Commentary Magazine


Topic: International Monetary Fund

What If College Is Making People Stupid?

International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde has become the latest commencement speaker to be chased off by American academia’s guardians of the eternally closed minds. After protests over Lagarde’s planned graduation speech at Smith College from professors and students, Lagarde bowed out, echoing Condoleezza Rice’s tactful statement about not wanting to derail the celebratory atmosphere of the day.

The Washington Post sums it up perfectly: “The commencement speaker purity bug has hit Smith College.” Calling it a “bug” is the right classification, for it is certainly both a defect and an apparently contagious infection that demonstrates the extent to which American universities are failing their students while pocketing the tuition money (about $45,000 in Smith’s case).

Meanwhile at Syracuse, the New Yorker’s David Remnick apparently gave a commencement address that deviated from the airy, ego-boosting flattery to which America’s college-age toddlers are accustomed, and was thus not altogether well received. Remnick’s speech was a litany of liberal policy clichés, and so there was plenty to disagree with. But it was also a challenge to the graduates:

Read More

International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde has become the latest commencement speaker to be chased off by American academia’s guardians of the eternally closed minds. After protests over Lagarde’s planned graduation speech at Smith College from professors and students, Lagarde bowed out, echoing Condoleezza Rice’s tactful statement about not wanting to derail the celebratory atmosphere of the day.

The Washington Post sums it up perfectly: “The commencement speaker purity bug has hit Smith College.” Calling it a “bug” is the right classification, for it is certainly both a defect and an apparently contagious infection that demonstrates the extent to which American universities are failing their students while pocketing the tuition money (about $45,000 in Smith’s case).

Meanwhile at Syracuse, the New Yorker’s David Remnick apparently gave a commencement address that deviated from the airy, ego-boosting flattery to which America’s college-age toddlers are accustomed, and was thus not altogether well received. Remnick’s speech was a litany of liberal policy clichés, and so there was plenty to disagree with. But it was also a challenge to the graduates:

What gnaws at you? And what will you do about it?

Is it the way we treat and warehouse our elderly as our population grows older? Is it the way we isolate and underserve the physically and mentally disabled. Is it our absurd American fascination with guns and our insistence on valuing the so called rights of ownership over the clear and present danger of gun violence? What will we–what will you–do about the widening divides of class and opportunity in this country? You are, dear friends, about to enter an economy that is increasing winner take all. Part of this is the result of globalization. But do we just throw up our hands and say that’s the way it is? And what about our refusal to look squarely at the degradation of the planet we inhabit? In the last election cycle many candidates refused even to acknowledge the hard science, irrefutable science, of climate change. The president, while readily accepting the facts, has done far too little to alter them. How long are we, are you, prepared to wait?

As I said, plenty to disagree with. But good for Remnick. He is addressing a generation that seems to think hashtags will catch war criminals and casting a vote for a messianic snake-oil salesman will heal the planet. They need to be reminded that they should actually do something with their knowledge, and if they don’t like it–well, they can suck it up.

But that last point raises a slightly different question. Is using the phrase “their knowledge” too presumptuous for today’s university climate? In its story on Lagarde, the Wall Street Journal talks to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s Greg Lukianoff:

Mr. Lukianoff said the trend is clearly growing. According to a tally by his group, between 1987 and 2008, there were 48 protests of planned speeches, not all for graduations, that led to 21 incidents of an invited guest not speaking. Since 2009 there have been 95 protests, resulting in 39 cancellations, according to Mr. Lukianoff’s group.

After recounting previous speakers at Smith, including such liberal leading lights as Rachel Maddow, Gloria Steinem, and last year Arianna Huffington, the Journal gets the following quote from a student who possesses neither self-awareness nor even a tangential relationship with the facts:

“The issue isn’t that we’re against debate but that we’re only hearing one side of the debate continuously,” said Nandi Marumo, a 22-year-old junior at Smith, who signed the petition against Ms. Lagarde. “We hear the same narrative from every person, from the media, from everything.”

The question, then, is not whether American universities are producing ever more totalitarian-minded brats. Of course they are reinforcing such closed-mindedness; they are leftist institutions steeped in leftist values. This is a problem, and should be addressed. But the out-of-control speech police on college campuses, combined with the unwillingness to even listen to those who might disagree with them, raises the distinct possibility that colleges are producing brainless authoritarians.

