Category Archives: Freedom

On Independence

Today, we celebrate the 233rd “birthday” of our country. It is an auspicious day, one that our Founding Fathers felt would be celebrated in perpetuity with games, ceremony, and fireworks. I think that if they were among us today, they would be pleased that the quintessential July 4th celebration is a cookout with family and friends, and then watching fireworks together as a community.

However, one thing that we tend not to do (like so many other times) is ponder the words that propelled that generation – THE Greatest Generation (with all due respect to the other Greatest Generation) to fight a desperate war for five (more) long years against one of the world’s superpowers, and more to the point, against what many considered to be their countrymen. I think that, especially in the times we live in, it is important to hear those words with renewed thoughtfulness:

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 to these ends, it is the Right of the People to altar or abolish it, and institute new Government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

There was nothing really earth-shattering about the ideas reflected above when they were written. They had been around for many years, some would say thousands. What was (and remains) earth-shattering was that for the first time, these ideas would become the foundation, the bedrock, of a new society and new form of government.

Many would argue that we, as a country, have never lived up to its promise. In many ways, they are right – our country has failed many times to live up to those ideals. The unfortunate part is that, because of our unique ability for self-flagellation, many people focus so much on the failings of America that they do not (or choose not) to see the good of America. If for nothing else, this country has given mankind the true understanding of the relationship between the individual and the state. We do not exist for the state – the state exists for us. The ideas promulgated in the Declaration resonate throughout the world.

In the times we live in, the words contained in the Declaration have become all the more important. I think that, if Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and the rest of their generation were here among us, they would be very disappointed with us. I suspect many of them would wonder why we let government become a more and more intrusive part of our lives, and how we have allowed a political class to be formed that, for all intents and purposes, does not serve the general Welfare, but their own narrow interests.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

They understood what it was to live in tumultuous times, so I think they would have a special understanding of ours. I also think that they would wonder amongst themselves when we would decide we had had enough. They would probably counsel that the American people had thrown off one yoke already, but that the beauty of the system they left us was that, instead of having to pick up a rifle to change the system, we have but to pick up a pen (or in many cases, an electronic polling booth).

I think that they would scoff at the idea that government has to solve all of our problems for us, rather than us solving them for ourselves. I suspect that they had had quite enough of government solutions, thank you, and would wonder why we are content to allow the same. In their eyes, the government was often by and large the problem, and that any so-called solutions offered by it would lead to more of the same.

 So, on this commemoration of the signing of that most auspicious document, let us all look at it with renewed understanding of its promises and our responsibility to help uphold them. Let us also work with renewed vigor to try and restore our government to its rightful place, not as our lord and master, but as our servant. And let us all try to live our lives, as Americans, as the founders wrote at the end of the Declaration:

And for the support of the Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

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Are You Kidding Me?

“Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Yes, I have been absent for quite awhile. My only excuse is busyness and trying to finish up an MBA degree. Never fear, in just a few short weeks, I will be free to opine on the issues of the day. However, since I am off today, I thought I would take a few minutes to pass along something that happened this morning.

I was watching the news (MSNBC……yeah, I can’t write that with a straight face, it was Fox) this morning, and they had a Representative on talking about the health care issue.

When the anchor asked him about a proposal on the Senate side to tax people’s health care benefits, except those who are union members, he said that union members are covered under collective bargaining agreements, and the government shouldn’t be getting in the middle of agreements between private parties.

I almost spit my coffee out onto the TV! This guy should get some sort of award for having the guts (gall?) to get on the television and say that (especially someone from the Democrat party). Let’s see…..

  • Bank of America/Merrill Lynch
  • T.A.R.P.
  • AIG
  • Chrysler
  • General Motors
  • The “pay czar”
  • “Cap and Trade”

I know, I  know….”but they took tax dollars, so we have a right to tell them what to do!” Really? Our government has a right to abrogate contracts? They have a right to strong arm a corporation into purchasing another? They have the right  to, essentially, determine who wins and who loses in the free market?

I hope that the readers of this blog are not so naive to think that your government did these things to “protect working class Americans”. That rhetoric is as hollow as it is played out…although I must admit the whole class warfare thing has worked out pretty good for Mr. Obama. The government is no more interested in your well-being as it is in giving back the power that we have so willfully given it over the past 75 years or so.

In the end, the health care debate isn’t really about health care…just as much as the “green” debate isn’t really about the environment. It is about power and control. I am sure there are people involved in the debate that mean well. But you know what the saying is about the road to Hell. And I believe that even those who say that the government should socialize medicine (or anything else for that matter) generally really think that is the best solution. But when that person is part of the government, they are going to “solve” problems in a way that increases the government’s power and control.

