Thursday, January 30, 2014

Personality Divide, Part II

In Monday’s post, we talked about the philosophical differences between Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine, and how their worldviews translate to a today’s political dichotomy.

Burke is about being thankful for whatever works, and conserving that in any effort toward improvement. Paine is about being outraged by whatever isn’t perfect, because scientific progress gives us no excuse for whatever doesn’t meet expectations.
It’s good to understand how different minds work, so we can find common ground and work together. But it might be true that one way of thinking leads to better outcomes (the one in which thinking and evidence are more valued than emotion and intention). So, in defense of the more-or-less Burkeian conservative mind, here is Part II.
There’s a tendency to think of “conservative” as boring, staid, unadventurous, and to think of “progressive”/liberal as trendy, “with it,” and up for revolution. Yet if you look at the ideas behind the American Revolution, what you see is the man-of-action effort to maintain the individual freedom Englishmen were supposed to have been guaranteed (see the list of grievances in the Declaration of Independence), rather than lose them to the whim of a dictatorial monarch. They worked through all the institutional pathways first, but then they risked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to separate from the Mother Country and live by the known principles of freedom in the New World.
You can see a similar sense of “revolution” in today’s public school debate. It might seem to go against expectation, but conservatives are much more open to alternatives to public school institutions. Maybe it’s because public schooling is a relatively new and not demonstrably successful (in fact often demonstrably less successful) system of educating the next generation. So you have people concerned about education, and finding better and best practices, open for experimentation—among “conservatives.”
And among conservatives you find both “conservative” and “fast action” personalities. There are those who patiently work for incremental changes—more local control, more school choice, vouchers for private school tuition. And you also find those with no faith in public schooling, who are willing to see radical reform—abolishment of public schooling, turning to all private schooling, homeschooling, combinations of classroom and online learning, and whatever a parent decides will work for their children. That “conservative” side, the “northern” hemisphere, accommodates both types of thinkers. (By personality, I’m typically more conservative, yet I was radically willing to pull my kids out of school and educate them myself for a decade, because kids only grow up once, and you can’t mess around and lose the opportunity.)
But in the public school debate, what we see is democrat/liberal/progressives absolutely bound to protect the status quo. Odd.
So the “progressive” experiment, which threw out the parent-run education system that had led to the great thinkers of our founding (and pretty much throughout the millennia), and replaced it with a “new” factory-style model with centralized one-size-fits-all control, hasn’t actually been an improvement. Yet there are “bitter clingers” who refuse to let go so the system can be improved. And those change resistors are the self-proclaimed “progressives.” Hmm.
There’s something about faith in science/knowledge and politics about the Spherical Model south (maybe a prideful refusal to acknowledge God’s hand in our lives), and sometimes Paine-type thinkers are led there. We know, from evidence, principle, and scripture, that tyranny, lower prosperity, and social decay lie in that southern hemisphere.
While I was exploring this idea of two types of minds, I reread the December Imprimis article, “A Rebirth of Liberty and Learning” by Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn. He begins with the assertion, “There is a proper way to educate and there is a proper way to govern, and they are both known.” His piece is about where we’ve gone wrong in governing and educating, and how to get redirected.
Dr. Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College
photo from Imprimis
What classical education seeks is ultimate good—and identifying how to live as a good person. There is an assumption that ultimate truth exists, and we should seek it. We are aided in this quest by building upon a core set of knowledge passed down through the ages, recognizable by its beauty—it’s ultimate goodness.
The “progressive” new way is to throw out the idea of educating for the purpose of building better human lives, and instead educating for career preparation—“students chiefly as factors of production.”
Dr. Arnn makes the comparison for us:
Although we all wish productive jobs for our children, as parents we know that they are not chiefly job seekers or factors of production. After all, how many of us, if we were given the choice of our children earning a lot of money and being bad, or struggling economically and being good, would choose the former?
Then he spends half a page quoting from a modern teachers guide for AP English, which says some nonsense about helping students “construct their own realities” that will somehow “help them live in a mad, mad world.”
Dr. Arnn summarizes:
Could the difference be more stark between the older and newer ways of education? Between leading students toward an understanding of the right way to live in a comprehensible world, and telling them they must shape their own values and make their own reality in a world gone mad? And by the way, think of the definition of “reality”; then think of making one’s own reality. Do you see that it destroys the meaning of the word to use it that way?
Then he show similar contrasts in ways of governing:
One way to see the difference is to see that laws in America used to be simple and beautiful. They were written with care, and citizens could read them quickly and understand their meaning. Of the four organic laws that founded America—the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance, and the Constitution of the United States—none of them was more than 4,500 words long.
Clear, understandable by those affected, based on long-held principles—those are the ways that tie in with ultimate good, truth, and beauty. That is the older way, yet it seems fresh and clear and connected to human dignity even centuries later. Then there’s the new, bureaucratic, central control way preferred by the “it’s old so let’s throw it out and do our own thing” seekers of progress. For instance,
…the Affordable Care Act, which when it was passed in 2010—and this does not include the countless rules and regulations it has generated over the past three years—ran to 363,086 words. This law—and in the true sense of the word it wasn’t a law at all, but something different—was not readable or comprehensible to any member of Congress who voted for it or to the citizens whose lives it was aimed at manipulating in a detailed and intrusive way. Could anything be uglier? And is it surprising, being governed in this way, that the richest nation in human history is going broke?
James Madison clearly declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” and then simply listed the God-given unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and he declares government’s purpose to defend these rights, “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
In Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope, he misconstrues that clarity this way:
Implicit in [the Constitution’s] structure, in the very idea of ordered liberty, was a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or “ism,” any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course.
You can’t get from that point A to that point B; there is no such path. As Dr. Arnn put it, “How did Barack Obama come to believe something so foreign to America’s heritage as the idea that in the name of liberty we must reject absolute truths—which necessarily includes rejecting those truths I just quoted from the Declaration?”
Here’s what I think. There are known ways of living together as human beings that lead to the best (though still imperfect) outcomes. We can have freedom, prosperity, and civilization by living according to these known core principles. But we’d better teach these core principles far and wide, because, as truth and freedom seeker Ronald Reagan used to say,
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Personality Divide

