Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Charles Williams on Thomas Babington Macaulay


        “Macaulay’s own controversial habits were finer; he fought the mind with the mind, and he never used insults instead of argument . . . He arranged with the editors of the Edinburgh [Review] to be paid for his articles, while he was away, not in money but in books.  He bought and read books on India -- and (as always) on everything else . . . his resources were the reserves of his mind and the preserves of his books.  He read the Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil, Horace, Caesar’s Commentaries, Bacon’s De Argumentis, Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto, Tasso, Don Quixote, Gibbon’s Rome, Mill’s India, all the seventy volumes of Voltaire, Sismondi’s History of France, and the seven thick folio volumes of the Biographia Britannica . . .
         In 1849 he was going to Ireland.  Between London and Bangor he had read the lives of the Roman emperors, but on the boat at night he could not see to read.  There was magnificent starlight; he sat on deck and repeated to himself Paradise Lost.  ‘I could still repeat half of it, and that the best half.  I really never enjoyed it so much.’  When Macaulay is remembered for blame, that scene should be remembered also to his honour; the short stocky figure, wrapped in a greatcoat, sitting alone on deck under the gory of the stars, and abandoning himself to the unutterable other glory of the most sublime verse English genius has ever made.” 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Hayek's 1974 Nobel Prize Lecture on Economics: Or, why Obama is Tragically Wrong

The Pretence of Knowledge

The particular occasion of this lecture, combined with the chief practical problem which economists have to face today, have made the choice of its topic almost inevitable. On the one hand the still recent establishment of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science marks a significant step in the process by which, in the opinion of the general public, economics has been conceded some of the dignity and prestige of the physical sciences. On the other hand, the economists are at this moment called upon to say how to extricate the free world from the serious threat of accelerating inflation which, it must be admitted, has been brought about by policies which the majority of economists recommended and even urged governments to pursue. We have indeed at the moment little cause for pride: as a profession we have made a mess of things.

It seems to me that this failure of the economists to guide policy more successfully is closely connected with their propensity to imitate as closely as possible the procedures of the brilliantly successful physical sciences - an attempt which in our field may lead to outright error. It is an approach which has come to be described as the "scientistic" attitude - an attitude which, as I defined it some thirty years ago, "is decidedly unscientific in the true sense of the word, since it involves a mechanical and uncritical application of habits of thought to fields different from those in which they have been formed."1 I want today to begin by explaining how some of the gravest errors of recent economic policy are a direct consequence of this scientistic error.

The theory which has been guiding monetary and financial policy during the last thirty years, and which I contend is largely the product of such a mistaken conception of the proper scientific procedure, consists in the assertion that there exists a simple positive correlation between total employment and the size of the aggregate demand for goods and services; it leads to the belief that we can permanently assure full employment by maintaining total money expenditure at an appropriate level. Among the various theories advanced to account for extensive unemployment, this is probably the only one in support of which strong quantitative evidence can be adduced. I nevertheless regard it as fundamentally false, and to act upon it, as we now experience, as very harmful.

This brings me to the crucial issue. Unlike the position that exists in the physical sciences, in economics and other disciplines that deal with essentially complex phenomena, the aspects of the events to be accounted for about which we can get quantitative data are necessarily limited and may not include the important ones. While in the physical sciences it is generally assumed, probably with good reason, that any important factor which determines the observed events will itself be directly observable and measurable, in the study of such complex phenomena as the market, which depend on the actions of many individuals, all the circumstances which will determine the outcome of a process, for reasons which I shall explain later, will hardly ever be fully known or measurable. And while in the physical sciences the investigator will be able to measure what, on the basis of a prima facie theory, he thinks important, in the social sciences often that is treated as important which happens to be accessible to measurement. This is sometimes carried to the point where it is demanded that our theories must be formulated in such terms that they refer only to measurable magnitudes.

It can hardly be denied that such a demand quite arbitrarily limits the facts which are to be admitted as possible causes of the events which occur in the real world. This view, which is often quite naively accepted as required by scientific procedure, has some rather paradoxical consequences. We know: of course, with regard to the market and similar social structures, a great many facts which we cannot measure and on which indeed we have only some very imprecise and general information. And because the effects of these facts in any particular instance cannot be confirmed by quantitative evidence, they are simply disregarded by those sworn to admit only what they regard as scientific evidence: they thereupon happily proceed on the fiction that the factors which they can measure are the only ones that are relevant.
The correlation between aggregate demand and total employment, for instance, may only be approximate, but as it is the only one on which we have quantitative data, it is accepted as the only causal connection that counts. On this standard there may thus well exist better "scientific" evidence for a false theory, which will be accepted because it is more "scientific", than for a valid explanation, which is rejected because there is no sufficient quantitative evidence for it.

Let me illustrate this by a brief sketch of what I regard as the chief actual cause of extensive unemployment - an account which will also explain why such unemployment cannot be lastingly cured by the inflationary policies recommended by the now fashionable theory. This correct explanation appears to me to be the existence of discrepancies between the distribution of demand among the different goods and services and the allocation of labour and other resources among the production of those outputs. We possess a fairly good "qualitative" knowledge of the forces by which a correspondence between demand and supply in the different sectors of the economic system is brought about, of the conditions under which it will be achieved, and of the factors likely to prevent such an adjustment. The separate steps in the account of this process rely on facts of everyday experience, and few who take the trouble to follow the argument will question the validity of the factual assumptions, or the logical correctness of the conclusions drawn from them. We have indeed good reason to believe that unemployment indicates that the structure of relative prices and wages has been distorted (usually by monopolistic or governmental price fixing), and that to restore equality between the demand and the supply of labour in all sectors changes of relative prices and some transfers of labour will be necessary.

