An Ideology Demoted

 

If realizing how little one knows is part of growing up, then I am on the threshold of bona fide adulthood.

Over the past year, I have seen and done many things for the first time. And instead of reassuring me of my inexhaustible teenage knowledge, calmly meshing into my calculated and comfortable worldview, these experiences have dethroned my knowledge, demoted my pet ideologies.

Everything from the 2016 presidential race to my nerve-wracking driving test to some clear-eyed Bible study has drawn me ever closer to the simple conclusion that life offers few simple conclusions. It offers even fewer simple solutions.

One of the earth-shattering implications of this truth, one whose consequences were difficult for me to embrace, is that economic and political freedoms are no solution for the human condition—they can guarantee neither order nor morality. While some systems are more just and potentially moral than others, no political system makes humans any better than they are now. Libertarianism cannot counteract inborn human depravity. Only the Gospel can do that.

In an idyllic free society or Misesian economy, people would likely be more prosperous and things might be more peaceful. But on their own, these systems still present innumerable human flaws and reflect mankind’s all-encompassing sin problem.

In my subconscious I wanted to believe that if only man was given a chance, if only people were given freedom and modern technology and trade, they would do something good and worthwhile and wholly amazing. As soon as I acknowledged this thought, I also noticed its danger. It denies the unique power of God to change people, it diminishes the true value of freedom by introducing absurd impossibilities, and it forces freedom and free markets into a league of other failed ideas that have promised to “change” humans.

Scripture is clear that, whether free or oppressed, people keep on doing just what they have always done: building towers, trying to make names for themselves, and trying to reach heaven on their own accord in an open rebellion against God.

Freedom is good—for many reasons, both practical and Biblical—but not because it makes man good; it does not, cannot, and will never change human nature.

Even if Misesian minarchy were the best system of government ever devised, it and its components would still be surrounded by and capable of great evil. The same goes for every other governmental and economic system in the history of the world; some are better than others, but all are nevertheless bad by reason of their human elements.

So far as solutions go, there is only One for changing people. So far as governments go, well, there’s a lot of debate about which is the most conducive to justice and goodness. In that regard my view of freedom still stands, as strongly as ever and as radically as ever. And although it stands, it stands demoted—its value has not diminished, but a foggy, faulty understanding of it has been put to rest.

I will continue to call myself a freedom-lover, but only after I have been sure to call myself a follower of Christ.

(And maybe, one of these days, I’ll also be able to say that I’m a grown-up.)

The Mahler Universe

The title page of an 1808 edition of Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

The title page of an 1808 edition of Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Gustav Mahler is one of my favorite composers. His music is imaginative. Glorious. Intense. Unprecedentedly large-scale. Sometimes dark, and other times angelic—always reminiscent of a vague adventure described in bits and pieces over an entire lifetime of creativity. In this regard Mahler’s music resembles a collection of folk tales or fairy stories—which were, not surprisingly, his greatest source of inspiration.

Seen from a broader perspective, though, his works are more than an assortment of thematically linked old lieder: it would be better explained as a story, in music, that takes place in a continuous universe.

Marvel and DC’s universes are two decent illustrations of this analogy. Both of these fictional settings in question are worlds similar to our own, featuring a regular cast of distinctive characters. Marvel has well-known figures like Captain America, the Fantastic Four, and Daredevil, for instance; DC has Batman, Superman, and the Joker. In many ways, though, Mahler’s musical universe is like the Pixar universe formulated and explained in fan theories: through a series of works, most connected and a few not, a thread can be traced. Familiar themes can be detected from piece to piece. And there’s a fascinating reason for it.

Mahler’s universe is based on the romanticized, dark, sometimes grotesque early Germany of the real world—the Germany of a generation or two before he was born. Instead of mutant superheroes and mastermind villains, his music features the familiar characters, ideas, and themes found in Des Knaben Wunderhorn (the Young Boy’s Magic Horn), a collection of German lieder and poetry from a colorful, centuries-old culture.

While it would be presumptuous to say that the man’s music solely reflected Wunderhorn poetry, all of his symphonies were in some way or another influenced by the collection. His life experiences, his philosophies, and his feelings for individuals around him were woven directly into his music; but one might say that Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano’s 1805 poetry collection was his music.

Many 19th century Germans and Austrians would have been familiar with the book. Perhaps as a result of its widespread popularity, several composers, including Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, and Schoenberg, wrote works based on selections. None of them impacted the musical scene quite as deeply as Mahler’s, the near entirety of whose creative output was set in the musical universe he created from (and for) Des Knaben Wunderhorn. 

The term “musical universe” is imperfect for a number of reasons, one of them being that it obscures the difference between actual storytelling and actual characters in poems set to music and the recurring musical themes, cadences, and instrumentations that Mahler uses again and again in his symphonies and songs. However, the term’s ambiguity is simultaneously useful—thanks to the intriguing connections between his song sets, symphonies, and Wunderhorn.

The Mahler universe began with his early Songs of a Wayfarer and Lieder and Gesänge, his first settings of Wunderhorn verse and Wunderhorn-inspired poetry; in 1892, he began the best-known set of Wunderhorn songs. From these sets of songs emerged, directly and indirectly, nine symphonies. His First Symphony blatantly references Songs of a Wayfarer; in the Resurrection Symphony, he quotes “Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt” almost measure for measure for a great deal of the second movement—and the fourth movement of the same symphony is a Wunderhorn setting in its entirety, the poignant “Urlicht”. “Ablösung im Sommer” and “Es sungen drei Engel” similarly found their way into the Third Symphony. My favorite of all, the Fourth Symphony, features the beautiful “Das Himmlische Leben”.

With the last chord of the Fourth Symphony ends the Wunderhorn influence, or so it is said. But I disagree: the first motif of Mahler’s Fifth, the famed trumpet call, is a quote from the Fourth. Although it has not been concluded (and it has rarely been discussed) whether or not the quote was intentional, the fact remains that Wunderhorn’s impact was scarcely over. For instance, in the Fifth he hints at two Wunderhorn songs he was working on at the time, “Der Tamboursg’sell” and “Revelge,” two militaristic pieces with dark subjects. Mahler continued to quote and imitate his earlier works until the end.

Mahler’s works are placed into categories: Early, Wunderhorn, Middle, and Late. But  I would argue that “the Wunderhorn years” never properly ended—just as Pixar fans argue that Cars, Toy Story, and Monsters Inc. exist in the same chronology. The connection may be harder to trace, but it persists—and you can find it simply by listening to Mahler’s universe.

Secession: More Than a Texas Tall Tale

texas

Unlike the jokes that claim Texas is populated solely by oil millionaires and lone tumbleweeds, the Texas independence movement is no tall tale. Supporters of secession are real and their numbers are growing.

That Texans exaggerate things, and that the rest of the world stretches the truth about Texas itself, is undeniable: as the stereotype would have it, everyone in Texas is an oil millionaire or a cattleman (or both), rattlesnakes and cactus are ubiquitous, and the weather is universally hot, dry, and dusty, with a sprinkling of tumbleweeds.

Texas’ nearly thirty million inhabitants can quickly confirm, of course, that oil tycoons are rare, that the weather is a great deal more than its reputation permits, and that, thankfully, tumbleweeds refuse to grow most places south of Abilene. Yet this amusing but inaccurate stereotype remains, as if it were a statewide inside joke or a reference to a Hollywood comedy that refuses to die.

However, there is one aspect of the Texas reputation that is verifiably true: Texas pride and Texas’ very real, very active independence movement.

The Texas Nationalist Movement has over 200,000 supporters, with approximately 20,000 joining those ranks since June 1, 2015.

For those who have not thoroughly examined the facts and explored their implications, Texas standing as its own nation does indeed seem like farcical folklore, originating in the joking pride and boundless imagination of a self-obsessed culture.

Although many are tempted to downplay the existence of a serious independence movement and dismiss it as another Texas joke, its ideology, its “boots on the ground,” its logic, and the hope it offers Texans cannot be ignored—just as the glaring problems with the current federal system cannot be imagined out of existence.

Supporters of Texas independence are real, they are multiplying, and they are no local legend or stereotype. Furthermore, they have a good chance of succeeding in their mission, a chance that gets even better if you help them.

Look to the future.

The United States’ past, although riddled with bullet holes and strewn with unfulfilled promises, is often shown through an idyllic lens: memories of mom and pop stores, fond recollections of prosperous times and simple pleasures, stories of America’s greatest individuals and their victories for freedom and justice. But this is a one-sided view to take, one that not only neglects to show the tragedies and pitfalls of past eras but also covers up the inconvenient reality that America is not what it once was.

For the past 150 years, and the past 60 years in particular, government intrusion and spending have risen exponentially. States rights have all but vanished, destroying the Founders’ vision of a federation of independent nations; government debt has risen to wholly unsustainable levels; federal intervention in energy, healthcare, and transportation industries has resulted in an unstable system that constantly requires “reform,” stifles progress, is unable to meet demand, and consumes a massive—and unprecedented—percentage of the United States’ GDP. The United States has become an economic, political, and social quagmire that threatens to destroy Texas entirely.

Nostalgic memories of the past are usually inaccurate, but they are also not repeatable: they cannot be relived, and they especially cannot be relived in Washington’s shadow. Clinging to a perishing system, waving an American flag on a sinking ship, is no longer the answer.

The only chance for a bright future comes in creating it, and right now Texans have the opportunity to choose independence.

Originally published here. 

The Logically Deficient Basis of Pure Conservatism

This Tory poster, made for the 1951 general election, called for change and the end of "war socialism." But Tories (British conservatives) would change themselves entirely over the next sixty years.

This Tory poster, made for the 1951 general election, called for change and the end of “war socialism.” But Tories (British conservatives) would themselves change entirely over the next sixty years.

There was once a time when I was an unyielding, self-proclaimed conservative.

Conservatism—by the dictionary—means “belief in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society,” or “dislike of change or new ideas in a particular area.”

After three years of reflection, I reached the conclusion that neither of these two pillars of conservatism is invariably desirable—and that this vague ideological construct that millions of Americans cling to is one of the most meaningless political philosophies of the 20th and 21st centuries. 

Pure Conservatism

While the specific policies and proposals of conservatives in a given society should be evaluated on their own merits, the logical basis for many of these stances often amounts to little less than the masked fallacy that “it worked before, so it ought to work now.” Strict preservation of the existing system is the only apparent rationale for pure conservatism—in fact, it is conservatism. Perpetuating what came before, untouched and with no questions asked, is rarely what people think of when they hear the word conservatism, however. The term is frequently associated with far-right political movements or policy positions. While modern conservatives may seem “far-right” compared to more modern ideologies, this is not what conservatism means. Far from it.

In the United States, most conservatives oppose gun control; in Britain, most conservatives support gun control. Neither form of conservatism is internally inconsistent, because both are in favor of preserving the status quo, the governmental inheritance their flawed forefathers left behind. Both are forms of pure conservatism in this regard.

At one point, part of American conservatism was “conserving” prohibition; most modern conservatives, a few generations separated, have flipped this policy on its head and now wish to loosen regulations on alcohol production and lower taxes on alcohol’s sale.

From its founding until the Civil War, the United States was construed to be a confederation of independent nation-states, not unlike the modern European Union. Conservatives immediately after the Civil War wanted to return to said system; after a generation, conservatism had changed—just as the Union had changed.

The face of conservatism changes as often as the status quo changes; there is but a brief generational delay. Neither static nor coherent, conservatism changes with the traditions it attempts in vain to preserve, rendering it incapable of functioning as a standalone philosophy of government.

What’s Worth Conserving?

Conservatism is merely concerned with maintaining a tradition; the moral or practical quality of that tradition is an altogether extraneous question. In the United States today, conservatism exists as a force that supports a “safety net” of welfare agencies, favors the continued ban on recreational drugs, and proposes a closed border policy—whether or not these policies are worth keeping and whether or not they are traditionally “American” are two different questions.

Trade protectionism, frequent military interventions in foreign affairs, the death penalty, the government’s protected monopoly on letter delivery, public education, the bureaucratic phenomenon known as the FDA, and government construction and maintenance of roads are only a few things that conservatives take for granted that conflict with their bitter opposition to new incarnations of similar policies.

Public education and federally constructed curriculum are acceptable; Common Core is not. Background checks on gun purchasers are sensible, but licensing gun owners or restricting ammunition sales is “nonsense.” Jailing nonviolent drug users or traders is the only right answer to an uncomfortable 21st century issue; but alcohol consumption is somehow a different matter altogether.

Just how far a conservative is willing to go is decided not by logic, nor by pragmatism, nor even by morals: it is decided by tradition. Slavery was once an American “tradition.” Not very long ago, women were denied voting rights—this was also a “tradition.” In the near future, abortion will also be a “tradition” that conservatives will fight to preserve.

