The St. Croix Review speaks for middle America, and brings you essays from patriotic Americans.
This was written in the 1990s, when we were farming in Cape Breton.
Visitors who know next to nothing about it seem fascinated by the economics of our minuscule farming operation, and the impression they give is that their questions are driven by ambivalent impulses: on the one hand, they want to prove to themselves that our life, reminiscent of back-to-the-landers of the 60s and 70s, is so financially unsound as to sink it below their horizons of possibility; on the other hand, they wish us well and want to think that we can turn a dollar at even our most outlandish activities.
I would not scoff at economics - every life must be judged, at some point, by the principles of cost accounting - but such an inquiry often seems barren to me, as a path that leads into a thicket of misunderstanding, often with comic aspects. Now and then, however, I learn something, and that redeems much.
Thus, this conversation yesterday morning: Turning to glance at the clock on top of the Hoosier kitchen cabinet, I announced "six minutes," gave the churn handle a last turn, and lifted the lid to peer in at the chunks of yellow butter dropping from the wooden paddles into the thick buttermilk. Jo Ann, busy packing curds into a cheese mold, murmured an approving "Mmm." The visitor sitting at the massive table that stretches down the middle of our kitchen looked thoughtfully at the clock. I pulled the cork at the bottom of the churn and the buttermilk streamed into gallon jars.
"Is there much call for that?" the visitor asked, nodding at the jars as I put them at the end of the table.
I shrugged. "Some. Drunks, mostly."
"They drink it before a bat on the theory that it coats the stomach, and afterwards as a hangover cure."
"I never heard of that," he said wonderingly.
Nor I, til we moved to Cape Breton. It isn't as common as it used to be. I knew a guy used to run one of those little stores in Sydney they call a "dairy," and he told me that 30 years ago there was tremendous demand for the stuff after a weekend. There was a big crock of it on the counter, thing with a spigot, and he said Monday mornings it was all he could do to keep that crock filled.
The buttermilk disposed of, I washed the butter by pouring cold water into the churn, turning the handle a dozen times, and draining the whey-like liquid into a bucket for the pig and turkeys. When the liquid was virtually clear after three washings, I scooped the golden masses of butter out onto a wide breadboard placed over the sink. Now I worked the last vestiges of buttermilk out, pressing the butter back and forth with a broad spoon I carved out of red oak for this very purpose when we lived in Vermont. In a few minutes the butter, a smooth solid mass in the middle of the board, was weighed - five and a quarter pounds - and set on the table. Now Jo Ann took over, first to work salt into it and then to print it, forming one-pound blocks in a mold and wrapping them in butter paper.
During this time the visitor had been a silent, but obviously preoccupied observer. Now he spoke up. "So the actual churning time for the two batches of butter was 13 minutes, seven for one and six for the other."
"Yes," I said, wondering where the conversation was headed, but already having a pretty good guess. I removed the handle and paddles from the churn and washed it with scalding water.
"How long does it take from beginning to end, all of it?" he asked, waving his hand at the counter, heaped high with breakfast dishes, the milk pails, and all the jars, pots, and implements needful to make two batches of butter and a six-pound Farmer's Cheese.
"Oh, an hour and a half, maybe three quarters, from the time I set up the churn and take the cream out of the refrigerator until the last dish is done."
He did some mental arithmetic and then he announced with some satisfaction that I was earning between 20 and 23 dollars making butter. I went out to the porch and turned the churn upside down in the sun, debating with myself whether I should cooperate and let the fatuity stand, or throw some more data into the mix. "Well," I said, reentering the kitchen with a frown of concentration, "You also have to figure in milking time, say another 10 or 15 minutes for every couple of gallons of milk"
"Oh" he said, "Of course," but then he had to know how much of the milk was cream. I left him to his calculations while I began the dishes. The gallon jars were washed and dried before he had his figures adjusted. That's when I introduced haying time. . . . His air of purposeful concern gradually faded. He looked blank for a moment. Then he frowned, shook his head, threw up his hands, and declared that we probably weren't making a cent on the butter.
"Umhmm," I said noncommitally.
Done with her cheese, Jo Ann came over to dry dishes, and we worked quietly for a few minutes until I came to the big stainless steel pots which must have reminded the visitor of the butter - I had heated the cream in one of the them - because he suddenly said, gesturing at the pots, "Why? Why do you bother if you're losing money on it?"
So he was determined to go the distance, was he? Up to this point I had been kidding around, hoping I wouldn't have to go into the subject seriously; I hate having to justify our life. There was a time 40 years ago when I liked nothing better, but I was young and feisty then.
"Before I answer that," I said,
. . . I should explain that we don't lose money on butter. The economics of our dairy operations are a little intricate, and some things are more profitable than others, but nothing is a loss. For example, the same gallon of cream that makes two pounds of butter - seven dollars - I can sell for 20 dollars. Cream is our most profitable dairy product, butter our least, but even if I had a market for all our cream I'd still make butter. Why? Pride. We're one of the last farms still making butter, and you can't buy the equal of ours anywhere. And it brings a lot of customers in here who buy other stuff.
Maybe that would satisfy him; maybe I could leave it at that.
But now Jo Ann took the conversation in a new and more interesting direction.
Oh, there's much more to it than butter and cream and prices! From the milk we make cheese, and curds - what city people call cottage cheese - and we drink the milk and use it in cooking, and we make all kinds of things - pancakes, and muffins and biscuits and doughnuts - with buttermilk. We feed milk or milky waste to cats and a dog, as well as pigs and turkeys and chickens - then there's the manure - where would be without it? There are nine raised garden beds, that's nearly 2,000 square feet, and they're all filled to a depth of eight or 10 inches with the summer manure that's been piled and left to rot for a year. Then the other plantings, gardens and fruit trees and bushes and shrubs, are manured every year, and the fields and pastures are manured on a regular rotation, too. The enriched land grows the forage, not just to produce milk but also meat, and it also feeds the horses that do all the work. . . . Why, there's cow in everything we do!
The visitor nodded, but it was without the conviction her impressive speech should have elicited. I suppose he accepted what she said in a theoretical way - he didn't disbelieve her - but he could not feel the full force of her argument; the things she spoke of were static entities in his eyes: a garden, a field, trees, while to her they were a process: different forms of the farm's energy in development.
Whether or not I could have successfully introduced this insight into the conversation was moot because that was when the party broke up and the visitor went his way, thinking what thoughts of our domestic economy I dared not imagine. As I went my own way about the farm, doing my work, however, I pondered the idea. Jo Ann's forceful speech was not news to me, of course; the centrality of cattle in our farm economy I have known since we bought our first cow in 1962, but the abstraction of that fact - the flow of energy through different forms - I had not consciously thought much about.
I was reminded of a wonderful booklet I have, The Cow: The Mother of Prosperity, published in 1921 by International Harvester Company, a thorough, practical guide to keeping cows. It is more than that, though - it's bovine boosterism epitomized by declarations like this:
We need cows, good cows, well cared for cows, wherever folks live and fields are farmed and grasses grow.
That's fine with me, although I have no illusions that the folks will respond; today's agricultural situation is a far cry from what it was in 1921. For one thing, fewer cows produce much more milk, and for another, the herds are very much larger, so the regime at a modern farm - how the cows are handled, what's done with the milk, the way manure is kept and used, and so on - must necessarily be radically different from what goes on at the Gardner Farm. Nevertheless, I think we - modern farmers with large herds and lots of sophisticated machinery, as well as the reactionary Gardners - would agree with this statement by W. E. Hoard, the founder of the magazine Hoard's Dairyman:
The cow is the foster mother of the human race - from the day of the ancient Hindoo to this time have the thoughts of men turned to this kindly and beneficent creature as one of the chief sustaining forces of human life. *
Peter Searby is a teacher, musician, and director of the Riverside Center for Education, a center dedicated to providing boys a new landscape of action where they can learn to become young men of courage and imagination. Riverside is a new educational model that combines active hands-on learning with the great heritage of the liberal arts. His web site is located at: http://www.rside.org/art-of-boyhood/.
In countless classrooms stretching across the United States boys are trapped. In millions of homes boys sit passively watching screens - screens that present to them a world far away from the seemingly boring world that so frustrates them. The forests and fields are empty of those romping lads that once tramped along the wooded paths enacting those glorious adventures of building forts and planning secret missions. The once-ripe fields destined for fruitful labor have grown fallow, and the frivolity of a bourgeois society has successfully taken away many of the challenges meant to help boys come of age. We now have on our hands a great crisis of boyhood. But how has this happened?
For most boys in America, school is a mild form of incarceration, and so they quite naturally wish to escape. This desire, of course, is not an entirely new development. The image of Huck Finn tramping down a country road, far from school, to find his fishing hole is impressed on the imaginations of most Americans - at least those who are still permitted to read about his adventures.
