When asked to imagine the birthplace of our contemporary republican democracy, most educated people point to the democratic traditions of ancient Athens and to the institutions and offices of the Roman Republic. Yet, Athens was destroyed and its democracy destroyed centuries before the birth of Christ, and the Roman Republic succumbed to imperial despotism in 27BC. These shining examples continued to burn as embers of remembrance long after their practical extinction, thanks to a political and intellectual class dedicated to the preservation of ancient documents and knowledge. But while preserving the records, the successor states of both Athens and Rome were neither democratic nor republican in character.
It’s beginning to sink in with the intelligentsia: The flood of illegal aliens (yes, I said “illegal”) and particularly the tsunami of children traveling alone — parents risking their youngsters’ lives by sending them from Central America through gang-ravaged Mexico — threatens to turn the immigration debate into a major political liability for Democrats in November.
A cautionary tale about the pitfalls of bureaucratic incompetence played out in Ireland over the last several days. American country music star Garth Brooks was scheduled to play five concerts in the Croke Park arena, one of the largest venues in the country. In all, 400,000 tickets were sold. That is an astonishing number, considering Ireland’s population is just under 4.6 million. Close to one in ten citizens was planning to attend!
It was long the case that American presidents held less power on domestic issues than the Congress. The executive branch could only enact the laws of the legislature with a limited tendency to veto. The president’s real power lay in setting foreign policy, as he had much more freedom of action in that arena than on the home front wherein the checks and balances of the Constitution were in full force. That traditional balance has been overridden in the current political system. The fault for this breakdown of traditional magisteria of influence lies with both the executive and the legislative branches.
The recent meeting in Mozambique of the signers of the Ottawa Convention, which bans the use of landmines, has brought the subject of landmines back into the spotlight. To date, 161 countries have signed the treaty, and its aims were included as official United Nations policy in 1999. Long a vocal opponent of landmine proliferation and usage, President Barack Obama opened a review of America’s landmine policy in 2009. He has yet to take a major action, but many Obama-watchers fear he will soon take action to sign the treaty. He would be wrong to do so.
So much blood and treasure was wasted during the long occupation in Iraq that there was a sigh of relief across America when the troops finally left. Yet the end of the American presence has resulted in chaos. Islamist extremists in recent days have been making gains against the Iraqi military, seizing several towns, including the city of Mosul. The sheer rapidity of the collapse of law and order in Iraq led to a lot of hand-wringing in the White House. President Obama finally decided to send a few hundred troops to bolster the beleaguered regime of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This choice will only serve to further diminish the status of the United States in the region.
The dearth of transplantable organs remains a serious problem in the United States and in much of the world. There are 123,000 Americans currently waiting for an organ. 18 of them die every day because demand continues to exceed supply. The problem has drawn the attention of many activists and policymakers, but sometimes the proposed solutions have proven more unpleasant than the problem. Chief among these unsavory solutions is the policy of opt-out organ donation.
The American Dream is one of the driving concepts in our country’s national story, one that occupies a special place in the national discourse. It is a sort of national ethos, born out of various statements of the Founding Fathers, particularly Thomas Jefferson’s in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The aggressively statist, socialist government of Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro styles itself as a Bolivarian revolutionary regime for Venezuela. Named for the great 19th century South American independence hero, Simon Bolivar, the Venezuelan Bolivarian movement claims to be the fulfillment of that leader’s legacy. Yet virtually everything we know about the man and his political philosophy suggests he would be horrified by “his” revolution.
The siren song of independence and national self-determination has sounded once again across Europe. It is a song that holds echoes of a century ago, when the internal force of nationalism convulsed the European empires into world war. Yet, while the song remains the same, the tune has changed.
A demonstration of just how far the United States has moved from its original founding principles is seen in the fact that in all the jousting over ObamaCare, the general rise in “entitlement” spending, and the burden of government regulation over American enterprises, there is one question that seems rarely to be asked: What should be the size and scope of government, and what would it cost if government were cut down more to the size delineated in the original Constitution?
Net neutrality activists’ latest rhetoric that opposes the FCC’s court-required update of its Open Internet rules, by implying that there haven’t been “slow and fast lanes” on the Internet before, is obviously factually wrong and misleading, both for consumers receiving content and for entities sending content.
In whatever direction we turn, we find the heavy hand of government intruding into virtually every aspect of American society. Indeed, it has reached the point that it would a lot easier to list those areas of people’s lives into which government does not impose itself – and, alas, it would be a very short list. But it was not always that way.
If there is one label more than any other that principled advocates of individual liberty are often stamped with it is that they are “extremists.” How can you be so extreme, it is said, what is wrong with a compromise between personal freedom and some “reasonable” degree of government regulation, welfare legislation, and social intervention?
The Ukrainian-Russian crisis over the de facto occupation of Crimea by Russian military forces, which has enveloped the concerns and fears of the world over the last weeks, revolves around two conflicting claims of national self-determination. It has, once again, brought with it the danger of war on the European continent.
This weekly podcast features the second half of a conversation between Jim Lakely, Heartland’s communications director, and Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Institute. In this half of the interview, Jim and Dr. Brook discuss President Obama’s treatment of capitalism, corporate cronyism, and the morality of libertarianism.
This fall, Common Core tests are slated to roll out and essentially cement it (until the next big thing). These tests and their corresponding curriculum mandates will influence almost everything about most American schools: teacher evaluations, textbooks, learning software, school funding, even student grades. In 2013, most parents and teachers first met Common Core. Some began to complain about federal overreach, lack of public debate, pilot test questions and format, open-ended data collection, academic quality, technology costs for the all-online tests, and lack of training for teachers.