Homeless not Hopeless

I am currently homeless - politically. The editorial in the Economist made perfect sense. The Republican primary could be controlled by weirdoes, with whom I have little in common. On the other hand Barack Obama is taking the country in almost exactly the wrong direction. Four more years of Obama, this time unfettered by the control of voters in the next election, is a fate too frightening to contemplate. Voting for third parties just helps throw the election in the direction of the major party you most dislike. What to do?

Let me digress into what Republicans SHOULD be. The Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, Roosevelt & Reagan, should be the optimistic defender of freedom. We should be for limited government, but a limited government that is effective within the limited scope we give it. Freedom & limited government implies tolerance. We don't have to affirm, celebrate or even like the lifestyles and habits of everybody else, but it is government's duty to treat everybody equally. It is not government's business to manage society. That is what we dislike about liberals. We should never do it.

Republicans, more than most others, should recognize the difference between private and public. In my private life, I have the right to like or dislike whomever I please. I don't need a good reason for this. It is my business. The public sphere does not have this feature. Those who follow the law all have the same rights. (The mixing of public and private spheres is one of the biggest reasons most of us hate PC manners, BTW.)

In business, we should favor the type of business person Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan would have loved. A successful business leader is one that creates sustainable value, one that adds to the general wealth. We should not fall into the silly leftist idea of equality of results. We recognize that it is better to be rich than to be poor, but it matters how you got that way. Wealth is necessary to support a good life and profit is the tool we must use to create wealth, but profit is the means not the end. We should not respect those who create profit in ways that destroy wealth and we should work to embed profit in the fabric of the creations of sustainable wealth.

Our concept of society is not one of family where beneficent parents (i.e. governments) are generous to children & dependents. Our concept is a team, where everybody expects and is expected to play a part. As with a team, individuals play different roles and they expect that their roles will change and evolve as conditions change. Team members do not expect equal rewards. They know their contributions are not equal but that they all contribute to results. They expect to be rewarded for their legitimate efforts and success. They also expect to suffer the costs of failure, when the team fails to achieve its objectives.

Republicans celebrate community. We believe in the immense power of voluntary associations. When people come together in voluntary associations such as clubs, organizations, charities, firms and churches, they can accomplish much more than they could as individuals. Republicans do not believe in a society where everyone is in it only themselves. That is why we are more likely than others to participate in charity activities, attend church, join clubs and to volunteer our time to worthy causes. We believe in a society where people are free to choose their associations, where collective effort is voluntary, where volunteers really volunteer w/o coercion by the state.

We understand that only individuals can be generous if they are contributing their own money, time or effort. Governments cannot be generous. All they can do is make public policy choices that take from some to give to others, with some "service costs" taken out in between.

What about government? Government is a tool by which the people accomplish their goals they cannot do individually or in voluntary association. The Federal Government should provide for the common defense, ensure domestic tranquilly, invest in the creation and maintenance of large infrastructure projects that no private individuals in voluntary association could accomplish, ensure that laws are justly enforced. Local governments should have a bit more leeway. States are the laboratories of democracy. We should expect there to be significant variation among states and celebrate that. If you don't like New Hampshire, you can move to Vermont. Again, it is about providing choices, not guaranteeing outcomes.

Government's job is to help create stable conditions where the people can create wealth and prosperity (pursue happiness). Government cannot guarantee success, should not try to manage the process and has absolutely no business choosing winners and losers among its citizens.

Do Republicans live up to this? Of course they do not. IMO, they still do a better job than Democrats, but nobody lives up to ideals. A man's reach should exceed his grasp.

What is the hope? The Economist is pessimistic about the Republican primary prospects. But the editors do point to a possibility that I have thought about. If Mitt Romney can win relatively early, he can move toward the center and then govern more moderately, with core Republican principles instead of those crazy litmus test issues. In some ways that means we are counting on a certain amount of duplicity for Mitt. But MOST Republicans and probably most Americans will be happy with the result.

