Monday, March 31, 2008

Freedom of Speech and the Islamic Threat

Freedom of speech is under assault. First and foremost is the threat to Wafa Sultan (hat/tip AOW). Like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders, she is a vocal critic of Islam. Very few step forward to speak the truth; few of us become public figures. The blessings of liberty that we, as listeners and readers require if the truth is to prevail, can only be as secured by protecting the few brave souls who enter the public realm and speak the truth.

In Europe, the threat is so great that Geert Wilders’ film can not be shown in public. After van Gogh’s death, no one will sponsor a showing. Even the Internet isn’t exempt from the threats of jihadists. His film was removed from several venues because of the threats to the families of the owners of these websites. But it keeps reappearing. At the moment it is here (hat/tip FPM). Watch it; it is powerful!

It’s important to stress that liberty requires that we defend those who speak whether we agree with them or not. Freedom won’t be there for us if we don’t defend the speakers today that some find objectionable. The debate must proceed if we are to judge the truth. A government that fails to protect the individuals who step forward to speak in the public square fails in its most important function: securing our freedom to talk, think, and reason. We can’t live in an intellectual vacuum. We need to breath the air of liberty if the ideas we require to survive are to grow to maturity.

Update: Paul Belien has an excellent article on appeasement in the Brussels Journal. He reviews the pre-WWII suppression of those critical of Nazism in his native Belgium: “Belgium’s submission to the Nazi demands, however, did not prevent Hitler from invading the country in May 1940. The only result of the Belgian authorities’ appeasement policies was that many ordinary Belgians, at the behest of their own government, had not been able to read articles critical of Hitler.”

How is this different today? “Geert Wilders … has made a 10-minute movie, called ‘Fitna’ (the Arabic word for ‘ordeal’). Releasing the movie has become Mr. Wilders’s ordeal. Whether or not Mr. Wilders is right about Islam is a matter of opinion. The way in which he is treated by the political establishment, however, is eerily reminiscent of the way in which democratic governments such as Belgium’s gave in to Nazi bullying in the 1930s.”

Update2: Superlative coverage on the file Fitna at Gates of Vienna including translations into several languages and internet venues with dubbed copies.

Update3: OK ... I didn't think of this angle.

Update4: Rule of Reason on Wafa Sultan: "If Wafa Sultan is not free to speak her mind, than neither you nor I are free to speak ours. None of us can tolerate this encroachment upon our ability to communicate our ideas."

Sunday, March 16, 2008

History Repeating Itself

In the aftermath of the dissolution of the First Bank of the United States the individual states continued to charter and regulate banks. Paul Johnson writes [P285]: “Each state bank was allowed by the state legislature to issue bills up to three times its capital … literally a license to print money. During the War of 1812 America was awash with suspect $2 and $5 bills … Such gold as there was flowed straight into Boston, whose state banks were the most secure … [by 1814] every bank outside New England was forced to suspend payment.”

The Federal debt incurred by the War of 1812 and the nationalism that follows war led to an abandonment of the constitutional objections to a Second Bank of the United States, which was created as a national monopoly to bring about the discipline of specie-backed bank notes. It did just the opposite.

After initially restraining the state banks, William Jones, the bank President reversed course. Sean Wilentz describes Jones’ new outlook [P206]: “The original BUS [Bank of the United States] … had been too conservative in its credit operations.” Thus, a new credit expansion was born. “Rather than force state banks to curtail their inflated emissions of notes and loans, Jones approved lavish lending, especially by its new branches on the western urban frontier. By putting so many BUS notes into circulation, Jones abdicated the leverage he had had over the state banks early in 1817—for no longer could the national bank demand specie payments without being pressed for such payments in return.”

Paul Johnson explains the effect of this policy [P285]. “Indeed, he managed to create a fragile boom which was a miniature foretaste of the Wall Street boom on the 1920s leading to the crash of 1929. Jones’ boom was in land. From 1815 the price of American cotton rose rapidly and that in turn fed the land boom. At that time public land was sold primarily to raise revenue rather than to encourage settlers, who needed no encouragement anyway. Each was charged $2 an acre in minimum blocks of 160 acres. But they only had to put 20 percent down, borrowing the rest form the banks on the security of the property. The $2 was a minimum; in the South potential cotton land was sold at $100 an acre in the boom years. The SBUS, fueling the boom by easy credit, allowed purchasers to pay even the second installment on credit, again raised on the security of the land, like a second mortgage.”

“Jones … ran this federal central bank like a bucket-shop. He actually allowed the SBUS to deal in ‘racers,’ short for Race Horse Bills. These were bills of exchange paid for by other bills of exchange, which thus raced around rapidly from one debtor to another, accumulating interest charges and yielding less and less of their face value.”

“Jones’ easy-credit policy was further undermined by the activities of the SBUS’s branch offices… In Baltimore the branch was run by two land speculators … who financed their speculations by taking out unsecured loans from their own bank… Here was a typical example of the general credit expansion Jones encouraged, raising the debt on public land from $3 million in 1814 to over five times that amount ($16.8 million) three years later. Some of this went into house purchases—it was the first urban boom in the US history too.”

Of course it was not to last. “Suddenly, the cotton bubble burst, as Liverpool cotton importers, alarmed by the high prices, started shipping in Indian raw cotton in huge quantities. In December-January 1819 the price of New Orleans cotton halved, and this in turn hit land prices, which fell from 50 to 75 percent. The banks found themselves with collateral in land worth only a fraction of their loans, which were now irrecoverable. Jones compounded his earlier errors of inflation by abruptly switching to savage deflation, ordering the branches of the SBUS to accept only its own notes …”

The result was the Panic of 1819 and following depression.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Muslim Women Expose Islam

Muslim and ex-Muslim women are in the forefront of exposing the threat of Islam. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one notable example. Wafa Sultan is another courageous woman speaking out against injustice.

Defending those who criticize Islam in the West, she says:

Any belief that chops off the heads of its critics is doomed to turn into terrorism and tyranny. This has been the condition of Islam, from its inception to this day. … The Danish newspaper exercised its freedom of speech. Liberties are the holiest thing in the West, and nothing is more important. … Westerners who read the words of the Prophet Muhammad 'Allah has given me sustenance under the shadow of my sword' cannot imagine Muhammad's turban in the shape of a dove of peace rather than in the shape of a bomb. The Muslims must learn how to listen to the criticism of others, and maybe then they will reexamine their terrorist teachings. … The reactions of the Muslims, which were characterized by savageness, barbarism, and backwardness, only increased the value of these cartoons, and gave them more importance than they merited, simply because they proved that these cartoons were true, and that the message they were conveying was true.”

Criticizing the Islam and the Koran as a political ideology:

“… you know that you cannot separate Islam from politics. Islam is not a religion, but politics. You must let me express my views the way I want. When you called me, you didn't say I was not allowed to discuss Islam or the Koran. Islam says to them that they will 'kill or be killed', and here [in Gaza] they are—killing and being killed. So what's wrong with that? They want to be martyred and to meet their black-eyed virgins, and Israel is merely helping them get what they want. What's wrong with that? If you want to change the course of events, you must reexamine your terrorist teachings, you must recognize and respect the right of the other to live, you must teach your children love, peace, coexistence, and productive work. When you do that, the world will respect you, will consider you in a better light, and will draw you in a better light.”