Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

Many of America’s seemingly benevolent programs succeed only in making people dependent

original article: Searching for Self-Reliance
May 30, 2017 by Edwin J. Feulner

When conservatives call for Congress to cut federal spending and shrink the size of government, they’re often portrayed as heartless.

On the contrary: We remember our heritage. We know there’s actually nothing “progressive” at all about the nanny state. Indeed, it’s regressive. It’s a betrayal of our history as a nation built on self-reliance.

We owe our republic, after all, to the energy and exertions of rugged individuals — pilgrims who crossed the perilous sea in frail ships to brave a wilderness, pioneers who slogged thousands of miles through hostile territory and prevailed against all odds.

They had no subsidies, no guarantees, no government help save for raw public land they painfully developed by hard labor. They shared what they had, helped one another, and took turns standing guard to protect against danger. They wanted to be free, and they build the freest country in history.

Self-reliance, Alexis de Tocqueville observed in his landmark work “Democracy in America,” was the organizing principle of American life, culture, and politics in the 19th century. Today, however, our nation seems to have reversed Tocqueville’s admiring formulation and become a nanny state in which more and more individuals depend on government to do not only what they can’t do for themselves, but far too much else.

Sure, there are plenty of hard-working Americans still around. But unlike our predecessors, many other present-day Americans show little or no interest in relying on their own mind and muscle to surmount obstacles. Since the 1930s, generations have grown up accustomed to depending on government as their first line of defense against not only serious trouble, but also the common vicissitudes of ordinary life.

Think of the chores we expect our public servants to perform with all the panache of brave first responders tackling a terrorist attack. If you lock your keys inside your car, can’t coax your cat down from a tree, or feel insulted by a surly cabdriver, what do you do? Many milquetoasts in 21st century America call 911 and demand action by some hapless fire company or overworked police department.

The nanny state has conditioned vast numbers of us to view nearly any setback as a federal case. If you can’t pay your debts, taxes or tuition; if you can’t afford health insurance, rebuild your beach house after a hurricane, or save your business from your own follies, never fear — some federal program will surely bail you out.

And you don’t have to be poor, friendless, handicapped or underprivileged to get that help. The bigger your business and the more egregious your errors, the more you can expect the feds to save you.

Americans have been sliding into dependency ever since the New Deal began federalizing everyone’s problems, and particularly since Lyndon Johnson launched his so-called “Great Society.” What fell by the wayside was the previous American way of dealing with adversity, the era when people in need turned to the civil society around them — the safety net of families, friends, churches, local doctors, and politicians.

All that changed with the proliferation of federal programs doling out benefits on an industrial scale. Federal involvement in everything from retirement (Social Security), health care (Medicare and Medicaid) and education grew by leaps and bounds, making more and more Americans dependent on faceless bureaucrats they never meet.

It all adds up to a profound loss of the self-reliance that built this country and made it great. Many of our seemingly benevolent programs succeed only in weakening people and condemning them to endless dependency.

This is why conservatives want to cut government down to size. As President Reagan said in his first Inaugural Address, “It is not my intention to do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work — work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride our back.”

Critics call that heartless. But to allow our present trajectory to continue unchecked is senseless. It’s time to change course — before it’s too late.

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The absurdity of transgenderism: a stern but necessary critique

original article: The absurdity of transgenderism: a stern but necessary critique
April 22, 2015 by Carlos D. Flores

By now we are all undoubtedly familiar with the tragic suicide of Joshua Alcorn, the transgender teenage boy who, in late December, walked onto a freeway with the intention of ending his life. In an apparent suicide note, Joshua cites a host of reasons for why he was led to end his life, most prominent of which were his parents’ attempts to discourage his identifying as a girl and his being sent to therapists in an attempt to relieve these feelings. All of the problems that ultimately culminated in his suicide, writes Joshua, stem from the fact that, from the time he was a small child, he felt like a “girl trapped in a boy’s body.”

No sooner had Joshua’s heart stopped beating than the story of his suicide was seized by LGBT activists and pruned to advance a familiar narrative of a sexual minority fighting cultural oppression. Joshua’s parents immediately began to be chided as “repressive” and “bigoted” and even began to receive various threats from LGBT internet crusader-activists.

Transgenderism and Gender Identity

I have not referred to Joshua by using female pronouns or by using his self-invented female name of “Leelah.” The reason I am not doing this is simple: Joshua was not a girl—he was a boy—and to address males with female pronouns or females with male pronouns is to contribute to our culture’s confusion about sexuality and the nature of the human person, which is literally leaving casualties in its wake. No amount of surgical mutilation of body parts, effeminate behaviors, or artificial female appearances can make a man a woman.

LGBT activists will respond in various ways to this. They might first respond by saying: “Okay, true enough: Joshua was biologically a male. But you have misunderstood our claim: we contend that his sex was male, yes, but his gender was female because he ‘identified’ as female.” The idea here is that people have a sex, which is either female or male and which one cannot choose. In addition to this, however, there is “gender,” or what sex one is more comfortable “identifying” as. The response to this is simple: Why think that what one “identifies as” is significant at all, especially to the extent that others should actively recognize or cater to such an identity, and especially when the identity one adopts is contrary to reality?

Consider the following analogies. Suppose that a Caucasian man from Finland—call him Gunther—suddenly decided that he identifies as being of Sub-Saharan African descent. Suppose further that, in light of this, Gunther undergoes unusual procedures to have his skin darkened and his skull’s bone structure re-shaped so as to resemble that of individuals of Sub-Saharan descent. Would we think that such a person has suddenly become of Sub-Saharan descent through such procedures? Of course not, and his identifying as such does nothing to change this. His appearance as someone of Sub-Saharan descent might be very convincing. But, again, this doesn’t change the fact that he is not of Sub-Saharan descent.

Similarly, suppose that a seventy-year-old man—call him Bob—comes to identify as a sixteen-year-old. Wouldn’t we think it absurd if people considered it “rude” or “bigoted” to tell the man: “You are not sixteen years old. Your identifying as such doesn’t change this fact, and we will not indulge you in your strange delusions by not calling attention to your old age and by pretending that you really are sixteen years old”?

The cases of Gunther and Bob and the situations of individuals who believe themselves to be transgender are perfectly analogous. In the case of the transgender individual, he identifies as something he is not—someone of the opposite sex—and seeks to undergo harmful surgeries and hormonal treatments in order to have his physical state match his identity of himself as someone of the opposite sex.

Our mental faculties, like our physical ones, are ordered toward various ends. Among these ends is the attainment of truth. To this extent, it is perfective of our mental faculties to recognize how we truly are (and thus apprehend a truth). It is for this reason that we can make sense of mental disorders such as anorexia nervosa as disorders: they involve persons’ having persistent, false beliefs about their identity or how they really are. In the case of the anorexic, someone who is dangerously underweight believes falsely (but tenaciously) that he is really overweight. It would be a proper procedure of medicine, then, for a therapist to help an anorexic individual to do away with his anorexia, restoring the individual’s mental faculties to their properly functioning state.

Gender Reassignment Surgery Is Not Medicine

Those in favor of transgenderism also (naturally) support gender-reassignment surgery as a perfectly legitimate medical procedure for individuals (including children) with gender dysphoria. Now, put to one side the fact that 70-80 percent of children who report having transgender feelings come to lose such feelings. Ignore, for the moment, the fact that individuals who undergo gender reassignment surgery are 20 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. Instead consider the following question: Can we reasonably categorize gender reassignment surgery as a medical procedure in the first place?