What if college, in other words, is making the next generation stupid? Not uniformly, of course. There will always be exceptions, and there may even be a rebellion against what is increasingly making college the most expensive babysitting service in the modern world. But college administrators are now faced with the conundrum of students who pay them gobs of money to keep them uninformed and shielded from critical thinking. It’s a challenge administrators have to deal with–and the sooner, the better.

Read Less

Is Morsi Preparing for War?

When the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate won Egypt’s presidential elections, the comforting theory pronounced by diplomats and pundits worldwide was that power would force the Brotherhood to moderate its views: Once in power, its first priority would have to be rescuing Egypt’s shattered economy, and this would force it to avoid radical steps liable to antagonize Western donors.

That power isn’t moderating the Brotherhood is crystal clear already: Within two months of taking office, President Mohamed Morsi had already blatantly violated the cardinal principle of the peace treaty with Israel–the demilitarization of Sinai–by sending tanks into the area near the Israeli border without first obtaining Israel’s permission. But now it turns out the Brotherhood also doesn’t care about the economy. It’s only Morsi’s third month in office, and he is already negotiating to spend hundreds of millions of dollars he doesn’t have on something that won’t help the economy one whit: two state-of-the-art submarines from Germany.

Read More

When the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate won Egypt’s presidential elections, the comforting theory pronounced by diplomats and pundits worldwide was that power would force the Brotherhood to moderate its views: Once in power, its first priority would have to be rescuing Egypt’s shattered economy, and this would force it to avoid radical steps liable to antagonize Western donors.

That power isn’t moderating the Brotherhood is crystal clear already: Within two months of taking office, President Mohamed Morsi had already blatantly violated the cardinal principle of the peace treaty with Israel–the demilitarization of Sinai–by sending tanks into the area near the Israeli border without first obtaining Israel’s permission. But now it turns out the Brotherhood also doesn’t care about the economy. It’s only Morsi’s third month in office, and he is already negotiating to spend hundreds of millions of dollars he doesn’t have on something that won’t help the economy one whit: two state-of-the-art submarines from Germany.

The price tag for a new German submarine is about $510 million, meaning two would cost over $1 billion. Thus Morsi is planning to waste more than a fifth of the $4.8 billion loan he just requested from the International Monetary Fund not on helping Egypt’s economy–the ostensible purpose for which he sought the money–but on acquiring expensive military equipment for which Egypt has no conceivable need: It isn’t currently facing a maritime threat from any country or terrorist organization, nor is there reason to think it will in the future.

Or to put it another way, Morsi plans to blow the entirety of the $1 billion debt relief package he is now negotiating with Washington on military hardware rather than helping Egypt’s economy.

The first obvious conclusion from this fact is that neither Washington nor the IMF should approve the requested aid. There might be valid reasons for giving Egypt aid to rebuild its economy. But there are none at all for giving it money to purchase state-of-the-art submarines.

Far more worrying, however, is the issue of why Egypt even wants these subs–because the only possible purpose they could serve is for use against Israel.

Granted, the two countries are officially at peace. But Egypt’s army has continued to view Israel as its principal enemy, and to train accordingly, throughout the decades since the treaty was signed in 1979. Moreover, Israel is the only country in the region that has a state-of-the-art submarine force itself: It recently took possession of its fourth German-built sub, and has two more on order. Taken together, those two facts make it hard to envision any other purpose an Egyptian submarine fleet could rationally serve.

And when you add in Morsi’s move to remilitarize Sinai, the final conclusion from the submarine deal becomes inescapable: Morsi’s top priority isn’t rehabilitating Egypt’s economy, but preparing for war with Israel.

Read Less

Rand Paul’s Foreign Policy

Rand Paul has tried to dial back the extreme isolationist rhetoric expressed by his father, Ron Paul, who once suggested that 9/11 was our fault for provoking al-Qaeda. For instance, the junior Paul, who is now the GOP Senate candidate in Kentucky, says that he’s against a “wholesale withdrawal” from Afghanistan or Iraq (as opposed to a partial pullout?) and that he’s in favor of winning wars once we get into them. Moreover, he favors keeping Guantanamo open and trying terrorists in military tribunals.

