Jewish World Review July 15, 2002 /6 Menachem-Av, 5762

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
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Musings, random and otherwise | Stop me if you've heard this, but:

Al Gore says that if he runs for president in 2004, he'll "let the chips fall where they may." No more worrying about "the polls, the tactics, and all the rest," he recently told a group of supporters. "If I had it to do all over again, I'd just let it rip."

Actually, promising to be himself and "let it rip" is what Gore usually says when he talks about doing things differently.

"I've been quoting Janis Joplin -- freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose," he told a group of Boston Globe editors and writers in October 1999, when his poll numbers were dropping. "Let's just let it rip, and put all the issues on the table, and roll up our sleeves."

That was around the time he moved his campaign headquarters from Washington to Nashville and started dressing in khakis and cowboy boots. "I'm throwing away the prepared text," he told reporters. "My attitude is, let it rip!"

In truth, there may be no politician in America more incapable of caution-to-the-winds spontaneity than Gore -- who is never more programmed and controlled than when he assures us that he is just letting it rip.

Crooked businessmen have been much in the news lately, and if some of them end up behind bars, I won't complain.

But the current business scandals should not be allowed to eclipse an important fact about the relationship between capitalism and moral virtue: They usually reinforce each other.

As a rule, it is not possible to make money in a market economy without providing a service to others. You benefit yourself when you benefit your customer; when he is rewarded, you are rewarded. Capitalist societies tend to be prosperous not only because of economic forces, but because of moral forces, too. Without honesty, sympathy, trust, cooperation, and concern for the needs of others, markets cannot work -- at least, not well.

Does that mean that all businessmen are ethical paragons? Of course not, no more than all politicians or journalists are. But the requirements of business tend to encourage exactly those traits that the moral order depends on. That is more than can be said for politics or journalism.

Antisemitism is frowned on in American politics. But it is showing its ugly face this year in suburban Detroit, where a state legislator named William Callahan is challenging US Representative Sander Levin in the Democratic primary. In an Associated Press interview, Callahan made the case for ousting Levin:

"I mean, the man has never owned a Christmas tree. He's not a Christian. And I'm thinking, 'Jeez, how can he represent me then?'"

When the Detroit Free Press asked Callahan about this, he confirmed the quote but said he meant no offense. Then he added: "I am a Catholic who is pro-life and of Irish, Polish, and German descent. He [Levin] is very much pro-choice and Hebrew. Enough said."

Well, there goes the B'nai B'rith endorsement. But all isn't lost. If any fans of Charles Coughlin still live in the district -- the Jew-hating "radio priest" used to broadcast from the Church of the Little Flower in Royal Oak -- Callahan's got their votes sewn up.

As they grapple with a budget crisis brought on by reckless overspending, Massachusetts lawmakers are weighing a proposal to reduce the amount of prize money paid out by the state lottery. How well that would work I don't know, but it is certainly a better idea than jacking up income taxes, which is invariably the Legislature's first choice.

But isn't there something outrageous about a government-run lottery in the first place? I am not morally opposed to gambling; I think it is a pleasure individuals should be free to indulge in if they wish. But I also recognize that lotteries are most attractive to those who can least afford to play them, and it is repugnant that the state makes hundreds of millions of dollars by exploiting the poor and the addicted. That the government "needs" the money is no answer. If it were, what objection could there be to state-owned bars or drug dens where you could drink or shoot up as much as you could pay for?

I welcomed President Bush's recent speech calling on Palestinians to "build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty." And I support his policy of promoting democracy for Cuba. But I wonder when he will deliver a speech calling on the Chinese to build a democracy based on tolerance and liberty. Or urging democratic reforms in Algeria. Or Vietnam. Or Burma. Or Syria. It isn't only Palestinians and Cubans who suffer from the lack of democracy and decent government. It would be no bad thing if the president of the United States occasionally pointed that out.

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Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

