Sunday, September 29, 2013

Odds and ends 9/29/2013

What glaring contradictions in this Daniel Henninger piece on Obamacare:

If ObamaCare fails, or seriously falters, the entitlement state will suffer a historic loss of credibility with the American people. It will finally be vulnerable to challenge and fundamental change. But no mere congressional vote can achieve that. Only the American people can kill ObamaCare.

No matter what Sen. Ted Cruz and his allies do, ObamaCare won’t die. It would return another day in some other incarnation. The Democrats would argue, rightly, that the ideas inside ObamaCare weren’t defeated. What the Democrats would lose is a vote in Congress, nothing more.

So, Obamacare must be allowed to fail in order to convince Americans they don’t want it or any part of the entitlement state.

Next paragraph:

A political idea, once it becomes a national program, achieves legitimacy with the public. Over time, that legitimacy deepens. So it has been with the idea of national social insurance.

Wait a minute. Henninger just said Obamacare’s implementation will infuriate Americans and move the dial towards liberty. Now he’s saying its legitimacy will deepen despite its failures. Is this not a point in support of defunding Obamacare?

A few paragraphs on, Henninger continues:

Medicaid is the worst medicine in the United States. It grinds on. Doctors in droves are withdrawing from Medicare. No matter. It all lives on.

So will Obamacare if it’s not stopped.

In what world does Henninger live in which Americans aren’t already opposed to Obamacare? The landslide of opposition he foresees (illogically, by his own argument) exists now! The problem is translating that sentiment into political will to stop Obamacare. Political will, that is what is lacking.

It baffles me that a person of intelligence would write this. I can only surmise that Henninger and his editors at the Wall Street Journal are so afraid of the fight they will rationalize any argument for inaction. Even Thomas Sowell, who admits Republicans’ political advantage on Obamacare, shies from the fight. These ninnies can’t lead the American people. They can’t even follow the American people.

Letting Obamacare collapse under its own weight won’t work, as I wrote this week. Henninger’s strategy of no strategy is actually worse than John Cornyn and Co.’s fig leaf strategy of delay.

“Cruz, for all the flaws of his strategy, has articulated one. Other Republicans have not. They’ve only declared Cruz’s strategy, which is an actual strategy, isn’t really one because they don’t like it.” –Erick Erickson

The Onion satirizes the Obamacare debate:

Local man Henry Allen, 56, expressed concern Tuesday that the debate over how United States citizens receive health care may in fact be becoming a political issue, sources confirmed. “Is it just me, or does it seem like the overall health and well-being of everyday Americans is in danger of somehow being used as fodder for elected officials to score political points against their rivals?” Allen told reporters, adding that he’d hate to think that lawmakers from both parties would distort the facts of a literal life-and-death issue solely to gain seats in Congress, if in fact that is what’s happening. “I mean, supposing that is the case, and health care is becoming politicized in some way, how does that really help someone who doesn’t have access to quality health care actually get health care? I guess it really doesn’t.” Allen stated that, in the end, he believes elected officials know how great their responsibility is to the American people, and that they would ultimately of course never let something as petty as party politics get in the way of that.

Everything is politicized, because politicians involve government in everything. It would be wonderful if they followed the constitutional limits placed on them and got their noses out of our business.

Betsey McCaughey writes in the American Spectator:

In Federalist 62, Madison warned that it will be pointless for Americans to elect a Congress, if it in turn enacts laws “too voluminous to be read,” or if these laws then “undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be tomorrow.” That’s Obamacare.

Amazing headline: “Only Good Guys With Data Can Stop the Gun Lobby,” or “How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Tyranny.”

Before signing your names to this idiocy, be sure you’re comfortable with big government collecting data on your sex life. I’ve been going to church regularly for almost a year, and no one has asked me about my sex life. The technocratic state is the real theocracy.

The Bloomberg editors justify themselves:

Each exchange will need to rely on the smooth operation of a series of linked data networks, so that people can sign up for insurance reasonably quickly and efficiently. That means sharing relevant data with Medicaid, the IRS and other sources.

In a word, Leviathan.

The vapid Eugene Robinson scolds the Republican Congress for defunding Obamacare. Dishonesty and inconsistency abound:

Here we are, with Speaker John Boehner cowed into letting his members threaten to shut down the government unless they are allowed to stay up all night watching television and eating candy. Also, unless the Senate and Obama agree to nullify health-care reform before it fully takes effect.

The president has done more than anyone to “nullify” Obamacare, exempting groups of people and delaying provisions that were duly passed by majorities of his own party in Congress and signed off by the Supreme Court.

At issue is not just the threat of a federal shutdown, which will happen Oct. 1 unless Congress passes a continuing resolution to fund government operations.

Which, shockingly, they’ve done!

It’s an imperfect law, to be sure, but it could be made much better with the kind of constructive tinkering that responsible leaders performed on Social Security and Medicare.

Robinson may be stupid and infantile enough to let some technocrat play him like a marionette. Not me.

Lest I understate the point, let me repeat: Obamacare was never about sound policy. It was always about creating the government infrastructure to dominate our lives.

“Is everybody wrong?”

That, in three simple words, was the question a reporter asked President Obama last week.

“Yes, they are,” the president said with a straight face.

“They can’t do a thing about it, anyway,” he didn’t say.


The retards who wrote San Antonio’s nondiscrimination ordinance cost the city the patronage of the Southern Baptist Convention:

James Guenther with the Southern Baptist Convention, says his organization may prompt his organization, which regularly stages one of the largest conventions hosted by the city, to dump San Antonio, because the language in the NDO may force the Baptists to accept homosexuality, something that goes against their religious philosophy.

“We are trying to understand what the SBC would be agreeing to, exactly, if it signed such a contract,” Guenther told 1200 WOAI’s Michael Board.

The problem, Guenther says, is that the NDO requires anybody who signed a city contract to accept homosexuality. The Baptists routinely meet in the Alamodome or in the Convention Center, both of which are city owned facilities. Guenther says that may put the Baptists in a bind, barring them from asking, for example, a representative of a rogue Baptist congregation which accepts gay and lesbian pastors, from leaving the meeting.

“We don’t know as a matter of fact how a court would interpret it, or how the city would interpret it,” he said.

The ordinance says you can’t do business with the city if you have “engaged in discrimination or demonstrated a bias, by word or deed, against any person, group, or organization on the basis of...sexual orientation”! So, assuming sexuality is fixed—which it’s not—you can’t rent public facilities and also adhere to the morality posited by Moses, Jesus, and Martin Luther King, Jr. How else do you interpret it?

Albert Mohler comments on the war on military chaplains:

Make no mistake, the moral revolution driven by those who demand the total normalization of homosexuality and same-sex relationships will not stop with the crisis over military chaplains. But at this moment, the chaplains are on the front lines of the great cultural and moral conflict of our times. This is a moment of crisis for the chaplains; but it is also a moment of crisis for the entire nation. If religious liberty is denied to evangelical Christian chaplains in the military, if they must surrender their convictions or their commissions, then religious liberty is lost in America, and the chaplains will be but the first casualties of this loss.

True. There will be no sanctuary to preach or practice “bigotry” in a civilian setting, as a Washington state bakery and New Mexico photography business have learned. A radical, regressive amorality has swept over the land, intoxicating the population under the misnomer “liberty.”


“Human communities are not made of pure spirits. And so we face a fundamental political question for ‘societies’: What makes human beings beget children? What will make mankind want to go on existing? One could mention many things different in nature: economic and social conditions, legal measures, the psychological atmosphere of a society. But above all there is the need for two things: a vision and a choice. No society will endure if some people do not look farther than one century, beyond what an individual can experience. We must see beyond the saeculum. Equally necessary is a choice, one I call ‘metaphysical.’ This choice consists in saying that it is good that there exist human beings on Earth: ‘good’ in itself, not just fun for the present generation.” –Rémi Brague

Norman Doige writes about porn:

Now, 24/7 access to internet porn is laying the foundation of [teens’] sexual tastes. In Beeban Kidron’s InRealLife, a gripping film about the effects of the internet on teenagers, a 15-year-old boy of extraordinary honesty and courage articulates what is going on in the lives of millions of teen boys. He shows her the porn images that excite him and his friends, and describes how they have moulded their “real life” sexual activity. He says: “You’d try out a girl and get a perfect image of what you’ve watched on the internet ... you’d want her to be exactly like the one you saw on the internet ... I’m highly thankful to whoever made these websites, and that they’re free, but in other senses it’s ruined the whole sense of love. It hurts me because I find now it’s so hard for me to actually find a connection to a girl.”

