Charles Brings Out the (Kraut)hammer

Charles Krauthammer continues to make the most forceful case against the Obama administration.  Look at what he writes on “Obama’s Campaign for Class Resentment“:

Yes, growing inequality is a problem throughout the Western world. But Obama’s pretense that it is the root cause of this sick economy is ridiculous.

As is his solution, that old perennial: selective abolition of the Bush tax cuts. As if all that ails us, all that keeps the economy from humming and the middle class from advancing, is a 4.6-point hike in marginal tax rates for the rich.

This, in a country $15 trillion in debt with out-of-control entitlements systematically starving every other national need. This obsession with a sock-it-to-the-rich tax hike that, at most, would have reduced this year’s deficit from $1.30 trillion to $1.22 trillion is the classic reflex of reactionary liberalism — anything to avoid addressing the underlying structural problems, which would require modernizing the totemic programs of the New Deal and Great Society.

Krauthammer points to three Obama initiatives that have worsened our circumstances:

A massive stimulus, a gigantic payoff to Democratic interest groups (such as teachers and public-sector unions) that will add nearly $1 trillion to the national debt.

A sweeping federally run reorganization of health care that (a) cost Congress a year, (b) created an entirely new entitlement in a nation hemorrhaging from unsustainable entitlements, (c) introduced new levels of uncertainty into an already stagnant economy.High-handed regulation, best exemplified by Obama’s failed cap-and-trade legislation, promptly followed by an EPA trying to impose the same conventional-energy-killing agenda by administrative means.

Moreover, on the one issue that already enjoys a bipartisan consensus — the need for fundamental reform of a corrosive, corrupted tax code that misdirects capital and promotes unfairness — Obama did nothing, ignoring the recommendations of several bipartisan commissions, including his own.

Read the whole thing.  Since I am a Christian, I tend to look first to what I and the group to which I belong can do to solve the problem.  So I wonder whether Christians might lead the way in making the moral and theological case for refashioning our national entitlements.  When the entitlement system is expanding at a gargantuan rate, and sets the nation on a course to financial ruin, the ethical obligation is to reform the entitlement system in a way that protects those who truly cannot provide for themselves while also placing the country on the road to financial health.  If Christians wants to make sure that both of those things are accomplished — that the least of these are provided for in the short term, and protected in the long term from suffering the brunt of our nation’s financial collapse — then perhaps they (we) need to articulate the moral case and wade into the debate with creative ideas.

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  • Matt

    This is nonsense and is nothing more than Krauthammer’s typical bile.

    1. The Bush tax cuts continue to be one of, if not the single greatest, factors in creating our current deficit. To deny this is to deny reality.

    2. The stimulus saved anywhere from 1.5 to 2 million jobs. And, I was unaware that teachers were a “Democratic interest group”. I thought they were people doing a difficult and important job.

    3. The Obamacare stuff is just nonsense. Not really worth addressing.

    4. So is the blather about regulations.

    The trouble in the US is not entitlements. The greatest problem is the cost of healthcare which Medicare and Medicaid cannot match.

    Why, as a Christian, are you more interested in entitlement programs (which is really an inaccurate and prejudicial term) and not, say, defense spending?

    And income inequality is a huge problem. When you have a society where the 6 Walton heirs together control more money than a third of the population you are not really looking at a sustainable model.

    • DLS

      1. This is not correct, nor is it supported by any evidence. Regardless, since Obama has extended them, aren’t they the “Obama tax cuts” now?

      2. Teachers unions are absolutely a Democratic interest group.

      Income inequality is not a problem, and envy of others’ wealth is not Christian.

  • Larry

    That’s an awfully tough and large nut Timothy. The welfare state isn’t a product of poverty as much as it is one of government invention coupled with the problems of the human condition.

    The safety net became a hammock … now an entire culture and a myriad of subcultures have been spawned. Worse, many of the social pathologies cultured there have lept from the petri dish into the mainstream of American culture.

    The sort of cultural renaissance we require is born of spiritual renewal within the Church and a spiritual awakening without.

    Whatever solutions we offer had best be patterned after biblical models (reflective of unbounded compassion, prudent restraint and a nurturing community whose combined goal is to unleash potential and nurture independence) rather than the broken down model now on display.

    • Brad

      So true on so many levels. Thank you. All the attendant pathologies of single parent families (ie homes where Dad left or was never present to begin with) are manifesting themselves in society at large and not merely in an isolated strata of it.

  • Jason

    I prefer to get my economics from someone who has a degree in economics, such as Paul krugman, instead of from someone whose training is in clinical psychiatry (krauth)

    • Larry

      Paul Krugman has long since proven himself incapable of providing sound economic commentary. He has long been a champion of the failed policies whose effects we are currently enduring.

