Whether you work in an office, a shop, or a store, you've had this experience. Every break room, lunch room, and food mess has one: the community fridge. The chair I occupied in the lunch room today was right next to one of these things, and every time the door was opened I was reminded of what a perfect metaphor it is for any contrived public good. Let's review a few of the similarities:
- Everyone uses it whether they like it or not
- No one takes responsibility for its upkeep
- Everyone claims a disproportionate amount of the good
- Individuality and property rights disappear within it (I ate a sandwich named Steve...)
- Unwanted personal items are often abandoned here
- Over time, the condition deteriorates to a completely unsanitary state
- Everyone complains about the conditions
- Everyone expects someone else to deal with the problem
- Eventually those who use it the least end up cleaning the thing out
- The smell never completely goes away
In over 20 years of gainful employment, I've never seen a common work refrigerator that did not fit this description perfectly. Every experience I have had with a contrived public good has been exactly the same — be it public transportation, public restrooms, or public recreational facilities. We can now expect the same in our healthcare.
I just read an article by Victor Davis Hanson regarding the coastal elites and how they're out of touch with the plebs in fly-over country. Mr. Hanson raises this question: how would the attitudes/outlook of these elites change if the centers of power were relocated?
Well, why not? We've got the technology to carry on the work of government virtually anywhere. Perhaps the federal government should officially move from state to state every year. We could make the notion of a federal government more of a ceremonial title than a physical place.
Just imagine Nancy Pelosi having to spend a good chunk of time in Bismarck, North Dakota. Kind of puts a smile on your face.
In the matter of nuclear Iran, Israel has three levels of enemies. First is Iran itself. Second is the chief enabler - the government of Barack Obama and, by extension, the electorate that allowed that government to hold power. Third are the miserable nations that make up the anti-Israel cheering section.
I am confident that the government of Israel knows what to do about the first. I am equally confident that, unless they send troops against us, there is no point bothering ourselves with the third. It is the second that concerns me.
Think Martin Niemoller of "first they came for..." fame. And think Edmund Burke ("The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing"). When your wonderful constitutional democracy enables those who would wipe out my country, it will be remembered in ignominy.
If you feel that I am exaggerating, try this:
So too today, Israel is castigated by Obama and his supporters in Washington, Europe and the media as a warmonger for realistically foreseeing the consequences of last weekend’s nuclear deal with Iran. Even worse, they are portraying Israel as a rogue state that will be subject to punishment if it dares to militarily strike Iran’s nuclear installations. In other words, rather than threatening Iran – the leading state sponsor of terrorism, led by a regime that is pursuing an illicit nuclear weapons program while threatening Israel with annihilation – with military strikes if it refuses to cease and desist from building nuclear weapons, the world powers are threatening Israel.
British Foreign Minister William Hague made this projection of Iranian criminality onto its intended victim the explicit policy of the world powers on Monday during his appearance before the British Parliament.
Promising that Britain will be “on its guard” to prevent any state from threatening the agreement with Iran, Hague said, “We would discourage anybody in the world, including Israel, from taking any steps that would undermine this agreement and we will make that very clear to all concerned.” In other words, as Hague, Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry see things, Iran needs to be protected from Israel.
The agreement that Britain and the US heroically defend from the threat of Israeli aggression guarantees that Iran will develop nuclear weapons. Like the Munich Pact’s empowerment of Hitler 75 years ago, the Geneva agreement’s empowerment of Iran’s ayatollahs guarantees that the world will descend into an unspeakable conflagration. And this is far from the only step that they are taking to weaken Israel.
As the EU weakens its economic sanctions against the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, it is ratcheting up its economic sanctions against Israel, the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. The goal of these sanctions is to coerce Israel into surrendering its historic heartland and ability to defend itself to Palestinian terrorists sworn to its destruction.
For its part, the Obama administration is expected to massively increase its pressure on Israel to make concessions to the PLO that if undertaken will similarly threaten Israel’s viability militarily, legally and politically. Obama has promised that if Israel and the PLO are unable to reach an accord by January, he will present his own formulation, and seek to coerce Israel into implementing it. Given Obama’s stated positions on the Palestinian conflict with Israel, it is clear that his formulation will involve the surrender of eastern, southern and northern Jerusalem, as well as the surrender of Judea and Samaria and the forced expulsion of more than a half a million Jews from their homes to enable the surrender of these areas Jew free.
And that is not all. Obama is also expected, in the next several months to place Israel’s purported nuclear arsenal on the international chopping block. Since entering office, he has already taken steps in this direction. Now, in his rush to transform Israel into the new Iran and Iran into the new Israel, it the prospect that Obama will expose Israel’s nuclear secrets as a means to enable Iran’s completion of its nuclear weapons program cannot be disregarded.
There is more - go read it.
Obama is your guy, folks. "What would you have us do" is not my business. You, the voters of the United States, created this monster. At what point do the "good men who do nothing" cease being good men? Good luck with your legacy.
I'll be spending today with friends and family. In attendance will be: a British imperialist, a liberal Cold Warrior, a Henry Adams conservative, one set of in-laws from California, children ages 8, 5, 4, 1.5, and 2 dogs (poodle and Golden-doodle). I am responsible for dessert: pecan tart with chocolate drizzle and sweet potato pie. The latter is the fav dessert item every year--even among Yankees. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
Please share your favorite Thanksgiving desserts below.
...I overheard our eighteen-year old son, just home from college, engaged in a deep philosophical discussion with our eleven-year old daughter. The question before them, as they mashed the potatoes: "If you ate yourself, would you disappear or become twice as big?"*
Nothing like having the family home, is there?
To everyone here at Ricochet, Happy Thanksgiving!
*The weight of argument, as I listened, seemed to be accumulating on the side of the you'd-end-up-twice-as-big school of thought, but if anyone among the Ricochetti has another idea, I'd be only too happy to relate it when we sit down to dinner.
In The Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade tells Joel Cairo, "When you're slapped, you'll take it and like it." The slap to the US over the Syrian crisis, in which the American president was ignominiously shown the door by the Russians -- followed by the US-orchestrated total collapse vis a vis the Iranians in Geneva -- suggests that President Obama enjoys the slap very much indeed. Either that, or he believes with all his heart that his country deserves it, and that it's in the world's interest for the US to be slapped down. Or perhaps a perverse combination of the two.
It's time to evaluate the new reality, which is an Iran clawing its improbable way back to ascendancy and possible regional domination -- with vital American assistance -- in the face of a calamitous demographic problem. The invaluable Spengler, who is basically the last word on demographics and their implications in this region, has produced another tour de force of an essay on this. He takes off from Bret Stephens's premise that Obama's capitulation to the Iranians at Geneva is directly analagous to Chamberlain's capitulation to Germany at Munich -- that it was, indeed, an even greater error, utterly without justification, necessity or exculpatory argument:
Britain and France came to Munich as military weaklings. The U.S. and its allies face Iran from a position of overwhelming strength. Britain and France won time to rearm. The U.S. and its allies have given Iran more time to stockpile uranium and develop its nuclear infrastructure. Britain and France had overwhelming domestic constituencies in favor of any deal that would avoid war. The Obama administration is defying broad bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress for the sake of a deal.
And Spengler runs with it:
Many commentators, most eloquently Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal, draw a parallel between the appeasement of Hitler at Munich in 1938 and the appeasement of Iran at Geneva. There is another, more chilling parallel: Iran’s motive for proposing to annihilate the Jewish State is the same as Hitler’s, and the world’s indifference to the prospect of another Holocaust is no different today than it was in 1938. It is the dead’s envy for the living.
