Archive for August, 2011

Hints

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Aug. 29, 2011

“How can we get a growing economy without shrinking ecosystems? See my next week’s blog for hints.”

It’s not easy. Here are the hints I promised. (Sorry for the extra length. It’s a tough job.)

There is no free lunch. There is no way we can afford expanded social services to seniors or anyone else without growing the economy.

Everybody today is saying we need more jobs. We do. But not just any jobs. We need more win-win jobs. We need jobs that increase wealth for both employer and employee. Added together they become national wealth. These are the kind of jobs that will make it possible to maintain or expand our present level of social services.

“Light green” jobs will do this. “Dark green” jobs will not. “Light green” means increasing efficiency, getting more output with less work. “Dark green” means getting less out with more work. With dark green we enter a zero-sum world where any gain to one comes with a loss to another.

For instance. A farmer hires workers to harvest his corn. He pays them the going wage. It is a win-win transaction. The farmer makes a profit with which he can buy a new more efficient tractor or clear the back forty for planting more corn. The workers also profit. They can now buy food, pay their rent, and send their children to school where they can learn skills to add to the family’s and the country’s future wealth.

The farmer sells some of his corn to China, India or Europe in more win-win “light-green” transactions. China, India and Europe sell more of their goods and services to the U.S. The wealth of all rises in free trades.

Governments gain too, taxing some of the farmer and worker profits to pay for the government’s many responsibilities, including social security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The corn is used to feed cows, the cows make milk, the milk is used to make cheese, the cheese is used to make pizza, the pizza is sold in the supermarket. The dairy farmers, cheese makers, pizza makers, truck drivers, supermarket clerks and executives all make a profit. Employers, employees, government, seniors, children all benefit from this chain of win-win transactions.

On the other hand there are win-lose zero-sum activities that increase consumption but do not increase wealth.

Take the same farmer. Instead of raising corn to feed cows or exporting to other countries, he decides to use his corn to make ethanol because the government will give him a subsidy. The same workers harvest the corn and get their wages. He and they are winners, but the country is a loser. We get energy but at a higher cost than we could get in more efficient ways with less damage to the environment. For the rest of us it is like replacing tractors with horses. This leads to more jobs in agriculture but also brings expensive food, fewer jobs in manufacturing and, in a negative chain of transactions, less of everything we prize in modern society. Carried to an extreme it would take us back three hundred years to the agricultural age. This is a “dark green” choice.

When “dark green” jobs come from the private sector there is a built-in corrector. The company providing the jobs has to cut its losses or go bankrupt.  The jobs end. When the “dark green” jobs come from the government there is less feedback and even though the jobs are unproductive they can last a long time adding to our recessionary woes.

With private sector jobs it is relatively easy to tell whether a job is productive or not. Will people pay you more for your goods or services than it costs you?

With government jobs (or subsidized private ones) it is more difficult. Some produce more benefits than they cost. Examples: our Interstate Highway System; our airports, tunnels and paved city streets; in former times, our canals and rail systems that benefited from government subsidies. The benefits of some government projects are real but more long range—our public educational system. In modern times I think of the Second World War; the GI Bill of Rights; the Civil Rights Laws of the 60s; the Cold War. All these in their different ways qualify as “light green.”

On the other hand we have also had our share of “bridges to nowhere;” train and municipal bus systems with few riders; ethanol boondoggles; wars that should never have been fought (including the war on drugs); housing programs that led to crime, debt and recession instead of better housing; welfare programs that led to dependency and violence instead of self-respect and work; bureaucracies that cost more in regulations than they return in productive wealth.

In individual cases it is hard to tell. Cleaning up our air and water, as we did in the 60s and 70s, qualifies as light green—more benefits than costs. But will very large expenditures to reduce carbon dioxide protect us from climate changes? Will increasing money for education add to our national wealth as it has in the past? Will subsidies for renewable energy technology pay off in the short or long run? Will government-run health care programs lead to better health for all at less cost? Difficult judgments all.

