April 15, 2014

Krauthammer: Though police on patrol

I thought this was an especially good piece by Krauthammer. His general message--for people to care enough about freedom to be willing to confront totalitarianism especially in the realm of ideas and the policies that extend from them--reminded me of this quote attributed to Plato, "The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men," (with variations ascribed to Edmund Burke, John Stuart Mill, and many others). The challenge, of course, is to be willing to step out in front of the crowd and put oneself at risk of criticism, ridicule, legal action, or even physical abuse. But that's what bullies count on, people not being willing to stand up to such intimidation.
By Charles Krauthammer, Published: April 10
Two months ago, a petition bearing more than 110,000 signatures was delivered to The Post, demanding a ban on any article questioning global warming. The petition arrived the day before publication of my column, which consisted of precisely that heresy.
The column ran as usual. But I was gratified by the show of intolerance because it perfectly illustrated my argument that the left is entering a new phase of ideological agitation — no longer trying to win the debate but stopping debate altogether, banishing from public discourse any and all opposition.
The proper word for that attitude is totalitarian. It declares certain controversies over and visits serious consequences — from social ostracism to vocational defenestration — upon those who refuse to be silenced.
Sometimes the word comes from on high, as when the president of the United States declares the science of global warming to be “settled.” Anyone who disagrees is then branded “anti-science.” And better still, a “denier” — a brilliantly chosen calumny meant to impute to the climate skeptic the opprobrium normally reserved for the hatemongers and crackpots who deny the Holocaust.
Then last week, another outbreak. The newest closing of the leftist mind is on gay marriage. Just as the science of global warming is settled, so, it seems, are the moral and philosophical merits of gay marriage.
To oppose it is nothing but bigotry, akin to racism. Opponents are to be similarly marginalized and shunned, destroyed personally and professionally.
Like the CEO of Mozilla who resigned under pressure just 10 days into his job when it was disclosed that six years earlier he had donated to California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
But why stop with Brendan Eich, the victim of this high-tech lynching? Prop 8 passed by half a million votes. Six million Californians joined Eich in the crime of “privileging” traditional marriage. So did Barack Obama. In that same year, he declared that his Christian beliefs made him oppose gay marriage.
Yet under the new dispensation, this is outright bigotry. By that logic, the man whom the left so ecstatically carried to the White House in 2008 was equally a bigot.
The whole thing is so stupid as to be unworthy of exegesis. There is no logic. What’s at play is sheer ideological prejudice — and the enforcement of the new totalitarian norm that declares, unilaterally, certain issues to be closed.
Closed to debate. Open only to intimidated acquiescence.
To this magic circle of forced conformity, the left would like to add certain other policies, resistance to which is deemed a “war on women.” It’s a colorful synonym for sexism. Leveling the charge is a crude way to cut off debate.
Thus, to oppose late-term abortion is to make war on women’s “reproductive health.” Similarly, to question Obamacare’s mandate of free contraception for all.
Some oppose the regulation because of its impingement on the free exercise of religion. Others on the simpler (nontheological) grounds of a skewed hierarchy of values. Under the new law, everything is covered, but a few choice things are given away free. To what does contraception owe its exalted status? Why should it rank above, say, antibiotics for a sick child, for which that same mother must co-pay?
Say that, however, and you are accused of denying women “access to contraception.”
Or try objecting to the new so-called Paycheck Fairness Act for women, which is little more than a full-employment act for trial lawyers. Sex discrimination is already illegal. What these new laws do is relieve the plaintiffs of proving intentional discrimination. To bring suit, they need only to show that women make less in that workplace.
Like the White House, where women make 88 cents to the men’s dollar?
That’s called “disparate impact.” Does anyone really think Obama consciously discriminates against female employees, rather than the disparity being a reflection of experience, work history, etc.? But just to raise such questions is to betray heretical tendencies.
The good news is that the “war on women” charge is mostly cynicism, fodder for campaign-year demagoguery. But the trend is growing. Oppose the current consensus and you’re a denier, a bigot, a homophobe, a sexist, an enemy of the people.
Long a staple of academia, the totalitarian impulse is spreading. What to do? Defend the dissenters, even if — perhaps, especially if — you disagree with their policy. It is — it was? — the American way.

March 17, 2014

Ukraine and American Foriegn Policy

The below was originally posted last week to The Foundry, the blog of The Heritage Foundation. As an aside, working with editors is always an adventure, usually demanding a bit of patience in the back-and-forth that occurs while debating everything from grammar and punctuation, essay length, or phrasing and word choice. Oftentimes the author and editor are coming at a piece from different perspectives, the author quite focused on details and nuance within the paper while the editor's interests usually center on the readership or the tone of the publication or website. In this case, I won with regard to content but was surprised by the title posted to the blog that (in my opinion) shifted the focus from commentary on US foreign policy to the machinations of Putin. Ah well. The point I was trying to make was this: the Administration's policies for national security and defense do not account for the world as it is resulting in opportunities our competitors are only too happy to exploit for their own self interest, usually to the detriment of ours. We may wish for others to 'step up their game'--increasing their investment in defense, for example--but we're foolish to make our own national interested dependent on the actions of others. The Obama Administration may want to redirect its attentions to domestic policy but it is doing so at the expense of our national security and the greater good of so many countries that depend on our strength to keep regional predators at bay.

Dakota Wood   March 14, 2014

A great deal of ink has been spilt over the evolving situation in Ukraine, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s de facto annexation of Crimea. At present, Crimea’s parliament has called for a public referendum to consider formal secession from Ukraine—the vote will be held on March 16.

The Ukrainian government holds that Crimea’s upcoming referendum is unconstitutional, but no one in the Crimean government cares what Ukraine thinks. Regardless, the “popular vote” will likely result in Crimea’s separation from Ukraine for four reasons: 1) Crimea’s population is nearly 60 percent ethnic Russian; 2) Russian troops and supporting local brigands control nearly all Ukrainian military facilities in Crimea; 3) Ukraine has no ability to physically eject Russia from its territory; and 4) Western governments are loath to intervene.

Despite its claims to the contrary, Russia invaded Ukraine under the flimsiest of pretexts to exploit a strategic opportunity presented by Ukraine’s recent political upheaval, a crisis created when its Russian-leaning leader rejected popular desires for Ukraine to ally itself with Europe.

