Paul Smith Jr has a new home for his blog: www.gazizza.net. Click to go there now!
Friday, November 18, 2005
El Salvador's Secret: Freedom and Opportunity Cure Poverty
We Need a Fool
The important message is this: fifteen years ago, El Salvador was destroyed by war; seven years ago by hurricanes; four years ago by earthquakes. Extremely poor, 15 years ago, some 60 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. The country was totally dependent on its traditional agricultural exports and unable to honor its financial obligations. Fifteen years ago, its infrastructure had collapsed — roads, energy systems, water distribution, telecommunications.
Today, El Salvador is a different country. It has the most accelerated poverty reduction rate in Latin America. From 60 percent to 30 percent under the poverty line, El Salvador has reduced its poverty level by half in twelve years. Twenty-five percent of our population could not read nor write; now it is down to 12 percent. Infant mortality has dropped from 45 out of a thousand births to 24.
The unemployment rate has dropped from 13 percent to 6.5 percent. Interest rates have lowered from 30 percent in 1992 to 6.8 percent last year. El Salvador has the lowest inflation rate in Latin America, and its fiscal discipline has earned it the coveted investment grade only held by El Salvador, Chile and Mexico.
This economic stability and government reform have created an immediate impact in the lives of the less privileged. It has allowed, for example, low-income housing to be accessible for as low a payment as $35 a month; telephone lines have multiplied tenfold, and the number of vehicles has increased fourfold.
More paved roads have been constructed in the last five years than in the previous 25 years. The number of public schools has doubled and the increase in health centers is 50 percent.
What is El Salvador’s secret? I believe that it is the systematic application of the concept of freedom to public policy. The war was resolved by giving Salvadorans the freedom to choose their leaders and to make them accountable.
El Salvador’s success is simple: it stopped blaming others.
Of course, we all know why this discourse is so prevalent. The concrete actions that must be taken to resolve the problems of underdevelopment are all highly unpopular.
For example, most underdeveloped nations have no funds for investment because 90 percent of their budget is spent on the salaries of a hugely overgrown government bureaucracy. Since it is popular to provide jobs for political clientele, every successive government increases the size of the public sector.
The solution is simple: reduce the bureaucracy and obtain the funds you need to educate, provide health care, etc. — but this has a huge political cost.
Our Lady of the Rosary
We need a fool in the White House. No, I've not joined the leftist Bush-is-an-idiot crowd. The president is a smart man, but he's in deep trouble. And no one in the White House seems willing to tell him why, which is where an official fool — or White House jester, if you prefer — would come in handy.
In the Middle Ages, the court fool was often the only person who could point out the king's foibles and live to tell about it. No less than some medieval castle, the White House can become a haven for yes-men (and women) in any administration. Toadyism is an occupational hazard in such a rarified environment, and few are willing to risk their own status and power to tell the boss he's making a big mistake.
Heightened Security Around the World
A history of Catholic devotion to and promotion of the Rosary.
The British are feeling the pinch in relation to recent bombings and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." Londoners have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorised from "Tiresome" to a "Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the great fire of 1666.
Also, the French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide". The only two higher levels in France are "Surrender" and "Collaborate." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country's military capability.
It's not only the English and French that are on a heightened level of alert. Italy has increased the alert level from "shout loudly and excitedly" to "elaborate military posturing". Two more levels remain, "ineffective combat operations" and "change sides".
The Germans also increased their alert state from "disdainful arrogance" to "dress in uniform and sing marching songs". They also have two higher levels: "invade a neighbour" and "lose".
Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual and the only threat they worry about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.
