On the whole, Cato's Human Freedom Index for 2022 is kind of a downer.
The HFI is the most comprehensive freedom index so far created for a globally meaningful set of countries and jurisdictions representing 98.1 percent of the world’s population. The HFI covers 165 jurisdictions for 2020, the most recent year for which sufficient data are available. The index ranks jurisdictions beginning in 2000, the earliest year for which a robust enough index could be produced.
On a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 represents more freedom, the average human freedom rating for the 165 jurisdictions fell from 7.03 in 2019 to 6.81 in 2020. Most areas of freedom fell, including significant declines in the rule of law and freedom of movement, expression, association and assembly, and freedom to trade. Based on that coverage, 94.3 percent of the world’s population lives in jurisdictions that saw a fall in human freedom from 2019 to 2020, with 148 jurisdictions decreasing their ratings and 16 improving.
2020, of course, was Covid-dominated. But, as Cato notes: "The sharp decline in freedom in 2020 comes after years of slow descent." We didn't know how good we had it in 2007, the previous maximum.
Worse: The US of A was in 23d place overall, down from the 15th spot in the HFI's previous ranking. Disappointing.
Theodore Darlrymple accuses us of Lying to Ourselves.
One of the peculiarities of our age is the ferocity with which intellectuals and politicians defend propositions that they do not—because they cannot—believe to be true, so outrageous are they, such violence do they do to the most obvious and evident truth. Agatha Christie (a far greater psychologist than Sigmund Freud), drew attention almost a century ago to the phenomenon when she had Dr. Sheppard, the protagonist and culprit of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd say, “It is odd how, when you have a secret belief of your own which you do not wish to acknowledge, the voicing of it by someone else will rouse you to a fury of denial. I burst immediately into indignant speech.”
Among the propositions defended with such suspect ferocity is that men can change straightforwardly and unambiguously into women, and vice versa. Now everyone accepts that they can change into something different from ordinary men and women, and can live as if they were of the opposite of their birth sex; moreover, there is no reason to abuse or otherwise maltreat them if they do, and kindness and human decency require that we do not humiliate them or make their lives more difficult than they are. But this is not at all the same as claiming that those who take hormones and have operations actually are the sex that they choose, or that it is right to enshrine untruth in law and thereby force people to assent to what they know to be false. That way totalitarianism lies.
I was hate-listening to
CommieNew Hampshire Public Radio yesterday on a jaunt to the market. One news item was discussing abortion legislation in Kentucky; one of the speakers started saying "women"… but caught himself in the nick of time, correcting his terminology to "pregnant people". Whew!
Yes, I assumed his pronouns. Come get me, NHPR!
John Halpin, self-described "Liberal Patriot" has a suggestion I can (sort of) get behind: End the Culture War on America’s Schools.
In school districts across the country—and in national education circles—parents, teachers, administrators, outside groups, and politicians are at each other’s throats over competing political ideologies in the schools rather than focusing their attention on the most pressing national need: Making sure all children learn the basics and emerge from school well prepared to be future workers, scientists, business leaders, public servants, military members, entrepreneurs, and good citizens.
The culture war fight over education is as dumb as it is useless. It should be clear to everyone by now that schools should not be used as a playground for left-wing social justice fads or right-wing reactionary politics. If partisan hacks and billionaire-funded ideologues want to fight one another over critical race theory, gender ideology, vaccines, religion, book bans, and skewed versions of American history, take it to Twitter, cable news, or some non-profit roundtable—and leave the schools and our kids alone.
Halpin's suggestion is fine, well-meaning, and it would improve things. But that "good citizens" at the end is a little iffy, though: a loophole you could drive a school bus through. For the real scoop on schooling, I recommend the 1983 essay by the Underground Grammarian, Richard Mitchell: The Children of the State. Which leads off with a quote from an actual liberal, John Stuart Mill:
A general state education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another; and the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation. In proportion as it is efficient, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body.
That's from On Liberty. 1859.
Okay, now that we've argued against transgenderism and government schooling, let's look at another sacred cow. 3 Reasons To Abolish Social Security. Video if you prefer:
From the linked text version:
You know you're in deep, deep trouble when Joe Biden and Donald Trump agree on anything—and that's especially true when it comes to insisting that nobody should ever cut "a single penny" from Social Security, the nation's income program for people over 65.
Here are three reasons why Social Security should be scrapped completely and replaced with a plan that will help the truly needy without impoverishing everyone else.
Social Security is unsustainable. Created in 1935, Social Security is paid for by a 12.4 percent payroll tax on income up to $160,200. Supporters pretend that Social Security is like a retirement plan, where your specific contributions build value over time. But the system is a Ponzi scheme, in which current beneficiaries are paid out of new money coming into the system. The problem is that when the program started paying out benefits in 1940, there were 160 workers per retiree, so a surplus built up. Today, there are just 2.8 workers per retiree.
Spoiler: Social Security is also unfair and unnecessary. That's three "un"s, which should be enough for anyone.
Veronique de Rugy has other thoughts on Social Security ("More like Socialist Insecurity, amirite folks?"): Failing To Fix What's Broken Would Be the Real Nightmare.
President Joe Biden tweeted last week that he will be a "nightmare" for Republicans who dream of cutting Social Security and Medicare. With this statement, Biden showed that he's either shockingly ignorant about these two programs and any Republican reform efforts — or lack thereof — or just another politician who washes his hands of what happens when he's out of office and the programs hit upcoming obstacles.
I have an idea which one it is. However, before revealing my guess, it's worth revisiting the issue more fully. Each time I write about Social Security and Medicare, newspapers receive letters to the editors revealing how little the general public understands about entitlement spending and where it's headed. This misunderstanding is particularly acute and ominous when it comes to Social Security.
I can see why entitlement programs are popular with the beneficiaries. I'm unsure why current taxpayers aren't frickin' irate about them.