Before we answer this question, we might venture to ask: what is medicine? Here is a plausible answer: medicine is the enterprise of restoring bodily faculties to their proper function. Our bodily faculties are ordered toward certain ends. This seems impossible to deny. Eyes, for example, are ordered toward (i.e., their function is) seeing, the stomach is ordered toward breaking down food, the heart is ordered toward pumping blood, etc. So if, say, someone’s eyes were not able to achieve their end of sight well, it would be rightly considered a medical procedure to seek to restore this individual’s eyes to their proper function. Similarly, it would be a medical endeavor to seek to restore an individual’s defective heart (one that has arrhythmia, say) to its proper function. All well and good.

But what are we to make of this “gender reassignment” surgery? Insofar as such a surgical procedure involves the intentional damaging and mutilating of otherwise perfectly functioning bodily faculties by twisting them to an end toward which they are not ordered, such a thing cannot, in principle, possibly be considered a medical procedure. And because love compels us to seek the good for another, it is thus a grave evil to condone such surgical procedures.

On Gender Identity Disorder Therapy

A similar point can be made about gender identity disorder therapy. Transgenderism activists are seizing Joshua’s tragic death to insist that such therapy ought to be criminalized. A petition is floating around the internet to ban so-called “transgender conversion therapy,” a procedure that involves, presumably, an attempt by a professional to help a person who is experiencing a gender identity disorder (also known as gender dysphoria). If the progress of the homosexual movement is a guide to what will come next, we can expect that laws will soon be passed criminalizing individuals’ receiving therapy to help them do away with transgender identities or desires—even for those who want to relieve themselves of such identities and desires.

Recall our earlier discussion of anorexia. Like the anorexic, the transgendered individual tenaciously holds to false beliefs about his identity or how or what he truly is: he believes that he is a sex that he is not. Dr. Paul McHugh’s words here are particularly incisive:

The transgendered suffer a disorder of “assumption” like those in other disorders familiar to psychiatrists. With the transgendered, the disordered assumption is that the individual differs from what seems given in nature—namely one’s maleness or femaleness. Other kinds of disordered assumptions are held by those who suffer from anorexia and bulimia nervosa, where the assumption that departs from physical reality is the belief by the dangerously thin that they are overweight.

It would thus be a perfectly proper procedure of medicine for the transgendered individual to visit a therapist to seek his professional help to relieve himself of his disordered transgender identity insofar as this would amount to a restoring of the transgendered individual’s mental faculties to their properly functioning state. The suggestion, then, that gender identity disorder therapy should be criminalized is as absurd as the suggestion that therapy to eliminate anorexia should be criminalized.

Some Common Objections

Now, an apologist for transgenderism might retort in the following way: “You’re missing a key point: the brains of, say, men who ‘identify’ as women have been shown to resemble those of women. This shows that there is a biological basis to their identifying as such.” In response, we might begin by asking for empirical evidence that this dubious claim really is true. But even if this were the case, this doesn’t show that men whose brains “resemble that of a woman’s” (whatever that means) are truly women after all. If we are to say that the person simply is the brain, as the one who espouses this objection seems to suggest, then, because presumably even males who identify as women have brains with male DNA, it follows that they are men after all.

But we don’t even need to grant that the presence of such-and-such brain states is relevant at all. For example, we may suppose that, through habitually behaving as a sixteen-year-old, the brain activity of the seventy-year-old mentioned above “resembles” that of a sixteen-year-old’s. Does it follow, then, that the seventy-year-old really is sixteen years old? Or that he is really a sixteen-year-old trapped inside a seventy-year-old’s body? Of course not. The most rational conclusion is that such an individual has some sort of cognitive or psychological defect associated with identity and self-perception. The same can be said for the transgender individual.

Indeed, it should not come as a surprise to find out that our daily activities shape our brain-states or alter the way our brains behave. After all, it is more or less common knowledge that, say, the process of learning to play an instrument has the effect of establishing new neural pathways, thus causing a change in brain-states. Thus Dr. Norman Doidge comments: “Now we know the brain is ‘neuroplastic,’ and not only can it change, but that it works by changing its structure in response to repeated mental experience.”

On the topic of sexuality more specifically, consider the fact that habitual porn use seems to result in (or correlate with) decreased gray matter in the brain, and that habitual porn use changes the sexual tastes of men. If habitually watching pornography can change a man’s brain so significantly, then it should hardly be surprising that through intentionally and habitually behaving like a woman a man’s brain would too change to some extent. But again, this does not thereby show that such a man is a woman after all; all it shows is that through habituated action of some sort, the man’s brain behavior has changed.

Another response might be to ask rhetorically: “Well, what about intersex individuals?” The implication is that the existence of intersex individuals somehow shows that the nature of sex is up for grabs for everyone, intersex or not. But this doesn’t follow at all. In the genuine case of intersex individuals, it may very well be appropriate to express puzzlement or ignorance as to what to make of such an attribute, metaphysically speaking, and perhaps leave it as an open question whether such individuals are either male or female or whether they should be encouraged to undergo surgical procedures in the interest of their health. Cases in which an individual is intersex, however, are exceedingly rare. Indeed, even granting the point, it would not be unfair to say that in 99.99 percent of cases (and even this might be too low a percentage), a person is either male or female. And unsurprisingly, most of the individuals who believe themselves to be transgender have perfectly functioning male or female reproductive systems. This question is both irrelevant and fruitless.

Finally, the LGBT activist might retort by asking: “but how will a man identifying as a woman affect you?” If these were simply private issues, this might be a valid point (though a concern for the physical and mental well-being of individuals struggling with their gender might obligate us to reach out to them in such a case). But, alas, LGBT activists are actively working to make it the case that the state and private businesses cover “gender-reassignment” surgeries, that men who identify as women be able to use women’s restrooms, that girls who identify as boys be able to play on male sports teams, that we consider it immoral to refer to infants as male or female lest we insidiously impose upon them a “gender” they might not identify with, that we ban therapy to treat gender dysphoria, and that we generally co-opt language and social norms to reflect pernicious falsehoods about the human body.

How a man’s identifying as a woman will personally affect me, you, or John Doe is irrelevant. What is relevant is whether we will make public policy and encourage social norms that reflect the truth about the human person and sexuality, or whether we will obfuscate the truth about such matters and sow the seeds of sexual confusion in future generations for years to come.

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A social justice without coersion

original article: Conservatives Do Believe in Social Justice. Here’s What Our Vision Looks Like
March 17, 2017 by Ryan T. Anderson

Last month, America lost a great defender of freedom, Michael Novak.

Novak was committed to rightly ordered liberty and cared deeply about the principles and practices that produce it. His enormous body of work emphasized the cultural prerequisites for political and economic freedom, as he stressed that economic conservativism and social conservatism are indivisible.

In the words of Heritage Foundation founder Ed Feulner, “Michael forced those of us trained in the dismal science of economics to explain that we should be more than ‘free to choose’—rather we should be free to make good free choices.”

Last year, I was the recipient of the Acton Institute’s Michael Novak Award for “outstanding scholarly research concerning the relationship between religion, economic freedom, and the free and virtuous society.” Upon receiving it, I delivered the annual Calihan Lecture in London, England, at a conference on “The Crisis of Liberty in the West.”

The first half of the lecture discussed challenges to freedom in terms of bad intellectual defenses of economic freedom, collapsing communities, and cronyism. The second half discussed a natural law account of economic freedom, a natural law account of social justice, and some concluding thoughts about anthropology and virtue.

>>>Read the full lecture.

Part of the argument that I advance in the lecture is that economic freedom is meant to give us the space to fulfill our economic duties, the duty to work to support our families, the duty to work hard and be a good employee so as not to waste our talents or our employer’s time and money, the duty to serve our customers, and the duty to serve our communities.

Economic freedom was to allow people the space to fulfill these duties. So rightly understood, social justice is about fulfilling our duties to the various societies of which we are a part, and it is about the state respecting the authority of the many societies that make up civil society.

Take, for example, the society known as the family.

