The Best and the Worst of 2013
Friends and family of NRO share their year-end lists.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius


National Review Online friends and family wrap up 2013 with highlights and lowlights.

Hunter Baker
The worst for America: I cannot help but choose the implementation of Obamacare. Remember, he embraced the term in 2012 (“because I DO care”). The impact of the awful rollout has been to severely damage support for the administration and to undercut public confidence in large government endeavors. Neither of those consequences is bad. The fear, uncertainty, and loss experienced by Americans because of ill-conceived legislation and incompetent management, however, are unrelievedly negative. Reformers have the responsibility of improving on the status quo. That isn’t happening.

The worst for me: I spent two months in the jury duty pool in my Tennessee town during which I had to call nightly to find out whether I’d be reporting for service. It reminded me that government power is necessarily extraordinary and for the same reason should be invoked only when absolutely needed.

Bad for America and developing: The unquestionable triumph of the new sexual orthodoxy and its effect on freedom. Are we going to settle the gay-marriage question on grounds of liberty or equality? If the answer is liberty, then political life will remain more tolerable as the Nozickian options multiply. If the answer is equality, we may trade up in terms of repression. Cases involving bakers and florists are not encouraging in this regard.

Seemingly bad, but with promise: The increasingly evident failure of MOOCs (massive open online courses) to transform education. Even MOOCmeister Sebastian Thrun has admitted that the 200,000-student-class option is not working well. The positive side is that universities are getting serious about cutting costs and innovating.

Bad for me and not all that promising, at least in terms of attitudes: Peter Thiel and Andy Kessler agreeing on Peter Robinson’s Uncommon Knowledge that a cheap IQ test is a reasonable substitute for a university education. I have to wonder whether Thiel really has such a low opinion of his learning experience at Stanford.

Good, even for a free-market evangelical: the papacy of Francis. The old Francis was one of those otherworldly people who pushed for the Church to reject worldliness and to return enthusiastically to Jesus Christ through acts of exceptional love. This Francis has moved many of us with public evidences that he has similar priorities. Here’s looking forward to many more reminders.

The best line I read in an interview all year: Lauralee Martin, chief of Americas for Jones Lang Lasalle, talking with the Wall Street Journal. Martin was asked to comment on her success in a male-dominated business and replied directly, “I will have to say that I haven’t personally spent a lot of time thinking about gender, and maybe that is why I have done well.” That’s a lot better than Sarah Palin’s 2008 rhetoric about all the cracks Hillary Clinton put into the glass ceiling.

Hunter Baker, J.D., Ph.D., is dean of instruction and associate professor of political science at Union University. He is the author of The End of Secularism and Political Thought: A Student’s Guide.

Elaine Donnelly
One of the best political developments of the year was growing public awareness of the dishonesty and destructive consequences of Obamacare. This is the start of what could be a mighty political force across current partisan lines.

The worst developments were the painful consequences of that law. Millions are losing their medical insurance, choice of doctors, and financial health.

In addition, a troubling moment occurred when the December 14 New York Times gleefully headlined a front-page report on House Speaker John Boehner’s intemperate “jabs” at conservative groups. On the jump page was an even longer article about well-heeled corporate donors to Obama-connected activist “think tanks” such as the Center for American Progress. When the economic- and social-left groups unite and mobilize to defeat Republican candidates and conservative goals in 2014, who will have Speaker Boehner’s back? If Republican “strategists” can’t figure this out, the most promising developments of 2013 will be squandered and the worst problems continued for a long time to come.

Elaine Donnelly is president of the Center for Military Readiness.

Jennifer Lahl
In my world of bioethics, good news is rare, but in 2013, California governor Jerry Brown handed us a welcomed veto. Fighting against large-money interests that sought to make it legal in California to pay women for their eggs for research purposes, Brown said “no!” In fact, he said, “Not everything in life is for sale nor should it be.”

The worst moment (sadly, there is a list I had to choose from), was the movement by Belgian lawmakers that would allow children to request euthanasia. It’s a dark day when those most vulnerable, who should be protected, are allowed and encouraged to request death.

Jennifer Lahl is president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network.