The Rahn Curve and the Growth-Maximizing Level of Government


From the Center for Freedom and Prosperity: “Government spending can promote economic growth if money is used for core “public goods” such as rule of law and property rights. But the burden of government spending in the United States and other industrialized nations is far higher than needed to finance such activities. Citing scholarly studies, this CF&P Foundation video examines the Rahn Curve, which graphically illustrates the negative impact of excessive government spending. http://www.freedomandprosperity.org.”

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Sharia law trumps U.S. Constitution in Dearborn


Via AP and PowerLine:

Four Christian evangelists were arrested on charges of “disorderly conduct” for distributing copies of the Gospel of John on a public street outside an Arab cultural festival in Dearborn, Michigan, which is heavily Muslim. One of the men filmed the event and had his camera confiscated, even though he wasn’t distributing the gospel tracts. Both the arrest and the request to stop videotaping are atrocious violations of the First Amendment.

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What about Darwin?


Thomas F. Glick, What about Darwin? All Species of Opinion from Scientists, Sages, Friends, and Enemies Who Met, Read, and Discussed the Naturalist Who Changed the World (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 2010). $29.95, 552 pages.

What I hoped this book would be is a sort of Bartlett’s Darwin Quotations, containing both friendly and hostile quotes about the man and his theory. As such, the book would be a useful compendium for writers looking for a piquant quote to make their point. Unfortunately, my hope for this book is unrealized.

What about Darwin?
is indeed a book of quotes about Darwin by friendly and hostile sources, but its usefulness lies elsewhere. If you are a historian looking into the reception-history of Darwin’s ideas, as well as primary sources describing the man, this is the first book you need to read. Thomas F. Glick organizes the quotes by last name and puts an asterix next to the names of people quoted elsewhere in the text. This allows the reader to uncover the social networks in 19th-century England and North America that helped disseminate Darwin’s ideas, and critiques of those ideas.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, many of the quotes have little usefulness beyond that limited purpose. Take, for example, the entry on P.T. Barnum. Barnum, described as an “American Circus Impressario,” was eminently quotable. Glick doesn’t quote Barnum on Darwin, however. He quotes George Templeton Strong and an advertisement about Barnum’s “What is IT?” exhibit, as well as the April 18, 1873, issue of the Brooklyn Eagle on Barnum’s contribution to natural history. As illustration of reception-history, these quotes work well to show how Darwin’s ideas were transmitted to and perceived by popular culture. But what else is a writer to make of Strong’s quote: “Stopped at Barnum’s on my way downtown to see the much advertised non-descript, the ‘What-is-it.’ […] The creature’s […] anatomical details are fearfully simian, and he’s a great fact for Darwin”?

There are far better quote’s in the book, of course. But there’s also a lot of this stuff.

As I said, these quotes are useful for a very narrow purpose. But if you’re a writer looking for something like Bartlett’s Darwin Quotations, this is not the book for you.

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P.S. If you found this review helpful, please click “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

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P.S. If you found this review helpful, please click “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

The Strong Horse


Lee Smith, The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations (New York: Doubleday, 2010). $26.00, 240 pages.

“When people see a strong horse and a weak horse,” Osama bin Laden once said, “by nature, they will like the strong horse.” Bin Laden’s statement provides the title, thesis, and motivation for the policy recommendations in Lee Smith’s new book, which examines—in the words of the subtitle—“power, politics, and the clash of Arab civilizations.” Smith is a Middle East correspondent for The Weekly Standard.

The thesis of The Strong Horse is that “violence is central to the politics, society, and culture of the Arabic-speaking Middle East”—a centrality that predates the rise of Islam, which has failed to attenuate it. Smith draws on the insights of Ibn Khaldun, the 14th-century Muslim historian, for articulation of what he calls “the strong horse principle,” namely, that “history is a matter of one tribe, nation, or civilization dominating the others by force until it, too, is overthrown by force.” Against those who argue that the Middle East is violent because of intermeddling by the Great Powers or because of the provocations of the Jewish state, Smith points to a long line of violent conflicts between Islamic traditions and between and among Arab nations that have no obvious connections to either the West or Israel.