I’m not an expert on either Edmund Burke or Thomas Paine, but I heard a lecture online of author Yuval Levin, speaking at the Heritage Society, related to his book The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left. [The lecture is only a half hour, but there's another half hour of Q&A. And yes, I'm aware that the way I spend my spare time is a little odd; thank you for pointing that out yet again.] Understanding something of these two contemporaries of our nation’s founding might give us insight into an ongoing differences today.
Yuval Levin proposes that the ideas of right and left, which affect our politics and policies, “seem to represent genuinely distinct points of view, and our national life seems almost by design to bring to the surface the sorts of questions that divide them.”  And, “There are no perfect representatives of the two side of the debate, but there may be no better representatives than Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine.”
Burke is essentially conservative, what is referred to as “right.” And Paine is essentially progressive, or what is referred to as “left” today. That said, they both debated during the American Revolution, both in favor of it, both in favor of basic human rights, and both from within traditions and elements of society that worked. So there's nothing here as simple as right and wrong. 
Here at the Spherical Model, I don’t use right and left, but rather north for freedom, south for tyranny, with an east/west position depending on the level of society whose interests are at stake. I’m not suggesting that Burke is purely “north” and Paine is purely “south.” But I’m hoping the debate they had can enlighten us as we identify where on the sphere certain ideas and policies lie. And, maybe more important, I’m hoping we can identify ways of thinking, so that we can persuade those who think differently to live in the northern hemisphere with us, instead of dragging us ever southward.
Yuval says, of Burke and Paine,
Their disagreement, though it was always directed to real events and practical questions, took place on the plain of philosophical argument. They argued about the meaning of nature and history and politics, what sort of standards of justice should govern political life. They argued about the tension between rights and duties in society, between choice and obligation. They argued about whether politics could answer to stark and universal principles that we could learn through reason, or whether it had also to answer to the traditions and forms and inherited practices of each society.
It seems to me, even today, if we can debate on these terms, instead of accusations of hatred toward opposing views, we might at least get some mutual understanding.
At about 15 minutes in, Levin outlines three areas of differences between Burke and Paine, and how each relates to certain issue areas today. This struck me as approximately the three spheres: political, economic, and social:
·        Their basic dispositions toward society and politics.
o   What gets the left and the right energized or angry.
·        Their sense of what kind of knowledge is available to us in solving social and political problems.
o   How conservatives and liberals think about a lot of economic issues.
·        Their views of how the past and the present relate to one another in politics, and in human life more generally—the question that gets to what may be the deepest differences between the left and the right.
o   How we think about a lot of the social issues.
If there are philosophical truths from each, both worth considering, then Burke and Paine are not simply north and south. Still, one path of thought may get to usable truth better than the other. Levin said,
Edmund Burke, like many of the conservatives who have followed him, approached that world by first and foremost being impressed with and grateful for what works about it—so trying to build on what is good to address what is not.
Thomas Paine, like many progressives and radicals since, approached that world first and foremost by being struck and outraged by what was failing about it—so trying to root out the bad in order to make room for good things to take its place.
Burke begins in gratitude; Paine begins in outrage.
Because people think differently, we are always going to have this divide. There’s a difference in the way the two consider human beings, to begin with. Levin continues with this description:
Burke begins with a sense of man as a fallen creature, as highly imperfect, prone to self-destructive passions and excesses, in need of correction and balance. And that means that Burke is basically simply surprised that anything works at all in society. He thinks it’s much easier for human communities to fall into chaos and disorder than to achieve order and happiness. And any human institutions that do manage to work, to make something worthwhile of this imperfect raw material, deserve to be revered and treasured and protected. He’s grateful for those institutions, grateful for the people who created and sustained them, because he thinks they’re very far from guaranteed.
Paine, on the contrary, begins from much higher expectations of human reason and human power and knowledge. And so he thinks that achieving social order and tranquility and happiness is a matter of applying the right principles—principles that he thought were becoming well known in his day, thanks to a new enlightenment science of politics. And so there was really no excuse for persisting in failure. Social order and prosperity and happiness should be the default condition of the human race, and any deviations from them are a reason to be outraged.
His expectations are almost utopian, where Burke’s are far lower and more modest. And so Paine is inclined to tear down what isn’t working and is confident that it can be replaced with something better, while Burke is cautious to protect all standing institutions. He thinks they were built over generations of trial and error by countless people working together to address enduring human problems. And so he wants to preserve those institutions, and to fix their problems in targeted and modest ways, because he’s not at all sure that we can build new or better ones from scratch on our own.
Here we find, I think, a basic difference of disposition that is still, in a lot of ways, evident in our own politics now: one approach that begins in gratitude for the good in the world; another that begins in outrage at the bad. The first seeks gradual reform to sustain a working system; the second seeks wholesale transformation to move beyond a failed system and create a working one. So one is conservative, the other progressive. One is outraged at seeing valuable possessions lost; the other is outraged at the sheer injustice of the status quo.
So, if you were to categorize, people are likely to fall into one of the two types: “conservative” or “progressive.” I more often fall on the Burke side (so does Yuval Levin). But it is possible to respect the Paine side. Then the debate can be about what works to get what we agree are better ends, or better policies.
However, it may be that Burke’s point of view is more provable in evidence, whereas the supposed possible “better” world progressives envision is not going to be reached using the non-angelic people, incomplete knowledge, and limited resources available.
I propose that there are things we know—about what is good, what is right, what is best for human prosperity and happiness. I think it would be worth spending another post discussing what we know, and why we ought to be choosing those things, instead of what we’ve been choosing.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Nice Problem to Have, Part II