As it is now, the United States government and its many faulty traditions are not worth conserving; they required changes twenty years ago, and fifty years ago, and a hundred years ago. Conserving a governmental system haunted by inefficiencies, problems, and injustices that continue to compound yearly is hardly the answer to the threatening circumstances—foreign and domestic—that have the potential to rip apart this nation at the seams.

Not All Traditions Are Bad

Like all ideas and practices, traditions should be morally and logically evaluated. Compared to most other countries’ records in human rights and economic freedom, the United States’ history is relatively clean; but that does not change that some of its still-practiced “traditions,” including government monopolies in mail delivery and education, are not acceptable.

Nevertheless, the United States has plenty of ideological traditions to be proud of—due process, free speech, and limited government, to name only an important few. Americans should seek to protect and advance these traditions, rather than the norm in government, which frequently infringe upon the handful of worthwhile “established and traditional practices in politics and society.”

Not all traditions are bad; not all traditions are good. Traditions change. Traditions are unstable. And traditions vary drastically depending on the region, culture, and nation that formed them. Ideological progress, and mankind’s progress as a whole, depends not on “conserving” lock, stock, and barrel what came before, but rather on culling the bad and adopting the good. Conservatism means nothing beneficial if the system it seeks to conserve is a tyrannical one—as is increasingly the case.

Despite sharing a number of political leanings with the modern American conservatives, I no longer label myself as one of them, and the conclusions I share with them I have reached for wholly different reasons than they have: they wish but to preserve a tradition, rather than promoting what is best for mankind, what is best in God’s eyes, and what functions best in this very real world in which we live.

True, pure conservatism—the sort that follows tradition only for tradition’s sake—ignores that established practices can be crimes against humanity, and new ideas can serve as an infusion of life to a nation. Given uninhibited liberty and a minimalist government constrained by the rule of law, humankind can make the greatest advances and pave the way to the brightest future. It is time to create national “traditions” that acknowledge this.

Tasty and Squishable Shelob Candy

Tasty, squishable, and very, very sticksy, yesssss Precious, sticksy like Shelob’s webs. Everyone’s always hungry for Shelob candy, yesssss. And Smeagol knows the way; good Smeagol shows Master the way to make Shelob candises. Smeagol gives you the recipe.

First, you need these foodses:

  • 4 cups marshmallows
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Next, microwave the marshmallowses and the butter until they are melted. Stir them well.

1

Add the vanilla.

2

Microwave again if the marshmallowses are too stiff, and then mix in 1 1/4 cups flaked coconutses. Should be about the stickiness of giant spider’s web, yesssss, precious:

4

Now add the tasty and crunchable pecanses.

5

Watch out for nasty tricksy hobbitses, who come to steal your juicy sweet candises:

8Keep close watch for nasty hobbitses while you lay out parchment paperses on a plate and spray it with slippery grease:

9

Use two spoons to roll the sticky juicy sweet into a ball. Once that is done, keep the preciousssss in a cold dark cave, or in a nasty refrigerator (your choice) until they are holdable and chewable:

10.

And listen to good Smeagol, don’t let nasty tricksy hobbitses take your Shelob candy. Because nasty tricksy hobbitses will steal it from you. 

13

Nasty hobbit stole our preciousssss. 

14

We must go look for the preciousssss.

gollum tree

Big Government and Teenagers

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Big jobs usually go to the men who prove their ability to outgrow small ones.” Thanks to government meddling, however, many teenagers haven’t had the chance to prove themselves in even the smallest jobs.

Despite claims that youngsters of the 21st century are lacking in work ethic and self-motivation, that they are inferior to their predecessors is thus far highly debatable; what is certain, however, is that federal restrictions (child labor laws, the minimum wage, and twelve-year compulsory school attendance) make it exceedingly difficult for teenagers to launch a career, get a starter job, or become an entrepreneur. The effects of Washington’s arbitrary redistribution and intervention fall disproportionately on young adults—allegedly for whose sake many of these harmful regulations were put in place.

Child Labor Laws

Perhaps the most blatantly age-discriminatory interventionist contrivances are “child” labor laws. A teen’s primetime for an after-school job might be in his freshman or sophomore years, when school load is lighter yet he is mature enough to function well and gain practical experience in workplace situations. Yet until age eighteen work hours, schedules, breaks, fields, occupations, roles, and more are micromanaged. A great deal of teenagers anticipate their sixteenth or seventeenth birthdays, when some of the restrictions are relaxed, only to realize when they reach those milestones that they no longer have time for part-time work.

An unnecessary fixture in a developed economy and a harmful one in an undeveloped counterpart, child labor laws limit modern teenagers’ ability to test the flavors and atmospheres of occupations, assess their potential performance in a given field, gain important workplace experience, and earn extra money.

Minimum Wage Laws

Combine this with the minimum wage, the price-fixing of labor that unskilled workers either love or hate, and teenagers have a real problem.

Teens are almost always unskilled and inexperienced, sometimes lack maturity, typically have little practical knowledge, and no matter what job they can get, they probably need training. Employing teenagers is costly. Coercive government-mandated increases in the price of a good or service always result in surpluses of the aforementioned goods or services, and wage rates are no exception. Price-fixing negates or damages the mutually beneficial status of an exchange, and in this scenario it makes teenagers (and other low-skill laborers) very unattractive employees for their legally required per-hour prices.

The Twelve-Year Sentence

If by some miracle or black magic a school-age teenager trumps child labor laws and minimum wage price-fixing and worms his way into a meaningful job he enjoys (i.e., likely not fast food), he has another problem: compulsory school attendance. Schedules are not flexible, hours are long, and there are few alternatives.

The one-size-fits-all, federal-driven public schools require credits for all students that may or may not have anything to do with a student’s career choice or interests; these classes often include theater, music, art appreciation, P.E., or a whole slough of social sciences biased toward totalitarianism. Homeschooling and private schooling are legally permissible options: however, in the very probable case that resources are limited or prices are high (thanks to government control of education markets,) these are impossible.

Cut the Regulations.

Without federal coercion, the teen years could be more productive, enlightening, involving, and growth-centered. Instead, teenagers are viewed as problematic adolescents that cannot do much of anything for themselves; and while this is a cultural and governmental phenomenon, state intervention uses legal force to help perpetuate the myth that teenagers can be little more than internet addicts or thick-skulled sports aficionados.

Even if 21st-century teenagers are or will be “worthless bums” who refuse to start their adult lives until age 29, Washington’s overwhelming initiative-choking benevolence is making it harder and harder for teens and young adults to transcend their unflattering societal reputations and launch a successful career. In the end, the answer lies not in cutting back on these detrimental laws but in abolishing altogether the system that created them.

Two Flavors of Tyranny

 

red and blueIn American politics, there are two angles on any given issue: the Republican side and the Democrat side. Any dissenting or differing opinions are bottled up and shoved into one of the above categories, because as conventional wisdom would have it, either an idea is red or it is blue; either one thinks red bad, or one thinks blue bad. Those who disagree with both factions are quickly dismissed as socialist quacks or libertarian-leaning internet trolls.

However, one need not be a collectivist crusader or an anarcho-capitalist to notice that the two major parties bear only internal relevance. When viewed away from the American political context, the parties, it becomes evident, squabble over details, yet agree on major points; and although they fall on two sides of the so-called left-right spectrum, both of them assume big government and rely on its existence for debates to endure between them. In the end, the choice between Democrat and Republican is a choice between two flavors of tyranny.

Their one discrepancy begins with the thing that very few people are aware that they possess—namely, political worldview. Republicans and Democrats use the same means (in slightly varying amounts) to achieve radically different visions of national greatness. Republicans seek military strength and material prosperity for all, and Democrats are purportedly working towards ultimate social justice and safety for the masses; this roughly sumps up the distinction between the goals of fascism and socialism. The ends are at odds, but the means are identical.

Fascist and socialist states are related by blood, and telling them apart at a glance is often a challenge: both of them sport secret police forces, enormous militaries, starving populations, central economic planning, drastic shortages and surpluses because of that economic planning, relentless propaganda, mass executions of political opponents, usually a uniting prejudice against a race or culture, programs to indoctrinate youth, a disgusting disregard for the sanctity of life, party-worship and personality cults centering around leaders, uncontrollable inflation and draconian monetary restrictions, burdensome restrictions on the populace, and the list could go on for a while yet.

Interestingly enough, nearly every disagreement between the Republicans and the Democrats is a debate on the workings and minor details of running a preexisting mammoth-sized government.

In the realm of gun control, Republicans cling to licensing and background checks, while Democrats prefer to expunge all firearms from the population, ban all pointy objects, and regulate all choking hazards. Democrats wish to socialize healthcare entirely; Republicans only want to socialize it a bit. Republicans hope to “reform” public schools by decentralizing and cutting off a smidge of funding, and Democrats want to “reform” schools by expanding and throwing extra money at school districts everywhere.

The two parties are not opposites in any of these scenarios; indeed, they are merely on discriminable points of the tyranny gradient. One kind of tyranny is not distinguishable from another, and far left and far right are simply dissimilar names for the same brand of oppression.

The United States’ two dominating parties pretend to disagree on every issue that they can find to discuss, but—in reality—they only disagree on one issue: in what areas, to which degree, and for what purpose can the government control citizens?

Truth be told, ideas are not red or blue: they are good or bad. Both parties have stunning amounts of proposals that fit into the latter classification, and both parties present a type of tyranny that we should be unwilling to accept.

Bernie Sanders and the Quest for Sparkly Pink Unicorns

Democrat presidential candidate and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders is perpetuating the myth of the free lunch with his recently introduced College for All Act, legislation with a gloriously populist title (Marx would be proud) and about as much hope for success as the never-ending search for sparkly pink unicorns.

Bernie’s audacious legislation will “eliminate undergraduate tuition at four-year public colleges and universities.” And Sanders himself alleges that it is “fully paid for by imposing a Robin Hood tax on Wall Street.”

The bill is an impressive demagogic appeal: it takes a snipe at those evil Wall Street guys, hands even more power to our benevolent and completely unbiased federal overseers, and promises free stuff to starving college students. As intriguing as the offer might sound to the uninitiated, the College for All Act is sheer economic fantasy; its failures begin with the fact that it gives colleges and universities the perfect chance to waste even more time and money on a federally funded racketeering scheme, pushing tuition costs to loftier and loftier heights in an accursed circle of perverse incentives.

“Most people now see college as an entitlement to be provided largely at ‘public’ expense. It shouldn’t be,” says George Leef, “If we hadn’t made the blunder of getting government involved in college education, it would today cost much less and deliver more value. That’s because it would be subject to the test of the market. Instead, it’s like an overweight gorilla that has been stuffing itself on taxpayer dollars for many years.”

When government begins to finance a failing corporation, or otherwise one that allegedly needs “strengthening,” the recipient corporation is freed from its obligations to run efficiently and satisfy its consumers. The federal government began subsidizing tuition and universities in 1944 and has not looked back since.

A few student loan crises and credential-based college bubbles later, the wisdom of government involvement in higher education is questionable—particularly in light of the skyrocketing costs of tuition and textbooks. Interestingly enough, college tuition has gone up 1225% since 1978; the CPI has only risen by 279%.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Sanders pays halfhearted lip service to this fact by pretending that only despicable Wall Street desperadoes will suffer in funding America’s college degrees, but in reality such a proposal would create enough perverse incentives for students to misuse and abuse college opportunities and for colleges to jack up prices (since, after all, a person who isn’t paying isn’t concerned with costs) that overall tuition costs would balloon out of proportion and affect all participants and taxpayers in the United States economy. In the end, an absurd chunk of GDP would be swallowed up by higher education’s ever-rising costs.

The pink unicorn will never be found; it does not exist, and Sanders should stop feigning that socialization of tuition would bring it into existence. Rather, government intervention and funding of higher education—at all levels—should end. The United States should return to reality and privatize its public universities and colleges, end federal student aid and federally backed student loans, and allow the price of a diploma to return to reasonable levels that match actual market utility.

Life at the Top and the Bottom: Homeschooling Through High School

Homeschooling through high school means that you're on the top, on the bottom, don't have to ask to go to the bathroom, and can wear  cloaks if you feel like it.

Homeschooling through high school means that you’re on the top, on the bottom, don’t have to ask to go to the bathroom, and can wear cloaks if you feel like it.

 

Many people have questions and curiosities about life as a homeschooled high school student.

 

“Do your family’s students get a home economics credit for doing the dishes?”

“How do you teach integral calculus?”

“Where in heaven’s name did you get such a nice transmission electron microscope?”

“Is school violence a major issue—are there gangs or bullies?”

“Is that a pipe organ in your living room?” 

 

I am asked these questions and many more hundreds of times each year; usually I say “no comment” or refer the askers to my press secretary or my cat. However, at last I have taken the time to personally answer a few of them; do keep in mind, however, that no two homeschools are alike.