Fresh off his success hosting the Winter Olympics, Putin’s confidence must be soaring; after all, he’s laid permanent claim to a key warm-water port for the Russian Navy; secured unfettered access to the agricultural and energy resources of the Crimean peninsula; and reclaimed territory he believes was wrongly lost following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In one swift, bloodless move he has also exposed Europe’s innate military and political weakness, as well as the continent’s inability to protect its broader interests; Central Europe’s shaky security situation; and Europe’s general dependence on Russian energy. All in all, it’s been a pretty good month for Vladimir.

And what has been the U.S. response to all of this? Indignant rhetoric from Secretary of State John Kerry, and much finger wagging from President Obama, both of whom are shocked that Putin would behave so boorishly. Herein lays the problem with America’s foreign policy: our leadership behaves as if the rest of the world hangs on enlightened philosophical pronouncements from the White House teleprompter.  In reality the world acts in its own self-interests—Russia, Syria, Iran, North Korea, and China have no problem bullying other nations while the U.S. takes offense that our geopolitical foes aren’t interested in resolving differences over tea and cakes. One shouldn’t be surprised, then, when thugocracies exploit windows of opportunity created by American withdrawal from key regions or lack of will to push back against oppressive regimes.

To date, the U.S. has dispatched a handful of military aircraft to Lithuania and Poland, where it has also undertaken an exercise with NATO allies, and sent a destroyer to the Black Sea to participate in a naval exercise with Bulgaria and Romania. While these actions might have signaled America’s commitment to oppose Russia’s blatant violation of Ukrainian sovereignty, the Obama Administration immediately neutered them by declaring that these measures were scheduled well before the crisis in Ukraine.

The White House has, however, announced several new measures designed to buttress Ukraine: business summits, an innovation council, a special envoy to represent the U.S. in an energy working group, packaged meals to the Ukrainian military, FBI agents to help track down pilfered funds, and doubling the number of Ukrainian students brought to the U.S. under an academic exchange program—all of which are very nice but hardly constitute measures that will prompt Putin to reconsider his reckless disregard for reasoned statesmanship.

While direct military intervention in the Ukrainian crisis would be foolish, there are several things the U.S. could do militarily (in addition to diplomatic and economic measures) to send a strong message to Putin, including:
  • Commit to the deployment of ballistic missile defense (BMD) assets to Poland and the Czech Republic, something President Obama foolishly cancelled shortly after taking office;
  • Rapidly organize and execute a major NATO exercise (to include ground, air, and naval maneuvers) with the explicit purpose of showing the Alliance is healthy and won’t tolerate military intimidation of Europe by Russia;
  • Initiate a bilateral exercise with Georgia, an especially symbolic move, given Russia’s attack of that state in 2008; and
  • Conduct high-level defense consultations with Ukraine’s military leadership, again for the express purpose of establishing a principled boundary between the West and Russian belligerency.
Critics will argue such actions are provocative; that’s the point. If Russia doesn’t meet some sort of resistance, Putin will only be emboldened to continue to behave belligerently.

Putin’s gambit demonstrates the consequences of the Obama Administration’s wrongheaded approach to security affairs. Extended retrenchment, unanswered challenges to red lines, weakness in military affairs such as we are seeing the President’s proposed defense budget for 2015 and beyond—all invite geopolitical bullies to grab what they can while they can.

Peace really does come through strength. “Soft talk” absent a “big stick” is just statecraft reduced to whimpering—not really what one expects from a Great Power, and certainly not conducive to maintaining peace and prosperity for the U.S.  Obama’s geopolitical timidity has created strategic opportunities for Russia, China, Iran, and numerous militant factions to reorder regional balances in their favor. To the extent America refuses to shoulder the burden of being “the best hope for mankind,” we will find ourselves, and so many others around the world, poorer, increasingly challenged by our enemies, and with fewer prospects for better tomorrows.

March 5, 2014

The Gathering Storm

While reading a paper at work today, I was caught by this observation from Churchill and couldn’t help but think on our present circumstance…not just the most current problem in the Crimea but more broadly too:
“It is my purpose, as one who lived and acted in these days, to show how easily the tragedy of the Second World War could have been prevented; how the malice of the wicked was reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous; how the structure and habits of democratic states, unless they are welded together into larger organisms, lack those elements of persistence and conviction which can alone give security to humble masses; how, even in matters of self-preservation, no policy is pursued even for ten or fifteen years at a time. We shall see how the counsels of prudence and restraint may become the prime agents of mortal danger; how the middle course adopted from desires for safety and a quiet life may be found to lead direct to the bull’s-eye of disaster. We shall see how absolute is the need of a broad path of international action pursued by many states in common across the years, irrespective of the ebb and flow of national politics.”
Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm, 1948

His point, of course, was to emphasize the importance of constant attention to the necessary investments of defense, fiscal restaint, political awareness, and the courage to stand up to aggression even when things seem to be going along quite well. These elements are essential to the preservation of a country's economic vitality, its cultural health and resiliency under pressure, and the strength to confront challenges before they grow to dangerous levels. When people do not attend to such things for too long a time--which typically happens during extended times of plenty--they eventually find themselves unprepared, perhaps fatally, at the worst possible time when the need is greatest, their resources have been squandered, and their competitors sense opportunity.

March 3, 2014

America's Defense Death Spiral

The National Interest has kindly published a longer version of my commentary on the unwillingness of Congress and the Administration to deal with the fiscal challenges facing our country, choosing instead to compromise the ability of our country to respond to challenges to our security interests. One can never know for sure when and where such threats will arise but they inevitably do. The list of opportunists is quite long: Putin, Iran, China, al Qaeda and its affiliates, and regionally destabilizing problems like we're seeing in Venezuela, Syria, Nigeria, and North Korea among others. Do we have to respond to every crisis? Certainly not! But we should have the ability to respond to crises that we feel rise to a level of concern to warrant a response. If we continue with our current "death spiral" we will soon find ourselves without the ability to respond when we most need to and then it will be too late to raise the forces needed. Last point - Reagan clearly understood the value of "peace through strength." When one maintains a strong posture the rest of the world, and certainly our competitors, understand the implications of such and modify their behavior accordingly. Strength keeps things in check. Conversely, weakness--even perceived weakness--invites trouble. The worrisome headlines about Ukraine are but one example.

Dakota Wood, March 2, 2014

From invective-laden commentary about the near-fatal compromise of America’s security, to those fearful of how reduced defense spending will affect local economic conditions, to those who feel not enough was cut, the Secretary has taken flak from all sides. Frankly, you have to feel some measure of sympathy for a man who is dutifully carrying out the unenviable task of reporting to Congress—and to his boss, the Commander in Chief—the logical consequences of their institutional irresponsibility in failing to provide for the security of our nation.

