Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bernie Sanders and the Socialist Unicorn

We've been through this before. What began as the Inevitable March to the Coronation of Queen Hillary is turning into Hillary's Worst Nightmare: an attractive candidate, Bernie Sanders, is running in the Democratic primaries that is campaigning to Clinton's left and cutting into her popularity. In 2008, it was Barack Obama, the candidate who convinced Americans that through simple but forceful political will, he would rescue the American economy from recession and transform this country into an oasis of economic "fairness."

While Obama pretty much has governed as he promised, the economy languishes, a tiny fragment is able to snag whatever real gains the anemic economy is producing, and it is abundantly clear that a stagnant economy for most people is in the foreseeable future. That Obama has been able to convince the majority of Americans (with lots of help from his sycophantic media) that the entire bout of economic stagnation is wholly the fault of George W. Bush is nothing short of amazing, but there it is. In fact, he claims that the only reason the economy is not booming is because the Republicans (who get to take on the role of Emmanuel Goldstein) are blocking prosperity, not that Republicans are exactly the soul of responsible governance.

Now, there is nothing good I have to say regarding the Republicans and the economy. The Bush administration really did manage to move the economy from the collapse of the tech bubble (which fell apart in late 2000) almost seamlessly into the housing bubble, all with a bit of help from Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve System, who not only provided the low interest rates, but also promised "liquidity" to those financial entities that might run aground pursuing the near-worthless "investments" of "mortgage securities" and their companion "sub-prime" paper.

If President Obama, Clinton, Sanders, and the obscure contender, Gov. Martin O'Malley, were denouncing the triggering of a financial bubble as a cover for a weak economic policy during the Bush years, that would be one thing. Instead, they denounce what they believe to be a mystical characteristic of capitalism in which wealth always accumulates to a tiny group of people (at the expense of the general public), and then call for more of the same policies that are driving the U.S. economy to ruin and creating the very results they claim to condemn.

The modern American character seems to demand more of whatever is currently damaging the economy. For example, since Obama took office in 2009, the Federal Reserve System has pushed down interest rates to near zero, taxes have risen sharply, government spending has exploded, the regulatory state has advanced as though it were on steroids, and the president has escalated attack rhetoric against American business in general and entrepreneurs in particular. Not surprisingly, the economy has not recovered well from the 2008 crisis. And, not surprisingly, the president's attacks on private enterprise are immensely popular.

No candidate does a better job of simultaneously promising to wreck private enterprise and promising to increase our economic standard of living than Bernie Sanders. While Obama and Clinton have given lip service to capitalism, Sanders wants no part of it. Instead, the once-Trotskyite True Believer actually believes that we can have both complete state control over the economy and a more robust economy than what currently exists, with the "re-creation" of the American middle class.

How does Sanders propose to carry out this plan to create the socialist paradise that none of his ideological predecessors could construct? His campaign has created an 11-step "plan" that has been put into a simple meme, courtesy of the hard-left Occupy Democrats:

This is the sort of things that would make modern Americans excited, as it creates a number of promised "benefits" in which others will be sent the bill, most notably the so-called One Percent. (Sanders already has endorsed the 90 percent marginal tax rates of the 1950s as an ideal place to start over with tax policies.) Furthermore, even though Americans lead the world in per-pupil spending in government school systems, the only "acceptable" plan to a socialist like Sanders is to spend even more, and if that does not work, spend more.

As one looks through the list, a few things seem to stand out. First, and most important, the Sanders "plan" depends heavily upon the government forcing up real production costs for businesses. To put it another way, Sanders seems to believe that if government makes the creation of goods to be more expensive, that will raise real standards of living for people who already are not wealthy. He hardly is alone here; the U.S. Government has been doing everything possible to force up real business costs in the name of "increasing incomes" for owners of factors of production.

Second, Sanders advocates the expansion of services that would be "free" to Americans with, of course, the "One Percent" paying for everything. No doubt, he would claim (and he has the company of Paul Krugman here) that all of these new expenses would "stimulate" the American economy because, after all, someone will be forced to "spend money."

The idea seems so simple and so straightforward that even opponents like me can understand the logic behind it. Socialists believe that owners of capital (see Thomas Piketty and others) over time receive increasing returns to capital while individual laborers, over that same period of time, receive diminishing returns to their labor. In the vernacular, private ownership of capital and means of production in general create a situation in which, scientifically speaking, the "rich get richer, and the poor become poorer."

This was the idea behind Marx's views on capital, and modern generations of economists and politicians have taken it to new levels. Because of this unequal situation, over time capitalists gain larger and larger shares of income while workers become impoverished. Capitalists, however, are not able to spend enough money to keep the economy afloat and workers are too poor to spend much, so over time the economy falls into the doldrums, which is where things stand today.

Whether one is examining this situation through the eyes of a Marxist or through a Keynesian (and Keynesians pretty much believe that when an economy is in the infamous "liquidity trap," it will implode in the same manner socialists believe will occur unless government intervenes through more spending), we see pretty much the same recommendation: redistribute income and spend, spend, spend. This "doctrine" is self-evident in the eyes of the Left, and the leftist lack of understanding of capital is so complete that it almost is impossible for people who believe these things even to acknowledge that there could be an alternative explanation for the boom-and-bust cycles, and for this economy's pathetic performance the past seven years.

This is Bernie Sanders' world, too. In Sandersland, capital is useful only in the spending that occurs in building and maintaining it, and the interests in capital are contrary to the interests of labor. As for the production of goods themselves, in Sanders' socialist world, goods automatically appear on the assembly lines and in even greater abundance if those assembly lines either are owned or at least heavily regulated by government. Furthermore, the quality of those goods is identical to anything produced by private enterprise.

There are lots of reasons as to why this is not true -- certainly Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek showed why during the so-called Economic Calculation Debate -- and none to "prove" they are true, but Sanders has chosen to be a True Believer, anyway, so any economic plan a Sanders administration would hatch would be pointed toward governmental activities aimed at measures whose implementation would result in shrinking the U.S. economy. No doubt, Sanders would claim his vision is "expansionary," but no economy can expand by having government force up real costs of factors of production.

So, why the appeal? One explanation has been that Sanders is the "Ron Paul of the Left." At one level, I can understand why people might be attracted to his candidacy. Like Ron Paul, Sanders has not used his office to seek personal financial gain. When he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Sanders sometimes slept in his office and was famous for working hard and being available to his constituents.

However, Sanders' so-called honesty does not render him an economic expert, and it is clear to anyone with a whit of understanding of economics that Sanders has no idea how wealth is created, or why creation of wealth is an important thing. Instead, he seems to believe that if government forces up the cost of producing goods (and especially if government forces up labor costs), then society is better off because factors are receiving higher incomes.

(Likewise, Hillary Clinton also is running on a platform of "cracking down" on the "sharing economy," which is a nice way of saying her goal is to force up real labor costs. Thus, she joins Sanders in believing that government "creates" the middle class through transfer payments and by forcing up real costs of production.)

There is no other way to say this: Sanders, and, by association, Hillary Clinton, are under the delusion that the economy improves when the State engages in practices that slow economic growth. When the State interferes with the ability of entrepreneurs to move resources from lower-valued uses to higher-valued uses, as ultimately determined by consumer choice, then the government by definition is impeding the economy and preventing the economy from growing.

Yes, transfer payments will make a relatively few politically-connected people better off, but ONLY at the expense of the greater population. Look at Sanders' list; there is not one item that will result in the economy being able to produce more than it is producing now. Not one.

Unfortunately, most Americans and, I suspect, most American voters, do not see things this way. They apparently believe that government on one hand can impede economic growth through taxation, regulation, and outright intimidation of business owners, and then, on the other hand, increase growth via an "easy money" economic policy.

This cannot work. If either Sanders or Clinton is elected and is able to carry out the policies that define their campaigns, then the U.S. economy will sink further down. There is no other possibility. None.

