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Please Help Benjamin Boychuk Growth Fund

March 6th, 2015 Erik No comments

My friend Ben Boychuk recently posted in the Sac Bee here, about his son’s battle with his inability to grow without special medicine.  The issue at hand is that the Affordable Care Act’s requirements left people like my friend Ben without the necessary coverage that they had before the Act’s requirements went into place.

Therefore, Ben and his family need help.  I encourage everyone interested to read his piece in the Bee.  It will give you an idea of how more regulation does not lead to the Public Good.  In the meantime, Ben’s family suffers.

I have known Ben Boychuk for years.  He was and is a tireless journalist and a thoughtful friend.  He married the love of his life, Millie, who I recall him speaking about often before he was finally able convince her in some way to marry him.  It is a rarity in this day and age for two people to meet, and start a family, with such love between them.

For those who want to donate to the Growth Fund—a legitimate fund dedicated to getting Ben’s son the medicine he needs—please visit the Benjamin Boychuk’s Growth Fund here.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Hillsdale College on the Life & Work of Harry Jaffa

February 16th, 2015 Erik No comments

Rauner’s Uphill Battle

February 16th, 2015 Erik No comments

In Illinois, newly elected Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has decided to use his authority as a state executive to decrease the power of public employee unions by reducing their ability to press non-union workers for dues.

He is the first Republican governor in the state since 1999.

Rauner claims that,

Government union bargaining and government union political activity are inextricably linked,” Rauner said. “As a result, an employee who is forced to pay unfair share dues is being forced to fund political activity with which they disagree. That is a clear violation of First Amendment rights and something that, as governor, I am duty-bound to correct.

For the Rauner, this is a first amendment issue by forcing people into union against their will, and then taking their money against their will should they choose not to join the Union.  This places Rauner squarely in the right to work camp, and his actions pose to present the state with a serious battle over Union privilege versus the individual.  The Wall Street Journal is supportive of the cost cutting and Constitutional measures he is taking.  The Unions are crying foul for the violation of their “rights” but there is no Constitutional right to another person’s wages.

Rauner faces an uphill battle as entrenched Unions will fight back along with the complicit Democrat state legislature at their back.

Obama’s Existential Problem

February 10th, 2015 Erik No comments

Obama’s recent speech at the National Prayer Breakfast have touched off a firestorm.  The offending statement was this:

Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.  And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

This would not be controversial in one aspect if not for the fact that Obama will not describe Islamic Terrorists as Islamic Terrorists.  His rationale is that such labeling hurts and offends those of that faith.  However, he has no mercy for Christians or Jews in that regard if the Prayer breakfast speech is any indication.

Even his National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, bolsters this impression when she said the very next day:

But, too often, what’s missing here in Washington is a sense of perspective.  Yes, there’s a lot going on.  Still, while the dangers we face may be more numerous and varied, they are not of the existential nature we confronted during World War II or the Cold War.  We can’t afford to be buffeted by alarmism and an instantaneous news cycle.  We must continue to do the hard work of leading a complex and rapidly evolving world, of seizing opportunities, and of winning the future for our children [emphasis added].

Apparently, the administration has forgotten that the Nazi’s and several religious imams were in alliance during World War II—the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem is but one notorious example of this cozy relationship of common goals.

The problem with Obama’s remarks in particular are amplified by the fact that he will not note the religious aspects of ISIS, but will condemn the religious aspects of terror employed by “Christians.”  The question one is forced to ask is: why the apparent favoritism to one Faith over another?  Why single out Christians and not Muslims?  It is a curious omission.

For the record, it is absolutely true that “Christians” terrorized people in the form of the KKK in our own country.  My recent research on Ulysses Grant revealed that Grant used federal authority to put down terror in the South against the former slaves at the hands of the KKK.  Among the atrocities were intimidation, hangings, murders, etc., of men, women, and children. These facts cannot be denied. We could easily point to many examples, including the Star Chamber of how religious fanatics use their faith to violate the rights of others.

When it comes to the Crusades and their moral equivalency to ISIS, Obama is simply incorrect as noted herehereherehere, here, here, here.  The history of the Crusades in all its negatives and positives (if you will) have been duly noted here:

It is generally thought that Christians attacked Muslims without provocation to seize their lands and forcibly convert them. The Crusaders were Europe’s lacklands and ne’er-do-wells, who marched against the infidels out of blind zealotry and a desire for booty and land. As such, the Crusades betrayed Christianity itself. They transformed “turn the other cheek” into “kill them all; God will know his own.”

Every word of this is wrong.

The idea of the Crusades, especially being against a people who identified as Muslim is historically difficult to decipher, especially when we consider Tom Holland’s thesis that their Prophet was not a congealed idea in their mind until very late in history.  See his BBC documentary which raises the question (I think respectfully) here.

My favorite, and most reasonable, reaction to the President’s speech comes from Commentary Magazine where Peter Wehner pointed out that:

…but it’s also true that slavery and segregation were overthrown by those who justified their actions in the name of Christ. And if the president insists on making comparisons between Christianity and Islam, then it needs to be said that while Christianity has struggled with religious intolerance in its past, it has almost everywhere made its inner peace with religious tolerance and pluralism. On the other hand, true religious freedom has been quite rare in Muslim-majority communities throughout history. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It doesn’t mean that most Muslims embrace the version of Islam being practiced by ISIS. And it certainly doesn’t mean that individual Muslims can’t assimilate themselves in America. Millions do, and they are wonderful contributors to our nation.

But it does mean that in the here and now, the problems we see are emanating not from within Christianity but from within Islam.

Hence, we have the crux of the problem.  There is no superiority when it comes to one Faith being better than another.  Revelatory appeals to irrational utterances (that is beyond Reason) are plenary.  No Faith can escape the use and abuse of the Word on High.  Obama is right about past abuses of Christianity (for the most part—he’s woefully wrong about the Crusades which was a defensive “war”).  But, he favors Islam so as to not offend while he offends Christians.  How odd and how misplaced is his criticism.

The real divide is not which Faith is better or has been reformed, or will be reformed.  The real divide is between Philosophy and Revelation.  It is high time Reason brought Faith before its tribunal.  And Obama fails to move us to the discussion most necessary to Our Souls.

Sir Martin Gilbert, RIP

February 6th, 2015 Erik No comments

From the WSJ:

By

LARRY P. ARNN

Feb. 4, 2015 7:15 p.m. ET

In summer 1940, as war raged, the British government sent several hundred children, including 3-year-old Martin Gilbert, to safety in Canada. The children berthed aboard the Duchess of Bedford in a 50-ship convoy, and after the destroyer escort turned back, the convoy was attacked by the Germans and five ships sank.

The Duchess sailed on safely, past the icebergs of Labrador, “marvelous for children to behold [and] among my first memories,” Gilbert wrote. Soon after, another boat with 77 children evacuees was sunk by the Germans, drowning them all, and the scheme was abandoned.

