Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Story ( General ) by David Boaz

Amazing Grace is a beautiful song, but I've never been entirely comfortable with it. I didn't like that line "saved a wretch like me." I don't think I'm a wretch. Nor are most of my friends. But once I learned the story behind the song (with a little help from my friends at the Mackinac Center), I became more sympathetic: John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, really was a wretch. Now a new movie is going to bring that story to millions of people. John Newton was a slave trader and by his own testimony an infidel. He was converted to Christianity but continued in the slave trade. Eventually, however, he renounced that vile life and became an evangelical minister in the Church of England and an abolitionist. "Was blind but now I see," indeed. Among the people who heard his preaching was a young member of parliament, William Wilberforce, who was inspired to lead a long campaign for the abolition of slavery -- from his maiden speech in 1789 to the final passage of the Abolition Act a month after his death in 1833. This is one of the greatest stories in history. And now it is the subject of an impressive new movie. I've only seen the trailer, but the production values are obviously good, and I'm told that the movie is great. Michael Apted directed. Ioan Gruffudd (best known as Horatio Hornblower) plays Wilberforce. It also features the fine British actors Albert Finney, Rufus Sewell, Ciaran Hinds, Michael Gambon, and Toby Jones. It opens on February 23. The story of Newton, Wilberforce, abolition, and Amazing Grace is very popular among evangelical Christians. It's an unambiguous advance for human freedom and dignity in which evangelicals played central roles. And that's why the movie is produced by Bristol Bay Productions (owned by Philip Anschutz, a billionaire conservative) which also produced Ray. Anschutz owns another film company which produced The Chronicles of Narnia. If God's amazing grace caused John Newton to give up slave trading, then who could object? But you don't have to be a Christian to appreciate what promises to be a well-made movie about this great triumph of liberty. And for those of us who struggle in the vineyards year after year, trying to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, the story reminds us that humanity has made great progress toward freedom, that each battle for freedom can be long and seemingly futile, but that the goal is worth time and money and effort. I was once challenged by a Chicago School economist, who thinks everything can be measured, to name the most important libertarian accomplishment in history. I said it was the abolition of slavery. OK, name another, he replied. "The bringing of power under the rule of law," I suggested. He wanted to know how you would measure that. But even without a caliper we can see the importance of that accomplishment. We can also see that neither of these is yet a final victory. May Amazing Grace inspire us to continue working, as long as it takes, to liberate men and women from the arbitrary rule of others and to constrain power with the chains of law. Cross-posted from Comment is free.

Posted on January 31, 2007  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Amazing song, amazing story

A new movie will shortly bring the story of Newton, Wilberforce, and the abolition of slavery to millions.

Posted on January 30, 2007  Posted to The Guardian

Amazing song, amazing story

A new movie will shortly bring the story of Newton, Wilberforce, and the abolition of slavery to millions.

Posted on January 30, 2007  Posted to The Guardian

Jeb vs. W ( Foreign Policy ) by David Boaz

Reading the Washington Post write-up of Gov. Jeb Bush's speech to the National Review Conservative Summit, you have to wonder just what he's saying. The Post reports:
Jeb Bush delivered yesterday in Washington a resounding endorsement of conservative principles, bringing his audience repeatedly to its feet. In his lunchtime remarks to the Conservative Summit, Bush struck every conservative chord, blaming Republicans' defeat in November on the party's abandonment of tenets including limited government and fiscal restraint.... He added, "If the promise of pork and more programs is the way Republicans think they'll regain the majority, then they've got a problem."
Jeb said he was talking about the Republican Congress, and Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review noted that he offered
a vigorous defense of his brother. Bush, at the beginning of his lunch speech, directed comments to the press gathered, noting emphatically: "I'm not going to criticize the president of the United States." Among other accomplishments, Bush noted, “I like Justice Roberts. I like Justice Alito…" and tax cuts. He would also go on to defend the president’s immigration policy.

Posted on January 28, 2007  Posted to Cato@Liberty

The Chuck Hagel Surge ( General ) by David Boaz

Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel burst onto the national scene this week as the leading critic of President Bush's "surge" plan for Iraq. After his widely reported speech at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, he's become a hot topic in the blogosphere. His possible presidential candidacy made the front page of the Washington Post today, and he got a love note from Peggy Noonan at (probably to be printed in Saturday's Wall Street Journal). The Post says, "He is reviled by his party's conservative base." Yes, right now the only thing conservatives know about him is his opposition to George W. Bush's war plans, and conservatives are still inexplicably in thrall to the big-government Bush. But I'll predict that over, say, the next 12 months leading up to the Iowa caucuses, Hagel is going to look increasingly wise and prescient to Republican voters. And as they come to discover that he's a commonsense Midwestern conservative who opposed many of the Bush administration's worst ideas, he's going to look more attractive. To see what all the fuss is about, click here.