The family is a natural society with its own nature and integrity. Because of the natural reality of the family, we have certain obligations.

If you are a husband or a wife, you have certain duties to your spouse. If you are a parent, you have certain duties to your children, regardless of whether or not you ever chose them. And children, not Social Security administrators, have duties to their parents, especially as they age.

It is the natural reality of father and child, mother and child, that creates the relationship of authority and responsibility.

This places limits on what the government can do. The government is not free to recreate the family. The government is not free to usurp the authority of parents over the education of their children or adult children over the care of their elderly parents.

The same is true for religious organizations, especially if you believe that your church has a divine origin and a divine creation. This means government is not at liberty to recreate your church, to recreate its authority structure, or to recreate its teaching authority—that your church is something that is entrusted with a stewardship.

As a result, the nature of religious authority places limits on political authority and places duties upon members of the church.

The State and Social Justice

None of this, however, says that the state has no role to play in economic justice, just that it must respect the proper authority of society—a society of societies—as it does so. And this means that it must also respect the proper authority of economic societies—employees and employers, consumers and producers.

But while respecting their authority and the markets that allow them to interact and fulfill their duties, government can perform certain welfare activities, as Friedrich Hayek taught us, without distorting market signals and processes.

Insofar as government programs are intended to ameliorate the forces of globalization and new technologies distort markets, they are likely to simply make matters worse by prolonging the dying process of outdated industries and preventing the necessary transitions.

What a natural law account of social justice would suggest are policies that would empower more people to engage for themselves in the market and flourish.

I can illustrate this with some examples.

Consider education. Some “taxation is theft” libertarians say children should receive whatever education their parents, extended families, and charities can provide and that there is no role for government to play. Liberals say the education of children is a matter of public concern, and thus government should run schools and most children must attend them.

Conservatives have traditionally said, yes, education is a matter of public concern, but justice requires us to respect the authority of parents, and whatever assistance we provide must empower, not replace, them.

Hence conservative support for school choice: vouchers, education savings accounts, and charter schools—programs that help all students get the best education they can without giving the government an unhealthy monopoly on schools.

The same is true for health care.

Consider the standard false dichotomy: If taxation is theft, then we should just leave health care to the market and charities; if health care is a matter of public concern, then government should run it and finance it—the typical libertarian and liberal pitfalls.

The conservative alternative has been to create markets in health care while empowering patients to choose, whether through premium support, health care vouchers, tax credits, or what have you.

The details of the policy need not bog us down. The concept is what matters. We need to make markets work better and work for more people by empowering more people to be market actors—empower more people to take control of their own lives and flourish.

Formulating Policy

So now the question is what can be done for working-class families, especially for workers who find their skills less and less marketable in ever-changing markets because of the forces of globalization and new technology.

We need to think about the justice in the distribution of costs and benefits of the creative destruction of free trade and globalization and how best to smooth out the rough patches. We need to think through the appropriate roles of various institutions:

  • What does justice require of families and churches, of workers and business owners, of civil society and charitable organizations, of local and national governments?
  • What rights and duties do these various individuals and societies have?

In a certain sense, the economic challenges I discuss in my Calihan Lecture can be classified as partly the result of a deindustrialization making way for the knowledge economy.

If Leo XIII’s “Rerum Novarum,” which inaugurated modern Catholic social thought, was a response to the industrial revolution, what we now need is a response to the deindustrial revolution.

What to do is a question for policymakers. That we need to think about what to do is a demand of justice, and the principles of natural law should inform how we think about it.

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A dynamic society is not perfectible – stop acting like cattle

In light of the US Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage we see the two fundamental social forces at work in the United States. These forces show us the human condition is dynamic, thus so is human society. Because society is not a static thing the idea of progress is not nearly as settled as many people would think.

The idea of progress is a very noble one, at its core. There is suffering and injustice in the world. A lot of it. ISIS is a good example of the evil that exists in the world. Indeed the desire for improvement of the human condition adds social pressure to a people to prevent its decay into a barbaric society like that of ISIS. A health society needs this desire to improve.

On the other hand, because society is dynamic and not static, we must remember that progress itself is not static. The idea that past improvements are here to stay is an assumption. There are good reasons for thinking progress is a permanent thing but there are also good reasons to doubt this assumption. It seems to me the idea of progress, while often viewed as achievement, is in practice really nothing more than trend.

In the gay marriage example, we have a group of people who are widely believed to have been oppressed. The alleged oppression prevented gay people from loving who they wanted to love and prevented them from living with who they wanted to live with. Of course neither of these forms of oppression are true in the United States, as gay people were living with and loving the people they wanted all along. Though these allegations are true in some regions of the world:

Thrown to death… for being gay

‘Kill the gays’ penalty proposed Malawi Muslim Association

UK Muslim Cleric: ’Okay to Kill Gays’

Horrific moment ISIS kill four gay men by throwing them from a roof

Iranian Gay Men To Be Hanged For Sodomy: Report

‘Gays’ and the Muslims who kill them

So Far, Media Downplaying Muslim Scholar Preaching Death for Gays in Orlando

Yes, yes, gay people have been murdered in the United States as well. In the US killing gay people is considered murder, while in many other parts of the world murdering gays is considered justice. But there are plenty of people who insist on treating the murder of gays in the US as no different from killing them elsewhere. In fact many go out of their way to argue conservatives and Christians are no different from Islamic extremists, yet would insist Muslims don’t hate gays. How are conservatives and Christians hateful homophobes no different from Muslim homophobes while Muslim homophobes are not homophobes at all? Don’t ask me. We live in a country where believing marriage is between one man and one woman is treated as equivalent to murdering gays, yet when gays are actually murdered by an Islamic extremists it is not Muslims who are to blame. Guess who is to blame:

ABC Blames Orlando Terror on Election Rhetoric and Guns in America

Anything But Islam: Media Attack Guns, Men, Christians, GOP Instead of Ideology in Terror Attack

NYT Columnist: Orlando Shows ‘How Potent’ Combination of ISIS, NRA Can Be

The View: Orlando Shooter Had No Ties to ISIS but Trump Is ‘Working With ISIS to Kill Us’

Vile Bee Prays NRA Is Plagued with Boils, Declares She Wants to Take Guns Away Post-Orlando

ThinkProgress Blames Christians For Orlando Shooting

Nets Censor Chick-fil-A’s Help in Orlando Blood Drives After Shooting

North Carolina NBC Reporter Blames Christians, Bathroom Law Advocates for Orlando

CBS Insinuates Christians ‘Promote the Kind of Violence’ in Orlando

Huffington Post Blames Orlando on Christians and Fox News Viewers

NY Times Again Blames Anti-Gay GOP, Not Radical Islam, for Orlando Massacre

The Logic Behind the Left’s Demonization of Conservatives

So we’ve got a convoluted notion of who is anti-gay and who is not but American culture tells itself redefining marriage to include same sex couples is progress, and this progress is here to stay.

That’s rather curious. In Europe in centuries past, it was one group or another of Christians who could be oppressed, abused and murdered merely for being the wrong kind of Christian. Some of those people left the old world to help forge a new world, one inherently based in a spirit of individual liberty where they could practice their beliefs freely. This idea would later be codified as the freedom of religion and made part of the law of the land. But that essential liberty is being undermined, along with a few other things.

There some fundamental problems with the way the American government dealt with the gay marriage issue. The tactics chosen to affect this type of change undermine many rights Americans currently enjoy and even some vital aspects of the government itself.

First, American society holds to a separation between church and state. This separation is widely and frequently cited as essential to the preservation of liberty. Throughout its history the United States has treated marriage as an inherently religious thing. But in 2016 the federal government usurped this religious institution, making it what a few oligarchs on the bench decided it should be. And gay activists demanded this. So much for keeping government out of the bedroom. It turns out keeping government and religion separate is only selectively important; apparently we don’t need this separation when government wants power over religion.