But when we are asked for quantitative evidence for the particular structure of prices and wages that would be required in order to assure a smooth continuous sale of the products and services offered, we must admit that we have no such information. We know, in other words, the general conditions in which what we call, somewhat misleadingly, an equilibrium will establish itself: but we never know what the particular prices or wages are which would exist if the market were to bring about such an equilibrium. We can merely say what the conditions are in which we can expect the market to establish prices and wages at which demand will equal supply. But we can never produce statistical information which would show how much the prevailing prices and wages deviate from those which would secure a continuous sale of the current supply of labour. Though this account of the causes of unemployment is an empirical theory, in the sense that it might be proved false, e.g. if, with a constant money supply, a general increase of wages did not lead to unemployment, it is certainly not the kind of theory which we could use to obtain specific numerical predictions concerning the rates of wages, or the distribution of labour, to be expected.

Why should we, however, in economics, have to plead ignorance of the sort of facts on which, in the case of a physical theory, a scientist would certainly be expected to give precise information? It is probably not surprising that those impressed by the example of the physical sciences should find this position very unsatisfactory and should insist on the standards of proof which they find there. The reason for this state of affairs is the fact, to which I have already briefly referred, that the social sciences, like much of biology but unlike most fields of the physical sciences, have to deal with structures of essential complexity, i.e. with structures whose characteristic properties can be exhibited only by models made up of relatively large numbers of variables. Competition, for instance, is a process which will produce certain results only if it proceeds among a fairly large number of acting persons.

In some fields, particularly where problems of a similar kind arise in the physical sciences, the difficulties can be overcome by using, instead of specific information about the individual elements, data about the relative frequency, or the probability, of the occurrence of the various distinctive properties of the elements. But this is true only where we have to deal with what has been called by Dr. Warren Weaver (formerly of the Rockefeller Foundation), with a distinction which ought to be much more widely understood, "phenomena of unorganized complexity," in contrast to those "phenomena of organized complexity" with which we have to deal in the social sciences.2 Organized complexity here means that the character of the structures showing it depends not only on the properties of the individual elements of which they are composed, and the relative frequency with which they occur, but also on the manner in which the individual elements are connected with each other. In the explanation of the working of such structures we can for this reason not replace the information about the individual elements by statistical information, but require full information about each element if from our theory we are to derive specific predictions about individual events. Without such specific information about the individual elements we shall be confined to what on another occasion I have called mere pattern predictions - predictions of some of the general attributes of the structures that will form themselves, but not containing specific statements about the individual elements of which the structures will be made up.3

This is particularly true of our theories accounting for the determination of the systems of relative prices and wages that will form themselves on a wellfunctioning market. Into the determination of these prices and wages there will enter the effects of particular information possessed by every one of the participants in the market process - a sum of facts which in their totality cannot be known to the scientific observer, or to any other single brain. It is indeed the source of the superiority of the market order, and the reason why, when it is not suppressed by the powers of government, it regularly displaces other types of order, that in the resulting allocation of resources more of the knowledge of particular facts will be utilized which exists only dispersed among uncounted persons, than any one person can possess. But because we, the observing scientists, can thus never know all the determinants of such an order, and in consequence also cannot know at which particular structure of prices and wages demand would everywhere equal supply, we also cannot measure the deviations from that order; nor can we statistically test our theory that it is the deviations from that "equilibrium" system of prices and wages which make it impossible to sell some of the products and services at the prices at which they are offered.

Before I continue with my immediate concern, the effects of all this on the employment policies currently pursued, allow me to define more specifically the inherent limitations of our numerical knowledge which are so often overlooked. I want to do this to avoid giving the impression that I generally reject the mathematical method in economics. I regard it in fact as the great advantage of the mathematical technique that it allows us to describe, by means of algebraic equations, the general character of a pattern even where we are ignorant of the numerical values which will determine its particular manifestation. We could scarcely have achieved that comprehensive picture of the mutual interdependencies of the different events in a market without this algebraic technique. It has led to the illusion, however, that we can use this technique for the determination and prediction of the numerical values of those magnitudes; and this has led to a vain search for quantitative or numerical constants. This happened in spite of the fact that the modern founders of mathematical economics had no such illusions. It is true that their systems of equations describing the pattern of a market equilibrium are so framed that if we were able to fill in all the blanks of the abstract formulae, i.e. if we knew all the parameters of these equations, we could calculate the prices and quantities of all commodities and services sold. But, as Vilfredo Pareto, one of the founders of this theory, clearly stated, its purpose cannot be "to arrive at a numerical calculation of prices", because, as he said, it would be "absurd" to assume that we could ascertain all the data.4 Indeed, the chief point was already seen by those remarkable anticipators of modern economics, the Spanish schoolmen of the sixteenth century, who emphasized that what they called pretium mathematicum, the mathematical price, depended on so many particular circumstances that it could never be known to man but was known only to God.5 I sometimes wish that our mathematical economists would take this to heart. I must confess that I still doubt whether their search for measurable magnitudes has made significant contributions to our theoretical understanding of economic phenomena - as distinct from their value as a description of particular situations. Nor am I prepared to accept the excuse that this branch of research is still very young: Sir William Petty, the founder of econometrics, was after all a somewhat senior colleague of Sir Isaac Newton in the Royal Society!

There may be few instances in which the superstition that only measurable magnitudes can be important has done positive harm in the economic field: but the present inflation and employment problems are a very serious one. Its effect has been that what is probably the true cause of extensive unemployment has been disregarded by the scientistically minded majority of economists, because its operation could not be confirmed by directly observable relations between measurable magnitudes, and that an almost exclusive concentration on quantitatively measurable surface phenomena has produced a policy which has made matters worse.

It has, of course, to be readily admitted that the kind of theory which I regard as the true explanation of unemployment is a theory of somewhat limited content because it allows us to make only very general predictions of the kind of events which we must expect in a given situation. But the effects on policy of the more ambitious constructions have not been very fortunate and I confess that I prefer true but imperfect knowledge, even if it leaves much indetermined and unpredictable, to a pretence of exact knowledge that is likely to be false. The credit which the apparent conformity with recognized scientific standards can gain for seemingly simple but false theories may, as the present instance shows, have grave consequences.