Limits are good. Self control and self denial are the hallmarks of a good person. That goes for government too. If Republicans can get back to basics, maybe avoid the Obama detour to government intrusion. Maye we can all come home to America.

Posted by Christine & John at December 31, 2011 8:05 AM
Comment #333949

C&J. Good work. You have your hands full, I’ll give you that, trying to convince conservatives that they are extremist. Which of course is the problem even if Romney gets his early victories and moves towards the center. Why should independents believe that it is anything more than talk on his part? The conservatives will demand radical foot shooting policies (as your link points out so well) as they have been doing for years now. They will expect Romney to toe the line and without a backbone Mitt will have no choice but to follow the wizard of odd down the yellow brick road to the fascist corporacy that is conservatism as practiced.

What a picture you paint of what conservatism is in the minds of it’s followers. To bad it doesn’t come close to what the conservative leaders put into play when given the chance. In fact the difference between conservative “what should be” and conservative “what it is” is a very stark contrast in reality. Is there some point in time when you guys can ask yourselves why the difference between what we say and what we do is so vast?

Your movement has veered off the rails to such an extent that it is nothing more than a hollow shell of itself. Time to pull the plug on the radio, turn off the cool aid spigot and dry out IMHO. In fact rehab and a 12 step program should be required for the talk radio conservatives, tea party followers and most other conservatives prior to electing anyone that even gives these extremist views more than a laugh and a “what kind of crazy are you” look.

BTW do you actually know anyone on the left that wants “equality of outcomes”? I have heard that mantra repeated often by conservatives, which leads me to believe it is a myth without any basis in reality, but have never heard or meant anyone that promotes “equality of outcomes”.

Posted by: j2t2 at January 1, 2012 11:59 AM
Comment #333950


re Conservatism in general - I am stating up top what I believe and what I want conservatism to be. I don’t suppose that any real world organization ever lives up to its standards.

As a conservative - I lean more on experience than theory. Experience teaches me that human perfection is impossible and the search for the perfect is the enemy of the achievement of the good.

Let me ask your honest opinion (you are an honest guy) IF all the things I lay out above were true, would you consider it a good thing? I understand that liberal and conservative goals are often very similar. What parts of the above would you accept and what parts reject?

Re equality of outcomes - much of the left’s action is based on this. Let me give an example that I thought of writing about.

Researchers have identified “achievement gaps” among various groups in society. In school, for example, Asians do better than whites who do better than Hispanics who do better than blacks. But there is more nuance. The “achievement gap” between immigrant blacks (from Africa or the West Indies) is greater than the gap between whites and blacks. This latter gap indicates that racism, per se, is not a good explanation for the gaps.

I don’t know about what you thought as you read that, but I bet that most liberals felt some degree of outrage followed by the question, “what can government do to close those gaps.”

This is an equality of outcome thought. You don’t think so. So let’s move to the next step.

Resources are limited. We can devote resources to those who will give the greatest benefit to society, i.e. help the highest achievers do great things. Or we can apply resources more or less equally, which will have the effect of helping all, but increasing the gaps, as those already in positions to benefit will make greater progress. Or we can devote relatively greater resources to bringing up the bottom.

Which would most liberals choose? Experience shows that - looking at actual spending proposals - that liberals are much more likely to want to raise the bottom than encourage excellence at the top.

I will add that this is NOT only a liberal problem. President Bush’s “no child left behind” is essentially a species of equal outcomes.

For me, I would apply similar public resources to all individuals, enabling the best and the brightest of all backgrounds to excel their more average colleagues and worry not much about individual difference and not at all about gaps between groups.

Posted by: C&J at January 1, 2012 12:22 PM
Comment #333953
re Conservatism in general - I am stating up top what I believe and what I want conservatism to be. I don’t suppose that any real world organization ever lives up to its standards.