Via The Corner.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Wisdom of the Saints
Townhall.com :: Columns :: What next for conservatives by George Will
"The greatest grace God can give someone is to send him a trial he cannot bear with his own powers - and then sustain him with hisgraceso he may endure to the end and be saved." -- Saint Justin Martyr
"Lord Jesus Christ, you created me, you haev watched over me from infancy, kept my body from defilement, preserved me from love of the world, made me able to withstand torture and granted me the virtue of patience in the midst of torments." -- Saint Agatha
"Each of us can say to the tempter, 'Unlike you, I have not yet become an outcast from heaven through my pride. By my baptism I have become one with him. It is you that should fall prostrate before me.'" -- Saint Gregory Nazianzen
"Jesus Christ gave you all; he left nothing for himself." -- Saint John Chrysostom
"About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they're just one thing, and we shouldn't complicate the matter." -- Saint Joan of Arc
"As long as obedience is flourishing, all the other virtues will be seen to flourish and to bear fruit." -- Saint Ignatius of Loyola
"Who doesn't know what God is, should apply to Mary. Who doesn't find mercy in God, should apply to Mary. Who doesn't have confirmity of will, should apply to Mary." -- Saint Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi
"But for divine grace I would be in temper hard and repellent, rough and crabbed." -- Saint Vincent de Paul
"We must love God in the way that pleases him, and just not in a way that suits ourselves. God wishes people to empty themselves of everything and to be filled with his divine love." -- Saint Alphonsus Ligouri
"The soul can only feed on God; only God can suffice it; only God can fill it; only God can satiate its hunger. Its God is absolutely necessar to it." -- Saint John Vianney
"Though God hates sin more than any other thing, he loves us more miserable cinners. He ardently desires the welfare of our souls as if his own happiness depended on it." -- Saint John Neumann
"Abide in the home of the divine and fatherly goodness of God like his child who knows nothing, does nothing, makes a mess of everything, but nevertheless lives in his goodness." -- Saint Peter Julian Eymard
"Shall the urge for complete and total happiness, inherent to human nature, be the only need to remain unfulfilled and unsatisfied? No, even this longing can be fulfilled by the infinate and enternal God." -- Saint Maximilian Kolbe
Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus on National Review Online
A hard to quote, but excellent article by George Will asking where do we conservatives go from here? The Republican Party has just about pushed us aside in their quest for bigger government and more pork-barrel spending. As Will writes:
[T]he limited-government impulse is a spent force in a Republican Party that cannot muster congressional majorities to cut the growth of Medicaid from 7.3 percent to 7 percent next year. That "cut'' was too draconian for some Republican "moderates.''
But, then, most Republicans are moderates as that term is used by persons for whom it is an encomium: Moderates are people amiably untroubled by Washington's single-minded devotion to rent-seeking -- to bending government for the advantage of private factions.
Conservatives, if the Republicans don't get their act together, what should we conservatives in 2006 or 2008? My answer: third party. Let the "moderates" know they can't take us for granted. Nothing focuses the attention of a politician like losing, or almost losing, an election. If conservatives can scare enough of the GOP, maybe we can teach them a lesson before they lose their grip on power. For better or worse, for the time being, conservative hopes are tied to the GOP. We need to shake them up and remind them who elects them. It's not the liberal; they vote Democrat. Chasing their votes will only cost Republicans and they need to learn that lesson before they lose power.
Not a minute too soon, President Bush and Vice President Cheney are fighting back against this “Bush lied” nonsense. About the worst charge you can level against a president is that he lied his country into war — an unnecessary war. And this lie has been gaining traction among people. What Bush always had going for him — from the first; since he started running in Texas — was that he was a “straight shooter.” He was almost painfully honest. Even if you didn’t like him, or his policies, you knew he was sincere, that what you saw was what you got. This is an invaluable quality for a politician. (Reagan had it too.)
And Bush is now widely seen as shady, shifty — Nixonian. That is an alarming and stupid reversal.
Of course, as has been amply documented in National Review and elsewhere, the Bush-lied charge is the biggest lie of all. (For a total demolition of this lie, see Norman Podhoretz’s piece in Commentary.) That this lie has made such progress says something sick about our culture. That Joseph Wilson is basically a figure of respect rather than infamy says something sick about that culture, too — especially our media culture. His lies have been exposed again and again, and he ought to go away somewhere, Agnew-like, to atone. Instead, he is a proud celebrity. Again, this is sick.