In summer 1944, Winston Churchill —who from the start had disliked the idea of sending British children overseas, calling it a “scuttle”—arranged for many of the young evacuees, including Gilbert, to return aboard an American troopship from New York.

Churchill specifically asked the Admiralty to make sure, amid other responsibilities in the aftermath of the Normandy landings, that there be enough life jackets for the extra children.

So began the life of Sir Martin Gilbert, who died at age 78 on Tuesday in London. He is best known as Churchill’s official biographer. He served as adviser to Prime Minister John Major and was soon after awarded knighthood in 1995.

Gilbert taught as a fellow of Merton College, Oxford. He wrote 88 books, including histories of the Holocaust, of the world wars and of the 20th century. Regarding the Holocaust, he said that the “tireless gathering of facts will ultimately consign Holocaust deniers to history.”

The Churchill biography is a thing of magnificence. It is the largest biography ever written, befitting one of the largest lives ever lived. It is now 25 volumes and more than 25,000 pages, with six document volumes that Hillsdale College, in Hillsdale, Mich., has been tasked with completing in his absence.

Churchill was prolific: hundreds of speeches, 50 books, and thousands of articles, memos and official minutes. Thus, Gilbert’s biography is monumental. To do this work, he had the “treasure trove” of the Churchill archives, traveled to public and private archives throughout Britain, and corresponded with hundreds of Churchill’s contemporaries, many of whom became his friends.

Gilbert utterly rebelled against the view that the facts of history change with time. In this way he agreed with the classics. He wrote the biography faithfully, from primary-source materials and with the greatest care to tell the story as it happened. Gilbert’s stewardship is significant, as Churchill is a man of our time and one of its greatest blessings.

I was privileged to work as research assistant to Gilbert on the biography in the 1970s and continue as his friend and colleague afterward. For years I witnessed and wondered at the care and energy he put into his work. He desired original sources, nothing less. “You must get everything. We must have it all here,” he once told me.

He would say, “You have a good memory, and I have a good memory; we do not rely upon our memories.” I learned to look things up again and again. If you used the term “perhaps,” his eyebrows would go up, and he would say, “Perhaps not!”

I have never known anyone so tireless in his vocation. Once he was stricken with Bell’s palsy, which paralyzed part of his face, yet he worked regardless, the same hours, holding his pen in one hand and in the other a handkerchief pressed against his mouth to keep it closed.

Gilbert’s Oxford tutor, the historian A.J.P. Taylor, told him in 1960 that “if you go in for historical research, you will work for weeks on end and find nothing.” Gilbert was persevering and fierce, but his manner never so.

He sought to give life and breath to history. In 1997, he said in an interview with C-Span that he wanted to be remembered “as someone who brought ordinary people, or people, into the equation, not merely governments and powers and themes, but human beings with flesh and blood and names and ages.”

Mr. Arnn is president of Hillsdale College.

Minimum Wage Law Claims Another Business

February 4th, 2015 Erik No comments

Be looking for more of this as minimum wage laws take effect in many cities.  In this iteration, The Daily Caller notes that a beloved San Francisco bookstore will have to close because minimum wage laws.

Back in November, residents of the city voted to increase the minimum wage gradually to $15 an hour over the course of three years. Though the wage hike was designed to help address income inequality, several businesses have already had to close.

Advocates of minimum wage laws argue that it is more humanitarian to force wage increases, but how humanitarian is it to cost someone their business or their job?  We should note that Borderlands closure is but one of several since the wage increase law passed.

Crossposted here.

Categories: Business, Economics Tags:

Scott Walker’s First Ad

January 31st, 2015 Erik No comments

As noted at the Weekly Standard here, Gov. Walker has released his first ad—even though he has not announced.  It is a case for innovation and a resurgence of adult politics by a tested executive on the state level.  Does it work?  Walker’s nod at the Declaration of Independence will appeal to primary voters for sure, but has all the elements of a general appeal as well.

Walker has none of the Scott Brown appeal that leaps off the page.  Brown’s ads were classy and cutting edge.  Walker here, is deliberate and dividing regardless of party.  He’s here to play.  Walker should be considered a serious candidate.

Timothy Sandefur Nails it: More on Jaffa’s Passing

January 14th, 2015 Erik No comments

I cannot but highly recommend Timothy Sandefur’s poetic defense and eulogy of my Professor, Harry V. Jaffa.  Nicely done.  Excellent quote:

He was often criticized for the harshness of his writing; his opponents usually said this from the mat, while the referee counted down the remaining seconds. I recall one particularly severe, and entertaining, National Review exchange with Bork that ended with bitter accusations. But the reason for his intensity was that Jaffa was right, and about important matters. He was wrong sometimes, and there will be time to debate those things later. The most important thing here is what he was right about. Liberty, he insisted, really is the birthright of every person. The Declaration’s principle of equality really is the sheet anchor of American republicanism. The vindication of the union and the liberation of the slaves really was the destiny of the American nation. Calhoun and his modern admirers really were wrong about the sources of political obligation and the primacy of liberty. The intensity of his writing rose from the crucial importance of the task before him. How could one compromise on the central ideas of the American Constitution?—the central ideas of mankind? Yet many of his fellow conservatives were lightly tossing these ideas overboard in his lifetime. Such ideas, Jaffa thought, were not to be treated as mere academic exercises; they were the staff of life. He fought fiercely for them because he saw how much depended on them. Paine, of whom he was fond, said that we have it in our power to begin the world anew. That is worth more than tenderness to the feelings of misguided friends.

Before his passing, John J. Miller, wrote a fabulous bio in NR.  It is worth a read as well.

Harry V. Jaffa, RIP

January 11th, 2015 Erik No comments

In 1993-94 I was a graduate student at the University of Montana in the M.A. program in political science.  Since I had many required credits out of the way, I decided to take two classes that appealed to my love of the classics and political philosophy:  Attic Greek and the History of Rome.  The latter class was taught by a professor I did not know, named Hayden Ausland.  since I was the only graduate student in what was an undergraduate class, Professor Ausland had me read two books that seemed, out of place:  Natural Right and History, and Crisis of the House Divided.  The latter book was of course Jaffa’s and the prior was written by Leo Strauss.  I thought it odd that he would ask me to read two books seemingly so disconnected to the Ancients, but I read them, and my life changed from that moment.

It was because of those two books I knew I wanted to study with Jaffa at Claremont.  So, I applied and the rest is history.  It was the best decision I ever made.