 

School Sports

My school football team has never lost a game. Consequently, we have never played a game, either, and none of us know how to play football. That’s beside the point—the point is that we are doing better than Lumberton High School.

 

School Music

This homeschool has a thriving music program. Currently there is a nose-flute virtuoso in middle school here; we had a banjo player until last year, when we banished him to an apartment and gifted his instrument with the ultimate banjo mute (a.k.a, the sledgehammer).

 

College Preparation

Two thirds of my school’s students have learned to like coffee by at least their sophomore years; the other third has not yet reached its—or, well, her—sophomore year.

 

School Lunches

There is no policy forbidding me from bringing, cooking, dissecting, or hunting my lunch. Usually the school lunches are quite good, unless the freshman home economics class is in charge for the week. (I failed the home economics class the first time around after catching the stove on fire.)

 

Science Experiments

My school has never had a lab safety issue or explosion, and the school’s decontamination shower has never been used. (Once some potassium permanganate stained the kitchen countertop, but it blended with the pattern anyway.) Personally, I have only eaten one science experiment; I’m still alive and maybe with superhuman powers to boot.

 

School Violence

My cat kills things, but usually just mice or Entergy workers. The facility is monitored 24/7 by sniper-archer-ninja freshmen sitting on the roof.

 

Socialization

Do not worry about it. I talked to a person once and despite that I think I’m still turning out alright.

 

Home Economics

Chores-for-grades is a simple system my homeschool has developed for making the most of the home economics experience. Target practice and science experiments are integrated to help with the first-time cake failures and carbonized animal tissues.

 

Field Trips

Personally, I am quite taken with the field just west of my house—lovely for geological expeditions. I found a baby armadillo there not too long ago.

 

Calculus? Quantum physics?

Two words: Khan Academy.

 

School Dress Code

Pajamas are acceptable, but chainmail, swim suits, lab coats, or sometimes jeans are also acceptable. The freshman prefers wearing cloaks and chainmail, but I—the junior or senior or whatever you would like to call me—am nocturnal, so it is of little consequence anyhow.

 

School Spirit

Like many high schools, my homeschool likes to show school spirit. My family mainly does this by having pep rallies around the dinner table and then watching DIVE videos* together.

 

Letter Jackets

I actually learned my alphabet long, long ago. I see no use in wearing letters at this stage of the game.

 

Competition

My sister once whacked me upside the head after I beat her at chess. Other than that, student rivalry has not been a significant factor in academics or trips to the emergency room.

 

 In conclusion,

hopefully this has answered a few of your most pressing questions. But again, remember—not all homeschools are all alike, and not many homeschools have such great football teams.

 

*For the uninitiated: DIVE is homeschool celebrity Dr. Shormann’s lifesaving curriculum. Best thing since the Pythagorean theorem.

 

San Jacinto Day: The Eve of Battle

 

The battle itself lasted less than 20 minutes.

The battle itself lasted less than 20 minutes.

“We view ourselves on the eve of battle. We are nerved for the contest, and must conquer or perish. It is vain to look for present aid: none is at hand. We must now act or abandon all hope! Rally to the standard, and be no longer the scoff of mercenary tongues! Be men, be free men, that your children may bless their father’s name!” – Sam Houston, before the Battle of San Jacinto.

It is April, 1836: the fledgling government of the Republic of Texas struggles to remain in existence. In overfilled wagons, on horseback, and on foot, Texian women and children leave behind their homesteads and villages to escape Santa Anna’s approaching army. Marauders plunder the vacated homes and villages, and advancing Mexican troops burn what remains to the ground.

After losing hundreds of men and suffering five crucial defeats to their cause, Sam Houston’s untrained band of ragtag patriots is retreating eastwards. Some of them abandon, concerned about their unprotected wives and children.

The fate of nations lies with Houston’s men— men with empty stomachs, holes in their shoes, and a worrying lack of ammunition and training.

On April 21, Santa Anna’s troops and Houston’s men finally face off at San Jacinto. The Texians are again outnumbered; to make life more interesting, they have retreated so far that they are backed up to two bayous with no possibility of escape should things end badly (as is very, very possible). Yet with shouts of “Remember the Alamo!” and “Remember Goliad!” the Texians win.

179 years have passed since this unexpected and improbable victory, the triumph that won Texas its independence—an elusive prize for which many gave their lives.

Modern Texians read about, delight in, and reenact this victory. To some it may seem like washed-up high school athletes reminiscing over their “glory days,” but nothing could be further from the reality of this state’s potential for independence.

Texas’s days as a nation are not necessarily over: we can rise among the nations once more, but only if Texians decide that they want to be free and will again sacrifice something to obtain that freedom.

“We must now act or abandon all hope!” 

Throughout the 1830s, Mexico’s government steadily worsened until at last a lawless caudillaje emerged, a brutal military serving as the state. Texas was not singled out for militaristic rule; Mexico was also governed by garrisons of troops. The difference between Mexico and its northern neighbor was in the reaction to the bout of tyranny.

For the past century, the United States’ federal government has grown ever larger and more intrusive. Its absorption of private sector resources and its violations of individual rights are not prevented by the constitution designed to restrict it, neither are they halted by the efforts of freedom-loving representatives. At best, they are merely delayed or lessened.

Texas’s situation in 1836 is in many ways similar to the one it faces now: a much-changed government threatens it with new regulations, legislations, and infringements upon natural rights, and no ordinary efforts are stopping the onslaught.

Somewhat like the 1820s and 1830s Mexican government, the American system has changed and is finding new, creative ways to eliminate freedom and individual choice—in healthcare, in retirement savings, in self-defense, in education, in transportation, in communication. This time the solution to the plague of totalitarianism is to break away from the system entirely.

The eve of battle 

Many of Sam Houston’s men paid for Texas independence with their lives. The war (short as it may seem in retrospect) scattered families and ended in a great deal of physical destruction.

This time, Texians fight the battle for independence not with rifles but instead with ideas. The sacrifices for supporters in are not as life-defining or dangerous, but the stakes are just as high.

Bystanders often think that independence is an optimist’s pipe dream. A number of 1836 spectators shared that conclusion, but fortunately were not right. Counting the costs matters little and counting the odds matters less, but calculating the stakes matters a great deal: liberty is on the line.

We find ourselves on the eve of a battle that is every bit as defining as the one that took place at San Jacinto 179 years ago today. Will you rally to the standard?

Originally published on www.texnat.org

 

The Injustice of Compulsory Attendance Laws

Do kids really do better when forced by law to attend a government-run "education" facility for twelve years?

Do kids really do better when forced by law to attend a government-run “education” facility for twelve years?

“When students are not allowed to drop out, they do better. So tonight, I am proposing that every state — every state — requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18,” declared President Barack Obama at the 2012 State of the Union — old news for political analysts and journalists. Yet it highlights one of the least questioned and most cruel of government restrictions: compulsory school attendance.

From around age six until eighteen or so, a school-age child is left with few alternatives but to eat government-prepared lunches, live in a government-run building, participate in government-run activities, and study material vetted and chosen by the government—why not put bars on the door and make the children wear prison uniforms with numbers on them?

Parents, students, teachers, and legislators argue and protest about class size, curriculum content, school lunches, and standardized tests, but they cannot see the forest for all the trees—while other school issues are important, the root cause of them all is the idea that the state should control a child’s physical location, what he learns, and how he learns it. Abolishing compulsory school attendance laws is a good place to start bettering Americans’ education.

Perhaps it seems that compulsory attendance laws can effectively be considered null and void, since alternative school choices (private, online, and home schooling) are available; on the contrary, government has an intentional near-monopoly on education, requires children by law to attend some form of school, and only grudgingly allows other options.

For instance, it was only in the 1970s and 1980s that homeschooling received the full legal legitimacy it deserves. Even then it was and is hampered with reservations and regulations. All other things being equal, public schools are of such dismal quality that there must be laws forcing parents to place their children in them.

As it is now, anyone who chooses alternative education choices must pay for their children’s learning twice—once for taxes, and another time for tuition elsewhere. Thus even children who manage to break away haven’t done so entirely. The state’s bloated leviathan of a public school system is designed like everything else that the state manages, meaning that any private competition has to deal with its own costs and the costs of its public counterpart.

Those who maintain that public schools ought to exist in conjunction with a strong private school system to help school choice contradict themselves; anything run by the state requires citizens to fund it. Indeed, the injustices of the public school system extend far past mere finances and the impracticability of private competition.

If an innocent adult were ordered to spend each weekday in a prison and could not leave until a bell rang, there would be an outcry. If it were revealed what he had to do and learn there, the outcry would be uncontrollable. Yet most American children are forced into that life with no way out.

Although parents squabble over particulars, most don’t care one way or another—this is due to the fact that they (correctly) assume education is important for lifelong success. It is for a vast majority of people, but that does not mean it needs to be required or provided by government; nor does it mean that the busywork government schools often force students into constitutes a good education.

In the end, compulsory school attendance is nothing more than a gross violation of liberty and basic human rights. Through a citizen’s lifespan, government steals the first twelve or thirteen years and probably thirty years after (the worker a child grows up to be, of course, must pay taxes).

If education is as important to “enable” students “to succeed in a global economy based on knowledge and innovation” as the federal government says it is, parents and children would find schools to their liking on their own, without forcing millions of taxpayers to foot the bill.

No, Mr. President: compulsory school attendance, paired with the monopolistic reign of public education, is a state intrusion into private lives. The negligible benefits it offers are outweighed by the heavy costs in dollars, time, and liberty.

 

Originally published on turningpointusa.net

No Grounds for Arresting the Groundhog

groundhog

“There are no grounds for arresting this groundhog.” says Phil’s lawyer.

Police in Merrimack, New Hampshire, have issued a warrant for Punxsutawney Phil, the celebrity groundhog given the annual task of either predicting an early spring or six more weeks of winter.

Police claim that “we have received several complaints from the public that this little varmint is held up in a hole, warm and toasty … He told several people that winter would last 6 more weeks, however he failed to disclose that it would consist of mountains of snow!”

In addition to this wild claim, they allege that Phil is “armed and dangerous.”

However, according to New Hampshire law, Phil has done nothing to deserve the warrant—it’s a “gross violation of free speech and personal liberty,” according to several legal experts.

“If Phil were the cause of this snow, we might have legal grounds to arrest him,” said policy analyst Rachel Clark, “However, Phil did not cause the snow, he only predicted it. This is a textbook example of the ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’ fallacy.”

Clark continued, “Predicting an event and publicly announcing it is a form of free speech that we need to protect. Weathermen and groundhogs don’t deserve arrest for wrongly predicting weather.”

Protesters are rising up in support of the groundhog, and many of them are saying that the entire ordeal is strictly unconstitutional. Punxsutawney Phil did not sign a legal contract, but did agree to the Groundhog Ceremony several days ago, his lawyer tells us.

“He was only told to look for his shadow, nothing more,” the groundhog’s spokesman explained.

The Groundhog controversy is expected to heavily influence the upcoming Merrimack elections, and state police are closely monitoring the volatile situation.

Co-written by Joshua Swearingen. 

The Glitch in the System

texas capitol at night

Texas Democrats, republicans, communists, libertarians, economists, businessmen, and taxpayers have all reached this enlightened conclusion: the federal government is corrupt.

Each of them proposes a solution to abuses of power and funds—they’re all absolutely positive that they have the one unbeatable answer to Washington’s financial turpitude, the only resolution to this centuries-old problem—and then they bombard the populace and government with mail, flyers, television spots, radio ads, lobbyists, phone calls, protests, lawsuits, party coups, and new politicians (or old ones with new promises).

Political parties think that the answer is to shift the balance of power so that their largest voter blocs are the beneficiaries, and not the victims, of government-imposed burdens, financial or otherwise.

Corporations and their mercenary lobbyists vouch not for greater freedom, but for more regulations and fees on the backs of their competitors. (Political entrepreneurship of this sort slowly gives the state a grip on all participating industries.) State governments (including that of Texas) aren’t much better.

Ordinary citizens stick to a sincere but currently ineffective tactic when it comes to combating political corruption; their method—sending another new man, “our man,” the perfect one who won’t give in to pressure—is rather futile these days.

This tactic is akin to sending a lone chipmunk into a standoff with a pack of wolves; or perhaps it’s better described as trying to repair something that is already a total loss.

Governmental power, a tool of coercion, is an invitation for corruption. Considering that the federal government has an almost unlimited scope, we shouldn’t be too surprised that it is incurably addicted to doing clever little things with earmarks and funds and bureaucracies.

Liberty-loving activists fight each trick every step of the way; sometimes they win a battle, but they are certainly not winning the long-term war for freedom. Americans have tried reforming the government and opposing its antics, but never with lasting success. Almost everyone blames political parties or individuals working in Washington for the corruption; but swapping the individual or party has no long-term effect or benefit. When the work itself isn’t meant to be done, it matters little who does it.