The sexual tastes and the romantic longings of these boys have become dissociated from each other. Meanwhile, the girls have “downloaded” on to them the expectation that they play roles written by pornographers. Once, porn was used by teens to explore, prepare and relieve sexual tension, in anticipation of a real sexual relationship. Today, it supplants it.

What prisons are our sins!

At First Things, David Nolan critiques slot machines as a form of pornography:

Besides the detrimental effect slot machines have on many economically vulnerable Americans, their pervasiveness also indicates a certain flattening out of American vices. There is no flair in slot machines; there is none of the excitement of a horse race, or the human element of a poker game. Caleb Stegall identified the growth of slot machines as a result of the “culture of pornography”—a culture that affirms a utilitarian calculus of sin: “It is sin carefully processed, packaged, marketed, shopped for, and stored away in the cupboard, ready to satisfy any late night craving we may have. The attraction of the midnight snack is that it perpetuates the illusion of free and responsible adulthood while all the while allowing us to submit completely to the slavery of desire.”

Sins like passionate extramarital affairs, Stegall argues, at least “affirm us as spiritual beings in all of our fallenness,” whereas the prevalence of pornography speaks to a spiritless and materialist understanding of love, pleasure, and sex. Dmitri Karamazov’s zealous sin is more human than the apathetic immorality bespoken by a slot machine. But we live in a culture that struggles to see that “no victim” sins usually harm the actor himself. And in the case of gambling addiction, that active part of the actor decreases dramatically. Our sins, in a certain sense, have become less human.

Sin is isolating. It creates gaps in your routine that you’re ashamed to account for to your friends. It’s harder to resist sin now. Technology offers sin to be consumed in the sinner’s private hell.

Read Stegall’s 2005 article, “Plastic Sinners, Plastic Sins,” here.


Communing with God in Jesus is a—you guessed it—communal effort. True worship happens in church. That’s the takeaway from this Bryan Dykarticle:

Yeakley concluded that the most effective form of evangelism framed conversion as a gradual process that unfolds over time, in the context of multiple relationships in which non-manipulative, honest exploration could occur.

Religion researcher Vern Bengtson gives a compelling interview to Christianity Today. Excerpts:

Quite unexpectedly and unique to our modern times, we found that many religious “nones” (the almost 30% of Americans between the ages of 18-40 who say they have no religious affiliation) have also been successful in passing on their faith. These kids are not rebelling from their parents, but instead following their parents’ influence in having no religious affiliation. After all, a child’s lack of religion is often no less an example of intentional religious formation on the part of parents. We noted that non-theistic families pass down strong moral and ethical standards just as consistently as pious Catholic or evangelical parents try to pass down their own values and religious standards.

...

the quality of the relationship between the child and the parent affects the success or lack of success in transmission. Warm, affirming parents, especially fathers, tend to be the most successful. For example, we followed a very religious father who comes from a long line of Mormon patriarchs, a stalwart of the church who allowed for no tampering with tradition or slippage in his five children’s devotion. His son, Austin, goes away to a mission where he has a nervous breakdown and is sent home. His father is furious, and Austin leaves the church. Again and again, we saw that fervent faith cannot compensate for a distant, inflexible dad. Being a role model is irrelevant if the child doesn’t feel the parent’s example is worth following.


Is this the best piece Rick Reilly has ever written? I think so.

Edmundo Macedo, vice president of ESPN’s Stats & Information group, told ESPN ombudsman Robert Lipsyte that the term Redskins is abhorrent. “We would not accept anything similar as a team nickname if it were associated with any other ethnicity or any other race,” Macedo said.

Oh, yes, we would.

In fact, ESPN and many other media companies cover the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves without a single searing search of their social conscience.

Doesn’t matter. The 81-year-old Washington Redskins name is falling, and everybody better get out of the way. For the majority of Native Americans who don’t care, we’ll care for them. For the Native Americans who haven’t asked for help, we’re glad to give it to them.

Trust us. We know what’s best. We’ll take this away for your own good, and put up barriers that protect you from ever being harmed again.

Kind of like a reservation.


If disarming the people fails, robbing them of the wisdom to discern friend from foe is the next best thing. Such is being attempted in military training manuals. Investor’s Business Daily reports:

Under a section titled “Extremist Ideologies,” the document states, “In U.S. history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements. The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples.”

We would not lump the two together necessarily, but the Pentagon does. And so, apparently, does a leftist group called the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

...

Earlier this year, we editorialized about a 14-page email by Lt. Col. Frank Rich, the Second Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment Commander at Fort Campbell, Ky., to three dozen subordinates warning them to watch out for soldiers connected with “domestic hate groups.” The list of “hate” groups in the email appears to be based on the one compiled by the SPLC.

“Nowadays, instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place,” the Pentagon guide advises.

Angry yet?

Speaking of reeducation, a Texas history textbook has redacted the Second Amendment to read: “The people have a right to keep and bear arms in a state militia.” The Daily Paul explains:

A militia is a body of citizens enrolled for military service, and called out periodically for drill but serving full time only in emergencies. It’s a common man army of citizens, NOT soldiers. The citizens are called up in emergencies to protect the free State.

The 2nd Amendment says that a militia is necessary to protect a free State, so in order to be able to have a militia, the citizens have a natural right to keep and bear arms and the government cannot infringe on that right.

The textbook version implies that we’re only allowed to keep and bear arms if we’re in a State militia, a clear misrepresentation of the 2nd Amendment.

Textbooks are a political football in Texas. In the media, you see it manifest itself more often than not as creationists trying to remove the theory of evolution from science textbooks, or trying to insert intelligent design as an alternative theory to the beginnings of the universe.

Conflicts like this could be avoided if education weren’t needlessly nationalized for the sake of economies of scale. Schools that serve their districts, that are held accountable to parents who send their children there, wouldn’t impose a foreign curriculum developed by bureaucrats in faraway Austin or Washington, D.C. They would teach to the realities and the local interests of the community.

When you realize the entire education apparatus, from the schools that teach teachers to the textbooks that teachers use, has been infiltrated by regressive ideology, you will be more sympathetic to the modest change creationists demand.

(I’m uninterested in the theory of evolution, insofar as it’s not used as a tool by atheists and Marxists to disprove the existence of God. In the grand scheme of things, I question how important it really is. In my personal and professional life I have not had to rely on the theory of evolution once.)


John McWhorter writes about the hijacking of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy in the Wall Street Journal:

In the decades since the March on Washington, black America has been taken on a detour by too many self-described progressive black thinkers and leaders, whose quixotic psycho-social experiment they disguise as a continuation of the civil-rights movement. With segregation illegal and public racism considered a moral outrage, we black Americans are now told that we will not truly overcome until Americans don’t even harbor private racist sentiment, until race plays not even a subtle role in America’s social fabric.

In other words, our current battle is no longer against segregation or bigotry but “racism” of the kind that can be revealed only by psychological experiments and statistical studies.

This battle is as futile as seeking a world without germs. “We have come to the nation’s capital to cash a check,” King said. But the preacher was talking about being freed from “the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination”—not asking whether Americans are aware of skin color or are more likely to associate black faces with negative words in an experiment.

Along these lines, the term “institutional racism,” which the Black Power movement injected into the lexicon in the late 1960s, is more damaging to the black psyche than the n-word or any crude jokes about plantations or food stamps. The term encourages blacks to think of society—in which inequality, while real, is complex and faceless—as actively and reprehensibly racist in the same way that Archie Bunker was. The result is visceral bitterness toward something that can’t feel or think.

Equally distracting is the notion that America needs a “conversation” about race, one in which whites submit to a lesson from blacks about so-called institutional racism.


Rachel Lu writes in Public Discourse about Millennials and marriage (re: “Ready or not”):

By now it is an accepted fact that the capstone model has worked moderately well for the educated upper class, and far less well for poorer and less educated Americans. Americans across all demographics place more emphasis on the emotional and romantic aspects of marriage than their great-grandparents would have done.

Talking with the relatively privileged attendees of a four-year university has made me realize, however, that the rationale behind late marriage goes far beyond the romance. College students take comfort in laying out a path to marriage that connects with another area of life that they think they understand, namely, educational and professional ladder-climbing. Good spouses, they often suggest, will be found in higher-status professions and social circles, and they themselves will “qualify” for a good marriage if they achieve similar professional status.

Having devoted so much energy and attention to the education game, they naturally fold happy marriage into the spoils they already associate with professional accomplishment. The organic link between marriage and parenthood may be severely weakened, but marriage, prosperity, and professional success are coming to be seen as an “organic” package of a different kind.

