Freedom is Slavery (Orwell, 1984)
It is worth noting that under §802 of the Patriot Act, one
definition of "domestic terrorism" covers "acts [that] appear
to be intended ... to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or
coercion. How broadly does the government define
"intimidation" these days? Would "the Collected Opinions
of William O. Douglas" qualify? [And what about
"intimidation"? Would this include the Selma March? EP]
I was thinking of the Patriot Act last month when I say
President George W. Bush on television speaking to students at Qingua
University in Beijing. "Life in American shows that liberty, paired
with law, is not to be feared, "he said. "In a free society,
diversity is not disorder. Debate is not strife. And dissent is
Reading the Wrong Books?
The inhabitants of the United States have been repeatedly and
constantly told that they are the only religious, enlightened, and free
people. They ... have an immensely high opinion of themselves and are
not far from believing that they form a species apart from the rest of the
Alexis de Tocqueville,
Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter
much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its
substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the
If there is any fixed state in our constellation, it is that
no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics,
nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to
confess by word or act their faith therein.
Justice Robert Jackson for the Majority
West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 1943
Adjusting for inflation, the income of families in the middle
of the U.S. income distribution rose from $41,400 in 1979 to $45,100 in 1998,
a 9 percent increase. Meanwhile, the income of families in the top 1
percent rose from $420,200 to $1.016 million, a 140 percent increase. Or
to put it another way, the income of families in the top 1 percent was 10
times that of typical families in 1979, and 23 times and rising in 1997.
Paul Krugman, "America the Polarized"
The New York Times, January 4, 2002
If we seize the opportunity to build a stronger country, we
... will ultimately prevail in the challenges ahead, at home and abroad.
But we cannot win this new struggle by military might alone. We will
prevail only if we lead by example, as a democracy committed to the rule of
law and the spirit of fairness, whose corporate and political elites recognize
that it isn't only firefighters, police and families grieving their missing
kin who are called upon to sacrifice.
American Will We Be Now?
The Nation, November 19, 2001
The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate
the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their
democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism -- ownership
government by an individual, by a group or by any controlling private power.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
A Letter to President Bush:
Dear Mr. President,
No challenge we face is more momentous than the threat of global climate
change. The current provisions of the Kyoto Protocol are a matter of
legitimate debate. But the situation is becoming urgent, and it is time
for consensus and action. There are many strategies for curbing greenhouse
gas emissions without slowing economic growth. In fact, the spread of
advanced, cleaner technology is more of an economic opportunity than a
peril. We urge you to develop a plan to reduce U.S production of
greenhouse gasses. The future of our children -- and their children --
depends on the resolve that you and other world leaders show.
Time Magazine, April 9, 2001
Conservative Rage vs. Liberal Guilt
Conservatives and liberals take a fundamentally different approach to
politics. Conservatives are driven by rage; liberals by guilt.
Conservatives attack. Liberals equivocate. Liberals inhabit a world
painted a thousand shades of gray. conservatives live in a black andwhite
world. Conservatives believe they are battling evil. Liberals
believe they are struggling ot overcome human frailties... Tolerance is
the watchword for liberals. Punishment is the watchword for
Republicans from Richard Nixon to James Watt to Tom DeLay have treated their
opponents as the enemy. That is a well-documented fact. What makes
the nomination of John Ashcroft as Attorney General so ominous is that this
tendency toward demonization may soon be wrapped in a higher
authority. "There is no King but Jesus," Ashcroft proudly proclaims...
There is no war more devastating than a holy war.
David Morris, Institute for Local Self Reliance
Tom Paine, 1/28/01
Skating on Thin Ice
In September 1983, just weeks after the Soviet Union shot down Korean
Airlines Flight 007, and with Soviet-American relations at a low ebb, Col.
Stanislov Petrov was on duty outside Moscow monitoring nine Soviet satellites
that were, in turn, monitoring U. S. nuclear missile bases. Shortly after
midnight Col. Petrov's worst nightmare came true. Sirens sounded and his
computer screen signaled the launch of a single U. S. Missile (possibly carrying
ten nuclear warheads) just thirty seconds into its 25-minute flight to
Petrov had to make an immediate assessment and relay it oup the chain of
command. If a full-scale U.S. attack was underway, the decision to
retaliate would have to be made within minutes. All Petrov's systems
appeared to be working properly. Remarkably, he reported to his superior
that the alarm was false. Petrov reasoned that a U.S. attack would not
begin with the firing of a single missile. It made no sense.
within seconds, his computer detected the launch of our additional missiles
causing alarms to sound at the Soviet Union's supreme command
headquarters. the Soviets now had five minutes to "use them or lose
them" -- that is, respond with a nuclear attack of their own or risk
unilateral annihilation. But Petrov held firm -- he says he just didn't
believe an attack was underway -- and assured those up the command that he was
seeing a false alarm.
Had the Soviets launched under the pressure, U.S.
retaliation would have been swift. Tens of millions would have been
killed on both sides.