This is part II of looking at the nice problem to have: four good candidates for Texas Lieutenant Governor. I gave fair coverage to incumbent David Dewhurst in part I. Today I’ll cover more of what was said in Monday’s debate, and end with my recommendation.
The debate was set up with every question going to all four candidates, alternating who went first. Each answer got one minute. Then, in reverse order, each candidate got 20 seconds to rebut anything else that was said (or jut to add 20 more seconds of comments). And then, if something was said against a candidate during rebuttal, they would get an additional 20 seconds to respond.
David Dewhurst at Cypress Tea Party 11-2-2013
(photo by David Wilson)
A minute to answer any question is a recipe for sound bites. This was a particular disadvantage to Dewhurst, who likes to set up an answer with a story, and eventually get around to answering in full and in context. More than once his time ran out during the set up. He responded to a question about the use of the Rainy Day Fund in a way that caused the moderators to interrupt and repeat.
This past legislative session, $2 Billion was borrowed from the Rainy Day Fund for water projects throughout the state. This was a questionable use of the fund, because water needs are ongoing. But we’re in a long drought cycle, and getting a biennial legislature to budget for long-term, expensive water projects has proved undoable. So it was set up so the fund would be used, with a board overseeing projects, and with careful repayment to replenish the funds. So there were honest and sincere people on both sides. On this panel, if I understood right, only Todd Staples had been against using the fund (and that had been my preference as well), but that doesn’t mean the others are careless about using the fund.
Anyway, Dewhurst started answering the question saying, it’s rainy now, and he hopes it just keeps on raining. I think he was referring to the drought, not the title of the fund (except in an ironic sort of way), but the moderator assumed he had misunderstood. In an additional few minutes, I think he’d have gotten to the right point, but instead the interruption was unfairly embarrassing to him. The other answers concerned accountability, with plenty of oversight of the Texas Water Development Board, which the Lt. Gov. could appoint and watch.
The weirdest question of the night was whether these candidates for Texas Lieutenant Governor favored repeal of the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution. That amendment, 1913, changed US Senators from being appointed by state legislatures to represent the state’s interests, to direct popular election. It had apparently come up in a previous debate in Clear Lake (south of Houston, near NASA). It’s an academic argument, not a serious or relevant one for a lieutenant governor. Personally, I’m for strong states’ rights, and I think weakening that a hundred years ago was the wrong direction. But I have a hard time picturing how going back would regain what was lost. I’m wary of state legislatures, which have also developed “progressive” mindsets over this century.
Todd Staples and Jerry Patterson were outspoken against any such scheme; they trust the people more than the legislators. Fine. But that also reveals that they don’t really understand the historical content of the question. Dan Patrick said he thought he understood where the misunderstanding came from—that discussion in a previous debate. He had said that the 17th Amendment changed the way government worked. Power of the states was curtailed, and the federal government was empowered. It’s a historical view, but he’s not in favor of repeal. (In other words, pretty much what I think about the issue.)
Remember, Dan Patrick is a talk show host. He knows a broad variety of topics, including history, particularly in relation to government. This was an academic discussion question, irrelevant to the job these men are running for. But at this point Patterson stepped in and accused Patrick of changing his views according to the audience. Really? If Patterson had been my preferred candidate, I’d have cringed at that feeble attempt to use this as the old flip-flopping accusation. Instead, while I like Patterson a lot, I thought this attack made him seem desperate and petty.
Dan Patrick at Cypress Tea Party 1-4-2014
(photo by David Wilson)
Patterson did have a good answer to an outreach question. I think that’s been a good topic for him. He uses the word Tejano instead of Hispanic. Tejano is the historic word for the native Mexicans who became Texans along with the immigrated whites in the Mexican state of Tejas, the Texians; the Tejanos were part of the revolution for Texas Independence. There were nine Tejanos that died with Davey Crockett, Jim Bowie, and William Travis at the Alamo. They aren’t a separate people; they are Texan-Americans.
Patterson emphasizes that, when we state our conservative message clearly, Tejanos recognize what we have in common: they’re pro-family, pro-life. He does, however, take on the risky discussion about worker permits more loudly than border security. He suggests going to Tejanos for Patterson (which I found at
I do agree with Patterson that outreach with a clear, conservative message will attract voters who have been told by media to be wary. That seemed to be what the other candidates wanted to say as well; we know conservative principles are the values of the majority of Americans. Patrick’s message went beyond Hispanics. He emphasized school choice, and mentioned a case where an African-American grandfather said he was offended to be told he has to ask permission where to send his grandson to school.  
Patrick had an additional argument when it comes to border control, which he has been hammering in his speeches lately as well. The problem isn’t people who come here for jobs; it’s violent criminals. There are 141,000 illegal violent criminals in our jails, put there over the past four years, charged with 447,000 crimes including 2,000 murders and 5,000 rapes. If you’re a law-abiding person, it doesn’t matter what you believe about immigration; you’re going to want to keep these violent offenders out.
Patrick was also strong in his plans for doing a better job as Lieutenant Governor. As Patrick said, “98% of what the Lieutenant Governor wants happens. As chairman of Education I decided what happened. Six democrats were chairmen of committees.”  He added that all the democrats were in favor of the recent big budget—a sign that it’s not what we want. He would remove the two democrats from the powerful Legislative Budget Board and make sure the Board was made up of conservatives, who could reliably come up with a budget we want.
There has been a sense that tantrums from the minority have affected leadership. (Remember the democrats who shirked their duty and ran over the border into Ardmore, Oklahoma, back around 2003, to avoid a debate and vote over redistricting?) It’s not the job of the majority to mollify the minority; it’s their job to get the people’s work done. And when the people continue to ask for the conservative principles that work, mollifying the minority does nothing but hinder us in that goal. Patrick pointed out that, when democrats were in power for over a century, they weren’t appointing republicans to chairmanships. Dewhurst failed in any attempt to rebut that argument, and Patrick delivered it at least three times Monday evening.
Staples pointed out that there are 31 members of the state senate, and there are 18 standing committees. With those numbers, it’s hard to avoid democrat chairs here and there. So he suggests fewer committees—streamlining, combining. Staples was very much about basics: low taxes, free-markets, strong values. He offers a “Contract with Texas” on his website covering ten major issues.
Concerning the influence of lieutenant governor, Patterson added that sometimes you have to play hardball, and if a bill isn’t moving, re-refer it to a committee that will get it through.
Dewhurst pointed out that the legislature is designed to have bills fail; it takes several sessions sometimes to move a bill through. Not complaining, just how it is. (Thousands of bills are filed per session, and only a relative handful pass. The budget is the only required item.) He did accurately point out that Texas is one of the three most frugal states, the best business environment, and in the past decade we’ve eliminated 51 state agencies. That’s not a bad record to rest on.
But with so many conservatives ready to step up and serve, Dewhurst’s record might not be enough.
Gonzalez flag from Texas War for Independence
photo from Wikipedia
I like Dan Patrick’s assertiveness. I like his insistence on getting the conservative work done—which the people want and expect—without letting moderates or minority democrats get away with calling you mean if you don’t play their way. We’re up against an unprecedented amount of federal government intrusion. Filing lawsuits is a necessary step, but I want someone who will just say no, will act on principle, and say to the federal government, as the Texas revolutionaries said to tyrants in their day, “Come and take it.”