As crass as this view may seem, there are actually some upsides. Young people see marriage as a prize worth working for and worth protecting once it has been attained. Statistical data would also suggest that they are not entirely wrong to think that marriage becomes easier when a couple is more mature and better established.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of reasons to worry. If marriage is a reward for professional establishment, this means that success in life comes in a kind of double-or-nothing package. If that is the case, one ramification will be that fewer good jobs will mean fewer good marriages. Even among the elite, this is not a promising model in an economic downturn. The unemployed young, in particular, will end up rootless, purposeless, and lacking the stability that marriage and commitment can provide.


Is The End of Men author Hannah Rosin recanting?

I suppose the patriarchy was lurking somewhere in my subconscious, tricking me into believing that it was more my duty to stay home with our new baby than my husband’s. But I didn’t see it as a “duty.” I wanted to stay home with her, and I also wanted to work like a fiend. It was complicated and confusing, a combination of my personal choices, the realities of a deadline-driven newsroom, and the lack of a broader infrastructure to support working parents—certainly too complicated to pin on a single enemy.

What does “broader infrastructure” mean? Is it the choice to hand the baby off to taxpayer-funded nannies?

Bryce Covert keeps her comrade in check:

Patriarchy greedily holds onto power and only bestows it on (almost always white) men. It hoards the most respected and best-paid jobs for men. It pays men more—even when they do “women’s work.” It refuses to change the structures of our workplace and our society to accommodate the fact that women are no longer kept at home to tend hearth and home. Women have made remarkable progress over the past half-century and feminists have celebrated some important victories. But that can’t diminish from the incredible load of unfinished work to truly change the patriarchal system we live in.

I thought feminism was supposed to destroy male-female distinctions to create gender “equality.” If that’s true, why, then, would the workplace need to change to accommodate women?

Because women really are different from men. Because women occupy different spheres in social and economic life than men. The feminist project was doomed to fail from the start.


Mohler praises work (re: “The End of Work”):

Christians understand labor as a duty, but miss the fact that it is also a gift. In the first place, God has made us able to work: e.g., to manipulate things, to cultivate the ground, to manage herds, and to invent microprocessors. Secondly, He has allowed us through labor to understand at least part of our purpose in life: to fulfill a vocation. Furthermore, we can often see the result of our labors: the farmer takes pride in his orderly rows of crops; the carpenter sees the beauty of his cabinet; the doctor is fulfilled in his recovering patient; the mother sleeps content after a day of unceasing work with children. Still, many people have difficulty seeing labor—especially their own labor—as a gift.

Mark Steyn catalogs the mounting evidence that America is a banana republic:

Where do you go to get a piece of this action? As the old saying goes, bank robbers rob banks because that’s where the money is. But the smart guys rob taxpayers because that’s where the big money is. According to the Census Bureau’s latest “American Community Survey,” between 2000 and 2012 the nation’s median household income dropped 6.6 percent. Yet in the District of Columbia median household income rose 23.3 percent. According to a 2010 survey, seven of the nation’s ten wealthiest counties are in the Washington commuter belt. Many capital cities have prosperous suburbs — London, Paris, Rome — because those cities are also the capitals of enterprise, finance, and showbiz. But Washington does nothing but government, and it gets richer even as Americans get poorer. That’s very banana republic, too: Proximity to state power is now the best way to make money. Once upon a time Americans found fast-running brooks and there built mills to access the water that kept the wheels turning. But today the ambitious man finds a big money-no-object bureaucracy that likes to splash the cash around and there builds his lobbying group or consultancy or social media optimization strategy group.

Mike Lee gave a terrific speech at the American Enterprise Institute September 17. Excerpts:

There is a very good reason why Americans across the political spectrum—from the Tea Party to the Occupy movement—believe our system has become rigged.

Rigged for big government, big business, and big special interests. And rigged against the ordinary citizens and forgotten families who work hard, play by the rules, and live within their means.

More and more every day, the system is rigged. The market can’t do that. Only government can. And it does.

Government at all levels—but especially in Washington, not coincidentally now home to six of America’s ten wealthiest counties—is in effect redistributing opportunity from the poor and middle class ... to government itself and its clients and cronies.

This inequality crisis—including government’s role in it and the millions of struggling families it is leaving behind—is the great social and economic challenge facing the United States today.

It is also the great challenge facing the Republican Party.

For it is our own deepest convictions about the pursuit of happiness and the very meaning of America that this opportunity crisis subverts.

Without equal opportunity, our free enterprise economy and voluntary civil society—the twin pillars of American exceptionalism—break down.

...

But the first and most important piece of this “pursuit of happiness” agenda should restore equal opportunity to the first and most important institution of them all...

The institution that unites all Americans regardless of race, class, creed, or politics: the institution of the family.

Here, I am not speaking about the family as a moral or cultural institution—strictly as a social and economic one.

Conservatives sometimes get criticized for putting too much emphasis on the family in policy debates. But a growing body of evidence—much of it developed here at A.E.I.—suggests the critics have it backwards. The real problem may be that we don’t think about family enough.

For family is not just one of the major institutions through which people pursue happiness. It is the one upon which all the others depend.

More than that, in recent years, the family has emerged as perhaps the most important institution in our economy.

The family is an incubator of economic opportunity, and an indicator of economic success.

It is every individual’s primary source of human and social capital: habits and skills like empathy, self-discipline, trust, and cooperation that grow more economically important every day.

The family is where we learn the skills to access and succeed in America’s market economy and civil society ... and thereby create new opportunities for others to do the same.

This is dynamite stuff. Coming from a senator makes it even better.

It must have sounded as music to the ears of Michael Hendrix, who writes in Mere Orthodoxy:

Rising income inequality, wealth disparities, and disproportionate health outcomes are all impossible to understand without taking a hard look at families. As Jason DeParle wrote last year in the New York Times that “changes in marriage patterns — as opposed to changes in individual earnings — may account for as much as 40% of the growth in certain measures of inequality.” David Leonhardt, also of the Times, noted a recent finding that “family structure was one of the four factors with a clear relationship to upward mobility.” As Schulz himself found, only 5% of married families were poor at any point this year, while 30% of single-parent households felt the blow of poverty. These data points paint a bleak portrait; those being raised without a mother and a father will face immense social and economic barriers.

The end result is that American families now seem to follow two tracks: those of the upper-middle class, where family institutions remain relatively strong, and those of the lower-middle class, where family instability is distressingly common. Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, in particular, provides a detailed picture of this growing disconnect.

Many people can and do succeed in the midst of family brokenness, of course. Yet the risks of failing are far too high when kids are raised in the context of relational instability. Socioeconomic mobility and multigenerational poverty are empirically linked to family stability like never before.

Family is society writ small, where one builds basic human capital, social capital, and skills. In Schulz’s calculation, family is a basic, vital economic unit—the X factor. Family builds empathy and self-control, which in turn shapes character. Character fosters human capital (“knowledge, education, habits, willpower”) and social capital (assets “created and maintained by relationships of commitment and trust”), which ultimately generates economic growth. You could practically build a formula out of it.

Empathy in particular is linked to social capital, while self-control informs much of human capital, allowing individuals to be invested in the long-term good rather than short-term gain. We also see this influence in an assortment of non-cognitive skills, such as delayed gratification, which, as Walter Mischel established around 1989, is a core factor in individual success.

I never heard of Mischel before, but the principle of delayed gratification jives with the principle I put forth in “Forsaken future,” which we do by not delaying gratification.

Many of these points are repetitive, but they reinforce the centrality of family and, by extension, marriage, in civil society’s survival.

Speaking of which, Lee gave another terrific speech in April at the Heritage Foundation.

Excerpts:

In Washington, we debate public policy so persistently that we can lose sight of the fact that policies are means, not ends.

We say we are for lower taxes, or less regulation, or spending restraint. But those are just policies we advocate. They’re not what we’re really for. What we’re really for are the good things those policies will yield to the American people.

What we’re really for is the kind of society those policies would allow the American people to create, together.

Together.

If there is one idea too often missing from our debate today that’s it: together.

In the last few years, we conservatives seem to have abandoned words like “together,” “compassion,” and “community”... as if their only possible meanings were as a secret code for statism.

This is a mistake. Collective action doesn’t only — or even usually mean government action.

Conservatives cannot surrender the idea of community to the Left, when it is the vitality of our communities upon which our entire philosophy depends.

