Sen. Mitchell examining history and economics

ON POLITICS

December 27, 1993|By John Aloysius Farrell | John Aloysius Farrell,Boston Globe

WASHINGTON -- The 15-hour days of Congress not being enough to occupy his mind, George J. Mitchell, the Senate majority leader from Maine, is writing a book on 20th-century history and economics.

Mitchell says he will look at the competition between communism and democracy largely through the prism of three famous lives: Karl Marx, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mikhail S. Gorbachev. Marx invented communism, Gorbachev presided at its downfall, and Roosevelt saved capitalism in its direst hour, Mitchell says.

"In the last few months I've read four or five biographies of Roosevelt," the senator said in a recent interview. An oil portrait of FDR now hangs in Mitchell's office.

Mitchell's appetite for scholarship comes as no surprise. He has read the entire 11-volume "History of Civilization" written by the late American historians Will and Ariel Durant. He's even given to handing out copies of their concluding volume -- "The Lessons of History" -- when constituents challenge his support of higher income taxes for the wealthy.

"Throughout human history, in every organized human society, those who are more intelligent, more aggressive and more acquisitive tend to be successful and accumulate and concentrate wealth from a larger number of persons, less talented, who perhaps have not had as much opportunity or good fortune," Mitchell said.

"It is a regular event in human society that redistribution then occurs. It occurs by legislation or by revolution once the concentration of wealth gets intense enough.

"The spectacular success of democratic societies, particularly those like the U.S., which practices democratic capitalism, is that they have achieved the necessary flexibility to devise policies which permit a rather modest redistribution, but in a way that is not expropriation and does not reduce incentive.

"What we get in this country for our progressive income tax istability and security. You go to bed at night knowing your properties aren't going to be expropriated. It is a very modest price to pay for the kind of security that is really unknown in most places and has been unknown throughout most of history."

Said Mitchell: "It is always good to reflect on what is occurring now in the context of history. Although history doesn't exactly repeat itself, much of it is similar."

*

In its expose of President Clinton's alleged sex life in Arkansas, the American Spectator criticized the president as a kind of "sexual predator" and "exploiter of women."

The sudden sympathy for exploited women seems out of form for the Spectator, a conservative journal that routinely delights in savaging Hillary Rodham Clinton, Anita Hill, Susan Faludi and other feminists.

The Spectator, moreover, is at times the butt of jokes here for its classified advertisements for mail-order Asian brides.

An ad for "Attractive Oriental Ladies seeking correspondence, marriage" appeared in the December issue. "Asian Experience," a California mail-order firm, boasted of "dignified presentations since 1984."

Another ad offered "Beautiful Oriental Ladies! Romance, Correspondence! Free Color Brochure!"

And in October a Spectator ad for a Hawaiian company promised: "Thai-Asian-Worldwide Ladies Desire lifemates."

Many newspapers, magazines and computer networks carry personal ads for escort services or would-be sex partners. But the Spectator's ads stir up images of retired colonels in leather chairs at stuffy men's clubs, dreaming of submissive Asian servant girls.

*

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., is engaged in some behind-the-scenes wrestling with his friends in the Clinton administration over the issue of children's television.

Kennedy shepherded legislation through the Senate last year to allow the Department of Education to provide funds for innovative programming that otherwise couldn't compete with violent cartoons and other such fare in the children's market.

Though the annual appropriation is relatively small -- in the $10 million to $25 million range -- the senator is particularly proud of the bill. And he says he can't understand why, at a time when cultural violence is a burning issue, the Education Department is dragging its heels on including the funds in next year's budget.

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