Dying civilizations are the most dangerous, and Iran is dying. Its total fertility rate probably stands at just 1.6 children per female, the same level as Western Europe, a catastrophic decline from 7 children per female in the early 1980s. Iran’s present youth bulge will turn into an elderly dependent problem worse than Europe’s in the next generation and the country will collapse. That is why war is likely, if not entirely inevitable.
...[A] generation hence, there will be...two elderly dependents for every three workers, compared to 7 elderly dependents for every 93 workers today. That is a death sentence for a poor country, and at this point it is virtually irreversible.
Spengler has been pointing out for years that this is "the steepest decline in fertility in the history of the world. Iran must break out and establish a Shiite zone of power, or it will break down."
The mullahs' response to this demographic crisis is to blame the Jews. Sound familiar?
Iran’s theocracy displays the same apocalyptic panic about its demographic future that Hitler expressed about the supposed decline of the so-called Aryan race. Unlike Hitler, whose racial paranoia ran wild, Iran’s presentiment of national death is well founded on the facts. That is not to understate Iran’s paranoia. In 2013 Iran's vice president alleged that Jews ran the international drug trade. In a June 2013 Facebook post earlier this year Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei wrote, “U.S. President is being elected [sic] only from two parties while Zionist regime is controlling everything from behind the scenes.” That captions a cartoon showing fat men with moneybags for heads under a Star of David. Iranian officials routinely threaten to “annihilate the Zionist regime.”
There is always much fevered discussion, when Iran is in the news, about whether or not its leadership is "sane" or "rational". The mullahs have always struck me as behaving with a reliably consistent internal logic, which (as we obviously know) can lead to violence on an indescribably massive scale. The sanity or insanity question seems ultimately irrelevant -- and indeed it can be dangerous, as in, "They would never do anything ultimately self-destructive. They're not crazy!" That is a profoundly reckless and dangerous oversimplification, fatally compromised by a Western mindset hampered by both its idealism and its condescension.
Reality check: the powers that prevail in Iran believe the Jews are responsible for every imaginable ill, they make this view utterly crystalline, and they are eager -- if as yet not quite able -- to destroy their eternal enemy. The hatred of the Iranian theocracy for not just Israel but all Jews everywhere is a plain fact, and to ignore it smacks either of desperately profound stupidity (I'm looking at you, John Kerry) or a shrugging acquiescence (nice to meet you, Mr. President). Spengler:
Iran has no common border with Israel. No Iranian soldier has killed an Israeli soldier in combat since the founding of the Jewish State. Yet hatred and fear of the Jews is a palpable presence in the minds of Iran’s rulers. Some days the mullahs make the Nazis look rational by comparison....
Iran’s theocrats hate and fear the Jews for the same reason that Hitler did. The “Master Race” delusion of the Nazis twisted the Chosenness of Israel into a doctrine of racial election; for the “Master Race” to be secure in its dominion, the original “paragon and exemplar of a nation” (Rosenzweig) had to be exterminated. Islam is by construction a supercessionist religion. It claims that the Jewish and Christian Scriptures perverted the original prophecy of Islam, and that Mohammed restored the true religion through the Koran. Mohammed is the “seal of the prophets,” the final and definitive exponent of God’s word, replacing the falsified version of Christians and Jews.
Muslims may believe this and peaceably await the day when its competitor religions will crumble and the whole world will acknowledge its prophet, just as Jews pray thrice daily for the Messianic era when all the world will acknowledge one God by one name. But it is difficult for Iran to be patient when its self-conceived guardians of God’s message are staring into an inescapable abyss at the horizon of a single generation. This is a culture inherently incapable of reflection on its own deficiencies, one that has nourished itself for 1,200 years on morbid rancor against the Sunni Muslim majority and more recently against the West. Patience in this case is a poison.
Israel thus faces a new Hitler and the threat of a new Holocaust. There is no way to portray the situation in a less alarming light. That is one parallel to 1938; another is the response of the world’s powers to the emergence of this monster.
So what is Obama thinking? What is he doing? Why? Spengler summarizes his reasoning thus:
What explains...the Obama administration’s obsession with a compromise at any cost with the Tehran regime?
He deeply identifies with the fragile, unraveling cultures of the Third World against the depredations of the globalizing Metropole. So, I suspect, does his mentor and chief advisor, the Iranian-born Valerie Jarrett, and most of his inner circle. This goes beyond the famous declaration of Jimmy Carter’s advisor Hamilton Jordan—“the Palestinians are the n****ers of the Middle East”—and Carter’s own mainline-Protestant reverence for the “holy men” of Iran’s 1979 Iranian revolution. It goes beyond the post-colonial theory of liberal academia. For Obama, it is a matter of personal experience. His father and stepfather were Third World Muslims, his mother was an anthropologist who dedicated her life to protecting the traditional culture of Indonesia against the scourge of globalization, and four years of his childhood were spent at an Indonesian school. The same point has been made by Dinesh d’Souza, among others.
Obama’s commitment to rapprochement with Iran arises from deep personal identification with the supposed victims of imperialism. That is incongruous, to be sure. Persia spent most of its history as one of the nastier imperial powers, and its present rulers are no less ambitious in their pursuit of a pocket empire in the Shi’ite world. The roots of his policy transcend rationality. Israel can present all the evidence in the world of Iran’s plans to build nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and the Iranians can cut the Geneva accord into confetti. Obama will remain unmoved. His heart, like his late mother’s, beats for the putatively oppressed peoples of the so-called Third World.
No factor of this sort was present in 1938: Neville Chamberlain did not sympathize with Hitler. He simply feared him and needed time to rearm, as the Wall Street Journal’s Mr. Stephens observes. If Lord Halifax rather than Chamberlain had been prime minister then, the parallel to Obama would be stronger.
I do not know how Israel will respond. There are too many unknowns in the shifting political equation of the Middle East to solve that equation. But the facts on the ground support the Israeli view that the Geneva accord puts the Jewish State at existential risk.
A regular topic on recent Need To Know podcasts has been the incredible drop in New York City's violent crime rate during the 20 years, as well as the likelihood that this trend will reverse under Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio. On multiple occasions, the hosts have approved of how the the mayors' policies have "kept guns off the streets."
For the sake of argument, let us stipulate that Giuliani and Bloomberg's policies -- including the (effective) handgun ban within the city -- have been major contributors to the city's turn around. If so, under what circumstances will private citizens' 2nd Amendment rights be restored?
In nearly every other major American city, the citizens' right to protect themselves and their families is respected, if highly-regulated. While I favor low barriers to permitting, high barriers are infinitely superior to (functionally) absolute ones like New York's. Even here in liberal Massachusetts -- indeed, Boston and it's suburbs -- it's possible* for a law-abiding citizen to obtain an unrestricted license that allows him or her to carry a concealed weapon in public for purposes of self defense.
Muggers, thieves, and other criminals should fear the police, and NYC is a fantastic example of what a robust -- arguably, too robust -- police force can do. But even a force of 34,000 can not be everywhere at once. A roll-down of the city's handgun ban -- coupled with a reasonable licensing scheme -- would give the city's culture time to adapt, ensure that weapons do not fall into the wrong hands, and allow citizens to protect themselves.
When, in short, will criminals have reason to fear the common citizen again?
UPDATE: Since posting this, it has come to my attention that the NYPD has issued notices to residents, ordering them to surrender all legally purchased rifles or shotguns that don't meet post-Newton specifications. These include bolt-action .22 rifles with magazines. These are weapons almost singularly unuseful to criminals.