Nor can we allow one politician’s occasional conflation of “compassion” and “bigger government” to discourage us from emphasizing the moral core of our worldview.

...

We need to remind the American people — and perhaps, too, the Republican Party itself — that the true and proper end of political subsidiarity is social solidarity.

Ours has never been a vision of isolated, atomized loners. It is a vision of husbands and wives; parents and children; neighbors and neighborhoods; volunteers and congregations; bosses and employees; businesses and customers; clubs, teams, groups, associations... and friends.

Liberty is the means!

Lee is a tremendous thinker and one of my favorite senators. I wonder how well his ideas would play in a presidential debate. Imagine the campaign slogan: “Mike Lee, a Better Mormon than Mitt Romney.”

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bushwhack

In May 2012 I was hiking in Monongahella National Forest in West Virginia. The 12-mile circuit hike was crowned by a spectacular vista overlooking Long Run Canyon.

After eating lunch, hiking along the canyon rim, I came across a campsite. Rock cairns on the bare dirt drew an arrow towards a thicket, off the main trail. Bushwhacking through this thicket would shave 2 miles off the hike.

I followed the cairns and within a few minutes I picked up a faint hunter’s trail. From atop a boulder I spied a path. It was less a path than a swampy, foot-wide break in the thicket. I clung to the shrubs and straw so as not to fall into the stagnant, murky water. Despite my precaution, several times I sank up to my ankles. I stopped at a boggy clearing and consulted my GPS locator. Where was the main trail?

I picked my way around the bog and tried to beat through the thick brush. On my first attempt the thicket closed in, and I was forced to retreat. My second attempt ended in similar failure. This delay would have been tolerable if I had the canyon rim to look forward to. The emotional highpoint of the hike behind me, adrenaline waning, I found this obstacle more of a nuissance than a challenge. Also, I feared getting mired in the thicket. I was far, far off the beaten path. If I got lost or stuck, no one would find me.

Returning to the bog, I took a breather. I realized I had lost my camera lens cap. I wasn’t going to go looking for it, so I stowed my camera in my pack and resumed looking for a viable route. I followed another watery break in the thicket west. I knew the main trail couldn’t be far. A few hundred feet, perhaps? However, as before, there was no discernible route through the thicket. Just shrubs and straw.

Maybe I should turn around, I thought. But I would not. I knew I could do it. All I needed was willpower.

I found a spot where the thicket was thin and set off. I plowed my body through the straw. With each step I lifted my legs high out of the dense undergrowth, crunching reeds underfoot. I couldn’t see where I was going, but I maintained a steady course by heading in the opposite direction as the narrow burrow I was making. Not 5 minutes later the thicket parted, and I stood on the edge of a jeep trail.

I had done it. My earlier apprehensions seemed silly. Bushwhacking through the thicket wasn’t so bad after all.

I looked behind me into the thicket, at the subtle opening I had left in the straw. I wondered if anyone would visit this place, lose himself as I had lost myself, and find his way out using the path I had blazed. Inadvertently I had made his ordeal easier.

Often in life, there is no clear path to where we need to get to. If we waited for a clear path to open up, surely we would never get anywhere. Enemies, the elements, our own limitations, whatever, block our way. We have to force a path. We have to create for ourselves opportunities that were not there before. We stumble, we backtrack, but we move forward. As part of a team, we lead and create space for our teammates to gather around us, to prepare for the next push.

There are risks to take into account, but failure should not be one of them. For failure is a certainty if one doesn’t try, or try again.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Defund it

The delays, the exemptions, the glitchy exchanges, the rising premiums, the adverse effects on employment, all bespeak Obamacare’s inevitable failure before it is fully implemented.

But Obamacare won’t collapse under the weight of its failure. As with all of socialism’s failures, government will subsidize Obamacare and distribute the costs, in the forms of debt and healthcare rationing, across society.

Only political pressure will collapse Obamacare. And the politics are good for Republicans. A majority of Americans disapprove of Obamacare. They don’t want the government, known for its incompetence and ignorance, further entangled in healthcare. The officious Health and Human Services bureaucrat, no more competent than the average joe, but in whom government entrusts to make decisions for 300 million people, is cut from the same cloth as the universally reviled tax collector.

My Bible is only 2,000 pages long, including commentary, but the pages of Obamacare regulations number ten times as many. Who knew secular liberals, who preach about the perils of close church-state relations, could be so Pharisaic?

The law, according to Bastiat, is “the organization of the natural right of lawful defense” of person, property, and liberty. The basis for Obamacare, as is the basis for so many of the ridiculous rules handed down by our presumptuous masters in the halls of D.C. and state capitols across the country, bastardizes that principle. Actually, it does worse. Obamacare inverts the law. It does not provide for the natural right of lawful defense of person, property, and liberty, but for the opposite. Obamacare provides for government’s seizure of the right to defend yourself.

Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee’s efforts to defund Obamacare before it takes full effect are admirable, even if unsuccessful. The tip of the spear chips, but the shaft drives home the killing blow. Political movements take years to gestate and rise to prominence. Leaders of these movements don’t worry about not reaching their goals in their lifetimes. Rabbi Tarfon said: “It is not up to you to finish the task, but neither are you free to desist from trying.”

Despite having the American people’s support, establishment handwringers whine about the politics being bad for Republicans. They give up the fight before it even starts. How could Republican failure to defund an unpopular, totalitarian law be more humiliating than Democratic insistence on funding it? They disagree with Cruz and Lee’s “kamikaze” tactics, insisting on delaying Obamacare a year instead. That has just as likely a chance of passing. The Democrats are as virulently opposed to delay as they are to defunding, unless it’s their president doing the delaying.

If this law is allowed to be implemented at the executive’s caprice, Congress effectively consents to the anarchy of the rule of man. That must not happen.

Read also “Delay is a fig leaf.”

Friday, September 20, 2013

The end of work?

Tim Worstall writes in the UK Register that he isn’t worried about technology replacing people in the marketplace.

The basic claim by the rage against the machine guys is that the AIs, software and robots are just about to become better than human beings at doing everything. Therefore there will be nothing left for humans to do and, erm, something and then we all die, I think.

I’ll fill in the blank for him: With nothing left for humans to do, the worker will have no skills to barter for food, shelter, etc. He will want the necessary things to survive.

That will never happen. Even in a state economy, demand will rise to meet increasing supply. Nothing will be free, and so competition for wages, for work, will continue into perpetuity.

Worstall anticipates a time when supply will be infinite, when the level of comfort and well-being the economy offers is “enough,” allowing the human race to retire and spend eternity in leisure activities, a la Marx. If you’re wondering why we haven’t reached that point yet, you just identified the main flaw in Marxist theory. The diminishing returns of some technologies and the great leaps of the Information Age lead one to wrongly conclude that we have realized most, if not all, that can be gained from human industry. But, just as Marx couldn’t foresee pesticides or the Internet; just as cavemen couldn’t foresee bronze tools or the wheel; we cannot predict what the next hundred years hold in store.

In reality, mankind’s retirement will not result in permanent stasis, but rather a slow decline as technological utility and knowledge fade further into the past. Man will never run out of ways to increase his knowledge of the world around him and to improve the lives of others. There is always work to do. Always. Machines might be able to repair themselves—but, lacking self-awareness, the consciousness that only God can bestow on His creation, they’re not able to act on human needs they’re not programmed to detect. At the very least, there will always be programmers. (Training people for work in new economies presents unique challenges, breaking through the bureaucratized education apparatus being one of them.)

Worstall can’t wait to retire. He claims “work, a job, is a cost, not a benefit of our lives.” This view of work as a necessary evil is a Marxist one and, as you’d expect, wrong. Work is not merely necessary for humans to do until robots take over. Work as a transaction creates value. It feeds families. It improves the human condition. The profits of work connect workers’ skills and industriousness to acquiring wealth to meet their goals.

Furthermore, work is a social good. Work teaches responsibility and self-reliance, worthy traits in members of a body politic. It keeps us busy and out of trouble. It creates social bonds that further weave together civil society. Leisure, or inactivity, is fine for the elderly in the twilights of their lives, but not for young men, bustling with energy, who look upon the world with their own objects and desires in mind. The recent Swedish riots were the effects of excess leisure, of socialism, on young men.

The end of work is not the blessing Worstall says it is. Fortunately the economic realities baked into human nature forbid the end of work from happening.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Only one reason

Did video games make Aaron Alexis murder 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard?

Did porn make Ariel Castro kidnap and rape three women?

