Thursday, November 27, 2014


I'm cooking today. Very little time to write. If I were more like the Pioneer Woman blog, I would have beautiful photos and recipes. But, alas, those are not my specialties.

We have a crowd here: our son Political Sphere and family, a nephew and family, a couple of other friends. And a dog or two in the chaos.

We have plenty.

I'm thankful we can be together, and watch little kids grow and learn. Little Political Sphere 2 has recently decided to talk--and talk and talk. We thought he was the quiet one. While LPS 1 has quite suddenly, since starting kindergarten, gotten quiet. It's an adjustment.

We don't have son Economic Sphere with us, but after dinner for us it will be the morning of a day off for him (he didn't get Thanksgiving off in Korea). And I'm thankful for video chat. We will probably also video chat with daughter Social Sphere, who is dropping in with extended family for at least a couple of feasts today. I'm also grateful for the new baby joining the family in about a month and a half, even though he's preventing his mommy's travel through the holidays.

There's plenty to be thankful for. Mostly personal. So this today is just to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Unconstitutional Executive Order

Unconstitutional: “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” Apparently the president thinks it means, "Something I'm not willing or politically ready to do at this time, but is subject to change on my whim."
There are collections of video of Obama saying, at least a couple dozen times, that acting on his own to change immigration law is unconstitutional (example below). Then, of course, he did that just last Thursday, claiming this was clearly within his power. Was he lying or misinformed before? Or is he lying and misinformed now. Since the Constitution hasn’t changed in the interim, it isn’t possible for him to be right on both sides.


There is also a chart going around comparing how many executive orders each president has enacted per year. FDR was by far the most extreme, enacting around 290 per year—for more years than any other president, to boot. George W. Bush has fewer (about 36 per year) than Reagan (about 47 per year). Obama is only slightly lower than George W. Bush, at 33-ish.
But this is the wrong question. Of course it is legal for a president to give executive orders. The purpose of an executive order is to direct the people working under him as to how to execute the laws duly enacted by Congress. Executive orders are meant to be procedural. And they must be simply a way to see to the carrying out of the laws; they cannot change the laws or create new laws.
Much has been made about the executive order by Reagan to allow for amnesty back in 1981—which was a directive on how to go about executing the decision made by the democrat-led Congress. There isn’t an issue with the legality of that executive order—although plenty of people can see that the failure to close the border as promised simply invited more of the illegal immigrant problem, rather than resolving it.
The question for last Thursday’s edict isn’t whether the president has the right to give an executive order; he does. The question isn’t whether he can act on immigration policy; he can, as Reagan did. But only as Reagan did—following the law as defined by Congress, following the Constitution.
If you have a president, say Reagan, who uses executive orders liberally but perhaps not even a single time for any purpose but directing the executive branch in how to keep the law, then you have no executive order problem. Then, suppose you have another president, say Obama, who less frequently gives executive orders but often as an edict to create law rather than to follow laws set by Congress, then each of those offenses is breaking the law. Party doesn’t matter. The policy itself—along with its efficacy or intent—doesn’t matter. The color of the president matters not a whit. What matters is the breach of the law.
The president cannot act extralegally. He cannot make law. We do not live in a monarchy, dictatorship, potentate, banana republic, or any other tyranny. We live in a constitutional republic. We have a written law granting only limited enumerated powers to the federal government, so that our God-given natural rights are not infringed.
Can a president act beyond those enumerated powers? Presidents have. This president does. But not legally. Presidents have typically gotten away with exertion of power beyond what is granted depending on their popularity. That is not the case now. This president isn’t popular. His policies are not popular. His edicts are notably unpopular. He acts in the face of those negatives.
So the next question is, How do we react, to limit the damage of his acting beyond his authority in direct conflict with the limits guaranteed in our Constitution?
The constitutionally designed response is impeachment. But, despite his lack of popularity or approval, he does have media control, so the fear in the hearts of congressmen is significant. Impeachment is time consuming, and takes a sizable measure of focused energy and political capital. It’s not going to happen when this man has only two more years in office.
So, the additional steps are to stonewall the illegal acts. Defund anything that relates to executing his orders. Targeted defunding—not just refusing to agree to a continuing resolution to keep spending as the president sees fit, as an alternative to shutting down the government. One advantage of now having a GOP Senate is that we can actually pass a budget—something the democrat-led Senate has failed to do every single year. It’s easier to target spending in an actual budget, so that’s a good thing, if the Congress will have the stomach to do their job.
Additionally, Senator Ted Cruz is suggesting that no political appointments should be approved until the president rescinds his illegal orders. He should not be empowered by sycophants who will act on his orders in contrast to law. Interesting idea. I hope it works.
There are also lawsuits. Texas Attorney General (and Governor-elect) has already filed a lawsuit based on the significant damage to the state caused by the president’s insistence on a porous border. It may be that courts can suspend the immediate enactment of any illegal order. I’m also in favor of states taking on the role of border enforcement when the federal government fails—and then find ways to charge costs to the federal government for whatever it costs each border state. I don’t think such a system has been found yet. Texas is taking money out of its own budget to defend the international border.
While mostly we’re talking today about the illegality of using an executive order to make law, we can talk briefly actual immigration policy. The answer is relatively simple, if not easy. It could already have been done by an administration serious about a solution: close the border (funding was supplied almost a decade ago, but not used for that purpose); make it impossible for illegals to work here or to get social benefits here—thus ending any incentive to come here illegally. Any costs for medical care, incarceration or deportation of illegals should be billed to the home nation that the illegals will be deported to—costs could be deducted from foreign aid, or specific tariffs on imports from those nations until debt is paid. That’s a side issue, but the intent is to stop those nations from encouraging their citizens to come here and send dollars home.
There’s no need to wait to improve the bureaucracy; make it a smooth and efficient process to come here legally. There is nothing stopping the executive branch from doing its job better immediately. Resolving bureaucratic red tape would change the dynamics of the argument from the start. There is no need for “comprehensive immigration reform” in order to improve the process.
What the president and others mean by “comprehensive immigration reform” has been, and continues to be, naturalize illegals with the intent of creating more dependent citizens who will vote democrat. While there is reason to feel sympathy for those caught up in the useless-bureaucracy-combined-with-porous-border up until now, the solution for individual cases cannot be handled until the border is secure and the bureaucracy is fully functioning.
One indicator that the president isn’t persuading the public to his way of thinking is this Saturday Night Live skit, going viral, a parody of the Schoolhouse Rock “I’m Just a Bill.” Enjoy.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

