The (B)end of History – John Arguilla [Foreign Policy]
Where have all the leaders gone? So much has happened in 2011, but there is precious little evidence of world events being guided by a few great men and women. From the social revolution in Egypt's Tahrir Square to the impact of the Tea Party on American politics, and on to the Occupy movement, loose-knit, largely leaderless networks are exercising great influence on social and political affairs.
Networks draw their strength in two ways: from the information technologies that connect everybody to everybody else, and from the power of the narratives that draw supporters in and keep them in, sometimes even in the face of brutal repression such as practiced by Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria. Aside from civil society uprisings, this is true of terrorist networks as well. The very best example is al Qaeda, which has survived the death of Osama bin Laden and is right now surging fighters into Iraq -- where they are already making mischief and will declare victory in the wake of the departure of U.S. forces.
The kind of "people power" now being exercised, which is the big story of the past year, is opening a whole new chapter in human history -- an epic that was supposed to have reached its end with the ultimate triumph of democracy and free market capitalism, according to leading scholar and sometime policymaker Francis Fukuyama. When he first advanced his notion about the "end of history" in 1989, world events seemed to be confirming his insight. The Soviet Union was unraveling, soon to dissolve. Freedom was advancing nearly everywhere. Fukuyama knew there would still be occasional unrest but saw no competing ideas emerging. We would live in an age of mop-up operations, such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq -- for which he had initially plumped -- and this year's war to overthrow Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi. As Fukuyama noted in his famous essay, "the victory of liberalism has occurred primarily in the realm of ideas or consciousness and is as yet incomplete in the real or material world." … Read the Rest
Demonizing Wal-Mart – Michael Kinsley [Los Angeles Times]
In cultural commentary about the American economy, one company at a time always seems to be the goat. Everything it does is interpreted as evil. In the 1950s it was General Motors. GM's CEO, Charles "Engine Charlie" Wilson, became a national figure of ridicule for telling a congressional committee, "What's good for General Motors is good for America." Except that he actually said, "For years I thought that what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa" — which is quite a different proposition.
In the 1990s the goat was Microsoft.* That famous antitrust case looks a bit silly in retrospect, don't you think? Turns out it wasn't Microsoft that was about to take over the world: It was Google… Read the Rest
Doctors Say Obamacare Is No Remedy for U.S. Health Woes – Sally Pipes [Forbes]
America’s doctors have conducted a full examination of the president’s health reform law — and their diagnosis of its effects on our healthcare system isn’t good.
Nearly two-thirds of doctors expect the quality of care in this country to decline, according to a new survey from consulting giant Deloitte. Just 27 percent think that the law will lower costs. And nearly seven of every 10 doctors believe that medicine is no longer attractive to America’s “best and brightest.”... Read the Rest
Midlife Crisis Economics – David Brooks [New York Times]
The members of the Obama administration have many fine talents, but making adept historical analogies may not be among them.
When the administration came to office in the depths of the financial crisis, many of its leading figures concluded that the moment was analogous to the Great Depression. They read books about the New Deal and sought to learn from F.D.R.
But, in the 1930s, people genuinely looked to government to ease their fears and restore their confidence. Today, Americans are more likely to fear government than be reassured by it… Read the Rest
Diversity, Inc. – Victor Davis Hansen [National Review]
‘Affirmative action” was the logical sequel to the civil-rights legislation of the 1960s. The initial reasoning was attractive enough. New guarantees of equality of opportunity were insufficient to achieve the promised social parity, given the legacy of slavery and the existence of ongoing racial bias. Therefore, to counteract the effects of historical discrimination, the race of individuals must be weighed into contemporary hiring and admissions practices. The key was to avoid the word “quota.” That did not sound very “affirmative” for a program that supposedly was about growing (or “enriching”) the pie, not a crass zero-sum game of taking a college spot or a job from one person and giving it to another on the basis of race.
