New Prager University Video: Free Market Morality

Prager University’s latest course, featuring the wisdom of economist Walter Williams:

New Prager University Video: The Moral Case for the British Empire

Is there a moral case to be made for the British Empire? To even ask the question at your typical university would be to invite derision. That’s a shame because the British Empire’s legacy is one Western Civilization should be proud of. We’d be living in a much less free and prosperous world without it. Historian HW Crocker III explains why in this eye-opening Prager University course.

In Defense of National Review Against the Right’s Daily Kos

We’re currently witnessing the death throes of Rick Perry’s campaign. He finished fifth in Iowa, sixth in New Hampshire, and is currently polling fifth in South Carolina, where his fans have placed their hope for a turnaround. He’s in sixth in Florida, and fifth place nationally.

In a final, desperate search for something that can turn his fortunes around, Perry has decided to join Newt Gingrich’s leftist attack on Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital. It backfired. Badly.

Perry and Gingrich’s demagoguery has been fiercely condemned by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Jim DeMint, the American Spectator, National Review, Reason, the Weekly Standard, Human Events, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Examiner, the Washington Times, Commentary, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Michelle Malkin, Charles Krauthammer, Power Line’s John Hindraker, Ace of Spades, American Enterprise Institute, the Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, ex-Perry financial supporter Barry Wynn, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and PJ Media head Roger Simon, who very candidly apologized for having ever backed Perry, calling him “less qualified, it turns out, to be president than my dead grandmother.”

In other words, Rick Perry (and Newt Gingrich) has offended just about every corner of the Right—traditional and libertarian, moderate and hardcore, establishment and grassroots, commentator and activist, blogosphere and radio, Mitt fans, competitors, and haters alike.

Everyone, that is, except for RedState. Erick Erickson first said he didn’t mind the attacks (with Perry’s version “a bit more carefully nuanced” than Newt’s), then revised his argument to, yeah, but why did Romney support TARP? (Maybe for the same reason Perry did too, Erick?), and later wrote a post conceding the attack “has gotten out of hand”—while falsely claiming Bain got government bailouts and lying about what Perry’s critics were saying: “the sudden decision that it is verboten to level any attack at Romney because of Bain […] corporations should not be immune from criticism.”

The other front-pagers have rationalized the attack, mildly criticized it amidst teeth-gnashing about Romney’s general awfulness, and complained that it was distracting us from bashing Romney on healthcare. The strategy is simple: maintain the single-minded focus on taking down Romney at all costs, while discussing Perry as little as possible, refusing to give a moment’s consideration as to how Perry’s own words just might undermine RedState’s increasingly-hysterical insistence of Perry’s unique conservative authenticity. 

The shameless Perry-whoring is pathetic enough, but recently the site jumped the shark past “pathetic” straight to “obscene” with Thomas Crown’s attack on National Review. After assuring us what a good friend he is to everyone at NR, he tells the magazine “you have lost your way” for no discernible sin other than preferring Romney to Perry:

You have alienated yourself from your readership and your movement […] You have forgotten that one of the founding creeds of the modern conservative movement is A Choice, Not An Echo […] You are supposed to be a beacon of what is best in us, not a reminder that some days, you just can’t win […] It’s a shame, and we’re all poorer for it. We’ll miss you, and hope you come back to us some day.

Nearly 2,000 words, and yet Crown can’t squeeze in the most important part of any argument: the facts to substantiate his thesis. All he has is a handful of lazy mischaracterizations of both the candidates and NR’sWinnowing the Field” editorial:

Consider that in one fell swoop the publication managed to dismiss the longest-serving governor in the nation, with a record of conservative governance unmatched by any governor current or recent past [if you ignore the liberal parts of his governorship and his flip-flop record…oh, and how many of those Texas jobs went to illegals?], linking him unsubtly to a crank known for conspiracy theories and Ron Paul [nowhere in NR’s passage on Perry & Paul do the even remotely link the two, though since Crown raises the subject, Perry has praised Paul before]; praise Mitt Romney, who while apparently a model conservative (the sort who helps get abortion funding in state-run mandatory health insurance) [not true] has failed to seal the deal with conservatives for some unknowable reason; praise Jon Huntsman, whose entire campaign was a John Weaver special from tip to tail (this is not a compliment) [fair enough, but hypocritical: RedState’s had plenty of praise for Huntsman, too]; and praise Rick Santorum, one of the greatest (if dimmest) champions the pro-life movement has had, and who was so conservative he went to war for massive increases in federal spending almost every day, [that’s exaggerating a blemish on an otherwise-excellent conservative record] and whose greatest knock is not his loss to an anodyne nobody by a margin that made even the rest of 2006 look like a joke [also oversimplifying], but rather a lack of executive experience [Fair enough, but still hardly indicative of any problem at NR].

