Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Sowell’

h1

Tom Sowell: Deepest Bow Is Reserved For World Opinion

November 20, 2009

Deepest Bow Is Reserved For World Opinion

By THOMAS SOWELL IBD: 17 Nov. 2009

In the string of amazing decisions made during the first year of the Obama administration, nothing seems more like sheer insanity than the decision to try foreign terrorists, who have committed acts of war against the United States, in federal court, as if they were American citizens accused of crimes.

Terrorists are not even entitled to the protection of the Geneva Conventions, much less the Constitution of the United States. Terrorists have never observed, nor even claimed to have observed, the Geneva Conventions, nor are they among those covered by it.

But over and above the utter inconsistency of what is being done is the utter recklessness it represents.

The last time an attack on the World Trade Center was treated as a matter of domestic criminal justice was after a bomb was exploded there in 1993. Under the rules of American criminal law, the prosecution had to turn over all sorts of information to the defense — information that told the al-Qaida international terrorist network what we knew about them and how we knew it.

This was nothing more and nothing less than giving away military secrets to an enemy in wartime — something for which people have been executed, as they should have been.

Secrecy in warfare is a matter of life and death. Lives were risked and lost during World War II to prevent Nazi Germany from discovering that Britain had broken its supposedly unbreakable Enigma code and could read their military plans that were being radioed in that code.

“Loose lips sink ships” was the World War II motto in the United States. But loose lips are mandated under the rules of criminal prosecutions.

Read the rest of this entry ?

Advertisements
h1

How We’re Killing Our ‘Living Constitution’

June 4, 2009

How We’re Killing Our ‘Living Constitution’

By THOMAS SOWELL IBD 11 May 2009

While President Barack Obama has, in one sense, tipped his hand by saying he wants judges with “empathy” for certain groups, he has in a more fundamental sense concealed the real goal:

Getting judges who will ratify an expanding scope of the power of the federal government and a declining restraint by the U.S. Constitution.

This is consistent with everything else Obama has done in office and is consistent with his decades-long record of alliances with people who reject American society’s fundamentals.

Judicial expansion of federal power is not really new, even if the audacity with which that goal is being pursued may be unique. For more than a century, believers in bigger government have also been believers in having judges interpret the restraints of the Constitution out of existence.

They called this “a living Constitution.” It has in fact been a dying Constitution, as its restraining provisions have been “interpreted” to mean less and less so that the federal government can do more and more.

For example, the Constitution lets private property be taken for “public use” — perhaps building a reservoir or a highway — if “just compensation” is paid. That power was expanded by the Supreme Court in 2005 when it “interpreted” this to mean that private property could be taken for a “public purpose,” which could include almost anything for which politicians could come up with the right rhetoric.

As for “just compensation,” that is often about as just as “separate but equal” was equal.

As for “empathy” for the less fortunate, it is precisely lower income and minority neighborhoods that are disproportionately bulldozed to make way for upscale shopping and entertainment centers that will bring in more taxes for politicians to spend to get themselves re-elected.

This process of “interpreting” the Constitution (or legislation) to mean pretty much whatever you want it to mean, no matter how plainly the words say something else, has been called judicial activism.

As a result of widespread objections to this, that problem has been solved by redefining “judicial activism” to mean something different.

By the new definition, a judge who declares legislation that exceeds the authority of the legislature unconstitutional is called a “judicial activist.”

The verbal virtuosity is breathtaking. With just a new meaning to an old phrase, reality is turned upside down. Those who oppose letting government actions exceed the bounds of the Constitution — justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — are now called “judicial activists.” It is a verbal coup.

Politicians such as Sen. Patrick Leahy and law professors such as Cass Sunstein and many in the media measure how much of a judicial activist a judge is by how many laws that judge has declared unconstitutional. Sunstein, incidentally, is among those being mentioned as a nominee for a post on the Supreme Court.

When the Supreme Court in 1995 declared that carrying a gun near a school was not “interstate commerce,” there was consternation and outrage in the liberal press because previous decisions of the Supreme Court in years past had allowed Congress to legislate on virtually anything it wanted to by saying it was exercising its authority to regulate interstate commerce.

When the Supreme Court decided by a 5-4 vote that carrying a gun near a school was not interstate commerce, it was saying something that most people would consider too obvious for words.

But it was considered outrageous that the Supreme Court recognized the obvious and refused to rubberstamp the sophistry that let Congress pass laws dealing with things that the Constitution never authorized it to deal with.