True most organizations fall short of their stated goals, it is to be expected because we are human. Thew problem I have with conservatives is their inability to understand the disconnect between the rosy picture and the stark reality of what conservatism is as practiced. Surely conservatives can do better as an organization to improve upon the state of conservatism today and actually come closer to what they believe the conservative ideology is.

Let me ask your honest opinion (you are an honest guy) IF all the things I lay out above were true, would you consider it a good thing?

Mostly a good thing.

I understand that liberal and conservative goals are often very similar.

It seems to me the gap between the two is mostly in the minds of those professing their qualities and lack there of.

What parts of the above would you accept and what parts reject?

the optimistic defender of freedom. check, I think the vast majority of people be they leftist or rightist are defenders of freedom. The difference of course is what freedoms they defend.

We should be for limited government, but a limited government that is effective within the limited scope we give it. Check, Again the differences are in the issues of scope not the concept of limited government.

Freedom & limited government implies tolerance. We don’t have to affirm, celebrate or even like the lifestyles and habits of everybody else, but it is government’s duty to treat everybody equally. Check, but I have to say “tolerance” doesn’t seem to be a conservative trait judging by the lack of it if you are not mainstream American. It seems you may be taking from the leftist ideology on this one.

It is not government’s business to manage society. Check, it is not a business but a responsibility, the reason we have government. Although this seems to be more of a what is being managed issue for most. Seems it is ok to manage women’s healthcare issues but not their environmental health issues. It is ok to manage flag burning but not ok to manage….

we should favor the type of business person Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan would have loved. Check, well except Reagan whose administration was the most corrupt in modern history. In part this was due to the type of businessmen he was beholding to. But your description is spot on. It seems the difference is in the nuances of what you say more and in what is actually practiced. Conservatives seem to think we have to be cheerleaders for any and all things business without a critical eye to what is being done. It seems those on the left prefer to not be as trusting and therefore less of a cheerleader.

Re equality of outcomes - much of the left’s action is based on this.
It seems to me you are mistaken “level playing field” with equality of outcomes”. It is this type of mistaken analysis and over reaction or hyperbole that leads to widening the gap between the two sides of the aisle. Perhaps there are a few on the more extreme left that want some type of equality outcomes but certainly not any more than those on the extreme of the right that want a racially pure America. Posted by: j2t2 at January 1, 2012 1:52 PM
Comment #333954

“It is not governments business to manage society.”

Throughout history, the primary concern of government has been the management of society. And, the primary question has been, on behalf of whom does government manage society. Does government manage in accordance to the wishes of an elite few or does it manage on behalf of the many? Management on behalf of the many is far more complicated, but management on behalf of the few can have serious detrimental consequences for a society.

Few people agree that perfection can be achieved. That did not prevent our Founding Fathers from charging us with the task of creating a more perfect union. Even, if it is considered a waste of money by conservatives. Wasting money is something the people are extremely good at. It is the hallmark of a consumer society.

C&J, you go on and on about equality of results when the problem is a growing inequality and not just in this country.

According to the world bank, adoption of market principles and passage of progressive legislation has helped Brazil make good progress in relieving poverty in the country, but the progress is now being threatened by the growing inequality. The top two million Brazilians have household incomes equal to that of the bottom 80 million or 50% of the population.

Outrage? No, most on the left realize that there will always be people who will not or cannot take advantage of opportunity but, making this country the land of equal opportunity has required much work rather than a declaration.

One aspect of competition is the desire to stymie the other fellas opportunities to compete on an equal basis. If you can blackmail the railroads into giving you a favorable shipping rate while your competitors are paying the higher rate, you have increased your opportunities to the detriment of others.

Posted by: jlw at January 1, 2012 2:10 PM
Comment #333955


I think that the pursuit of conservative principles in our modern society has resulted mostly in good results. But that most of the tools are not sufficient to produce great outcomes. Nothing is.

