- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 10, 2005

Souls, not wallets, are man’s true measure

Richard Rahn’s “The best of times” (Commentary, Friday) on the very day Pope John Paul II was laid to rest begs reflection on an irony. The statistics Mr. Rahn cites strongly indicate that according to material units of measure, things are, indeed, getting better around the world.

That fact, however, rings hollow when compared with the spectacle of the thousands of faithful gathered to mourn the passing of the world’s most recognized and revered moral leader.

By Mr. Rahn’s cold calculus, economic growth is a fundamental human good irrespective of the moral condition of the human soul. While I share Mr. Rahn’s preference for limited government and free markets, I sense a distinct ignorance of the moral grounding necessary for economic growth to have any lasting meaning to humanity.

As Mr. Rahn totes up his scorecard of economic successes, he might want to consider what his self-interested utilitarian philosophy has wrought on the birth rates of the “industrialized” world: Within this generation, the populations of Western Europe and Japan will begin, by choice, to shrink. This is a phenomenon unprecedented in human history.

We don’t need corpse-filled battlefields or the bloated bellies of starving children to recognize a profound crisis in our midst. Concern with self has displaced propagation of the species as the central motivation of a large section of humanity.

This inversion of the relationship between economics and morality defies the principles of the father of modern economic thought, Adam Smith, and stands starkly exposed in its perversion by the example of John Paul II and his followers.

Perhaps Mr. Rahn could better serve his readers by conducting a cost-benefit analysis of the pursuit of economic gain unbridled by the moral content of human life. He might find the true and lasting source of happiness lies not in the standard of living but in the condition of the soul.

DAN SULLIVAN

Bethesda

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It is remarkable that at precisely the same moment we rightly pay homage to one of the most consequential men who has ever lived, Richard Rahn characterizes our collective interest in recounting John Paul II’s contributions to humanity, and the media coverage responding to that interest, as our desire to participate in “an individual tragedy.”

Worse yet, Mr. Rahn denigrates our desire to celebrate John Paul II’s life, lumping it with the prurient or trivial entertainment value associated with the events surrounding other, much lesser figures like Scott Peterson, Michael Jackson and Prince Charles.

It is more than a little ironic that Mr. Rahn chooses to denigrate the pope. The pope personally made substantial contributions to the fall of communism. This in turn contributed greatly to the improvements in all of the factors — economic growth, life expectancy, childhood mortality, democratic countries, economic freedom, literacy, tax rates and crime rates — that Mr. Rahn cites to support his thesis. For a bright guy, he seems to have totally missed this rather important point.

CHRIS OHMES

Vienna

More scrutiny for Islam, Islamists

The only way to counter Islam’s counterfeit hypersensitivity and the advocacy media’s tail-tucking behavior toward Islam, which Diana West details in her column (“Preserve free speech,” Op-Ed, Friday), is for those of us who are concerned to find other avenues of expression.

That said, there are several motivations for journalists and politicians to fear criticizing Islam. One, Islamists, unlike Christians, take physically violent, revengeful acts against their critics. Two, the advocacy media, liberals and politicians have yet to admit or recognize that Islam is a political movement with religious trappings, rather than vice-versa. Three, the nonsensical, intolerant political correctness that now pervades our society allows unfettered criticism of Christians and their faith, but of no other group.

Perhaps there is a positive side to this. When enough people begin to wonder why Islamic lobby groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations, which may have terrorist connections, complain so loudly, maybe CAIR and the others will be exposed for who they really are and what their true agendas are.

But as Mrs. West says, we must speak freely to preserve our freedom. We have the right; we have the obligation.

C. KENNA AMOS JR.

Princeton, W.Va.

Iraqi Kurd president ignored

No one seemed to make too much of the news that a Kurd has just been elected Iraq’s interim president (“Talabani’s election as president stirs joy among Kurds,” World, Thursday). Is it not newsworthy that a man who is a member of the ethnic group which was once targeted as part of Saddam Hussein’s final solution is now the interim president of that brutal dictator’s former domain?

I suspect it is because serious journalists have so little time, since they have to devote most of it to reporting on the late pope’s shoe size or Michael Jackson’s adult magazine titles. Or is it that they just do not relish the idea of entertaining the notion that President Bush’s invasion of Iraq was probably not such a bad idea after all?

MIGUEL A. GUANIPA

Whitinsville, Mass.

The Soviets, the Pope and President Reagan

Arnaud de Borchgrave wrote in a recent column (“Time of assassins,” Commentary, Tuesday) that for diplomatic reasons President Reagan and CIA Director William Casey “played down the Soviet link” to the assassination attempt on the pope.

Quite the opposite is true. Mr. Reagan, over some internal objections and at a particularly sensitive time in U.S.-Soviet relations, went out of his way to publicly raise the issue in a Feb. 18, 1983 Washington address. He spoke directly to the claim the United States was nervous about an investigation that might turn up a Bulgarian-Soviet connection.

“Now, it would be also unconscionable during any discussion of the need for candor in our foreign policy not to mention here the tragic event that last year shocked the world — the attack on His Holiness, Pope John Paul II — an act of unspeakable evil, an assault on man and God. It was an international outrage and merits the fullest possible investigation. Tonight, I want to take this opportunity to applaud the courage and resourcefulness of the government of Italy in bringing this matter to the attention of the world. And, contrary to what some have suggested, you can depend on it, there is no one on our side that is acting embarrassed or feeling embarrassed because they’re going ahead with that investigation. We mean to help them.”

My recollection is that the last two sentences here were an ad-lib and meant to stress Mr. Reagan’s determination to see the matter pursued. Incidentally, this caused just the sort of diplomatic stir Mr. Reagan was warned against.

I should also mention that I spoke once about the importance of a full investigation while lunching with a high CIA official in the executive dining room, and this official became quite incensed that anyone could think the KGB would be so ruthless or daring as to rupture some sort of gentlemen’s agreement against assassination that the CIA and KGB had with each other. This led to a lively exchange between us and a little bit of anger on his part toward the end. I mentioned this to Mr. Casey, who was fairly appalled but not surprised. Both of us liked and admired this official, but we also knew that he and others in the intelligence and diplomatic community thought the use of the word “evil” jejune in a foreign policy context and never quite understood the lengths to which those who have given themselves over to habitual criminality are willing to go.

ANTHONY R. DOLAN

Special adviser to Secretary of Defense

Donald Rumsfeld

Alexandria

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