Category: Scott S. Powell

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Constitution Day — the Most Important Commemoration of 2018


Constitution Day, which falls on September 17, is the national observance holiday that most Americans have never heard of.  Yet this year, 2018, it may well be our most important holiday. For the Constitution is threatened more now than at any time since seven southern states seceded from Union and Civil War broke out on April 12, 1861.

To understand the present peril, it’s worth going back in time to appreciate how the Constitution was conceived as both the founding and governing instrument for the United States.

The War of Independence lasted five long years from 1776 to 1781, with the impoverished colonial army being mostly on the defensive.  It was a miracle that this small and rather disorganized American militia could defeat Great Britain — then the most formidable military power in the world. 

The second miracle in the formation of the United States was in the drafting of the Constitution some years after the final and decisive military victory over the British at Yorktown in 1781. By contemporary standards, it is inconceivable how delegates from 13 extraordinarily disparate states could muster the forbearance and magnanimity to agree on the terms of a new Constitution after only four months of deliberation.

But even as good as that Constitution was, it had to be ratified by the states to become the law of the land. Several states withheld support out of fear the Constitution did not adequately protect citizens and states from the inevitable overreach and corruption of federal government power.  In order to win over the holdouts — the large and influential states of Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts — Patrick Henry, George Mason, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock were among those who helped each of the three states to ratify the Constitution on the condition of adding to the legal document ten amendments called the Bill of Rights, which defined citizens’ and states’ rights. 

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were revolutionary political doctrines because they clearly delineated citizens’ rights and established that these rights came from God and not the state. These rights being then sovereign and unalienable, the people are in charge and government is to serve them — not the other way around.

The genius of the Constitution was that it limited government abuse by creating checks and balances of power between three separate but equal branches of government — the executive, the legislative and the judicial. The Constitution also separated power between the federal and state governing authorities.  

Frequent elections established by the Constitution provided yet another check to limit the extent and duration of government incompetence and corruption.  This also meant that the most sacred responsibility of citizenship established by the Constitution was and is the right of the people to vote and decide who shall govern. 

This combination of limiting governmental power and maximizing peoples’ rights makes the U.S. Constitution unique and led to the U.S becoming the longest-running constitutional democratic republic in history. These constraints on government by the Constitution also empowered Americans to exercise their freedom and ingenuity to create and build — driving the United States from colonial poverty to world economic superpower in just 200 years.      

The Constitution makes it clear that everyone — whether in the public or private sector — is equal before the law.  Additionally, every elected federal government office holder, judicial appointee and executive branch cabinet secretary is required to pledge an oath before assuming office, to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

So it comes as an unprecedented shock to learn that a significant number of high-ranking U.S. Government officials — most appointed during the Obama administration — betrayed their oaths of office and refused to accept the will of the people manifest in Trump’s 304 electoral-college vote victory over Clinton’s 227 votes.  A new civil war has begun, but it is very different than the one fought 157 years ago. 

The report from the Inspector General of the Justice Department, testimonies and documents of subpoenaed government officials, and reams of government documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act lawsuits provide overwhelming evidence that the Director of National Intelligence, the Directors of both the CIA and the FBI, along with a number of high-ranking subordinates, and top officials in the Justice Department, took concerted actions to undermine candidate Donald Trump leading up to the November 2016 election.  The FBI and the Justice Departments were politically weaponized and FISA courts were repeatedly deceived, in an unprecedented effort to destroy a presidential candidate and throw the election to the opponent.

When that failed, and Trump was elected, this same cabal continued undeterred in concerted actions to undermine the duly elected president — only now those actions were tantamount to a coup d’état.  

The Constitution was designed and drafted in such a way as to prevent coup-like conditions from ever developing in the U.S. If voting is the sacred right and responsibility of citizenship, elections and honest vote counting are the sacrosanct mechanism for establishing the legitimacy of government. Voter fraud or nullifying an election by coup are a betrayal of the Constitution and represent the highest crimes and misdemeanors.      

Donald Trump’s persona and style have remained reasonably consistent since he began campaigning.  But the frenzy to trash Trump keeps escalating, notwithstanding significant accomplishments in his first 20 months in office, which have greatly improved the economy and restored America’s respect on many fronts of the world stage.  There is clearly more going on than disagreement with policy choices and dislike of personality. 

Despite of the inscription “Equal Justice Under Law” carved in stone on the front of the Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., no president in recent memory has taken this societal ideal very seriously.  That is, until Donald Trump became president in 2017. 

Without much fanfare, on December 21, 2017 Trump signed Executive Order 13818, which authorizes the blocking or freezing of any property of persons involved in serious human rights abuse or corruption. Two months later on March 1, 2018, he signed Executive Order 13823, which provides for enhanced judicial proceedings for U.S. officials and civilians involved in high crimes. 

President Trump’s specific strengthening of the law and his frequent invocations to hold corrupt government elites accountable, just as everyday citizens are held accountable before the same laws, explains why Trump is both hated and feared by the deep state.

Trump is vilified by the national media more than any prior president for the simple reason that he unrelentingly exposes the media’s dishonesty, double standards, and bias.  As a result, more people than ever now understand the “fake news” phenomenon.

Additional accomplishments for which Trump deserves recognition on Constitution Day include his success in appointing a large number of outstanding constitutionalist jurists to the high courts — perhaps his most important contribution to strengthening the Constitution. That also deepens the bench needed to adjudicate the considerable number of cases of people from high places who committed crimes — apparently assuming they were above the law or that their actions would never see the light of day after crooked Hillary won.

There is reason to take heart this Constitution Day. The frenzy against President Trump is probably a contrary indicator, with the panic getting more animated and louder as the day of legal reckoning gets closer. 

Constitution Day is an occasion to remember that equal justice under the law is the standard, that we the people are in charge, and that the federal government should answer to us, and not the other way around.

Scott Powell is senior fellow at Discovery Institute in Seattle and managing partner of RemingtonRand LLC, a recruiting consultancy for AM Law 100 firms. Reach him at scottp@discovery.org

Constitution Day, which falls on September 17, is the national observance holiday that most Americans have never heard of.  Yet this year, 2018, it may well be our most important holiday. For the Constitution is threatened more now than at any time since seven southern states seceded from Union and Civil War broke out on April 12, 1861.

To understand the present peril, it’s worth going back in time to appreciate how the Constitution was conceived as both the founding and governing instrument for the United States.

The War of Independence lasted five long years from 1776 to 1781, with the impoverished colonial army being mostly on the defensive.  It was a miracle that this small and rather disorganized American militia could defeat Great Britain — then the most formidable military power in the world. 

The second miracle in the formation of the United States was in the drafting of the Constitution some years after the final and decisive military victory over the British at Yorktown in 1781. By contemporary standards, it is inconceivable how delegates from 13 extraordinarily disparate states could muster the forbearance and magnanimity to agree on the terms of a new Constitution after only four months of deliberation.

But even as good as that Constitution was, it had to be ratified by the states to become the law of the land. Several states withheld support out of fear the Constitution did not adequately protect citizens and states from the inevitable overreach and corruption of federal government power.  In order to win over the holdouts — the large and influential states of Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts — Patrick Henry, George Mason, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock were among those who helped each of the three states to ratify the Constitution on the condition of adding to the legal document ten amendments called the Bill of Rights, which defined citizens’ and states’ rights. 

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were revolutionary political doctrines because they clearly delineated citizens’ rights and established that these rights came from God and not the state. These rights being then sovereign and unalienable, the people are in charge and government is to serve them — not the other way around.

The genius of the Constitution was that it limited government abuse by creating checks and balances of power between three separate but equal branches of government — the executive, the legislative and the judicial. The Constitution also separated power between the federal and state governing authorities.  

Frequent elections established by the Constitution provided yet another check to limit the extent and duration of government incompetence and corruption.  This also meant that the most sacred responsibility of citizenship established by the Constitution was and is the right of the people to vote and decide who shall govern. 

This combination of limiting governmental power and maximizing peoples’ rights makes the U.S. Constitution unique and led to the U.S becoming the longest-running constitutional democratic republic in history. These constraints on government by the Constitution also empowered Americans to exercise their freedom and ingenuity to create and build — driving the United States from colonial poverty to world economic superpower in just 200 years.      

The Constitution makes it clear that everyone — whether in the public or private sector — is equal before the law.  Additionally, every elected federal government office holder, judicial appointee and executive branch cabinet secretary is required to pledge an oath before assuming office, to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

So it comes as an unprecedented shock to learn that a significant number of high-ranking U.S. Government officials — most appointed during the Obama administration — betrayed their oaths of office and refused to accept the will of the people manifest in Trump’s 304 electoral-college vote victory over Clinton’s 227 votes.  A new civil war has begun, but it is very different than the one fought 157 years ago. 

The report from the Inspector General of the Justice Department, testimonies and documents of subpoenaed government officials, and reams of government documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act lawsuits provide overwhelming evidence that the Director of National Intelligence, the Directors of both the CIA and the FBI, along with a number of high-ranking subordinates, and top officials in the Justice Department, took concerted actions to undermine candidate Donald Trump leading up to the November 2016 election.  The FBI and the Justice Departments were politically weaponized and FISA courts were repeatedly deceived, in an unprecedented effort to destroy a presidential candidate and throw the election to the opponent.

When that failed, and Trump was elected, this same cabal continued undeterred in concerted actions to undermine the duly elected president — only now those actions were tantamount to a coup d’état.  

The Constitution was designed and drafted in such a way as to prevent coup-like conditions from ever developing in the U.S. If voting is the sacred right and responsibility of citizenship, elections and honest vote counting are the sacrosanct mechanism for establishing the legitimacy of government. Voter fraud or nullifying an election by coup are a betrayal of the Constitution and represent the highest crimes and misdemeanors.      

Donald Trump’s persona and style have remained reasonably consistent since he began campaigning.  But the frenzy to trash Trump keeps escalating, notwithstanding significant accomplishments in his first 20 months in office, which have greatly improved the economy and restored America’s respect on many fronts of the world stage.  There is clearly more going on than disagreement with policy choices and dislike of personality. 