      Krauthammer brings to bear upon the subject the same scholarly discipline which made possible his Phd. Krugman continues to display to the same devotion to failed ideologies and intellectual myopia for which the Left has become renown.

      Worse Krugman and his peers in Washington continue to offer their blind (religous?) devotion to these damning policies despite the deep and widespread suffering they cause.

      Marxist “intellectuals” and leaders seem to have that in common … a sadistic fidelity to the zealous application of their “genius” no matter how desperately or how long it fails or how many it hurts.

      Nor do they tire of the lies and myths that populate their absurd narratives (see Matt’s comment above for a sampling) with which they seek to shed blame for their failures.

    • DLS

      Thomas Sowell has a degree in economics.

  • Jason

    Krugman won the Nobel prize in economics. Krauthammer doesn’t have a ph.d. he has a m.d. and spent most of his career taking care of mentally I’ll patients. Thinking krauth has a more sophisticated view of economics than krugman is like thinking ken ham is a more reliable scientist than Francis Collins.

    • Larry

      The Nobel Prize “ain’t” what it used to be … it’s increasing politicization has steadily diminished its credibility. Even so, the committee recognized his work regarding trade theories … not Keynesian economic voodoo.

      Krugman is a discredited member of that elite cabal who assured us in 2008 that massive government spending and it’s attendant debt would cap unemployment at 8%, rejuvenate markets and substantially grow the economy.

      Didn’t work … didn’t even begin to work. It didn’t require prescience to foresee the looming disaster … just historic perspective. Each time the theory has been tested it has failed, invariably and entirely.

      Now one is only left to wonder how much of Krugman’s rhetoric is a product of blind faith or just a desperate act of CYA.

      • John Haas

        “Didn’t work … didn’t even begin to work.”

        • Larry

          John, attempts to suggest that the President (and his Party) have offered effective solutions (or have not enacted destructive policies) ignores all of the numbers which a truthful telling would require.

          Of course there’s the larger and more obvious narrative which continues to offer the most telling critique of Team Obama’s feckless leadership … an economy once again teetering on the brink of another recession (to say nothing of the crushing debt his “solutions” have created)

          You have to go back to the 1930’s to find these numbers. A period which was, by the way, an effect of a similar imperial presidency and leftist economic policies.

          High unemployment numbers, sluggish GDP will persist until robust job creation occurs. That is unlikely under the current direction of US economic policy. Job creation is perhaps the single largest contributor to the persistently high unemployment US workers now face.

          As a small business owner who also works with small business owners across the country, I can personally testify to the damning effects of this president’s love affair with Marxist doctrine.

          BTW, I’m not using Marxist as a pejorative … but as the most accurate descriptor of his economic ideology.

          • John Haas


            Just look at the chart. What happened in February ’08? Guess we passed under a giant cloud of Marxism.

            “Job creation is perhaps the single largest contributor to the persistently high unemployment US workers now face.”

            I bow before your profound understanding of economics, and thank you for your testimony as a small-business owner.

            “… this president’s love affair with Marxist doctrine.”

            And a mind-reader!

            You’re like a triple threat, dude!

            Have you considered becoming the economy czar? The nation needs you . . .

  • John Haas

    Tim, I’m curious, did you read the Obama speech before reading Krauthammer, and thus was impressed with Kraut’s response because it fit it so well?

    • Larry

      John, perhaps you can offer insight into the charts disclosures … numbers, I mean … not colored bars. I’d like the numbers and back-story please.

      Apart from your “Saved By The Bell” witticisms do you have a substantive response John? Something verifiable, something factual? Something Objective?

      Surely you can offer this … or is your confidence in Obama and his policies more of a “religious” thing? You know, as in, “Just gotta believe man”.

      • John Haas

        Larry, the chart speaks for itself. You can clearly see that around the same time Obama became a national figure, in February of ’08, the economy began hemorrhaging jobs.

        Could anything be more verifiable?

        Despite President Bush’s heroic efforts, Obama’s Marxism continued to work its evil magic throughout 2008. What recovery we’ve seen is clearly the result of the Republicans’ heroic and selfless opposition to Elizabeth Warren.

        But you know all this, Larry. After all, you’re a small-businessman! Who can personally testify (not just one of those cheap proxy testimonies other folk give us!) to the damning effects of Marxism on these here United Socialist States of America!

        I mean, isn’t it obvious? You want factual and objective?

        (And I mean, factual and objective in the “personal testifying,” mind-reading way, not some foo-foo chart with a bunch of colored bars that don’t tell us anything . . .)

