Are Free Market Economics and Political Freedom Interrelated? Part I

An author with the Telegraph, Janet Daley, makes some interesting points today in an article titled, “Lose Capitalism and We’ll Lose Political Freedom.” Her main point is that capitalism—wrongly associated with other “isms” as a political ideology—is nothing more than a “conglomeration of all the transactions made between individual and corporate players in an open market.” She goes on to say that capitalism, or as she prefers, “free market economics, is “an anti-system: the aggregation of human behavior as it goes about fulfilling particular wants and needs. It can be described in anthropomorphic terms, such as ‘ruthless’ or ‘benign’ but of itself has no motives and no objectives.”

Critiquing those on the Left who gleefully portend the demise of capitalism, she argues, “There are lots of things that can be done to ‘capitalism’—it can be undermined, suppressed, sabotaged, even outlawed—but it cannot be ‘overthrown’ because in itself, it has no power.” Daley goes on to say, [Capitalism] is the very opposite, in fact, of a tyranny.”

Indeed, free market economics isn’t a political ideology. It is the absence of ideology (mostly in absence: one could argued that belief in the individual over government control is an ideology, but not in the same sense as the other “isms), allowing individual actors to make choices according to their values systems. Free market economics takes what is a base human condition—the desire to improve one’s position—and channels it into the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people.

Most importantly, the author recognizes, “When we make the case for capitalism, we are defending the political principle of freedom, not arguing for one kind of rigid economic organisation [sic] over another.” This final point is the most critical, and is supported by the Index of Economic Freedom produced by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal: across the globe, as a general rule, countries with the most- free economies also possess the most-free political systems. I’d like to do an in-depth analysis of the most recent report soon, but the basic point is that countries with significant economic freedom (the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, etc.) are also the most politically-free, while the countries that have oppressive, centralized economic systems are the least-free (North Korea, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Burma).

At any rate, it’s an interesting article and one worth reading.

Skewering the Prime Minister

Not that I would trade our system for theirs, but one of the endearing characteristics of the British parliamentary system is the direct confrontation regular members of parliament have with the Prime Minister. Each Wednesday, the PM travels to Westminster for his weekly inquisition and insult. Apparently, the tradition carries over to PM Gordon Brown’s visits to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

In this clip, British Member of European Parliament (MEP) Dan Hannan skewers British PM Gordon Brown for the sorry state of Britain’s fiscal affairs. Given the opportunity, I’m confident that we have plenty of people in the US House and Senate that could give Mr. Hannan a run for his oratorical money. Unfortunately, President Obama is able to hide behind his teleprompter and a still-largely-compliant press.

School Choice: Game-Changers

*This post is pretty serious inside baseball, but it’s representative of a debate that is taking place in state capitals across the country.

Many of South Carolina’s rural and poor schools are failing miserably at their mission: educating our children. Despite increasing funding exponentially over the last 30 years and trying every fad that can be dreamed up at education colleges, our education system overall does a poor job of keeping kids in school and a poor job at educating the ones who stay.

Implementing school choice programs, especially at failing schools, has been a goal of conservatives for several years. In 2005, moderate/liberal Republicans in South Carolina allied with the Democrats to defeat a Governor Sanford-supported comprehensive school choice bill by one vote. Since then, school choice supporters have engaged the status-quo Republicans in bloody primary fights in each cycle. Winning primary fights (as well as open seat campaigns) has put enough school choice supporters into office to give school choice a real chance of passage this year.

In a game changing move, Senator Robert Ford, a black Democrat and civil rights activist, came out in support of the most recent version of school choice. It’s difficult to underestimate the impact that his support could have on this debate–by breaking the perception that school choice is the goal of wealthy white parents who just want taxpayer-subsidized private school tuition.

The current bill is similar to a program operating in Arizona for several years, which allows corporations and individuals to make tax-deductible contributions to fund scholarships to needy students in failing schools.

School choice may not solve all of America’s education woes. But these programs have largely met success where they have been tried–and the status quo clearly is not working.

A Catholic Obamination: Notre Dame’s Commencement Address

Bishop John D’Arcy should be commended for his recent decision to forgo attendance at the Notre Dame graduation ceremony. It is heartening to know that there are still individuals that are willing to stand up and make a statement for basic human rights; arguably the right to life being the most basic of them all.

So what prompted bishop D’Arcy not to attend the ceremony? After all, his diocese encompasses Fort Wayne and South Bend Indiana, home of the Fighting Irish. After all, Notre Dame is a Catholic institution. And after all, some of his parishioners will probably be in attendance.