07/12/02: The new civil rights champions
07/03/02: Riding the rails
07/01/02: The prerequisite to peace
06/24/02: Frisking AlGore
06/17/02: Offense, not defense, is the key to homeland security
06/14/02: Looking at the horror
06/07/02: The cost of a death-penalty moratorium
06/03/02: Executing 'children,' and other death-penalty myths
05/29/02: A real threat?
05/24/02: The message in Arafat's headdress
05/20/02: (Mis)playing the popularity card
05/10/02: Outspoken, Muslim -- and moderate
05/10/02: The heroes in Castro's jails
05/06/02: The disappearing history term paper
05/03/02: Musings, random and otherwise
04/29/02: The canary in Europe's mine
04/15/02: Powell's crazy mission
04/12/02: The slavery reparations hustle
04/08/02: Peace at any price = war
03/26/02: Decency matters most, Caleb
03/22/02: The U.S. embargo and Cuba's future
03/19/02: The keepers of Cuba's conscience
03/15/02: A walk in Havana
02/26/02: Buchanan's lament
02/12/02: What 'peace' means to Arafat
02/05/02: Antismoking: Who pays?
02/01/02: Turn the Saudis
01/25/02: Making MLK cry
01/21/02: Ted to tax cut: Drop dead
01/18/02: Musings random and otherwise
01/14/02: An ultimatum to Saudi Arabia
01/11/02: Friendship, Saudi-style
01/07/02: Shakedown at Harvard
01/04/02: More guns, more safety
01/02/02: Smears and slanders from the Left
12/28/01: Congress gives to others -- and itself
12/24/01: The littlest peacemakers
12/20/01: How to condemn terror
12/18/01: Greenland once was
12/14/01: Parents who never said ''no''
12/11/01: Wit and (economic) wisdom
12/04/01: The war against Israel goes on
11/30/01: Tribunals, motorcycles -- and freedom
11/19/01: Friendship and the House of Saud
11/12/01: The Justice Department's unjust monopoly
11/09/01: Muslim, but not extremist
11/02/01: Too good for Oprah
10/29/01: Journalism and the 'neutrality fetish'
10/26/01: Derail these subsidies
10/22/01: Good and evil in the New York Times
10/15/01: Rush Limbaugh's ear
10/08/01: With allies like these
10/01/01: An unpardonable act
09/25/01: Speaking out against terror
09/21/01: What the terrorists saw
09/17/01: Calling evil by its name
09/13/01: Our enemies mean what they say
09/04/01: The real bigots
08/31/01: Shrugging at genocide
08/28/01: Big Brother's privacy -- or ours?
08/24/01: The mufti's message of hate
08/21/01: Remembering the 'Wall of Shame'
08/16/01: If I were the editor ...
08/14/01: If I were the Transportation Czar ...
08/10/01: Import quotas 'steel' from us all
08/07/01: Is gay "marriage" a threat?
08/03/01: A colorblind nominee
07/27/01: Eminent-domain tortures
07/24/01: On protecting the flag ... and drivers ... and immigrants
07/20/01: Dying for better mileage
07/17/01: Why Americans would rather drive
07/13/01: Do these cabbies look like bigots?
07/10/01: 'Defeated in the bedroom'
07/06/01: Who's white? Who's Hispanic? Who cares?
07/02/01: Big(oted) man on campus
06/29/01: Still appeasing China's dictators
06/21/01: Cuban liberty: A test for Bush
06/19/01: The feeble 'arguments' against capital punishment
06/12/01: What energy crisis?
06/08/01: A jewel in the crown of self-government
05/31/01: The settlement myth
05/25/01: An award JFK would have liked
05/22/01: No Internet taxes? No problem
05/18/01: Heather has five mommies (and a daddy)
05/15/01: An execution, not a lynching
05/11/01: Losing the common tongue
05/08/01: Olympics 2008: Say no to Beijing
05/04/01: Do welfare mothers a kindness: Make them work
05/01/01: Another man's child
04/24/01: Sharon should have said no
04/02/01: The Inhumane Society
03/30/01: To have a friend, Caleb, be a friend
03/27/01: Is Chief Wahoo racist?
03/22/01: Ending the Clinton appeasement
03/20/01: They're coming for you
03/16/01: Kennedy v. Kennedy
03/13/01: We should see McVeigh die
03/09/01: The Taliban's wrecking job
03/07/01: The No. 1 reason to cut taxes
03/02/01: A Harvard candidate's silence on free speech
02/27/01: A lesson from Birmingham jail
02/20/01: How Jimmy Carter got his good name back
02/15/01: Cashing in on the presidency
02/09/01: The debt for slavery -- and for freedom
02/06/01: The reparations calculation
02/01/01: The freedom not to say 'amen'
01/29/01: Chavez's 'hypocrisy': Take a closer look
01/26/01: Good-bye, good riddance
01/23/01: When everything changed (mostly for the better)
01/19/01: The real zealots
01/16/01: Pardon Clinton?
01/11/01: The fanaticism of Linda Chavez
01/09/01: When Jerusalem was divided
12/29/00 Liberal hate speech, 2000
12/15/00Does the Constitution expect poor children be condemned to lousy government schools?
12/08/00 Powell is wrong man to run State Department
12/05/00 The 'MCAS' teens give each other
12/01/00 Turning his back on the Vietnamese -- again
11/23/00 Why were the Pilgrims thankful?
11/21/00 The fruit of this 'peace process' is war
11/13/00 Unleashing the lawyers
11/17/00 Gore's mark on history
40 reasons to say NO to Gore

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