Crown’s fantasy of Perry support being some sort of conservative litmus test doesn’t hold up, and neither does the idea that National Review has sold out to Romney (a smear that RedState has peddled before). In fact, since Erick Erickson and Thomas Crown are so interested in which publications have put personality above principle, let’s do a little comparison:  

At National Review, I can read Ramesh Ponnuru endorse Mitt Romney and Kathryn Lopez vouch for his pro-life sincerity, but I can also read Michael Walsh argue he’s “plainly not” the “candidate the hour calls for” and Katrina Trinko report on jobs lost due to Romneycare. I can read the Editors disqualify Newt Gingrich from consideration, but I can also read Thomas Sowell endorse Gingrich (twice) and Jonah Goldberg credit him as “the only candidate to actually move government rightward.” I can read Shannen Coffin criticize Rick Perry’s Gardasil mandate, but I can also read Henry Miller and John Graham defend it, as well as Christian Schnieder defend Perry on in-state tuition for illegals. I can read Quin Hillyer defend Rick Santorum’s small-government credentials, but I can also read Michael Tanner and Jonathan Adler blast his “big government conservatism.”

Can I read substantive defenses of Mitt Romney, or substantive criticisms of Rick Perry, at RedState? Only from the occasional diarist who hasn’t been driven away by the thought police. From Erickson or the team writers? Don’t count on it. As John Scotus documents, Erickson’s been shilling for Perry since Day 1. The RedState narrative is that Perry’s the only candidate who “authentically represents smaller government,” “by far, the greatest alpha male conservative in a generation,” and supporting anyone else would be settling. The dark side of Perry’s record was almost completely ignored. Romney, however, is routinely characterized as the worst thing to happen to the GOP since John Wilkes Booth. Why, nominating him would kill conservatism! Perry critics and Romney sympathizers are routinely harassed. Erickson repeated Perry’s dishonest attacks on Romney over education and imposing Romneycare nationally, and even calls Romney a bad Mormon

National Review has an editorial leaning toward Romney; RedState toward Perry. There’s no shame in either, but while the former publication is a place where dissent thrives and every candidate is given equal fairness and scrutiny, the latter has dedicated itself fully to a biased image of their guy and their designated anti-Perry.

And yet, Thomas Crown has the nerve to lecture National Review about being unfair to candidates? RedState is the only major conservative venue not disgusted with Perry’s “vulture capitalism” smears, and yet National Review is the one somehow out of step with conservatism?

Which publication lost its way again?

We shouldn’t be surprised that the website that smeared Michelle Malkin for criticizing Rick Perry would conduct itself so dishonorably throughout this campaign. Until Eagle Publishing realizes how far one of their publications has fallen and replaces Erickson Erickson with someone committed to cleaning it up, whatever use RedState once was to the conservative movement will continue to be outweighed by the stench Erickson has allowed to permeate it.

In the meantime, I’m sticking with National Review.

New on NewsReal – Has the Ayn Rand "Cult" Brainwashed the Tea Party?

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

Leftist Rule for Engaging Conservative Ideas #1: conservatives’ motives are never what they claim. It must be rigorously asserted that right-wingers are invariably driven by impulses more sinister than making people better off or trying to find solutions to the problems we face. New Republic senior editor Jonathan Chait knows that lesson by heart—on the Daily Beast, he argues that from the lowliest Tea Partier all the way up to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the Right is animated by a view of “the poor as parasites” and “the rich as our rightful rulers,” a dogma we’ve picked up from philosopher Ayn Rand:

Ayn Rand, of course, was a kind of politicized L. Ron Hubbard—a novelist-philosopher who inspired a cult of acolytes who deem her the greatest human being who ever lived. The enduring heart of Rand’s totalistic philosophy was Marxism flipped upside down. Rand viewed the capitalists, not the workers, as the producers of all wealth, and the workers, not the capitalists, as useless parasites.

