Monday, June 30, 2014

IRS Scandal – Caddell: IRS Is The Greatest Coverup In My Life Time

IRS Scandal – Caddell: IRS Is The Greatest Coverup In My Life Time:

Obama Loses, Then Doubles Down Like 'Bad Gambler'

GWU Prof: Obama Loses, Then Doubles Down Like 'Bad Gambler': President Barack Obama is acting like "a bad gambler at Vegas" by doubling down on executive actions less than a week after a stinging Supreme Court defeat, says George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley.

The Language Of Despotism

Guest Post: The Language Of Despotism:

Submitted by Bruce Thornton of The Hoover Institution,

Long before 1984 gave us the adjective “Orwellian” to describe the political corruption of language and thought, Thucydides observed how factional struggles for power make words their first victims. Describing the horrors of civil war on the island of Corcyra during the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides wrote, “Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them.” Orwell explains the reason for such degradation of language in his essay “Politics and the English Language”: “Political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.”

Tyrannical power and its abuses comprise the “indefensible” that must be verbally disguised. The gulags, engineered famines, show trials, and mass murder of the Soviet Union required that it be a “regime of lies,” as the disillusioned admirer of Soviet communism Pierre Pascal put it in 1927.

Our own political and social discourse must torture language in order to disguise the failures and abuses of policies designed to advance the power and interests of the “soft despotism,” as Tocqueville called it, of the modern Leviathan state and its political caretakers. Meanwhile, in foreign policy the transformation of meaning serves misguided policies that endanger our security and interests.

One example from domestic policy recently cropped up in Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor’s dissent in the Schuette decision, which upheld the Michigan referendum banning racial preferences. In her dissent, Sotomayor called for replacing the term  “affirmative action” with “race-sensitive admissions.” But “affirmative action” was itself a euphemism for the racial quotas in use in college admissions until they were struck down in the 1978 Bakke decision. To salvage racial discrimination, which any process that gives race an advantage necessarily requires, Bakke legitimized yet another euphemism, “diversity,” as a compelling state interest that justified taking race into account in university admissions.

Thus the most important form of “diversity” for the university became the easily quantifiable one of race. Not even socio-economic status can trump it, as the counsel for the University of Texas admitted during oral arguments in Fisher vs. University of Texas last year, when he implied that a minority applicant from a privileged background would add more diversity to the university than a less privileged white applicant. All these verbal evasions are necessary for camouflaging the fact that any process that discriminates on the basis of race violates the Civil Rights Act ban on such discrimination. Promoting an identity politics predicated on historical victimization and the equality of result is more important than the principle of equality before the law, and this illiberal ideology must be hidden behind distortions of language and vague phrases like “race-sensitive” and “diversity.”

Another example can be found in the recently released report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. The report is the basis for the government’s numerous policy and procedural suggestions to universities and colleges in order to help them “live up to their obligation to protect students from sexual violence.” Genuine sexual violence, of course, needs to be investigated, adjudicated, and punished to the full extent of the law by the police and the judicial system. But the “sexual assault” and “sexual violence” the Obama administration is talking about is something different.

At the heart of the White House report is the oft-repeated 2007 statistic that 20 percent of female college students have been victims of “sexual assault,” which most people will understand to mean rape or sexual battery. Yet as many critics of the study have pointed out, that preposterous number––crime-ridden Detroit’s rape rate is 0.05 percent––was achieved by redefining “sexual assault” to include even consensual sexual contact when the woman was drunk, and behaviors like “forced kissing” and “rubbing up against [the woman] in a sexual way, even if it is over [her] clothes.”

The vagueness and subjectivity of such a definition is an invitation to women to abandon personal responsibility and agency by redefining clumsy or boorish behavior as “sexual assault,” a phrase suggesting physical violence against the unwilling. As one analyst of the flawed study has reported, “three-quarters of the female students who were classified as victims of sexual assault by incapacitation did not believe they had been raped; even when only incidents involving penetration were counted, nearly two-thirds did not call it rape.” As many have pointed out, if genuine sexual assault were happening, colleges would be calling in the police, not trying the accused in campus tribunals made up of legal amateurs and lacking constitutional protections such as the right to confront and cross-examine one’s accuser.

What matters more than protecting college women against a phantom epidemic of rape, then, is the need to expand government power into the social lives of college students, empowering the federal bureaucrats, university administrators, and ideological programs like women’s studies that all stand to benefit by this sort of coercive intrusion. This enshrining of racial and sexual ideology into law through the abuse of language has had damaging consequences, whether for the minority college students mismatched with the universities to which they are admitted, thus often ensuring their failure and disillusion; or for the young women encouraged to abandon their autonomy and surrender it to government and education bureaucrats who know better than they how to make sense of their experiences and decisions.

In foreign policy, however, the abuse of language is positively dangerous. Since 9/11, our failure to identity the true nature of the Islamist threat and its grounding in traditional Islamic theology has led to misguided aims and tactics. Under both the Bush and Obama administrations, for example, the traditional Islamic doctrine of jihad––which means to fight against the enemies of Islam, which predominantly means infidels––has been redefined to serve the dubious tactic of flattering Islam in order to prevent Muslim terrorism.

Thus in 2008 the National Terrorism Center instructed its employees, “Never use the term jihadist or mujahideen in conversation to describe terrorists,” since “In Arabic, jihad means ‘striving in the path of God’ and is used in many contexts beyond warfare.” Similarly, CIA chief John Brennan has asserted that jihad “is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community,” despite the fourteen centuries of evidence from the Koran, hadiths, and bloody history that jihad is in fact predominantly an obligatory armed struggle against the enemies of Islam. The reluctance to put Muslim violence in its religious context reflects not historical truth, but a public relations tactic serving the delusional strategy of appeasing Muslims into liking us.

That’s why, to this day, the 2009 murders of 13 military personnel at Fort Hood by Muslim Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan are still classified as “workplace violence” rather than an act of terror. This despite the fact that Hasan––whose business cards had the initials “SoA,” “Soldier of Allah,” on them––shouted the traditional Islamic battle cry “Allahu Akbar” during his rampage. Or that in a presentation at Walter Reed Hospital, Hasan had put up a slide with the great commission to practice jihad that Mohammed delivered in his farewell address: “I was ordered to fight all men until they say ‘There is no god but Allah.’” This command to wage jihad was echoed in 1979 by the Ayatollah Khomeini, revered as a “Grand Sign of God” for his theological acumen, and by Osama bin Laden in 2001. Those ignoring this venerable jihadist tradition must use verbal evasions like “workplace violence” and “striving in the path of God” to hide the indefensible––and failed––tactic of appeasement that prevents us from accurately understanding the religious motives of Muslim terrorists, and the extent of the Muslim world’s support for them.

No foreign policy crisis, however, is more illustrative of the “regime of lies” and abuse of language to serve “indefensible” aims than the conflict between Israel and the Arabs. The Arabs’ aim, of course, is to destroy Israel as a nation, a policy they have consistently pursued since 1948. Since military attacks have failed ignominiously, an international public relations campaign coupled to terrorist violence has been employed to weaken Israel’s morale and separate Israel from her Western allies. An Orwellian assault on language has been key to this tactic.

Examples are legion, but one is particularly insidious, here seen in a New York Times headline from 2011: “Obama Sees ’67 Borders as Starting Point for Peace Deal.” The common reference to “borders” in regard to what is in fact the armistice line from the 1948 Arab war against Israel is ubiquitous. Yet there has never been recognized in international law a formal “border” between Israel and what the world, in another Orwellian phrase, calls the “West Bank,” because that territory has never been part of a modern nation. Its only international legal status was as part of the British Mandate for Palestine, which was confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922, and which was intended as the national homeland for the Jewish people. The Arabs’ rejection of the U.N. partition plan and their invasion of Israel in 1948 put the territory’s status in limbo once Jordan annexed Judea and Samaria, which the international community with a few exceptions refused to recognize. In 1967 Israel took it back in another defensive war against Arab aggression. Since then, its final disposition has awaited a peace treaty that will determine the international border.

