Looking on the bright side at year’s end 4

We are to a large extent libertarian conservatives.

We agree with Libertarians on many issues.

Where we part company with them is chiefly over foreign policy. A realistic understanding of what is happening in the world cannot but be pessimistic. War is raging in the Middle East as a horrifying army of Islamic savages – ISIS – spreads its tyranny and commits atrocities. The war sends millions of Muslim “refugees” into Europe, which will before long become a continent dominated by Muslims and subjected to the cruelties of Islamic law.

The evil tentacles of ISIS stretch far and reach America. The worst terrorist attack in America since 9/11 was carried out by ISIS affiliates late this year at San Bernardino in California. Islam is a growing menace to the Western world, to America, to liberty.

Deliberately to ignore this reality is obviously and astonishingly foolish.

Yet Libertarians do ignore it. Or, if they have to notice it, they play it down and brush it aside. They prefer to look on the bright side of current events.

John Stossel, a cheerful Libertarian, writes at Townhall:

Terrorism! Crime! Deadly storms! Hillary Clinton!

We like the inclusion of Hillary Clinton among the horrors.

We reporters focus on bad news, but at year’s end, let’s remember what went right. 2015 was a better time to be alive than most any prior point in history.

He means, of course, to be alive in America.

The rich got richer. Some people think that’s a problem, but why? Do rich people sit on their piles of money and cackle about how rich they are? Do they build giant houses that damage the environment? Well, they sometimes do.

But mostly they invest, hoping to get richer still. Those investments create jobs and better products and make most everyone else richer. Even if the rich leave money in banks, banks lend it to people who put it to productive use.

Sure, income inequality has grown – but so what? The rich don’t get richer at the expense of the poor. Poor people’s income grew 48 percent over the past 35 years. Bernie Sanders says that “the middle class is disappearing”. But that’s mainly because many middle-class people moved into the upper class. Middle class incomes grew 40 percent over the past 30 years.

We receive all that with nods and smiles.

This year we heard more horror stories about bad schools and students who don’t learn. But take heart: Seven more states passed education choice legislation.

That means more students can opt out of bad schools and pick better ones, and over the long haul competing schools will have to get better at what they do. That will lead to a brighter future for all students – and for society, which will benefit from their improved skills.

That too is good news.

In 2015, two more states and Washington, D.C., legalized marijuana. Authorities are always reluctant to give up control, but gradually the end of the expensive, destructive and futile drug war will come.

We have no quarrel with him there.

Meanwhile, real crime – violence and thefts – continue to fall. We cover horrible mass shootings and spikes in crime in cities like Baltimore and St. Louis, but overall, crime is down – over the past 20 years, down by about half.

And that is very good news.

He comes back to terrorism:

Unfortunately, terrorism has increased – mainly because of ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, there are far fewer deaths from war and terror than there were 30 years ago, and in America, the odds of you or your family being killed by a terrorist are infinitesimal compared to disease, accidents and a thousand more-ordinary threats.

And that is where our nodding stops and our smiles vanish.

In our experience – not inconsiderable  – of dealing with terrorism, we have all too often heard glib apologists, mainly spokesmen of the Left but also Libertarians, bring up the statistics of deaths in accidents outnumbering deaths in terrorist attacks. To do so is not just stupid, not just irrelevant, but bad. Accidents are by definition events that nobody is responsible for. To compare the danger of accidents with the danger of terrorism – to treat terrorism as just another hazard in contemporary living – is to remove the moral dimension from the frightful business of deliberately terrifying, killing, maiming, and shattering lives which is what terrorists do.

To disregard the immorality of terrorism is tantamount to condoning it.

Nothing ensures the triumph of evil as effectively as the abandonment of moral judgment.

Of course John Stossel does not mean to abandon moral judgment. He, like most Libertarians, has simply not given enough thought to the matter.

So on that point his optimism lapses into sheer insouciance.

But he moves on to other topics:

Marriage is good for civilization. This year the Supreme Court declared that gay people may get married. Government shouldn’t be in the marriage business at all, since marriage is a contract between individuals, but if it’s going to wade into that issue, it’s better to have one clear rule instead of ugly ongoing fights about it.

Ending the political squabble means we can all go back to minding our own business and worrying about our own marriages.

We won’t quarrel with him over that either, although we think the word “marriage”, with its age-long connotations, is unsuitable to describe a contractual union between two people of the same sex.