John Galt, the protagonist of her iconic novel Atlas Shrugged, expressed Rand’s inverted Marxism: “The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains.”

In 2009 Rand began popping up all over the Tea Party movement. Sales of her books skyrocketed, and signs quoting her ideas appeared constantly at rallies. Conservatives asserted that the events of the Obama administration eerily paralleled the plot of Atlas Shrugged, in which a liberal government precipitates economic collapse.

To be sure, Rand’s ultra-capitalist works have enjoyed a surge in popularity recently, a predicable response to our leaders overreaching in the opposite direction. But it’s not quite true to suggest Rand is universally embraced on the Right; for instance, consider National Review’s March 2009 symposium on Rand, which on the whole takes a dim view of the author (in fairness, she’s much more popular at Big Hollywood).

I haven’t read her, and have no strong opinions about her philosophy either way, but I can certainly tell when mainstream conservative thought is subjected to class-warfare caricatures:

Read the rest on NewsRealBlog.

New at NewsReal – Personal Income As a "National Resource": A Look at Michael Moore’s Brave New Collectivist World

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

Sure, we’re all a little spooked about the huge debt our government is accumulating, but everybody can relax now; our favorite anti-American, far-left propagandist, Michael Moore, has the solution. Admittedly, it’ll take some minor changes in the way we think about wealth, which some of you might like, but you’ll get used to it—after all, you’re not greedy, are you?

Moore recently had this to say about the rich:

“They’re sitting on the money, they’re using it for their own — they’re putting it someplace else with no interest in helping you with your life, with that money. We’ve allowed them to take that. That’s not theirs, that’s a national resource, that’s ours. We all have this — we all benefit from this or we all suffer as a result of not having it,” Michael Moore told Laura Flanders of GRITtv.
“I think we need to go back to taxing these people at the proper rates. They need to — we need to see these jobs as something we some, that we collectively own as Americans and you can’t just steal our jobs and take them someplace else,” Moore concluded.

Much has been made about how Moore himself won’t return his own generous share of this “national resource,” but even if he were more magnanimous, his argument wouldn’t be any less outrageous. For one thing, it ignores the fact that the rich already pay a disproportionately high share of the tax burden individually, and US corporate taxes are among the highest in the world, too. For another, we’ve run this experiment several times in American history, and the verdict is in: if you want to raise government revenue and increase prosperity for all Americans, then the direction you want taxes to go is down, not up. As a businessman, you’d think Moore would understand that when businessmen pursue their own interests, it actually does tend to have the effect of “helping you with your life, with that money,” by creating new jobs for the purpose of creating goods and service that people want.

Read the rest at NewsRealBlog.

In Defense of Scott Walker: Setting the Record Straight on Wisconsin, Education, and Unions (UPDATED)

After some behind-the-scenes wrangling, a condensed, 300-word version of my editorial on Scott Walker’s fight with Big Union is slated to appear in the Fond du Lac Reporter on Sunday (UPDATE: here it is). Here’s the original, extended cut.

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As I watch the battle over Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to alleviate Wisconsin’s projected $3.6 billion deficit, it pains me to see old friends and former classmates from Fond du Lac High School misled by the lies and fear-mongering of people who don’t have their best interests at heart. Some of it—like comparing Walker to dictators like Adolf Hitler and Hosni Mubarak—is merely the infantile ranting of hate-filled, ignorant partisans, but others are sincerely worried about the future of education in Wisconsin. My friends, please read on as I try to set the record straight.

Accusing Walker of “attacking” state workers is patently absurd. On February 20th, the non-partisan PolitiFact.com reported, “no matter how you slice it, the 12.6 percent share of health care premiums that Walker proposes employees pay is well below what most pay in the private and public sectors,” and explained how “experts say they will be better of” on pensions, as well.

As most Americans suffer alongside the nation’s economic woes, government workers’ compensation remains relatively constant. Throw in nigh-impenetrable job security and retirement at 55, and the public sector compares quite favorably to the private – and will continue to do so under Scott Walker.

In fact, it’s hard to seriously call Walker anti-teacher when he’s standing up for teachers’ rights of conscience and free association, by proposing that they be given the right to choose whether or not to pay union dues. Not only would this return hundreds of dollars annually to our teachers, but it would also let them decide whether they want their money going to political causes that have nothing to do with education – the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers both donate millions to Democrat candidates and radical left-wing causes and smear groups, including Planned Parenthood, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Action Network, ACORN, the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition, Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, People for the American Way, and Media Matters.