Much can be said for the Secretary’s thoughtful description of the various challenges confronting the Department of Defense. But what was truly fascinating about his presentation was its mixture of Orwellian doublespeak, dire warning, and blunt realism—all bookended by notes of assurance.

The Secretary was quite candid when speaking about the growing uncertainty in world affairs, the worsening of the threat to U.S. security interests, and the increased levels of risk the U.S. will need to accept as our military forces are reduced. He pointedly noted that "the abrupt spending cuts...imposed on DOD" were so severe in scope, scale, and timeline that we would reap a force "not capable of fulfilling assigned missions." For example, we will be left with an Army capable of addressing only a single major contingency at a time.

But the Secretary also ladled out large doses of happy-talk. A much smaller force facing an uglier world would somehow be a “more capable force.” The cuts, delays, and terminations "will help bring our military into balance." And, although our military "will continue to experience gaps in training and maintenance" while facing a "dynamic and increasingly dangerous security environment," it would still be able to "protect our country and fulfill the President's defense strategy."

Poppycock! A smaller, less resourced force will be able to do less. And a smaller, less capable force will have a more difficult time successfully engaging a more dangerous world where, to use the Secretary’s words, “American dominance on the seas, in the skies, and in space can no longer be taken for granted.”

February 27, 2014

President George Washington on Strength and Security

Following publication of my preceding post about the root challenges to our national security, a friend reminded me of George Washington's "Farewell Address" written "To the people of the United States" in September of 1796, in which he announced he would not seek a third term as President. Among his many wise cautions and loving encouragements, I thought this one stood out as especially germane to our current situation:
"As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear."
Our government, and us as individuals too, would be well served to follow his advice.

February 26, 2014

Our True National Security Problem

A short piece about the current debate on funding for national defense.

Dakota Wood, February 26, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Chris Hondros/Getty Images

It seems that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has become Washington’s newest whipping boy, drawing the ire of nearly everyone who might in any way have an interest in national security. No sooner did he complete his preview of the FY15 Defense Budget than critics pounced with an eye-watering zeal. Most have argued that his recommended cuts to our military will fatally compromise America’s security while others feel the cuts weren’t deep enough given the end of our two long-running wars. And some have noted the lack of an accompanying defense strategy (apparently forgetting last year’s Strategic Choices and Management Review Report (SCMR) and the soon to be released 2014 Quadrennial Defense Report) that would have provided a context for how the smaller force will be employed to protect our security interests. Frankly, while the various criticisms have merit in their particulars they largely miss the mark in addressing the root problem: the institutional irresponsibility of both Congress and the White House in the gross mismanagement of our national finances with the consequence that our government is on the verge of failing to provide for the security of our Nation.

The Secretary provided a rather blunt, though carefully worded, assessment of the various challenges confronting the Department of Defense: growing levels of uncertainty in world affairs, worsening of the threat environment, and the increased levels of risk the U.S. will need to accept as our military forces shrink. He pointedly noted that “the abrupt spending cuts…imposed on DOD” were so severe that we would reap a force “not capable of fulfilling assigned missions,” indeed resulting in an Army, for example, having the capacity to address only a single major contingency. In spite of any presumed efficiencies to be gained through consolidation, reform, and reduction, a smaller and less resourced force will be able to do less and will have a difficult time succeeding in a world where “American [military] dominance…can no longer be taken for granted.”

Hagel would have better served the country by flatly stating that the mindless cuts agreed to by both the Congress and the White House have put this Nation at unacceptable risk; the budget he should have announced should have been the one he held in reserve, the one fully constrained by sequester-level funding. As is, his wishful budget, premised on additional funding to be negotiated between Congress and the White House, will likely convey the false notion that our soon-to-be-hobbled military will be able to adequately defend U.S. security interests.

Sadly, neither the Administration nor Congress appears to have it within them to address the primary challenge that actually confronts our Nation: out-of-control deficit spending driven almost exclusively by a national public entitlements program that is relentlessly compromising the security and long-term viability of the United States.

Members of Congress have already pushed back against every recommendation made by Hagel to address the impending implosion of our defense establishment driven by sequester-constrained funding. Taken in their entirety, these protests collectively prevent any change to defense spending even though it was Congress itself that imposed such reductions in the first place! Does no one remember the stunning failure of the “supercommittee” in 2011 or the fact that the President vowed to veto any effort by Congress to repeal their mindless handiwork?

Various efficiencies can certainly be found throughout the Department and the Pentagon should aggressively root out waste and unnecessary redundancies so that it exercises the most responsible stewardship of the resources America provides it. But it must be adequately funded to provide for the effective and relevant defense of our country as we have previously addressed in A Strong National Defense and The Measure of a Superpower and in the just released 2014 Defense Reform Handbook.

In essence, the proposed Defense budget actually serves as a stinging indictment of the callous disregard this Administration and much of Congress has for the long-term well-being of the country. The fact of the matter is this: our national financial problems derive from the insidious welfare and entitlement state that both entities have helped to create, sustain, and expand. The bulk of our spending resides in the non-discretionary accounts that both political parties and both branches of government are loath to address. As a consequence, the security of our country is being sacrificed to pay the cost of Congressional and Executive Branch fecklessness, intransigence, shortsightedness, and political grandstanding. The Obama Administration has shown in its own national defense budget that it cares more about committing American taxpayers to greater indebtedness than keeping our country safe and our interests protected and Congress is a fully willing accomplice. Something is certainly needed to impose on Congress the fiscal discipline that it seems unable to summon on its own. Whatever that is, its focus should be on correcting the real problem of expanded entitlements and rampant deficit spending, not on abrogating the one responsibility only the Federal government can fulfill.

Personal Security

This is far afield from the material I normally post here but it's just so good that I wanted to share. Penned by a close friend of mine who works in the security field, it is great advice that I hope you share with everyone you care about.
On occasion I get asked to help individuals, missionaries, churches or other groups develop personal security plans for foreign travel or daily life. This is always something that I love to help out with. I was helping somebody out earlier this week and just thought I would share a few things that I point out to people when they are stateside (Be careful applying these things overseas as cultures ...and security situations are different):

1. Know where the police stations are in the area you live and travel in. If you ever feel that you are being followed, pull into the parking lot and lay on the horn.

2. If you are heading out into a parking lot at night, stop at the door of the building that you are leaving and take a look around. If something doesn’t feel right turn around and go back inside.