* Class-A licenses are issued by the Commonwealth, but approved at the discretion of local police departments. Police attitudes vary widely from town-to-town, but there are places within easy commuting distance of Boston where police have a healthy attitude toward citizens' self-defense.
From this morning's installment of Mike Allen's Politico Playbook newsletter:
EXCLUSIVE: Top officials from past presidential campaigns have quietly formed a group to push for major changes in the general-election debates, with recommendations expected by late spring. The working group is questioning the debates' format, moderator-selection process and location: Might a TV studio make more sense than a college town? Members said a major goal is to make more allowance for changing technology and the rise of social media. A likely recommendation is an earlier start for the debates, in response to the increase in absentee voting.
Members include the longtime lead debate negotiator for each party: Bob Bauer for Democratic nominees and Ben Ginsberg for the Republicans. So the Annenberg Working Group on Presidential General Election Debates could have a profound effect on the signature fall events of the race for the White House. The group's co-chairs were top debate-prep advisers to each of the 2012 nominees: Anita Dunn for President Obama, and Beth Myers for Mitt Romney.
The group is sponsored by the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, debate expert and Annenberg professor, leads the study. Myers said the group had its genesis in a conversation she had with Dunn at a post-election forum held by Jamieson: "We were chatting about: Are we doing the moderators correctly? Is the timing right? Is the format right? What is the involvement of new media? Are they even being held in the right place? We were all sort of unhappy to be in Hempstead, New York, in October." Jamieson said: "We're not saying something is broken and we're trying to fix it. We're saying there's an enormous potential here for voter learning, and asking if there's a way to increase the number of people who benefit from that.'
Wait, that's it? Your big-think reformulation is relocating to San Diego and better integrating Pinterest? Count me underwhelmed.
Surely the Ricochetti can do better than that. What changes do you think would make for better, more informative presidential debates?
In a Collective, Trickle Down Is as Good as It GetsNovember 27, 2013
There are many candidates for what I would call the original sin of modern statism. One that I frequently encounter is the "Magic Money" view of income distribution – the presumption that newly-created value exists as a steady flow of wealth that belongs, a priori, to government.
Collectivism, thereby, is the natural state – all subsequent distributions of said wealth are directed (or misdirected) by the government planners we elect/appoint.
Thus can progressive politicians with very different speechwriters stumble into the same bewildering formulation: "You didn't build that." (Both Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren spouted nearly-identical versions of that under-appreciated profession of faith.)
The Magic Money theory lends very convenient support to a great many progressive misadventures. Is government collecting/spending in areas where government has no legitimate power? No matter! It's the government's money anyway! Does someone named Koch have earnings greater than someone else's? "Redistributing what the government gave him" feels a lot less like stealing – so let's do it and feel superior. Oh, and when the fiscal/monetary planners dangle enormous sums of Magic Money before ravenous throngs of carpetbaggers/supplicants, well, who want to be the buzzkill when a party like that is raging?
For those of us who have to work in the real economy, life is different. Prosperity, if we can achieve it, exists despite the efforts of the central planners. They do their utmost to hinder our efforts to produce. When we do it anyway, we create value for ourselves, our employees and our customers. That's where prosperity really comes from – not from the diktat of some regulator who spends expropriated money on this or that project.
But alas, if you are the recipient of that spending, Magic Money is real enough – who cares where it came from. Even to a bystander, that cash-drop certainly sure looks like real economic activity – why not demand more of it? Heck, why not do it everywhere?
If you had access to a spigot that poured out Magic Money, wouldn't you use it to feed the poor? Then maybe divert some of it toward consolidating your political power?
Or would you consolidate your political power by appearing to feed the poor? Does that formula seem familiar to you? It does to me.
Government grabbing the pie image via Shutterstock.
I have two wonderful daughters, 11 and 9½. The eldest loves to read, play Minecraft and draw (dragons mostly). The youngest likes cute animals, giving “spa treatments” to her doll collection, and getting on her sister’s nerves.
And if you disagree with my political views, blame them.
In newly published findings that challenge earlier research, Dalton Conley of New York University and Emily Rauscher of the University of Kansas found that having more daughters than sons and having a daughter first “significantly reduces the likelihood of Democratic identification and significantly increases the strength of Republican Party identification.”
Not only is the daughter effect statistically significant, it’s substantively large. They found that overall, “compared to those with no daughters, parents with all daughters are 14% less likely to identify as a Democrat….[and] 11% more likely to identify as a Republican than parents with no daughters,” they write in the journal Sociological Forum.
… their findings are consistent with a recent study that found boys who grew up with sisters in the house were more likely to identify as adults with the Republican Party.
Since the GOP and Democrats are often called the “Daddy” and “Mommy” Party respectively, why would having a daughter move parents to the right? The sociologists who conducted the study don’t know for sure, but speculate that parents of girls are more attracted to socially conservative policies.
I'm pretty sure I was conservative in the womb and if anything I’ve trended more libertarian since becoming a dad. My wife is decidedly more conservative now than she was when I rushed her to the delivery room.
Why do you think daughters drive parents toward conservatism?
American Girl image via Shutterstock.
Robert Shibley and I Examine ‘Why Speech Codes Endure’November 27, 2013
Today over at the Pope Center blog, FIRE Senior VP Robert Shibley and I try to get to the bottom of why campus speech codes are still alive and kicking:
Campus speech codes are losers, both in the court of law and the court of public opinion. They expose campuses to liability in free speech lawsuits and mockery in the media. No fewer than two dozen speech codes have been defeated in court or withdrawn after a lawsuit was filed since the dawn of the modern campus speech codes era in the late 1980s.
So why then do campus speech codes and selective censorship endure? It’s likely the result of a confluence of factors that have been at work for decades now: the dramatic expansion of the bureaucratic class at universities; a campus culture that encourages both a “right not to be offended” and the idea of “free speech for me but not for thee;” and legal and regulatory incentives that often make free speech the last concern of university lawyers.
The last point there is often missed. Speech codes endure partially because the legal incentives to keep them encourage administrators to overreact to speech, not protect it. I think there is little hope in stopping campus speech codes if the legal incentives are not reset:
In order for the attitude of those in charge on campuses to change it’s necessary to alter the cost-benefit analysis they perform. There are a number of ways to do this.
Perhaps the most obvious is that colleges need to have more fear of First Amendment lawsuits and the resulting embarrassment. This could be accomplished several ways: a larger number of lawsuits, larger attorneys’ fees and judgments in such lawsuits, the piercing of the “qualified immunity” that keeps administrators off the hook for their terrible decisions, greater awareness of the problem, and greater media attention to it.
Full article here.
Relative to the National Ricochet Members Meet Up on Mackinac Island next June, I'll be interviewed on statewide radio and a Fox TV affiliate Monday. Considering that membership is the lifeblood of this site, and the key to attending the meet up, what words or phrases do my fellow Ricochetti think would get Midwesterners to fork over $29.95 ?
I'm very pleased to share the Facebook Event Page here, which contains a partial listing of the editors and main feed authors who are coming to our meet up. Remember to sign up early for important updates, either on Facebook or at Eventbrite, and reserve your room before Christmas, as the resort will sell out quickly, either with our group, or someone else.
The other night, my husband and I were at a sports bar watching a North Carolina basketball game when all of a sudden the channel on the big screen was switched to “Say Yes to the Dress.” You heard me right. The TLC reality show about women shopping for the perfect wedding dress.
