Contrary to popular myth, the environment over the past 200 years has become less polluted and toxic for humans.
In July 1924, Calvin Coolidge Jr., the Presdient’s 16-year-old son, died of an infection from a toe blister he got playing tennis on the White House lawn. The bacteria that took young Calvin’s life is staphylococcus aureus, known as “staph.” …
Were health-care products such as antibiotics, antibacterial ointments, and inexpensive clean and disposable bandages available 92 years ago, Calvin Coolidge Jr., would have escaped the bacterial pollution that killed him. Factories and vehicles used to produce and distribute these items use energy, and dispense waste. But capitalist production and consumption are not destroying a pristine Eden. Instead, capitalist production and consumption are replacing more immediate and more lethal forms of environmental pollution for less immediate and less lethal forms.
We denizens of modern market economies are today largely free not only of the filth of lethal staph infections, but also of other up-close and dangerous pollutants that our ancestors routinely endured, or died of. We sleep, in sturdy buildings, on beds that rest on hard floors beneath hard roofs. Our pre-industrial ancestors did not. Save for the tiny fraction of people in the nobility and clergy, nearly everyone slept in flimsy huts on dirt floors beneath thatched roofs. (Sometimes these dirt floors would be strewn with hay, thresh, to make them less unpleasant.)
Not only were thresh-strewn dirt floors obvious sources of regular up-close pollution of a sort that is unknown to a typical first-world person today, thatched roof themselves were ferments of filth. They kept out rain and cold less effectively than our modern dwellings. Worse, they were home to rats, mice, birds, spiders, hornets, and other animals, which would drop their own wastes onto the huts’ inhabitants. They were also highly flammable.
Of course these pre-industrial huts contained no running water or indoor plumbing. Daily bathing and other routines of personal hygiene that we moderns take for granted were largely unknown to most before the industrial revolution.
For heat in the winter families would bring farm animals into the huts, especially at night. To shield themselves from the droppings of these farm animals, each of these families would cut a trench in the floor across the width their hut. They’d sleep on the side of the trench opposite where the animals slept. Unfortunately, the trench did little to protect the family from whatever insects the animals brought into the huts with them. Read the rest of this entry »
To become a majority again, conservatives need to reassert the moral case for free markets
It’s not the standard route to the top job at a Beltway think tank. Then again, not much about Mr. Brooks is standard. From dropping out of college to go to Spain to play for the Barcelona City Orchestra, to earning his B.A. degree via correspondence courses from Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey, his life makes for an eclectic résumé.
“Our side has all the right policies. But without the music, the public hears just numbers and we have no resonance.”
Today he boasts a Ph.D. from the RAND Graduate School and enjoys an honored spot in the capital’s intellectual firmament. But the horn still defines how he sees the world.
“We don’t need to write an opera about free enterprise to reach people. But it’s not a bad idea.”
“The French horn is the harmonic backbone of the orchestra,” Mr. Brooks says. “The physics are tricky. It’s as long as a tuba but with a mouthpiece as small as a trumpet’s. This gives the French horn its characteristic mellow sound but also makes it easy to miss notes. The metaphors here form themselves.”
Indeed they do. Not least because think tanks have distinct personalities in addition to their politics.
“The liberation of hundreds of millions from desperate poverty ranks among the greatest success stories in history. But it’s a story that remains largely untold and mostly unheralded.”
The libertarian Cato Institute, for example, looks as though it had been designed by Howard Roark, the hero architect of Ayn Rand’s novel “The Fountainhead.” The Liberty Bell on the Heritage Foundation logo evokes a classic conservatism rooted in the American founding. The clean modernist lines of the Brookings Institution suggest its faith in good, rational government.
“Capitalism has saved a couple of billion people and we have treated this miracle like a state secret.”
In Mr. Brooks’s hands, AEI has beome an orchestra. Sure, it is sometimes labeled “neocon” (almost always deployed as a pejorative) because of the home it provides for former George W. Bush administration officials such as John Bolton and
Paul Wolfowitz, not to mention scholars such as Fred Kagan who write on military matters. These people are all vital to AEI, but they are only part of a larger ensemble.
“Our side has all the right policies,” Mr. Brooks says. “But without the music, the public hears just numbers and we have no resonance.”
“We need to know Adam Smith who wrote ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’ as well as we do the Adam Smith who wrote ‘The Wealth of Nations,’ Because when you do, you begin to understand we are hard-wired for freedom by the same Creator who gave us our unalienable rights.”
He is speaking over lunch in his corner office overlooking 17th and M streets in northwest Washington, D.C. The office isn’t standard-issue, either.
[Read the full text here, at WSJ]
The walls are bereft of the signed photos and tributes from presidents, senators and other pooh-bahs that are de riguer for the capital’s movers and shakers. The largest piece in the room is a poster featuring José Tomás, Spain’s greatest bullfighter. Mr. Brooks once saw him in the ring. “A true master artist,” he says.
The other poster is from the Soviet Union circa 1964. It features two workers. One is a drunk scratching his head as he looks at the one-ruble note in his hand. The other is a hale-and-hearty type proudly looking at the 10 rubles he has earned. The caption: “Work more, earn more.”
“It was part of a public-information campaign to raise productivity by paying people more,” Mr. Brooks says. It’s the sort of irony he loves, a confirmation of basic market wisdom—courtesy of communist propaganda. Read the rest of this entry »
Wynton Hall reports: The Associated Press says the Tea Party’s growing power and influence has unmoored Republican politicians from their traditional alliance with Wall Street in favor of grassroots conservative activists.
AP reporters Charles Babington and Jim Kuhnhenn cited the “corporate community’s waning clout” and “the remarkable drop in the business community’s influence among House Republicans, who increasingly respond more to Tea Party conservatives than to the Chamber of Commerce.”
The shift comes as grassroots activists have re-framed the GOP’s old “pro-business” stance into a “pro-free markets” positioning that eschews the kinds of corporate welfare and taxpayer-funded crony capitalism found in big government giveaways to industries that make hefty political contributions.
President Obama and Democrats have seized on the shift and have increased their already strong courting of corporate executives. On Wednesday, Obama held White House meetings with 14 top CEOs from some of America’s biggest financial firms. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein then stood on the White House driveway and scolded those who would “use threats of causing the U.S. to fail on its obligations to repay its debt as a cudgel.”
Former Mitt Romney adviser Kevin Madden told the AP the Tea Party’s rise has shaken up the GOP establishment.
“Now it’s more of a bottom-up model, where you see these grassroots organizations and grassroots voters are now more empowered and they feel they have a stronger voice,” said Madden.