3. When you have kids with you, stop and look around before you get in the car. The bad guys like unsuspecting prey and when you take the time to look around you are showing them that you are aware of what is going on. It will also tell you if someone is paying unusual attention to you and yours.

4. If you are attacked for any reason, make your stand right there. If you are taken away from the site of the original attack your chances of survival drop by about 90%.

5. Someone should always know where you are. It is like hiking, if they know where you are and when to expect you back they will know to miss you and where to start looking. Having the Find Iphone or equivalent app on your phone is a great way to be safe. It means someone can find you and that you can set off an alarm on someone else’s phone to alert them.

6. If something does not feel right, leave. We are the only animal on the planet that has a fight or flight instinct and then talks ourselves out of it. God gave you those instincts. Listen to them.

7. Don’t flash cash unintentionally. These days there are a lot of people who want it and are more than happy to take yours. Whenever you pay for something in cash or purchase anything over $75 and then head to your car, make sure that you are aware of anyone who might be following you.

8. Don’t ever let your gas tank get to empty (I’m horrible at this). Put a piece of tape over you fuel gauge to where you can’t read anything under ¼ tank. Make this your new empty.

9. Ladies: Be careful how you dress. Fair or not, if you are dressing to accentuate certain features you do not get to choose the quality of people that notice.

10. Guys: Turn the other cheek. Be humble and avoid confrontation. You never know what the other person is bringing to the argument. Not everybody plays by your rules.

Security is something that we should all be aware of because whether we like it or not we live in a fallen world and Satan does not play nice. So often I hear people say that God will protect them. I understand the sentiment but God also calls us to be good stewards of what he has given us, including our lives and that of our children. Back when I was growing up and traveling to Africa I picked up a phrase that put it a different way ”God will not let you die until he is done using you but remember that he can powerfully use people with a colostomy bag.” The implication was clear, be bold but don’t be stupid. It’s a bit harsh but it gets the point across. Good intention do not automatically guarantee good results. Be smart. Be shrewd. Use the instincts that God has given you. He equipped us all for life. Make sure you are using all your equipment.

November 17, 2013

The World of English Freedoms

Though the author ends by focusing on the future of India, he makes some very insightful observations about the nature of America's exceptionalism. For me, the key paragraphs are these:
At a time when most countries defined citizenship by ancestry, Britain was unusual in developing a civil rather than an ethnic nationality. The U.S., as so often, distilled and intensified a tendency that had been present in Great Britain, explicitly defining itself as a creedal polity: Anyone can become American simply by signing up to the values inherent in the Constitution.
There is, of course, a flip-side. If the U.S. abandons its political structures, it will lose its identity more thoroughly than states that define nationality by blood or territory. Power is shifting from the 50 states to Washington, D.C., from elected representatives to federal bureaucrats, from citizens to the government. As the U.S. moves toward European-style health care, day care, college education, carbon taxes, foreign policy and spending levels, so it becomes less prosperous, less confident and less free.
We sometimes talk of the English-speaking nations as having a culture of independence. But culture does not exist, numinously, alongside institutions; it is a product of institutions. People respond to incentives. Make enough people dependent on the state, and it won't be long before Americans start behaving and voting like…well, like Greeks.
Success in a republic -- especially in ours, where foundational principles included the propositions that citizens were expected to be responsible for themselves and their condition, that the individual states would be the principle means by which the citizenry would govern itself, and that the federal government would attend only to those duties that individuals and the individual states were structurally incapable of addressing (e.g. defense of the nation) -- demands a strong measure of self-discipline exercised by both the citizenry and the government and sufficient interest by that citizenry in political affairs that it is willing and able to hold its government to account when policies pose dangers to the long-term health and viability of the Republic. Currently, the majority of our citizenry is 'uninterested' and 'unwilling' and seems more inclined to increase the provision of federally-dispensed goodies even at the expense of the longterm health of our country. I hope the rapidly unfolding 'Affordable Care Act' debacle is sufficient to rouse people to action but our recent history doesn't make me very optimistic. Pity.

The World of English Freedoms

It's no accident that the English-speaking nations are the ones most devoted to law and individual rights, writes Daniel Hannan

Nov. 15, 2013 6:17 p.m. ET

Asked, early in his presidency, whether he believed in American exceptionalism, Barack Obama gave a telling reply. "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."

The first part of that answer is fascinating (we'll come back to the Greeks in a bit). Most Brits do indeed believe in British exceptionalism. But here's the thing: They define it in almost exactly the same way that Americans do. British exceptionalism, like its American cousin, has traditionally been held to reside in a series of values and institutions: personal liberty, free contract, jury trials, uncensored newspapers, regular elections, habeas corpus, open competition, secure property, religious pluralism.

The conceit of our era is to assume that these ideals are somehow the natural condition of an advanced society—that all nations will get around to them once they become rich enough and educated enough. In fact, these ideals were developed overwhelmingly in the language in which you are reading these words. You don't have to go back very far to find a time when freedom under the law was more or less confined to the Anglosphere: the community of English-speaking democracies.

In August 1941, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met on the deck of HMS Prince of Wales off Newfoundland, no one believed that there was anything inevitable about the triumph of what the Nazis and Communists both called "decadent Anglo-Saxon capitalism." They called it "decadent" for a reason. Across the Eurasian landmass, freedom and democracy had retreated before authoritarianism, then thought to be the coming force. Though a small number of European countries had had their parliamentary systems overthrown by invaders, many more had turned to autocracy on their own, without needing to be occupied: Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain.

Churchill, of all people, knew that the affinity between the United States and the rest of the English-speaking world rested on more than a congruence of parliamentary systems, and he was determined to display that cultural affinity to maximum advantage when he met FDR.

It was a Sunday morning, and the British and American crewmen were paraded jointly on the decks of HMS Prince of Wales for a religious service. The prime minister was determined that "every detail be perfect," and the readings and hymns were meticulously chosen. The sailors listened as a chaplain read from Joshua 1 in the language of the King James Bible, revered in both nations: "As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage."

The prime minister was delighted. "The same language, the same hymns and, more or less, the same ideals," he enthused. The same ideals: That was no platitude. The world was in the middle of the second of the three great global confrontations of the 20th century, in which countries that elevated the individual over the state contended for mastery against countries that did the opposite. The list of nations that were on the right side in all three of those conflicts is a short one, but it includes the Anglophone democracies.

We often use the word "Western" as a shorthand for liberal-democratic values, but we're really being polite. What we mean is countries that have adopted the Anglo-American system of government. The spread of "Western" values was, in truth, a series of military victories by the Anglosphere.