        Well, just look at corporate profits! Marxism, doing it’s nefarious work . . .

        Now, just between you and me, Larry, I think us true patriots need to be careful what we say. I suspect Holder’s getting our cell ready in the FEMA camp he’s setting up for us conservatives even as we speak . . .

        “Military can arrest and hold US citizens – FEMA camps are being activated . . . This is not ‘tin helmet’ or conspiratorial nonsense anymore folks. We have a Dictatorial take over going on in our country by this President and his backers. Who will be the first person or group to have ‘terrorism’ charges thrown at them? . . .”

        • Larry

          John, your view of conservatism appears to be drawn from the fetid environs of the far Left. They carry the odious scent of professional haters like Maddow, Matthews, Olbermann, Krugmann and their ilk.

          Perhaps you find their mythology personally satisfying but its unhelpful in dialogue with an actual conservative. Your prejudice betrays a very real ignorance about conservatives. It would be helpful to our discussion if you could, at least for the moment, dispense with channeling Janeane Garofalo. Thanks.

          Now I assume you realize that statistics are regularly bent to satisfy some assertion, yes? Consequently, the source of the data and its context become critical in assessing the reliability and accuracy of its presentation (in this case, a chart).

          As to February 2008, I know of no credible review of recent history which suggests that the recession didn’t begin before Obama took office. Many conservatives took umbrage with the Bush Administration’s approach to the downturn … specifically with TARP.

          Bush’s efforts, however, shouldn’t be confused with Obamas’s. Though Obama continues to place blame on George Bush, the weather, the Arab Spring and the Japanese Tsunami … it is apparent that the length and severity of this recession is directly attributable to the policies championed by Obama and the Democrats.

          As to my personal experience … well, to be sure its anecdotal. Its also consistent with the experiences of businessmen across the United States.

          Because I work with Chinese firms I can also testify to the sharp and sustained decline in Chinese exports … a direct consequence of the sharp and sustained decline in US consumer spending … especially in durable goods.

          Of course my observations are unimportant unless they are consistent with actual, verifiable trends. In this case, they are. That doesn’t make my experience extraordinary … but it can offer some insight into the very real human effects of bad policy and feckless and calloused leadership.

          Even anecdotal evidence, when it becomes widespread and consistent becomes the stuff of trends.

          Finally, John, do you deny that Obama’s policies are reflective of Marxist thought? That they are not peculiar expressions of that very distinct theory and worldview? Isn’t Socialism simply another iteration of Marxism?

          • John Haas

            Larry, you make some good points, but honestly man, I don’t even have cable, and don’t watch any of those people. i am on the Tea Party e-mailing list, however.

            “… it is apparent that the length and severity of this recession is directly attributable to the policies championed by Obama and the Democrats.”

            I absolutely agree with this. Just look around. It’s very apparent.

            “… a direct consequence of the sharp and sustained decline in US consumer spending …”

            Agreed again. And why is that? Liberals would tell us it’s because they’re unemployed, under-employed, in fear of becoming unemployed, they’ve lost equity in their homes, they’re paying off personal debt, and a whole lot of other hog-wash. But you and I know better.

            “Finally, John, do you deny that Obama’s policies are reflective of Marxist thought?”

            I absolutely do not!

            As DLS says above, “since Obama has extended them” the Bush tax cuts are “the “Obama tax cuts” now.” When they were the Bush tax cuts, they were free market, pro-capitalist, job-creating tax cuts. Now they’re the Obama tax cuts: redistributionist, Marxist, deficit-increasing tax cuts!

            And we know why he’s doing that: he wants to destroy America because he hates it for being so exceptional!

            That’s quite apparent.

            Now, if we can just get my-man Newt in there, and then they’ll be the Newt tax cuts, and they’ll go back to being free market, pro-capitalist, job-creating tax cuts!

            Of course, Newt will still have to deal with the effects of the recession that Obama started back in 2008, but that’s a cross he’s happy to bear, kind of like that surfeit of patriotism that every now and then just sweeps over him like a hormonal tidal-wave. But that’s a cross he’s happy to bear, too.

            Meanwhile, keep an eye on those FEMA camps . . .

  • Kubrick’s Rube

    From Ezra Klein: “Of the nine studies I’ve found, six find that the stimulus had a significant, positive effect on employment and growth, and three find that the effect was either quite small or impossible to detect.”

    Here’s the link that goes into all 9 studies and their strengths and weaknesses. Oh, and let’s not forget that only 1/3 of the stimulus was actually stimulative. It was also 1/3 tax cuts and 1/3 necessary but water-treading measures to help states avoid massive layoffs.

