Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Earnestness of the Left: Separating the wheat from the chaff

From time to time it is useful to revisit the mindset of our friends on the Left, for while the aims of many of them are reactionary and their methods deleterious, they represent a significant set of mainstream aspirations and beliefs, which conservatives must be willing to address in our endless struggle to support founding principles.

Let us agree from the outset that there is an important distinction between the organized Left with its base in academia, the union movement, and the Democrat Party, and those millions of voters who see in these institutions a more reliable partner in the fulfillment of their desires than they do in the institutions of the Right.

We can reserve all our opprobrium and vilification for the “progressive”/rent-seeker axis without disparaging the honest and honorable aims of those voters.  It might even be the case—although I am not particularly hopeful—that if we understand their point of view better we might be able to demonstrate how fealty to our founding principles would do better at meeting their goals than the axis itself.  Of course, to make that happen, the key political instrument of the Right, the Republican Party, would have to re-examine its assumptions and methodology as well. 

It would also require the honest leftist to re-examine some of the implications of this worldview upon the very health of the community that is his primary concern.

The average left-leaning citizen cannot understand how the wealthiest nation in human history still permits poverty and institutional obstacles to the pursuit of happiness.  He earnestly believes that if everybody had the same chances in life, we all would do well.  Therefore, the wealth gap is de facto evidence that too many people do not and cannot get the same chances that the privileged do.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Irrepressible Conflict, Redux?

Americans have been complaining—impotently—about the “gridlock” and polarization gripping Washington for the past decade or more.  This is reflected in the steep decline in so-called “purple” states where the two major parties are more or less competitive. In the meantime, the number of independent voters has grown to unprecedented proportions.

The Democrats’ decision to implement Obamacare without a single Republican vote is a key driver in the escalation of the partisan war.  This has resulted in arbitrary and unlawful delays in implementation, and on November 21 the Democrats, again without a single Republican vote, changed the Senate rules governing the rights of the minority by terminating the right to filibuster judicial deliberations.

Are these just typical political bumps and bruises, or is there something much more fundamental and ominous brewing?  We can look to our own American history for some clues
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Monday, April 30, 1860, dawned breezy and cloudless in Charleston, South Carolina.  Delegates to the Democratic national convention gathered again at the Institute Hall, having experienced a long and boisterous week since the meeting had first been gaveled to order.

Delegates supporting the presidential candidacy of Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois were pushing for adoption of a platform plank that would—once again—paper over the divide between north and south on the slavery issue.  Those opposing Douglas, although in the minority, had already decided to force the matter.  They were supporting a platform plank that positively affirmed that neither Congress nor any territorial legislature had the authority to prohibit slavery in the western territories.

This was not only a slap at Douglas and his popular sovereignty doctrine established in the Kansas-Nebraska Act six years earlier, it was a direct challenge to the eventual nominee of the Republican Party which came into existence in large part because of northern opposition to the extension of slavery.

The southern faction was led by such “fire eaters” as William L. Yancey of Alabama and political connivers like James Slidell of Louisiana.  These men and their caucus had already decided to trigger the nuclear option and cause a split in the Democratic Party that would lead to both election of a Republican president and secession of the slave states from the union.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Guest Blog: Today's Tyrannies and the Declaration of Independence

Guest blog from a Frustrated Entrepreneur:

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

1) He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

The President Who Ignores the Law -- Again

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Neoliberal Advice to Conservatives: Surrender, Dorothy!

The Recovering Bureaucrat enjoys the various forms of lunacy emanating from the many adherents to the Church of the All Powerful State; it unfortunately keeps him from the comic pages of the daily newspapers but probably provides more robust laughter.

The latest Church lunacy (keeping up with all of it is, of course, an endless task) comes from a 28-year old Harvard psychology major named Josh Barro, who has appointed himself the Savonarola of the Republican Party.  Church acolytes at the Business Insider web site have provided him a soapbox, and eager true believer that he is, he doesn't waste his shot at his 15 minutes of fame.

His most recent side-slapper, entitled “I'm Not A Conservative And You Shouldn't Be One Either,” sets forth the head-scratching but thoroughly unoriginal proposition that conservatives need to become liberals in order for the Republican Party to win elections again.

He claims that he himself used to be conservative philosophically, but “now I'm a neoliberal, and I particularly favor redistributive taxes and transfers to reduce inequality.” 

(The RB notes that the concept of “neoliberalism” is a bit of a mash-up; as the authors of the Wikipedia article on it note,
The meaning of neoliberalism has changed over time and come to mean different things to different groups. As a result, it is very hard to define. This is seen by the fact that authoritative sources on neoliberalism, such as Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, David Harvey, and Noam Chomsky do not agree about the meaning of neoliberalism. This lack of agreement creates major problems in creating an unbiased and unambiguous definition of neoliberalism.
Hayek and Chomsky, fellow neoliberals; now that spices up the stew!  The absurdity of this contributes to the RB's disdain for Mr. Barro’s self-label here.  But he does appreciate his rookie error of immediately clearing up the ambiguity by proclaiming his blind faith in social engineering.  Ah, neoliberalism is just another word for statism.)