Most people know the unicorn to be a mythical beast, an animal that looks like a horse, but has a single horn growing out of its head. No one has seen a unicorn, but most likely if someone were to come upon one, that person would recognize the beast immediately.

Likewise, the economy being promoted by Bernie Sanders is a unicorn. No one has seen it or experienced an economy that grows rapidly and creates higher standards of living across-the-board, yet has the government simultaneously suppressing production of wealth. Such an economy is a mythical entity. However, the difference between sighting a unicorn and a growing and healthy economy run by the likes of Sanders is that failure to find the former hurts no one, but a sluggish and backward-sliding economy places the lives of many in peril.

Of course, when the economy does engage in its inevitable slide, Sanders (or Clinton) will blame capitalism and claim that the way to prosperity is through even more state control. And, most likely, the American voters will go along with the scam.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Evangelical Christianity and Its American Future: Churches and Christian Organizations Will Have Government Scrutinize Their Doctrines

In my previous post on the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's gay marriage decision, I noted that U.S. Progressives are taking their victory laps, and I suspect that before they are done, those laps are going to morph into a marathon. By a 5-4 vote, SCOTUS forever changed the political and religious landscape in a way that ironically breaks down the wall of separation between church and state.

That's right. For all of their endorsement of the principle that church and state must be separate, American Progressives have made the state the final arbiter of the purity of Christian doctrine, and whether or not the state is willing to permit such doctrines to remain legal. This is a line of action that follows a larger pattern of how Progressives use the power of the state and the implication of state-sponsored violence in order by directing the private and corporate lives of individuals.

For example, Progressives have told us for four decades that any opposition to abortion on demand is rooted in the desire of abortion opponents to "have government in the bedroom" of others, and that pro-lifers want government to interfere in the relationship between "a woman and her doctor." At the same time, those same Progressives have pushed through "informed consent" laws that place government agents in the bedroom in order to evaluate sexual contact between individuals to determine whether or not official consent existed at all times.

Furthermore, Progressives want to expand the law on sexual assault to include a stray phrase or instances of hand-holding between couples that one of the persons years later decides to interpret as "unwanted." The American Law Institute is recommending a vast expansion of criminal statutes covering sexual assault including the following scenario as outlined by Judith Shulevitz in the New York Times:
In [the memo], readers have been asked to consider the following scenario: "Person A and Person B are on a date and walking down the street. Person A, feeling romantically and sexually attracted, timidly reaches out to hold B’s hand and feels a thrill as their hands touch. Person B does nothing, but six months later files a criminal complaint. Person A is guilty of Criminal Sexual Contact' under proposed Section 213.6(3)(a)."
Far-fetched? Not as the draft is written. The hypothetical crime cobbles together two of the draft’s key concepts. The first is affirmative consent. The second is an enlarged definition of criminal sexual contact that would include the touching of any body part, clothed or unclothed, with sexual gratification in mind. As the authors of the model law explain: "Any kind of contact may qualify. There are no limits on either the body part touched or the manner in which it is touched." So if Person B neither invites nor rebukes a sexual advance, then anything that happens afterward is illegal. "With passivity expressly disallowed as consent," the memo says, "the initiator quickly runs up a string of offenses with increasingly more severe penalties to be listed touch by touch and kiss by kiss in the criminal complaint."
The obvious comeback to this is that no prosecutor would waste her time on such a frivolous case. But that doesn’t comfort signatories of the memo, several of whom have pointed out to me that once a law is passed, you can’t control how it will be used. For instance, prosecutors often add minor charges to major ones (such as, say, forcible rape) when there isn’t enough evidence to convict on the more serious charge. They then put pressure on the accused to plead guilty to the less egregious crime.
Understand that Shulevitz has outlined a scenario in which someone most likely is going to prison. The ALI has recommended that the new "sex crime" laws be written in a way that require prosecutors to assume sexual assault already has occurred, and it is up to the defendant to "prove" that he (or she, in a few instances) did not commit a crime. In other words, the statutes will overturn the long-held American legal principle of "innocent until proven guilty" and replace it it "guilty until proven innocent," which essentially means that an accusation alone "proves" guilt unequivocally. This is something out of the old codes of the former U.S.S.R. in which legal absurdities were the order of the day.

My larger point is that this movement is driven by Progressives who want to claim they don't want "government in the bedroom," and then place virtual government the bedroom. Likewise, the doctrine of Separation of Church and State that Progressives claim to support is being replaced by a legal doctrine in which the Obama administration, along with state governments, will scrutinize Christian doctrines to see if they are "homophobic," and if they so judge in the affirmative, will be able to levy brutal sanctions on those organizations holding to such doctrines.

This hardly is paranoia. In the aftermath of Obergefell, President Obama himself has called for Christian churches and organizations to change their doctrines regarding homosexuality as Hillary Clinton has demanded that adherents to religions that don't support abortion on demand change their "long-held beliefs." Commentators in Time and other publications have demanded that churches and religious organizations that don't support homosexual marriage be stripped of their tax-exempt status, and Obama's solicitor general in the Supreme Court hearing this year admitted that the government, should the court rule in favor of gay marriage, will most likely move against Christian organizations.

What does that mean? It means that the U.S. and various state and local governments will determine which Christian doctrines are de facto legal and which will be deemed illegal, and any individuals and organizations practicing those doctrines that are unapproved will find themselves facing harassment. I hesitate to use the word "persecution" because much of the harassment will be mild compared to what Christians in other countries (especially in places like Saudi Arabia and North Korea and Iran) are facing. So far, the U.S. Government does not seem hellbent on throwing Christians into prison or executing them, although I am sure there are plenty of factions on the Left that would champion such extreme measures.

What does this mean for conservative evangelicals?

The late Francis Schaeffer (who was a family friend and, in my view, a true modern prophet) essentially predicted what we see happening how. In October 1969 I attended a number of his lectures given at Covenant College and at that time, he was calling the present age a "Post-Christian Era," a term that definitely fits the current zeitgeist.

Schaeffer understood that Christians would lose many of their legal and constitutional protections as the American culture slowly but surely turned against Christianity and its worldviews. For example, in 1955 the New York Times gave a very favorable review of the movie, "A Man Called Peter," something that today would not even be in the realm of the possible. At least Christianity (and not just the "liberal" version of the mainstream churches) was "respectable" in that day, and one cannot imagine the NYT, Time, or any other news or cultural publication calling for governments to scrutinize and approve Christian doctrines, as they now are doing today.

Cultural Christianity was the order of the day 60 years ago, but that era is long passed, as Progressives have moved to a new faith: Non-discrimination. According to the governmental masters of life and culture, Christians no longer are permitted to make choices based upon their faith, especially if those choices have the effect of excluding someone whose actions or lifestyles fall outside of the bounds of what the Christian faith permits in areas of sexuality.

Ours is an age obsessed by sex and superficial beauty (read that, Kim Kardashian), and Judeo/Christian prohibitions on gay sex have been around ever since Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. Until recently, Progressives and Progressive politicians did not consider such beliefs on sexuality to be a Threat to the Republic, but no more. In the eyes of modern Progressives, and especially the members of the Democratic Party and its satellite organizations, conservative Christian sexual beliefs are motivated by hatred and bigotry, and are tantamount to the practice of Jim Crow laws (which, ironically, were the product of Progressivism a century ago) or the Nazi slaughter of the Jews during World War II.

In the eyes of Progressives, there are no constitutional protections for hatred and bigotry, and it does not matter if Christians are nice people, they help the poor, provide medical care in the worst conditions abroad for the poorest of humanity, and perform other good deeds. Christians are evil bigots that are motivated by pure hatred and nothing else. There is no place in modern society for such wicked people no matter how nice they might seem to be on the surface.

Tish Harrison Warren, an Anglican priest who was a leader in InterVarsity Fellowship at Vanderbilt University, has experienced this reality firsthand, and for her it was shocking. In a Christianity Today piece, "The Wrong Kind of Christian," Warren writes about how her IVF chapter, as well as a number of other Christian organizations, were kicked off Vanderbilt's campus because they violated the university's "non-discrimination" rules, or should I say a new set of rules based upon the secular "faith" of "non-discrimination."