On Humanum Summit in Rome

While life has been going along on this continent, with a president asserting his dictatorial delusions, over in Eurpope there’s something significant going on: Humanum, the Vatican summit in support of marriage. The official subtitle is, “An International Interreligious Colloquium on The Complementarity of Man and Woman.”
Humanum 2014 logo, found here
There has been speculation that those in support of traditional marriage are wearing down, ready to give in. Not so. Marriage is what God defines it to be; it is up to us to stand either with God or against Him. I prefer to find God’s side and plant myself firmly there.
Others at this conference, from many countries and many faiths, share this belief. Marriage is a contract, but it is more than that. It benefits society because of its unique power to connect a man and woman for life, to form a family from which civilization perpetuates. And it happens because both a man and a woman are involved—as God designed in the beginning.
I became aware of the conference when it was announced that Henry B. Eyring would be speaking. He is a longtime favorite of mine. His messages are always kind, gentle, heartfelt, and helpfully inspiring. He is one of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a leader of 15 million people, and yet he speaks as a loving grandparent. He spoke Tuesday at the Humanum conference, giving personal experiences about how he has been able to move closer to God because of his relationship with his wife of well over half a century. I’ve included his relatively short address below.  


Another of the addresses worth hearing is Pastor Rick Warren, of Saddleback Church, an entertaining speaker who also supports traditional marriage unequivocally, and is conversationally articulate in explaining why, and also what we supporters of marriage need to do now. His forty-minute address can be found here.
The Pope addressed the entire conference at the opening, which probably brought more recognition to the assembly than it would otherwise have had. Opponents of marriage tend to look for tiny glints of evidence in the Pope’s words to see that he might be relenting on doctrine. But I trust that they have to look hard and imaginatively to see such things in his words, which are designed to support what marriage has always been. Of the conference he said (translated), “It is fitting that you have gathered here to explore the complementarity of man and woman. This complementarity is at the root of marriage and family.” (full text here)
Twenty years ago the Pope and other world leaders could have said the same words, and no one would have blinked. One could almost think it could go without saying, since it was common knowledge that a marriage is made up of a man and a woman, and they form a permanent bond in which to form a family, and enjoy the love and trials and drama involved in raising children and watching them grow to adults, and then enjoying grandchildren. Since that has been going on for millennia, it hardly would seem newsworthy to mention it. But attacks in our day have attempted to make believers in God who also believe in marriage and family out to be aberrant haters.
I offer my thanks to the participants, to the speakers, to the brave souls willing to stand up today and continue to find better and clearer language to state what used to go without saying.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Playing Monopoly

As a game, Monopoly can be a good (or long) several hours of family fun. We have fond memories of playing it when son Political Sphere was close to age five, still most of a year before kindergarten, and he had figured out how to make change and volunteered to be the banker. I know; I’m sort of bragging. But, really, there was a lot of entertainment value in having smart kids.

