Eradicating Social Evils by David Boaz

The goal of a new Chinese government campaign is to "eradicate all social evils" and "advocate a healthy, civilized and high-minded lifestyle," according to the Washington Post. Some elements of the state just don't like the way the Chinese people are using their newfound freedom. On a different level, we face the same arguments here in the United States. Both the Hillarys and the Huckabees in our world seek to fight "social evils" and lead us to "a healthy, civilized and high-minded lifestyle." The Huckabees focus on our souls, urging the government to stamp out sin and push us to do God's will (as they see it). The Hillarys often focus on our bodies, with campaigns against smoking, popcorn, sodas, salt, and all manner of "unhealthy lifestyles." Then again, the Hillarys do want to save our souls, as well, with campaigns to eradicate racism and sexism and spread the environmentalist gospel. In China, economic freedom is giving people an opportunity to throw off old social rules and restrictions and to experiment with living their lives as they choose. Economic freedom has the same impact here, and in both countries there are powerful people who don't like the choices free people make.

Posted on July 5, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

The Not-So-White Tea Party by David Boaz

USA Today is out with a new poll on Tea Party supporters. Near the top of both the article and the accompanying graphic is this point, also singled out by Howard Kurtz in his Washington Post report on the study:
They are overwhelmingly white and Anglo,
Not too surprising, perhaps. Economic conservatives, we hear, are more white than the national average. But wait --- here's the rest of Kurtz's sentence:
although a scattering of Hispanics, Asian Americans and African Americans combine to make up almost one-fourth of their ranks.
"Almost one-fourth of their ranks" is "a scattering"? Sounds like a pretty good chunk to me, especially in a country that is after all still mostly white. Let's go to the tape. The data-filled graphic says that 77 percent of Tea Party supporters are "non-Hispanic whites." And this 2008 Census report says that the United States as a whole is 65 percent non-Hispanic white. So the Tea Party is indeed somewhat more "white" than the country at large, but not by that much. Twelve points above the national average is not "overwhelmingly white," and 23 percent Hispanics, Asian Americans and African Americans is not "a scattering." At a rough estimate, it represents about 14 million non-Anglo Americans who support the Tea Party movement. How does this compare to the demographics of other movements? Strangely enough, I can't find any real data on the demographics of the enviromental movement. Maybe pollsters and mainstream journalists don't want to know. But here's a report that 84 percent of the visitors to the Sierra Club website are Caucasian. Similar implication here. And here's a story on the environmentalist movement's desperate attempt to seem not so "overwhelmingly white." Yet somehow journalists don't focus on that obvious fact about the environmentalist movement. Instead, they keep describing the Tea Party movement as "overwhelmingly white," even when the data suggest a different conclusion.

Posted on July 2, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Who Were the Best Presidents? by David Boaz

At Politico Arena, the question of the day is:
A new Siena College poll ranks Barack Obama as the 15th best U.S. president (landing him below Bill Clinton, ahead of Ronald Reagan). Franklin Delano Roosevelt earned top honors, while Andrew Johnson was last. Pollsters say Obama is high on imagination, communication and intelligence, but weak on background. On your list of best presidents, where would President Obama land? Who was the best president, and who was the worst?
I responded: Of course Obama ought to be given an incomplete. But he got a Nobel Peace Prize purely on spec. He does now have 18 months of presidential action, and he has already done many things that establishment political scientists like. Presidential scholars love presidents who expand the size, scope and power of government. Thus they put the Roosevelts at the top of the list. And they rate Woodrow Wilson -- the anti-Madisonian president who gave us the entirely unnecessary World War I, which led to communism, National Socialism, World War II, and the Cold War -- 8th. Now there's a record for President Obama to aspire to! Create a century of war and terrorism, and you can move up from 15th to 8th. George Washington, who made real the Founders' dreams of a free republic, should surely be rated first. That he is not speaks volumes about the interests and values underlying this survey. In his book Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, Ivan Eland gives high grades to presidents who left the American people alone to enjoy peace and prosperity, such as Grover Cleveland, Martin Van Buren, and Rutherford B. Hayes. The fact that you can't remember what any of those presidents did is a plus. At the bottom he places Wilson, Truman, McKinley, Polk, and George W. Bush. Bush is also rated near the bottom by the Siena poll. But when current passions have faded, and the next generation's establishment presidential scholars reflect on Bush's expansion of federal power and executive power, Bush will start rising in the rankings. I'm also amused by the presidential scholars' ranking of Lyndon Johnson 1st in the category of relations with Congress. LBJ was known for his vulgar, arm-twisting, threatening, corrupt manipulation of a huge congressional majority. One would hope that congressional scholars might rate higher a president who recognized the constitutional limitations of the executive branch.

Posted on July 2, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Stossel on Fox News Channel: What’s Great about America by David Boaz

John Stossel, usually seen on Fox Business Network, will have a special on the Fox News Channel this weekend, well targeted to Independence Day: "What's Great about America." He'll interview Dinesh D'Souza and immigrant businessmen, among others. Saturday and Sunday, 9 p.m. ET both nights. Fox News is on lots more cable systems than Fox Business, so if you don't get Fox Business, this is your chance to see Stossel. Tonight at 9 p.m., I think it's a rerun of his recent show on Milton Friedman's Free to Choose, featuring . . . me. Along with Johan Norberg, Tom Palmer, and Bob Chitester. For some of my own thoughts on what's great about America, see this article.

Posted on July 1, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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