Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Civil Libertarians Bully Christians

There is a small town in Ohio called Arlington. It is a neat little town. The streets are clean and the Christmas decor still adorns lamp posts and residences. Why, even the school is considerate enough to leave a nice holiday message on a sign facing the street. It says 'Merry Christmas and Happy New Year'.

Clearly, the ACLU has not caught wind of that. After all, a specifically Christian greeting on a public school (and therefore a government entity) surely violates that non-existent idea of the separation of church and state. It surely pressures everyone who sees it to violate their consciences and convert. Indeed, a Muslim family which were passing by on mere happenstance pulled their car over, sprung from it and ran right up to the greeting. They fell on their knees, making the Sign of the Cross and chanting the Our Father. It had that much impact.

Of course it didn't. No one with a reasonable head on their shoulders would be that affected by a simple wish readily expressed by a small town school. Quite frankly, even if such wishes were expressed everywhere, whether on government property or not, it is highly doubtful that they would impose guilt enough upon someone of another religion or the serious atheist to cause their conversion. The very idea is completely irrational. No one comfortable with who they are would care.

So it leaves us with the conclusion that those who protest against such expressions of faith are uncomfortable with who they are. So uncomfortable in fact that they must deny anyone not of their ilk the right to express their true emotions.

They say that bullies are actually afraid of others and are afraid that they don't measure up to them, and that's why bully. It brings those superior folks down. Likewise, it would appear that the civil libertarians who despise a common expression of Christianity on even government property are bullies. It leads us to believe that they fear their own rightness; they are very afraid that they might be wrong and the Christians the ones in the right.

It surely is a horrid, cowardly existence they must live.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sports mean Too Much these days

So drop the damn ball. What does it matter? - Joe Cosgriff

The above is an exact quote from one Joe Cosgriff, who was not much of a sports fan. Oh, he'd watch something occasionally, and was even known, every now and then, to ask how the Tigers had done. So we're not saying that he had no interest in sports and games. But we do wonder whether he, perhaps, had the right idea about them.

It is in this light that we note with a certain interest the upcoming reality show Friday Night Tykes. It appears to get into the real world of youth sports, with that distinct in your face attitude which football does so well. Screaming parents and coaches trying to impart manhood unto young men, doing so at the top of their lungs. Yep, it sure looks like it has sports in the right light.

So let's ask Joe's question: what does it matter if an outfielder or wide receiver drops a ball? What really can we take from a successful dunk or pretty goal or even an uphill 35 foot put with a significant left-right slope?

It could make millions of dollars to some people; okay, we get that. But that's only, we will say it, about the money. There's nothing wrong with that per se either. But the athletes who do not bag the extra cash still have friends and family, don't they, as well as more than the capacity to care for themselves and those who depend on them, right? So it hardly really matters, in any rational sense, what the outcome of the game might be.

Yes, yes, sports and games can be good recreation. Yet even that value seems a very minor one these days, especially when so many athletes aren't playing for recreation, are they? They're playing to show that they're better than the other guy. They're competing. It strikes us that such goes beyond recreation, so much so that any point about relaxation is out the window.

But sports teach us things, don't they? Things like discipline and doing your job and living up to the expectations of people who rely on you. They teach teamwork; they teach sportsmanship and respect for others.

Respect for others. That's are difficult point to take seriously when you're in a naturally adversarial position. Indeed, arguably, such can't teach respect but rather the other side of respect: the idea that I'm better than you. Such competitiveness cannot truly teach anything useful as it can only encourage jealousy and arrogance. Beyond that, so much of the discipline which comes from playing games can be learned without the games, and much more easily and directly. Get to school or work on time; get your job done; be there for people when they need you. If these and a great many other virtues aren't learned day in and day out as you live your life, it seems highly unlikely that the mere practice and play for a game will do it. At best, they are only part of the learning process, and a quite obviously unnecessary one at that seeing as they're a small part of most lives. Even the lives of most athletes.

We're not saying that sports and games are wrong. But we are saying that they're become too much a part of our society considering their relative worth. At the end of the day, no matter how you doll it up, a game is just a game. Nothing more.

We will have good sportsmanship only when someone drops a damn ball everyone simply shrugs and says, oh well. Until then, we will not have learned anything about the real value of any given game.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Local Control Works

One of the most basic axioms a conservative should have in his arsenal is known as the Principle of Subsidiarity. Plainly stated, it says that things should be done on the most local level possible. Why? Because that it the surest way to get necessary things accomplished in the most efficient manner.

