Dynamist Blog


Al Qaeda is waging a civil war against fellow Muslims, not just a war on the West. Hence the bombings in Saudi Arabia, whose aggressive theocracy isn't consistent enough for the true purists, and in Turkey, which even more subversively demonstrates that Muslims can be modern. This Guardian report from Istanbul illustrates just how much is at stake for Turks. "It's not just politics," says one. "They're attacking our way of life."

The attack on Turkey also poses challenges for the U.S. and, even more so, the Europeans. Are we willing to stand by our ally, with consistent rhetoric as well as military and diplomatic agreements of mutual convenience? And can the Europeans genuinely accept a secular state and Muslim nation as one of their own, challenging both European "Christendom" and their own Muslim fundamentalists? The Guardian article is a must read. (Via Andrew Sullivan.)


In a special report on design, Fortune's Jason Tanz takes a look at how old-line industrial companies like Whirlpool, Masterlock, and P&G are raising their aesthetic expectations. He quotes the author of The Substance of Style, as well as some of her sources (and many all his own).


On my many recent trips, I've had a chance to catch up on some reading, including the excellent latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine. Here's the lead of a review/article on why Japanese women won't get married:

Of all the problems Japan faces, the one bound to have the greatest effect on its future is not North Korea's budding nuclear program, its own unending recession, the dispatch of Japanese forces to a restive Iraq, or even the prospect of a new natural disaster like the earthquake that devastated Kobe in 1995. No, what really threatens Japan's future is the country's shrinking population and, more fundamentally, the astonishing disconnect between Japanese men and women that underlies it.

Though Japan's demographic problems may not be news, the figures are astounding. The number of children the average Japanese woman bears has declined almost continuously since peaking at four during the postwar baby boom. As of last year, it had fallen to 1.32--far below the rate required to maintain current population levels. In three years, Japan's population will crest at 127.5 million and then begin a long, slow slide to about half that level by 2100. The consequences for the economy--falling production, plunging land values, and soaring taxes--will be dire.

Even more troubling is the cluelessness of the men who run Japan about the cause of this demographic decline. They have never been interested in why Japanese women shun marriage and motherhood; in fact, when Japanese women point out the difficulties they face, men dismiss their complaints as a twittering of birds, unworthy of male attention.

The joys of traditional values.

Among the other articles: Fed Governor Ben Bernanke on the dangers of deflation and an examination of the growing role of anti-semitism in the antiglobalization movement (a trend that cries out for the ideological framework provided in The Future and Its Enemies).


elvis.jpg Reader Jeremy Bencken calls my attention to this design contest, which attracts 1.2 million pounds in donated canned food. Jeremy writes:

It made me think of you because it's an idea at the crossroads of libertarian ideals (voluntary donation) and the substance of style (design/art). Charity by creating value for others. Imagine! ;-)

I've enjoyed the annual displays in the Northpark shopping center here in Dallas, but I'd never realized that they were part of such a large effort. Check out the photos on the Canstruction site.


In an email, Reason's Jesse Walker (as of yesterday, a married man) makes an interesting point in response to my post below about Howard Dean's campaign for economic "re-regulation:

I'm not a Libertarian For Dean, though I have to admit I enjoy his ability to annoy the Democratic party establishment. (I realize that this is petty of me.) But most of the libs I know who support Dean would give a different answer: They want divided government, and Dean strikes them as someone whose worst instincts -- unlike Bush's -- could be contained by a Republican Congress.

I'm a fan of divided government myself and was rooting for Senate Democrats to derail the Bush administration's plans to vastly expand Medicare. Too bad their filibuster failed. Of course, they wanted to expand entitlements even more. I'm hopeful they'll torpedo the awful energy bill. (For tons of info on the energy bill, see Lynne Kiesling's blog.)

In happier news, mazel tov to Jesse and his new wife.


From President Bush's London speech:

The stakes in that region could not be higher. If the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation and anger and violence for export. And as we saw in the ruins of two towers, no distance on the map will protect our lives and way of life. If the greater Middle East joins the democratic revolution that has reached much of the world, the lives of millions in that region will be bettered, and a trend of conflict and fear will be ended at its source.

The movement of history will not come about quickly. Because of our own democratic development -- the fact that it was gradual and, at times, turbulent -- we must be patient with others. And the Middle East countries have some distance to travel.

Arab scholars speak of a freedom deficit that has separated whole nations from the progress of our time. The essentials of social and material progress -- limited government, equal justice under law, religious and economic liberty, political participation, free press, and respect for the rights of women -- have been scarce across the region. Yet that has begun to change. In an arc of reform from Morocco to Jordan to Qatar, we are seeing elections and new protections for women and the stirring of political pluralism. Many governments are realizing that theocracy and dictatorship do not lead to national greatness; they end in national ruin. They are finding, as others will find, that national progress and dignity are achieved when governments are just and people are free.