This may sound like quibbling over careless language, but the dishonest use of “border” reinforces and encodes in peoples’ minds the big lie of the conflict––that a Palestinian “nation” is being deprived of its “homeland” by Israel, a canard that didn’t become current among Arabs and the rest of the world until after the 1967 Six Day War. And this lie in turns validates the common use of “occupation”––which implies an illegal invasion into and control of another nation, as the Germans did to France in 1940––to describe Israel’s defensive possession of territories that have long served as launch pads for aggression against Israel. Until a peace treaty, the territory known as the “West Bank”––more accurately Judea and Samaria, the heartland of historical Israel for centuries––is disputed, not “occupied.”

To paraphrase Thucydides, words like “borders” and “occupation” have had their ordinary meanings changed, and been forced to take meanings that serve tyranny and aggression. And we who accept those new meanings are complicit in the resulting injustice that follows.

The Obama Era and the Collapse of Trust in Our Governing Institutions

The Obama Era and the Collapse of Trust in Our Governing Institutions:

According to a new survey by the Gallup organization:

Americans’ confidence in all three branches of the U.S. government has fallen, reaching record lows for the Supreme Court (30%) and Congress (7%), and a six-year low for the presidency (29%). The presidency had the largest drop of the three branches this year, down seven percentage points from its previous rating of 36%.
These findings are a powerful indictment of the Obama presidency. But they are also part of a broader, extraordinary collapse of trust in government we’ve witnessed during the last 50 years.

After his landslide election in 1964, Lyndon Johnson proclaimed that Americans were living in “the most hopeful times in all the years since Christ was born in Bethlehem.”

Not exactly.

In fact, in less than four years America lurched from one of our more tranquil political periods to perhaps the most tumultuous since the Civil War. It happened in the blink of a historical eye, and it was driven by a complex set of factors, some the result of public policy and some not, but eventually the accretion heavily implicated government.

The public, especially young people, began to turn against the Vietnam War, to the point that President Johnson–battered and broken–decided not to run for reelection in 1968. Student protests spread, including onto college campuses. The nation was convulsed during the struggle over civil rights, while cities burned in the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Robert Kennedy was murdered just two months later–and only five years after his brother was gunned down in Dallas. We experienced the killings at Kent State and the March on the Pentagon, Woodstock and Watergate, black power salutes in the Mexico City Olympics and violence at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Social pathologies–including crime, drug use, out-of-wedlock births, those on welfare, and more–worsened. And trust in government eroded at an extraordinary pace.

According to the Pew Research Center, in 1964, 76 percent of the public said they trusted government in Washington to do what was right most of the time or just about always. Just a decade later, the figure had fallen to 36 percent. By 1980, it dropped to 25 percent. In only a decade and a half, trust in government fell by 50 percentage points. We have never seen anything quite like it.

While public trust increased during the presidency of Ronald Reagan (to 47 percent), it dropped sharply following it. By the summer of 1994 public trust was at 17 percent, the lowest recorded. Those figures fluctuated during the Clinton second term, falling to 24 percent during the run-up to the Clinton impeachment trial but rising to more than 40 percent by the end of the Clinton presidency (June 2000). During George W. Bush’s first term, public trust in government spiked to more than 60 percent in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. But by October 2008, in the midst of the financial crisis, trust was again down to 17 percent.

This deep, durable unhappiness with government, and the longing of the public to once again believe in it, was something that Barack Obama brilliantly tapped into during his campaign for the presidency. The centerpiece of his run was not a particular policy; it was the promise to elevate our political debates and restore government to a respected place in our national life.

Yet here we are, in the sixth year of the Obama presidency, with the level of confidence in his presidency (29 percent) lower than at a comparable point for any of his predecessors and the ratings for the legislative and judicial branches at or near their lowest points to date.

I can’t say that these judgments are unwarranted. But I’m not convinced that such corrosive mistrust of our governing institutions is particularly good for our country, either. In a free nation, massive distrust of our governing institutions is a self-indictment of sorts. Government is, after all, the “offspring of our own choice,” in the words of George Washington, who added it has

a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty.
Today respect for government’s authority has never been lower, and the American people cannot be happy with this state of affairs or with themselves. In the wake of the Obama era, where expectations were raised to such dizzying heights, only to collapse into ruins, the public will be understandably wary about the next person promising to heal the planet and repair the world, who claims the power to halt the rise of the ocean tides, who says that this time will be different than all the rest and declares that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” (To remind yourself of the stratospheric expectations set by Mr. Obama, I’d urge you to watch this short clip of Obama in 2008.)

Given where we are, it seems to me that the proper response from a Republican candidate is not to celebrate in this distrust but to help correct it; to candidly and with some sophistication explain why it’s happened and to show how a modern conservative governing agenda (perhaps something along these lines) can help restore trust in a responsible, limited government. With the Obama presidency lying in ashes, and with liberalism itself terribly damaged, an opportunity exists. Who on the right will seize it?

Another US energy milestone: US was the world’s largest petroleum producer in January for the 15th straight month

Another US energy milestone: US was the world’s largest petroleum producer in January for the 15th straight month:

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released new data over the weekend on international energy production for the months of January 2014. For the 15th straight month starting in November 2012, total petroleum production (including crude oil and other petroleum products like natural gas plant liquids, lease condensate, and refined petroleum products) in “Saudi America” during the month of January at 12.9 million barrels per day (bpd) exceeded Saudi Arabia’s output at 11.85 million bpd (see chart above). Also for the 15th month in a row starting November 2013, “Saudi America” took the top spot as the No. 1 petroleum producer in the world in January. As another way to put America’s rising petroleum production into perspective, the US produced more total petroleum products in January (12.9 million bpd) than the combined petroleum output of all of the countries in Europe, Central America, and South America (11.47 million bpd).

Bottom Line: This is more evidence that America’s shale energy revolution is taking us from “resource scarcity” to a new era of “resource abundance” as the US now consistently produces more petroleum products than Saudi Arabia, and for 15 straight months has led the world in petroleum production. This energy bonanza in the US — described as the “energy equivalent of the Berlin Wall coming down” — would have been largely unthinkable even six years ago. But thanks to the revolutionary drilling and extraction techniques (hydraulic fracking and horizontal drilling) developed by a dedicated group of American “petropreneurs,” they were finally able to “crack the shale code” and unlock and access vast oceans of shale oil and gas across the country.

The fact that America has risen to become the world’s largest petroleum producer for more than a year is another important milestone in the Great American Energy Boom – and it’s just getting started. The US economy is much stronger today, and our economic future looks a lot brighter, because of America’s Shale Revolution. As author Gregory Zuckerman noted, the “surging American energy production is a reminder of the deep pools of ingenuity, risk taking, and entrepreneurship” that are alive and well in “Saudi America.” Carpe oleum!

Rules for Liberty

Rules for Liberty:

Don’t hurt people, and don’t take their stuff. That’s the philosophy of liberty in a nutshell. Everyone should be free to live their lives as they think best, free from meddling by politicians and government bureaucrats.

To me, the values of liberty just seem like a commonsense way to think about political philosophy. The rules are easily understood, our aspirations for government are modest and practical, and our designs on the lives and behavior of other people are unpresumptuous, even humble. The rules are pretty straightforward because they treat everyone just like everyone else: simply; they are blindly applied like Lady Justice would; across the board. No assembly required.

I am not a moral philosopher and I don’t particularly aspire to be one. That said, I have stayed at more than one Holiday Inn Express. That makes me at least smart enough to know what I don’t know. So the rules that follow represent my not-so-humble attempt to boil down and mash up all the best thinking in all of human history on individualism and civil society, the entire canon of Judeo-Christian teachings, the spontaneous evolution of common law, hundreds of years of English Whig, Scottish Enlightenment, and classical liberal political philosophy, lots of Friedrich Hayek, Adam Smith and Ayn Rand, a smattering of karma, and, like any morally relevant updating of a time-tested ethos, at least a few hat tips to The Big Lebowski. All of this in six convenient “Rules for Liberty.”