Warren writes:
At first I thought this was all a misunderstanding that could be sorted out between reasonable parties. If I could explain to the administration that doctrinal statements are an important part of religious expression—an ancient, enduring practice that would be a given for respected thinkers like Thomas Aquinas—then surely they'd see that creedal communities are intellectually valid and permissible. If we could show that we weren't homophobic culture warriors but friendly, thoughtful evangelicals committed to a diverse, flourishing campus, then the administration and religious groups could find common ground.
She first met with some administrators, when first informed that her IVF chapter would have to change its by-laws, and the meeting seemed positive. As the meetings progressed, however, she came to find out that even though much of her political and social thought was in line with the Progressives that run the campus, that was not enough:
But as I met with other administrators, the tone began to change. The word discrimination began to be used—a lot—specifically in regard to creedal requirements. It was lobbed like a grenade to end all argument. Administrators compared Christian students to 1960s segregationists. I once mustered courage to ask them if they truly thought it was fair to equate racial prejudice with asking Bible study leaders to affirm the Resurrection. The vice chancellor replied, "Creedal discrimination is still discrimination."

Feeling battered, I talked with my InterVarsity supervisor. He responded with a wry smile, "But we're moderates!" We thought we were nuanced and reasonable. The university seemed to think of us as a threat.
Understand that InterVarsity long ago embraced much of the arguments of economic and cultural Progressivism long ago. The publishing arm of IVF 40 years ago gave the world Ronald Sider's Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, which blamed capitalism for world hunger and called for massive wealth transfers and world governmental authority that would make Bernie Sanders seem almost like Ron Paul, economically speaking.

The organization has embraced radical environmentalism and other political positions of the Left and is much closer to the positions of Sojourners than anything from Liberty University, but it has stuck to the central orthodoxies of the Christian faith (unlike Sojourners, which rejects many of the basic and ancient Christian doctrines, including the doctrine of the Atonement). That alone has made IVF suspect in the eyes of the Progressives at Vanderbilt:
The line between good and evil was drawn by two issues: creedal belief and sexual expression. If religious groups required set truths or limited sexual autonomy, they were bad—not just wrong but evil, narrow-minded, and too dangerous to be tolerated on campus.

It didn't matter to them if we were politically or racially diverse, if we cared about the environment or built Habitat homes. It didn't matter if our students were top in their fields and some of the kindest, most thoughtful, most compassionate leaders on campus. There was a line in the sand, and we fell on the wrong side of it.
 As I see it, Vanderbilt is a microcosm of what is to come in our society at large. Since the SCOTUS Obergfell decision, a number of Christians have called for a return to the emphasis on good works and doing things that earn favor with unbelieving neighbors, a return to the Christianity of the First Century. Unfortunately, I doubt that will make a difference, anymore.

Writing in Time immediately after SCOTUS released its decision, Mark Oppenheimer calls for ending tax exemptions for religious organizations because, after all, anyone can engage in "good works":
Defenders of tax exemptions and deductions argue that if we got rid of them charitable giving would drop. It surely would, although how much, we can’t say. But of course government revenue would go up, and that money could be used to, say, house the homeless and feed the hungry. We’d have fewer church soup kitchens — but countries that truly care about poverty don’t rely on churches to run soup kitchens.
Although Anthony Kennedy gave passing remarks regarding protection for religious organizations whose doctrines do not embrace the "standards" of the Sexual Revolution, his words are legally meaningless. Christian prohibitions on gay sex are seen not in the light of sincerely-held ancient beliefs, but rather in the modern glare of Jim Crow and Hitler's Holocaust. Christian doctrines are equated with racism and antisemitism and have no place on Vanderbilt's campus or larger American society.

Furthermore, the modern political winds no longer hold any respect for religious belief. If Christians do not wish to "get with the program," then let them be anathema and suffer the consequences. For now, it means their churches and organizations may lose tax-exempt status or be treated as hate groups. 

As Tish Warren found out the hard way, Progressives do not differentiate between Christian organizations which may hold social and political viewpoints compatible with modern Progressive thought and the Ku Klux Klan. I'm serious. When the U.S. Army was teaching classes a few years ago that claimed the Christian-based American Family Association was a "hate group" (the classes were halted after an outcry, but they certain portend an ominous future). 

So, asked Francis Schaeffer four decades ago, "How shall we then live?" That is not an easy question to answer. Whatever "Christian" consensus existed in this country is long dead, but the more important development has been the elevation of "non-discrimination" to a Holy Doctrine and, more important, the expansion of the meaning of non-discrimination.

In the past, Christians like Warren and Ronald Sider could be respected for being against homophobia, be known for treating gays with love and fairness, yet also holding to Scriptural prohibitions of homosexual behavior. That no longer is the case. Sider, who as much as any Christian alive has helped steer much of evangelicalism to the political Left, is denounced as "homophobic," and faces pickets when he speaks somewhere. Warren left Vanderbilt as an outcast.

I believe that things only will accelerate from here. These are the good days, when there is some latent goodwill left over from the good interactions that many Christians have had with secular society. However, the time is coming soon when good works, love, and charity no longer will be seen as having any value as long as Christians refuse to embrace all of the Holy Doctrines of the Sexual Revolution.

That is going to mean massive discrimination, and I believe that the day is coming when it will be as difficult for a confessing Christian to find descent employment in the USA as it was for a Christian to find acceptable work in the old U.S.S.R. Because Progressives also are busily expanding criminal law (and especially the already-malleable federal criminal statutes) into areas where only a generation ago no one even could imagine it being in existence, I look for Progressives to find ways to criminalize thought and religious doctrines that not long ago were acceptable to the majority of Americans.

Yes, I am sure that many readers will believe I am over-the-top in my assessments and especially in my predictions. I would love to be wrong. Really.While I don't believe that these dire predictions will be fulfilled overnight, nonetheless I believe we are on that path.

Look at my point another way. Did any reader believe a decade or two ago that the U.S. Solicitor General would tell a U.S. Supreme Court judge that "it will be an issue" regarding how the U.S. Government and its taxation arm will respond to Christian organizations that do not accept gay marriage? Yet, that is exactly what has happened.

How do Christians respond to the coming onslaught? It is clear we are not going to be able to stem the tide through political action. In fact, as I wrote earlier this year, conservative evangelicals have enjoyed more political power in the past three decades than they have had at any other time in U.S. History, yet the Sexual Revolution has rolled through our body politic unimpeded and today, more Americans embrace that revolution than they embrace anything from Christianity.

At the same time, however, by concentrating so many resources in the political area, which essentially is defined as the "systematic organization of hatreds," Christians have made enemies where they should not have been made. Christians have endorsed the unwarranted U.S. military invasions of Iraq and other Middle Eastern nations, creating death, destruction, massive refugee crises, and earning even more hatred from those directly affected by these military predations. 

As I see it, we are going to have to learn to love once again, but understand that at the same time, that love will not "buy" protection. Tish Warren found out that the people at Vanderbilt think of her as they think of people who wear white sheets, and if someone like Warren, who is known by her good works and her compassion, is seen by highly-educated people as a murderous bigot, then I doubt that the rest of "official" America will see the rest of us any differently.

We have to be prepared to lose our jobs, our homes, our children, our identity as Americans. In other words, we have to be prepared to be like our savior, Jesus Christ. If we have not learned yet how to be like him, I believe those lessons are soon in coming, and I only hope that I can embrace those lessons in the way that I once embraced the privileges of being an American.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Week that Changed this Country -- And Our Lives -- Forever

It really was The Week That Was. Where do I begin? The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down all prohibition of gay marriage in the manner that it struck down state laws forbidding abortion in 1973, and the ramifications for that will be around for the rest of our lives.

In response to the murders of the nine black Christians in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, the Confederate battle flag and, indeed, pretty much anything that has to do with the old Confederacy, from flags to statues of Confederate Civil War generals, to monuments to names on schools and public buildings, are being banned or are likely to be removed. Activists are demanding that the Jefferson Memorial in Washington be torn down because Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. This one seems like a prairie fire that won't be going out for a while.