In fact, in the case discussed, the very measures which the dominant "macro-economic" theory has recommended as a remedy for unemployment, namely the increase of aggregate demand, have become a cause of a very extensive misallocation of resources which is likely to make later large-scale unemployment inevitable. The continuous injection of additional amounts of money at points of the economic system where it creates a temporary demand which must cease when the increase of the quantity of money stops or slows down, together with the expectation of a continuing rise of prices, draws labour and other resources into employments which can last only so long as the increase of the quantity of money continues at the same rate - or perhaps even only so long as it continues to accelerate at a given rate. What this policy has produced is not so much a level of employment that could not have been brought about in other ways, as a distribution of employment which cannot be indefinitely maintained and which after some time can be maintained only by a rate of inflation which would rapidly lead to a disorganisation of all economic activity. The fact is that by a mistaken theoretical view we have been led into a precarious position in which we cannot prevent substantial unemployment from re-appearing; not because, as this view is sometimes misrepresented, this unemployment is deliberately brought about as a means to combat inflation, but because it is now bound to occur as a deeply regrettable but inescapable consequence of the mistaken policies of the past as soon as inflation ceases to accelerate.

I must, however, now leave these problems of immediate practical importance which I have introduced chiefly as an illustration of the momentous consequences that may follow from errors concerning abstract problems of the philosophy of science. There is as much reason to be apprehensive about the long run dangers created in a much wider field by the uncritical acceptance of assertions which have the appearance of being scientific as there is with regard to the problems I have just discussed. What I mainly wanted to bring out by the topical illustration is that certainly in my field, but I believe also generally in the sciences of man, what looks superficially like the most scientific procedure is often the most unscientific, and, beyond this, that in these fields there are definite limits to what we can expect science to achieve. This means that to entrust to science - or to deliberate control according to scientific principles - more than scientific method can achieve may have deplorable effects. The progress of the natural sciences in modern times has of course so much exceeded all expectations that any suggestion that there may be some limits to it is bound to arouse suspicion. Especially all those will resist such an insight who have hoped that our increasing power of prediction and control, generally regarded as the characteristic result of scientific advance, applied to the processes of society, would soon enable us to mould society entirely to our liking. It is indeed true that, in contrast to the exhilaration which the discoveries of the physical sciences tend to produce, the insights which we gain from the study of society more often have a dampening effect on our aspirations; and it is perhaps not surprising that the more impetuous younger members of our profession are not always prepared to accept this. Yet the confidence in the unlimited power of science is only too often based on a false belief that the scientific method consists in the application of a ready-made technique, or in imitating the form rather than the substance of scientific procedure, as if one needed only to follow some cooking recipes to solve all social problems. It sometimes almost seems as if the techniques of science were more easily learnt than the thinking that shows us what the problems are and how to approach them.

The conflict between what in its present mood the public expects science to achieve in satisfaction of popular hopes and what is really in its power is a serious matter because, even if the true scientists should all recognize the limitations of what they can do in the field of human affairs, so long as the public expects more there will always be some who will pretend, and perhaps honestly believe, that they can do more to meet popular demands than is really in their power. It is often difficult enough for the expert, and certainly in many instances impossible for the layman, to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate claims advanced in the name of science. The enormous publicity recently given by the media to a report pronouncing in the name of science on The Limits to Growth, and the silence of the same media about the devastating criticism this report has received from the competent experts6, must make one feel somewhat apprehensive about the use to which the prestige of science can be put. But it is by no means only in the field of economics that far-reaching claims are made on behalf of a more scientific direction of all human activities and the desirability of replacing spontaneous processes by "conscious human control". If I am not mistaken, psychology, psychiatry and some branches of sociology, not to speak about the so-called philosophy of history, are even more affected by what I have called the scientistic prejudice, and by specious claims of what science can achieve.7

If we are to safeguard the reputation of science, and to prevent the arrogation of knowledge based on a superficial similarity of procedure with that of the physical sciences, much effort will have to be directed toward debunking such arrogations, some of which have by now become the vested interests of established university departments. We cannot be grateful enough to such modern philosophers of science as Sir Karl Popper for giving us a test by which we can distinguish between what we may accept as scientific and what not - a test which I am sure some doctrines now widely accepted as scientific would not pass. There are some special problems, however, in connection with those essentially complex phenomena of which social structures are so important an instance, which make me wish to restate in conclusion in more general terms the reasons why in these fields not only are there only absolute obstacles to the prediction of specific events, but why to act as if we possessed scientific knowledge enabling us to transcend them may itself become a serious obstacle to the advance of the human intellect.
The chief point we must remember is that the great and rapid advance of the physical sciences took place in fields where it proved that explanation and prediction could be based on laws which accounted for the observed phenomena as functions of comparatively few variables - either particular facts or relative frequencies of events. This may even be the ultimate reason why we single out these realms as "physical" in contrast to those more highly organized structures which I have here called essentially complex phenomena. There is no reason why the position must be the same in the latter as in the former fields. The difficulties which we encounter in the latter are not, as one might at first suspect, difficulties about formulating theories for the explanation of the observed events - although they cause also special difficulties about testing proposed explanations and therefore about eliminating bad theories. They are due to the chief problem which arises when we apply our theories to any particular situation in the real world. A theory of essentially complex phenomena must refer to a large number of particular facts; and to derive a prediction from it, or to test it, we have to ascertain all these particular facts. Once we succeeded in this there should be no particular difficulty about deriving testable predictions - with the help of modern computers it should be easy enough to insert these data into the appropriate blanks of the theoretical formulae and to derive a prediction. The real difficulty, to the solution of which science has little to contribute, and which is sometimes indeed insoluble, consists in the ascertainment of the particular facts.

