Novak and Weigel Discuss Iraq 2003 and Syria 2013

Two prominent Catholic supporters of military intervention a decade ago outline their stances on intervention, then and now.

Published by Joan Frawely Desmond in  "National Catholic Register" on September 19, 2013

WASHINGTON — When President Obama addressed the nation on Sept. 10 to explain his response to a reported chemical-weapons attack in Syria, he vowed not to repeat the mistakes made by his predecessor, George W. Bush, who has been vilified for approving the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which is still mired in political violence a decade afterwards.

Thus the president defended his new two-track Syria policy — which includes an agreement to place President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons under international control — and a backup plan for a “narrow” military strike to deter future use of chemical weapons as evidence of his prudent style of leadership. His remarks sought to tamp down public skepticism by insisting that the intelligence on Assad’s alleged sarin-gas attack was credible and that a modest mission, with no “boots on the ground,” would keep the U.S. out of another foreign war.

But the influential Catholics who once supported Bush’s policy a decade ago possess a different view of that fateful decision to invade Iraq.

Public intellectuals like George Weigel, who has written extensively on the moral and prudential principles guiding the conduct of war, still defend the broader mission of Bush’s policy in Iraq, while critiquing Obama’s present policy on Syria.


George Weigel

Ask Weigel if he has reconsidered his support for the Iraq invasion, and you will get a “No,” with qualifications.

“No, in the sense that I still think it was necessary to compel regime change in Iraq, and the invasion was the only way to do that,” Weigel told the Register.

“There were obviously a lot of things that could have been done better in securing the peace after the regime fell,” he acknowledged, in a reference to the Bush administration’s inadequate planning for both an ongoing jihadist threat and the costs of rebuilding a battered nation.

“But anyone who thinks that the world or the Middle East would be better in 2013 with Saddam Hussein in power in Baghdad, having re-ramped-up his WMD [weapons of mass destruction], is living in a fantasy world.”

Weigel supported Bush’s plan to disarm Iraq’s alleged stockpile of WMDs and secure a democratic peaceful system of government as worthy ends for military intervention, reflective of Washington’s unique role in world affairs.

“Right intention is a specification of a legitimate public authority's duty to do what is good, which in the case of war does not end with repelling evil but includes the duty to build the peace of tranquillitas ordinis, the peace of a just public order,” Weigel noted in a 2007 essay that celebrated U.S. efforts to secure democracy in Germany, Italy and Japan after the Second World War.

Given his belief that a proper evaluation of proposed military action should begin with the question (Will it “build the peace”?), Weigel was unlikely to be satisfied with the narrow scope of Obama’s policy for Syria.

In a Sept. 13 column posted on National Review Online, Weigel argued that “the refusal to define the appropriate end — a Syria (in whatever form) safe for its people, posing no threat to its neighbors and detached from the evil purposes of both the Iranian regime and various jihadists — has led to the absurd situation in which the goal of U.S. policy has been reduced to the defense of a ‘norm,’” a reference to Obama’s statement that Assad’s unlawful lethal sarin-gas attack had crossed a “red line.”


Michael Novak

Michael Novak, perhaps the most visible Catholic intellectual backing Bush’s policy of pre-emptive war, expressed similar concerns about Obama’s Syria policy, while defending Bush’s past effort to neutralize Hussein’s use of WMDs and effect democratic change in Iraq.

“I thought it would be inexcusable for an American president, knowing what was public knowledge [on Iraq’s WMD program], not to act to some degree,” Novak told the Register.

“I thought then that it was really important to turn the attention of Muslim youth, especially young males, away from destruction and toward using their own talents and building a more humanistic human-rights-supporting version of Islam.”

Turning to Syria, now in its third year of an entrenched civil war, Novak expressed a lack of confidence in Obama’s response to the political violence sparked by the Arab Spring uprisings.

“One hundred thousand people have been killed in Syria, and the rebels are much weakened,” said Novak, who said the president “missed the opportunity” to influence the direction of a popular uprising against the Assad regime.

He also noted Pope Francis’ outspoken opposition to U.S. military intervention in Syria and recalled Pope John Paul II’s passionate call for Washington to set aside its plans for a U.S. invasion of Iraq.

“Different people have different roles. It was the role of Pope John Paul to be against the war, so it would not be turned into a religious war. The same is true today: [The Pope does not want the Syrian civil war] to turn into a Christian-Muslim war.”

In fact, in the weeks before the U.S. launched the Iraq invasion, Novak sought to influence the Holy See’s view of U.S. policy, traveling as a private citizen to the Vatican to give a public address at the invitation of the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Jim Nicholson.

In his Vatican address, Novak suggested that the post-9/11 world of “asymmetrical warfare” — the capacity of a terrorist group or a rogue nation to inflict grave harm on a more powerful enemy like the U.S. — required a flexible approach to the application of just-war criteria, a moral framework for evaluating the purpose and conduct of war.


