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True North Archives - June 09, 2009
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Featured Articles

One State, Under Government
In what or whom do we believe if not God?
By James Ehlers

If nearly six in ten of us do not believe that religion is important, and almost five in ten do not believe in God, then, in what do we believe? Government. We obviously believe in state government and yet more state government.

Keeping Debt Profitable: Your Government at Work
By Martin Harris

In a line of investigation which runs backward from contemporary credit-card regulation  to the Constitutional rights-of-contract to the Fourteenth Amendment curtailing some of those rights to Depression-era milk price regulation to Progressive-era grain-elevator regulation, I stumbled again (as befits an amateur in history and economics) on a couple of Supreme Court cases which I had earlier found interesting for wholly different reasons.

A Tale of Two Futures
By Robert Maynard

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

The reader will recognize this quote from Charles Dickens classic "A Tale of two Cities". This quote comes to mind every time I ponder the prognosis of our economic future provided by two different schools of free market economics.

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"[The man of system] seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board; he does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single pieces has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislator might choose to impress upon it." -- Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

Democrats Pass Budget to Create $200 Million Deficit
Plan also raises taxes on struggling Vermonters and increases spending
From Vermont GOP, June 3, 2009

Yesterday, every Democrat and every Progressive voted to override Governor Jim Douglas' veto, thereby enacting their own state budget over the objections of Republicans and Independents. What this vote tells us in stark terms is that the Democrat supermajorities are totally out of touch with reality, and their leadership is incompetent to govern our state.

Happy Econ Birthdays
From Vermont Tiger, June 05, 2009

To Adam Smith, the most influential economist in history, baptized today in 1723.  Most of us are aware of his Wealth of Nations, which explained a new phenomenon--why and how England was becoming wealthy.  He was explaining the process of modern economic growth, something that was new in the history of humanity but that we take for granted today. (One could do worse than having P.J. O'Rourke explain Adam Smith.)

Most people are unaware of Smith's equally important, but far less read, The Theory of Moral Sentiments.  One quote from the TMS is highly relevant for today:

[The man of system] seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board; he does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single pieces has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislator might choose to impress upon it.

Where Were the People Who Make the Money? 
From The Caledonia Record June 6 2009

Three cheers for Duncan Kilmartin and Dena Gray. Kilmartin, Republican representative to the Vermont Legislature from Newport, and Gray, owner of Newport's Eastside Restaurant, were the only private sector business people out of 50 who attended an economic development forum in Barton. All of the rest were from alphabet agencies that live directly on taxpayer money or grants that ultimately come from taxpayer money, i.e. they are on the dole.

Both Kilmartin and Gray pointed that out, though a bit less brutally than we do. Both wanted to know, "Where are the people who make the money?" And we ask the same thing. Do academics and public agency people know how to start, run, and succeed at a business? Do those whose salaries don't depend upon their brains and energy, but are guaranteed by a distant public entity, know anything about entrepreneurship other than what they have read in a book? Do those who haven't ever had to meet a payroll know the intense pressure of that necessity in hard times?

Brainless On The Jobless
From Vermont Tiger, June 4, 2009

Language in the bill calls for a 12-person study committee, comprised of representatives from the legislative and executive branches, to meet during the summer and draft a proposal for consideration next January. -- Herald

Ah, yes.  The legislature's default solution to any thorny economic problem facing the state – commission another study.  This one on what to do about funding the unemployment trust fund, which is rapidly running out of money.  Once the fund goes broke, the state will be obliged to borrow from the Feds to keep payments going to those who are out of work.

A Necessary Cultural Sea-Change
From The Caledonia Record, June 4, 2009

At least three Vermont school boards, now, have imposed contracts on their local teacher bargaining units. Colchester, Winooski, and Chittenden. These boards have exercised their final option when contract negotiations collapse without agreement. All of them did it because their unions demanded substantial raises in each of the years of the proposed contract and would not relax their demands. 

This is a phenomenon that Vermont is going to see more and more in the future. Back in the 1960s, when teachers were universally paid starvation wages, they finally organized and got salary scales that were adjusted upward every year. Nobody objected for the first 20 years because teachers were necessarily playing catch-up with other professions and everybody knew it. Unnoticed, though, was a growing cultural expectation that teachers are entitled to an annual raise without reference to the growing levels of their salaries. Annual raises for teachers have become an entrenched cultural expectation, and to question its justice or wisdom is unheard of.

