Browsing the blog archives for May, 2018.

Update on Venezuela


One Sunday, Nicolás Maduro was “reelected” president of Venezuela for a second six-year term. But most Venezuelans who oppose Maduro knew the process was rigged and refused to participate. Legitimate opposition parties were not allowed to field candidates and outside observers were not permitted in polling places. Although the nation has a population of about 32 million, Maduro was credited with only 5.8 million votes.

The current situation in Venezuela can be traced to Marxist Hugo Chávez’ ascendency to power in 1999. The corruption, redistribution, press control and industry nationalizations that followed have crippled the country. Inflation is currently estimated at 13,000% annually and 5000 migrants are fleeing the country daily, most to Columbia. There are hunger and healthcare crises as well. According to one study, the average Venezuelan actually lost 24 pounds in body weight last year. Even so, Maduro continues to blame evil capitalists and the US for the nation’s ills.

You might say that Venezuela’s demise is happening before our eyes, but for most Americans it’s not. CNN, CNBC, and other major media outlets have little or no interest in what’s going on there. Venezuela continues to be the most underreported economic story of the last two decades.

The truth is that Venezuela is an inconvenient truth for a mainstream media afraid to consider the cause. Before Chávez took power, Venezuela was a prosperous nation with the world’s largest proven oil reserves. The list of early Chávez admirers includes the likes of politicians Jesse Jackson and Jeremy Corbyn, Hollywood elites Michael Moore and Sean Penn, and even leftist economists like Joseph Stiglitz. The only rational explanation for the current tragedy is socialism but acknowledging this raises more questions. Bernie Sanders is a self-avowed socialist and Democrats from Obama to Clinton to Warren lean heavily in that direction. If socialism is responsible for the disaster in Venezuela, then why would it possibly work in the US?

As former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher warned, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” There is little left to confiscate in Venezuela and Maduro’s rigged reelection suggests that a peaceful end to the madness in the near future is unlikely. This is disturbing enough. But the lessons from Venezuela should serve as a wake-up call for all Americans. The economics of a welfare state, a “living” minimum wage, single-payer healthcare and free college for everyone don’t add up. If we venture down the same road, we will arrive at the same place.


Real Diversity on Campus


A recent study of faculty at 51 of the nation’s top 60 liberal arts colleges reveals that 39% of employ no Republicans as professors. While many colleges and universities in the US claim to be the foremost defenders of diversity, the concept is foreign in campus life.

The findings reported here are not unusual. To be fair, studies like this often assume political affiliation to reflect worldview or ideology, which is not always or completely accurate. Self-proclaimed political “independents” could be Republicans in hiding, Democrats claiming to be openminded, affiliates of another party (e.g., Libertarians, Socialists, etc.), or genuine middle-of-the-roaders; we don’t know for sure. In addition, ideological balance—or lack thereof—varies across institutions and disciplines. Private colleges and flagship state universities typically lean more sharply to the left, as do professors in the arts and humanities. Of course, a professor’s political ideology does not necessarily translate into the classroom. I know progressives who are inherently fair and balanced.

These caveats aside, this study points to a reality few academics seriously challenge: Most college campuses in the US are ideologically progressive. A lack of genuine intellectual diversity shapes campus discussions in ways that promote certain views and discredit others. Many academic conversations consider only left-leaning views of a given issue. There are many examples, but let’s consider two.

(1) The U.S. Constitution: Two general schools of thought are originalism (it means what it says) and non-originalism (it should be flexible). Most professors seem to accept the latter “living and breathing” position as intuitively obvious and dispute how the Constitution should be stretched or whether it is even useful at all. Originalists are presumed to be ill-informed by default.

(2) Markets and Liberty: The two general views here are capitalism (individuals make their own economic decisions) and socialism (the state determines what is best). Most self-proclaimed advocates of capitalism on campus concede its “obvious flaws” and propose some sort of middle ground between liberty and statism. Like the Constitution, the notion of free markets is simply outdated.

On these and other topics, colleges and universities should welcome internal discourse and external speakers who present and challenge all sides. Speech on campus should be free and students should be taught to respect the ideas of those with whom they disagree. Politically incorrect views should be encouraged, including skepticism about the role of government, the current state of the press, the pros and cons of free enterprise, health care, and much more. A college education can be life-changing if it promotes real diversity and critical thinking. Whatever your point of influence—educator, student, taxpayer, or someone who hires college grads—I encourage you to insist on nothing less. Our future depends on it.