But his victory is still bad news for Republicans who believe in a strong and active foreign policy. All you have to do is look at his website to see that he holds a quirky — and untenable — view of a “Fortress America.” He writes, “I believe our greatest national security threat is our lack of security at the border,” a threat that he proposes to address by imposing “a moratorium on Visas from about ten rogue nations or anybody that has traveled to those nations.” This may sound like a seductive solution, but it will not keep us safe, because numerous terrorists (like the would-be Times Square bomber) already have U.S. citizenship or citizenship from non-rogue states such as the United Kingdom. By closing our doors to “rogue nation” citizens (which nations qualify? he doesn’t say), he spurns our best counter-radicalization tool — the ability to educate foreign students in the United States.

The rest of his bare-bones foreign-policy statements consists of red herrings, such as his demand “that we fight only under U.S. Commander and not the UN” — as if UN command of U.S. forces were a big issue. Only in the Paul household, I suspect. And maybe the Pat Buchanan household too. Rand Paul really goes deep into isolationist territory with his views on “sovereignty”:

The Founding Fathers warned us that foreign alliances sacrifice our independence as a nation. In Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address, he asserted that America should have “peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.” Yet today, America is often subservient to foreign bodies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, World Trade Organization (WTO), and the United Nations (UN). …

Rand Paul proposes that America can engage the world in free trade, develop lucrative commercial relationships with other nations, and defend its national interests without funding or joining international organizations. The U.S. Government must answer only to the Constitution and the citizens protected by it.

I suppose some on the right would join him in denouncing the UN, but what about the IMF, World Bank, and WTO? Generally I think most conservatives are Hamiltonian (one of the Founding Fathers whom Paul doesn’t mention) and believe that we gain from such trade and economic arrangements, which, yes, restrict sovereignty to some small degree but in the process immeasurably benefit the United States by curtailing tariffs and other obstacles to economic growth. There is ample room to criticize and improve the UN, IMF, World Bank, WTO, and other organizations, but Paul’s suggestion that we not fund or join any international organizations suggests that he is advocating a fringe foreign-policy outlook — one I hope is not representative of the Tea Party movement as a whole.

Rand Paul has tried to dial back the extreme isolationist rhetoric expressed by his father, Ron Paul, who once suggested that 9/11 was our fault for provoking al-Qaeda. For instance, the junior Paul, who is now the GOP Senate candidate in Kentucky, says that he’s against a “wholesale withdrawal” from Afghanistan or Iraq (as opposed to a partial pullout?) and that he’s in favor of winning wars once we get into them. Moreover, he favors keeping Guantanamo open and trying terrorists in military tribunals.

But his victory is still bad news for Republicans who believe in a strong and active foreign policy. All you have to do is look at his website to see that he holds a quirky — and untenable — view of a “Fortress America.” He writes, “I believe our greatest national security threat is our lack of security at the border,” a threat that he proposes to address by imposing “a moratorium on Visas from about ten rogue nations or anybody that has traveled to those nations.” This may sound like a seductive solution, but it will not keep us safe, because numerous terrorists (like the would-be Times Square bomber) already have U.S. citizenship or citizenship from non-rogue states such as the United Kingdom. By closing our doors to “rogue nation” citizens (which nations qualify? he doesn’t say), he spurns our best counter-radicalization tool — the ability to educate foreign students in the United States.

The rest of his bare-bones foreign-policy statements consists of red herrings, such as his demand “that we fight only under U.S. Commander and not the UN” — as if UN command of U.S. forces were a big issue. Only in the Paul household, I suspect. And maybe the Pat Buchanan household too. Rand Paul really goes deep into isolationist territory with his views on “sovereignty”:

The Founding Fathers warned us that foreign alliances sacrifice our independence as a nation. In Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address, he asserted that America should have “peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.” Yet today, America is often subservient to foreign bodies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, World Trade Organization (WTO), and the United Nations (UN). …

Rand Paul proposes that America can engage the world in free trade, develop lucrative commercial relationships with other nations, and defend its national interests without funding or joining international organizations. The U.S. Government must answer only to the Constitution and the citizens protected by it.