In that game the goal is to get more and more property, so you can command the highest prices possible and eventually force everyone else to go bankrupt. It has a 1930s Depression feel about it.
So, I’m looking at a similar goal this week, watching one of the largest three oil drilling equipment companies buy out another of the top three.
Negotiations have apparently been going on for a while, but news leaked last Thursday about the possible buyout of Baker-Hughes by Halliburton. Halliburton was already very big at number 2 worldwide. Baker-Hughes was probably third largest, but combined with Halliburton, they eclipse the size of number 1 Schlumberger (a French company, pronounced here in Texas something like Shlum-ber-zhay).
This morning the news came out that the deal was going through. Halliburton is paying around $34.6 billion for their fellow American company, along with some stock payments for employees. Last Friday stock prices were up a bit for both companies. Today, Halliburton is down 10 points and Baker-Hughes is up 10 points. I don’t know what that means, other than stock watchers think the price was good for Baker-Hughes and probably higher than Halliburton had wanted to pay. As far as I can tell, nothing illegal has taken place. Anti-trust examinations are still to come.
So that’s the free market at work, right? Only partly. Free enterprise is not actually a game of monopoly, in which the players have a goal or getting all the market share and putting all their competitors out of business. After all, competition keeps prices down for consumers and encourages innovation.
But competitors are kind of pesky for big businesses. And that’s why there have always been efforts to get governments to regulate in ways that give an advantage to the bigger, more established businesses, making market entry more difficult—thus limiting competition.
It was just a few days ago that I quoted economist Milton Friedman saying:
[Businesses] aren’t promoting free enterprise when they ask for handouts and regulations and controls to avoid competition.
The two greatest enemies of free society are intellectuals and businessmen—for opposite reasons. Intellectuals want freedom for themselves but no one else. Businessmen want free enterprise for everyone else, but special consideration for themselves.
I don’t have any data showing particular favors either Halliburton or Baker-Hughes has been involved in. I’m not a hater of either company just because of size. But I am puzzled—as a lover of free enterprise and civilization—with the monopoly game playing of big business in general. Why would it be a goal to grow endlessly? Why isn’t there a perfect size for any particular organization? Is bigger necessarily better?
The companies seem to see benefits from the merger. But there are concerns. One of the things that tend to happen following mergers is that shifting and settling occurs. Where there are redundancies, the acquired company employers are the ones likely to be let go. So it’s hard for regular people to understand what the CEO means when he announces that they always put the employer and shareholder interests first.
Baker-Hughes had been having a good year. Halliburton has as well. Both were facing an industry with lower oil prices right now, because OPEC saw the need to flood the market, in the face of growing supply out of North Dakota and Texas, to discourage further drilling. But OPEC can only drop prices for so long without harming themselves. As long as drilling is happening anywhere in the world, both of these big companies were there making money. So, it wasn’t any great need on the part of Baker-Hughes that led them to enter into the negotiations in the first place.
In general, in a free market, businesses ought to be free to hire and let go employees as they see fit. But, because success of free market is intertwined with living the laws of civilization, there should be some concern for the individual employees as well. If that perspective is lost because a company gets too big, loses sight of people and culture, and focuses only on bottom line growth, then that company might be too big.
Should government have a role in making things safer/better for employees in such a merger? It’s tempting to say yes. The employees have been hard working and loyal, and the company is failing to be loyal in return. Shouldn’t we, the people, see to it that employees aren’t taken care of as we think would be fair?
Yes and no. This situation isn’t very different from people who think we, the people, ought to force companies to pay a minimum wage. The outcome of forcing a particular contract between employer and employee is the failure to enter into a contract that doesn’t benefit both parties. So what happens is that unemployment goes up, and those who could be getting experience while earning low hourly wages are left unemployed. Our interference harms rather than helps, despite our good intentions.
So, what would be nice is that these big corporations, when they face redundancies, they think less about numbers and more about people. They could consider a longer severance package, for example.
The experienced cynics among us might ask, What if we know those companies just won’t do it; shouldn’t they be forced to give a longer severance package? Wouldn’t that at least make them think differently about the balance between keeping and laying off any particular employee?
I don’t know. It looks good, to voice the intentions this way. But what we need is a world in which the company leaders actually think about culture, loyalty, and human factors as a higher priority to short-term numbers. We need them to be more civilized. Without the heartfelt movement toward civilization, there will always be unintended consequences, probably opposite of what we want to have happen.
Freedom, prosperity, and civilization are tied together. You don’t get actual long-term prosperity without laws that allow as much freedom as possible, and without people who choose to live civilized lives. So the best outcome to pray for, after a big upheaval for thousands of people, such as this merger is about to cause—is for the hearts of more and more people, preferably those in leadership positions where policy decisions are made, to be turned toward accomplishing human good, and trusting that will lead to greater prosperity.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Free and Open Internet