My professor Harry V. Jaffa passed away at 96 yesterday.  Jaffa was no easy professor.  He was a rigorous task master and was an intellectual force unsurpassed.  Nevertheless, Jaffa was the consummate gentleman.  I took independent study classes with him on Lincoln and had weekly meetings with him on the speeches and texts of Lincoln’s statesmanship.  One of the most memorable moments of my graduate student days was when a colleague of mine David DesRosiers engaged Jaffa in a debate held in the basement of the Honnold Library on Harvey Mansfield’s interpretation of the American Founding, for which I transcribed.  It was contentious, of course, because the only thing Jaffa loved more than his own family, was America and The Good.  On a personal level, I remember at one party, watching a stage with him of the 1999 Tour de France.  We were the only ones in the room.  I remember him being concerned with the Posties needing to keep the team together in order for Lance Armstrong to maintain a dynasty over the peloton.

There are a plethora of eulogies sure to come.  As of this writing, the few I have read are here, here, here, here.  There are many videos of Jaffa on the web.  Peter Robinson at Uncommon Knowledge still retains a couple of my favorites.  In the late 1990s-early 2000s I was engaged in a vigorous critique of Thomas DiLorenzo’s book the Real Lincoln.  In this video, Jaffa does better than anyone and he destroys DiLorenzo in this debate:

Thank you for every Professor Jaffa.  America lost a great man, and we all lost a great teacher.  RIP.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the Paris Murders

January 8th, 2015 Erik No comments

As with any event of this nature, Ayaan Hirsi Ali should always be considered seriously.  Key quote:

In Islam, it is a grave sin to visually depict or in any way slander the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims are free to believe this, but why should such a prohibition be forced on nonbelievers? In the U.S., Mormons didn’t seek to impose the death penalty on those who wrote and produced “The Book of Mormon,” a satirical Broadway sendup of their faith. Islam, with 1,400 years of history and some 1.6 billion adherents, should be able to withstand a few cartoons by a French satirical magazine. But of course deadly responses to cartoons depicting Muhammad are nothing new in the age of jihad.

She has a book on the need for a Muslim reformation coming in April.  It should be on everyone’s must read list.

The Paris Murders @ Charlie Hebdo

January 8th, 2015 Erik No comments

Once again we are forced to confront the connection between religion and violence. The murder of several staff at Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris is the latest example.

For those who feel the need to identify Je Suis Charlie, it would behoove us to understand just how brave the employees of this magazine were:

Not just print original satirical cartoons taking the piss out of Islamic-terrorist sensibilities, but do so six days after you were firebombed for taking the piss out of Islamic-terrorist sensibilities (pictured), and do so in such a way that’s genuinely funny (IMO) and even touching, with the message “Love is stronger than hate.”

Hebdo’s satire bit, and it bit without regard to political creed or religious faith.  The magazine forces us to confront the proper limits of political satire in a civil society.  But in liberal democracies, political opinion

The magazine First Things has an excellent piece today on the relationship between violence and terror.  Here is the crux of the problem:

Contrary to repeated Muslim denials, key aspects of the ideology of radical violent Muslim groups are indeed rooted in Islamic texts and history. Al-Qaeda, IS, and Boko Haram have their origins mainly in Wahhabi and Salafi thought. These are traditions of fundamentalist Islamic interpretation that have widespread influence across the Muslim world. Founding leaders of jihadi groups have either been students of leading Wahhabi-Salafi scholars or were inspired by their works.

The faith is heavily legalistic, and those prescriptions by religious legal scholars centuries past, still govern the Faith to this day, albeit, perhaps in extremist fashion, which might shock tolerant people:

Wahhabi and Salafi thought in their modern expression derive from Islamic jurist-theologians Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328) and Muhammad Abd ­al-­Wahhab (d. 1792). They are both renowned students and teachers of the Hanbali school of law. Salafi teaching upholds the first three generations of Muslim history (salaf) as sacrosanct alongside the prophetic example. Not all Salafis are Wahhabis. The latter brand any practice or teaching later than the third century of Islam (salaf) as satanic innovation (bida‘). Wahhabism is the most literalist and iconoclastic branch of Hanbalism, which itself is the most conservative of the four main schools. For instance, while other Muslims might urge abstention from alcohol, Wahhabis also prohibit stimulants, including tobacco. Not only is modest dress prescribed but also the type of clothing that should be worn, especially by women (a black abaya, covering all but the eyes and hands). Religious education includes training in the use of weapons. Wahhabism emphasizes the importance of avoiding non-Islamic cultural practices and non-Muslim fraternity on the grounds that the sunna and the central importance of Muhammad as exemplar forbid imitating non-Muslims. Wahhabi scholars have warned against taking non-Muslims as friends and against smiling at or even wishing them well on their holidays.

But does this mean that all are violent?  No.  Those who are jihadists are “taking the law in their own hands” and this the prophet forbids:

Nevertheless, it is equally misleading to argue that the jihadi groups represent the true face of Islam. While the legal and doctrinal edicts that the jihadists cite are integral parts of Islamic law, the jihadists without question violate that law by taking it into their own hands. Their failure to consider the conditions necessary for the declaration of jihad, as well as for its proper conduct, provides an obvious example. Questions of which groups can be targeted, and of how and toward what end, are enormously complicated and sharply qualified in the authoritative legal texts. For instance, all four Sunni schools of law, including the Hanbali school, agree that the declaration of jihad can be justified for the sake of preserving or extending the government of an Islamic state. Therefore, as is the case in Christian just-war theory, in which the power to declare war is carefully limited to governments, in Islamic law only legitimate Islamic governments can declare a jihad, not individuals or nonstate actors. An exception is made when a Muslim land comes under attack or occupation by an enemy force, which renders jihad or resistance an individual responsibility. But even then, jihad has to have been formally declared by the legitimate authority properly representing the people of the occupied nation. By declaring and conducting jihad on their own, al-Qaeda, IS, Boko Haram, and other such groups act as heretical usurpers.

There is much more to be considered in this regard as to just how far outside of Islamic Law terror groups are.  Bill Maher has his take, of course:

His is an opinion to be taken seriously.  For IF it is true a majority believe in the punishments because of religion, then the author of First Things should make an addendum to his essay:

We need to strongly resist the view that Islam is the problem, that the Qur’an is the problem, that Muhammad is the problem. To denounce Islam as a death-loving religion—or the Qur’an and Muhammad as a constitution and example, respectively, for terrorists—provides excuses for twisted zealots. It reinforces their deluded belief that they and only they are the true Muslims. Moreover, it inspires fear and mistrust among the great majority of Muslims, who are not jihadists. If the Qur’an and Islam are the problems, what is the solution? Drop bombs on the Ka’bah in Mecca? Ban the use of the Qur’an?

I concur with that in part, but if any religion believes death should follow any private behavior, then there are problems with said religion, especially when natural rights are at stake.

Students Should Read This

December 19th, 2014 Erik No comments

There are some aspects of learning that students should abide by.  Here is a list.

Categories: Education Tags:

Here Comes Warren!