The closer we are to a problem the better we ought to be able to understand it. We will see it more clearly, and indeed, particularly with issues and events nearby, we will likely have a greater interest in it. Schools, for example, should by and large be run within the local community because it is the locals who have the greatest interest in the education of their kids. Their kids are the ones who are generally going to hang around and run things when the current generation cannot anymore.

As a rule, the closer to a problem the less money which must be spend alleviating it. This is in part due to localized control, again as issues should be seen more clearly but also as there would be no added layers of bureaucracy which would otherwise have to be paid for by the electorate. Perhaps this is why, try as she might, Washington cannot get a grip on poverty: too much money which is supposed to help the poor in fact keeps bureaucrats at a desk.

There are of course many factors to consider when deciding what job should be done where in a national scheme. A nation as a whole must take up the defense of its people: could Detroit reasonably be expected to ward off an attack by a large foreign power on its own? If we were to leave Detroit to its own devices (a prospect many folks out there may not mind, but let's set aside jokes right now) we would hardly be a nation in the best sense of the word.

As a rule, conservatives would argue that few powers would be nationwide in scope. Military protection, the necessary and proper federal judicial arrangements, coinage, and issues of commerce (to varying degrees) come first to mind. State power would be wider than that of municipalities, perhaps, while communities would see to the bulk of day in and day out tasks: police and fire protection, trash pickup, and to the schools, among other chores.

It goes without saying that the most localized control we can have is to go right down to the individual. The more that an individual can do for himself, to pay for and nurture by himself, the better quality product he will generally have. What was the first part of the famous Milton Friedman quote? When a person is paying for something directly and for himself, he will demand the best price and the best quality. This goes for nearly all the everyday things human beings require: food, clothes, shelter, and education.

We could go on all day discussing particulars, but you get the point. Local control is the best remedy for most ills. It is a point which should be discussed, if you'll excuse the irony, on a wider scale.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Democrats are the True Extremists

Some recent polling has indicated that a majority of Americans see the Republican Party as extreme. The same data says that 57% of Americans see the Democrats as mainstream. What does this say about us as a nation?

A few folks have asserted that it reflects the fact that people want government out of their lives. Yet if that were the case, why are so many Americans against Obamacare, a plan which infuses government into the average American's life more than anything the GOP ever proposed? If the poll reflects anything, it reflects that Americans are confused. Or, worse, it reflects a general apathy.

We fear the latter. How can anyone argue seriously that the Democratic Party is the party of individual rights when we have Obamacare and TSA searches? How can anyone seriously argue that the Democrats are the party of the person when that party says that Americans can be hunted down without regard to their rights as American citizens? Does the average American not know about Obama's disregard of Constitutional rights?

Of course, the logical answer is that the average American doesn't know about these things. And they don't care. They have their football and various entertainments. So long as what Obama does doesn't seem to affect them directly, or if it is in areas where they see a 'right' such as mandated health care (even should it violate the conscience of an individual), then so be it. Besides, we may need an abortion some day, should our free will dalliances result in a human life which would get in the way of our free will dalliances.

If the GOP is seen as extreme, a debatable point given the general nature of polls and the fickleness of people, it is because of one of two things. If the Republicans aren't explaining themselves well enough, not taking the initiative they need to in showing the people what is right and what is wrong, then the fault is theirs. But if the trouble is with the American people themselves, if they have been seduced by the Democrats and their call for an easy life where decisions are made for them by the government, then the fault is with the people and not with what the GOP or the conservative movement or conservative philosophy. The responsibility then lies with the people. If that is the case, then the United States has not long to live. Indulgence to our basest instincts, to our personal selfishness, can only lead to our collapse as a nation.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Mount Soledad Cross must Remain

This is in response to those who want to remove the Cross from Mt. Soledad in San Diego, a cross which is a tribute to veterans. It is part of a debate will never end, but needs to be perfectly clear just the same: the United States is a Christian nation. It was founded by Christians on essentially Christian principles.

Freedom of religion? A Christian concept.

The majority of our Founders? Christian. The Declaration of Independence refers to 'Laws of Nature and Nature's God' entitling the people their right and concludes (in part) 'with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence'.

The money says In God We Trust.

There are prayers before sessions of Congress.

Presidents regularly end televised addresses 'and God Bless America'.

We could go on, but this is ample evidence. We will point just to same, to all you ignorant of the real Constitution, that the supposed separation of church and state is not a part of it. The phrase was coined by Thomas Jefferson in a speech from 1802. But that little fact won't matter a whit to the atheist bullies and haters out there, will it?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Free Market isn't Everything

We conservatives like the free market; that declaration ought to surprise no one. But we also know that it is not and never will be truly free. Why is that?

