Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Liberal dragons

Kenneth Minogue opens his book The Liberal Mind with these words:

The story of liberalism, as liberals tell it, is rather like the legend of St. George and the dragon. After many centuries of hopelessness and superstition, St. George, in the guise of Rationality, appeared in the world somewhere about the sixteenth century. The first dragons upon whom he turned his lance were those of despotic kingship and religious intolerance. These battles won, he rested a time, until such questions as slavery, or prison conditions, or the state of the poor, began to command his attention. During the nineteenth century, his lance was never still, prodding this way and that against the inert scaliness of privilege, vested interest, or patrician insolence. But, unlike St. George, he did not know when to retire. The more he succeeded, the more he became bewitched with the thought of a world free of dragons, and the less capable he became of ever returning to private life. He needed his dragons. He could only live by fighting for causes— the people, the poor, the exploited, the colonially oppressed, the underprivileged and the underdeveloped. As an ageing warrior, he grew breathless in his pursuit of smaller and smaller dragons—for the big dragons were now harder to come by.

He doesn’t make the final literary link, but I couldn’t help but think that this is a description of Don Quixote - the “knight” tilting windmills because he can’t find giants. Anyway, anyone who can use dragons as an illustration of political philosophy ought to be congratulated, whatever his conclusion.

But is he correct? Has liberalism, the fight on behalf of the poor and defenseless, achieved such victory that dragons are harder to come by? Or, is he saying that liberalism is now more focused on the fight than on those it is fighting to protect?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Political insults can be beautiful things

In our elections we see lots of barbs exchanged between the candidates. However, every once in a while, a response is just so wonderful it makes the history books. One such example is from the negotiations at the Untied Nations during the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

One celebrated exchange between Romulo [representing Philippines] and Vishinsky [representing the Soviet Union] took place after Romulo had opposed a Soviet motion to abolish the Balkan Commission that had been formed to act as a UN watchdog after civil war had broken out in Greece in 1946. Vishinsky lashed out with a personal attack that pressed all of Romulo's hot buttons at once: "[T]his small man who spreads noise wherever he goes, who represents an insignificant country like the Philippines, has attacked the Soviet Union's motives. He reminds me of the Russian proverb, 'His ambition is worth a ruble when his ammunition is only worth a cent.'" Romulo, never at a loss for words, replied: ... As for my ambition being worth a ruble when my ammunition is only worth a cent, may I also remind Mr. Virshnsky that at the present rate of exchange the cent is worth more than the ruble."

~Mary Ann Glendon, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

I can’t help but picture one of Dostoevsky's descriptions: "And even the curve of his spine was expressive of the horrible insult he had received."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday miscellaneous (2/24)

A pro-choice Ron Paul supporter explains why Paul, despite his pro-life rhetoric, would actually advance abortion.

I enjoyed this somewhat snarky commentary on Wednesday's GOP debate. Particularly where the reviewer analyzes Paul’s foreign policy:

Ron Paul served up his standard-issue foreign policy, sympathizing with an Iran that only wants nuclear weapons because America and Israel frighten them so badly, and making the remarkable assertion that “the Iranians can’t possibly attack anyone,” which will come as a surprise to veterans of the Iran-Iraq War.  Also, although Paul doubts the Iranians are anywhere near nuclear capability, it wouldn’t be a big deal if they had a few bombs, because Soviet Russia had 30,000 of them, and that worked out okay.  Then he said we should worry less about Iranian nukes than missing Russian nukes, so maybe it didn’t really work out okay after all.

Unemployment may be falling, but that doesn’t mean more people are working. Some evidence suggests that they are signing up for disability benefits so they can continue to receive benefits after their unemployment benefits end. Yet at the same time,
some manufacturers are unable to find workers with the proper skill set.

A thought experiment on what the nation would look like if the House of Representatives ruled.

Steve Jobs lived in an alternate reality, and many around him paid the price.

The president of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod testified before Congress opposing the HHS mandate.

Why This Dyslexic Reads Books

This year I enjoyed reading books like the Cookie Monster eats cookies.

Reading has always been fun, but I think what really sparked this adventure was the institution of a new policy and reading a book that was sitting on my shelf for almost eight years.

Before I tell you about the book and the policy, I want to tell you the story of a cute little boy with dark hair and dazzling brown eyes. This heroic lad would impress ladies at the check-out counter because “he had such beautiful brown eyes!” In fact, if you have a chance to talk with this fellow about it today, his look will become wistful and he will wish that he got a dollar every time someone said that; because, he thinks, he would now be a millionaire.