A simple example will show the nature of this difficulty. Consider some ball game played by a few people of approximately equal skill. If we knew a few particular facts in addition to our general knowledge of the ability of the individual players, such as their state of attention, their perceptions and the state of their hearts, lungs, muscles etc. at each moment of the game, we could probably predict the outcome. Indeed, if we were familiar both with the game and the teams we should probably have a fairly shrewd idea on what the outcome will depend. But we shall of course not be able to ascertain those facts and in consequence the result of the game will be outside the range of the scientifically predictable, however well we may know what effects particular events would have on the result of the game. This does not mean that we can make no predictions at all about the course of such a game. If we know the rules of the different games we shall, in watching one, very soon know which game is being played and what kinds of actions we can expect and what kind not. But our capacity to predict will be confined to such general characteristics of the events to be expected and not include the capacity of predicting particular individual events.

This corresponds to what I have called earlier the mere pattern predictions to which we are increasingly confined as we penetrate from the realm in which relatively simple laws prevail into the range of phenomena where organized complexity rules. As we advance we find more and more frequently that we can in fact ascertain only some but not all the particular circumstances which determine the outcome of a given process; and in consequence we are able to predict only some but not all the properties of the result we have to expect. Often all that we shall be able to predict will be some abstract characteristic of the pattern that will appear - relations between kinds of elements about which individually we know very little. Yet, as I am anxious to repeat, we will still achieve predictions which can be falsified and which therefore are of empirical significance.

Of course, compared with the precise predictions we have learnt to expect in the physical sciences, this sort of mere pattern predictions is a second best with which one does not like to have to be content. Yet the danger of which I want to warn is precisely the belief that in order to have a claim to be accepted as scientific it is necessary to achieve more. This way lies charlatanism and worse. To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm. In the physical sciences there may be little objection to trying to do the impossible; one might even feel that one ought not to discourage the over-confident because their experiments may after all produce some new insights. But in the social field the erroneous belief that the exercise of some power would have beneficial consequences is likely to lead to a new power to coerce other men being conferred on some authority. Even if such power is not in itself bad, its exercise is likely to impede the functioning of those spontaneous ordering forces by which, without understanding them, man is in fact so largely assisted in the pursuit of his aims. We are only beginning to understand on how subtle a communication system the functioning of an advanced industrial society is based - a communications system which we call the market and which turns out to be a more efficient mechanism for digesting dispersed information than any that man has deliberately designed.

If man is not to do more harm than good in his efforts to improve the social order, he will have to learn that in this, as in all other fields where essential complexity of an organized kind prevails, he cannot acquire the full knowledge which would make mastery of the events possible. He will therefore have to use what knowledge he can achieve, not to shape the results as the craftsman shapes his handiwork, but rather to cultivate a growth by providing the appropriate environment, in the manner in which the gardener does this for his plants. There is danger in the exuberant feeling of ever growing power which the advance of the physical sciences has engendered and which tempts man to try, "dizzy with success", to use a characteristic phrase of early communism, to subject not only our natural but also our human environment to the control of a human will. The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson of humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men's fatal striving to control society - a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals.

1. "Scientism and the Study of Society", Economica, vol. IX, no. 35, August 1942, reprinted in The Counter-Revolution of Science, Glencoe, Ill., 1952, p. 15 of this reprint.
2. Warren Weaver, "A Quarter Century in the Natural Sciences", The Rockefeller Foundation Annual Report 1958, chapter I, "Science and Complexity".
3. See my essay "The Theory of Complex Phenomena" in The Critical Approach to Science and Philosophy. Essays in Honor of K.R. Popper, ed. M. Bunge, New York 1964, and reprinted (with additions) in my Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, London and Chicago 1967.
4. V. Pareto, Manuel d'économie politique, 2nd. ed., Paris 1927, pp. 223-4.
5. See, e.g., Luis Molina, De iustitia et iure, Cologne 1596-1600, tom. II, disp. 347, no. 3, and particularly Johannes de Lugo, Disputationum de iustitia et iure tomus secundus, Lyon 1642, disp. 26, sect. 4, no. 40.
6. See The Limits to Growth: A Report of the Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind, New York 1972; for a systematic examination of this by a competent economist cf. Wilfred Beckerman, In Defence of Economic Growth, London 1974, and, for a list of earlier criticisms by experts, Gottfried Haberler, Economic Growth and Stability, Los Angeles 1974, who rightly calls their effect "devastating".
7. I have given some illustrations of these tendencies in other fields in my inaugural lecture as Visiting Professor at the University of Salzburg, Die Irrtümer des Konstruktivismus und die Grundlagen legitimer Kritik gesellschaftlicher Gebilde, Munich 1970, now reissued for the Walter Eucken Institute, at Freiburg i.Brg. by J.C.B. Mohr, Tübingen 1975.
From Nobel Lectures, Economics 1969-1980, Editor Assar Lindbeck, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1992

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Speech President Kennedy Never Gave

November 22, 1963

I am honored to have this invitation to address the annual meeting of the Dallas Citizens Council, joined by the members of the Dallas Assembly -- and pleased to have this opportunity to salute the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest. It is fitting that these two symbols of Dallas progress are united in the sponsorship of this meeting. For they represent the best qualities, I am told, of leadership and learning in this city -- and leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. The advancement of learning depends on community leadership for financial political support, and the products of that learning, in turn, are essential to the leadership's hopes for continued progress and prosperity. It is not a coincidence that those communities possessing the best in research and graduate facilities -- from MIT to Cal Tech -- tend to attract new and growing industries. I congratulate those of you here in Dallas who have recognized these basic facts through the creation of the unique and forward-looking Graduate Research Center.

This link between leadership and learning is not only essential at the community level. It is even more indispensable in world affairs. Ignorance and misinformation can handicap the progress of a city or a company, but they can, if allowed to prevail in foreign policy, handicap this country's security. In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America's leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason -- or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.

There will always be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing opposition without alternative, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without responsibility. Those voices are inevitable.

But today other voices are heard in the land -- voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the sixties, doctrines which apparently assume that words will suffice without weapons, that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a sign of weakness. At a time when the national debt is steadily being reduced in terms of its burden on our economy, they that debt as the single greatest threat to our security. At a time when we are steadily reducing the number of Federal employees serving every thousand citizens, they fear those supposed hordes of civil servants far more than the actual hordes of opposing armies.