But bishop D’Arcy, after prayerful consideration, has opted to refrain from attending the graduation on account of President Obama giving the commencement address.

I applaud the bishop.

I find it irreconcilably hypocritical that Obama is giving the commencement address at Notre Dame. It’s disgraceful that a purportedly Catholic university is giving open forum to a president that is among the most anti-life in the United States. And to top it off, he is expected to receive an honorary degree.

Even worse are the justifications by Christians defending his appearance, especially university president, John I. Jenkins. Let’s not make bones about it – there is a serious, fundamental disconnect when a purportedly private religious institution leader believes it’s acceptable to cater to an individual that advances policies diametrically opposed to the institution’s core religious values. An elected president Obama is, a respecter of life Obama isn’t.

There would be a serious issue if a notorious figure such as defrocked televangelist Jim Bakker were requested deliver a sermon on fiscal accountability – or Ted Haggard were to preach on chastity.

Yet somehow, we are able to manipulate ourselves into believing that it’s okay for a speaker to disagree with foundational principles of an institution but be in accord with less essential tenets. Said Jenkins, “[Obama is] an inspiring leader who faces many challenges. . . and [he] is addressing them with intelligence, courage and honesty.” Jim Bakker was a charismatic businessman that could market the Gospel and preach prosperity. Ted Haggard headed the National Association of Evangelicals. Should those speakers address the congregation as well? By Jenkins’ logic, they should even be given a special award.

It never ceases to amaze me how such educated individuals have intellectualized themselves out of the simplicity of the gospel. As is evident here, degrees in divinity do not confer godly judgment. I don’t know what frightens me more – that men like Jenkins can be ordained priests, or that such ordained priests can serve as spiritual leaders. Both are reprehensible.

That being said, I commend bishop D’Arcy for choosing not to be in tacit accord with the pro-choice President. Obama should not speak at Notre Dame, even despite the credentials lauded by Jenkins, “the economy, two wars, and health care, immigration and education reform.” Notably absent: any mention of the most basic credential – life. Shameful.

Update: For those interested, I am linking to the petition protesting the decision to honor Obama at the commencement ceremony.

America’s Pastime

We invented the game, for goodness sake!

Nothing against the Japanese, but it’s inexcusable that the United States failed to win the World Baseball Classic for the 2nd time (out of 2 tournaments). The tournament was instead won by the Japanese, comprised of a grand total of 5 Major League Baseball players, over the Koreans, who only had 1 MLB player.

While the US team wasn’t fear-inducing with its collection of talent (many clubs are reluctant to allow their players to participate for fear of injury), with the likes of Jake Peavy, Roy Oswalt, Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Evan Longoria, David Wright, and Jimmy Rollins, the US should have put on a better show. Perhaps the 2nd straight failure will send a wake-up call to the American players, much like the failures of USA Basketball earlier this decade spurred gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Justice Scalia a Homophobe?

Barney Frank takes political discourse to a new low in the video below. Frank, an openly gay member of Congress, spoke to a gay news site about pending legislation and Obama’s first term.

The comment strikes me as odd, but not unexpected. Any conservative who opposes same-sex marriage is suddenly a “homophobe” or “bigot” for defending the most foundational relationship in our society. The rancor from the LGBT community seeks to undermine any attempt to have a reasoned political discourse on the subject. That hatred for conservative values has now infected many liberal politicians as well. They’d rather skewer sitting Supreme Court justices who have not decided the issue instead of doing their job engaging their colleagues in Congress to enact some legislative alternative.

Introductions: Tim Silvester

As noted a few weeks ago, Ex Deserto is in the midst of bringing on some new authors to add fresh perspective, innovative ideas, and challenging discussion. Our newest addition is Tim Silvester, a 2L at George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, VA.

Ex Deserto is honored–and proud–to have Tim on the team. We eagerly look forward to his participation. Tim’s bio is below and will be permanently posted along with the other authors’ at the bottom of this page.

Welcome, Tim!

Tim Silvester is a member of the Class of 2010 at George Mason University School of Law. He is the Executive Editor of the George Mason Civil Rights Law Journal, a member of the National Moot Court Team, the Vice President of the Trial Advocacy Association, and the President of the Federalist Society. Tim graduated first in his class from Bob Jones University, where he earned a degree in English. During college, he co-founded the Greenville College Republicans, served as Governor of the South Carolina Student Legislature, and interned for Senator Jim DeMint. He currently lives in Falls Church, Virginia, and regularly attends McLean Bible Church.