The West, plagued by self-doubt

first_imgNiall Ferguson is a little concerned these days.The feeling started years ago, during one of his stints leading a course in Western civilization. “Each time I taught it, I felt I was getting closer to an original answer to the question, ‘Why did the West dominate the rest?’ plus the subordinate question, ‘Is it over?’ ”Ferguson, the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History, believes we are witnessing the end of the predominance of the West — “Europe and North America, broadly,” he says — relative to countries like China, India, and Brazil. Much of the rest of the world has not only caught up with Western achievements; according to Ferguson, the West also has lost faith in its own civilization because of the widespread perception that its success was almost exclusively the result of violence and imperialism.So his latest book, “Civilization: The West and the Rest,” was mostly produced amid a mood of uneasiness, he admits. “I was worried that the West was losing sight of what made it so successful, and perhaps losing those advantages that had previously been so important.”In “Civilization,” Ferguson dubs these Western advantages his six “killer apps,” which are competition, science, property rights, medicine, consumerism, and the work ethic. “The prescription must be to reinstall and update these apps, to take these six things and make sure we’re doing them as well as we can,” he argues.“I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about how healthy these things are in the West, and the answer is not very. While I was writing the book I also realized that what other fallen civilizations had in common was the speed with which their downfall happened. Things don’t always happen gradually in history; sometimes they fall apart quite fast. So there’s a certain urgency in my argument. If you don’t watch out, things can go wrong very rapidly. By the way, I think that’s what’s happened in Europe. The financial crisis has gone from bad to worse in the span of a year.”The candid and sometimes controversial Ferguson is especially troubled by the rampant belief that all civilizations are not only equal, but that “the West was actually bad because Western power was based exclusively on conquest and colonization.”“That self-flagellation, which has been a feature of the academe for a generation, is quite corrosive, because if you teach a generation that the West was essentially wicked and its passing shouldn’t be mourned, then your students aren’t going to feel tremendously committed to its values.”“The West, in some respects — not all — was a more successful civilization than any other because it was successful economically in making people richer than they ever were before; successful socially in creating greater opportunities, not least for women than any previous society; and successful culturally in opening up whole avenues of scientific and other inquiry that had previously been closed,” he says. “Therefore, we shouldn’t think of the West just in terms of conquest and colonization, slavery and exploitation. That’s only a part of the story. The least original thing that the West did after 1500 was empire.”Apart from his prolific writing (he’s now at work on a multivolume biography of Henry Kissinger), Ferguson makes ample time for his four children, including a new son, and for playing the double bass.The former high school punk rocker (“We had several different names, one of which was ‘The Strand’; we were closely modeled on the Jam”) traded in his six-string after discovering jazz. He still plays bass occasionally with the London-based quintet “A Night in Tunisia.”Ferguson’s sobering message will air on television this spring, when PBS screens the series ‘Civilization: Is the West History?’, which he wrote and presented. “My argument is, ‘Look, let’s identify the strengths, and let’s not pretend that in the period after 1500 something remarkable didn’t happen. There’s a reason why the West got so much richer, longer-lived, healthier, and better educated than anybody else, and it wasn’t just machine guns.’ This idea annoys some people,” he shrugs, “but that’s OK.”last_img read more

