Last week, in what promises to be the start of a protracted and important judicial battle, a judge in California struck down five statutes in the state’s Education Code on the grounds that they prevented children attending public schools from receiving an education that is commensurate with their state constitutional right to equal protection under the law. The statutes judged unlawful were those preventing Californian district school boards from withholding tenure from incompetent teachers or firing them once they had gained it, plus another obliging them to give priority to their more long-serving, but less effective, teaching staff over more recent, but more effective, teaching appointments when, for economic reasons, lay-offs had to be made.
Recently, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the appeal of a man convicted and sentenced to a one-year prison term for having aided the suicides of two depressed people through advice and encouragement he had offered them over the Internet.
The grounds on which the appellant successfully challenged his conviction were that the statute under which he had been prosecuted and convicted — and which proscribed ‘encouraging, advising or assisting another in committing suicide’ — violated his First Amendment right to free speech.
Not content with trashing welfare by abolishing work requirements laid down by the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, plus centralizing healthcare through his Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative threatens to inflict equal damage upon America’s schools and criminal justice system.
During the run-up to Easter this year, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron had the temerity to assert publicly (and on more than one occasion) that Britain is a Christian country, suggesting also that it is no bad thing that it is. For having publicly espoused such politically incorrect sentiments, fifty-five prominent British humanists came down on him like a ton of bricks, excoriating him for false and divisive statements they claimed that he had made.
Hot on the heels of the latest annual Bilderberg get-together in Berkshire, England, political leaders at the just-concluded G8 summit in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, announced that the EU and US intend to broker a free-trade agreement between them by the end of next year, with talks towards one due to begin next month.
How should supporters of free-markets respond to the news of such an agreement – with jubilation, indifference, or dismay? Prima facie, such a deal can only be good news. The removal or lowering of tariffs fosters trade and thereby supposedly facilitates mutually beneficial international division of labour which in turn, by fostering a greater interdependency between nations, reduces the chances of war between them.
In reality, however, the prospect of such an agreement is anything but a cause for celebration for freedom lovers.
Germany’s renewables energy sector is busy cleaning up these days, commercially-speaking that is, not in terms of environmental impact. So far as that goes, Germany’s much vaunted green revolution has been nothing short of disastrous.
As its heavily subsidized wind-farms and solar panels mushroom, so Germany’s ancient forests are increasingly being felled to make way for the open mining of lignite (brown coal) of which Germany has copious reserves beneath its soil and which is the most unhealthy fossil fuel of all.
‘A kick in the ballots’ is how pundits are describing the blow received by British Prime Minister David Cameron at the polls last week in his country’s mid-term local elections in the rural shires, traditional heartland of support for the Conservative Party he leads.
Gleefully administering the blow was Nigel Farage, the ever-exuberant leader of the United Kingdom Party Independence Party (UKIP for short).
Of the riotous 1960s, it has been said, if you can remember them, you weren’t there. The same cannot be said of the several ensuing, more sober decades, especially if you were at all well disposed to the free market and limited government. For it was during the twentieth century’s final quarter that these ideals staged a dramatic comeback, after a long period of eclipse in America during which there had been ever-increasing governmental regulation of the economy and dispensation of welfare.
That resurgence of free-market ideas was capped off towards the century’s end by the spectacular triumph of American capitalism over Soviet communism. Increasing numbers swiftly began to learn to stand on their own feet economically-speaking and to accept that, in the words of one of capitalism’s most exuberant champions, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Rounding off the apparent victory of free-market ideals over collectivism was the major retrenchment of public welfare in America achieved through the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.
As well as laying claim to being land of the free and home of the brave, until recently America could boast of a more devout populace than any other Western country. As Seymour Martin Lipset observed in his 1996 study of American Exceptionalism:
The puzzling strength of organized religion [is] a phenomenon that impressed most nineteenth-century observers and continues to show up… in cross-national opinion polls… These polls indicate Americans are the most churchgoing in Protestantism and the most fundamentalist in Christendom… Compared to West Europe as a whole, Americans place a higher importance on the role of religion in their lives.
Recent polls suggest Americans are becoming more like their European cousins with respect to losing their religion. According to a poll published last October by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the number of Americans without affiliation to any organized form of religion has grown from 16 per cent of the total population in 2008 to 20 per cent.