To Whom Does Your Child Belong?

Cover of "Brave New World"
Cover of Brave New World

One of the vices I try to foreswear in this forum is the singling-out of a single liberal voice. People on all sides of an issue have a right to their opinion, no matter how loony. But when something comes up that suggests a major divergence of values or perspective from the Bull Moose standpoint, it is worth highlighting if for no other reason than it offers an opportunity for us to stake out a claim.

Case in point: MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry stepped into a very deep pile of something unpleasant when she said in a promotional spot last week:

…we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.

This has provoked outrage among conservatives, and I think rightly so. William Bigelow, writing for Breitbart, fumed:

[Melissa Harris-Perry] may call those of us who know the value of parenting as opposed to being raised by the state trolls, but she shouldn’t be surprised by the furor over her remarks. To insult all of us who devote our lives to our children and also truly believe that we are completely responsible for their welfare is beyond offensive and repugnant; it is an attack on the foundations of western civilization itself.

I do not often agree with the Breitbart editorial line, but I have a hard time disagreeing on this one. It may take a village to raise a child, but that rearing is the responsibility of the parent(s.) To disagree is to do more than grant the state its right to act in loco parentis: it is to place on the community, and by extension the state, the responsibility for rearing children, and for the decisions about their health, welfare, education, clothing, feeding, and spiritual growth.

That statist approach to child-rearing is not only anathema to the principles that underlie this republic, they are the very precepts followed by totalitarian societies to ensure that the purpose of children is to support the state against all else. Indeed, leaving aside the implicit moral hazard of telling parents to have children without worrying about taking responsibility for them later, having the state assume that children become wards of the “community” places us on the road to fascism, to a brave new world none of us seek.

Toward a New Moonshot

NASA (Photo credit: Luke Bryant)

William H. Gerstenmaier’s “Our Brick Moon” in the Summer 2012 issue of Strategic Studies Quarterly does a passing fair job at explaining some of the benefits America and mankind have derived from the International Space Station.
He talks about the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, an instrument that allowed scientists aboard the ISS that is helping investigators in 16 countries to understand the composition of the universe. Space-grown superbugs have led to better vaccines, including a pathway to a vaccine for the virulent methicillin-resistant staph, or MRSA, that kills nearly 99,000 people in the US alone each year, and one for Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy. Liquidmetal, an ISS-developed material with the strength of titanium and the moldable properties of plastic, has been licensed by Apple for better, lighter electronic devices.
He explains how the environmental control system developed for ISS recycles up to 80% of the water used by the crew, and an oxygen generation system that is totally self-contained. Aside from the implications for deep-space travel, there are lessons to be learned for an increasingly thirsty world. What is more, doing all of this taught NASA – and everyone involved with these projects – how to make multinational efforts work more smoothly in space and on the ground. As someone who has spent a quarter century running cross-cultural workplaces, I can attest this is no small triumph. Finally, the ISS has made possible a new era in government-private partnerships that have led to the development of promising firms like SpaceX, Orbital Systems, and dozens of subcontractors. A new space-economy is born.
It is a shame, however, that he stops here, because in doing so he either overreaches, underreaches, or both.
Let me explain.
America does not need lengthy eloquent justifications for money the nation has already spent on space. We get that. Microwave ovens, freeze-dried food, microprocessors, countless technical breakthroughs and the competitiveness that each of those innovations have bestowed on the nation were spinoffs of the space programs from Vanguard to the international space station. Open-sourcing the innovations that came out of nearly six decades of tax-payer funded effort was a part of the bargain that brought funds to NASA in the first place.
If, however, Mr. Gerstenmaier expects American taxpayers to continue their financial support of NASA manned space programs because of those benefits, he is mistaken. If he believes that he will get American taxpayers underwrite future manned space programs because of what Apollo did for computers, or the IIS as did for esoteric biomedical research, he overreaches. American taxpayers understand that past results do not guarantee future results.
Yet if he only wishes to extol the accomplishments of his pet programs he under reaches. What NASA needs more today than ever as for its senior administrators to explain to the American public why the United States still needs the space agency when its roads are crumbling for lack of highway funds.
America needs a vision for its space future. That vision needs goals, it needs a vision that incorporates a public–private partnership, but incorporates NASA’s role as a driver of key research, that frames benefits beyond those that are bestowed upon the largest government contractors, that lays out the programs in the payoffs therefrom, gives a timeline, and provides practical route of funding.