Dan Patrick has strong support around here, his home turf, as you’d expect. We keep in touch with him and see what he accomplishes as he keeps his word. I don’t have a perspective of how well he’s doing across the state, but I hope he’s doing well, because I really do believe he’s the best candidate for the job. And finally I’m ready to say, I’m endorsing Dan Patrick for Lieutenant Governor.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Nice Problem to Have

Texas has a deep bench. All state level positions for a while now have been held by Republicans. And you can’t get anywhere unless you speak conservative. And if you speak conservative without living it, you’ll be found out.
Add to that, some top positions have been occupied for a while—ever since Governor George W. Bush stepped up (some Texans would say stepped down) to become US President. So there have been people building up their conservative skills in several other positions in this big state, and they’re ready to take the field. It’s a bit like a college football team with a second string better than most teams’ star players—and they’re all calling out, “Put me in, Coach!” (We voters are the coach.) It’s a nice problem to have.
The primary election comes up here in Texas on Tuesday, March 4th. For you Texans, that means it’s also precinct meeting night, after the polls close. That’s one of the best places to get involved at the grassroots level. You’ll decide what you’d like to see in your state party platform, and you’ll choose delegates for the county/district convention, where those same things will be done for the next level up. (Yes, I did mention this last time around; thank you for asking.) For you people in other states, you probably have a primary coming up very soon as well. Your precinct meetings might be called something else, and they might be held separately from a voting day, but most places and parties have them in some form. So look it up, and then pass the word along to your friends.
Debate held Monday, January 20th, at King Street Patriots
One of the big races is for lieutenant governor, a rather powerful second-in-command position in the state. The slate of candidates for Texas Lieutenant Governor is down to four: incumbent David Dewhurst, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, and District 7 State Senator Dan Patrick. In different circumstances (not all against each other), I would probably be happy with any one of them. They’re all conservative, personable, articulate, good-humored, and effective over time with a strong record. They squared off in a debate here in Houston this past Monday, which I got to attend.
Maybe something should be said about why there is such a challenge for a relatively popular and effective incumbent. I’m guessing on this. Back in 2012 Lt. Gov. Dewhurst ran for the US Senate, Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s vacated seat. He lost to Ted Cruz. I think that was a surprise to him at a point in his career when logic said it was time to move up. Failing that, I think it was assumed by many he would run for governor, once Gov. Perry (who has been governor longer than any other in Texas history) announced he would not run again.
But after the confidence loss of the senatorial race, along with the announcement by the popular and effective Attorney General Greg Abbott that he was running for governor, Dewhurst seems to have decided to stay with the safer Lt. Gov. position. It’s just that, by the time he made that decision, there were a number of others who had been planning their futures based on the likelihood of a vacancy in the Lt. Gov. position. And even after it was known Dewhurst was staying, there was a sense that 14 years is more than enough for anyone; get out of the way! So the challengers went ahead as planned.
That Dewhurst senate campaign, in 2012, wasn’t particularly effective: too much attacking a noble and effective person, and too many formal settings, meaning debates and distance from the people. This time around he has surrounded himself with handlers who let him do better what works for him—talk one-on-one with people, in small groups, with individuals, unscripted. He’s charming in person. A couple of months ago he came to our little local tea party meeting. He asked if he could meet with leadership ahead of time, just sit around at a table and talk, for a full hour. Our tea party isn’t exactly full of titles. We have a president, who arranges speakers for our meetings and manages our email group and Facebook page. N one else has an official position. I’m just a faithful, longtime participant, and I’ve taken on some assignments from time to time. But I got invited to that meeting. He spent an hour with four of us, asking us questions about what was important to us, answering whatever he could. He connects very well in that kind of setting. Then he spent another half hour or so speaking to the whole group once they arrived. That was more of a stump speech, but he included Q&A time at the end.
I should mention that this was something like a visiting team disadvantage. Dan Patrick is our state senator. We have known him since he was just the guy on the radio (he owns local station KSEV and did a daily talk show, which he still does as time permits). Most of us decided to support him in his first run, in pre-Tea Party years. He has been much more responsive than his predecessor. My kids and I have met with him in his Austin office during legislative sessions. Without appointment there were a couple of times he stood with us in his foyer and answered anything we were concerned about for twenty minutes or so. He knows his stuff. He was effective this past session heading the education committee, and I’ve noticed as he has become more informed about homeschooling and more in favor of choice for parents. He’s the only candidate who doesn’t currently hold statewide office, but in our little corner of the state—which happens to be one of the largest and most conservative districts—he’s seen as practically heroic.
And it was in this setting that Dewhurst came and sat to talk with us. That was brave. And time-consuming. It was generous of him to come, and I wanted to be open to be persuadable.
He is tall and impressive in person. He seems much more articulate in an intimate setting than in a debate. He doesn’t seem slow of speech or slow of thought when he’s making a personal connection. And he does have a valid point that Texas has done very well, compared to the rest of the country, by moving more conservative over this past decade. And the worse the federal government is for the country, the better Texas looks.
Still, there are some specific issues we conservative Texans are concerned about: border security, low taxes, standing up against federal government intrusions. Federal regulations that prevent people from using their land and resources because there might be some lizard living on those thousands of acres, for example. Filing lawsuits against the federal government, by the dozens, has been the common practice. And while I think that is one direction to go, simply refusing to abide is sometimes what Texas should do. We did that in refusing to set up an Obamacare state exchange, for example. We’re trying to protect our own border, since the federal government fails to do so.
I want to give a fair representation of all of the candidates, including how they did in this debate, covering how they approach the issues. So we’ll do a part II tomorrow.
If you’re a regular here, you may have noticed that, after I came back from the holiday break, I’ve been writing just twice a week. I’m spending my other allotted writing time on a related writing project. But some weeks I may just have to write more. We’ll take it as it comes.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Defining Marriage