Convinced it was a mistake, we waited for the channel to switch back to the game. Instead, all the waitresses hovered around the big screen like a flock of blackbirds, giggling and pointing. When our waitress finally wandered over, I asked her what was going on. She said one of the waitresses was on the show.
I admit, while I tried to focus on the game playing silently on one of the smaller screens, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the squeals about necklines and lace. My husband just shook his head and ordered another ale. “This sports bar needs to have its man card revoked.”
I laughed because at my house the man card is revoked any time there’s a spider or bug to be seen. The guys in my house have a visceral fear of insects and it’s my job to hunt and squish.
That got me thinking about the things men do that require revocation of their man cards. High on my list is a man who demeans good, respectful, conservative women (yeah, I’m talking to you Martin Bashir, and Chris Matthews, and, well, pretty much all the men at MSNBC). Another is a man who can’t compete and puts down others who do compete—basically most liberal men.
So, Ricochetti, when do you think men should have their man cards revoked? When they go to the auto shop to have a wiper installed, when they watch The Notebook (alone), when they manscape?
And how about this—if men should have their man cards revoked when they get all girlie, should women have their girl cards revoked when they act like men? Or is masculinity in a realm all its own?
I'm a 64-year-old grandfather of two great kids, an eight-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl. My wife and I recently spent a week visiting our son and his family, and we particularly enjoyed spending time with the children. They are friendly and warm, and they like learning things. They're the kind of kids who look you in the eye when they're talking to you, ask good questions, and seem to be genuinely interested not only in the answers but in you as you're giving them. They're good company.
My wife spent much of the week in the kitchen with both kids, teaching them to make things like carrot cupcakes and what she says is a simplified version of Julia Child's beef bourgignon. I spent much of the time working in the yard, mainly with my son, but also with both kids whenever they were available.
My son had been planning for some time to build the kids a treehouse around a big elm they've got in the back, and he saved the project for my visit. When we arrived, all the lumber and equipment were waiting in the backyard. So we went ahead and dove into the project, and it went great. The problem is that apparently my son and I went too far in trusting my grandchildren with the tools and equipment.
My daughter-in-law came flying out of the house when she saw my granddaughter up the eight-foot ladder, reaching out with a level to check the evenness of a plank that I was marking for drilling against the side of the treehouse. What she saw was a little girl at the top of a ladder, leaning forward and about to lose her balance. What I saw was a little girl at the top of a ladder, leaning forward with complete confidence and assurance, in no danger at all of losing her balance, totally focused on the job at hand and doing a great job at it.
That was the first sign of trouble, and it only worsened when my daughter-in-law found us sawing wood. My son has a circular saw that he had set up in the back, and the kids and I were holding onto the outer edge of a wide board to keep it even while my son guided it through the saw. The board was about seven feet wide, which is why my son needed help keeping it balanced and straight. Because of the size of the board, the kids were never close to the blade. Still, my daughter-in-law came outside when she heard the saw going and went out of her mind when she saw the kids near it.
We agreed to keep the kids away from the saw, but my daughter-in-law was so on edge at that point that everything became problematic from then on -- the kids shouldn't hammer nails because they could hammer their fingers, we shouldn't let them climb up into the treehouse before the ladder was done because they'd try to jump out and could hurt themselves, etc etc. It's a real shame, because the kids are smart and I believe they can be trusted not to do anything foolish. My daughter-in-law felt that it's our obligation to protect them, that they might not be able to judge what can hurt them and what can't. What do you think?
Let me say first of all that your grandchildren are tremendously lucky to have such fun and engaged grandparents. A week spent making yummy stuff in the kitchen and building a treehouse in the backyard sounds truly fantastic.
Your daughter-in-law is right that children can't always tell what's dangerous and what isn't. She's wrong, though, in her belief that adults must therefore prevent children from ever being exposed to danger. That is, in fact, the best way to ensure that they never develop the ability to assess risk.
Her intentions are good, but she wants to protect them from everything imaginable, and that impulse can be dangerously counterproductive. In addition to compromising the kids' development of any self-preservation skills, it can cause them to internalize an image of themselves as fragile, delicate plants at the mercy of a hostile environment.
The drive to prevent exposure to even minimal danger is not unlike the craze to provide an antiseptic environment for children: kids who are never exposed to any germs never develop any resistance, and kids who never fall down and skin their knees or bang a thumb instead of a nail don't learn balance or aim. They also don't have a heck of a lot of fun.
Now, I will admit as a parent that the notion of allowing my young children near an active circular saw does give me pause. But I would allow it under the circumstances you describe, in which their father and grandfather are on hand to instruct them carefully and monitor their movements. I would allow it in part because I do believe kids are fundamentally sensible and have healthy instincts to protect themselves, and in part because I would want to show their father that I respect his judgment with regard to the kids' safety. And that brings me to an important point.
You do not, alas, have much of a role in this. As the grandparent, your job is not to offer unsolicited parenting advice; it is to be a source of relaxation and delight for your grandchildren (a task at which you and your wife appear to be succeeding admirably). You're right that there's a problem here, but it's for your son and daughter-in-law to work out. The most you can do is suggest that they talk about their different approaches to child-rearing, and even that will have to be broached with extreme delicacy if neither of them has brought it up with you as an issue.
I do hope they have that conversation, though. Your son and his wife need to set some ground rules they can both feel comfortable with. If they don't, she could end up feeling badly frightened and undermined, and he could end up feeling seriously disrespected.
Got a question for Penelope? Write to AskPenelope@ricochet.com.
Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. Neither Ricochet nor the writer of this column accepts any liability for the outcome or results of following the advice in this column. Ricochet reserves the right to edit letters for length and clarity.
My late grandmother could put more elegance to language than anyone I've ever known. She could also eviscerate an adversary and shred their arguments into fine little pieces suitable for slicing tomatoes, but that's another story entirely. There was one phrase in particular that seemed almost musical in its graceful refinement. She always employed it when praying for our family when we were about to make a long trip, kindly asking The Almighty to extend us, "traveling mercies."
This delightfully antiquated and genteel turn of expression occurred to me last Saturday when I had a close call on the highway. Traveling south of Erie, Pennsylvania, I first ran smack into the "lake effect" snow machine. What had started as a few stray flakes in the wind, as if someone in the vehicle in front of me had a dandruff problem, suddenly became a wall of white, with snowflakes as large as quarters quickly piling onto the windshield. There's a way to handle that, and I'll get to it in a moment — but first, the event:
Continuing down I-71 toward Columbus, Ohio, the snow was sporadic and mostly uneventful, though northbound truckers were alerting us to a bridge about an hour north of Columbus that was completely frozen over. "A solid sheet of ice," one driver said, and as we approached it we could see the result. One SUV was in the ditch in the median, a state trooper parked nearby. Another vehicle had run off the other side of the highway, with a tow truck and another state trooper in attendance. On the far side of the bridge was another vehicle that spun off into the woods, with yet another state trooper there. Those were all on the northbound side. On the southbound side, where I was headed, one vehicle had spun into the railing of the bridge, with a state trooper in attendance and an ambulance pulling up to it. Another vehicle had spun off the highway, with another ambulance pulling up as well. It usually requires a parade to produce this many blinking lights.
Having already downshifted to 8th gear (about 30 mph), I wanted to ease across the thing without applying any brakes or throttle, with minimum steering, just letting quiet inertia bring me to my goal … sort of like the RNC's theory of winning elections. And with about as much success. The rear end of the tractor lost traction and began sliding to my left, as if out from under me. As I found in the military, good training pays off. I engaged the clutch immediately while applying no brake or throttle. Simultaneously, a sort of tunnel vision occurred as I found a fixed object in front of me and gently steered toward that object.
