Friday, October 2, 2009

Around the Web

For the week of Saturday, September 26 through Friday, October 2.

1) Getting Ahead in America by Ron Haskins at National Affairs
. . . although there is room for government to help advance the cause of economic mobility in America, it can do so mostly by encouraging personal responsibility. Poverty in America is a function of culture and behavior at least as much as of entrenched injustice, and economic mobility calls not for wealth-transfer programs but for efforts that support and uphold the cultural institutions that have always enabled prosperity: education, work, marriage, and responsible child-rearing.
Thus, the inequality debate is not nearly as relevant to the more important question of mobility as it sometimes seems to many advocates and politicians. Inequality is a cloudy lens through which to understand the problems of poverty and mobility, and it does not point toward solutions. Great wealth is not a social problem; great poverty is. And great wealth neither causes poverty nor can readily alleviate it. Only by properly targeting poverty, and by understanding its social, cultural, and moral dimensions, can well-intentioned policymakers hope to make a dent in American poverty — and thereby advance mobility and sustain the American Dream.
2) The New Middle Class Contract by James C. Capretta at National Affairs
The impulse to insulate the middle class from the cost consequences of their choices — an impulse that has defined our longstanding ­middle-class contract — has done great harm and stands to do far more. The remedy must be to redesign our entitlements so that the choices the middle class makes in terms of work, family, and health care will promote more productivity, efficiency, and wealth, rather than the shrinking of the labor force and the growth of government.
3) Capitalism After the Crisis by Luigi Zingales at National Affairs
We thus stand at a crossroads for American capitalism. One path would channel popular rage into political support for some genuinely pro-market reforms, even if they do not serve the interests of large financial firms. By appealing to the best of the populist tradition, we can introduce limits to the power of the financial industry — or any business, for that matter — and restore those fundamental principles that give an ethical dimension to capitalism: freedom, meritocracy, a direct link between reward and effort, and a sense of responsibility that ensures that those who reap the gains also bear the losses. This would mean abandoning the notion that any firm is too big to fail, and putting rules in place that keep large financial firms from manipulating government connections to the detriment of markets. It would mean adopting a pro-market, rather than pro-business, approach to the economy.
The alternative path is to soothe the popular rage with measures like limits on executive bonuses while shoring up the position of the largest financial players, making them dependent on government and making the larger economy dependent on them. Such measures play to the crowd in the moment, but threaten the financial system and the public standing of American capitalism in the long run. They also reinforce the very practices that caused the crisis. This is the path to big-business capitalism: a path that blurs the distinction between pro-market and pro-business policies, and so imperils the unique faith the American people have long displayed in the legitimacy of democratic capitalism.
Unfortunately, it looks for now like the Obama administration has chosen this latter path. It is a choice that threatens to launch us on that vicious spiral of more public resentment and more corporatist crony capitalism so common abroad — trampling in the process the economic exceptionalism that has been so crucial for American prosperity. When the dust has cleared and the panic has abated, this may well turn out to be the most serious and damaging consequence of the financial crisis for American capitalism.

4) In the WSJ, Theodore Dalrymple is displeased, witty, and delightful as usual.

5) In the Times Online (UK), Gore Vidal is displeased, bitter, and unbearable as usual. (And perhaps off his rocker.)

6) As a conservative in the Obama age, P. J. O' Rourke just can't keep up with being racist, sexist, and prejudiced enough for liberals anymore. . . so he's outsourcing the hate.

7) Michael Ramirez on The Empire State Building celebrating China's Communist Anniversary:

8) At Philosophy Now, Luke Pollard Reviews, "A Sceptic's Guide to Atheism" by Peter S. Williams.

9) On his wonderful site, Classical Notes, Peter Gutmann discusses Alexander Borodin's Symphony No. 2 in B minor.

10) Touching on a theme Mr. Northcutt discussed on this blog not too long ago, President Obama thinks kids should spend more time in school

11)  Roger Kimball and Rabbi Jon Hausman, "attended a small lunch for Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist whose image of Mohammed with a bomb for a turban" was one of several cartoons in the "Dutch Cartoons" uproar a few years ago.  They ponder Yale in the light of its decision to censor a book on the topic.  Hausman concludes and Kimball agrees that,
Honestly, I would not send my child to any school where there is such uniformity and conformity of thought and attitude. . .

Further, it is clear that the university suffers from the malaise of relativist truth and the multicultural ethic. There are no universal truths any longer. When I was in college, it seemed that the point of education at the university level was to use the subject matter under study to encourage independent, critical thinking. Today, all truths are equal. I abjure this notion.
In the final analysis, I believe that the university is lost.

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