What on earth am I thinking? My inspiration, in an odd way, is Saul Alinsky, the famous community organizer who so influenced two of his fellow Chicagoans—Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Everybody’s favorite leftist community organizer famously wrote thirteen Rules for Radicals for his disciples to follow. His book is “a pragmatic primer for realistic radicals” seeking to take over the world.

Alinsky actually dedicates his book to Lucifer. I’m not kidding: “Lest we forget at least an over the shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins—or which is which), the very first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom—Lucifer.” What in hell was he thinking? Did Alinsky really mean it? Who knows? But tongue-in-cheek or not, it seems to reflect the by-any- means-necessary spirit of the book.

So how could I find inspiration here? It’s no secret that many of us liberty-minded “community organizers” have appropriated some of Alinsky’s tactical thinking in the defense of individual freedom. But I think there’s a categorical difference between them and us.

Rules for Radicals is not a tome about principles; it is a book about winning, sometimes with wickedly cynical and manipulative tactics. The principles seem to be missing, or an afterthought, something to be figured out later, airdropped into the Grand Plan depending upon who ends up in charge. This cart-before-the-horse thinking seems to be consistent with the progressive mindset: The rule of man instead of the rule of law, or the writing of a blank check to unfireable government agents empowered with great discretionary authority over your life. If we just suspend our disbelief and trust them, everything is supposed to turn out just fine.

In practice, it never, ever does.

We, on the other hand, start from first principles. The nice thing about the Rules for Liberty is that our values define our tactics, so there’s no ends-justify-the-means hypocrisy.

These Rules are applied equally, without bias or discrimination. Liberty does not permit gray-suited middlemen to rearrange things for your special benefit, or against your personal preferences, arbitrarily.

1. Don’t Hurt People

This first rule seems simple enough, and no decent person would hurt another unless the action is provoked or in some way justified. Free people just want to be left alone, not hassled or harmed by someone else with an agenda or designs over their life and property. We would certainly strike back if and when our physical well-being is threatened—if our family, our community, or our country were attacked. But we shouldn’t hurt other people unless it is in self- defense or in the defense of another against unchecked aggression.

Libertarian philosophers, wanting to dazzle us with big words seemingly designed to keep the unconverted out of our small tent, call this the Non-Aggression Principle. But this is not a new idea. I actually stole it from your Mom, who in turn likely borrowed it from her Mom, who probably got it at church on Sunday.

Government is, by definition, a monopoly on force. Governments often hurt people and take their stuff. That’s why the political philosophy of liberty is focused on the rule of law.

Government is dangerous, left unchecked. Consider the way too many examples from modern history to see the murderous results of too much unchecked government power: communists, fascists, Nazis, radical Islamist theocracies, and a broad array of Third World dictators who hide behind ideology or religion or war to justify the oppression and murder of their countrymen as a means of retaining power. Unlimited governments always hurt people and always take their stuff, often in horrific and absolutely unintended ways.

2. Don’t Take People’s Stuff

In our personal lives, taking from one person, by force, to give to another person is considered stealing. Stealing is wrong. It’s just not cool to take other people’s stuff, and we all agree that ripping off your neighbor, or your neighbor’s local bank, or your neighbor’s credit information online is a crime that should be punished.

But what if the stealer in question is the federal government? Is thieving wrong unless the thief is our duly elected representation, or some faceless “public servant” working at some alphabet soup government agency?

It seems to me that stealing is always wrong, and that you can’t outsource stealing to a political party and expect to feel any better about your actions. In the real world, where absolute power corrupts absolutely, there are no good government thieves or bad government thieves. There is only limited or unlimited government thievery.

3. Take Responsibility

Should you wait around for someone else to solve a problem, or should you get it done yourself? Liberty is an individual responsibility, not a blank check. The burden always sits upon your shoulders first. It is that inescapable accountability that stares you in the mirror every morning. If it didn’t get done, sometimes there’s no one to blame but yourself.

Free people step up to help our neighbors when bad things happen; we come together to make our communities a better place, by working together voluntarily, solving problems from the bottom up.

This is the “I” in community. Communities are made up of individuals and families and volunteers and local organizations and time-tested institutions that have been around since long before you were born. But notice a pattern that should be self-evident: Families are made up of free people. So are churches and synagogues, volunteer soup kitchens, and countless community service projects that emerge spontaneously. All of these social units, no matter how you parse it, are made up of individuals working together, by choice. It does take a village, but villages are made up of individual people.

Barack Obama, an ardent fan of the Political Straw Man, thinks we face a stark either/ or choice between individualism and strong communities. “Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we’d pick up,” he tells Rolling Stone. “Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we’re only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we’re considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has  opportunity—that that’s a pretty narrow vision. It’s not one that, I think, describes what’s best in America.”

I was introduced to the philosophy of liberty by reading Rand’s Anthem. I found her work compelling because it focused on individual responsibility. Do you own yourself and the product of your work, she asked, or does someone else have a first claim, or a responsibility, for your life? I thought the answer was obvious. Rand’s critics love to attack her views that individuals matter with the caricature of “rugged individualism”: Everyone is an island, uncaring of anyone or anything, willing to do anything to get ahead.

Can governments require that people care, or force you to volunteer? Can you mandate compassion? Can you outsource charity by insisting that the political process expropriate the wealth of someone you don’t know to solve someone else’s need? The process of getting to the “right” outcomes, the properly reengineered social order, is never well defined. It’s all about power, and who gets to assert their power over you. The rules are always situational, and your situation is always less important than the situations and interests of the deciders.

Of course, if someone else is in charge, we always, conveniently, have someone else to blame. Not left free, we might just not step up. We might not get involved. Without liberty, any sense of community that binds us might just unravel.

4. Work for It

Liberty is a weight. If you have ever tried to do something you’ve never done before, or tried to start a new business venture, or created new jobs and hired new workers, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The same is true for people who step up to solve a community problem. These are all acts of risk-taking, an attempt to serve a need, solve a problem or disrupt the status quo. These are acts of entrepreneurship. And it’s all hard work.

“What distinguishes the successful entrepreneur and promoter from other people is precisely the fact that he does not let himself be guided by what was and is, but arranges his affairs on the ground of his opinion about the future,” says economist Ludwig von Mises. “They are free to embark upon their projects even if everyone else laughs at them.”

You might fail. But the upside of work, and risk-taking, and judgment is the secret sauce of liberty. It’s all about the infinite potential that sits right around the next corner. You can go get it. You are free to pursue of your own happiness. Or not. It is up to you.

For all of the debate about “the rich” paying their fair share, the real question is not about the proper redistribution of the diminishing spoils between rich and poor. Every country throughout history has had its privileged class, usually favored and protected by government cronies. The real question is: Are you free, regardless of who your parents were or the color of your skin, to get rich, free of government-enforced class distinctions and other barriers to entry that prevent the poor from climbing the economic ladder?

5. Mind Your Own Business

Free people live and let live. I figure I have enough on my plate just keeping myself straight. How I live my own life, and how I choose to treat others, matters. But is it really my place to mind the business of the millions of other people working out their own dreams? I don’t think so. I don’t have to accept their choices or their values. But as long as they tolerate mine, as long as they don’t try to hurt me or take my stuff, or try to petition the government to do it for them, why should I care?

Certainly other people will disagree with my live-and-let-live attitude. But the real question is about the proper role of government in limiting my personal decisions, or dictating my values, or the practice of my religion, or the codification of cherished social institutions, social rules that have evolved over centuries through peaceful cooperation.