Human imperfection, for starters. We aren't perfect, and it is silly to believe that a perfect system can come out of less than perfect people. Every human construct will be flawed and there's no getting around that. Markets, being human constructs, will not always lead to the right or best result. Of course, we think that free markets are the best there is at getting beyond error. Yet that doesn't mean they always will. As one of chief arguments against government interference in the economy is that too much is going on for governments to efficiently regulate, it applies as well that in free markets too many people and too many decisions are involved for every single effort to work out well. Yes, markets will organize themselves to a certain degree. But not exactly right and not necessarily in everyone's best interest in every single instance.

Then there's that pesky fact that not every economy in the world is free. True, that is not the fault of free market economics. Yet is another reflection on that pesky idea that people aren't perfect. Simply telling folks that they need freer markets won't lead to them. Government interference alone will see to that, and the simple assertion that open markets are better won't convince everyone that they are. It may be honest disagreement, stupidity, power, or just plain obstinacy which prevents accepting the free market rationale. The markets will never overcome all such obstacles. As such, completely free markets will never exist. There's no point to pretending they will. There will always be interference in them; about the best we will ever have is to limit that through the political process the best we can.

Now we come to those pesky social issues which drive the more rabid free market enthusiasts mad. Not every human trade ought to be in the open market. An easy example is slavery, but it goes beyond that. Prostitution comes to mind, and of course the entire abortion industry is simply wrong. What we're leading up is this: merely because people could do something doesn't mean that they should. Some activities must be banned simply because they're so wrong that an enlightened society must not tolerate them. We can argue where the line should be drawn: that there is a line is another question. There is, and we must find (or at least get as close as we can) and adhere to any legitimate market parameters which exist.

Finally, and this comes directly from our third point, free markets are not the end all be all of human existence. Right and wrong are; doing what's right and avoiding what's wrong the best we can should be our goal. Even the concept of free markets itself recognizes this. Proponents essentially say that markets ought to be free because justice demands it. Yet once we say that, we are effectively arguing not for free markets but for justice. It appears that free markets are a subset, albeit a very important subset, of justice. That also makes it appear that justice can make demands of markets, and that markets not only cannot but should not be totally free.

The freest market possible market is the best market because it allows for the most possible good for the most people. Yet it would still be flawed, it would still commit error, and we need to realize that if we are ever to improve upon it.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Why Hunt, but why Regulate Hunting?

The Michigan Legislature has passed a bill, The Michigan Wildlife Management Public Education Fund, which attempts 'to sell the public on the benefits of hunting.' It will be financed by increased fees for hunting and fishing licenses.

Well, where to start? To begin with, and we know before we say this that it's going to draw the ire of hunters and fishermen, we don't really see the point in hunting and fishing in this day and age, at least in the western world. We're not saying it's wrong either, but it surely can't be about getting food. That's much more easily done by a trip to Meijer's, and with a lot less trouble and expense. Yes, we know that it's fun for hunters, and that's as may be. It still seems like a lot of trouble, and it concerns us that so many get a thrill from a kill, so to speak. Still, so long as they properly harvest what they hunt we see no reason to condemn the practice.

It's good to hear that the Fund will be financed through hunting and fishing licenses, that is, by those who hunt and fish rather than through the general taxes. If a government is going to be involved in the hunting business then at least only those already involved should have to pay the higher fees. It would be nice if the government would in like manner apply that logic to state parks and increase the fees to where only those who used them funded them. But, oh dear, we've probably just offended another group, haven't we?

It remains to ask, though, why 'sell' the public on hunting at all? The practice doesn't appear to need selling. If it's to convince the populace of the need to thin herds or ward off predators, well, that strikes us as a different matter. Yet even there, can we be so sure the government knows what it's doing? Surely persons can defend themselves and their property as need be...until we remember all the regulations involved with hunting, fishing, and self defense. It seems we can't just shoot predatory animals without Lansing's approval, if the wolf hunting in the Upper Peninsula outcry means anything. And thinning herds must be terribly problematic for anyone less than a higher organized body, at least in the minds of those in legislatures. So what's the real answer?

As with so many issues, it's to let the people alone to hunt, fish, and repel dangerous creatures. But that's just far to simple of an idea for a government to grasp, isn't it?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Markets are coercive too

Our libertarian friends make a big deal about how laws are coercive. Some go so far as to assert they do 'violence' against people, whatever that means, and as such are at least arguably wrong.

Maybe so, maybe no. It seems reasonable to allow that government when acting within its proper sphere must be allowed that strength. Still, the coercive ability of government certainly is indeed powerful and as such must be limited. But as the typical libertarian also demands freedom (whatever they mean by that) and free markets, we find ourselves asking, isn't freedom, aren't the markets, coercive too? Cannot people acting freely nonetheless be doing violence to others through whatever coercive measures may be at their disposal?

