Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have.
-- Ronald Reagan
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
The Productivity Gap
There is worse. Europe's leaders see a productivity gap and feel called upon to develop government programs to eliminate it. Not for them Ronald Reagan's wise "Don't just do something, stand there." Not enough entrepreneurship? Let's have more tax credits. Entrepreneurs are unwilling to locate business in the regions in which the politicians want them to locate? Still more tax credits and some regional planning. Not enough research and development? Set up an international bureaucracy to encourage it. All of these programs, of course, favor those who can best navigate the sea of paper created by the tax code and the massive regulatory web spun by the eurocrats, while the heavy tax burden on the successful reduces their incentive to work and take risks, and encourages capital flight.
That's just not what American-style entrepreneurship is all about. It's about free spirits deciding what sort of business will meet consumers' needs. It's about businessmen, large and small, deciding where to locate their offices and factories, without the aid of a regional planning council. It's about getting rich, with "social justice" flowing from private philanthropy of the sort that all-invasive governments in Europe have virtually eliminated.
Most of all, it's about individual freedom. It is not possible to breed a nation of men and women who look to the state to fund their trips to the spa (as in Germany) or who are told that they are too ill-informed to choose their own doctors (as in Britain)--and then expect those same men and women to become risk-taking, innovating entrepreneurs.
Colonialism and Social Obligations
Theodore Dalyrymple has a good article in City Journal
. Read the whole thing.
This model of true liberation — into ordered freedom rather than chaos — was thus set. The Midrash, another ancient source of Jewish tradition, says it succinctly, "Whatever is written concerning Abraham is also written concerning his children" — his spiritual descendants, us.
Biblical tradition seeks to tell how the world works, elucidating history's patterns. The paradigm established by Abraham provides that liberation only results in genuine freedom when it is accompanied by a clear moral order — apparently absent in Iraq despite the country's professed religion. Without an ethical culture there can be only anarchy or tyranny.
For the Iraqis' sake, some such order will need to be planted and nourished from outside. That will be America's task, and not an easy one.
But there is no inadvertence in the ill-concealed hostility now coming from the antiwar camp--only a kind of awkward pretense to give credit to the American and British forces that won so swift a victory. And grudging credit it is, replete with arguments that, of course, everyone knew they would win overwhelmingly. That assurance did not, of course, keep this crowd from issuing their dire predictions the first day or two of the war, about the "quagmire" and new Vietnam.
The latest entry in the grudging acknowledgments department comes from Saturday's New York Times editorial that first pays tribute to the great skill of the American forces, credits Mr. Rumsfeld's push for a smaller more agile force, and then goes on to the main point: whether the victory could really be attributed to U.S. military excellence. The Iraqis, it notes, fought poorly and ineptly--perhaps this was simply "a lopsided fight."
The most noteworthy specimen to date, though, must be the lead Talk of the Town item in the April 14 New Yorker, in which Hendrick Hertzberg writes: "By the end of last week--even though American troops who, by all accounts, have fought honorably and without undue cruelty, were at the gates of Baghdad--it was too late for the rosy scenario of the cakewalk conservatives." We may take it, from that "undue cruelty" reference, that Mr. Hertzberg is willing to credit American troops mainly because they failed to perpetrate war crimes. It is a pronouncement worth remembering, and not for what it says about the troops.
Monday, April 14, 2003
From Today's Federalist Digest
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, followed always by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.” --Alexander Fraser Tytler
"For what feeds the tendency to fantasy is the fact of failure."
Lee Harris has a fine column. (Via Instapundit)
And this is precisely why the Bush administration must be permitted to follow through on the second part of its program—namely, the reconstruction of Iraq. For the administration understands perfectly well that the only cure for the Arab mind's penchant for fantasy is to provide it with a real and genuine achievement—and what greater achievement could there be then an Iraq that was free and stable and prosperous?
It is a bold vision—and there are times when my own deep historical pessimism tells me that it is even a utopian vision. We have seen that the people of Iraq hated the tyranny under which they lived—but the fact that men do not wish to live as slaves is, tragically, no proof that they are capable of living as free men.
