Posts Tagged ‘Conservatism’

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John Adams knew his stuff…and knew us.

January 16, 2013

John Adams was never my favorite of the Founding Fathers. His antipathy to the Roman Catholic Church, in particular, seems to be at odds with his beliefs in Religious Freedom, and bothers me. He was not, however, as many have suggested, a Deist, not in the mold of Thomas Jefferson. He did seem to believe in the active participation of God in the affairs of men.

However, ponder these:

There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.
Letter to Jonathan Jackson (2 October 1780), “The Works of John Adams”, vol 9, p.511.

Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure than they have it now, They may change their Rulers and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. They will only exchange Tyrants and Tyrannies.
Letter to Zabdiel Adams (21 June 1776).

The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.
Letter to Abigail Adams (12 May 1780).

All the perplexities, confusions, and distresses in America arise, not from defects in their constitution or confederation, not from a want of honor or virtue, so much as from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation.
Letter to Thomas Jefferson (23 August 1787), The Works of John Adams.

The History of our Revolution will be one continued Lye from one end to the other. The essence of the whole will be that Dr. Franklins electrical Rod, smote the Earth and out sprung General Washington. That Franklin electrified him with his rod—and thence forward these two conducted all the Policy, Negotiations, Legislatures and War.
Letter to Benjamin Rush, 4 April 1790. Alexander Biddle, Old Family Letters, Series A (Philadelphia: 1892), p. 55

While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation, while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candour, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world. Because we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. Oaths in this country are as yet universally considered as sacred obligations. That which you have taken, and so solemnly repeated on that venerable ground, is an ample pledge of your sincerity and devotion to your country and its government.
Letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, 11 October 1798, in Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull (New York, 1848), pp 265-6. There are some differences in the version that appeared in The Works of John Adams (Boston, 1854), vol. 9, pp. 228-9, most notably the words “or gallantry” instead of “and licentiousness”.

Property must be secured, or liberty cannot exist. But if unlimited or unbalanced power of disposing property, be put into the hands of those who have no property, France will find, as we have found, the lamb committed to the custody of the wolf. In such a case, all the pathetic exhortations and addresses of the national assembly to the people, to respect property, will be regarded no more than the warbles of the songsters of the forest. The great art of law-giving consists in balancing the poor against the rich in the legislature, and in constituting the legislative a perfect balance against the executive power, at the same time that no individual or party can become its rival. The essence of a free government consists in an effectual control of rivalries. The executive and the legislative powers are natural rivals; and if each has not an effectual control over the other, the weaker will ever be the lamb in the paws of the wolf. The nation which will not adopt an equilibrium of power must adopt a despotism. There is no other alternative. Rivalries must be controlled, or they will throw all things into confusion; and there is nothing but despotism or a balance of power which can control them.
No. 13, Discourses on Davilia, 1790

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Recent observations on our second-term ObamaWorld

November 14, 2012

The “tax the rich” mania in France is now bad enough that the world’s 5th richest man, Bernard Arnault, is applying for Belgian citizenship. He is a self-made multi-billionaire, not one who inherited his money, and he’s apparently had it with the confiscatory tax laws in his native country.

Now Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, is applying for Australian citizenship. He says it’s out of a love of the country, but maybe his accountants are telling him what’s coming up for him. (Ok, I can’t stand it…the Woz is going to Oz. There, I had to let that out!)

George Lucas sold LucasFilm to Disney before the end of this year for over $ 4 billion. you can’t tell me his accountants didn’t warn him what was coming up next year.

Companies all over the US are laying off people now, and some are brave enough to say publicly that they are reducing staff or cutting hours because of the impending impact of Obamacare.

There is no evidence the estimated $ 2 trillion in cash US companies are sitting on will be invested any time soon. They held onto it all through the last four years to keep it from being misspent by the Obama Administration. That will make job growth all the more difficult. This is not an environment in which companies want to take risk!