What prompted the false alarm? The satellite
mistook sunlight reflection off a cloud for the hot plume of a missile launch
-- a software glitch. Petrov was not supposed to be on duty that
night. Would another Soviet colonel have made the same assessment Petrov
Today the combat-ready status of the Russian and U.S. nuclear
arsenals keeps us poised on the brink....
John O. Pastore and Peter Zheutlin
Washington Post, 4/21/01
A Free Press?
The Founders didn't count on the rise of mega-media. They didn't
count on huge private corporations that would own not only the means of
journalism but also vast swaths of the territory that journalism should be
covering. According to a recent study done by the Pew Research Center
for the People and the Press for the Columbia Journalism Review, more
than a quarter of journalists polled said they had avoided pursuing some
newsworthy stories that might conflict with the financial interests of their
news organizations or advertisers. And many thought that complexity or
lack of audience appeal causes newsworthy stories not to be pursued in the
Bill Moyers, "Journalism &
The Nation, 5/7/01
Big Gummint? Who Needs it?
Does the public health service have long waiting lists and inadequate
facilities? Buy private insurance. Has public transport broken
down? Buy a car for each member of the family above driving age.
Has the countryside been built over or the footpaths eradicated? Buy
some elaborate exercise machinery and work out at home. Is air pollution
intolerable? Buy an air-filtering unit and stay indoors. Is what
comes out of the tap foul to the taste and chock-full of carcinogens?
Buy bottled water. And so on. We know it can all happen because it has:
I have been doing little more than describing Southern California.
Now it is worth noticing two things about the private substitutes that I
have described. The first is that in the aggregate they are probably
much more expensive than would be the implementation of the appropriate public
policy. The second is that they are extremely poor replacements for the
missing outcomes of a good public policy. Nevertheless, it is plain that
the members of a society can become so alienated from one another, so
mistrustful of any form of collective action, that they prefer to go it alone.
LIBERALISM: A REAFFIRMATION OF
While sifting through our old papers, we
came across an advertisement in the New York Times, signed by a
hundred or so scientific, political and literary luminaries.,
and dated October 26, 1988. It seems as timely today as it was
when it was published -- except for the reference to the
"President of the United States" who was, at the time, Ronald
We've not asked for permission to use this, secure in the
assumption that the whole point of the ad was to gain public
distribution. Even if it is eleven years late. (The
"We speak as American Citizens who wish to reaffirm America's
liberal tradition. At our country's founding, the spirit of
liberalism suffused the Revolution, the Declaration of
Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. These
principles thus embodied, have inspired the respect of much of the
"We regret that the President of the United States
[Ronald Reagan] has taken the lead in vilifying one of our
oldest and noblest traditions. He made sport of "the dreaded
L-word" and continues to make "liberal" and "liberalism" terms of
opprobrium. We are deeply concerned about the erosion and
debasement of American values and American traditions that our
country has long cherished.
"In the past and at its best, liberalism has sought the
institutional defense of decency. Everywhere it has fought for the
freedom of individuals to attain their fullest development. It has
opposed tyranny in all forms, past and present. Liberal policies
require constant scrutiny and sometimes revision. Liberal
principles -- freedom, tolerance, and the protection of the rights
of every citizen -- are timeless.
"Extremists of the right and of the left have long attacked
liberalism as their greatest enemy. In our own time liberal
democracies have been crushed by such extremists. Against any
encouragement of this tendency in our own country, intentional or
not, we feel obliged to speak out. We hope that others will do so
"Economics Has No Time for Heretics"
To be credentialed to practice economics today, one must accept a certain
body of theology -- a particular way of looking at human motivation and human
society. Formal economics begins with the tautological premise that the
process of buying and selling things -- supply and demand -- leads to optimal
outcomes. It presumes that efforts to interfere with this natural order of
things, notably by governments, are damaging to economic efficiency, and hence
The standard economic model of human behavior presumes that selfishness
is normal, and hence desirable, while altruism is suspect. It tends to
study economic phenomena by collecting statistics and building mathematical
models, rather than getting out of the office -- as Adam Smith did -- and seeing
how things actually work...
. . . For the most part, to be a
tenured economist at an elite university one must be "economically
correct." This also describes most economics at Washington's
influential think tanks, whether nominally Democratic or republican.
Los Angeles Times
April 7, 1991
John Kenneth Galbraith on Economics and the Economy
[Economics today] is what it has always been. It combines
those who pursue the truth with those who pursue the rewards of orthodoxy and
those who pursue what is comfortable for the rich...
The problem of the modern economy is not a failure of a
knowledge of economics; it's a failure of a knowledge of history...
There's no question that in my lifetime, the contrast between
what I called private affluence and public squalor has become the very much
greater. What do we worry about? We worry about our schools.
We worry about our public recreational facilities. We worry about our law
enforcement and our public housing. All of the things that bear upon our
standard of living are in the public sector. We don't worry about the
supply of automobiles. We don't even worry about the supply of
foods. Things that come from the private sector are in abundant supply;
things that depend on the public sector are widely a problem We're a world
... of filthy streets and clean houses, poor schools and expensive
The Progressive, October 2000