The questions often boil down to, whom do you trust to make the wiser choices, government bureaucrats or private investors?

Look to history to see what has worked better in the past.

The government is better fitted to run defense, justice, police, fire, environment protection and some infrastructure projects. For most other tasks of wealth creation, with the possible exception of education, the private sector is usually a better bet. Not because private sector people are smarter or more benevolent than government people. Adam Smith pointed out the same year our nation began in 1776, that to increase the “Wealth of Nations,”—to grow the economy—the best way is to foster private property, free trade and diversity of talent. Our founding fathers agreed. It worked. A nation of three million poor immigrants (600,000 of them enslaved) grew to a nation of three hundred million free people enjoying one of the highest living standards on earth. If that isn’t growth, I don’t know what is!

Government-run economies like socialism and fascism (two sides of the same coin) have a record of failure and tyranny in the 20th century. The modified form of government planning called social democracy has a mixed record. After the devastation of the Second World War it seemed to work well for some European countries and in a more muted form in the U.S. as well. Recently they, and we too, have found too heavy a reliance on government welfare decisions has led to unsecured and unpayable debts, high unemployment, economic stagnation, and a culture of increasing dependence, weakness and violence. See recent riots in the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Greece for European evidence. We may not be far behind. See recent Wisconsin and Ohio protests.

So … in practice today what will lead to economic growth without harming ecosystems? Here are a few specific ideas.

Give more encouragement to private enterprises, large and small. That’s where most light-green growth comes from as it always has in the past. This means drastically cutting back on onerous regulations. Encouraging entrepreneurial risk-taking and rewards. Cutting taxes on the rewards, especially on the profits of small and medium-sized businesses, the greatest light-green job creators.

We will need to increase government revenues in the future so that seniors, children and the disabled can be supported generously. A Robin-Hood policy of soaking the rich is tempting but self-defeating. It would likely kill the geese we need to lay the golden “light green” eggs. (Consider where we would be today had entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Page and Sergey Brin not led in pioneering Apple, Microsoft, Google and the thousands of other high-tech companies founded in the late 20th century.)

A growing economy will increase government revenues. In addition we need tax reform. I’m out of my depth here but I think we should consider abolishing payroll taxes, which fall most heavily on middle class and poor. We should move toward a flat income tax with few if any deductions. This would have the added benefit of less micro managing of the economy by bureaucrats—probably also out of their depth. All citizens would have a stake and all would pay their fair share.

We need to pass more free trade treaties. Again, all will benefit from the ensuing win-win transactions.

Our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been problematic and we are now winding them down, a good thing. Do the same with our war on drugs. Declare victory and abandon it. That’s what we did with alcohol some eighty years ago. If we made drugs legal and subject to taxes it would do wonders to empty our prisons, enlarge our work force, improve our relations with Mexico and South America, and make our country more productive and secure.

Abolish minimum wage laws. These laws outlaw many potential win-win transactions that could benefit low skilled, poorly-educated young workers trying to get a foothold on the economic ladder. These laws deprive our economy of productive work that could add to our national wealth while improving the self-worth of young workers, especially young males. Minimum wage laws encourage violence, dependence, and single-parent families.

Outlaw bargaining by government employee unions as is happening now in Wisconsin, Ohio, Massachusetts and other states. These unions, as FDR saw, lead to zero-sum, win-lose sweetheart deals where the unions provide funds to political candidates who return the favor by giving them excessive benefits—early retirement, expensive pensions and health care plans. Good for the workers, but bad for the rest of us.

Pass tort laws that cut back drastically on the scope and profits of class-action suits. See the many egregious examples on television ads today. Knowledgeable experts think this alone would do a great deal to cut down on exploding health care costs. It has worked in Canada and Europe and it could work here.