Then there was the Supreme Court's decision that pretty much ended all formal legal opposition to ObamaCare, save what would be an unsuccessful attempt at repeal, and that would have to be done legislatively, not through the courts. One can say that this was a very successful week, politically speaking, for President Barack Obama and the political Left.

Not surprisingly, the Left has launched an immediate victory lap. E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post  wrote that he "cheered the results" and called it an "acceleration of history." What he really meant was an acceleration of state power, and as a good Progressive, Dionne cannot enjoy enough statism.

However, while in today's society we tend to measure the success of things via political standards, that does not mean that the Law of Unintended Consequences is eliminated or that these events should be viewed in entirely negative or positive ways. The kind of political victories won by the Left means that there is going to be hell to pay for the losers, and I doubt the Left will waste any time. In today's post, I deal with the gay marriage decision.

Gay Marriage and its Aftermath

At one level, I believe that SCOTUS made the obvious decision regarding gay marriage and it is this: if people want for the State to define marriage, then we should not be surprised when political forces within the State decide to change its long-held meaning. After all, the State is justified by...the State.

What do I mean? Marriage is an ancient institution, and it has been practiced since humanity has appeared on the earth. Whether one holds to the Bible or to some other ancient text, we see that marriage has been a part of human society. To put it another way, marriage existed long before even the ancient state was in place, and certainly long before the modern state came into being. 

Thus, for the modern State to "redefine" marriage is a bit of an absurdity, should one hold to the belief that human institutions have been around pre-state. Likewise, when conservatives pushed through various marriage amendments and the Defense of Marriage Act in the 1990s, they were doing, at least in principle, what gay marriage proponents have done through the legislatures and through the courts: using the state to define marriage.

I don't think I am making an absurd argument, and I certainly am not claiming that SCOTUS has done anything that is particularly revolutionary. After all, the State has always tried to reframe reality even if it was obvious that the real world was behaving differently than what state agents have been trying claim. Remember all of those non-existent harvests during Mao's Great Leap Forward, when millions of Chinese were starving to death despite Mao's claims otherwise?

Likewise, when conservatives tried to use to law to define marriage, they essentially were deferring to the government to declare the bounds and meaning of matrimony. While they might claim that they only were having the state affirm what already was in existence and understood to be true, once they permitted the state to write a definition, then it de facto was opening up things to where the state could change its definition. Which it did.

And don't think that the Left does not believe that the State is the true arbiter of marriage. The hardcore Leftist feminist Amanda Marcotte claims that any attempt to get the State out of marriage is an attempt to get rid of marriage altogether.

Unfortunately, we are not dealing in simple intellectual to-and-fro. The SCOTUS decision is going to have severe consequences for people who do not believe that marriage is whatever the legislature claims it is, and especially for people who define marriage through the Bible. Christians who do not believe that same-sex marriage is in accordance with the Scriptures will not face attacks solely from the non-believers; indeed, others who say they are Christians also will team up with the Left to go after them and their institutions. Even conservative/libertarian supporter of gay marriage, David Harsanyi, now admits that the legal fallout is going to be brutal.

In the aftermath of the SCOTUS decision on marriage, Sojourners, a publication of the "Evangelical Christian Left," declared: "This debate, at long last, is done." Please understand what this publication is saying: The STATE is the final arbiter of truth. That is the only interpretation.

After all, when SCOTUS in 1973 ordered all states to allow abortion on demand, that hardly ended the debate, but if Sojourners' logic is extended, then there is no more debate permit on the question of abortion. For that matter, any SCOTUS decision by definition ends all debate.

People who think like that, no matter how conciliatory the language might be on the Sojourners website, are not going to be sympathetic when the feds come knocking at church doors and at the doors of Christian colleges and parachurch organizations. In 1983, the Presbyterian Church USA (which is the "liberal" Presbyterian denomination) filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University when the Internal Revenue Service accused it of racial discrimination and stripped it of that status. (The SCOTUS upheld that ruling.)

The PCUSA filed the brief on the principle of religious freedom and the realization that the federal government should not be in the business of determining proper theology. I doubt seriously that when the IRS starts to act against churches and Christian colleges that don't support gay marriage, the PCUSA will be there to defend those organizations. Instead, the PCUSA, as well as most mainstream churches and outfits like Sojourners, will side fully and forcefully with the State.

Don't be deceived. The Obergefell ruling is not an expansion of freedom; it is a vast expansion of state power, and it will unleash the State to force conformity among people whose sets of beliefs do not coincide with those of Barack Obama and others in his administration. Will Grigg has stated it in a way that only he can articulate:
The Secret Police in Orwell’s dystopian society were employed by the Ministry of Love. In that ironic designation we find the genuine meaning of the insistent refrain that “love” triumphed when the US Supreme Court consummated the long campaign to bring the most intimate human institution fully under the state’s control.

Those presently celebrating the state’s “affirmation” of same-sex relationships are intoxicated by the knowledge that they are the “who” rather than the “whom” in Lenin’s famous formula (which defines the essential political question as “who does what to whom”). Like countless others they have been beguiled into believing that “liberation” is achieved by identifying with the exercise of state power, rather than being protected against it.
 In one way, Sojourners is correct. The "official" debate is over, and as far as the American Left is concerned, anyone whose beliefs on same-sex marriage clash with those of the Left must be uprooted, hounded, forced out of their jobs, and perhaps into prison itself. We are not dealing with "tolerance" or anything like it. The Left now controls the American State wholly and demands nothing less than total subservience; even silence or holding quietly to a set of beliefs that contrast with the sexual views held by Barack Obama no longer will be tolerated.

That the present institutional structure of American law does not yet allow for wholesale arrests individuals and closure of churches and other institutions which might disagree with Obama on sex and marriage does not mean very much. We know what representatives of this government have said in public, and we already know that Hillary Clinton has called for churches to change their theology on abortion.

It no longer matters what people actually might believe regarding same-sex marriage, whether or not they believe it to be a good thing. As a Christian who holds to the Scriptures, I do not see the Bible affirming such a marital relationship or even calling it marriage, but I also believe that if Christians want the State to define marriage, then they will have to live with whatever the State calls it. If my gay friends wish to call themselves married and are joined in matrimony by a State agents, so be it. However, we are long-past any point where any set of beliefs that might contrast with those held by the Powers That Be are going to be respected, and the adherents of those beliefs left alone. That I am willing to abide by the current State directives even if I do not believe Scripture condones such a marital relationship does not matter to the Left. I am an enemy and must be treated as such.

The Left that once was not afraid of opposing views no longer exists. The gloves are off, and SCOTUS has just given the State permission to begin to enforce a new sexual order.

This debate, at long last, is done.
This debate, at long last, is done.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Boston University Controversy has Become the Face of Modern U.S. Higher Education: The Once-Peaceful College Campus Now is a Permanent War Zone

By now, anyone associated with higher education in the USA has heard about the explosive entry of newly-minted Ph.D. Saida Grundy to the Boston University faculty. Before making her Twitter account private, Grundy blasted out: "why is white america so reluctant to identify white college males as a problem population?" and "every MLK week i commit myself to not spending a dime in white-owned businesses. and every year i find it nearly impossible."

Given that white (Caucasian) males make up about a quarter of BU's student body (and my guess is that Grundy would include Asian males in that mix as well), this new sociology and African-American Studies professor is saying that she hates at least 25 percent of the students at her new place of employment. Furthermore, she also is saying that she hates more than half of her faculty colleagues.

Not surprisingly, there has been a bit of outrage over Grundy's statements and the Internet has exploded. From CNN to Fox News, the condemnations have come fast and furious. (There also is a Twitter feed supporting Grundy.)