December 16th, 2014 Erik No comments

Here comes Elizabeth Warren, who says that she is not—at the moment—running for president.  However, rhetorically, she sure sounds like she’s trying to influence who is nominated.  What if nobody she likes is nominated?  Warren, who was featured in Michael Moore’s Capitalism:  A Love Story when she was a professor at Harvard, is the consummate voice of the left (some would say the tea party left), and she more than anyone in the Democrat Party poses a serious challenge to Hillary Clinton.  Bernie Sanders has not the charisma nor the articulate appeal that Warren does, and he carries the identification of “socialist” around as a proud badge, and that’s immediate disqualification for a majority of the voters in the general.

Warren, however, has a populist appeal that could get her far into the primary, and she appeals to the Democratic base when she is not obligated to do so, particularly among those who believe Obama has betrayed them.  As a result, Warren is garnering much attention:

Interviews with more than a dozen attendees, along with comments from panelists, suggest that Clinton — who many on the left view as too hawkish and soft on Wall Street — is still struggling to generate enthusiasm among progressives, even as she’s all but certain to announce a 2016 bid within a few months. The lack of excitement is especially palpable among younger liberals, the set that helped power Barack Obama to the Democratic nod over Clinton in 2008.

Warren keeps saying she is not (in the present) running.  But that is true until she says she’s running (and for the record, Hillary is not running either at the moment).  In other words, she has not ruled it out:

As NPR’s Steve Inskeep and many other observers have noticed, Warren always answers the presidential query in the present tense and assiduously avoids any deviation that might rule out a future bid.

Warren may not be “running for president” at the moment, but neither is anyone else, for that matter.

Far more relevant is the question that she has repeatedly chooses not to answer: Might she run for president, after the 2016 campaign official kicks off next year?

Can Warren win, as David Brooks recently opined in the affirmative in the NYT?  He concludes:

Clinton is obviously tough, but she just can’t speak with a clear voice against Wall Street and Washington insiders. Warren’s wing shows increasing passion and strength, both in opposing certain Obama nominees and in last week’s budget fight.

The history of populist candidates is that they never actually get the nomination. The establishment wins. That’s still likely. But there is something in the air. The fundamental truth is that every structural and historical advantage favors Clinton, but every day more Democrats embrace the emotion and view defined by Warren.

Brooks is too optimistic for the moment, but there is a conceivable path to Warren winning with Clinton’s continued mis-steps and the base’s continued anger at Obama and the prior Clinton administration’s forays into the center.

It’s Time for New Fusion

December 9th, 2014 Erik No comments

Remember back in the day oh so long ago—as little as in 2013—when people were prophesying the death of conservatism?  Indeed, if you click on one of those links, the tradition of predicting the death of the right goes back a long time to the early 90s.

Presently, we have an equal litany of pundits and thinkers predicting a liberal crackup.  This is not new.  Even in the 1980s, Bill Buckley on his excellent Firing Line considered the “liberal crackup” after Reagan’s landslide elections:

Auguries of the death of this or that party have plagued us since the Founding.  Sometimes, parties actually do collapse.  However, most of the time predictions about a party’s demise are incorrect.  After 2008, the Republicans were not collapsing, they were in the middle of an internal battle.  The Tea Party sprung up to the right of center, and was the bane of of the party leading it to defeat after defeat electorally.  Fast forward a few years to 2014, and the latest shellacking of the Democrats were not largely due to the Tea Party.  The Tea Party was seen as too extreme, and it did not benefit the governing coalition on the Hill.  Presently, leading Tea Party politician, Ted Cruz, is a man isolated.   Being politically savvy is not the strong suit of the Tea Party to be sure.

In similar fashion, the Democrats are about ready to make the same mistake (although they are doing it willingly!), and it is here the Republicans can capitalize greatly.  Since the feckless presidency of Barrack Obama, the left wing of the party has began to flex it’s muscle. Indeed, Obama was seen as the great left hope, but he has been a crushing disappointment.  So much so, Hillary Clinton is too far to the right of many of the rank and file Democrats, and Jim Webb, among others, will likely challenge her from the left–though it is safe to say that Webb could be seen as a more reliable middle of the road candidate similar to Sec. Clinton.   So, it’s no surprise that certain factions of the Democrat Party are calling for a Tea Party of the Left, and doing so willingly.  The problem is that these small movements only appeal to a tiny portion of the base, but usually that’s enough to keep electable candidates with which they disagree from winning.

The more recent problems for the Democrats is that they are losing white voters; Republicans conversely are increasingly losing minorities.  We are facing the reality that if trends continue, the two parties will be very racially split.  This is not a good things for the country or our politics for it will become increasingly divisive.  Republicans can stave off this racial division presently, as even the Democrats alienate the rest of their white blue collar coalition.

The Republicans are standing in the midst of a great opportunity, if they can only see it.  They are poised to adopt an electoral and governing majority by instituting a version of fusionism.  We should call it New Fusion–in honor of Frank Meyer who thought that an alliance between anti-communists, social and traditional conservatives, and libertarians (free marketers) could be created and turned into a winning electoral coalition, as well as a robust intellectual society.  What should this candidate look like?

Mitt Romney was an awful candidate in many ways:  he did not appeal to the voters because he appeared to lack empathy, he seemed to be a ruthless businessman (Bain Capital), and he did not appeal to the base (not conservative enough).  Much of Romney’s depressing candidacy is noted in the excellent books After Hope and Change and Barrack Obama and the New America.  Let’s stake out a few areas the Republicans have an opportunity to make inroads into the Democrat coalition nationally.  These are by no means meant to be exhaustive.