Meanwhile, we still practice the politics of distraction. It worked so well pre-election, why stop now? The General Petraeus affair is much more important than the administration’s mess of Benghazi, isn’t it? And the media cheerfully report it. We love the lurid details, but now we have had so many such affair revelations, how new and scandalous is it, really?

I think the media folks are really kind of pissed when they have to deal with Benghazi. Isn’t that old news? And it’s not like it was Watergate, or something big like that. (Even though no Americans died as a result of Watergate…)  John McCain’s response to a reporter today was pretty good, and very honest. Bless him.

I don’t really know what the fuss is all about, after all. We’ve already seen over the last four years that the Obama Administration can shred the Constitution, that Supreme Court justices can pull the most ridiculous reasoning out of thin air to justify a decision, and that lies made by government officials are routinely reported as truth. And the President’s Press Secretary just says, “Well, he didn’t know about that.”

Through all of this, Democrats were still re-elected, or were elected over Republicans in a number of Congressional races, and the President was re-elected. Apparently nothing that is done by this government that is unlawful or immoral really matters.

What are we to do, anyway? We can’t affect Washington. Voting for candidates is always about finding the lesser of the evils, right? It will never be better…might as well watch TV, lose ourselves in video games, and let the politicians take care of us. Thank God Apple has given us such wonderful toys with which to distract ourselves.

Even if we would rise up, they own the military. They will always be able to compel our obedience at the point of a gun. Tar and pitchforks lose out to tanks. I remember the so-called student uprising in China a couple of decades ago. It looked like there was hope…then there was none.

Do I think it could come to this? Perhaps. I fear not enough Americans care enough to give “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” should that be what is necessary to preserve our Republic.

Good Lord, I hope it does not come to this. But I find no alternative right now. In Europe, the downward spiral has been going on for some time. But they have had us to help bail them out. What happens when we need the bailout? Will China do it?

I think that is unlikely. I hate to sound so depressing, but I have only seen evidence since the election that our leaders  either caving in or making only a feeble attempt to slow the slide somewhat.

How do we stop this?

 

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Bill Kristol caves, buys in on the Obama tax meme

November 12, 2012

Now, in full disclosure: I subscribe and read The Weekly Standard, and I like a lot of the articles I’ve read over the years. But over the last few years I’ve noticed that Fred Barnes and Bill Kristol, who edit the magazine, have become bughouse nuts.

A couple of years ago I went to a downtown Chicago hotel to hear Fred Barnes speak at an event put on by the Heritage Foundation. (A group I highly recommend, by the way.) Barnes, who I enjoyed on Fox New’s opinion panels, was rambling and, I’m sorry to say, pointless. I don’t know why. Soon after, though, I noticed he was making less sense on Fox, and last I saw he isn’t on anymore.

Bill Kristol has always seemed a little more aristocratic to me, even though he doesn’t come from those roots. His father, Irving Kristol, is considered the “Father of Neoconservatism,” which means he was an influential writer but nobody but the MSM ever came up with a definition of neoconservatism. They just called it “those nuts who think we should go to war with Iraq.”

Just for background, neoconservatives are generally considered to be those who formerly were liberals, but who rejected certain parts of the liberal agenda, but not always all of it. The term got tossed around a lot post-9/11 because publications like The Weekly Standard were strongly in favor of going into the Middle East and, to put it simply, kicking some ass.

They were not alone in this, of course. However, I would be willing to bet that a lot of the folks who became neoconservatives were against the Vietnam War, and not necessarily for the right reasons, just anti-war in general. Many neocons are of Jewish decent, and Jews have been Democratic-leaning for many years. (In fact, Irving Kristol wrote a piece entitled “The Liberal Tradition of American Jews,” in which he attempts to explain why American Jews cling so tightly to the liberal beliefs of the current version of the Democratic Party, even when it rejects support of Israel. Google it.)