For many centuries boys have been a "briar in the britches" of many a school teacher. The challenge has always been the same: how to direct the restless spirit of a boy toward noble endeavors so that he can come of age and give of himself to his family, friends, society, and God. However, the challenge that faces parents and educators these days lies in our culture - a culture that no longer values true masculinity; a culture that has forgotten how to guide boys into manhood.
Boys are not the only ones who have a great aversion towards school. As a middle school administrator and teacher for twelve years I noticed a common trait amongst most fathers: they do not relish the visit to their son's classroom. The common reaction of most fathers at parent-teacher conferences is to shift about in a small rigid desk and look out the window as the mother engages in meaningful conversation about curriculum and academic progress. The restless father seems to get sudden flashbacks, like a veteran of the Great War - of those sad times spent in the classroom trenches. Times spent sitting down with nothing to do or make, and nowhere to apply his knowledge. He remembers being told "be quiet" and "sit down," or "put that down," and "stop running!"
We are now dealing with an epidemic of academic failure, inattention, and an extended adolescence amongst boys that is deeply wounding our culture. The numbers are astounding:
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics:
* Boys are 30 percent more likely than girls to flunk or drop out of school.
* When it comes to grades and homework, girls outperform boys in elementary, secondary, high school, college, and even graduate school.
* Boys are four to five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
According to the U.S. Department of Education:
* Boys make up two-thirds of the students in special education and are five times more likely to be classified as hyperactive.
Many boys are not succeeding in school. The increase of ADD diagnosis, addictions to false forms of adventure in video games, and disengagement in the classroom reveal a problem with the way we are challenging boys in and out of school. A wide array of books and documentaries that account for this problem keep appearing in bookstores and online. There is even a PBS website called Raising Cain (http://www.pbs.org/opb/raisingcain/) wholly dedicated to analyzing the problems boys are facing.
When a society loses a vision of man - his purpose, his role, his vocation to give of himself to others through the skills and knowledge he has - it also loses a vision of boyhood. We are struggling to provide boys with the activities, relationships, tools, and the freedoms they need to experience a meaningful boyhood.
Many boys see school as a place that just doesn't match up with their skills and interests with the wider world. They see it as a place where their spiritedness does not belong.
I remember interviewing a 9-year-old boy in Texas. He recently transferred out of his local school. I asked him what he didn't like about it. He said:
Um, at my last school, everyone right now in fifth grade is not allowed to go outside and play anymore. They only have like a 15-minute break, only just talking. And all you have to do in class is just sit in your desk and work, work, work.
Boys see school as a place that is merely preparatory and not a place where they can accomplish tasks in the here and now. Many boys are tired of paperwork. How many parents hear their kids respond to the question "How was school today?" with:
School is so boring. The teacher just talks the whole time and then we fill out worksheets!
The standards of an increasingly compartmentalized university environment have trickled down into high schools, grammar schools, and even kindergartens. The growing body of content that students are "required" to learn together with the onslaught of standardized tests have created an assembly line environment that focuses on information gathering, rather than the integral development of the human person.
This is not a problem that only affects boys. There are far-reaching consequences to these problems in education - and now many people are rethinking traditional school models. But there is a solution.
When boys reach the age of 7 or 8 especially, they yearn to test their skills and knowledge to see if they match up to others, and whether they have a particular gift with which they can engage the world around them. Throughout the history of society, boys have experienced coming of age rituals. Whether it was the Maasai warrior hunting down his first lion, the page training for knighthood, or the apprentice in his father's shop, there were many ways for boys to come of age. What are the avenues for boys to come of age today?
Young men are pouring out of schools lost and fumbling - trying to find their place in the "real world." They lack hard skills; they consider college to be the end goal of education; they view sports as the only venue for manliness; and they have a confused notion of what it means to be a man in society. But there is a solution: The solution is to establish an educational system dedicated to fostering and celebrating an authentic boyhood that leads to true manhood.
Boys are full of potential that needs to be activated. They long to break out of the walls that hem them in at school and experience the world around them. They need a school that will tap into their drive and inspire them to do, to make, to solve problems, to give of themselves through the knowledge and skills they have mastered.
Boys long for a landscape of action where they learn to navigate boyhood and become young men of courage and imagination. They need to work and study alongside men who guide them - together with their parents - along the adventurous road to manhood.
They need a place where the academic curriculum is rooted in the great traditions of learning, guided by the compass of wisdom attained through the study of the liberal arts and sciences; where they hear, speak, and write alongside the masters of old; where their imaginations are enriched by characters and stories that inspire them with wonder and refine their consciences; where they learn the art of liberty and what it means to be human.
They yearn for adventures in the outdoors, where their limits are tested and their hearts and minds grow strong; where competitions and games are part of learning; where they reconnect with nature and experience the joy of working with their hands.
And they need a place where they can actively live their faith.
During an insightful and heartfelt lecture to the Chicago Leadership Forum, Gen. Josiah Bunting III, former headmaster of VMI (Virginia Military Institute) spoke on the education of America's Founders. He recounted the trials and challenges these men experienced: they raised families; they husbanded farms; they applied themselves to the study of humanities and sought scientific knowledge; they rode horses and fought battles; they were men of faith and reason; and most of all, they placed the common good above their own private interests. In short, they understood what it meant to be a man.
Today, most boys go from their comfortable rooms, to warm showers, to the refrigerator, to a climate controlled car, to an over-scheduled school day, and then back to their room. In a desire to give them a safe comfortable environment we have eliminated the challenges, manly tasks, and risks that boys precisely need. Our overly litigious society has permitted a liability culture to grow to such an extent that schools can't do anything that is mildly risky. Try setting up a challenge course field trip and you will need a three million dollar insurance policy just to begin the process.
If boys do not get these challenges they will remain either indifferent, passive and soft, or grow increasingly restless, angry, and frustrated at a world in which they do not belong. It is imperative that schools provide boys with an environment that permits them to come of age.
Meg Meeker says it best in her book Boys Should Be Boys (Ballantine Books 2008):
. . . today, natural, healthy boyhood is under attack. It is threatened . . . by an educational establishment that devalues masculinity and boyishness.
What might a school look like that is a refuge for boyhood - a place where boys thrive in education? How do we prepare them for manhood, professional life, and higher education? How does one construct a school environment and educational program that provides the avenues for boys to come of age and become men of virtue, knowledge, and skills, who seek the good of others above their own private interests? This ought to be the discussion surrounding boys and school. And there is a solution! *
Thomas Martin is the O. K. Bouwsma Chair in Philosophy at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Along with his fellow colleagues who are dedicated to the study of the Great Books, he teaches the works of Plato, Aristotle, and G. K. Chesterton.
The Catholic Church's sex scandal was recently in the headlines when it was reported that Benedict XVI had defrocked nearly 400 priests for raping and molesting children.
Much is being said about the failings of the Catholic priests who have abused children and the harm done to the credibility of the Church. However, the harm done by some priests in the Church is precisely a share of the harm done by all of us to Christ, "In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
A priest is called to what is traditionally known as a "station in life," a station which comes with a vow, consecration, authority, and obligations. This is clearly stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The bishop and Priests sanctify the Church by their prayer and work, by their ministry of the word and of the sacraments. They sanctify her by their example, "not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock." [1 Peter 5:3.] Thus, "together with the flock entrusted to them, they may attain to eternal life."
The stations of life are not the creations of man but are vocations bestowed by God. Similarly, fatherhood and motherhood in the sacrament of marriage are also stations in life.
Though some have said pedophilia is a crime of celibacy, unfortunately it is a crime that extends beyond the priesthood into other stations of life.
In the various stations of life we are not called to be ourselves, to do what we feel like doing; we are called to go beyond ourselves. Christians readily understand that they are not of this world, products of the environment, "social constructs" or accidental arrangements of DNA as the materialistic biologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists are constantly harping.
Made in the image of God, Man is a "living soul" placed in creation as a creature who is morally responsible for his actions.
Aristotle makes a similar distinction between function and virtue. Every station in life has a proper function, the purpose of which is the work that is performed and the virtue of which is how well the work is performed. "For excellence consists in doing good rather than in having good done to one, and in performing noble actions rather than in not performing base ones."
My function is that of a university professor; the virtue of my function is how good I am at working those with whom I have been entrusted in the study of philosophy.
I am not limited to the function of a teacher. Various functions are bestowed upon me as a son, grandson, husband, son-in-law, brother-in-law, father, brother, nephew, uncle, cousin, neighbor and citizen. Some of these stations in life I have inherited by birth and others are freely chosen with my vows as a husband and a citizen. I may fail in any one of these stations of life by "domineering over those in [my] charge."
When I fail in one of my stations, this does not say anything about the station; it says something about me, about my vices. Some would undoubtedly call such thinking idealistic and they would be correct. There is an ideal of what a father ought to be, a mother ought to be, a brother ought to be, a sister ought to be, a parent ought to be, a nurse ought to be, a teacher ought to be, a citizen ought to be, and a priest ought to be.