There was minimal response to my steering, so I figured I was pretty much without traction. I didn't check the mirrors to see where the trailer was because I didn't want to take my eyes off of that point of reference toward which I was steering. Besides, if the trailer passed me up, there wasn't a helluva lot I could do about it, and to take my eyes off the reference point would only make things worse. My fear was that anyone alongside of me was now in mortal danger, and there was that car and ambulance on the right-side rail.
Fortunately, as events seemed about to spin out of control, I reached the end of the bridge, which brought dry pavement. The truck righted itself quickly and the trailer wasn't so far out of kilter that it didn't fall in line too. I found a nice truck stop and, over a hot meal, meditated on, A) the fact that the laws of physics respect no one, and B) the humility that accompanied my suspicion that some person or persons had prayed for "traveling mercies" for me that day.
I would be eternally thankful on Thanksgiving, if I could pass along a few items as you embark on your holiday travels, and so with your kind indulgence:
* A warmer windshield is a great antidote to snow accumulation that could block your field of vision. I turn up the heat, put the thing on "Defrost," and then turn my sun-visors almost straight down, angling them more toward my lap. This helps trap the hot air from the defrost against the windshield a bit longer, which in turn will not only melt the snow quicker, but will lessen ice build-up on the wiper blades themselves, making them more effective.
* Watch your side mirror brackets from time to time. If there's ice build-up on them (from road spray of other vehicles), chances are the roads are starting to freeze. Greater still is the possibility that bridges will be icy.
* Highway exits and entrances are often more icy than the highway surface itself, meaning that getting on or off the highway could be particularly tricky.
* In foggy condition, it's best not to drive faster than your field of vision, meaning that if you can only see 20 yards in front of you it's best to drive at a speed that will allow you to stop within 20 yards. If it's simultaneously foggy and icy, I can recommend several places that serve good coffee. Find one please. In fact, I'm writing this piece tonight precisely because I had to shut down early due to fog/ice/mountains.
* If you lose traction, as noted above, find a fixed point in front of you (tree line, overhead sign, guardian angel, etc) and steer toward that point. Don't use brakes or gas as that will only make a spin out more likely.
* If you find yourself in icy conditions, allow extra space between you and everyone else. Don't travel in the pack, because their mistake will become your emergency. For that matter, that's a good rule of thumb in good conditions as well.
* I have almost a million miles under my belt in a big rig. The laws of physics remain singularly unimpressed with my accomplishment. No matter how many times you've driven that stretch of highway, immunity will not be forthcoming. When it comes to driving, you're only as good as what you are doing in the present tense.
* Give big trucks even more room than usual when driving in winter conditions.
* Give RVs as much space as you should give big trucks.
* Watch other vehicles and try and deduce the worst possible thing they could do at any given time. It's a fun way to occupy the mind and a great deal of the time they will do it ... and you'll be ready.
* In a major traffic jam, the lane that moves fastest is often the lane that is closed further ahead. Best bet is to select the lane with the highest number of big trucks.
* It's a good idea to carry a few extra items during the winter. Blankets and some food and water are nice to have. Kitty litter is great for gaining a little traction should your vehicle get stuck on ice. A flashlight is a must, and a hammer helps should you need to actually break up the ice around your tires before throwing down the kitty litter. For that matter, a car charger for your cell phone isn't a bad idea either.
* If you don't feel safe in inclement weather or road conditions, find a place to stop. Bad driving conditions will cause you to fatigue quicker than usual, slowing your reaction time behind the wheel. Grandma's house will still be there the next day. My biggest fear on Saturday was that this behemoth I drive might hurt someone, and there's no freight in the world worth doing that. The same basic principle applies in your travels as well.
* If you have a smartphone, WeatherBug is a great app. I use it constantly. There are many wonderful apps out there, and they will give weather alerts on your current location, and many include detailed weather radar so you can see what you are driving into. Likewise, there are many great apps that detail what motels, restaurants, etc., are in your immediate vicinity should you find that you need to pull over.
* To this great and extended family of mine on Ricochet, Happy Thanksgiving! May "traveling mercies" be yours now and always.
To believe that a growing population is the essential precondition for a growing economy (calculated, of course, on a per capita basis, which is the only measure that matters) is not to have noticed that we have passed the peak of labor-intensive industrial production. It’s also to ignore the costs that a revival of the birth rate will bring in its wake.
Cash-strapped France may be about to find this out.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
BOUSIGNIES, France—With nearly 30% more children than five years ago, the two-classroom elementary school in this tiny northern French village is bursting at its seams: Preschoolers bunch together in a narrow room for naps and teachers can barely pass through the crowded canteen at lunch. But the village has struggled to cover the €1 million ($1.35 million) cost of building a new school, and budget cuts have reduced state support for the plan….
With an average 2.01 children born to every woman, France boasts the highest birthrate in the European Union after Ireland and, in recent years, has been producing babies at rates not seen in the country since the 1970s. The ratio is a source of national policy pride: While Europe's overall population is projected to decline in the coming decades, France's is expected to grow, providing a more stable group of working adults to help support both the young and old.
France has achieved its mini baby boom with some of Europe's most generous subsidies for families, as well as child-care access. Spending on family policy—including subsidies, tax breaks for parents and state-funded help for housing—equals nearly 4% of the country's gross domestic product, the highest ratio among the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development's 34 industrialized member countries and nearly double the 2.2% average. But Bousignies's financial challenges provide a window into the flip side of France's baby surge. More babies, children and students need nurseries, schools and universities—infrastructure the French government is increasingly struggling to finance off a deficit-ridden budget.
Well, at least those babies will one day fill France’s labor shortage.
Many young adults remain under direct state assistance—through an array of social security allowances— because the country isn't creating enough jobs. A new financial-support program to assist as many as 100,000 unemployed youth is projected to cost up to €600 million a year…. French unemployment has risen to a 15-year high of 11%.
Quite how the future unemployed are going to pay for the pensions of the future retired remains, of course, unexplained.
From the Los Angeles Times' Politics Now blog:
President Obama told a heckler who interrupted a speech on immigration Monday that he will not circumvent Congress and try to halt deportations by executive order because the U.S. is “a nation of laws.”
“Please use your executive order!” shouted the heckler, who was standing behind Obama onstage, close enough to be in the television camera shot during an event in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Urging the president to give immediate relief to those separated from their families at Thanksgiving, he yelled, “You have the power to stop deportations!”
[... T]he solution to the problem “won’t be as easy as just shouting,” he said to the young man. “If you’re serious about making that happen, then I’m willing to work with you.”
“The easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws,” he said. “What I’m proposing is the harder path” of trying to get the law changed.
And who was that mysterious young man heckling him from the crowd? Presumably, in one of those crazy time travel mix-em-ups, it was Barack Obama from June of 2012. Remember that guy?:
President Obama said Friday the United States will stop deporting hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants and give them work permits, a move praised fellow Democrats but criticized by Republicans on Capitol Hill who said the administration has side-stepped the country’s legislative process.
It's not even the hypocrisy or the rank dishonesty anymore. It's just the brass with which it's delivered.
Recently, Bucky Boz asked Ricochet members for suggested reading in the fields of politics, philosophy, and economics. As one would expect from such a literate and thoughtful group, members responded with a wide array of important, informative, and insightful titles ranging from Aristotle to Jonah Goldberg.