  1. Immigration:  Republicans have a golden opportunity to bring a significant number, if not a majority, of Hispanics into the Republican camp.  The party already has about 28% of them voting nationally, and in certain states the number is even greater.  The stalling and complaining about illegals being here does the party no good nationally.  There is a significant policy problem facing the country and there is no practical way to deport everyone even if the entire country wanted them deported (incidentally, I think it violates the idea of America to deport productive people who desire citizenship).  As a practical matter, the country debated for years deporting the slaves and former slaves.  It is costly, and further, there is a humane consideration of sending productive people into a land (or back to their country) where they will stagnate and not thrive as human beings.  America is the best hope and a beacon of light in this world, and Republicans ought to emphasize that as the motivating factor why many people want to uproot their lives, live, work, and die here in this country.  So, what should the policy be?  First, they should pass legislation and appropriate funds to fast track illegals who are productive.  Second, they should pass legislation to deport criminals (not house them in our legal system).  Third, they should pass a robust border security bill aimed at security in relation to terror not to keep out people who want to immigrate here (and that means including the promotion of a status for those like they do in Baja where they can live in Mexico, but work daily in the U.S.)   Obama has been the deporter-in-chief; Republicans can vow to be the opposite for the idea of America at the Statue of Liberty is to call all the tired and weak who want to succeed.  There’s nothing more American than welcoming immigrants with open arms.
  2. Economy/Business:  Republicans have been awful on these issues.  To their right, they are insufficiently free-market and seem to assent to the criticisms from the left that there’s something evil with business and corporations.  To their left, they praise business too much by talking about how businesses don’t harm the environment, are generally good by providing employment, etc.  It times to split the difference.  Republicans should adopt a rhetoric and the policy that supports business but does not avoid humanitarian responsibility.  I have recently read a book by John Mackey of Whole Foods called Conscious Capitalism.  Mackey–a free market libertarian–makes the case for markets without all the unsympathetic language and paralyzing theoretical boredom.  Mackey makes it clear that some businesses are better than others.  Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and a whole host of others actually live by their mission.  They treat employees well, pay them well, and in turn, give them a stake in the company.  Certain companies also believe they are doing good for the whole by providing a service they need and can use, but these are not just words, they speak, live it, and act like it in their relations with the customer as well.  Mackey makes it clear, business is here to do good not make a profit simply.  In that he disagrees with the wonderful Milton Friedman who said the opposite.  This ALL should be praised by Republicans as an example of how free markets work for the Good.  Yet Mackey also notes the onerous taxation rates on businesses.  Of the nearly $900 million Whole Foods made, the company only walked away with about $330 million because of taxation.  Thus, it is time to go Ireland, lower the tax rate and allow businesses to thrive.  Mackey makes it clear, that many businesses would donate more funds to charity if not for taxation.  Republicans need to highlight these facts in a heartfelt and sympathetic way.  Government needs to get out of the way for Good people to do Good things with their Good companies.
  3. Defense:  Rand Paul makes a thoughtful case that we should retrench as a nation and allow many countries to fight among themselves.  His position would definitely lose the American electorate and certainly the Republican base.  While some of what he says may be compelling–and I do think we should pull back in some areas–we should most definitely not cut defense.  Republicans should talk about real defense of the homeland technologically whether that is through a more robust defense shield, or a well thought out foreign policy.  Obama has been feckless and child-like in his foreign policy–if he has even had one.  It is time for the Republicans to be hawkish while not so interventionist.  In this vein, why not allow the rearming of Japan?  That would surely make Putin think a bit more about things, and let China know we are serious about politics in the pacific rim.  But, that might be too radical a proposition.  At the very least, we should arm the Ukraine vigorously.

I understand there will be much about this vignette open for debate. We could certainly add more to the list.  But, it seems time for the Republicans to choose a New Fusion while the Democrats are taking time for their own small implosion.

Obama, Executive Orders, and Immigration

November 22nd, 2014 Erik No comments


As all my students are aware, immigration has had a varied history in the U.S.  Indeed, the first 100 years or so, there was no limitation on immigration.  Then in the late 19th Century through 20th century there were limitations of various levels and degrees (as noted in the Bessette and Pitney textbook).  The question before us is if Obama’s action is:

  1. unconstitutional, and,
  2. within the bounds of actions presidents may take?

The political concerns are secondary (will his actions help or hurt the Democrats, what should the Republicans do about gaining more share of the Latino vote?, etc.) to the above concerns.  Obama’s speech was fairly excellent and uplifting—it spoke to a part of America where at the Statue of Liberty a plaque reads,

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

In other words, it all sounds very good (and who could disagree!?), but it just may not be legal to do what he is doing.  Rhetoric and law are not conspiring on this point.  But, Obama’s speech might not actually square with his authority to use the executive order to affect that intent.  Obama’s action could actually harm the Democrats badly in the short term.  Part of the reason he never got a bill on immigration was because even the bluest of blue state Democrats did not support it—they did not support it because their constituents did not support it.  And there are many Democrats who are against or are criticizing what Obama has done. But none of this can rid the nation of the simple fact that there is a policy problem before us:  what do we do with the millions of illegal or undocumented people living and working in our borders.

Obama’s legal justification from the Office of Legal Counsel is here.  At Slate, Walter Dellinger writes Obama’s action is legal.  According to Dellinger:

Perhaps what has understandably concerned critics most is not merely the deferral of deportation proceedings but the affirmative step of permitting those whose deportation is deferred to then apply for authorization to work while they remain in the United States. But here the president is not acting unilaterally nor even on the basis of an inferred discretion. He is, rather, acting on the basis of specific statutory authority from the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under that authority and by pre-existing regulation, the secretary of homeland security is authorized to grant authorization to work to those who are in the “deferred action” category. If Congress does not want those whose deportation is to be deferred to be able to work lawfully, it can certainly repeal this regulatory authority. But it has not done so, and for good reason: those who are able to demonstrate economic necessity to work will undergo background checks and pay local, state, and federal taxes, something a lot of Americans support.

The blog Balkanization has a point by point refutation that the President’s actions are illegal.  The most ironic claim is that Obama is actually fulfilling the “Take Care” clause of the Constitution by his executive act.  That might be a stretch.  The “Take Care” clause is only ONE of the president’s responsibilities.  He has others too, and sometimes he has to choose which of his many responsibilities take precedent.

Even the moderate Republican David Gergen, believes that the president has not done anything blatantly illegal, even if he walks up to the Constitutional precipice.  However, Obama has crossed an important traditional boundary:

One can argue whether this executive order is legal, but it certainly violates the spirit of the founders. They intentionally focused Article One of the Constitution on the Congress and Article Two on the president. That is because the Congress is the body charged with passing laws and the president is the person charged with faithfully carrying them out.

In effect, the Congress was originally seen as the pre-eminent branch and the president more of a clerk. The president’s power grew enormously in the 20th century but even so, the Constitution still envisions Congress and the president as co-equal branches of government — or as the scholar Richard Neustadt observed, co-equal branches sharing power.

For better or worse, Americans have always expected that in addressing big, tough domestic issues, Congress and the president had to work together to find resolution.

For a president to toss aside such deep traditions of governance is a radical, imprudent step. When a president in day-to-day operations can decide which laws to enforce and which to ignore, where are the limits on his power? Where are the checks and balances so carefully constructed in the Constitution?

If a Democratic president can cancel existing laws on immigration, what is to prevent the next Republican from unilaterally canceling laws on health care?

Exactly, but that’s what presidents have always done.  Impoundment debate anyone?  In a somewhat different example, how about that Trail of Tears and Jackson’s exclamation that Supreme Court Justice John Marshall come and enforce a decision the Congress and President enacted.  The Congress is in control here:  they can pass a law, censure him, impeach him, or defund the mechanism of the law dealing with this topic.  Politically only a couple of these seem to be beneficial for the Republican Party.

Legally, Obama is on shaky, but not blatantly illegal grounds.  He has violated the spirit of the Constitution, but he is no Caesar, and certainly no Cataline.   The political consequences for the Democrats may indeed, not get them what Obama thinks they will get—more voters and an unbreakable electoral coalition.  And that is what we will all be watching next—how will the Latino’s vote in 2016?  The Democrats cannot be guaranteed they’ll be with them and neither can the Republicans.

 

Scott Brown’s Last Pitch

November 3rd, 2014 Erik No comments

Whoever Brown uses for his media campaign should be given great kudos for the quality of the production done. Great commercial, but will it be enough?