However, as dashing as this young chap was, all his charm would fade when Valentine's Day would come around. Why? Because fear gripped his heart at the idea of writing a Valentine's Day card. It was not fear of girls, nor was it shyness or disdain. What made our hero quake was the fact that he could not write.

It was not the letters; oh, he knew the alphabet backwards. It was spelling. He could not spell or even read. He was dyslexic. Being dyslexic is hard. You don't always think sentences in order. You mess up math very easily. You make friends for their reading skills. (Okay, I'll admit it, the “you” here is me.)

I am dyslexic, and I love books. In other words, I am a silversmith without a hand. I am a painter without use of arms. I am a deaf composer.

Fortunately, there are two heroes in this story: my mom and dad. They decided to homeschool their little ruffian and spend painful hours they could have spent much more pleasantly slowly teaching their boy. I do not use the term hero lightly for my mom and dad who gave hours upon hours encouraging, helping, and loving. It makes me tear-up just thinking about it...

I still don't honestly know when it is “normal” for kids to start reading. I was 11 when it finally clicked. I was struggling to read Dr Seuss, but even so, I decided that I was going to conquer a chapter of the Hardy Boys. Reading is still slow work for me, and audiobooks are my friends. But despite it all, it is worth it.

So all these years later, let me tell you about a book that I doubt you'd like: Caesar’s War Commentaries. I paid a buck for it at a library sale. It is somewhat dull. I had to force myself to read ten or so pages a night, but one night it hit me. Although the battles, places, and people involved were just a blur of names and dates, there had to be a reason that Caesar wrote this book. I began to look for it, and I was shocked at how clear it became. He was writing to those still in Rome to remind them that he existed, that he loved Rome, that he fought for justice, and that he was always loyal to his friends it was his public relations strategy. He could fit in here, in Washington D.C.

At that moment history became alive. I cannot believe in the idea that man has “progressed” because we have Caesars today. Although 2,000 years have passed, only technology has changed.

The books I read now have more meaning. Each book, regardless of author or setting, tells me more about my world, about me.

This inspired me to institute a simple loose policy, namely: take turns. Read a non-fiction book, then read a fiction book. It is a simple little rule, but it creates variety, spice, depth, and knowledge.

I can read about Pearl Harbor one week, Percy Jackson the next; the lives of Margaret Thatcher and the Hunchback of Notre Dame; the violence of Plutarch's Lives alongside the violence of the Hunger Games; a biography of Jesus contrasted with Teddy Roosevelt’s autobiography; I can read about Ender's Game and a rule book to a new board game!

(Okay, maybe that last one is a stretch, but hey, it's reading!)

The point is that reading may be hard for me, but like many other good things in this life, with the pain comes gain.

Do you like to read? What is the best book you've read in the last six months?

-Jeremiah Lorrig

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The bigger issue behind the HHS mandate

A lot has been written, said and argued, over the new HHS mandate regarding the provision of contraception. The left claims its protecting women; the right that it is protecting religious freedom.

But in the back and forth, a more basic question has been largely missed.

Since when could the president by administrative order decide that a private company must provide a service for free? Mind you, this is not legislation, this is not a debate over the commerce clause or other legislative powers. This is executive power.  This is agency action. And it’s requiring a minimum level of service. And it prohibits the provider from charging for the service.

Since when did the Constitution permit that? And isn’t this the bigger story?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The split: Romney or someone else?

This blog isn’t the only one split over who to support for the Republican nomination. PowerLine, one of my favorite political blogs, is also split. John Hinderaker writes supporting Romney:

Rick Santorum is a bright, well-intentioned guy. But the idea that he is the strongest candidate the Republicans can nominate for the presidency strikes me, with all due respect, as ludicrous. Put aside the fact that Santorum lost his last race by 18 points in his home state of Pennsylvania: not exactly an auspicious way to kick off a presidential campaign. Rather, consider that Santorum has always been most passionate about the social issues. Is that really what the GOP wants to talk to voters about in 2012, when the country–the Brokest Nation In History, as Mark Steyn puts it–is $15 trillion in debt; when the Obama administration has driven our economy into the most prolonged funk since the Great Depression; and when Barack Obama has instituted the most corrupt system of cronyism in American history? Seriously?