Meanwhile, Bush, Cheney, et al. have a war to win. They have a society to protect, against people bent on doing it harm. Bush and his team are constantly attacked as torturers, as haters of civil liberties — but as soon as any American is killed, they will be condemned as lax.
This is the burden of leadership. The rest of us can just sit at our typewriters and carp. The administration is supposed to stop the Lackawanna Six. But we get to say that the Patriot Act is an expression of McCarthyite evil. Isn’t that a sweet deal — for us? All the administration can do is perform. And if they do their jobs, they will be thanked — maybe not soon, and maybe not even in their lifetimes, but eventually, I believe. And I think Bush knows this, too.
When I go to some conference or other and speak before liberals, I sometimes let drop that many, many conservatives don’t regard Bush as a conservative at all — they regard him as a heretic, or a moderate, or a liberal. A second Great Society president from Texas. These liberals are aghast: because they view Bush as Attila the Hun. They think he’s a Goldwaterian nightmare, out to make America a dog-eat-dog jungle. (I guess dogs don’t live in jungles.) The gap between their image of Bush and Bush’s actual record is enormous.
Mark Steyn captured all this perfectly in a recent column. He argued that Bush is properly seen as a Third Way-er — and “it’s a remarkable achievement to get damned day in, day out as the new Hitler when 90 percent of the time you’re Tony Blair with a ranch.”
As I said, perfect.
One of the most amazing developments of the recent period is the Left’s newfound respect for the CIA — especially for the sanctity of covertness. For pretty much all of my lifetime, the CIA has been the villain of every movie (or at least every movie in which the agency appeared). When I was in college, to say “CIA” was essentially to say “SS” or “Gestapo” — it was simply assumed that everyone thought of America’s intelligence service as nefarious. And most people I knew thought Philip Agee cool.
I have often said, it took Ronald Reagan and his SDI proposal to make the Left love Mutual Assured Destruction. And it has taken George W. Bush, Ahmad Chalabi, and Lewis Libby to make it love the CIA.
Frankly, the Left was better when it loved Agee and the Church Committee — it was more honest, at least.
I think the above two items reflect the depravity of the Left at this point in history. They have no principles beyond hating Bush. No guiding principles other than Bush is wrong.
An indication of how times have changed: When Agee blew agents, he got some of them killed. When some Bushies revealed the identity of Joe Wilson’s wife, they got both of them in Vanity Fair.
Q.: When the name “Valerie Plame” is leaked, the world goes nuts. When the existence of an entire covert prison system is leaked, the world yawns (if it notices at all). Why is that?
If you’re reading this website, you don’t need an “A.”!
The loser of the New Jersey gubernatorial race said something charming. You will recall that he is Doug Forrester, a wealthy Republican who “self-financed.” He said, “When your children admire you for spending their inheritance, you either have a great cause or great kids — or both.”
Geez, I’m sorry he lost, for many reasons.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Townhall.com :: Columns :: What's inflation? by Walter E. Williams
Well, not so new, just new to my blogroll. PolitaKid
is a high school student down in Newark, who I've been remiss in adding to my list. (I felt really bad earlier today when I noticed he had me on his. Oops. Sorry, been busy lately.)
Anyway, check him out.
[L]et's decide what is and what is not inflation. One price or several prices rising is not inflation. When there's a general increase in prices, or alternatively, a reduction in the purchasing power of money, there's inflation. But just as in the case of diseases, describing a symptom doesn't necessarily give us a clue to a cause. Nobel Laureate and professor Milton Friedman says, "[I]nflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon, in the sense that it cannot occur without a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output." Increases in money supply are what constitute inflation, and a general rise in prices is the symptom.