The temptation to manipulate social behavior finds support across the political spectrum, a trend bluntly criticized by F.A. Hayek: “The conservative does not object to coercion or arbitrary power so long as it is used for what he regards as the right purposes… Like the socialist, he is less concerned with the problem of how the powers of government should be limited than with that of who wields them; and, like the socialist, he regards himself as entitled to force the value he holds on other people.”

Can the political process better arbitrate the definition of time-tested social mores? It seems like a ridiculous question. Consider the definition of marriage. Why does the federal government have an opinion about my marriage? How dare they politicize the most important personal relationship in my life. Why would we want government, with all of its competing agendas and interests other than your own, involved? I would like other people, and the government, to stay out of my personal business. I plan to return the favor.

6. Fight the Power

The cost of knowing what it is that governments are up to has always been the biggest threat to liberty. Historically, it’s the insiders, the well-heeled interests that want a special deal, or a subsidy, or a carve-out, or an earmark, or an exemption, who have always known first.

Public choice economists refer to this perverse incentive structure as the “concentrated benefits” of power players versus “dispersed costs” incurred by you, the taxpayer. This process, more than anything else, explains all of the bailouts and the incomprehensible mountain of national debt and the seemingly mindless expansion of government into our personal and economic lives.

Today this mindless march forward of big government—like White Walkers descending on Westeros—is being undermined by the Internet, the decentralization of knowledge, the breakup of old media cartels, and ubiquitous social media that lets us easily connect with other concerned citizens. The democratization of politics is shifting power away from insiders, back to the shareholders.

But you still have to step up and take personal responsibility. No one’s going to fight the power for you. You can’t proxy-vote your shares in personal governance to some third party. If you don’t like the direction your country is taking, if you don’t like the dominance of insiders, politicians-for-life, and super-lobbyists who get special access, it’s time to take a look in the mirror.

Before you convince yourself that it’s impossible to change things, think about Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Lech Walesa or any other lonely activist that has done the undoable through peaceful resistance to government power.

This burden, the weight of liberty, is what has driven a small minority, those special few freedom fighters over history to buck the status quo, often at extraordinary personal costs. Those who step up, in an act of lonely entrepreneurship, and fix “unfixable” problems even as the anointed experts “laugh at them.” Would you be willing to risk your life, your fortune, and your sacred honor for the principle that individuals should be left free, provided that they don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff?

Matt Kibbe is President and CEO of FreedomWorks. This is adapted from his New York Times bestseller Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff (William Morrow/HarperCollins 2014).

Netanyahu Vows to ‘Eradicate’ Hamas

Netanyahu Vows to ‘Eradicate’ Hamas:

Earlier today, Israeli security announced sad news. The bodies of three Israeli teens, one with dual American citizenship, had been discovered. They had been kidnapped by terrorists with links to Hamas. The captors reportedly shot the teens to execute them shortly after abducting them. Hamas had played its usual game, distancing itself from the kidnappers while praising their actions.

Today, after an emergency cabinet meeting , Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would act forcefully and “eradicate” Hamas.

“We will not stop until Hamas is completely destroyed,” Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Dannon Danon said after the meeting, according to CNN.

Hamas has ruled since Palestinians elected them to power in Gaza in 2006. Hamas, which the US government officially recognizes is a terrorist group, recently formed a unity government with Fatah in the West Bank.

Empowering the Enemy

Empowering the Enemy:

Tea Party patriots understand what many Republicans and even a few conservatives don’t seem to get: you can’t appease, be nice to, negotiate with, or compromise with an enemy that is dedicated to your destruction. Trying to maintain “access” to them will only get you laughed at behind your back as you walk out the door, and ultimately betrayed later.
Or as Steve Deace put it at BarbWire:

We recognize we cannot negotiate with the New Left, but must defeat it. The problem is the GOP establishment often acts as a de facto human shield for these Statists, so we rarely get a clear shot at them on a national stage.
Why would the GOP establishment shield the statists from the backlash of the American people?  Because, at least among the leadership, there is little difference between the two parties beyond a “D” associated with one and an “R” associated with the other.  Both leadership groups are about maintaining a status quo which involves taxpayer money flowing to them and their donor friends.

As Richard Viguerie put it:

 the fault line in today’s politics isn’t between Democrats and Republicans; it is between limited government constitutional conservatives and advocates of Big Government in both the Democratic and Republican parties. 
An alliance of convenience between a Big Government – Big Spending establishment Republican like Thad Cochran, the lobbyists and special interests who feed off of Cochran’s position on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and welfare state Democrats, was an obvious way to keep the taxpayer money flowing to everyone…
…Tea Partiers and grassroots conservatives now understand that the Republican establishment is all about power, not principle, and that to govern America according to conservative principles we must defeat the establishment’s candidates in Republican primaries AND wrest control of the Republican Party machinery from them.
Incidentally, Mike Rounds, the man who bought the GOP primary for $2.5 million, has made it clear with word and deed that he values “pragmatism” over principle.  And in a world dominated by a Leftist media and a peeing-its-pants “Republican leadership,” you don’t have to concentrate very hard to guess the “pragmatic” outcome in any fight of importance with the Democrat Party. Principle is going to take it on the chin every time.

Deace goes on to describe what we’re doing when we support RINOs who have made it clear that they will betray us and our values:

we have learned the hard way we’re no longer choosing “the lesser of two evils.” We’re choosing people who will score points repeatedly for the other team while wearing our uniform. We cannot defeat the Democrats until we defeat the GOP establishment, and we can’t do that until we stop empowering them.
When we support an unrepentant “lesser of two evils,” we are empowering those who are helping the enemy. What legitimate partnership can we have with those who deliberately sell us out?

I’ve had it with empowering those who loathe my Republican values, and I plan to do something better with my vote. How about you?
The post Empowering the Enemy appeared first on American Clarion.

“6 Stupid Arguments About Hobby Lobby From Dumb Liberals”

“6 Stupid Arguments About Hobby Lobby From Dumb Liberals”:

Let me preface this by saying that, as with the 9-0 ruling on the Recess and Appointments Clauses, I’m not sure this is quite the victory we wish it would be, mostly because the Court didn’t really address the core first amendment principle of freedom of association.  But when you know going in you’ll have 4 votes against and you don’t know if Anthony Kennedy ate bad clams or John Roberts is feeling like he needs a pet on the head from the WaPo, you take what you can get.’

I do know this, though.  Sandra Fluke is irate.  And that’s a win no matter what the context.

The Federalist breaks down the most common — and egregiously uninformed — arguments being offered by the left, so I’ll let you read them there.

However, there is one I’d like to discuss in more detail, because it foreshadows what’s already being systemically instituted by the left as a bit of legal reasoning, even though it is not and is clearly and defiantly at odds with the very idea of individual sovereignty.  Fittingly, it was offered up by Harry Reid, who argued “It’s time that five men on the Supreme Court stop deciding what happens to women” — the obvious suggestion being that there is a separate “logic” (vertical or horizontal, I can never remember which) that comes with your plumbing, and one can’t presume to rule on the other, unless of course we had 5 female justices ruling on things that affect men and women both, in which case that would of course be fine. Because of the because.

This idea that individual men cannot interpret or apply law that affects a particular (and non-uniform) identity group — after all, it seems to me that the 5 men spoke for an awful lot of conservative / constitutionalist women with this decision, although I suppose those kinds of women are the real kind, suffering as they do from false consciousness and their embeddedness in a patriarchal paradigm that is rigged to thwart their liberties — is the kind of thing that Said pushed in his Orientalism:  the only authentic voice for a particular group comes from those who adopt the official group narrative and will it into ascension. All others are forbidden to comment on the “truths” that then belong to the group narrative — or if they do so, they do so with no standing, and therefore illegitimately.

Precisely the kind of thing that leads to Sharia law being instituted, or ridiculous special dispensation for some aggrieved identity bloc or other under the false and poisonous assertion that the ascendent group narrative is representative of the entirety of the group, reducing individuals putatively within the group who disagree to apostates, heretics, Uncle Toms, “anti-feminists,” and so on.

