Saturday, January 01, 2005

A Democrat's Alternative to Privatization

On Fox News this morning, Democratic Strategist Bob Beckel proposed that anyone with an annual income higher than about $50,000 or $75,000 at retirement age should get nothing at all from Social Security – zero, zilch, nada.

Beckel has long been an influential voice within the Democratic Party. He managed the 1984 Presidential campaign of Walter Mondale after working in the Carter White House. His version of “means testing” takes this idea further than most have yet dared to articulate, yet it is not conceptually different from President Clinton’s 1993 surtax on Social Security benefits for retired couples with other income exceeding $44,000. The same theme was also apparent in Senator Kerry’s comment about "making sure that high-income beneficiaries don't get more out than they pay in." (see The misnamed Brookings Institution book Saving Social Security by Peter Diamond and Peter Orszag is just a sneaky variation on the Beckel theme, since it relies on new and increased taxes on higher earners for about 83 percent of the alleged fix, while also “reducing benefits for higher earners.”

It is easy to imagine some future Democratic Congress further reducing Social Security benefits for those with above-average incomes and also raising taxes on the same people to pay for their shrinking benefits. After all, as Beckel rightly noted, the founders of Social Security never really promised anything to anyone. The unfunded future promise of allowing Social Security and Medicare grow to a size larger than the entire federal government are just illusory projections based on a hoax. Something nasty is apt to happen before the well runs dry, and any solution that eschews personal accounts is unlikely to be gentle with young people who work too hard or save too much.

The Beckel Plan reflects a common leftist belief that some people just happen to end up with higher retirement incomes than others, as a matter of random luck, so the government can rob such people with impunity. In reality, incomes in old age depend on the economic virtues of industriousness and prudence – working hard for many years (often well past age 67) and saving for retirement. To reduce or eliminate Social Security benefits for those who set aside a half-decent retirement income or continued to work past the customary retirement age would amount to a confiscatory tax on hard work and thrift.

All means-tested “solutions” to Social Security’s looming financial crisis are offered as an alternative to allowing young people to put some of their Social Security “contributions” into their own personal savings account. In reality, the fact that such ideas are taken seriously should serve as a warning to young people to lobby hard for Retirement Choice – that is, their right to opt out of this rip-off before the politicians finish converting it into nothing more than a massive income redistribution scheme.

Mr.Beckel’s proposed “fix” for Social Security’s unpayable bills, like the Diamond-Orszag plan and others, proves the political risk of expecting any positive return from Social Security far exceeds any conceivable market risk from owning stocks and bonds.

America's Giving

The New York Times, the United Nations, and the rest of the American Left have it all wrong in their reaction to the nascent relief efforts for victims of the Asian tsunami. As John Podhoretz points out in his current column for the New York Post,, "The political and ideological exploitation of perhaps the worst natural disaster in all our lifetimes is almost beyond belief — were it not for the fact that nothing these days is beyond belief. Even as tears spring into the most hard-hearted person's eyes at both the unimaginable scope of the tragedy and at the wrenching individual stories of loss, opinion leaders just can't help themselves. They are using this cataclysm as little more than cheap debate fodder about the nature and character of the United States, its president and its citizens."

Podhoretz agrees that the U.S. foreign aid policy is a fit matter for debate, but he correctly points out that this is not the time for such an argument, as the disaster is not about the United States but about its multitude of victims. Absolutely. Moreover, the Left, led by the NYT, the UN, and certain vile European heads of state, are attempting to shift the issue from disaster relief to development aid, which is a different matter entirely.

Podhoretz does not mention, but should have, that the United States has always led the world in private giving, by far, and I am sure that this situation will be no different. To pretend that the United States will not do enough for disaster victims because the president is a Republican and conservative is perfectly absurd.

In my view, the U.S. (and European) Left's treatment of this issue has been disgraceful: the most cynical and brazenly opportunistic political behavior I have seen in a very long time. It is they who have brought shame on us in this matter.

Friday, December 31, 2004

Mike Kinsley's Social Security Gaffe

L.A. Times editor Michael Kinsley recently wrote, with characteristic humility, that, “Social Security privatization is . . . mathematically certain to fail. Discussion is pointless. . . . It can't possibly work, even in theory.”

