F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines
Week of:
January 9, 2000
Oh No, Not Another Centennial List!



F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

The 20th century has been characterized by incredible technological progress and stupendously fatheaded political policies.



Lyon College Political Science Professor Bradley Gitz has joined the mad rush to identify the most outstanding features of the 20th century. In a list published in a recent issue of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, he presents, in reverse order, "the ten dumbest ideas in American politics" from 1901 to the present. In tenth place is the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, which Gitz identifies as "a global treaty, sponsored by an American secretary of state and a French foreign minister, to 'outlaw' war itself. Alas," he observes, "the ludicrous nature of the enterprise was revealed little more than a decade later, when Adolf Hitler invaded Poland and ignited the worst war in human history."

In ninth place is tax withholding, an "emergency measure" -- now more than 50 years old -- which, Gitz laments, "entrenches the obnoxious belief that the fruits of our hard-earned labor belong first and foremost to our government masters."

The Tonkin Gulf Resolution, "a key step in the subsequent, disastrous 'Americanization' of the Vietnam War," comes in at number eight. Gitz cites Lyndon Johnson as "perhaps the most devious and unscrupulous president in American history."

Seventh place is taken by public housing projects, "an idea so breathtakingly stupid that only liberal intellectuals could embrace it." Gitz sums up the "all-too-predictable result: an explosion of society's worst pathologies in urban war zones."

Gitz cites the Roe v. Wade decision as the sixth dumbest idea in American politics in this century. "Judicial activism in its rawest form," he calls it. "Rather than firmly settle the abortion issue once and for all, it guaranteed that it would continue to divide us up to the present day."

Gitz assigns fifth place to racial quotas, which have "undermined both our cherished belief in equality before the law and our long-standing goal of a color-blind society."

Because it transformed "a temporary downturn for the American economy into a worldwide, decade-long depression," the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 ranks fourth on Gitz's list. "By strangling international commerce at precisely the time when we were most in need of its beneficial effects," he argues, "the tariff helped pave the way for fascism in Europe and the catastrophe of World War II."

Third place goes to forced busing, "the most stunning example of social engineering in American history." Gitz emphasizes that "all it managed to produce was 'white flight' to the suburbs, the hollowing out of urban tax bases, the devastation of the public school systems of our major cities, and a vastly higher degree of racial segregation in those schools and cities than existed before."

Runner-up for the worst idea in American politics in a hundred years is Aid to Families with Dependent Children. "A more effective machine for increasing illegitimacy and all of the ills that flow from it," Gitz asserts, "is impossible to imagine."

As the single worst idea in American politics in this century, Gitz points to Prohibition, the disastrous social consequences of which offer "enduring testimony to the dangers of governmental paternalism."


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