Despite of the inscription “Equal Justice Under Law” carved in stone on the front of the Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., no president in recent memory has taken this societal ideal very seriously.  That is, until Donald Trump became president in 2017. 

Without much fanfare, on December 21, 2017 Trump signed Executive Order 13818, which authorizes the blocking or freezing of any property of persons involved in serious human rights abuse or corruption. Two months later on March 1, 2018, he signed Executive Order 13823, which provides for enhanced judicial proceedings for U.S. officials and civilians involved in high crimes. 

President Trump’s specific strengthening of the law and his frequent invocations to hold corrupt government elites accountable, just as everyday citizens are held accountable before the same laws, explains why Trump is both hated and feared by the deep state.

Trump is vilified by the national media more than any prior president for the simple reason that he unrelentingly exposes the media’s dishonesty, double standards, and bias.  As a result, more people than ever now understand the “fake news” phenomenon.

Additional accomplishments for which Trump deserves recognition on Constitution Day include his success in appointing a large number of outstanding constitutionalist jurists to the high courts — perhaps his most important contribution to strengthening the Constitution. That also deepens the bench needed to adjudicate the considerable number of cases of people from high places who committed crimes — apparently assuming they were above the law or that their actions would never see the light of day after crooked Hillary won.

There is reason to take heart this Constitution Day. The frenzy against President Trump is probably a contrary indicator, with the panic getting more animated and louder as the day of legal reckoning gets closer. 

Constitution Day is an occasion to remember that equal justice under the law is the standard, that we the people are in charge, and that the federal government should answer to us, and not the other way around.

Scott Powell is senior fellow at Discovery Institute in Seattle and managing partner of RemingtonRand LLC, a recruiting consultancy for AM Law 100 firms. Reach him at scottp@discovery.org



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Labor Day, the Holiday in Need of an Update


Among American holidays, Labor Day is probably the one in most need of an update. The idea of a “labor day holiday” was conceived in the 1880s by union labor leaders who sought recognition for the social and economic achievements of American workers. Finally in 1894, U.S. Congress voted to establish Labor Day as a national holiday to celebrate workers and their contributions to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the country.

Most don’t realize it, but attitudes toward labor are more progressive and respectful among Americans than they are in much of the rest of the world. European societies, for instance, generally view leisure as being more honorable than work.  In the classic, The Arab Mind, the “Fahlawi Personality”, which deemphasizes the importance of personal responsibility and physical labor, contributes to fairly widespread attitudes of indolence among Middle Eastern men.  Throughout Latin America, people who are educated generally look down on those in the laboring class. 

It was Alexis de Tocqueville, whose ever-relevant classic Democracy in America pointed out that Americans regard work “as positively honorable.”  The suggestion that work is good for the soul and necessary to a fulfilling life is also found in the Bible, which makes over 450 specific references to the value and importance of work — considerably more than its references to love, hope, joy, grace, or peace. 

Labor union membership peaked as a percentage of the entire American labor force at 26% in 1953.  Today only about 11.2% of the total labor force belongs to a labor union. But what is most striking in the face of general decline in private sector union membership has been the growth of union membership among government employees.  Some 36% of the public sector is unionized, while approximately 6.6% of business employees now belong to unions. 

Labor Day is perhaps what might be called an unfinished holiday in need of broader perspective. What is distinct about the U.S. economy is the strong and widespread entrepreneurial tradition, wherein there is frequent crossover from being a laborer to becoming a business owner — who seeks upward mobility for himself, but who also creates new jobs for others.       

It’s certainly important to commemorate those who labor.  But the people who create new jobs by taking risk in developing new products, services and market opportunities should also be recognized.  It is these visionary entrepreneurs who have been the primary drivers of progress and wealth creation that took the country from colonial poverty to world economic superpower in a little more than 200 years — making the United States the envy of the world.

Four of the five largest employers in the United States — Walmart, Amazon, Yum Brands, and Home Depot — were founded within the last 50 years while unionized labor was declining. Each of these companies was founded by visionary entrepreneurs who transformed different sectors of the consumer products retailing industry — to deliver a wider variety of products with greater efficiency and at lower prices. 

As the U.S. economy has evolved from a manufacturing to a service and information economy, it should come as no surprise that the four largest companies in terms of market capitalization — Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft — are all in the business of information technology. Each has greatly increased efficiencies for individuals and businesses, while also catalyzing a multiplier effect spawning the formation of a vast number of new companies and new jobs. 

If the patterns of past economic history prevail, the development and application of automation and artificial intelligence should not be feared as they are likely to create as many new jobs as those made obsolete. For all of us, the challenge is to embrace change, recognize opportunity, and stay on game with training and incorporating technologies of a continuously changing economy. 

So as we celebrate on the first Monday in September with that last beach party or barbecue to commemorate those who labor, let us also remember and celebrate the entrepreneurs who drive renewal and progress — creating the new labor and employment opportunities of tomorrow.

Scott Powell is senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and managing partner at RemingtonRand LLC. Reach him at scottp@rrand.com

Among American holidays, Labor Day is probably the one in most need of an update. The idea of a “labor day holiday” was conceived in the 1880s by union labor leaders who sought recognition for the social and economic achievements of American workers. Finally in 1894, U.S. Congress voted to establish Labor Day as a national holiday to celebrate workers and their contributions to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the country.

Most don’t realize it, but attitudes toward labor are more progressive and respectful among Americans than they are in much of the rest of the world. European societies, for instance, generally view leisure as being more honorable than work.  In the classic, The Arab Mind, the “Fahlawi Personality”, which deemphasizes the importance of personal responsibility and physical labor, contributes to fairly widespread attitudes of indolence among Middle Eastern men.  Throughout Latin America, people who are educated generally look down on those in the laboring class. 

It was Alexis de Tocqueville, whose ever-relevant classic Democracy in America pointed out that Americans regard work “as positively honorable.”  The suggestion that work is good for the soul and necessary to a fulfilling life is also found in the Bible, which makes over 450 specific references to the value and importance of work — considerably more than its references to love, hope, joy, grace, or peace. 

Labor union membership peaked as a percentage of the entire American labor force at 26% in 1953.  Today only about 11.2% of the total labor force belongs to a labor union. But what is most striking in the face of general decline in private sector union membership has been the growth of union membership among government employees.  Some 36% of the public sector is unionized, while approximately 6.6% of business employees now belong to unions. 

Labor Day is perhaps what might be called an unfinished holiday in need of broader perspective. What is distinct about the U.S. economy is the strong and widespread entrepreneurial tradition, wherein there is frequent crossover from being a laborer to becoming a business owner — who seeks upward mobility for himself, but who also creates new jobs for others.       

It’s certainly important to commemorate those who labor.  But the people who create new jobs by taking risk in developing new products, services and market opportunities should also be recognized.  It is these visionary entrepreneurs who have been the primary drivers of progress and wealth creation that took the country from colonial poverty to world economic superpower in a little more than 200 years — making the United States the envy of the world.

Four of the five largest employers in the United States — Walmart, Amazon, Yum Brands, and Home Depot — were founded within the last 50 years while unionized labor was declining. Each of these companies was founded by visionary entrepreneurs who transformed different sectors of the consumer products retailing industry — to deliver a wider variety of products with greater efficiency and at lower prices. 

As the U.S. economy has evolved from a manufacturing to a service and information economy, it should come as no surprise that the four largest companies in terms of market capitalization — Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft — are all in the business of information technology. Each has greatly increased efficiencies for individuals and businesses, while also catalyzing a multiplier effect spawning the formation of a vast number of new companies and new jobs. 

If the patterns of past economic history prevail, the development and application of automation and artificial intelligence should not be feared as they are likely to create as many new jobs as those made obsolete. For all of us, the challenge is to embrace change, recognize opportunity, and stay on game with training and incorporating technologies of a continuously changing economy. 

So as we celebrate on the first Monday in September with that last beach party or barbecue to commemorate those who labor, let us also remember and celebrate the entrepreneurs who drive renewal and progress — creating the new labor and employment opportunities of tomorrow.

Scott Powell is senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and managing partner at RemingtonRand LLC. Reach him at scottp@rrand.com



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The Day that Transformed the World Forever


Of all holidays, Easter is the one that celebrates a single event that transformed the world forever.  There are many religions with different founders, prophets, and teachers going back thousands of years, but only one of them has a founder who professed to be the messiah – the son of God who could save mankind.

Jesus was born in a Jewish family and lived and walked among the people of Israel.  Every year, Jesus’s parents took his family to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover.  On one such occasion, when he was twelve, Jesus got separated from his parents and made his way to the temple, where he sat with the esteemed teachers – listening, asking questions, and teaching.  According to Luke 2:47, “[e]veryone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.”  Later, when his adult ministry began, Jesus drew thousands upon thousands who flocked to hear him.

No one else in human history made the claims Jesus did to be able to deal with every last problem of the human heart.  One primary reason the Bible is a perennial bestseller is that it’s the most complete owner’s manual to the most complex creation of all – the human species.  Nowhere else can one find as succinct yet comprehensive an explanation of what God’s love is all about than in the Bible’s Psalms and Jesus’s teaching through parables.

Another unique quality about Jesus is that he welcomed people whom no other religious leader would be caught dead with – society’s rejects, reviled tax collectors, and prostitutes.  By caring for outcasts and the disenfranchised, Jesus showed a radical level and standard of mercy and love never seen before.  Once, when Jesus was having dinner with a Jewish Pharisee, a woman convicted by her own sin came to Jesus to wash his feet with her tears and hair and then apply expensive perfume.  His host was aghast at the immoral woman’s presence, but Jesus responded that God’s work is to forgive sinners, and that those who are forgiven much can then love much.

Utterly unique in other ways, Jesus performed many miracles, healing the sick, blind, crippled, and deaf – the news of which traveled throughout the land, prompting many more to seek him out.  And he healed them all.  Jesus also confronted evil head on and drove demonic spirits out of people dangerously possessed and abandoned by society. 

His work did not stop with miraculous healing.

