The New York Times ran two stories within two days about two very different nations. One story noted that France was an unhappy place in danger of electing an extremist, Marie Le Pen, as President. But the author found the plight of the country puzzling, noting that France has wonderful infrastructure compared to the United States and continued to have a culture second to none. He puts its misery down to the French fixation on the losses of past glories.
Another story focuses on the very different mood in New Zealand. People are happy there and many foreigners want to immigrate. The prime reasons given are its isolation from the rest of the troubled world and its social tolerance, as demonstrated by its legalization of same-sex marriage and acceptance of refugees. The photo accompanying the story shows Sikh men in colorful turbans against some pleasant New Zealand scenery.
The two stories show the weaknesses of the analytic powers of our elite media and its indifference to economic freedom. The best explanation of France’s stagnant misery and New Zealand dynamic happiness can be found in the The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom. New Zealand ranks No. 3 and France No. 72 of the 160 nations surveyed in the economic liberty they permits citizens. Given that most nations ranked below France are developing nations, New Zealand and France inhabit pretty different economic universes among developed nations.
On Labor Day, we should praise employers as well as workers. In our economy employers make much of our labor possible by paying us wages. They make it more productive by arranging its structure most efficiently. They make it more forward looking by coming up with ideas for the next new product and service and by supplying the capital to get these ideas off the ground.
Yet many fail to acknowledge what a deeply moral act employing someone else in productive, legal work can be. By giving someone a job, an employer is not only providing a wage, but a framework of discipline and often a satisfying life that not everyone can provide for themselves. And large employers, like Walmart, do most of all by employing millions and creating paths for career advancement that would not otherwise exist.
In contrast, most of the shrill critics of companies like Walmart are academics and others who have never employed anyone except perhaps a nanny. They have done little to put bread on the table of their fellow man or set the less well off on a trajectory to a more ample livelihood.
Books reviewed in this essay:
The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin, by Corey Robin. Oxford University Press.
The Common Mind: Politics, Society and Christian Humanism from Thomas More to Russell Kirk, by André Gushurst-Moore. Angelico Press.
The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children’s Future—and Why They Should Give It Back, by David Willetts. Atlantic Books.
Amidst the recurring question of whether Edmund Burke is relevant to contemporary politics, we are presented with three volumes that approach this vital issue in different ways, and with varying levels of scholarly and popular perceptiveness. All the books under review attempt to connect the witness and insights of the great statesman to ongoing conflicts in society and politics. Perhaps the disparate assessments of Burke alone could suggest the resiliency of his legacy; however, the importance of Burke the political theorist dictates a closer examination of these critical works.
I never see the International Herald Tribune except in airport lounges or in the lobbies of hotel where it seems to be given away like improving literature or left as missionaries were once said to leave tracts on trains in the hope of converts. And thus it was, the other day, that I happened upon a copy and, having a few minutes to wait, read it.
The cartoon in the paper was what mainly sparked my interest. It showed Pope Francis, arms outstretched in a gesture of ecumenical welcome, his face beaming with self-approbation, denying that he was one to judge a homosexual. To his side and slightly behind him was a woman demanding to know about his attitude to women.
If cartoons are supposed to raise a laugh this one failed by quite a wide margin but there was nevertheless a certain amount of irony in it, though I suspect that it was unintended. For the woman was dressed in a T-short, her body was pear-shaped and her countenance, framed by a pudding-bowl coiffure of black hair, was that of an angry, belligerent and above all self-righteous termagant.