Make it easier to get patents and harder to win frivolous lawsuits against true inventions. Advances in science and technology are one of the most powerful ways to get greater efficiency and thus insure more rapid growth in national wealth.

Use more cost/benefit calculations when it comes to environmental regulations. Removing the final part per billion of a suspect chemical usually costs far more than any benefit. Unreasonable fear of radiation has destroyed our best clean energy source, nuclear power. Irresponsible concern for endangered species has decimated lumber harvests, agricultural and renewable energy progress. Irrational fears, excessive regulations and class-action suits have destroyed millions of productive jobs in the oil and gas industry, in mining, manufacturing, and in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries—all critical “light green” producers.

Reform labor laws and regulations that benefit workers in one state but penalize workers in other states (see the recent case of aircraft giant, Boeing, in Washington and South Carolina.)

Make it easier for high-skilled immigrants to come to this country and stay. Secure our borders and make it possible and easier for illegal immigrants, low- and high-skilled alike, to become citizens and add their work to our national wealth.

Final hint. Encourage the arts and sciences where new ideas often germinate. Especially those pure arts and sciences that don’t seem to have any practical use. This may or may not mean an increase in government grants. In the long run artists and scientists may be our best light-green workers.

Send me your ideas or dissent from mine. billjane@hawkhill.com

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

P.S. See my new book, The Road to a Tea Party: a Fresh Look at the Cold War, 9/11 and the Future of Free-Market Liberal Democracy, for historical background and other ideas and hints on these issues. You can find it on www.hawkhill.com or www.amazon.com.

We have met the enemy …

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Aug. 22, 2011

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” Pogo.

Senior citizens that is—like Jane and me. As we search in all the corners for clues to explain our current economic maladies, we seniors are prime suspects. We don’t mean to be and we are sorry and it’s not really our fault exactly. The hard truth is we seniors are an economic problem, if not the economic problem. We will be more so for a long time to come.

When social security was first launched in 1935 the average life expectancy was 62 (FDR himself died at 63 and everyone thought he was a very old man). Today life expectancy is approaching 80 and will no doubt approach 90 or even 100 in the not too distant future. (Jane and I are doing our best to extend the curve.) We are already a burden on society. It will get worse as scientists keep finding new wonder drugs like the one that has controlled Jane’s leukemia.

For us this is good news. The generous help we get from social security and Medicare is also good news. For us. In fact, despite our increasingly expensive co-pay drugs and other medical costs, we are better off financially now then we were in our working days. Much better off than I was as a young teacher and parent in the 1950s and 1960s.

My unscientific poll of middle-class friends says this is true for many, if not most, seniors today. A golfing friend told me he makes at least twenty thousand dollars more a year now than while working full-time as an engineer for the state. Friends here in Madison who were teachers, professors, police officers and who retired in their fifties, confirm the same financial good news. Some have moved to large retirement communities in Florida and Arizona to join millions of other early retirees for golf, bridge and other fun and games (rumors have it some of the fun and games may be Viagra-aided).

As bonuses we seniors get subsidized fares on buses, trains and airplanes, lower ticket prices for movies, shows, museums and national parks, meals on wheels, AARP discounts on many goods and services, and innumerable other perks just for getting old.

All of this is very nice for us.  It is very expensive for everyone else. And it is going to be more expensive in coming decades. In fact it will get so expensive that it will require large expansions in national wealth (GNP) to support seniors of the future in anything close to the style we are being supported today.

Studies show that the last year of life is away and by far the most expensive. (Here I agree with the “death panels” of the new health care law—counseling to avoid useless pain and expense to prolong the inevitable.) Even before that last year seniors are expensive burdens on society. We not only take more high-cost drugs, we go more often to emergency rooms, need and get more knee and hip replacements, break more bones, need and get ever more expensive treatments for lung, breast, colon and prostate cancers. More heart drugs and operations. Contract more expensive to treat (if they can be treated at all) rare maladies like Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia (WMG), Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC). As well as not-so-rare arthritis, Parkinson’s, and the most common and most dreaded of all, Alzheimer’s. Multiply the above by forty million and you get a sense why Medicare and Medicaid are going broke.