In dictionary world, like the one our founders lived in, the word “regulation” means to make regular—to make sure something can happen regularly, without blocks or interference. That’s what the founders meant by regulating interstate commerce.
But in today’s government, regulation means something else: governmental power to decide when, how, and whether something can happen. It’s arguable that all government regulation prevents, rather than provides, regularity of something happening.
So, when the president announces the need for a brand new public utility, we know it is about government interfering and controlling what is already happening. This week, the president’s speech on net neutrality gives us an opportunity to compare what he says with what will actually happen if his plan is put in place.
Here is the transcript of the minute-and-44-second announcement. I’ve highlighted portions that set my teeth on edge:
Ever since the Internet was created, it’s been organized around basic principles of openness, fairness, and freedom. There’re no gatekeepers deciding which sites you get to access. There’re no toll roads on the information superhighway. This set of principles, the idea of net neutrality, has unleashed the power of the internet and given innovators the chance to thrive.
Abandoning these principles would threaten to end the internet as we know it. That’s why I’m laying out a plan to keep the internet free and open. And that’s why I’m urging the Federal Communications Commission to do everything they can to protect net neutrality for everyone. They should make it clear that, whether you use a computer, phone or tablet, internet providers have a legal obligation not to block or limit your access to a website. Cable companies can’t decide which online stores you can shop at, or which streaming services you can use. And they can’t let any company pay for priority over its competitors.
To put these protections in place, I’m asking the FCC to put these under Title II of a law known as the Telecommunications Act. In plain English, I’m asking them to recognize that for most Americans, the internet has become an essential part of everyday communication and everyday life.
The FCC is an independent agency, and ultimately this decision is theirs alone. But the public has already commented nearly 4 million times, asking the FCC to make sure consumers, not the cable company, gets to decide which sites they use.
Americans are making their voices heard, and standing up for the principles that make the Internet a powerful force for change. As long as I’m president, that’s what I’ll be fighting for too.
 There’s a lot of language manipulation going on here. The first paragraph is basically a fact, and a principle we all agree on.
The second paragraph introduces a crisis: the imminent abandonment of the principle of open internet that we agree on. Where is the threat coming from? He doesn’t say.
I did some research. It’s complicated. It has something to do with the blurring of separation between mobile internet access and the more literal connection of an at-home internet connection. It also has to do with some services, such as Netflix, wanting faster access, so as to provide customers the faster downloads they want.
The claim is that any differentiation is wrong; Netflix, for example, shouldn’t be able to pay for higher streaming speeds, because that would be a disadvantage to those not paying for those faster speeds. And there’s a proposed fear (not really exemplified so far in real life) in which a cable company might decide not to stream one source as fast as it streams another, which might disadvantage certain companies.
So, up until now the internet has been open and innovative—without government regulation to speak of. The Internet is something like the oil boom in North Dakota—succeeding on private land, because government disallowed drilling on public land but couldn’t control private land drilling. (The president claimed the oil boom as a hallmark accomplishment of his presidency, nevertheless.) The Internet is worldwide, open, and free. We pay entrepreneurial companies to give us better and faster—and moving toward less expensive—access to it. All of this has taken place in a free market, not because of government encouragement or subsidy. Government should get credit for nothing except so far staying out of the way of this example of the free market.
So one could assume that, if there is a threat to what we want—if a company limits our service—we will look elsewhere in the market for alternatives. For example, in rural areas, where a cable company might try to control access, there would be a ready market for satellite services. The market has a way of working things out.
But the president is claiming that there’s a public outcry. Four million requests to the FCC for net neutrality. First, the number, as of mid-September was 3.7 million opinions. That’s around 1% of the population. Not all were in favor, but a vast majority were. But, in the election we just had, did it come up anywhere? Was that on the mind of the public? Did a single official get elected because of his/her position in favor of getting government to insert itself in controlling the Internet?
There’s a difference between being in favor of a free and open internet and being in favor of a new regulatory agency, or relabeling the internet as a public utility that the government can control.
Let’s explain it in terms of a highway, since “information superhighway” is a term the president used. So, we have a freeway, with multiple lanes. No one is limiting you, as a driver, to only certain lanes. But someone starts a fear campaign saying, “Red cars could get special treatment; someone could step in and make a rule that only red cars can drive in the left lane, and they can go ten miles an hour faster than the other lanes. That’s not fair. We need a new government agency to step in and make sure no one can set up these special red-car lanes. We need lane neutrality!”
Our roads are free and open now. If someone tried to set up special lanes, without making a case that the market agrees to, the market would naturally find better ways. Setting up a new agency wouldn’t improve things for us; it would, instead, give authority to some agency to determine how the lanes are used. And if you give that authority away, you place the choice on how the lanes will be used in the hands of that agency. You do the exact opposite of protect your free lane use.
There’s a further question about the public outcry for “net neutrality.” A look under the surface is likely to show that it’s the bigger companies, claiming they’re thinking of the little guy, while setting up regulations that will limit entry by new businesses—in other words, will limit their competition.
We have seen this before. I heard Milton Friedman say this in a speech in 1980:
[Businesses] aren’t promoting free enterprise when they ask for handouts and regulations and controls to avoid competition.
The two greatest enemies of free society are intellectuals and businessmen—for opposite reasons. Intellectuals want freedom for themselves but no one else. Businessmen want free enterprise for everyone else, but special consideration for themselves.
And, just an aside, is anyone else bothered that the president is pushing this proposal and then stepping back and saying, since the FCC is an independent agency (i.e., under the executive branch over which he presides), the decision of whether to interfere with our free and open Internet is already in their hands?
If we turn to the principles that lead to freedom, prosperity, and civilization, we can see where a policy will lead. Government must be limited to the proper role of government, as listed in the preamble to the Constitution:
·         Establish Justice
·         Insure domestic Tranquility
·         Provide for the common defence
·         Promote the general Welfare
·         Secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity
There’s nothing in there that says, “When a new technology gets to a point that we all want it, the government should step in and make sure everyone gets it, and makes sure it gets offered in exactly the same quality to everyone, regardless of ability to pay.”
If people use the technology to harm one another, steal another’s property, or in any way endanger life, liberty, or property, then the justice role of government is already in place. If government does anything beyond its proper role, it will cause unintended consequences. Always.
But there’s something we can predict about those unintended consequences: they will be approximately the exact opposite of the purported purpose of the government interference.
So, in this case, we can agree we like having a free and open internet, and we want that to continue. If we have government step in with the claim that we can’t have a free and open internet without it, we can be certain the interference will mean less freedom, less openness, less innovation. There will likely be favoritism to particular businesses or points of view—control a tyrannical government would be especially gleeful to grab.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Thursday, November 6, the 6th Circuit Court ruled on several cases related to same-sex “marriage.” Lower courts had claimed that states’ attempts to continue to define marriage as between a man and a woman was unconstitutional. Some earlier circuit court rulings recently went that direction, claiming the 14th Amendment requires the change—even though the SCOTUS ruling on DOMA last year insisted the defining power rested with the states.