This is the kind of thinking the comes with the acceptance of consensus meaning and a will to power, the very linguistic substructure I’ve been writing about for years that we need to root out of our epistemology by its twisted, tangled, vegetation killing tendrils.

It is “thinking” like this, after all, that leads to ludicrous and (to me) clearly unconstitutional policies like district set-asides for black politicians, or a quota system for representation — one that resembles a crayon box on the outside but, where it matters, represents a crushing uniformity of opinion, with each group representative both cognizant of and supportive toward the political weight of controlling an identity bloc and dictating its public interests.

Which is just a long way of saying it’s about time Harry Reid stopped deciding who should be speaking for women — particularly, given his argument, when he’s a man making the suggestion.  The patriarchal oppressor and penis waver.

But then, trying to reason with Harry Reid is like trying to teach a rutabaga to play the flute:  It can be done, but not without turning the rutabaga into something sentient and capable of thought first.

So. Who’s ready for an Executive Order turning the US into the subsidizer of foreign nationals?

So. Who’s ready for an Executive Order turning the US into the subsidizer of foreign nationals?:

We’ll call them pre-citizens or some such until such time as they settle into Balkanized communities and DREAM their way into permanence. Because they are here out of love — though it’s worth pointing out that at least some of that love is transmitting itself in the form of diseases we haven’t seen here in a quite some time being shipped into our urban centers, probably by a long, healthy, tongue-kiss with the US.

The sad part of this is, this is precisely the hope many in the GOP leadership hold out — that Obama does by Executive Order what they can’t get done in the House (particularly while their dull, bitterclinging constituencies continue to concern themselves with ideas like state sovereignty, an organized and structure immigration and assimilation program, and upholding federal law — and so they get what they want (cheap labor) and can then go home and rail against an Imperial President, even going so far as to fund raise off of his unconscionable decision to do what they wanted done.

DC is a puppet show.  And as I get older, I’m able to see the strings more and more.  Which doesn’t make it quaint.  It makes for potential strangulation.

– Which is why the few not yet tied up tend to get clothes-lined so often by members of the more permanent puppet kingdom.

Kevin D. Williamson: “Politics Pays: No society can longthrive by making its innovators subservient to itsbureaucrats”

Kevin D. Williamson: “Politics Pays: No society can long
thrive by making its innovators subservient to its

It is baffling that my progressive friends lament the influence of so-called big money on government while at the same time proposing to expand the very scope and scale of that government that makes influencing it such a good investment. Where government means constables, soldiers, judges, and precious little else, it is not much worth capturing. Where government means somebody whose permission must be sought before you can even begin to earn a living, when it determines the prices of products, the terms of competition, and the interest rates on your competitors’ financing, then it is worth capturing. That much is obvious. Progressives refuse to see the inherent corruption in the new ruling class — and, make no mistake, we now have a ruling class — because it is largely made up of them, their colleagues, and people who are socially and culturally like them and their colleagues.
Politics Pays: No society can long thrive by making its innovators subservient to its bureaucrats., by Kevin Williamson.

Williamson is always good. Be sure to check his posts daily.

The idea of a shared mentalit√© among our current elite which makes them believe they are entitled to live off of government power instead of productivity is in the air these days, though not yet common enough. A modern classic in the genre is Angelo Codevilla’s essay from 2010, America’s Ruling Class and the Perils of Revolution, which is worth reading, as is the book that grew out of it.

Williamson ends “Politics Pays” with this: “It is time to start calling this what it is and treating it as what it is: corruption.”

That is correct. And his subtitle is also correct. Making innovators subservient to bureaucrats is not long-term viable.

But, as we live through the decay of America 2.0, we can count on its institutions and incumbents doing everything in their power to thwart the rise of the new and emerging world.

Getting rid of this sort of government, an outdated and toxic relic, is the mission of our era. The scale and scope of its power need to be cut back to Constitutional limits. Otherwise, it is not only too expensive, and corrupt, it also incompetent.

Michael Barone makes this last point, about government incompetence in a review essay entitled Why government isn’t working and how to make it better. Barone cites to three new books for the proposition that “[g]overnment just doesn’t work very well.” The books are: (1) The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, (2) Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better, by Peter Schuck, and (3) The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government by Philip K. Howard. They all sound good, and I have started reading The Fourth Revolution. It is pretty good so far, though I see serious differences between the historical understanding of the authors and what Jim Bennett and I propose in America 3.0. Perhaps I will have more to say about it when I finish it.

Of course, the defects of modern government, and the massive changes on the way, are key themes of America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century-Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come.

We predict America will successfully overcome this epoch of corruption, blown budgets, ineptitude — and the smug, corrupt, spendthrift and incompetent class that benefits from and dominates public life in this transitional era. They won’t be missed.

Notably, Williamson is also long-term optimistic about America’s prospects, which further shows how smart he is.

Be sure to read his book The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier, and More Secure. Williamson is one of the few, the happy few, who see that America is bigger and better than this vicious, venal and small-minded era we are living through.

America’s greatest days are yet to come, and they are going to be awesome.

Time to restructure the civil service system to rid it of crony bureaucracy

Time to restructure the civil service system to rid it of crony bureaucracy: Ending the federal worker gravy train

This month’s congressional hearing on outlandish bonuses at the Veterans Administration is the latest proof that the nation needs to overhaul how federal workers in every department are paid and promoted.
They’re on the gravy train, and taxpayers are being taken for a ride.
Back in 1883, Congress passed the Pendleton Act to replace patronage with a federal civil service in which workers would be hired and paid based on merit.
There is no MERIT anymore. Scramble the letters. What you have now is a TIMER system. Workers put in time and get hefty salaries and bonuses, regardless of work quality, with virtually no risk of being fired.
Gina Farrissee, assistant secretary for human resources at the VA, told Congress that executive bonuses “are awarded only after a rigorous and diligent review.” Nonsense.
The regional director overseeing the Pittsburgh VA collected a $63,000 award in 2012 shortly after six vets treated there died needlessly from legionella, an infection traced directly to poor maintenance of the facility.
The General Accountability Office investigated VAs nationwide and reported in July 2013 that doctors get bonuses regardless of work quality. A radiologist cited for mistakes reading mammograms got an $8,216 bonus, even though a professional-standards board deemed him unqualified to continue his current duties.
A surgeon suspended for 14 days for abandoning a patient on the operating table and leaving the medical center, with only unsupervised residents to complete the procedure, still got an $11,189 annual bonus.
But it’s not just the VA. Every federal department has this putrid culture.
The Internal Revenue Service doles out bonuses to employees guilty of illegal drug use, unemployment-benefits fraud, even tax evasion. A Treasury inspector general’s report released April 22 states that, “with few exceptions, the IRS does not consider tax compliance or other misconduct when issuing performance awards or most other types of awards.”
Yet IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told Congress this month that a special independent prosecutor to investigate IRS targeting of conservative groups “would be a monumental waste of taxpayer funds.” That’s a novel concern at the IRS or any federal agency.
The Pendleton Act stipulated that federal employees would be hired and promoted based on merit.
But merit no longer matters.
Take the Environmental Protection Agency worker making $125,000 a year who spent hours a day watching porn, including four hours on a website called “Sadism is Beautiful.”
Yet he received performance awards. “How much pornography would it take for an EPA employee to lose their job?” asked Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) during an Oversight Committee hearing in May.
The answer is that firing a federal worker is almost impossible, and making it stick, even less likely.
Data from the Office of Personnel Management indicate that it is five times as hard to get fired from a federal job as from a private-sector one.
Incredibly, most federal departments have even laxer standards than the VA. Jeff Neely, the General Services Administration employee pictured in a hot tub sipping wine on taxpayer money, retired with benefits after the lavish 2010 Las Vegas boondoggle he attended was uncovered in the media. Two co-workers were fired but reinstated with back pay after appealing to the “merit” system’s protection board, which protects everything but merit.
It’s been claimed that federal workers settle for lower pay in exchange for job ­security. Don’t believe it.
A worker with a high-school education earns 21 percent more working for the federal government than for a private employer, and gets 72 percent more in benefits. A worker with a bachelor’s degree also makes out better with Uncle Sam, getting about the same wages as in the private sector but 46 percent more in benefits.
Only professionals such as lawyers, medical doctors and Ph.Ds get paid less in federal jobs than private-sector ones, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
In addition, the federal workplace offers 10 paid holidays, plus 13 to 26 days’ annual vacation (depending on longevity) and up to 13 paid sick days a year.
All in all, up to 49 paid days off.
That’s easy street. Meanwhile, taxpayers are on the road to serfdom, working longer and paying more to support a government that does not serve them.