We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will "talk sense to the American people." But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this Nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.
I want to discuss with your today the status of our security because this question clearly calls for the most responsible qualities of leader- ship and the most enlightened products of scholarship. for this Nation's strength and security are not easily or cheaply obtained, nor are they quickly and simply explained. there are many kinds of strength and no one kind will suffice. Overwhelming nuclear strength cannot stop a guerrilla war. Formal pacts of alliance cannot stop internal subversion. Displays of material wealth cannot stop the disillusionment of diplomats subjected to discrimination.

Above all, words alone are not enough. The United States is a peaceful nation. And where our strength and determination are clear, our words need merely to convey conviction, not belligerence. If we are strong, our strength will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will be of no help.

I realize that this Nation often tends to identify turning-points in world affairs with the major addresses which preceded them. But it was not the Monroe Doctrine that kept all Europe away from this hemisphere -- it was the strength of the British fleet and the width of the Atlantic Ocean. It was not General Marshall's speech at Harvard which kept communism out of Western Europe -- it was the strength and stability made possible by our military and economic assistance.

In this administration also it has been necessary at times to issue specific warnings -- warnings that we could not stand by and watch the Communists conquer Laos by force, or intervene in the Congo, or swallow West Berlin, or maintain offensive missiles on Cuba. But while our goals were at least temporarily obtained in these and other instances, our successful defense of freedom was not due to the words we used, but to the strength we stood ready to use on behalf of the principles we stand ready to defend.

This strength is composed of many different elements, ranging from the most massive deterrents to the most subtle influences. And all types of strength are needed -- no one kind could do the job alone. Let us take a moment, therefore, to review this Nation's progress in each major area of strength.

First, as Secretary McNamara made clear in his address last Monday, the strategic nuclear power of the United States has been so greatly modernized and expanded in the last 1,000 days, by the rapid production and deployment of the most modern missile systems, that any and all potential aggressors are clearly confronted now with the impossibility of strategic victory -- and the certainty of total destruction -- if by reckless attack they should ever force upon us the necessity of a strategic reply.

In less than 3 years, we have increased by 50 percent the number of Polaris submarines scheduled to be in force by the next fiscal year, increased by more than 70 percent our total Polaris purchase program, increased by more than 75 percent our Minutemen purchase program, increased by 50 percent the portion of our strategic bombers on 15-minute alert forces. Our security is further enhanced by the steps we have taken regarding these weapons to improve the speed and certainty of their response, their readiness at all times to respond, their ability to survive an attack, and their ability to be carefully controlled and directed through secure command operations.

But the lessons of the last decade have taught us that freedom cannot be defended by strategic nuclear power alone. We have, therefore, in the last 3 years accelerated the development and deployment of tactical nuclear weapons, and increased by 60 percent the tactical nuclear forces deployed in Western Europe.

Nor can Europe or any other continent rely on nuclear forces alone, whether they are strategic or tactical. We have radically improved the readiness of our conventional forces -- increased by 45 percent of the number of combat ready Army divisions, increased by 100 percent the procurement of modern Army weapons and equipment, increased by 100 percent our procurement of our ship construction, conversion, and modernization program, increased by 100 percent our procurement of tactical aircraft, increased by 30 percent the number of tactical air squadrons, and increased the strength of the Marines. As last month's "Operation Big Lift" -- which originated here in Texas -- showed so clearly, this Nation is prepared as never before to move substantial numbers of men in surprisingly little time to advanced positions any- where in the world. We have increased by 175 percent the procurement of airlift aircraft, and we have already achieved a 75 percent increase in our existing strategic airlift capability. Finally, moving beyond the traditional roles of our military forces, we have achieved an increase of nearly 600 percent in our special forces -- those forces that are prepared to work with our allies and friends against the guerrillas, saboteurs, insurgents and assassins who threaten freedom in a less direct but equally dangerous manner.

But American military might should not and need not stand alone against the ambitions of international communism. Our security and strength, in the last analysis, directly depend on the security and strength of others, and that is why our military and economic assistance plays such a key role in enabling those who live on the periphery of the Communist world to maintain their independence of choice. Our assistance to these nations can be painful, risky, and costly, as is true in Southeast Asia today. But we dare not weary of the task. For our assistance makes possible the stationing of 3.5 million allied troops along the Communist frontier at one-tenth the cost of maintaining a comparable number of American soldiers. A successful Communist breakthrough in these area, necessitating direct United States intervention, would cost us several times as much as our entire foreign aid program, and might cost us heavily in American lives as well.

About 70 percent of our military assistance goes to nine key countries located on or near the borders of the Communist-bloc -- nine countries confronted directly or indirectly with the threat of Communistic aggression -- Viet-Nam, Free China, Korea, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Greece, Turkey, and Iran. No one of these countries possesses on its own the resources to maintain the forces which our own Chiefs of Staff think needed in the common interest. Reducing our efforts to train, equip, and assist their armies can only encourage Communist penetration and require in time the increased overseas deployment of American combat forces. And reducing the economic help needed to bolster these nations that undertake to help defend freedom can have the same disastrous result. In short, the $50 billion we spend each year on our own defense could well be ineffective without the $4 billion required for military and economic assistance.

Our foreign aid program is not growing in size, it is, on the contrary, smaller now than in previous years. It has had its weaknesses, but we have undertaken to correct them. And the proper way of treating weaknesses is to replace them with strength, not to increase those weaknesses by emasculating essential programs. Dollar for dollar, in or out of government, there is no better form of investment in our national security than our much-abused foreign aid program. We cannot afford to lose it. We can afford to maintain it. we can surely afford, for example, to do as much for our 19 needy neighbors of Latin America as the Communist bloc is sending to the island of Cuba alone.

I have spoken of strength largely in terms of the deterrence and resistance of aggression and attack. But in today's world, freedom can be lost without a shot being fired, by ballots as well as bullets. The success of our leadership is dependent upon respect for our mission in the world as well as our missiles -- on a clearer recognition of the virtues of freedom as well as the evils of tyranny.