Unfulfilled Objectives

In the years following the invasion, Catholics who once supported that decision have been candid about the failure of the Bush administration to fulfill the “noble” promise of regime change.

“Accelerating the transition to responsible and responsive government in the Arab Islamic world was the grand strategic idea that impelled the United States” to intervene in Iraq, Weigel wrote in a 2007 article in First Things.

“The implementation of that idea has been, in many respects, a failure thus far; but the idea itself was a noble one.”

In Weigel’s view, that mission was at least in keeping with the United States’ legacy as a defender of freedom across the globe, while Obama's sharply limited goal was unworthy of the nation's historic role.

At present, his opposition to Obama’s policy has prompted some of the president’s allies to raise questions about the motives of Catholic public intellectuals who backed Bush’s mission to take control of Hussein's reported WMDs but won’t lend their support to a plan designed to stop Assad’s alleged use of WMDs.

“The situation in Syria is not a potential threat to innocents, as was the case with Hussein in 2003. It is ongoing slaughter taking place before the eyes of the world,” said Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America.

“Despite that slaughter, very few prominent Catholic conservatives support the Obama administration’s request for authorization to intervene,” Schneck, who is a former board member of Democrats for Life of America, told the Register.

“I’d like to think that’s because they have learned from Iraq about appropriate application of the Church’s just-war teachings. It would be sad if their interpretations merely changed with the occupancy of the Oval Office.”

The debate on Capitol Hill and among Catholic scholars will likely continue for many weeks and months to come. For the moment, as Washington awaits the outcome of the agreement to place Syria’s WMDs under international control, Weigel has suggested that lawmakers launch “a root-and-branch reconsideration of Syria policy, as to both ends and means.”

And while opinion polls have discouraged Congress from authorizing any military action that could embroil the U.S. in a widening regional conflict, Weigel believes that the nation cannot afford to retreat from the challenges that loom beyond its borders. Lawmakers, he said, must “remind the American people of some hard home truths: that isolationism … is both strategically dangerous and morally unworthy; that a great power cannot lead from behind.”


Joan Frawley Desmond is the Register’s senior editor.

Copyright © 2013 EWTN News, Inc. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review of Writing from Left to Right

The political and economic education of a remarkably accomplished man. Best known as a philosopher and theologian, Novak has also been a seminarian, professor, journalist, author, ambassador, speechwriter and all-round political handyman. Now 79 and retired from the American Enterprise Institute, he revisits each of the stages in his crowded and interesting life. On behalf of an obscure congressional candidate, Novak (All Nature is a Sacramental Fire: Moments of Beauty, Sorrow, and Joy, 2011, etc.) coined “the New Frontier,” a phrase famously adopted by John F. Kennedy. As a reporter, he covered the Second Vatican Council. He organized for Gene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy, studied philosophy at Harvard, taught religion at Stanford, acted as a dean for an experimental college, campaigned for McGovern, worked hard for and came to love Sargent Shriver, and attempted to counsel Carter. This same man learned new economic lessons from Jack Kemp and Steve Forbes and worked closely with Jeane Kirkpatrick. On behalf of Ronald Reagan, Novak represented the country at Geneva and Bern, became friendly with Margaret Thatcher (an enthusiastic fan of his books) and shared dinners with John Paul II. Charting his slow drift from left to right, Novak explains how he came to see the guiding passions of his life—fighting poverty, advocating for human rights—as better served by an enlightened capitalism and by democratic politics that restrained the well-intentioned but too often disastrously heavy hand of the state. His conversion cost him some old friends on the left, but it seems impossible to ascribe these ruptures to Novak. Throughout this warm, chatty memoir, he comes across as the ultimate happy warrior, a thoroughly decent man interested only in truth, looking for the best in people and acknowledging it without regard to political affiliation.

A rare thing from a public intellectual: a guileless, bileless apologia.

Read at

Ave Maria Herald Article on "Writing from Left to Right"

Michael Novak's Political Journey from Left to Right

Published in The Ave Herald on Thursday, 29 August 2013


Many who came to know Michael Novak relatively recently during his time in Ave Maria may have trouble imagining him as a radical left-wing socialist in the 1960s. But his reasoned approach to conservative philosophy and economics is the result of a political journey that started when he was "to the left of the Democratic Party." He worked hard to get left-wing Democrats elected in the 1960s and early 1970s. By the 1980s, he was working for Ronald Reagan and being hailed by conservative icons such as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Mr. Novak, who turns 80 years old Sept. 9, describes this political transformation in his latest book Writing from Left to Right, available right after Labor Day.