To put this in the simple terms of the NCAA's March Madness, there is an ideal of what a point guard in basketball ought to do. He needs to lead the attack by creating the offense. When he fails at his function, it does not say anything about the function of the point guard or the game of basketball; it says something about his lack of virtue as a point guard.
It is for this reason that life is an adventure and as it is an adventure, it is dangerous. It is dangerous because each station of life offers the opportunity for a person to glorify creation in his station or to defile himself, and others, like Judas by violating the goodness of creation with which he has been entrusted.
In all of this, I am reminded of G. K. Chesterton, "What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism." *
He who holds the data makes the rules. If you haven't figured this out, it's almost too late. Obama knows it. In 2009, his team mandated electronic medical records and $27 billion to make it happen as a "foundation" for health care reform.
If you wonder whether medical privacy is important, check out Minnesota, where the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Democrat-controlled legislature plan to eliminate all medical privacy rights. Bills being fast-tracked include:
* Genetic Grab: Repeal of hard-won parent consent requirements for government storage, use, and sharing of Baby DNA and newborn (genetic) screening test results for genetic research. The forces supporting repeal (including the Minnesota Medical Association) have boatloads of lobbyists meeting with legislators.
* Control of Doctors: Creation of a new tracking database on heart attack patients and a mandate that government require physician use of "evidence-based" treatment protocols, as defined and determined by MDH.
* Health Equity: MDH-tracking of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, language, socioeconomic status and more for the purpose of "advancing health equity" and "eliminating health disparities." This could bring civil rights lawsuits into clinics and be used to push single-payer to secure "equity."
* Unconsented Research: New uses of the government's controversial "all-payer claims database" (APCD) to conduct comprehensive research on patients for Big Government purposes. Note: at least 17 states have APCDs. Minnesota's APCD was established in Governor Tim Pawlenty's 2008 health care reform law.
* End of Privacy Rights: Conforming Minnesota true privacy laws to the federal HIPAA "no-privacy" rule, which would eliminate 11 privacy protections that only Minnesota and Iowa have.
In the press conference we held yesterday, Minnesota State Representative Mary Liz Holberg (R-Lakeville), discussed the all-out "assault" on medical privacy this year.
Although some Democrats are not in agreement with all these bills, it feels like the first two years of President Obama. With total control of the legislature and the governorship, the Democrat leadership is eliminating freedom wherever possible before the next election.
The threat to patient privacy and control is nationwide. Most people have no idea how little they have and how much is being taken away. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) - passed in 1996 - does not protect you; it's an "anti-privacy" law and rule. Most conservative organizations aren't yet tuned into the issue. And too many elected Republicans, listening to Chambers of Commerce controlled by health plans, think our medical data should be shared with the government to create a market in "health care quality" and physician "value."
Citizens must act before medical privacy is a distant memory, and freedom is gone. Privacy is about control. He who holds the data makes the rules. Act now. Refuse to sign the HIPAA form. Ask your state legislators to require parent consent for Baby DNA storage and use. Ask your state legislators to require consent for sharing of patient data through state Health Information Exchanges. If you're a doctor, refuse to share patient data without consent. If you're a patient, find a doctor who refuses to share your data outside the office and pay cash to keep him or her in business - and your data private.
It's time to realize that the purpose of government data collection is government control. Nothing less. Donate today to help us stop government surveillance and control over health care and personal lives!
We are working to keep patients and doctors in control. *
S. Fred Singer is professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and director of the Science & Environmental Policy Project. His specialty is atmospheric and space physics. An expert in remote sensing and satellites, he served as the founding director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service and, more recently, as vice chair of the U.S. National Advisory Committee on Oceans & Atmosphere. He is a senior fellow of the Heartland Institute and the Independent Institute, and an elected Fellow of several scientific and engineering organizations. He co-authored the New York Times best-seller Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 years. In 2007, he founded and has since chaired the NIPCC (Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change), which has released several scientific reports [See www.NIPCCreport.org]. For recent writings, see http://www.americanthinker.com/s_fred_singer/ and also Google Scholar. This article is republished from The American Thinker.
At the outset, let's be quite clear: There is no consensus about dangerous anthropogenic global warming (DAGW) - and there never was. There is not even a consensus on whether human activities, such as burning fossil fuels to produce useful energy, affect global climate significantly. So what's all this fuss about?
Let's also be quite clear that science does not work by way of consensus. Science does not progress by appeal to authority; in fact, major scientific advances usually come from outside the consensus; one can cite many classic examples, from Galileo to Einstein. [Another way to phrase this issue: Scientific veracity does not depend on fashionable thinking.] In other words, the very notion of a scientific consensus is unscientific.
The degree of consensus also depends on the way the questions are phrased. For example, we can get 100 percent consensus if the question is "Do you believe in climate change?" We can get a near-100 percent consensus if the question is "Do you believe that humans have some effect on the climate?" This latter question also would include also local effects, like urbanization, clearing of forests, agriculture, etc.
So one has to be rather careful and always ask: What is the exact question for which a consensus has been claimed?
Finally, we should point out that a consensus can be manufactured - even where no consensus exists. For example, it has become very popular to claim that 97 percent of all publications support AGW. Here the key question to ask is: Which publications and what exactly is the form of support?
Thanks to the revelations of the Climategate e-mails, we now have a more skeptical view about the process that is used to vet publications. We know now that peer review, once considered by many as the "gold-standard," can be manipulated - and in fact has been manipulated by a gang of U.K. and U.S. climate scientists who have been very open about their aim to keep dissenting views from being published. We also know from the same e-mails that editors can be bullied by determined activists.
In any case, the peer-review process can easily be slanted by the editor, who usually selects the reviewers. And some editors misuse their position to advance their personal biases.
We have, for example, the case of a former editor of Science who was quite open about his belief in DAGW, and actively discouraged publication of any papers that went against his bias. Finally, he had to be shamed into giving voice to a climate skeptic's contrary opinion, based on solid scientific evidence. But of course, he reserved to himself the last word in the debate.
My occasional scientific coauthors David Douglass (U. of Rochester) and John Christy (U. of Alabama, Huntsville) describe a particularly egregious instance of the blatant subversion of peer-review - all supported by evidence from Climategate e-mails.
Further, we should mention the possibility of confusing the public, and often many scientists as well, by clever use of words. I will give just two examples:
It is often pointed out that there has been essentially no warming trend in the last 15 years - even though greenhouse forcing from carbon dioxide has been steadily increasing. At the same time, climate activists claim that the past decade is the warmest since thermometer records were started.
It happens that both statements are true; yet they do not contradict each other. How is this possible?
We are dealing here with a case of simple confusion. On the one hand we have a temperature trend that has been essentially zero for at least 15 years. On the other hand, we have a temperature level which is highest since the Little Ice Age ended, around 1800 A.D.
Note that "level" and "trend" are quite different concepts - and even use different units. Level is measured in degrees C; trend is measured in degrees C per decade. [This is a very general problem; for example, many people confuse electric energy with electric power; one is measured in joules or kilowatt-hours; the other is measured in kilowatts.]
It may help here to think of prices on the stock market. The Dow-Jones index has more or less been level for the last several weeks, fluctuating between 15,000 and 16,000, showing essentially a zero trend; but it is at its highest level since the D-J index was started in 1896.
This is only one example by which climate activists can confuse the public - and often even themselves - into believing that there is a consensus on DAGW. Look at two typical recent headlines:
"2013 sixth-hottest year, confirms long-term warming: UN"
"U.S. Dec/Jan Temperatures 3rd Coldest in 30 Years"
Both are correct, but neither mentions the important fact that the trend has been flat for at least 15 years - thus falsifying the greenhouse climate models, all of which predict a strong future warming.
And of course, government climate policies are all based on such unvalidated climate models - which have already been proven wrong. Yet the latest UN-IPCC report of Sept. 2013 claims to be 95 percent certain about DAGW! Aware of the actual temperature data, how can they claim this and keep a straight face?
Their laughable answer: 95 percent of climate models agree; therefore the observations must be wrong! One can only shake one's head sadly at such a display of "science."
Another trick question by activists trying to sell a "consensus": "If you are seriously ill and 99 doctors recommend a certain treatment, would you go with the one doctor who disagrees?"
It all depends. Suppose I do some research and find that all 99 doctors got their information from a single (anonymous) article in Wikipedia, what then?
Both sides in the climate debate have made active use of opinion polls. In 1990, when I started to become seriously involved in climate-change arguments and incorporated the SEPP (Science & Environmental Policy Project), I decided to poll the experts. Having limited funds, and before the advent of widespread e-mail, I polled the officers of the listed technical committees of the American Meteorological Society - a sample of less than 100. I figured those must be the experts.
