I just finished reading by Dennis Prager. Dennis Prager has always been my favorite conservative talk radio host. He has published several books in the past, but they were before my time. So when his new book, Still The Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph, came out, I pre-ordered it immediately. Although it was nearly 400 pages, it was a pretty light read though, likely because Prager’s talent is making a convincing point without delving into myriads of studies and statistics. I finished it in just under two weeks, but it’s readable in just a few days if you have the time. If I could recommend one book to my factory setting left-of-center friends, this would be it. I’m considering mailing copies of it to a few of them for Christmas.
The following is a list of things I’ve learned from the book, things I already knew but I want to make sure I remember, and some powerful excerpts.
The Left is not anti-war per se. It’s America and Israel’s wars that mainly disturb the left. Few protested Saddam Hussein’s War Against Iran, China’s War Against Tibet, or the past/current genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, or the Congo.
It is popular sentiment for people to call for the two parties to come together, to reach across the aisle, and to work together. Prager notes that people hold this sentiment because they believe the Right and Left have the same goals but different methods of achieving those goals. But Prager correctly argues that the Right and the Left do not have the same goals. The Left wants people to be equal in terms of economic status (which necessarily implies a loss of liberty). The Right stresses liberty over equality. The Left stresses pacifism. The Right desires a strong military and believes that pacifism emboldens evil. The Left believes in multiculturalism. The Right believes in assimilation. The Left desires a secular people and believes morality is subjective. The Right believes liberty cannot govern without a religious people and that morality is objective. In the tradition of Marx, the Left believes that evil in the world results from inequality. The Right believes that evil in the world is a result of flaws in people’s character. The Left believes, in the tradition of the father of “state socialism” that the state must take care of its citizens. The Right believes that individuals, facilities, communities, religious institutions, and charities should take care of people.
The Left loves to complain about how we perpetually need to spend more money on education. Anyone who opposes their proposed spending increases is vilified as being against education. But increased spending on education has not yielded the fruit the Left wanted it to.
In constant dollars, the United States spent $2,769 per pupil in public elementary and secondary schools in 1960-1961. This number stood at $10,041 in 2006-2007. However, students read and write more poorly and know less about many subjects.
Or take for example Kansas City, Missouri. In 1985, a court ordered the state and the district to spend $2 billion dollars over the next twelve years to help raise test scores and integrate classes. The student to teacher ratio was reduced to 13:1. Test scores were just as low as before and the achievement gap between blacks and whites was not bridged.
Additionally, education isn’t the major factor in income determination the Left thinks that it is. Nobel Prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman found that “If everyone had the same education, the inequality of income would be reduced by less than 10 percent”.
People who make less than $20,000 per year spend more than 1/3 of their time on leisure. People who make more than $100,000 per year spend less than 1/5 of their time on leisure.
An irony exists in the fact that the Left believes, as Senator Dodd does that education is “The answer to every other problem we confront”, yet the Left does little to teach morality and character development, which is truly the answer to the problems we confront.
Prager notes that the intent of the welfare state is to create an altruistic society, but in reality the welfare state turns people into narcissists. To support this assertion, Prager points out that Western Europeans are riot over vacation time and retirement age, and give less to charity than do Americans.
Americans work longer hours than Western Europeans. Unlike Marx who viewed work as a necessary evil, American’s view work as ennobling.
The welfare state, which gives people something for nothing, erodes people’s character. It also erodes the family unit, with less and less woman seeing the need to get married because they have a government who will support them instead.
One reason Leftism disdains religion is because whereas the Tenth Commandment tells us that it is wrong to covet what our neighbor has, the raison d’etre of the left is to envy the rich.
Religious people are often mocked as being against reason. Prager blows this canard of the water by arguing that since the Reformation, religion in the West has confined its irrational beliefs to theology where nobody is hurt by them, whereas the secular Leftist expands irrational beliefs into social policy causing many people to be hurt (ex. Poverty causes crime, a fetus has no worth unless its mother wants it).
The Left, not believing in God, is forced to abandon the concept of free will. As such, they believe people’s behavior is solely a product of their genes and their environment. This leads them to be soft on punishing criminals. As Clarence Darrow stated “All people are the product of two things…their heredity and environment. And they act in exact accord with the heredity which they took from all the past, and for which they are in no wise responsible, and the environment…”. This is why Andres Breivik, who shot and killed 77 people in 2011, will be out of prison by the age of 53. It also explains why the man who stabbed tennis star Steffi Graf in 1993 did not serve one day in prison, but instead was given two years of free psychological treatment.