I realize that all this might seem strange to American readers. Am I not diluting the uniqueness of the U.S., the world's only propositional state, by lumping it in with the rest of the Anglosphere? Wasn't the republic founded in a violent rejection of the British Empire? Didn't Paul Revere rouse a nation with his cry of "the British are coming"?

Actually, no. That would have been a remarkably odd thing to yell at a Massachusetts population that had never considered itself anything other than British (what the plucky Boston silversmith actually shouted was "The regulars are coming out!"). The American Founders were arguing not for the rejection but for the assertion of what they took to be their birthright as Englishmen. They were revolutionaries in the 18th-century sense of the word, whereby a revolution was understood to be a complete turn of the wheel: a setting upright of that which had been placed on its head.

Alexis de Tocqueville is widely quoted these days as a witness to American exceptionalism. Quoted, but evidently not so widely read, since at the very beginning of "Democracy in America," he flags up what is to be his main argument, namely, that the New World allowed the national characteristics of Europe's nations the freest possible expression. Just as French America exaggerated the autocracy and seigneurialism of Louis XIV's France, and Spanish America the ramshackle obscurantism of Philip IV's Spain, so English America (as he called it) exaggerated the localism, the libertarianism and the mercantilism of the mother country: "The American is the Englishman left to himself."

What made the Anglosphere different? Foreign visitors through the centuries remarked on a number of peculiar characteristics: the profusion of nonstate organizations, clubs, charities and foundations; the cheerful materialism of the population; the strong county institutions, including locally chosen law officers and judges; the easy coexistence of different denominations (religious toleration wasn't unique to the Anglosphere, but religious equality—that is, freedom for every sect to proselytize—was almost unknown in the rest of the world). They were struck by the weakness, in both law and custom, of the extended family, and by the converse emphasis on individualism. They wondered at the stubborn elevation of private property over raison d'├ętat, of personal freedom over collective need.

Many of them, including Tocqueville and Montesquieu, connected the liberty that English-speakers took for granted to geography. Outside North America, most of the Anglosphere is an extended archipelago: Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, the more democratic Caribbean states. North America, although not literally isolated, was geopolitically more remote than any of them, "kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean," as Jefferson put it in his 1801 inaugural address, "from the exterminating havoc [of Europe]."

Isolation meant that there was no need for a standing army in peacetime, which in turn meant that the government had no mechanism for internal repression. When rulers wanted something, usually revenue, they had to ask nicely, by summoning people's representatives in an assembly. It is no coincidence that the world's oldest parliaments—England, Iceland, the Faroes, the Isle of Man—are on islands.

Above all, liberty was tied up with something that foreign observers could only marvel at: the miracle of the common law. Laws weren't written down in the abstract and then applied to particular disputes; they built up, like a coral reef, case by case. They came not from the state but from the people. The common law wasn't a tool of government but an ally of liberty: It placed itself across the path of the Stuarts and George III; it ruled that the bonds of slavery disappeared the moment a man set foot on English soil.

There was a fashion for florid prose in the 18th century, but the second American president, John Adams, wasn't exaggerating when he identified the Anglosphere's beautiful, anomalous legal system—which today covers most English-speaking countries plus Israel, almost an honorary member of the club, alongside the Netherlands and the Nordic countries—as the ultimate guarantor of freedom: "The liberty, the unalienable, indefeasible rights of men, the honor and dignity of human nature... and the universal happiness of individuals, were never so skillfully and successfully consulted as in that most excellent monument of human art, the common law of England."

Freedom under the law is a portable commodity, passed on through intellectual exchange rather than gene flow. Anyone can benefit from constitutional liberty simply by adopting the right institutions and the cultural assumptions that go with them. The Anglosphere is why Bermuda is not Haiti, why Singapore is not Indonesia, why Hong Kong is not China—and, for that matter, not Macau. As the distinguished Indian writer Madhav Das Nalapat, holder of the Unesco Peace Chair, puts it, the Anglosphere is defined not by racial affinity but "by the blood of the mind."

At a time when most countries defined citizenship by ancestry, Britain was unusual in developing a civil rather than an ethnic nationality. The U.S., as so often, distilled and intensified a tendency that had been present in Great Britain, explicitly defining itself as a creedal polity: Anyone can become American simply by signing up to the values inherent in the Constitution.

There is, of course, a flip-side. If the U.S. abandons its political structures, it will lose its identity more thoroughly than states that define nationality by blood or territory. Power is shifting from the 50 states to Washington, D.C., from elected representatives to federal bureaucrats, from citizens to the government. As the U.S. moves toward European-style health care, day care, college education, carbon taxes, foreign policy and spending levels, so it becomes less prosperous, less confident and less free.

We sometimes talk of the English-speaking nations as having a culture of independence. But culture does not exist, numinously, alongside institutions; it is a product of institutions. People respond to incentives. Make enough people dependent on the state, and it won't be long before Americans start behaving and voting like…well, like Greeks.

Which brings us back to Mr. Obama's curiously qualified defense of American exceptionalism. Outside the Anglosphere, people have traditionally expected—indeed, demanded—far more state intervention. They look to the government to solve their problems, and when the government fails, they become petulant.

That is the point that much of Europe has reached now. Greeks, like many Europeans, spent decades increasing their consumption without increasing their production. They voted for politicians who promised to keep the good times going and rejected those who argued for fiscal restraint. Even now, as the calamity overwhelms them, they refuse to take responsibility for their own affairs by leaving the euro and running their own economy. It's what happens when an electorate is systematically infantilized.

The owl of Minerva, wrote Hegel, spreads its wings only with the gathering of the dusk. Since the middle of the 18th century, the hegemony of the English-speaking peoples has drawn many other nations into a uniquely free, democratic and wealthy world order. The Anglo-American imperium is, by most measures, reaching its twilight. But the values of the Anglosphere, particularly the unique emphasis on individualism, ought to be perfectly suited to the Internet age. And such values can take root anywhere.

Perhaps the most important geopolitical question of the 21st century is this: Will India define itself primarily as a member of the Anglosphere or as an Asian power? In the decades after independence, India did what all former colonies do, adopting policies aimed at underlining its differences from the former occupier. Successive governments promoted autarky, the Hindi language and equidistance between the Western and Soviet blocs.

But India has long since passed its moment of maximum orbital distance from the other Anglophone democracies. The traits that continue to set it apart from most of its neighbors are, for want of a better shorthand, Anglosphere characteristics.