He's already written more than 45 books, and few men of letters in the United States have written so much, on such Ave review pic1varied topics, as Mr. Novak. His works have been praised by politicians, philosophers and religious leaders – and Sports Illustrated magazine also hailed his Joy of Sports as one of the 100 best sports books of all time.

Seemingly disparate topics, but not to him.

"The connection is this," Mr. Novak said in an interview, "My dream was to write about the philosophy, the theology of American culture -- and not because it was American, but because there was something different here and unique. It belonged to the whole human race, but we were pioneering it."

Mr. Novak entered academic life in the early 1960s after 12 years preparing for the Roman Catholic priesthood – leaving the seminary just months before his scheduled ordination. Right, Margaret Thatcher listnes to Michael Novak after he received the Templeton Prize for Religion in 1994.

He drifted to the more radical political left in the 1960s, teaching at Stanford University, where he was voted two out of three years "the most influential professor." He came to Bobby Kennedy's attention during his 1968 run for the presidency, and worked on the campaign.

"I loved working for the Kennedys," he said, "even though I didn't appreciate at the time the Kennedys' personal life. No one said anything in those days. Not even close up."

The day of the California primary in 1968, he recalled, "Bobby called me and asked me to join him on the plane down to Los Angeles for the returns," but he couldn't go because he had a new baby at home. "I presume I would have been walking with him into the hotel" where he was assassinated, Mr. Novak said.

He left Stanford for a new Experimental College of the State University of New York on Long Island. It was there, among "some real whacko students and some real whacko faculty" that his political right turn began.

"I was radical, but they were destructive," he said.

Change was driven in party when he started to see the results of various left-wing initiatives.

"I supported very strongly the War on Poverty," he said, "and then it just went belly up. Crime went up 600 percent. Marriages fell apart at unprecedented rates. Marriages didn't even form. And I thought, 'This is crazy I can't keep supporting that.' So I became more conservative."

His Catholic faith has remained constant throughout his political journey, although he says that Church leaders don't seem to grasp fundamentals of how people can overcome poverty.

"It just seemed to me that the 'preferential option for the poor' was just a disguised way of saying more government funds to give to the poor and keep them dependent. Keep them like on a plantation. Keep them like Animal Farm."

Ave review pic 2His admirers included Lady Thatcher and Pope John Paul II.

"One of the great blessings of my life was the friendship with John Paul II. He called me publicly, several times, his friend, and I had an open invitation to come by for a meal if he was free."

Although Mr. Novak had served for years on the Ave Maria University board of trustees, he didn't spend a great deal of time in Ave Maria until 2010.

"After my dear wife Karen died in August of 2009 . . . I began to realize I wanted to sell the house in Washington. I started sending my books to AMU. Then [former AMU President] Nick Healy said to me, 'Michael, your books are here. Why don't you come down?'"

"I really have loved it," he said. "I have enough strength to do a course a semester and the university provides somebody to team with and teach it with me which makes it a lot easier."

"As long as I live and as long as I have energy, I'll be coming back to Ave Maria."



Writing from Left to Right is available on


A Humble and Rousing Shakespeare at Ave Maria University

Published by Michael Novak in the Gyrene Gazette on June 11, 2013 Shakesspeare at AVeIt is too bad the people of Naples were not able to see the humblest (yet stunning) production of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING staged in this area for some time. That was not Naples’ fault. It was the disadvantage of Ave Maria’s very recent founding.

Ave Maria University has no Theater Arts Building.  No stage. No drama department. Its production of MUCH ADO was performed for three weekends in April in a large classroom, its seating arranged in a pattern not unlike that of the Blackfriars Theater in Shakespeare’s time. The audience was close up, surrounding the play, part of the play.

This humble setting did not prevent the amazingly talented and energetic cast from presenting a belly-laughing, silence-inducing, and often unforgettably taut three hours of theater. Seldom has a crowd left a Shakespeare theater so exhilarated. (I speak as a veteran lover of some 200-plus performances, in London, New York, and Washington). Many viewers were still speaking of it days afterwards.

The young cast was tutored this semester in a special class by the professionally experienced Shakespeare director, Professor Travis Curtright ( Despite their youth, the cast gave precise attention to every detail, even their timing for breaths. Not despite but because of much repetition and care in advance, the whole cast were free by second natured to be their spontaneous selves

To be sure, one advantage twenty-somethings have over older professionals is that they are playing characters their own age, with the distinctively tender and fragile feelings, high excitements and crushing blows of that gloriously vulnerable time of life.

 Some of the troupe played modern songs before the show and during intermission. They picked songs they found related to Much Ado.

VANESSA TOMPKINS – keep that name alive in your memory. One day soon, expect to see her in local, regional, then national opera (since childhood, opera has been her first love) or musical comedy (hear her sing “My Fair Lady”)   – or in an effortlessly romantic role on stage.