“Secular left intellectuals in the West come up with ideas, and peasants in China, Ukraine, Cambodia, Africa, and elsewhere are killed in the tens of millions.”
“If I lived in Europe two hundred years ago, I would have been tempted by the argument that reason alone, without God, religion, and sacred texts can lead to goodness. But after the depredations of the French Revolution; the horrors of two secular doctrines, Nazism and Communism…one has to be…a true believer to believe that reason alone will lead us to a more moral world.”
“The Nazi death camps were not liberated by peace activists.”
“The Left had organized massive antiwar demonstrations when America was in Vietnam, but the Communist genocide in Cambodia was greeted with virtual silence.”
46 out of 56 Democrat Senators voted against the First Gulf War. Two-thirds of Democrats in the House of Representatives also votes against the First Gulf War.
Prager notes that to the Left, change is a good thing in and of itself. That is why the art world constantly pushes the envelope. He states “That is the reason Normal Rockwell, probably the most beloved American painter of the twentieth century, is held in low esteem by the art world. He did everything wrong: He celebrated America, his paintings were completed intelligible, and the middle class loved him. On the other hand, museums of modern or contemporary art feature works such as rotting fruit, fecal matter, menstrual blood, humans relieving themselves, nearly blank canvases, and other meaningless works”.
According to the New York Times, exit polling shows that in 2008, 52% of voters who earned $250,000 or more per year voted for Barack Obama.
When the Left feels or wants something to be true, it automatically declares it to be so. Some examples include the belief that people are basically good, the belief that all cultures are equal, and the belief that men and women are essentially the same. This causes the Left to reject sad facts. Prager argues that this explains the Lefts flirtation with pacifism and avoidance of fight evil (ex. Communism). He also argues this helps explain why the left dislikes capitalism, a system which sadly, creates winners and losers. He also points out that this is why in recent years all teams, even those that have a losing record, receive a trophy in youth sports leagues.
Prager argues that intentions of policies, not results of policies, are what matter most to the Left. He argues that the Left rejects preexisting moral value systems precisely because it relies so heavily on feelings and intentions.
Religious people are (were?) taught the heart is a terrible guide to determine right from wrong and that human beings are flawed creatures. Therefore, one’s human nature needs to be controlled.
Prager points out the following irony: people on the left champion themselves as the heirs of the Enlightenment and the upholders of reason, but Leftism itself is feelings-based and not rooted in reason.
According to the Council on Islamic Relations (CAIR), in the aftermath of 9/11, only one person was killed due to anti-Muslim sentiment (it actually turned out the person was a Sikh, not a Muslim). Prager argues that in other countries if a minority group had conducted a similar attack, the backlash against them would have been far greater.
Prager argues that because the Left is feelings based, it places great emphasis on how one feels about oneself, and hence is responsible for the self-esteem movement, which has taught people to have postitive unearned feelings about oneself.
“Virtually every conservative reads liberal newspapers, watches liberal TV shows and movies, reads liberal magazines, and has been taught in liberal schools by liberal professors. On the other hand, few liberals read conservative newspapers or magazines, listen to conservative talk radio, have studied in conservative schools, or have been taught be conservative professors.”
Prager provides an interesting quote from Woodrow Wilson, who once was President of Princeton University: “I have often said that the use of a university is to make young gentlemen as unlike their fathers as possible”.
Prager argues that contrary to popular belief, fascist movements were intellectual movements. He quotes Professor Michael Mann who stated “All fascist movements during the interwar period appealed disproportionately to the well-educated, to students in high schools and universities and to the most highly educated middle-class strata”. Prager also points out that three of the four commanders of the Einsatzgruppen, the SS’s killing squads in Russia, held a doctorate.
Prager argues that polling which shows disdain for America and Israel is due to the fact that the media disproportionately reports on stories which paint both countries in a negative light, while devoting less coverage to stories that make other countries look bad.
Prager brings up a case from 2010 where in Manchester, Connecticut a black man murdered eight white people at his place of work because they were white. Prager describes how the media rationalizes his actions by theorizing that he was racially discriminated at work and he had not received a raise. These claims turned out to be inaccurate. The media sympathized with the perpetrator and not the victim. Compare this to the Trayvon Martin case.