In India, governments come and go as the result of elections, without anyone being exiled or shot. The armed forces stay out of politics. English is the language of government and of most universities and businesses. Property rights and free contract are secured by a common-law system, which remains open to individuals seeking redress. Shared values lead to shared habits. When, in the aftermath of the tsunami 10 years ago, the U.S., Australian and Indian navies coordinated the relief effort, they found an interoperability that goes beyond even that found among NATO allies.

If India were to take its place at the heart of a loose Anglosphere network, based on free trade and military alliance, the future would suddenly look a great deal brighter. Of course, to join such a free trade area, the U.K. and Ireland would have to leave the EU. But that's another story.

Mr. Hannan has represented South East England in the European Parliament since 1999. This essay is adapted from his new book, "Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World," which has just been published by HarperCollins.

September 29, 2013

On Decadence - Charles Hill, The American Interest

I know I'm crossing a line in posting this article because the story at the link is behind a subscription pay wall; consequently, you should be a subscriber to view it. But I think this is such a superb item that I really do hope that by sharing it you, dear reader, will find the same wonderful insight I found, enjoy the same sublime gift in Hill's writing style and clarity of thought, and (I hope) find it of sufficient value to actually subscribe the The American Interest. I've had the great pleasure of working with Adam Garfinkle, the Editor at TAI, on a couple of articles and he was always the epitome of what you would expect an editor to be: supportive, encouraging, prodding for completion, sound advice. His blog is here. He does a marvelous job at assembling an array of quality essays for each bi-monthly issue. Please check it out.

As for Hill's article, when you've finished reading it -- and you'll need to set aside some time to do so -- you'll find yourself thinking, "But of course! It all makes so much sense." Hill addresses, and echoes, the concern of George Washington regarding the necessity and challenge of "maintaining the character of the nation amid the temptations of freedom." He walks the reader through the evolution of how society's appreciation of virtuous living is constantly challenged by the opportunities for mischief presented by increasing liberty for the individual and freedom for our society as a whole. He discusses the corrosive aspects of our "Age of Entertainment," the "Great Virtue Shift" of the last few decades where vices have become virtues, and how our government itself has shifted as officials respond "to the changing psychology and national character of the country." 

Per Hill, "Throughout most of American history people were preoccupied with how to prevent government from becoming corrupt. In our time, governments have discovered how to corrupt the people. It then follows that the more corrupted the people become, the more numerous the laws must be, thus further aggrandizing government’s indispensability." Hill brings it all together in his concluding paragraphs where he emphasizes and ties together freedom, liberty, and the essential, enabling virtue of self discipline...all rooted in a strong foundation of religious belief. 
"It comes down, finally, to the individual and to George Washington’s recognition that a free society must be made up of virtuous, self-disciplined citizens. [...] Americans possess liberty as do no others and so have sought to understand its uses and responsibilities as well as the myriad of ways, direct or insidious, through which it can be taken away. Freedom is for a people; liberty is for the individual. So if liberty must be limited in order to be possessed, it must be self-imposed in the recognition that certain limits are essential to making one’s actions effective, intellectually coherent and even possessed of a certain beauty. [...] To the main point of Washington’s Farewell Address...Tocqueville added that in America, uniquely, religion and liberty are compatible: Freedom sees religion as the cradle of its infancy and the divine source of its rights, while religion is the guardian and guarantee of the laws that preserve liberty. But at the same time...American liberty has been endangered by the American “passion for regulation.” This, Tocqueville predicted, eventually would enable government to extend its arms over society as a whole, to cover its surface “with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way.” [...] ...a lack of self-limitation on individual liberty will produce excess and coarseness; virtue will retreat and, as it does, hypocritical moralizing about society’s deficiencies will increase. Widening irresponsibility coupled with public pressure for behavior modification will mount and be acted upon by government. The consequential loss of liberty scarcely will be noticed by the mass of people now indulging themselves, as Tocqueville predicted, in the “small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls.” We will not as a result be ruled by tyrants but by schoolmasters in suits with law degrees, and be consoled in the knowledge that we ourselves elected them. [...] To retain liberty, or by now to repossess it, Americans must re-educate themselves in what has been made of Burke’s precept: “Liberty must be limited in order to be possessed.” Walt Whitman re-formulated this as, “The shallow consider liberty a release from all law, from every constraint. The wise man sees in it, on the contrary, the potent Law of Laws.” Learning what liberty is and what it requires of us is the only bulwark, ultimately, against American decadence."
In short, if we as a people and as individuals cannot exercise self-discipline derived from the virtues provided by our religious convictions, then our "coarseness" as a society will increasingly result in additional layers of government intrusion and regulation upon which we will continue to be increasingly dependent until we finally arrive at a state where all liberty is lost and government power is absolute. A free society is a virtuous society, one that is serious about what it takes to maintain such and is always on guard against those influences that constantly seek to erode its character. It is time for us to once again be a serious people. 

From the September/October 2013 issue:

On Decadence

ecline” we Americans and Westerners mope about daily; “fall” most of us still hope to postpone. Decadence, it would seem, is the mean between the two.
The much-overused decline and fall trope, fixed permanently into our abstract vocabulary ever since Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire took a then-experimentally post-Christian Western Europe by storm, was meant to demonstrate the mortality of all human constructions. Oddly enough, however, Gibbon did it in spite of the Enlightenment’s discovery of progress by retreating to the oldest trope of all—the cyclical, organic metaphor of birth, growth, decay, death. Much of the 19th century was spent trying to reconcile progress with the cyclical via the uses and abuses of Darwin. In the 20th century, Oswald Spengler, Arnold Toynbee and Paul Kennedy rejoined that intellectual dispute, traceable to remote antiquity: Either the human condition is cyclical, like the seasons and the life cycle, or it is linear, starting someplace, going someplace, with a positive goal ahead. 