But now the 6th Circuit has stopped that court overreach and made a helpful explanation. Two things come out of this:
·        The court delineates a number of reasons that a state might choose to keep the millennia-old definition (there is a rational basis).
·        The court points out the limits of the judiciary, particularly declining to force federal law changes on states, where the Constitution hasn’t explicitly required such changes.
Now that there is a split, the Supreme Court has an undeniable reason to take up the issue. If I understand correctly, the cases for the 2014-2015 session are already on the docket. The growing list of same-sex “marriage” cases, then, cannot be taken up until the 2015-2016 session, which would probably be decided in June 2016.
In the meantime, there is a hodgepodge of states required to allow same-sex “marriages,” alongside states which are allowed to refrain from granting them or recognizing them from other states. When the Supreme Court refused to take up the cases this year, in the absence of a circuit court split, they knew such confusion would ensue. But they were willing to ignore that in favor of waiting until the most appropriate time. I hope that was the wiser decision in the long run.
This ruling says a number of helpful, hopeful things. It’s quite beautifully written. Here’s a sample from the opening:
So long defined, the tradition is measured in millennia, not centuries or decades. So widely shared, the tradition until recently had been adopted by all governments and major religions of the world.
This is, unfortunately, couched within an assumption that societal change is coming. But it declines usurping power to bring it on: 

What remains is a debate about whether to allow the democratic processes begun in the States to continue in the four States of the Sixth Circuit or to end them now by requiring all States in the Circuit to extend the definition of marriage to encompass gay couples. Process and structure matter greatly in American government. Indeed, they may be the most reliable, liberty assuring guarantees of our system of government, requiring us to take seriously the route the United States Constitution contemplates for making such a fundamental change to such a fundamental social institution. 

Of all the ways to resolve this question, one option is not available: a poll of the three judges on this panel, or for that matter all federal judges, about whether gay marriage is a good idea. Our judicial commissions did not come with such a sweeping grant of authority, one that would allow just three of us—just two of us in truth—to make such a vital policy call for the thirty-two million citizens who live within the four States of the Sixth Circuit: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. What we have authority to decide instead is a legal question: Does the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibit a State from defining marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman? 

The pertinent portion of the Fourteenth Amendment says,  

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. 

So the plaintiffs—those requiring states to throw out their traditional definition of marriage—are claiming they’re being denied equal protection. It seems obvious, to me, that they have not been denied. No one has said homosexual individuals can’t marry—enter into a marriage contract as any other American would—a permanent contract with a member of the opposite sex, who is not married to someone else, and who is not a close relative.  

Same-sex couples are not individuals who are “banned” from marrying. What is actually happening is that they are requiring all of society to throw out the definition of marriage and make some new one that includes same-sex couples—and possibly also any other coupling that any individuals desire. 

The 6th Circuit has refrained from voicing personal opinion on this redefinition debate. This restraint is too rare. And it is a great relief in the ongoing onslaught against the definition of marriage. 

Ryan Anderson, at The Heritage Institute, as always explains the issue with clarity. He pulls out the pertinent quotes, so I recommend his piece, "No ConstitutionalRight to Same-Sex Marriage, Circuit Court Rules.”

Language is important. That’s true in discussing issues, and in rulings within the written law. So, do we know what marriage is? 

For most of human history it has been a legal contract between a man and a woman, requiring permanence and fidelity—for the benefit of family, which is the basic unit of society, in which civilization is continued from generation to generation. 

Governments didn’t start marriage; God started marriage, in the Garden of Eden. A long time before any existing government. Where governments are concerned, as with other contracts, they’re concerned with the keeping of the terms. So it’s important to know the definition of the terms. The Supreme Court and various courts—now including the 6th Circuit—allow states to define the term. Regardless of the temporary confusion, marriage is a legally understood term. 

