We started NLT in October of 2001. I thought it was a good idea, as did many of you even back then. In fact, in my typical bragadoccio mode I warned Jonah Goldberg a few months later that we would put NRO out of business. I'm glad we didn't do that, of course. But I am happy that we had a good run at things. In fact, I am proud of our effort and I want to thank our fine authors. Thank you very much! As you know we were one of the few serious blogs where no one was paid for writing, and yet our authors wrote and wrote, plus there were some very good conversations with readers. Thanks to all of you for that.
Over a decade of writing isn't bad. It's an accomplishment we can be proud of. I know all our words at NLT were not birds in flight, some were, inevitably, potatoes. But all of it was thoughtful, sometimes full of flair and ardor, sometimes full of deep learning, almost always revealing a liveliness of mind found only at a few other blogs. I am grateful to all the bloggers for their work. I have learned much. We have taught one another much. We acted like citizens.
We will archive it all, and it will be accessible from our new Ashbrook site that will go up in three or four weeks. It will be a fine site. I hope you will like it.
I don't have to get too soft and weepy with y'all for you to know that I am--as is everyone at the Ashbrook Center--very grateful that we had this opportunity and that it lasted so long. God Bless.
Forget the birther nonsense, etc. Former Intelligence Committee staffer and author Angelo Codevilla establishes that Obama grew up in a world deeply influenced by the CIA, among other establishment institutions. The key here is his life in Indonesia. Did you know his mother's supervisor was one Peter Geithner? The lead-in to this:
Consistent with the Barack Obama we know, however, are his real family, his real upbringing, and his real choices of profession and associates. His mother's parents, who raised him, seem to have been cogs in the U.S. government's well-heeled, well-connected machine for influencing the world, whether openly ("gray influence") or covertly ("black operations"). His mother spent her life and marriages, and birthed her children, working in that machine. For paradigms of young Barack's demeanor, proclivities, opinions, language, and attitudes one need look no further than the persons who ran the institutions that his mother and grandparents served--e.g., the Ford Foundation, the United States Information Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency--as well as his chosen mentors and colleagues. It is here, with these people and institutions, that one should begin to unravel the unknowns surrounding him.
At the very least one can conclude that far from being on the outs, young Obama was always part of a segment of this country's ruling elite.
By now everyone has met Julia, the lucky woman in the unusual Obama campaign commercial who is looked after from cradle to grave by a compassionate federal government. With the help of the government, Julia is educated, gets free health care, free birth control, and subsidized student loans. When she decides to have a child (with no significant other, of course), government is there to help with health care and school programs (but no daycare?). When Julia retires, Medicare and Social Security look after her needs. And so on.
This happy story made me wonder what the difference is between Julia and the people Alexis de Tocqueville calls "place-hunters" (see Democracy in America, Vol. II, Part 2, chapter 20). The place-hunter is someone whose ambition finds its primary outlet in seeking a government job, a type that Tocqueville fears will arise in modern democracies. True, Julia seems to be on her own when it comes to choosing a job (she's a web-designer), though she does get government subsidized small business loans and tax credits to get started. But when so many of the major problems in life are solved by government, don't you become something like a place-hunter? At the least, you rely on government almost as much as someone who does have a government job.
So what's the problem with that? Here's our French observer, writing in the 1830's, long before the full-blown welfare state had developed:
"I shall not say that this universal and immoderate desire for public offices is a great social evil; that it destroys the spirit of independence in each citizen and spreads a venal and servile humor in the whole body of the nation; that it suffocates the virile virtues; nor shall I have it observed that an industry of this kind creates only an unproductive activity and agitates the country without making it fruitful: all that is easily understood."
No, the real problem Tocqueville sees is more political. In a "people of place-hunters" (think about that awful idea!), there can never be enough government jobs to satisfy the ever growing number of people who want such a job. And this creates a permanent class of discontented people who demand change "solely out of the need to make some places vacant", or, we may add, solely to acquire more benefits. And can there ever be enough money to satisfy the ever growing demand for more government assistance? Whether out of compassion or the desire to win political support, governments try to attract partisans by giving people jobs (or healthcare, retirement and vacation benefits, etc.); but instead, Tocqueville thinks governments end up endangering themselves, as we perhaps see in places like Greece.
Tocqueville concludes that it would be "more honest and more sure" for governments to teach each citizen "the art of being self-sufficient." Wouldn't that be better than a "people of place-hunters"?
The war between U.S. Catholic bishops and the Obama administration over Obamacare's abortion, sterilization and contraceptive mandate has been well publicized and was to be expected. Democrats, including Catholic Democrats, have openly and notoriously held policy positions with regard to these sexual issues which run directly counter to Catholic social teaching. That the bishops believed Obama would exempt religious institutions from submission to such regulations exposed profound naivety, but the ideological tension and potential for conflict was apparent to all.
The bishops' recent stance against Rep. Paul Ryan's budget in the House likely took many by surprise. The Church would seem to a casual observer to fit hand in glove with the Republican Party platform - primarily because the media usually only highlights the Church's position on a single issue: abortion. But those more intimately aware of the Church's hierarchy will notice a plethora of self-identifying blue-collar, union-supporting Democrats among the nation's Catholic leaders. These are Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry Catholics, absent the pro-choice stain. The social gospel, according to this large faction, fits squarely with liberal economic policies. And so, we have the present impasse over the Ryan budget.