A week ago the Indiana House Judiciary Committee met, discussing the state’s marriage law. Most of the day was spent talking about the emotional civil rights argument pressuring for “same-sex marriage.” Then the committee was schooled by a young man named Ryan Anderson. He’s the William E. Simon fellow at the Heritage Foundation, which is a non-partisan (but conservative) think tank in Washington, DC, which I often turn to for data and opinion. Anderson is also a doctoral candidate at the University of Notre Dame in political science. As an undergrad at Princeton, he co-authored a book—part of which was published as an article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy—along with another undergrad and Constitutional Law professor Robert George. The title of the book/article is What Is Marriage? [I found a pdf here, 43 pages, so I think this is either the article or a summary of the book.]
Man/woman, exclusive, permanent marriage
is still a beautiful public good
His brief speech was organized with a lawyer’s mind, but with clarity for regular people. Most of his points are arguments I have made myself [see my Defense of Marriage collection], but I always admire someone who finds yet clearer ways to tell the truth. So today I’m going to just outline his speech, with occasional quotes.
The definition of marriage is necessary in the discussion:
Everyone in this room is in favor of marriage equality. The only way we can know whether or not any given state law is treating marriage equally or not is if we know what marriage is. Because every state law will draw lines between what is a marriage and what isn’t a marriage. If we want those lines to be drawn on principle, if we want those lines to be drawn on the truth, we have to know what sort of a relationship a marriage is as compared to other forms of consensual adult loving relationships.
He sets up the speech answering three questions:
                      What is marriage?
                      Why does marriage matter for public policy?
                      What are the consequences of redefining marriage? 

His definition argument for defining marriage as the permanent commitment between a man and a woman keys on the biological fact of offspring.  

Whenever a child is born, a mother will always be close by. That’s a fact of biology. The question for culture, and the question for law is, Will a father be close by? And if so, for how long? Marriage is the institution that different cultures and societies across time and place developed to maximize the likelihood that that man commits to that woman, and then the two of them take responsibility to raise that child. 

He offers up just a sampling of social science data, of which there is a mountain, that children are most likely to have best outcomes when raised by a mother and a father—one of each gender, not interchangeable. He quotes President Obama, showing this is not dismissible as a conservative anachronism:
We know the statistics that children that grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of schools, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.
So, if we start with the premise that procreating and raising children are important to society, and that it is valuable to have the mother and father who bring life to the child stay together to raise the child, then public policy should, at the very least, not interfere with that preferred condition, and would be better to encourage that condition.
He referred to the change in the out-of-wedlock birthrate over the past 50 years (which I noted last week as well): “At one point in America virtually every child was given the gift of a married mother and father. Those numbers right now—more than 50% of Hispanic children are born outside of wedlock; more than 70% of African-Americans are born outside of wedlock. And the consequences for those children are really serious.” There’s no way out of poverty without turning this trend around.
He uses the language of the opposition to address the policy:
So everything that you can care about if you’re someone who cares about social justice and limited government—if you care about freedom and liberty and you care about the poor—is better served by having the state define marriage correctly to ensure that men and women commit to each other and take responsibility for their children, while then leaving other consenting adults to live and to love how they choose, without redefining the institution—the fundamental institution of marriage.
Much of the rest of the speech addresses the results of redefining marriage, using not presupposition, but actual outcomes from changes that have happened.
First is the reorientation of “the institution of marriage away from the needs and rights of children and towards the desires of adults.”  This point ties back in to the social science argument: “If the biggest social problem we face right now in the United States is absentee dads, how will we insist that fathers are essential when the law redefines marriage to make fathers optional?” Redefining marriage would multiply the likelihood of fatherless children.
Second concerns the three basic components of the traditional definition: man/woman, exclusivity, and permanence. If you declare these three attributes of marriage to be “irrational,” what do you replace them with to delimit a definition?
He refers to three new words, invented to refer to sexual relationship combinations that are claiming comparable value.
·        Throuple—a three-person couple. If you remove the importance of the one man and one woman who come together to parent a child, then you remove the principle that limits the number of participants in the “marriage,” without adding anything of value to society.
·        Wedlease—a temporary arrangement, removing the permanence of the relationship that has been of value to children, who take a long time to raise to adulthood.
·        Monogamish—more or less retaining the two-person marriage, but removing the exclusivity, so that sex with partners outside the marriage is accepted as part of the marriage.
The third result of redefining marriage concerns liberty, specifically religious liberty. He points out that in Massachusetts, in Washington, DC, and in neighboring Illinois, Christian adoption agencies were forced to stop offering their services.
These agencies said, We have no problem with same-sex couples adopting from other agencies, but we only want to place our children with a married mom and a dad. We have religious liberty interests. We also have social science that suggests children do better with a married mom and a dad. In all three jurisdictions they were told they could not do that.
Because of the redefinition of marriage, it became illegal for anyone to purposely prefer to place orphans with a mother and father—the best situation those innocent, voiceless unfortunate could have had.
Additionally, there have been court cases against photographers, bakers, florists, and innkeepers—individuals who presumably still have their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion—who are coerced by activist judges to act against their conscience. In none of these cases have the accused attempted to deprive the plaintiffs of services; they have only reserved the right not to accept their business. Courts have ruled that they can and should be deprived of their religious liberty and be forced to take on business they find objectionable—or else close their businesses and serve no one.
This coercion can only happen in a tyranny. If such cases are allowed to stand, we no longer have Constitutional guarantees of freedom.
What we do not find is an example of a place where redefining marriage has not resulted in loss of religious liberty. So those who argue, “That would never happen here,” are either lying or blinded.
So, what do we get if we redefine marriage? A small segment of the population (of the approximately 3% of the population that is homosexual, the even smaller percentage who choose to commit to one other person) can call their romantic relationship equivalent to marriage, with no benefit to society as a whole.
What is the cost? Fatherhood and motherhood are declared irrelevant. Children are abandoned and left in poverty. People who for religious or social science reasons value man/woman parenting, permanence, and exclusivity are coerced by the brute force of government (not to mention a fair amount of media and peer bullying) to behave against their beliefs. By any measure, it’s not a fair exchange.
Here is the video, if you’d like to hear the whole speech.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Fifty-Year War, Part II