Incidentally, carrying a gun near a school was something that states had the authority to deal with, and most states had already banned it.

What is at stake in Supreme Court nominations is the power of the federal government.

“Empathy” is just camouflage, a soothing word for those who do not look beyond nice-sounding rhetoric.

h1

The High Cost Of Subsidizing Bad Decisions

March 10, 2009

The High Cost Of Subsidizing Bad Decisions

By THOMAS SOWELL | Posted Monday, March 09, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Now that the federal government has decided to bail out homeowners in trouble, with mortgage loans up to $729,000, that raises some questions that ought to be asked but are seldom being asked.

Since the average American never took out a mortgage loan as big as seven hundred grand — for the very good reason that he could not afford it — why should he be forced as a taxpayer to subsidize someone else who apparently couldn’t afford it either but who got in over his head anyway?

Why should taxpayers who live in apartments, perhaps because they did not feel that they could afford to buy a house, be forced to subsidize other people who could not afford to buy a house but who went ahead and bought one anyway?

We hear a lot of talk in some quarters about how any one of us could be in the same financial trouble that many homeowners are in if we lost our job or had some other misfortune. The pat phrase is that we are all just a few paydays away from being in the same predicament.

Another way of saying the same thing is that some people live high enough on the hog that any of the common misfortunes of life can ruin them.

Who hasn’t been out of work at some time or other, or had an illness or accident that created unexpected expenses? The old and trite notion of “saving for a rainy day” is old and trite precisely because this has been a common experience for a very long time.

What is new is the current notion of indulging people who refused to save for a rainy day or to live within their means. In politics, it is called “compassion” — which comes in both the standard liberal version and “compassionate conservatism.”

The one person toward whom there is no compassion is the taxpayer.

The current political stampede to stop mortgage foreclosures proceeds as if foreclosures are just something that strikes people like a bolt of lightning from the blue — and as if the people facing foreclosures are the only people that matter.

What if the foreclosures are not stopped?

Will millions of homes just sit empty? Or will new people move into those homes, now selling for lower prices — prices perhaps more within the means of the new occupants?

The same politicians who have been talking about a need for “affordable housing” for years are now suddenly alarmed that home prices are falling. How can housing become more affordable unless prices fall?

The political meaning of “affordable housing” is housing that is made more affordable by politicians intervening to create government subsidies, rent control or other gimmicks for which politicians can take credit.

Affordable housing produced by market forces provides no benefit to politicians and has no attraction for them.

Study after study, not only here but in other countries, shows that the most affordable housing is where there has been the least government interference with the market — contrary to rhetoric.

When new occupants of foreclosed housing find it more affordable, will the previous occupants all become homeless? Or are they more likely to move into homes or apartments that they can afford?

They will of course be sadder — but perhaps wiser as well.

The old and trite phrase “sadder but wiser” is old and trite for the same reason that “saving for a rainy day” is old and trite. It reflects an all-too-common human experience.

Even in an era of much-ballyhooed “change,” the government cannot eliminate sadness. What it can do is transfer that sadness from those who made risky and unwise decisions to the taxpayers who had nothing to do with their decisions.

Worse, the subsidizing of bad decisions destroys one of the most effective sources of better decisions — namely, paying the consequences of bad decisions.

In the wake of the housing debacle in California, more people are buying less-expensive homes, making bigger down payments and staying away from “creative” and risky financing. It is amazing how fast people learn when they are not insulated from the consequences of their decisions.

h1

Power Of Life And Death Is In Our Words

March 3, 2009

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

Power Of Life And Death Is In Our Words. Proverbs 18:21 – I add this verse as a reminder of God’s word.  IT IS TRUE.


Power Of Life And Death Is In Our Words

By THOMAS SOWELL | IBD – 3 March 2009

They say talk is cheap. But in fact it can be devastatingly expensive. Among the generation of Germans who were enthralled by Hitler’s eloquence, millions paid with their lives and their children’s lives for empowering this demagogue to lead them to ruin and infamy.

Germany before Hitler was one of the more tolerant nations in Europe. That was what attracted so many Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe — tragically, to their doom.

German immigrants who settled around the world have been among the more tolerant peoples — not angels, a standard that only intellectuals could use, but comparing favorably with most others.

Do not for one moment think that we are either intellectually or morally superior to those Germans who put Hitler in power. We have been saved by our institutions and our traditions — the very institutions and traditions that so many are so busy eroding or dismantling, whether in classrooms or courtrooms or in the halls of Congress and the White House.