When a large corporate structure makes its employees work on what are holidays for most of the populace, isn't it being coercive? When a large corporate structure leans on its vendors for better prices and service, isn't it being coercive (and arguably violent, to use the libertarian catchphrase)? Why aren't such 'violences', which most certainly infringe on the freedom of others, as wrong as government action?

Perhaps because those involved in private endeavors realize what they're up against and accept the cost. That appears fair enough, so far as it goes. Yet how far does it really go? If you need your job but would like the time off with your family and friends, you are at least, again, arguably, having a violence done against you when made to work when most others are enjoying days off. If you have no realistic choice but to take the job you've got or are offered, isn't that still a demand against your freedom and free will? If Large Corporate Structure leans on your company or you employer's company to give a better deal or else, isn't violence being done to you and them? Why is that less of an affront to human dignity that a law?

Don't misunderstand our point: we would far prefer freer markets and freer people than we have in America today, and freer markets would surely give people greater choices in where they work and what they buy. We are simply not impressed with the violence argument with regard to government action. The question isn't whether government actions are coercive but whether they are right. So long as they are right, issues of freedom are superfluous. But more, if freedom is the real point of libertarianism then the movement ought to be a bit more concerned with a decided lack of real choice on the part of many people much of the time, and realize that often they are at the mercy of forces if not as powerful as government, still very strong and still to some degree oppressive. That was part of the point of Pope Francis's recent encyclical. Threats to freedom and dignity are not all at the hands of a congress or parliament.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Born This Way means Nothing

Why should anyone think that they have a right to act certain ways, and this includes any kind of action at all, simply because they are 'born that way'? If there is a more asinine defense of what we may do as people, it certainly isn't obvious.

No one, and that means absolutely anyone under absolutely any conditions, has the right to do anything they please based merely on intuition, feeling, or physical or psychological makeup. They may not be able to help what they do if and when a genuinely physical ailment or other explicable impediment is involved, yet even then we do what we can to help them learn to do the right thing, because even their genuine ailments or unfortunate conditions cannot justify their actions. It can only mean, at most, they are not morally culpable for what they do.

But most of us are. As such, we can choose what we should or should not do as we get along in our lives. We make decisions, and it is up to us to be rational about them. Indeed we have a duty to act rationally so far as we can, and we must be willing to face the consequences of what we do as well. But if we are to be rational, we must admit that we have a basic, general control over what we do. Why? Because one of the things which most of us are indeed born with is the capacity for intellectual considerations.

A properly developed intellect must tell us that we simply cannot do things just because we have a desire to do them. This includes doing the things we like to do which are not wrong in themselves. If you are inclined to play baseball, you may play it. But not because you're born with an affinity for sports and games; rather, because it is not wrong to play baseball. Even then, it can be wrong, according to circumstance, to play it. If you're supposed to be at work or doing your chores, then you can't play because more important obligations trump the desire.

If you cannot accept that, well, so be it. But you had also better not hold anything against conservatives supporting conservatism. Because, of course, they're just born that way.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Pope Didn't Say It

The media and the uniformed voter are having a field day: Pope Francis has condemned capitalism! Except, as with many other things he is supposed to have said, he did nothing of the sort.

His latest encyclical, Evangelli Gaudium, does not condemn capitalism in any way, shape, or form, nor does it speak ill of the free market. He does not speak of 'unfettered capitalism' as a 'new tyranny'. Those are terms which the media and the Catholic and religious left have put into his mouth. You can be a Catholic in good conscience as well as a capitalist; why does the left want the Pope's views seen otherwise?

Obviously because they are trying to make what they want of the Church because the Catholic Church as an institution is the biggest obstruction to government action. They're trying to shame the Christian right into doing things which cannot be supported. Not only is that unmitigated gall, it is rank hypocrisy. The left wants the Church involved in government where it believes there should be state action. But check your religious values at the voting booth door all you against abortion, thank you.

The Pope's actual intent is really rather simple: to remind us that all human constructs will be flawed because each and every human being lacks perfection. As such, even capitalism and the free markets are not, cannot, and never will be perfect. We must be aware of those facts, and ready to act against error when the market errs, as it will.

His words are not cause for alarm on the part of the conservative religious nor a rallying cry for the activists of the religious left. They are the words of a servant reminding all who will listen of their obligations towards themselves and the world. Nothing more.

And nothing less. Our obligations are great and our weaknesses many. We must not forget either side of that equation.