Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Anything but Equality Act

In government, when a name is applied to an act, or a bill, chances are that name is intended to obfuscate. The Equality Act, numbered HR 5, to be voted on next week, is not about equality.
HR 5 adds SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) to the list of protected classes in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In granting that special protection to these behavioral preferences (or, arguably, mental conditions or illnesses), the bill has the more direct result of removing rights that are specifically identified in the First Amendment: freedom of religion and conscience, and freedom of speech.

Just in case it could be construed otherwise, the bill adds this:

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S. C. 2000bb et seq.) shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.
In other words, when the Federal Government attempts to coerce persons to act against their beliefs, the First Amendment and RFRA, the usual defenses, are not allowed to be used.

What are the supposed inequalities the act is purported to address? Discrimination toward homosexuals and transgendered individuals in relation to housing, employment, and public accommodation. There may be some actual discrimination that could be addressed. We can probably agree that people, simply because they’re human, deserve the right to purchase or rent housing. But we also ought to agree that there are limits to this right.

Among those limits ought to be the right to separate housing for males and females in school dormitories for those who choose this separation. A woman renting out a room in her home ought to be able to choose not to rent to a man. And there ought to be a right for a women’s shelter, for example, to exclude males from accommodation at that shelter.

Privacy and safety concerns ought to allow women the right to assume those they share intimate spaces with—such as a dorm room, a public bathroom, or a locker room—are for women only, not for men. Likewise, even though fear of being overpowered and raped is not at issue, men ought to feel free to use a urinal without someone of the opposite sex observing them.

The so-called Equality Act refuses to acknowledge any of these reasonable and justifiable feelings. The feelings and preferences of LGBT individuals are given supremacy.

We’ve talked about the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, where a baker refused to participate in a same-sex wedding. The Supreme Court ruled that he didn’t have to make the cake—but didn’t go so far as to say he actually had the right to refuse. The Court just said that he had been persecuted by his state’s animus toward his religion, leaving open the possibility that he or others could be coerced to participate against their religious convictions—if the state went about it without obvious religious animus.

Masterpiece Cakeshop, screenshot from this video

So for cases in that category, business owners who have not refused to serve anyone but have refused to participate in particular activities that go against their deeply held religious beliefs could be coerced to act against conscience. Not so that LGBT people can get equal treatment—which they already had from those very defendants—but so that LGBT individuals can enforce their agenda and coerce the business owners.

The SOGI agenda is already harming women. This is most obvious in sports. Women’s sports are separate from men’s sports specifically because women are physiologically different from men. Men typically have greater upper body strength and more muscle mass. Even mediocre male athletes are likely to outperform excellent female athletes in contests of strength and speed. But recently, biological males who want to compete in women sports are allowed to, and females are mostly cowed into silence for fear of social reprisal, which includes being called transphobic and bigoted and being publicly scorned and shamed, and also may include legal lawsuits for going against the SOGI agenda. These female athletes lose out on scholarships and other benefits of excelling in women’s sports, cancelling out any benefit intended by Title IX.

Among the most troubling products of the pro-SOGI agenda are the loss of reason surrounding transgendered or various “other” genders controlling language of everyone around them, as well as common sense among mental and physical healthcare doctors, and parents.

Pronoun invention goes against how languages function and develop. A pronoun is not something a person has a right to; it is a way people who may not know anything about them beyond how they appear can refer to them in absence of a name, or out of convenience in conversation. Why should a person who claims a different gender have a right to persecute someone for using a different pronoun than that person prefers? That preference may not have been conveyed. And, even if it has, pronoun usage is a shorthand for referencing the person to a third party; it’s not a direct reference wherein a name or “you” would be used. The person taking offense isn’t even involved in the conversation in which he or she is referenced. To additionally insist on requiring words that aren’t even a natural part of the language involves so much hubris that a person might choose never to interact with whoever makes such a requirement.

What other use of normal conversation subjects a person to prosecution, persecution, loss of employment, and social ostracism? That much control over our language is something we have never granted our government and only an extreme tyranny would attempt.

About caregivers, the way the SOGI agenda works, only agreement—affirmation—is allowed. Therapists can’t say, “Let’s take a look at the underlying issues before we go ahead with anything drastic or permanent”: they can lose their license for lack of affirmative “therapy.” Even saying, “That’s not something I’m ready or qualified to support; let me recommend you to a different counselor” can be construed as breaking the law, leading to loss of license.

So, the law purported to prevent discrimination among a full range of employment opportunities actually removes employment opportunities from people who have worked hard to earn their licenses and have done nothing but try to offer their expert opinion about what constitutes appropriate care.

This bill isn’t to guarantee that LGBT people can get access to regular healthcare, such as for a disease or a broken leg. Of course they get that, and no new law is required to guarantee it. What this does is coerce physicians to do harm. Suppose a biological female comes in, claims to be a male, and insists on a hysterectomy; a doctor who sees surgically removing healthy organs as abhorrent and refuses to do it can lose the ability to do good for all the other patients she would come in contact with during her long career.