Burlington Vt: Judge Denies VSEA Attempt to Halt Layoffs
From WCAX-TV, June 5, 2009

The Vermont State Employees Association failed to persuade a judge to order a halt to the Douglas administration's layoffs. The union hoped to get a temporary restraining order -- claiming the administration violated the law by failing to get legislative approval.

The layoffs of a hundred or more state employees are part of a larger political confrontation that resulted in the legislature's over-ride of Governor Jim Douglas's veto of the budget. The union asked for a ten-day order to stop the layoffs until a court could hear all the merits of the case. The request was based on a section of the budget bill, H-441, requiring the administration to present a layoff plan for approval by the legislature's joint fiscal committee.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

The State Despotic
By Mark Steyn, The New Criterion, June 2009

Welcome to the twenty-first century.

"It does not tyrannize, it gets in the way." The all-pervasive micro-regulatory state "enervates," but nicely, gradually, so after a while you don’t even notice. And in exchange for liberty it offers security: the "right" to health care; the "right" to housing; the "right" to a job—although who needs that once you’ve got all the others? The proposed European Constitution extends the laundry list: the constitutional right to clean water and environmental protection. Every right you could ever want, except the right to be free from undue intrusions by the state. M. Giscard d’Estaing, the former French president and chairman of the European constitutional convention, told me at the time that he had bought a copy of the U.S. Constitution at a bookstore in Washington and carried it around with him in his pocket. Try doing that with his Euro-constitution, and you’ll be walking with a limp after ten minutes and calling for a sedan chair after twenty: As Professor Rahe notes, it’s 450 pages long. And, when your "constitution" is that big, imagine how swollen the attendant bureaucracy and regulation is. The author points out that, in France, "80 per cent of the legislation passed by the National Assembly in Paris originates in Brussels"—that is, at the European Union’s civil service. Who drafts it? Who approves it? Who do you call to complain? Who do you run against and in what election? And where do you go to escape it? Not to the next town, not to the next county, not to the next country.

Little Rock’s ‘Lone’ Jihadist: How Alone Is He?
By Dr. Walid Phares, Family Security Matters, June 4, 2009

In an armed attack outside the Army-Navy Career Center which handles recruiting, in Little Rock, AR, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, 23, killed one soldier wounded another. Muhammad, an American citizen who is a convert to Islam, previously known as Carlos Bledsoe, was already under investigation by the FBI at the time of the shootings. He had traveled to Yemen, received indoctrination from radical clerics, according to a watch group, and possessed a false Somali passport. He was charged in the death of Pvt. William Long, 23, while a prosecutor said Muhammad admitted shooting Long and another soldier "because of what they had done to Muslims in the past."

Islamists Lose Ground in the Middle East
Kuwait's election is part of a positive trend
By Joshua Muravchik, The Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2009

The results of Kuwait's elections last month -- in which Islamists were rebuffed and four women were elected to parliament -- will likely reinvigorate the movement for greater democracy in the region that has stalled since the hopeful "Arab spring" of 2005. It also puts pressure on the Obama administration to end its deafening silence on democracy promotion.

Kim Jong-il Chooses Third Son as his Successor
By Malcolm Moore,, Jun 02, 2009

Kim Jong-il has formally named his third son, Kim Jong-un, as his successor as he prepares to stand down as North Korea's leader.

Al Qaeda Operatives Targeting Pakistani Leaders
By Bill Roggio, The Long War Journal, June 4, 2009

Al Qaeda has transferred seven operatives from the Iraq theater to target senior Pakistani leaders. The targets of the planned attacks are President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani, General Kiyani, and other senior military officers, cabinet ministers, and provincial leaders.

The seven operatives, who were behind deadly attacks in Iraq, reportedly met in Afghanistan's eastern province of Paktia on May 3 to plan the operations, according to a report in the Daily Times. The al Qaeda operatives are assigned to cooperate with the Pakistani Taliban, led by Baitullah Mehsud

While in Egypt, Obama Must Address Radical Islam
By M. Zuhdi Jasser, Family Security Matters, June 03 2009

(Editor’s note: this article by Dr Jasser was written BEFORE President Obama’s speech in Egypt and makes suggestions on what he SHOULD have said.)