Re tolerance - We have to be careful with this, which is why I wrote exactly as I did. In their zeal, some have tried to push tolerance to encompass acceptance and then celebration.

Take the example of gay lifestyle. I support gay marriage and equal rights. BUT I have observed that gay male behavior is often boisterously promiscuous and graphically sexual. I don’t like what I see at gay rights parades. I affirm their rights to do such things, but I would actively discourage my friends & family from adopting that sort of lifestyle. If you let me “tolerate”, i.e. don’t ask me to support or affirm, we can agree. If you try to make me take active part, I have to go against it.

Re government management - the above leads to this next point. Government is the tool of the people. It is not their superior. Government is supposed to do justice according to the equal application of the law. Other forms of justice are none of its business.

We run into a question of democracy. There are some rights that the majority cannot determine. If I am a law abiding citizens, my fellow citizens cannot vote to deprive me of life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness, even if that is what 99% want. That is why our constitution talks of bills of attainder and ex-post-facto laws.

I think we have a overhang from out ancient relationships to government. The US is the most revolutionary large society in the history of the world. Our break with the past was the whole idea that we own the government. We are citizens, not subjects. In past societies, people looked to government for benefits and direction. With this paradigm, it is necessary to get “good government” & petition leaders to do justice, Solomon style. Our American concept dispenses with most of this old fashioned stuff, or at least it is supposed to.

Re business - good conservatives do not trust any concentration of power, but we observe that business corruption almost always has a government competent. It is actually impossible for business to be corrupt w/o some sort of government collusion.

For example, if I am a business owner, you cannot bribe me to give you a lower price. In every practical way, it only matters what you pay. So if I ask $20 and you “bribe” me $5 to give it to you for $10, all that means is that we have agreed to a price of $15. The only way I can be corrupted is if I sell what I do not own. This is illegal and cannot become widespread unless the government is not enforcing law.

Corruption in government increases with the scope of government. If you create choke points, sooner of later some corrupt officials will find a way to help.

The government has a responsibility for the financial system, since government controls currency and credit. This is where we find the biggest dangers of crony capitalism. I wrote a little about this. Frankly the details are impossible for me to understand, as they are beyond the abilities of most regulators and almost all politicians.

There are choke points in finance created by clever business men and women in cooperation with government. We need to address this. I cannot give details.

Re equal outcomes - This is a big difference in our perception. I believe that racism in the systemic sense is gone. There are still racists, but racism is no longer a good explanation of inequality. I think that the “civil rights community” has become a interest group pushing a widening definition.

I go with Martin Luther King - that we should judge people by the content of their characters not the color of their skins. The landmark laws of the 1960s were necessary to break the cycles, but they did their jobs. Therefore, we should concentrate on actual individual cases, phasing out all affirmative action, goals and certainly abandoning the whole idea of “disproportional impact.”

We have also to understand the institutions of racism. In the old South, racists used terror tactics and laws to prevent blacks from establishing businesses and participating fully in the economy. Obviously, people would have welcomed the business, which is why the racists had to apply to coercive power to stop it.

A good business person cannot really see black and white; they see only the green of money. This is one of the good parts of greed.

Government had the duty to enforce laws against violence and coercion and should not have enacted actual laws (Jim Crow) that prevented the free exercise of business.

Posted by: C&J at January 1, 2012 2:56 PM
Comment #333956


Re government management - please see above.

You are right that for most of history government (the king and the aristocrats) managed society. The US was a revolutionary society where for the first time in a large society we decided that the people would manage themselves and use government as their tool, not the other way around.

Re Brazil - inequality has been a problem. It is not growing. The social program, called Bolsa Familia, has helped, but you have to look at the base. It is easier to bring people up to basic levels. The Brazilian middle class, which for the first time makes up more than half of the population, is just starting to get prosperous. They have their first refrigerators, cars etc. There is a big difference between having a refrigerator and not. It is harder later. The difference between having a bigger refrigerator and a “starter” is not as satisfying.