In an earlier column I claimed that all retirees in this wealthy country are millionaires. Most of us did pay into social security and Medicare trust funds when we were working. Alas, these so-called trust funds are more like IOU’s issued by the government to itself. The money we contributed has long ago been spent on wars, welfare, earmarks and who knows what. Now it is pay-as-you-go. We seniors get far more in social security checks and Medicare payments than we contributed in payroll deductions during our working lifetimes. On average couples get around 550,000 in social security checks, and another 450,000 in Medicare payments.

Right now there are around forty million citizens in the U.S. over the age of 65. By 2020 there will be eighty million. Supporting 40 to 80 million seniors for their retirement years will require substantial taxes or borrowed wealth. Many trillions of dollars. In 2009 the GNP of the United States was 14 trillion. It is growing at less than one percent a year. The senior population is growing much faster. Europe is in the same pickle, only worse. By 2020, just eight years from now, it is going to take over two trillion a year to support seniors, who will continue to consume, but contribute little to the GNP.

Can the rich—or the super-rich—be the solution? People making over $200,000 in 2009 paid $434 billion in taxes. Making them pay double or triple that amount would come woefully short of bridging the gap from what we earn (GNP) and what the governments (local, state, and federal) spend. The super rich—the famous 400 richest families in America—have about 1.37 trillion dollars of accumulated wealth. Confiscating it all would not be enough to support us seniors for one year. Plainly, the gap is unsustainable in all Western democracies.

You can see why accountants and realistic politicians (there are a few) are worried.

What can be done about it? I, too, am getting worried. How hopeless is it?

At minimum we are going to have to rein in our social welfare expenditures, reduce government debts and future pension and health-care obligations, as Tea Partiers suggest. We will also need to reform our tax codes, to increase fairness and to get more revenue as Democrats are suggesting. Even the most draconian cuts combined with the strongest increases in revenue will not be enough if we continue to think in zero-sum ways—redistribute the wealth, that is, instead of expanding the wealth pie.

To bridge the gap we will have to have entrepreneurial growth in private profit-making enterprises. Green activists claim, “A growing economy means a shrinking ecosystem.” Maybe. For sure a shrinking economy means more poverty and less wealth for all, young and old, rich and poor. And more violence, here and everywhere.

We in the Western world have used the capitalist win-win strategy for the last two hundred years to get as rich and generous to seniors and others as we now are. This win-win capitalist strategy is the way countries like China, India, Brazil and Mexico are using now to bootstrap themselves out of dreadful poverty. It works. A rising tide does lift all boats. Once these developing countries gave up their zero-sum socialist bent and turned to competitive capitalist memes they are growing their economies from seven to ten percent a year. Our economy and Europe’s, who once led the way, are now leaning in the zero-sum socialist direction. As a result we, and Europe, are growing now at less than one percent, not enough to keep up with population growth, much less the ever-increasing demand for senior and other services.

How can we get a growing economy again without shrinking ecosystems? As we used to say, that is the 64-thousand-dollar question. And as the King of Siam said in The King and I, “… is a puzzlement.”

See my next week’s blog for hints.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

P.S. See my new non-fiction book, The Road to a Tea Party: a Fresh Look at the Cold War, 9/11 and the Future of Free-Market Liberal Democracy, for background and other ideas on this and other current issues. You can find it on www.hawkhill.com or www.amazon.com.

A Personal Story (continued)

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

“There is nothing as exhilarating as to be shot at and missed.” I thought of that Churchill quote last week as Jane and I left the doctor’s office. She was diagnosed three weeks ago with a rare form of leukemia, CML. She has been taking the “magic bullet” drug Gleevec for two and a half weeks now. When we visited the oncologist day before yesterday he had great news, her white blood cell count had returned to normal! It is a “pricey” drug, but Gleevec I am very happy to say is also a “magic bullet” as Time magazine claimed. I am exhilarated.