That is why our Information Agency has doubled the shortwave broadcasting powers of the Voice of America and increased the number of broadcasting hours by 30 percent, increased Spanish language broadcasting to Cuba and Latin America from 1 to 9 hours a day, increased seven-fold to more than 3.5 million copies the number of American books being translated and published for Latin American readers, and taken a host of other steps to carry our message of truth and freedom to all the far corners of the earth.

And that is also why we have regained the initiative in the exploration of outer space, making an annual effort greater than the combined total of all space activities undertaken during the fifties, launching more than 130 vehicles into earth orbit, putting into actual operation valuable weather and communications satellites, and making it clear to all that the United States of America has no intention of finishing second in space.
This effort is expensive -- but it pays its own way, for freedom and for America. For there is no longer any fear in the free world that a Communist lead in space will become a permanent assertion of supremacy and the basis for military superiority. There is no longer any doubt about the strength and skill of American science, American industry, American education, and the American free enterprise system. In short, our nation space effort represents a great gain in, and a great resource of, our national strength -- and both Texas and Texans are contributing greatly to this strength.
Finally, it should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad than she is at home. Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice affects our future. Only an America which has fully educated its citizens is fully capable of tackling the complex problems and perceiving the hidden dangers of the world in which we live. And only an America which is growing and prospering economically can sustain the worldwide defenses of freedom, while demonstrating to all concerned the opportunities of our system and society.

It is clear, therefore, that we are strengthening our security as well as our economy by our recent record increases in national income and output -- by surging ahead of most of Western Europe in the rate of business expansion and the margin of corporate profits, by maintaining a more stable level of prices than almost any of our overseas competitors, and by cutting personal and corporate income taxes by some $11 billion, as I have proposed, to assure this Nation of the longest and strongest expansion in our peacetime economic history.
This Nation's total output -which 3 years ago was at the $500 billion mark -- will soon pass $600 billion, for a record rise of over $100 billion in 3 years. For the first time in history we have 70 million men and women at work. For the first time in history average factory earnings have exceeded $100 a week. For the first time in history corporation profits after taxes -- which have risen 43 percent in less than 3 years -- have an annual level of $27.4 billion.

My friends and fellow citizens: I cite these facts and figures to make it clear that America today is stronger than ever before. Our adversaries have not abandoned their ambitions, our dangers have not diminished, our vigilance cannot be relaxed. But now we have the military, the scientific, and the economic strength to do whatever must be done for the preservation and promotion of freedom.

The strength will never be used in pursuit of aggressive ambitions -- it will always be used in pursuit of peace. It will never be used to promote provocations -- it will always be used to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes.

We, in this country, in this generation, are -- by destiny rather than by choice -- the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of "peace on earth, good will toward men." That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: "except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"Hey, Whoa, Man:" A Eulogy for John Reist, plus one year

It's been a year since we lost John Reist.  We are poorer for that loss.  But we are a whole year closer to reunion.  In his memory, I re-run here what I said about him then.



          I never had to say, “John Reist is here.”
         John always announced his own presence, even if he were still some distance away.  At any moment of any day, you might step outside the faculty office building into the quad and hear someone whistling a tune, and you’d think, “It’s Reist.”
         It was.
         As the song got louder and John himself appeared, he’d tell you a joke, maybe three.  John had a joke for every conceivable occasion, and even a few for occasions not conceivable.
         Then he’d complain.  Something always was wrong.  Something or someone always needed to be addressed.
         Forgive me if I assume you might not see the connection between the song, the joke, and the complaint, but too many folks did not.
         John had a song, a joke, and a complaint precisely because, more than anyone else I ever knew, he tried to live a thoroughly and authentically theological existence.  He knew and he professed the lordship of Christ.  He was committed in faith to the God Who became a man, Who suffered and writhed in agony on the cross for the sins of the world, Who died, was buried, and rose from the dead.  John understood that in the death and resurrection of Christ the sorry and tragic history of human life, as well as its destiny, had been redeemed and renewed, that the Devil and his works were doomed, and that the final chapter in the lives of all believers was not just a happy ending, but the happiest.
         John knew that sin had been declawed, that death’s sting had been removed, and that Christ was Lord of all things.  For John, as for all conscientious Christians, that meant we have a reason to sing, a reason to laugh, and a reason to work.
         So he went about his life whistling, laughing, and putting wrongs right.  He especially liked putting right arrogant and self-congratulatory piosity wherever he found it.  He delighted in popping the bubbles of pretense.  He found them everywhere.  If he caught you primping, preening, posing, or posturing, he’d do you the favor none of your other friends would do:  He’d do you the enormous favor of popping your bubble.  In a religion like Christianity, based as it is so fully on God’s grace and not on human virtue, nothing better could happen to you.
         So he whistled, he joked, and he popped.
         On the day I shut the door that closes this life and open the one that leads me into the next, I expect to hear somebody whistling in the distance, and then saying to me with a chuckle, “Who would have guessed?  They let in Baptists!”
         As always, even in Heaven, I won’t have to say “Reist is here.”  He’ll already have announced his presence.  Then he’ll remind me that “Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ is coming again.”
         In light of that stupendous truth, the only sensible response I can offer here is to say, “Somebody sing a song.  Somebody tell a joke.  Somebody pop a bubble.”  