Brazil is a great success story since the reforms of the “Real Plan” now almost twenty years ago. If you want to look to good government policies in recent days, you should look at what the Australians and our Canadian friends have done. If you want to talk about Brazil, you should probably go to my private blog. I live in Brazil, you know.

Posted by: C&J at January 1, 2012 3:09 PM
Comment #334839

Hi, John, good to see you still in the discussion. Apparently the IP ban that prevented me from participating here, has been lifted.

I think you give Obama far too much credit for the direction this country has headed. What has Obama done (outside the role of Commander in Chief) that Congress has not approved? Congress passes the laws that govern our nation, not the President. If this country is headed in the wrong direction, folks should look to Congress long before the Oval Office.

And if one believes in our democratically elected system, one has to look to the voters for the responsibility for what Congress does, ultimately. If is the voters that installed those Congress persons. After all, the voters have the power to remove those in Congress every 2 years in the House, and 6 in the Senate.

The reelection rate for Congress in 2010 was 77%, down from the historical average of over 90%. I do believe this November that percentage will drop even more. More and more voters are taking responsibility for the actions of Congress, and it is Congress that shapes our economic and political future, and our economic and political future haven’t looked this grim in the long term, since the Civil War or perhaps, 1929-1930.

Obama has been slightly left leaning centrist and pragmatist as president. He has taken positions which alienated progressives, and positions straight out of the Republican handbook, which Republicans immediately abandoned for no other reason than Obama championed them. Obama and Congress expanded health care coverage for 10’s of millions who otherwise would not have had any. That was a good thing for 10’s of millions of Americans including my 21 year old daughter in the Army Reserves who is allowed to remain on her parent’s health care policy.

Obama ended the war in Iraq - promise kept. It was a good thing. Obama took out OBL, in a fashion that could not be disputed, (much to Republican General’s chagrin). It was a good thing. Obama and Congress halted the economic decline and averted an economic depression. It was a good thing.

As objective business owners and CEO’s have repeatedly reported, their primary reason for not hiring was a lack of consumer demand for their products or services (though consumer demand is now increasing). Obama is not responsible for this, in any way, shape, or form. The policies enacted from 1999 with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and throughout the Bush Administration, Congresses and Greenspan’s Fed Reserve, were responsible for the Great Recession that shrunk consumer demand.

Obama’s stimulus plan, approved by Congress, saved millions of jobs. We have Stimulus dollars still employing Texans on the road widening in front of our property, started over 2 years ago. Not a bad thing, unless one is a die hard Republican who refuses to allow fact and data to change their biased assessment.

There simply is no potential president, not even Republican, (outside of the extremist Ron Paul), who would have attempted to balance the budget in 2009 or 10, given the dire economic decline which Obama inherited. Stimulus was needed. We got some, but not nearly enough to replicate the massive government spending stimulus that ended the Great Recession after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Congress, however, not Obama, was in control of how much, if any, government spending stimulus came forth after the onset of the Great Recession.

During the Obama administration, our banks have become stronger and more insulated from the European debt crises. The unemployment rate has dropped a couple percent. Millions more Americans are working now, that weren’t. Many areas of the country like mine, have seen needed infrastructure improvements made. Poverty has risen, and the Middle Class has shrunk in size, but, that was to be expected by a Great Recession that began before Obama became president, and ended during Obama’s first term.

So, it appears to me, your article participates in partisan demagoguery without objectively considering the factual record of what has taken place during Obama’s first term. It is impossible to determine what these last 3.5 years would have looked like under McCain as president, but, the challenges and difficulties the nation posed would have been the same, and balancing the budget under McCain would have dramatically increased the misery index for most Americans considering the millions of Americans who receive desperately needed assistance during the Obama presidency.

Posted by: David Remer at January 20, 2012 10:02 PM
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