I took the precaution of isolating myself from this survey by enlisting the cooperation of Dr. Jay Winston, a widely respected meteorologist, skeptical of climate skeptics. And I employed two graduate students who had no discernible expertise in climate issues to conduct the actual survey and analyze the returns.
This exercise produced an interesting result: Roughly half of the AMS experts believed there must be a significant human influence on the climate through the release of carbon dioxide - while the other half had considerable doubt about the validity of climate models.
Subsequent polls, for example, those by Hans von Storch in Germany, have given similar results, while polls conducted by activists have consistently shown strong support for AGW. A classic case is a survey of the abstracts of nearly 1,000 papers, by science historian Naomi Oreskes (U.C. San Diego); published in 2004 Science, she claimed a near-unanimous consensus about AGW. However, after being challenged, Oreskes discovered having overlooked some 11,000 abstracts - and published a discreet correction in a later issue of Science.
On the other hand, independent polls by newspapers, by Pew, Gallup, and other respected organizations, using much larger samples, have mirrored the results of my earlier AMS poll. But what has been most interesting is the gradual decline over the years in public support for DAGW, as shown by these independent polls.
Over the years also, there have been a large number of "declarations, manifestos, and petitions" - signed by scientists, and designed to influence public opinion - starting with the "Leipzig Declaration" of 1995. Noteworthy among the many is the Copenhagen Diagnosis (2009), published to build up hype for a UN conference that failed utterly.
It is safe to say that the overall impact of such polls has been minimal, compared to the political consequences of UN-IPCC (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change) reports that led to (mostly failed) attempts at international action, like the Kyoto Protocol (1997-2012). One should mention here the Oregon Petition against Kyoto, signed by some 31,000 (mostly U.S.) scientists and engineers - nearly 10,000 with advanced degrees. More important perhaps, in July 1997 the U.S. Senate passed the Byrd-Hagel Resolution against a Kyoto-like treaty by unanimous vote - which probably dissuaded the Clinton-Gore White House from ever submitting Kyoto for Senate ratification.
By now, the question of a scientific consensus on AGW may have become largely academic. What counts are the actual climate observations, which have shaken public faith in climate models that preach DAGW. The wild claims of the IPCC are being offset by the more sober, fact-based publications of the NIPCC (Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change). While many national science academies and organizations still cling to the ever-changing "evidence" presented by the IPCC, it may be significant that the Chinese Academy of Sciences has translated and published a condensation of NIPCC reports.
In the words of physicist Prof. Howard "Cork" Hayden:
If the science were as certain as climate activists pretend, then there would be precisely one climate model, and it would be in agreement with measured data. As it happens, climate modelers have constructed literally dozens of climate models. What they all have in common is a failure to represent reality, and a failure to agree with the other models. As the models have increasingly diverged from the data, the climate clique have nevertheless grown increasingly confident - from cocky in 2001 (66 percent certainty in IPCC's Third Assessment Report) to downright arrogant in 2013 (95 percent certainty in the Fifth Assessment Report).
Climate activists seem to embrace faith and ideology - and are no longer interested in facts. *
Philip Vander Elst is a British freelance writer and lecturer, and his many publications include Power Against People: A Christian Critique of the State (IEA, 2008), and Vindicated by History: Statism's 19th Century Critics (Cobden Centre, 2012).
When Benjamin Franklin introduced his grandson to Voltaire shortly before the latter's death in 1778, that great opponent of the Catholic Church laid his thin hands upon the youth's head and bade him dedicate himself to the cause of "God and Liberty."i Less than a century later, in June 1850, another great French liberal thinker, Frederic Bastiat, made a similar linkage between religion and freedom, declaring that life, liberty, and property were a gift from God, and that "these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it."ii
The difference between these sentiments and the anti-religious mentality of modern politically correct secular liberals is one of the most striking phenomena of our times. To most present day secular liberals, traditional monotheistic religion, especially Christianity, is an irrational and reactionary force, and an enemy of freedom and progress, whereas atheism offers a more liberating philosophy, since its rejection of the existence and authority of God removes an irksome restraint on personal autonomy. As many secular liberals see it, an accidental universe, without any ultimate meaning or purpose, is preferable to a God-centred one, since it seems to allow human beings greater scope for choosing their own values and charting their own course.
That, at any rate, was the view of Aldous Huxley, and it was shared by many other prominent writers of his time and continues to characterise current liberal attitudes. Explaining, on one occasion, what lay behind his atheism and that of so many other 20th century leftist intellectuals, Huxley confessed:
I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning, consequently assumed it had none. . . . For myself, as no doubt for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was . . . liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.iii
By contrast, like Voltaire and Bastiat, nearly all the great philosophers and statesmen of the old Whig/classical liberal tradition took a positive view of the link between God and liberty, repudiating in advance the atheistic and anti-religious mentality so characteristic of modern liberalism.iv As evidence of this, here are three typical examples drawn from three famous texts.
"Being all equal and independent [in the state of Nature]," declared England's best-known 17th century philosopher, John Locke, in the first of these texts, his influential Two Treatises of Government (1690):
. . . no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions; for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise Maker; all the servants of one sovereign Master, sent into the world by His order and about His business; they are His property...made to last during His, not one another's pleasure.v
Our second text, the American Declaration of Independence (1776), perhaps the most celebrated official document in the history of liberty, was as emphatic as Locke in affirming the theistic roots of freedom. To quote its memorable second paragraph:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .
Finally, and perhaps most tellingly, consider these words of Lord Acton, the great 19th century historian of liberty, and one of the greatest scholars of his age:
The great question is to discover, not what governments prescribe, but what they ought to prescribe; for no prescription is valid against the conscience of mankind. Before God, there is neither Greek nor barbarian, neither rich nor poor, and the slave is as good as his master, for by birth all men are free; they are citizens of that universal commonwealth which embraces all the world, brethren of one family, and children of God. The true guide of our conduct is no outward authority, but the voice of God, who comes down to dwell in our souls, who knows all our thoughts, to whom are owing all the truth we know, and all the good we do . . .vi
Given these alternative views of the relationship between religion and freedom, which is the truer one? Is belief in God a hindrance to liberty or its necessary foundation? Does freedom depend on a belief in absolute values rooted in God's nature, or is it best served by a philosophy of moral relativism rooted in atheism?
This is certainly a relevant question in American politics, judging by the views of President Obama. For instance, in his 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama argued that:
Implicit in [the American Constitution's] structure, in the very idea of ordered liberty, was a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or 'ism,' any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course . . .vii
Is this relativist view of Obama's, so typical of modern liberalism, a correct interpretation of the spirit underlying the American Constitution? Does the "very idea of ordered liberty" really imply "a rejection of absolute truth" and "the infallibility of any idea"? Is the consistency that flows from absolute truth really "tyrannical"?
To anyone familiar with 18th century American political thought, the idea that philosophical scepticism and moral relativism implicitly influenced the authors and supporters of the American Constitution, is, of course, a historical anachronism. Most Americans of that era were either Christians or deists, and therefore, as religious believers, firmly wedded to the notion that truth and moral values are absolute. But even if this historical fact is acknowledged, were they justified in holding this view?
I have no doubt that they were, and to understand why, one need only call the bluff of contemporary moral relativism.
Modern atheistic liberals constantly tell us that moral values and social conventions evolve to fit new circumstances and challenges, and vary between different societies. On that basis, they deny the existence of any universal and eternal moral code. Yet these very same liberals are the first to denounce racism or the oppression of minorities with passionate indignation. So the question we must ask them is a simple one: what, in their heart of hearts, do they really believe? Was American slavery, for instance, or the firebombing of black churches by the Ku Klux Klan, an abomination, something that could never be justified in any century or society, or should we refrain from making such moral judgements on the grounds that moral attitudes do not reflect objective truths but change through time? And what about the philosophical implications of the concept of "progress"? Modern liberals are always urging us to adopt "progressive" attitudes, and to adapt our laws and customs to reflect them, but what meaning can we attach to the idea of "progress" in the absence of some fixed and eternal standard of value by which it can be measured? How can we tell whether any society is becoming more or less humane, or more or less enlightened, unless we are comparing it against some objective and unchanging yardstick of wisdom and goodness?
Logical inconsistency is not the only criticism that can be levelled, in this particular context, against politically correct 21st century liberalism. Its apparent commitment to moral relativism also reveals a shallow understanding of history and ethics.
As C. S. Lewis argued in his wartime essay, "The Poison of Subjectivism" (1943),viii apparent variations of moral outlook between different cultures or historical epochs, are not, as modern liberals seem to think, proof of the subjectivity of all moral values. Rather, they reflect changing beliefs about particular facts or about the specific implications of foundational moral principles. The difference, for example, between a 17th century Puritan's attitude to witchcraft, and that of a 21st century sceptic, is determined by their conflicting views about the reality of the supernatural, not by any necessary disagreement in principle about the need to resist evil. In a similar fashion, changing attitudes towards other nations, the morality of slavery, or the status of women, do not represent the replacement of one subjective code of ethics by another. Rather, they represent an internal development within one pre-existing system of morality.