I hope the Obama administration will take advantage of the unique opportunity it has on Thursday to stand up for the universal ideals of human rights in a land where such ideals are oppressed. Speaking from Egypt which remains a backdrop of authoritarian rule that has suffocated dissent and reform, President Obama must address the two-fold cancer which plagues reform and modernization in the so-called "Muslim world." That cancer is Arab secular fascism (i.e. the Mubarak regime) and radical Islamism (i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Azhar University). For President Obama to avoid these two major cancers which ultimately fuel terrorism is to avoid one of his responsibilities as leader of the free world.

Terrorism is just a tactic. We are continually threatened by an enemy which cannot be defeated on the battlefield alone, but must be combated in a contest of ideas. We must marginalize and defeat the ideas of political Islam which ultimately drive the dreams of militant Islamists. Egypt is the birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood and thus modern day political Islam which gave rise to hundreds of splinter groups of radical Islam throughout the world. Egypt is one of the primary frontlines in this global contest of ideas. To speak in Egypt and avoid the topics of political Islam, radical Islamism, and the Muslim Brotherhood, will be like visiting Moscow in the height of the Cold War and avoiding any mention of the inhumanities of communism and its incompatibility with liberty.

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From Elsewhere

A Major Force in Education: Homeschooling in America
By R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Christian Post, June 04, 2009

Homeschooling was the choice of families for 2.9 percent of all school-age children in the United States in 2007, involving 1.5 million students. By comparison, in 1999 only 850,000 children were homeschooled. By 2003, that number was up to 1.1 million. This report indicates significant jumps in homeschooling as compared to other educational options. In fact, the report reveals that the actual number of American children whose parents choose homeschooling for at least part of their education exceeds 3 million. According to the report, 1.5 million children are exclusively homeschooled while another 1.5 million are homeschooled for at least part of the school week.

Related: Dumbest Generation Getting Dumber
Walter Williams,, June 3, 2009

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international comparison of 15-year-olds conducted by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that measures applied learning and problem-solving ability. In 2006, U.S. students ranked 25th of 30 advanced nations in math and 24th in science.

How Washington Blew GM’s Bankruptcy
By Michael Levine, Financial Times, June 1, 2009

As General Motors finally filed for bankruptcy on Monday, some critics of the move have already made the case that Congress, not a White House task force, should have planned the bankruptcy. They are right about one thing: a White House task force should not have planned the bankruptcy. But they are 180 degrees wrong about what the government should have done. The bankruptcy needed much less "public policy" input, not more. If GM were going through a "normal" bankruptcy, here is what would have happened:

Related: The Bailout State: Where it came from--and how to fight it

Senators Must Contest Sotomayer's View that Empathy, Ethnicity Can Overrule Law
By Robert Alt, Heritage Foundation, June 1, 2009

In choosing a Supreme Court justice, President Obama--like any president--should look for someone who will apply the Constitution and the laws as written, and interpret them consistent with their plain and original meaning.

Regrettably, in selecting Sonia Sotomayor, Obama has rejected this criterion. Instead, he has chosen a judge who has expressed both openness to judicial policymaking and a belief that judges probably cannot be, and perhaps should not be, impartial.

The Nongovernmental Report on Global Warming
By Paul Chesser, Heartland Institute Correspondent, June 02, 2009

In conjunction with today’s Third International Conference on Climate Change in Washington, the Heartland Institute (my organization and conference host) is releasing "Climate Change Reconsidered: A Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change." The 880-page book (posted entirely online at the Web site) challenges the scientific basis for concerns that global warming is man-made or is a cause for concern.

5 Character Flaws That Are Destroying America's Future
By John Hawkins,, June 02, 2009

The corrosive effects of this decline are seen not just in our government, but all throughout our society in the size of our prison population, the number of unmarried women having children, drug use, school shootings, and even our staggering abortion rate. 

Governor Palin's Seward House Address: Washington, DC Stands In Our Way
From Conservatives for Palin,  June 06, 2009

Our resources are there, and the time is now, right now, and we're ready to develop. And we already provide about 17% of the U.S. domestic supply of energy, but we could do more. And it's time. But believe it or not, what prohibits our development, what stands in the way, is government in Washington D.C.

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