  • Larry

    Ezra provided an interesting read here (though not unbiased). Below are links which offer more analysis (also, not unbiased). There seems to be widespread agreement that the overall efficacy was affected by the means by which distribution occurred.

    I continue to remain convinced that the fundamental thesis of Keynesian economics is deeply flawed. It seems that each attempt to implement the theory produces similar effects.

    The theories of Hayek and Friedman (there are some distinct differences between the two though, overall, their ideas seem more compatible than not … at least to this layman) also seem to promote similar outcomes … regardless of time and place.

  • Jason

    Actually, Krugman said the stimulus wasn’t big enough to fully do the job. Looks like he was right; it did a good part of the job, as the chart shows, but not enough. It’s telling that your argument is that the Nobel prize doesn’t mean much, though in keeping with the evangelical rejection of the consensus of qualified experts.

    • Larry

      Jason, how does evangelicalism play into my critique? Are you actually satisfied with such a bigoted and dismissive conclusion.

      Following Krugman’s line of reasoning (which the Left has applied throughout the decades) all that is required is additional time and money.

      This deeply flawed reasoning has allowed the Left to pile up debt and destroy the object of their efforts for a very long time. From education to the economy failing results have simply found the Left insisting that their genius requires only greater funding and patience to succeed.

      Many are now persuaded that the clock has run out on these grand experiments and that the costs, both economic and human are now simply to great to continue ignoring.

      Modern liberals really don’t have a very strong record in acknowledging their errors … even when they’re obvious and damaging.

      • John Haas

        “Following Krugman’s line of reasoning (which the Left has applied throughout the decades) all that is required is additional time and money.”

        Kind of like Iraq?

        • Larry

          No, kind of like Krugman stating that the Stimulus just wasn’t large enough. Kind of like the Left’s out of hand dismissals of school vouchers, or conservative reforms and cuts of any sort in educational spending.

          Spending which has demonstrated an inverse effect … more money/more time resulting in lower and lower graduation rates, worse schools and lowered educational standards.

          Where the poor remain hostages to the agendas of bureaucrats and teachers unions.

          Like that.

  • Larry

    John, you wrote “Agreed again. And why is that? Liberals would tell us it’s because they’re unemployed, under-employed, in fear of becoming unemployed, they’ve lost equity in their homes, they’re paying off personal debt, and a whole lot of other hog-wash. But you and I know better”

    Conservatives sure sound an awful lot like liberals in this regard. We too conclude that persistent uncertainty is a root cause in stubbornly waning consumer confidence. We also believe that uncertainty regarding tax burdens, regulatory fees and Obamacare liabilities continue to drive high unemployment.

    You wrote “Finally, John, do you deny that Obama’s policies are reflective of Marxist thought?”

    I absolutely do not!

    As DLS says above, “since Obama has extended them” the Bush tax cuts are “the “Obama tax cuts” now.” When they were the Bush tax cuts, they were free market, pro-capitalist, job-creating tax cuts. Now they’re the Obama tax cuts: redistributionist, Marxist, deficit-increasing tax cuts!”

    John, they were tax cuts (that is an actual reduction in existing tax rates) when Bush proposed them and Republicans enacted them. Obama proposed no tax cuts if you’ll recall. In fact, he insisted upon allowing them to expire. After public opinion revealed an electorate unhappy with his position he began to speak of the foolishness of permitting a tax increase during an economic downturn (this was a real change in thought … well, ok, it was political expedience but the net effect was the same).

    Again, a tax cut is an actual reduction in existing tax rates … therefore Obama was at first proposing a tax increase (an actual increase in existing rates). Eventually Obama agreed to allow the Bush tax cuts to remain in place rather than to expire. Sorry, but that doesn’t equate to an actual tax cut. But polluting language through double speak is a specialty of the Left though.

    Obama and the Democrats have, however, proposed substantial tax increases stating specifically their redistributionist intent.

    Well, John, I’m off for a dinner engagement … have an enjoyable weekend.

    • John Haas

      You’ll need to take up the “tax cut” denotation with that double-speaking language-polluting leftist DLS.

      If you can stand an anecdote, where I work we’ve been hiring throughout the recession, modestly, and “Obamacare” has had no effect at all. Ours is the sort of organization where folk do talk a lot about the supposed uncertainties inspired by “Obamacare”–but it’s never come up when deciding to approve a new hire.

      There is concern about the purchasing power of our community, and about budget cuts.

      And just this past week we had a lengthy presentation from our health insurance provider. “Obamacare” did not come up. Rising health care costs, and the ratio of high-end care-needers within our workforce to low-end care-needers did.