Earlier this year, Frank D’Ambrosio, who sang “the Phantom” in The Phantom of the Opera some two thousand times on Broadway, agreed to come back for a second year as main attraction of an Ave fund raiser because, he said, “I will have another chance to sing with Vanessa.”  And so he did, brilliantly. Many who had never heard Vanessa sing, said she more than hold her own, even slightly bested the wonderful D’Ambrosio as the richer talent of the two.

Vanessa’s special talent as an actress is that at each moment, the whole intensity of every scene comes slowly to her face. As Beatrice, she evinces the most painful grief at the “dying” of her dear, dear cousin Hero, who falls helpless under an utterly false accusation against her chastity. Then shortly thereafter, Beatrice lets  escape the most marvelously radiant love for Benedick, who had until then been her despised partner in brutal, disdainful banter. She immediately covers it over, and resumes her barbs. At the end, she leaps with unsuppressed joy into his arms.

It is wrong to single out Vanessa, for no heroine in theater can ever shine unless the whole cast around her lend their own depth of color and tiniest detail. I doubt if there has ever been a Dogberry, commander of the night watch, of so many sinewy bodily movements, innocently hilarious pronouncements, and laughter-producing moments as Peter Atkinson  (veteran of theater since his boyhood). Just to see him plunge his hands into his belt, palms outward, and walk with the oddest walk the stage ever saw made the audience laugh — even before his delightfully abundant malapropisms broke his lips.

Peter’s older brother Charles played in deliciously drawn-out voice, slinky movements, and bounding glee in evil done, the most villainous villain, Don John. The warrior with words – and pursuer of Beatrice– Benedick displayed an astonishingly humorous sense of male ego, conceit, and pleasure in his own prowess in all respects. The most noble nobleman Leonato, shattered father to Hero and uncle to Beatrice, played a role so fatherly, tender, and manly as to comfort the soul that something is right in the human world. At the monument for the ‘dead’ Hero, his sad voice also sang beautifully. And his wife Innogen’s taunt to the slanderer of her daughter, “Come here, boy-yy! I will whip-p you, boy-yy!” was exquisitely uttered.

And what shall be said about the wronged Hero (Sophie Pakaluk), whose maidenly face and girlish joy, as the play opens, turns soon into the most radiant face of love for her passionately appreciative fiancé, Count Claudio, returned as a young hero from the recent war. Before long, however, that haunting and innocent face turns ashen, utterly done-in. For at the very moment when the two lovers kneel at the altar for their betrothal, the self-misled Claudio lashes her with hideously false allegations.

Not often does one see the sheer radiance of a soul so innocent of mind and heart left defenseless and scorned even by her own father. Hero’s inwardly driven collapse into unconsciousness is one of the most gracefully executed faints I ever saw performed.

Shakesspeare at AVe2Then, too, one dare not overlook the superabundance of talent at Ave Maria, especially among the young women.  So rich is the female talent that a full second cast of the lead parts for women took its turn over the three weeks of performances. Each one of the second cast kept the joy of the play alive when her chance came, particularly Leslie Nagel, who played an entirely different Beatrice, to great and moving effect.

 Leslie Nagel plays Beatrice’s sharp tongue well in the Masquerade scene.

On this stage, no one lets the team down.  Prince Pedro has the quiet dignity, good humor and valor one expects in a Prince, taken in as he is by a deceitful pantomime. He thought he was seeing Hero with a lover at her window the night before the wedding. Later, the brave confession of full responsibility for that deceit by the servant who for a mere thousand ducats betrayed fair Hero to her death, brings a breath of nobility to his character. Moreover, just at the moment when all seemed bleakest, the good Friar by his quiet wisdom, peaceful manner, and clever reasoning set in motion the total vindication of Hero.

It was an evening to remember for a long time, a down-to-earth, unpretentious Shakespeare that seemed just as it must have seemed four hundred years ago at Blackfriars priory. It spared its audience hardly a moment without laughter, then black sorrow, and a joyously rousing conclusion.

It makes one cry that the whole city of Naples could not see this performance (although some local high schoolers did get a chance one evening, and may have been the best and most responsive audience of all).

Ave badly needs a theater worthy of its talent and joy.

Matthew Franck: Kermit Gosnell and the Logic of "Pro-Choice"

Writing in the Witherspoon Institute’s online publication the Public Discourse, Matthew J. Franck, the Institute’s Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution argues that to be "pro-choice" forbids surprise at abortionists like Kermit Gosnell, who merely carry out pro-choice logic to its grotesque end.

Kermit Gosnell and the Logic of "Pro-Choice" Published by Matthew J. Franck in “Public Discourse” on May 14th, 2013

Kermit Gosnell has been the equivalent of the American slave-dealer—someone who has done work rendered absolutely necessary by the twisted laws of his regime, but who has nevertheless been ignored or regarded with unease, and even repulsion, by his fellow citizens.