Talk matters for good reasons as well as bad. Anyone familiar with the desperate predicament of Britain in 1940, when it stood alone against the Nazi juggernaut that had smashed whole nations in weeks or even days, knows how crucial Winston Churchill’s command of the English language was to sustaining the national will, which was the margin between survival and annihilation.

Unfortunately, people on the make seem to have a keener appreciation of the power of words, as the magic road to other power, than do people defending values that seem to them too obvious to require words.

The expression “It goes without saying . . . ” is a fatal trap. Few things go without saying. Some of the most valuable things in life may go away without saying — whether loved ones in one’s personal life or the freedom or survival of a nation.

Barack Obama is today’s most prominent example of the power of words. Conversely, the understated patrician style of country-club Republicans is no small part of their many problems.

It is no accident that by far the most successful Republican politician of our lifetime — Ronald Reagan — was a man who did not come from that country-club background but was someone born among the people and who knew how to communicate with the people.

Words can shield the most blatant reality. Legislation to take away workers’ rights to a secret ballot, when deciding whether or not they want to be represented by a labor union, is called the “Employee Free Choice Act.”

The merits or demerits of this legislation have seldom been debated. Who could be against “freedom of choice”?

The Obama administration’s new budget, with deficits that make previous irresponsible deficits look like child’s play, has a cover that says “A New Era of Responsibility.”

You want responsibility? He’ll give you the word “responsibility.” Why not? It costs nothing.

Some observers are contrasting last week’s highly successful speech by President Obama to Congress with the lackluster Republican response afterward by Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

People familiar with Gov. Jindal have a high regard for him, and many think he would make a good president. But Republicans have always had more people who would make good presidents than people who would make good presidential candidates. So long as we have a democracy, that distinction is crucial.

Gov. Jindal made a typical Republican mistake when he began with a “me too” celebration of Obama’s “historic” election. With a very limited time to address some complex issues, he needed to get right to the point and sober up such members of the audience as were capable of being sobered up.

He was, in a sense, defensive — as if he had to establish that he was a good guy. Gen. Douglas MacArthur gave a one-word definition of defensive warfare: defeat.

There can be too many words, as well as too few. Gov. Sarah Palin is doing herself no good by discussing her disastrous interview with Katie Couric. That does not look presidential, or even senatorial. A quarterback has to forget the interception he threw last time, and just make a better throw next time.

h1

Despair Sets In With America On A Fatal Arc

February 24, 2009

Despair Sets In With America On A Fatal Arc

By THOMAS SOWELL | 24 Feb.09 IBD

An increasing number of recent letters and e-mails from readers strike a note, not only of unhappiness with the way things are going in our society, but a note of despair.

Those of us who are pessimists are only a step away from despair ourselves, so we may not be the ones to offer the best antidote to the view that America has seen its best days and is degenerating toward what may well be its worst. Yet what hope remains is no less precious nor any less worthy of being preserved.

First of all, the day-to-day life of most Americans in these times is nowhere near as dire as that of the band of cold, ragged and hungry men who gathered around George Washington in the winter at Valley Forge, to which they had been driven by defeat after defeat.

Only the most reckless gambler would have bet on them to win. Only an optimist would have expected them to survive.

Against the background of those and other desperate times that this country has been through, we cannot whine today because the stocks in our pension plans have gone down or the inflated value that our houses had just a few years ago has now evaporated.

In another sense, however, looming ahead of us — and our children and their children — are dangers that can utterly destroy American society. Worse yet, there are moral corrosions within ourselves that weaken our ability to face the challenges ahead.

One of the many symptoms of this decay from within is that we are preoccupied with the pay of corporate executives while the leading terrorist-sponsoring nation on Earth is moving steadily toward creating nuclear bombs.

Does anyone imagine that we will care what anyone’s paycheck is when we see an American city in radioactive ruins?

Yet the only serious obstacle to that happening is that the Israelis may disregard the lofty blather coming out of the White House and destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities before the Iranian fanatics can destroy Israel.

If by some miracle we manage to avoid the fatal dangers of a nuclear Iran, there will no doubt be others, including a nuclear North Korea.

Although, in some sense, the United States of America is still the militarily strongest nation on earth, that means absolutely nothing if our enemies are willing to die and we are not.