      • Larry

        John, where do you work? Does government funding play any role in its bottom line? How sensitive to economic downturns is it?

        • John Haas

          I work in academia, so not straight-out “funding” per se, but something close. My academy is extremely conservative–lot of Heritage types around, a lot of Rush and Glenn fans. Almost no liberals (not even me!)

          Budget is very tight: largely tuition-driven. But, like I said, even though if when you’re talking the state of the economy with these folks, it will all be about regulation and taxes and Obamacare, when it comes down to brass tacks, the health of our business is thoroughly dependent on the state of the economy generally. If it’s growing, we do OK, despite the regs and health-care.

          The one place where health care does bite us is really the cost. 4% of our employees (with serious health issues) consume about 70% of our expenses.

  • John Haas

    “We too conclude that persistent uncertainty is a root cause in stubbornly waning consumer confidence.”

    For the unemployed, it’s more like the certainty that they’re unemployed that has a mildly depressive effect on their consumption habits.

    • Larry

      heh heh … that’s true

  • Kubrick’s Rube

    Since everyone so far (myself included) has focused on Krauthammer’s claims over Tim’s commentary, let me second Tim on this:

    “If Christians wants to make sure that both of those things are accomplished — that the least of these are provided for in the short term, and protected in the long term from suffering the brunt of our nation’s financial collapse — then perhaps they (we) need to articulate the moral case and wade into the debate with creative ideas.”

    Please do. The GOP debates- despite the candidates clambering to assure us they are each more “Christian” than the next- thus far have been void of these concerns. As a liberal Democrat, I may not agree with you on the solutions (or even the nature of the problem), but I’d feel a lot better about the future if it were clearer both sides agreed the government has some positive role to play.

    • Larry

      Kubrick … can you identify the constitutionally assigned role of the government? The limits? Why they might exist?

      • John Haas

        Larry: very hard to do. One might say, doing that is what our national life is about–our debates, elections, speeches, court decisions, reversals, etc. It’s not all laid out in the Constitution. The Constitution provides principles and processes for deciding that role, but it doesn’t dictate the outcome with anything like the specificity we would often desire.

        Here’s an example: “AMENDMENT IX The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

        So the text of the Constitution itself admits there may be rights of which the Constitution itself knows nothing. It has no idea what they are, to what they pertain, what the consequences of having such rights might be (except that the people retain them).

        Can these rights become the basis of legislation? Of course they can.

        As the Constitution says, its ultimate purpose is “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty . . .”

        If “we the people” determine that there are these other rights of which the framers knew nothing, it would be a failure of the obligation to “establish justice” not to protect them (should they require protection), to say nothing of a failure to “promote the general welfare.” And that would be a failure not only to abide by the text of the Constitution, but also to honor the framers’ intent.

        Another example, from Art. I, sec. 8: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes . . .”

        Is there any limit specified on what may be taxed? On what the tax rate may be? Does the Constitution itself prevent Congress from taxing us at 100% of our income, if it wishes to do so?

        Again, “To borrow money on the credit of the United States . . .”

        Any limit specified on how much may be borrowed? On what the size of the national debt might be?

        Again, “To coin money, regulate the value thereof . . .”

        Even if we believe this limits us to metalism, does it specify what the purity of the metal (say, gold)must be?

        Again, “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia . . .”

        What might this mean? Here’s what the 2d Congress of the US thought it meant, as expressed in the Militia Act of 1792:

        “That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia, … That every citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of power and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder . . .”

        Talk about compelling citizens–by an act of Congress!–to “enter the stream of commerce”!

        That 2d congress contained such familiar luminaries as Rufus King, Pierce Butler, Roger Sherman, James Monroe, Robert Morris, John Taylor, Charles Morris, and was signed into legislation bey George Washington.

        Guys who sort of knew what the framers’ intent was, given that they were the framers!

        • John Haas

          Charles Carroll, not Charles Morris. should have mentioned Fisher Ames and James Madison, too.

        • Larry

          John, aren’t you offering arguments convenient to your position? Aren’t there arguments on the other side which throw the matter into balance?

          Doesn’t the very nature of the Constitution, namely that it grants negative rights and that unenumerated rights must necessarily be crafted under that rubric?

          There are not a few scholars ready to suggest that what appears problematic is not the silence of the Constitution in such matters (nor its alleged lack of foresight) but rather that such efforts require legislators and judges to craft laws both brazenly disregarding the intended scope of government (surely you agree that the Framers labored to craft a document which intentionally sought to cage the beast)and to arrogate to themselves powers not not enumerated to them by the Constitution.