Perusing the suggestions, I had two somewhat complementary thoughts. First: if I were going to compile a list of books for the purpose of converting someone to conservatism or providing them with intellectual support for the conservative worldview, I cannot think of a title that was not suggested by a Ricochet member. My second thought was that the suggestions in aggregate could form the basis for a conservative version of the Left Book Club. With very limited exceptions, none of the recommendations were for books which come from the left of the ideological center.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with conservatives reading conservative literature. Indeed, I would prefer a well-read conservative to an instinctive or reactionary conservative, just as I prefer thoughtful leftists to the ignorant Occupy Wall Streeters. Nonetheless, I was a bit surprised by the lack of ideological diversity among the reading suggested by members. At the very least, it is useful to familiarize yourself with the arguments and thinking of your opponents, if only to better refute them. Going further, I wonder how solid a conservatism is that has never been challenged in a serious way. Socrates claimed that an unexamined life is not worth living. Are unexamined or unchallenged ideological positions really all that secure?
I’m confident that Ricochet members have given a good deal of thought to their beliefs and have engaged the arguments of the other side and found them wanting. What I’d like to do in this post is ask everyone to say which books they have read that most effectively challenged their conservative beliefs. I’ll provide a few examples from my own reading.
A Theory of Justice by John Rawls — Essentially, Rawls argues for radical redistribution at all levels of society. This may not seem to be a particularly difficult argument for a conservative (or a libertarian such as myself) to refute, but Rawls strengthens his argument substantially by using the language of classical liberalism and the Lockean social contract. His constructs of the Veil of Ignorance and Difference Principle are hard to refute if you accept their premises. Ultimately, I think Robert Nozick successfully refuted Rawls in Anarchy, State, and Utopia, but A Theory of Justice provides the strongest arguments in favor of a redistributive regime that I have come across. It has influenced a generation of left-wing political philosophy (despite — or perhaps because of — the fact that it is an incredibly difficult read due to Rawls' turgid and incomprehensible prose).
How Judges Think by Richard Posner — Richard Posner is the most influential American appellate judge of the last 40 years and is a leading figure in the field of law and economics. In this book, he argues that judges should approach deciding cases from an essentially pragmatic perspective rather than adhering to any particular jurisprudential doctrine such as textualism or Justice Breyer’s “active liberty.” Posner makes a compelling argument on utilitarian grounds and demonstrates fairly convincingly that most judges are functionally pragmatic to the extent that they are not motivated by ideology. His criticisms of Justice Scalia’s brand of textualist originalism are particularly thought-provoking.
I remain a proponent of textualism, but I find Posner’s arguments very attractive, both because he is a persuasive writer and because I’d be tempted to endorse judicial pragmatism if I could be assured that all judges who pragmatically approached cases would rule the same way Judge Posner would. (I know he’s said some negative things about markets recently and he has stated that he regretted upholding Indiana’s voter ID law, but on the whole his rulings are substantively what I’d want in a judge.)
The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell — While there has been a substantial effort among conservatives to recast Orwell as a figure of the Right, the fact is that, though he was staunchly anti-authoritarian, he was a lifelong socialist (admittedly somewhat of a contradiction).
In The Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell describes the living conditions of the poor in the North of England and makes an argument about why socialism has failed to gain support among the very people it purports to empower. The reason I found this book ideologically challenging is that the living conditions of the people Orwell described were truly appalling and did in fact improve dramatically with the advent of the highly regulated post-war welfare state. In my daily life, I constantly find myself making the argument that correlation does not equal causation, but it is virtually impossible to deny that laissez-faire economics had not been the boon to the coal miners of Wigan that it had to others. While I believe in the ultimate superiority of the market's creative destruction over the secure stagnation of regulation, I think it would be hard to make that argument to someone facing the despair of the dole or the hellish conditions of the coal mines.
Anyway, I’d like to know if there are books which have had a similar impact upon you. What books have challenged your beliefs or made you question your assumptions?
Nearly a year after the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, we're sure to be revisiting the story again now that a new report has been released that shows "no conclusive motive" for the crime. If there's one thing we can count on, it will be a lack of tact from the press.
Mass shootings occur in the United States with frightening regularity. Since 2006 there have been 174 of them, claiming the lives of over 900 people. That’s one mass shooting every two weeks for seven years. Not all of these incidents have made national headlines. And even fewer enter the collective consciousness of the nation. When they do, however — when a shooting is picked up by national media outlets — it’s the same coverage every time.
Within minutes, network talking heads are discussing the unfolding tragedy, couching it within the particulars of the state’s firearm policy. Just as fast, tweets and Facebook posts from elected officials are broadcast across the nation on all the major networks, turning tragedy into opportunity for the politically savvy.
Both Republicans and Democrats develop talking points, using the same tragic event to support their divergent positions. On the heels of each shooting comes a press conference, family members of the victims trotted out, and public officials offering their condolences. It’s an environment that exploits tragedy.
I’m not saying debate shouldn’t take place, and I’m not saying condolences shouldn’t be offered. I’m saying coverage of mass shootings has become competitive and political — and I think that’s wrong.
Public officials need to back off. At the risk of sounding cynical, I think it’s impossible for condolences to be sincere when offered through a public medium, especially by someone whose livelihood depends on public opinion. Opportunity for ulterior motives abounds.
I don’t claim to know what coverage of these tragic events should look like or how best to be respectful of victims and their families. I suspect it involves separating the politics from the people and allowing victims and their families space to grieve.
I’m tired of the talk show parade following every tragic mass shooting. These shootings are horrific, and I understand that something needs to be done. In a majority of the mass shootings since 1982 the murder weapon was obtained legally and the killer had exhibited prior signs of mental illness — that might be a good place to start; but the debate over mental health and gun control shouldn’t ebb and flow with each mass shooting.
Isn’t exploiting tragedy the wrong way to bring about change?
Aldous Huxley once said, "most people have an infinite capacity for taking things for granted."
Taking things for granted may be a flaw, but it's a very human one. We're born helpless, so we have to take for granted that someone will care for us until we can care for ourselves. Along the way, though, I hope most of us learn gratitude, the antidote to taking things for granted and feeling entitled. We all need to be reminded, however, which is why I have always appreciated the Thanksgiving story. As a child, I could vividly imagine how grateful the Pilgrims were after their terrible, death-filled first winter, to have food, adequate shelter and hope.
Can you remember when you first started to feel grateful? For many of us, the beginnings of gratitude came from a glimpse of the misfortune of others. I vividly remember when I first learned to be grateful.
I grew up in a farming community in Idaho. My father farmed and my mother taught school. She was a born teacher who was always fretting over the kids' problems and thinking about how to reach the various children in her class. One problem especially bothered my Mom. Every fall migrant workers came to our community to work in the potato harvest. The kids would enroll in school for a few weeks or months and then move on.
Mom was always worried about those kids. She knew that because they were constantly on the move following the harvest, their school attendance would be sketchy, and consequently they'd fall further and further behind and then eventually give up on school. Mom taught the younger grades and saw the children's potential, but knew their future prospects weren't good. She had learned Spanish in college, and she did all she could to impress on the kids and the parents the importance of school. They understood and wanted to educate the kids, but they had to follow the work.
My father sometimes employed migrant workers on our family farm, and one time we became particularly close to a migrant family, the Garcias. After the harvest, my parents tried to find work for them in the off season so that they could stay in our community and the kids could stay in school. They had a daughter my age named Felicia. We became friends and did many things together. I liked that her name meant "happy" because it seemed to fit her. We had a lot of fun together and she taught me Spanish words. The Garcia family also introduced me to Mexican food, which I immediately thought was divine, particularly the homemade tamales. Everyone joked about how many tamales I could put away.