In his famous speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, given in Peoria, Illinois in the fall of 1854—the speech that relaunched his moribund political career by attacking the opening of new western territories to the spread of slavery—Abraham Lincoln addressed part of his argument to his southern fellow citizens. He was convinced that their own social customs gave evidence of a moral principle against slavery half asleep in their souls:

[Y]ou have amongst you, a sneaking individual, of the class of native tyrants, known as the “slave-dealer.” He watches your necessities, and crawls up to buy your slave, at a speculating price. If you cannot help it, you sell to him; but if you can help it, you drive him from your door. You despise him utterly. You do not recognize him as a friend, or even as an honest man. Your children must not play with his; they may rollick freely with the little negroes, but not with the slave-dealer's children. If you are obliged to deal with him, you try to get through the job without so much as touching him. It is common with you to join hands with the men you meet; but with the slave-dealer you avoid the ceremony—instinctively shrinking from the snaky contact. If he grows rich and retires from business, you still remember him, and still keep up the ban of non-intercourse upon him and his family. Now why is this? You do not so treat the man who deals in corn, cattle or tobacco.

Of course, if the right to own and traffic in slaves was protected by the Constitution—as the Supreme Court was to assert in 1857—then the slave-dealer was doing absolutely necessary work. But Lincoln was right: Decent people instinctively recoiled from contact with someone whose business was the despoliation of others’ human dignity.

Who but the abortionist is the slave-dealer today? On whom does the traffic in abortions entirely depend? Who else gives practical effect to the “right to choose” an abortion proclaimed in Roe v. Wade?

But our own social customs are not so different from what Lincoln saw in the antebellum South. We “shrink from the snaky contact” with the abortion provider, and even people who call themselves “pro-choice” avert their eyes from the grisly reality of what it means, in practice, to exercise the “right to choose.”

Barack Obama, on April 26, was the first sitting president of the United States to give a public address to a convention of the slave-dealers of our age. That morning he gave a twelve-minute speech to the annual conference of Planned Parenthood, an organization responsible for more abortions than any other provider in the country.

Evidently he is not afraid to come into contact with our own “class of native tyrants,” who carry on the despicable business of destroying hundreds of thousands of human lives each year, and have the audacity to say they are serving “women’s health.” But then this is, after all, the same politician who voted against an Illinois law to protect the lives of newborns who survived failed abortions.

There is a limit even to Obama’s audacity, though. The president mentioned the “right to choose” four times in his brief speech, but somehow this transitive verb never took an object. Choose what? He never uttered the word “abortion,” though it was plain that the entire speech was about the centrality of abortion to the president’s notion of women’s “health.” Is there any other constitutional right, real or invented, that does not go by its true name when its defenders speak of it?

And far be it from the president to utter the name of Kermit Gosnell, the abortionist now convicted of three counts of first-degree murder for “snipping” the necks of babies who survived their abortions, as well as manslaughter in the case of a pregnant woman who did not survive his ministrations.

Gosnell, whose clinic was shut down by the Philadelphia authorities who charged him with murder, is the ne plus ultra of the abortion trade. Not because of the filth, the squalor, the jars of amputated keepsake baby feet, the employment of unlicensed incompetents, the promiscuous use of narcotics on unwitting patients, or the poisonous racism of a physician who preyed upon women and babies of his own race—although all of these are no surprise at all in America’s most unregulated branch of medicine.

No, Gosnell is the “slave-dealer” par excellence because, even if he had run the cleanest, brightest, most professional clinic in the country, he was simply following out the remorseless logic of the abortion regime installed forty years ago by the Supreme Court.

Women came to him for the very latest of late-term abortions, and he made sure their children were dead. Whether he accomplished their deaths in uteroor ex utero—before or after their births—didn’t really matter to Gosnell. And, as we have heard from Planned Parenthood officials, from then-Illinois state senator Barack Obama, and from “pro-choice” politicians like Senator Barbara Boxer, it doesn’t matter to them, either.

Their insouciance about infanticide, moreover, is given intellectual respectability when a leading academic publication like the Journal of Medical Ethics publishes a symposium on infanticide in which the majority of the contributing scholars cannot bring themselves to condemn it.

And there is something inexorably logical about this attitude. How can it really matter where an innocent human being’s life is deliberately snuffed out? If it’s a legally protected “baby” after birth at 24 weeks’ gestation, but only an unprotected “fetus” before birth at 25 weeks’ gestation, how does that make any sense? Yet this is the kind of gyration the law produces, just as it was shot through with contradictions and inanities under the regime that sanctioned slavery.

It mattered a great deal whether Gosnell’s tiny victims were born dead or alive to his defense counsel, attorney Jack McMahon, for it meant the difference between capital crimes and the facilitation of women’s “constitutional rights.” McMahon mounted no affirmative case for his client, calling no witnesses and entering no evidence into the record. Instead he counted on pure argumentative obfuscation to induce the jurors to acquit.

