Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Tools of a tyrant," Aug. 10, 2002

A tool for self-defense

Guns reduce violence, argues columnist Paul Craig Roberts, and the evidence supporting this thesis grows. He notes a new book from Joyce Lee Malcolm called Guns and Violence. "When the English were armed to the teeth, violent crime was rare," he writes. "Now that the English are disarmed, violent crime has exploded. Indeed, crime in England is out of control." Mr. Roberts also attacked the idea that guns are a constant danger to children: "Bathtubs are twice as dangerous to children as guns. Fire is 18 times more dangerous.... Cars are 57 times more dangerous. Household cleaners and poisons are twice as dangerous." The economist also quotes statistics showing that defensive gun use stops more crimes than police intervention. "National polls of defensive gun use by private citizens indicate that as many as 3.6 million crimes annually are prevented by armed individuals," he points out. "In 98 percent of the cases, the armed citizen merely has to brandish his weapon. As many as 400,000 people each year believe they saved a life by being armed. Contrary to Handgun Control's propaganda, in less than 1 percent of confrontations do criminals succeed in taking the gun from the intended victim."

Feminism's victims

Feminism has created a generation of lonely, childless women. So argues Australian TV reporter Virginia Haussegger in the Australian newspaper The Age. She contends that feminist role models steered her down the wrong path: "The point is that while encouraging women in the '70s and '80s to reach for the sky, none of our purple-clad, feminist mothers thought to tell us the truth about the biological clock." By putting career above everything else, Ms. Haussegger says women gave up more than they realize. "We are the ones, now in our late 30s and early 40s, who are suddenly sitting before a sheepish doctor listening to the words: 'Well, I'm sorry, but you may have left your run too late. Women at your age find it very difficult to get pregnant naturally.'"

Welfare for the wealthy

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Should taxpayers foot the bill for wealthy seniors' prescription drugs? Many Senate Democrats think so. They have lobbied this summer for a drug benefit under Medicare that would funnel taxpayers' money to all seniors, regardless of net worth. Democrats "want a 'universal' benefit so they can hook all American seniors and the entire drug industry on government," The Wall Street Journal editorializes. "They're only too happy to ask taxpayers to finance the prescription drugs of David Rockefeller if it means taking the U.S. health-care system one step closer to Canadian-style government care." When the full Senate rejected their $594 billion bill, Democrats accepted the concept of "means testing," or targeting subsidies to poor, uninsured seniors. "Or at least that's the new pitch, though once you inspect the fine print you discover that this isn't quite true either," argues the Journal. Their new proposal "would still pay for all drug costs above $4,000 a year, including for the Rockefellers, and would still carry a whopping price tag of a minimum of $400 billion over 10 years."

Welfare for the well-connected

Q: What does it take to unite liberal environmentalists and free-market conservatives? A: Politicians who care more about doling out taxpayers' money than about solving problems. In a joint Washington Post column, the Sierra Club's Carl Pope and the Cato Institute's Ed Crane argue that energy legislation currently before Congress has degenerated into a giveaway of billions to energy industries that will do nothing to help the environment. Bills passed by both the House and the Senate form "a grotesque bipartisan avalanche of welfare for the well-connected." They offer a better idea: "Devotees of Adam Smith and Rachel Carson should join together to propose an alternative bill, one that would simply strip away all energy subsidies and preferences from the budget and the federal tax code." But no legislation at all would be better than the current bills, they contend: "If it is too late for something better, then let's just kill these bills and call it a day."

Evidence for abstinence

What so bad about abstinence? That's what Heritage Foundation president Edwin Feulner wonders in his column, referring to controversy over President Bush's $135 million plan for "abstinence only" sex ed. He cites evidence ranging from studies at his own think tank to those from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood. Guttmacher found that "the Postponing Sexual Involvement program in Atlanta reduced sexual initiation rates among eighth-grade boys by 60 percent and among eighth-grade girls by 95 percent." In short, claims that abstinence programs have no evidence for success are false. "Some 3 million teenagers contract STDs each year, afflicting roughly 1 in 4 teens who are sexually active," he writes. "True abstinence programs help young people build an understanding of commitment, fidelity, and intimacy that will serve as the foundations of healthy marital life. Can the same be said for classroom demonstrations involving condoms and cucumbers?"

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