Thursday, March 25, 2010

Religious Social Justice Advocates Have No Idea What Causes Poverty - There, I Said It

Earlier this month, I noticed Glenn Beck of Fox and Jim Wallis of Sojourner's were crossing swords over the incendiary topic of social justice and the Bible. Beck got things started on his radio show when he said, "I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words…If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish."

Wallis, however, really frightened me with his effort to twist the Christian faith to promote cold, anti-capitalist propaganda. “Beck says Christians should leave their social justice churches,” remarked Wallis, “so I say Christians should leave Glenn Beck…what he has said attacks the very heart of our Christian faith, and Christians should no longer watch his show.”

"When your political philosophy," said Wallis, "is to consistently favor the rich over the poor you don't want to hear about economic justice."

I’m thankful Glenn Beck is calling attention to something I have found annoying about the Christian churches I have attended over the years – a tendency to swap socially accepted ideas that the rich allow poverty to exist for selfish reasons for contemporary social science perspectives, perspectives that trace poverty to individual or family-level variables including child labor, lack of schooling, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, failure to save and invest, inappropriate single-parenting and so on.

I was flabbergasted back in 2005 when my Southern Baptist church signed on to the famous ONE Campaign, a massive media blitz which had the goal of changing government policies to save lives in Africa.

The group included a coalition of dopey celebrities and august religious leaders such as Live 8's Bob Geldof, U2's Bono, Kanye West, Rick Warren and Pat Robertson. This eclectic group endorsed policies which – from the perspective of a political economist – would lead to worse poverty including: 1) Doubling financial aid sent to the world's poorest countries, 2) Debt cancellation for the poorest nations and 3) Reform of trade laws so poor nations are not shut out of global markets.

As a political scientist, I found this whole “social justice” theme – generally soak the rich, in disguise - appalling and grossly insensitive to unintended consequences. As we saw in the case of welfare reform in the U.S., public subsidization of foolish decisions takes away the honor and prestige of those who practice personal responsibility. Even worse, social justice advocates distract our attention from the real changes needed to end global poverty.

In my view, for example, I think efforts to abolish child labor and enforce compulsory schooling in America and Europe have been infinitely more successful in ending poverty and promoting economic development than any totalitarian scheme of redistribution. This is because poor parents traditionally use child labor as a primitive form of social security, disability insurance and free maid service. Although poor parents temporarily benefit from the exploitation of their children's labor, they do so at a profound cost to their children's education, intellectual development and future earning power.

The incentives for poor parents to exploit child labor is the reason why democracy, child labor, illiteracy and unremitting poverty go hand-in-hand in places like India and the Philippines. In contrast, Vietnam and China cracked down on child labor and have experienced striking and immediate improvements in economic prosperity.

Our contemporary view that parents should support their children is turned upside down so much in other developing countries that poor parents routinely seek to profit from their offspring by selling them into sexual slavery or work camps. In some backward nations, child labor is so freely available that parents inefficiently misuse a child's mind by applying their unlimited human potential to the mundane task of carrying water.

Instead of attacking the morals of wealthy countries, opponents of global poverty should be focused on eradicating primitive indigenous practices that shock our conscience. Ideally, we should use the power of religious faith to modernize cultures that still use little children as human water pipes, personal servants, agricultural robots and sexual slaves. Glenn Beck reminds me “social justice” advocates often demand international, socialist redistribution to fix problems that could be more easily and efficiently solved with inexpensive condoms and strictly enforced child labor and compulsory schooling laws.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Palin Hearts Reagan: Her Success Shows Why It Mattered to Alaskans

The life stories of charismatic leaders invariably reveal that they are ordinary people who take big risks. Even Napoleon Bonaparte, for example, was dismissed by his Austrian father-in-law, Francis I, as simply “a gambler.”

These hardy risk-takers, however, almost always rely on a handful of techniques to improve their odds of success – including a startling willingness to pattern their lives on a pre-existing model of political and military success. Young Abraham Lincoln was fascinated by the life story of General George Washington – the first U.S. President. Saddam Hussein modeled his political career on the example of the USSR’s Joseph Stalin. Fidelity to an existing political leadership model assists charismatic leaders in maintaining their extraordinary levels of self-confidence. It can also – if they pick wisely – provide them with sure solutions that make a difference.

A strong contemporary example of this phenomenon came to me from reading Sarah Palin's new book Going Rogue: An American Life (2009).

In Going Rogue, Palin indicates that she displayed an early interest in the ideas and leadership style of President Reagan while she was still in college. "I looked forward to every poli sci lecture,” she writes, “I attributed my enthusiasm to patriotism and a fascination with current events. I was also eager because this was the 1980s and our study centered on one of the most inspiring individuals ever to occupy the White House, Pres. Ronald W. Reagan."

In particular, I was impressed by the way the young Sarah Palin dug into one of the most important practical secrets of Reagan's success when she writes that "I also appreciated his focus on a handful of overarching themes, such as reining in the intrusiveness of government, building a strong national defense, and cutting taxes.”

In November 2006, of course, Sarah Palin became both the youngest person, at 42, and the first woman elected as the Governor of Alaska.

Consistent with the examples of other charismatic leaders, Palin indicates how she drew confidence from Reagan’s example: “It was a humbling experience to step in to lead an administration that would serve a state of this size and diversity,” she writes, “ I knew we could face the challenge with anticipation and without a sense of overload that we observed Ronald Reagan's principles: pick your agenda issues and focus on those; empower and motivate your departments and staff to implement your vision in other areas. Reagan concentrated on a few key issues and knocked them out of the park. That gave him the political capital to effect change in many other policy areas.”