'To people clucking that the First Black President deserves more respect...'

'To people clucking that the First Black President deserves more respect...':

"...may I suggest that you should have done a better job of picking the First Black President?"

Violation of Common Sense

Violation of Common Sense:

In a 5-4 decision, the SC has struck another blow to the ACA stating that a requirement of private employers to pay for contraceptive coverage is a violation of their religious freedom and conscience as written into the First Amendment. A common sense decision that everyone should understand but evidently 4 SC justices and a multitude of statist progressive don’t. Hobby Lobby, and the many other private companies that objected to this mandate, can not and do not force any woman to work for them, so when a woman does independently and of free will choose to work for that company, how in the world does she have the right to dictate to them what insurance coverage they should offer? That is absurd.

In another ruling that will rock the progressive world, and in another 5-4 decision, in-home health care workers will not be required to pay union dues which served to strengthen the collective bargaining position of the public unions in Illinois. This again is a victory for individuality and freedom of expression and a blow against big union corruption and political graft.

This has been a bad year so far for statism and progressivism and in turn a great year for individual liberty and conservatism. Let’s keep the momentum going.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Obama’s Treason & the Disgraceful Intellectuals Obscuring his Anti-American Mission

Obama’s Treason & the Disgraceful Intellectuals Obscuring his Anti-American Mission: "What exactly is it about socialism that attracts such illogical, undying, uncritical, and blind devotion—even in the face of overwhelming evidence this theory is utterly flawed? Or, is there some universal rule which dictates that intellectuals, Hollywood players and so-called journalists must be liberal, socialist, Marxist or communists?

And, why does America create such waves of revulsion in these same liberals? Finally, why must these progressives do everything in their powers to obscure the agenda and acts of other Marxists, even those in high office harming the traditional interests of the US?

In the absence of a better theory, one must deduct that in many important ways, leftism acts like a godless pseudo-religion, or cult. For it seems to have all of the burdens of a religious worldview, without any of the benefits. Most alarmingly, Marxism has been the single most destructive set of beliefs in world history.


'via Blog this'

The Pillars of Modern American Conservatism

The Pillars of Modern American Conservatism:


