- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 30, 2008


Cypriot questions

In his letter “Tear down the wall” (Wednesday), Nikolaos Taneris has demonstrated that he is either trying to mislead or has next to no knowledge about Cyprus.

Regarding his claims about the Turkish troops and the Annan plan: The presence of the Turkish peacekeepers on the island is in accordance with international agreements.

The troops are providing security to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and will remain there until a just and lasting solution is found to the Cyprus problem.

It is also common knowledge that the Annan plan provided for a phased removal of non-Cypriot — including Greek — troops from the island within an agreed time frame.

The plan, which was backed by the international community and overwhelmingly supported by the Turkish Cypriots, was voted down by the Greek Cypriots.

By rejecting the U.N. settlement plan, the Greek Cypriots have invited legitimate questions concerning their sincerity and motives on all aspects of the Cyprus problem.

Rather than trying to cast aspersions on the TRNC president, Mr. Taneris would have done better to join others who praise the unwavering commitment for a settlement President Mehmet Ali Talat has displayed despite years of rejectionism he has faced from the Greek Cypriot side.

At a time when we all want to look forward to a brighter future for the two peoples of the island under a bicommunal, bizonal new partnership, I hope that such prejudiced and uninformed outpourings, as were offered by the writer, will no longer be seen in the media.


Alexandria, Va.

Taxation without exacerbation

Richard Rahn rightly states that taxation without representation is tyranny, then wrongly goes on to say that it is tyranny to tax above the revenue-maximizing rate, to support ineffective programs or to apply progressive taxation (“Tax tyrannies,” Commentary, Thursday). Apparently, it is tyranny to tax in a manner that Mr. Rahn disagrees with.

We have more appropriate terms for taxing in support of ineffective programs than “tyranny.” “Mismanagement” comes to mind, for instance. Many of the richest people support progressive taxation, which provides some argument that progressive taxation isn’t tyranny, but rather a policy option with which Mr. Rahn disagrees. To call these tax policies “tyranny” is sloppy.

Why is it important to correct sloppy thinking? Because sloppy thinking has consequences. Revolt may be an acceptable response to tyranny. It isn’t an appropriate response to mismanagement. Inflammatory rhetoric does not promote reasoned public debate.



Rewards with no risk

Critics of libertarianism often take a wise and worldly tone as they hold forth on the limitations of free markets. They sound quite reasonable as they explain why the market can’t provide this service or that one for reasons spanning a familiar range, from “it’s just not practical” or not “safe” or would require “perfect people” to work. The odd thing is that despite the popularity of these anti-market views, the idea that private businesses are more efficient still persists, even within the hallowed halls of government itself.

However, we see from Thursday’s “GPO profits go to bonuses and trips” (Page 1) that when clueless bureaucrats actually try to harness these free-market efficiencies, the results can be grotesque.

How else to explain the Government Printing Office, which you call “a near-monopoly of U.S. government printing” in your Friday editorial “A passport to danger,” racking up $100 million in profits and handing out large bonuses under the assumption that a private-sector business model is more efficient? Think about it: A government agency is “playing at” being a for-profit entity. But why? If a private business would be better, then why not abolish the GPO and contract out the work to real private firms? For whatever reason, apparently no one thought of that. Instead, they tried, essentially, to put lipstick on a pig.

The point is that free markets don’t work that way. A government-monopoly agency does not suffer the risks of the marketplace. This profit-and-bonus plan brought the rewards of success in the marketplace when those rewards hadn’t been earned. This shows a total lack of understanding of why the private sector is more efficient. You can’t just skip the risk-taking and entrepreneurial aspects of building a business and pretend that you really added any value to the process just because the State Department overpaid you. That’s putting the cart before the horse.

As I think about it, this thinking reminds me of the times when education faddists observe that students who are successful in school have high self-esteem, and therefore, that they should just teach self-esteem directly.

They believe that the self-esteem must have caused the high achievement. It was apparently too simple and too inconvenient for them to realize that the high achievements led to the high self-esteem, even though it seems like something they should have considered. These GPO people seem to be propelled by a similar logic, thinking that the handing out of rewards in and of itself automatically causes good work to be done.

Wrong. It’s time we realized that freedom isn’t something you dabble in with government agencies like the GPO, and it isn’t something that you simply produce by adding an office which bears the name. Securing our inalienable rights is the very reason that governments are instituted among men.



John Adams and Catholics

Steven Waldman said in Wednesday’s Culture, et cetera story “The first prejudice” that “an aspect of Adams that is invariably ignored his antagonism toward Catholicism.” He goes on to claim that “one of the causes of the revolution was the Quebec Act, which gave religious protections to Catholics in Canada.” These claims, however, are misleading.

Adams was not fearful of Catholics so much as concerned by his view that Catholic doctrine posed a risk to the republican form of government, then in its formative stages, by holding an allegiance to an earthly power (papal authority) above that of the consent of the people. In his own words, he was critical of the Roman Catholic “power of deposing princes and absolving subjects from allegiance.” This concern was shared by many of our founders, but abated over time, culminating with the election of John F. Kennedy as our first Catholic president in 1960.

As for the Quebec Act, the concern among our founders was not so much state protections for Catholics in Canada as that its effect would, in the words of the early 19th-century historian B.J. Lossing, secure a place “in the immediate vicinity of the refractory Colonies, where an overwhelming force be concentrated, ready at a moment’s warning to march into the territory of, and subdue, the rebellious Americans.”

Further evidence for this comes from the Declaration of Independence itself (of which John Adams served on the draft committee and later signed, along with Catholic signer Charles Carroll), when it declared that King George III abolished “the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies.”

If, however, it is wished to cite “an aspect of John Adams that is invariably ignored,” it would be this: His claim that “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”


Falls Church

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