Marriage simply is what it is: a permanent promise between a man and a woman to engage exclusively with each other in heterosexual sex, which can lead to offspring and therefore form a family. Fathers know who their offspring are, and feel obligated, therefore, to stay connected and provide. Love is nice but not required in the keeping of the contract. Other sexual acts are not necessarily condemned, but are simply not at issue in marriage. Only one type of sexual act is of interest.  

So, if there is to be a debate about change, it ought to be an open discussion. It’s not about whether society is prejudiced against same-sex couples; nature has set up that prejudice. Same-sex couples simply cannot participate in the act that is required for marriage. Indeed, couples who marry and then have a spouse who fails to engage in that act can have the contract nullified. It’s fraudulent to promise to marry and then fail to consummate the marriage in the particular act. It doesn’t matter if the couple “loves” each other, or enjoys sharing a domicile, or thinks it might be a good idea to adopt a child. Failure to keep the marriage contract is grounds for annulment or divorce.  

The existence of same-sex couples who want to be honored for their current relationship certainly isn’t grounds for changing the definitions. 

Parties involved in claiming discrimination ought to be required to prove one of these things: 

·        Prove that they can and will engage in the act required in marriage, to make the contract legal.
·        Or prove that their relationship is equivalently good for civilization as marriage has been. 

They cannot do the first. They have not done the second. They cannot produce children. In every case same-sex-parented “families” have children not produced by the couple. Not because one or the other is infertile, but because same-sex coupling cannot be fruitful. This is obvious to anyone who has even a very basic understanding of biological reproduction. 

Same-sex couples try to claim their parenting is equivalently good. Individual cases may be adequate, but they have not proven equivalence as likely. Most studies compare same-sex parenting to single parented families—which are statistically inferior to married parent families in every measure. Some recent studies are showing that, additionally, same-sex parents lead to a higher likelihood of gender confusion in children. 

Additionally, unlike the vast majority of traditional marriages, same-sex marriages fail, in extremely high percentages, to be exclusive or permanent. 

There is no advantage to society leading to honor for same-sex couples. The debate must be turned from whether it’s nice or not to “ban” same-sex “marriage” [something can’t be banned if it never existed], and turned instead to whether throwing out the long-standing definition is better for society because same-sex couples make some significant civilizing contribution. 

While last week’s ruling was hopeful, it’s only a limited victory. It merely refrained from usurping authority in the redefinition, but it practically admits defeat in society’s eventual change. It’s possible that the wording is designed to give the swing vote, Kennedy, persuasion to refrain from imposing the definition change. But, personally, I prefer truth, clarity, and allegiance to ultimate good, rather than trusting to strategy.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Giving until It Hurts

Tuesday was a good day. The American people spoke pretty loudly in favor of more conservative principles and less liberal/progressivist/socialist policies. Yay! I wanted reassurance that America hadn’t gone as far astray as the last presidential election indicated. It is my belief that when the truth is presented accurately, people are likely to choose wisely.