Scott Johnson (who also concedes that Romney is probably the best of a bad lot) responds defending not falling in behind Romney at this point:

The resistance to Romney among a large part of the base of the Republican Party, however, suggests to me that Romney himself would be less than a stellar candidate against Obama. He’s got problems that the non-Romneys have successfully exploited. Romney’s defense of Romneycare in the debates has been a recurrent thumb in the eye to the not inconsiderable number of Republicans for whom repeal of Obamacare is a priority along with with fiscal and economic issues.

* * *

The inclination of Republican primary voters and caucus goers to support Gingrich or Santorum is not the sign of a character flaw or mental defect on their part. It is a sign that Romney is a problematic candidate for the party whose standard bearer he seeks to be. Decrying the failure of Republican voters for failing to fall in line behind him seems to me something less than a winning argument.

I’m still supporting Romney. But I do worry about his difficulty energizing his base.

If nothing else, this reminds us why we have primaries.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The simplest, most coherent, and most sensible explanation for the current economic condition

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy."
-Ernest Benn

"An economist is a surgeon with an excellent scalpel and a rough-edged lancet, who operates beautifully on the dead and tortures the living."
-Nicholas Chamfort

In our case, those two professions collaborated. And you thought it was complicated.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Choice is Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum: VOTE for Mitt.

Earlier this week Jeremiah made the case for Santorum. And he did so quite well. In fact, I would not object to voting for Santorum in the general election. He’d certainly be an improvement over Obama.

But in the primary, I’m backing Romney. As politics is the art of the possible, every election is properly approached with a “who is my best option” attitude. No one person can, or should be, an end-all savior. So from that perspective, Romney is appealing because I think he is the best option.

With that in mind, I’ll first share my concerns with Santorum. While not nearly as large as my objections to Gingrich or Paul, they remain nonetheless.

Specifically, I worry about his ability to manage money. I read his book It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good, and was surprised at Santorum’s willingness to start new federal programs to address virtually every local cultural issue. I’m not convinced that this is a proper federal approach, and is particularly misguided in this time of virtually unstoppable federal spending. As a Senator, the Club for Growth determined that he had “a mixed record and showed clear signs of varying his votes based on the election calendar.” Specifically, when he wasn’t preaching fiscal restraint during elections, his “record is plagued by the big-spending habits that Republicans adopted during the Bush years of 2001-2006.” Finally, in the early 2000s, he started a charity to help the Pennsylvania poor. However, most of the money it raised went to running the charity, and only a small portion was actually used for the intended purpose. Poor management (outside of his campaign management) and excessive spending seem to follow Santorum around.

This is not to say that he would be a bad president. But it does indicate that his weakness is managing budgets and running organizations. Since the role of President is administrative even more than legislative, I want someone who I know can administer.

And while I’m on the topic of money, I also find that how a candidate earns his money and what they do with it is another reflection of their character. Santorum recently released his tax records, which show an annual income of around a million dollars - much of it made from lobbying and consulting. Of that, however, only 1.8% made it to charity. Romney, while having a much higher annual income, gives around 14% to charity and came by his wealth from good management of business rather than political lobbying.

I am looking for a candidate who I believe can administer the executive branch of the Federal government. From budgets to bureaucracy and czars to cronyism, Obama has made a mess of the office. All the Republican candidates promise to clean up the mess and I think they all would try--but Romney actually has done it before. Under his leadership, Bain Capital got off the ground and turned a profit, Massachusetts balanced its budget, and the 2002 Olympics went from hundreds of millions in deficits and the risk of being canceled to coming out $100 million ahead. His record in Massachusetts, especially at the beginning of his term, is quite impressive. As the Club for Growth explains:

Governor Romney receives credit for reducing actual spending unilaterally in Fiscal Year FY2003, even though he entered office halfway into the fiscal year, because of the tremendous spending cuts he forced down the Legislature’s throat in January of 2003. Facing a $650 million deficit he inherited from the previous administration, Romney convinced the unfriendly State Legislature to grant him unilateral power to make budget cuts and unveiled $343 million in cuts to cities, healthcare, and state agencies. This fiscal discipline continued in 2004, in which Romney continued to slash “nearly every part of state government” to close a $3 billion deficit.

He was also able to nudge the state to the right in other ways, despite having to work with a Democrat legislature. And he did it all without raising taxes (although he did raise some fees and did close tax loopholes, making the effective tax rate higher for some). That’s the approach that needs to be taken federally and Romney has not only stated that he is willing, but also shown that he is able, to do it.

And, of course, it barely needs mentioning that Romney’s personal life is exemplary. He has been married to his wife Ann for 43 years, whom he stood by through her battles with both multiple sclerosis and cancer. Together they raised their five children, who are now fully grown with children of their own. And in an age known for CEOs taking massive bonuses while their companies fell apart, at Bain, Romney made a point to spread profits to his employees, often keeping less than 10% for himself.