The glitch in the system is the system itself.

When a car is damaged so extensively that repairs cost more than the vehicle is worth, the owner scraps it and replaces it. Despite the best efforts and “progress” of voters and activists for half a century, the inexorable growth of government’s size and scope continues. “Repairs” in Washington have already cost Texans too much in cash and time.

The damage to the American republic is so extensive that the costs of repairing it are more than it’s worth. But what is there to do other than keep patching it up indefinitely?

Working within the political environment has failed us for decades; but almost all of the alternatives are clearly far worse than our current situation. Some American leaders are proposing a constitutional convention—but this is beyond foolish in a political environment where even inherent rights like the right to life, the right to bear arms, or the right to free speech are called into question by the same representatives who would be tampering with the nation’s most important set of laws.

Mercilessly cutting off politicians from their offices and replacing them with new ones has been tried. And it has failed. Power corrupts, and the leaders that voters think can limit themselves in this regard merely decide to use their privileges in the pursuit of different endeavors—and the phenomenon of unelected bureaucrats makes matters much, much worse.

The state, once it has taken hold of something, will not give it up until literal or metaphorical blood has been shed.

The solution to preventing and eliminating governmental corruption is getting rid of opportunities for it—in other words, shrinking the size of the government in the first place and vigilantly suppressing its natural tendency to balloon into a bureaucratic institution of tyranny.

For Texas, the best way to solve the problem of corruption and abused power is to pull out from the malfunctioning American government altogether. Despite what pundits are claiming, secession is a real possibility. It’s the last and best answer—and Texans are starting to realize it.

The Pretentiousness of Central Planning

United States Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. Aerial
A free economy is incomprehensibly complex: it is a massive, entangled, incredible web of intertwined individual action, preference, choice, and value—a system willed by no one, controlled by no single person, and improving the situation of all whom it touches.

Adam Smith called the force that holds this web together (and directs its movement) the Invisible Hand: it begins when individuals work through the capitalist system for their own betterment, yet unintentionally benefit the whole of the market through their voluntary mutually beneficial exchanges.

In a display of arrogance nearly as astonishing as the marvels of the economy, advocates of big government are certain that this system can and ought to be conquered and managed via state-owned cubicles.

If “pride goes before a fall” were a law of economics, explaining central planning’s universal, consistent shortcomings would be effortless.

Advocates of big government are certain that a bureaucratic elite—operating on glorified progress reports, news bulletins, and caffeine—can arbitrate the correct balance and relationship between the trillions of variables involved in each economic transaction.

For big government and its inevitable bureaucracy to function properly, it must be staffed by godlike central planners capable of deciding whether a citizen deserves an extra pair of socks, a teenager ought to go to college, or if an industry is important enough to warrant a new facility.

Big government handcuffs Smith’s Invisible Hand and tries to lead the market where it “ought” to go with words on paper and guns to back them up.

If you count on an efficient economy under a government-run system, you count on central planners’ ability to judge the effect of every ultimatum they issue and understand each individual’s perception of value, profit, and loss. Economic calculation in a socialist or interventionist system is impossible.

In the end, the only way to forcibly control an economy and still enjoy any degree of efficiency is to become omniscient—to get inside people’s heads, to put numerical monetary value on things that can’t be quantifiably valued, to understand complex relationships between goods and services, to know everything that individuals can understand about their own situations, and to know how the sum of this information works together.

Big government’s explicit assumption that central planners have a right to micromanage your existence (and that they’d be better at it than you are) makes it easy to see one of the state’s many loathsome attributes: pretentiousness.

 

Originally published on turningpointusa.net

Red Tape: Violent and Inefficient

It’s a dimly lit detention facility.

In the background a light bulb buzzes; the heavy sound of human breathing steadily reverberates down the halls. The springs of a cot squeak; rubber shoes squeal against the floor.

The conspicuously-clothed criminals pent up in this concrete-clad cage strike up a conversation.

“So, what are you in here for?” a rough-looking character says as he leans against the wall, with his clenched fist resting on his hip.

A man with a weasel face, thick-framed glasses, and greasy hair is hunched over in the corner, watching as events unfold.

Rather rebellious-looking and shifting uneasily, a young fellow towers by the locked entrance. He knows the question was addressed to him. Yet the silence prevails.

“Well, c’mon,” the demanding questioner continues, “We don’t have all day.”

“Actually we do,” he corrects, “But I ain’t a patient person.”

The young man looks down at the floor, his face turning red.

“Blogging without a license,” he gulps. The gruff individual who asked the question stares, wide-eyed. He isn’t sure he can match it.

The weasel-faced man nods, and points to the rough-looking man (his mother never told him it was rude to point) and mutters, “Ol’ Jim here planted patented pumpkins two falls ago. Big lawsuit. You probably saw it in the news.”

“What are you here for?” the young one asks the weasel-faced man.

Weasel-face scratches his head, and looks up.

“I sold organic raw-milk goat cheese to homeschool moms,” he pauses, “In New York no less.”

“You know what’s more?” Jim the rough-looking fellow adds, “’fore he was sent to solitary, I spent five weeks in thuh’ same cell as Trademark Tim.”

The young man is new to prison life. He asks, “Am I supposed to know who that is?”

“Fresh-face, eh?” weasel-face says, “He started up a package delivery company and used the color brown. You know the rest.”

They all shudder. They know they have to watch their backs—the inhabitants of this nightmarish “detainment facility” are obviously capable of anything.

 

When everybody’s a criminal, the law can’t mean anything.

d.c.

The town that paints everything red.

More and more often in the United States, ordinary people are inadvertently turning to a life of crime; and because the federal government is so determined to stifle honest work and efficient free enterprise, this sort of “crime” definitely pays.

In fact, the cost of complying with bureaucracies’ arbitrary regulation is so exceedingly burdensome that it’s enough to destroy entire markets and firms—to say nothing of millions of lost jobs and vanishing economic efficiency.

Red tape is more than just inefficient: it is violent.

A government’s one function is to protect life, liberty, and property—thus murderers, rapists, and thieves ought to be considered criminals.

But clearly those who do nothing to deprive a person of life, liberty, or property ought not be punished by the state, and when they are, the state is surpassing its bounds and is no longer legally valid. Even if the “criminal” would not have violated the non-aggression principle, the government’s henchmen would in their enforcement of their petty federal ultimatum.

Regulations that dish out thousand-dollar fines and prison time for legal “offenses” like unlicensed hair-braiding or out-of-the-home freelancing are doing precisely what the state is meant to prevent: infringing upon inherent rights.

The state-sponsored aggression that ensues when a regulation is broken is nauseatingly inconsistent and harsh, dictated by the mood of a bureaucrat. Kids selling lemonade without a license can get a criminal record before the age of ten; bakers or photographers can be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars because they turn down a customer; someone who crosses a powerful corporation with a strong D.C. presence will be cut down in the prime of life. (I mean this in a mostly figurative sense.)

Many who lean towards free markets but can’t help but think that there ought to be a set of ground rules for each industry are overlooking the fact that laws are not magically supported by words printed on paper: the law is backed up by guns, fines, pepper spray, prison time, promises of death, and life-ruining lawsuits. Are most of the federal regulations threatening these things worth those punishments?

In the end, the mass of federal regulations torturing the economy is unwarranted interference in individual choice, a brutal manifestation of state aggression against the citizenry, and an absolute breach of legal equality. These regulations present more than moral problems: practical problems (including overfilled jails, criminalization of half the population, dramatic economic slowdowns, and inconsistent enforcement of laws) also make our foolishly large collection of regulations far from worthwhile.

Little laws here and there almost always sound like they’re for the best; the contents of voluminous thousand-page laws seem to be prudent; the powers afforded to bureaucrats sound fair enough—but this is not the case, and never will be.

Happy Birthday, Mendelssohn.

mendelssohn

Today is Felix Mendelssohn’s 206th birthday.

(Although he’s not as famous as Beethoven or Handel, you’ve almost certainly heard his wedding march.)

Known as the “happy composer” of the Romantic Era, Mendelssohn kicked off his musical career in earnest at the age of 17 with his fabulous Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture.

In 1829 he launched the Bach Revival with a performance of St. Matthew’s Passion, which had not been performed since its composer’s death in 1750.

He was a devoted Christian and wrote two extremely famous oratorios, “Elijah” and “Saint Paul,” as well as five symphonies (the Italian and Reformation Symphonies being the best known). His music was cheerful and lighthearted, but was exceptionally beautiful and well-constructed.

Immediately after Mendelssohn’s death in 1847, anti-Semitic Richard Wagner began a smear campaign against Felix — who was Jewish — and as a result Mendelssohn too came close to obscurity. In the 20th century, Hitler banned Mendelssohn’s works.

But there’s one important question to be answered: why was Mendelssohn so happy relative to contemporary composers?

Probably a great deal of this happiness hinged on the fact that he lived a somewhat affluent life and never really had financial struggles, unlike the chronically depressed and death-obsessed likes of Hector Berlioz.

However, what truly distinguished Mendelssohn from other Romantic Era composers was his faith in God and purposefulness in life. He knew what he was living for, and rather like his hero Bach, he intended his music for the glory of God.

Mendelssohn’s best-known works:

Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave)

Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture

Reformation Symphony

Italian Symphony

Violin Concerto in E Minor

 

The College Game

university of texas

When you were an impressionable preschooler, your companions would ask you if you wanted to play “house” or “school” or “work.” When you are eighteen, or nearing it, your friends and others start asking if you want to play “college.”

One of these endeavors is often a waste of time with little to no practical life value; the other was your childhood game.

 

If you choose to play the college game, once more every cent means something to you. Finding a penny in the parking lot elicits as much exuberance as it did a decade and a half or so ago.

 

Just like in your preschool years, there is a huge emphasis on “sharing.” Hurting anyone’s feelings results in a strict administration of kindergarten-like social justice. Offering up an opinion and arguing your point are two cardinal academic sins: after all, we have to have a free and tolerant exchange of ideas where nobody is criticized.

 

Suddenly meaningless skills start mattering again—except instead of burping, imprisoning insects, or shooting rubber bands, it’s whether or not you can write a politically correct film evaluation for a required credit.

 

Those who were good at aiming rubber bands stole the show and ruled the roost back in the day; those who are skilled in regurgitating test material and those who sacrifice true academic pursuits for mandatory courses like Etymology of the Twinkie and Squirrel Imitation 101 get ahead in college.

 

Students interested in education probably fare well; those interested in learning do not. However, unlike in your preschool years, you do not have as much choice this time: in your early childhood you could reject a fantastical game and its irrational rules with little consequence.

 

You’re not so fortunate now.

 

If you want to enter a technical field, you have little choice but to get further training; if you want to learn about anything categorized under “Liberal Arts” your studies will oftentimes be rejected unless it comes along with a $400,000 piece of paper saying you took some classes.

 

Unless you are either an incredibly brilliant individual or fit into an arbitrary race and income bracket, you probably will get little help with scholarships. Student loans are a racket from the start, and cheap college is an oxymoron.

 

Many things about colleges are part of a game, one invented by universities, fostered by bureaucracy, and sustained by government subsidization. Whereas in a free market a profit motive encourages excellence, low prices, and innovation, in a situation where jack-booted IRS thugs are involved and the intrusive arm of the state controls all, political entrepreneurship is the only worthwhile effort.

 

Completely unrelated courses are suddenly made mandatory; fees multiply; strange research projects and building boondoggles pervade the campus; religion and free speech, as a matter of course, have to be scrubbed because of government funding and control.

 

Alternatives to traditional college accreditation are starting to pop up—things like CollegePlus, dual credit, online classes, apprenticeship-like arrangements, and CLEP testing—thanks to innovation in an area which has for decades and centuries been dominated by monopolistic state-owned, state-sponsored, or state-controlled institutions.

 

As for learning without official accreditation, thousands of websites akin to Udemy and Khan Academy teach everything from calculus to music theory. Learning isn’t as hard as it used to be.  If you can’t avoid a mandatory Slovakian Finger-Food Etiquette course, at least the free market is making it possible to avoid some of the exorbitant cost.

 

Well, do you want to play “college”? If you’re the kid with steely resolve and a sense of direction, you might be the one—just like in preschool—to say no and play a game with different rules.

Why Authors Are Insane

u-2Aspirations to write a novel aren’t unusual. In fact, teenaged females are particularly vulnerable to such hankerings. It has yet to be determined whether or not many of these hopeful writers even begin, and it’s quite uncertain whether more than a handful ever finish.

So when I decided to take the step, a good two and a half years ago, I imagined first of all that it would be a fabulous book if only I could finish it. And all that I had to do was force myself to write.

Outlining? Outlining is for wimps. First and foremost, I wanted to get things going, to start the actual process, to meet my characters. That was my first mistake.