Power and control are a zero-sum game. If the government increases its power and control, ours as individuals necessarily decreases. There is no magic formula whereby the power over our own lives increases as the government’s power increases as well. It just doesn’t work that way. Governments are why the phrase, “give them an inch, they’ll take a mile” was invented. Out Founding Fathers understood this…that governments (of all kinds) become more tyrannical over time by their very nature.

So when the government tells me its wants to “help” me by reforming health care, please excuse my skepticism, because I seriously doubt that any government “reform”…of whatever area…is going to lead to a solution that is going to increase my control (i,e, freedom and liberty) over my own life.

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Filed under Economy, Freedom, Politics

Meet The New Boss

As our government goes into hysterics over the bonuses paid out to executives in the AIG Financial Products division, there is a new wrinkle to the story…

In today’s New York Times, there is an article describing a plan by the Obama administration seeking to put regulatory limits on executive compensation. This won’t just cover institutions that have received federal “bailout” money, but “all banks, Wall Street firms, and other companies.” This, as part of new regulations to supposedly strengthen federal oversight of the financial industry.

Yes…you read the previous paragraph right. The Obama administration wants to be able to dictate how executives at private companies are paid. I can somewhat understand wanting to have a greater hand in executive compensation at companies that have received federal monies. Even this doesn’t make total sense…no other institution dictates how a company that receives a loan can spend the proceeds…and weren’t we told that these bailouts were an “investment” by the American taxpayer? That we would get a return? Sounds like a loan to me…but I digress.

The very idea of anyone in government wanting to do this should be frightening to..well, just about anyone that works in the private sector (which, maybe is the point??). I hate to keep beating the proverbial dead horse…but once we allow the government to dictate to individuals in the private sector what they can and can’t make, we have started down a very dangerous slippery slope. If this goes through, and lets face it, the political environment is such that it could, since these guys are all evil, greedy, capitalists, what is to stop the government from expanding it? Obama says that health care costs are a large part of the economic problem…so, in an effort to control costs, why wouldn’t the government want to dictate how much health care executives make? Then doctors? Then nurses?

You could fill in the blank with just about any industry. Therein lies the problem. The whole point of private enterprise is that it is private, meaning not controlled by the public (government) sphere. It is one thing for the government to want to regulate commerce (in the interest of having a level playing field), but another thing entirely for the government to become involved in the inner workings of private enterprise.

“Wait”, you say, “these guys make way too much money and really screwed up our financial system.” First, who is to say they make too much money? You? Me? The President? The only people that have a right to dictate how much is too much are the owners of the company, i.e. the shareholders. Whether XYZ Company wants to pay their executives $1 Million or $10 Million each is really nobody’s business but the owners. No, I agree that their pay ought to reflect what they are doing for the company…if you make the owners lots of money, you should be compensated. If not, then maybe there is no bonus that year. And if the compensation system is out of whack, the owners (shareholders) ought to vote with their dollars.

Second, I would argue that the system is broken precisely because the government has, in all honesty. stuck its nose where it doesn’t belong. By attempting to dictate outcome, the government created the conditions for a situation that we now blame on “greed”. To be blunt, that is the whole point. One of the defining tenets of capitalism is that each person is free to maximize their own self-interest…if I can make $50,000 at one business or organization, and $100,000 at another, I ought to have the ability to decide to go with Company A or Company B. Now maybe I choose to stay at Company A, because there are other factors that contribute to my “self-interest.”  Again, it is MY decision to determine what my self-interest is. It is up to the sum total of our self-interests (i.e. the market) to determine winners and losers. So, our government decided that more people needed to “win”…and then, when companies lost because they made bad decisions, our government stepped in to keep them from the pain of losing…again dictating outcome. The government has forgotten that there is already a mechanism for determining what to do with companies that lose…called declaring bankruptcy and being sold off to the highest bidder.

Unfortunately, our society has been brainwashed into thinking that we ought not suffer from our actions or decisions. We are teaching our kids that from an early age. We don’t keep score in sports, and we don’t give grades in school. We try and protect their fragile little psyches from the pain of losing and the elation of winning. This, or course, has no bearing on real life. So the natural tendency of people who have been raised like this, as adults, is to not so much level the playing field but level the outcome. Hence the idea that the government (because the government is ALWAYS fair) ought to step in to make sure these people don’t make so much money. Which may seem like a good idea to many of us…until the government gets around to dictating how much lawyers can make…or doctors…or electricians…or secretaries. If we are putting in votes, I vote for the government to dictate how much athletes can make. How come Congress isn’t passing laws to tax A-Rod ninety percent of his salary because he took performance enhancing drugs?

I am sure that there are going to be all kinds of arguments trotted out by the administration and others that support this move. There will be ties made between this and “fiscal responsibility” (as if someone that trots out a $3 Trillion budget can say one word about it, in all seriousness), and that these people’s greed is hurting the rest of us. It will all sound good and helpful and…well, right. It still does not remove the fact that this step is another attempt to further government control over the private sector, and by extension, our private lives.