So much so that it is time for another apolitical, non-scientific blog.

Not many know that Jane and I once did a nightclub act. It was a one-time event and not exactly a smash hit. We drew a respectable audience to a small nightclub in Madison, Wisconsin called The Second Story. It was owned and operated by an ex-hippie who claimed he started it on a Visa Card. A few months after our two weekend performances, the club closed. (Our act, I hasten to explain, had nothing to do with the closing. I think he had overdrawn his credit card and decided to take a more lucrative job in Chicago writing soap operas.)

We had two podiums on either side of the stage and some young musician friends provided guitar and flute music from the orchestra pit. This was in the days of slide shows and filmstrips and we projected interesting images onto a large screen between our podiums. I can’t reproduce the images but here are samples of the sounds from Sounds and Images.

Jane: You are about to see, and hear … sounds and images.

Bill: Let’s tell them what it’s about.

J: We’ve had a hard time deciding what it’s about.

B: It’s not exactly a documentary.

J: Though it’s true.

B: Not a talk show.

J: We do talk, even laugh.

B: A game?

J: We hope it will be fun.

B: Whatever … sounds and images.

(images appear on a large screen in between the two podiums while music begins)

J: The lens blinks open to catch a glimpse

And closes fast again,

And it’s all there before my eyes …

B: When I return will the fish still swim

Glide, dive and slowly turn

In the far-off, dark-down sea?

J: There’s so much I don’t want to see

So I only blink open when I feel secure

That the glimpse won’t be too fearful

B: Will life still explode in seed and spore

And decay in time?

J: I’m that kind of person (animal)

B: Will questions of great moment

Still be settled by childhood dreams

And Luck?

J: One who wants to feel joy and sexuality and ecstasy.

B: I think I shall return as rock.

J: How silly! Who doesn’t?

B: My rhythm shall be paced slow

To the grand tread of the century’s boot

J: Even dogs and snails

And butterflies and elephants

B: I will be soil, and trees

Sparrows and snakes

Blue-bottomed whales, oak-ribbed barns

Skyscrapers too. But not too soon.

J: And what we’ll do the gain these things

I’m amazing!

B: When autumn returns again

I will have learned my piece

I will stand by my seat

And yes, I’ll answer, yes.

(music changes)

B: Once upon a time there was an elephant who went around carrying the world on his shoulders. We all know the world is heavy, and the elephant groaned sometimes. A deep elephant groan And scowled sometimes. A sad elephant scowl. But still, the world was there, and they needed each other

J: There was also a butterfly (I think she was a butterfly), fun-loving and sometimes a bit of a dreamer. She would dream she was a beautiful lady in a bright feathery gown. It was then she wondered, “Am I a butterfly dreaming I am a beautiful lady, or am I a lady, dreaming I am a butterfly?”

B: One day the elephant with the world on his shoulders met the butterfly wondering whether she was a butterfly or a beautiful lady.

J: “Why in the world are you carrying that heavy thing on your shoulders?”

B: “Somebody has to, and I guess that somebody is me.”

J: “Silly. Don’t you know the world can float along perfectly well on its own blue feet. Let it go and you’ll see, Mr. Elephant.”

B: “Easy for you, Ms. Butterfly, flitting about all day never doing a lick of work. Not even knowing who you are.”

J: Truth to tell, each was stung a bit by the other’s words.

B: The elephant, just to test, slipped out from under the world for a second, and … the world floated right on, barely skipping a beat. And looking so free and pure that he too suddenly felt light and free. And for the first time since he was little, he frolicked and laughed and was ever so happy.

J: On this very same day, the butterfly flitting along noticed some twigs which had blown down from a sparrow’s nest, and she set to work helping the little bird repair her home. Later, when she noticed a squirrel searching in vain for some buried nuts, she gave a hint—little things, but she did them well and felt useful and ever so happy.