I’m still thinking about that 50-year War on Poverty. Complaining about how it has gone badly is not useful enough to end on. What would things look like if we were to actually eradicate poverty?
I found this graphic after writing the last post on the 50-Year War on Poverty
“The poor ye have with you always,” according to scripture (Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:7 and John 12:8). So no matter what we do, eradicating poverty entirely is unlikely to happen—because we’re living in a human condition.
But at the Spherical Model, we do have a description for a successful civilization, including the economic component:
Civilized people live peaceably among their neighbors, helping rather than taking advantage of one another, abiding by laws enacted to protect property and safety—with honesty and honor. Civilized people live in peace with other civilized people; countries and cultures coexist in appreciation, without fear.
There is a thriving free-enterprise economy. Poverty is meaningless; even though there will always be a lowest earning 10% defined as poor, in a civilized society these lowest earners have comfortable shelter and adequate food and clothing—and there’s the possibility of rising, or at least for future generations to rise.
Creativity abounds; enlightening arts and literature exceed expectations. Architecture and infrastructure improve; innovation and invention are the rule.
People feel free to choose their work, their home, their family practices, their friendships and associations. And they generally self-restrain before they infringe on the rights and freedoms of others. Where there are questions about those limits, laws are in place to help clarify boundaries of civilized behavior. When someone willingly infringes on the rights or safety of another, the law functions to protect that victim as well as society from further uncivilized behavior from the offender.
We know what successful civilization would look like. And we know, in general, the rules to get there.
Suppose, instead of government instituting controls that limit prosperity, as has happened over the past 50 years, we imagine that government had gotten out of the way and actually done what it would take to “win” such a war. Instead of news stories and commentary like we got last week, we could imagine a story more like this:

Growth Cycle Hits 50 Year Mark
Washington, DC, January 2014: The President’s economic advisory team came out with their annual report this week, marking 50 years since The Great Constitutional Society instituted reforms intended to bring about prosperity for all.
“It marks the most continuous economic growth for the nation since the period between 1780 and 1830,” remarked Prof. J. Madison of Harvard, where he has been a champion of free enterprise throughout his distinguished career.
“Our President should be honored for his deft hands-off policies concerning the economy, in the pattern of his predecessors. Low taxes and predictable rules continue to encourage entrepreneurial investment and innovation,” added Prof. B. Franklin, one of the advisory team.
The value of the dollar continues to remain steady, with near zero inflation over the past several decades, “partially due to the return to the gold standard, and partially due to matching the value of the dollar to actual economic wealth creation—something we do better now with practice, and sufficient data to prove the policies work,” explained Prof. A. Smith, author of The Wealth of the American Nation.
It does appear, in hindsight, that boom and bust cycles were never well managed by government intervention. Since the implementation of the non-interventionist policies, we have seen major recessions disappear. Individual markets occasionally overextend, but using price as the key indicator of supply and demand has allowed for quick readjustment.
With the encouragement of thrift, savings, and wise use of capital investment, individuals and organizations have seen the results of their labor grow. Typical investors plan on a steady return of between 5-10% per annum. This steady expectation over time has allowed retirement nest eggs to support a large percentage of the now-retiring baby boomers without dependence on their children and grandchildren, who are just beginning to make a comfortable living.
The long economic boom has resulted in some unexpected social benefits. For example, hospitals and charity organizations report steady donations, allowing them to care for the truly indigent.
While there continues to be a wide range of income, the lower earners are likely to view their situation as temporary. They believe that hard work, education, experience, and thrift will lead to better outcomes for themselves and the next generation. This positive expectation doesn’t eliminate the human tendency to covet; however it does mitigate negative outcomes over the population as a whole. For example, crimes involving theft and fraud are at record lows.
Misguided efforts of the past to make home ownership easier by lowering borrowing standards and controlling prices have been replaced with encouraging all citizens to live within their means. The counterintuitive result has been that overall economic health has led to the highest percentage of home ownership in the nation’s history. And with that property ownership has come the incentive to care for property and maintain property values. Our towns and cities are cleaner and more beautiful. Where people have prospered, they have also been able to encourage arts and healthy recreation.
There has been a surprising emphasis on family strength during this fifty-year experiment. Community organizations, parks, recreation, and arts tend to be family friendly, with an eye toward creating valuable family experiences. Popular culture, as well, has responded to consumer demand for better quality entertainment for all ages.
Many experts believe it has been the growing strength of families—lower divorce rates, higher birth rates, more homeschooling and alternative education based on individual family needs—that has been the key to the economic growth. Families inculcate the necessary economic values of thrift, honesty, and hard work that have supported The Great Constitutional Society. Others argue that living the principles that lead to prosperity have affected society for the better in social ways as well as economic.
The consensus of economic experts is that strictly limiting government to the specific duties outlined in the Constitution freed up wealth for economic growth and encouraged the wise economic choices that have been the hallmark of The Great Constitutional Society.
In Prof. Smith’s next book, entitled Wealth for All Nations, he outlines the successes of America over this past half century, and shows that the principles of prosperity can work wherever they are put into practice. Smith said, in his comments at the White House last Tuesday, “We have empirical evidence now of what works. We want to share that. Prosperity elsewhere in the world only adds to our abundant life here. We want that for everyone.”
Sigh! Would that this were the story at the end of a fifty-year War on Poverty! Implementing the right policies now could mean stories like these a half century hence. But we have to start now.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Fifty-Year War

This past week marked the fiftieth anniversary of the start of a war. That’s a long war. That’s almost my whole lifetime, and more than the whole lifetime of nearly everyone born post-baby boom.