Prager also points out that during the Fort Hood Massacre, the media was quick to point out that we should not rush to judgment or assume what Major Nidal Hasan’s motives where. The fact that he yelled Allahu Akbar during his rampage was ignored. Potential explanations for his actions included: pre-traumatic stress, a tooth ache, and the stress of home foreclosure. Yet it was this same media who, before all the facts came out, immediately judged Jared Loughner to be a right-winger and a product of the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, and conservative talk radio. When the facts did come out, their judgment turned out to be unfounded.
Around 1 in 7 workers in the United States work for local, federal, and state governments.
The United States spends an average of $91,700 per student between the ages of 15 and 16, which is the second most in the world.
Prager provides the following facts to those who believe women have it bad in the United States: women are murdered less than men, women are incarcerated less than men, women get bachelor’s degree in higher percentages than do men, women drop out of high school less, and they commit suicide less.
In 2007, at Patton Middle School in McMinnville, Oregon, two boys were taken away in handcuffs and taken to juvenile jail where they spent the next five days. They had ran through the halls ways slapping girls’ butts. They were not allowed to call their parents for 24 hours. They were brought into the courtroom in shackles and jail garb. Felony sex charges were brought against them.
When people in the Left hear the words “studies show” or “experts say”, they often cease thinking critically. They cease to live by their own motto to “question authority”.
Prager argues that the Left is prone to hysteria when it comes to the science word (ex. Global warming, secondhand smoke). He states that feminists and others led the charge to ban silicone breast implants (so much for a woman doing what she wants to with her own body) despite scientific evidence to support their claims that implants were dangerous. They succeeded when the FDA banned them in 1992. Subsequently, several studies concluded that implants were not dangerous. The FDA overturned the ban in 2006.
Professor of physics and environmental science researcher at the University of Ottawa, Dens G. Rancourt states “even doubling the present atmospheric CO2 concentration, to the unattainable value of 800 ppm say, without changing anything else in the atmosphere, would have little discernible effect on global temperature of climate”.
Richard Linzen, an atmospheric physicist who is a professor of meteorology at MIT, wrote “It is generally accepted that a doubling of CO2 will only produce a change of about two degrees Fahrenheit if all else in constant. This is unlikely to be much to worry about.”
The Unites States is the least racist multi-racial country in the world. It is probably the best place in the world for a black to live – which is why almost no black Americans have decided to leave America for anywhere, including black Africa; and it is why more black Africans have immigrated to America than were sent over as slaves.
Between 1998 and 2008, 5.4 million people in Congo were killed. Prager argues that this has received very little media coverage because it’s black people killing other black people. The media is more concerned when it’s one group against another.
Prager provides an awesome quote that I was previously unaware of. It’s from Miecyslaw Kasprzyk, a Pole who rescued Jews during the Holocaust: “Someone who does not know the difference between good and evil is worth nothing.”
In 2009, seven member of the Congressional Black Caucus visited Cuba, where they met with Fidel Castro. Some members said glowing things about him.
The Left claims to be interested in women’s rights, gay’s rights, and a free press. Israel has these things far more than any country in the Middle East (and arguably the United States). Yet the Left disdains Israel. From this, Prager concludes that these aren’t the left’s primary ends, but rather its ultimate goal is to weaken Western Society, America, and Judea-Christian values.
Prager discusses the difference between authoritarianism and totalitarianism. A regime of the former type is interested in dominating politics but leaves other aspects of people’s lives alone. The latter seeks to dominate not only politics, but also dictates other aspects of people’s lives. The Left in the United States is totalitarian. It wants to ban certain foods (salt, fat, soda), it wants to tell you what cards to drive (hybirds not SUVs), what the temperature in your home should be, and what your home isn’t allowed to have (ex. Fireplaces). Interestingly though, Prager notes that when it comes to people’s sex lives (ex. Abortion, homosexuality), the Left abandons its totalitarian streak. He doesn’t offer a reason why this is so.
Prager offers some facts to those who believe the Left was responsible for women’s rights and civil rights. In the Senate, 54% of Democrats voted for the Nineteenth Amendment, compared to 82% of Republicans. 26 of the 36 states that ratified the amendment had legislatures controlled by Republicans.