So it’s a matter of finding ways to express truth accurately.
Some of what we conservatives need to do is understand how the other side thinks, because we probably both want freedom, prosperity and civilization, but for some reason the words don’t translate into their minds. They say we’re racist, bigoted, hard-hearted, violent—and a host of other epithets that we know are not true. What do they get out of telling those lies about us? Or believing those mischaracterizations?
Except for maybe some clinically mentally ill, people tend to do what they think will make them happy. They want to feel good. So let’s go with the assumption that those who choose more government intervention do it out of interest in living better lives.
William Voegeli wrote the Hillsdale College Imprimis piece for October: “The Case against Liberal Compassion.” He gives an excellent, and probably accurate, description of the opposition mindset. He starts by pointing out, as we all know, the War on Poverty has failed. Government social programs are an utter failure. And yet the big-government set keeps asking for more of that failure.
I think he’s asking some very good questions:
All along, while the welfare state was growing constantly, liberals were insisting constantly it wasn’t big enough or growing fast enough. So I wondered, five years ago, whether there is a Platonic ideal when it comes to the size of the welfare state—whether there is a point at which the welfare state has all the money, programs, personnel, and political support it needs, thereby rendering any further additions pointless. The answer, I concluded, is that there is no answer—the welfare state is a permanent work-in-progress, and its liberal advocates believe that however many resources it has, it always needs a great deal more.
That’s a starting point for understanding. But the next question is, since there can never be enough, and programs actually fail, and waste money, why is that OK? He doesn’t assume it’s because liberals are bad people. He says,
Readers could have concluded that liberals are never satisfied because they get up every morning thinking, “What can I do today to make government a little bigger, and the patch of ground where people live their lives completely unaffected by government power and benevolence a little smaller?” …
If we make that effort—an effort to understand committed liberals as they understand themselves—then we have to understand them as people who, by their own account, get up every morning asking, “What can I do today so that there’s a little less suffering in the world?”
He quotes President Obama as saying, “Kindness covers all of my political beliefs. When I think about what I’m fighting for, what gets me up every single day, that captures it just about as much as anything. Kindness; empathy—that sense that I have a stake in your success; that I’m going to make sure, just because [my daughters] are doing well, that’s not enough—I want your kids to do well also.”
If the president wants to be believed, he ought not use the IRS and NSA to target anyone who has a non-liberal/progressive/socialist approach to bettering the interrelated causes of freedom, prosperity, and civilization. To us conservative targets, he seems a lot more tyrannical than kind. But back to Voegeli’s explanations.
Compassion, he says, is used as a political weapon against anyone who disagrees, because that works:
Arguments and rhetoric that work—that impress voters and intimidate opponents—are used again and again. Those that prove ineffective are discarded. If conservatives had ever come up with a devastating, or even effective rebuttal to the accusation that they are heartless and mean-spirited: a) anyone could recite it by now; and, b) more importantly, liberals would have long ago stopped using rhetoric about liberal kindness versus conservative cruelty, for fear that the political risks of such language far outweighed any potential benefits.
But here’s the important thing: using the compassion claim as a political weapon—to gain power—is the end; actually accomplishing compassionate ends do not matter. In fact, getting to that end would eliminate the powerful political weapon, and that isn’t even desirable. That’s a pretty damning accusation, so we’d better look at the rest of Voegeli’s reasoning. He uses the recent Obamacare website debacle as an example. He quotes liberal columnist, and then makes his observation:
A sympathetic columnist, E. J. Dionne, wrote of the website’s crash-and-burn debut “There’s a lesson here that liberals apparently need to learn over and over: Good intentions without proper administration can undermine even the most noble of goals.” That such an elementary lesson is one liberals need to learn over and over suggests a fundamental defect in liberalism, however—something worse than careless or inept implementation of liberal policies.
That defect, I came to think, can be explained as follows: The problem with liberalism may be that no one knows how to get the government to do the benevolent things liberals want it to do. Or it may be, at least in some cases, that it just isn’t possible for the government to bring about what liberals want it to accomplish….It may also be, as conservatives have long argued, that achieving liberal goals, no matter how humane they sound, requires kinds and degrees of government coercion fundamentally incompatible with a government created to secure citizens’ inalienable rights, and deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.
So we are, possibly, at an impasse. Liberals want to be compassionate, and conservatives see that their efforts are fruitless, as well as dangerous to our freedoms. Liberals think we should just keep pushing toward the goal—living out a definition of insanity by doing the same thing over and over, more and more, and expecting different results. Conservatives think we we’ve tried the bad policies long enough to prove to everyone that they don’t work. It’s a $3 Trillion going concern. We’re spending $10,000 per American per year, much of it on people are not, by any stretch, impoverished, insecure, or suffering.
Liberals think conservatives are evil for not continuing the failing “compassionate” policies. But there’s the error. Conservatives want to actually relieve suffering, not just relieve their own conscience by expressing compassion pointlessly.
Voegeli quotes Rousseau on compassion, and then explains:
As Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in Emile, “When the strength of an expansive soul makes me identify myself with my fellow, and I feel that I am, so to speak, in him, it is in order not to suffer that I do not want him to suffer. I am interested in him for love of myself.”
We can see the problem. The whole point of compassion is for empathizers to feel better when awareness of another’s suffering provokes unease. But this ultimate purpose does not guarantee that empathizees will fare better.
Sometimes altruism actually causes harm to the target of sympathy. But that doesn’t seem to matter. Sometimes failure to help is part of the equation: “This is why so many government programs initiated to conquer a problem end up, instead, colonizing it by building sprawling settlements where the helpers and the helped are endlessly, increasingly co-dependent.”
He quotes political theorist Jean Bethke Elshtain as saying, “Pity is about how deeply I can feel. And in order to feel this way, to experience the rush of my own pious reaction, I need victims the way an addict needs drugs.”
So, what we have with all these compassionate liberals, then, is a large segment of the population addicted to the self-satisfaction of “caring,” not to help, but to feel better about themselves. Simply put,
Because compassion gives me a self-regarding reason to care about your suffering, it’s more important for me to do something than to accomplish something. Once I’ve voted for, given a speech about, written an editorial endorsing, or held forth at a dinner party on the salutary generosity of some program to “address” your problem, my work is done, and I can feel the rush of my own pious reaction. There’s no need to stick around for the complex, frustrating, mundane work of making sure the program that made me feel better, just by being established and praised, has actually alleviated your suffering.
I think Voegeli is right in his assessment of the liberal mind. He is also accurate about the insanity of squandering more and more money on programs essentially designed to fail.
What we as conservatives need to do, then, is not simply deny the accusation that we’re hard-hearted. We need to clarify the truth of the situation. We need to connect the dots between government welfare and increased pain. We need to make it clear that, any time an American tax dollar is spent on something extra-Constitutional, it has the unintended consequence of causing harm in place of alleviating suffering.
There are times when charitable giving is appropriate—but never through government coercion. It’s not even possible for government to coerce charitable giving; its not logically, by definition, possible. We want to actually alleviate suffering. We will do it by following the principles of freedom, prosperity, and civilization. That’s what works.
Let's speak the truth clearly. Government “giving” hurts people, and mostly hurts the very people designated to be helped. So if you’re in favor of government welfare, you’re in favor of hurting the most vulnerable among us. If you want to think of yourself as kind, you need to change your ways.