After due deliberation, I decided on the novel I would write: a Cold War espionage adventure/mystery based on the U-2 crash over Russian territory in 1960. I named the main character after my cat. That was my second mistake.

It just so happens that historical novels also require research. Research is hard.

I've got this figured out.

I’ve got this figured out.

I found myself searching for everything from glove etiquette to 1963 CIA budget information. My internet search history could have been either that of a murderer or an author: how long does it take for a person to bleed to death from a gunshot wound to the shoulder? How did Soviets torture people? What lethal poisons are best disguised in alcohol?

Writing a novel alters your mental state, it’s safe to say. Strange things start happening. Even when you’re working on it by yourself, you start saying things like “we’re planning on making the fifteenth chapter the showdown” or “our story is …”

As it turns out, products of your imagination blend with your mind. The story makes you a stronger person, if less of a sane one. You don’t always learn to solve problems, but you do learn how to create them.

Unfortunately, you also learn interesting ways to get rid of people. You learn how to destroy everything that is dear and good to your main character, to leave him in a situation so bleak there appears to be no way out.

The events of a good adventure novel ought to leave the main character, reader, and author with lasting emotional scars. Otherwise it probably isn’t worth reading.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how most authors become insane.

I discovered early on that if you’re totally confident in your storytelling capabilities, you most likely shouldn’t be. Approaching a novel or a story with humility is the first step in learning to identify weak spots and lousy characters. You’ll probably develop some sort of an inferiority complex when it comes to creative writing; and the worst part is, the writing is so bad at first that it isn’t a complex, it’s legitimate embarrassment.

Despite computer crashes, the loss of an important notebook, and several bouts of intense hopelessness, I finished the story. Now I hate it and never want to speak to it again. After talking to a few other writers, I learned that this too is normal.

To be a writer, you write. In a way, I was right that finishing a story would mean “fabulousness.”

Your first essay wasn’t perfect; your first sentence wasn’t either. Most first novels are the stuff of nightmares, and not because they’re horror stories. Communicating, storytelling, and writing all get better with practice.

And now: on to the second novel. Some of us are just gluttons for punishment. It probably has something to do with our brilliant insanity.

NASA announces radical step forward, is met with opposition

NASA press conference revealing the agency's official and controversial switch to Starfleet uniforms.

NASA press conference revealing the agency’s official and controversial switch to Starfleet uniforms.

JOHNSON SPACE CENTER – NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced Thursday afternoon that the agency is “moving forward” by officially switching to Star Trek’s Starfleet Next Generation uniforms.

 

Bolden says, “NASA has brought innovation, growth, and scientific advancement to the world—and beyond—for decades. I believe that this is one more important step to the future.”

 

Supporters cite NASA’s numerous achievements and inventions, including improvements in water filters and the moon landing, but opponents suspect that there has been an underground lobbying deal with a cosplay corporation.

 

Original Series Star Trek fans are frustrated by the decision, after many years of lobbying for their own cause; Doctor Who fans are perplexed and objected, pointing out the need for long, colorful scarves. Tea Party leaders who support NASA are calling the latter group “unpatriotic limeys.”

 

“Progress always meets its opponents,” President Obama said, affirming Bolden’s decision, “Flat-earthers are going to oppose every inch of forward progress that our administration makes, including this.”

 

Meanwhile, congressmen are splitting on the issue. Some are sticking to their promises of fiscal limitations and claiming that new uniforms on such a large scale are unnecessary, while others are whole-heartedly embracing the idea.

 

“I think it’ll meet with some stiff opposition, and it’s quite probable that some right-wing fringes in the House will oppose it because of the costs—which are quite minute really—and I’m catching wind of some heavy, heavy disagreements on the left. Reid claims that he’s a diehard fan of the Original Series and can’t stand Picard,” Political analyst and Star Trek fan Kirk LaForge explained, “But all in all, if no lawsuits are filed and no bills submitted, it could remain in place. As I hope it will.”

Obama’s Anti-Personality Cult

obama face

A great deal has been said about the personality cults of famous politicians, and Obama’s is as good an example as any. Obamamania is the term coined for unquestioning, naïve support of the nation’s 44th president. And for the past seven or so years, plenty of conservatives have been decrying it.

 

They talk about Obama energy, Obamanation, and the Obama economy; they find as many terrible pictures of the man as possible*; they try to prove that he’s responsible for all the activities of the Democratic Party. They grumble about his wife’s healthy food hypocrisy; they snidely insist that leaders should never play “that much golf”; they poke fun at his history of eating dogs.

 

In other words, a disturbing portion of the right wing has taken to slamming the man himself and not his ideals, morals, religion, or policies.

 

Yes, these conservatives are right in some capacity: he fully supports big, intrusive government and is therefore a deplorable proponent of tyranny. As President, Obama has done loads of damage.  Yes, in politics such attacks are normal and within the rights of those who initiate them.

 

But focusing solely on this one man doesn’t improve the ideological situation in the United States—he’s just one man among millions. As soon as he’s gone, another will take his place.

 

These attacks and complaints, the anti-charisma and anti- magnetism, are never enough to ultimately change the scene of American politics or to do anything except foster dislike of one particular man.

 

However, killing his ideas of tyranny and government control would bring permanent change. Conservatives should be fighting an ideological battle, not a personal one. Men are mortal, ideas are eternal: fighting the former and ignoring the latter is a recipe for disaster.

 

Tearing down an individual and creating an anti-personality cult takes less short-term effort than putting together a logical argument and explaining it to millions of people, but it also has very few short-term benefits.

 

It’s essentially like a Kleenex box—if one is finally yanked out, another pops up. Using a flame-thrower on the whole box, however, might yield more positive results.

 

Obama’s popularity has suffered because of the conservatives’ attacks, but his ideology hasn’t.

 

Conservatives, find something better to rally against than Obama. Or better yet, find something to rally together for. Liberty would be a great place to start.

 

 

Note: finding unflattering pictures of your political opponents is fine. I do it all the time. But a bad picture isn’t your ultimate goal.
 

Can Christians Oppose the Government?

At what point -- if ever -- can Christians oppose the government? Are laws directly ordering Christians to go against their faith the limit, or is defiance warranted sooner?

At what point — if ever — can Christians oppose the government? Are laws directly ordering Christians to go against their faith the limit, or is defiance warranted sooner?

“We should always be good citizens and obey our government, except when doing so goes against God.”

 

My Sunday school class members nodded in agreement at the teacher’s statement. Two or three piped up, and one mentioned how voting is important; another brought up the issue of prayer in public schools; and yet another introduced the very pressing problem of whether or not nativity scenes should be allowed on public property.

 

But there’s a gigantic flaw with this variety of good citizenship: If Christians are to obey the state under all circumstances, up until the point that it goes against God, how and when is activism for the cause of freedom justified?

 

Despite that the opposite seems true at first glance, opposing the government is not merely justified—it is necessary.

 

As it turns out, the state will rarely begin encroaching upon religious freedoms without warning (revolutions excluded).

 

Usually an unprecedented increase in the size and scope of government, excessive regulations, an explosion of new bureaucracies, intrusion into all financial sectors of the economy, gun and weapon control laws, a police state, an interventionist economy, skyrocketing taxes and a nightmarishly large welfare state crop up years (possibly decades) before direct legal persecution comes from the government.

 

In other words, before the state tells you to go against God, it will tell you to empty your wallet, drop your weapons, and register belongings. Only a large and intrusive government has the power to regulate worldviews and religion, and large and intrusive governments always begin with financially controlling and crippling the populace, disarming citizens, and keeping tabs on your life and property.

 

Being a truly good citizen is attempting to stop these phenomena in their tracks—to try and ensure that the circumstances in which the government can or would tell you to go against God would never come about in the first place.

 

It should also be noted that laws going against God are not necessarily applying to merely so-called “religious” issues, like prayer in public schools or nativity scenes at city hall: God has ordained a way for government to function, a way for financial situations to work, a way for children to be educated and raised, a way for charity to happen, a way for animals to be treated.

 

Not even individual denominations, much less the whole of Christianity or an entire nation, can decide amongst themselves what precisely these ways entail. The best option is to leave government out entirely and to fight to keep it that way.

 

Good citizenship never involves silently allowing one’s self to become a host or unfair beneficiary of a parasitical state; it never involves the doormat-like existence that some modern Christians suggest is ideal; it never involves handing over weapons, children, or freedoms.

 

The moral problems with government control of the economy and an intrusive state is a topic for another day; but excessive government intrusion makes a Christian lifestyle gradually less possible and inevitably leads to persecution and outright laws against its existence.

 

The prayer in public school issue and the debate over nativity scenes on public property are two very small facets of an ever-growing underlying problem—the expanding scope of government.

 

So, is obeying the state at all times a Christian imperative?

 

No—respect the government when respect is due, support it when it deserves support, and always keep Christ your focus in politics and in matters of the state, but realize that there is a time when you must oppose government. And remember in particular that this time comes a lot sooner than when Christian beliefs are under direct legal attack.

 

President Obama Announces Plan for Jobs Growth

White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest Holds Daily Briefing

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest describes the President’s new jobs growth plan.

 

WASHINGTON – President Obama’s newest lame-duck project, the American Jobs and Reinvestment Act of 2014 (AJRA) offers up a bold new plan for United States jobs growth: nuking most populated areas of the country.

 

After the planned nuclear cataclysm, labor supply will be reduced sufficiently so that those seeking work won’t find it difficult to get.

 

“And on top of this, the destruction of most of U.S. civilization will leave a lot of jobs to be done—I think we’ll see a boom in housing, development, building sectors, possibly agriculture, and so much more,” said Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

 

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained: “The President will not be satisfied until every American who wants work can find a job. That’s why he is working to grow our economy, so middle class families feel confident in their futures and their children’s futures. Well, I mean, depends on if your kids survive … but you get the idea.”

 

Among other things, the first stage of the law’s enactment incentivizes finding a friend or family member and swapping a dollar bill back and forth for fifteen minutes every day to increase economic activity. The AJRA includes a provision that checks will be sent to eligible U.S. households, for the express purpose of being thrown into the wind—hopefully to reach some wind-energy farms and subsequently boost jobs growth.

 

After that, nuclear bombs will be placed in strategically significant cities throughout the nation and then set off; as a result, key American industries will receive a much-needed boost.

 

“New houses will need to be built, all agriculture will need to relocate, and manufacturers of all sorts will find plenty of demand,” continued Furman.

 

He went on to say that while opponents in Congress are calling this plan “radical” and “dangerous,” it is not much different from the government’s response to the financial crisis of  2008 and is extremely similar to President Roosevelt’s New Deal after the Great Depression.

 

“This is common-sense economic policy that has been tried many times before,” the President said, “It’s a natural extension of the policy we’ve been pursuing since 2008.”

 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) added, “The whole purpose of this legislation is to up spending, consumer confidence, and get the money flowing back into the economy. In the second stage, we’ll self-induce a nuclear apocalypse.”

 

“Increased economic activity is what it will take for Americans to get the jobs and wages that they need and deserve. American industry and small businesses shouldn’t be shutting down—they should be growing and expanding. My new plan will do something to help get business back on its feet again,” President Obama concluded.

 

Black Friday’s Absurdities

black friday fallacy

On Black Friday you were bombarded with advertisements, inconvenienced by heavy traffic, and promised by local yokels and media that all the hectic and potentially lethal mobs descending on Wal-Mart and Best Buy were doing the nation’s economy a favor.

 

On small-business Saturday you were probably informed that not “supporting local business owners” could have disastrous consequences, warned of the evils of “big corporations,” and possibly guilted into dropping a few dozen dollars at the nearest mom-and-pop diner or antique shop. For the local economy’s sake, of course.

 

On Cyber Monday you might have sat home in your Snuggie (God help us all) and watched as your inbox and newsfeed blew up with allegedly unbeatable online deals; and if you didn’t, maybe you skimmed through the morning news and saw headlines about those wounded in the Black Friday skirmishes and later a few paragraphs about the economic condition of the nation.

 

And well, today, you might feel trampled—literally or figuratively, depending on whether or not you went shopping on Friday. The feeling may stick around for another month or so.

 

Although the private sector is almost entirely responsible for the December-long mall-raiding rampage, and although consumers make the choice to spend their money in this manner, there are some seriously outdated economic theories floating around in the political sphere about how consumer spending grows the economy, particularly the seasonal variety of binge-buying.

 

The Black Friday Lie . . . one of them . . .

 

You’re going to hear it from a lot of places:

 

“Strong consumer and government spending drove UK growth in the third quarter as business investment and exports contracted against an increasingly uncertain global backdrop…” – the Telegraph

 

“A pair of Commerce Department reports this week showed that consumer spending is recovering from a weak first quarter more slowly than economists expected, and some are worrying that slowdown in a sector accounting for 70 percent of the U.S. economy could foreshadow slower economic growth on the whole.” – International Business Times

 

“…holiday spending can start a virtuous cycle of spending, profits, hiring and more spending, said Richard Feinberg, professor of retail management at PurdueUniversity.” – Columbus Dispatch

 

And the Dispatch summed it all up in one fallacious headline: “Holiday spending can lift businesses, entire economy.”