Thomas Jefferson called forcing people to “furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors” “sinful and tyrannical.” Why force teachers to take sides or donate to any political cause just to do the job they love? (Or are only far-left Democrats welcome to teach in Wisconsin?)

As for the worry that unions can’t survive without coercion, that’s freedom. If they’ve earned their members’ confidence, they’ll persevere. If not, they’ll fall. Think about it – if unions need the force of law to coerce their own members to support them, isn’t that all the evidence we need that the unions aren’t as valuable or as noble as they claim?

Not only is this more moral, it’s smarter economically, too—Investor’s Business Daily reports on the link between prosperity and the right to work:

According to statistics compiled by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, real personal income in right-to-work states grew 28.3% from 1999 to 2009 vs. 14.7% in forced-unionism states — almost double. Disposable income in right-to-work states stood at $35,543 per capita in 2009 vs. $33,389, and growth in real manufacturing GDP jumped 20.9% from 2000 to 2008, compared with 6.5% in forced-unionism states.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, right-to-work states added 1.5 million private-sector jobs from 1999 to 2009 for a 3.7% increase; states that are not right-to-work lost 1.8 million jobs over the same decade, a decline of 2.3%.

Workers’ actual rights are safe—as Walker points out, legal protections like merit hiring and just cause for discipline and termination come from the Civil Service Act of 1905, which he’s not touching. The only “right” at stake is collective bargaining. But understanding how unions work exposes public-sector collective bargaining as a bad idea that needs to go.

In private-sector bargaining, there are two sides: labor unions and corporate management. Everyone has a seat at the table and both sides are vulnerable to market forces and free to risk taking their business elsewhere if they can’t reach an agreement. But public-sector bargaining often ill-serves taxpayers—there’s no competition, it enables unions to coerce concessions from government without regard for the public good, and unions are often negotiating with politicians they’ve bought and paid for. Government has much more latitude to make unsustainable promises today and let someone else worry about paying for them tomorrow. There’s a reason even FDR said collective bargaining “cannot be transplanted into the public service.”

Because most public school curricula don’t teach the fundamentals of economics or political science (instead teaching liberal propaganda and, since 2009, even legally-mandated pro-union propaganda), their students are susceptible to such union propaganda campaigns. My friends, you’ve been betrayed. Your compassion has been exploited by union bosses and politicians who want to scare you into action not to defend Wisconsin’s teachers, but to preserve their own power and influence.

UPDATE/CORRECTION: In the 300-word version, I place the number teachers would get back from collective bargaining at over $700. I got this figure from this document on WEAC’s website. But looking over it again for this blog post, I saw that the site has other documents that place the number lower, apparently depending on county or locality. I apologize for the error.

UPDATE 2 (3/31/11): I’ve updated the union dues hyperlink again to provide a more comprehensive source.

New on NewsReal – Who Asked You? "Inception" Cinematographer Decries "Madness" in Wisconsin

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

Just because you did good work on a great movie does not mean your political opinions matter. Somebody should have told that to cinematographer Wally Pfister before he accepted Inception’s Academy Award for Best Cinematography; that way we might have been spared a lecture about Wisconsin’s horribly oppressed unions. Jim Hoft has the scoop on Pfister’s acceptance speech shout-out to his union crew, and his backstage elaboration:

“I think that what is going on in Wisconsin is kind of madness right now,” Pfister says. “I have been a union member for 30 years and what the union has given to me is security for my family. They have given me health care in a country that doesn’t provide health care and I think unions are a very important part of the middle class in America all we are trying to do is get a decent wage and have medical care.”

Actually, the country has given you health care, and a whole lot more. It’s given you a wage that’s much better than “decent” and the opportunity to work on movies and accept awards for them. What you really mean is that the government hasn’t provided healthcare (there’s a reason for that which has nothing to do with its heartlessness: widespread government healthcare doesn’t work).

And considering that only 6.9% of private-sector workers belong to a union, the average American isn’t getting that decent wage or medical care from one (dare I suggest they might be getting them from evil businessmen like the Koch brothers?). So much for being “a very important part of the middle class.”

Read the rest on NewsRealBlog.