Chapman’s News & Ideas

Scott Powell on American Free Enterprise, its Critics and its Sources of Renewal

The following is a transcript of Discovery Sr. Fellow Scott S. Powell’s lecture last week at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton.

There have been many civilizations that have come into being over the last 6,000 years—from the ancient Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Asian civilizations that sprang up around the Euphrates, Tigress, Nile, Indus and Yellow River valleys, to the more recent and advanced Greek and Roman civilizations, which have more directly shaped Western civilization. While each of these civilizations made their own contributions to progress during the times in which they flourished, none of them unleashed the kind of economic development and entrepreneurial productivity witnessed in the first two hundred years of the American civilization.

As a starting point, it is worth considering the basics. The tools brought by the first colonists that arrived in the new world and settled in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, and then in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620, were primitive. They were the same basic rudimentary tools of sustenance—such as shovels, axes, hoes and ploughs—that previous civilizations had also used.

But something happened in America that sped up progress beyond what had ever happened previously in human history. What I would like to do is identify some of the key human characteristics and arrangements that helped the American economy take off and create a revolution of upward mobility and prosperity — one that became a model that has benefited other countries around the world who adopted similar ways. Next, we’ll consider some of the main reasons why and how this extraordinarily beneficial system has come under criticism and why it continues to be on the defensive despite its success. Then, we’ll look briefly at the competing alternative—socialism—with particular attention to understanding whether it is a viable alternative. We will open it up for discussion and perhaps wrap it up by my touching on some of the things that could be done to restore some balance and appreciation of the system and institutions which have provided so much material well-being. Read More ›


Climate Change: Where is the Argument?

Leftist debate consists increasingly of personal attacks separated from facts and logical argument. Consider the assault on Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Tribe, previously a liberal’s liberal, who had the nerve to provide his talents to Peabody Coal Co. in response to the climate change issue. Even in religious discussions one expects more than ad hominem slurs. But climate change is a raw and revolutionary religion that still allows no critique. Witness the Washington Post story about Tribe. Read More ›



Missile Defense? In Mothballs, as Danger Grows

The Los Angeles Times reports that a multi-billion dollar plan to save the U.S. from a nuclear missile attack–a danger growing greater with the passage of time–is a flop.

This is the topic no one wants to discuss. The Reagan Administration promoted “Star Wars” until a nuclear agreement was reached with the Soviet Union. But Russia has revived nuclear war talk, and North Korea boasts of its technology and putative interest in bombing us. Iran today is the preview of what could happen among trigger-happy countries in the Middle East. Read More ›


Continuing Neglect of Today’s Christian Martyrs

UPDATE: The Pope himself made this topic the theme of his Easter message.

The preacher at Pope Francis’ commemoration of Good Friday in the Vatican raised the painful issue of growing persecution of Christians around the world. It is a story that “the institutions” of the world, Fr. Raneiro Cantalamassa said, are not mentioning. Perhaps he was thinking of the United Nations. But he could have been speaking of almost any institutions.

That includes, sadly, the Catholic Church! The mass dispossessions, church bombings, beheadings and other murders, rapes, sale of women and children captives into slavery, etc. go unremarked in parish homilies I have attended in many cities. Isn’t that odd? Maybe there are exceptions, but I have been traveling around a lot lately and have yet to hear the subject broached, let alone made the main topic of a sermon. Oh, on two occasions I did note that the recommended prayers sent out by the Church hinted at the topic, but that’s it.

Yet martyrdom is what happened to the followers of Jesus two millennia ago, isn’t it? It’s a rather important theme in the Christian story. With all its depth and implications, surely this topic should be widely discussed. So should Aid to the Church in Need and other groups trying to get help victims of persecution–often Christians and non-Christians alike. But “silence”, as the Vatican preacher says, is what we get instead.

This is not the first time that the subject of current martyrdoms has been broached lately in the Vatican. Sadly, the message is not getting picked up at lower levels of the
Church, in other denominations or–let alone–the major media. Read More ›


John Wohlstetter Address Economic Club of Boca Raton

John describes to a hushed audience in Boca Raton, Florida the likely and potential crises ahead for Pres. Obama’s final 22 months in office, from growing danger to the Baltic States if Putin decides to “protect” the Russian speaking populations of Latvia and Estonia to the coming executive agreement with Iran that threatens to begin new nuclear armament in the Sunni states. Just in those two matters alone–with NATO’s credibility and the validity of the NPT (nuclear treaty)–at stake, America’s post World War II foreign policy strategy is at risk. Then throw in cyber-war/EMP, Chinese expansionism, ISIS, and the downgrade of US defenses and you have reasons for serious alarm. The case for a major national foreign policy debate has Read More ›


Unsettling “Settled Science”

Stephen Moore has an article in the Washington Times that is worth the attention of skeptics of “settled science.” http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/mar/15/stephen-moore-climate-change-not-settled-science/ Moore, long a staple of economics articles in the Wall Street Journal, describes the attempts of The National Geographic and other publications to marginalize critics of climate change theory. It’s the old story of argument from authority. What Moore does then is tear the argument apart. There are plenty of reasons to skeptical of “settled science.” The embryonic stem cell debate is a recent example that Moore doesn’t mention. The whole nexus of government research dollars and university science departs and left wing politics deserves book-length treatment. And don’t forget the shoddiest case of “settled science,” Darwinian evolution–and the social Read More ›


Catholics Honor Discovery Fellow Wesley J. Smith

The Cardinal John J. O’Connor award of Legatus, the national organization of lay Catholics, was given in Naples, Florida, on Saturday to Wesley J. Smith, Senior Fellow of Discovery Institute, for his tireless advocacy of “human exceptionalism” in bio-ethics, medical practice, and culture. I was honored to accompany him on behalf of Discovery Institute. The convention was attended by some seven hundred delegates.


John West Wins Documentary Award

A documentary film on The Biology of the Second Reich, directed by Discovery Senior Fellow John West (aided by Jens Jorgenson, and based largely on the research of Dr. Richard Weichart, scholar of German history and also a Discovery fellow) has won the “Best Short Documentary Award” of the Los Angeles Film Festival of Hollywood.

You can watch a video version of the film on YouTube for free.

Biology of the Second Reich

Most people now know the story of the Third Reich’s misuse of biology leading up to–and during–World War II. But few are aware that the Germans had prepared the way with a pernicious Darwinism before World War I that may be said to have begun with the writings of German biologist Ernst Haeckel. In the late 19th Century Haeckel was all too ready to admire the racism found in Darwin’s less known book, The Descent of Man. The next step for the German Empire was to apply these theories to the eradication of “inferior” people in Germany and to races in Africa that the Germans governed. Read More ›


Cyber War Concerns Will Not Go Away

How much danger, really, are we facing from foreign attacks on America’s electronic infrastructure? Some, like our senior fellow George Gilder, are skeptical. But another senior fellow, John Wohlstetter, is more concerned. Here is “Faust’s Networks,” his article today at American Spectator.