Whatever the reason, some former liberals became conservative at least in terms of international affairs and national defense, but they did not necessarily reject the concept of the “limited welfare state.” Of course, such beliefs were pretty much in line with Bush 43’s “compassionate conservatism,” so it was no surprise that they supported the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Back to son Bill Kristol. His recent comments, which you can find on Breitbart.com, seem to indicate his support for increased taxes on the rich. He’s one of those fair-weather conservatives, like House Speaker John Boehner, who has decided that caving in to the so-called Obama mandate is the way to lead the opposition.

(Of course, no one is even bringing up the fact that the election might have been stolen. The people who should be investigating are celebrating Obama’s “historic” second term.)

But Kristol is so off-the-cuff, so dismissive, in his comments, as to irritate me far more. Boehner was always a weak conservative, if conservative at all. I though Kristol was smarter and made of sterner stuff. Apparently not:

“Elections have consequences… The leadership in the Republican Party and the leadership in the conservative movement has to pull back, let people float new ideas. Let’s have a serious debate. Don’t scream and yell when one person says, ‘You know what? It won’t kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires.’ It really won’t, I don’t think. I don’t really understand why Republicans don’t take Obama’s offer to freeze taxes for everyone below $250,000. Make it $500,000–make it a million. Really? The Republican Party’s going to fall on its sword to defend a bunch of millionaires? Half of whom vote Democratic, and half of whom live in Hollywood, and are hostile to Republican principles?”  — Bill Kristol, Fox News Sunday, November 11, 2012

Except that Obama will begin with those over whatever limit he says, then lower it, then lower it again, knowing that nearly half the country doesn’t pay federal income taxes now and that the revenue generated by only taxing the “rich” (which includes small business owners, of course) is a drop in the bucket.

I agree that making Democrat millionaires pay more is a good thing. They want to, right? Anyone who wants to contribute more to the Federal coffers is invited to do so. But I don’t see Warren Buffett writing that multi-billion-dollar check any time soon, despite what he says publicly.

But all taxation is theft. Our “representatives” are no longer representing us. Using terms like “a mandate from the people” they systematically take more and more of our property to redistribute. Not all is redistributed to those in need, either, despite the protestations of these “representatives.” More and more often it is used to buy favor to help those people maintain their positions and lifestyles in Washington and elsewhere, and to entice individuals and companies to do their bidding.

So Kristol’s remark either shows a very shallow understanding of what this President has publicly said time and time again as to his beliefs about the distribution of wealth, or he has become a part of this conciliatory Washington in-crowd elitist Republicanism trend.

Now is a time for courage, for standing fast, for standing athwart history, yelling, “Stop!” It is not a time for bending to the will of this President. We will never be able to go back from the brink if we do. As it is I am afraid we may have gone too far and are destined to become a European-style socialist state. But if we are to stop it, or at least slow the decline, we must reject the conciliatory memes being tossed around in Washington. We will be hearing far more about how the Republican party needs to drop its opposition to abortion, to immigration “reform,” to the welfare state. But that just turns them into a weak version of the Democrats, and takes them away from beliefs about America that we hold dear. Maybe the Beltway Republicans will do it. Maybe even Karl Rove will do it. But those of us outside of the Beltway will not. We will not be turned away. If need be, we will reject the Republican party in favor of one that will support and champion our beliefs. And this time, a third party will have real influence and not merely serve as a spoiler.

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My only comments on the election

November 8, 2012

Will the sun now set on these United States of America?

As Dr. Pournelle reminds us, “despair is a sin.”

But I fear greatly for our families and our Republic.

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” – Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry, one of the most important voices of our War for Independence, refused to attend the Constitutional Convention of 1787 out of concern the Federal Government would grow too large, saying, “I smell a rat in Philadelphia.” His speeches became major portions of the Anti-Federalist Papers.

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“Atlas Shrugged – Part II: The Strike”

October 13, 2012

I think in most cases, if you like Ayn Rand’s book, or even found it thought-provoking, you will like the movie. If not – especially if you respond in great horror to Rand’s ideals – you will hate it.

