You’ve undoubtedly noticed how up in arms everyone becomes when the government is on the verge of shutting down. I’ve also noticed that the people who most loudly express their horror at the notion of a partial government closure seem totally comfortable with the fiscal wall we are barreling into. That wall is being built, brick by brick, by two political parties that are unwilling to end Washington’s spending debauchery.
This isn’t to deny that some people would have been hurt by the recently averted shutdown (which, by the way, would not have made our debt smaller). It’s a call for consistency from anyone putting their good-government sensibilities on display.
Those sounding the loudest alarms last week are largely silent on the countless occasions when Congress ignores its own budgetary rules. They are rarely outraged when the government is financed with legislation that only expands the balance sheet regardless of whether the money is well spent. All that seems to matter is that government is metaphorically funded, since it usually means growing deficits and explosive debt.
New Deal Rebels, a new anthology published by the American Institute for Economic Research, is an antidote to the idea that there ever was a consensus behind President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s attempts to end the Great Depression by, among other things, forcing farmers to destroy crops the government deemed “surplus.”
A long, illuminating introduction from the volume’s editor, Amity Shlaes, is followed by 53 short selections from the New Deal era. Some are a bit tedious for bedtime reading, but many are jewels. These include “One From One Leaves Two,” a spunky poem by Ogden Nash from the perspective of a farmer wondering how to make his cow and hens stop “overproducing” milk and eggs (concluding lines: “I pray the Lord my soul to take/If the tax-collector hasn’t got it before I wake”); several exasperated Garet Garrett columns for The Saturday Evening Post; the text of the Supreme Court’s Schechter Poultry Corp. decision, which unanimously found the National Recovery Administration to be unconstitutional; and an editorial from the Chicago Defender, an African-American newspaper, celebrating that ruling as a vindication of “the wisdom of the founders of the Republic.”
More interesting is that many major universities, corporations, nonprofit groups and influential donors thought buying into Kendi’s strident, simplistic formula — that racism is the cause of all racial disparities and that anyone who disagrees is a racist — could eradicate racial strife and absolve them of any role they may have played in it.
After all, this reductionist line of thinking runs squarely against the enlightened principles on which many of those institutions were founded — free inquiry, freedom of speech, a diversity of perspectives. As one Boston University professor wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal, that academia backs Kendi’s mission amounts to a “violation of scholarly ideals and liberal principles,” ones that betray “the norms necessary for intellectual life and human flourishing.”
Contra Kendi, there are conscientious people who advocate racial neutrality over racial discrimination. It isn’t necessarily naïve or wrong to believe that most Americans aren’t racist. To believe that white supremacists exist in this country but that white supremacy is not the dominant characteristic of America in 2023 is also an acceptable position.
Regarding “How Ibram X. Kendi Broke Boston University” (op-ed, Sept. 29): Prof. David Decosimo is the clearest thinker at BU, and one of the few with the guts to push for discussion and debate on this topic, which has been stifled by the culture that permeates all universities. I resigned as a trustee because of BU’s direction and the lack of consideration or debate of different points of view.
Prof. Kendi was attracted to BU more by the socialist anarchism of Howard Zinn than the civil rights championed by Martin Luther King Jr. Critical theory, like Mr. Kendi’s “antiracism,” seeks to achieve the alchemy of group equity by the law(social justice) instead of equality before the law (justice). Critical theorists want to disrupt and dismantle what they feel is a rigged system. This includes the U.S. Constitution. Until we can cure human nature, however, we had better uphold the ideals of our founding.
Essex Fells, N.J
Silver linings from the pandemic are few and far between, but there are some. One is that the experience has given economists new opportunities to retest old theories about matters such as unemployment benefits and the labor market. And guess what: We now have more evidence that when you pay people not to work, they won’t.
That’s the conclusion of a new paper by Harry Holzer, Glenn Hubbard and Michael Strain (of Georgetown, Columbia and the American Enterprise Institute, respectively). Congress’s pandemic expansion of unemployment benefits—and several states’ resistance to that policy—created an unusual experiment that policy makers should mark.
Khan’s article, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” featured in The Yale Law Journal, notes how Amazon’s “sheer scale and breadth…may pose hazards” to our economic system and “the potential social costs of Amazon’s dominance” is worrisome. However, just one page prior to these assertions, Khan notes how customers “universally seem to love the company” and that “close to half of all online buyers go directly to Amazon first to search for products.”
Khan’s article, and the attention it received, signals a scary level of evasion within our culture. There is a strong desire to bash big business and vilify the success of billionaires, yet much of their wealth was derived through the power of our own pocketbooks. Our Starbucks coffee, use of smartphone capabilities, and online shopping sprees weren’t brought on by force — they were choices. And to a large extent, we are better off because of them.
A society can’t progress when an economic system is subject to bureaucratic bullying or when the dynamics of market mechanisms are distorted by political pressures.