          In short, the supposed complexity is an unintended (though not unforeseen) consequence of exceeding the bounds established by Constitution regarding the governments mission.

          I would hasten to add that such efforts are not unique to our day … they began almost instantly … and underscore the wisdom of those who sought to keep government on a very, very short leash.

          Government is a necessary evil … one whose potential for tyranny increases as we make it more necessary.

          • John Haas

            “John, aren’t you offering arguments convenient to your position?”

            No. I’m not really offering arguments at all. In the above, I’m selecting out parts of the Constitution and asking some questions about them.

            Of course, I’m offering some examples that support my position, but my position is nothing more than “Here’s some things the Constitution says.” So that doesn’t get us very far.

            If the Constitution doesn’t say them, that’s another matter.

            ” the intended scope of government” That brings us back to what the Constitution says again. See above.

            “surely you agree that the Framers labored to craft a document which intentionally sought to cage the beast” Metaphor is not explanation. But, no–if you want to say that, you must temper it with the fact that their immediate point of reference was the Articles of Confederation. Indeed, it can as easily be argued that they sought to craft a document that “unleashed the beast”: see Washington’s and Hamilton’s response to the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, eg. If they wanted a caged government, they could have just stuck with the Articles.

            “to arrogate to themselves powers not not enumerated to them by the Constitution.” Problem here is the Constitution does grant them powers not “enumerated” by the Constitution, as here: “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.” Nowhere does the Constitution itself describe the bounds of “necessary and proper.”

            We can argue whether any laws are or are not, but the question cannot be settled by any simple appeal to the text of the Constitution. Again, one can appeal to intentions, but (leaving the question of their authoritativeness aside) since finding examples of intentions among the framers that correlate unambiguously with the questions facing us in the 21st c. is never possible. Interpretations and arguments will have to be advanced, and they will have whatever power they have by virtue of their soundness or persuasiveness. Since it will be how to read the Constitution that is the question, the soundness of these arguments cannot be settled by simple appeals to the text of the Constitution.

            I hope that’s obvious.

  • Jason

    Larry, it’s not bigoted to say the evangelical community tends to look to authority figures that don’t have academic qualifications in the area in which they claim expertise. It is an empirical fact that has been amply documented in books such as the anointed or the scandal of the evangelical mind. You appear to share with Tim the belief that any unflattering generalization of the evangelical community (but not of other communities with which you disagree) can only be bigotry or caricature. That’s a convenient self serving belief, but it’s also silly; the very fact that we refer to groups like “evangelical” or “liberal” reflects the fact that we all think it’s appropriate and necessary to make generalizations about groups. And just because those generalizations are unflattering doesn’t mean they aren’t true.

    • John Haas

      Jason, you’re not wrong (otherwise Noll wouldn’t have needed to write Scandal), but it’s a little more complex than that (Noll, after all, is an evangelical himself, and pretty influential withing the evangelical community).

      Yes, there’s a large swath of evangelicals who wear their anti-intellectualism on their hip. And when you disagree with them (if you’re an academic), they’ll sometimes retort, “Well, you’ve just been brain-washed by all those liberal professors in graduate school.”

      But there’s much less of that than you’d imagine. They don’t take your word just because you have a credential (nor should they!), but they don’t dismiss you out of hand, either. They listen and they think.

      What’s more, the one’s who do listen and think aren’t always quite so visible. Sure, you can take a video of the folk streaming into Ken Ham’s ridiculous “museum” and record them saying stupid things, and that will look like evangelicalism to you. But it’s not as easy to get a video of all the people reading BioLogos and wondering about stuff quietly in their rooms–but that’s evangelicalism, too.

      There are plenty of people reading this blog, I’ll reckon, who never post, but who are weighing and sifting this stuff in their heads, trying to figure it all out. They’re more representative of the movement than either Larry or I am (or Tim, for that matter).

      • Larry

        Well said John (What did I just say?!!!)

      • Timothy Dalrymple

        Noll, by the way, has said that his claim that “there is no evangelical mind” was too strong. There was then, and there is even more of one now. I’ve spent most of my life in intellectual evangelical circles – at top universities, among people who participate in the Veritas Forum, the Trinity Forum, Books and Culture, Q Ideas, and etc. With any large people group, there will be a good number of people who operate on a “popular” level theologically and philosophically. But evangelicalism has a thriving intellectual world, and a growing one too. For some time, and even in some circles today, there is an “all I need to know is the Bible” attitude. But there is a very large swath of evangelicalism that’s quite engaged with culture, participating in the marketplace of ideas.