Of the seven first-degree murder charges on behalf of the babies whose spinal cords were severed in Gosnell’s clinic, three were thrown out by the trial judge at the conclusion of the prosecution’s case, apparently on grounds urged by the defense that babies seen to breathe or to move “just once” after delivery could have been dead before the scissors were applied to their necks. McMahon seemed to be soliciting a similar conclusion from jurors in the remaining four cases, and perhaps they reached it in one of them. But in three cases, they could not deny that living human beings emerged from their mothers’ wombs and were killed by Gosnell, and so they convicted him of murder.

The defense counsel urged jurors to avert their eyes from Gosnell’s filthy practice and his profiting on others’ misery, instead seeing the doctor as supplying an essential service: “He provided those desperate young girls with relief. He gave them a solution to their problems,” McMahon said in closing arguments. Just like the slave-dealer, the abortionist “watches your necessities” and profits from them.

And like the slave-dealer, the abortionist is someone whose acquaintance we don’t want to make. This is more true of abortion’s defenders than of its opponents. For the defenders, the truth about the men and women who make this judicially-protected commerce possible is not something they want to know, much less to tell others about. This accounts for the dearth of media coverage during most of the Gosnell trial, which improved only slightly after the persistent criticisms of journalists Mollie Hemingway and Kirsten Powers.

When Gosnell passes from the scene, the liberal media blackout will resume. This is why it is incumbent on legislators, state and federal, to inform themselves and the public to the best of their ability.

We have been here before, of course, in some of our legislatures. The most under-reported aspect of the Gosnell case is that he was charged with more than twenty counts of illegal abortion under Pennsylvania law, merely by virtue of having aborted unborn children at 24 or more weeks’ gestational age. This law, passed by the state legislature in the late 1980s under Governor Robert Casey, Sr., was an effort to put the Kermit Gosnells of the abortion industry—the worst of the worst of the slave-dealers—out of business.

The Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act provides that unless a physician can establish that he “reasonably believes” an unborn child is younger than 24 weeks, or, if the child is older, he can establish that continuing the pregnancy will result in either the death of the mother or “the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function,” the physician cannot perform a late-term abortion.

If he knowingly commits a post-24 weeks abortion, based on such stringent life and health criteria, the doctor must certify his judgment about the threat in writing; acquire the concurrence of a second doctor in that judgment based on a “separate personal medical examination” of the woman; perform the abortion in a hospital; employ procedures designed to maximize the unborn child’s chances to survive; and have a second physician present, ready to consider any surviving child his primary patient.

The purpose of this Pennsylvania statute is, in substance, identical to that of the federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA), and state laws similar to the latter. Whereas BAIPA protects the right to life of the child who survives an abortion, the Pennsylvania act protects the child who couldsurvive an abortion, making it criminal in most cases to abort the child and, where an abortion is permissible within narrow limits, requiring doctors to treat the child as a second patient who should be brought into the world alive and unharmed if possible.

Gosnell did not conform his actions to any of these regulatory strictures. Still, the Pennsylvania authorities failed to enforce the law to the point of malign neglect—which is why Gosnell continued to prosper after its passage, until he came to the Philadelphia district attorney’s attention in a way that couldn’t be ignored, following a Drug Enforcement Agency raid on his clinic for reasons unrelated to abortion. He has now been convicted on 21 counts of illegal late-term abortions.

As the jury heads into the next phase of the trial—for the DA has indicated an intention to go for the death penalty on the first-degree murder charges—we can already see the inevitable appeals taking shape. Pennsylvania’s near-total ban on late-term abortions, after all, flies in the face of the forty-year-old precedents of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. The Roe decision said that states could prohibit post-viability abortions, with exceptions for the sake of a pregnant woman’s “life or health,” and the companion case of Doe said that “health” could be defined as “physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age.”

Thus the “health exception” swallowed up the apparent ruling that states could ban late-term abortions, with the predictable result that abortionists could guarantee any pregnant woman the death of her child—if they could accomplish its death before it was born. Gosnell was evidently not skilled enough for this, and so he made the guarantee good by infanticide instead. Under the Roe and Doe precedents, Gosnell’s convictions in the 21 cases of late-term abortion could be overturned on appeal—unless the Supreme Court is willing to reconsider the moral failure for which it has been responsible.

But assume for a moment that those late-term abortion convictions are overturned. Why should he not win the same result in the three murder cases? We have it from some of the world’s leading medical ethicists, after all, that “after-birth abortion” is as permissible as “pre-birth abortion.”

