooling has, in the name of universal literacy, conspired to restrict the majority of the English-speaking world, at least, to elementary literacy levels, or worse.  (I have no reason to doubt that a similar devolution is taking place throughout Europe, for the same reasons.)  Literacy, grammar, and a vocabulary worth the trouble of writing down are now an old man’s game.

Can we be brought even lower?  Yes we can.  The complete disappearance of both the skill and the practice of handwriting not only is foreseeable, but is now being advocated and actively pursued by education policymakers and the cultural mainstream alike.  Whether the technological collapse that traps us in our incapacity comes in the relatively near future, or many years hence, it will come — to assume that it can’t happen would be not merely imprudent, but also hubristic and narrow-minded.  And when it comes, as we can now see, modernity may have officially, by custom and by law, cut itself off from the miracle of manually produced language that constitutes the great leap forward in the development of all civilizations, and in the evolution of man as a spirit that has learned how to use its own flimsy, temporary body to extend itself across space and time.

We appear to be fulfilling a prophecy of the ancients, preparing ourselves for an eventual return to our roots — namely, oral tradition.  Or rather, to the precursor to such a tradition: a semi-verbal state of disjointed, prefabricated phrases that carry only vague signification, interspersed with emotive grunts and squeals — and a devouring sea of violence, which is how men communicate when reason and language fail them.

Daren Jonescu

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The Strategy of Capitulation

Giving up on issues and abandoning principles in the hopes that the electorate will come to its senses is suicidal for the Republican Party and the nation as a whole.

Rush Limbaugh said it on July 31, 2013; the strategy of capitulation is incomprehensible.  His comment was directed at the discussion over whether the Republican Party should continue opposition to Obamacare.  According to polls, the majority of Americans oppose its implementation, yet most Republican office holders are ignoring these numbers.  Many seem afraid to express any opposition to the controversial Act, which has been described as an approaching train wreck.  Maybe, Rush suggests, these Republicans are afraid that people will actually like the train wreck when they hit it.  Or maybe they want be elves to the Democrats’ Santa Claus.  These are valid suggestions, if such strategies were able to bring positive results, but they never have in modern times, and in history they are the equivalent of Neville Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” approach to dealing with Nazi Germany.  Playing defense or letting the opposition have its way is never a strategy for success.

There is the possibility that one could use the enemy’s momentum against them as in Judo, but personal combat is not the same as politics.  This is particularly important to recognize when one party is using the (supposedly apolitical) mechanisms of government against their opposition.  Hence the lessons of the IRS denial of tax status letters to Tea Party groups because it served the administration’s political interests.  Obviously, trusting the modern Democrat Party to “follow the rules” is rank foolishness.

Utah Senator Mike Lee responded to Rush’s questions by pointing to the difference between Washington DC and the rest of the nation.  Inside the DC beltway going against Obamacare is controversial.  In the rest of America it isn’t.  The Senator does admit that Republicans may be afraid that some people could be unwilling to give up entitlements when they kick in, which he calls a reason to fight all the harder now.  Lee also noted that Republicans were given a majority in the House to oppose Obamacare.  Thus, if they refuse to fight, they are derelict in their duty.

What is more likely in the case of John McCain and a few others of a similar nature is that they have essentially given up on being in the opposition and are siding with the enemy in order to avoid unpleasant consequences later on.  McCain has demonstrated that he was never all that dedicated to the Conservative cause.  In any event he appears to have decided to cross the line for personal reasons, whatever they may be.

Meanwhile, the political consultant class maintains, consistently, that the Republican party must concentrate on independent voters to win elections.  According to these consultants the independent voters are the approximately twenty percent of the electorate who do not identify with either major party and who vacillate between the two based on factors other than ideology.  The consultant class maintains that they can secure these voters.  Republicans who follow this advice end up chasing a small minority of the electorate and ignore the base.  This drives that base away.  It is a strategy that is totally misdirected, which may have been demonstrated by the fact that a significant number of Republican voters stayed home, rather than vote for Mitt Romney.

What the consultants have ignored, willfully or negligently, is that an increasing number of independent voters are not part of a “mushy middle,” but rather are disaffected conservatives who have given up on the Republican Party because it has refused to take an ideological or principled stand.  In fact, the mushy middle may be more myth than fact because if you define independents as anyone who does not identify with the two major parties, then we can assume the following:

Those independents who identify with the Left; socialists, greens, “peace and freedom party” (if it still exists) and so on, are most likely to vote Democrat, because Democrats are closest to their viewpoint.  If not, it is logical to assume that they will not vote Republican.

The remaining independents more likely to be associated with the “right” and could vote Republican if they believed it would serve their purpose.  Libertarians had no problem voting for Republican Ron Paul because they saw his affiliation as a flag of convenience, rather than an ideological identification.  Others will do the same IF the candidate is sufficiently in line with their particular beliefs.

Therefore, if Republicans want to capture independent voters then they must draw a decisive line between themselves and the Democrats in order to attract the “right independents” and be more likely to win as a result.  If their present strategy isn’t working, then moving away from the Democrats would not be any worse than the present results.

Senator Lee has also indicated that being inside the DC beltway has an effect on people’s ability to think logically and reasonably.  As a result, they ignore the truth and follow the siren’s song of personal power, ignore the rights of the people, and allow the nation’s heritage and way of life to be destroyed.  It also supports the idea the there is no longer any significant “middle” of the supposed political spectrum.

We may finally conclude that a major missing ingredient in the political process is leadership and integrity.  A large number of politicians have abandoned these principles and our national heritage.  The rights of citizens are no longer important in their view.  If this is true, then it is no wonder than Republicans cannot win; they lack the leadership to capture the imagination of the voters and are left with those who vote for them as the only alternative to the opposition.  If Republicans desert their base then it is also no wonder that their base refuses to support them.  What they should consider is that if you die slowly or fast, you are still dead in the end.

Steve Laib

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