Here's my recommendation for reducing that power: Repeal legal tender laws and eliminate all taxes on gold, silver and platinum transactions. That way, Americans could write contracts in precious metals and thereby reduce the ability of government to steal from us.
An important lesson in economics from Walter Williams. Inflation is always driven by an increase in the money supply, never by "greedy businesses."
"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined." —Patrick Henry
"He is a man of sense who does not grieve for what he has not, but rejoices in what he has." —Epictetus
"Let us remember that revolutions do not always establish freedom. Our own free institutions were not the offspring of our revolution. They existed before." —Millard Fillmore
"The delay in Judge [Samuel] Alito's confirmation hearings gives the Senate Democrats and all the liberal-left interest groups time to orchestrate a fear and smear campaign and raise the money to advertise those fears and smears, both directly and by organized protests that will get much free publicity in the liberal media." —Thomas Sowell
"If you think that Uncle Sam feeds you while Big Business is trying to milk you dry, you're a Democrat. If you think that God feeds you, with a little help from a job through Big Business, while Uncle Sam is milking you dry, you're a Republican." —Jay Homnick
Jay Leno... Republican Senator Charles Grassley has asked the oil companies to use some of the billions of dollars of profit they've made recently to help poor people buy home heating oil. That's when you know you're making too much money. When Republicans start noticing. ... The oil companies said they would like to help the poor people but they need all that money to buy more senators. ... Democrat Senator Jon Corzine won the Governor's race in New Jersey, despite the fact that his ex-wife attacked him in TV ads. He was also accused of having a number of affairs. So at least he's a traditional Democrat. ... France said today they are going to deport all those foreigners who rioted. You know what that means? France is finally going to send people to Iraq!
Monday, November 14, 2005
The United States as an Imperial power
This is promising
Jason asked me below
if I thought the United States should be an imperial power. I decided to bring it out to a new topic for two reasons:
1) It's completely unrelated to the topic in the link above
2) It's an important enough question to merit its own topic
My gut instinct is No. I don't really believe that we should impose our will on other nations who aren't a threat to us. We have better things to do than run other nation's internal affairs. (Like saving
!) But, in general, let cultures develop as they see fit; America is a different nation than Canada or France (thank goodness!) or Thailand or Honduras, etc. and what works for us may not work for them.
The tougher question comes from nations like Iraq or Syria or Saudi Arabia who are not content to return the favor and are a threat to their neighbors, their people or the world as a whole. When situations like this occur, something may need to be done and that's where we need an empire at that time.
An interesting study of this issue was in Niall Ferguson's Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire
. His basic thesis is that America could easily be an empire if we wanted to, and that we should want to since there are too many roque states out there who need "training" in civilized behavior.
His earlier book Empire
, also very good, on the British Empire concluded that despite the faults of the Empire, it was still overall a source of good in the world and helped advance the cause of peace. For example, the world's largest democracy, India, is a former British colony. As a general rule, former British colonies don't invade other nations and treat their citizens better than do nations who were colonies of other European powers.
It's that example he'd like us to emulate, but he doesn't think we have the stomach for it. His phrasing (from memory, so I may get it wrong) is that we're more interested in building shopping malls than nations.
So I guess as an answer to your question, I'd say No, we shouldn't be an empire. However, my answer might change if I thought we were capable of it, given that we so clearly need a benevolent empire in the world today. It needs to be done and somebody needs to do it. Given our probable inability to do it, (for example, we can't even unite around Iraq, so there's no way we could unite to do it as a general policy) I'd have to say we shouldn't become imperial.
"I am and always have been a conservative... I believe very strongly in limited government, federalism, free enterprise, the supremacy of the elected branches of government, the need for a strong defense and effective law enforcement, and the legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values. In the field of law, I disagree strenuously with the usurpation by the judiciary of decision-making authority that should be exercised by the branches of government responsible to the electorate... When I first became interested in government and politics during the 1960s, the greatest influences on my views were the writings of William F. Buckley Jr., the National Review, and Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign. In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause, and reapportionment" -- from Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito's 1985 application to work in the Reagan administration as a political appointee, released today by the Reagan Presidential Library
If he means it, he sounds like a great nominee.