 

All that trickle-down financial well-being, job growth, and impending prosperity you’ve been told comes about from the disturbing Friday, Saturday, and Monday splurges and the month-long Christmas frenzy? Lies, all lies.

 

Going bankrupt, spending well into the red, buying unnecessary products, and paying extra at small businesses for products available more cheaply elsewhere not only harms you financially, it has no aggregate economic benefit whatsoever.

 

You’re often told that consumer spending is crucial to growth because the more money individuals spend, the more money flows through the economy—and somehow that bolsters businesses and creates jobs. Savings are practically tantamount to holding back economic “growth,” or at least that’s what Keynesians have been broadcasting to eager interventionist listeners for over half a century now.

 

The problem is that Keynes’ theory disregards the difference between economic activity and economic expansion. Economic activity could be anything from a complex private sector banking system to two castaways sitting on an island and literally exchanging the same clamshell all day long. According to Keynes, the latter example is an engine for economic growth. Growth, however, is quite different from the Keynesian vision: it is greater productivity and efficiency in the allocation of resources, impossible to achieve without capital investment and savings.

 

The Law of Markets (Say’s Law) dictates that demand is caused by supply, and therefore there cannot be a consumer-led recovery at all. And even though spending may benefit some retailers a smidgen, consider what might have been. Other, possibly better, things are available, but only when consumption is delayed for a time.

 

Bastiat’s classic example of two brothers, one who spends all of his money as quickly as possible and one who delays consumption, demonstrates what savings actually do for the economy. Behind the scenes, in bank accounts and piggy banks, savings are invested in capital goods—goods that are used in the production of other goods, like factory equipment and technology. The greater efficiency afforded by such capital investment reduces the price of consumer goods, and thus technically consumer spending.

 

When a consumer decides to save and not spend, other consumers pick up the slack by borrowing those savings and using them to finance capital investment, which in turn results in a higher standard of living, greater efficiency, lower prices, and less consumer spending. Productivity and the efficient allocation of resources, not mindless spending and consuming, are the goals of an economy.

 

In short, less consumer spending can (and almost always does) mean greater capital investment and accompanying true economic growth. While the ultimate goal of the economy is to fulfill consumer needs, it can’t be done without saving.

 

Spending and consumption are not bad; you have the option to spend until you can spend no more, but keep in mind it is not the pathway to prosperity in the aggregate or otherwise.

 

The seasonal Christmas spending frenzy is pretty bad from a lot of perspectives, but the worst part is the assumption that this consumer spending leads to long-run growth.

 

 

It doesn’t.

Because Equality, Right?

The nauseating signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Act -- a great example of the fallacious assumption that economic equality is a good thing and ought to be enforced by the government.

The nauseating signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Act — a great example of the fallacious assumption that economic equality is a good thing and ought to be enforced by the government.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Few fallacious catchphrases set my blood to boiling more fiercely than equal pay for equal work. A regrettable but unquestionably catching shibboleth of a misinformed women’s “rights” movement, it’s so appealing a maxim that millions of politicians and protestors have repeated it without understanding its meaning, much less its potential results.

What the phrase implies, of course, is that remuneration for labor shouldn’t be influenced by gender alone; the leftists who so often repeat these now rather meaningless four words, however, are willing to take the cause even further into the depths of state intervention. The movement has mostly been whipped up out of the misguided contention that government should break the economy of its purportedly discriminatory ways. Because equality, right?

President Obama and his gender pay gap howler monkeys fixate on apparent employer discrimination allegedly evidenced by wage differences, but the statistically flexible pay gap is demonstrative of a normal economic phenomenon: women have different life goals than men. They choose lower-risk occupations. A great deal of them prefer flexible schedules. And as a general rule, they’re more likely to state flexibility and enjoyableness as their goals rather than earning money. Basically, they make different choices. (While the occupation choices may be because of individual preference, most of it stems from the fact that women do have different roles in society, in the economy, and in the home from that of men.)

These choices translate into economic consequences; namely, slightly less pay.

Altering the economic consequences of these choices through government fiat merely because of gender is foolish, misguided, and characteristic of short-sighted statists.

Yet despite this unchangeable truth, solutions like the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Lily Ledbetter Act, and the Paycheck Fairness Act have all been offered up with great political fanfare.

There are many erroneous assumptions in the modern end-the-pay-gap movement, especially the notion that government can revise reality and alter the financial and economic outcomes of making different life choices, of different occupations, of different working hours, of different efficiency levels—the list could go on for a great while.

But the aspect of this gender-politics campaign that offends my economic conscience most isn’t a superficial annoyance like brazen party politics and activism-mongering for an issue that doesn’t exist.

It isn’t female legislators who assume that their gender allows them to transcend economic fact.

The chief irritation isn’t even totalitarian newscasters and deluded protestors who tawdrily demand a dramatic shift in the government’s stated purpose and our national economic structure.

What’s truly disturbing about the movement is that so many Americans assume that all varieties of equality and all means of obtaining it have the moral high ground: this is most certainly not the case, and the root of the equal pay for equal work nonsense economics leads back to a confusion between legal equality and government-enforced social equality,  two values that share a word but have nothing else in common.

 

Legal Equality

 

What sort of equality were these guys actually talking about?

What sort of equality were these guys actually talking about?

Legal equality is far from what most minorities and “underprivileged” or “unjustly treated” groups have been lead to believe about equality in general. Just as the Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal, a government guided by the concept of legal equality will not make laws helping one group and hurting another.

 

 

Put simply, all laws apply to everybody under legal equality.

Income, skin color, or gender, for example, will not and cannot be the deciding factor in a court battle over your innocence or guilt.

Legal equality isn’t always popular.

Pundits’ and popular demands for a state solution to the “unjust” phenomenon of income inequality are similar to the cries of activists alleging that the so-called gender pay gap is a problem warranting government intervention. Yet state action in either of those areas abolishes legal equality: any attempted government solution (other than leaving it alone in the first place) will give some groups preferential treatment over others.

There’s a good reason why legal equality should be a guiding principle in government. Without a constant citizens’ vigil seeking to preserve equal rights under the law, politicians will vote themselves favors, the political majority will seek to create laws friendly to its own, and society will create a class of those who take and those who make. Those at the bottom will have no rights and no political power.

Legal equality is also crucial in an economic sense.

While involuntary servitude may seem like an extreme, unlikely occurrence even in developed interventionist economies that aren’t governed by the principle of legal equality, such a governmental system is well attuned (if not ideal) for the exploitation of the minority.

A majority of the population enslaving another group through sheer force, thereby creating an underclass or serfdom, is no different than the same majority determining that the minority’s assets were “unjustly” large and then legally dividing the politically powerless minority’s  hard-earned income and material goods more “equally.”

In either scenario, the minority is being forced to work for someone else without reaping the benefits—and that’s the definition of involuntary servitude.

Due to a very predictable aspect of human nature, involuntary servitude of all kinds is less efficient than the mutually beneficial exchanges characteristic of a capitalist economic system. Without legal equality, there are marked moral, political, and economic consequences.

As Mises noted, the maintenance of social peace is crucial to the peaceful development of the division of labor. “But it is well nigh impossible to preserve lasting peace in a society in which the rights and duties of the respective classes are different,” he said in Liberalism.

He continues in the same chapter:

“…the socialists say, it is not enough to make man equal before the law. In order to make them really equal, one must also allot them the same income. It is not enough to abolish privileges of birth and rank. One must finish the job and do away with the greatest and most important privilege of all, namely, that which is accorded by private property.”

And that’s where government-enforced social equality comes in.

 

Government-enforced social equality

 

As it turns out, this Great Equalizer -- Mao Zedong -- killed up to 78 million people for communism. And rather worryingly, he mentioned "equal pay for equal work."

As it turns out, this Great Equalizer — Mao Zedong — killed up to 78 million people for communism. And rather worryingly, he mentioned “equal pay for equal work.”

In short, this government-enforced social “equality” is the opposite of legal equality. It is the precursor to and abstruse goal of full socialism and government micromanagement. And it must be emphasized that social equality can never exist side by side with legal equality in any one given situation. Modern-day women’s “rights” movements strive for this statist bliss, but all the while maintain a façade that they’re still campaigning for equal legal rights.

The comprehensive immigration reform that leftists keep promising pretends to call for equal legal rights, when in reality it is for exemption from the law altogether for a specific group of politically connected people. Having laws apply to some but not others invalidates legal equality. Applying laws to some and not others is the only way to achieve this social “equality” of which totalitarians speak.

Social equality that totalitarians advocate is not about governing and judging humankind by the areas in which they are equal—their created state, unalienable rights, and human nature—but about governing and judging men according to the areas in which they are unequal. It is about central planners adopting a moral code; it is about measuring up all of society to their arbitrary code and then reacting accordingly with the full coercive force of government.

It’s about making all citizens equal in substance, in possessions, in material goods, and in income (but of course, some are more equal than others).

 

Social equality means abolition of legal equality

 

If you want government-enforced social equality (i.e., socialism and redistribution) talk to the Communists.

If you want government-enforced social equality (i.e., socialism and redistribution) talk to the Communists.

While social equality in and of itself is not an evil or unacceptable state, it’s definitely impossible; and particularly in light of the method in which it has traditionally been pursued—complete government control of the economy—it is an evil thing.

Full government control of the economy is the only way to redistribute wealth and regulate the capitalists, and redistributing and regulating is the only way that social equality can even begin to be achieved. And that’s where the big problems begin.

Any governmental system that allows for the redistribution of wealth will be corrupted, quickly and badly; and any governmental system that controls the economy requires very specific, non-general action to operate at all. The presence of “social equality” negates legal equality. Combine this with inevitable insatiable greed on the part of whoever’s running the show—be it a dictator, committee, or voters under a democratic system—and you’ve got a system bred for discord, instability, political unrest, economic collapse, poverty, a police state, political oppression, and varying degrees of involuntary servitude.

The only means by which the state can pursue social equality is, in fact, redistribution and laws that apply to one group but not another. Government will hurt some, help others, and run the whole economy on the basis of central planners’ ideal of social justice (whatever that may be). It’s an ambiguous, arbitrary, and unknown goal of “justice” and material equality.

As Hayek said:

“In fact, as planning becomes more and more extensive, it becomes regularly necessary to qualify legal provisions increasingly by reference to what is ‘fair’ or ‘reasonable’; this means that it becomes necessary to leave the decision of the concrete case more and more to the discretion of the judge or authority in question.”

In other words, when government seeks social equality, it can only do so through controlling the economy; controlling the economy necessitates planning; planning means that the Rule of Law is completely absent. 

Whereas individuals in a free market decide on their own what is “fair” or “reasonable,” in a socialist economy—which is the only type of economy compatible with seeking social equality—planners must decide, and decide arbitrarily, according to their individual concepts of fairness or reason, absolutely impossible to align with the public’s diverse moral and logical codes.

If the absence of legal equality means injustice (as I certainly contend) then adopting social equality as a goal, despite its advocates’ muddleheaded claims that it’s the only way to justice, is perhaps one of the most unjust economic goals a government can formulate.

Furthermore, to produce the precise same results for women as for men means it is necessary to treat them differently; this means the abolition of both legal equality and the Rule of Law in that area.

Anything the government does to equalize the economy or financially assist certain portions of the economy destroys legal equality and disregards that all men are created equal and should be governed the same.

 

 Social Equality’s manifestations

occupy wall street

These Occupy Wall Street protestors assumed that income inequality needed to be managed by government — and oddly enough, they invoked equality to support their cause.
Other logical errors and problems with their arguments aside, income redistribution always means the abolition of legal equality.

Protective tariffs and import restrictions, welfare, food stamps, socialized healthcare, the construction of government infrastructure, graduated tax brackets, all forms of subsidization and crony capitalism, public schools, amnesty, and social security are just a few examples of government action that by nature must treat different groups of people differently. Some are helped, some are hurt—because government has no funds on its own, anything that it pays for is paid for by a certain group of taxpayers whether they enjoy the benefits or not.

If legal equality is necessary and social equality negates it, government treating all humankind equally is just; government making all humankind equal in substance is definitely not.

If legal equality is something we must strive for, then big government is entirely out of the question. Economic interference on the part of the state can only lead to the destruction of legal equality, and therefore freedom, the free market, and financial stability.

 

All men are created equal, or all men need to be made equal?

 

The implicit socioeconomic goal in the statement all men are created equal couldn’t be more different then the agenda of “equal pay for equal work” advocates, who want preferential legal treatment from the state for a group that’s somehow better than the rest.

Legal equality is the backbone of capitalist economies and free, minimally governed societies.