Over the past half century, conservatism has become the dominant political philosophy in the United States. Newspaper and television political news stories more often than not will mention the word conservative. Almost every Republican running for office—whether for school board or U.S. senator—will try to establish his place on the political spectrum based on how conservative he is. Even Democrats sometimes distinguish among members of their own party in terms of conservatism.
Although conservatism as we know it today is a relatively new movement—it emerged after World War II and only became a political force in the 1960s—it is based on ideas that are as old as Western civilization itself. The intellectual foundations on which this movement has been built stretch back to antiquity, were further developed during the Middle Ages and in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England, and were ultimately formulated into a coherent political philosophy at the time of the founding of the United States. In a real sense, conservatism is Western civilization.
The basic foundations of American conservatism can be boiled down to four fundamental concepts. We might call them the four pillars of modern conservatism:
The first pillar of conservatism is liberty, or freedom. Conservatives believe that individuals possess the right to life, liberty, and property, and freedom from the restrictions of arbitrary force. They exercise these rights through the use of their natural free will. That means the ability to follow your own dreams, to do what you want to (so long as you don’t harm others) and reap the rewards (or face the penalties). Above all, it means freedom from oppression by government—and the protection of government against oppression. It means political liberty, the freedom to speak your mind on matters of public policy. It means religious liberty—to worship as you please, or not to worship at all. It also means economic liberty, the freedom to own property and to allocate your own resources in a free market.
Conservatism is based on the idea that the pursuit of virtue is the purpose of our existence and that liberty is an essential component of the pursuit of virtue. Adherence to virtue is also a necessary condition of the pursuit of freedom. In other words, freedom must be pursued for the common good, and when it is abused for the benefit of one group at the expense of others, such abuse must be checked. Still, confronted with a choice of more security or more liberty, conservatives will usually opt for more liberty.
The second pillar of conservative philosophy is tradition and order. Conservatism is also about conserving the values that have been established over centuries and that have led to an orderly society. Conservatives believe in human nature; they believe in the ability of man to build a society that respects rights and that has the capacity to repel the forces of evil. Order means a systematic and harmonious arrangement, both within one’s own character and within the commonwealth. It signifies the performance of certain duties and the enjoyment of certain rights within a community.
Order is perhaps more easily understood by looking at its opposite: disorder. A disordered existence is a confused and miserable existence. If a society falls into general disorder, many of its members will cease to exist at all. And if the members of a society are disordered in spirit, the outward order of society cannot long endure. Disorder describes well everything that conservatism is not.
The third pillar is the rule of law. Conservatism is based on the belief that it is crucial to have a legal system that is predictable, that allows people to know what the rules are and enforce those rules equally for all. This means that both governors and the governed are subject to the law. The rule of law promotes prosperity and protects liberty. Put simply, a government of laws and not of men is the only way to secure justice.
The fourth pillar is belief in God. Belief in God means adherence to the broad concepts of religious faith—such things as justice, virtue, fairness, charity, community, and duty. These are the concepts on which conservatives base their philosophy.
Conservative belief is tethered to the idea that there is an allegiance to God that transcends politics and that sets a standard for politics. For conservatives, there must be an authority greater than man, greater than any ruler, king, or government: no state can demand our absolute obedience or attempt to control every aspect of our lives. There must be a moral order, conservatives believe, that undergirds political order. This pillar of conservatism does not mean mixing up faith and politics, and it certainly does not mean settling religious disputes politically. It also does not mean that conservatives have a monopoly on faith, or even that all conservatives are necessarily believers.
Each of the four pillars is closely related to all the others. Liberty, for example, is considered a gift of God and must be protected by the rule of law. The rule of law itself is dependent on the natural law—a transcendent law reflected in every orderly and civilized society, demarcating good and evil. Tradition and order are best reflected by our common law—a law developed over centuries by reasonable people in their everyday lives, which sets the rules for social order consistent with the past. And tradition is an important dimension of belief in God. What could demonstrate tradition and order more fully, for example, than the Old Testament and the history of the Jewish people, or the doctrines of the Christian Church?
The Four Cities
Another way of understanding these four pillars is to see them in terms of the historical origins of the conservative tradition. Russell Kirk, who is probably the preeminent conservative scholar of the twentieth century, often spoke of the four cities in which the foundations of Western civilization—and so, of conservatism—were laid: Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and London. Our own Philadelphia in the late eighteenth century can then be seen to represent the culmination of a great tradition.
The first city is Jerusalem, where the concept of a transcendent order originated—the understanding that true law comes from God and that God is the source of order and justice. From Jerusalem came one of the most essential ideas of conservatism—that man does not have all the answers, that there is a power greater than man to which we owe our lives and everything that is good. The Hebrews in the Old Testament taught that God made a covenant or compact with His people; He decreed laws by which they should live, and from that revelation we eventually developed modern ethics and modern law. The idea of a compact forms the very basis of our modern political order.
The second city is Athens, where the ancient Greek philosophers, particularly Plato and Aristotle, described the basis of the social order—what was required for people to live together and to thrive in society. Ethics and politics are, they believed, at the root of man’s existence: ethics is what establishes one’s character, and politics is the means by which human beings can achieve the good life. Aristotle, whose writings have had a profound influence on conservative thought, understood the needs of the individual and his relationship to community. Man is a political animal, he taught, and only recognizes his talents and how to use them for the common good if he is part of a community. The Greek philosophers, however, added nothing to the argument for liberty; in fact, Greek philosophy tended to advocate total subjugation of the individual by the state.
The third city in this progression is Rome, where we learn of the highest form of government, the republic, and the use of the separation of powers and checks and balances for the control of political power. Rome also provided the very idea of the rule of law—how law was necessary to preserve order and liberty, and how it needed to be reliable and consistent. Until the Roman republic collapsed, Roman statesmen such as Cato and Cicero also taught us about virtue as a necessary restraint on the passions of men, vital for the preservation of liberty. The Roman Empire, which followed the republic, taught little about individual liberty, of course, but a great deal about the use, and abuse, of power.
Finally there is London, where the teachings that helped to establish the foundations of modern conservatism stretched from the Middle Ages to the end of the eighteenth century and beyond. The foundation was laid by the Magna Carta in 1215 and evolved into the concept of the common law and the idea that the law applies equally to all, whether the king or the lowliest commoner. The Magna Carta and the common law also taught the concept of the permanence of the law—the principle of the supremacy of law, meaning that an enduring law exists and must be obeyed by all men.
William Blackstone, a professor at Oxford and later a judge, published his Commentaries on the Laws of England in 1765; he argued in that massive work that natural law was the basis of all law and was rooted in Christian ethics, and he declared that man had innate rights to personal security, to personal liberty, and to private property. But Blackstone also argued that these rights were not absolute. In society, you had to give up certain rights as the price for the mutual commerce that you enjoyed. Call it a social contract; it is a fundamental doctrine of American politics and central to conservative philosophy.
The influence that British political thinkers had on conservative philosophy could fill many books. Among those whose thought is central to conservative philosophy are John Locke, John Stuart Mill, David Hume, and most important, Edmund Burke.
Burke was Irish, a member of the House of Commons, and is probably the closest thing we have to the intellectual father of modern American conservatism. Among his most important contributions to conservative philosophy are his views about the wisdom of tradition and order. He believed that the wisdom of any one individual is minuscule compared with the collective wisdom accumulated by our ancestors over the centuries.
To Burke, habit, instinct, custom, faith, reverence, prejudice—the accumulated practical knowledge acquired through experience—is more important than abstract speculation. Tradition, in other words, is vital for a good society. And if laws are reasonable, Burke believed, the benefit of the security they provide compensates for any diminishment of an otherwise abstractly “perfect” freedom. It is not law and tradition as such that are to be feared, but arbitrary laws and arbitrary government. Burke also taught that the most important political virtue is prudence—the art of calculating the eventual results of policies, of avoiding extremes, of shunning haste.
The Philadelphia Experiment
The ideas that came from Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and London were all alive in the minds of the men who gathered in a fifth city, Philadelphia, in 1776 and again in 1787, in order to draft, debate, and eventually adopt the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Our Founders had studied the Bible; they had read the classics and the British political writers; they knew the history of Western civilization. Weaving together the best elements of that tradition, they formed what would endure as the greatest experiment in the history of a political community founded on the concepts of liberty, morality, and justice. In this way, our American Founders were also the founders of the American conservative cause.
The Declaration of Independence dissolved the relationship between the American people and Great Britain and established a new, sovereign nation—the United States of America. The Declaration set out the moral vision of the new nation and articulated a theory of what a legitimate government should be. It then spoke in quite specific terms about how Britain had violated those principles.
Many of the early Americans had left Europe because they had been oppressed and wanted the freedom promised in the New World. They wanted to worship as they saw fit, to speak their minds, and to earn a living freely. But over the years, British rule began to undermine American liberty. The Declaration lists twenty-eight abuses by the king—taxation without consent, denial of trial by jury, denial of religious liberty, freedom of speech, and more. The social contract had been broken—by the king—so the colonists declared that they owed no further allegiance to him.
The Declaration’s most memorable passage encapsulates the most basic beliefs of our Founders:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Here the Founders are affirming that natural law is a higher law than that made by men, one that establishes the difference between right and wrong. The Declaration goes on to say that to secure our God-given rights, “governments are instituted by men”—in other words, natural law is the foundation on which all legitimate man-made law is built. It then says that the only legitimate governments are those that operate by the consent of the governed, and that the governed have a right—again, God-given—to change the government or abolish it.
Put another way, the Declaration says there is no divine right of kings, no absolute power of government. Instead, all rightful power in government derives only from the people. The Declaration makes it clear that we are born with these rights, which means that every person has equal rights. The only legitimate function of a government is to secure these rights, and, again, only with the consent of the people. So the Declaration limits the power of the government not once but twice: once by its purpose or ends (the securing of rights) and once by its function or means (our consent).
Eleven years later, the U.S. Constitution was drafted and ratified by the thirteen states. The Constitution was designed to be the supreme law of the land—the law that constructed a new government and spelled out how it would work. The Constitution reflects the principles of the Declaration. The dilemma the Founders faced was how to create a government that would be powerful enough to protect the rights affirmed by the Declaration from both internal and external threats while also providing sufficient checks and balances so the new government would not have so much power as to overrun those rights.