Monday, November 3, 2014

That Decision Mothers Make

Our president said something better not said—no surprise. But sometimes these misspeaks (accidentally) reveal what he truly believes, so they’re worth looking at. Here’s what he said last week at Rhode Island College on women and the economy: 

Obama speech on women and the economy
at Rhode Island College

Sometimes, someone, usually Mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. That’s not a choice we want Americans to make. [full speech here]
We could get rid of some of the indignation here if we assume he misspoke and meant to say, “That’s not a choice we want Americans to have to make.” In other words, if you take some years off to care for children, you face the reality of a lower wage, and he thinks that’s unfair.

That does in fact seem to be what he means, because he goes on to offer the solution of governmental institutional daycare—to solve the problem of women having to leave the workforce at all, which leads to what looks like uneven pay.

But he is, in fact, saying it’s a bad decision to choose to stay home and raise your kids. It’s bad because it could cost you the wage level rise you would presumably get if you didn’t take time off to raise those bothersome children. He doesn’t want you to make that wrong choice. That’s revealing.

We might be better off if we had a president who offered this in a speech instead:

The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only—and that is to support the ultimate career.—C. S. Lewis
Or there’s this, from the last paragraph of historians Will and Ariel Durant’s The Lessons of History about perpetuating civilization:

If a man is fortunate he will, before he dies, gather up as much as he can of his civilized heritage and transmit it to his children. And to his final breath he will be grateful for this inexhaustible legacy, knowing that it is our nourishing mother and our lasting life.
And let’s add this bit of wisdom:

Women who make a house a home make a far greater contribution to society than those who command large armies or stand at the head of impressive corporations.—Gordon B. Hinckley
The president seems to misunderstand what life is about. Certainly he misunderstands what civilization is and how to get there and then stay there.

The purpose of life is not to achieve some arbitrarily defined world equity by earning money for yourself that is equal to whatever anyone else can earn. It is not even to earn a valuable life by doing paid work. A mother, who dedicated her career years to raising children who have grown into successful contributing members of society and gone onto provide her with grandchildren to love—can you imagine this woman, in the wisdom of age, on her deathbed saying, “If only I’d spent more time at the office! If only I hadn’t wasted my career years on children—the government could have handled them, and then I would have made an equivalent amount to the men in my career!”

Life is bigger than that. We want to live a life we can enjoy with those we love and want to be with, through the good times and trials. There isn’t a better way to live than in a marriage and family, raising children in love. Family is the basic unit of civilization—in which people thrive, and in which social capital is built and passed on. It is possible to live a life otherwise, but civilization only happens when a critical mass live in functional families.

There is an interrelated economic component. We need income for housing, food, shelter, and all the other things needed for raising and educating our children. But the most economically sound way for that to happen is in a family with a mother and a father. No government program works as well. It isn’t a matter of tweaking policy, or getting the right leaders. It is a matter of allowing families to do the work of caring, providing, and civilizing—work that families are brilliantly designed by God to do.

If you care about civilization, you will consider the value of a parent, probably the mother, doing the long-term daily work of caring for them. Anyone who has done it knows it’s a lot more than feeding, clothing, and managing the children in a way that keeps them from wandering into the street or other dangers. It’s about loving them, responding to them as valuable human beings with their own personalities, gifts, and potentials. No daycare—no matter how well run—can offer a child what an abundance of time with a loving mother offers.

Not all women get to offer that. Some can’t make it financially without working. Some feel called to do a specific life’s work in addition, and choose to balance the mothering and other career. I do not want to demean any woman who makes a choice to work when she has children. But it is absolutely unconscionable to shame women for choosing to mother at home. It is especially wrongheaded to demean her choice by turning it into a math equation about earnings she’s expected by the state to work for.

It’s also wrong to blame natural economic laws that reward continuous years of work in a particular career more than fewer disconnected years in that career. And it’s more than wrong to claim government can or should override this economic natural consequence by taxing people more to institutionalize our children at younger and younger ages.

Did the president make yet another speaking gaffe? Yes. But we can make good progress even with a president who lacks speaking skills. Moses lacked speaking skills and still managed to free the Israelites from enslavement. Speaking skills are helpful (see Reagan for many examples). But what is better is good thinking—and believing the right and true things.

What we need is not a president who manipulates power to control women’s choices. We need a president, along with the rest of government, who appreciates the value of mothers and fathers working together to raise their own children—and gets out of their way.

Stop holding us down with variations of tyranny, poverty, and savagery. And let us move up to freedom, prosperity, and civilization.