Social equality is government coercion in the economic sphere (and thus necessarily individual life), excessive legal plunder to accommodate a technically permissible system of looting and subsequent redistribution, and complete disregard of the actual usefulness and efficiency of workers and occupations in relation to the remuneration they receive.

Social equality and legal equality ought never to be confused, considered compatible, or thought to be one and the same. They are opposites. They cannot exist side by side. While conservatives in the United States fight the alleged gender pay gap with statistics, they ought to hit at the heart of the matter: social equality is not true equality, and working towards this government-enforced equality rips apart the fabric that holds a capitalist economy and a free society together.

 

Not all types of equality are equal.

In conclusion, the biggest ideological flaw in many arguments for and against various categories of redistribution is definitely the failure to recognize that not all forms of equality are equal—and they shouldn’t be treated like they are.

I’m not allowed to bring a knife to a gun fight

Jim Bowie and his illegal knife. (Painting by Michael Schrek.)

Jim Bowie and his illegal knife. (Painting by Michael Schrek.)

Much to my chagrin, I recently discovered I can’t carry a broadsword into Whataburger.

 

Concealed carry of daggers in the local Wal-Mart is strictly forbidden; walking down the street with a Bowie knife, concealed or not, is entirely illicit.

 

Unlike with firearms—which I won’t be able to own until age eighteen or conceal until age twenty-one—Texas law prohibits citizens from legally carrying knives anywhere except in their own homes, in their own vehicles, or in vehicles “under their control.”

 

As it turns out, the state can’t trust citizens with sharp, pointy objects. Someone might get hurt. Yet oddly enough, the state allows, to an extent, ownership and concealed carry of handguns.

 

The liberality afforded gun owners ought to be expanded and liberalized a great deal more, but it does provide a decent framework for what knife and blade laws should more closely resemble. As it is now, citizens aren’t left with many options regarding knives and blades:

 

  •  Under current law, all blades over 5.5 inches long are illegal to conceal or open carry.
  •  All throwing knives and throwing stars are illegal to conceal or open carry.
  •  All “stabbing knives,” daggers, dirks, and stilettos are illegal to conceal or open carry.
  •  All swords and spears are illegal to conceal or open carry. (I’d actually like to see this done.)
  •  And perhaps most humiliating of all to Texans, Bowie knives are illegal to conceal or open carry. (Hang your head in shame, lawmakers.)

 

In 2013, HB 1862 loosened restrictions on switchblades. It was one miniscule step in the right direction.

 

Bringing a knife to a gun fight isn’t usually an overtly wise choice, but in Texas law-abiding citizens don’t have the freedom to make that choice—and for a time and again disproved reason: the assumption that weapon-restricting laws can reduce crime. But everywhere the law’s been attempted, the exact opposite has happened.

 

As the saying goes, the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun; criminals intent on killing innocent victims are already breaking the law, and the realization that they’re wandering into a gun free zone or violating a portion of the Texas Penal Code (no criminal would ever do that, obviously) certainly isn’t going to stop them.

 

Knife and blade laws aren’t going to do a thing to stop blade-related crimes; but what they do manage is to tie the hands of citizens and give them even more by-the-inch government regulations in their lives.

 

Texas should leave the blade restrictions to the People’s Republic of New York and the muddleheaded European continent.

 

If you want to bring a knife to a gunfight, that’s your business.

Democrats change position on minimum wage

Mark Udall (D-CO) got emotional when talking about his rejected application at Best Buy.

Mark Udall (D-CO) got emotional when talking about his rejected application at Best Buy.

WASHINGTON – The Democrat Party is considering changing its policy on the minimum wage in light of last week’s election results. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) explained it as a “part of our long-term plan to adapt and overcome.”

“People see the federal minimum wage as roadblock in their path to better jobs. It prevents low-skill workers like senators and teenagers from getting their foot in the door and getting a chance to do better,” said Rep. George Miller (D-CA), who will retire in January.

“We must show that we’re flexible, that we can get over our losses,” continued Hagan, “And part of this will be to accept the will of the American people.”

Hagan and her fellow lame-duck democrat senators are concerned that once they retire from office, high minimum wages could be a problem and that even at current rates, they won’t be able to work at their choice of fast food joints.

As low-skill workers with entry-level experience in private sector jobs, the Senate’s banished democrats are now facing difficult decisions: more lucrative jobs—at Starbucks and Cracker Barrel, for instance—are more than likely not available.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) expressed earlier this week that he wants to work in higher-end retail, but nobody in the state is willing to pay minimum wage for him.

Sen. Hagan, in the closing remarks of an interview on Saturday, suggested that she may be in favor of complete abolishment of the federal minimum wage altogether and that she hopes there’s a 7/11 somewhere in North Carolina that will accept her application.

Of Politicians and Hobbits (spoiler warning)

frodo23Frodo Baggins is a lot like a politician.

He inherits a problem—an evil ring of power—from his uncle, who’s become overly attached to it and doesn’t understand all the problems it can cause (just like the others who previously owned the ring).

Frodo’s given the task of destroying it.

 

Almost immediately Frodo is trailed by a completely succumbed previous ring-bearer. This creature, known as Gollum, has killed for possession of the ring before and would do it again.

 

Meanwhile, Frodo is fighting and vowing to not become like Gollum; yet it’s practically unavoidable. The enchantment is too strong.

ryan and frodo

 

The insane previous ring-bearer offers to “help” Frodo and his bodyguard, Sam. He’s going to walk them to Mordor for the sole purpose of destroying the ring. But not before carefully triggering some infighting, separating Frodo and Sam, and then leading dazed Frodo into a giant spider’s lair.

gollum and smeagol

 

At the crucial moment, as he’s about to cast the ring into the fires of Mount Doom, he decides the ring is mine. It would have remained so, but the previous ring-bearer lunges forward and gruesomely steals it—and in the fray, falls into the fire.

it's mine, bros

 

After a little drama, Frodo and Sam walk home. Frodo is left with lasting scars, Sam returns to the Shire that he originally left with the sole purpose of protecting (along with Mr. Frodo, of course), and both of them are considered strange hobbits for the rest of their days.

quayle and bush

Gradual and Silent Encroachments: How Big Government Threatens More Than Your Pocketbooks

tea party protest

America was founded on freedom of expression, thought, and association; yet slowly it seems to betray its heritage.

“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” – George Washington

 

Free speech is the beginning of liberty; without it, other freedoms are naught more than vain trivialities, token privileges bestowed by law on those who meekly hold their peace and utter no dissent — implicit or explicit it matters not.

 

For thousands of years, governments have attempted to control thoughts and speech, to little ultimate avail. Thoughts have no measure; words have no weight; government of the physical realm cannot halt the ever-occupied minds of men nor can it ever completely silence the minds that attempt to share their findings.

 

Limiting freedom of expression is the beginning of the end of freedom. Totalitarians know the method to be effective, just like immobilizing an army is the way to conquer a territory or neutralizing an immune system is the way for a microscopic foe to defeat the human body. The asphyxiating burden of government very seldom utilizes sheer force to subdue the population, but rather simple limits on what thoughts are acceptable for public expression and what thoughts aren’t permissible for open articulation.

 

And in the western world, one can observe the gradual dissolution of freedom of speech, in politics, in academics, in business. This is a perfectly natural result of government involvement in citizens’ everyday lives: when agriculture, healthcare, transportation, education, and business fall under the watchful eye of centralized government, commonplace glitches, inconveniences, and disagreements take on unearthly political significance.

 

Issues government previously ignored are suddenly threatening to bureaucrats. If the state is in charge of marriage, the immediate result would be that marriage is no longer a moral issue, but a political one. If government creates a controversial regulation on, say, raw milk or GMOs, the issue is instantly politicized; it won’t be a consumer’s choice or a simple matter of grocery store decision-making anymore. If government bans certain forms of home heating, even firewood and coal become a bitterly polemical dispute. Those who use wood-fueled furnaces can become enemies of the state; people who support traditional marriage for reasons of religion can be placed on the terrorist watch list.

 

This is yet another reason why the yoke of socialism grows heavy so quickly: it spreads exponentially, popping up in political factions like a weed and rearing its speciously attractive head in one affair here and another there, promising to solve the aggravating problems ailing humanity, yet instead failing and failing miserably. Covering up this failure does involve a great deal of censorship, and attempting to satisfy the delicate balance of big government most certainly includes the silencing of nonconformists.

 

Big government, no matter how innocent the regulations it is setting forth may seem, limits speech with its size. The freedom a man has to say what he will without a regulatory, legal, or literal lynching is in direct proportion to how intrusive and how large his government is. An all-powerful state is like a one-ton cow sitting on the chest of a man — there isn’t really a way for the man to say anything, much less go anywhere or make progress.

 

Socialism is an extremely convincing lie. It offers liberation to the working classes, safety, equality, rights, and convenience. Many people see through the façade when faced with full socialism, but interventionism seems like a bargain. Rather than delivering the compromised utopia it promises, interventionism creates a gigantic state paving the way for full socialism. It alters democracy’s essence and leaves it an empty shell of broken promises and hollow traditions.

 

As odious and vile as the curtailment of speech is perceived, many times it is introduced in a democratic form of government by a majority. By its very nature, the infringement of the right to expression is something that must be forced on one group by another, more powerful or larger, group.

 

Winston Churchill aptly put it: “Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.” In other words, government run by a majority with no restrictions is a formidable threat to free speech.

 

America (and many western nations slipping into socialism around the world) is making a hypocrite of herself. With its global paragons of democratic virtue, the west is the epitome of saying one thing and doing another; demanding free speech yet strong-arming citizens into silence.

 

In academics and politics particularly, two areas dominated by government and its cronies and the two areas where strong discussion is critical, speech is gradually becoming more and more stifled. The sort of “freedom” and “democracy” that silences its citizens is a far cry from what the nation’s founders hoped for, but not too inconceivably distant from the current situation. “Democracy” that censors and scrubs political, academic, and religious thought is a whitewashed tomb, a culture that has a concept of what is right, good, and beautiful and attempts to maintain the image of goodness while blatantly betraying those standards in academia and government.

 

The United States’ situation has a long way to go yet, before it goes the way of the Soviet Union regarding free speech – but the thing that should bother every American is that it goes this way in the first place. In the end, increasing government’s size and scope has direct ramifications on freedom of expression. The more intrusive a government’s jurisdiction is, the less freedom of speech there is: this fact has been proven hundreds of times even in the past century.

 

Americans must realize, and subsequently act upon the fact, that big government threatens more than just pocketbooks. It ultimately threatens freedom itself.

 

James Madison explained, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

 

The gradual and silent encroachments Madison mentioned have been quietly progressing for over a hundred years. As mentioned previously, Americans are still quite free in most situations to say what they want; but government’s growth and looming involvement in citizens’ lives from birth to death menaces one important part of what America’s founders held dear.

 

 

The Truth About Robber Barons

During the "Gilded Age," when crony capitalism was at its height, businessmen furthering their private interests through public funding became known as robber barons -- yet leftist have essentially inverted the meaning of the term in the past 150 years.

During the “Gilded Age,” when crony capitalism was at its height, businessmen furthering their private interests through public funding became known as robber barons — yet leftist have essentially inverted the meaning of the term in the past 150 years.

Robber baron: a reprehensibly misleading term, purposefully deceptive, and definitely more than a matter of semantics.

 

Such derogatory titles for entrepreneurs and businessmen apply particularly to the giants of industry that rose up in the Gilded Age, an era of unprecedented economic growth and in its own right, an extreme amount of crony capitalism.

 

Lamentably, the term has been constituent to socialistic propaganda for over a century yet is rarely recognized for that distinction – calling private sector businessmen robber barons is something that even classical liberals have done from time to time, wittingly and unwittingly; the term has been incorporated into American speech, where it remains unnoticed, unconsidered, and unevaluated.

 

What is bothersome about such an adjectival mishap is not that millions of people mislabel something so often, but that they genuinely misunderstand the very nature of capitalism.

 

Calling businessmen robber barons is the same as saying that businessmen are marauding feudal lords subjugating citizens and initiating armed conflicts on a whim. This is, in the United States at least, grossly inaccurate.

 

In an interventionist or socialist economy (somewhat similar to a feudal or mercantilist system in that favored businessmen either wield power or influence in or over the ruthless coercive force known as the state) it would be supremely appropriate to label state cronies – in charge of the collectivized or nationalized means of production – as robber barons.

 

After all, any individual who unfairly benefits from government resources is benefiting not from conjured-up state funds with which the government has a right to do as it pleases; this individual is profiting from the hard-earned property of citizens, seized under the guise of legal plunder.

 

It would be entirely accurate to call a head of a state-owned corporation or a government-funded businessman a robber baron, and here’s why: government is sheer force, coercion, rules, mandatory action. And if anything, the fact that government is most famous for taking (in excess) what doesn’t belong to it should be an indicator that it is the institution comprised of robber barons, not private sector businesses that can only operate on the basis of persuasion, supply and demand, and natural market forces.