Because God himself became flesh in the person of Jesus to save people through their own faith, he went on to demonstrate his love and power in an ultimate way that could not be missed or denied: bringing the dead back to life.  One such resurrection miracle was that of Lazarus, who was irrefutably dead and entombed for four days.  Upon Jesus’s command, Lazarus got up and walked out of the tomb – that people would know beyond a shadow of a doubt who Jesus was.

All other religions require works to achieve enlightenment and salvation.  Christianity turns that on its head: faith in Christ and all his teachings transforms the heart, from which good works naturally follow.  In saying, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” Jesus presents an ingeniously compelling appeal that even the most hardened cynic can’t easily refuse.

Skeptics of the Bible’s truth and the reality of Jesus need understand that there’s actually much more reliable historical evidence for his life, teachings, miracles, death, and resurrection than there is evidence for any other historical figure of ancient times.

Consider that no one doubts the authenticity of the life and acts of Alexander the Great.  Yet there are only two original biographical accounts of his life, which were written by Arrian and Plutarch some four hundred years after Alexander died.  The manuscripts of Virgil and Horace, both of whom lived within a generation of Christ, were written more than four centuries after their deaths, yet no one doubts that they lived and authored poetic masterpieces.  Looking at the big picture, there are about 1,000 times as many manuscripts preserving the New Testament (about 25,000) than other classical ancient works with the exception of Homer, whose Iliad is backed by 1,800 manuscripts (but still less than one tenth of the New Testament number).  

We know the historical Jesus mainly through four different accounts known as the Gospels – Matthew, Luke, Mark, and John – all written within a generation or two of Jesus’s life.  Matthew and John provide eyewitness accounts from their years of walking with Jesus as disciples.  Mark also had eyewitness experience.  Luke, the doctor, learned about Jesus from his friend Paul, the apostle who wrote most of the letters of the New Testament.

Easter is the commemoration of the single event that transformed the world forever – the resurrection of Jesus after his death on the cross.  That God would send his Son to die as a sacrifice for the sin of all who would believe in Him is an unbelievable gift – beyond most people’s comprehension.  That a resurrection and a joyous eternal life await believers is beyond anything anyone could imagine.  That is the promise and essence of Easter.

Scott Powell is senior fellow at Discovery Institute in Seattle.  Reach him at scottp@discovery.org.

Of all holidays, Easter is the one that celebrates a single event that transformed the world forever.  There are many religions with different founders, prophets, and teachers going back thousands of years, but only one of them has a founder who professed to be the messiah – the son of God who could save mankind.

Jesus was born in a Jewish family and lived and walked among the people of Israel.  Every year, Jesus’s parents took his family to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover.  On one such occasion, when he was twelve, Jesus got separated from his parents and made his way to the temple, where he sat with the esteemed teachers – listening, asking questions, and teaching.  According to Luke 2:47, “[e]veryone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.”  Later, when his adult ministry began, Jesus drew thousands upon thousands who flocked to hear him.

No one else in human history made the claims Jesus did to be able to deal with every last problem of the human heart.  One primary reason the Bible is a perennial bestseller is that it’s the most complete owner’s manual to the most complex creation of all – the human species.  Nowhere else can one find as succinct yet comprehensive an explanation of what God’s love is all about than in the Bible’s Psalms and Jesus’s teaching through parables.

Another unique quality about Jesus is that he welcomed people whom no other religious leader would be caught dead with – society’s rejects, reviled tax collectors, and prostitutes.  By caring for outcasts and the disenfranchised, Jesus showed a radical level and standard of mercy and love never seen before.  Once, when Jesus was having dinner with a Jewish Pharisee, a woman convicted by her own sin came to Jesus to wash his feet with her tears and hair and then apply expensive perfume.  His host was aghast at the immoral woman’s presence, but Jesus responded that God’s work is to forgive sinners, and that those who are forgiven much can then love much.

Utterly unique in other ways, Jesus performed many miracles, healing the sick, blind, crippled, and deaf – the news of which traveled throughout the land, prompting many more to seek him out.  And he healed them all.  Jesus also confronted evil head on and drove demonic spirits out of people dangerously possessed and abandoned by society. 

His work did not stop with miraculous healing.

Because God himself became flesh in the person of Jesus to save people through their own faith, he went on to demonstrate his love and power in an ultimate way that could not be missed or denied: bringing the dead back to life.  One such resurrection miracle was that of Lazarus, who was irrefutably dead and entombed for four days.  Upon Jesus’s command, Lazarus got up and walked out of the tomb – that people would know beyond a shadow of a doubt who Jesus was.

All other religions require works to achieve enlightenment and salvation.  Christianity turns that on its head: faith in Christ and all his teachings transforms the heart, from which good works naturally follow.  In saying, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” Jesus presents an ingeniously compelling appeal that even the most hardened cynic can’t easily refuse.

Skeptics of the Bible’s truth and the reality of Jesus need understand that there’s actually much more reliable historical evidence for his life, teachings, miracles, death, and resurrection than there is evidence for any other historical figure of ancient times.

Consider that no one doubts the authenticity of the life and acts of Alexander the Great.  Yet there are only two original biographical accounts of his life, which were written by Arrian and Plutarch some four hundred years after Alexander died.  The manuscripts of Virgil and Horace, both of whom lived within a generation of Christ, were written more than four centuries after their deaths, yet no one doubts that they lived and authored poetic masterpieces.  Looking at the big picture, there are about 1,000 times as many manuscripts preserving the New Testament (about 25,000) than other classical ancient works with the exception of Homer, whose Iliad is backed by 1,800 manuscripts (but still less than one tenth of the New Testament number).  

We know the historical Jesus mainly through four different accounts known as the Gospels – Matthew, Luke, Mark, and John – all written within a generation or two of Jesus’s life.  Matthew and John provide eyewitness accounts from their years of walking with Jesus as disciples.  Mark also had eyewitness experience.  Luke, the doctor, learned about Jesus from his friend Paul, the apostle who wrote most of the letters of the New Testament.

Easter is the commemoration of the single event that transformed the world forever – the resurrection of Jesus after his death on the cross.  That God would send his Son to die as a sacrifice for the sin of all who would believe in Him is an unbelievable gift – beyond most people’s comprehension.  That a resurrection and a joyous eternal life await believers is beyond anything anyone could imagine.  That is the promise and essence of Easter.

Scott Powell is senior fellow at Discovery Institute in Seattle.  Reach him at scottp@discovery.org.



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Valentine's Day Wake-Up Call from Parkland


The Valentine’s Day massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was the latest in a series of mass school shootings dating back to the Columbine, Colorado shooting in 1999. Evoking shock, these crimes inevitably prompt a call to pray for the victims and their families.   

Calls for prayer are natural and appropriate after such wanton evil acts, but the question begs:  What about prayers invoking protection in advance of danger? That’s not likely following two Supreme Court decisions in the early 1960s — Engel v. Vitale and Abington School District v. Schempp — which declared school-sponsored prayer unlawful. The fact is that the departure of God from public schools combined with schools being soft targets as gun-free zones has been an invitation to evil — an invitation that has been answered repeatedly by the deranged prone to violence.

But it is not just public schools that have become God-free zones. Increasingly since the 1960s we have been crowding out God and His teachings about love, kindness, compassion and morality from the public square. Increasingly over the years, Americans have been bombarded by the entertainment industry’s nonstop output and celebration of depravity and violence in music, video productions, and video games. Is it really any wonder why so many have become desensitized about the value of life? 

The breakdown of standards and values has brought on confusion, unrest, alienation and a loss of the sense of caring community. In the midst of this cultural devolution and disintegration, some might hope for a government fix. But the is little evidence that public sector programs can fix social and moral problems. 

Most large American cities experienced a marked decline after “Great Society” war on poverty welfare programs were introduced in the 1960s. Welfare programs such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children decimated poor families — creating perverse incentives to have more children out of wedlock — undermining and devaluing fatherhood and the two-parent nuclear family. Without the role model and discipline provided by a father, many kids run wild and are unable to focus and learn. No wonder so many inner cities became urban poverty plantations, while school failures and social pathologies proliferate — often leading to crime and violent behavior. 

The Parkland, Florida school shooting should be a wake-up call for the nation. Parkland is an affluent city and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is considered one of the best public schools in the state. Yet federal and local government agencies were no more effective in stopping this shooting than their counterparts’ have been in stopping wholesale murder in poor Chicago neighborhoods. Despite nearly three dozen reports to and interventions by law enforcement regarding the unhinged Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz — including his statements of intention to kill people and become a  “professional school shooter” — the FBI and Broward County law enforcement utterly failed to protect Parkland  students.

In some ways this local failure and dysfunction is related to that of other government agencies with larger mandates. The Department of Veterans Affairs has been failing to take proper care of veterans for decades, resulting in many preventable deaths. Politicians and Social Security administrators doom future generations by staying the course to certain insolvency. The Drug Enforcement Agency seems to be in a perpetual losing battle to interdict and stop the smuggling of illegal drugs into the U.S.  And of course, so long as user demand remains high there will never be a victory in that war. 

A growing number of Americans recognize that there is limited success and frequent unexpected harmful consequences to public sector programs, particularly when they discourage people from taking personal responsibility and encouraging voluntary good works or when they have no intersection with religious organizations whose primary purpose is to thwart evil and provide care for and meaning to people’s lives.     

What led to the Parkland, Florida atrocity were a series of missed opportunities that are so mindboggling and numerous that one can only hope that the magnitude of these failures will result in the immediate upgrading of on-site school security systems, and more importantly a lasting societal awakening and hunger for cultural and spiritual renewal.     

In thinking about what that would that look like, consider insight from Darrell Scott — the father of one of the victims of Columbine, CO school shooting — who testified to U.S. House Judiciary Committee in 1999. First, he noted that men and women are three-part beings, consisting of body, soul and spirit, and “[w]hen we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc.”

Second, Mr. Scott said that “[w]e have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence… We do need a change of heart and a humble acknowledgement that this nation was founded on the principle of simple trust in God!”

The First Amendment explicitly says that it is not the role of government to establish any specific religion. But isn’t it time for a government of the people, by the people, and for the people to reestablish venues in schools to provide voluntary opportunities to learn about and connect to the source of all that is good?  Similarly, in the public square if we started with frequent acknowledgement of what is inscribed on every coin and bill used in commerce — that we trust in God — we could silence much of the hate that has come to fill our airwaves.   