Tomorrow Night’s Republican Majority

November 3rd, 2014 Erik No comments

Tuesday Night could be a big surprise for some people, but even I was not prepared for Philadelphia writer extraordinaire Joel Mathis to proclaim he’s voting Republican tomorrow.  Whoever says someone on the left cannot tolerate Republicans much less vote “R” has now Mathis’s example for necessary correction.

The website 538, finds reason for a cold water bath for the Republicans, thus complicating any joy they might want to take in their victory tomorrow.  Yet, even Nate Silver cannot resist concluding,

Instead this year, we’ll have to settle for a climate that’s less pro-incumbent than usual — and also somewhat pro-Republican. At least, that’s what we’ll be getting if the polls are right.

The left leaning Juan Williams writes in The Hill that the Democrats could be in trouble if they lose young voters.  And what if the electorate chooses Republicans rather than simply handing the GOP support by not showing up to vote for the other party?  Williams surmises that both could spell big trouble for the Democrat Party.  Yet, there is much evidence that the Democrats could have an effective defensive night—Democrats are registering in great numbers in some states, the definition of likely voter is ever more difficult to determine (less white and less Republican than usual), and Republicans should be higher in the polls than they are in some states (especially in elections like this one that favors the GOP historically).

The two races I have been following as a sort of bell-weather to rout or mere gain is the Senate race in North Carolina between Hagan/Tillis and the New Hampshire race between Shaheen/Brown.  If the Republican wins in either race, it could be a no worry about the filibuster night for the Republicans.  I would have said until today’s barrage of polls that Shaheen had the upper advantage—my gut said 2 days ago she’d win.  However, three polls today at RCP each place the race in a statistical tie.  Two of the polls have Shaheen up (including the PPP, which leans Dem).  One poll has Brown up (New England College poll has favored Brown consistently).  So the issue has to be in the methodology and the turn our models the polling firms are expecting.  All three polls taken together, give Shaheen the advantage, but she is still not above 50% in most polls—that gives Brown a shot on its own account in spite of his higher negatives.

In North Carolina, the polls are predictably split with PPP again favoring Hagan, and other polls placing Tillis in a tie, or in a narrow lead (Republican oriented polls like Civitas).  When races are close like this, and in the face of a changing electorate with new groups potentially turning out to vote, like those groups did for Obama in 2008, things are really up in the air as to whose turnout models will win out.  This is especially true in a midterm election.  I think NC is a toss-up.  The state is notoriously unpredictable.  The breaking story of Hagan’s dubious and illegal dealings may just swing enough of the undecided vote to Tillis tomorrow.

My predictions from summer stand:  The GOP gains in the House and in the Senate.  I now think the GOP will not gain enough to shut down a filibuster, but I could easily be wrong on that pending the night’s outcome.  Governors races and state politics races could favor the Dems tomorrow night.  But in Ohio, Kasich is going to cruise to a win, and I mention that because it sets him up nicely for a serious shot at 2016.  In a weak Republican presidential field, Kasich’s moment might just arrive.

 

Has Islam Been Hijacked?

October 27th, 2014 Erik No comments

In today’s Wall Street Journal comes this provocative op-ed on how Islam treats women in its own community.

It is a great debate on my campus, and one that is always present in my own mind because I have friends in Egypt and Kuwait, as well as friends who are a part of the Faith in question here.  Is there something wrong with the religion itself, as Bill Maher and others claim?  Or has it been hijacked by a few radicals who are changing the religion from a peaceful to an oppressive one? There are those, like at the New Republic, who give Islam as a religion a pass entirely—which is odd since that magazine does not do that for Christians. Still, they contend that individuals, not religion, are responsible for radicalization.  In that sense they are squarely on Ben Affleck’s side.  Be that as it may, there is only one religion presently engaging in violence and persecution to the level we are seeing worldwide: Islam.

Aly Salem’s criticism is blistering of both parties in the U.S.:

Compare the collective response after each harrowing high-school shooting in America. Intellectuals and public figures look for the root cause of the violence and ask: Why? Yet when I ask why after every terrorist attack, the disapproval I get from my non-Muslim peers is visceral: The majority of Muslims are not violent, they insist, the jihadists are a minority who don’t represent Islam, and I am fear-mongering by even wondering aloud.

This is delusional thinking. Even as the world witnesses the barbarity of beheadings, habitual stoning and severe subjugation of women and minorities in the Muslim world, politicians and academics lecture that Islam is a “religion of peace.” Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia routinely beheads women for sorcery and witchcraft.

In the U.S., we Muslims are handled like exotic flowers that will crumble if our faith is criticized—even if we do it ourselves. Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats alike would apparently prefer to drop bombs in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond, because killing Muslims is somehow less offensive than criticizing their religion? Unfortunately, you can’t kill an idea with a bomb, and so Islamism will continue to propagate. Muslims must tolerate civilized public debate of the texts and scripture that inform Islamism. To demand any less of us is to engage in the soft bigotry of low expectations.

If any other religion engaged in such acts, the condemnations would be loud, and there would be a large contingent of people who would be wondering whether, Christianity for example, is responsible for encouraging the violence.  Those Imams and religious leaders in the Middle East control the destiny of Islam, and in countries without religious freedom, and in a faith that has not yet had its own reformation, we are seeing the effects of a religious despotism gone unchecked.

 

Thom Tillis v. Kay Hagan

October 27th, 2014 Erik No comments

Another race to watch is Thom Tillis v. Kay Hagan in my third home away from home, North Carolina. Hagan has made a very nice little living taking from the taxpayers, as Carolina Journal notes. As RCP polls show, Tillis is closing in, and Hagan is losing ground. If not for the Libertarian in the race Tillis would be a walk away winner—despite the “controversial legislature” over the last few years. The fact that he’s closing in on her, means the momentum is with him. More than the other race I am watching (Brown v. Shaheen) Tillis is more poised to win. But as anyone from NC knows, the state can be unpredictable, its independent streak is that strong.

Scott Brown v. Jeanne Shaheen

October 27th, 2014 Erik No comments

 

Will Brown beat Shaheen? He is closing in on her. And Shaheen, an incumbent, drawing below 50% is not good. However, Brown has an uphill battle since he was a resident of Massachusetts. It is very difficult for someone to do what he is doing, not having lived in the state for a long time (even though his family has some roots there). This is a race to watch on Tuesday.

Religious Extremism versus Moderation

October 21st, 2014 Erik No comments

One thing my students and I discuss in class is the role of religion in society and the development of religious extremism.  I began to think about this while I was reading an excellent piece by Steven Hayward in the CRB on the Goldwater campaign called “Extremism and Moderation.”  It is a fabulous piece that explains, in part, how William F. Buckley and National Review brought to heel the irrational John Birch Society, thus peeling off the more reasonable elements of the right and showing the door to radicals in the party who would have done nothing but harm to the party in the long-run.

