American Politics

Lincoln_debating_douglas

Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Live Without Them

This book began as a qualified defense of politicians. Their claims can never be unqualified. Surely the politician should stand humbly before those quieter citizens who move society forward in ways a lawgiver or law-executor cannot. You might be tempted to suppose that improvements happen despite the politicians. Read More ›

We Need to Bring Back Real Debates in America

The televised Democratic presidential sound byte pageants will not be true debates by any realistic standard. They are reminiscent of the 2016 Republican primaries that started with 16 candidates preening on a platform and enduring “gotcha” questions by reporters/moderators trying to get themselves into the news story. Until the nominee field narrows, these shows are almost a parody of real debates in the Lincoln-Douglas or Oxford Union manner. That’s too bad. We need to bring back real debates in America, and not just among candidates. Name the issue (climate change, foreign interference in our elections, abortion, immigration, tariffs, privacy online, the future of artificial intelligence, the meaning of “free speech,” whatever): Americans are badly divided. Since media and politicians often …

Darwin, Marx, and Something Called Political “Science”

The materialist influence of 19th-century thinkers still chills 21st-century thinking. It is true in biology, economics, culture, and government. In much of  the popularization and misuse of the claims of natural science and in much of modern German philosophy, tendencies toward atheism and gnosticism (searching for hidden meanings) are found. So are economic determinism and a serene resolve to change human nature. It was considered foolish by many 19th- and early 20th-century intellectuals to believe in God or self-evident truths, but “advanced” to aspire to the perfectibility of man. Progress, you would have thought as an intellectual in that period, must proceed on “scientific” principles. Max Weber’s “fact/value” distinction meant that facts alone could be submitted to scientific inquiry, while issues of Read More ›

Don’t Increase Loans, Decrease Tuition

The country faces over a trillion dollars of student loans that in many cases will not be repaid because the millennials who took them on cannot do so. In Indiana, President Mitch Daniels of Purdue has shown how to hold the line on tuition by cutting costs. In Washington State, the GOP Senate was able to get a 20 percent tuition reduction — rather than increased loans — through the Legislature and to gain the governor’s signature. In any bureaucracy it always seems impossible to cut costs rather than increase expenses — until you have to. Universities have to now, even though there will be protests. There especially is no excuse for high endowment private institutions and state universities that Read More ›

Put Your Head Back on Right this July 4

It is easy to get distracted by all the forebodings in the news today, so I want to offer Discovery Institute friends a “read” that will re-inspire you and also assert some of the personality and philosophy that I hope animates this organization and its fellows. It should encourage a different version of Independence Day enthusiasm as it is quintessentially American.

My Uncle Berlin B. Chapman was raised literally a hundred years ago in the hills of West Virginia, put himself through college and Harvard Graduate School (Phd.), and taught history the rest of his life in Oklahoma–producing some of that region’s first histories. He once told me that in his opinion “the greatest commencement address” ever made was “Acres of Diamonds,” by Baptist preacher and Temple University President Russell Conwell. I asked Uncle Berlin for the gist of it–that the opportunities in life are found in one’s own backyard–and was more or less satisfied with that truism. But I finally got around to reading a version of the address itself today because I wanted to recommend it to a young political friend of mine. Read More ›

Time to Sue the Parents?

The Obama Administration is frustrated that the kids getting government financed school lunches are not eating them. Huge piles of uneaten foodstuffs are being thrown out daily. Worse, a Congressional Committee has learned that there is black market among the kids for salt and pepper, since Michelle Obama is trying to keep these dangerous chemicals out of the food our youth consume. The situation has grown so bad that some parents are sending their kids to school with their own lunches. That of course should be prohibited and the contraband seized as evidence by the Justice Department. Other parents–even poor ones!–are taking their kids out of school and feeding them lunch at home. Why, that’s almost un-American. Kids eating lunch Read More ›