The Problem with Philosophy is . . . the Philosophers

          If, by “metaphysics,” we mean “the ultimate science of Being and knowing” (OED), then we might rightly conclude that it is a pretentious, ambitious, even audacious enterprise, so much so that with Kant we might question whether or not such knowledge is possible for us, at least as defined.  I am not in the slightest here taking up the cause of the logical positivists, but perhaps we are well advised to think this pursuit beyond our range, like firing a pistol at the moon, or hoping to catch a glimpse of its dark side with a flashlight.  Perhaps all that such immodest speculation yields is a mere word pattern drawing out the implications of such ideas, at least until they meet a wall, a philosophical cul de sac beyond which we cannot pass.  This path might proceed inexorably to some dialectical opposites not reconcilable into a higher, or more basic, synthesis.  We do not know; we cannot tell, at least until God tells.
         The true relation of our ideas to ultimate reality is not something we can well discern unless Ultimate Reality Himself tells us about it.  Until He does, we are constrained to making educated guesses.  These (hopefully) logically derived guesses seem by necessity to proceed according to analogy.  By that I mean that concepts drawn from, or based upon, one mode of our experience are made to stand for or to relate meaningfully to Ultimate Reality.  In what way it does so we cannot say for certain, but we hope that it does.  What precise analogy exists between us and It we do not know, though theories abound.  Short of revelation, those theories seem unable to rise to the level of fact, to knowledge, to Ultimate Reality (whether capitalized or not).  Is the transcendent accessible?  If so, by what means, and how do you know?
         It seems to me that we do not know, and perhaps cannot know, that Ultimate Reality is contained or properly expressed in our language and thoughts about it, even if our analogies, by chance, are apt.   Their actual significance is possibly beyond our ken.  That ought to humble us; it does not.   We might be trafficking in little more or little else than the world pictures our stunted minds toss forth, and the notions we try logically to drawn from them.  When we begin to talk about the world as it is, and about its fundamental basis, we ought to proceed cautiously.  I know of few metaphysicians who do.
         Let us suppose that natural revelation is a perfectly wonderful and accurate revelation of God and that by it He can be well and deeply known.  Even so, it would not follow that natural theology is reliable or is to trusted.  It does not follow because additional correct supposals also are required.  We must suppose also (A) that the human mind is acute enough, all on its own, to decode the divine message of nature, and (B) that the human soul is pious enough to receive that message humbly, to act on it obediently, and not to suppress it, alter it, or exchange it for a lie.  Those supposals are false.
         We are not humble and teachable recipients of nature’s message.  We do not bow reverently before the God thus revealed or receptively to the Truth which He is.   Quite the opposite:  We suppress the Truth and exchange Him for a lie.  In light of the revelation of God in nature, we make new gods, false gods, mind-forged idols, because, as Calvin rightly observed, the human heart is an idol factory, and for its raw materials uses the revelation of God which, because He is the very content of revelation, is God Himself.
         That is exactly what happened:  God made Himself known through nature (Rom. 1: 19, 20).  But, being unthankful and vain, while still thinking ourselves wise, our hearts became darkened (v. 21).  By means of those dark, idol-making hearts, we transformed God into the image of humans, animals, and even less because we did not want to retain God in our knowledge (vv. 23, 28).  God therefore gave us over to the wicked actions that accompany idolatry (vv. 26, 27), the litany of which is shocking and gross (vv. 28-31).  Our idols are of various sorts.  They range from the golden calf of the ancient Jews to the impersonal, inarticulate, mechanistic causes and movers of the Greeks.   Whether they are human, animal or mechanistic in representation, and whether or not they embody some small portion of the Truth, they all are idols.  They all argue against our skills at metaphysics.  They all say that when it comes to “the ultimate science of Being and knowing,” we are worse than rank amateurs.  We are its enemies.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

John 6, Chronology, and the Lord's Supper

         One sometimes hears that in his gospel John is not concerned with time or with timing.  That is simply false.  I often hear this assertion when I argue that the so-called “bread of life discourse” in John 6 is not about the Passover, the Last Supper, the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, which are many chapters and much time away. Consider the following items:

Day one:  1:19-28
         “on the morrow”:  1: 29-34
         “on the morrow”:  1: 35-42
         “on the morrow”:  1: 43-50
Day three:                       2: 1-11
         “after this:              2: 12
         “abode not many days”
The Passover at hand:  2: 13-22
During Passover             2: 23-3: 21
During activity of John the Baptist 4: 1ff
         “after two days”:   4: 43
         “after these things”: 5: 1-47
         “after these things”: 6: 1-21
Passover at hand:  6: 4
         “on the morrow”:    6: 22-59
         “after these things”: 7:1-13
Feast of the tabernacles:  7: 2
         “the midst of the feast” 7: 14
Feast of dedication:  10: 22-39
Passover at hand:  11: 54-57
         “six days before the Passover”:  12: 1-11
         “on the morrow”:  12: 12-36a
Before the Feast of the Passover (13:1)
         “sixth hour”: 19:14
         “preparation”: 19: 31
         first day: 20: 1-18
                  evening: 20: 19-25
         eighth day: 20: 26-29
“After these things”: 21: 1-23

*from Merrill C. Tenney,  John:  The Gospel of Belief, pp. 40, 41

Thursday, October 17, 2013

McCain, McConnell, and Graham: Why Republicans Lose

You might recall that soon after the Republicans nominated John McCain, and he nominated Sarah Palin, he held a four-point lead over Obama.  Then, as the economy grew worse, he decided to suspend his campaign and return to Washington until the financial crisis was solved.  He never again regained his lead.

By doing what he did, McCain ignored two important facts:  (1) Nominating Palin motivated the Republican base, a base that knows that the solution to our problems is not found in Washington.  That’s where you find their origin.  (2) If McCain had said that he would maintain his campaign aggressively and stay out on the hustings with the American people -- the only place where these issues can be well-resolved -- then he might have held on to win.  The base whose support put him ahead might have kept him ahead.  But just like his Democratic opponents, when things got bad, McCain turned to government and returned to Washington.  He could never convince the American voters that Washington is the problem because he didn’t believe it himself.  He believed Washington is the solution.  He still does.  So does the Republican leadership in the Senate and the RNC.  Do not expect him or them to beat the Democrats.  They share the Democrats’ ideology and solutions.  The difference between them and the Democrats is one of degree, not of kind.   Such Republicans cannot be trusted to lead conservative Republicans to victory.  Rather, they attack and marginalize the conservatives as unsophisticated.  They act as if they themselves never noticed that there can be no victory without conservative Republicans, who did in 2010 what they themselves failed to do in 2008 and 2012.  They never yet noticed that they don’t own the past or the future.  They are losers.  They have alienated their only means to victory by failing to fight for their conservative base and its ideas.  They fight against them and do to them what the Democrats themselves would love to do:  marginalize the Tea Party.  They spend more time and public political capital fighting the Tea Party than they do marginalizing the far left from its middle-left counterparts.  Why?  Because they are closer to the middle-left than to their own conservative base.