Scare quotes have two functions, the first of which is quite straightforward: They allow their users very easily to express incredulity about, and often contempt for, the views of their political opponents. But they also allow those users to avoid the hard work of thinking up their own descriptions of events or people or ideas. And they're parasitic: They suck all their nourishment from the host words, contributing nothing of their own. Fisk's sneer quotes--he's not as scary as he'd like to be--allow him to express his revulsion at the very notion of describing what's happening in Iraq as "liberation," but relieve him of the obligation to say just what he thinks is happening in that city. Is it (as many left-wing critics have said) a new form of colonization? Ah, but that is a claim too easily refuted, unless one wishes to stretch the term beyond all historical recognition. Is it occupation? But if so, we would need to have a conversation about the purposes of occupation, some of which can be better than others. This is all too complicated; it's so much simpler to wheel out the trusty old inverted commas.
(I have a suspicion also that many journalists, even those most addicted to the scare quote, would say that it's their job merely to report, to describe--leave it to the editorialists and news analysts to offer positive explanations. But it is surely a curious understanding of reporting that allows the journalist merely, and just typographically, to cast doubt on the claims of others, without offering any reasons for that doubt or any alternatives to those claims.)
VDH - "There is something profoundly amoral about this."
I thought immediately of the macabre aftermath to the battle of Arginusae in 406 B.C. After destroying a great part of the Peloponnesian fleet in the most dramatic Athenian naval victory of the war, the popular assembly abruptly voted to execute six of their eight successful generals (the other two wisely never came back to Athens) on charges that they had failed to rescue seamen who were clinging to the wreckage.
The historian Xenophon records the feeding frenzy and shouting of the assembled throng. Forget that Sparta felt beaten and was ready for peace after such a catastrophic defeat; forget the brilliant seamanship and command of the Athenian triremes; forget that a ferocious storm had made retrieval of the dead and rescue of the missing sailors almost impossible; forget even that to try the generals collectively was contrary to Athenian law. Instead the people demanded perfection in addition to mere overwhelming success — and so in frustration devoured their own elected officials. The macabre incident was infamous in Greek history (the philosopher Socrates almost alone resisted the mob’s rule), a reminder how a society can go mad, turn on its benefactors, throw away a victory — and go on to lose the entire war.
Something like that craziness often takes hold of our own elites and media in the midst of perhaps the most brilliantly executed plan in modern American military history. Rather than inquiring how an entire country was overrun in a little over three weeks at a cost of not more than a few hundred casualties, reporters instead wail at the televised scenes of a day of looting and lawlessness.
How about a second block?
There is also a final reason that explains our demand for instantaneous perfection. It is often a trademark of successful Western societies that create such freedom and affluence to fool themselves that they are a hair’s breadth away from utopia. Journalists who pad around with palm pilots, pounds of high-tech gear, dapper clothes, and expensive educations have convinced themselves that if lesser people were as caring or as sensitive as themselves then we could all live in bliss. The subtext of the daily Western media barrage has been that if we were just smarter, more moral, or better informed, then we could liberate a country the size of California in days, not weeks, lose zero soldiers, not 110, and be instantaneously greeted by happy Iraqis who would shake hands, return to work, and quietly forget thirty years of terror as they voted in a Gandhi.
Anything less and Mssrs. Rumsfeld, Meyers, Franks, “the plan,” — somebody or something at least! — must be held accountable for the absence of utopia.
But that is a word, they should remember, that means not a “good place” but “no place” at all.
Deforestation as environmental policy?
Now, I recall that Europe, esp. Britain and Germany, lost most of its forests due to fuel use in the old days. Looks like some EU types want to do it again. Do they have any idea how much area they'd need to grow enough trees to get "sustainable" wood fuel?
Using wood to tackle climate change
To combate climate change, the EU recognises both the value of replacing fossil fuel intensive materials with sustainably produced wood and the role of wood products which store carbon.
The EU actively supports an accounting approach, such as stock-change, in which wood products, analysed throughout their whole lifecycle, constitute an additional carbon sink alongside forest sinks, and stresses the need for incentives to increase the use of wood products.
Trees reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, since one cubic metre of wood absorbs one tonne of CO2. Greater use of wood products will stimulate the expansion of Europe's forests and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by substituting for fossil fuel intensive products.
Indeed, substitution brings a triple gain:
- Carbon emissions are decreased in the production process,
- Recycling rates are high
- Wood products' carbon sink increases in the longer term, so more and more carbon is removed from the atmosphere.
The Commission is examining ways to encourage these trends.