In statements issued immediately after the Gosnell verdict, the slave-dealers’ lobby—Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America—reacted as though the real problem with Gosnell is that he preyed on women and endangered their health. To be sure, he did just that. But Gosnell victimized these women as the logical extension of these groups’ moral reasoning and public policy goals, which they have advocated for decades. They have devoted themselves to teaching American women that their unborn children simply don’t count in any moral calculus, and horrors like Gosnell’s clinic are the fruit of their diligent work.

There is no alchemy, no magic spell that can tell us how to distinguish, in terms of their moral claim on us, between the children aborted in Gosnell’s Philadelphia abattoir and the ones who were delivered and then killed. In certain respects, Kermit Gosnell has a right to be the most surprised man in America right now. We, on the other hand, who have not wanted to notice the slave-dealers in our midst, have no such excuse.




Chafuen: The Sad Decline Of The Word "Capitalism"


The Sad Decline Of The Word "Capitalism"

Published by Alejandro Chafuen in Forbes on May 1, 2013.


Late last week in Orlando, a passionate champion of economic freedom, Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fl.) said, “Capitalism has turned into a dirty word” to a gathering of 500 pro-capitalist think tank operatives during the closing speech of the 36th Resource Bank. The conclave is one of the two largest annual events for U.S. market-oriented think tanks; the other being organized by State Policy Network. 

If “capitalism” is viewed as a dirty word, should think tanks “clean it up” or abandon it? Like other Americans who were not born in the United States, I still mourn the loss of the word “liberal.” In most of the world the word means nearly the opposite of what it means here. I doubt that the word capitalism will be “stolen” but should we mind if it gets lost? During my college years I was more than satisfied with the arguments in favor of capitalism provided in “Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal” by Ayn Rand, and Ludwig von Mises’ The Anti-Capitalist Mentality. In his great treatise, Human Action, Mises recognized that “the system of free enterprise has been dubbed capitalism in order to deprecate and to smear it.” He chose nevertheless to keep the word and redeem it. 

Although Karl Marx did not create the word, it was after his work “Das Kapital” (1867) when the term “capitalism” began to be widely used to describe an economic system based on private property as the means of production. Marx remains the great labeler: “capital,” “the capitalist” and “the capitalist system of production” appear repeatedly in his writings.

 Ludwig von Mises was never shy about engaging in intellectual battles with the other side on their turf and with their choice of words. He wrote that the concept of capitalism “if it means anything, it means the market economy” and that modern capitalism is “essentially mass production for the needs of the masses.” Audiences view terms such as “a system of free enterprise,” the “market economy,” and “mass production for the needs of the masses,” much more favorably than “capitalism.”

 In other regions of the world, the word also has its problems. When Hernando de Soto, founder and leader of the Instituto Libertad y Democracia in Peru, was doing his field work, he asked small businessmen and street vendors if they were capitalists. Their answer was “No! Capitalists are those up there” (“los que están arriba”), which means those who are above or control “the law.” This is similar to today’s term “crony capitalism.”

 Scholars from think tanks and the academy made important contributions to refocus the definition of the word and move it beyond the material aspects of economics. Israel Kirzner finds that discovery, or the unforeseen way to create wealth, is the essence of capitalism. The American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Novak finds that the human mind is the treasure and foundation of capitalism. He makes an effort to use as root the Latin word caput, or head. Discovery, innovation, creativity are the essence of capitalism while the private ownership of the means of production provides its environment but not its ends. “The distinctive, defining difference of the capitalist economy is enterprise: the habit of employing human wit to invent new goods and services, and to discover new and better ways to bring them to the broadest possible public,” says Novak.

 Unfortunately, Kirzner and Novak are in the minority. Until their arguments crowd out the others, more allies of freedom will avoid the term. Going back to the Heritage Resource Bank meeting, only one person from almost 500 represented an organization which uses “capitalism” in its name: “Enlightened Capitalism.” Intellectuals seem obliged to use adjectives: “state capitalism” and “crony capitalism” for the bad; “conscious” or “democratic” for the good. The great investor, Sir John Templeton, decades ago began using the term “people’s capitalism” for a system which allows and encourages wide dissemination of property and wealth. That also has power. His son, Dr. Jack Templeton, correctly points out that capitalism was seldom used during the era of the ascendancy of free enterprise ideas from the Founding Fathers through the beginning of the 20th century.

 Not everyone is giving up. One example is Fred L. Smith, chairman and founder of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who has launched the Center for Advancing Capitalism. One of his goals is to mobilize businessmen to promote capitalism. For Smith, there’s no need for adjectives – only a capitalism constrained by rule of law and limited government deserves that name. On a similar crusade internationally, the former Czech Republic president, Vaclav Klaus, believes that giving up on the word capitalism is tantamount to surrendering to the enemy. Like Klaus, I am not fond of giving up on battles and although I seldom use the word, I still like the concept of “capitalism” to describe some aspects of the economic system. I sometimes even wear a tie that Steve Forbes gave me with the inscription “capitalist tool.” 