Both media objectify human beings, stripping them of their souls. Video games put virtual antagonists between the player and his objective. Enhanced graphics and gameplay make quick killing of them visceral and realistic. Their existential function is to be gotten out of the way by the cleverest and most efficient means possible.

Porn presents women as objects from which to derive immediate gratification. Her human and feminine qualities are reduced to the varying degrees of sexual friction her body offers to the viewer’s imagination. The womb, the central organ of her sex, is out of sight and out of mind. Orgasm, not the creation of new life in love, is the climax.

Neither of these is good food for men, especially not in their formative years. But to blame them for men’s crimes is fallacy. It diminishes the will of men who choose every day to not cave to their carnal instincts.

There are a hundred different reasons men do evil things. One reason they all have in common is they chose to do evil. They are responsible.

If you look into the pasts of everyone you know, you will find reasons those people should have become murderers or rapists, reasons indistinguishable from the profiles of actual murderers and rapists. The difference is they chose to not become one. Aaron Alexis and Ariel Castro did.

Related reading: “People as means to one’s ends.”

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Odds and ends 9/14/2013

In the American Thinker, Selwyn Duke blasts the myth of Millennial conservatism. In short, Millennials will become more conservative not because their values will change, but because conservatism as a reaction to liberalism, ever on the march, will move towards them as their views are threatened in the name of progress in the future. Today’s conservatism won’t exist.

Duke explains Millennials will never be the conservatives their grandparents were because they’ve marinated in a culture of immorality. Immoral, enfeebled people are themselves big government’s best argument for bigger government.

Does “moral and religious” describe us today?

Of course, some will now say, “But why do you think millennials supported Ron Paul? They want liberty!” Sure they do.

So does a tiger in a zoo.

So does a toddler.

Neither, however, can be allowed to roam free in civilization without hurting himself or others. And the less people are civilized growing up, the closer they will be to that infantile or animalistic state—and the more they have need of cages and masters.

The truth? Government can be no better than the public’s virtue, though it can be worse. And this morality-government relationship is evident in voting patterns. Is it a coincidence that every group orthodox Christians label immoral—those involved in “alternative” sexual deathstyles, criminally inclined inner-city dwellers, effete college professors, grunge-type youths scarred with multiple tattoos and body piercings—vote left? “What fellowship hath light with darkness?” The darkness hates the light.

...

So how do you make a civilization susceptible to dark demagogues?

Make it love the darkness.

I wouldn’t first and foremost spend time on intellectual appeals. As the Soviets once did (as explained by ex-KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov) I’d seek to undermine the morality of the target nation. I’d spread the idea that morality is really “values” and values are relative—all just a matter of perspective, you see. Once this was accepted and people no longer believed in the rules of morality, it would be as if they ceased believing in the rules of human nutrition: not thinking any food could actually be “bad,” they’d be governed only by taste and would try, and could develop an affinity for, anything—even perhaps poison. Vice corresponds to this on the moral menu.

I’d then get them hooked on their bad moral diet through inundation. Stoke their lust’s fires via highly sexualized entertainment, and portray violence as just as casual and cool, so lashing out at others seems the norm. I’d engorge their egos with media messages about how they could determine their own morality so that, as the serpent said, “you will be like God.”

There it is.

Lisa Fabrizio examines the cultural malaise:

One of our biggest problems and maybe one that is the father of the rest is that too many of our citizens are in a state of suspended adolescence. The messages abound from all directions: Why get married and tie yourself down? Party on! No need for a job when you can live at home and stay on your parents’ healthcare plan. Religion? Really?

Yes, nearly all facets of modern culture encourage young people to revel in the joyful irresponsibility of childhood and to stay that way forever. As a matter of fact, this has gone on for the last few generations, beginning of course with the 1960s, when we were admonished never to trust anyone over 30.

David Bass of the American Spectator comments:

Why should we find that surprising? Our country’s fiscal policy puts the wants of the present ahead of the needs of the future. Our culture of decadence does the same on the personal and relational level. That we’re choosing to skip the most self-sacrificing part of life — the rearing of children — shouldn’t be a shocker.

Father Robert Barron riffs:

In accord with the tenor of our time, those who have opted out of the children game paint themselves, of course, as victims. They are persecuted, they say, by a culture that remains relentlessly baby-obsessed and, in the words of one of the interviewees, “oppressively family-centric.” Patricia O’Laughlin, a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist, specializes in helping women cope with the crushing expectations of a society that expects them to reproduce. As an act of resistance, many childless couples have banded together for mutual support. One such group in Nashville comes together for activities such as “zip-lining, canoeing, and a monthly dinner the foodie couple in the group organizes.” One of their members, Andrea Reynolds, was quoted as saying, “We can do anything we want, so why wouldn’t we?”

What particularly struck me in this article was that none of the people interviewed ever moved outside of the ambit of his or her private desire. Some people, it seems, are into children, and others aren’t, just as some people like baseball and others prefer football. No childless couple would insist that every couple remain childless, and they would expect the same tolerance to be accorded to them from the other side. But never, in these discussions, was reference made to values that present themselves in their sheer objectivity to the subject, values that make a demand on freedom. Rather, the individual will was consistently construed as sovereign and self-disposing.

And this represents a sea change in cultural orientation. Up until very recent times, the decision whether or not to have children would never have been simply “up to the individual.” Rather, the individual choice would have been situated in the context of a whole series of values that properly condition and shape the will: family, neighborhood, society, culture, the human race, nature, and ultimately, God. We can see this so clearly in the initiation rituals of primal peoples and in the formation of young people in practically every culture on the planet until the modern period. Having children was about carrying on the family name and tradition; it was about contributing to the strength and integrity of one’s society; it was about perpetuating the great adventure of the human race; it was a participation in the dynamisms of nature itself. And finally, it was about cooperating with God’s desire that life flourish: “And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it” (Gen. 9:7). None of this is meant to be crushing to the will, but liberating. When these great values present themselves to our freedom, we are drawn out beyond ourselves and integrated into great realities that expand us and make us more alive.

It is finally with relief and a burst of joy that we realize that our lives are not about us. Traditionally, having children was one of the primary means by which this shift in consciousness took place. That increasingly this liberation is forestalled and that people are finding themselves locked in the cold space of what they sovereignly choose, I find rather sad.

A life of pleasure takes precedence over a life worth living. Look at two popular TV shows, How I Met Your Mother and Sex and the City. They thrive on selling the life without limits as fun and exciting. But how they are structured in their final seasons betrays their inner contradiction. The “happy ending” is not the aimless continuation of cynical, self-centered gratification into perpetuity. It’s when the characters shape up and commit the rest of their lives to something greater—shockingly, marriage, the central civil institution that the redefinitionists want to destroy, that’s every bit as precious as conservatives say it is.

“Monogamous marriage is democracy for the domestic and sexual lives for men and women.” –Glenn Stanton and Bill Maier

These TV shows’ creators view that moment of “settling,” of discovering maturity, as the end of the story. But, in real life, it’s only the beginning.

Joel Kotkin writes Millennials, whom the polls say are pro-family, should be Republicans because Republicans are pro-family. But pro-family Republicans are turning pro-family Millennials away by being pro-family. Confusing, I know.

Most millennials, note generational chroniclers Morley Winograd and Mike Hais, place high priority on being good parents and having a strong marriage.

The potential political benefit, however, is being squandered by profamily activists who tend to focus on a Manichean worldview that sees anything other than traditional arrangements as inimical to core religious values about what is defined as a “natural family.” Rather than try to accommodate modernity, many family activists contend, as one leader told me, that we need to “march back to the ’50s.”

No, not the ’50s!

Unfortunately for more hard-line social conservatives, history may go in waves, with each shift engendering a reaction, but it does not generally go backward. To remain relevant, and not to, so to speak, throw the baby out with the bathwater, some agenda items need to be laid aside. This is particularly true on issues such as gay marriage, where millennial opinion is shifting toward ever-greater acceptance, with roughly two in three in favor. By forcing allegiance to increasingly unpopular views, social conservatives are in danger of losing touch with the next generation.

What are God’s creation and 5,000 years of custom between friends?

What bothers me most about this narrative is that it’s Republicans that have to change to appeal to pious Millennials. Why don’t Millennials change? What makes them so special?

David Goldman writes:

The Church (like the Evangelical movement) is in trouble because the sexual revolution already has re-enchanted the world with a wicked sort of magic. Nothing is more uplifting in the setting of a faith community and nothing is so corrupting when set loose. It is Dante’s She-Wolf in the first Canto of the Divine Comedy, the predator whom Dante could not pass, che mai non empie la bramosa voglia, e dopo ’l pasto ha più fame che pria (who never satisfies her greedy will, and after eating is hungrier than before). There can be no conservative religion where sexual morality has unraveled.

