GOP 2016: Drop Anti-SSM Plank or Drop Party Platform Entirely?

 

platformAt Hot Air yesterday, Noah Rothman asked: “Will opposition to gay marriage disappear from the GOP’s party platform?” Rothman claims that only “vicious partisans” on either side of the aisle care about platforms. I don’t know about vicious, but he’s right to say the whole platform process is outdated.

In national election years, the candidate at the top of the ticket becomes the embodiment of the party platform. Who cares about the student government-like exercise of delegates voting on an official statement of principles? Its sole purpose has become putting a social issues face on the punching bag for media coverage. The prelude to convention coverage becomes a series of divisive stories about how Republicans continue to be out of touch with young voters and emerging trends (as defined by MSM reporters). I do so hate it when they’re right.

Rothman cites polls indicating that voter sentiment on same-sex marriage is trending away from the traditional view, even among Republicans in states like New Hampshire and South Carolina. Younger voters with strong views about personal freedom are clearly leading the charge. So why not cancel the scheduled media event of a party platform debate on SSM? Isn’t the convention mostly just a kick-off event for the fall campaign anyway? Won’t social issues be pushed enough by the liberal press without Republicans themselves initiating the blood-letting?

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The article, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, says newborn babies are not “actual persons” and do not have a “moral right to life”. The academics also argue that parents should be able to have their baby killed if it turns out to be disabled when it is born. The journal’s editor, Prof Julian Savulescu, […]

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How do Republicans Think About Income Inequality? How Should They? 5 Key Points

 

great_recession_inequality_shutterstock_022515It’s not just left-wing progressives and Occupy Wall Street remnants who think US income inequality is a problem. A large 2014 Pew poll found that about two-thirds of Americans think the income gap has gotten worse and that government has a role in reducing that difference. Even 45% of Republicans think government should do something.

But do what exactly? Noam Scheiber in The New York Times summarizes research that found just 13% of wealthy Americans said government should “reduce the differences in income between people with high incomes and those with low incomes.” And only 17% percent said the government should “redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich.” (Also, according to a different study, the wealthy view the income gap as reflecting the results of individual choices and mistakes rather than larger forces.) The rest of America, on the other hand, finds more appealing the idea of tax-driven redistribution. Scheiber points to a 2013 Gallup poll that found by 52%-45% Americans think wealth should be more evenly distributed with 52%-45% favoring tax hikes on the wealthy.

How will the next US president see things? The same as their donors, according to Scheiber:

A Welcome Extinction

 

imageAmerica’s 39th president doesn’t not come in for much praise here on Ricochet but the excellent — and nearly complete — work his foundation has been doing to eradicate the guinea worm in Africa deserves some attention. I dare say, the world owes Jimmy Carter a round of applause.

The guinea worm is a nasty piece of work. Like many other parasites, it infects different species at different stages of its lifecycle, culminating in humans in its adult stage. I’ll spare you the details, suffice to say that it emerges from a blister in leg or foot and the only thing to do is to pull the cursed thing — all three feet (~90 cm) of it — out of the skin inch-by-inch, lest it break and become infected inside someone’s leg or foot. Washing the wound in water apparently eases the pain, but is also exactly what the worm wants, as it allows it to release its back eggs into the water supply and start the process over.

Fortunately, the worm has two weaknesses: the copepods it infects immediately before getting into humans are big enough to be caught by inexpensive water filters, and keeping those who are infected away from standing water robs it of an opportunity to find copepods. The results of the Carter Center’s education, filtration, and health programs: last year, there were 126 documented cases, down from 148 in 2013, and 542 in 2012. As recently as the mid 1980s, there were more than three million cases annually. CBC Radio’s Quirks & Quarks covered the matter in detail on their most recent episode.

The Supreme Court is Wrong: Get Race Out of Redistricting

 

Last week, the Supreme Court, in the case of Alabama Black Caucus v. Alabama, overturned a redistricting plan for Alabama’s State Legislature, with the Court’s majority (the four liberals and Justice Kennedy) arguing that the new district lines didn’t do enough to preserve the influence of black voters. As I write in my new column for Defining Ideasit’s a mistake to accept the redistricting status quo in which the majority party (Republicans, in Alabama) constructs relatively safe districts for itself and then gives the minority party a handful of even safer seats as compensation. As I write:

In a sensible world, the best counter to these dangerous tendencies uses explicit formal requirements to remove this unpleasant form of tit-for-tat politics. Two constraints, taken together, could achieve this result in a relatively simple fashion. The first is to stick with a requirement of rough numerical equality across districts. The second is to require relatively compact districts, which look more like simple squares than some grotesque 28-sided monster that white citizens (outnumbered by 4 to 1) consciously created in Tuskegee, Alabama in 1957 to block the possibility that newly enfranchised black residents would soon take over local politics. Six years after Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court in Gomillion v. Lightfoot struck down this ploy under the Fifteenth Amendment, which provides that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

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I told a few people that I would do a brief post on this topic, so finally, here it is. Sous Vide (which is french for “under vacuum”) involves cooking something in a precisely controlled water bath. Most of the time, the target food is enclosed in a vacuum sealed bag, but it’s not strictly necessary. […]

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   Dislike beer?  So did I, until a friend   placed a mug of her brew into my hand,   thereby changing everything. You are   cordially invited to ask questions about   what is going on as this event proceeds.    Brew at home? So do I, and it interests   me greatly to see how other people do    things […]

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What to Think of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew?