B: Until one day, the elephant watching the butterfly flitting about so free and easy, took it into his head to do the same—and leapt from a high cliff. Alas, the air would not support an elephant, and he died.

J: And the butterfly? She too was rash. While helping to move a rock from a gopher’s hole, her frail body was crushed and only her beautiful wings remained to remind the world of her dreams.

B: The moral of the story: pay no attention to what others may say. They’re dreaming.

J: Oh no. I would have said the moral is: To believe is only human. To half-believe is smarter.

B: Why is no one holding hands?

J: Where do they think they are, in heaven?

(The show goes on from here quoting at times from poets like E.E. Cummings, Kathleen Raine, Gerald Manley Hopkins, Helen Hoyt and James Stephens, as well as Jane Denny and Bill Stonebarger. It concludes with a recital of Riley’s Laws, invented by us to counter Murphy’ Laws—“if you drop your peanut butter bread it always lands peanut butter side down.”)

J: Riley’s Law #7. “An artist is not a special kind of person. Ever person is a special kind of artist.” Eric Gill.

B: Riley’s Law # 8. “Education is basic—finding ways to be human.” Bill Stonebarger

J: # 9: “There is a vitality, a life force, and energy, a quickening which is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it.” Martha Graham

B: # 10. “All the dark there is can’t put out a candle.” Anonymous

J: # 11: “The spirit of liberty is the spirit that is not quite sure it is right.” Judge Learned Hand.

B: # 12. “A mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillion of infidels.” Walt Whitman.

J: I thought you were going to use Walt’s other law, “O, if I am to have so much, let me have more.”

B: Right.

J: Let us have more.

B: Before we leave.

J: We’re amazing.

B: (to the audience) You too.

J: Do you have any questions before we leave?

We’ve asked so many, it’s only fair if you ask a few.

B: Whatever you ask, we have the right answer

A-plus from the start

Ask another, and we’ll get that one too.

(Pause)

J: No questions. No answers.

B: Why is no one holding hands?

Where do they think they are, in heaven?

J: Down here, in here

We have more need for keeping in touch.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

P.S. Besides my new non-fiction book, The Road to a Tea Party: a Fresh Look at the Cold War, 9/11 and the Future of Free-Market Liberal Democracy, some may want to sample my first book published in 1971. It was a book of poetry, A Little While Aware. Later I also made a DVD of it that is included in our first Hawkhill production, Spaceship Earth. Books and the DVD are available. Email me if interested, billjane@hawkhill.com.

Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment—in the Islamic World?

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Aug. 8, 2011

“Two teenagers … who met at an ice-cream shop in Herat, Afghanistan, now live on opposite ends of a cell block in a juvenile-detention facility—and for now, that’s a good thing. After months of stolen ‘hellos’ and secret talks on the phone, they decided to make their relationship public, and were immediately greeted with a four-hour riot that killed one man and left a police station charred. Their parents are so furious the teens met without family approval that they promise to kill them when they’re released.” The Daily Beast.

“Anders Behring Breivik’s admission that he  planted the car bomb at the Oslo prime minister’s office and stalked a nearby island, killing 76, had led to speculation about the potential for more mass violence from Europe’s radical right. But some commentators argue that despite his deplorable methods, Mr. Breivik has a point: ‘Multiculturalism’ has failed and Europe should turn back toward the narrower, traditional national cultures of the region.” Christian Science Monitor.

Jane and I are big Netflix fans. We have been watching The Tudors, a video series set in the days of the Renaissance. It tells the story of Henry VIII when he was the young king of England and was infatuated with Anne Boleyn. Being married (a politically arranged marriage with a Spanish aristocrat, Catherine of Aragon) he wanted to get a divorce and the Pope would not allow it. The Protestant Revolution was then stirring in Germany where the monk Martin Luther denounced the Catholic hierarchy as corrupt and urged followers to return Christianity to its founding purity.