Second, American society holds to a separation of powers. The genius of the American experiment has several aspects, not least of which is the balance of power. In the Constitution of the United States, the supreme law of the land, the power to make law does not rest in the hands of the President or the Supreme Court. That power is reserved for the Congress. But the Supreme Court has decided it can make law by fiat. This is not the first time SCOTUS presumed the right to make law (Roe v Wade is another).

This episode in American history show us certain things presumed permanent can easily be undone. The separation between church and state and the separation of powers are being undermined, and are done so with celebration from the political left. In the aftermath of recent mass shootings we see an overt effort to defend Muslims against imaginary acts of meanness while undermining the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms (and even question the right to self defense, another aspect of the law of the land long thought to be permanent). Some people are willing to be honest about their true intentions in supporting gun control.

You think gay marriage is a great step forward? Will you think the same if it turns out changing marriage in this way was merely a step toward banning marriage altogether as activist Masha Gessen is candid enough to admit?

You think the right to free speech is a permanent fixture of a free society? Well, you’re right, but that doesn’t mean the United States is going to remain a free society, not with politicians clamoring to change the first amendment. In the United States it used to be taken as self evident that rights do not come from government but from a higher source. Today it seems half of Americans think rights are bestowed upon us by government. Some may call this progress; I would call it regress.

When our Progressive (by that I mean radically left leaning) society pushes for its idea of liberty I cannot help but notice this also means the restriction or even elimination of other liberties often taken for granted. Liberty is an achievement, but not a permanent one. The American experiment is an historical anomaly in a world where oppression and tyranny are the norm. Not seeing tyranny for what it is, Progressives tend to fight inequality not realizing they do so by sacrificing everyone else’s liberty and are pushing American society back towards the historical norm.

In his body of work on analyzing society Russel Kirk explains ten principles of conservatism. In principle 10 he explains it like this:

The conservative is not opposed to social improvement, although he doubts whether there is any such force as a mystical Progress, with a Roman P, at work in the world. When a society is progressing in some respects, usually it is declining in other respects. The conservative knows that any healthy society is influenced by two forces, which Samuel Taylor Coleridge called its Permanence and its Progression. The Permanence of a society is formed by those enduring interests and convictions that gives us stability and continuity; without that Permanence, the fountains of the great deep are broken up, society slipping into anarchy. The Progression in a society is that spirit and that body of talents which urge us on to prudent reform and improvement; without that Progression, a people stagnate.

Therefore the intelligent conservative endeavors to reconcile the claims of Permanence and the claims of Progression. He thinks that the liberal and the radical, blind to the just claims of Permanence, would endanger the heritage bequeathed to us, in an endeavor to hurry us into some dubious Terrestrial Paradise. The conservative, in short, favors reasoned and temperate progress; he is opposed to the cult of Progress, whose votaries believe that everything new necessarily is superior to everything old.

Change is essential to the body social, the conservative reasons, just as it is essential to the human body. A body that has ceased to renew itself has begun to die. But if that body is to be vigorous, the change must occur in a regular manner, harmonizing with the form and nature of that body; otherwise change produces a monstrous growth, a cancer, which devours its host. The conservative takes care that nothing in a society should ever be wholly old, and that nothing should ever be wholly new. This is the means of the conservation of a nation, quite as it is the means of conservation of a living organism. Just how much change a society requires, and what sort of change, depend upon the circumstances of an age and a nation.

Let us embrace healthy change (an admittedly subjective concept) when it is needed (also a subjective notion) and not rush to it just for the sake of change. All actions have consequences. Changes we impose on society by fiat have not been vetted and consequences will ensue, often painful and often accomplishing the opposite of what was promised. As Kirk alludes to a balance between permanence and progression let us carefully consider the change we desire and especially the methods we employ to achieve it. Whether the change we affect hits its target or misses completely there will inevitably be unforeseen consequences either way. We cannot possibly know how future generations will interpret or distort our efforts and accomplishments of today.

Change should be viewed more like a pendulum rather than a ladder. As we see in our own lifetime some things previously taken for granted have been inverted. We now allow a man to claim to be a woman. We now allow a white person to claim to be black (though for some reason we won’t allow a murderous thug to declare himself Muslim). We officially claim the freedom of religion and use it as an excuse to restrict the freedom of religion. We restrict the freedom of speech and excuse it as the avoidance of hurting someone’s feelings. The more volatile an issue is, and the more controversial the methods of dealing with it, the more likely a strong reaction will upend what was once considered stable. You can push, but you should expect others to push back.

We humans are not perfectible. And neither is society. What was once achieved can be torn down. Humanity is a dynamic thing. Real solutions are elusive. Realistically we should expect to deal with the problems of life by finding trade offs rather than sweeping solutions. In this election season we would do well to remember every promise a politician makes has an underlying cost, a cost often obscured or ignored but will come back to bite us eventually. Don’t blindly accept what politicians and news media are selling.

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Filed under: american, civil rights, conservative, culture, first amendment, free speech, freedom, ideology, philosophy, politics, right wing, separation, unintended consequences

Do you really know what Democracy is?

A minor peeve of mine in American politics is the allegation that conservatives don’t know what Socialism is. Granted, conservatives attribute a lot of problems in our nation to socialism. From a more generalized perspective, Marxism, Socialism, Communism, and Fascism all hold to the ideal that society needs to be controlled by government. A standard feature of this type of thinking is that government knows best, and if anything is to be accomplished in society it can be accomplished only by government. This view can be summarized in one term: Socialist.

Contrast this with some other generalizations you find in America. To some, all sodas are called “coke” (though this trend seems to be dying away). Another common example can be found in just about every household in the nation. Do you know what this is?

bandage

If you call this a “Band-Aid” you are wrong. This is a bandage, or more specifically an adhesive bandage. “Band-Aid” is a brand name of bandage just like Coca-Cola is a brand name of carbonated beverage.

Band-Aid

Technically, to be accurate, we should simply use the term bandages. But, practically speaking, it’s okay to call all bandages “Band-Aids”. We play this semantic game in other areas of life. In politics we do the same thing with another concept: Democracy.

Technically, the United States is not a Democracy. Democracy is direct government by the people. We either show up to a meeting and offer our input, or we don’t show up and we don’t have a voice. Direct government by the people means you have to personally participate to have input into anything. That’s simply not feasible in a large nation spread over thousands of miles (though technology might change that – over 200 years after the American form of government was installed).

The logistical difficulty in Democracy is why we have elections. We elect people to represent us and our interests so we don’t have to spend our own time, every day, doing “the people’s business”. We send our representatives to meet together and handle government business on our behalf. In America we have representative Democracy. There is a word for this type of government; it’s called a Republic. (Technically, we have a constitutional republic, which ads another layer). If we’re going to be sticklers about the accuracy of the term “Socialism” we should be equally strict about the term “Democracy”. If what conservatives often call Socialism isn’t really Socialism, what modern liberals call Democracy isn’t really Democracy.

But we’re not often concerned with semantic accuracy. We can say conservatives don’t understand Socialism, but likewise we can say liberals don’t understand Democracy (especially since by “Democracy” liberals often mean government makes decisions with or without our consent). In fact, modern liberals don’t understand conservatism either, and seldom are honest enough to care to.

Liberals have a backwards understanding of many things in life. Their views on conservatism are merely par for the course. It’s very easy to find out what liberals think conservatism is since many definitions of the term and the concept are written by liberals. The trite, myopic, and intellectually dishonest liberal view of conservatism is typically something like a group of control freaks who don’t like change. Aristocracy is sometimes a term liberals might use to describe conservatism. The problem is, in the real world all political power is like this regardless of ideology.