He made this same argument in a little-noticed July 27, 2001 article in Slate, where he said it was an analysis “for which I claim enthusiasm, not originality.” Now he claims originality, calling it “Kinsley’s Proof”:

"My argument . . . defines success as bringing in more money than the current system does. More money is necessary either to reduce the gap between projected benefits and revenue or to make retirees better off. . . . More money can come from only two places: increased economic growth and other people. Increased growth can come only from higher private investment or smarter private investment."

Privatization cannot result in higher private investment, in his view, because government borrowing to finance the transition would leave combined public and private savings unchanged (not reduced, incidentally, as others claim). “Privatization would deflect some money from the Social Security trust fund into private investment,” says Kinsley, “but the government would have to borrow an equal amount to replace it.” With total national savings unchanged, he imagines private investment must be unchanged too.

After adding some dubious comments about private investment being no more efficient or profitable than government bonds, Mr. Kinsley asked, “Where am I wrong here?” Several bloggers offered perceptive answers to that question, but he does not really want to listen. “When you're sure of something to a mathematical certainty,” he wrote, “it becomes supremely irritating that other people continue to debate the issue as if there were some doubt.”

Curiously, none of Mr. Kinsley’s critics noticed the fundamental flaw of his analysis – namely, that it totally ignores incentives to work or to accumulate potentially valuable skills (human capital). My own recent column, by contrast, cites Nobel Laureate Ed Prescott and concludes, “better work incentives are the biggest single benefit of privatization”

To assert as Mr. Kinsley does that “increased growth can come only from higher private investment or smarter private investment” is to advance a uniquely peculiar theory of economic growth. Specifically, Mr. Kinsley’s conclusion depends on a closed economy, static model with only one factor of production (private capital).

This is a closed economy static model because investment in new private capital can supposedly be financed only from current domestic flows of saving, never from the global stocks of assets. If that made any sense, then the U.S. could never have a deficit on current account, because it could never have a net inflow of foreign investment.

Kinsley's is a one-factor model because the behavior of workers, managers and entrepreneurs is alleged to make literally no difference whatsoever to the output or growth of any national economy.

If Michael Kinsley’s one-factor theory of economic growth made any sense, then the U.S. could replace every worker, manager and entrepreneur with a random selection of people from Somalia yet the U.S. economy would nonetheless remain equally productive.

The main point of making it easier for young people to build real nest eggs, rather than relying on the unlikely generosity of future taxpayers, has to do with microeconomic incentives not macroeconomic accounting categories such as "savings rates."

Privatization reduces the risk that the marginal tax on future workers may otherwise become so onerous that hours of work per year and years of work per liftime drop to the lazy levels of France, thus flattening economic growth and tax receipts in the process.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

When Liberalism Was Liberal

Today on Tech Central Station there appears an article by Yours Truly on the great old movie Going My Way. You can read the whole piece there. Here are some tantalizing excerpts:

TV stations tend to show the great 1944 film Going My Way, directed by Leo McCarey and starring Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald, more often around Christmas, even though only a couple of scenes are set during Advent.

The film, however, always repays watching. In particular, it illustrates the superiority of moral suasion over coercion in the creation of civil order -- a lesson always worth remembering. Although Going My Way won several Academy Awards, including Best Picture, the film's reputation rapidly declined beginning in the 1960s, and critical consensus has long dismissed it as trite, sentimental, and unsophisticated. This is an entirely erroneous and indeed dimwitted interpretation of the film, and one that cries out for redress.

The story is familiar: easygoing, likeable Father O'Malley (Bing Crosby) is assigned by the local Catholic bishop to help bring St. Dominic's Church, a faltering urban congregation led by Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald), back to its feet and in particular to overcome its financial problems. Crosby's O'Malley represents the liberal side of the church -- as it was then manifested, it is important to remember -- and Fitzgibbon the conservative aspect.

The key element here is that Crosby's liberalism is entirely limited to means, not ends; he is merely trying to find ways to enable the church to treat the ills of a rapidly changing society, not to change its doctrines of belief. In the end, of course, O'Malley's approach proves surprisingly successful, and he is sent on to the next challenge. What is in the middle is a very intelligent, sophisticated, decent, and engaging film -- exactly what we should expect from McCarey, who is now greatly underrated.

The most interesting aspect of the film is the centrality of the motif of generational conflict, and specifically of reconciliation between parents and children. As such, authority is a central concern. Fathers O'Malley and Fitzgibbons initially suffer a good deal of conflict, until O'Malley is placed explicitly in a position of authority when Fitzgibbons consults the bishop and is told that O'Malley is now in fact his superior.