 

Taxing and then spending the money on private interests is deplorable in the eyes of citizens, save the citizens whose private interests are benefiting. Depriving the populace of the fruits of its labor and subsequently handing over cash to the politically favored is unjust.

 

As Thomas DiLorenzo notes, there is a difference between a political entrepreneur and a market entrepreneur. One connives, manipulates, and lobbies to exclude or stifle competition or to obtain illicit government funding; the other works to build a better product or offer a more efficient service, and thus to convince consumers that his product is the one worth buying.

The former are always essentially robber barons – the go about their business through coercion – but the latter are working through mutually beneficial exchanges, with consent from all parties involved.

 

Capitalism’s beauty lies in its freedom for the individual and mutual benefits. Mises famously said that “cotton kings” or “chocolate kings” or “automobile kings” or any type of industry leader cannot satisfy the implicit definition of the term robber baron without resorting to methods strictly outside of the free market’s bounds. In a free market, businessmen cannot force anyone to do anything without breaking the law or violating the principles of the free market itself.

 

Do robber barons say things like “the customer is always right”? Certainly not – but robber barons do, in fact, attempt to limit or ban the imports of competitors’ products, establish a licensing racket, lobby lawmakers to fund or cut their business some slack, and a host of other shady interferences in the free market.

 

In a capitalist economy, it is possible – as unfortunate as it sounds – for a participant to be financially exploited, misused, or wronged; but only if the aforementioned participant agreed to it first. If he didn’t agree, then it’s violating the inherent rights of this consumer to life, liberty, and property and thus cannot fit, legally, within the capitalist system.

 

Feudal lords and socialist taskmasters, most people will intuit, did not and do not generally ask their victims’ permission before plundering, taxing, raising prices exorbitantly, stealing land, or demanding bribes.

 

In a free market, businessmen aren’t and can’t be robber barons – in crony capitalism, feudalism, socialism, interventionism, or mercantilism, there are always robber barons. In the absence of a free market, an economy will revolve around central planning and bureaucracy. Central planning and bureaucracy always mean corruption, stagnation, and (you guessed it) the likes of robber barons: individuals using public resources to further private interests.

 

Conversely, in a free market businessmen are forced not only to ask permission, but to treat customers and employees well. Wages and working conditions must be satisfactory or the employer will be bought out and left without competent workers, or any workers at all; in capitalism, there is a financial and self-benefiting incentive to “do the right thing”; in socialism, other than the shady restrictions laid out by the state, there remains no reason to maintain a pretense of niceties – there is no competition, no alternative, no way out, and no reason to do a good job or innovate.

 

In the end, the totalitarian nickname for capitalist businessmen – the robber baron – is only applicable to socialists, crony capitalists, and yes, feudal lords, operating within their own system.

Choosing a Candidate, the Christian Way

Christians have a lot to keep in mind when considering a candidate.

Christians have a lot to keep in mind when considering a candidate.

“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual–or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country,“ said Samuel Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence and one of the most famous American founding fathers.

 

Adams’s sobering words should be a reminder that voting is not to be taken casually; it is a duty for which man will be accountable to God Himself. Yet voting remains a struggle for Christians around the world.

 

The question that faces believing voters most often is who in the world is “more” Christian? The lesser-of-the-two-evils answer is cliché at this point, and is a gross oversimplification of how and why Christ wants us to select leaders.

 

Before beginning this search with the author – and it most definitely is a search, not a series of answers – consider this carefully: Christians in politics will all too often become overtly attached to certain politicians, flawed though they might be; they will be loyal to the bitter end, even as scandals pop up or a better candidate appears. Civic duty is only one (a small) facet of the Christian life, and God is the ultimate leader of this world, no matter who is running for Congress or who controls the White House.

 

Once a voter has found his candidate, he should also be willing to give that candidate up. Admitting mistakes and repenting is the same in politics as it is in other aspects of life, and just like elsewhere, it is sometimes Biblically necessary to turn from a philosophy or a movement.

 

Despite the fact that many denominations, Christians, and church leaders debate the Biblical advisability of voting at all, once the question of whether to vote or to abstain from civic activities is decided – the correct answer is usually the former option, very rarely the latter – there is yet a more complicated question for Believers: who would Jesus vote for? Which party deserves the Christian vote? Is there a set “Biblical” political school of thought?

 

Most of all, how is the chaff separated from the wheat in politics – how is a candidate to be chosen?

 

The Wise Man vs. the Fool

The Bible lays out a clear picture of what a leader looks like, even from the very beginning – even in Genesis, the threads of a leadership theme can be traced (and should be traced).

 

Proverbs 1:7 says that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

 

“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good,” says Psalm 53:1.
The distinction between God-fearing and God-mocking is an important difference to search for in a political race; it is the difference between a wise man and a fool, a strong leader and a narcissist politician.

 

A leader, most of all, should fear God and try to serve Him – a true Christian leader will not keep faith a deep, dark secret or a casual title. If he does, with very few exceptions he is either too scared to defend it or not serious enough about God to mention it to the people he truly respects – his political superiors and the voters he woos.

 

Proverbs has much to say about the attributes of a wise man, and the New Testament mentions much about the fruits of the Spirit; these are the best measures of human character at a human’s disposal and should be used as such.

 

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christs’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” – Galatians 5:19-24

 

The Bible mentions more than once that wisdom is more than head knowledge or education, and rather it begins with the fear of the Lord.

 

“And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” — Job 28:28

 

“Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.” – Proverbs 3:13-14

 

“Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.” – Ecclesiastes 7:19

 

Having a wise man in office can be a better advantage to a nation than having natural resources, a growing population, a strong economy, or a powerful military – for wisdom isn’t circumstantial, or brought by luck. It has no boom and bust cycle. It is a gift from God to those who ask for it and fear Him.

 

The blatant contrasts between the wise and the foolish are mentioned throughout scripture: the fool mocks sin, but the righteous are wise and have favor before God (Pro. 14:9); the wise cease from strife, but fools stir it up again (Pro. 20:3); fools trust merely in their own abilities, but the wise seek council and search for God (Pro. 28:26); the fool despises instruction, but the wise are eager to learn and are willing to admit mistakes (Pro. 15:5); the fool gossips and slanders, while the wise cling to the truth (Pro. 10:18). Most of all, the fool says there is no God.

 

Candidates that choose to lie and slander are not candidates to be trusted nor respected; men that refuse council and believe in no higher power than themselves are likewise to be avoided.

 

Look carefully for the wise man and the fool, search diligently for evidence of the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit. This is the first key to choosing a Christian candidate.

 

Biblical Leaders and Their Attributes

 

Strong, righteous leaders mentioned in the Bible share many common traits: humility, a willingness to repent, a search for wise mentors and wise council, courage to stand up for God and His principles, and a desire to learn and improve.

 

A Godly leader is brave enough to act alone, but wise enough to seek council; willing to assert power when needed, but humble enough to know his bounds.

 

Humility is an essential aspect of an effective leader, and it is seen in Moses, Gideon, and King David, for just a few examples.

 

“Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt. And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” – Exodus 3:11

 

“And the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go, in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? And he [Gideon] said unto Him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” – Judges 6:15

 

“And David said unto Saul, Who am I? and what is my life, or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son in law to the king?” – 1 Samuel 18:18

 

Moses had an anger problem, and David was a murderer and adulterer – it points us to another important part of leadership: repentance. Humans always make mistakes in this life, and leaders are no exception. What differentiates a righteous man and a lesser one is not whether they fail, but how they respond and repent of this failure.

 

Wise leaders seek wise council; they always look for a wise mentor. Look for pointers as to their role models, the people they trust, the people they want to become, and the people whom they ask for advice. Proverbs 27:17 speaks of how iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens the other. It’s important to identify the peers of a candidate.

 

Who has endorsed the candidate? Trusted organizations that line up with Christian ideals, or radically anti-God movements? Individuals themselves who you know either mock God or fear Him?

 

A true leader is also willing to stand up to evil, no matter if it is in high places and no matter how lowly the aforementioned leader may be.

 

Nathan reproved David for his affair with Bathsheba (2 Sam 12:7); Elijah and Micaiah fought Ahab (1 Kings 21:17-29; 22:13); Daniel opposed King Belshazzar and told him to repent (Daniel 5:22); John the Baptist correct Herod (Matthew 14:4); Peter and John stood up to the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:17-20); Stephen, even as he was about to be martyred, opposed the Council (Acts 7:51).

 

True leaders might not hold a governmental position; they may merely oppose the evil they see in rulers. Biblical leaders have shown that being courageous enough to oppose evil is the mark of a righteous man.

 

When examining a candidate, look at his record – if he has never before lifted a finger to fight the problems he claims to want to eradicate in office, it is unlikely he means a word he says. Who he is when he is a common man is who he will be in office (except he’ll have an office).

 

The Example of Church Leaders

 

While the Bible has nothing specifically addressing the proper characteristics of a governmental leader, it gives a solid picture of what church leaders must live up to.

 

1 Timothy 3 is perhaps the best example.

 

“A bishop [or any leader] then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre, but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

 

Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not guilty of filthy lucre … Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.”

 

This chapter emphasizes the importance of an upright personal life in church leaders, something that is nearly equally important in rulers.

 

The Calling

 

Leaders have a calling – maybe not a blatant summons to government leadership, with an audible voice from God or a clap of thunder, but at least a tug on their hearts that God has a plan for their life and leading is part of it.

 

Abraham (Gen. 12:1), Moses (Ex. 3:10), Gideon (Judges 6:14), Elisha (1 K. 19:19); Isaiah (Is. 6:8), and Paul (Acts 26:16) are all examples of God calling a person into a leadership role, or to do something for His kingdom.

 

Identifying the candidate with a calling seems like a foggy method, but it’s a method nonetheless, one to be used when others fail to find the difference.

 

The words and deeds, the professed motivation of a politician may be calculated and staged, but to some extent it’s possible to see through the façade.

The Application

How do wisdom, the fruits of the Spirit, excellent mentors, wise council, reliable companions, repentance, courage, and calling show up in the real world? How are they identified? In fact, what do they look like?

 

The application of Biblical principles to real-life problems like government debt, decaying roads, a terrorist attack, a drought, or gun control seems so much harder than applying them to, say, abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, or religious freedom.

 

Yet there are applications nonetheless, and wise leaders will see them and demonstrate the correct positions on these issues. They may not line up with scripture entirely, but righteous men will at least seek to do right – and when they discover they are wrong, they will repent.

 

Looking at the qualities of a good leader may make it appear as if finding a decent politician is the hardest and most impossible thing mankind has done since putting a man on the moon – yet it should be noted that the moon landing was successful, and occasionally elections can turn out right too.

 

It’s impossible to list all of the “important” issues in an article, but a few of the most widespread and prominent controversies affecting the Christian faith in the United States can be mentioned.

 

One of the most tragic issues of our day is abortion, and Christians should be firmly against it – God certainly is. (Psalm 22:10-11; 127:3; 139: 13,15; Genesis 1:27; Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17) Jeremiah 1:5 offers a glimpse of God’s view of life, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” God created man in His image – and He forbad murder because of this.

 

It’s also a delicate political issue that has hurt many people around the world, which is why calloused remarks about it do much, much more harm than good. If you’re faced with a decision to choose between a fiscally Biblical candidate and a socially Biblical candidate, choose the latter.

 

Gay marriage is possibly the most controversial issue of our time. Protests hit the streets, lawsuits are everywhere, and scarcely a day goes by without some significant news on the issue reaching the headlines – yet whether or no you believe government should ban it, God is against it. The movement is definitely not about “acceptance” or “tolerance,” it’s about demanding not even that a lifestyle should be accepted, but that it should be praised and catered to. (Jude 1:7; Romans 1:27; 1 Cor. 6:9)

 

What about fiscal issues? Social welfare? Taxes? Understanding what God wants for His creation is the way to achieve it, and reading the Bible is the best way to know that for sure.

 

Here is a short list of things to consider when you choose a candidate:

1. Where do they stand on the issues? How willing are they to defend their position?
2. What is their record? What is in their past – if it’s bad, do they justify it or have they repented of it?
3. Who are their supporters, both individuals and organizations? Do you agree with these endorsers?
4. What is their personal life like? Are they Christians themselves, and are they morally upright? How do they live up to the Biblical qualifications?
5. How are they compared to the other candidate?
6. Are they strong leaders? Have they had any experience before?

Delving into the basic requirements for a leader may have introduced more questions than answers. You know you’re supposed to find a humble man who keeps good company, wants to learn, has a teachable spirit, and respects life (among many other things) but keep in mind there is more, so much more. The only source with all the answers is God Himself (and the instructions He sent in his Word); that’s the best place to look, and always will be.