Should we care if we lose the term capitalism? Assessing its popularity, or lack thereof, I recently reviewed the mission of 25 leading market oriented think tanks around the globe. I could not find a single one using the term. “Free enterprise,” “free-markets” “free-economy” and better yet “free society” will continue to crowd out “capitalism,” if not as a system, at least as a word.

 Read full article at Forbes. 


Anticipating ObamaCare

 Michael Novak Anticipated ObamaCare Thirty Years Ago

Published by Greg Scandlen on April 12, 2013 Health Policy Blog, National Center for Policy Analysis

In his landmark 1982 book, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, Michael Novak identified why socialism was failing and capitalism was prevailing. This was before the policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher had really begun to have an impact on their economies and well before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He noted that even dedicated Marxists had already begun to reinvent themselves in anticipation of the crushing change of fortunes. They were moving on to what they called democratic socialism, but Novak saw that as a contradiction in terms. You cannot have democracy without individual (not collective) rights, including the right of property, yet socialists continued to insist on collective ownership, or at least control over all property.

Novak cites a 1974 conference held in England to redefine what socialism means. One of the conference organizers, Stuart Hampshire said −

To me socialism is not so much a theory as a set of moral injunctions, which seem to me clearly right and rationally justifiable: first, that the elimination of poverty ought to be the first priority of government after defense; secondly, that as great inequalities in wealth between different social groups lead to inequalities in power and in freedom of action, they are generally unjust and need to be redressed by governmental action; thirdly, that democratically elected governments ought to ensure that primary and basic human needs are given priority within the economic system, even if this involves some loss in the aggregate of goods and services which would otherwise be available.

So, socialists had come to believe –

  1. That the reduction of poverty is government’s highest priority after defense.
  2. That wealth inequality must be remedied by the government.
  3. That ensuring basic needs for all is more important than economic growth.

Interestingly, this is precisely what President Obama and most of the American left believes as well. They may have abandoned the socialist label, but are still advocating the socialist agenda — as defined by socialists themselves.

Novak notes that socialists had retreated from both theory and program into the “safer ground of moral ideals.” Why? Because their theories and their programs have failed and continue to fail every time they are tried. It is easier, and a whole lot more fun, to talk about solving problems than to actually solve them.

We see this all the time in health care. People lay out what insurance companies should be doing. I usually wonder, if they are so certain of this, why don’t they start an insurance company? It could be just exactly what they think should be happening. But, no, they don’t want to actually do it, they just want to tell other people what to do. The same applies to physicians, drug companies, hospitals, and every other aspect of the health care system.

Shortly after ObamaCare was enacted a bunch of economists wrote essays for an annual journal, The Economists Voice, edited by Joseph Stiglitz and Aaron Edlin. A description of one of the essays went like this –

Now that we have covered the uninsured, it is time for us to put the priority on health, not health insurance, according to Darius Lakdawalla and Dana Goldman, both of the University of Southern California. The authors argue that benefits to population health are likely to be limited under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Never mind that none of the uninsured was in fact covered. All that had happened was a piece of paper was written and passed into law by Congress. But why worry about actually doing what was promised? It is enough to simply make the promise.

We see this throughout ObamaCare. It is easy enough for the planners to tell others what to do. Insurance companies are required cover adult “children” to age 26, pay for preventive care with no cost sharing, and so on, and they do it.

But everything — everything — the federal government itself was supposed to do has failed –

  • The CLASS Act could not be implemented and has been shelved.
  • Federal risk pools have already run out of money even though they enrolled a fraction of the people expected.
  • The subsidies for retiree health benefits ran out of money in about one-third of the time expected.
  • The SHOP program for small business exchanges has been delayed for a year and will probably never actually happen.
  • The rest of the exchanges are nearly invisible even though they are supposed to begin enrolling people in a mere six months.
  • The tax credits for small employers were so complicated that almost no one received them.
  • The insurance “CO-OPs” have been scrapped.

Michael Novak reflects on what turned him away from his early enchantment with socialism –

In the days when I thought socialism represented a moral ideal, socialism required of me no special moral heroism. I did not intend to become an economic activist. I had great ambitions, but not as an entrepreneur, business executive, inventor, or other economic agent. While I attributed high moral idealism to socialism, those who would bear the chief costs of my views were, above all, the wealthy and the economically active. Socialism took no skin off my nose. Moreover, if socialism did not actually work as predicted, the poor and the workers would pay a higher price for economic stagnation than I would. It was a moral position that levied no costs.

ObamaCare is simply the latest example of how regular folks suffer while the planners and the bureaucrats prosper. Washington D.C. is booming while small businesses, employees, and practicing physicians all pay the price for their fantasies.