O'Malley had not told him this, preferring to spare him any emotional hurt, though it of course made O'Malley's work much more difficult. Their personal conflicts play out as a clear father-son type of relationship, and they end only when the father figure realizes that the time has come for him to hand over the reins of the "family" -- St. Dominic's church, of course -- to his "son". McCarey and the actors beautifully display the mixture of pride and melancholy in the handover of authority: Fitzgibbons is initially humiliated by it, but ultimately is proud of the fine man the Church has raised up to replace him.

Similarly, the local landlord, who owns a long-overdue mortgage on the church, is in conflict with his son, who values family and service to others far more highly than the obsessive accumulation of material assets which motivates his father. Eventually, the father comes to see things the son's way, realizing that, yes, love is indeed the most important and satisfying thing of all.

The young, however, are not always in the right in the film. Also central to the story is the presence of a young woman who has left her family in search of a career in music, for which she is clearly not suited. . . . The young woman comes perilously close to disaster, but O'Malley's subtle and gentle guidance averts the impending catastrophe. The key element here is Father O'Malley's realization--never stated but implicit in his actions--that what she is really searching for is unconditional love and respect. He goes about ensuring that she finds it, and successfully puts her in the right situation.

What is politically interesting [about the film] is that O'Malley's goals are quite conventional, traditional, bourgeois ones, but the means he is willing to use are all what we would characterize as liberal. They are based on an effort to understand exactly what a person is trying to accomplish, and then seeking to figure out an alternative way for them to achieve it.

Father O'Malley's efforts to get people to change always involve persuasion, not coercion. It is this that religious institutions do best, and in this respect their treatment of moral issues is far superior to the coercive methods of governments.

O'Malley's activities illustrate an important aspect of the word liberal -- a generosity of spirit that takes the form of wanting what is best for others, regardless of the consequences for oneself. They also reflect the important liberal concept that only acts done with an individual's consent can ultimately be fulfilling and to that person's credit -- O'Malley shows an intuitive and automatic dislike for coercion. His liberalism is an entirely laudable one, and he is quite an impressive and inspiring character.

There are many other interesting themes and motifs in the film, but the father-child one is what really holds it all together. This thematic unity is quite impressive, and it is directed toward entirely laudable ends. Filmmakers today could learn much about their craft by studying this remarkably intelligent, sophisticated, mature, and original film.

Going My Way is one of those rare movies that is actually more substantial than it seems.

John Wilson Does His Thing . . .

Christianity Today has come out with their annual Top Ten Books list. Read it here. I'm sorry to say I didn't read any of these books this year.

For pleasure reading, I've just discovered the hard-boiled work of Lee Child and his drifter hero Jack Reacher. Good stuff. Lots of action. What's even better is listening to Reacher figure out his plan of attack. He's a physical genius who somehow ends up playing David to an always fearsome Goliath.

New Year's Bama Style!

I thought this item in my hometown newspaper in Decatur, Alabama would prove entertaining to cultural observers:

Ring in the New Year with Elvis

Celebrate New Year's Eve with Elvis.

Impersonator Dennis Ballentine brings his Tribute to Elvis show to David's Catfish Cabin in Hartselle at 6:30 p.m. Cost is $10 (meal not included). Party favors will be furnished. . .

Ballentine's music will soon be featured on, a worldwide Internet radio service that features only Elvis tribute artists.

"This is quite an honor," said Ballentine, a Falkville resident. "Many artists hope to be on the show, but less than 250 worldwide are picked for their ability to perform Elvis' songs."


I agree that Napoleon Dynamite is a fun film and rather thoughtful. It has an interesting point of view, moreover, which becomes evident in the resolution. As Hunter notes, everybody in Napoleon's fictional Idaho hometown is approximately two decades behind the times, and Napoleon is held back by the community's dreary conservatism, a symptom of the people's low expectations of what they think they can hope to get out of life. Napoleon's uncle is a fine example of this acceptance of shabbiness: even though the man is willing to work, he has no direction and less imagination.

Napoleon's exasperation at just about everything around him is a symptom of his frustration at being held back by a social order that does not allow itself to benefit from creative, eccentric persons such as himself. The exaggerated languor of most of the characters, epitomized in Napoleon's brother, who does not even show the occasional bursts of energy Napoleon can sum up, is an inevitable outcome of this culture.