It prompted me to think about Buckley’s act of heroism and how organizations and institutions–parties included–often have to deal with radical elements in their midst.  Sometimes, the radicals win out.  At other times, the voice of reason carries the day.  We see the battle and struggle between these elements every day in the Middle East.  ISIL radicals have, in some way, hijacked the Muslim faith (though there is much disagreement over that).  I personally know many people in the Middle East (having travelled Israel, Jordan, Kuwait), so my opinion is quite anecdotal, but I know many many peaceful Muslims who abhor what the radicals of their faith are doing. Muslims have a long and honorable history.  They have produced great political philosophers including Al Farabi and Averroes.  But, in the present state of things, someone like Al Farabi would be murdered at the hands of extremist militants.  So, what’s the answer?  For Islam, it could be they need a reformation just like what Christianity went through centuries ago.

Be that as it may, in a not so serious, or violent way, some institutions or organizations go through changes where a choice must be made to either stand for rational moderation, or slowly glide down a radical road that leads to ruin.  We have seen this happen at many so called Christian colleges, where the cult of personality has led to a totalitarian temptation.  Students and faculty have been abused by such people, and the harm it does to souls is excruciating.  This is especially the case when the person doing the abusing possesses some religious authority  and uses said authority to torture the souls of the faithful.  This happens more often than you’d think, and has led to support groups to be started by the “survivors” of spiritual abuse.

The one thing that many religions have done is to hold that uneasy tension between reason (or philosophy) and revelation (or the revealed Word).  Those organization that don’t do that eventually become radicalized (like ISIL, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc.), or cults (Like Heaven’s Gate, or Jonestown, or the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh who literally formed an armed camp less than 75 miles from my home in the 1980s).  There is one thing constant in all these formations, and that is the claim the only the leader or leaders have a special revealed word (that no one else can access), and/or they proclaim they are being unfairly judged or persecuted by dark and evil entities. Usually immoderate and violent religious organizations create enemies lists centered around the alleged “persecution” of a personality or figure who is at the center of the faith.  Jim Jones is quite the example of finding enemies whoever he looked, as he called this world a most dark and evil place, while proclaiming their own purity in the face of it all. One can see how this all might turn into violence or even, in the case of cults, murder and suicide.

One of he people I respect from the academic world was Eric Voegeli who cautioned against Gnosticism as an irrational trap of modernity.  I eventually sided against Voegeli because his caution excluded, or I should say could include, the Ancient political philosophers.  The Ancients were rationalists and I think there was always a sense of Gnosticism in them–they were gnostic before the religious gnostics of Christianity came to the fore.

The only tempering of any religious extremism from Socrates to the present day–from pagans to the three great revealed religions–is reason and philosophy.  Jerusalem should always be open to the critique of Athens, and Athens should always be open to the claims of Jerusalem, but neither should trump the other.  When that happens, and it usually happens among the religious–destruction will follow.

Is Climate Science Settled?

September 24th, 2014 Erik No comments

 

Recently the Wall Street Journal published an article noting that while there is climate change, the science around it is not settled.  However, there are a few problems with the models, or rather, there is no agreement or accounting as to why certain things are happening.  For example:

Yet the models famously fail to capture this slowing in the temperature rise. Several dozen different explanations for this failure have been offered, with ocean variability most likely playing a major role. But the whole episode continues to highlight the limits of our modeling.

• The models roughly describe the shrinking extent of Arctic sea ice observed over the past two decades, but they fail to describe the comparable growth of Antarctic sea ice, which is now at a record high.

• The models predict that the lower atmosphere in the tropics will absorb much of the heat of the warming atmosphere. But that “hot spot” has not been confidently observed, casting doubt on our understanding of the crucial feedback of water vapor on temperature.

• Even though the human influence on climate was much smaller in the past, the models do not account for the fact that the rate of global sea-level rise 70 years ago was as large as what we observe today—about one foot per century.

• A crucial measure of our knowledge of feedbacks is climate sensitivity—that is, the warming induced by a hypothetical doubling of carbon-dioxide concentration. Today’s best estimate of the sensitivity (between 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit and 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit) is no different, and no more certain, than it was 30 years ago. And this is despite an heroic research effort costing billions of dollars.

Just why is the Antarctic growing while in the North things are melting?  That question certainly needs to be answered.  None of these questions suggests that there is no climate change, it just means there is a lot we don’t know.  And there is still the problem with a lot of the data has been altered unscientifically to match the warming narrative.  Furthermore, the consensus is not as big as has been purported.

My skepticism in relation to change, is can mankind really overcome nature in total?  Can man really subdue and tame Nature to the extent we destroy it?  I find that a difficult proposition to accept, after all the Earth has always changed even before humans had the capability to influence it.  Humans can certainly influence things in this world, but to destroy Nature’s authority over the universe is quite a claim to make, not to mention full of hubris.  If the globe is changing, can man really do anything to stop it?  On that point, I am very skeptical.

 

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Is Hillary a Shoo-in?

June 27th, 2014 Erik No comments

As explained by Real Clear Politics here, Hillary Clinton will not only win the Democratic nomination, but then proceed to beat the Republican challenger, whomever that may be, in 2016.  That’s a fairly risky prediction, but not one without much merit, even as her book is tanking and after about a week is now being offered at discounted prices.

Though there may be much to the article’s assertion that the time for a woman president has arrived based on gender politics, the much more persuasive argument at this moment is that there really is no Republican who can appeal to the general electorate.

The Republicans are actually in serious trouble if they do not figure out how to appeal better to women and hispanics.  This problem will persist even if Hillary is not the Democrat nominee.  The article’s main point is that women–a significant force of the electorate–will jump at the chance to vote for Hillary.  However, that assumes women will vote for women because the person is a woman.  If that was the case, then Hillary would have beat Obama, and/or they would have elected Michele Bachmann.

All of this is premature.  Hillary may stumble. The Democratic base may prefer someone else.  And, the Republicans could find a charismatic candidate.  Gender may certainly play a role in voting and politics, but human beings who have the ability to reason vote on more than just one issue or idea.

An Apology of Thanksgiving

November 24th, 2013 Erik No comments

My colleague at Heartland S.T. Karnick has written an excellent account of why we ought not be concerned with stores opening on Thanksgiving Day.  Instead we should celebrate the freedom we have in this country that allows businesses to conduct business.  In a sense I agree.  I certainly would not legislate stores to be closed. However, as a republican [please note the small “r”] I am publicly dispirited by the fact that so many stores are opening on what should be our most solemn of holidays other than July 4th.

It’s time to bring Thanksgiving back to its hallowed position it used to occupy.