Every vote in the Senate against the 1960 Civil Rights Act came from Democrats. As for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 82% of Republican Senators voted for the act, compared to only 66% of Democrats. In the House, 80% of Republicans voted for it, compared to only 63% of Democrats. Barry Goldwater integrated the Arizona National Guard and he founded the NAACP chapter in Arizona and donated large sums of money to it.
Conservatives are more charitable than liberals. Prager cites several facts from Arthur Brooks book, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism. Conservatives donate more time and blood. On average, liberal families earn 6% more than conservative families, but conservative-headed households give 30% more to charity. Residents of states that voted for John Kerry in the 2004 election gave smaller percentages of their income to charity than did residents of states that votes for George W. Bush.
Prager compares the spread of Islam by the sword to the spread of Christianity by the sword. In the beginning, Christians were a weak and persecuted minority in the Roman Empire. It wasn’t until several hundred years later that Christians waged war. Islam spread by the sword from the beginning. Within 200 years of Muhammad’s death, the following regions had been conquered: Persia, Syria, Armenia, Egypt, North Africa, Cyprus, India, Spain, Portugal, Central Asia (today what is Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and parts of Kazakhstan), Turkey, Georgia, Crete, and Southern Italy.
Prager notes Sura 2:256 says “In matters of faith there shall be no compulsion”. He also notes the following from Muhammad’s farewell address “I was ordered to fight all men until they say, ‘There is no God but Allah”. He notes that Islam isn’t inherently violent and that religions evolve. A Muslim can find a Koranic basis for nonviolence and tolerance.
Prager refutes the argument that Israeli occupation of land is the reason for Palestinian terrorism. He notes that 8% of Palestinians living in the West Bank are Christians, but there are few Palestinian Christian terrorists attacking Israel.
Polling reveals that 10% of Muslims support Islamic terrorism.
K.S. Lal, a professor in India, published a book that concluded that between 60-80 million Hindus died as a result of the Muslim invasion and rule over India in the years between 1000 and 1525. The name Hindu Kush means Hindu Killer.
“It is critical to understand that it was not the creation of 760,000 Arab-Palestinian refugees that has created this hatred. It was this hatred that created the refugees. Had six Arab armies not attacked Israel to destroy it in 1948, there would not have been any refugees.”
In 1971, Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan. A war ensued that created 7 million Muslim refugees who fled to India.
Prager argues that reason is elevated in the Bible. He cites Abraham arguing with God as an example (Abraham questions God’s destroying of Soddom and Gomorrah). The attempt at arguing presupposes that God is rationale and that man can use reason to understand. Prager contrasts this to Islam, where Allah’s will is not subject to human understanding. Prager attributes this fact to the reason why, after a time, science stagnated in the Islamic World (with the rise of the Ash’arite school of Muslim theology). When Persia was conquered, general Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas asked Caliph Omar for permission to take books and scientific papers as booty. The Caliph’s response was “Throw them in the water. If what they contain is right guidance, God has given us better guidance. If it is error, God has protected us against it”.
2010 polling by the Pew Research Center reveals that 82% of Muslims in Egypt want adulterers stoned. In Pakistan, Jordan, Indonesia, and Nigeria, this percentage is 82%, 70%, 42%, and 56%.
A quote from Charles Krauthammer: “In last 20-30 years America did not just respect Muslims, it bled for Muslims. We Americans engaged in five military campaigns on behalf of Muslims, each one resulting in the liberation of a Muslim people: Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq”.
Many people blame imperialism and colonialism for the condition the Middle East is in. Prager notes that Egypt spent 74 years under foreign rule, Libya spent 40 year, Syria 25 years, and Iraq 15 years. To refute this claim, Prager notes that India, which is in better economic and social shape than the Middle East, was under British rule for nearly 100 years (1856-1947). He also points out that Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia were never under the control of a Western colonial power. Lastly, he points out that the Jews, who have been under the rule of others for 2,000 years and who had endured frequent mass murder and expulsion, created a free and prosperous nation within a short time of receiving independence.
A quote from historian Bernard Lewis: “The Crusades could be more accurately described as a limited, belated, and, in the last analysis, ineffectual response to the jihad – a failed attempt to recover by Christian holy war what had been lost to a Muslim holy war”.
