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David Solway writes, “The displacement of the “individual” as a primary category of social and political thought — a distinctly observable trend in the contemporary West — is an infallible sign of civilizational despair.”  You can read his full argument in “The Death of the Individual.”  While Solway concentrates on the philosophical sources of this trend, Franklin Foer points to the effects technology has on culture to demonstrate “How Silicon Valley Is Erasing Your individuality.”  Of course, the observation that the modern is “erasing” the individual is nothing new.  Aldous Huxley wrote about this in his dystopian novel, “Brave New World.”  You can hear the author discuss his predictions in this interview (from 1958):

 

 

 

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The last true reform, in 1986, under Ronald Reagan, reduced tax rates without losing revenue by eliminating swathes of tax deductions. Crucially, it was a bipartisan effort, which made it easier for Congress to take on the interest groups which avidly defend the benefits they gain from carve-outs.

President Trump and the Republican controlled Congress have promised tax cuts in 2017.  They have also promised to reduce spending and make other changes to the budget.  For some background on federal taxes and budgets, I am suggesting the following brief articles.

Phil Gramm and Michael Solon describe how “Reagan Cut Taxes, Revenue Boomed.” This demonstrated how tax cuts and deregulation can work to grow the economy while relieving the burden on tax payers.  However, because of the budget challenges facing the US now, the Economist warns that “Cutting Taxes Will Not Be Easy.”  (Of course, it never is easy to make changes to the way government functions.)  But it is possible to reform both tax and budget policy.  President Coolidge balanced the budget and reduced taxes by limiting government spending.  The results were strong economic growth, reduced burden on individual and corporate tax payers, and a boost to standard of living for the middle class.  Hopefully the President and Congress are open to the “Budget and Tax Lessons from President Calvin Coolidge“.

 

Fifty years ago, we declared war on poverty.  What Ronald Reagan said 30 years ago is still true.  Poverty won.

Timothy Goeglein offers an excellent summary of President Johnson’s greatest success and greatest failure – the growth of government into a behemoth that has crushed the American spirit, increased racial tensions and institutionalized crime and poverty.  You can read the full article here: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/lbj-vs-the-nuclear-family/

Rachel Sheffield enumerates the costs of the Great Society’s failures: $22 Trillion to date (with an additional $14 Trillion projected in the next 10 years), a decline in eligible workers in the labor force, a large increase in single parent households, a large increase in the proportion of US citizens living on welfare, etc.  You can read her short article here: http://dailysignal.com/2014/05/22/great-society-50-years-later-failing-americas-poor/

Ironically, the Great Society has failed worst those it meant to help most, poor minorities in the poor, inner cities.  Historian Walter Russell Mead succinctly described this:

After the Medicare/Medicaid catastrophe, the single greatest policy failure of modern America is urban policy.  Since the Great Society era of Lyndon Johnson, the country has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into poor urban neighborhoods.  The violence and crime generated in these neighborhoods costs hundreds of billions more.  And after all this time, all this money and all this energy, the inner city populations are worse off than before.  There is more drug addiction and more social and family breakdown among this population than when the Great Society was launched.  Incarceration rates have risen to levels that shock the world (though they make for safer streets); the inner city abortion rate has reached levels that must surely appall even the most resolute pro-choicers not on the Planned Parenthood payroll.  Forty percent of all pregnancies in New York end in abortion, with higher rates among Blacks; nationally, the rate among Blacks is three times the rate among white women.  Put it all together and you have a holocaust of youth and hope on a scale hard to match.    – Walter Russell Mead, The Shame of the Cities and the Shade of LBJ

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The American Bar Association asks, “What is the Rule of Law?” in its Part I Dialogue.  Meant to initiate discussion as part of the association’s public education efforts, this first part offers an excellent history and overview of this concept vital to a free society.  The full document is available here: https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/publiced/features/Part1DialogueROL.authcheckdam.pdf

 

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Protest in Portland, Oregon

It is fairly easy to give a broad summary of “western” values: democracy, equality, rationalism, universal human rights, rule of law, tolerance (racial, religious, speech, etc.), property rights and capitalism.  There are those who are hostile to these ideas to the point of violence.  This isn’t surprising.  What is surprising is that many of these opponents to “western” freedom come from inside western countries.  This week’s readings will explore three of these groups.

John Daniel Davidson proposes that the “London Attack Indicates It’s Time To Stop Pretending Western Values Are Universal.”  The violence that is plaguing Europe most often has come from citizens or immigrants who live in the communities they attack.  The religious/political views of these extremists is known to authorities before these attacks, although officials have failed to act even when ties to terrorism are documented.

The Roots of Left-Wing Violence,” by Ian Tuttle, explores a different kind of enemy, anarchists and progressive extremists who broadly reject our culture and use protest to combat our way of life.  This isn’t the non-violent protest of Martin Luther King Jr. or Ghandi.  It isn’t the purposeful anti-war/anti-draft movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s.  “Antifa”  claims to be anti-fascist, but Tuttle notes that their methods mirror those of the Nazis and Maoists.  What they are actually protesting is the democratic process, rule of law, and the capitalist system.

Finally, Jordan Peterson argues Why You Have to Fight Postmodernism, resisting the nihilistic movement that has become embedded in Education and Media and targets young people.  (Video and transcript courtesy Tim Hains at Real Clear Politics.)  “Postmodernists completely reject the structure of Western civilization,” argues Peterson, who gives example after example of how this world-view is antithetical to the traditional idea of “western” freedom.