With the SOGI agenda infiltrating both healthcare and schools, fit parents are suddenly subject to losing their parental rights—simply for not jumping in to fully affirm a child’s confused concept about what that child imagines his or her sex to be—regardless of biology and everything the parents have known about that child from birth. Recognizing that gender confusion often disappears by adulthood, that transitioning typically continues or increases suicidality, that transitioning causes sterility and additional serious detrimental health consequences—all these facts are to be disregarded by parents.

Need to do some more reading on the Equality Act before you call your congressional representative? Here are some pieces specifically about HR 5:

·         The Equality Act: Harming Children and Hijacking the Rights of Parents” from United Families International 
·         H.R. 5 Is No Act of Equality” from The Heritage Foundation 
·         The ‘Equality Act’ Would Mark the End ofReligious Conscience” by Bruce Hausknecht for The Daily Citizen 
·         Equality Act Is About Civil Tyranny, Not Civil Rights” by Star Parker for The Daily Signal 
·         A Pediatrician Explains How ‘Dangerous’Equality Act Would Force Doctors to ‘Do Harm’” by Katrina Trinko for The Daily Signal 
·         Church Expresses Support for ‘Fairness for All’Approach” from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Newsroom 
·         GOP Settles the Score on Girls Sports” from The Family Research Council 
·         8th Place: A High School Girl’s Life After Transgender Students Join Her Sport” by Kelsey Bolar for The Daily Signal 
A piece I’ve recommended before, that gives some background on the history of SOGI ideas suddenly becoming mainstream, is this one:

·         “Ten Years of International Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Laws: Lessons Learned” by Daniel Moody for The Witherspoon Institute 
In addition to Ryan T. Anderson’s book When Harry Met Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, he wrote this shorter piece last year: 

·         Sex Change: Physically Impossible, Psychosocially Unhelpful, and Philosophically Misguided” by Ryan T. Anderson for The Witherspoon Institute
As the pigs say in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Special rights for some mean unequal rights for all. That’s what HR 5 does while distorting beyond recognition the very word equality.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Savagery Too Close to Home

The world is worse than we thought.

This past Saturday, a speaker at our Cypress Texas Tea Party meeting talked to us about child sex trafficking. This is an issue that has horrified me before. I’ve followed Tim Ballard’s Operation Underground Railroad efforts to free children in various countries. But, while heart rending, that work was mostly foreign, far away. Any connection to the US seemed to be through illegal immigration—closer, but still kind of far away.

A few years ago, I wrote of a sting operation in Waco, Texas, which seemed very close to home. But Kelly Litvak told us it is even closer. Very close.

Kelly Litvak
founder of
image from March newsletter
Litvak is the founder and executive director of, an effort to inform parents and others to learn how to recognize signs of danger and work to prevent what they went through.

The Litvaks suffered through this horror with their own daughter. She was a good student, an excellent athlete, involved in their church, in the Cinco Ranch area of Katy, Texas. And Kelly Litvak ran a prison ministry for juvenile offenders, so they had talked about a great many things. Yet their daughter got trapped in this evil.

Cinco Ranch is a very nice suburb, west of Houston, with a highly rated school district. Not what you'd expect of a seedy underbelly.

Here are some shocking statistics she told us:

·         One in 20 US men have purchased sex online. (That is, they set up the encounter using the internet).
·         In Houston, that number is 1 in 5 men.
I can’t even!

I have lived a fairly sheltered life. To my knowledge I have never interacted with a man who would ever go to a prostitute. It is so uncivilized that my life doesn’t intersect. I talked with Kelly Litvak’s husband about this afterward. He agreed it’s shocking. He said, you won’t find them in this room (the conference room of the restaurant where we were meeting with civic-minded patriots), “But out there in the restaurant, I guarantee there’s someone.”

Kelly told us there’s a group called the Elijah Project that helps inform on this issue. They took her on a tour to identify the brothels in the area. For local people who know this area, there are 14 brothels on Mason and Fry Roads alone. You have probably passed by them. They’re in strip malls. Places like massage centers or maybe reflexology therapy centers, with dark tinted windows, open long hours, like 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM.

There are more brothels in Houston than Starbucks.

I was at a chiropractor in Cypress once, several years ago—again, in a nice neighborhood, within half a block of the high school—when a nearby massage parlor was raided, and we assumed it must have been a brothel. But even then, I didn’t think about underage, trafficked children. And yet that was probably true there.

It’s not only a local problem, of course. There’s this story from Cleveland, OH, where three pastors were indicted.  According to an eye-opening piece from The Rutherford Institute, the Baltimore—Washington DC area is a hub for sex trade. 

An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 victims are trafficked into the US each year, mainly through illegal immigration. But some 300,000 US teens are also trafficked each year. That’s nearly a third of a million. The target age is 12-14 years; the average age is 13—which means there are younger girls trafficked as well. Half of all victims are minors; 80% are female. The internet is the most likely interaction point for pimps.

It’s a huge business. It’s the second largest criminal industry. According to Litvak, a pimp can make $150,000 to $300,000 a year per victim. As horrifying as it is, if you do the math, at a price of $25 per rape—and rape is what we’re talking about—that’s possibly 12,000 a year. About 33 a day. Some days more than that.