This cast was, by and large, at least as good as the Part I cast, except for Dagny. Samantha Mathis is no match for Taylor Schilling, sorry. Oh, and Rebecca Wisocky was a far better Lillian Rearden in Part 1.

Jason Beghe was a fine, growly Hank Rearden. I can’t think of a TV part where I’ve liked Paul McCrane, so he is a fine Wesley Mouch – even though the name seemed to fit Michael Learner better.

I think the plot modifications and updating to fit the present day worked very well. I know it must have been difficult to edit down all those great monologues, like Francisco’s at the wedding and Hank’s at the hearing. $ 40 per gallon gasoline would have seemed ridiculous a few years ago, but today it just seems prophetic. The most chilling visual to me is any of the scenes of the streets of New York. There are so very few cars on the streets that are normally jammed with traffic, yet it is midday – the first time I didn’t even notice it. When I did, it scared the bejeezus out of me.

The main threads are there – the increasing desperation of the government as the economy goes down the toilet, the opportunistic nature of Mouch and his friends (remember Rahm’s “never let a crisis go to waste”?). Of course, every decision made by the government is exactly the opposite of what should be done…in a black-and-white world like that of the film it is much easier to see the folly of the government’s directives than it is in our daily lives.

Dagny is more and more driven by trying to discover the secret of Galt’s motor and torn apart by trying to save the country singlehanded. As more and more of the men who actually keep the world going disappear she is pushed practically to her breaking point…and she escapes. Her escape is very short-lived, however, and she is compelled to come back to save the railroad once again. For those of you who have not read the book or seen the movie, yet, I won’t spoil any more of it for you.

If you have read the book, and enjoyed it, and saw how it is a cautionary tale for today, then by all means go see the film and take your friends. The really “extreme” – to use a term bandied about too much nowadays – ideas of Rand are not promoted in the film. There isn’t much in here to argue with unless you are an extremely close-minded liberal. Even conservatives of a religious bent can’t argue with the film as much as with the book. Rand promotes the idea that organized religion is almost as bad as government – she refers to religious folks as “mystics” throughout the book. None of that is present in the film. The film really promotes enlightened self-interest over “social justice,” equating required sacrifice for the good of all as a form of slavery.

The Dagny/Hank Rearden romance is downplayed somewhat in the film. It’s used as a plot point as required by the book’s plot, but it doesn’t become overwhelming. In the book the romance is based on mutual respect and an attraction forged by their shared beliefs and passions. This is not a romance that develops between “oil and water” types of people. The only thing that holds them apart is Hank’s marriage, loveless though it may be.

Of course, all of that changes in Part III…after all, at the end of Part II, Dagny looks out of the wreckage of her plane and sees…John Galt.

Is it perfect? No. Does it do a good job of presenting the main points of the book? Yes. I hope a lot of those “undecided” voters see this movie. This could easily be the America of 2016, if we choose unwisely.

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“Atlas Shrugs Part II” opens Friday!

October 10, 2012

With a new cast, the second installment of the “Atlas Shrugged” trilogy, based on the Ayn Rand novel, opens in theaters this Friday. It will be interesting how the whole “Galt’s motor” thing will be handled in the near-future setting of the movie series. (The book gives no particular date, but there is a lot of speculation that was to be set in the – at the time of the book’s publication – near future of the mid-1970s.) It will probably not be in theaters for a long time, so check it out right away. It’s important to see before the election. And if you haven’t purchased the first installment, it is available here and is on the Amazon video-on-demand service as well as  on Netflix.

https://www.facebook.com/AtlasShruggedMovie

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A few words about personal property rights

July 17, 2012

Over on Keep Americans Free I have a new post on personal property rights prompted by Mr. Obama’s lies and half-truths from last weekend. I invite you to read it.

I really need to get back to some constructive work, but the November election looks like it will determine the path of the US for generations. This one is for all the marbles, folks.