Thus the lunacy and non sequiturs begin early.  “All fiscal policy is redistributive,” he writes, “in that it involves collecting taxes from someone and spending money on programs that benefit someone else.”  This preposterous claim ignores that, until the “progressives” invented the Great Society in the Johnson administration, most taxes went to programs that benefited everyone, such as police and fire, highways and defense.  It took the odious combination of the rent-seeking redistributionist policies of the Johnson era with the New Left takeover of the Democratic Party in 1972 to elevate leftist liberal love of other people's money into the tenet of faith propping up the social engineering Mr. Barro is so enamored of.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Invisible Propaganda, Continued (Endlessly)

In his last post, the Recovering Bureaucrat took on the tedious task of fisking just one day’s editorial page liberal-left propagandizing at the medium-market Sacramento Bee.  As a brief follow-up, the RB notes that today’s opinion section offers yet another example of the way the scribes of the Church of the All Powerful State presume that their point of view is the only correct one.

The lead editorial by conventional liberal Dan Morain presents the Church’s position on California’s “green chemistry” regulatory adventure, just the latest paternalistic intervention into the private lives of the citizenry by our state’s ruling nomenklatura.  The very label “green chemistry” is another Orwellian linguistic syrup designed to help the progressive agenda go down smoother.  The ostensible aim of the initiative is to force “manufacturers of consumer products find alternatives to ingredients that are linked to cancer, are reproductive toxins or otherwise despoil the planet.”

The assumption is that all those evil chemicals (some 84,000, according to Mr. Morain) inundating us can be transformed into benign and “eco-friendly” compounds without pain.  Unfortunately, greedy and callous capitalists who use the bad ones, fronted by such nasty organizations like the American Chemistry Council, will have to be forced to make that happen.

The good guys, supported by the Democrats in the state legislature and green poseur former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, offer the standard progressive formula: give power to regulate chemical usage and rearrange this sector of the state’s economy to another unelected body of “experts,” in this case the Department of Toxic Substances Control along with Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Invisible Propaganda

The Editorial Board of the New York Times-wannabe Sacramento Bee offers in its most recent Sunday edition yet another course on the leftist credo of the Church of the All Powerful State. 

Its “California Forum” section front page is dominated by a huge story and editorial cartoon on “Why we need food stamps,” occupying 2/3 of the front page.  (It’s humorously disguised as “Views on food: an occasional series.”)  Inside we find an opinion piece from Leonard Pitts, Jr., of the Miami Herald, entitled “At Easter, heed call to save the children.”  The “Viewpoints” page carries an article by Ann Notthoff, California advocacy director for the National Resources Defense Council, called “Senate set to gut nation’s key law that safeguards the environment.” On the back page, the Editorial Board itself posts an editorial opining that “Sequester cuts could add to homelessness.”  And finally, not to be out-libbed by the writers, the editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman draws up a cartoon entitled “New York Stockton Exchange” blaming Wall Street bankers for Stockton’s looming bankruptcy.

The rest of the section is filled with fluff pieces and anodyne exhortations for better public behavior (e.g., “California must vet various operating models for its struggling state parks”).  Nowhere will you find a single article, opinion piece, editorial, or cartoon speaking for our founding American principles.  Dissent is airbrushed out behind an avalanche of politically correct posturing.

The Recovering Bureaucrat occasionally takes on the tedious task of fisking these assaults on careful thinking and analysis because it is the relentless and ubiquitous nature of these statist opinions that have over the past forty years helped shape public hostility to our founding American principles of limited government, individual freedom, and consent of the governed. 

Multiply this single editorial section of a single newspaper in a medium-sized market by 52 weeks a year and by all the media markets in the country; add in the worldview of the major television networks and their endless propagandizing; and finally figure in forty years of the dumbing down of academia and you arrive at a mass culture that assumes that the belief system of the Church of the All Powerful State is the only appropriate one.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Why the Constitution Matters

In the endless name-calling and emotionalism that characterize our national “conversation” about the role of guns in our culture, we generally seem to be talking past one another.  Those horrified by the outbursts of mass murder like those at Newtown and Aurora are motivated by a determination to eliminate future incidents like these.  Those defending gun ownership rights are motivated by a determination to prevent an erosion of constitutional guarantees.  These differing points of view were on display in the recent exchange between Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) regarding Sen. Feinstein’s proposal to ban “assault weapons.”



Here Sen. Cruz focuses on constitutional rights, while Sen. Feinstein focuses on the human cost of murderous gun users.  Those proposing tighter gun controls administered by the state always pay homage to the Constitution; those resisting these proposals always acknowledge the bloody toll guns can levy.

What drives both positions is respectable and defensible.  But as a matter of public policy they are not both based upon our founding principles, and that is all the difference.

Liberals and other adherents to the Church of the All Powerful State no longer subscribe to those founding principles, which are stated in the Declaration of Independence and enacted with respect to the institutions of government in the Constitution.  Instead they have come to believe that the purpose of government is to “help people,” and so they seek to make the words and articles of the Constitution conform to this heterodox philosophy.

The founders believed that God, not man, was the source of all human rights and responsibilities.  Thus “all men are created equal . . . endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, [which include] Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Because each human is equal in God’s eyes, no one of us can have more or less sovereignty as citizens.  Government’s role is to “secure these rights,” and it can only “deriv[e] [its] just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Establishing such a government took two tries.  The first, set up under the Articles of Confederation, was crafted to drastically limit its powers to preclude a return to the tyranny the Americans had just thrown off; it turned out to be too weak to actually secure the natural rights of the citizens.  So we tried again, and with the ratification of the Constitution between 1787 and 1790, we founded a government with the right balance of powers to “form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

The Constitution was carefully designed to grant the federal government only those powers explicitly spelled out in its pages.  The 9th and 10th amendments—key elements of the Bill of Rights—emphasized this.  “Enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” and “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”