We’re all in agreement that the Elizabeth Smart case was horrific. A young, innocent girl, taken from her home, held hostage for most of a year, raped repeatedly every day. She has remarkable resilience, using her story to help others. She repeats something her mother told her, that the best thing she could do to disempower the perpetrators is to move on and live a happy life. The Litvaks have that kind of attitude as well. And their daughter, now rescued, and in her 20s, is doing well and considering being an advocate as her life’s work.

What I’d like to point out is that, as rare as Smart’s case was, it isn’t very different from the daily experience of children, or young adults, trapped in the sex trade as slaves. This is just too much evil.

There are several problems to solve: Rescue and rehabilitation. Prosecution of traffickers/pimps and buyers. Prevention and protection of children. Getting rid of demand.

Today’s post is mostly to raise awareness. I’d like to share the information for parents and grandparents that Litvak gave us.

She talked about the grooming process to watch out for, in six steps.

·         Step 1: Befriend. This can begin when a young person is seen as vulnerable, such as after a traumatic event, such as the death or divorce of a parent, a friend’s suicide, or something as relatively small as a boyfriend breakup. Traffickers look for clues online to spot vulnerability and then seek out the teen to build a relationship.

·         Step 2: Intoxicate. The new “friend” invites using drugs and/or alcohol to numb the pain. This has the additional “benefit” of causing friction in the family.
·         Step 3: Alienate. The teen is led to believe her family is against her. This may be the first notice the parents have of something off, but they may not recognize it as different from simply teen separation from parents that is a natural part of growing up. But this is already a severe danger point for the child, hard to step back from without intervention.
·         Step 4: Isolate. Not only is the child disconnected from family, but now the “new friend” cuts them off from longtime friends, anyone who shares their previous core values.
·         Step 5: Desensitize. The child is exposed to a great many formerly shocking scenes and images, and is told these are all normal. Soon nothing that used to shock seems shocking.
·         Step 6: Capitalize. At this point, the child is separated from family and friend, disconnected from their moral compass, and ripe for taking.

graphic from Kelly Litvak's presentation May 11, 2019

The perpetrators can be patient. This process could take as long as two years. They could time it to get the teen to walk out the door of their home and into the arms of the cartel at age 18, when it’s harder to prove the crime, because force, fraud, or coercion must now be shown—which are not necessary for minor victims.

What is a parent or grandparent supposed to do? One thing is to be very vigilant about the online world the child is allowed to connect with. Limit their phone use. Look at their phones; check the apps they use. Among the dangerous apps to look for are Kik, Whisper, Periscope, and Partyline—all used by pimps to build relationships.  Periscope and Partyline include GPS tracking. There are also YouNow live video and Snapchat, which has a hidden backdoor app for hiding photos. Tinder is used for sexual encounters. Keepsafe is used to hide photos in an app disguised as a calculator.

Apps and symbols to beware of.
graphic from Kelly Litvak's presentation May 11, 2019

If you see these apps on your child’s phone, you’ve got a problem already. If you take a phone away, be aware that some pimps provide alternate phones you won’t know about. If there’s child porn or evidence of trafficking on your child’s phone, you can give the police permission to search the phone. Note that there is risk that your child will be caught up in prosecution; one of the things teens are encouraged to do in the desensitizing process is send nude selfies, which qualify as child porn. However, with a minor it’s not necessarily going to be seen as their fault, especially if they cooperate and help identify the person luring them. Regardless, whatever punishment they go through is still better than being caught up in sex trafficking, with a life expectancy of about seven years.

What can you do besides watch your child’s behavior and worry? There are some apps to help parents. All of them approach things differently, some clandestinely, some with the knowledge of the child. These include Highster Mobile, Net Nanny, Qustodio, and mSpy.

Keep dialed in to what your kids are doing. Check up on them. Talk with them—about this danger specifically. Make sure they’re equipped to protect themselves before you put a phone in their hands. Monitor social media. Set your house alarm to know if anyone leaves during the night, and use security cameras. Be on high alert if your child has experienced a traumatic event; get them professional trauma counselling, if needed.

If the worst happens, as it did for the Litvaks, their program,, can immediately send a family guide to walk you through the process of getting legitimate help, and avoiding the scammers. On top of all their pain, the Litvaks were also victims of fraud. Someone called these desperate parents, said they were former Seals specializing in finding children. All they had to do was put up $6,000 and they’d get their daughter back. Of course, what really happened was these scammers disappeared with the money. (ChildproofAmerica is a nonprofit that does not accept any donations from families in crisis.)

It’s a wicked world we’re in.

I don’t really have time today to fully cover another big concern—demand. Why is there a market for sex with children? How can we be so savage a society that people who function among us think that is acceptable behavior?

Desensitization is part of it. Porn desensitizes, and it creates an addictive desire for something more intense. Every pornographic photo involves a ruined life. It’s not a victimless crime. But it’s so pervasive, I think we also need to look at porn addicts and help them find a way out of the savagery and back into civilization. Before they become so savage that they would seek out a prostitute, or worse, a child prostitute.