Take, as an instance of this, our belief in the brotherhood of man and the equality of the sexes. This chiefly arose in the West out of the Judeo-Christian view that since all men and women are made in the image of God, and are therefore the children of the same Heavenly Father, they should be treated with equal love and respect, as Lord Acton argued so eloquently in the passage quoted earlier. As this conviction gradually spread, over a long period, throughout Europe and North America, it eventually spelt the doom of slavery and the legal subjection of women. At the same time, it also encouraged a friendlier attitude towards foreigners, and with it, a desire for peace between nations and the development of international law. In other words, moral progress and social reform came about in these areas as a result of a new and clearer understanding of the logical implications of certain foundational biblical principles. It did not represent the triumph of some "new" morality over an older one.
The superficiality of moral relativism not only reveals itself under the microscope of close philosophical inspection. Its claims are also undermined by the powerful historical evidence for the existence of an unchanging and universal Moral Law acknowledged across the centuries by different peoples and cultures. For example, in his justly celebrated book, The Abolition of Man (1943),ix C. S. Lewis bolsters his philosophical arguments against moral subjectivism by including an appendix entitled "Illustrations of the Tao." This consists of a list of quotations from a random selection of ancient writings - Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek, Roman, Hindu, and Chinese - showing their essential agreement with the Judeo-Christian ethic. Does all this not suggest that belief in objective truth and absolute moral values is well founded?
It is certainly essential if we claim to believe in liberty and the pursuit of knowledge, or attach any meaning to the concept of human rights. For unless we begin by regarding the sacredness of human life, and the unique value of every individual, as self-evident philosophical first principles, we have no objective reasons for condemning oppression and tyranny. Similarly, unless we begin with a belief in the existence and objectivity of truth, and therefore the possibility in principle of finding it, the pursuit of knowledge becomes meaningless. And this too is fatal to liberty, since one of the strongest arguments for freedom of conscience and expression is precisely the insight that the pursuit of truth requires maximum scope for the free dissemination and discussion of competing ideas.
In addition to all these considerations, disbelief in the existence of objective (and therefore absolute) truth is, in any case, completely illogical, since the assertion: "there is no such thing as absolute truth," is itself an absolute truth claim, and is therefore self-contradictory. It is like saying that we "know" that we know nothing, which is clearly absurd. Furthermore, the existence of mathematics, as well as the successes of the natural sciences, clearly demonstrate the capacity of the human mind to engage in objective logical thinking and discover reality. For all these reasons, the radical claims of philosophical scepticism cannot be taken seriously.
But if absolute truth - logical, scientific, and moral - exists and can, at least in principle, be grasped and discovered by our minds, what does this tell us about the existence of God?
On reflection, a great deal. To begin with, truth has a transcendent non-physical quality that suggests that it is connected with something outside ourselves and the material universe, since it is independent of time, place, or culture. For instance, we know that 2 + 2 = 4, "love is better than hate," and "torturing children is wrong," whether others acknowledge these truths or not, whether we live or die, and regardless of our particular background or the century or society into which we were born. It is surely equally significant that these particular truths - like all truth - would retain their validity (and in that sense continue to exist) even if our physical universe were to come to an end tomorrow.
Our experience of moral obligation similarly points to God because it too, like truth, has this strangely transcendent and eternal quality.
When, for example, our conscience is most deeply aroused, especially when it comes into conflict with our strongest desires, emotions, or material interests, do we not sense, somehow pressing down on us, the weight of an external claim on our allegiance? From where does that insistent realisation come that we must resist injustice or admit our mistakes, even at the cost of our lives or our reputations? From where do we get the motivation and strength to resist adultery, malicious gossip, or dishonesty in our working lives, in circumstances in which giving in to these temptations is pleasurable, safe from detection, and vital to our popularity, and the advancement of our careers? Most significantly of all, what is the ultimate source of that authoritative inner conviction that we must always obey the voice of our conscience rather than the laws and commands of the State, whenever there is a conflict between "might and right"? To What or to Whom do we feel that sense of accountability that seems to take precedence over every human authority, however elevated?
If, then, as this analysis suggests, truth and goodness are permanent, unchanging and ultimate categories to which we somehow owe unconditional allegiance, as Plato famously believed, this surely suggests that their eternal, transcendent, and imperative character is in some sense divine. And since our awareness of truth and goodness is inseparably connected with our minds and wills, it seems reasonable to conclude that their apparently divine character and status is also related to an eternal Divine Intelligence. In other words, truth and goodness are rooted in God and express His essential and changeless Nature. Or to put it another way, God is not only our Creator, as Jefferson noted in the Declaration of Independence, but also Goodness, Truth, (and Beauty) personified, and therefore the eternal and objective source of all that is precious and wonderful in human existence. That is why that historic American document was entirely correct in its ringing affirmation that we are endowed by our Creator "with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
Unfortunately, despite all the evidence, the strong philosophical link between monotheistic religion and freedom has been hidden from many secular liberals by the terrible history of religious persecution. But what needs to be remembered is that in the case of Christianity, intolerance and persecution were always the evil fruit of the coercive union of Church and State, never in any sense a natural outgrowth of its original message or mission.
As anyone can see from reading the New Testament, especially the "Sermon on the Mount," Jesus and his followers taught us to love our enemies and pray for them, and seek first the Kingdom of God, rather than strive for earthly power or dominion. Far from advocating the compulsory imposition of religious orthodoxy by the State, all the emphasis in the New Testament is on the exact opposite. Its primary focus is not on government or society, but on our individual and voluntary response to the challenge of acknowledging God's claim on our lives and our own needy spiritual condition. And this, of course, makes perfect moral and philosophical sense, since recognising our faults and loving our Creator necessarily demands the unforced assent and willing commitment of our minds and hearts. We cannot reconnect with God in any meaningful way, or pursue goodness and truth, at the point of a gun.
Modern secular liberals not only fail to see the connection between God and liberty because of their misinterpretation of the history of religious persecution, and the lessons it teaches. They are also misled by their conviction that both our sense of moral obligation, and our highest values, can be adequately explained and justified without any reference to the existence of God.
For instance, one of their most common and fallacious beliefs is that morality is just a by-product of biological evolution, so that "goodness" simply means "that which has survival value." But the problem with this Darwinian explanation is that it flies in the face of both our personal experience and recorded history. As most of us are only too well aware, it is simply not true that moral integrity is the key to personal success in our damaged and imperfect world. On the contrary: cunning, ruthlessness, lack of principle, and a talent for intrigue, are all too often the effective means by which many individuals build successful careers, especially in politics and large organisations in general. If, by contrast, such qualities as kindness, the pursuit of excellence, and love of truth, were really the ones needed for worldly success, why are there (and why have there always been) so many successful criminals and dictators? If goodness is such an effective Darwinian recipe for human survival and for winning the material prizes of life, why has so much of history been a constant and depressing tale of war, tyranny, and slavery?
An alternative and far more convincing secular explanation of morality is that "goodness" simply means those qualities and values which allow human beings to live in harmony with each other in peaceful, prosperous and creative societies. But whilst this is undoubtedly true, it does not provide a complete and adequate explanation of the ultimate source of our moral values and sense of moral obligation. "The good of society," for instance, may indeed be a worthy moral goal, providing an objective criterion for human action, but only because we value, as foundational first principles, the lives and liberties of the individuals composing it. But if respect for life, liberty, and truth is to be regarded as a self-evident moral imperative, how can this foundational philosophical principle be reconciled with atheism? That is the problem facing secular liberalism.
And it is a very big philosophical problem, for if atheism is true, we not only inhabit an accidental and Godless universe devoid of any ultimate meaning or purpose. We ourselves are also part of that physical universe and in no way distinct from it, since there is no supernatural dimension to our existence. But if it is therefore the case, as atheists insist, that we have no souls or connection with any Creator, we must then face up to the fact that the logical and psychological implications of this belief are momentous and destructive. It means that as purely fortuitous physical beings, all our thoughts and values, and all our decisions and choices, are merely the accidental by-products of a long chain of random, undesigned and purposeless physical and chemical events. How then can we attach any objective meaning or importance to our thinking processes, let alone our particular thoughts and beliefs? They surely have no more ultimate or eternal significance than the sound of a waterfall, or the crash of a tree in a forest. How, also, can we claim to have free will, or any knowledge of truth, if we are merely biological machines whose choices, reasonings, and convictions are entirely and inevitably determined by random and non-rational physical and chemical processes in our brains? x
In short, if there is no God whose Being and Nature is the eternal source and ground of our existence, thinking and values, we cannot account either for our knowledge and reasoning ability, or our very real and transcendent experience of moral obligation. We must assume instead that all our mental and moral life is based on an illusion. This in turn leaves us with no objective basis for our moral judgements. Good and evil, under these conditions, become purely arbitrary and subjective categories, governed by whim and emotion, and leaving us with no objective or compelling grounds for criticising the destructive existential choices of nihilists and psychopaths. We may, in a Godless universe, continue to fear and dislike thieves, murderers, and dictators, and choose to resist them, but we can no longer demonstrate the objective "wrongness" of their selfish disregard for the lives and liberties of others. In such circumstances, "might" will (sooner or later) inevitably determine "right" rather than serving it, and evil will know no limits or barriers.