        I know that my own experiences are not ‘typical’ in that respect, but they do show me beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a large, growing, active evangelical intellectual community, and those folks do have a lot of influence. I’d like for that community and that influence to grow. But John’s right (did I just say that?). The evangelical community resists caricature, like most large and complex communities do.


        • John Haas

          Here’s Alan Wolfe’s article from way, way back in the twilight of the Clinton administration, “The Opening of the Evangelical Mind.”

          That said, things can look very different, depending on where you are. Peoria ain’t Princeton . . . not that there’s anything wrong with that . . .

    • Larry

      Jason, your remark was indeed bigoted. It reflected not only the ignorance and intolerance which are the hallmarks of bigotry … it also satisfied the convenience which bigots require of their prejudice.

      That is it allows you simply dismiss challenges to your claims without the requisite reflection required by critical thinking.

      Furthermore, you employed the charge as a slight … not as an observation. Your opinion came under fire and rather than respond to the substance of the challenge you sought refuge in your bigotry.

  • Jason

    John, no, it isn’t more complex than that. I said the evangelical community tends to look to authority figures without academic credentials in the area in which they claim expertise and that statement is true. The community does in fact tend to do that, even if OBVIOUSLY “not everyone does that, there are some thoughtful ones, some leaders have credentials, etcetera”

    And yes, people with no qualifications in a field SHOULD accept the consensus of experts in that field, contra your assertion. Evangelicals generally do do that in most fields, such as medicine, electrical engineering, etcetera and they wrongfully refrain from doing that when they dislike the political implications of the consensus.

    It’s become fashionable to demonstrate how empathetic and nuanced one is by insisting that the evangelical community is “complex” and that “people don’t fit stereotypes.” Such statements are of course true but also trite as they apply to any generalization whatsoever. Most importantly, they don’t negate the truth of the generalizations.

    • John Haas

      Jason, we aren’t very far from each other on this, and what differences there are involve emphasis more than substance, I believe, and don’t demand further elaboration at least from my end. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

  • Larry

    John, you wrote “see Washington’s and Hamilton’s response to the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794”. Can you point me to some information on this please … I’m not familiar with it (you’re a historian I believe, right?)and I like a pointer or two here to get me started. Thanks.

    You didn’t, I think, comment on the Constitution’s overarching theme of negative rights. Do you not find that a compelling factor in limiting the size and scope of government?

    • John Haas

      Well, the easiest thing I can give you over the web is the wiki article:

      Slaughter’s book, referenced therein, is very good.

      I’m not sure that “negative rights” constitute “the Constitution’s overarching theme.” It’s emphasis is betrayed by its leading–after the all important preamble, which sets up the source of sovereignty (“the people”)–with a description of Congress’s powers.

      Negative liberty is a theme of the Bill of Rights, of course, but recall that those were a (very important) addendum–and so calling their emphasis the theme of the Constitution is a stretch. It’s become very important to Americans at different times of our history, and deserves much discussion–it’s certainly never off the radar!

      But if you look at the Constitution’s development, it originated out of a sense that the Articles gave us a federal government that was too weak. That needs to be kept in mind too.

      Everything the Constitution says–whether empowering Congress or the executive, or limiting the reach of the national government in the first ten amendments–is governed by the aims set out in the preamble.

      My point isn’t, by the way, to say that the Constitution promotes whatever present-day big-government types are advocating. But it doesn’t automatically oppose them, either. The Constitution encompasses each present-day party’s concerns–those who want to see “energy in” the federal government to “promote the general welfare,” as well as those who regard such energy as a threat to “the blessings of liberty.”

      It has left it to us to determine what is “necessary and proper.” That there will be differences of opinion on that, was obvious to the framers, I think, though they were sometimes surprised by the shape those differences took.

      Their genius was in constructing a system that could–thus far, at least (with one very bloody exception)–comprehend all the challenges that have faced the nation over time, and yet keep us all in the corral, as it were–ever hopeful that the next election, the next Supreme Court decision, the next act of Congress, will go our way, and set the Republic on the path of “love and delight,” as the old Shaker hymn puts it.

      • Larry

        Thanks John …

        • John Haas

          My pleasure. I love the Constitution. And I love talking about it . . .

  • Jason

    Please, Larry. If my comment is bigotry, then every unflattering generalization about a group is bigotry, and you’ve made several such generalizations yourself and thus are a bigot by your own apparent standards. You’ve offered nothing to convince a layperson that they should trust the opinion of someone with no formal training in economics over that of a Nobel laureate in the subject other than an unsubstantiated rant, filled with factually inaccurate statements. And it’s fair to say that your mentality in assessing the opinions of experts is similar to that of most evangelicals, who do, as a matter of empirical fact, tend to look to authority figures (ken ham, James Dobson, David Barton, etc) who don’t have academic qualifications in the area in which they claim expertise. that such a mundane observation has you apoplectic only suggests that it hits too close to home.