In a superb essay on the centrality of marriage in the civil society, Andrew T. Walker writes:

Humans are social animals. Although we exist as individuals, we do not live in isolation. The need for community is woven into our being: to be human is to be part of a community of individuals. We do not reproduce asexually, but by means of the sexual union of two individuals, male and female, which generates the gift of new humanity. Our marriages are not lone, solitary institutions: we may enter marriage as individuals, but marriage finds its truest expression in the “one-flesh union” that unites a man and a woman as one.

The promise of marriage is the communal benefit it offers society. Where questions arise that purportedly imply exceptions to the conjugal definition of marriage, the tacit assumption behind many such questions is a latent and false conception of individuality—that men and women within a marriage are lone actors who unite for the purpose of marriage, fulfill an act of social obligation, and continue on in singular, non-generative roles as the participants in marriage mature. This version of marriage—one where individuals within a marriage itself define marriage—misses the forest for the trees.

Kinship demonstrates how societies, not just lone marital units, are established. Kinship connotes a truth about sociality: once procreation and rearing in the home are done, we are still interlocked by permanent, inter-generational bonds of dependence. Perhaps the most important factor of kinship is how it extracts the simultaneous and multifarious roles individuals play in society, roles that only marriage fosters. Even with a pairing of two, marriage is never static, but boundlessly dynamic.

...

If we grant kinship’s centrality to marriage, same-sex relationships not only fail as to what constitutes a marriage, but same-sex relationships also fail the kinship test. Redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships enacts a legal fiction that the organic contours of society neither intuitively recognize nor posit. Same-sex marriage does not contribute to the kinship model. If natural marriage bestows life in way that is socially-oriented and centrifugal, then we might say that same-sex marriage is centripetal. In same-sex marriage, the emotional, non-generative unions of adults become the center.

Marriage holds society together like gravity holds us to earth. Marriage is a fusion of husband and wife, parents and children, family and society. Radical individualism runs counter to all of that.

Walker surmises:

Family is the foundation of society; marriage is the foundation of family. Embedded in this simple truth is the overwhelming chorus of families that form nations, a reality that no human ideology like same-sex marriage can overcome.

Phil Lawler responds to Joseph Bottum’s conceding marriage to the “equality” crowd:

We may be approaching a turning point in this great cultural battle. A Catholic counter-offensive may yet turn the tide of public opinion. My friend Robert Royal, in his response to Bottum, reminds us that in 1976 Henry Kissinger was quoted as saying: “The day of the United States is past and today is the day of the Soviet Union. My job as Secretary of State is to negotiate the most acceptable second-best position available.” Kissinger, whose expertise as a practitioner of realpolitik was unquestioned, did not notice that the Soviet empire was already crumbling under the weight of its internal contradictions, and would soon collapse. Any ideological system that denies the fundamental truths of human nature will eventually destroy itself. The culture of hedonism that emerged in the West after the sexual revolution is doomed to the same fate. So we are not on the wrong side of history after all. (emphasis added)

This paraphrases my piece “Slaves to nature” from a year ago:

Hard as we try to rewrite the laws of nature, we will fail. God has set us up to fail.

Also, from “Where the fight is”:

The Left is engaged in an epic battle to remake things the way they think they should be, hence their vain efforts to undo things as they are, things as they exist and prosper in nature. No one benefits from this undoing, not even the idealists who oversee it. In fact, like captains of a rowing ship going backwards in a powerful current, they are least pleased with the results of their labor of love. But they do get a perverse pleasure from sticking their tongues at the world. The bad news is we’re the rowers.

More Lawler:

Faith is not a matter of adding something on to reality; it is a matter of plunging deeper into reality, of aligning oneself with the truth about the human condition. Reality is already enchanted, if you will.

George Weigel despairs:

The ambient public culture has become toxic in numerous ways, one of which is a newly aggressive secularism bent on using coercive state power to enforce a naked public square (another example of [­Richard John Neuhaus]’s foresight). That this secularism has gotten a deep hold on the American government is evident in the HHS mandate and in the actions of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that resulted in Hosanna-Tabor vs. EEOC. Moreover, the reelection of an administration that celebrates a kind of cool secularity, and the political potency of the lifestyle libertinism that has become secularism’s primary public-policy concern (the 2012 Democratic convention’s celebration of abortion as a kind of secular sacrament, for example, and the president’s appalling speech to Planned Parenthood), suggest a further erosion of the claim that there is a there there on which a “religiously informed public philosophy for the American experiment in ordered liberty” can be constructed, and to which such a public philosophy can appeal.

Indeed, the course of the marriage debate suggests that the problem is even worse. The deeper problem is that the public culture of the United States, and of the West as a whole, has lost any grip on what “human nature” might mean. That is, our public culture has lost any grip on the notion that there are Things As They Are: that there are deep truths inscribed in the world and in us, truths that we ignore at our personal and civilizational peril.

Weigel offers four things to think about. I’ll excerpt two.

First, we should recognize, without fear or exaggeration, the full gravity of our present ­political–cultural situation and moment, which is one in which a civil war is being conducted (often not very civilly) over the very meaning of the human person. The resolution of that profound crisis—which is Western-civilizational, not just American—is not going to come, if it does come, through the use of primarily political levers of persuasion and power. It will come only from a reformed culture in which Jerusalem is once again linked to Athens and Rome in the foundations of the West.

Second, we should continue, indeed intensify, the discussion over the future of natural law-based public moral argument that has begun in recent issues of the magazine. This discussion ought to be as wide-ranging as possible: Can there be an effective appeal to natural law-grounded moral norms absent any culturally received notion of “nature,” human or otherwise? Does the use of natural law language and categories undercut the imperative, which is both “internal” to the Church’s primary evangelical mission and demanded by the pressure on believers from a hostile and aggressive public culture, to get the people of the Church to think “within” a biblical apprehension of the world, in their public as well as personal lives?

Aaron Taylor at Ethika Politika also raised this concern about natural law appealing only to a Christian teleology. I addressed that concern this week at the Red Pill Report:

Many secular people’s life experiences forbid them from ignoring the falseness of the lies they’ve been sold, and they are ripe to be ministered to. Nevertheless, asking them to accept an explicitly Christian teleology—a radical proposition—still causes them to shy away from the ultimate truth. They end up choosing the devil they know over the Jesus they don’t. In other words, despite knowing better, they cling to their (secular) religion.

Taylor is right in one aspect: If marriage traditionalists’ endgame is only to convince people that marriage is one-man, one-woman, they will fail. The “marriage equality” movement’s pathology runs deeper than this single issue. In their heart of hearts they believe man is the measure of all things. We have to attack their premises. By attacking their premises, we change their lives, and oh, by the way, we change their minds about marriage.

For Christian disciples, that means more than offering Jesus as an alternative premise. It means first undoing people’s flawed premises to create a void that Jesus naturally fills.

Jay W. Richards defends marriage against a classic redefinitionist argument:

How would it harm your marriage in Texas or North Carolina for two men to “marry” in California or New York? This is like asking if the value of a real dollar in Texas would be affected by flooding the market with counterfeits in New York. Yes, it would be, because counterfeits degrade the value of all real dollars. Enshrining a false definition of marriage in our laws will inevitably harm all marriages and society. Same-sex marriage does not expand the meaning of marriage, but replaces its historical meaning with a counterfeit.

I’ve always found that question from the redefinionists superficial. Marriage is hurt by being called what it isn’t, same as math is hurt by calling two and two five.

Rod Dreher brings us this story: California just passed a law that “would prohibit organizations that discriminate on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation from being considered a nonprofit organization entitled to tax-exempt status,” similar to San Antonio’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which passed eight to three. Similar in principle, anyway.

What’s this?

The language leaves open the meaning of gender identity. An expansive definition of gender identity could have unintended (or possibly intended) consequences on nonprofit schools and institutions that have traditionally been all-boys or all-girls.

There is no limit to what “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” could mean. Banning discrimination of such issues a blank check to sociopaths and deviants.

Hadley Arkes wrote in 1996:

The arguments for gay marriage must in fact put into place the premises that make it untenable for the law to hold back from the acceptance of polygamy. And one thing may be attributed to the gay activists quite accurately and fairly: they have the most profound interest, rooted in the logic of their doctrine, in discrediting the notion that marriage finds its defining ground in nature. For that reason, we can count on the fact that there will be someone, somewhere, ready to press this issue by raising a challenge in the court and testing the limits even further.