The brutal and nihilistic consequences of rejecting God are, of course, hardly a new phenomenon or simply a subject for abstract ivory tower speculation. They were fully understood, and gleefully and unsparingly spelt out, by the late 19th century German nihilist philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 - 1900), and subsequently gave birth to all the horrors of modern totalitarianism.
"[Christian morality] granted man an absolute value," wrote Nietzsche,
. . . as opposed to his smallness and accidental occurrence in the flux of being and passing away . . . morality guarded the underprivileged by assigning to each an infinite value . . . [but] Supposing that the faith in this morality would perish, then the underprivileged would no longer have this comfort - and they would perish . . . nihilism is a symptom that the underprivileged have no comfort left.xi
The history of the 20th century has been a terrible vindication of the prophetic accuracy of these words, because atheism, the rejection of traditional morality, and the devaluation of the individual, were central to the development of Fascism and Communism, both as totalitarian ideologies and as murderous totalitarian systems of State power.
Both Hitler and Mussolini, for instance, were ardent disciples and admirers of Nietzsche, embracing his rejection of Christianity and his exaltation of the amoral and triumphant will of the "strong man." To quote only Mussolini:
If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be bearers of an external objective truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than fascistic attitudes and activity. . . the fascist State is will to power and government . . .xii
Marx, Engels and Lenin were just as forthright as Mussolini and Hitler about their atheistic and totalitarian contempt for the idea that human beings are accountable to an objective and eternal Moral Law rooted in God. They insisted, on the contrary, that all morality is subjective and subordinate to the class struggle, and that nothing should be allowed to hinder the triumph of the Communist Revolution or the authority of the victorious Communist State. As Engels put it: "We . . . reject every attempt to impose on us any moral dogma whatever as eternal, ultimate and forever immutable moral law. . . " and Lenin agreed with him. "We say that morality is entirely subordinated to the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat . . ." he wrote, adding: "We do not believe in an eternal morality."xiii
It is hardly surprising, given their totalitarian atheist mentality, that all 20th century Communist regimes slaughtered millions of their own citizens and transformed their countries into gigantic concentration camps, of which the worst and still living example is North Korea. What else could one have expected from rulers who acknowledged no moral boundaries to their exercise of power? But if any doubt still remains in anyone's mind about the link between atheism, moral relativism, and man's inhumanity to man, meditate on these words of Mao Zedong's, the happily defunct tyrannical founder and architect of Chinese Communism.
Some of our comrades have too much mercy, not enough brutality, which means that they are not so Marxist. On this matter, we indeed have no conscience! Marxism is that brutal. . . . We are prepared to sacrifice 300 million Chinese for the victory of the world revolution.xiv
So, in conclusion, to return to our central question, what, again, does the evidence suggest? Is belief in God essential to liberty or an obstacle to freedom?
Let the last word on this subject be spoken again (ironically) by two figures in secular liberalism's Hall of Fame: Thomas Jefferson, America's third President and author of the Declaration of Independence; and that great figure of the 18th century French Enlightenment whom I quoted at the beginning of this essay: Voltaire. "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure," asked Jefferson, "when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?"xv
Voltaire clearly didn't think so. "I have always been convinced," he wrote,
. . . that atheism cannot do any good, and may do very great harm. I have pointed to the infinite difference between the sages who have written against superstition and the madmen who have written against God. There is neither philosophy nor morality in any system of atheism.xvi
i See: Will Durant, "Voltaire and the French Enlightenment," Outlines of Philosophy, (London: Ernest Benn Ltd., 1962), 224.
ii Frederic Bastiat, The Law, (New York: The Foundation For Economic Education, 1974), 6.
iii Aldous Huxley, "Confessions of a Professed Atheist," Report: Perspective on the News, vol. 3, June 1966, p. 19, quoted in Josh McDowell & Thomas Williams, In Search of Certainty, (Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2003), 72.
iv As evidence, see, for example, M. Stanton Evans, The Theme Is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition, (Washington D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1994).
v John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, (London: Everyman's Library, 1990), 119 - 120.
vi Lord Acton, "Freedom in Antiquity," History of Freedom and Other Essays, (New York: Books for Libraries Press, Inc., 1967), 24.
vii Quoted in Larry P. Arnn, "A Rebirth of Liberty and Learning," (Hillsdale College, Michigan: Imprimis, Vol. 42, No. 12, December 2013).
viii See: Lesley Walmsley, C. S. Lewis Essay Collection & Other Short Pieces, (London: HarperCollins, 2000), 657 - 665.
ix C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man. Reprinted in 1977, (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc,) 95 - 121.
x For a full and rigorous exposition of this whole argument for the general reader, see the opening chapters of the 2nd revised edition (originally published in 1960) of C. S. Lewis's book, Miracles, currently available as a HarperCollins paperback.
xi Quoted, with sources, in M. Stanton Evans, op. cit., 51.
xii Quoted, with sources, in M. Stanton Evans, op. cit., 49-50.
xiii Quoted, with sources, in M. Stanton Evans, op. cit., 44.
xiv Mao Zedong, in Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Mao: The Unknown Story, (Jonathan Cape, 2005), 411, 457 - 458.
xv Quoted, with sources, in M. Stanton Evans, op. cit., 35.
xvi Voltaire, Philosophical Letters, p.33, quoted in Norman L. Geisler, The Big Book of Christian Apologetics, (Michigan: Baker Books, 2012), 583. *
Burke Brownfeld is a member of the Economic Opportunities Commission of Alexandria and a former police officer. This compilation of essays is republished from the Alexandria Times located in Virginia.
When I was an Alexandrian police officer, I spent my days navigating rough neighborhoods and hunting down wanted felons. I caught the 14-year-old kid who had just shot another teenager in the head, killing him. My partner and I tracked down a man who sodomized his daughter.
But when I reflect back on my time as a cop, the most gratifying parts of the job were not the chases or high-profile arrests. During our regular duties, we often had casual conversations with the men and women whom we transported to jail.
These discussions would lead to the prisoner explaining the struggles of drug addiction or other personal reflections. I noticed that, when we dropped off prisoners at the jail, they often would thank us.
Finally, I stopped one man after he thanked me and asked, "I don't get it. I just arrested you, what are you thanking me for?" The man replied, "Thank you for treating me like a man."
That one sentence was the most meaningful moment in my police career.
I realized that during our brief time together, chatting about life, we reached a common understanding. It revealed to me that my role in society was more than locking up criminals. I had been given a chance to reach across the line in the sand and offer a moment of respect and sympathy to my fellow man.
Years later, I have often thought of this brief exchange with the man whom I arrested.
Don't get me wrong, police work is a necessary and noble profession, and you won't hear me say that we should stop arresting people. However, I realized that the idea of fighting crime was more than just locking people up and having them serve time.
It dawned on me that we must reach past the seemingly permanent labels of "criminal" and "felon" and think about the next chapter in the lives of these men and women. The end game is not this archaic concept of locking them up and throwing away the key.
In fact, 95 percent of prisoners eventually will be released. When we unlock the cells for these prisoners to rejoin society, what's in store for them?
I am not implying that all ex-offenders are angels. I have looked into the eyes and fists of a few of the less-angelic bunch. In fact, two-thirds of people who come out of prison will be re-arrested within three years of their release.
No, I am talking about the group of ex-offenders who commit to changing their lives. There are incarcerated people who pursue educational and vocational training programs, with the hope of starting a new life when they re-enter society. This is great news, but society has shown that it's not quite ready for ex-offenders to live and work among the rest of us.
The reality for the imprisoned population in the United States is that only one in five prisoners will have a job lined up prior to being released. This is unfortunate since we know that there is a strong link between recidivism and unemployment.
We see these men and women standing around, begging for money or shoplifting from our stores.
We walk by them and may whisper under our breath, "Oh, come on, you look healthy. Get a job." But it's not that simple.
Many ex-offenders leave prison and apply to dozens of jobs but run into roadblocks and rejection at every turn. Should we be surprised when many of them feel that returning to a life of crime is their only option?
Several months ago, I went on a quest to understand the challenges faced by ex-offenders returning home from prison.
As a former police officer, I understand the business of fighting crime through arrests. However, I wanted to look at this from a new angle: What do these former prisoners face when they walk out of jail and into society?