 

imageHe ruled harshly, like a strict parent of old: no gum-chewing, no littering — no fun? — just hard work. There was some kind of democracy in the country at some point, but both Henry Kissinger and Richard Cohen say that this limit on democracy made Singapore successful, forcing discipline on the people; without this discipline, the city-with-no-resources would have ended in chaos. As Kissinger writes:

A great leader takes his or her society from where it is to where it has never been — indeed, where it as yet cannot imagine being. By insisting on quality education, by suppressing corruption and by basing governance on merit, Lee and his colleagues raised the annual per capita income of their population from $500 at the time of independence in 1965 to roughly $55,000 today. In a generation, Singapore became an international financial center, the leading intellectual metropolis of Southeast Asia, the location of the region’s major hospitals and a favored site for conferences on international affairs. It did so by adhering to an extraordinary pragmatism: by opening careers to the best talents and encouraging them to adopt the best practices from all over the world.

Can a member of Ricochet find anything to like in the story of Lee ruling Singapore? What’s to denounce? Is the story of Singapore outside the two paths that Yuval Levine gives us in his book about Burke and Paine? Is there a third way in Confucian culture, one that we have a hard time commenting on?

In Praise of Wealthy Men

 

imageSome friends and I just returned from a week-end trip to Asheville, North Carolina. We spent a day at the beautiful Biltmore Estate, built by George Vanderbilt, grandson of Commodore. Though his family was from New York, he chose North Carolina both because he loved the beautiful scenery and because the climate was beneficial for his mother, who suffered from chronic malaria. The funds for the project came from his inheritance, and he tapped into the talents of architect Richard Hunt Morris and landscaper Frederick Law Olmsted. Though he did not earn the money used to build the estate, he employed a great many people in a very poor region in the process of constructing and landscaping Biltmore House between 1890-95.

What has been the result of his efforts? Like most of the Vanderbilt heirs, George’s money did not cover both building the estate and living there, so he was forced into a business career, opening a dairy and rare seed business, among other ventures. He and his wife, Edith, and daughter, Cornelia, were known for being kind and generous to their employees, and the estate and businesses were a great boon to the local economy. George died from an appendectomy gone bad in 1914, but his widow and daughter maintained the family business. Cornelia married and bore two sons in the same room in Biltmore House where she herself was born in 1900. By 1930, however, she and her husband had to open the house to paying visitors in order to afford to live there. In 1959, her son, William Cecil, decided to leave a Wall Street job to return to North Carolina to run the family estate. His friends, many of whom carried fellow “robber baron” family names like Rockefeller, thought he was crazy.

Today the Biltmore is a thriving place, the largest privately-owned house in the nation. A hotel built on the grounds boasts a 90% occupancy rate and another hotel is under construction among the hills of the estate, so that the view from Biltmore House itself remains the one George and Edith Vanderbilt loved so much. There are numerous shops and cafes around the grounds. They do not take government money to run this beautiful tourist magnet, the largest in North Carolina, that benefits 2,000 employees and greatly boosts the local and state economies. There is obviously a lot of pride and creativity that goes into the business side of the Biltmore. For example, right now costumes from the Downton Abbey series are placed throughout the house, along with photos of the actors wearing the costumes, an enjoyable addition for Downton Abbey quasi-fans like me. The employees are very welcoming and gracious, and several of them — including a rather sardonic grounds tour guide — told us about how involved the family is with the business and employees, and how gracious and down-to-earth they are.

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The ancient Chinese general, Sun Tzu, is quoted far more in his death than in his eventful life. His The Art of War is a useful study in both planning and human nature that can be applied in several ways to several things. His instruction to “know the enemy and know yourself” is well known […]

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A Few Thoughts on Indiana and Coercion

 

imageConservatives are allergic to government coercion. This allergy informs all of our positions on public policy. It informs out position on religious freedom. The reason liberals can’t tell the difference between the promotion of liberty and promotion of “hate” all comes down to our differing views of coercion. For conservatives, political coercion is the original sin of authoritarian governments. For liberals, it is the glue that binds their entire moral identity.

Consider two pillars of the progressive left: Social Security and Obamacare. Would either of these programs survive even a month if they weren’t compulsory? Would any liberal program survive? And if this kind of coercion represents a social good, then it would not seem at all unethical to force a business owner into an involuntary transaction. Once you cross that line, “hate” is the only logical explanation for opposing their policies.

(Incidentally, I used to allowed for the possibility that the charge of “hate” is just an attempt to shut down debate by casting conservatives as unreasonable, but I have talked to enough liberals to know that they actually believe this stuff).

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Dresden, New York is completely cut off, partly by Seneca Lake and partly by the railroads tracks. You can’t leave Dresden by road without crossing the tracks, whether it’s past the cemetery on the north side of town, down Main Street going west, or near the south side, where the electric power plant used to […]

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I’ve been thinking about all the effort that is involved in a lawsuit. There is much money, time and effort that goes into bringing someone to court. Probably if you are going to sue someone, you have to steel yourself for putting all of your spare time for the next year, or two or three, […]

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I have read Caroline Glick for several years and always found her to be an astute observer of Israel and the Middle East.  A recent column “Managing Obama’s War Against Israel” solves a problem for me: what is President Obama really trying to do in the Middle East.  Glick also refers to Max Boot’s Op […]

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As a libertarian, I believe the proper role of government is to deliver the mail, defend the shores and get out of the way. But if the last decade has made anything obvious it’s that even that, apparently, is asking too much. And if government really is the last one in the room to get the joke, the […]

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