Housing was scarce in our little farming community, so the family made their home in a boxcar. Many farmers hauled in boxcars in those days to use for storage, but they provided housing in a pinch. I think I first became grateful for what I had when I visited Felicia in their boxcar home. We didn't have a fancy house, but we had all the modern conveniences. I looked around that boxcar, so big and bare and cold, and felt very sorry that my friends didn't have heat, indoor plumbing or bedrooms. I remember specifically feeling sorry they didn't live in a house and grateful that I did. Like all kids, I celebrated days off school, but from them I learned to be grateful that I could go to school.
Eventually the Garcias had to move on because there wasn't enough work to keep them in our community. I sometimes think about them when I enjoy Mexican food–for which I am, to this day, profoundly grateful!
Do you remember how you learned to be thankful?
From today's "Apostolic Exhortation," posted, for now, without comment:
54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting....
204. We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.
The Obama Administration’s proposed deal with Iran raises grave concerns about nuclear proliferation, the war on terror and the balance of power in the Middle East. But let’s focus on the real story: Improperly crediting my Photoshop images.
The Drudge Report’s top story, titled "Peace in our Time," is promoted with a magnificent photo illustration which has since appeared across the Net. It is so magnificent, in fact, that I immediately recognized it as my own. (False humility is a sin, people.)
At first I was excited, then bummed to find I wasn’t credited or linked for my Barack Chamberlain graphic.
I sent the image around Twitter over the weekend, but originally created it for my old blog in 2008. As usual, I embedded a watermark, but, as usual, some nefarious photo editor removed it to push it as their own. Drudge probably found one of the edited versions, slapped it on his website and moved on. I certainly doubt there was any ill intent on his part.
Every so-so blogger has had his/her content appropriated without credit. This goes triple for Photoshoppers. Annoying, but not the end of the world. I just wanted the Internet history books to show that it was I who created the masterpiece and the billions in royalties should be sent to my home address.
Genius photoshop by me.
Before I opine on the document the Pope published today, portions of which are--well, as I say, before I get started--could one of the many serious and informed Catholics here on Ricochet fill me in?
To what extent is assent to an "Apostolic Exhortation," the category into which the new document falls, meant to be binding upon the conscience of the faithful?
In my latest weekly column for Hoover's Defining Ideas, I look at the situation that Janet Yellen will inherit when she becomes the new Chair of the Federal Reserve and come to this conclusion: the Fed should focus solely on price stability, not also on unemployment, which has been part of its charge since 1977. As I write:
Why does anyone believe that the Fed can use monetary policy as a tool to reduce the level of unemployment? To fancy macroeconomists, monetary and fiscal policies can reduce unemployment. But just how is this supposed to work? The federal government decides to keep the interest rates low to make it easier for businesses to borrow. But that same policy causes major dislocations to people who are, for instance, trying to live on the diminished returns to their retirement funds. It is possible to expand the supply of goods, but only at the cost of lowering demand. At best the two policies look like a wash.
Indeed, the present reality is far from ideal for at least three reasons: the Fed’s monetary policies increase the administrative costs of running the system; they increase the levels of uncertainty for both sides of the market; and they subject the Fed to major political pressures that it is not well-equipped to deal with.
The same analysis applies if we look on the fiscal side at the stimulus program. On this issue, economists speak of the so-called multiplier effect, which in ordinary English means that every increase in expenditure generates (successively smaller) second, third, and subsequent rounds of expenditures, so that the overall increase in national income exceeds the initial expenditure. But it does not follow that government expenditures, even on infrastructure, outperform private ones. The real question is the trade-off at the margin, and the current spree has probably retarded growth by putting too much money in government hands, thus crowding out capital that could have been better deployed in private hands. Taken together, these two macro-policies have led to economic stagnation.
You can read the whole thing here.
We live in perilous times. Liberty is under attack like never before in our nation, but it doesn’t come in the form of enemies at the gates. It comes from within. It’s the seductive lure of European-style compassion and its promise to create a more secure, equal, and just society through collectivist solutions.
Nowhere is this ideal better elucidated than in Barack Obama’s 2013 inaugural address, in which he said that even though we have always valued hard work and personal responsibility, times change and “so must we.” Life is difficult, and too many people are falling through the cracks. Our commitment to our Founding principles just isn’t working anymore. So we must change by developing “new responses to new challenges.”
We must, Obama declared, realize—after all these many years of failed American exceptionalism—that “preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.” In other words, the Founding principles of individual liberty must now bow to the needs of society. For our nation to be just, some freedom must be sacrificed for the common good.
You see, according to Obama, Americans can’t make it alone, “no single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future.” No single person can “build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.”
In the past, we believed in individuals and their ability to work together voluntarily to care for the poor. But no longer. The individual has failed. Personal responsibility has fallen short. Self-sufficiency is a delusion. No longer can we trust the free markets and the power of hard work, personal initiative, and enterprise. Now, we must join our resources, think as a single unit—as “one”—and through the coercive mechanism of “social justice” cure the ills of society.
“For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it,” Obama proclaimed. “We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eye of God but also in our own.”
And how does she know that she has a chance to succeed? Is it because she believes in herself and lives in a country where she’s free from government oppression to pursue her dreams as best she can? Or is it because the collective promises her material equality—and defines her success in relation to others, not to herself as a unique individual?
Collectivism is Obama’s answer to the inequities of society. It never dawns on him to look to the past, to look to our history, and see the power of capitalism unleashed and how it raises those from the bleakest poverty to the greatest heights. Instead, he measures success by the lowest common denominator and believes that we live in a country where “freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few.”
With a great swelling of faux compassion and concern, he laments that “no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm.” And so what is his solution? The collective, of course, and programs — always more programs. More government, more taxation, more regulation, more redistribution. Faith in the community is the solution, not faith in the individual.
Where have we heard this argument before? Where have we read words nearly identical to those proclaimed by our progressive president in his inaugural speech? Strangely, among conservatives—people so worried about the material inequalities of society (inequalities that have always been with us) that they too are willing to give up liberty to secure a stronger “middle class”—a middle class that in the hands of a collectivist will become a dependent class, not a thriving, free community of hard-working individuals.
These conservatives—along with Obama—fail to grasp what Tocqueville meant when he said that “whatever arrangements are made to ensure equality, they can be made only at the price of withdrawing some degree of liberty. . . . One would like to think there is some middle way between liberty and equality, and sometimes there is, but just as often the two are in irresolvable conflict; present with a clear fork in the road—equality this way, liberty that—no society can take both simultaneously.”
Obama and anyone who looks to the collective to solve the ills of society choose the path of equality, not liberty. Obama’s focus is on a deviant understanding of being created equal—he reads it as a promise to have material equality: “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still. . . that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.”
Obama believes that for us to be truly free, every person on this planet must be materially equal. As long as there is a poor person in America, no one is really free anyway—or so his reasoning goes—so we must do whatever we can—“together”—to create an equal society (and call it the middle class). Otherwise, none of us is really living life to the fullest, none of us is happy, and none of us is truly free.
Such is the seductive message of the progressive, and conservatives are falling for it. They’re falling for it because they have forgotten what they truly believe. They have forgotten that the star that guides us, the hope that sets us free, the light that shines from this great city on the hill is liberty.