    • Larry

      Jason, I surrender … your remarks suggested no bigotry. Rather they reflected ignorance, broad and inaccurate generalizations, unsubstantiated claims based upon hearsay coupled with an air of assumed superiority.

      The effect is the same … a wildly inaccurate statement made dismissively and counter-factually.

      The eagerness with which you seize upon the behavior of a minority in order to define the larger evangelical community suggests an unwillingness to consider or answer the challenges they offer.

    • Larry

      Jason, I’ve located for you a Nobel Laureate who also is NOT an Evangelical. He was awarded the prize “for his achievements in the fields of consumption analysis, monetary history and theory and for his demonstration of the complexity of stabilization policy”.

      His ideas are featured in the TV series first aired on PBS in 1980 titled “Free to Choose” (link here

      Rather than trade, Friedman’s work dealt specifically with monetary theory and it’s function within an economy.

      Below are two links. In the first Mr. Friedman deals frankly with the question of welfare. The economist, Thomas Sowell, Ph.D. briefly explains his thoughts on the same subject.

      Perhaps you’ll find their ideas worth some consideration.

  • Jason

    Tim, I have just as much familiarity with “intellectual” evangelicalism as you, and probably quite a bit more considering that I attended what many would consider the most academically respectable evangelical college in the US. While the culture of intellectual evangelicals may be “very large” according to some metric, as folks like Noll, Giberson, and others aptly demonstrate, it is not at all representative of the vast majority of evangelicals and has vastly less influence over the community than popular leaders. And this arrangement is not inevitable in any people group; while there may always be populist leaders, secular groups (to make a true generalization) tend to care more about what leading university professors think about academic topics than evangelical groups.

    And incidentally, Noll never said “there is no evangelical mind,” so that shouldn’t be in quotes. He said there is not much of one, even though he affirms the existence of solid evangelical scholars in his book. There are also many of us who have attended universities just as competitive/prestigious, and even accepted faculty positions at leading research universities, and have seen the best of what intellectual evangelicalism has to offer and found it wanting.

    And of course, your own cv testifies to the academic inferiority of even the evangelical community’s intellectual best. If, indeed, you believe that evangelicalism not only successfully competes in the academic marketplace but is intellectually superior, then why seek academic validation from secular universities that are overwhelmingly hostile to evangelical beliefs?

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jason. There’s no question that the evangelical withdrawal from the elite universities has left a legacy. I just think it’s frequently overstated — I thought *you* were overstating it — and I think the legacy is all but gone, and within a generation will be entirely gone. You’re right (if being a tad persnickety about something said in a comments section of a blog) about the Noll quotation; my point was that Noll has moderated what he said at the time, and considers matter dramatically improved now. You can see my interview with him if you like.

      My CV could testify to any number of things.


  • Jason

    The point with Noll is that his initial statement was much more moderate than you made it out to be, which weakens your portrayal of a major change in his perspective. And the statement that “things are better now” could mean just about anything, including that the younger generation of progressive evangelicals for which you have so much disdain have rejected much of the anti-intellectualism of the older generation as a side-effect of rejecting the older generations politics. I’ve spoken with Noll as well and he suggested things are better mostly because secular academia is less hostile to evangelical beliefs.

    I’m sure your CV could testify to many things, but it does fit comfortably with the trend in evangelicalism to simultaneously seek validation from elite universities even while dismissing the fact that the vast majority of professors at such universities think most evangelical beliefs are untenable. Not sure what you mean by the withdrawal “leaving a legacy,” but in an era where polls show the evangelical community hemorrhaging young people, I dont think the future is very bright for the community.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Are we still arguing over this? The point was not a major change of perspective for Noll. The point was that evangelicalism, presently, is not anti-intellectual; this is no longer an accurate generalization. There are reasons why secular academia is less hostile to evangelical beliefs today, and that partly has to do with the work of many evangelical intellectuals.

      I do not have disdain for the younger generation of progressive evangelicals. Many of them are my friends. I publish many others.

      By the withdrawal “leaving a legacy,” my point (one with which you’d agree) was that there was certainly a long stretch in which evangelicals looked askance at anyone with a degree from secular academia. I think that’s mostly amongst the older generation, and the younger generations (for whom, you say, I feel such disdain) have largely outgrown that. Now please. Can we move on?