The Left loves to bring up the fact that the United States has supported many dictatorships throughout history. To this point, Prager argues that during the Cold War, many of these dictators were the only viable alternative to Communist rule, which would be the greater of the two evils. He notes that most Cubans had a higher standard of living and a freer press under Fulgencio Batista than under Fidel Castro.
Homeschooling is illegal in Germany in most cases.
America’s Founding Fathers held the Judea-Christian belief that people were not basically good. For this reason, they mistrusted the control of big government: if the people have both great power and great capacity for evil, the results are disastrous. The question though becomes, if individual people are not good, how will liberty work out any better than big government? The Founding Fathers believed it would not fare better unless people had God. In other words, if people are not accountable to an all-powerful state, they have to make their conscience accountable to God in order for liberty to function. This describes the meaning behind the John Adams quote “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people” and the George Washington quote “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports”.
Many of the Founding Fathers who are cited as deists were not. Benjamin Franklin, who doubted the divinity of Christ, is more aptly classified as an ethical monotheist. He believed in God, he believed in an afterlife where people who be rewarded or punished, and he believed that “God governs in the affairs of men”.
The Left holds that people can be good without God. This is somewhat true. But this can only be claimed because they have adopted values from the Judea-Christian tradition. They falsely believe that the fruit will still grow after the tree has been destroyed.
“If people were basically good, we wouldn’t need values; we could rely on the human heart to always do the right thing. But the heart is not a moral compass; it is a generator of emotions. Values are there to overrule our heart, our emotions, our appetites, out weaknesses, and even our often flawed reasoning”.
During the recent recession that began in 2008, crime rates have declined.
Classrooms teach students to struggle against external evils (“evils” in some cases): secondhand smoke, global warming, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. However, students are not taught to struggle with the evil inside of themselves. They are not taught to wage war against their own nature. The greatest struggles are not within society, they are within oneself (ex. Laziness, greed, etc.).
The Enlightenment believes that free from the shackles of irrational Christianity, the world could be made good by solely relying on religion. But reason is a tool and is therefore amoral, for reason can be used to do both good and evil. Also, even if reason did lead to moral conclusions, it does not compel one to act toward those conclusions. In the end, reason is necessary, but it is not sufficient. We need a divinely revealed moral code.
“One of the great ironies of secular humanism is that it leads to a devaluing of humans. In secular thought, human beings are frequently depicted as essentially just another animal”.
Dennis Prager does an excellent job of distinguishing difference between acts that are immoral and acts that are unholy. Immoral acts are generally thought to be acts that hurt other people. Therefore, walking down the street naked is not immoral. But this act would be considered unholy. To see why, Prager notes that we are beings that occupy the biological sphere as animals (the profane), but we also are part spiritual because we are made in the image of God (the holy). To be holy means to stress the later aspect and to subdue the former.
The Bible declares that “Those who love God must hate evil”. In counter distinction, eastern religions view evil and suffering as part of life, and the emphasis is placed on escaping evil and suffering through enlightenment, not on fighting evil and suffering.
The Torah legislated that an animal who kills a human should be killed. Obviously the animal isn’t being punished because it isn’t morally accountable. It was done to uphold the value of human life.
Capital punishment is prescribed for many acts in the Bible. But it needs to be noted that such a code applied only in that place and at that time. Many sins were assigned the death penalty merely to highlight the seriousness of sin, which was important in establishing the first ethical monotheistic society.
Genesis represented a revolution when it declared that God existed outside of an above nature. Prior to this, the ancients believed nature was divine and worshiped tree gods, river gods, and other natural gods.
Those who love nature are uncomfortable with the Bible’s giving man the direction to subdue nature. But it is precisely this attitude toward nature that made Western science and medicine possible. Before, it was believed that nature ruled man. The Bible reversed this.
The Bible introduced the idea of progress. Most societies believes progress was not possible, and that the world was destined to cycles.
In 2005, those classified as poor in the United States lived in homes with a stereo, VCR or DVD, air conditioning, two or more rooms per person, a washer and dryer, stove, refrigerator, at least two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, and owned a car. About half of them owned their homes.
Lawrence Harrison of Tufts University attributes the lack of prosperity of Latin America to what he terms “familism”, which is discrimination based on blood. Many societies have viewed the world in terms of family, tribe, and ethnicity. Jobs were doled out not on merit, but based on who you were related to or what group you were from. The United States was one of the first nations to reject familism.