The Problem with Jimmy Carter

“The Passionless Presidency”
James Fallows

The Atlantic
May 1979

James Fallows was a speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter for most of Carter’s single term in the White House. More than just a technically adept writer, Fallows came to his job in January 1977 a true believer, someone who saw in the clearly intelligent Georgian a leader who could lead the nation into the future.

Fallows’ disillusionment was gradual, apparently without rancor, but was utter. After citing a long list of Carter’s political, intellectual, and managerial failings, Fallows offers a telling comment that gives illuminating background both to Carters character and to his recent activities.

These clues told me part of the answer, but there was one part missing, the most fundamental of them all. Carter’s willful ignorance, his blissful tabula rasa, could—to me—be explained only by a combination of arrogance, complacency, and—dread thought—insecurity at the core of his mind and soul.

The arrogance of willful ignorance, according to Fallows, led Carter to treat history as Henry Ford did – as so much bunk. Even in the White House, Carter felt that the lessons of history beyond those of Watergate and Vietnam were irrelevant. At best, this led him to repeat the mistakes that others had made before him, in energy, in tax reform, in his hollowing of the U.S. military, and in his fateful mishandling of his Cabinet.

That same arrogance lies at the root of Carter’s misunderstandings about Israel and the Palestinians. Whatever the virtues or vices of his views, they were based less on a full apprehension of the facts than on opinions. Given Carter’s history in and with the region, the ignorance can only be willful.

All of this is important not because it is necessary to pull Jimmy down a peg, but because in the story of Carter’s failure as president lie lessons that are essential for the entire American electorate. While we may debate whether it is correct to judge a presidential candidate by his extracurricular behavior, we must recognize that good character alone is insufficient qualification for the highest office of the land.

Fallows’ review Carter shows us that we need a president who is a great manager as well as a great leader; who can work with the Beltway establishment without being subsumed by it; and above all who is prepared to learn from history to avoid the mistakes of those who have gone before.

Cicero once said “To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be forever a child.” Fallows’ retrospective of Carter, published even before the Iranian hostage crisis and the election of 1980, suggests a slight modification of that. “To be ignorant of what happened before you came to Washington is to be forever a failure.”

It is a harsh verdict, but it serves every voter to heed it.


Starting a Manufacturing Rennaissance

“As I tried to do as governor of Utah, I wanted to make our state a safe haven for the attraction of capital. That’s going to take tax reform. It’s going to take a look at our regulatory regime. It’s going to take a look at the repatriation of overseas profits, giving them an opportunity to come home for reinvestment purposes. It’s going to take a widespread effort with all the states in America, all the governors, state legislatures, to begin to retool ourselves in the form of job training and vocational skill development. We used to do that very well in the old days, but we’ve lost our connection with it. That’s got to be a critically important part of preparing for whatever manufacturing renaissance is on the horizon.”

Jon Huntsman, Jr.


Bull Moose Foreign Aid Policy

English: Berliners watching a C-54 land at Ber...
English: Berliners watching a C-54 land at Berlin Tempelhof Airport, 1948. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In order to deliver effective assistance to people in need around the world, we need to adhere to three principles.

First, we need to recognize that foreign aid is not politically sustainable when America’s own social safety net is frayed, broken, or has turned into a hammock for those unwilling (as opposed to unable) to step away from public assistance. Charity begins at home, so let’s put Americans first in all instances.

Second, we still contend that people everywhere would rather have a hand-up than a handout. Our foreign assistance programs should be focused on locally-relevant projects designed to promote long-term self-sufficiency and economic development, not dependency without a deadline. Any outright aid should come with a deadline. Everything else should be left to NGOs.

Third, we should prioritize our help on those countries where the right amount of aid will make the difference between success and failure. Somalia is not our model: the Berlin airlift is.