Scott Powell lives near Parkland, Florida. He is senior fellow at Discovery Institute, headquartered in Seattle. Reach him at scottp@discovery.org

The Valentine’s Day massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was the latest in a series of mass school shootings dating back to the Columbine, Colorado shooting in 1999. Evoking shock, these crimes inevitably prompt a call to pray for the victims and their families.   

Calls for prayer are natural and appropriate after such wanton evil acts, but the question begs:  What about prayers invoking protection in advance of danger? That’s not likely following two Supreme Court decisions in the early 1960s — Engel v. Vitale and Abington School District v. Schempp — which declared school-sponsored prayer unlawful. The fact is that the departure of God from public schools combined with schools being soft targets as gun-free zones has been an invitation to evil — an invitation that has been answered repeatedly by the deranged prone to violence.

But it is not just public schools that have become God-free zones. Increasingly since the 1960s we have been crowding out God and His teachings about love, kindness, compassion and morality from the public square. Increasingly over the years, Americans have been bombarded by the entertainment industry’s nonstop output and celebration of depravity and violence in music, video productions, and video games. Is it really any wonder why so many have become desensitized about the value of life? 

The breakdown of standards and values has brought on confusion, unrest, alienation and a loss of the sense of caring community. In the midst of this cultural devolution and disintegration, some might hope for a government fix. But the is little evidence that public sector programs can fix social and moral problems. 

Most large American cities experienced a marked decline after “Great Society” war on poverty welfare programs were introduced in the 1960s. Welfare programs such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children decimated poor families — creating perverse incentives to have more children out of wedlock — undermining and devaluing fatherhood and the two-parent nuclear family. Without the role model and discipline provided by a father, many kids run wild and are unable to focus and learn. No wonder so many inner cities became urban poverty plantations, while school failures and social pathologies proliferate — often leading to crime and violent behavior. 

The Parkland, Florida school shooting should be a wake-up call for the nation. Parkland is an affluent city and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is considered one of the best public schools in the state. Yet federal and local government agencies were no more effective in stopping this shooting than their counterparts’ have been in stopping wholesale murder in poor Chicago neighborhoods. Despite nearly three dozen reports to and interventions by law enforcement regarding the unhinged Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz — including his statements of intention to kill people and become a  “professional school shooter” — the FBI and Broward County law enforcement utterly failed to protect Parkland  students.

In some ways this local failure and dysfunction is related to that of other government agencies with larger mandates. The Department of Veterans Affairs has been failing to take proper care of veterans for decades, resulting in many preventable deaths. Politicians and Social Security administrators doom future generations by staying the course to certain insolvency. The Drug Enforcement Agency seems to be in a perpetual losing battle to interdict and stop the smuggling of illegal drugs into the U.S.  And of course, so long as user demand remains high there will never be a victory in that war. 

A growing number of Americans recognize that there is limited success and frequent unexpected harmful consequences to public sector programs, particularly when they discourage people from taking personal responsibility and encouraging voluntary good works or when they have no intersection with religious organizations whose primary purpose is to thwart evil and provide care for and meaning to people’s lives.     

What led to the Parkland, Florida atrocity were a series of missed opportunities that are so mindboggling and numerous that one can only hope that the magnitude of these failures will result in the immediate upgrading of on-site school security systems, and more importantly a lasting societal awakening and hunger for cultural and spiritual renewal.     

In thinking about what that would that look like, consider insight from Darrell Scott — the father of one of the victims of Columbine, CO school shooting — who testified to U.S. House Judiciary Committee in 1999. First, he noted that men and women are three-part beings, consisting of body, soul and spirit, and “[w]hen we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc.”

Second, Mr. Scott said that “[w]e have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence… We do need a change of heart and a humble acknowledgement that this nation was founded on the principle of simple trust in God!”

The First Amendment explicitly says that it is not the role of government to establish any specific religion. But isn’t it time for a government of the people, by the people, and for the people to reestablish venues in schools to provide voluntary opportunities to learn about and connect to the source of all that is good?  Similarly, in the public square if we started with frequent acknowledgement of what is inscribed on every coin and bill used in commerce — that we trust in God — we could silence much of the hate that has come to fill our airwaves.   

Scott Powell lives near Parkland, Florida. He is senior fellow at Discovery Institute, headquartered in Seattle. Reach him at scottp@discovery.org



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Subverting the Electoral Process


In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln reminded Americans that they were uniquely privileged to have a new birth of freedom that was contingent on “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” That was then. What about now?

Every week brings new revelations and details about a cabal in the federal government whose actions border on conspiracy. The evidence suggests that specific high-level officials in the Justice Department and the FBI colluded together to violate the law in unprecedented ways for the singular purpose of subverting the will of the people both before and after the 2016 election.

The United States is now at a defining moment. Will there be a restoration of the rule of law, or will Washington’s elite continue to give cover and a pass to fellow members of the Ruling Class (in the sense used by Angelo Codevilla)?

The question: Is there sufficient decency and courage in the midst of Washington’s swamp to compel the pursuit of justice wherever in the Ruling Class it leads and then to prosecute the lawbreakers — whoever they are?

First, it’s vital to understand that when you give a pass — or worse, you give multiple successive passes — to lawbreakers, you not only protect those who violated the law, but you empower and encourage would-be lawbreakers to do the same or worse. Second, when laws are not enforced, they cease to have meaning. And that’s when your nation finds itself on a slippery slope of arbitrary and subjective rule and cronyism, which ends in ruin… such as no borders, the hollowing out of protections in the Bill of Rights, and the politicization of government agencies, to name a few.

The importance of the rule of law for civil society can be traced back to Moses in the 13th Century B.C. and later the ancient philosopher Aristotle and the Roman political theorist Cicero. In the Middle Ages, the Magna Carta was drafted in England in 1215 A.D. to force the king and all future sovereigns and magistrates to live and rule under the law. Those foundational roots would be carried into the U.S. Constitution, which was given shape by the Bible and the greatest philosophic minds — both political and legal.

In 1644 Samuel Rutherford published the The Law and the Prince. Refuting the theory of the “Divine Right of Kings,” Rutherford argued that if the king violated the law of nature, he should be deposed and punished as a criminal. John Locke’s father was a close acquaintance of Rutherford and was a member of the Puritan forces that fought against King Charles I. The impression and inspiration provided by Rutherford no doubt influenced young John Locke, who would later write The Second Treatise of Government in 1690.

While Locke is generally considered to be the chief source in the drafting of the U.S. Constitution, the Founders actually cited Oxford legal scholar, William Blackstone, twice as often as they cited Locke. In fact, Blackstone’s four-volume Commentaries on the Laws of England, published in 1765, became more of a sensation in the American colonies than in England, ironically giving justification for the American colonists to revolt against King George. Prior to the Revolutionary War, more copies of Blackstone’s Commentaries were sold in America than in England, which had three times as many inhabitants.

America’s Founders were also deeply influenced by French political philosopher Baron Charles de Montesquieu, whose De l’esprit des lois (The Spirit of the Laws) made the unique contribution of the doctrine of separation of powers — which explained that liberty is best protected when government distributes executive, legislative, and judicial power among three branches of government so no one branch can exercise too much power and control of the other branches and so that corruption and abuse of power is checked.

The fact that the U.S. Constitution (less the Bill of Rights) was drafted in less than four months by 42 delegates to the Constitutional Convention in the heat of a Philadelphia summer in 1787 is a miracle in and of itself — a testimony to the hand of Providence on the debate between disparate contributors from 12 of the 13 original states and on guiding the drafting of the most profound blueprint for successful democracy the world has ever known.

The U.S. is unique in human history being the only nation founded solely on moral ideas and principles and a noble vision of man’s potential for good, but also a recognition of his sinful propensities for selfishness and abuse of power.

America was founded in revolution against oppression, and then tested, forged, and reaffirmed by bloody sacrifice in civil war and successive foreign wars right up to the present — fought to uphold the cause of freedom and its attendant rights and duties inexorably tied to natural and civil law. If we give a pass to a cabal of lawbreakers in today’s Ruling Class, we betray our heritage, our ideals and vision, and the blood of so many patriots.

This kind of lawbreaking — the attempt to subvert the will of the American people in the 2016 election and its aftermath — is the highest crime and misdemeanor, akin to treason. So what to do?

Boldness is needed and there is simply no more important or cathartic action to take to restore faith in our system, equality before the law and to rein in cronyism and double standards, than the indictment and prosecution of “high crime and misdemeanor lawbreakers” irrespective of position or party affiliation — from the previous administration or in government today.

It’s time to indict and prosecute key figures in the Clinton political crime syndicate and their protectors, which would include those involved in weaponizing U.S. Government agencies to conduct unmasking and surveillance operations against American citizens in violation of their sacred 4th Amendment right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects…”

Failing to hold Ruling Class lawbreakers accountable is not an option, for the next stage of ruin on that slippery slope we’ve been on looks more like a police state than a country club.

Scott Powell is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute in Seattle. Reach him at scottp@discovery.org

In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln reminded Americans that they were uniquely privileged to have a new birth of freedom that was contingent on “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” That was then. What about now?

Every week brings new revelations and details about a cabal in the federal government whose actions border on conspiracy. The evidence suggests that specific high-level officials in the Justice Department and the FBI colluded together to violate the law in unprecedented ways for the singular purpose of subverting the will of the people both before and after the 2016 election.

The United States is now at a defining moment. Will there be a restoration of the rule of law, or will Washington’s elite continue to give cover and a pass to fellow members of the Ruling Class (in the sense used by Angelo Codevilla)?

The question: Is there sufficient decency and courage in the midst of Washington’s swamp to compel the pursuit of justice wherever in the Ruling Class it leads and then to prosecute the lawbreakers — whoever they are?