The Constitution establishes the three branches of the federal government—the executive, the legislative, and the judicial—and delimits the powers of each. It sets forth the role of the states, recognizing in the states a power to do things that the federal government is not specifically tasked with doing. It gives the citizens of the United States various ways of protecting themselves against abuses of government power. It clearly enumerates the powers of the federal government and gives it none that are not enumerated.
The Constitution also establishes a powerful system of checks and balances so that no branch of government would become too powerful. First, through the doctrine of the separation of powers, each of the three branches checks the power of the other two. For example, there are two houses of Congress that must agree on any legislation. Any bill passed by Congress must then be signed by the president to become law. The president can also reject the legislation through a veto, though Congress has the power to override his veto by a supermajority. And the courts can review anything that either Congress or the executive branch does and rule it unconstitutional, outside the scope of the law. To further limit federal power, the Constitution establishes the idea of federalism by recognizing the legitimate powers of the states and insisting that all power not specifically granted to the federal government belongs to the states.
The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, taken together, were the work not of a moment, an hour, or even a lifetime, but of two thousand years of Western thought, political struggle, and hard-won knowledge about political power and the pursuit of liberty. These two documents have rightly been called the most perfect, and most successful, conservative documents in the history of the world. Consider how these two founding documents of the United States reflect the four pillars of conservative thought:
First is the concept of liberty, and the necessity of protecting liberty from the abuses of state power. The Founders recognized that government was necessary but also recognized that unless its powers are strictly limited, government can threaten the freedoms it was established to protect. The Bill of Rights ensured that our most essential liberties could never be infringed by the U.S. government.
Second is the rule of law. To protect the freedoms recognized by the Constitution, a fixed and certain rule of law was necessary. As the Founders saw it, a system in which the ruling power could alter the Constitution and the law as it pleased, and thus expand the scope of its authority, was a system in which freedom was always imperiled. Thus, in America, there can be no rule by arbitrary decrees, and justice is settled by fixed rules and duly authorized judges. The Constitution can be amended, but to do so is an arduous and cumbersome process that requires both houses of the Congress to approve the amendment by a two-thirds majority, and three-quarters of the states need approve as well. So the Constitution was the ultimate bedrock law of the land, providing certainty and predictability to the American people, the safety of the rule of law.
And third is order and tradition. The Constitution was the culmination of nearly two thousand years of Western civilization and Western thought. Further, the Founders recognized that government was needed to provide defense, administer justice, and otherwise supply a zone of order in which people could safely go about their business. The Constitution established the idea of continuity and stability of leadership, and provided an orderly process for choosing leaders, making laws, and administering the new republic.
And finally, belief in God. Both documents reflect the great reverence of the Founders and their understanding of the Bible. The Declaration of Independence opens by proclaiming that men are “endowed by their Creator” with certain rights, continues by speaking of “the laws of nature and nature’s God,” and ends with an appeal to “the Supreme Judge of the World.” The Constitution, although less explicit, recognizes the liberties discussed in the Declaration and protects them as almost sacred. The Constitution’s Bill of Rights also makes religious liberty our “first freedom,” reflecting the Founders’ view that the free exercise of religion would have a positive effect on the workings of government. Sadly, the Founders’ concept of religious liberty has now been turned on its head by a grossly errant Supreme Court.
It is no wonder that many conservatives now call themselves constitutional conservatives, why the Tea Party has adopted the Constitution as its standard text, and why the conservative legal community has resurrected the Constitution as its fundamental document. The Constitution sets forth the basic tenets of modern American conservatism in clear and unambiguous language; it is brief but complete, and still stands as the bedrock of American conservatism. If you are ever asked what conservatism in America stands for, you can say it stands for what is in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and you will have given as good an answer as possible.
Postwar Conservatism
How, then, are these principles reflected in the conservative movement as it rose to prominence over the past half century? In 1945, as World War II drew to a close, America was culturally a conservative country but politically not conservative at all. Government had grown to dominate the economy through both wartime emergency measures and the programs of the New Deal. All three branches of government were controlled by left-leaning Democrats. Communist Russia had been our ally during the war, and “Uncle Joe” Stalin was still considered a benevolent figure. Our other major ally, Great Britain, was largely a socialist state. Opinion makers were pretty much in agreement concerning politics and economics. In short, the liberals were in control.
But within a few years after 1945, conservative intellectuals began to speak out about what they viewed as a dangerous drift of the United States toward socialism. First of all, there were libertarian economists, led by Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, who defended the virtues of capitalism. Hayek argued that socialism was the road to serfdom. Only free-market economics could rebuild Europe and enable the U.S. to combat the growing Communist threat from Russia. These libertarians advocated limited government instead of socialism, self-reliance instead of the welfare state, private property and entrepreneurship instead of central planning. Chaos, they wrote, was the only real alternative to a free economy—chaos and global poverty.
A second group of thinkers believed that the primary threat to the West was the spread of Communism, advancing from both the Soviet Union and China, which exerted their influence geopolitically and also attempted to subvert the American way of life internally. Communism represented everything abhorrent to Western values: it was tyrannical, radical, socialistic, and atheist. It used terror, deceit, and subversion to achieve its ends and was determined to force its ideology on the rest of the world. Communism’s goals included the destruction of tradition and order in the rest of the world, and it routinely defied the rule of law.
Conservative anti-Communists also believed that liberalism was a progenitor of Communism. Because liberalism and Communism shared the same substantive goals, liberalism was more often than not complicit in Communism’s spread. These conservatives were appalled at the peace settlement that followed World War II, particularly the fact that most of Eastern Europe had been handed to the Soviet Union by Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. They were concerned about the problems they anticipated from the growing strength of Soviet Russia, the fall of China to Communism, and the lack of will on the part of American liberals to stand up to the Communists. They were also concerned about internal security—the fact that the federal government had been infiltrated by Communist agents and other leftists to the detriment of our national interest. The anti-Communist movement became a mainstay of American conservatism and attracted more people than any other part of the movement.
A third group was concerned with the need to maintain American values. They were focused on tradition and faith and the preservation of Western civilization and culture. They saw a growing threat from permissiveness and vulgarity. They believed in ethics and honor, in the importance of the church, and in the need for traditional education and higher learning. In short, they were concerned about the decline of the West, and they thought the way to reverse that decline was through an appeal to tradition and order. Among these traditionalists were writers such as Russell Kirk, William F. Buckley Jr., and Richard Weaver.
None of the three groups of postwar conservative thinkers was concerned with ideas merely as an academic exercise. Instead, they advanced practical ideas that challenged the status quo. They wanted their ideas to change the world. They lamented what had happened to the United States, and indeed to the rest of the world, during the first half of the twentieth century. They believed that cultural and political liberalism was at odds with American ideals at home and abroad, and saw that liberalism’s assaults on individual liberties, limited government, free markets, and Western culture ran counter to everything they believed in.
Over the next fifteen years, many of the conservatives who would dominate the stage for the balance of the twentieth century developed their views through books, articles, and lectures. In the process, they set the stage for the upsurge in conservative politics that would follow. By the early 1960s, conservative organizations were being formed, magazines and book-publishing companies were organized, and the beginnings of a “movement” emerged. In 1964 Barry Goldwater, a Republican senator from Arizona and the country’s most popular conservative politician, was nominated to head the Republican ticket for president. Although he lost, his campaign solidified the conservative movement politically, introduced thousands of young conservatives to national politics, and transformed the Republican Party from a middle-of-the-road party dominated by Easterners into a more conservative party largely dominated by the South and West.
It is important to understand the driving force that compelled American conservatives to become practically engaged in the worlds of politics, education, the courts, the culture—namely, the force of reaction. Conservatives believed they had no choice but to fight against what was happening in their country and in the world, and what was happening was largely the result, in one way or another, of the Left. Things were going wrong and needed to be fixed: the advance of Communism, the expansion of the welfare state, over-regulation of free-market capitalism, the growing power of labor unions, activism in the courts, sexual permissiveness, crime, the breakdown of the family, the deterioration of the schools and of the churches. What the Left saw as progress, conservatives saw as decline—and in reaction they searched for practical solutions.
During the next two decades—the 1960s and ’70s—conservatives became increasingly influential in politics, conservative organizations grew, financial resources were developed, new periodicals were founded, and a vibrant youth movement in colleges and universities became prominent. In 1980 Republicans nominated, and subsequently elected, Ronald Reagan, the most conservative politician ever to have reached national standing in American politics.
American conservatism had emerged as an intellectual movement in the 1950s, had become a political movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and then, with President Reagan, a governing movement in the 1980s. Along the way, the conservative movement built a coherent philosophy that still exists today. And it is no exaggeration to say that most of today’s prominent conservatives—whether politicians, academics, activists, donors, or writers—got their start, in one way or another, working for Ronald Reagan.
Standing Firm
While the particular issues we face today may be different from those of the past, the four pillars of modern American conservatism remain robust. Conservatives universally advocate a return to limited government, for as Ronald Reagan used to say, a government that can give you everything you want can also take away everything you have. Conservatives advocate free market capitalism, less regulation of economic activity, and fiscal responsibility. They also favor entrepreneurship and lower taxes to spur economic growth. Conservatives work to restrain activist judges in an effort to restore the rule of law.
Social conservatives today work to shore up family values. They oppose abortion, same-sex marriage, and sexual permissiveness. They also advocate strengthening traditional standards in education, and a larger role for religious faith in public life.
On foreign policy issues, conservatives have recently been divided. Traditionally, conservatives have believed that war should be avoided if at all possible but that a strong national defense is nevertheless vital. Peace through strength, if you will. But a new strand of conservatives joined the movement in the 1970s and 1980s: the so-called neoconservatives. Many of these were former Democrats, liberals on domestic policy but anti-Communists and hawks who made common cause with other conservatives toward the end of the Cold War. Neoconservatives tend to be more willing to use military power for purposes other than simply defending American interests.
Still, there are really no clear lines of demarcation between the different branches of conservatism, and in fact most conservatives don’t fit neatly into one or another camp. Almost always there are enough genuine similarities in outlook such that, wherever they come from, conservatives can usually work together for the broader cause. As long as we remain faithful to the four pillars of conservatism, the order of liberty, morality, and justice that we have built will stand firm.
Books related to this essay may be found at The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. Reprinted with the gracious permission of The Intercollegiate Review (Spring 2012).
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