I contacted various ex-offenders and probationers, asking if they could help me understand their experience. I heard stories about job searches and interviews, and I was shocked by what I was told.
I asked a group of ex-offenders serving probation, "How has the job search process been for you all?"
Jon, who spent several years in prison, said:
I went around to so many businesses looking for a job. I got so desperate that I started telling people that I would do any kind of work. I would even scrub the toilets, if it meant I could get a paycheck.
Eventually, Jon found a job at Domino's Pizza that pays minimum wage. He is grateful for the job, but explained that with all of the court fees and fines that he still owes, he is left with little money to pay his bills.
This is a common challenge for many ex-offenders. Because many must pay fines, fees and restitution payments to the court, they effectively pay a 65-percent tax rate on their salaries.
Then I heard from Allan, who explained the job application process to me. Allan is a convicted felon. He told me that he walked into countless restaurants, looking for work. He filled out application after application but always hesitated when he arrived at the question, "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?"
Allan told me that when he checked the box "yes," most employers would take a look and say, "Thanks for coming in. We'll let you know."
Allan said that employers wouldn't even consider him as a potential employee once they saw that he was a felon. When he was called for an interview, the employer looked down on him. Allan explained, "People think you're an animal. We're still human. People make mistakes."
The story of Jerry Wimbush is what put this all into perspective for me. Jerry wants his story shared to help educate others about the ex-offender experience. Jerry used to deal crack cocaine on the streets of Alexandria. He has been in and out of prison for decades.
Jerry told me about his glory days. At about 6-foot-4 and weighing more than 300 pounds, he would stand like a giant in Alexandria's old open-air drug markets, peddling crack cocaine and making good money. He told me that, many times, he was released from prison and committed himself to living an honest life.
His first priority was to find a job. Jerry had experience as a tow truck driver. But once he had a felony on his record, no one wanted to hire him. Jerry felt that businesses "saw the criminal record as a black eye." Therefore, in need of an income and low on hope, he always returned to what he knew best: dealing crack.
Luckily, Jerry did turn his life around. Jerry's family supported him, he found religion during his last stint in jail and he started a property preservation company. Jerry is dedicating his business to helping other ex-offenders get back on their feet, because he knows how difficult it truly is, even when a person is committed to change, to find work and have a stable life after prison.
Over the last few months, I have tried to come to a better understanding of what happens when a once-incarcerated person is released and confronts the daunting task of returning to society. After interviewing many people who have spent time in prison - and reading countless articles and studies that verify what these ex-offenders told me - I realized that something is wrong with our system.
When a person is found guilty in court and sentenced to prison, why do we continue to punish them after being released? Many ex-offenders feel that the title of felon or ex-offender becomes a lifelong brand. It simply cannot be overcome.
This is why we see ex-offenders with high hopes of a new crime-free life run into roadblocks and closed doors at every turn. This often leads them to return to a life of crime, which ends with another arrest and incarceration.
This is bad news for them and for society, especially when we consider that a year of incarceration in a Virginia prison costs taxpayers more than $25,000. Although I have presented a pretty bleak depiction of the ex-offender experience, there are multiple exciting opportunities for removing a few of these roadblocks to employment. What can we as a society do?
Delegate Rob Krupicka recently introduced a "ban the box" bill in the General Assembly. Although the bill was not passed this time around, it's worth considering for future General Assembly sessions. If passed, this bill would remove the question about criminal history from state government job applications (with the exception of sensitive positions, such as law enforcement).
This would give ex-offenders the chance to - initially - be judged on the merits of their experience and personality, instead of their criminal past. The bill would not completely remove the state's ability to take criminal history into account; it merely requires the state to wait until later in the application process.
Ex-offender advocates around the nation have embraced this movement. Ten other states and private retailers, like Target, have enacted "ban the box" policies so far. The idea is that if ex-offenders can get their foot in the door and reach the interview stage, they will have a better likelihood of receiving a job offer.
Without this new law, ex-offenders will continue being turned away purely based on the answer to one question on a written application. The City of Alexandria also has the opportunity to join this movement, by banning the box on city government job applications. Five other cities in Virginia have already chosen to ban the box.
This is all part of the process of humanizing the ex-offender population. We, as a society, must ask ourselves if we really do believe in redemption and second chances. If we do believe this, then let's work together to help these ex-offenders reach the success that they're seeking.
We should consider creating more incentives for local employers to hire from the ex-offender population. We also can increase funding for - and donate to - the honorable nonprofit organizations that dedicate themselves to helping ex-offenders, such as Offender Aid and Restoration, Virginia CARES and Friends of Guest House.
For years and years we have told ex-offenders to clean themselves up, get off drugs and get a job. Now is the time for us to meet them halfway and welcome them back to society with open arms instead of closed doors. *
. . . It set my own political course toward philosophical skepticism and political tolerance. That didn't mean splitting differences or straddling some ideological midpoint. It meant viewing certainty with suspicion and acknowledging, with both regret and resolve, the imperfectability of man, the fallibility of institutions, and the tragic - rather than redemptive - nature of history. (Page 7, Things That Matter, by Charles Krauthammer.)
Thusly Charles cites the effects of an experience on campus in the 1960s: witnessing an alliance of a Marxist professor and a leader of the "neo-fascist, anti-immigrant popular front." Whatever romance his fellow students felt through marching and protesting left Charles cold. A mature Charles Krauthammer would later settle on ideals of constitutional government and limited powers through checks and balances, because he understood that the sort of people who desire to use power are just the sort of people who can't be trusted with it. It takes the vigilance of free people to keep freedom.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Americans like Charles Krauthammer who dedicate their lives to the defense of principles of freedom against unscrupulous and voracious people. People in the arena of political combat have to become battle hardened, and so they sacrifice a significant portion of their peace of mind. Two early American statesmen, John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams (both presidents), took pride in being "good haters." They were objects of scorn and abuse; and they returned fire in equal measure.
Even people with benevolent motives who advance a cause through the gauntlet of the legislative process must meld their personalities to getting the job done. Their attention is outside of themselves.
So it is not surprising to discover when reading Charles' book in the essay titled "The Inner Man? Who Cares?" the rather curmudgeonly worded sentence "'Know thyself' is a highly overrated piece of wisdom."
Charles is dead wrong. But I forgive him.
The scope of The St. Croix Review should be wider than just the status of political battles. We must be mindful of the need for the cultivation of virtues if we want to uphold the good life and a healthy culture. We must give thought to the taming of the human heart, and the mitigation of selfishness. It is very important for people to learn the practice of self-examination.
I have spent thirty years in the regular company of drug addicts and alcoholics, because I am one myself. Mind you, the addicts and alcoholics I have spent countless hours with are sober, and we are working very hard to stay that way. I have been sober for thirty years.
Here is a group of people who wreak havoc through drunk driving. Alcoholics are justly subject to severe penalties for the deaths and injuries they inflict while driving impaired.
It may be surprising to learn that the alcoholic has "blackouts," meaning he enters a period of time when he loses consciousness of what he is doing once he starts drinking. To an outside observer there is no indication that a drinker in a blackout is not really conscious; he may appear impaired or he may not, but he is talking and interacting with others as if he were present-minded, when in fact he is not. Sometimes such an alcoholic may return to consciousness the morning after in a jail cell with no recollection of the night before, and he is told that he killed someone in a car accident. Such a person is a walking bomb. The prisons are full of people who can't control their drinking.
The unrepentant alcoholic wreaks havoc on those he loves the most: the family. The spouse and children acquire deep spiritual wounds at least the equal of the alcoholic. The sickness radiates through generations, and everyone involved loses touch with a normal way of life. Secrecy and isolation becomes an ingrained family characteristic.
The unrepentant alcoholic is an unlovely individual, full of excuses and alibis. He is belligerent, defiant, antagonistic, evasive, dishonest, and resentful. He is also confused, self-pitying, fearful, and full of shame.
The alcoholic has lost control completely of his drinking: when he drinks, and how much he drinks once he starts. His body and mind react differently than others to alcohol - this is what we believe. Normal people don't have blackouts. Normal people aren't tormented by an obsession with alcohol.
The beginning of the solution is an admission of defeat and the finding a "higher-power" whom most of us call God. Then follows a process of rigorous self-examination, an admission of wrongdoing and amends, accompanied with a lifetime of prayer and meditation. Family members of alcoholics go through a similar process.
A gathering of reforming alcoholics is often a light-hearted affair: there is much laughter amidst the serious discussion. The reforming alcoholic is kind hearted, humble, grateful, genial, optimistic, honest, trustworthy, and loving. The reforming alcoholic is a miracle of transformation.