Posted on January 26, 2007  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Bloomberg Wins the Nanny State Olympics ( Foreign Policy ) by David Boaz

As he counts his money and ponders an independent bid for the presidency, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has won one competition. He's the biggest nanny-statist around. Sure, Bangor is banning smoking in cars if children are passengers, and Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee wants to get rid of cigarettes, and Texas wants to require parents to attend parent-teacher conferences, and Kansas wants to require all seventh-grade girls to get vaccinated against a sexually transmitted infection. But for sheer nannyism, can you beat this?
Available soon: an official New York City condom. Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration wants to reduce rates of sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS, and part of the strategy is the aggressive promotion of free condoms. Officials say more people will use them if they have jazzy packaging. One idea is a subway theme, with maps on the wrappers. "Brands work, and people use branded items more than they use nonbranded items, whether it's a cola or a medicine even," Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said.

Posted on January 26, 2007  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Not in front of the children

America's contemporary authoritarians justify all their intrusions on liberty on the grounds of protecting the young.

Posted on January 25, 2007  Posted to The Guardian

Spin Doctors Left and Right ( General ) by David Boaz

Never say the Republicans don't learn from their adversaries. On NPR, historian Timothy Naftali discusses responses to State of the Union speeches. He notes a tough response by House Republican leader Robert Michel to President Clinton in 1993, in which Michel complains about the way the "Clinton spin doctors" are changing the meaning of words. In particular, he grumbles, "Patriotism now means agreeing with the Clinton program." That's certainly a definition that (with the change of one word) the Bush spin doctors and their conservative supporters have endorsed wholeheartedly.

Posted on January 23, 2007  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Debate: Does Anybody Want the Libertarian Vote? ( General ) by David Boaz

This Thursday Brink Lindsey and I will participate in a panel discussion sponsored by America's Future Foundation on "The Future of Fusionism." It's sort of an odd format: I will discuss the libertarian vote and how the Republicans are losing it, and Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review will say "we don't need no stinkin' libertarians." Then Brink will talk about his proposed tactical alliance between liberals and libertarians, and Jonathan Chait of the New Republic will say -- well, pretty much the same thing Ramesh says. Then we'll all debate whether either Democrats or Republicans can win consistently if they leave the libertarian center on the table. AFF says you must sign up in advance.

Posted on January 22, 2007  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Of the Government, By the Government, For the Government ( General ) by David Boaz

Members of Congress who represent federal employees are demanding higher pay for their constituents. In particular, they want "parity" in the raises for the civil service and the military. The Bush administration is thought to believe that sometimes military employees, especially in certain fields, should get higher raises, although both civilian and military raises were 2.2 percent this year. As Chris Edwards wrote in the Washington Post last August:
The Bureau of Economic Analysis released data this month showing that the average compensation for the 1.8 million federal civilian workers in 2005 was $106,579 -- exactly twice the average compensation paid in the U.S. private sector: $53,289.... Since 1990 average compensation for federal workers has increased by 129 percent, the BEA data show, compared with 74 percent for private-sector workers.
If federal employees were underpaid in our strong economy, presumably it would be hard to hire them, and current employees would be quitting. Yet in fact the "quit rate" among federal employees is far lower than in the private sector. Even during the Great Depression, when employees thought very carefully before leaving an unsatisfying job, the quit rate in manufacturing was higher than it is among federal employees today. Federal employees are paid handsomely. Indeed, when they talk about "pay parity," one could only wish that Congress would legislate parity between the pay of private-sector employees and that of federal employees. If it did, decades would pass before federal employees got another raise. We might note that this effort is being pushed by eight House members representing Virginia and Maryland, plus District of Columbia delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. The Founders put the seat of government in a special district, outside any state, so that the government wouldn't be unduly influenced by local pressures. And they denied the vote to residents of the district because the government shouldn't be influencing itself. Now, though, we have 1.8 million civil service employees (plus about 800,000 in the post office and more than a million in the military). That's a large voting bloc, especially in the states surrounding Washington, D.C. And so members of Congress from Virginia and Maryland, especially the Washington suburbs, have become in effect representatives of the bureaucracy in Congress.

Posted on January 22, 2007  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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