...

For what drives the litigation for gay rights is the need to have the gay life recognized and confirmed in principle in every setting in which the issue may arise. Gay activists seem to understand that their interests will not be secured as long as there persists in the public a residual moral sense that there is something about homosexuality that is not quite right. Hence, the need to seek more and more occasions for inducing the public first to tolerate, and then, in small steps, to endorse or approve.

Tolerance is a one-way street, writes William Murchison:

It’s their tough luck to affirm an institutional understanding as old as the human race. We’ve moved on, it seems. According to whom? According, for now, to New Mexico’s Supreme Court, unless a federal court should intervene on First Amendment grounds.

Ah, the First Amendment! Freedom of conviction! La-dee-da! Depends on how the larger society arrays particular rights in the context of other particular rights.

To disentangle the cause of gay rights from the cause of civil rights used to be easy; that ceased a while back. As the gay rights cause gains stature and success, its exponents move to require not just tolerance but public support of it. In concurring with his judicial brethren as to the Huguenins’ culpability, Justice Richard Bosson drove all the way to the one-yard line with an argument for forced conformity, saying that in the world of commerce, “the Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different.”

Now we see, don’t we? Difference of belief is for “others,” not for those who famously cling to God and guns. What’s wrong with these people? Don’t they see “(t)hat compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people”? Justice Bosson laid floral offerings upon what he called “(t)hat sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do.”

The court wouldn’t force the gay couple to compromise. That would go against jurisprudential orthodoxy, inaugurated by Vaughn Walker, that sexuality is an immutable characteristic upon which the state cannot be permitted to impose.

Murchison is a stud. Here he waxes on how much he loves Texas:

Once solidly Democratic, Texas voters flipped to the GOP starting in 1961, when, out of growing distaste for the policies and personalities of national Democrats, they elected Prof. John G. Tower to Lyndon Johnson’s former Senate seat. (The state’s Democrats, with LBJ the towering exception, tended to stay at a discreet distance from what we know of now as the BosWash, or Beltway, fringe element.) What was the problem with the Democrats? Liberalism, purely and simply. Big-government-ism. The desire for the constriction and manipulation of rights that man—in the old sense of the word that encompasses members of both sexes—enjoys flexing in accordance with his own crotchets and yearnings. The Texas frontier, a lot of it fairly frontier-y well into the mid-20th century, encouraged self-reliance and enterprise. Neither trait has exactly gone out of fashion.

But urbanization has disconnected some Texans from the lessons nature instilled in previous generations. Murchison writes:

A few decades ago, Austin was a quiet, modest city (population 200,000 in the 1960 census) with but two protrusions on its skyline: the Capitol dome and the University of Texas tower. The surrounding hills afforded languid touches of green and brown. Ain’t that way no more, boys! Downtown’s a pincushion of high rises and skyscrapers, while Interstate 35 has become a river of trucks and autos headed for San Antonio or Mexico. As for tourists and conventioneers and lobbyists! And New Yorkers—who by the way are pouring in, lured either by Greg Abbott or by their own sense of where the future lies!

They should pass a Texas citizenship test first.


Piers “Paranoid” Morgan is afraid of blind people with guns. Someone remind him not everyone’s a homicidal maniac.

It’s a Hobbesian fantasy Morgan lives in, one that places no trust in the civil society or in the consciences of men. In his mind, we all could turn on each other at any moment at the slightest provocation.


Reza Aslan misreads “The Grand Inquisitor.” He imbibes Ivan’s pessimism about the Church, extending that pessimism to communal worship. Nick Rynerson of Patheos explains:

Those who love God in a community formed by and for him forsake individualism for true fellowship. Aslan and those like him refuse to forsake their individuality, but in doing so lose any hope of fellowship that might challenge or result in knowing higher, absolute truth. And in the end, it is Ivan, not the ecclesial-bound Alyosha whose end is isolation.

This is because all goodness in The Brothers Karamazov comes from God. And all wickedness comes from isolated self-governance. Aslan and Ivan both reject the God of Scripture for something of their own creation. So when Reza Aslan says this after reading “The Grand Inquisitor:”

“[Y]ou are the only one qualified to define what God is for you. No one else is qualified to make that decision for you.”

He is merely echoing Ivan, not Dostoyevsky.

Dostoyevsky wants so much more for the reader than to live as Ivan lived. Ivan did not fare well in his anti-establishmentarianism. When only “the self” matters, “the self” destructs. In The Brothers Karamazov, self led to the downfall of every character that lived by that ethos.

“You are the only one qualified to define what God is”? I’m amazed even a faux Christian scholar like Aslan would utter such a stupid line. No one defines God. God defines Himself, enabling a community of believers to unite in common understanding of Him, putting aside one’s notions of what God should be and what I want, etc. A personal God conceived by me alone is a sure path to sin and isolation.

Church is central to the formation of social capital, James Dwyer writes in RELEVANT:

Millennials are, more than any other generation, prone to not putting down roots. The tendency among Millennials is to drift—to find satisfaction wherever it appears best, and then to move on when the grass gets greener on the other side.

The local church, by its nature, is deeply ingrained in its community. The local church is known by those around it, and in return knows those around it. The ability to know those to whom you are ministering is deeply impactful. It allows for relationships to be built, nurtured and maintained.

Many Millennials are, in fact, looking for this deep level of community, but sadly do not see the local church as providing it. There is a sense of belonging and doing life together that can only be found in the local church. For a generation looking for community, integrity and authentic relationships, it doesn’t get much better than the local church.


We need Obamacare so badly that the Obama administration is delaying it! Investor’s Business Daily observes:

“For every little boy or girl in America whose health lies in the balance, there is an urgency of now,” Sebelius wrote. “For every one of our neighbors who lives day-after-day in fear because they do not have insurance, there is an urgency of now.”

Sebelius forgot to mention that all of her “urgency of now” talk comes after the administration decided to delay massive chunks of ObamaCare.

There’s no “urgency of now” for the small-business marketplace, the verification process, data hub privacy and security protections, or a limit on out-of-pocket costs. They’ve all been put off for at least a year.

Nor is there any “urgency of now” about promises ObamaCare would cut premiums, let you keep your insurance or create jobs. Those have been cancelled.

In any case, for millions of Americans the real “fierce urgency of now” isn’t ObamaCare. It’s a full-time job. That’s something ObamaCare is making increasingly hard to find, and why its repeal is so urgently needed.

Related: “Obamacare’s Dirty Dozen Implementation Failures” via Heritage.

Also related: “Look for ‘20-40%’ Hike in Texas Health Insurance Costs Due to Obamacare” via WOAI.


Mariah Blake of Mother Jones gives a detailed account of the FBI’s breathtaking incompetence in pursuing evidence of suspicious contact between Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood jihadist, and Anwar al-Awlaki in 2008 and 2009. My take? Incompetence and laziness compounded by political correctness.


In an amusing article for Spiked, Frank Furedi writes:

The intellectual devaluation of conservatism originates in the nineteenth century, when the British Tories were described as the ‘stupid party’. That phrase was probably coined by John Stuart Mill, who wrote in 1861 that although both the Whigs and the Tories were lacking in principle, it was the Tories who were ‘by the law of their existence the stupidest party’. Back then, associating conservatism with stupidity was justified on the grounds that upholding tradition and the status quo – as conservatives do – does not require much mental agility or imagination. In contrast, it was claimed that taking a more questioning and critical approach to politics required an ability to think abstractly and in a sophisticated way.

It’s awfully presumptuous and not too bright to think you can start from a clean slate and create a better world when you barely understand the world at all.


John Zmirnak explains why Candide sucks:

This preachy Enlightenment novella examines the deepest question—why God permits the innocent to suffer—with all the mature wisdom of a high school sophomore. Voltaire sets up as a straw man “Dr. Pangloss,” who offers glib and unconvincing answers, and engineers the plot to refute Pangloss point by point. Call this book the archetype of the smug New Atheist tract whose real goal is to convince readers of the superior cleverness of the author.

Washington Times writer David DesRosiers reviews America 3.0, which predicts what America will look like in 2040:

The authors propose a “Big Haircut” — an ordered bankruptcy tied to shared sacrifice, and devolution of power, responsibility and accountability to states, localities and individuals. Mr. Bennett and Mr. Lotus are eyes-wide-open realists: “So, these governments are going to default on their obligations. That is inevitable. We propose that it be done transparently and openly, and preferably at once,” they write. “The Big Haircut is about getting the country functional again, spreading the pain widely, and ending up with a new system that is less prone to the problems of the old.”