First, it’s vital to understand that when you give a pass — or worse, you give multiple successive passes — to lawbreakers, you not only protect those who violated the law, but you empower and encourage would-be lawbreakers to do the same or worse. Second, when laws are not enforced, they cease to have meaning. And that’s when your nation finds itself on a slippery slope of arbitrary and subjective rule and cronyism, which ends in ruin… such as no borders, the hollowing out of protections in the Bill of Rights, and the politicization of government agencies, to name a few.

The importance of the rule of law for civil society can be traced back to Moses in the 13th Century B.C. and later the ancient philosopher Aristotle and the Roman political theorist Cicero. In the Middle Ages, the Magna Carta was drafted in England in 1215 A.D. to force the king and all future sovereigns and magistrates to live and rule under the law. Those foundational roots would be carried into the U.S. Constitution, which was given shape by the Bible and the greatest philosophic minds — both political and legal.

In 1644 Samuel Rutherford published the The Law and the Prince. Refuting the theory of the “Divine Right of Kings,” Rutherford argued that if the king violated the law of nature, he should be deposed and punished as a criminal. John Locke’s father was a close acquaintance of Rutherford and was a member of the Puritan forces that fought against King Charles I. The impression and inspiration provided by Rutherford no doubt influenced young John Locke, who would later write The Second Treatise of Government in 1690.

While Locke is generally considered to be the chief source in the drafting of the U.S. Constitution, the Founders actually cited Oxford legal scholar, William Blackstone, twice as often as they cited Locke. In fact, Blackstone’s four-volume Commentaries on the Laws of England, published in 1765, became more of a sensation in the American colonies than in England, ironically giving justification for the American colonists to revolt against King George. Prior to the Revolutionary War, more copies of Blackstone’s Commentaries were sold in America than in England, which had three times as many inhabitants.

America’s Founders were also deeply influenced by French political philosopher Baron Charles de Montesquieu, whose De l’esprit des lois (The Spirit of the Laws) made the unique contribution of the doctrine of separation of powers — which explained that liberty is best protected when government distributes executive, legislative, and judicial power among three branches of government so no one branch can exercise too much power and control of the other branches and so that corruption and abuse of power is checked.

The fact that the U.S. Constitution (less the Bill of Rights) was drafted in less than four months by 42 delegates to the Constitutional Convention in the heat of a Philadelphia summer in 1787 is a miracle in and of itself — a testimony to the hand of Providence on the debate between disparate contributors from 12 of the 13 original states and on guiding the drafting of the most profound blueprint for successful democracy the world has ever known.

The U.S. is unique in human history being the only nation founded solely on moral ideas and principles and a noble vision of man’s potential for good, but also a recognition of his sinful propensities for selfishness and abuse of power.

America was founded in revolution against oppression, and then tested, forged, and reaffirmed by bloody sacrifice in civil war and successive foreign wars right up to the present — fought to uphold the cause of freedom and its attendant rights and duties inexorably tied to natural and civil law. If we give a pass to a cabal of lawbreakers in today’s Ruling Class, we betray our heritage, our ideals and vision, and the blood of so many patriots.

This kind of lawbreaking — the attempt to subvert the will of the American people in the 2016 election and its aftermath — is the highest crime and misdemeanor, akin to treason. So what to do?

Boldness is needed and there is simply no more important or cathartic action to take to restore faith in our system, equality before the law and to rein in cronyism and double standards, than the indictment and prosecution of “high crime and misdemeanor lawbreakers” irrespective of position or party affiliation — from the previous administration or in government today.

It’s time to indict and prosecute key figures in the Clinton political crime syndicate and their protectors, which would include those involved in weaponizing U.S. Government agencies to conduct unmasking and surveillance operations against American citizens in violation of their sacred 4th Amendment right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects…”

Failing to hold Ruling Class lawbreakers accountable is not an option, for the next stage of ruin on that slippery slope we’ve been on looks more like a police state than a country club.

Scott Powell is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute in Seattle. Reach him at scottp@discovery.org



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2018 Comes In like a Lion


If there is one thing most economists understand, about which they agree, it’s the law of supply and demand.  A derivative of that law is that demand and velocity of transactions tend to diminish as costs increase.  While few individuals disagree about this, many in the collective body of economists have become so politicized that when it comes to the cost of variables such as taxes and regulations, that consensus all but vanishes.  Indeed, to listen to many of the pundits and experts, there seems to be notable confusion, denial, and disagreement about how the cost of regulations and taxes actually affects economic activity.

Last year, a University of Chicago Booth School of Business survey of so-called top economists – including Nobel Prize-winners and former presidents of the American Economic Association – found that only one in 42 economists polled thought the Republican tax reduction bill would boost the economy.  Recently, Princeton economics professor and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Blinder stated in the Wall Street Journal that there is “little economic evidence” that “tax benefits showered on corporations will translate mostly into higher wages and vastly faster economic growth.”

It’s not at all difficult to grasp the reasons for the markedly different economic performance of the Obama years compared to what we have experienced in just one year of the Trump administration.  Obama’s best year of his two terms delivered a 2.6% growth rate, and he was the only president in some 88 years (since Herbert Hoover) to fail to deliver economic growth of 3% in any one year he was in office.  In contrast, in the first two full quarters of the Trump administration, the economy experienced 3.2% growth.

During his eight years, Obama oversaw an output of some 3,069 regulatory rules and nine new taxes that were part of the Obamacare health insurance law, adding nearly $900 billion in costs to the U.S. economy, and a record 572,000 pages to the Federal Register.  In contrast, in his first 11 months, Trump eliminated some 66 significant rules while adding only three, which equates to a ratio of 22 to 1 – far exceeding the standards of his Executive Order 13771 requiring two old rules to be eliminated for every new one added.        

The stock market closed out 2017 with a record increase for the eighth year of economic expansion, largely due to deregulation and anticipation of tax cuts.

No sooner had the ink dried on President Trump’s signature on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 on December 22 than more than a dozen companies, such as AT&T, Comcast, Boeing, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Bank of America, and Kansas City Southern, announced special $1,000 bonuses to more than 450,000 employees and tens of billions of dollars of spending increases on plant, capacity, facilities, and workforce development.

Twenty-eighteen has come in like a lion, with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act delivering more headline news.  Now it’s reported that more than one million American workers at some 100 companies will be receiving pay raises and bonuses – undeniably attributable to the reduction of corporate tax rates from 35% to 21%.  Wells Fargo, PNC, Regions Bank, Fifth Third Bank, BB&T, Comerica, and U.S. Bancorp, to name a few of the larger financial institutions, all cranked up minimum wages paid to $15 per hour and spread the newfound wealth anticipated from tax savings in generous bonuses to more than 150,000 employees.

The momentum of the first two weeks of January is likely to continue as additional companies make similar decisions to stay competitive in attracting and retaining talent.  As company after company announces wage hikes, bonuses, increased contributions to retirement accounts, investment in capital equipment and workplace improvement, and new job openings, attacks on the Trump-GOP tax law will ring increasingly hollow.

President Trump said from the beginning that lowering tax rates, simplifying the tax code, and making American companies more competitive would be the fuel that propels our economy to new heights.

It’s baffling that political bias can obviate empirical evidence and common sense.  One surely doesn’t need a Ph.D. in economics to grasp how tax and regulatory costs affect behavior.

By helping companies retain more income and become more competitive through lower tax rates, a simplified tax code, incentivized capital investment, and removal of regulatory barriers, President Trump and the Republican Congress have actually delivered, in the first year of working together, the essential foundation to make America great again.  

Scott Powell is an economist and senior fellow at Discovery Institute in Seattle.  Reach him at scottp@discovery.org.

If there is one thing most economists understand, about which they agree, it’s the law of supply and demand.  A derivative of that law is that demand and velocity of transactions tend to diminish as costs increase.  While few individuals disagree about this, many in the collective body of economists have become so politicized that when it comes to the cost of variables such as taxes and regulations, that consensus all but vanishes.  Indeed, to listen to many of the pundits and experts, there seems to be notable confusion, denial, and disagreement about how the cost of regulations and taxes actually affects economic activity.

Last year, a University of Chicago Booth School of Business survey of so-called top economists – including Nobel Prize-winners and former presidents of the American Economic Association – found that only one in 42 economists polled thought the Republican tax reduction bill would boost the economy.  Recently, Princeton economics professor and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Blinder stated in the Wall Street Journal that there is “little economic evidence” that “tax benefits showered on corporations will translate mostly into higher wages and vastly faster economic growth.”

It’s not at all difficult to grasp the reasons for the markedly different economic performance of the Obama years compared to what we have experienced in just one year of the Trump administration.  Obama’s best year of his two terms delivered a 2.6% growth rate, and he was the only president in some 88 years (since Herbert Hoover) to fail to deliver economic growth of 3% in any one year he was in office.  In contrast, in the first two full quarters of the Trump administration, the economy experienced 3.2% growth.

During his eight years, Obama oversaw an output of some 3,069 regulatory rules and nine new taxes that were part of the Obamacare health insurance law, adding nearly $900 billion in costs to the U.S. economy, and a record 572,000 pages to the Federal Register.  In contrast, in his first 11 months, Trump eliminated some 66 significant rules while adding only three, which equates to a ratio of 22 to 1 – far exceeding the standards of his Executive Order 13771 requiring two old rules to be eliminated for every new one added.        

The stock market closed out 2017 with a record increase for the eighth year of economic expansion, largely due to deregulation and anticipation of tax cuts.

No sooner had the ink dried on President Trump’s signature on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 on December 22 than more than a dozen companies, such as AT&T, Comcast, Boeing, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Bank of America, and Kansas City Southern, announced special $1,000 bonuses to more than 450,000 employees and tens of billions of dollars of spending increases on plant, capacity, facilities, and workforce development.

Twenty-eighteen has come in like a lion, with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act delivering more headline news.  Now it’s reported that more than one million American workers at some 100 companies will be receiving pay raises and bonuses – undeniably attributable to the reduction of corporate tax rates from 35% to 21%.  Wells Fargo, PNC, Regions Bank, Fifth Third Bank, BB&T, Comerica, and U.S. Bancorp, to name a few of the larger financial institutions, all cranked up minimum wages paid to $15 per hour and spread the newfound wealth anticipated from tax savings in generous bonuses to more than 150,000 employees.