Boston University President Robert A. Brown felt compelled to issue an open letter when the whole thing exploded in part to mollify outraged alumni and also to bring some calm to the out-of-control situation. Of course, Brown defended free speech, etc., but added:
Boston University does not condone racism or bigotry in any form, and we are committed to maintaining an educational environment that is free from bias, fully inclusive, and open to wide-ranging discussions. We are disappointed and concerned by statements that reduce individuals to stereotypes on the basis of a broad category such as sex, race, or ethnicity. I believe Dr. Grundy’s remarks fit this characterization.
 (Grundy also allegedly told a victim of sexual assault, "go cry somewhere. since that’s what you do” while trolling on Facebook. It will be interesting if the academic community at BU also accepts her making light of sexual assault, since it is THE main issue on college campuses these day.)

As I see it, the Grundy situation, while a potential problem for BU, is a microcosm of what has been occurring in American higher education for the past few decades, and especially at the "elite" universities like BU, not to mention the Ivy League institutions and, of course, Duke University. In the name of "diversity" and "fighting racism and sexism," the Left has turned these places into outright war zones.

It is hard to explain to people who cannot conceive of the madness that has become "elite" higher education as to what is happening. Most people cannot imagine having a mob of mattress-carrying female students gathering outside one's office door demanding that the person in the office be fired for writing something that often is pretty innocuous. Laura Kipniss, a communications professor at prestigious Northwestern University and a woman of the Left herself, wrote an opinion piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education that took issue with her university's prohibition on professors dating students. (The article definitely is worth the read.)

Some female students took issue with Kipniss' position and protested outside her office, with two students filing charges that the professor violated Title IX standards. For those readers who are not familiar with Title IX, it is part of a the Education Amendments of 1972 which prohibits sex-based discrimination in funding education programs. It is especially famous in college athletics because the Clinton administration in the 1990s decided to interpret the law as requiring athletic quotas. The upshot of the Clinton decision was the elimination of a number of men's collegiate athletic programs like wrestling and track and field (men only) and the addition of sports like women's rowing in order to meet the requirements.

In Kipniss' case, the students claimed that her article not only was critical of females who disagreed with her, but that her words would have a "chilling effect" on women reporting sexual assaults at Northwestern. The accusations then brought an actual Title IX investigation against Kipniss, who fought back by writing about what was turning into a Kafkaesque ordeal. (The university finally cleared her.) 

Not surprisingly, the Obama administration has expanded Title IX enforcement by demanding that colleges and universities adopt policies that make it easier to find students (mostly male) guilty of sexually assaulting females, a move that has created no small outcry among civil libertarians and people who believe that due process of law should be something other than a government-mandated kangaroo court. Because they are addicted to federal money for survival, however, institutions of "higher learning" quickly jumped on the "sexual assault" bandwagon both to keep their hands in the federal till and also because it fit within the ideological views of increasingly-radicalized faculty and students.

The casualty lists continue to pile up, and now that colleges and universities are adding "microaggressions" to their list of the Deadly Sins, the atmosphere on campus has become utterly poisonous. (A "microaggression" is the utterance of a thought that is deemed Politically Incorrect, or the use of silence in order to avoid uttering something that is un-PC. In other words, one's presence by itself -- spoken or unspoken -- is considered to be a "microagression." Welcome to Hell.)

So, where does Saida Grundy fit in with all of this. First, and most important, I predict that she will make many people at BU sorry they ever hired her. I have no idea of her scholarship potential but something tells me that if she does not produce the requisite peer-reviewed journal papers that are the major contributing justification for tenure, she will be tenured, anyway, just because other faculty members and the administration will want to avoid the litigation that someone like her can bring about simply by alleging that the university discriminated against her on the basis of sex and race.

Second, she will further help turn BU into an academic war zone. I saw firsthand what the radical faculty at Duke University did to the university during the infamous Lacrosse Case nearly a decade ago. Since then, most of those radicals have worked their way into Duke's administration or to higher-paid and more-prestigious appointments elsewhere. Thus, they will continue to damage relationships on campus, not to mention impose ridiculous and anti-intellectual policies for years to come.

When an incoming professor attacks a large portion of what will be her students in the coming years even before stepping on campus, one only can imagine the horror stories that will follow. This is not about contrived controversies; this is a professor who hates many of her students, and she has told them up front that she hates them. What will follow? Grade retaliation? (That happened at Duke.) White male students being berated in class simply for taking space?

It is hard to know. Maybe Grundy has just been spouting off and actually will be fair to her students and an asset to the BU faculty, but somehow I doubt that.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Unhinged from Reality, Part II: Republicans Cling to Progressive Views of War and Economics

In my recent post on how Democrats are unhinged from reality, I stuck with economics, since that party had adopted a full-blown share-the-wealth populism that, when applied before, always ends in social and economic disaster. Their rhetoric is one of "unity," but the reality of their policies is to enrich the politically-connected at the expense of everyone else. Of course, their policies never are to blame. Ask them.

On the other side of the Congressional aisle are the Republicans. You know, the Republicans, the party of fiscal discipline, the party of "peace through strength," and the party of low taxes, sound money, free trade, and small government. Yeah, that party.

Readers might be surprised to know (but, then again, maybe not) that the Republicans historically were not the party of low taxes, sound money, free trade, or even small government. Indeed, Republicans in the 19th and early 20th centuries were the original Progressives, only to have the Democrats out-Republican them with the presidential candidacy of William Jennings Bryan in 1896, who ran on a platform of inflation.

Economist Robert Ekelund (who was one of my professors when I pursued graduate studies at Auburn University 20 years ago) has laid out the original Republican policies that paved the way for a lot of the economic and social problems that damage our society even now. One even could say that the two parties pretty much switched roles, with Democrats going whole hog with Progressivism post-Bryan with the election of Woodrow Wilson in 1912, although by 1900, both parties had pretty much embraced the Progressivism that redefined the United States from being a constitutional republic to what it is today: a Progressive democracy.

Enough with the history. Instead, we need to take a hard look at the more recent Republican policies and ask ourselves if they are based in reality or fantasy. I believe it is the latter.

"Small Government" that Spies on Citizens and Imprisons Millions

Republicans are fond of claiming they favor "small government" while Democrats demand "big government." They are half-correct; Democrats really do believe that we need a government that controls every aspect of our lives -- except the decision of whether or not to have an abortion, and government should make all abortions free and encourage them.

Yet, how do Republicans favor "big government"? Let me count the ways:

1. They want near-permanent expansion of the armed forces, and have endorsed the invasion of country after country by U.S. troops (not to mention air strikes);
2. During the Bush presidency, when Republicans controlled the White House and Congress, government spending (and borrowing) grew rapidly, despite the "fiscal conservatism" campaign rhetoric Republicans are fond of giving us;
3. During the Bush years, the surveillance state grew rapidly and, frankly, out-of-control. Ordinary Americans came to find that the Bill of Rights no longer applied to them -- if it ever did;
4. Governmental power continued its march of being concentrated in Washington;
5. Instead of calling the "Clinton Prosperity" what it was -- a huge financial bubble -- the Bush administration immediately pushed artificially low interest rates and moved the economy into the even-more-disastrous housing bubble. It was the monetary version of "big government."

Republicans always seem to promise a return to the governance of Dwight Eisenhower while, in reality, emulating Teddy Roosevelt, but without the charm. One reason is that much of the party's leadership has been turned over to the Neoconservatives, with the first generation of that group being former Trotskyites (I kid you not, real-live Trotskyites) that pushed the Welfare State at home and the Warfare State abroad. The current generation of Neoconservatives like Sen. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal gives a cursory nod toward Rule of Law and free markets, but spend most of their time encouraging warfare abroad, prison nation at home, and, of course, torture.

I'm hardly the first person to say this, but it does seem ironic that while preaching the "small government" message, Republicans have been the force behind the growth of the surveillance state, ostensibly in response to the 911 attacks, and nothing says "big government" more than a state that is obsessed with every action of every citizen. (The recent successful attempt by Sen. Rand Paul to at least slow the surveillance machine has put him in hot water with the Senate Republicans, further demonstrating that the GOP is about advancing state power, not protecting the rights of the people.)