All political power seeks to preserve itself. Which is another point where liberals are confused; they don’t know the difference between PREservative and CONservative. Power is very much like an addictive substance. That’s why, as we say, power corrupts. Communism seeks to preserve itself. Socialism seeks to preserve itself. Monarchy, aristocracy, and dictatorship all seek to preserve themselves. But preserving power is a bit different than preserving other things. For power to be preserved it must be expanded. How does power get expanded? Ironically, political power is expanded by being concentrated.

The preservation of power naturally encourages the concentration of power – gaining more power and keeping it in the hands of the few. This is something conservatives despise. Conservatives abhor aristocracy. Conservative ideology demands the dispersion of political power, not its concentration. The concentration of government power inevitably means the loss of autonomy among the people. But when they talk about this common sense fact of power, you can probably guess what liberals call conservatives: anti-government. To the modern liberal more government is good a thing. So in fact, it is liberals who want concentration of power – aristocracy. Conservatives are constantly talking about getting government out of people’s way and what they mean by this is the opposite of the concentration of power. Liberals, on the other hand, often promote the expansion and concentration of government power as the means to individual liberty. Just as an aristocracy would.

So why does conservatism demand the dispersion of power? Because conservatism recognizes, among many other things in life, that good and evil actually exist. Conservatism does not pretend all things are equal. Believe it or not, some things are better than others. Some decisions are good, and some not so good. Things in life are not all equal, which makes it very important for power to be limited. In the view that good and evil exist it is natural to resist and fight evil. Preventing it is even better; thus the impetus to prevent the concentration of power.

One of Conservatism’s prime imperatives is the avoidance of waste and abuse. In fact, liberals do actually have an example of conservatism where they are willing to be at least somewhat intellectually honest: environmentalism.

Environmentalism commonly includes the imperative to avoid wasting energy or abusing resources. That’s why we call it “conservation”. Environmentalism seeks to CONSERVE resources (avoid waste) in order to PRESERVE our environment (avoid abuse). But, unlike political conservatism, environmental conservation follows a liberal methodology of enforcement: taking liberty with other people’s rights by concentrating power in the hands of the few. Thus, where political conservatives seek to avoid the over use of power, environmentalists, and frankly all modern liberals, prefer the over use of power to compel people to do what liberals think people should do.

What environmental conservation and political conservatism share is a desire to preserve something by avoiding over use and waste of something else. Political conservatism seeks to preserve liberty by conserving political power (avoiding its abuse). But liberty can be abused as well, thus conservatism seeks to limit liberty only where it becomes destructive. Of course, these notions are quite subjective, thus not so simple to navigate.

Liberalism, on the other hand, also claims to preserve liberty by avoiding abuse. But liberalism seems to focus on limiting the abuse of liberty by means of concentrated power. Liberals take the liberty of deciding what other people need. It is not conservatives who tried to restrict sodas in order to “protect” people’s health (a measure which did not survive). It is not conservatives floating the idea of mandatory voting on the premise that we “need” to vote. It is not conservatives infringing on people’s right to defend themselves under the guise of preventing gun violence (gun control supporters easily make themselves look anti-self defense by deciding what sort of guns people need or don’t need). It is not conservatives who thought increasing government bureaucracy in healthcare or mandating health insurance was what people needed. It is not conservatives who keep regulating fossil fuels into astronomically high prices with ethanol and taxes. It is not conservatives who keep regulating tobacco products out of the marketplace while touting weed should be legalized. It is not conservatives creating and enforcing politically correct speech codes all across the country, limiting what people are permitted to say and punishing them for the slightest transgressions. It is not conservatives redefining bedrock notions upon which civilization itself is built.

A common issue where modern liberals think they really know what conservatives believe is gay marriage. But, as is typically the case, liberals are wrong. Liberals tend to believe ideas are so malleable that anyone can make any idea into anything they want. Liberals trumpet the notion of redefining things (as long as it is they who do the redefining). As mentioned above, to the modern liberal, the constitutional right to free speech has been redefined to include an ever expanding list of things people cannot say – because being free from unpleasant words is somehow better than being free to express those words (a lesson quite the opposite of one society has taught conservative Christians over the years). To the liberal, believing marriage means one man and one woman is equivalent to preventing gay people from loving or living with whom ever they wish. But this is simply not the case, as is clear for anyone willing to actually think about it for themselves. But to the liberal, as of last year, to still believe the predominant view of marriage of a mere two years ago is now bigotry. The inconvenient truth is conservatives commonly favored expanding civil unions to accommodate gay activists. Instead, liberals demanded the government usurp a religious institution to redefine marriage and pretend the new definition is what marriage really meant all along (which is in direct contradiction of the separation between church and state liberals so frequently claim is such an important aspect of a free society). The ordinary gay folk who want to live their lives in peace were not part of the militant activism, sometimes called the “gay mafia”. The militant activists were the unreasonable ones trying to push their views in everyone’s face and bully people by the force of government.

Conservatism is not about resistance to change or keeping things “the way they used to be”. Conservatives freely embrace good ideas that are well vetted. But fast, untested change automatically meets great resistance for two reasons. First, untested change means we don’t know what the consequences will be. Wanting good change is one thing; wanting any change and presuming it will be good is very different. We don’t know what consequences untested change will bring and that means change could be bad even if unintentionally so. That’s asking for trouble. Massive cultural change ought to be good and good change requires thorough consideration over time. Second, fast and untested change on a massive scale is how tyrants get into power and cement it. Shouldn’t reasonable people resist such a thing?

Even the battle against slavery was not fast, untested change. Slavery was an abuse of power and a distortion of reason and decency. It was not progressives who fought against slavery in the US; it was conservatives who wanted to end an abuse of power. Slave owners saw slavery as about property rights; abolitionists saw slavery as about human rights. The same is true of Jim Crow. By definition, Jim Crow laws were LAWS! I realize this will come as a shock for some, but it was not Republicans who made, imposed, and enforced Jim Crow; it was Democrats trying to preserve their power by abusing it. Liberals presumed the authority to take liberty with other people’s rights, further abusing power. The very notion of ending Jim Crow was inherently conservative (avoiding the abuse of power) and championed by conservative Republicans.

Likewise conservatives want to put an end to abortion, for the same reasons they wanted to put and end to slavery and Jim Crow. Preserving freedom demands conserving power, which means preventing or fighting against the abuse of power. Abortion supporters view abortion as about women’s rights; conservatives see abortion as about babies’ rights and the abuse of power over them. But, like its paradoxically open minded yet utterly intolerant definition of marriage, so too is the liberal definition of abortion absolute, fixed, and refusing to allow any differing view. But it is only the conservative view that is ridiculed for being absolute or fixed, as if insisting a child in the womb is a person is somehow an unscientific or absurd idea. It is not conservatives who are in the habit of playing semantic games which deny other people’s humanity.

The modern liberal perspective of freedom often results in restricting what people are allowed to do or say or even believe and it does so by demanding more power concentrated in the hands of government. But there a couple noted exceptions, of course: abortion and entertainment (recreational drugs, sexual experimentation, etc.). The calls for “choice” or the “right to control one’s own body” trump all other considerations only in these areas – choice and autonomy are flatly ignored in almost every other aspect of life for liberals. For liberalism, dealing with problems typically requires more government programs and more laws – preferably from the FEDERAL level. To conservatives, this looks like a totalitarian approach. The conservative perspective of freedom is meant to restrict the harm unfettered power or unfettered liberty can inflict on society while dispersing power from government, leaving as much liberty as possible for the individual. For conservatism, dealing with problems is best left to individuals and groups personally navigating tough decisions in a respectful way which does not infringe upon other people’s right over themselves. We recognize the sensible limit this places on one’s autonomy, what we call the “social compact”. Similarly, conservatism holds compassion (traditionally meaning to “suffer with”) is the responsibility of the individual, not the state, and that self-inflicted harm or harm inflicted on others is best dealt with by teaching each other how to make good decisions (recognizing the consequences (good and bad) of our own decisions) and having local government intervene only when necessary.