The momentum of the first two weeks of January is likely to continue as additional companies make similar decisions to stay competitive in attracting and retaining talent.  As company after company announces wage hikes, bonuses, increased contributions to retirement accounts, investment in capital equipment and workplace improvement, and new job openings, attacks on the Trump-GOP tax law will ring increasingly hollow.

President Trump said from the beginning that lowering tax rates, simplifying the tax code, and making American companies more competitive would be the fuel that propels our economy to new heights.

It’s baffling that political bias can obviate empirical evidence and common sense.  One surely doesn’t need a Ph.D. in economics to grasp how tax and regulatory costs affect behavior.

By helping companies retain more income and become more competitive through lower tax rates, a simplified tax code, incentivized capital investment, and removal of regulatory barriers, President Trump and the Republican Congress have actually delivered, in the first year of working together, the essential foundation to make America great again.  

Scott Powell is an economist and senior fellow at Discovery Institute in Seattle.  Reach him at scottp@discovery.org.



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Making the Clintons Pay


Few would deny that the ascendance of the United States from colonial poverty to the world’s top economic and military superpower in just 200 years is largely attributable to principles and rule of law in our founding documents enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. And so it should come as no surprise that America’s decline in the last 25 years has coincided with the erosion of the U.S. Constitution and the corruption of the nation’s law enforcement and judicial system.

What has most greased the skids of America’s decline toward the ways of a banana republic is the emergence and acceptance of two-tiered justice and attendant cronyism and political corruption. And nowhere is this more obvious than in the pass given to the Clintons, and particularly former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

When the Clintons left the White House in 2001, taking with them over $190,000 worth of heirloom china, flatware, rugs, and furniture as they cleared out — much of which they later had to return — they claimed they were flat broke. Today their net worth exceeds $150 million, accumulated not by traditional means of work and investment, but rather by pay-for-play influence peddling through speeches and Clinton Foundation fundraising — with the tacit understanding that the Clintons would be in a position to return favors to donors after Hillary won the 2016 presidential election.

A key function of our law enforcement and justice system is of course the punishment of lawbreakers. But perhaps more important is the judicial system’s function in preventing repeat or escalated lawbreaking and deterring other would-be copycat lawbreakers.

It is a felony, punishable by fine and imprisonment up to 20 years, according to 18 U.S. Code 1519, to destroy, conceal, cover up or falsify any record or document whether on paper or on any digital device with the intent to impede or obstruct the investigation of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States.

The pattern of deceit through withholding and destroying documents and records in order to obfuscate and facilitate self-dealing and political crime started early in Hillary’s career. While her husband would face impeachment, stiff monetary fines and a near million-dollar settlement as well as disbarment for five years, Hillary Clinton skated with no accountability for anything in her checkered career.

There were the missing records documenting the statistically impossible profits from cattle futures trading, the disappearance of Hillary Clinton’s billing records from the Rose Law Firm — under subpoena by Federal and Congressional investigators (which were found some two years later in the First Family quarters of the White House) — where she previously worked on matters related to the Whitewater real estate sham, the removal and destruction of a hard drive from the computer of her former Rose Law Firm partner and then White House Deputy Legal Counsel Vince Foster, whose death by gunshot wounds was ruled a suicide in the midst of the Whitewater investigation. And then there were the missing documents from the White House Travelgate firings — documents that would also surface after the scandal passed — showing Hillary’s duplicity and contradiction of her prior statements.  

As egregious, scandalous or unlawful as these were, it was small time and a warm-up for what was to come after Hillary became Secretary of State and insisted on using a private computer server and email address — about which she was warned would be vulnerable to hacking and security breaches. Her purpose in so doing was ostensibly to evade Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and Federal Government record-keeping laws and obfuscate conflicts of interest such as indirectly helping the Clinton Foundation raise enormous sums from governments and parties with whom she was also interfacing as Secretary of State.

But it all began to unravel after Hillary left office and was required to testify before a House committee on Benghazi in October 2015 and answer questions about the terrorist attacks on the U.S. Consulate on September 11, 2012. It was those hearings that brought to light the existence of Hillary Clinton’s secret, unsecured, do-it-yourself server. And then it was learned that she not only stored classified and top secret information in an unsecured location, but that she had also authorized the destruction of subpoenaed evidence — some 33,000 emails — after she was put on notice of the existence of the subpoena. These violations are felonies with stiff penalties and there were at least six other laws that appear violated for which Hillary could be indicted.

What is now waking up Americans about the seriousness of Clinton family self-dealing and the need for prosecution is the realization that the Clintons were at the center of what appears to be the biggest political corruption scandal in U.S. history. The fact that the Clinton Foundation’s single largest aggregate donation of some $145 million came from various parties linked to the Uranium One sale to the Russian government nuclear agency Rosatum makes this the mega-case of Russian influence and corruption.

Before the Declaration and the U.S. Constitution were even written, Samuel Adams observed that, “neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.” Political corruption in America has now become a cancer destroying people’s trust in government and their respect for the rule of law.

The inclination to give a pass to high profile politicians once out of office would be a grave mistake. Boldness is needed and there is simply no more important or cathartic action to take to restore equality before the law and bring an end to cronyism and double standards than the prosecution of the masters of political corruption — the Clinton crime syndicate.

Scott Powell is senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. Reach him at scottp@discovery.org.

Few would deny that the ascendance of the United States from colonial poverty to the world’s top economic and military superpower in just 200 years is largely attributable to principles and rule of law in our founding documents enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. And so it should come as no surprise that America’s decline in the last 25 years has coincided with the erosion of the U.S. Constitution and the corruption of the nation’s law enforcement and judicial system.

What has most greased the skids of America’s decline toward the ways of a banana republic is the emergence and acceptance of two-tiered justice and attendant cronyism and political corruption. And nowhere is this more obvious than in the pass given to the Clintons, and particularly former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

When the Clintons left the White House in 2001, taking with them over $190,000 worth of heirloom china, flatware, rugs, and furniture as they cleared out — much of which they later had to return — they claimed they were flat broke. Today their net worth exceeds $150 million, accumulated not by traditional means of work and investment, but rather by pay-for-play influence peddling through speeches and Clinton Foundation fundraising — with the tacit understanding that the Clintons would be in a position to return favors to donors after Hillary won the 2016 presidential election.

A key function of our law enforcement and justice system is of course the punishment of lawbreakers. But perhaps more important is the judicial system’s function in preventing repeat or escalated lawbreaking and deterring other would-be copycat lawbreakers.

It is a felony, punishable by fine and imprisonment up to 20 years, according to 18 U.S. Code 1519, to destroy, conceal, cover up or falsify any record or document whether on paper or on any digital device with the intent to impede or obstruct the investigation of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States.

The pattern of deceit through withholding and destroying documents and records in order to obfuscate and facilitate self-dealing and political crime started early in Hillary’s career. While her husband would face impeachment, stiff monetary fines and a near million-dollar settlement as well as disbarment for five years, Hillary Clinton skated with no accountability for anything in her checkered career.

There were the missing records documenting the statistically impossible profits from cattle futures trading, the disappearance of Hillary Clinton’s billing records from the Rose Law Firm — under subpoena by Federal and Congressional investigators (which were found some two years later in the First Family quarters of the White House) — where she previously worked on matters related to the Whitewater real estate sham, the removal and destruction of a hard drive from the computer of her former Rose Law Firm partner and then White House Deputy Legal Counsel Vince Foster, whose death by gunshot wounds was ruled a suicide in the midst of the Whitewater investigation. And then there were the missing documents from the White House Travelgate firings — documents that would also surface after the scandal passed — showing Hillary’s duplicity and contradiction of her prior statements.  

As egregious, scandalous or unlawful as these were, it was small time and a warm-up for what was to come after Hillary became Secretary of State and insisted on using a private computer server and email address — about which she was warned would be vulnerable to hacking and security breaches. Her purpose in so doing was ostensibly to evade Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and Federal Government record-keeping laws and obfuscate conflicts of interest such as indirectly helping the Clinton Foundation raise enormous sums from governments and parties with whom she was also interfacing as Secretary of State.

But it all began to unravel after Hillary left office and was required to testify before a House committee on Benghazi in October 2015 and answer questions about the terrorist attacks on the U.S. Consulate on September 11, 2012. It was those hearings that brought to light the existence of Hillary Clinton’s secret, unsecured, do-it-yourself server. And then it was learned that she not only stored classified and top secret information in an unsecured location, but that she had also authorized the destruction of subpoenaed evidence — some 33,000 emails — after she was put on notice of the existence of the subpoena. These violations are felonies with stiff penalties and there were at least six other laws that appear violated for which Hillary could be indicted.

What is now waking up Americans about the seriousness of Clinton family self-dealing and the need for prosecution is the realization that the Clintons were at the center of what appears to be the biggest political corruption scandal in U.S. history. The fact that the Clinton Foundation’s single largest aggregate donation of some $145 million came from various parties linked to the Uranium One sale to the Russian government nuclear agency Rosatum makes this the mega-case of Russian influence and corruption.

Before the Declaration and the U.S. Constitution were even written, Samuel Adams observed that, “neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.” Political corruption in America has now become a cancer destroying people’s trust in government and their respect for the rule of law.

The inclination to give a pass to high profile politicians once out of office would be a grave mistake. Boldness is needed and there is simply no more important or cathartic action to take to restore equality before the law and bring an end to cronyism and double standards than the prosecution of the masters of political corruption — the Clinton crime syndicate.

Scott Powell is senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. Reach him at scottp@discovery.org.



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The 500th Anniversary of the Reformation and What It Means Today


When Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517, 500 years ago this week, he probably had no idea what forces he was unleashing. Although his intention was to spur reform within the Catholic Church rather than breaking off and starting a new church, he ended up accomplishing both.

In fact, the Reformation started by Luther set in motion an awakening that stimulated an unusual concentration of human genius and extraordinary wisdom that would culminate in the birth of a new nation — one unprecedented in human history, dedicated to upholding its citizens’ unalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. If there had been no Reformation, there would be no United States as we know it today.