Once upon a time, Republicans (or at least the Robert Taft branch of the Republican Party) understood how war not only is destructive abroad but also at home. Today, the Republicans see themselves that being the "tough guys" that "kick ass" overseas in order to spread a version of "American Exceptionalism" that perhaps many of us would rather not see. That eternal wars abroad require "big government" at home seems to have slipped past Republicans who still use the "Democrats support big government, but we Republicans like small government" campaign slogan without even realizing that Republicans favor big, abusive government as much or more than their political counterparts.

It is one thing to defend our shores; it is quite another to send an army thousands of miles away to attack people who did not wish to be at war with us and who were no threat to us, our families, and our way of life. Even today, most Republicans cannot comprehend how unjust the Iraq and Afghanistan wars really were and how they created vast destruction of the way of life for many people, and how the instability that came about as a result of those wars ultimately led to the creation of ISIS.

Interestingly, the views of Republicans today in the area of war and foreign policy mirror those of the Progressives of a century ago, including Walter Lippman and Herbert Croly. Croly, who was ecstatic over the U.S. entry into World War I, believed that it was up to the USA to spread Progressive values abroad, and if military intervention was the vehicle, then so be it.

But what about the "Big Tent" that Republicans claim to have regarding their party? Well, Walter Jones of North Carolina regularly votes for the "small government" legislation that the GOP brass claims to favor, and he definitely campaigns against "big government." However, as the National Journal has reported, the party leadership is trying once again to unseat Jones in a primary just as the party used to do regularly with Ron Paul.

Like Paul, however, Jones is decidedly against U.S. military intervention overseas after having seen the carnage that was the Iraq war, which meant a reversal of his earlier position for the war. (Jones, as readers might recall, is the lawmaker who coined the term "freedom fries" after the U.S. Government did not receive French support for the Iraq invasion.)

Of course, what would the Republican view of "small government" be without the drug war at home. Even today, Republicans (and especially its ever-shrinking evangelical branch) continue to hold to the idea that giving law enforcement vast powers well beyond anything the U.S. Constitution allowed is a Really Good Thing because one day -- One Day! -- the drug war will have been won and nobody in this country will shoot heroin or smoke weed.

In a farewell speech given at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington just before he resigned his position as U.S. Attorney General, John Ashcroft openly endorsed mass incarceration, claiming that it was responsible for the fall in the crime rate, and he could not understand why people were bothered that the USA had more than two million people in prison at the time. (Note to Republicans: prisons are part of "big government.")

And, no, when Republicans held power in Washington, the number of federal crimes grew significantly. According to a Heritage Foundation report by LSU Law Professor John Baker, there was an "explosive" growth in what Congress designated to be federal crimes. (I do find it ironic that the Heritage Foundation, which actually has done good work in condemning the growth of federal crimes provided a special forum for John Ashcroft, whose DOJ would abuse federal statutes in a drive to throw as many people as possible into federal prison.)

It's the Economy, Stupid!

But aren't Republicans Really, Really Good on the economy? I mean, they believe in free enterprise, less regulation, and sound money, right? Unfortunately, as shown in this Business Insider article, the Republican years in the early and mid-2000s were pretty much business as usual for Washington. 

Furthermore, it is quite clear that the infamous housing bubble that ultimately gave Barack Obama a filibuster-proof U.S. Senate and a huge majority in the U.S. House of Representatives his first two years came about because of a deliberate policy by the Bush administration to expand home ownership. Now, I don't criticize the intentions of the Bush administration to place more minorities and lower-income people into home ownership, but people in these categories often make for poor home ownership candidates, and it is not just their lack of access to bank financing that puts them there.

Furthermore, it became obvious that trying to jack up the economy via monetary injections through home purchases and refinancing was going to fail. First, the whole model was consumption-based, and no economy consumes itself to prosperity. Efforts to manipulate the monetary system to bring about more consumption will have a negative long-run effect upon long-term investment and capital formation.

Because the Bush administration almost completely bought into the Keynesian approach to the economy -- stimulate, stimulate, stimulate -- it was unable to bring about a fundamental shift from a "bubble" economy to one that has a healthy tradeoff between investment and consumption. Today, we see a shrinking economy led by a president who is hostile to private enterprise and entrepreneurship, and who is trying to use force to drag us into the doomed Latin American model of crony capitalism and the ever-present danger of financial crises.

Second, it should have been obvious even to the Bushies that home prices were, on average, increasing much more than average incomes, which absolutely doomed whatever the Republicans were trying to accomplish. Simply put, at some point it becomes impossible to place a family with a $50,000 a year income into a $500,000 house.

So, what does the economy need to get out of its current funk? I can tell you that it does NOT need more Keynesian "stimulus," no matter what Paul Krugman and the Democrats tell us. Unfortunately, the Republicans are not going to offer anything better.

Yes, they will call for the repeal of ObamaCare (and then offer to substitute their own administrative plan in which all of the players will behave as they do in ObamaCare), decry regulation, call for a balanced budget (just as Republicans "balanced" the federal budget during the Bush years....), and push for tax cuts.

Now, none of those things are bad in and of themselves. Like any kind of national program that attempts to bureaucratize and centralize medical services, ObamaCare is going to create perverse incentives, financial imbalances, and, ultimately, severe forms of rationing. That WILL happen, but I have no faith that Republicans can create anything any better. The problem is not how to better tweak a centralized plan, but rather trying to centralize something as vast as medical care in the first place.

Regarding business and environmental regulation, all of those things have grown under Republican administrations and via Republican control of Congress. Yes, the regulatory process significantly raises business costs, but Progressives have managed to convince most Americans that unless government bureaucrats are permitted to have near-complete oversight of nearly everything, American society would be a living hell. It is impossible for people to imagine their lives not being full of paperwork and Republicans are not very good at convincing people otherwise.

Regarding taxes, it will take a huge sell, one Republicans probably are not capable of making, just to convince Americans that cutting a few percentage points from marginal tax rates is not just "tax cuts for the rich." (For example, I work with people who always say "tax cuts for the rich," but after Obama let the Bush tax cuts expire, these middle-class people found out quickly that THEY are the rich and found themselves paying several thousand dollars a year more in taxes. But even then, few of them were willing to tell themselves that the original Bush tax cuts actually benefited them, too. Political identity and political rhetoric are very powerful forces.)

The problem, as I see it, is that Republicans want to make the "Keynesian Lite" argument on taxes ("Tax cuts will spur consumer spending and will 'stimulate' the economy") instead of pointing out that what this economy needs is more capital investment. Democrats have spent the entire Obama years trashing capital, demanding, instead, high wages and other productivity-killing initiatives. Their "guiding lights" like former Labor Secretary Robert Reich are claiming that capital investments benefit only the rich, and that the only way to have a strong economy is to jack up the minimum wage to $15 an hour, cut working hours, and generally force up business costs.

There are ways to present a case for lower taxes, less regulation, and encouragement of entrepreneurship without sounding as though the real goal is to make life a living hell for everyone, but Republicans apparently have not yet reached that point. As in the Bush years, they sought to "revitalize" the economy through wars overseas and creating a financial bubble at home, all under the aegis of "cutting taxes" and "economic stimulation." We see how well that turned out.

Potomac Fever: The Sum of Delusion

To be honest, most Republican lawmakers are not even principled enough to make Keynesian-based economic arguments. Instead, like Dennis Hastert, who entered Congress with middle-class wealth and left as a multimillionaire, they confuse their doing well with the country doing well. There is a reason that while most of the country has struggled, economically speaking, the counties contiguous to Washington, D.C., have gained in wealth significantly during the Obama years.

Thus, our economy is down to this sorry state: Washington loots the rest of the country, becomes wealthier, collectively speaking, so all must be well. Instead of real investment, both Republicans and Democrats seek out crony capitalism and line up behind their favorite billionaires to give them campaign cash.