Desensitization, unfortunately, is also a goal of sex education. As Rebecca Friedrichs describes in her book Standing Up to Goliath, the curriculum has nothing to do with teaching a young person safe sexual practices. It instead teaches risky behavior, including perverted behavior, and normalizes it. Healthy sexual relations between married mother and father are never examples. And in some places the very concept of abstinence is prohibited. Look at step 5 again. Such curricula follow an agenda that serves anyone but children or parents. We would be much better off today if all sex education had been left to parents with the support of their churches.

I am sickened to see this savage world functioning alongside our civil society, hidden practically in plain sight. Evil is real. And we’re at war.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Mothers Matter

Words name things, sometimes people. Words include the way to bring to mind an idea. It’s a symbol of what the word means. Without the word, we don’t have a way to convey the meaning from one person’s mind to another’s.

I love being Mom to these characters.
This was in Idaho in 1992.

There’s a song our Primary kids—the children at church from ages 3-12—sing around Mother’s Day. It’s starts out, “I know a name,” and eventually reveals “it is the name of Mother.”

About a week ago, I saw a piece regarding the erasure of the word mother: “Why Eliminating The Word ‘Mother’ Eliminates Motherhood Itself,” by Libby Emmons, for The Federalist. The title, and that concept, struck me. 

Emmons tells us it’s happening in laws around the world that are trying to replace motherhood with something more generic, to placate the LGBTQ community. A small, sometimes miniscule minority that denies the reality that each person is made up of the DNA of a male and female parent is trying to erase the concept of mother.

In the UK, it’s self-ID laws. In order to accommodate transgenders, they allow pretend (transgendered) “male” persons who have given birth to identify themselves as “father” on the baby’s birth certificate. Meanwhile, “mother” on the form is left blank. In other words, “mother” isn’t necessary to the birth of a baby.

In France, school districts do away with fathers and mothers, and just identify them as parent 1 and parent 2—leaving it to the male and female (or whatever) to decide who gets designated first.
In the piece, Libby Emmons says,

When we use the term mother, we invoke a shared perspective on what that word means, what it represents, what it looks like. Whether our mother was brilliant or rotten, loving or cruel, we can envision a shared ideal of a mother precisely because we have a shared history of the concept of mother.
Then she asks the question,

If we don’t have the word for mother, will the concept still exist? If so, for how long?
Do enough people understand the danger of a world without the idea of motherhood?

our boys, getting acquainted with sheep, at San Diego Zoo, 1989
This past Sunday I was teaching Sunday School, considering some things about lambs and sheep in John chapter 10. As part of that I shared a talk from the early 90s, by Jayne B. Malan, called “Summer of the Lambs.” Worth hearing again. I think it was once published in written form in Reader’s Digest. Anyway, Jayne, as a 12-year-old, had been assigned, along with her 14-year-old brother, to care for several hundred motherless lambs. It was hard work. They lost about two-thirds to starvation or predators. The most vulnerable were those that wandered off and got separated. Most of them would have grown up safe, if their mothers had been there.

That’s the way with lambs. And the way with children. They need mothers. And fathers too.
We’re about to celebrate mothers, this Sunday. It can be a hard day for mothers, who feel so much pressure to meet the “shared ideal of a mother,” simply because they love their family and believe they deserve that perfection, while mothers are also keenly aware of their own mortal limitations.
In honor of Mother’s Day, a couple of years ago, I compiled a Motherhood Collection of blog posts I’ve written. I think that’s still worth sharing: here

In hopes of helping mothers feel like they are enough, I’d like to share this video from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, called “You Are Enough.”

Monday, May 6, 2019

Freedom and Religion Are Connected

We worked an election on Saturday. The only thing on our ballot was a school district bond election (an astounding $1.76 billion). It won, of course, with 70% of the votes. But only 4.6% of registered voters voted (10,499 for and 4,544 against). So I could talk about education, or property taxes, but I think I'll forego.

This was our first countywide election on a voting day (early voting has always been countywide). Several voting places were combined, and our alternate judge was an experienced judge and very good to work with. He was an older black man, a retired police officer, and a faithful Catholic. We had pleasant conversations with him.

It’s not surprising that a he’s part of the 90% of blacks who vote Democrat. But, getting to know him, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be happy voting for any of the pro-socialism candidates for President in their primary.

We have so much in common with other religious people. I hope at some point that translates into voting to protect our Constitution. The Blexit movement is underway, but so far aiming mostly at younger voters.

Neal A. Maxwell
image from here
Anyway, I’m thinking about religion and freedom, and how they interrelate, as I share some nuggets from my quote file today. This first one is from Neal A. Maxwell, whose language is something I have always admired. I’m currently reading his biography. Anyway, this is from a talk in 1978.