It took only two nuclear bombs to get Japan to surrender — and the Japanese of that era were far tougher than most Americans today. Just one bomb — dropped on New York, Chicago or Los Angeles — might be enough to get us to surrender.

If we are still made of sterner stuff than it looks like, then it might take two or maybe even three or four nuclear bombs, but we will surrender.

It doesn’t matter if we retaliate and kill millions of innocent Iranian civilians — at least it will not matter to the fanatics in charge of Iran or the fanatics in charge of the international terrorist organizations that Iran supplies.

Ultimately, it all comes down to who is willing to die and who is not.

How did we get to this point? It was no single thing.

The dumbing down of our education, the undermining of moral values with the fad of “nonjudgmental” affectations, the denigration of our nation through poisonous propaganda from the movies to the universities. The list goes on and on.

The trajectory of our course leads to a fate that would fully justify despair. The only saving grace is that even the trajectory of a bullet can be changed by the wind.

We have been saved by miraculous good fortune before in our history. The overwhelming military and naval expedition that Britain sent to New York to annihilate George Washington’s army was totally immobilized by a vast impenetrable fog that allowed the Americans to escape. That is how they ended up in Valley Forge.

In the World War II naval battle of Midway, if things had not happened just the way they did, at just the time they did, the American naval force would not only have lost, but could have been wiped out by the far larger Japanese fleet.

Over the years, we have had our share of miraculous deliverances. But that our fate today depends on yet another miracle is what can turn pessimism to despair.

h1

Mortgage Plans Turn Economics Upside-Down

February 19, 2009

Mortgage Plans Turn Economics Upside-Down

By THOMAS SOWELL | 19 Feb. 09

From television specials to newspaper editorials, the media are pushing the idea that current economic problems were caused by the market and that only the government can rescue us.

What was lacking in the housing market, they say, was government regulation of the market’s “greed.” That makes great moral melodrama, but it turns the facts upside down. It was precisely government intervention that turned a thriving industry into a basket case.

An economist specializing in financial markets gave a glimpse of the history of housing markets when he said: “Lending money to American homebuyers had been one of the least risky and most profitable businesses a bank could engage in for nearly a century.”

That was what the market was like before the government intervened. Like many government interventions, it began small and later grew.

The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 directed federal regulatory agencies to “encourage” banks and other lending institutions “to help meet the credit needs of the local communities in which they are chartered consistent with the safe and sound operation of such institutions.”

That sounds pretty innocent and, in fact, it had little effect for more than a decade. However, its premise was that bureaucrats and politicians know where loans should go, better than people who are in the business of making loans.

The real potential of that premise became apparent in the 1990s, when the Department of Housing and Urban Development imposed a requirement that mortgage lenders demonstrate with hard data that they were meeting their responsibilities under the Community Reinvestment Act.

What HUD wanted were numbers showing that mortgage loans were being made to low-income and moderate-income people on a scale that HUD expected, even if this required “innovative or flexible” mortgage eligibility standards.

In other words, quotas were imposed — and if some people didn’t meet the standards, then the standards needed to be changed.

Both HUD and the Department of Justice began bringing lawsuits against mortgage bankers when a higher percentage of minority applicants than white applicants were turned down for mortgage loans.

A substantial majority of both black and white mortgage loan applicants had their loans approved, but a statistical difference was enough to get a bank sued.

It should also be noted that the same statistical sources from which data on blacks and whites were obtained usually contained data on Asian-Americans as well. But those data on Asian-Americans were almost never mentioned.

Whites were turned down for mortgage loans more often than Asian-Americans. But saying that would undermine the reasoning on which the whole moral melodrama and political crusades were based.

Lawsuits were only part of the pressures put on lenders by government officials. Banks and other lenders are overseen by regulatory agencies and must go to those agencies for approval of many business decisions that other businesses make without needing anyone else’s approval.

Government regulators refused to approve such decisions when a lender was under investigation for not producing satisfactory statistics on loans to low-income people or minorities.

Under growing pressures from both the Clinton administration and later the George W. Bush administration, banks began to lower their lending standards.

Mortgage loans with no down payment, no income verification and other “creative” financial arrangements abounded. Although this was done under pressures begun in the name of the poor and minorities, people who were neither could also get these mortgage loans.

With mortgage loans widely available to people with questionable prospects of being able to keep up the payments, it was an open invitation to financial disaster.

Those who warned of the dangers had their warnings dismissed. Now, apparently, we need more politicians intervening in more industries, if you believe the politicians and the media.