In her case, she reasoned that if she focused on Alaskan resource development, fiscal restraint, and ethical government, she would create the victories and momentum that would allow her to later deal with “…education, services for special needs and the elderly, job training, unemployment, and social ills in rural Alaska."

True to her vision, Gov. Palin cut back on the legislature’s construction projects in her first budget and won a bipartisan ethics reform bill – all in less than a year. By August 2008, she had negotiated a natural gas pipeline deal. All in all, Gov. Palin experienced extraordinary success as measured by her high popularity with Alaska voters. Her successes in office would attract the attention of the McCain campaign in the form of an offer to serve as the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate in 2008.

For me, the lesson of this story is that it is useful for voters to ask candidates which politicians do they most admire? More than most of us suspect, the answer to this seemingly innocence question may be extremely useful in predicting their later success in elected office.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Glorious Leader Gap: President Barack Obama - Not So Bright for a Harvard Law Grad

As a student of charismatic leadership, my antenna lit up when I saw all the chatter during the 2008 Presidential campaign regarding Barack Obama’s brilliance and genius. Since I’ve gotten to know some real geniuses, I think I’m in a good position to access his intellectual capacity. Based on my experience, I can report that Barack Obama is a non-genius.

How do I know? Well, for one reason, one of my brothers is a genius. He’s tested out in elementary school with an IQ over 140. In high school, my brother figured out how to solve the Rubik’s Cube. (This was back in the days before there were on-line cheat sheets and YouTube videos explaining how to do it.) See,

I have also taught at the nation’s number one liberal arts college, Williams in MA. In that job, I had the opportunity to teach some of our nation’s most talented between 1986 and 1989. I also served, briefly, as an admissions counselor at Cornell in the early 1980s where I got to interview applicants and compare what I saw face-to-face with their SAT test scores. In other words, I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting “true men of genius.”

Based on reasonable standards, I can safely assert President Obama’s mental capacity is not in that category.

Nevertheless, it is tempting for those seeking to promote his charismatic image to interpret his current behavior as if he were, in fact, a genius. From this biased perspective, Obama has a secret, long-term plan that is going to work out for him and all of us at the same time. His challenges today are due to the extremely poor mistakes made by others in the past and the sheer impossibility of doing anything productive under the constraints established by the U.S. Constitution. If you choose to believe that Obama is a genius, then his failures must be due to exogenous factors.

If you see Obama as a non-genius, however, you become more sensitive to a different storyline, a storyline that makes more sense given President Obama’s actual history. To be a little blunt, assuming that Obama is not so bright helps explain a lot of mysterious stuff that makes no sense if he were truly a genius including:

  • Obama’s over dependence on his teleprompter.
  • Obama’s boring performances in his now discontinued press conferences.
  • Obama's factual errors during his confrontation with Republicans at their retreat.
  • Obama’s indecisiveness and general slowness in figuring out how to respond to his commanders’ requests for additional troops in Afghanistan.
  • Obama’s try and fail approach to winning the Olympic Games for Chicago, his useless trip to China, and his fruitless visit to Copenhagen on behalf of the cause of anthropomorphic global warming.
  • Obama’s unwillingness to contribute an article to the Harvard Law Review while he served as its first African-American president.
  • Obama’s reluctance to compete for a tenure track job at the University of Chicago Law School and the fact that he never submitted articles to peer-reviewed law journals.

In addition, the theme that Obama is no genius also makes it much easier to absorb new information regarding Obama’s past achievements and associations, including the possibility that Obama’s first book Dreams of My Father reflects the ideas and writing style of his Hyde Park neighbor, Bill Ayers. See,

It also raises the frightening possibility that Obama truly believed the silly liberation theology taught by Rev. Wright. Obama’s non-genius status would certainly help explain why he got married in Rev. Wright’s church and why Obama thought so little about raising his children in that bizarre, hateful environment.

As a non-genius, I think it is safe to say Obama faces the same challenges as most of us. He does not process information quickly…it is not so easy for him to retain information once he learns it…and it is difficult for him to focus - in a long and sustained fashion - on complex issues. All of this suggests that Obama is likely to spend a lot of his time as President with his family enjoying expensive, but pointless vacations. It suggests, he is unlikely to respond to the demands of political reality by becoming a Clinton style centrist. It also calls attention to the startling possibility that the mainstream media is covering up for President Obama’s intellectual weaknesses the same way they covered up for FDR’s physical disability and marital affairs.

Most worrisome, I think Obama compensates for his limited intellectual abilities with a strong reliance on ideology, with emotional appeals to fairness, and with a dogged determination to stick to the simple, leftwing perspective he learned from his mother, Stanley.

As a glorious leader, President Obama will always fall short of our normal expectations. Those who voted for him believing he was a talented intellectual, a genius of epic standards, are right to feel betrayed. Those of us seeking to protect our country from the temporary power of Obama’s charisma are wise to see him as he is…and not as his supporters pretend him to be.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Young Marxist Obama: Dr. Drew on the Air with Trunews Radio

I'm predicting that my face to face observations regarding young Barack Obama's Marxist ideology will be of historical interest in the 2012 presidential campaign. In the meantime, I'm doing my part for opposition researchers by collecting what I can off the Internet and YouTube and posting this material here. I'm grateful that Rick Tomei pulled together the audio and video to make this more interesting to follow.

My main point, as always, is that my connection to Barack Obama was powerful and intense. I got a chance to watch the young Marxist socialist Obama in action...fighting for his belief that a socialist revolution was coming to the U.S.A. I still think Obama owes us all an explanation for how, if at all, his views changed over time.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

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