The McCain, McConnell, Graham cult will never win any significant battle in Washington because they are ideologically and tactically incapable of winning and because they do not want Tea Party ideas to prevail.  When those ideas emerge, those ideas are attacked -- by that cult -- a cult that thinks that merely by posing and primping as adults, they will win.  It doesn’t happen.  Pretending to be adults is what kids do.  They are Washington’s latest crop of kids, not its latest platoon of Conservative warriors.  They think that it is statesmanlike to feign adulthood and to denounce the warriors.

You can tell that about them because their actions and their words say so.  Then, when the warriors lose because they were undermined by their own leadership, the leadership says, “See, we told you it wouldn’t work.”

Do recall one more thing about McCain’s campaign for the White House:  He said he didn’t understand economics.  He’s right.  He doesn’t.  It’s not the only thing on which he and his ilk are a bit dull.           

Friday, September 20, 2013


(1) Proof that feminists care more for Democrats than for women:   Jennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and Monica Lewinsky.

(2) Proof that the anti-war left cares more for Democrats than for peace:  Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, drone strikes, and (a) giving Barack Obama a Nobel Peace Prize before he did anything at all in office for peace and (b) giving one to Al Gore for applying junk science to environmental extremism

(3) Proof that conservatives care more for Republicans than for the Constitution: John Boehner, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Mitt Romney, the Patriot Act, NSA, picking the Social security lock box, and failure to defund Obamacare

(4) Proof that libertarians care more for straight-jacketed, lock-stepped, ideological purity than for actually making the world better: voting for Ron Paul over and over and over

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Whatever Happened to the Anti-war Left?

It looks like the anti-war left vanished, but it didn’t.  It just showed its true colors.  It isn’t so much anti-war as anti-Republican.

         (1) When a Democrat wants to go into a Middle Eastern country because a tyrant gassed a few hundred of his own citizens, the anti-war left doesn’t say a word, even if the Democrat has to go it alone, and even if the Democrat intends to leave the murdering tyrant in place.  But when a Republican wants to go into a Middle Eastern country because a tyrant gassed more than 5,000 of his own citizens and 50,000 citizens of another country, and even though the Republican has built a multi-national coalition for the purpose, the anti-war left goes all peacenik on us, even though the Republican gets the tyrant removed -- from earth, and even though the Republican declined to blame it all on an internet video no one involved ever saw.  The anti-war left opposed that war even after they voted for it.  They are silent about this war, even if no one votes for it.

         (2) The WMDs that Assad is using on his own Syrian citizens are the WMDs that, according to one of Saddam Husseins’s generals, were shipped from Iraq to Syria before we invaded Iraq to find them.  If you want proof that Saddam had WMDs, then read the daily news reports from Syria -- and read the book by that Iraqi general -- Georges Sada.  The book is called called Saddam’s Secrets.  It details the time, place, number, and destination of more than 30 shipments of WMDs from Iraq to Syria, with the help of the Russians, who (not surprisingly) are now supporting the Syrians against us.

         Please do recall that when Democrats intervene in other countries, things often go desperately wrong because the Democrats do not know not what they are doing, period.  Jimmy Carter throws the shah of Iran under the bus, and the ayatollahs take over.  Obama aids in the so-called Arab Spring in Egypt and Mubarak is deposed.  In his place the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power.  At least the Egyptians themselves now realize their error and have deposed the MB and released Mubarak.  They learned their error even if Obama has not.  In Libya, while leading from the rear, Obama helped depose Muammar Gaddafi.  Then Benghazi happened and Obama blamed a video.  The man is not ready for prime time.  Statesmanship is not what they teach in community organizer school.  His world-shaking incompetence does not matter to the anti-war left.  All that matters is party affiliation.  Oh, did I mention Anastasio Samoza? 
         Why does the anti-war left go silent and blind?  They do it because their guy is in charge.  As Democrat Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton confessed, she'd support the war in Syria simply because it's Obama's.  For the left, everything is about partisanship, not principle.  It’s a tactic and a ploy the anti-war left learned from the feminist left.  for example, if a Democrat (A) is accused of rape, (B) is accused of indecent exposure and groping multiple times, (C) employs power advantages over an intern for sexual purposes and then (D) lies about it under oath so that he is both impeached and disbarred, and if he (E) attacks the reputation of the innocent women who accused him, the feminist left doesn’t mind at all.  It’s hear no evil; see no evil; say no evil.  But if women raise accusations against Republicans -- especially if those Republicans are black -- then the feminists go ballistic.

         In short, with the feminist left, it’s not about women; it’s about partisanship.  With the anti-war left, it’s not about war; it’s about partisanship. 

        PS:   The anti-war left is silent even though Syria threatens to attack Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan if the US strikes. We do not know what Syria's most ardent supporters, Russia and Iran, will do in that case.  One hesitates to think how bad things might get if Obama strikes.  We do know that if Israel is attacked, it will respond accordingly.  The Middle East is a tinder box and Obama's foreign policy is an open flame.
         Or, consider it from anther perspective:  If you are a football coach, you don't tell the other team what your next few plays will be.  But if you are Barack Obama, you do.  In war, that gives the other side plenty of time to hide the weapons and persons you target.  After being tipped off as to Obama's intentions, the regime in Syria has dispersed its assets and hidden them in civilian population centers where Syria knows we are not likely to strike, thus securing those assets from damage.  For that reason, our strikes, being telegraphed in advance, will serve little, if any, positive purpose.