Republicans’ haste leading to flawed tax legislation

first_imgLikewise, the House version would stop allowing taxpayers to take a deduction for medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of their income.That would hurt middle- and working-class families.On matters small and large, Republican leaders have deliberately left no time for definitive congressional analysis of the economic and social fallout.Then they’ve summarily dismissed research by respected outside groups like the Tax Policy Center, which has found that the legislation decisively tilts to the well-to-do — by 2027, the wealthiest 1 percent would get 60 percent of the benefits, the group says — and that by 2027, tens of millions of middle-class families would pay higher taxes.The Senate bill has a provision for triggering automatic additional corporate tax cuts in the unlikely event that revenues exceed expectations.On Tuesday, Republicans inserted a so-called “backstop” provision that would limit tax cuts years from now if there’s a revenue shortfall.Details weren’t provided and it’s probably more of a vote-getting device than a substantive check on ballooning deficits. Sen. Ron Wyden, the panel’s senior Democrat who was amenable to a bipartisan tax-reform deal. Instead, the seven-term Utah lawmaker, under pressure to retire next year, went small, expensive and partisan.Stephen Shay, a Harvard University law school lecturer, tax lawyer and former Treasury official, has predicted that the rushed legislation “will be rife with undiscovered loopholes that increase the windfalls and scope of the deficit.”The Finance Committee did hold an Oct. 3 hearing, he noted, but it lacked substance and was “irrelevant except to permit the committee majority to say a hearing was held.”Overall, Shay writes, “There is a pervasive failing in the bill to introduce guardrails around substantial rate reductions that would effectively police the many new boundaries between rate differences that the bill creates.”Some provisions are included to score cheap political points. Conservatives targeted higher education, elite liberal institutions in their book, with taxes on the endowments of better-off colleges and on the tuition waivers graduate students receive for working as researchers or teaching assistants.There were no hearings that weighed the effect of these measures.University officials claim they would reduce research and cut financial assistance for middle-income students — at a time the federal government is cutting back in the same areas. Over the summer, Republican leaders brushed aside Sen. John McCain’s call for “regular order” to consider what soon became a failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Regular order involves dozens of hearings in which different views can be ventilated, along with deep analysis in a bipartisan spirit.Politically motivated haste has now produced an equally reckless tax effort.On a macro level, it’s not going to produce the promised economic growth.It can be expected to add at least $1.7 trillion to the deficit in 10 years and worsen income inequality.It’s no surprise the House legislated on a partisan basis; that’s long been the way it does business.But the Senate ought to be a different story.Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who leads the Finance Committee, could have tried to work with Oregon Categories: Editorial, OpinionAny major tax bill has unintended consequences and hidden loopholes.But the current Republican tax effort just bristles with such potential miscues.It’s a slipshod product, legislated with minimal transparency and analysis and with a premium on partisan politics.The Senate is slated to vote very soon on a tax bill that’s similar to the one the House passed on Nov. 16.Both call for huge tax cuts, primarily for corporations and upper-income individuals, with little, sometimes nothing, for many middle-class taxpayers.Both parade as tax reform, but do little to reorganize the tax system as the last real tax reform did in a bipartisan measure passed in 1986.The legislation has been rushed so fast through a short-circuited lawmaking process that if it’s successful, many of the politicians who voted for it may find themselves shocked to discover what they’ve done. Sponsors contend that tax cuts benefiting the middle class that are slated to expire in 10 years actually will be extended by a future Congress.If that’s true, what they don’t acknowledge is that these future cuts would add even more to the deficit, bringing pressure for significant spending reductions.The only big available targets are entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, or military spending.That’s why there should be a clear path for deficit hawks like Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona, or defense hawks like McCain, to send this bill back to the Finance Committee for real hearings, review, debate and analysis.That’s called regular order.Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist and former executive editor of Bloomberg News.More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesEDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?last_img read more

Cleverley enjoys winning feeling

first_img The Manchester United midfielder collected his first Premier League title medal at the end of last season. Memories of the celebrations that followed still linger. And like so many of his team-mates have found down the years, now Cleverley has experienced the winning feeling, he does not want to lose it. “We’ve got the best examples ever,” said Cleverley. Tom Cleverley has got the taste for trophies. “The desire from (Ryan) Giggs, Rio (Ferdinand), (Paul) Scholes, Wayne (Rooney) is what you want. They have all won a number of titles and they’re still so hungry to win more. We follow on from that – that feeling passes down to us. We want to be here in 10 years saying we’ve got six, seven or eight medals. You’re brought up like that at this club.” The most satisfying part of last season for Cleverley was the manner in which United responded to the loss of their title to Manchester City. Not for them the nail-biting last-day drama of an injury-time championship triumph. The Red Devils achieved their aim with four games to spare and eventually settled for an 11-point advantage over City, who could not use bad luck as an excuse. “We did really well last year,” said Cleverley. “We didn’t just win it, we won it in style after the previous year, which really hurt us. We want to retain the title now. The victory parade was incredible and makes us want to win more and more, especially those of us for who it was the first time. We want to be there again and again, going through Manchester on that bus.” Yet Cleverley has a personal battle ahead of him. One of the key components in Roy Hodgson’s England World Cup squad, Cleverley is heading into the unknown at Old Trafford. For with Paul Scholes retired and Darren Fletcher facing major question marks over his future, new manager David Moyes has made strengthening his midfield a priority. A move for Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas is already under way, whilst Everton’s Marouane Fellaini and Yohan Cabaye from Newcastle have been linked with Old Trafford moves. It does not faze Cleverley, though. Speaking after Saturday’s 5-1 win over an A League All Stars outfit at ANZ Stadium, the 23-year-old insisted no amount of speculation will disturb his focus. “There will always be world-class competition at a big club like this,” he said. “Manchester United gets linked with big players. It’s no different this year but I don’t really take much notice of it. I just play my football.” Press Association Cleverley admits he has enough on his plate getting used to a new manager. He said: “We always had to impress Sir Alex Ferguson. He challenged us every day. Now David Moyes is in charge but the aim is no different. We are all working hard to impress him.” Although United’s original intention had been to fly straight out of Sydney last night on the near 10-hour journey to Tokyo, once it was established airport restrictions would stop them, it was decided to stay on for another full day. It provides a further opportunity to take advantage of the state-of-the-art facilities that have been on offer before an overnight flight takes them to Japan for two games in three days and a reunion with Shinji Kagawa. Back home in England, chief executive Ed Woodward will continue to hunt for new players ahead of that opening Premier League encounter at Swansea on August 17. There were definite signs Moyes’ squad are stepping up their own preparations with a much-improved performance, during which Danny Welbeck and Jesse Lingard both scored twice and Wilfried Zaha also impressed. “All the lads would say the Thursday and Friday sessions were really sharp,” said Cleverley. “We’ve definitely hit that extra gear. You can definitely see in training that the intensity has stepped up and the players are getting to know each other better. All the boys are really enjoying the new manager’s training. We are moving forward and we want to keep it like that.” last_img read more