It is only when an Eastern, urban, ethnic element is introduced into the society, through the Internet girlfriend of Napoleon's older brother, that Napoleon and his brother can thrive. And it creates a couple of scenes that are both very funny and rather inspiring: Napoleon's dance routine and his entrance to his brother's wedding.

One could see the film as having a racial-culture angle, given that the person who introduces change to the society is African-American, but I don't think that that is at all the relevant point. The film does a wonderful job of showing how conservatism works to create social order but ultimately can suppress the creative urges that are the lifeblood of any society and any economy. For a society to function well and create a truly rich environment, there must always be a balance between conservative forces and those for reform. The title of this film aptly evokes that idea. See it.

Trailing Edge Film Review: Napoleon Dynamite

Napoleon Dynamite is an unusual film. Although there are a few ongoing series of events that keep the film moving, it's really a nostalgia/mood/oddball humor piece. Napoleon and most of the people around him seem to be living in 1982-84. Their clothing, hairstyles, and communication are all characteristic of that period. On the other hand, the director clearly indicates at several points that the action is occurring in 2004-2005. Napoleon and the people around him are living in Idaho, which is the only possible reconciliation. Maybe we can buy the idea that Idaho is literally about 20-25 years behind the times. A better interpretation is probably that early 80's nostalgia makes it fun to fill a 2004 plot with characters dressed in 80's regalia. The result works. Although events move slowly, the viewer is rarely bored. It's a lot like moving through a really interesting museum. You're in no hurry to leave.

The best part of Napoleon Dynamite is the title character. Everything about him is hilarious. When he comes on screen, you are simply waiting to laugh. Jon Heder plays Napoleon and inhabits the character with great success. If the movie had nothing more than Mr. Heder expressing the thoughts of Mr. Dynamite, it would still be worth watching. In fact, that's just about what you get, except that there are at least two other characters in Napoleon's own family who are almost as interesting. Uncle Rico and brother Kip are nearly as much fun as Napoleon and could probably serve as building blocks for their own films. Heder will be offered more geek roles after this one and should refuse. His masterpiece is in the can. It's time for him to move on to something else.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Left2Right, Schmeft2Right!

Commenter David Velleman kindly pointed us to the Left2Right response to Russ Douthot's Weekly Standard critique mentioned earlier on this site.

Well, it's a good try, anyway, but as more than one respondent to that response on Left2Right noted, the author does not mention the Appiah comment quoted in Douthot's article, which is the statement I found most interesting and which I quoted in my earlier posting here today. To have any credibility, the Left2Right response should have explicitly repudiated Appiah's charming comment. Yet it did not, from which I think we can draw some fairly definite conclusions. Some may see no smugness there, but I do.

Nonetheless, let's get to a more basic objection to Left2Right, which is its mission: to make the present-day Left more politically palatable. That is a fool's errand. The Left cannot become more politically palatable without dropping its basic premises, for those assumptions and attitudes are what make comments such as Appiah's both possible and all too representative of the Left's attitudes toward the vast majority of their neighbors. The only real and viable liberalism to be found at present in the United States (and indeed the West as a whole) is on the Right, not the Left. If the Left2Right philosophes wish to become true liberals by renouncing their prejudices and joining us on the Right, they are certainly welcome to do so.

To an Athlete Living Young

Phil Arvia presents a wonderfully eloquent and convincing tribute to bicyclist Lance Armstrong in the Daily Southtown today. Armstrong, who recovered from cancer to continue his athletic career with success exceeding even his stunning previous accomplishments, was recently named Athlete of the Year by AP, for the third consecutive time. (Michael Jordan is the only other person to have received that honor three times in a row.) In addition to his athletic accomplishments, Armstrong has done much for cancer awareness through his Lance Armstrong Foundation and especially his LIVESTRONG project. Read Arvia's article here.