Stores and businesses want to get a jump early on the Christmas season in pursuit of profits. Over the years, this intense quest for profits has led to Christmas marketing to impinge on our sensibilities ever sooner, so that now, we see Christmas commercials, Christmas ads, and the stores decorated in Christmas attire as early as mid-October.  I love Christmas, and it is one of my favorite holidays, but the increasing emphasis on Christmas as a materialist holiday has soured me on the holiday somewhat I have to admit.   So important has Christmas become, that nary can one find Thanksgiving greeting cards in the stores anymore.

Thanksgiving is the one true holiday—other than July 4th—that does not require gifts or the expectation of gifts.  Thanksgiving has always been about love, family, God, and public spiritedness thanking whatever deity we worship for the many blessings for living in a free country.  We gather on Thanksgiving to recognize the blessings we have before us in our families and in the first country in history  founded on the natural rights all human beings share.  There is something more meaningful in gathering with loved ones to simply enjoy each other’s company without the material expectations that follow with Christmas.  To be frank, Thanksgiving is a far more religious and spiritual holiday than Christmas could ever be. Thanksgiving, unlike Christmas, has directed our national attention in a more direct public manner than Christmas ever has.  In terms of this republic, it precedes Christmas and is our oldest national holiday—even older than Independence Day.

The first proclamation of Thanksgiving was in 1777 (though there were others noted before the Revolutionary War by His Majesty’s Government).  As it pertains to the Union, the first was authored by the Continental Congress.  We usually forget that fact and read the more weighty proclamations by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  On November 1, 1777, the Continental Congress asserted that,

Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.

It encouraged—did not require—a day of rest from work to be with family and thank God for the year that is near an end.  Of course, thanksgiving proclamations always directed our attention upward.  The early proclamations petitioned God to bless our military efforts and to relieve the afflicted in the unpleasantries that inevitably accompany war.  The central message was to petition God for wisdom, for peace, and for our “national happiness” [1782 proclamation].

In my lifetime, my fondest holiday memories surround Thanksgiving, which kicked off the holiday season.  Nowhere in the early to mid 70s was there a Christmas decoration, or ad, or store display until after we had first given thanks for the blessings of this republic.  my family would celebrate the day with blood relatives, and those who were surrogate members of the family, though they were every bit full members of our little enclave.  The day was spent in togetherness, and the enjoyment of each other’s company, not in the opening of gifts and then the inevitable paring off separate from the family to enjoy the gifts received.  The only thing that we did of any outside entertainment value was to watch the Detroit Lions lose yet another Thanksgiving football game—something I actually enjoyed.  Yet, we never forgot the blessings of freedom too.  And we reflected on the Founders, Lincoln, and the what our ancestors did to preserve the rights of mankind.  That is perhaps difficult for this materialist society to fathom, but yet, America in the 1970s was such—at least in my world and with my family.

Now, we are bombarded daily from mid October on to buy, buy, buy and rip ourselves from the family hearth to pursue some sale.  What is lost in the process?  What deep and meaningful opportunity is lost with family when we nary have dinner digested and we are running out to fight the crowds to possess some material things that in the end will decay anyway?  What has the country lost when republicans care more for material gain than giving thanks for the reason we have the freedom to achieve material comfort in the first place?

I lament our national holiday, and I do pray for its return

So this “consumer” will be shopping at Menards, who took out a full page ad in today’s Chicago Tribune stating their stores would remain closed on Thursday so families can give thanks and spend the day as it was intended.

 

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Further Reflections on the Declaration of Independence

July 7th, 2013 Erik No comments

We have just celebrated this nation’s Founding, but debate abounds on the meaning of the Declaration of Independence.  How significant is this document?  I ask my students this question at the beginning of every class I teach on American Government.  Much debate exists on all sides about this all important event. I have many friends who disagree with my position on the Declaration, so this post is to be taken as my contribution to what is a rather spirited debate.  Over at Lew Rockwell, Kevin Gutzman posts several objections to those who believe that the Declaration had a serious meaning to the Union.  Among those objections is that,

Since the 18th century, political radicals have argued for understanding the Declaration as a general warrant for government to do anything it likes to forward the idea that “all men are created equal.” Yet, that was not what the Declaration of Independence meant. The Declaration of Independence was the work of a congress of representatives of state governments. Congressmen were not elected by voters at large, but by state legislatures, and their role (as John Adams, one of them, put it) was more akin to that of ambassadors than to legislators. They had not been empowered to dedicate society to any particular political philosophy, but to declare — as the Virginia legislature had told its congressmen to declare — that the colonies were, “and of right ought to be, free and independent states.” In other words, the Declaration was about states’ rights, not individual rights, and the Congress that adopted it had no power to make it anything else. All the rest of the Declaration was mere rhetorical predicate.

Where to begin?  First, the Founders never proclaimed that the government could do “anything it likes” to forward the Declaration’s self-evident truth that, “all men are created equal.”  Second, he asserts that the document was one that emphasized the rights of the states as autonomous entities.   It wasn’t.  Indeed, in the quote above, the method by which the document was approved, refutes his argument that it was just a list of meaningless words set out to the King to express mere rhetoric.  If it was mere rhetoric, then way go through the process of committee, debate, and adoption?  As Thomas Jefferson so aptly wrote near the end of his life, the Declaration was an expression of the American mind.  This means it was a commonly held reasonable opinion, which these unelected congressmen adopted as a statement of principle–it was an expression of the American mind’s belief on the foundation of government; it was where the Founders staked their flag upon which no man ought to cross. The Declaration was an affirmation of an idea–in Greek it can be considered as THE ιδεα! Jefferson understood this when he asserted that the Declaration was an expression of the American mind.  Last time I checked, the congressmen who adopted Declaration were living in the former colonies, and they were a part of that American mind.

Perhaps the most audacious claim, is the belief that the Declaration was written for white men.  And Jefferson’s belief that whites and blacks could not live together justifies this conclusion.  However, this argument is a non-sequiter.  The disbelief in the ability of the former slaves living with former masters is a separate policy question from the belief in Euclid’s axiom that things equal to another are equal to themselves.  Indeed, Jefferson never stated anywhere in any document that he was sure they were unequal in their rights.  The slaves may have been unequal in talent, but it was held as a suspicion only, and any inequality was the result of their bondage not the result of any “natural” affliction.

Jefferson was also clear when he wrote in the Notes on the State of Virginia that God would side with the slaves not the masters should he judge the peculiar institution.  In other words, the Union held onto an institution that defied the truth applicable for all people at all times.  Jefferson was no less aware of this fact when he wrote that we had a wolf by the ears.

I realize that many will associate my interpretation with what the snarky NewRepublicconsidered as being a part of the “Top 10 Gangs of the Millennium,” but the fact is the Lew Rockwell interpretation is closer to Richard Taney’s defense of slavery in Dred Scott than any originalist understanding of the Founding.  Indeed, it is one of the most curious developments of American political thought, that the first defenders of slavery as a positive good were also southerners who believed in free markets–like Thomas Roderick Dew.

* Cross posted at Somewhat Reasonable.