The democratic progress we've seen in the Middle East was not imposed from abroad, and neither will the greater progress we hope to see. Freedom, by definition, must be chosen, and defended by those who choose it. Our part, as free nations, is to ally ourselves with reform, wherever it occurs.

Perhaps the most helpful change we can make is to change in our own thinking. In the West, there's been a certain skepticism about the capacity or even the desire of Middle Eastern peoples for self-government. We're told that Islam is somehow inconsistent with a democratic culture. Yet more than half of the world's Muslims are today contributing citizens in democratic societies. It is suggested that the poor, in their daily struggles, care little for self-government. Yet the poor, especially, need the power of democracy to defend themselves against corrupt elites.

Peoples of the Middle East share a high civilization, a religion of personal responsibility, and a need for freedom as deep as our own. It is not realism to suppose that one-fifth of humanity is unsuited to liberty; it is pessimism and condescension, and we should have none of it. (Applause.)

We must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East. Your nation and mine, in the past, have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Longstanding ties often led us to overlook the faults of local elites. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time, while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold.

As recent history has shown, we cannot turn a blind eye to oppression just because the oppression is not in our own backyard. No longer should we think tyranny is benign because it is temporarily convenient. Tyranny is never benign to its victims, and our great democracies should oppose tyranny wherever it is found. (Applause.)

Now we're pursuing a different course, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. We will consistently challenge the enemies of reform and confront the allies of terror. We will expect a higher standard from our friends in the region, and we will meet our responsibilities in Afghanistan and in Iraq by finishing the work of democracy we have begun.

The part about "tolerat[ing] opression for the sake of stability" sounds aimed not only at the Saudis but at Bush 41, who was such an advocate of stability that his administration didn't even want the Baltic republics to leave the Soviet Union. That instability worked out pretty well. Middle Eastern stability didn't.


In addition to my St. Louis talks tomorrow, I'll be speaking in Rochester, NY, this Friday evening and Saturday morning. (Advanced registration is required for both events.)

The week after Thanksgiving, I'll be in the Carolinas, speaking in Greenville, SC, Charlotte, and Raleigh. For more information, see the book tour page.


Eugene Volokh posts a first-hand account of what's going on--or not going on--in the streets of London, from a friend who lives right in Trafalgar Square. Contrary to the predictions of Bush haters and the fears of Bush fans, protests are drawing crowds of 100 or so, not the threatened mobs. The whole post is worth reading, but here's the bottom line:

I'm not sure what you all are reading back home, but it is simply not the case that the UK -- or even London -- is rising up in anger over the Bush visit. A (small) majority supports the visit, even if a (slight) majority oppose him and the war. Not that different than, say, New York or Washington. My impression is that most Britons -- and even most Londoners -- are no more irritated by the President than by the "protesters."

Sensible people with jobs have better things to do with their time than protesting in the street. And sensible people who actually want to change policy have more effective ways of persuasion.


Sunday's NYT Book Review reviewed The Substance of Style here.

The National Post review is here, but only for a few more days.

The December issue of Metropolis has an interesting review, but it isn't online.


In an interview with Jim VandeHei of the WaPost, Howard Dean shows himself to be the thinking man's Cruz Bustamante, calling for a sweeping "re-regulation" of the economy:

After years of government deregulation of energy markets, telecommunications, the airlines and other major industries, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean is proposing a significant reversal: a comprehensive "re-regulation" of U.S. businesses.

The former Vermont governor said he would reverse the trend toward deregulation pursued by recent presidents -- including, in some respects, Bill Clinton -- to help restore faith in scandal-plagued U.S. corporations and better protect U.S. workers.

In an interview around midnight Monday on his campaign plane with a small group of reporters, Dean listed likely targets for what he dubbed as his "re-regulation" campaign: utilities, large media companies and any business that offers stock options. Dean did not rule out "re-regulating" the telecommunications industry, too.

He also said a Dean administration would require new workers' standards, a much broader right to unionize and new "transparency" requirements for corporations that go beyond the recently enacted Sarbanes-Oxley law.

The specifics are all rather vague, but the underlying attitude is clear. Dean is running as a guy who wants to control the economy from Washington and who sees business as fundamentally bad. "Any business that offers stock options" covers a lot of companies, including some of the economy's most promising and dynamic.

Regulation tends to be relatively invisible to the general public, in part because it's mind-numbingly technical. That makes it much more difficult to reverse, much easier for interest groups to manipulate, and much more dangerous to the general health of the economy than the taxing and spending that attract attention from pundits.

It will be interesting to see how--or if--self-described "libertarians for Dean" respond to his re-regulation campaign. Are they simply looking for an antiwar candidate, and accepting Dean as the best alternative on their top issue? Are they genuinely upset with Bush's less-than-stellar record on issues like free trade, in which case Dean would be worse and should be no more appealing? Or are they just trying to hang with the cool kids?

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