Henry VIII followed Luther’s lead and separated his kingdom from the Catholic Church, founding the Church of England. Which sanctioned the divorce. It all happened in the chaotic years of the European Renaissance and Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries. In the 18th century, this Renaissance and Reformation were followed by the European Enlightenment, which played a major part in founding an exceptional country, the United States of America.

All of which has relevance today.

One of the more interesting characters in the Henry VIII drama was his one-time chancellor, Sir Thomas More. He was lionized in a 20th century play and movie, A Man for All Seasons. Thomas More is held up as the ultimate man of principle. He was the man who remained true to himself and his beliefs under all circumstances and at all times. He was a man of such devotion to principle that he chose to have his head removed by Henry VIII rather than take an oath acknowledging the new Protestant faith.  For this and other virtues, the Catholic Church canonized him in 1935 as Saint Thomas More.

The shocking thing to me is that this man of principle, while he was Chancellor for Henry VIII, was responsible for burning at the stake six Protestant heretics. Like many men of principle, he was convinced that heretics (those who believed in “principles” that you found abhorrent) were certain to go to hell. The most compassionate thing one could do was to burn them at the stake (in public view) while they were alive and able to think and feel pain. This would help prevent the disease of heresy from spreading. As an added benefit, the flames might serve to bring the heretic to change his or her mind and thus save him or her from the eternal fires of hell.

If Walter Cronkite was around then he would say, “and that’s the way it is.” Certainly, that’s the way it was in the days of the Christian Renaissance and Reformation (and for thousands of years before). And that’s the way it seems to be today in many Islamic countries.

When we hear stories of women being stoned for adultery; thieves having their arms cut off; parents killing their daughter for refusing to marry the man of their choice; Shiite Muslims killing Sunni Muslims (and vice versa) by the thousands or millions in wars and domestic strife; young men and women offering themselves as suicide bombers in a principled desire to defend their faith—remember that all of these things and worse happened with Christian zealots too. Four hundred years ago.

If you want to read horrific details see accounts of the Thirty Year’s War in northern Europe, where Catholic and Protestant armies laid near-total waste to the countryside in religious wars, reducing the resident population by a third or more.

It is little consolation to victims today to point out that change takes time. Christianity changed. Islam will change too. With cell phones, Twitter, and the Internet leading the way, it will not take centuries as it did with Christianity. Recent upheavals in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan suggest that progress is happening. It will continue and accelerate, if we in America continue to lead the way—even though along the way we no doubt will have false starts, missed opportunities and dead ends.

A U.S. military strategist, Eliot A. Cohen, pointed out key features our war against the militant wing of Islam, Al Qaeda, shares with the Cold War against the Soviet Union. “It will involve a mixture of violent and nonviolent efforts; it will require mobilization of skill, expertise and resources, if not vast numbers of soldiers; and it may go on for a long time and has ideological roots.”

As President Obama said on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, we cannot rule out violence, or the threat of violence. We will make faster and more lasting progress by relying, as we often did in the Cold War, on our example. Helping too will be the surprising power of private businesses founded not on dogmatic principle, but to make money. Apple, McDonald’s, Hollywood, Victoria’s Secret and thousands of other private efforts can and will accelerate change in the Islamic World. And they will do it with less bloodshed than came with the Christian versions four hundred years ago.

We were victorious in the Cold War, despite our many false starts, missed opportunities and dead ends. If we persevere we will be victorious now against radical Islam and be a catalyst for an Islamic Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment in the 21st century.

Bill Stonebarger, Hawkhill Owner/President

P.S. For more details on the background and potentials for change in this new Cold War see my new book, The Road to a Tea Party: a Fresh Look at the Cold War, 9/11 and the Future of Free-Market Liberal Democracy. Many readers have found chapters 10 and 11 on the Rise of Religion and Religion in the Modern World to be worth the price of admission.