Monday, December 17, 2007

Romney vs. Huckabee

It's been rather interesting to watch the recent developments in the Republican primary race as Huckabee has unexpectedly become a real viable candidate. I always liked him and a while ago commented to someone that I would seriously consider voting for him if he was more of a serious contender. Well, he is now, and I am taking a hard look.

While I do think Mike Huckabee has made some poor comments recently, particularly about Mormonism, I've been most disappointed with Mitt Romney. Rather than reacting with class and digging in to his own campaign, he's started running a couple of ads that single out Gov. Huckabee and attack his record. Now, to be clear, Romney's ads are hardly the mudslinging we often see. (The first two-thirds of them point out similarities between the candidates, making them more of "contrast ads" rather than "attack ads".) But still, I would rather a candidate tell me why I should vote for him, let the other guy make his case, and then let me decide. I don't need to hear about why I shouldn't vote for your opponent because that doesn't convince me that you are any more qualified.

So with the Ohio primaries still a ways out, I consider myself undecided as to who I will end up voting for. I am still leaning toward Romney, although maybe not as much as before. But I am definitely glad that there are finally some other good candidates I feel I can support. (I don't feel that I could really get behind any of Guilani, McCain, Clinton, or Obama. Although I did take a pretty good look at Obama. The other three I haven't been impressed with at all.)

Anyway, it's midnight and I'm going to bed.

SM

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Global Warming in Ohio

I'm really not sure what just happened today. Some guy was standing out in the absolutely freezing snow and ice trying to recruit donations for his environmental group that is trying to combat global warming. And I donated. Wait, it gets worse. I bought Glenn Beck's new book An Inconvenient Book, but before I could read it, I felt guilty so I went out and grabbed Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth. I'll be watching it tonight... before I read Glenn's book.

If anyone knows where I lost my conservative ideals, would you please comment and let me know where they are. I would like them back.

SM

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Principles and Politics

All I really want in politics is for someone, anyone, to show me that they have a set of principles that guide their positions. I just don't seem to see much of that.

A primer on what I mean my principles. The way I see it, every stance on every political can be analyzed by breaking it into two pieces: 1) The stance itself (i.e. "pro-life" or "pro-choice") and 2) The reason, or principle, for that stance (i.e. "murder is bad" or "women control their own bodies"). There must also be a system of logic that connects the principle to the stance (i.e. "Murder is bad -> a fetus should have the right to live -> abortion is murder -> pro-life" or "women control their bodies -> a fetus is part of the woman's body -> pro-choice"). Broken down this way, I believe that our debates would be much more productive. We could identify the stance and principle the candidate stands for, discuss how appropriately that principle is being applied to an issue, and then vote for who best represents us.

That's a crummy explanation of something I think is extremely important, but I'll proceed anyway. To better understand why I believe some of the neo-con hatemonger stuff that I do, I thought I would list some of the principles that guide me and try and explain how I see that principle apply to an issue.

1) Principle: "People should be allowed to govern themselves." And I'm not talking about democracy, I'm talking about everyday life decisions. This is why I generally am in favor of small government. If the government doesn't have to do it, then it shouldn't. And if it does, the government organization closest to the people it affects should be deferred to first. That is, local municipalities should be responsible for education policy, not the federal government. Sorry Mr. President, but No Child Left Behind is not a good idea. It's coercive and doesn't consider the needs of everyone it affects. Let the people be the people.

2) "When certain assumptions are met, the free market and therefore capitalism works." This is the economist in me coming out, but I think it's a solid principle seeing as it has hundreds of years of data supporting it. Because I believe this, I always look very skeptically at anything that increases our taxes. Frankly, if I want it, I'll buy it myself. I don't need the government to pay for my health care. If my employer doesn't provide it, I'll buy it myself or find a different employer. Now, there are public goods and goods with large externalities that people aren't going to be provided efficiently by the market. In these few cases, taxes are appropriate and I gladly submit myself to them. Such things are, to use broad examples, national defense, certain infrastructures, and crime prevention.

3) "People should be responsible for themselves and their actions." Sensitive liberals, please stop reading. If you're poor, it is not the government's job to provide you with food and shelter. Get a job. The American Dream of going from rags to riches only works if you are willing to invest some sort of effort. If you are going to sit there and whine because the government didn't save you from Katrina, then you are far too dependent on the government and not nearly enough on yourself. Now, before I get shot for being so harsh, let me be clear: I do not hate the poor. In fact, I donate to charities as much as I am able. Jean Valjean taught me that lesson a long time ago. I believe that we as individuals should help other individuals in need. I do not, however, believe that it is appropriate for society to force individuals to help others by redistributing income: i.e. Medicare. The federal government's involvement in individual-level charity should be to encourage and fund to some extent private, charitable organizations. The feds should not think they are a charitable organization themselves. The Congress is far to big and unwieldy to provide in any sort of efficient manner. There are good things, and Medicare is a GOOD thing, in principle. But there are better things, and private charitable organizations are generally better. We should encourage them rather than do their job for them. I believe this will actually make things like health care and subsidized living more affordable and more accessible. So, liberals, you can still help the poor. And conservative tightwads, you SHOULD help the poor. Just not through the government. The government happens to be more efficient at other things.

4) "Moral truths really do exist." This is a more dicey topic and I'll address it more later when I have more time, but it can be summed up using gay marriage as an example. Homosexuality really will ruin any society that embraces it. It really is an evil practice. Not sure, ask the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah. Society cannot support evil and immoral practices. That doesn't mean you're not allowed to do what you want. I'm not advocating that society punish homosexuals either. But it cannot accommodate it either. I actually like the military's "don't ask don't tell" policy.