The Left's View of the Right: A Flattering One Indeed

In the current issue of the Weekly Standard, Russ Douthat mines the following from the Left2Right blog, in which K. Anthony Appiah presents his view of the American Right:

"Some of those right-wing evangelicals apparently care whether or not we have a good opinion of them. (If they didn't, the resentment they display toward the 'liberal media' would make no sense.) Whereas I know no one among the liberal media elite or among liberal academics who cares very much that many right-wing evangelicals have contempt for us. We care how they vote--for instrumental reasons; we may even care that they are mistaken, for their sakes; but we don't feel diminished by their contempt. . . . (The situation is analogous to the one that obtains with respect to social respect in class-and status-based hierarchies: a peasant can spit when milord walks by, but it won't damage his lordship's self-esteem. But when milord brings his handkerchief to his nose as the peasant approaches, the peasant is stung.)"

As a liberal of the Right and a person who was given no economic advantages in life, and one who has had to give fair labor for everything he has obtained, I am quite comfortable with this analogy. Yes, it is fair to say that I, at least, was not born to the American nobility. Yet somehow I am not ashamed, for it is a matter over which I had no control.

And I will say a bit more, to wit: We peasants will be very happy to see our betters brought to their knees by a few simple reforms, as the eighteenth-century English Whigs shattered long-entrenched obstacles to common sense and social mobility supported by the elites of the time. It is in fact rather enjoyable to see our present "betters" drop the hanky for a moment and show the incessant sneer behind it. Know this: it does not diminish a person to be sneered at; it diminishes the one who sneers.

Many thanks to Mr. Appiah for thus inadvertently making our arguments for us, and kudos to Russ for wading through the muck to find it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Level Ground

I think that Ben has a point in arguing that Occam's Razor is always handy. But the important thing is that we apply it at all steps of the logical process. As Ben notes, once you get past the origin of matter itself, you can fiddle around a bit and find a way that life could have sprung into being. And then, because life is indeed evident as a fact, one surmises that this is how life must have come about.

But this is simply an unacceptable leap of logic. You cannot leap from could to must. That is a leap of faith, and fatal to logic. My argument, as noted in earlier posts and my American Spectator article on Antony Flew, is that the very first premise, which Ben has astutely brought up, is in fact the esential one, and I will now make the further point that anything that depends on that premise is suspect. To wit: until you can show us how to make matter appear out of nothing, you have nothing on which to base Darwinism. You may very well say that you simply have to have that hypothesis, given that the cosmos is here and life is here and so it must all have happened somehow, but that is not an argument for anything at all. It establishes nothing. Hence, for a truly reasonable person the argument over Darwinism must be based on whether the fossil record and other evidence show that evolution by natural selection is the simplest explanation that fits the facts. Unfortunately, it is not, because it does not fit the facts. We have never seen a single instance of interspecies evolution, only intraspecies evolution, which nobody denies. Evolution by natural selection is certainly possible and perhaps even plausible, but the facts to support it have yet to be adduced. Hence, one should feel free to dismiss it and still consider oneself perfectly reasonable and scientific.

But then, it is fair to complain, we seem to be left with no defensible scientific explanation of the origin of life, the origin of species, or the origin of matter and energy. That is correct. My point is that no explanation of these things is fundamentally scientific. Let me state it again: no explanation yet offered of the origin of matter and energy, or of the origin of life, is fundamentally scientific. In this utterly essential regard, theists and atheists are on level ground. We should apply Occam's Razor to all claims, and to all the premises behind those claims.

Whatever can be proven from the facts of the world, we should accept as true. Whatever cannot, should be a matter for free and open debate. Those who would close off such debate should be seen as nothing more than superstitious bullies.

An Amateur Thought On Darwinism

Far be it for me---hardly an expert on evolutionary theory and such, but a casual reader of Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, Matt Ridley, Richard Dawkins, Paul Rubin, and others---to offer grand insights into the Darwin/intelligent design debate or similar issues. At the same time, it strikes me that Jay Homnick is missing something in his brief post: An acknowledgment that Occam's Razor is particularly applicable in this debate. The simplest theory consistent with the facts is appropriate to adopt as the null hypothesis. Early in "The Selfish Gene," Dawkins offers a simple model of how mere chemicals in an early Earth ocean might have evolved into life as we know it today; I have seen no refutation of that model, and it leaves no need for a Creator.

But that is the basic problem with Darwinism as it has come to be celebrated as the conventional wisdom, its adherents sneering at those who dissent as yahoos. It does not explain the origin of matter, and I have not found a Darwinist willing to confront that conundrum. But that may reflect only my own ignorance in this area.