War is kind of an intense thing to be going on for half a century. Normally it’s an armed conflict between states or peoples. But in his 1964 State of the Union Address, Pres. Lyndon Johnson used the term as a fired up way of saying  we don’t like poverty and we ought to eradicate it. We’re waging war on a concept or condition.
LBJ signing Equal Opportunity Act
photo from Wikipedia
So how’s that going for us? Can we pause in the hostilities at the 50-year mark to measure how we’re doing? What would success in a war on poverty look like? We need some definitions.
According to (a rather biased) Wikipedia piece on the War on Poverty, the poverty rate in 1964 was 19%. Post-recession levels in 1980 were 15%, and “post-recession” levels in 2010 were still 15%. Sounds like poverty is pretty much still with us.
It would be helpful to know how they defined those percentages, so we compare apples to apples. Poverty in general (according to my favorite decades-old Webster’s dictionary) “implies a lack of the resources for reasonably comfortable living.” It goes on to describe a few related terms:
·        destitution and want imply such great poverty that the means for mere subsistence, such as food and shelter, are lacking;
·        indigence, a somewhat euphemistic term, implies a lack of luxuries to which one was formerly accustomed;
·        penury suggests such severe poverty as to cause abjectness, or a loss of self-respect.
Poverty, then, means bad economic conditions, but you can define the range of conditions in your own mind. There’s some argument, therefore, about measurement. But if the war had been won, wouldn’t we know it without any quibbling about numbers?
In a successfully waged War on Poverty, what changes would we see?
·        Destitution would have disappeared. Homelessness, at least for anyone for more than a few days, would be unheard of.
·        The lowest earners would suffer less indigence; they would have food and shelter, and in some climates heat and electricity and plumbing would be considered a given in any shelter.
·        And opportunities for improving one’s condition would be open to all.
We still have homelessness. Probably more than we did at the start. Some of that has to do with the change in policy for care of the mentally ill. So let’s set that aside for the current discussion.
As for indigence, that thing about heating and air conditioning and plumbing—that’s pretty much true. It wasn’t true for the middle class in 1964. My house always had heat and electricity, but we didn’t get even a window air conditioner until the mid-1970s. Some places still may not have air conditioning for the poor, but nearly all middle class homes have it, in most climates. Whatever the percentage, typically the poor have shelter with electricity, including air conditioning, and also have a phone, a television, probably a computer and a car. That would have described a relatively affluent middle-class household at the start of the war.
So does that mean the war succeeded? Again, that depends on whether what was done in the war brought about the positive outcomes. Did the War on Poverty do it, or was there enough economic freedom to bring about the progress despite government policy? That’s what’s hard to measure.
We definitely have more distribution of money to the poor, by way of tax policy, welfare programs, and various social programs. A transfer of about $20 Trillion. (The most expensive war ever—anywhere!) It continues at a rate of about $1 Trillion a year. Typical receipts from government programs for a family of four exceed $20,000 a year. I think it’s safe to say the amount of money spent on this war is more than adequate to eradicate poverty, if money transfer could solve it.
LBJ said the purpose was to “give a hand up, not a handout,” to give everyone “a fair chance to develop their own capacities.” There’s a civilizational value premise mixed in here. It is that the reason individuals are poor is their lack of opportunity, an unfairness that society can be blamed for: class bias, racism, etc. The poor are not to be blamed, and are powerless to change their situation without society (defined here as government) intervening on their behalf. So what the War on Poverty presupposes is: If people are poor, then using government to transfer money to them will eradicate poverty.”
In logic, if you start with the wrong premise (the “if” statement), you will get the wrong answer (the “then” statement). So, “If people are poor, it is not their fault but the fault of society, so society can and should pay to make amends.” But what if people are poor, in part or in whole because of their choices? What if they fail to take advantage of educational opportunities? What if they fail to work hard when there are work opportunities? What if they fail to manage their resources and run out of essentials like food and clothing because they impulse purchase entertainment or nonessentials? What if being told they are powerless makes them believe it is so?
In other words, if individuals have some part in determining their income level, then does the War on Poverty (the huge mix of policies and programs) encourage wiser behavior, or does it mitigate the pain of natural consequences, and thereby encourage unwise behavior?
A principle in the Spherical Model is that, wherever government oversteps its proper role, the unintended consequences will typically bring exactly opposite results than the stated goal. If the War on Poverty is a misguided interference, it won’t in general help people overcome obstacles to upward economic movement, but will instead get people stuck.
In the freedom/free enterprise/civilization that works beautifully whenever it’s tried, you have a way to teach people in poverty how to succeed in overcoming their indigence. You have families and churches that teach honesty, work ethic, and service. And you have charity to help the truly needy, who are known by those connected with them.
In government interference such as a War on Poverty, you have handouts that enable failure to work, and you encourage family decay.
We know that strong families contribute significantly to economic success. Alongside the War on Poverty, we have had a growing decay of family. We don’t have a growth in married two-parent families in poverty and staying there; we do have a tremendous increase in single-parent families, which are more likely to be in poverty and stay there. LBJ started with an out-of-wedlock birthrate of 8%, and 25% among blacks. A half century later, those rates are 40% overall, and 73% for blacks. If we knew no other statistic, we would know that this meant a failure to win the War on Poverty. Even if current outcomes looked good, poverty-tending families in astoundingly increased numbers would guarantee poverty for generations.
There needs to be a War on Family Decay. But, since we can’t afford failure in a war with so much at stake, let’s keep government out of it.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Let There Be Light Freedom