In closing, I refer you to a quote by James Madison, that describes the proper perspective between the government and the private sector. Perhaps our politicians would do well to read a little of Madison’s writings:

“The rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of which Government was instituted.” – James Madison

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Filed under Economy, Freedom, Politics

Whither AIG ?

More words have probably been written about the situation with AIG in the past 96 hours then can possibly be read. So I am not going to dwell too much on the issues that got us to this point. However, I think that what is happening (even as I write this) in Washington, in our name, needs to be brought to the surface.

Like most people, I find it extremely difficult to swallow that the executives at AIG that caused the problems with the company got the types of bonuses that they did. Most of us will never see that kind of money, even if we become super-successful in our lines of work. However, after hearing Ed Liddy yesterday talk about his rationale, I can understand the decision. Leaders, no matter what size organization they run, are often given the choice of the lesser of two evils. I have no reason to doubt his explanation as to why he didn’t do more to abrogate the compensation contracts of the executives in that particular division.

The larger issue here is how our government is responding to the AIG mess. I, for one, have been quite embarrassed by the behavior of our politicians, especially in Congress. It goes through both sides of the aisle – from quips about the “Japanese” way to shrugging off death threats, our so-called leaders are acting out of emotion. Quite frankly, acting on emotion is what got us here is the first place.

Then there is the constitutionality of the whole matter. I am not a lawyer, and I did not attend law school. But I do know something about our Constitution. What is being lost here, in the rush to “do something”, is that the Congress is treading on very slippery ground. The framers of our Constitution specifically prohibited the Congress from passing what are called Bills (or Acts) of Attainder (see here and here. These usually seek to enact laws that punish or impose some other type of “pain” on a specific group or class of people. The Constitution also prohibits Congress from passing Ex Post Facto laws, or laws that are retroactive to a certain date or action (Article I, section 9, clause 3).

So, I ask the question…does not what our Congress is contemplating today not fit into this definition? Not only is law it is seeking to pass argeted at certain people, it is also being contemplated after the fact. The whole point of having this prohibition in the Constitution is to keep the government from using its ability to write laws as a weapon against the people. As stupid as the idea is of the folks at AIG taking these bonuses, Congress is “doubling down” on the stupid bet by contemplating passing laws to tax or other wise confiscate the bonuses from these executives (as well as others). All to cover their you-know-whats for specifically allowing it in the first place. I could go on and on about this topic, but I am sure you get the point.

At risk of sounding fatalistic, I would tell you to call and email your representatives…but it isn’t going to do any good. They are going to do what they want, Constitution be damned (just as an aside…when do you think was the last time any of them read it?). I am going to, but I also like jousting with windmills. You may even agree with what Congress is doing today. If you do, just ask yourself what happens when the “them” that Congress is going after becomes you? Once the door is opened, what is to stop government from using its power to putatively punish you? One of the points of the rule of law is to protect all of us from the fickle tides of emotion. When our government stops paying attention to the highest law of the land, the rule of law erodes. Once the rule of law begins eroding, all of us become subject to the ebbs and flows of emotion.

Part of the result of the American Revolution was the institutionalization of the rule of law; that no one person, no matter the office, is above it. When emotion replaces reason and the rule of law, you get not the American Revolution, but the French Revolution.

(Here is another great article about the bonuses by Johan Goldberg of the National Review.)

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Filed under Constitution, Economy, Freedom, Politics

Quote of the Day

Here is something that caught my eye this afternoon. It is a quote by Friedrich Hayek, an economist who was a contemporary of John Maynard Keynes and one of his greatest critics. It speaks to a question that is, and ought to be, fundamental to our times. Namely, who knows better how to allocate our economic resources, individuals or government?

The real question is not whether man is, or ought to be, guided by selfish motives but whether we can allow him to be guided in his actions by those immediate consequences which we can know and care for or whether he ought to be made to do what seems appropriate to somebody else who is supposed to possess a fuller comprehension of the significance of these actions to society as a whole.

Hayek was firmly against Keynes’ theory of aggregate demand, which led Keynes to the belief that government ought to maipulate the economy to maintain aggregate demand (and thus, full employment). To make the point a little more clearer, Keynesian economics is what is driving our government wanting to bail out and “stimulus” the country back to economic health.

Just as an aside, I strongly suggest (if you are interested in economics) to read some of Hayek’s writings. His defence of classical economcs is in large part where the economic and fiscal principals of modern American conservatism come from.