Now I realize he has been accused of being a political chameleon ready to compromise on the social issues of abortion and gay marriage. But, as some have noted, his record in MA is not nearly the blot it is being portrayed. According to those who worked with Romney while he was governor of Massachusetts, many of his so-called “compromises” were actually decisions outside of his control or efforts to mitigate even larger damage. He vetoed bills increasing access to the abortion causing morning-after pill and allowing embryo-destroying stem cell research. He also was highly involved in the effort to amend the constitution to define marriage, and then again in the effort to kill the amendment once it was amended to include civil unions. Finally, particularly relevant at this point is his defense of Catholic charities right to not facilitate adoptions for homosexual couples.

And finally, I cannot write a recommendation of Romney without mentioning what many are calling his biggest failure: the Massachusetts healthcare reform upon which the national healthcare bill is based. But here again, in his defense, Romney has demonstrated an understanding of the federal limits that only reinforces the unconstitutionality of taking a state program nationwide. In so doing, he has shown respect both for the democratic process, proper state authority, and federalism, all at once. If state authority--or as some improperly call it “state’s rights”--means anything it means that states can do things the federal government can’t. It also means that states can adopt misguided policies which, until they are changed, remain in effect. And finally, it means that the states truly still can act as mini-laboratories.

What the nation most needs in a president is not a legislator-in-chief. That’s Congress’ job and those issues must be addressed in legislative races. What we need is a president who can both use the executive power he has to administer the vast federal bureaucracy and who understands the limits of his office and the tenants of federalism.

All candidates in the race are striving to be that candidate. Romney has demonstrated that he already is.

Editor's note: the authors of this blog were divided between Romney and Santorum. Click here to see the case for Santorum.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday miscellaneous (2/17)

Obama may be a uniter after all. Unlikely allies are uniting against the new HHS rule.

Ron Paul is using an alternate strategy to collect convention delegates. Would it work, and if it does, would it undermine his legitimacy?

Daniel Hannan has an amazing article on why we may be putting too much emphasis on the Presidential race. After all, it is the legislature who makes most of the laws. And a change in the figurehead can’t fix the deeper problems. My only critique of the Hannan piece is that it was over too quickly.

I’ve written a bit already on monetary policy. But Ramesh Ponnuru at National Review takes on Ron Paul on what many consider to be his strongest issue - his campaign against the Fed. He writes:

Almost all of the criticisms Paul makes of central banking, when stated in the axiomatic form he prefers, are false. To put it more charitably, he assumes that the negative features that monetary expansion can have in some circumstances are its necessary properties.

* * *

Representative Paul’s strategy for dealing with the theoretical and historical arguments against the gold standard in End the Fed is to ignore all of them. All he says is that problems arose in the 1930s because of the “misuse of the gold standard.” But note that the great advantage of the gold standard is supposed to be that governments cannot manipulate it. Concede that they can and the argument is half lost.

Slate tries to take on homeschooling. I was intrigued because, although liberal, many of their articles are well written. This one wasn’t. It’s all about the virtue of sacrificing your children for the greater good.

Judges can sometimes reach outside of standard sentences.

And finally, a shameless promotion. Two of my brothers have made a movie, which is now available on their website. Here is the trailer.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Choice is Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum: VOTE for Rick.

The bottom line is that this election is big. We cannot afford another four years of Obama. I don't mean this in some kind of motivational, metaphysical, or moral sense. I mean that when the headlines are that Obama has introduced another budget with a trillion dollar shortfall we cannot afford it. There is no money in the bank.

I have been sitting on the sidelines and doing my homework trying to decide who I support for President. My mind was made up this last week at CPAC.

CPAC is one of the largest gatherings of conservatives in the county. We heard from the three front runners as well as a great line-up of other speakers. I saw old friends, spoke with national leaders, and renewed my NRA membership.

The focus, of course, was the state of our nation and what we as conservatives need to do to get the U.S. back on track. Marco Rubio inspired, Sarah Palin stunned, John Bolton exhorted, and Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum made their case why we should support them for president.

This is where I stood walking into the conference: I would happily vote for Mitt and Rick, and I would unhappily vote for Newt.

All three made great speeches. But because of what I heard, I have chosen Rick Santorum over Mitt Romney.

