Fraud. Though I hadn’t really planned for that to be the unifying subject of this issue, it’s a theme that seems to run
through most of the articles. This month’s contributors probe many forms of fraud—criminal, political, cultural, and intellectual. And though it may not an inspiring survey, it’s certainly a revealing one.
Exposing spiritual charlatans, scientific quacks, and philosophic irrationalists is a central preoccupation of contemporary skeptics and secular humanists—people who share with rational individualists a basic commitment to reason over faith. Ed Hudgins recently attended a conference of skeptics , trying to determine if that mutual commitment might provide opportunities for broader collaborations. In his report on the event, Ed explains why he found grounds for optimism—albeit cautious optimism.
Fraud of a criminal sort lay at the heart of the Enron corporate debacle. But this fraud was made possible largely because of the self-deception and philosophical rationalizations of ex-CEO Ken Lay . That’s the conclusion of former Enron insider Robert Bradley Jr. In his revealing interview with Roger Donway, Bradley turns a philosophical spotlight on the machinations—and rationalizations—that led to the collapse of a corporate giant.
Then there’s political fraud—a phenomenon so prevalent that the term seems to be redundant. In a mince-no-words book, Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, economist Bruce Bartlett compiles persuasive evidence that President Bush’s claim to be a limited-government conservative was completely phony . Bartlett’s case certainly persuaded reviewer Robert Huberty; see if it persuades you.
With this issue, regular contributor Robert L. Jones becomes TNI’s entertainment editor. Here Robert reviews two recent films that bear directly on the theme of fraud. Thank You For Smoking , he tells us, is a wicked satire of the phony, PC world of Health Police and the Nanny State, where moral busybodies and hypocrites presume to dictate what the rest of us should or shouldn’t inhale and imbibe. Don’t miss it when it arrives on DVD, he says. By contrast, Robert tells us that the dystopian fantasy V For Vendetta presents arguments for human liberty that are intellectually pretentious, philosophically bogus, and ultimately vacuous . Because the film is popular among some libertarians and Objectivists, I expect a flurry of angry mail. Well, bring it on.
One topic that never fails to raise my blood pressure is our fraudulently labeled “criminal justice system.” In my closing editorial, “ Devils’ Advocates ,” I survey the incalculable carnage caused by generations of faux intellectuals, whose pro-criminal philosophy has permeated the legal systems in America and Britain, and instituted a complete moral inversion. I hope my brief snapshot of this systemic corruption will underscore the decisive power of philosophical ideas in our lives—for good or evil.
Finally, an announcement. To speed up our lagging publishing schedule, I’ve asked Ed Hudgins to assist me as “guest editor” of the next issue of TNI, while I work on the one that will immediately follow. I’ve dropped a lot of great manuscripts into Ed’s lap, so I know you’ll enjoy his issue.
Meanwhile—enjoy this one.