September 12, 2013

American Exceptionalism

My go-to source for news of "the world's major wars, conflicts...military, political, and intelligence" issues is War News Updates, a blog edited by a fellow of Russian ancestry who currently lives in Canada. He does a remarkable job of posting articles throughout the day, occasionally adding his own comment. I mention this because of all the hubbub created by the Putin Op-Ed piece in yesterday's New York Times.  Pundits from across the political spectrum have weighed in on various aspects of it with perhaps the most attention paid to Putin's dismissive comment about "American exceptionalism." There are so many items about America, what it stands for, what it has contributed to the world, the hope it has brought to millions, the burden it has borne on behalf of so many who were unable, or unwilling, to do so on their own that I would scarcely know where to start...but then there's this...the comment posted today from the Russian-Canadian editor of WNU:
"As to what is my take on American exceptionalism .... read the following.
Being one who grew up in the former Soviet Union .... and who now lives in Canada but travels to the U.S. all the time .... I think I have a certain perspective on American exceptionalism that I know that Russian President Putin does not have ... and .... I sometimes wonder .... if President Obama and most Americans still believe in.
American exceptionalism is not because America was and is made up of special people. Or (as some believe) that God has chosen the American people. It is certainly not because of it's national and international policies ... nor of the good deeds that Americans are always trying to do.
American exceptionalism is the following ..... throughout history mankind has always lived under (and been subjected to) despots and tyranny that made survival the primary goal of everyone .... with the exception of the rulers. But the founding of America broke .... for the first time .... this state of affairs. In short .... the U.S. was founded by men who believed that leaders must serve the people .... and not the other way around .... and to insure that this will not change a constitution was then set up and enshrined in law on how this government was to function .... and more importantly .... enshrining in law the freedom and liberty that individuals will have in such a nation..
Yup .... liberty and freedom codified by law is what made America exceptional .... not the power and might of it's government.
As to Putin's comments that God created us equal .... the framers of the constitution understood this .... hence enshrining in the constitution a political framework that was codified by law that acknowledges God's creation.
President Putin as a former communist does not understand this. President Obama .... when I listen to his comments on negative liberties .... certainly does not. And sadly .... most of the world certainly does not.
But people worldwide have always found this topic to be a fascinating one to talk about .... and in my travels to places in Asia and Europe I have always found myself getting into these discussions. Interestingly .... these debates always ended when I made the following observation. Culturally .... Europe and Asia are centuries ahead of the U.S. .... if not more. Their history is rich with thousands of years of life experiences .... something that a young nation like America cannot even hope to compare to. But .... when looked at politically .... America is the giant and the old wise man while all of these old nations are just juvenuiles struggling only now to attain those concepts of freedom and liberty that we in North America have take for granted for the past two centuries."
Why is it that some of the best commentary on the exceptionalism of America comes from people who aren't Americans, or at least weren't so originally? I think it's because people who have grown up outside of America have experienced first-hand a vastly different reality than most Americans can even begin to understand. For many (most?) of those living somewhere other than America, daily reality includes oppressive governments, few personal freedoms, limited opportunities, and subsistence living. It includes an enduring concern for personal safety and, for many, resignation to whatever socio-economic status they were born into. Here in America, the vast majority of us have known nothing but personal liberty, the opportunity to pursue whatever we desired (whether we take advantage of those opportunities is an entirely different matter), a complete absence of true fear of authorities, the ability to come and go as we please, and to say pretty much whatever we want to, whenever we want to, with no fear of consequence. Long stretches of national peace, ease, relative comfort, comparative wealth--the list goes on--tend to lull people into a false sense that things have always been and will always be this way at little personal cost. Like subsisting on charity for a long stretch of time with no obligation to repay it in any way, even through community service, the recipient grows to feel entitled to such, gets resentful when called upon to 'pay up,' and seeks the cover of sympathetic patrons when the 'easy times' are threatened. Nationally, we are teetering on the edge of such a condition. For almost a quarter century now, since the dissolution of our global opponent, the Soviet Union, we have extended benefit upon benefit to our citizenry and have asked for almost nothing in return. Our living has been good, perhaps too good. But now competitors challenge us at every turn. The 'daily reality' of much of the world begins to affect us here at home. At a moment when strength is needed, we find ourselves riddled with debt, unmoored from our founding principles, and cynically suspicious of our own government.

Make no mistake - our system is still the best there is. It possesses the greatest inherent resilience, provides for the greatest opportunity for the greatest number of people, facilitates the transfer of power from one group to the next without bloodshed, enables the greatest participation in the process limited only by the interest of our citizenry to participate in the first place. Our system is able to easily trounce any other in the world because of the inherent failings of the others. In fact, the only real threat to America comes from inside America and that threat stems from the apathy of its citizens. If you don't care enough to take an interest and get involved, don't be surprised if you wake up one day to find the world you remembered has been replaced by another that's hungrier, more ambitious, and more confident in itself. In the end, it really is up to us.

September 11, 2013

Neil Cavuto looks back on the anniversary of 9/11

While driving home from work this evening, I heard a wonderful item from Neil Cavuto who was sharing his thoughts on this 12th anniversary of 9/11. I don't know why but it really stuck with me, perhaps because I only heard the audio while driving alone and the effect wasn't lessened, in a sense, by the video setting. When you just have to listen, you can picture different things in your mind's eye. Maybe it's best to just close your eyes and listen while it plays. Either way, I liked his perspective and the points he was making -- we just never know when life will take it's dramatic turns and only after such moments do we truly realize what we habitually take for granted.

Here's a link to the video.

September 8, 2013

Information Theory and Capitalism

Hard to believe it's been almost two months since my last post. "Life" does have a way of imposing itself  such that we all need to prioritize our allocation of time, attention and effort. Clearly this blog has taken a lesser place when balanced against family time and even work, though I try to limit the amount of work that comes home with me. Another contributing factor has to do with my desire to share things that I hope are value-added or to spend time here at the keyboard on material of sufficient interest (even if only to me) that warrants not spending the time doing something else...like spending it with family. We are awash with news reports, commentaries, the hyperactivity of the blogosphere, an unending stream of televised and broadcasted punditry and, thank goodness, the occasional really good article in print media all hard at work dissecting, analyzing, and critiquing the issues of our day. Why just add to the noise? Snowdengate, Obamacare, the Benghazi debacle, an out-of-control IRS, a dysfunctional Congress, continued turmoil in the Middle East (shock), amateur-hour-theatrics over whether to strike Syria, the latest starlet going into or coming out of rehab...these are covered ad nauseum.  If you are taking the time to read this blog, you are highly likely to be the type of person who already tracks current events and takes more than a moment to reflect on their implications and the various factors that converge to create such situations in the first place...in which case I'd like to provide material you might not otherwise have read during the week. After all, it's not as if I'm trying to entice readership with fantasy league stats, photos of the new royal baby, or commentary on the dating techniques of the newly-graduated-but-not-yet-employed-who-still-live-with-parents-cohort.