We are now entering a period of incredible ironies. Let us cite but one of these ironies which is yet in its subtle stages: we shall see in our time a maximum if indirect effort made to establish irreligion as the state religion. It is actually a new form of paganism that uses the carefully preserved and cultivated freedoms of Western civilization to shrink freedom even as it rejects the value essence of our rich Judeo-Christian heritage.
Brothers and sisters, irreligion as the state religion would be the worst of all combinations. Its orthodoxy would be insistent and its inquisitors inevitable. Its paid ministry would be numerous beyond belief. Its Caesars would be insufferably condescending. Its majorities—when faced with clear alternatives—would make the Barabbas choice, as did a mob centuries ago when Pilate confronted them with the need to decide.
Your discipleship may see the time come when religious convictions are heavily discounted. M. J. Sobran also observed, “A religious conviction is now a second-class conviction, expected to step deferentially to the back of the secular bus, and not to get uppity about it” (Human Life Review, Summer 1978, p. 58). This new irreligious imperialism seeks to disallow certain of people’s opinions simply because those opinions grow out of religious convictions. Resistance to abortion will soon be seen as primitive. Concern over the institution of the family will be viewed as untrendy and unenlightened.—Neal A. Maxwell, “Meeting the Challenges of Today,” October 1978 

Religion and Liberty are the two great objects of defensive war. Conjoined, they unite all the feelings, and call forth all the energies, of man…. Religion and liberty are the meat and the drink of the body politic. Withdraw one of them, and it languishes, consumes, and dies. If indifference to either at any time becomes the prevailing character of a people, one half of their motives to vigorous defense is lost, and the hopes of their enemies are proportionally increased. Here, eminently, they are inseparable. Without religion we may possibly retain the freedom of savages, bears, and wolves; but not the freedom of New-England. If our religion were gone, our state of society would perish with it; and nothing would be left, which would be worth defending. —Timothy Dwight, President of Yale University, “The Duty of Americans, at the Present Crisis,” July 4, 1798

No compact among men… can be pronounced everlasting and inviolable, and if I may so express myself, that no Wall of words, that no mound of parchment can be so formed as to stand against the sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the one side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other.—George Washington, draft of First Inaugural Address, April 1798

Heaven knows the proper price to attach to something so celestial as freedom.— Thomas Payne

It was through and by the power of God, that the fathers of this country framed the Declaration of Independence, and also that great palladium of human rights, the Constitution of the United States. There is nothing of a bigoted, narrow-contracted feeling about that instrument; it is broad and comprehensive.—John Taylor, The Constitution Is an Inspired Document, p. 644

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.—John Adams[i], 1770

David O. McKay
image from here
If I speak plainly, and in condemnation lay bare reprehensible practices and aims of certain organizations, please do not think that I harbor ill-will or enmity in my heart towards other United States citizens whose views on political policies do not coincide with mine. But when acts and schemes are manifestly contrary to the revealed word of the Lord, we feel justified in warning people against them. We may be charitable and forbearing to the sinner, but must condemn the sin.—David O. McKay, “Jesus’ Prayer for Unity,” General Conference, October 1939

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.—Thomas Jefferson

The duty of a true patriot is to protect his country from its government.—Thomas Payne

It has been fundamental to our way of life that charity must be voluntary if it is to be charity. Compulsory benevolence is not charity. Today’s egalitarians are using the federal government to redistribute wealth in our society, not as a matter of voluntary charity, but as a matter of right.—Ezra Taft Benson, This Nation Shall Endure, p. 91

You cannot stop a decades-long march toward a socialist and authoritarian state if the family breaks down. Those who say we need to maintain a laser focus on government spending miss the forest for the trees, or refuse to accept what the Founders embraced. If we balance the budget and rein in government but do not rebuild and protect families, then the popular will for government intervention will irresistibly grow over time.—Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski, Resurgent: How Constitutional Conservatism Can Save America

Freedom and religion endure together or perish alone.—Mitt Romney, “Faith in America” speech, December 6, 2007

The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If “Thou shalt not covet” and “Thou shalt not steal” were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.—John Adams, “Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States,” 1787

Basing state policy on relative measures devolves into covetousness.
—Bill Flax, “Don’t Like Handouts? Neither Does the Bible,” December 12, 2011 

And as ’tis folly to suppose that princes will always be wise, just and good, when we know that few have been able alone to bear the weight of a government, or to resist the temptations to ill, that accompany an unlimited power, it would be madness to presume they will for the future be free from infirmities and vices....
If the public safety be provided, liberty and propriety secured, justice administered, virtue encouraged, vice suppressed, and the true interest of the nation advanced, the ends of government are accomplished;--Algernon Sidney, Discourses Concerning Government, pp. 319-320

Thus, the central problem of government, is a religious one, and anyone who assumes he can form his political beliefs without consulting his ethics, which have their basis in religious conviction, is deceiving himself either about the true nature of government, or his moral responsibility for its actions.—Elder H. Verlan Andersen, Many Are Called but Few Are Chosen

[i] John Adams said this, in defense of British soldiers following the Boston Massacre. However, it is also credited to Tobias George Smollett, who in turn was translating a work, Gil Blas, from French author Alain-RenĂ© Lesage. The phrase may predate all of these. 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Defining Socialism and Capitalism

Wednesday evening Glenn Beck did a special called “Capitalism: A Warning from the Dead.” I don’t know how long it will be available without a subscription, but it’s worth seeing. Plenty of history and comparisons to our day.