My Current Reading
"And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?" —Thomas Jefferson
"Given [the] association of evil with unhappy people, it is quite remarkable how little attention is paid to happiness as a moral, rather than only a personal psychological issue. Too often the pursuit of happiness (not the pursuit of fun or excitement) is regarded as a selfish pursuit, when in fact it is one of the best things a person can do for everyone in his life and for the world at large. The Founders of America were brilliant in many ways, not more so than by enshrining that pursuit alongside the pursuit of life and liberty." —Dennis Prager
"Of course, it goes without saying that most Muslims are not terrorists. Of course many people professing Islam are compassionate and generous. Of course Islam should not be gratuitously insulted. But neither should it be sugar-coated or kowtowed to. Yet too many Western elites are unwilling to speak plainly about the problems within Islam itself, or to hold Muslim culture to what should be universal standards of decency and justice. Far from being 'too confrontational' in their attitude toward Islam, they have been too indulgent and deferential, careful never to say anything that might be deemed insensitive. One result has been an increase in extremist behavior: Witness the violent 'Eurofada' raging in the streets of Paris. We do Muslims no favors by excusing attitudes or practices that ought always to be deemed inexcusable." —Jeff Jacoby
"Liberals stoutly maintain that a woman has a privacy right to kill her unborn child, that pornographers have a right to broadcast the most nauseating filth, that scummy traitors have a right to spit on the flag, that adults have a right to have sex with adolescents, and that two men or two women have a right to marry—but two individuals who gave a child life, who fed, clothed, sheltered and nurtured that child, have no right (constitutional or historical, explicit or implied) to control when, where and in what way they will be exposed to sex. And they wonder why, for normal people, 'liberalism' has become a dirty word." —Don Feder
Willis Offers $1 Million To Fight Terrorism
I'm still reading Eats, Shoots and Leaves, but figured I should read something spiritual on Sunday, so I started reading the recent biography of a probable living saint, Mother Angelica. I'm enojying it so far, and it's definitely not a hagiography (in the pejorative sense at least). It talks about her temper and inability to get along with some of the other nuns, and also details the time she threw a knife at her uncle, likely with intent to kill or at least harm.
I did skip ahead to read the part about her reaction to World Youth Day 1993 in Denver after seeing a quote from her reaction to it:
I'm so tired of you, liberal Church in America.
I'm thinking about making that a permanent fixture on this site. She was so right in everything she said, and it was interesting to read the responses from the Usual Suspects who are still causing trouble today.
I'm not the biggest EWTN fan, but I believe it does a great service. I'd personally rather read than watch TV and find I learn better that way. But for those who it serves, EWTN does a great job. I'm really interested in learning about it's founding and how it cleaned the clock of the American bishops' attempt to create their own cable network.
Quote of the Day
Actor Bruce Willis has offered $1 million to anyone who turns in al-Qaeda terror leaders. The patriotic Die Hard star will pay out for information on the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden, Aymen Al-Zawahiri or Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the alleged brains behind the 9/11 atrocity. Willis announced his reward on Us TV show Rita Cosby: Live And Direct, where he also slammed biased media coverage of the Iraq war. He said, "I am baffled to understand why the things that I saw happening in Iraq, really good things happening in Iraq, are not being reported on."
Willis has always seemed like a decent guy to me. This just lends further evidence to that.
"The constitution of the United States is to receive a reasonable interpretation of its language, and its powers, keeping in view the objects and purposes, for which those powers were conferred. By a reasonable interpretation, we mean, that in case the words are susceptible of two different senses, the one strict, the other more enlarged, that should be adopted, which is most consonant with the apparent objects and intent of the Constitution."
-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)
Reference: Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 140.