Second, although slavery was confined to the Confederacy, there was the general assumption that, as blacks in the postbellum era had migrated northward, they were subjected to all sorts of bias, and so the recompense was to be a national, not just a southern, obligation… Read the Rest
The GOP’s Answer to Union Money – Fred Barnes [Wall Street Journal]
When Steven Law was deputy secretary of labor in the George W. Bush administration, he routinely scrutinized the disclosure forms of labor unions. Unions had recently been required to report new details about how they spent their members' dues money. Mr. Law discovered that organized labor was contributing millions to a variety of liberal groups—environmentalists, gay-rights advocates and left-wing blogs, among others.
For Mr. Law, it was a revelation and a lesson. He concluded that the labor movement had enlarged and strengthened the coalition that helped produce Democratic landslides in 2006 and 2008.
Now, as president and CEO of the independent pro-Republican group American Crossroads (AC), Mr. Law is preparing to fund seven or eight conservative organizations and create a broad front of support for Republican candidates in 2012. As a trial run, AC gave $3.7 million to the National Federation of Independent Business, $4 million to Americans for Tax Reform, and $1.5 million to the Republican State Leadership Committee in last year's midterm election campaign. Republicans won a massive victory, and Mr. Law decided it was money well spent… Read the Rest
2011: You Can’t Win For Losing – Jonah Goldberg [National Review Online]
Charlie Sheen was clearly the man of the year.
You’ll recall that 2011 began with the oafish actor celebrating his own narcotic and sexual crapulence like a victorious gladiator working the crowds. He was egged on by a media with as much decency as the cons on the top tiers of the prison who chant “fresh fish” as the new inmates walk into general pop, their eyes stinging from delousing powder.
Sheen succeeded at turning his own debasement into a national pseudo-event by calling the very definition of losing “winning.”
And that’s what 2011 was all about: pretending to be winning while really losing… Read the Rest
North Korea’s Human Rights Abuses Must End – Kim Moon-soo [Washington Post]
Not long after South Korean economist Oh Kil-nam was enticed into entering North Korea with his family in 1985, he realized he was in trouble. The opportunities they expected were illusory; instead, Oh and his family found themselves trapped. About a year later, Oh was ordered to abduct two Koreans studying in Germany, much as he had been lured to the North. Although she knew it would endanger their family, Oh’s wife, Shin Sook-ja, implored him to disobey the orders and try to escape. They must not lead other innocents to a fate as horrible as theirs, she argued.
When Oh was sent abroad, he did not follow orders but sought political asylum. North Korean authorities reacted by confining Shin and their two daughters, just 9 and 11, to the Yoduk concentration camp in 1987. Twenty-four years later, Oh lives in South Korea. Retired now, he clings to the faint hope that he can be reunited with his family… Read the Rest
Conservatives Confusing Corporatism With Capitalism – Timothy P. Carney [Washington Examiner]
One cause of government growth is confusion, on behalf of pro-free-market people, of policies that free up the market and policies that subsidize Big Business. Many conservatives fall into the trap of thinking that if liberals hate Big Business or lobbyists, then Big Business and lobbyists must be good.
Yesterday we got a great example of this from conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt.
Kevin Williamson of National Review wrote an excellent essay on Wall Street, and how the big banks use their political connections to make profits without adding value to society. Williamson also suggested that Wall Street's generosity to the campaign of Mitt Romney ought to make us suspicious of Romney, because these Wall Street guys are neither economically free-market nor culturally conservative… Read the Rest
Thatcher vs. Decline – Rich Lowry [National Review Online]
Margaret Thatcher is on the cover of Newsweek, or — the next best thing — Meryl Streep is on the cover as the former British prime minister in a new biopic.
Thatcher is a rich theme. If the types who expound on such things didn’t so hate her politics, she’d launch a thousand dissertations on those inexhaustible academic themes of class and gender. As the daughter of a grocer, she was looked down upon as the personification of, in the words of one highfalutin critic, “the worst of the lower-middle-class.” As a woman in a man’s world, she was venomously attacked by her opponents as a “bitch” or “the bag.”… Read the Rest
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