Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Guilty Parties

David Brooks, writing for the New York Times, puts his finger on the reason why so many states have such a bleak economic future - their public employees unions and the Democratic Party that has been bought and paid for by those unions. Here's the heart of Brooks' column:
New Jersey can’t afford to build its tunnel, but benefits packages for the state’s employees are 41 percent more expensive than those offered by the average Fortune 500 company. These benefits costs are rising by 16 percent a year.
New York City has to strain to finance its schools but must support 10,000 former cops who have retired before age 50.
California can’t afford new water projects, but state cops often receive 90 percent of their salaries when they retire at 50. The average corrections officer there makes $70,000 a year in base salary and $100,000 with overtime (California spends more on its prison system than on its schools).
States across the nation will be paralyzed for the rest of our lives because they face unfunded pension obligations that, if counted accurately, amount to $2 trillion — or $87,000 per plan participant.
All in all, governments can’t promote future prosperity because they are strangling on their own self-indulgence.
Brooks concludes with this indictment:
This situation, if you’ll forgive me for saying so, has been the Democratic Party’s epic failure. The party believes in the positive uses of government. But if you want the country to share that belief, you have to provide a government that is nimble, tough-minded and effective. That means occasionally standing up to the excessive demands of public employee unions. Instead of standing up to those demands, the party has become captured by the unions. Liberal activism has become paralyzed by its own special interests.
Brooks' article is informative but if you're looking for an exhaustive treatment of the problem read the paper by political scientist Daniel DiSalvo to which Brooks links.

Here's a summary: Your chances of enjoying as high a standard of living as your parents did are severely curtailed by the fact that your state pays its retired employees benefits that are about as hefty as those employees paychecks were when they were working. In order to meet these obligations you and your future employer, if you ever have one, will have to be heavily taxed and you will thus have less money to live on than your parents did.

This state of affairs came about because state legislatures are often controlled by liberal Democrats who count public workers as part of their political base and who've been very compliant in acceding to their legislative wishes.

So, there you have yet another good reason to vote for the Democrats' opponents on the first Tuesday in November.

Are God and Darwin Compatible?

Is Darwinism compatible with orthodox belief in God? Philosopher of science Jay Richards has released a new book in which he discusses the reasons why the answer to this question is "no."

I haven't seen the book, but I'm sure that the main reason why the two are incompatible has nothing to do with evolution as such and has everything to do with the metaphysical view called materialism. One can be an orthodox theist and still believe that God employed and directed an evolutionary process in order to produce living things, but Darwinism doesn't allow for such a belief. Darwinism insists that there were no forces but natural forces, no direction, no guidance, no intelligence involved in the evolution of life's diversity.

In other words, the Darwinian view is that there's no need for a superintending mind to front-load the evolutionary development of life or to direct it at any point along the way. God is superfluous. Nature can, and did, do it all, according to the Darwinian.

Thus, a theist can be an evolutionist, but it's hard to see how a theist could be a Darwinian evolutionist.

Richards' book looks like it would be very useful in helping laypeople to understand why this is so.