And it's a wonderful thing.
The debate will largely be decided by the November elections and the weight of the mandate handed to the victorious party. Nevertheless, for the first time in recent history, America is witnessing a mature and principled political debate. Between the GOP and the Catholic Church, no mud is being thrown, no names are being called and both sides are showing respect to the ideas and persons of their rivals. Gently rebuking the Georgetown Ninety, Ryan reiterated that the financial crisis requires a "charitable conversation." This is the model of political bipartisanship which America demands and deserves.
Unfortunately, it only exists because one party decided to sit this one out.
...the event fell short of the 20,000 supporters the campaign had forecast as organizers moved people from seats to the arena floor in front of the dais to project fullness to television audiences. Obama volunteers had worked feverishly over the last week to gin up a crowd, making multiple calls to residents believed to be supportive of the president.
Twitter was abuzz with photos and comments about vast areas of empty seats in the arena's upper deck.
One such photo is below.
It may be no accident that most of the states in the top 20 are also right-to-work states, as labor force flexibility is highly sought after when a business seeks a location. Several economists, most notably Ohio State's Richard Vedder and Harvard's Robert Barro, have found that the economies in R-to-W areas grow faster than other states, have higher employment and attract more inward migration. Governor Scott Walker's battle with the unions in Wisconsin (See "Will Wisconsin Rise Again?"), a state that edged into the top 20 this year for this first time, demonstrates that the struggle for a pro-growth agenda can be contentious. As one Badger State business leader remarked, "Finally, Wisconsin is headed in the right direction."
The Lone Star State was given high marks foremost for its business-friendly tax and regulatory environment. But its workforce quality, second only to Utah's, is also highly regarded.
Conservatives couldn't make up such favorable talking points.California's enduring place of perpetual decline continues in this year's ranking. Once the most attractive business environment, the Golden State appears to slip deeper into the ninth circle of business hell. The economy, which used to outperform the rest of the country, now substantially underperforms. And its status as the most ruinously contentious place to operate remains undisturbed in eight years. Its unemployment rate, at 10.9 percent, is higher than every other state except Nevada and Rhode Island. With 12 percent of America's population, California has one-third of the nation's welfare recipients. Each year, the evidence that businesses are leaving California or avoid locating there because of the high cost of doing business due to excessive state taxes and stringent regulations, grows. (See "Eastward Ho!") According to Spectrum Locations Consultants, 254 California companies moved some or all of their work and jobs out of state in 2011, an increase of 26 percent over the previous year and five times as many as in 2009.
The following is a representative sample of comments from participating CEOs:
- California is the worst! They are doing everything possible to drive a business out of their state. If it were not for the climate, they would have lost half their population
- California regulations, taxes and costs will leave only tech, life sciences and entertainment as viable. If you aren't an elitist, no room here for the middle or working classes.
- California treats business owners like criminals. California has different overtime policies for its own employees vs. private sector.
- California's labor regulation is a job killer. We will be moving our business out of the state, which will lose hundreds of jobs simply due to the poor regulatory environment.
- California should secede from the union--it is like doing business in a foreign country, it has its own exchange rate, and its regulation is crazy.
Men and Women
Defending these other Julias--and not the woman in Orwell's 1984. From Robert Herrick:
WHENAS in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.
... Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free ;
O how that glittering taketh me !
You really wanna get rough with Julia, try John Donne's "Julia," Elegy 14:
Her hands, I know not how, used more to spill
The food of others than herself to fill ;
But O ! her mind, that Orcus, which includes
Legions of mischiefs, countless multitudes
Of formless curses, projects unmade up,
Abuses yet unfashion'd, thoughts corrupt,
Misshapen cavils, palpable untroths,
Inevitable errors, self-accusing loaths.
These, like those atoms swarming in the sun,
Throng in her bosom for creation.
I blush to give her halfe her due ; yet say,
No poison's half so bad as Julia.
Finally, try Julia Shaw, who unfavorably compares Obama's Julia to Tocqueville's American woman, whose superiority was responsible for American greatness.
While autobiographies don't need to be factual in order to be worthwhile reading, the notion of self-creating persons as presidents strikes at the core of what it means to be a self-governing America. Andrew Malcolm rose to the occasion. See his portrayal of the young Obama, together with his then-lover, as a composite. Sample:
He had lived in exotic foreign places, he claimed, consumed strange foods and painfully recounted his longing for an absent father that caused him to wildly over-spend other people's money, desperately seeking to fill some hidden void by repairing bridges and hiring union teachers. He regularly talked of receiving dreams from his father.
At the AEI annual dinner Dr. Leon Kass explains life--work, love, service, and truth. He concludes with the need for hope:
In this most fundamental sense, hope is not a hope for change, but an affirmation of permanence, of the permanent possibility of a meaningful life in a hospitable world. Hope in this sense is not only a Judeo-Christian virtue. It is not only the most essential--and abundant--American virtue. It is the condition of the possibility of all human endeavor and all human fulfillment. Yes, there is still much spiritual poverty in America. But we go forward with confidence that our spiritual hungers can yet be nurtured in this almost promised land, provided that we have the courage to insist that the well-being of the spirit is central to our notion of national success and personal flourishing. This war on poverty--on our spiritual poverty--will not add a cent to the deficit. It can enrich our lives beyond measure.
Today, poverty, like pollution, needs a deeper understanding.