I suppose some on the right would join him in denouncing the UN, but what about the IMF, World Bank, and WTO? Generally I think most conservatives are Hamiltonian (one of the Founding Fathers whom Paul doesn’t mention) and believe that we gain from such trade and economic arrangements, which, yes, restrict sovereignty to some small degree but in the process immeasurably benefit the United States by curtailing tariffs and other obstacles to economic growth. There is ample room to criticize and improve the UN, IMF, World Bank, WTO, and other organizations, but Paul’s suggestion that we not fund or join any international organizations suggests that he is advocating a fringe foreign-policy outlook — one I hope is not representative of the Tea Party movement as a whole.

Read Less

Two Articles Worth Reading

The indispensable Walter Russell Mead over at the American Interest has a perceptive essay on the changing politics of climate change.

I’d suggest pairing it with an article in the Telegraph about a new report by the International Monetary Fund called “Navigating the Fiscal Challenges Ahead” (h/t Powerline). If you’re marooned on a desert island this weekend with time on your hands, here’s the complete report.

Both the ordinary people and the markets have woken up to the fact that many of the world’s biggest economies have, courtesy of their politicians, dug themselves into a deep hole and the next few years will have to be spent on climbing out of it or face fiscal disaster. That means no money for saving the planet from a global-warming catastrophe that fewer and fewer people believe in anyway. Al Gore will just have to cry his eyes out in his new 10,000-square-foot house (with nine bathrooms) overlooking the Pacific.

As Edmund Conway, the economics editor of the Telegraph, explains,

the idea behind the [IMF] document is to set out how much different countries around the world need to cut their deficits by in the next few years, and the bottom line is it’s going to be big and hard (ie 8.7pc of GDP in deficit cuts around the world, which works out at, gulp, about $4 trillion).

But the really interesting stuff is the detail, and what leaps out again and again is how much of a hill the U.S. has to climb. Exhibit A is the fact that under the Obama administration’s current fiscal plans, the national debt in the U.S. (on a gross basis) will climb to above 100 percent of GDP by 2015 — a far steeper increase than almost any other country.

Not the least of the problems for the United States is that the average maturity of federal securities is only 4.4 years. In Britain it’s 12.8 years and in Greece, 7.4 years. That means that half of all federal securities will need to be rolled over by mid-2014. If the market begins to lose faith in the U.S., the interest rates demanded by the market will soar and debt service will begin to crowd out other federal expenses. The IMF calculates that the United States will have to cut its structural debt by 12 percent of GDP over the next ten years to get back on track. That’s higher than any other country (Greece: 9 percent) except Japan.

No wonder the voters are in an unforgiving mood.

The indispensable Walter Russell Mead over at the American Interest has a perceptive essay on the changing politics of climate change.

I’d suggest pairing it with an article in the Telegraph about a new report by the International Monetary Fund called “Navigating the Fiscal Challenges Ahead” (h/t Powerline). If you’re marooned on a desert island this weekend with time on your hands, here’s the complete report.

Both the ordinary people and the markets have woken up to the fact that many of the world’s biggest economies have, courtesy of their politicians, dug themselves into a deep hole and the next few years will have to be spent on climbing out of it or face fiscal disaster. That means no money for saving the planet from a global-warming catastrophe that fewer and fewer people believe in anyway. Al Gore will just have to cry his eyes out in his new 10,000-square-foot house (with nine bathrooms) overlooking the Pacific.

As Edmund Conway, the economics editor of the Telegraph, explains,

the idea behind the [IMF] document is to set out how much different countries around the world need to cut their deficits by in the next few years, and the bottom line is it’s going to be big and hard (ie 8.7pc of GDP in deficit cuts around the world, which works out at, gulp, about $4 trillion).

But the really interesting stuff is the detail, and what leaps out again and again is how much of a hill the U.S. has to climb. Exhibit A is the fact that under the Obama administration’s current fiscal plans, the national debt in the U.S. (on a gross basis) will climb to above 100 percent of GDP by 2015 — a far steeper increase than almost any other country.

Not the least of the problems for the United States is that the average maturity of federal securities is only 4.4 years. In Britain it’s 12.8 years and in Greece, 7.4 years. That means that half of all federal securities will need to be rolled over by mid-2014. If the market begins to lose faith in the U.S., the interest rates demanded by the market will soar and debt service will begin to crowd out other federal expenses. The IMF calculates that the United States will have to cut its structural debt by 12 percent of GDP over the next ten years to get back on track. That’s higher than any other country (Greece: 9 percent) except Japan.

No wonder the voters are in an unforgiving mood.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.