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Beltway Books: Capital(ist) punishment

Books | Funding its opponents, capitalism is its own worst enemy

Issue: "Army's new MP's?," May 31, 1997

The foundation of the American republic is the right to own property. It was widespread property ownership that made the New World so different from old Europe-yeoman farmers were independent of the elites with commercial and political power.

But the right to own property is threatened today. The Marzullas-Nancie heads up Defenders of Property Rights, while Roger formerly served as Assistant Attorney General-have written a handbook covering constitutional protections for property, legislative threats to private ownership, litigation against the government, and needed legislative reforms. Hopefully Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, who wrote the foreword for Property Rights, will use his position to help implement the book's recommendations.

The date for filing one's income tax has passed, but the average American doesn't finish paying his taxes until May 9th, known as Tax Freedom Day. That's bad enough, but as Michael Graetz points out in The Decline [and Fall?] of the Income Tax, the tax system is an abomination, twisted by politicians at the behest of well-heeled lobbyists who fill the corridors of Capitol Hill. At the same time Graetz derides proposals for a flat income tax or consumption tax. He ends up calling for political reform, a sadly inadequate solution to the problems described in the rest of his book, since rejiggering campaign finance laws is likely only to reshuffle the pecking order of Washington interest groups.

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It has long been said that the greatest enemies of capitalism are the capitalists. That is evident from reading Patterns of Corporate Philanthropy. Among the bulwarks of the liberal establishment are most of the philanthropic institutions that make up the so-called Independent Sector. In 1994, the latest year for which figures were available, corporate America-for all of its supposed hard-nosed pro-business conservatism-gave $36 million to advocacy groups, 86 percent of it to left-wing organizations. At least that isn't as bad as in 1993, when 89 percent of corporate giving went to the left.

As important as is government policy, culture may have a more devastating impact on the family. Dana Mack's The Assault on Parenthood finds that "communal supports for the child-rearing work of even the best families are crumbling." She warns against the It Takes a Village approach, based as it is on "the fallacious assumption that in the modern world it is up to institutions, and not up to parents, to rear children." I don't agree with all of her proposed solutions, but it's an important book.

Unintentionally confirming Ms. Mack's arguments is What Wild Ecstasy, by a former editor of Penthouse Forum, John Heidenry. He tracks (in explicit detail, so beware) the changes wrought by the sexual revolution. He seems to have learned nothing when he calls his fellow revolutionaries again to the barricades, since "a fourth great battle to reform our sexual doctrines, mores, and laws awaits us." This book helps explain Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and much of the debased moral leadership within the Capital Beltway.


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