The New York Times gives us some good examples of liberals not knowing what conservatism is. Their own David Brooks is branded as the official “conservative” writer. From a thoroughly conservative perspective, Brooks is a moderate liberal on most issues, but in the modern liberal view this qualifies as “conservative”. William Saletan wrote a great piece in the NYT covering Jonathan Haidt’s argument on how liberals simply don’t know what conservatives believe and probably don’t care to. And a psychological study on “conservative” purchasing habits also shows an overwhelming liberal bias in the very premise of the study itself – a bias that misses important realizations largely because it misidentifies conservatism and even human nature.

So the next time someone talks about Democracy but uses the term incorrectly, it’s probably not worth the trouble to correct the mistake. But if some liberal hack spouts off about conservatism, if possible remind them they don’t know what they are talking about. You can use Coke, Band-Aid, and Democracy to help drive the point home.

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Immigrants explain why they love America

original article: US Immigrants From All Over the World Tell Us Exactly Why They’re Proud to Live Here
July 8, 2015 by MALLORY SHELBOURNE

To celebrate America’s birthday this year, IJReview talked to several immigrants from all over the world, who told us why they love living in the United States.

From Lebanon, to Ethiopia, to Ukraine, these U.S. immigrants explain why they are happy they left the countries where they were born to move here.

I don’t often look at comments on anything online but these, from the original article, are worth a quick read.

Those who come here legally wanting to be to become Americans quite often have a better idea of what America is than recent college grads who are born here.

I work with a doctor that legally immigrated to this country. He is a great man. He was in a refugee camp after he and his family barely got out of afganistan before the Russians came in. he is so interesting to talk to and yes he is a Muslim but he is a Muslim that loves this country. Immigrants that come here, that really want to be here, not the ones that just come for what America can give them but the ones that come because they want to be Americans and make a difference and go through the legal channels because they respect America are really very good for this country, but the ones that have no respect for our laws and steal into our country are NOT good for the United States. I have a friend on facebook, a young man from Africa who has just gotten a teaching degree in special education – he wants to come to America. I would love to help make that happen for him. So many people think I am a bigot or a racist because I am against illegal invaders coming into this country – yes I am but if someone really wants to become an American and come in legally and really be an American I am all for them coming. Just do not break our laws, have respect.

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A one-size-fits-all education doesn’t fit all

original article: Why ‘Cookie Cutter’ Public Schools Don’t Cut It For This Mom of Seven
June 24, 2015 by Kelsey Harkness

Liz Robbins was caught off-guard when a Washington, D.C., area code appeared on her phone.

“I apologize,” she said. “With the surgery … I had been emotional right before you called.”

Robbins was answering the phone from Henderson, Nev., a short drive from Las Vegas. When the 202 area showed up, she thought it was the hospital calling, where her 19-year-old daughter, Amber, had just undergone a surgery.

Trying hard to hold back her emotions, Robbins politely asked to reschedule the interview about Nevada’s newly-enacted school policy giving parents control over how to spend their children’s education funds.

It was too much for this particular Friday, which was more normal than Robbins might like to admit.

But before hanging up, Robbins began explaining the reason why her daughter was undergoing surgery (due to complications related to Ehler-Danlos syndrome, which is an incurable degenerative condition that affects the joints and skin).

In the middle of discussing the disease, Robbins paused.

“Let’s do the interview now,” she said. “This is important.”

Instead of spending the next 30 minutes helping one daughter cope with surgery and another prepare for her wedding that was taking place the next day, Robbins spent them talking to a Washington, D.C., reporter about why her family desperately needed access to an alternative education option called education savings accounts.

And now, thanks to a bill passed by Nevada state legislators earlier this June, they did.

(Photo: Robbins family)

Education Savings Accounts and Their Impact

Education savings accounts are an outgrowth of the school choice movement that, by literally giving parents an “education debit card,” allows them to craft a customized education plan to meet their children’s specific needs.

By giving her access to state education funds that would have otherwise been spent in their assigned public school, parents with children enrolled in Nevada public schools can spend money on tuition and fees at an approved private school, tutoring services, textbooks, and so forth.

To offset repercussions of lower enrollment in public schools, local and federal government education dollars will still feed into the public school system. (Typically, public schools receive combined funding by local, state and federal governments.)

For Robbins and her seven children, who range in ages from 8 to 26, the program will be life-changing.

“If you have a health challenge but you’re still a college-bound student, there are no options for you in our district,” Robbins said. “You are just on your own.”

Two of Robbins’ daughters are affected by the inherited connective tissue disorder. Because of extensive surgeries, medical tests and debilitating symptoms, they’ve missed entire years of school at a time.

“Children with health problems … they are forgotten in the school districts,” Robbins said.

Amber is now taking college courses online and was still able to graduate a valedictorian and receive a five—the highest score possible—on her AP government/law exam, despite the challenges she faced.

“She has a medical condition but she is still a bright, articulate student,” Robbins said.

While teachers worked with Amber to turn in assignments remotely, Robbins said her daughter did not receive “one day of tutoring” while she was out her senior year.

“That is a tragedy,” Robins said.

With education savings accounts, Robbins will now have a whole host of education opportunities available to her youngest children, who are also at risk for developing the condition as their bodies develop.

How Nevada’s Education Savings Accounts Work

Nevada’s education savings account differs from those set up in Arizona, Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee, all of which have stringent requirements for the type of students who are eligible. In Nevada, the only requirement is that students must be enrolled in the public school system for at least 100 days.

If everything goes according to plan, parents will be able to access the accounts at the beginning of next year.

On average, parents will receive about $5,100 per year, or 90 percent of the state’s per-pupil spending amount. (The total per-pupil spending amount in Nevada is approximately $8,400, or about $3,300 more than the amount of the education savings accounts grants.)

>>> Read More: Nevada Becomes Fifth State to Enact Groundbreaking Education Savings Accounts

(Photo: Kelsey Lucas/Visualsey)

“[Education savings accounts] are going to start an education revolution,” Robbins said.

“And that education revolution is going to force the public school system to begin to modify itself.”

Rallying Against the Revolution

Robbin’s inkling towards an “education revolution” is precisely what has many organizations and teachers unions rallying against it.

Many traditional advocates of public education fear that education savings accounts will strip public schools of already limited funding, and legitimize whatever curriculum a parent wants—say, a Biblical teaching that runs contrary to the public school curriculum—at the taxpayer’s expense.

In Arizona, which was the first state to set up education savings accounts, no mass exodus occurred when education savings accounts were signed into law back in 2011.

This year, 230,000 students were eligible, and only 1,300 participated. But since its inception, the program has become so popular that eligibility was expanded four times to include children entering kindergarten, with special needs, from underperforming schools, from active-duty military families, in foster care, of fallen soldiers and from tribal lands.

Organizations like the American Federation of Teachers and the Nevada State Education Association, which is a union of more than 3 million teachers in the state, argue the program is “dangerous” and could devastate traditional public schools.

Neither organization responded to The Daily Signal’s request for an interview, but in a statement to Politico, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said earlier this year that education savings accounts create an “unregulated, unaccountable market.”

“Instead of the exit strategy from public education that these programs represent, we need a renewed commitment to strong neighborhood public schools for every child,” he said.

On June 10, 2010, the family celebrates Lindsey Robbins' high school graduation. (Photo: Robbins family)

A Rising Tide

School choice advocates believe the introduction of education savings accounts will create competition, which will better education for all students, including those who remain in public schools.