One thing that Mitt said in his speech that very much concerned me was that he was “severely conservative” as governor of Massachusetts. Romeny has said that he would be a “conservative” president. If Romneycare and Gay Pride are “severely conservative” what would a merely “conservative” Romney presidency look like?

I am not writing this to bash Romney, I would still vote for him in a heartbeat if he makes a comeback and defeats Santorum for the nomination.

I would like to give you some reasons why you should:
  1. Vote for Rick
  2. “Like” Rick on facebook
First, no one is perfect, however, Rick Santorum has a very strong record as a conservative.
  1. Rick Santorum has been one of the staunchest leaders in the pro-life movement accomplishing more than any other single law maker for the pro-life cause.
  2. Rick Santorum has a very consistent record of cutting taxes and voting against tax increases.
  3. Rick Santorum has a strong understanding (likely from his Senate experience) of the realities and dangers of imprudent American foreign policy.
Not only is he a leader on conservative issues, but Rick Santorum also is a man of character. He is a homeschool father of seven who believes passionately that children are a blessing, including his daughter who suffers from a genetic illness. In fact, last time I saw Rick, his voice trembled when he talked about how he was glad to have her even if it is only for a little while (please send up a prayer for her if you think about it).

Further, Rick Santorum is going to surround himself with the right kind of people. I know some of the people who will be working in the White House if he is elected. They are even more honorable and solid than he is. They will remind him of priorities, write his policies, and advise him not only on policies, but also in areas of character.

One last thing, at CPAC I talked with a Pennsylvanian who I asked what Santorum's greatest weaknesses were when he left the Senate. This person told me that Rick was “arrogant and shrill” on issues. I was shocked and encouraged because just moments before I was in a closed door meeting with Rick Santorum and someone candidly asked him what the number one thing was that he learned from that loss. Rick's answer: “I was arrogant and shrill.”

Rick is a man who can learn from his mistakes. He is a man of character. He is a man who can go toe-to-toe with Obama and show real world problems with Obamacare and how it impacts real people.

I endorse Rick Santorum and encourage you to support him as well.

-Jeremiah Lorrig
Editor's note: the authors of this blog were divided between Santorum and Romney. Click here to see the case for Romney.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A revolution before breakfast.

Like many homeschooled students, my introduction to the concept of inflation came from Richard J. Maybury, better known as Uncle Eric. His explanation of inflation is that it is the result of the government increasing the amount of currency in circulation.

But while that may be a good introduction to the topic, it’s not a full view. Because even more than governments, another entity causes inflation. John Médaille explains:

Henry Ford once said that if the public understood how money was created, “there would be a revolution before breakfast.” And what is this process that Ford found so appalling? It is simply this: before you sign the mortgage to buy your home, the note to buy your car, or the credit slip to buy a hamburger, the money to buy the home, the car, the burger does not exist; it comes into existence by the very act of borrowing it. The bank does not lend out the money it receives in deposits; this it holds as a reserve against losses, in a process known as “fractional reserve banking.” The money you deposit is the “fractional reserve,” and against this reserve they lend 10 times as much which they create ex nihilo, by pressing a few buttons on a computer. A banker will never lend reserves. Indeed, a bankster is more likely to lend you his wife than the bank’s reserves: it is merely immoral to lend his wife; it is illegal to lend the reserves. And in banking, morality counts for little.

98% of the money supply is created by the banks as loans; the government creates only the coinage.

Now while I tend to side with Hamilton over Jefferson when it comes to the existence of banks, this is somewhat concerning. But what role, if any, should the Government play?

In his book In Fed We Trust, Wall Street Journal editor David Wessel gives a brief history of the federal reserve system: it was established to increase governmental oversight over the formerly private banking structure. Formerly, inflation rates were entirely determined by the most powerful banks acting with little to no oversight. In at least one instance, an economic meltdown was prevented entirely because of the goodwill of the largest banker--and Congress was wary of that much economic power in the hands of one person. Hence, the Fed.

But the question remains, what are we to do now? What about some sort of debt forgiveness? An economic reset, so to speak, freeing up huge amounts of resources currently tied up in paying off debts. After all, the debt of the general population is larger than the federal debt.

Or what about a targeted form of forgiveness. Student loan forgiveness was one of the demands (insofar as there were any organized demands) of the Occupy movement--but might there be something to that? After all, we’re seeing an entire generation of people starting out behind. And some think it may be the next financial bubble to burst. Not only has the Federal government borrowed more than we can ever pay back in one generation, but many of my generation, expected to do taxpaying, is entering the workforce with a significant negative net worth. How is that sustainable?
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