Calling the federal government’s collapse a “haircut” might be understating the case. There will be widespread misery and suffering as people bred to be dependent on institutions that have been infiltrated or replaced by big government cease to function. I’m less for “spreading the pain widely” than I am for spreading the pain to those responsible, but that’s probably a fantasy.


In Public Discourse, Carson Holloway describes appropriate government restraint:

The founders openly avowed that the system they created would permit representatives to defy public opinion, and that this freedom was necessary to good and just government. After all, the people are sometimes mistaken, misled into folly or injustice by their passions or whims. Nevertheless, the founders expected that such deviations from public opinion would be primarily passive and not active. Thus they tended to speak of representation as a check on public opinion. In this view, the good representative will resist foolish or unjust measures that the people demand.

But we would be hard pressed to find examples of the founders praising an active defiance of the public. Where in their voluminous writings do we find them praising public officials for foisting projects on the people that the people reject? Refusing to do what the people ask is one thing. They can always do it later if they still want it badly enough. But committing the nation to something the people reject is something else altogether, because undoing policy decisions is harder than making them in the first place.


At the London Review of Books, Rebecca Solnit rebels against dehumanizing technology. Part of me says, “Yes!” Another part of me says, “I wouldn’t be reading this without technology.” Excerpt:

If you’re even heard, since earphones – they still look to me like some sort of medical equipment, an IV drip for noise – are ubiquitous, so that on college campuses, say, finding someone who can lend you an ear isn’t easy. The young are disappearing down the rabbit hole of total immersion in the networked world, and struggling to get out of it.

Getting out of it is about slowness, and about finding alternatives to the alienation that accompanies a sweater knitted by a machine in a sweatshop in a country you know nothing about, or jam made by a giant corporation that has terrible environmental and labour practices and might be tied to the death of honeybees or the poisoning of farmworkers. It’s an attempt to put the world back together again, in its materials but also its time and labour. It’s both laughably small and heroically ambitious.


Last month I became obsessed with Haken’s debut album Aquarius. The refrain from the third track “Aquarium” calls to mind the Miley Cyrus disaster at the VMAs:

Freak of nature, pay to see her
Eyes surround her like a fever
Free me master, see me shiver
Put me back into the river

The song is about a fisherman who finds a mermaid and puts her on display in his aquarium, like a side show. It inspired my zoo metaphor in “Show us the beast.”


Texas schools can no longer ticket students for disciplinary violations. Good. “Zero tolerance” was just a way for schools to avoid the hard work of disciplining kids.
“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all ... The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic ... There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.” –Teddy Roosevelt

Jon Acuff wants to retire “just sayin’” from our vocabulary:

Christians use this phrase as a “Get out of jerk free” card. We write the most vile, bitter statement on Facebook and then punctuate it with “just sayin’,” as if that makes the rest of it invisible. It didn’t, we still saw what you wrote. You know who would have loved this phrase in the Bible? The Pharisees. Can’t you see them saying to Jesus, “Whoa, Jesus, you healed a guy. That’s great. Healing is awesome. It is the Sabbath though. Just sayin’.”

I can’t disagree.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Coasties vs. Alleghenies

Writing in the Baltimore Sun, Dan Rodricks snarks about the Western Maryland Initiative, spearheaded by Scott Strzelczyk, which aims to break away five western Maryland counties to form their own state:

He no longer wants to be part of the Maryland associated with Prince George’s County, Baltimore City, and Montgomery County. Being a Republican, he’s miserable. The Democrats control the Maryland General Assembly, hold all statewide offices and, he says, gerrymandered legislative and Congressional districts. The state has only one Republican member of Congress, Andy Harris.

It’s not just Republicans. Maryland Democrats are miserable, too. That’s why they cling to their dreams and keep electing liberals, to redistribute what few blessings are left of a once great state, destroyed by liberal policies. That’s also why they’re leaving in droves for Virginia and Delaware.

I don’t know the historical ties between coastal Maryland and western Maryland. But I did live in a Baltimore suburb for 5 years, and I got a sense of both places. Maybe 200 years ago these disparate regions had a lot in common culturally. They don’t now. Rural western Marylanders have nothing in common with the yuppies D.C., Annapolis, and Baltimore have attracted like flies. Western Marylanders can’t afford the yuppies’ disconnection from reality, liberal guilt, and faith in government, but live with them they must, for they constitute a solid majority in bluest Maryland.

Ironically, Rodricks himself makes a good case for secession. He runs through the list of Strzelczyk’s grievances, barely concealing his disdain. As a coastal Marylander, he knows nothing of the destructive effects of his state’s policies on western Maryland. To him it’s just a place to unwind on weekends.

Flush taxes, sales taxes, gasoline taxes, rain taxes, income taxes, unemployment taxes, payroll taxes, inheritance taxes, OSHA regulations, labor regulations, environmental regulations, car registration fees, etc. What good do they do? They haven’t stopped rural hubs like Cumberland, formerly the “Queen City,” from falling into a depression. Rodricks’ accusation of “something-for-nothing libertarianism” rings hollow. Call it less-for-more reactionism.

What the meddling Governor O’Malley and his functionaries have done to isolate western Maryland is create an oppressive system of governing formulas that replace the civil society’s functions of maintaining growth and stability as Maryland transitions from a manufacturing economy to a services economy. These formulas apply to where the population is densest, where government services and infrastructure have the greatest impact with limited reach. Those services and infrastructure don’t reach way out to the Alleghenies.

Maryland doesn’t need its western counties to preserve its current economy or even its political and cultural identity. If anything, the western counties hold Maryland back from the dark abyss its ideology inevitably leads. Whether western Maryland secedes or not, the region’s sunny quaintness Rodricks shows cynical appreciation of will still be there to experience whenever he pleases.

Doubtful, though, is whether he’ll ever understand why. Why does the city slicker, assured of his superiority, keep returning to the forgotten places? Where the people you know and the resources at hand are what you have to live and work with.

Further reading: “Density, dependence, destruction.”

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Government nihilism

Government is institutionally reactive. Its bureaucratic structure and limited purpose to maintain order and the rule of law inhibit its own creativity. Government reacts to changing conditions. It reacts to the will of the governed. It does not create. As such, government fills only needs that already exist. If there is demand for a road, it will build a road. If there is demand for a sewer, it will build a sewer.

Politicians’ forays into the supply side—known as corporatism and picking winners à la Solyndra—destroy wealth and hurt the economy. The corporations seeking government subsidies are old and fat and too much like the government whose teat they pucker up to. The lack of flexibility in obtaining and spending taxpayer money leads to failure in the dynamic free market. Politicians hide their failures by skewing the market with perpetual subsidies and corporate welfare. Think ethanol.

Generally averse to risk, government prefers state patrimony of “static” markets, if there are such things. Automobiles, for example, have been in demand for 80 years. Struggling legacy automobile manufacturers like GM and Chrysler present politicians a relatively safe opportunity to show they care about the working man.

If they really cared, they would have let those companies go under. The market for horse-drawn carriages, in fashion for centuries, probably seemed like it would last forever. But the market changed, and automobiles became the new fashion, indeed a new way of life. Now imagine if government bolstered horse-drawn carriage manufacturers with taxpayer money, siphoning away people’s creative energies to hold off economic progress.

That in effect is what Rep. Joaquín Castro means when he calls for “purposeful government.” His “infrastructure of opportunity” is not the rule of law, but the misrule of man. It is politicians who, because of presumed (in fact, limited) expertise or ideology, think they know the desires of those they govern better than they know it themselves. They don’t.

All Joaquín Castro can truly claim to know is what people want through polls and surveys. All he can do is react to that demand. Student loans and business loans—start-up capital in the state economy—go to meet existing demand, not to creating something new. There is no way he can pinpoint the next breakthrough, the next product or service that enhances people’s lives. The leading edge of innovation is years ahead of changing the world. Steve Jobs was selling primitive home computers in 1976. Home computers didn’t become a thing until 20 years later.

Castro characterizes the push for limited government as nihilist. Nihilism is a belief in nothing that logically devolves into ultimate selfishness, a worldview with I at the center. Limited government is the opposite. Limited government means decentralized power, unleashing man’s creativity to improve his condition. Castro wants big government—led by “experts” like him—to be at the center, to be the sink into which we all invest our hopes and dreams, to which we all are submissive. If that isn’t nihilist, I don’t know what is.

Related reading: “Union-assisted suicide.”