In stark contrast to Obama’s 2013 speech is Ronald Reagan’s in 1981. Like Obama, Reagan spoke to a country in economic crisis. But his solution, his focus was very different. Instead of celebrating the collective notion of “yes we can,” Reagan recognized the dignity and worth of the individual—yes, you can!
“If we look to the answer as to why, for so many years, we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here, in this land, we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before,” Reagan said. “Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on Earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price.”
Reagan did not consider hardworking Americans, struggling under an expanding government, as helpless. He saw them as heroes—from the factory worker to the entrepreneur, who had faith in themselves and faith in the idea that through hard work, they could create new jobs, new wealth, and more opportunity. “They are individuals and families whose taxes support the government and whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art, and education. Their patriotism is quiet but deep. Their values sustain our national life.”
What kind of compassion did Reagan believe in? How did he view helping people achieve more “equality,” more success? Was it derived from the collective notions of progressivism that we see bubbling up in conservatism today? No, it was based on the power of the individual, on reaching out and loving our countrymen by helping them when they fall, healing them when they are sick, and providing “opportunities to make them self-sufficient so they will be equal in fact and not just in theory.”
Reagan’s faith was in the American individual. His faith was in you, not we. He believed in “your dreams, your hopes, your goals.” His challenge was that individuals live up to the dignity given to them, not by society, but by God. He challenged Americans to “act worthy of yourselves.” Only then will your happiness and liberty be ensured for generations to come.
The crisis we are facing today does not require collectivist solutions, more programs, or government expansion of the welfare state in any form. It does require a fully functioning, moral civil society, and, as Reagan said, “our best effort, and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds.”
And why should we believe that? Why do we have that hope? Because, as Reagan simply said, “We are Americans.”
We are Americans. We are already equal. Our goal is to preserve our freedom so we can grow, serve, and flourish—so we can become the best we can be as individuals—and as a nation. Unleashed, we have the power to reach the stars, we have the compassion to touch the untouchables, to care for the neglected, to create opportunities through innovation and invention that can better the lives of every person in this nation.
I beg of you, let us not be like the Israelites who were freed by from brutal slavery in Egypt but who, when the journey became difficult, when food became scarce, and when their enemies threatened them in the distance, cried out for their chains: “We might not have been free under Pharaoh’s rule, but we at least we had food—at least we were safe!”
Oh, ye of little faith! Many conservatives speak of compassion, of religious duty, and of social justice to the poor. Yet, the solutions they bring are neither compassionate, faithful, or just. The solutions they propose create dependency, not self-sufficiency; slavery, not freedom; despair, not hope. God wants us free, not enslaved—dependence on him, on ourselves as he created us, is freedom from the bondage of man.
This is the promise, the legacy, of our Founders who built a nation on that belief. Sometimes that freedom might involve hardship. It might mean you eat manna in the desert for years. But it is freedom—glorious freedom—nonetheless. This is the star we look to. This is our guide in the darkness. This is why Patrick Henry declared, “Give me liberty or give me death.”
How far we have fallen! How blinded have we become that our cry now is “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
What is the star that guides you? Is it liberty or something else? What do you believe? Do you believe in yourself or do you believe in the collective? Do you stand with Obama or Reagan? Are you willing to die for your freedom or are you willing to give up your freedom to avoid death—or poverty?
These questions are not mere abstraction. They are not the clarion calls of idealists. They are not echoes from the past that bear little relevance to the present, as Obama would have us believe. They reveal the core of who we are and what we believe. How we answer them will determine where we stand as Americans now and into the future.
Will we be slaves or will we be free? You decide.
Before the advent of The Pill, cautious women were more careful about who they "rewarded" because an unwanted pregnancy was a serious situation. Since The Pill came onto the scene, too many women hook up with an appendage (not a human being) because pregnancy is no longer a concern. Yet somehow millions of American women "experience" unwanted pregnancies that usually end in infanticide or bastardy.
The bottom line is that the root cause of the decline of America and Western civilization is The Pill - seriously. After reading through most of the posts and comments about same-sex marriage, equality, the war on women, ObamaCare, etc., the solution to our downward societal spiral suddenly dawned on me. The breakdown of the family; the loss of the Protestant work ethic; the devaluation of human life; the destruction of our economy; and our unfortunate demographics are all the inevitable results of the almost universal reliance on The Pill as the means to unprotected sex without consequences.
If we ban The Pill, won't men & women, boys & girls be more selective in choosing with whom they have pre-marital coitus? If so, might a reversal of the pornification of America also apply the brakes to the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases?
Then again, who am I kidding? Maybe I should just get with the times and come to grips with the fact that 16 , single, and pregnant with a host of incurable STDs is the new normal for American youth.
*Edited title to read Restrict vice Ban The Pill
Once again, journalist Jonathan Spyer nails it:
The newly announced deal appears to be the outcome of a long, unseen, bilateral negotiation between the US and Iran, which in recent weeks as it neared fruition began to involve the other members of the ‘P-5+1’ countries. That is, the deal is a US production. The Iranian incentive for accepting it is obvious. So the element of interest is in understanding the US motivation for agreeing to an arrangement which so signally fails to address the core concerns regarding Iranian nuclear ambitions.
What has become increasingly clear, and is now unmistakable, is that the present US Administration is simply unconvinced of the arguments made by its key regional allies to the effect that Iranian regional ambitions represent a dangerous destabilizing force in the Mid-East region.
This blindspot of the Administration is strange. The evidence is plain to see. Iran is an active participant in the Syrian civil war. It dominates Lebanon through Hizballah. It is closely allied with the government in Iraq. It is engaged in subversion in Bahrain, north Yemen, Kuwait and eastern Saudi Arabia. It actively sponsors Palestinian terror groups engaged in violence against Israel – most importantly Islamic Jihad and Hamas, but also elements within Fatah.
The nuclear program is intended to render Iran invulnerable to any serious action to resist or turn back its push for regional domination.
But evidence is of little use if the conceptual tools used for processing it are flawed. This Administration in its record on the Middle East appears to have a unique ability not to see the approach of danger.
Read the whole thing.
Let’s go through the lowlights:
- Organizing for America has seen fit to send out talking points telling people how to advocate in favor of Obamacare over Thanksgiving dinner. These people are a laugh riot.
- More cyber security problems we were assured we would never have to put up with.And still more.
- Scary sentence of the day: “A final ‘pre-flight checklist’ before the Web site’s Oct. 1 opening, compiled a week before by CMS, shows that 41 of 91 separate functions that CGI was responsible for finishing by the launch were still not working.” More here. None of these stories will stop some advocates of big government from continuing to be advocates of big government, but do we really have to cast around for moreevidence of government ineptitude before we conclude that perhaps, just perhaps, some things ought to be left to a more efficient and competent private sector?
- Speaking of which, concerns that Obamacare’s failure undermine the core arguments of contemporary American liberalism continue to grow. This should surprise no one, really, but I presume that certain port-siders will claim to be smacked by gob thanks to articles like Franklin Foer’s.
- Paul Krugman seems to think that the news surrounding the state health care exchange in California means that Obamacare can work nationwide. Veronique de Rugy and Bob Laszewski know better, and prove that they know better.
- Yet another scary sentence of the day: “Enrollment in the Affordable Care Act through Colorado’s health insurance exchange is barely half the state’s worst-case projection, prompting demands from exchange board members for better stewardship of public money.”
- For Kathleen Sebelius, when it rains, it pours.
- Well, at least someone might be profiting thanks to HealthCare.gov’s failures.