“By allowing all students to attend private school, Nevada has introduced an element of competition into its public school system,” said Chantal Lovell, communications director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute, which supports the school choice initiative. Lovell added:

In the coming years, we should see all schools in Nevada—public and private—improve as they compete for students and the dollars that now follow them. It’s a phenomenon similar to what we see when a new restaurant opens in a community that previously had very limited and mediocre dining options.

Every year since 1994, Robbins has had at least one child enrolled in Dooley Elementary, which is located in one of the largest school districts in the country. In 2014, the K-12 school was named a Blue Ribbon School. This award is given by the U.S. Department of Education to schools for their academic excellence or progress in closing achievement gaps among students.

Despite having the privilege of being able to send her children to a nationally recognized school, the “cookie cutter design,” Robbins said, isn’t cutting it.

“We’re unusual,” she said. “Lots of children have different ways of learning and we need to be able to find ways to bring out the best in every child. And at a large school system that’s a cookie cutter design does not do that.”

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How Government Inaction Ended the Depression of 1921

original article: How Government Inaction Ended the Depression of 1921
May 20, 2015 by Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr.

As the financial crisis of 2008 took shape, the policy recommendations were not slow in coming: why, economic stability and American prosperity demand fiscal and monetary stimulus to jump-start the sick economy back to life. And so we got fiscal stimulus, as well as a program of monetary expansion without precedent in US history.

David Stockman recently noted that we have in effect had fifteen solid years of stimulus — not just the high-profile programs like the $700 billion TARP and the $800 billion in fiscal stimulus, but also $4 trillion of money printing and 165 out of 180 months in which interest rates were either falling or held at rock-bottom levels. The results have been underwhelming: the number of breadwinner jobs in the US is still two million lower than it was under Bill Clinton.

Economists of the Austrian school warned that this would happen. While other economists disagreed about whether fiscal or monetary stimulus would do the trick, the Austrians looked past this superficial debate and rejected intervention in all its forms.

The Austrians have very good theoretical reasons for opposing government stimulus programs, but those reasons are liable to remain unknown to the average person, who seldom studies economics and who even more seldom gives non-establishment opinion a fair hearing. That’s why it helps to be able to point to historical examples, which are more readily accessible to the non-specialist than is economic theory. If we can point to an economy correcting itself, this alone overturns the claim that government intervention is indispensable.

Possibly the most arresting (and overlooked) example of precisely this phenomenon is the case of the depression of 1920–21, which was characterized by a collapse in production and GDP and a spike in unemployment to double-digit levels. But by the time the federal government even began considering intervention, the crisis had ended. What Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover deferentially called “The President’s Conference on Unemployment,” an idea he himself had cooked up to smooth out the business cycle, convened during what turned out to be the second month of the recovery, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

Indeed, according to the NBER, which announces the beginnings and ends of recessions, the depression began in January 1920 and ended in July 1921.

James Grant tells the story in his important and captivating new book The Forgotten Depression — 1921: The Crash That Cured Itself. A word about the author: Grant ranks among the most brilliant of financial experts. In addition to publishing his highly regarded newsletter, Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, for more than thirty years, Grant is a frequent (and anti-Fed) commentator on television and radio, the author of numerous other books, and a captivating speaker. We’ve been honored and delighted to feature him as a speaker at Mises Institute events.

What exactly were the Federal Reserve and the federal government doing during these eighteen months? The numbers don’t lie: monetary policy was contractionary during the period in question. Allan Meltzer, who is not an Austrian, wrote in A History of the Federal Reserve that “principal monetary aggregates fell throughout the recession.” He calculates a decline in M1 by 10.9 percent from March 1920 to January 1922, and in the monetary base by 6.4 percent from October 1920 to January 1922. “Quarterly average growth of the base,” he continues, “did not become positive until second quarter 1922, nine months after the NBER trough.”

The Fed raised its discount rate from 4 percent in 1919 to 7 percent in 1920 and 6 percent in 1921. By 1922, after the recovery was long since under way, it was reduced to 4 percent once again. Meanwhile, government spending also fell dramatically; as the economy emerged from the 1920–21 downturn, the budget was in the process of being reduced from $6.3 billion in 1920 to $3.2 billion in 1922. So the budget was being cut and the money supply was falling. “By the lights of Keynesian and monetarist doctrine alike,” writes Grant, “no more primitive or counterproductive policies could be imagined.” In addition, price deflation was more severe during 1920–21 than during any point in the Great Depression; from mid-1920 to mid-1921, the Consumer Price Index fell by 15.8 percent. We can only imagine the panic and the cries for intervention were we to observe such price movements today.

The episode fell down the proverbial memory hole, and Grant notes that he cannot find an example of a public figure ever having held up the 1920–21 example as a data point worth considering today. But although Keynesians today, now that the episode is being discussed once again, assure everyone that they are perfectly prepared to explain the episode away, in fact Keynesian economic historians in the past readily admitted that the swiftness of the recovery was something of a mystery to them, and that recovery had not been long in coming despite the absence of stimulus measures.

The policy of official inaction during the 1920–21 depression came about as a combination of circumstance and ideology. Woodrow Wilson had favored a more pronounced role for the federal government, but by the end of his term two factors made any such effort impossible. First, he was obsessed with the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles, and securing US membership in the League of Nations he had inspired. This concern eclipsed everything else. Second, a series of debilitating strokes left him unable to do much of anything by the fall of 1919, so any major domestic initiatives were out of the question. Because of the way fiscal years are dated, Wilson was in fact responsible for much of the postwar budget cutting, a substantial chunk of which occurred during the 1920–21 depression.

Warren Harding, meanwhile, was philosophically inclined to oppose government intervention and believed a downturn of this kind would work itself out if no obstacles were placed in its path. He declared in his acceptance speech at the 1920 Republican convention:

We will attempt intelligent and courageous deflation, and strike at government borrowing which enlarges the evil, and we will attack high cost of government with every energy and facility which attend Republican capacity. We promise that relief which will attend the halting of waste and extravagance, and the renewal of the practice of public economy, not alone because it will relieve tax burdens but because it will be an example to stimulate thrift and economy in private life.

Let us call to all the people for thrift and economy, for denial and sacrifice if need be, for a nationwide drive against extravagance and luxury, to a recommittal to simplicity of living, to that prudent and normal plan of life which is the health of the republic. There hasn’t been a recovery from the waste and abnormalities of war since the story of mankind was first written, except through work and saving, through industry and denial, while needless spending and heedless extravagance have marked every decay in the history of nations.

Harding, that least fashionable of American presidents, was likewise able to look at falling prices soberly and without today’s hysteria. He insisted that the commodity price deflation was unavoidable, and perhaps even salutary. “We hold that the shrinkage which has taken place is somewhat analogous to that which occurs when a balloon is punctured and the air escapes.” Moreover, said Harding, depressions followed inflation “just as surely as the tides ebb and flow,” but spending taxpayer money was no way to deal with the situation. “The excess of stimulation from that source is to be reckoned a cause of trouble rather than a source of cure.”

Even John Skelton Williams, comptroller of the currency under Woodrow Wilson and no friend of Harding, observed that the price deflation was “inevitable,” and that in any case “the country is now [1921] in many respects on a sounder basis, economically, than it has been for years.” And we should look forward to the day when “the private citizen is able to acquire, at the expenditure of $1 of his hard-earned money, something approximating the quantity and quality which that dollar commanded in prewar times.”

Thankfully for the reader, not only is Grant right on the history and the economics, but he also writes with a literary flair one scarcely expects from the world of financial commentary. And although he has all the facts and figures a reader could ask for, Grant is also a storyteller. This is no dry sheaf of statistics. It is full of personalities — businessmen, union bosses, presidents, economists — and relates so much more than the bare outline of the depression. Grant gives us an expert’s insight into the stock market’s fortunes, and those of American agriculture, industry, and more. He writes so engagingly that the reader almost doesn’t realize how difficult it is to make a book about a single economic episode utterly absorbing.