This is an unsustainable model, but for now I don't see any way out of the trap. The Federal Reserve System uses monetary tricks to try to poke fingers into the leaking dike, and the government becomes increasingly authoritarian in an attempt to bully firms into achieving politically-acceptable results.

Folks, this, too is Progressivism. Like the Progressives of a century that sought to expand "freedom" through invasion of other countries and forcing new (and unworkable) institutional and social arrangements, Republicans have deluded themselves into thinking that just one more military strike, one more invasion, and we FINALLY will be safe!

Will Republicans tell the rest of this country that the Emperor has no clothes? Don't count on it. Instead, the Republicans will do what they did a decade ago: try to create yet another bubble and insist that the Emperor's clothes are just magnificent.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Unhinged from Reality, Part I: Democrats, Socialism, and the Corporate State

For the past 14 years, I have worked in a place dominated by Democrats, and the most liberal ones at that. In the view of many of may colleagues, there is nothing that government cannot do as long as the political will exists to get it done.

Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and create instant prosperity? Done. Expand medical coverage to everyone, increase the regulatory state, have all forms of energy from electricity to fuel be "zero-emissions," and end all poverty by government fiat? Done! All it takes is courage on behalf of legislators to stand up to a few rich people, and the clean, prosperous, and free society is ours for the taking.

Frostburg State University, where I teach, is part of the University System of Maryland, and Maryland is one of the nation's most "blue" states, politically speaking. Let me correct myself. Three counties, Montgomery, Howard, and Prince Georges, and the City of Baltimore provide nearly all of the legislators that give the Democrats a huge majority in the state legislature. The other counties are flyover country, as far as the state government is concerned.

In many ways, Maryland today is like the Deep South between the end of Reconstruction and 1980 when the only competitive elections were Democratic primaries. Yes, the voters recently elected a Republican governor, but in 2018, I have no doubt that he will lose to an upcoming Democrat just as Republican Bob Ehrlich lost to Martin O'Malley in 2006 after serving one term. Democrats represent the political equilibrium in Maryland, and that is not going to change, given the demographics, both ethnically and occupationally, in this state.

Maryland, or, to be more specific, political attitudes and beliefs of Democrats here, are the future of the Democratic Party, so it is instructive to know what they see as the Good Society to know where the rest of us are headed. Like Republicans (with whom I will deal in a future post), Democrats where I work have become unhinged from economic and social reality to a point where what they believe about the economy is fantasy, but they believe that all it takes is an iron will on behalf of their party to make that fantasy reality.

What Democrats Believe, Economically Speaking

Thirty years ago, when I lived and worked in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I had a colleague who was the epitome of the Democratic Party activist. The Party was his religion, the Democratic nominee for the White House his god, and all Truth and Goodness sprang from the Party Platform. The only reason that Democrats did not own the White House, he claimed, was because of the Vietnam War, and had the Democrat's Democrat, Lyndon Johnson, not escalated the fighting there, he reasoned, LBJ's Great Society programs would have so transformed this country that all poverty would have disappeared and the United States would have one-party rule forever. If only.

He never could articulate as to why some government wealth transfer programs would have created such wondrous results; they just would. His occupation was being a city planner, and he had a planner's worldview in which planners like himself had the duty to impose their will on others because only they knew what would constitute the truly Good Society.

The first thing, he claimed, was total government control over the economy. After all, he claimed, since government had control of money, that was proof that government created all that was good in an economy and that without the guidance of government planners, the entire economy would collapse into chaos and ruin.

At the time, the Cold War still existed and so naturally the subject of the Soviet Union and its planned economy came up. When asked why the U.S.S.R. had what people recognized as a dysfunctional economy that was plagued by shortages, shoddy goods, and long lines for basic staples, he replied: "The Soviet Union has not been a country as long as the United States." That was it. Because the U.S.S.R. had existed as an official political entity for (at the time) 68 years and the USA was 209 years old, that situation alone explained why the Soviet economy performed so poorly. Thus, he reasoned, the longer the U.S.S.R. remained a political entity, the more the economy would improve. There was no causality, no logical movement from A to B, just a statement of what he believed to be fact.

At the time, I thought him to be on the fringes, since his beliefs lacked basic economic logic, but as I observe the campaigns of Martin O'Malley, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, I have come to believe that my friend's radical views 30 years are now in the Democratic Party mainstream. How can it be that a political party could become that unhinged from economic reality?

Despite the supposed differences between the Democratic candidates, they pretty much believe the same thing: the federal government can order a state of prosperity by raising taxes to confiscatory levels, implementing a $15 an hour minimum wage, expanding vast subsidies for "renewable" energy, expanding the Social Security and food stamp programs, shutting down whole industries, and provide "free" medical care to everyone. Out of that will rise the Golden Society just as Aaron tried to convince Moses that the Golden Calf in the book of Exodus simply rose from the flames when Aaron threw a bunch of gold jewelry into it.

Robert Reich, who is not running for president but who provides the so-called intellectual ammunition for the Democratic candidates, has publicly said that government must force up wages and expand spending. In so doing, he reasons, it will create what he calls a "virtuous circle" in which people at the lower rungs of the economy increase their spending, and that increased spending will result in more production of goods and services and, thus, bring about an upward spiral to an economic nirvana.

One reason for this move into economic fantasy is the grassroots leadership of the Democratic Party. While labor unions always have gravitated toward Democrats, in the past unions representing workers in private businesses knew that if they totally destroyed the Golden Goose, that there would be nothing left for them.

Today's Democratic leadership, however, comes from government employee unions and they are not bound by the same economic realities that governed the United Auto Workers or the steelworkers. In 1980, there was consternation when it was revealed that more than half of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention were government employees. When the 2016 DNC rolls around, no one even will care that the vast majority of delegates will be members of government employee unions who will demand that government use deadly force, if necessary, to protect their pensions, and give them pay raises. Paul Krugman will say this is good because the government employees will be "spending money," which means they can claim that by confiscating money from anyone not lucky enough to be a member of a government employee union, they actually are creating prosperity for all.

Democrats will argue that what is needed is more political will. Political will to raise the marginal tax rates to at least 70 percent. Political will to force closure of electric power plants that burn coal, oil, and natural gas. Political will to run oil companies out of business. Political will to bring about "renewable energy" that will result in clean air, clean water, and spiritual growth. Political will to force both Roman Catholic and Protestant churches to change their ancient theology about sexuality or face government sanctions and even forced closure, if that is what is needed.

In short, Democrats argue that what society needs more than anything else is political coercion and expanded confiscation of private property and the will to force people to accept all of the tenets of the Sexual Revolution. People won't give up their guns and their religious beliefs easily, nor will they be willing to gladly accept the real economic deprivation that would come about as the result of the policies Democrats are demanding. That is where an iron political will comes in, and an iron will requires the use of force, deadly force, if necessary, especially if churches refuse to accept the Holy Doctrines of the Sexual Revolution.

As Radley Balko has written, every government law that is to be enforced carries the threat of violence, and it is clear that government at every level has no qualms about being violent. Even Salon Magazine, which is little more than a Democratic Party media tool (as Fox News is to Republicans), admits that government violence is not a partisan issue.

The Implementation of the Corporate State

For all of their rhetoric, however, even Democrats know that they cannot implement the kind of economy that characterizes Cuba, North Korea, or the former U.S.S.R. and make the voters happy. It is one thing for Bernie Sanders essentially to call for an end to the oil industry. (His claim is that he just wants to end corporate welfare for private energy companies -- a laudable goal -- but it is clear that he wants to go much further. Likewise, he wants to create and expand the corporate welfare for companies pursuing so-called renewable energy and put their competitors out of business.) It is quite another for whole industries that provide vital goods and services simply to disappear with nothing to replace them.

Likewise, Democrats can rail against Big Pharma, but someone has to produce the medicine AND the campaign contributions. That is where the Corporate State comes in, and Democrats have embraced Crony Capitalism all the while condemning it in their rhetoric.