Glenn Beck, during "Capitalism: A Warning from the Dead"
screenshot from here

Somewhere in there he reports on a recent poll:

In 2010, 68% of 18-29-year-olds had a "favorable" view of capitalism. By 2016, that had dropped to 57%. Two years later, the exact same poll indicated that only 45% viewed capitalism as "favorable." This is a death spiral! Younger people are completely abandoning capitalism because they don't really know what it is!
At the same time—the exact same decade in question—if you ask millennials about the free market, "being your own boss," and entrepreneurship, it has a 90%+ favorability rating.
So capitalism is at 45%, but free market entrepreneurship is at 90%? This shows that no one knows what they're talking about. This proves that no one knows what socialism is, what its goals represent, where it aims to take us, and the difference between socialism and capitalism.
That’s puzzling. They disapprove of the very thing they overwhelmingly approve of.

We need to define terms and do some teaching, which will involve some questions that use the concepts without the words, to see if that will get us better clarity on what people really want. It might turn out we have more agreement when we do that.


What my old dictionary says:

1.    Any of various theories or systems of the ownership and operation of the means of production and distribution by society or the community rather than by private individuals, with all members in society or the community sharing in the work and the products.
2.    a) political movement for establishing such a system; b) the doctrines, methods, etc. of the Socialist parties.
3.       The stage of society, in Marxist doctrine, coming between the capitalist stage and the communist stage, in which private ownership of the means of production and distribution has been eliminated.
What young people think it means:

To be like Sweden or Denmark or places like that, where they get free healthcare, free schooling, guaranteed jobs, and stuff like that.
What I think it means:

A government interference with the free market. This can be a single socialist policy, or a wide array of such policies in an attempt to replace the free market with centralized economic control.

This means that I differ somewhat from many commentators who rightly point out that Sweden and other “socialist” economies are not actually socialist economies. They have certain segments of society, such as healthcare, that the government has taken over—and for which they charge very high taxes. But, beyond these specific segments, they still respect private property ownership. And they tend to move away from government control, toward free market, when the capital they were using for their projects becomes depleted. Some of these countries rate equally on the Heritage Foundation Freedom Index as the United States.

Just to be clear, socialism doesn’t have anything to do with being sociable. It claims to be “fair,” but it ignores individual input, such as work, preparation, cleverness, risk of personal assets, and instead looks mainly at equal outcomes regardless of inputs. Most people wouldn’t find that fair.

It comes from Marxist ideology. As I’ve said before, is an attempt to replace capitalism, along with the governmental systems that support capitalism. Instead of individuals making individual market choices, central planners—elite power wielders—make decisions, such as the price of goods, the choices of jobs, the products produced.

And I’ll add that the Marxist experiment always ends badly. If a country doesn’t do an about face and stop heading in the direction of more government control, and instead returns control to the people, the result is mass poverty, loss of freedom, and death. Take a look at the news from Venezuela this week.


What the dictionary says:

1.    The economic system in which all or most of the means of production and distribution, as land, factories, railroad, etc. are privately owned and operated for profit, originally under fully competitive conditions: It has been generally characterized by a tendency toward concentration of wealth, and, in its later phase, by the growth of great corporations, increased governmental control, etc.
2.    The principles, methods, interests, power, influence, etc. of capitalists, especially of those with large holdings.
Let’s add how the dictionary defines capitalist:

1.    A person who has capital; owner of wealth used in business.
2.    An upholder of capitalism.
3.       Loosely, a wealthy person.
What young people think it means:

Greedy corporations, in bed with corrupt politicians, taking advantage of the working class. So, it’s evil.
What I think it means:

Capital is the accumulation of work above and beyond what is essential, followed by careful use of it toward a good idea intended to result in even more surplus. Capitalism is a system for using capital (accumulated surplus wealth) to invest it in more wealth creation.
Capital comes from surplus work. So, capital is a representation of surplus work that is invested to find ways to produce more wealth. And wealth is defined simply as the accumulated results of labor.

Capitalism, in this sense, is never evil. It is, simply, the free market allowed to work its miracles at lifting people out of poverty.

However, what young people think it is, really is what we could call “crony capitalism,” or more accurately just cronyism. And that is a bad thing.

Cronyism has been around a long time—long enough to show up as a definition for capitalism in my 1980 dictionary. Long enough to be represented by the character Mouch in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged

Back in 1980 economist Milton Friedman spoke at a graduation ceremony at Brigham Young University (not mine, but I was there). He talked about the dangerous influence of big businessmen. “They aren’t promoting free enterprise when they ask for handouts and regulations and controls to avoid competition,” he said. And he added,

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.
So, the millennials and I, we agree that cronyism is not a good thing. The problem is, referring to this bad sort of business/government collusion as capitalism leads people to believe actual capitalism—a synonym for free market economy—is bad. Still, that doesn’t exactly explain why those who misunderstand these words would then think a great solution is a whole lot more interference by government.

Moving forward, maybe we can just use more accurate words, like free-market and entrepreneurship. Or avoid the words they don’t understand and just get on with the concepts using concrete examples.