The example of 1920–21 was largely overlooked, except in specialized treatments of American economic history, for many decades. The cynic may be forgiven for suspecting that its incompatibility with today’s conventional wisdom, which urges demand management by experts and an ever-expanding mandate for the Fed, might have had something to do with that. Whatever the reason, it’s back now, as a rebuke to the planners with their equations and the cronies with their bailouts.

The Forgotten Depression has taken its rightful place within the corpus of Austro-libertarian revisionist history, that library of works that will lead you from the dead end of conventional opinion to the fresh air of economic and historical truth.

budget, conservative, crisis, economics, economy, funding, government, history, ideology, philosophy, politics, president, public policy, recession, Republicans, right wing, spending

Filed under: budget, conservative, crisis, economics, economy, funding, government, history, ideology, philosophy, politics, president, public policy, recession, Republicans, right wing, spending

You know there’s no such thing as a perfect political candidate, right?

A story from Epic Times relates a poll on the viability of a Ben Carson candidacy for president:

ONLY 31% SAY BEN CARSON IS THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR PRESIDENT
May 5, 2015 by EpicTimes

The biggest grievance I’ve heard about Dr. Carson is his comments on the 2nd Amendment. In asking whether Carson is the right man for the job, one comment exemplified many others I’ve seen elsewhere:

carson_guns

Now, it’s worth noting a few things here. This person “Julie” seems to think she knows exactly what Carson believes about guns (possible, but I have my doubts) and that this issue alone is enough for her to consider him unworthy of being president. Hmm. Are there single issues that should make or break a candidate? Sure, I think so.

There are some pass/fail issues on my list. By pass/fail, I don’t mean I’ll gladly vote for a candidate simply if that person espouses what I think are the correct beliefs on such and such issues. I mean there are several hoops for a candidate to pass before I’ll even consider voting for them. Abortion would be one such issue: if you’re willing to play semantic games with personhood, denying children in the womb all civil rights (sometimes even children outside the womb) merely for the convenience of someone else, I don’t believe I can trust you with anyone’s rights. Do you remember who else from human history used the “they’re not really people” argument? If you’re willing to take that road, you’re not getting my vote. Other issues are heavy like this one; acknowledging that the most innocent of humanity have the right to life just like the rest of us is merely the first such hoop for me.

The second amendment is a pretty big issue too, I think. Now, most of the criticism of Carson on the issue of gun rights seem to mindlessly treat him as though Carson approves of any and all gun control legislation. He doesn’t. From what I’ve heard him say, Dr. Carson’s concerns about gun violence are hardly the same as the rabidly anti-gun control freak progressives. We conservatives like to say we’re far more open minded and intellectually honest that the political left. That’s often true, but it’s something that has to be proven every day. Conservatives are the last people who should be proving this statement by Dr. Carson:

Sometimes people just hear one little thing and they don’t hear anything else.

So you heard Carson say something about guns that you don’t like. I’m with you. But have you actually paid attention to the other things he’s said on that same issue?

DR. BEN CARSON AGAINST GUN REGISTRATION: WE ‘SHOULD BE REALLY CONCERNED’ ABOUT MARTIAL LAW

Ben Carson On Gun Rights: 2nd Amendment Doesn’t Cover Tanks, Rocket Launchers

Now, I’m not sure I agree with Carson about that tanks and rocket launchers, but I’m not sure I disagree with him either. But he’s totally right about gun registration. If you’ve not taken the time to actually research Dr. Carson on the gun rights issue you should show some of that open mindedness you believe you posses: Attacking Ben Carson Over Gun Conrol.

When people condemn Carson for his supposed stance on gun control (either because they aren’t paying attention or because he needs to clarify a few things) it sure sounds like they are demanding perfection, especially when they don’t seem to care about anything else he has to offer.

There could be some merit to the issue of Carson’s lack of political experience. Then again, political experience (like handing out forms) hasn’t been such a valuable asset to people who’ve been running the country has it? However, political incompetence is not sufficient to explain the current troubles the United States is experiencing. In fact, with what President Obama is doing it seems like he is succeeding in precisely what he set out to do, things like “fundamentally transforming America”. The harm we’re suffering as a nation is the natural result of Obama’s philosophy. That’s the embedded progressive, “government knows best” philosophy that’s been employed for decades. Obama is merely the latest player in that long tradition of concentrating power. Dr. Carson has the opposite philosophy, something that hasn’t been tried in a generation. That’s worth something to me.

And because Carson isn’t a professional politician he’s not trained in the fundamental flaws of politics: peddling influence and spending other people’s money. I don’t want a professional liar in the oval office. I’ve had enough of that. I don’t want a political insider running things whose time is largely occupied by paying back political favors gathered over a lengthy career in politics. I don’t want a president beholden to innumerable special interests. I want someone running the show who knows how to make a living outside the public sector, whose made a name for him/her self doing some grand things of his/her own initiative.

Republicans have a reputation for eating each other’s candidates alive long before the primary elections. Republicans also have a reputation for being very logical and driven by common sense while simultaneously being politically stupid. Some of those descriptions are good and should remain, but the other things need to change. Attacking each other’s preferred candidate has worked great in the past, right? Why don’t we save that sort of thing for the general election in 2016 instead?

american, bias, campaign, conservative, culture, elections, government, gun rights, ideology, politics, Republicans, right wing, second amendment, video

Filed under: american, bias, campaign, conservative, culture, elections, government, gun rights, ideology, politics, Republicans, right wing, second amendment,

At The Intersection Of Capitalism And Disability

original article: At The Intersection Of Capitalism And Disability
May 1, 2015 by Elise Hilton

There is a group of workers out there who are uniquely qualified for many jobs, intensely interested in working and being as independent as possible, often joyful in attitude and thankful for the little things many of us take for granted.

They are adults with cognitive and intellectual disabilities.

I’m not talking about “pity” jobs here. I’m talking about people with real talents who are looking to share those talents with others in a way that is mutually beneficial. Most of us call that a “career” but for the disabled, a career can be hard to come by. Chalk it up to misunderstanding, ignorance and prejudice. However, businesses are getting on board.

More and more companies out there are realizing there’s an untapped pool of talent that makes for very good workers,” [said] Peter Bell, President and CEO ofEden Autism Services, “Employers are becoming interested in hiring these people not because it’s charity, but because it’s the right business decision.”

The United States Business Leadership Network (USBLN) grew from this intersection between capitalism and disability, with a focus on helping businesses increase performance by leveraging disability inclusion in the workplace, supply chain and marketplace. The organization’s driving ethos is that business responds to its peers; if a company’s competitors are showing positive returns to their shareholders, that company will want to follow suit.

In Jefferson County, Alabama, an agency servicing the needs of adults with intellectual disabilities, could not find companies to hire their clients, so they took a “wildly entrepreneurial” approach: building their own businesses, including a bakery and a shredding business. In a viral video, Embassy Suites was highlighted as an employer, when a young man with Downs Syndrome enthusiastically reacted to a job offer.

Jill Houghton, Executive Director of USBLN, says none of this means businesses are lowering their expectations:

Sometimes we underestimate people’s abilities,” she said. “Sometimes in the name of helping people, we hold them back. But businesses, they’re just looking for good employees. I see powerful success stories every day. And I believe that business can help motivate the change for people with disabilities.”

As the mother of a young adult with cognitive disabilities, my hope for my child is that meaningful work is part of her future. I want her to enjoy the same pleasures I’ve derived from my work, and I know she has gifts to share.

Read “How Companies Are Finally Recognizing the Value in Employees With Intellectual Disabilities” at The Mighty.

capitalism, conservative, diversity, economy, innovation, philosophy, right wing

Filed under: capitalism, conservative, diversity, economy, innovation, philosophy, right wing

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