With this in mind, I'd like to direct your attention to a superb article published in a recent issue of The Weekly Standard. The item, a four page article entitled "Surprise and Creativity," by George Gilder, is a fascinating overview of Information Theory as the basis for a new economics theory for Capitalism. Yes, yes, I know..."fascinating" in the same sentence as "theory," "economics," and "capitalism"? It doesn't carry quite the emotional high that you get when you see your favorite team beat its arch-rival in overtime but stick with me on this. I think what Gilders is saying is profoundly important for this reason: at the root of any substantive policy lies some sort of strongly-held belief by the person(s) who crafted and implemented the policy...some conviction that a given approach to an issue is most likely to achieve a desired objective or outcome. 

For socialists, the conviction is that production should directly and immediately satisfy needs (of the market or the individual person) rather than the private accumulation of wealth. Therefore, Socialists seek to centrally control resources and dictate production and distribution instead of allowing individuals to do so and for the market, writ large, to determine prices, availability, market penetration, etc. Different religions have different central imperatives that drive implementation of their doctrines. Some belief systems compel adherents to impose their system on others while other systems are quite "hands off." The stewardship of natural resources even finds wildly different expression based on the underlying beliefs of different people--some believing that the "natural condition" of the environment takes priority over the material progress of humans while others are just as firmly convinced that Man has every right to use what nature has to offer in pursuit of material advances. In all these cases, such beliefs can shape the policies that governments adopt and impose on their citizens. We have seen the relentless march of Socialism in Europe whereby governmental (local, state, national), super-governmental (European Union), and extra-governmental (e.g. the European Commission) regulatory bodies dictate that how, when, where, and why of economic policies for all member states and their citizens. Islam, as it is being practiced throughout much of the Middle East, seeks to impose its view of "right conduct" by force, necessarily at the expense of the beliefs of other populations such as Christians or even competing sects within Islam (Sunni vs. Shia). Those who believe the industrial-age activities of mankind are responsibility for changes in our climate seek to change policies effecting energy production and use. My long-winded point here is that theories actually mean something since they serve as the basis for the policies, laws, and regulations that effect our daily lives. 

What Gilder is proposing is a different way to understand economics, in general, and capitalism in particular. An early and devoted disciple of Irving Kristol, Gilder begins his article with an overview of Kristol's thoughts about economic models, specifically highlighting Kristol's criticism of the prevailing theory of capitalism as "a calculus of simple self-interest and apparently governed by no moral code," that "[in] a democratic society...no such system can ultimately survive." By this, Kristol meant that free-market capitalism and, indeed, a free democratic society should be governed by some sort of morality to reflected the conservative values he did so much to champion. According to Gilder, Kristol posed two key questions for any economic theory: "Can the theory provide a moral or 'transdendental' justification for its results, so that it is politically acceptable" and "can it explain growth and creativity?" Gilder says that the Information Theory of economics does so and therefore should serve as the basis for better understanding, and by extension informing policies for, our government's approach to economic policy. 

Here are some highlights (extracts or paraphrased items) from the article:
- Most economists believe that order and information are kindred concepts...that a successful economy seeks balance or equilibrium between the two.
- "Order," however, is the opposite of information since "information" is essentially news or surprise; information is something new, something unexpected. If you hear something you already know, you haven't learned anything, nothing new has been created. Order, then, is in opposition to this because it seeks to minimize disruptions to the system.
- Gilder's "information theory for economics" should be thought of as human creations viewed as 'transmissions down a channel' in the presence of 'noise' or 'impediments to transmission' with the outcome measured by its 'news' or surprise.
- Businesses conducting entrepreneurial experiments must be allowed to fail; otherwise, nothing is learned from the attempt, no new knowledge is generated and therefore no new wealth is produced. [In other words, you can't really learn any true lessons if outcomes are predetermined.]
- Information Theory places the surprising creation of entrepreneurs and innovators at the very center of the system.
- Information is ultimately a measure of human freedom and thus places such freedom at the heart of the economic model.

So what does all this really mean? I believe it means that wealth comes from creativity (something that is new and unexpected); creativity comes from experimentation; and experimentation is defined by an infinite variety of attempts to find new things and new ways. When "the system" -- i.e. the government -- seeks to dictate preferred outcomes, shape efforts toward desired solutions, or impose burdensome restrictions and impediments on capitalism then entrepreneurialism is stunted, the flow of "information" is reduced ("information" in this sense can be thought of as anything, really -- individual effort, the exchange of ideas, the flow of capital, etc.), working capital is bled-off (in taxes, regulatory compliance, and bureaucratic overhead), and true innovation is quashed. 

Consider some of Gilder's closing thoughts:
No business guaranteed by the government is capitalist.Guarantees destroy knowledge and wealth by eliminating falsifiability [the potential to fail].  Unless entrepreneurial ideas can fail and business go bankrupt, they cannot succeed in creating new knowledge and wealth.
The message of a knowledge economy is optimistic. As Wanniski wrote, "Growth comes not from dollars in people's pockets but from ideas in their heads."...A capitalist economy can be transformed as rapidly as human minds and knowledge can change.
Deeper than economics or social theory, these ideas reflect the most powerful scientific ideas of the era. Information Theory recognizes that information is not order but disorder and that the universe is not a great machine that is inexorably grinding down all human pretense of uniqueness and free will. The uniqueness and free will of humans is indispensable to civilization.
In capitalism, the predictable carriers are the rule of law, the maintenance of order, the defense of property rights, the reliability and restraint of regulation, the transparency of accounts, the stability of money, the discipline and futurity of family life, and a level of taxation commensurate with a modest and predictable role of government.
As Kristol observed, progress in law and order does not spring from a Darwinian process of natural selection among random mutations. Progress stems from political leadership and sacrifice, prudence and forebearance, wisdom and courage. Sometimes these must be defended by military force. They originated historically in a religious faith in the transcendent order of the universe. They embody a hierarchic principle. It is these low-entropy carriers that enable the high-entropy creations of successful capitalism.
What Gilder is getting at is this: when our government uses its regulatory powers to choose winners and losers, when it bleeds capital from the private sector via high taxes and extraordinary levels of public debt, when it imposes layer upon layer of regulation on private business and individuals, and when it takes control of sectors of our economy (health care, for example) it distorts our economy, undermines our entrepreneurs, constrains innovation and creativity, and blunts generation of wealth. And most importantly, an overly active government saps "the uniqueness and free will of humans [that] is indispensable to civilization."

Our government helps most when it does the least necessary to maintain a stable framework within which the creative energies of capitalism are unleashed and the root values of our culture find their full flower. I hope Gilder's new economic theory gains traction and I hope you take a few minutes to read the article for yourself.