American history from the very beginning — with the Anglicans settling Virginia, the Puritans and Presbyterians settling in New England, the Reformed Dutch settling in New York, and the Quakers settling Pennsylvania to name a few — is inextricably linked to the Protestant Reformation. To understand the relevance of the Reformation, let’s revisit its core ideas and central figures and assess what is happening today.  

The drama starts with Luther, who after being expelled from the Catholic Church, stood trial, and stated publicly that it was wrong for anyone to act against his conscience in religious matters. In addition, Luther introduced the radical notion of human equality in a “priesthood of all believers.” With obedience to authority and class stratification having been the norm for most of recorded history, Luther appeared to be either a fool or a subversive for proclaiming that liberty of conscience and equality of all believers, regardless of class, was the proper basis for religious and political life. 

After Luther, it was John Calvin of Geneva who contributed the most to advancing the depth and breadth of the Reformation. Calvin’s “resistance theory,” which justified the people’s right to disobey unjust rule, would later find expression in the Declaration of Independence.  A majority of America’s Founding Fathers had read and probably memorized a brief summary of Calvin’s theology contained in the Westminster Catechism because in those days it was part of the curriculum of almost every school.  Calvin’s most important work, the multi-volume Institutes of Christian Religion, was cited by John Adams, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison in their correspondence and deliberations over the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.

After the American colonies won the war of independence from Britain, the real work of forming an effective government for the United States began with the Constitutional Convention of 1787. That was no easy task for the 55 delegates who convened in the midst of a depressed economy, rampant inflation of the Continental dollar, territorial threats, and even talk of secession by New England.  

By today’s standards, it was nothing short of a miracle that the convention delegates could muster the tolerance and big-mindedness to agree on substantive terms of the new Constitution in just four months. But as good as that Constitution was (and is), it had to be ratified by the states to become the law of the land. Fear of corruption and abuse of power from a central government caused several key states to withhold support until the Constitution was amended with a Bill of Rights – starting with the all-important First Amendment of protecting and tolerating freedom of speech, press and religion.  

This being the 500th anniversary of the Reformation it’s appropriate to reflect on the present state of those freedoms embodied in the First Amendment.

In the last thirty years, America’s culture has been progressively enveloped by “political correctness” — which restricts discussion to stereotypes and requires that all social and political reality be seen through a particular “lens.” The politically-correct agenda has been advanced by manipulating the meaning of language, while it has also been helped by a public conditioned to ignore reality and common sense and accept distorted and even false narratives.

Because political correctness narrows the range of political thought, its adherents tend to be intolerant — seeking to shut down and silence people with whom they disagree on college campuses across the country, clamoring for removal of historic statues and monuments, and even demanding that people with opposing views on such subjects as climate change and gay marriage be silenced, fined, or arrested.

Today’s problems are also compounded by social media, which has many benefits, but also tend to promote groupthink conformity that marginalizes and silences opposing and independent voices. Because most people avoid inviting criticism, denouncement or being bullied, there is a “spiral of silence” on social media, which reinforces the default groupthink of what is trending and what appears to be the social and cultural majority.

As we survey the popular culture in America today, we get a sense that the Reformation that ushered in an unprecedented appreciation of both freedom and equality, as well as a deeper and more personal relationship with God the Father, has not completed its destiny. Indeed, in the last two or three generations there has been a significant regression of some of the Reformation principles and basic common sense that was endowed by God the Creator, both of which flourished in early America.     

History shows that the great leaps forward in progress were almost always spurred by individuals who had original ideas and the courage to challenge the assumptions and stereotypes of their times. May this 500th anniversary of the Reformation be an occasion to commit to a spiritual revival and a renewed passion to protect our nation’s freedoms and rekindle the liberty of conscience that elevates tolerance, original thinking, courage and character. 

Scott Powell is senior fellow at Discovery Institute in Seattle. Reach him at scottp@discovery.org 

When Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517, 500 years ago this week, he probably had no idea what forces he was unleashing. Although his intention was to spur reform within the Catholic Church rather than breaking off and starting a new church, he ended up accomplishing both.

In fact, the Reformation started by Luther set in motion an awakening that stimulated an unusual concentration of human genius and extraordinary wisdom that would culminate in the birth of a new nation — one unprecedented in human history, dedicated to upholding its citizens’ unalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. If there had been no Reformation, there would be no United States as we know it today.

American history from the very beginning — with the Anglicans settling Virginia, the Puritans and Presbyterians settling in New England, the Reformed Dutch settling in New York, and the Quakers settling Pennsylvania to name a few — is inextricably linked to the Protestant Reformation. To understand the relevance of the Reformation, let’s revisit its core ideas and central figures and assess what is happening today.  

The drama starts with Luther, who after being expelled from the Catholic Church, stood trial, and stated publicly that it was wrong for anyone to act against his conscience in religious matters. In addition, Luther introduced the radical notion of human equality in a “priesthood of all believers.” With obedience to authority and class stratification having been the norm for most of recorded history, Luther appeared to be either a fool or a subversive for proclaiming that liberty of conscience and equality of all believers, regardless of class, was the proper basis for religious and political life. 

After Luther, it was John Calvin of Geneva who contributed the most to advancing the depth and breadth of the Reformation. Calvin’s “resistance theory,” which justified the people’s right to disobey unjust rule, would later find expression in the Declaration of Independence.  A majority of America’s Founding Fathers had read and probably memorized a brief summary of Calvin’s theology contained in the Westminster Catechism because in those days it was part of the curriculum of almost every school.  Calvin’s most important work, the multi-volume Institutes of Christian Religion, was cited by John Adams, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison in their correspondence and deliberations over the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.

After the American colonies won the war of independence from Britain, the real work of forming an effective government for the United States began with the Constitutional Convention of 1787. That was no easy task for the 55 delegates who convened in the midst of a depressed economy, rampant inflation of the Continental dollar, territorial threats, and even talk of secession by New England.  

By today’s standards, it was nothing short of a miracle that the convention delegates could muster the tolerance and big-mindedness to agree on substantive terms of the new Constitution in just four months. But as good as that Constitution was (and is), it had to be ratified by the states to become the law of the land. Fear of corruption and abuse of power from a central government caused several key states to withhold support until the Constitution was amended with a Bill of Rights – starting with the all-important First Amendment of protecting and tolerating freedom of speech, press and religion.  

This being the 500th anniversary of the Reformation it’s appropriate to reflect on the present state of those freedoms embodied in the First Amendment.

In the last thirty years, America’s culture has been progressively enveloped by “political correctness” — which restricts discussion to stereotypes and requires that all social and political reality be seen through a particular “lens.” The politically-correct agenda has been advanced by manipulating the meaning of language, while it has also been helped by a public conditioned to ignore reality and common sense and accept distorted and even false narratives.

Because political correctness narrows the range of political thought, its adherents tend to be intolerant — seeking to shut down and silence people with whom they disagree on college campuses across the country, clamoring for removal of historic statues and monuments, and even demanding that people with opposing views on such subjects as climate change and gay marriage be silenced, fined, or arrested.

Today’s problems are also compounded by social media, which has many benefits, but also tend to promote groupthink conformity that marginalizes and silences opposing and independent voices. Because most people avoid inviting criticism, denouncement or being bullied, there is a “spiral of silence” on social media, which reinforces the default groupthink of what is trending and what appears to be the social and cultural majority.

As we survey the popular culture in America today, we get a sense that the Reformation that ushered in an unprecedented appreciation of both freedom and equality, as well as a deeper and more personal relationship with God the Father, has not completed its destiny. Indeed, in the last two or three generations there has been a significant regression of some of the Reformation principles and basic common sense that was endowed by God the Creator, both of which flourished in early America.     

History shows that the great leaps forward in progress were almost always spurred by individuals who had original ideas and the courage to challenge the assumptions and stereotypes of their times. May this 500th anniversary of the Reformation be an occasion to commit to a spiritual revival and a renewed passion to protect our nation’s freedoms and rekindle the liberty of conscience that elevates tolerance, original thinking, courage and character. 

Scott Powell is senior fellow at Discovery Institute in Seattle. Reach him at scottp@discovery.org 



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Reassessing Orwell to Understand Our Times


Just two or three generations ago, most Americans understood that George Orwell’s classics Animal Farm and 1984 were written to explain how freedom is lost to totalitarianism and the intolerance that accompanies it.  “Big Brother,” a term still casually used to describe an all-knowing governing authority, comes right out of 1984. In the state that Orwell describes, all subjects are continually reminded that “Big Brother is watching you,” by way of constant surveillance through the pervasive use of “telescreens” by the ruling class. 

Orwell’s warnings about totalitarianism written in novel form in Animal Farm and 1984 came shortly after Freidrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom was published at the end of World War II.  But it took the shocking revelations from books on Nazism and Soviet Communism, by scholars like William Shirer and Robert Conquest in the 1960s, to really make Orwell relevant for teaching to the masses educated in American public schools.  And it was not just an academic exercise insofar as Stalin’s successors Leonid Brezhnev and Alexei Kosygin were at that time rolling tanks into Czechoslovakia to crush all resistance — enforcing the “Iron Curtain” over eight countries in Eastern Europe — the Soviet model of totalitarian control and subservience to Moscow.     

Reading Orwell, it was thought, would help American students appreciate their freedoms and gain perspective and critical faculties so as to understand socialist totalitarianism and its defining features: 1) the institutionalization of propaganda designed to warp and destroy people’s grasp on reality, and 2) the fostering of group think, conformity and collectivism designed to eliminate critical and independent thinking.

Orwell described the scope of the totalitarian enterprise, noting in one section of 1984 that “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, and every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”   

In 1984, Orwell said, “Who controls the past controls the future.” Orwell’s coining of the concepts and terms of “newspeak, doublethink and thought police” are what we now experience as political correctness. Newspeak is the distorted reality accomplished by manipulating the meaning of language and words, while doublethink is the conditioned mental attitude to ignore reality and common sense and substitute and embrace a distorted or false narrative. The analogs of “thought police” in 1984 are now the enforcers of political correctness seen in the mainstream media and college campuses across the country.