No one does that better than Hillary Clinton and she and her ex-president husband have lots of experience getting rich via the Corporate State. While Hillary is running as a populist who wants to end corporate abuses and shut down businesses she doesn't like, her income sources are dominated by corporate money via her speeches and contributions to the Clinton Foundation, which essentially is a slush fund for the Clinton family. (Yes, yes, I know. The Clinton Foundation will eradicate AIDS in the Third World, so contributions to the foundation are worthy and humanitarian. They have nothing to do with seeking political favors and enriching the Clintons.)

Now, the Occupy Democrats and others on the Bernie Sanders Left supposedly don't like Crony Capitalism and claim they want to eradicate it. However, they also know that the Clintons really bug Republicans, and if there is one thing that Occupy Democrats and their allies hate, it is Republicans. In fact, they hate Republicans much more than they hate Crony Capitalism and the Corporate State.

Furthermore, they reason that if they can get corporations on their side (and simultaneously get lots of corporate money for their own political initiatives, then they would rather live with the furtherance of the Corporate State than see a Republican in the White House). They even can convince themselves that they are doing nothing more than providing much-needed regulation of corporations, which would be running amok and creating chaos if it were not for the far-sighted actions of the Democratic Party.

Such viewpoints truly are unhinged from any reality. The Democrats' brand of corporate welfare will cause production to shrink, not expand. Furthermore, every initiative that I have seen from the Democratic candidates for president will increase costs of production of goods and services, and when those kinds of costs increase systematically over a large scale, the overburdened economy slowly implodes.

True, Sanders, O'Malley, and Clinton will claim that forcing up production costs will expand the economy because such actions will increase the amount of money being spent on production. In reality, higher production costs will mean less will be produced, which translates into a lowering of real standards of living.

Notice that not one Democrat is going to run on a platform of reducing the standard of living for everyone. They might argue that their tax-the-rich schemes might lower living standards for the so-called One Percent, but that overall everyone else will experience a cornucopia of wealth.

I'm sorry, but the One Percent cannot buy prosperity for the rest of us. They CAN buy prosperity for the likes of Hillary and Bill Clinton, Martin O'Malley, and even Bernie Sanders, who I guarantee will quietly float his own versions of corporate welfare all the while denouncing it in his political rhetoric.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Would Ben Carson be Permitted to Work as a Surgeon in our Present Politicized Society?

Last year, while visiting the home place in Chattanooga, Tennessee, an old family friend asked me if I was excited by the prospect of Ben Carson running for president? I replied that given Carson never had been in a political campaign, I doubted that his candidacy would amount to much, and it seems Carson is working overtime to prove my point.

I admit to cringing when I read some of Carson's statements, especially on homosexuals and gay rights, and on his view that U.S. armed forces overseas should not be held accountable for war crimes and atrocities. As one who has been critical of U.S. armed intervention overseas for the past three decades, I believe that this country through its military might has been spreading death and destruction on a huge scale.

Still, I would like to see Carson do well if for no other reason than he has exemplified determination and courage throughout his life and became one of the best neurosurgeons in the world. This is a man who came from the kind of background that would condemn most young men to a violent life on the streets, and yet he rose above it in a way that most of us cannot even comprehend.

In 1984, at the age of 33, Carson was appointed head of pediatric neurosurgery at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, one of the most prestigious medical institutions in the world. During his years in neurosurgery, he distinguished himself as being one of the best in the world in his field, yet I wonder today as to whether or not a person with Carson's views would be allowed to clean toilets at Hopkins, given the abyss of modern Political Correctness that infects Hopkins and just about every other American institution these days.

Ben Carson does not believe gay marriage is "legitimate" marriage. He is a Christian and I suspect that his views would put him in the company of Moses, King David, St. Paul, and, yes, Jesus Christ himself. (I, too, am a Christian and believe that the best "solution" to this situation is for government to get out of the marriage business altogether. Ours is a pluralistic society and I favor legal institutions that minimize the prospect of people of different interests and points of view being at each others' throats.)

Carson's views on gay marriage might be out of favor with the editorial page of the New York Times, but I suspect that they don't differ with the vast majority of people who have lived before us, including almost all of the previous residents of the White House. To put it another way, Carson hardly is out of the historical mainstream and I daresay that most Protestant denominations have not endorsed gay marriage as being consistent with Holy Scripture, and the Roman Catholic Church takes the same position. Muslims as a whole have not joined the gay marriage bandwagon, either.

It is safe to say that at least 50 percent of Americans and certainly millions of American Christians, Jews, and Muslims do not support gay marriage, yet the Southern Poverty Law Center declared Ben Carson to be a security threat to this country, putting him on its Extremist Watch List, a list that includes white supremacists, leaders of the Ku Klux Klan, and people calling for violent overthrow of the U.S. Government.

In other words, the SPLC (which later reluctantly took Carson's name off that list after a public outcry) wanted us to believe that Ben Carson was a violent man whose views were so extreme as to pose a real danger to other Americans. Now, I suspect that a lot of readers a rolling their eyes regarding the SPLC, given its controversial statements and the negative exposure it received when a former associate blistered the organization and its founder, Morris Dees, in an article in Harper's Magazine in 2000.

However, to the typical American faculty member of a college or university, not to mention a large portion of the Democratic Party, the SPLC is the Very Voice of God. If the SPLC essentially declares Ben Carson to be in league with the Ku Klux Klan, then I'm sure that lots and lots of Democrats and other lefties believe that Carson must have walked around Johns Hopkins in a Klan robe and hood.

This brings me to my main point. Given Carson's political and religious views, would Johns Hopkins today permit him to be on its medical staff? This is not an idle question, nor do I think it silly or irrelevant. After all, Johns Hopkins University does not permit Chik-fil-A facilities on its campus because the company's chairman has said publicly that he does not believe gay marriage is permitted in the Bible. (Duke University also prohibits Chik-fil-A from being on its campus and the city government of Chicago will not permit a Chik-fil-A franchise from being located within the municipal limits of the Windy City.)

Students of the history of the former Soviet Union know that one's political views determined the kind of employment one might have. A person might have been a brilliant nuclear scientist, but if he or she did not have the "correct" political viewpoints as determined by the U.S.S.R.'s government leadership, then that person got a job sorting paper clips.

I have no doubt this is where we are headed in the USA. When a cyber mob drove Mozilla's CEO out of office a couple years ago because in 2008 he had contributed $1,000 to an initiative to define marriage as being between a man and a woman in California, no one cared as to whether or not this was good for Mozilla. It didn't matter. All that mattered was that people were demanding that the CEO of Mozilla be in favor of gay marriage.

Likewise, we see small businesses in this country being hounded by government agents, lawyers, and gay rights advocates because a baker or a florist will not accommodate a gay wedding out of religious beliefs. (So far, states like Oregon and Colorado have gone after only Christians; one wonders what will happen if the same challenge is thrown at Muslim-owned businesses.)

Furthermore, there are boycotts, secondary boycotts, and Twitter mobs to harass anyone who might make a public statement on gay marriage that does not meet President Barack Obama's approval. (It turns out that Obama was against gay marriage before he supported it.) So, it is very clear that at least when it comes to gay rights and gay marriage, the pro-gay forces are declaring openly that one's politics should be a determining factor as to whether or not one is permitted to work or own a business.

So, it brings me back to my original question: Given his religious, social, and political views, would Ben Carson be permitted to be on the pediatric surgical staff at Johns Hopkins? Would he be permitted to be in a classroom at Hopkins teaching future pediatric surgeons? Would he be permitted to operate on children?

I don't believe he would. What I do believe is that the politicization of American society is becoming so expansive and so overwhelming that there is little we can do but watch the horror show unfold around us.

Some time this year, I most likely will be having knee surgery. When I "go under the knife," I really won't care as to whom the doctor supports in the upcoming presidential election or even his views on Obamacare. I won't care if he supports gay marriage or even if he is gay himself. I will care about his abilities to fix the trouble in my knee. Unfortunately, it seems that views such as mine are becoming archaic and even regarded as "dangerous" in modern, Politically-Correct America.