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The Conundrum of the Conservative Christian

Like many of my fellow conservatives, I have been watching with a mixture of trepidation and pride as our country moves away from Election Day 2008. The pure history of the moment has not been lost on many people, the fact that our nation has elected a leader of color, the first predominantly white country to do so I believe. On the other hand, almost daily news comes from the Obama Transition Team that leads many of us conservatives to fear the worst, politically speaking.

Just so there are no misunderstandings, I do not like Obama’s views on…well, just about everything. From national security to economics to tax policy to immigration to energy policy, I suspect that if he and I sat down for a conversation (were I to have the chance), we would disagree on most areas. It isn’t that we would necessarily disagree on the ends, but the means. And in the political/social/economic realm, means are just as important as ends.

Which brings me back to the conundrum. Because while my views are conservative, I am also a Christian, and because of that I have (or at least should) a higher authority to answer to. Herein lies the conundrum – I am commanded to pray for him, and not only that, the Bible says that all leaders are annointed by God. Ouch! To be perfectly honest, that is a tough pill to swallow.

The worship pastor at my church has an interesting blog post on it here, which has inspired some interesting comments on the subject. He makes the point that if we believe that God is in control all the time, then we have to believe that God allowed Obama to win (note to liberals:before you begin gloating, that also means that he allowed folks such as Truman, Nixon, Reagan, and George W. Bush to be President as well). He asks the question who are we to question God? Double ouch!!!

The conundrum gets worse – while I can agree with praying for the guy while disagreeing with his policies, the Bible also says that rebelling against the government is rebelling against what God has instituted. Wow, that is a tough one. So, was the American Revolution rebelling against God? Our founders certainly didn’t think so – they thought they were taking the necessary steps to secure the rights God had given them. Is it rebelling to vociferously argue against policies that you believe are ineffective and in many cases immoral? Is it possible that the reason Obama is in office is partly to galvanize people to take action against many of the policies that I suspect he and the rest of the government will try to enact?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer, at least a definitive one. What’s more important, following the leaders appointed by God over us or securing the rights that he grants each and every person? I know where I come down on the argument, and so did many of the Founders – this quote from Thomas Jefferson says it all:

And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

Obviously, I am not preaching armed rebellion, but TJ knew a thing or two about securing our natural rights and dealing with a government that had become obtrusive and tyrannical in nature.

I am interested in comments, both for and against. This is a subject I am almost certain will be covered in the future. But for now, I will pray for Obama and his family – that they remain safe and that God’s wisdom and discernment would permeate not just them, but the people he appoints. And I will keep the proverbial powder dry.

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Filed under Christianity, Election, Freedom

Veterans Day 2008

Today is Veterans Day, the one day of the year that we, as a country, are supposed to take time out to thank all of those amongst us that served our great nation in the military.

Marine Corps logoFor those of you who may not know, yesterday was the 233rd birthday of the United States Marine Corps. The Marines were founded at Tun Tavern (appropriately enough) in Philadelphia, PA on November 10, 1775 in the opening months of the American Revolution.

One of the benefits of living where we live is that I am reminded almost daily of the sacrifice the Marines, as well as her sister services, make on our behalf. Whether it is hearing a tactical jet head out on a late night training mission or seeing on the local news the report of yet another unit either coming from or heading out on deployment, each is a reminder that there is always a sacrifice for freedom. It may be as small as missing tucking the kids in at bedtime, or as large as heading off to war, these sacrifices occur daily, with most of us blissfully unaware.

We are also fortunate to call several current or former Marines friends. Some of them are here, and some are away on deployment. I count it an honor to be able to assist, in some small way, on the home front with wives and kids who are left behind. Hopefully, in some small way, it gives them some peace of mind that their loved ones are being cared for while they are away.

Living where we do also provides me with endless examples to use to teach my son about the sacrifices that our military makes on our behalf, and why they deserve our utmost respect and admiration. To that end, one my favorite quotes of all time, attributed to George Orwell, is, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” We are fortunate that we continue to produce men and women that are willing to face down the barbarians at the gates, to put country over self, to put honor and duty over self-centeredness and irresponsibility.

It is fitting, I think, that the birthday of the Marines is one day removed from Veteran’s Day. Many of the battles that have made the Marines famous bring into sharp contrast why all those who have worn the uniform of this nation deserve our gratitude and thanks. Names like Belleau Wood, Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Chosin Resevoir, Hue, Beirut, and Fallujah are famous both for the ferocity of the battle, but more importantly, for the strength and resolve that was displayed in order to produce victory. It is true that there is “no better friend, no worse enemy” than the United States Marines.

So, on this Veteran’s Day, I hope that you get a chance to thank a veteran or two and wish a Marine Happy Birthday and Semper Fi. It is these folks that understand, better than many of us in this country I am afraid, the truth displayed on the Korean War Memorial:

Inscription on the wall at the National Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Inscription on the wall at the National Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

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