With that in mind, let’s try these questions:

·         When you earn money at work, who should decide how you spend it? You, or a distant central controller?
·         Who should decide how much you earn? You along with your employer, or a distant central controller?
·         Who should decide how you pay for your healthcare—whether out-of-pocket, with a health savings account, or with help of insurance that you’ve chosen for your needs—or a distant central controller?
·         Who should decide whether you want to try a particular medical method or therapy? You, or a distant central controller?
·         Who should decide what kind of car is best for you and your family? You, or a distant central controller?
·         Who should decide whether you can use your skills and efforts to start a business? You, or a distant central controller?
And then, let’s add these additional questions:

·         Who should pay for your housing? You, or your heavily taxed neighbor, who is coerced by government to pay it?
·         Who should pay for your healthcare? You, or your heavily taxed neighbor, who is coerced by government to pay it?
·         Who should pay for your childcare? You, possibly along with voluntary help from an employer, or your heavily taxed neighbor, who is coerced by government to pay it?
·         Who should pay for your advanced education? You, or your heavily taxed neighbor, who is coerced by government to pay it?
·         Who should pay charitable donations to those unable to sustain themselves? You, along with your church or other organizations in touch with those in need, or your heavily taxed neighbor, who is coerced by government to pay it?

We could go on, but you get the idea. Socialism means decisions normally made by free people are instead made by some distant controller. And whenever you get something “free” or “low cost” because of socialism, that means government is heavily taxing your neighbors—not just the rich—to make those payments.

Government doesn’t “give” you “free” anything. Government produces no wealth from which to draw those funds. Government is simply power. And any government powerful enough to coerce you to pay for your neighbor’s wants is powerful enough to take away your choices about what you produce, what you earn from work, and how you spend those earnings.

And if they’re powerful enough to control your life, maybe they’re powerful enough to take your life. At least that’s how it has turned out every time it’s been tried.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Real Caring Requires Thinking More than Feeling

Caring looks different sometimes from what we immediately think it should look like. That will be true when we look at many issues, for example:

·         Economic inequity
·         Borders
·         Gender dysphoria
·         Healthcare
·         Affirmative action
There’s a way of looking at these and other issues that is the quick gut version of caring. And then there’s a way of looking at the same things, with a little further thinking, to see whether the quick gut version will really help. Because, if it doesn’t, then real caring requires something else.

This concept came up in a couple of things I was listening to this weekend—Jordan Peterson debates, again. In a debate with Slavoj Zizek, titled “Happiness: Capitalism vs. Communism," Jordan Peterson (on the side of capitalism) says this:
Jordan Peterson in "Happiness" debate
screenshot from here

If you’re actually concerned that the poorest people in the world rise above their starvation levels, then all the evidence suggests that the best way to do that is to implement something approximating the free market economy.
In other words, all that stuff about fairness, or getting rid of inequality, because you care about the poor—that doesn’t work. He provides data:

The one thing you can say about capitalism is that, although it produces inequality, which it absolutely does, it also produces wealth—and all the other systems don’t. They just produce inequality.
So, here’s a few free market stats: From 1800 to 2017 income growth, adjusted for inflation, grew by 40 times for production workers and 16 times for unskilled labor, while GDP rose by a factor of about .5 from 1 AD to 1800. So, from 1 AD to 1800 AD it was like nothing. Flat. And then, all of a sudden, in the last 217 years there’s been this unbelievably upward movement of wealth.
And it doesn’t only characterize the tiny percentage of people at the top, who, admittedly, do have most of the wealth…. [The absolutely poor at the bottom are] getting richer faster now than they ever have in the history of the world.
And we’re eradicating poverty in countries that have adopted moderate free market policies at a rate that’s unparalleled. So, here’s an example. One of the UN millennial goals was to reduce the absolute rate of poverty in the world by 50% between 2000 and 2015. And they defined that as $1.90 a day. Pretty low, you know. But you have to start somewhere. We hit that at 2012, three years ahead of schedule.
And you might be cynical about that and say, well, it’s kind of an arbitrary number. But the curves are exactly the same at $3.80 cents a day and $7.60 a day. Not as many people have hit that, but the rate of increase towards that is the same. The bloody UN thinks that we’ll be out of poverty, defined by $1.90 a day, by the year 2030. It’s unparalleled.
Do you really care about getting the poor out of poverty? Because we know how to do that: free markets.

In a different debate—this one was a Jordan Peterson/Sam Harris debate in Dublin, moderated by Douglas Murray, which I reviewed via a response by commentator Chris Kohls on his Mr. Reagan podcast. The debate was on the efficacy (or harm) of religion, but Harris failed to engage on that. So there was a diversion to other themes, which includes our main theme for today:

There’s just as much error on the side of empathy as there is on the side of too little empathy. And that’s a hard thing for everyone to learn, because empathy feels so good. Like, if you feel mercy towards a suffering child, that is kind of an indication that you’re an ethical person. But that’s not the basis for complex and sophisticated foreign policy.
from left, Jordan Peterson, Douglas Murray, Sam Harris
in the Dublin debate, as reviewed by Mr. Reagan podcast
screenshot from here