The policy recommendation motivated by this thesis is that if America desires the democratization of the region, it must play the strong horse. “[T]he Americans, as long as they have the will to stay, should understand that he who punishes enemies and rewards friends, forbids evil and enjoins good, is entitled to rule, and no other. There is no alternative, not yet anyway, to the strong horse.”

The Strong Horse makes its case, in parts, by means of travelogue, personal interview, historical narrative, religious commentary, and sociological observation. Smith is a journalist, and The Strong Horse is a masterpiece of reportage.

My guess, however, is that The Strong Horse will fail to satisfy a number of readers for a variety of reasons. For example, readers who are inclined to view the Middle Easterners as victims of Western colonialism will not be delighted to see the Arabs treated as moral agents whose actions are shaped by their own deepest convictions, rather than deformed by the predatory actions of the “Great Powers.” Readers who hope for diplomatic solutions to problems in the Middle East will not be happy to see how important a strong American military presence is to the accomplishment of that objective. And pro-democracy readers will not appreciate Smith’s statement that “while all men may be entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of justice, they do not all seek it, for some, as the resistance proudly proclaims, love death more than life.” In other words, there’s something for everyone to dislike in Smith’s book.

Whether that dislike arises from certainty that Smith is wrong or the anxiety that he is right, only you the reader can decide.

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P.S. If you found this review helpful, please click “Yes” on my Amazon.com Profile page.

Till Death Do Us Part (1 Corinthians 7:39-40)


Editor’s Note: This is my 900th post at GeorgePWood.com. In celebration of that achievement, I’m taking next week off to recuperate.

GPW

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When I perform marriages, I use the wedding service of The Book of Common Prayer. After addressing the congregation on the purpose of marriage, I turn to the bride and ask, “will you have this man to be your husband; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?” After the bride answers, I ask the exact same question of the groom. The answer is, invariably yes.

Sometime later in the service, I ask the groom to repeat the following words after me: “In the Name of God, I take you to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.” When the groom finishes, I lead the bride in recitation of the same words.

Both the declaration of consent and the vow are a powerful statement of what Christians mean by marriage. Other than the decision to follow Jesus Christ, it is the only vow of unconditional love that Christians make in this life. As a father, I feel unconditional love toward my son, Reese. But I have only made an explicit vow of unconditional love to my wife, Tiffany. Tiffany and I made Reese. But first we chose one another.

The declaration of consent ends with the words, “as long as you both shall live.” The vow ends with the words, “until we are parted by death.” The net effect of these words is the same. Marriage is permanent. But the nuance is different. The declaration deals with the intention of marriage: a good life. The vow deals with the obligation of marriage: it is “until death.”

Both statements are rooted in the Bible, in passages such as 1 Corinthians 7:39-40:

A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is — and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

Through chapter 7, Paul has emphasized the mutuality of marriage. The wife is obligated to the husband in the same way that the husband is obligated to the wife. Though not explicit here, that mutuality is nonetheless implicit.

Of course, we live in a culture in which marriage is anything but “as long as we both shall live,” let alone, “until we are parted by death.” Indeed, divorce is common even within our churches. My point is writing this devotional is not necessarily to condemn anyone who has been divorced. It is simply to remind us all of what the Christian teaching on lifelong marriage is. And in giving that reminder, to encourage us all to work toward marriages that worth devoting our lives to.

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Earl Creps, Off-Road Disciplines: Spiritual Adventures of Missional Leaders (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006). $23.95, 240 pages.

The American church is in crisis. Sunday morning worship attendance figures are declining. But interest in God and spiritual matters is increasing.

A typical pastoral response to this crisis asks, “How should we do our worship services?” In Off-Road Disciplines, Earl Creps suggests a better question: “How can I be changed so that others will find me worth following in mission?” (3, emphasis in original). The former question focuses on technique, while the latter question focuses on spiritual formation.

For the rest of the review, click here.