Independence Institute a "Beacon for Liberty"
by Ari Armstrong, November 23, 2005
Michael Barone, a senior writer for U.S. News & World Report and a contributor to Fox News Channel, headlined the Independence Institute's 21st Annual Founder's Night Dinner, held November 16 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Barone and other speakers struck a tone of scrappy optimism, even as they acknowledged conservatives have taken hits nationally and in Colorado, where voters approved Referendum C.
Jon Caldara, President of the Institute, said, "The Independence Institute is involved in a war of ideas... Principles do matter." His group is "taking on these fights without regard to whom we anger." He also said the Institute's work is "not based on politics, but on principle. It is not based on party, but on principle." Caldara said that fiscal conservatives in the state defeated Referendum D and "gave them a run for their money" on Referendum C. Caldara also described the Institute as a "beacon for liberty."
Dave Kopel presented the Vern Bickel Award to Professor Barry Poulson. The program states that Poulson's "model legislation for a Taxpayer's Bill of Rights has been introduced in a number of states, and is the basis for a proposed national Taxpayer's Bill of Rights."
(See below for more photographs.)
Mike Rosen, the event's Master of Ceremonies, praised Institute founder John Andrews for his "heroic work in the [state] senate." Andrews served as president of that body before he hit term limits.
Andrews said that, while the passage of Referendum C "really hurt," his mother-in-law taught him about "picking yourself up and going on to the next victory." Andrews presented the 2005 David S. D'Evelyn Award to Ralph Nagel. Andrews pointed out that Nagel is an architect. This led Andrews to contrast Howard Roark, the hero of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, with Daniel Libeskind, who created a "lovely glass skyscraper that fell down," a work inspired by "postmodernism and deconstructionism." Andrews said that Nagel is also an "architect of liberty."
Andrews pointed out that Bill Owens, the Republican governor who backed the Referendum C tax hike, could not attend the banquet because he was in South America. "How long can you stay out of the country, Bill?" Andrews asked. He immediately added a word of reconciliation, saying that Owens is still a conservative.
Nagel said he wants to support "what it means to be a member of a free and prosperous and market-based society."
Barone admitted that, starting in August, "the storms really hit" Republicans. First there was Hurricane Katrina. Even though, Barone said, the worst problems were caused by regional officials, the hurricane led to a "sense of things spinning out of control." Then there were the gas hikes.
Then continued problems in Iraq. However, Barone said, "the culprit here... is mainstream media coverage, which accentuates the negative."
Then some Republicans started beating up on oil executives, reflecting the attitude, "how dare they make a profit." "Have these people learned nothing from the last 25 years?" Barone wondered.
President Bush's nomination of Harriet Myers to the Supreme Court ended badly. However, Barone added, Samuel Alito has "splendid credentials." Barone predicted that Alito "deserves to go through and is going to go through."
Republicans at the national level have also been big spenders. Barone said they have fallen into the error of using money as "glue" to stitch together political support, "but that gives you the bridge to nowhere."
In other bad news, "in Colorado, of course, you suffered a loss" with Referendum C, Barone said.
Then Barone switched gears and talked about reasons for optimism.
Barone offered a vague notion of a "post-industrial America" that "tends toward decentralization." Barone argued, "Those who want America's government" to join post-industrial America "have to be on their vigilance and work hard."
Then Barone picked up some themes from his book, Hard America, Soft America. Barone rhetorically asked why we have "incompetent 18-year-olds, but we've got the most competent 30-year-olds in the world." His answer is that, between the ages of six and 18, Americans are subjected to "soft America," characterized by a lack of competition and accountability. Once people turn 18, they enter the "hard America" of selective colleges, more demanding community colleges, jobs in the private sector, and the rigors of the U.S. military.
In the late '60s and early '70s, Barone said, "our society, I think, got too soft" in areas of crime control, education, and welfare dependency. Fads such as "whole English" left children "even further behind than they were."
Barone advocates a "beneficial hardening of America." He cited welfare reform nationally and crime reform in New York as positive examples. Unfortunately, reform in education is hampered by "institutional opposition" from teachers' unions and colleges. Barone drew strong applause by advocating the "abolition of all the schools of education" for teachers. "You're in an ongoing battle for this 'hardening' of education," Barone said.
Barone argued that a "harder" system of education would most help disadvantaged students. "It's the kids who come from households with no books, with one or zero parents... They can achieve more than you know. What they need is some structure, some goals, some competition and accountability."
"These are long battles," Barone said. "These are battles in which you can make a difference... Be not afraid... Ideas have consequences," and "the power of good ideas to spread is greater than it ever has been."