In 2015, women in Saudi Arabia got to vote.

But a woman in Saudi Arabia still may not drive. Or walk abroad without a male relative escorting her. Or inherit as much her brothers. Or be fully believed in court unless a second woman backs up her testimony.

More countries elected leaders, rather than inheriting them.

But some may not be able to replace them in another election.

With what he says next, we heartily agree:

The picture isn’t all rosy. As I mentioned, terrorism is up. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are on track to lead America into bankruptcy. We have eternal problems like hunger and disease.

But even those “eternal” problems are closer to being solved than they used to be.

Thanks to better vaccines, 6 million fewer children under the age of 5 die each year compared to 30 years ago.

Twenty-five years ago, 2 billion people lived in extreme poverty – that meant surviving on about a dollar a day, often with little access to basic needs like water and food. “Experts” predicted that number would rise as the population grew. Happily, thanks to the power of free markets, they were wrong. In the space of a generation, half the people most in need in the world were rescued.

Ten percent of the world’s people still live in dire poverty, but the trend is clear: Where there is rule of law and individual freedom, humanity is better off.

But then again, he makes a recommendation we cannot like:

As Marian Tupy of HumanProgress.org puts it, “Away from the front pages of our newspapers and television, billions of people go about their lives unmolested, enjoying incremental improvements that make each year better than the last.”

So enjoy it.

Away from the sources of news about what’s going on in the world? There again is the misguided aspect of the Libertarian outlook. See, hear, speak no evil and it will be just as if there is none? Dangerous nonsense!

But with his last words we cordially join in:

Happy New Year!

  • I agree with you on being a libertarian myself, departing with “large-L” libertarians. primarily on issues of foreign policy. But blindness on foreign policy is not limited to libertarians or even socialist/progressives; plenty on the right-hand side of the political spectrum are guilty of this.

    This morning there is an article over at PJMedia, “Why Isis Needs To Be Destroyed Now”:


    But does anyone in office or running for office think it a good idea to commit the necessary air and ground forces to wipe these people off the map? No. Especially not when another group will rise, Hydra-like, in ISIS’s wake. This is a multi-generational struggle of cultures, Western civilization against the Dark Ages savagery of fundamentalist Islam. And nobody in the West seems to have the stomach for it.

    Here’s what I’m beginning to suspect will happen: The Western nations will dither and poke back at Islamist actions with pinprick attacks until some Islamist group pulls off an attack of such horror, such overwhelming savagery (say, a Pakastani or Iranian nuke going off in Times Square) that the Western nations will flip 180 degrees and respond with all of the power and rage they can muster, plunging the world into a maelstrom the likes of which we probably can’t begin to imagine.

    The only alternative is the end of civilization. What began with the Greek and Roman Republics, continued with the Enlightenment and found its most eloquent expression in the United States Constitution, will end with the horror of 11th century Islamist fundamentalism.

    And all that when the war could have been easily won if we had only fought it a generation earlier.

    I’m afraid that’s where we’re headed. I’m 54, and I’m afraid I’m going to live to see it. My grandson is 6; I’m afraid he’s going to be one of the ones who has to fight it.

    • liz

      Yes, it could have been defeated had it been dealt with decisively, and sooner. But since we have given our Traitor in Chief a blank check to fund their terrorist front groups, they’re just getting stronger and expanding the infrastructures that they’ve already built, including in our own country.
      I’d say the odds are pretty good that they already have a plan in place for their next big move, no matter who’s elected next.

  • liz

    Yes, you nailed it – both the good and the nonsensical – in Stossel’s piece.
    “The odds of … being killed by a terrorist are infinitesimal compared to a disease …” Not only is that lacking in moral judgment, it’s wrong. With the sieve we now have for a border and vetting process, and the huge influx of Muslims from terrorist producing areas, the odds are shooting up as we speak. I recently read that a large number (over 2000 – don’t have the exact #) of Muslims tagged for terrorist connections have simply gone missing – within the U.S. – and no one has a clue where they are. I’m sure they’ll turn up, at any one of the many future terrorist attacks that are bound to happen, thanks to our glorious leader.
    But I guess we have an election that may bring improvement to look forward to, so Happy New Year!

    • And a special Happy New Year to you, liz, from all four of us at The Atheist Conservative!