Regulation is one of those words that have changed through misuse. At the time of the writing of the Constitution, it meant “to allow to be regular, to be expected.” That was what it meant in reference to a well-regulated militia and regulating commerce between the states.
Now it means something more like “rules imposed through government coercion.” I’m against that. I grow more against it with further examination. Even well-meaning regulations (and aren’t they all?) that do not cross my personal choice tend to decay overall freedom (for example, because I don’t smoke, I am not much affected by regulations against smoking).
Here are the facts about today’s regulations:
·         They exceed the proper role of government.
·         Everything that exceeds the proper role of government causes negative, unforeseen consequences.
·         The negative consequences of government regulation almost always result in the exact opposite of the stated purposes of the regulation.
So, whatever your opinion about the utility and value of certain types of light bulbs, government coercion is wrong.
I’m mentioning this now, because January 1, 2014, marked the latest (final?) phase in the imposition of the light bulb control regulation that was signed into law in 2007. You may or may not have already realized you can no longer buy incandescent bulbs 75 watts or larger. The 1-1-2014 phase now includes 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs, the ones you’re most likely to be using around your home.
Soon to be anachronistic incandescent bulb
photo by James Bowe
Technically, you as a consumer are not breaking any laws by buying or using the banned bulbs. So if you Google one of those “myths about light bulbs” articles, you will be told that’s just overreaction by ranting bloggers such as myself. However, they are stopping the manufacture and importation of the banned bulbs. So, you can buy still buy them—as long as the supply lasts, or for about six more months, according to Home Depot, which stockpiled supply more than most. But once the supply runs out, the de facto result is that you as a consumer no longer have the option to buy the cheap, incandescent bulbs you’ve been using all your life.
There are alternatives—expensive ones, but possibly cost-effective, if the bulbs last longer and use less energy. That’s the stated purpose. (To those who accuse me of being a ranting blogger, I would like to calmly point out that the government’s stated purpose includes the insistence that my personal use of incandescent bulbs has a direct effect on the temperature of the planet and the viability of various faraway species like polar bears, whose numbers are climbing. Just saying.)
It doesn’t matter whether alternatives are superior. What matters is—it is not the government’s prerogative to make my consumer choices for me. The light bulb legislation is a classic case study.
Incandescent bulbs are cheap, reliable, and useful. They create a warm glow, and pleasant color. But they are not particularly efficient. The frequently stated percentage is that 90% of the energy is wasted while the useful 10% creates light. Wasted is a relative term, however. The other 90% creates mostly heat. If you had an Easy-Bake Oven as a kid (I did), you can see that was a good thing. Light bulb heat is also useful in incubators for hatching chicks and for some indoor gardening. It’s not a terrible thing in a home otherwise requiring energy for heat.
Are those uses significant enough to override the government mandate? Yes, actually.
Ask the question another way: Is the government’s purpose for controlling purchasing decisions important enough to override valid consumer needs/demands? There shouldn’t have to be a weighing on a scale. As soon as something is placed on the consumer demand side, it outweighs the invalid government purpose—unless the government purpose is rationally recognized as assuring protection of our rights to life, liberty, and property.
I’m trying to connect the dots for government’s role in deciding which current science to honor as sacrosanct enough to require sacrifices from the citizenry. I can’t do it. (Maybe especially when it’s been 23 degrees this week—in subtropical Houston! I know that doesn’t qualify for sympathy from the rest of you suffering from what’s being called the “polar vortex.”)
What I see is that, compared to me, government is really bad at making decisions about what I should purchase. I’m all for innovations, some of which we’re seeing with LED and halogen bulbs. (Here is a good comparison article.) Some of these are still very expensive, but the market, not government coercion, is the best path to innovation and affordability. And way too much of the government coercion has steered us toward compact fluorescent bulbs.
Here’s what I have against fluorescent light bulbs:
·        They’re ugly. The twisty, neon-looking knot is not esthetically pleasing. The light emitted is unpleasant—that’s one of the reasons I hate shopping, because everything looks ugly when the lighting makes your skin look a harsh greenish-purple. I can avoid shopping in fluorescent-lit department stores most of the time, but I can’t avoid my home. I don’t want that unpleasantness surrounding me in my nesting place.

·        They hum. The hum isn’t noticeable to everyone, but it’s enough to be distracting—especially when constant—with some highly sensitive individuals. It’s enough to cause distraction for young kids in schools, interfering with their learning. (Sometimes they get misdiagnosed as ADD and get medicated, when all they really needed was separation from the ugly humming lights.) In adults the hum leads to migraines. The humming is worse if you try to use a dimmer switch. With improved technology, you can now mitigate the dimmer switch hum—if you replace your switch and pay a lot more for the bulbs.

·        They’re expensive. Supposedly they last longer. Unless they’re not upright. Hmm. I have a couple of lamps that use upright bulbs; all the rest of the bulbs in my house are horizontal or slanted downward from ceiling fixtures. Even the porch light, which conceivably could tolerate a squiggly fluorescent bulb, is upside down. So, for me, the costs would not be mitigated by longer lasting bulbs.
But here is the big, main problem: they are dangerous hazardous waste when broken. Sometimes the argument is about how small the effect of mercury would be in the environment in total, compared to the current mercury production from coal-based electricity use. But my concern is about the inevitable breakage in my home. I couldn’t count the number of incandescent bulbs we’ve broken over the years. There was a time, when the boys used to play full-court basketball in our 8-foot-high family room, and the light fixtures were a constant casualty. Cleaning up an incandescent bulb is a relatively small thing: pick up the large glass pieces, vacuum and/or wipe up the rest. Done.
Broken CFL
photo from
Compare the clean-up instructions for fluorescents (you can read the actual government instructions here; my abbreviated and only slightly embellished version is below):
1.      Evacuate all living beings, except yourself, whom you have self-appointed as expendable.
2.      Open windows and doors, and then evacuate yourself for 5-10 minutes.
3.      On your way out, shut off central air system. Leave it off for several hours.
4.      While you’re out of the contaminated area, collect the following supplies (which hopefully are not located in the contaminated area):
a.       Cardstock, duck tape, wet wipes, jar with lid or Ziploc bag in which to seal hazardous waste.
b.      Hazmat suit including disposable gloves.
5.      Remove all traces of debris, using your listed supplies, and seal debris and clean-up supplies in container that you will transport to containment facility, so it doesn’t continue to contaminate your home with mercury vapor.
6.      If area is carpeted, follow the clean-up procedure by vacuuming, carefully, with windows still open, and immediately dispose of vacuum cleaner bag as hazardous waste. Follow this procedure (including turning off air system, opening windows, and disposing of hazardous waste vacuum cleaner bag) when vacuuming this area over the next several months.
So, let me explain about Houston. No sane person opens the windows and turns off the air between April and November (pretty much never during the other months either). The humidity is overpowering; a typical day is over 90% humidity. It’s much cheaper to maintain indoor temperature and humidity than to spend hours overtaxing the system to recover non-liquid air. So a single broken bulb is going to wipe out the annual energy savings of the stupid bulbs. (Not to mention that a single presidential vacation easily wipes out the savings of the bulb switchover for a typical small city.)
And apparently the government, so concerned about my safety that it can’t allow me to use incandescent bulbs that might contribute in some incalculable way to the fragility of the planet, is perfectly fine with my being forced to use mercury vapor in my home that I must clean up myself following inevitable breakage—just follow the easy clean-up steps and then simply plan to die early.
We can count on government to make personal consumer choices badly. So, while this law is headache-inducing on that level, what is more difficult to understand is how we—the American people, with liberties guaranteed in our Constitution—have elected officials who pushed this through in the first place and then failed to repeal it before it took effect.
Failing a full repeal, I request (demand) a personal exemption.