Jordan Peterson was talking about borders, which I’ve heard him talk about elsewhere. But this is an excellent way of thinking about them, so I’ll share this version:

Borders exclude and privilege those within the borders. Yes. OK, now let’s take that seriously. Now, part of the seriousness is, poor innocent children are hurt at borders. That happens all the time. OK, the question is, are you willing to give up the borders?
Now let’s think about what borders are. Your skin is a border. And you’re prejudiced in protection of your skin. For example, you won’t just sleep with anyone; you reserve the right to keep that border intact. Right? And to be choosy about the manner in which it’s broached. You likely have a bedroom; it probably has walls. You have clothing. You have a house. You have a town. You have a state. You have a country. And those are all borders. It’s borders within borders within borders within borders. And you need those borders, because otherwise you will die. So we could not be too hypocritical about the damn borders. We don’t know how to organize fragile things without putting boundaries around them.
You see that in Genesis, right? As soon as people realize that—I’m sneaking in a little religion here, in case you didn’t notice—as soon as people realize, they become self-conscious. They wake up and realize their vulnerability. The first thing they do is manufacture a border between them and the world. And we need borders between us and the world.
 And we pay a bloody price for borders. And I say those words very carefully. We pay a bloody price for borders, and it’s often in the price of other people’s blood.
And so, then, the question might be, well, how should you conduct yourself ethically in a world where other people are paying in blood for your borders? And the answer that I’ve been trying to communicate to people is, get your damn house in order. Bear as much responsibility as you can. Act as effectively as you can as an individual in the world. Because then you can justify your privilege. You can justify your luck and your good fortune. And maybe, within the confines of your border, you can be more productive and useful than you would be in the absence of borders altogether.
You do what you can where you can. You don’t say, “I want to feel good about that poor suffering child at the border, so I’m going to insist that the whole country gives up that border.” Meanwhile, who cares what happens to the property owner right there at the border, or anyone else who is harmed by the lack of a border? And, for that matter, what does getting rid of the border do to help the poor suffering child there? It’s not a certainty that getting rid of the border would even help her.

We don’t really have room today to cover all the other issues on that list. But we can briefly cover a couple of them.

Gender Dysphoria

It might make you feel good to say, “I care about that poor person who was born a male but thinks he/she is a female.” OK, but it isn’t self-evident that the best treatment is to get the whole world to support that person in their self-deception. No matter how elaborate the costume—which could include hormones and surgery—the body will still be a male body, with male DNA in every cell. What could have been a reproductively fertile body could be rendered permanently infertile. Isn’t it worth considering whether there is another, maybe better, solution? Especially since outcomes for those who have transitioned are not very positive (suicide as high or higher, body dysphoria continues), and since many have overcome the dysphoria without transitioning, and many who have transitioned have regretted taking that drastic step.

It may be that the best way to care for that individual is to actually care for them individually, and get them the support and treatment that will do them the most good. That very well might include mental health therapy to deal with the gender dysphoria or confusion first. Certainly waiting would be a better way to deal with children—the majority of whom are likely to outgrow the problem by adulthood.

Affirmative Action

It might make you feel good to care about a student from a minority group that suffered discrimination in the past. But it isn’t self-evident that the best solution is to give that student special treatment, in college admissions, for example.

It might be that a black student scores relatively well on exams, showing he would do well in just about any state school, but would be well below the mainstream or even the bottom of students at an Ivy League school. Do you help that student by putting him in an environment where he’s not likely to thrive? High dropout rates among blacks given affirmative action shows it’s not a kindness. They’re also like to choose an easier major, avoiding STEM fields, where they would have done well enough to follow a good career path, if they’d gone to a good-enough college instead.

Malcolm Gladwell tells a story in David and Goliath, that illustrates this. A young woman black woman excelled in science and math in high school. She chose to attend Ivy League Brown, instead of University of Maryland. But it turned out to be overly competitive, and she struggled, coming to believe she was stupid and incapable, because she was comparing herself to even smarter students, and ended up giving up her lifelong science dream for an easier field.

Gladwell then says this about affirmative action:

Affirmative action is practiced most aggressively in law schools, where black students are routinely offered positions in schools one tier higher than they would otherwise be able to attend. The result? According to the law professor Richard Sander, more than half of all African-American law students in the United States—51.6 percent—are in the bottom 10 percent of their law school class and almost three-quarters fall in the bottom 20 percent. After reading about how hard it is to get a science degree if you’re at the bottom of your class, you’ll probably agree that those statistics are terrifying.[i]
Derryck Green, of Project 21, talks about the results of affirmative action in a recent PragerU video; the segment is from about 1:40 to 3:50, but you can watch the whole five-minute video below.

To summarize, we all need to take a clearer look at caring. Stop killing with kindness. Doing something  that looks like caring in order to make yourself feel good about how virtuous you are is called virtue signaling. Instead, try stepping back from the immediate emotion, and thinking through the specific case, or the full range of possible consequences. And then do a rationally kind act. And do that act yourself—instead of pushing, or even requiring, others to do it.

[i] Gladwell, Malcolm, David and Goliath, p. 91. The statistics he references are from Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It.