As Orwell notes, “the whole aim of newspeak and doublethink is to narrow the range of thought.” Political correctness has the same goal and that’s why its adherents are so intolerant — seeking to shut down and silence people with whom they disagree on college campuses, clamoring for removal of historic statues and monuments so they can rewrite history and control the future, and demanding that people with opposing views on such subjects as climate change and gay marriage be silenced, fined or arrested.

Many assume that because the press is not state-controlled in the U.S. there is a long way to go before the American government has the power of Orwell’s Big Brother.

But what if the universities and the educational system and the major television and print media institutions embrace the groupthink that ingratiates them with the ruling elite?  What if the culture shapers in Hollywood and the advertising industry on Madison Avenue follow a similar path in participating in and reinforcing the same groupthink norms?

And what if the rise of social media promote a kind of groupthink conformity that effectively marginalizes and silences opposing views? Could it then be that propaganda in a free democratic nation like America might be more effective in shaping thought and attitudes of the masses than the propaganda of totalitarian regimes affects their subjects?      

Orwell’s Big Brother has become a reality in the NSA’s tracking and recording all email, text and telephone communication in the United States.  But Big Brother has a new dimension with social media and consumer giants, Google, Facebook, and Amazon, knowing almost everything about people’s preferences through their artificial intelligence peering into peoples’ “telescreen” computers and smartphones.   

Social media have great power to narrow the range of acceptable thought. On Facebook, those who openly support a politically correct view — what appears to be the popular majority view — are frequently lauded with thumbs up, while dissenters often remain silent to avoid being criticized or denounced. All of which leads to what is called “the spiral of silence,” which reinforces the groupthink of what seems to be the social and cultural majority.

What comfortable and disengaged Americans have forgotten is that there are determined enemies within and there is an internal war being waged against the values and institutions that made America a great nation.

The left is the vanguard leading this war, following a course laid out by cultural Marxists such as Antonio Gramsci and members of the Frankfurt School. Becoming influential in the 1930s and beyond, they believed the “long march through the institutions” was the best route to taking power in developed, industrialized societies such as the United States and Europe. This “march” would be a gradual process of radicalization of social and cultural institutions — “the superstructure” — of bourgeois society, which would transform the values and morals of society.  In retrospect, there is a high correlation between the softening of morals over the last two or three generations and the corruption of our family, political, legal and, economic foundation. 

There are three measures of the establishment’s venality.  First there is a high incidence of denial, manifest for instance in little to no discussion of the doubling of national debt in just 9 years to over $20 trillion, and unfunded entitlement liabilities now five times greater than that — conditions inviting financial collapse of the U.S. A second measure of corruption is the establishment’s reluctance to prosecute fellow establishment law breakers in government, which has effectively created a two-tiered justice system. A third measure of establishment corruption is its accommodation of extremist anti-American groups as though they have a legitimate role to play in reform and influence on policy-making — whether in taking down historic monuments, creating sanctuary cities and controlling the nation’s borders, establishing police protocols in law enforcement, fighting wars overseas, or restructuring the economy at home.

The hostility to the Trump Presidency by the establishment elite in both political parties, the media, the teachers’ unions, the university faculties, and Hollywood is probably a contrary indicator. It likely tells us more about the real state of corruption in government, the establishment media, and popular culture than it does about Trump and his peccadillos. 

A society committed to maintaining liberty, prosperity, and opportunity for all needs to focus on real threats, a key one of which is now the loss of freedom of speech and the assault on the First Amendment.        

One of our nation’s founders, Patrick Henry of Richmond, Virginia, was a gifted and passionate orator best known for his declaration, “Give me liberty or give me death.”  But his most important, substantive and lasting contribution to the legacy of freedom was his tenacious and ultimately successful fight to have the Bill of Rights amended to the Constitution because of his conviction that the First Amendment and nine others were absolutely necessary to protect individual liberty against the power and abuse of centralized government.

Orwell reminds us today of the critical importance of the First Amendment, noting “if liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” Exactly the opposite of the current trajectory and what the politically correct crowd wants.

Scott Powell is senior fellow at Discovery Institute in Seattle. Reach him at scottp@discovery.org  

Just two or three generations ago, most Americans understood that George Orwell’s classics Animal Farm and 1984 were written to explain how freedom is lost to totalitarianism and the intolerance that accompanies it.  “Big Brother,” a term still casually used to describe an all-knowing governing authority, comes right out of 1984. In the state that Orwell describes, all subjects are continually reminded that “Big Brother is watching you,” by way of constant surveillance through the pervasive use of “telescreens” by the ruling class. 

Orwell’s warnings about totalitarianism written in novel form in Animal Farm and 1984 came shortly after Freidrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom was published at the end of World War II.  But it took the shocking revelations from books on Nazism and Soviet Communism, by scholars like William Shirer and Robert Conquest in the 1960s, to really make Orwell relevant for teaching to the masses educated in American public schools.  And it was not just an academic exercise insofar as Stalin’s successors Leonid Brezhnev and Alexei Kosygin were at that time rolling tanks into Czechoslovakia to crush all resistance — enforcing the “Iron Curtain” over eight countries in Eastern Europe — the Soviet model of totalitarian control and subservience to Moscow.     

Reading Orwell, it was thought, would help American students appreciate their freedoms and gain perspective and critical faculties so as to understand socialist totalitarianism and its defining features: 1) the institutionalization of propaganda designed to warp and destroy people’s grasp on reality, and 2) the fostering of group think, conformity and collectivism designed to eliminate critical and independent thinking.

Orwell described the scope of the totalitarian enterprise, noting in one section of 1984 that “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, and every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”   

In 1984, Orwell said, “Who controls the past controls the future.” Orwell’s coining of the concepts and terms of “newspeak, doublethink and thought police” are what we now experience as political correctness. Newspeak is the distorted reality accomplished by manipulating the meaning of language and words, while doublethink is the conditioned mental attitude to ignore reality and common sense and substitute and embrace a distorted or false narrative. The analogs of “thought police” in 1984 are now the enforcers of political correctness seen in the mainstream media and college campuses across the country.

As Orwell notes, “the whole aim of newspeak and doublethink is to narrow the range of thought.” Political correctness has the same goal and that’s why its adherents are so intolerant — seeking to shut down and silence people with whom they disagree on college campuses, clamoring for removal of historic statues and monuments so they can rewrite history and control the future, and demanding that people with opposing views on such subjects as climate change and gay marriage be silenced, fined or arrested.

Many assume that because the press is not state-controlled in the U.S. there is a long way to go before the American government has the power of Orwell’s Big Brother.

But what if the universities and the educational system and the major television and print media institutions embrace the groupthink that ingratiates them with the ruling elite?  What if the culture shapers in Hollywood and the advertising industry on Madison Avenue follow a similar path in participating in and reinforcing the same groupthink norms?

And what if the rise of social media promote a kind of groupthink conformity that effectively marginalizes and silences opposing views? Could it then be that propaganda in a free democratic nation like America might be more effective in shaping thought and attitudes of the masses than the propaganda of totalitarian regimes affects their subjects?      

Orwell’s Big Brother has become a reality in the NSA’s tracking and recording all email, text and telephone communication in the United States.  But Big Brother has a new dimension with social media and consumer giants, Google, Facebook, and Amazon, knowing almost everything about people’s preferences through their artificial intelligence peering into peoples’ “telescreen” computers and smartphones.   

Social media have great power to narrow the range of acceptable thought. On Facebook, those who openly support a politically correct view — what appears to be the popular majority view — are frequently lauded with thumbs up, while dissenters often remain silent to avoid being criticized or denounced. All of which leads to what is called “the spiral of silence,” which reinforces the groupthink of what seems to be the social and cultural majority.

What comfortable and disengaged Americans have forgotten is that there are determined enemies within and there is an internal war being waged against the values and institutions that made America a great nation.

The left is the vanguard leading this war, following a course laid out by cultural Marxists such as Antonio Gramsci and members of the Frankfurt School. Becoming influential in the 1930s and beyond, they believed the “long march through the institutions” was the best route to taking power in developed, industrialized societies such as the United States and Europe. This “march” would be a gradual process of radicalization of social and cultural institutions — “the superstructure” — of bourgeois society, which would transform the values and morals of society.  In retrospect, there is a high correlation between the softening of morals over the last two or three generations and the corruption of our family, political, legal and, economic foundation. 

There are three measures of the establishment’s venality.  First there is a high incidence of denial, manifest for instance in little to no discussion of the doubling of national debt in just 9 years to over $20 trillion, and unfunded entitlement liabilities now five times greater than that — conditions inviting financial collapse of the U.S. A second measure of corruption is the establishment’s reluctance to prosecute fellow establishment law breakers in government, which has effectively created a two-tiered justice system. A third measure of establishment corruption is its accommodation of extremist anti-American groups as though they have a legitimate role to play in reform and influence on policy-making — whether in taking down historic monuments, creating sanctuary cities and controlling the nation’s borders, establishing police protocols in law enforcement, fighting wars overseas, or restructuring the economy at home.

The hostility to the Trump Presidency by the establishment elite in both political parties, the media, the teachers’ unions, the university faculties, and Hollywood is probably a contrary indicator. It likely tells us more about the real state of corruption in government, the establishment media, and popular culture than it does about Trump and his peccadillos. 

A society committed to maintaining liberty, prosperity, and opportunity for all needs to focus on real threats, a key one of which is now the loss of freedom of speech and the assault on the First Amendment.        

One of our nation’s founders, Patrick Henry of Richmond, Virginia, was a gifted and passionate orator best known for his declaration, “Give me liberty or give me death.”  But his most important, substantive and lasting contribution to the legacy of freedom was his tenacious and ultimately successful fight to have the Bill of Rights amended to the Constitution because of his conviction that the First Amendment and nine others were absolutely necessary to protect individual liberty against the power and abuse of centralized government.

Orwell reminds us today of the critical importance of the First Amendment, noting “if liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” Exactly the opposite of the current trajectory and what the politically correct crowd wants.

Scott Powell is senior fellow at Discovery Institute in Seattle. Reach him at scottp@discovery.org  



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No Substitute for Victory



An emotional mob psychology has been unleashed and is out to get Donald Trump and intimidate and divide his party. 



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