An Interesting Proposal

Jay Homnick of Jewish World Review and American Spectator has long been interested in the question of Darwin's theory and WHAT IT ALL MEANS. He has some provocative thoughts that I told him I'd like to share here on the weblog. Before posting, I'd like to add that not all bloggers at the site will necessarily agree. I know Mr. Karnick and I are both interested in the Intelligent Design arguments, but I can't speak for Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Zycher at all on that score. So with that disclaimer, here's Homnick:

May I begin by thanking my gracious hosts - my friend Hunter Baker and his friends.

It struck me as important that I take a moment to issue this appeal. I believe very strongly that the key to bringing down the Darwinist orthodoxy is simply this: divide and conquer. It is urgent to hammer again and again the distinction between the two theories of Darwin, what I call Darwin One and Darwin Two.

Darwin One: the process of creation followed evolutionary steps.
Darwin Two: these could have occurred without intelligent design.

Most of the intellectual territory conquered by Darwin, in my estimation, is the result of the evidence for evolution being assumed to be evidence against design, just because the Darwin weltanschauung was taken to be one indivisible package.

Once the debate is framed properly, then not only will evidence for Darwin One stop being evidence for Darwin Two, clever polemicists will be able to adduce the evidence for Darwin One as evidence AGAINST Darwin Two, because the more intelligent the evolution process the less coherent is the position eschewing design.

I believe that this war can be won from the bottom up, starting in such homely locales as the blogs. If all like-minded bloggers will conspire to use the phrases Darwin One and Darwin Two as the shibboleth of the pro-design crowd, they will find their way into the scientific lexicon and eventually the legal lexicon. Close your eyes and replay the Scopes trial except that every time Darrow brings a proof from a fossil, you say "Oh, that's Darwin One. We're debating Darwin Two." Also try to imagine the fierce clawing by editors in science journals trying to keep those phrases off their reservation.

Now I am deliberately not engaging the question of whether believers in the Bible should accept Darwin One based on current evidence. That is an entirely different discussion; it is a religious discussion that needs to be conducted in-house. But in terms of Darwinism negating religion per se, we have no need to publicly bandy about nuances in biblical terminology. It is enough for us to clarify the point that even if the full sequential staging of evolution that is the current incarnation of Darwin One is stipulated, we have not succeeded into making the system STUPID or RANDOM but rather quite SMART and exceedingly WELL-DESIGNED. In which case we win.

Thereafter, we can return to Biblical exegesis and hermeneutics as a private pastime.

Once again, I thank you for your gracious invitation to address your esteemed convocation. Happy holidays.

Jay D. Homnick

Monday, December 27, 2004

The ID Question

What we really need to know about the confrontation between Intelligent Design theory and its dominant counterpart, the neo-Darwinian synthesis, is whether they somehow fit into the framework laid out by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. He showed that dominant theories are often pushed aside by upstarts, but rarely give way in a rational fashion. Careers, funding, and pride are at stake. The struggle will be ugly and we can't necessarily expect the dominant group to play fair.

Sorry for my light posting . . .

The junior member of the blog (that's me) has taken ill. Turns out I was patient zero in the household and spread a bug around to everyone else. Fortunately, Mr. Karnick appears to be handling the hosting duties with great flair.

Intelligent Design Debate

Blogger Joe Carter has an interesting discussion of Intelligent Design (ID) theory going on at the Evangelical Outpost. Carter presents an excellent summary of the common objections to ID theory and provides very good responses to the criticisms. In addition, and quite usefully, he invites opponents of ID to post their own objections, and they are doing so with great brio. ID supporters, including Carter himself, are responding in kind. It is a very interesting debate indeed, and one with political implications as school districts consider whether to include ID in the curriculum. Read it here.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Commenter Luke on Christmas

I thought this bit from commenter Luke was perceptive:

It is not just the faith of a lot of the American people that makes Christmas an important national holiday: it is that Christianity was the faith that enabled our cultural ancestors -- at a terrible price -- to build and bequeath to us the civilization we live in, like none other ever seen. This History -- these Facts -- are what justify the celebration, quite apart from the present state of the faith. We have an obligation to remember, just as we have an obligation to remember Lincoln, and the Civil War, and the Battle Hymn of the Republic. As a culture and a civilization, they are all parts of who we are and where we came from. If nothing else we owe it to our children to celebrate and remember these things, lest they take it all for granted -- the and let it slip away.