Self-examination is key. The number one killer of alcoholics is resentment. Resentment is a habit of the mind. It is the fuel that drives the obsession to drink. To resent is to re-feel - to feel again and again an imagined or real slight. Resentment is a compost pile, piled with accumulated hurts, fears, and self-pity that take the form of a burning attitude. Resentment is a malignant obsession with the focus on a single point of view, and an exclusion of all mitigating factors - therefore resentment is a form of blindness. The habit of acquiring resentments is a formidable obstacle to serenity. It is impossible to stay sober while carrying the burden of resentments.
The solution to resentment is forgiveness. Forgiveness is the surrendering of resentment. Forgiveness is a gift from God. It cannot be forced or manufactured. One can take all the steps necessary to prepare the way - praying - and yet not find forgiveness. Forgiveness is a phenomenon. It happens. It is a divine connection. It comes from over the horizon, like an arrow to the heart.
It is necessary to walk in the direction of forgiveness if one is to find peace, but the timing of the release of forgiveness is up to God - such is the preoccupation of the reforming alcoholic. The unrepentant alcoholic and the reforming, humble alcoholic who has a divine connection to his maker are as different as night and day.
So, even the most wretched people are capable of redemption. Human beings are capable of miracles of transformation. The people who founded this nation had religious fervor, and America today is full of people of faith.
Charles Krauthammer may see "the imperfectability of man, the fallibility of institutions, and the tragic - rather than redemptive - nature of history," but I prefer to see also the ever-present possibility of redemption: it is a road open to everyone. *
The following is a summary of the February/March 2014 issue of the St. Croix Review:
Barry MacDonald, in "Charles Krauthammer - A Bulwark for Freedom," describes the dominating influence of a political commentator.
Mark Hendrickson, in "The Excessive Meanness and Injustice of Obama's Healthcare Law," puts President Obama in the company of Lenin and Marx as leftists who cannot be happy and are driven to impose their will on others; in "Do Americans Disrespect Congress or Themselves?" he blames American voters seeking favors from government for the shabby behavior of Congress; in "100 Years Later, the Federal Reserve Has Failed at Everything It's Tried," he writes that the Fed is an unaccountable, unconstitutional, rogue, agency - wielding arbitrary power immune from our system of checks and balances; in "One of the Most Powerful Christmas Lessons," he writes that Christ valued charity, but firmly rejected using force to compel others to do good; in "A Miracle of Coincidence," he relates phenomenal events that point to a benevolent power.
Allan Brownfeld, in "Government and Wall Street: A Revolving Door with Ill Effects," show how lobbyists and corporations are turning Washington D.C. into a vortex, drawing the nation's wealth to itself; in "Will Bill de Blasio Reverse Twenty Years of Progress in New York City?" he cites the mean, erroneous, extremely disrespectful rhetoric at the inauguration ceremony of the new mayor of New York City, and is much disquieted; in "Government's Recent Performance Bolsters Skepticism About Its Role in Society," he looks at the recent pratfalls of the Obama Administration from an historical perspective; in "When It Comes to Intelligence: How Much Government Is Enough?" he reveals the astoundingly wide scope of surveillance the U.S. government is doing on U.S. citizens, and the above-the-law mentality of intelligence officers; in "Reconciliation Rather Than Revenge, Assessing the Legacy of Nelson Mandela," he writes of the accomplishments of Nelson Mandela and South Africa.
Herbert London, in "Class Warfare," writes that an emotional narrative about the downtrodden trumps demonstrations of failed policies in public perceptions; in "Weakness Begets Challenges," he shows the many areas where aggressors hostile to freedom are gaining strength, due to the Obama administrations inaction; in "U.S.-Iran Deal on Nuclear Weapons," he lists six reasons why this deal is bad for the U.S. and our allies; in "Chinese Air Defense Zone," he describes an aggressive move by the Chinese to dominate the Pacific and to diminish American influence; in "The Nelson Mandela Legacy," he remarks on Mandela's Communist associates.
Paul Kengor, in "Who Killed the Kennedys? Ronald Reagan's Answer," uncovers forgotten Reagan speeches to find the obvious suspects; in "Mister Rogers vs. the Unity Tree," he tells a heart-warming story about the power of a welcoming presence; in "Bad Sports: Virtue & Vice at the Ballpark," he reminds us that virtue has to be taught from one generation to the next, or it is lost; in "The Progressive Income Tax Turned 100," he writes about the Democrats' central economic doctrine.
In "'The Conservative Mind' Turns Sixty," Tim Goeglein reviews the formative book by Russell Kirk that did so much to set the modern conservative movement on its course.
Twila Brase, in "The Obamacare Surveillance System," provides a detailed report on the vast data grab and police-like powers of enforcement granted the IRS in the Obamacare law.
Jigs Gardner, in "Sow Walk," presents a charming aspect of nature and farming.
Jigs Gardner, in "Two Years Before the Mast," reviews Richard Dana's account of working as a common American sailor in 1835-36.
In "Lies and Consequences," Fayette Durlin and Peter Jenkin show how damaging the lies told about the John Kennedy assassination were to American politics.
In "Affordable Healthcare? Leave Healthcare to the Free Market," Tracy Miller writes about the difficulty of providing high-quality healthcare to people with chronic illnesses, and he points to a solution.
Tracy C. Miller is an associate professor of economics at Grove City College, and fellow for economic theory and policy with the Center for Vision & Values. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. This article is republished from V & V, a website of the Center for Vision & Values.
The problems with the healthcare.gov website offer a glimpse of the way the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is likely to fail at accomplishing its most important goals: providing affordable, high-quality healthcare to all Americans, without increasing the deficit. The ACA is the latest of a series of attempts by the federal government to use subsidies and regulations to make healthcare affordable for all Americans regardless of their health status. The ACA, like the regulations and subsidies that came before, only increase the problems resulting from the incentives created by our healthcare system. If Congress repealed the ACA, along with other regulations and subsidies that distort the market for healthcare, healthcare could become more affordable and provide better quality than it ever will be under the rules and subsidies of the ACA.
A major problem with our healthcare system is that it costs much more to insure people with major health problems than it does to insure the majority who are in reasonably good health. If health insurance premiums were determined by the market, they would be affordable for most who are in good health, but unaffordable for many who have serious health problems. Over the years, governments have used a variety of regulations and subsidies to make it easier for sicker members of the population to afford health insurance.
One way that the cost of health insurance is kept down for sicker people is through employer-sponsored health insurance plans. Although these plans arose in response to wage controls during World War II, they have grown in importance because of tax deductions and a variety of regulations. If the tax deduction was not limited to group health insurance plans offered by employers, many of the healthiest workers would buy their own low-cost health insurance in exchange for a higher wage from their employers, who would save the cost of premiums on those workers.
Employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) works well for those working for large corporations. One drawback is that it discourages workers from changing jobs, particularly if they develop a health condition that will increase the likelihood that they will incur major healthcare expenses. To keep premiums from rising for ESI plans, health insurers may choose not to cover pre-existing conditions of newly hired workers. To protect those who change jobs from not being covered, several state governments require ESI plans to cover pre-existing conditions, sometimes allowing a short waiting period following the hiring of a worker.
Small companies that provide ESI have an incentive to hire only healthy workers if regulations do not permit insurance companies to exclude pre-existing conditions from the coverage they offer. A small firm also has an incentive to find an excuse to lay off a worker who develops costly health problems while employed, since insurers are likely to raise premiums for firms whose workers incur higher health costs.
Because all of the existing subsidies and regulations are not enough to keep those with chronic health problems from facing premiums that are much higher than average, the ACA requires insurance companies to provide full coverage for everyone who applies, regardless of health status, and prohibits companies from varying premiums except based on age or whether the insured smokes. It includes an individual mandate so that healthy people will not opt out of buying insurance. The greater the percentage of healthy people paying premiums, the lower the premiums for everyone, including those with chronic illnesses.
No existing government regulation or tax policy has succeeded in preventing many of those with high health risks from being charged more for their health insurance. Even with its mandate, it is doubtful that the ACA will succeed at providing insurance that enables those with chronic health conditions to pay the same prices as everyone else and still receive high-quality healthcare. Government may be able to force insurance companies to provide affordable coverage to high-risk people, but without adequate incentives, don't be surprised if the insurance pays for care from a very limited network of healthcare providers, severely limiting the options of high-risk clients.
Rather than fighting market forces, the best way to promote affordable healthcare is to allow entrepreneurs competing in the market to devise a solution that would make it profitable for insurance companies to cover those with high healthcare costs. One solution, proposed by the Heritage Foundation, is health status insurance, whereby people insure against declines in their health status. If early in their lives people could pay extra for insurance against developing a chronic health condition in the future, then insurance companies could afford to cover everyone regardless of what happens to their health over their lives. Premiums for health status insurance would be affordable, even if set high enough to compensate insurance companies for the expected cost of providing high-quality care for chronic illnesses, which some fraction of their clients would develop later in their lives.
Affordable healthcare remains the goal. To get there, let's leave it to the free market. *