I could go on this forever, but I'll stop because I'm late for a meeting.

So please, flame me for this post. Seriously. I welcome open-minded debates. Besides, I'm sure I have probably not explained things clearly anyway. And I'm also sure I'm dead wrong in a few places too. But I want to get better. I think we all do. And I think we all have more in common that we realize. But to figure that out, I believe we have to be transparent with the principles we believe so that we can decide, together, how to best apply them.

SM

Friday, November 16, 2007

Politics and Football

So with the OSU v UM rivalry game tomorrow, I'm really not in the mood for any deep political musings right now. Although I have say down to pen a blog entry several times in the past week or two, my thoughts weren't really coming together, so I'll put off those musings for another day. Instead I thought I'd comment on something I recently heard a UM (school colors: Blue and Maize) yell at an OSU fan (school colors: Scarlet and Gray). I'm paraphrasing since I don't remember the exact quote and since it probably involved profanities I would prefer to avoid repeating.

"At least I'm not from a Red state you ******* Bush-voter."

Ouch.

Not that it rivals OSU's war cry: "**** Michigan." Truly original. It's a good thing politics has risen above this type of stuff. I mean, at least VP Cheney was making a point...

Just another deep point to ponder from another thoughtful football fan.

SM

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Subprime Mortage and The Homeowners Protection Act

OK, so I'm feeling (a little) bad about my last post. I don't regret anything I said, but I think I may have not restrained my conservative hatemongering tendencies enough. I don't know. Either way, I will do my best to limit the hatemongering in this post, but I can make no guarantees.

I was walking off campus the other day when I was handed a magazine from some guy. This is not uncommon, and having been a hander-outer-of-fliers at times in Japan, I know the frustration that comes when people won't even take it and throw it away. So I took it. But as I did he said "Are you aware that we are on the bring of economics collapse? We need to freeze subprime mortgage foreclosures." That was enough to lure me in. See, he used two key phrases: "Economics" which is what I study all the time, and "subprime mortgage foreclosures" which is closely related to the industry where I spent the past year working. So while I'm no expert, if someone wants to talk economics and/or subprime mortgages, I am fairly experienced, so I jumped in.

He told my that the US economy is going to collapse and the way we can save it is by having the federal government make it illegal to foreclose on borrowers that have defaulted. Why would this work? I asked him this question several times and the only answer I got was that it would work "because the federal government would be the one to do it". Huh? I repeated this back to him several times and he confirmed that I had understood his point correctly. Now, while resisting the urge to directly accuse anyone of blind ignorance, I find it disconcerting that some people will push political agendas without understanding the mechanisms at work behind the policies they push. After me nearly begging him for some sort of information, research, or anything to help me understand, he gave me another tract by a man named Lyndon LaRouche. I had not previously heard this name before, but he is the apparently the author of the Homeowners and Bank Protection Act, which I was somewhat familiar with.

I have been reading this magazine and much of Mr. LaRouche's research and am officially opposed to this piece of legislation. Here's a quick run down on subprime lending:
1- Banks borrow money by issuing bonds
2- Banks lend the money to people to buy houses
3- Subprime means the homeowners have poor credit and a history of default
4- The homeowners don't repay the debt
5- The banks foreclose so they can pay back at least part of the money to the original bondholders

Now, there have been some poor investment decisions made in the subprime industry by several high-powered banks. (But let's not accuse Bank of America of making stupid decisions.) They over-invested in risky assets (low-credit borrowers) and as expected, the borrowers are not keeping up with their mortgage payments. This hurts the economy by causing bond-holders to lose money.

The answer, however, is NOT to freeze foreclosure. You do that and the bond holders get NOTHING. It is not fair at all for the government to tell the bond-holders that their investments, which were made in good faith, are now worthless. Maybe I'm just a hatemonger and hate people with bad credit. But then again, maybe people should take on some personal responsibility and pay back the debts they willingly entered into themselves. But that's just me. The government stepping in would effectively say "oh, you weren't responsible enough to pay off your own debts, so we'll take care of you." This teaches people that they can expect someone to bail them out when they screw up and therefore will only cause more poor decision making. It may have positive immediate effects, but it will INCREASE THE FUTURE PROBLEMS by removing the negative effects that are associated with putting personal responsibility aside. It's tough to watch your friends trip and fall and while it's good to offer a hand to help them back up, preventing the fall completely will not teach them how to walk.

SM

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Musings on the Nobel

Look, I want to make the point up front that I believe in respecting anyone who had dedicated themselves to a cause they believe in. I will not ever criticize Mr. Gore for his campaigns on climate change. I do, however, criticize the content of those campaigns sharply because I think the facts presented are blown far out of proportion and do not, as some suggest, represent a scientific consensus. Show me a respectable scientist who believes in human-induced climate change and I'll show you another one who has research showing the opposite. It's an issue that is far from being decided and I hesitate to make huge changes in society until there is a real and scientific consensus. There is not. Now, I'm not going to call things like "An Inconvient Truth" lies, because Mr. Gore does appear to believe them, but it seems like the presentation is political, not scientific. Politics rarely makes for good science.

But I digress. I really wanted to comment on the Nobel Peace Prize. According to "NobelPrizes.com", Mr. Gore and the IPCC won the prize "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change." I don't see anything in there that contribute to world peace, but maybe that's just me. But then again, it wouldn't be the first, second, or even third time I have disagreed with who the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to. I think it's a prize that has become more political than anything. (Granted a prize dedicated to encouraging world peace does have an inherently political aspect to it.) Really though, if you take a look at how the prize is awarded, I think you'll discover that it really is more of an opportunity for the committee to lend their voice to which issues they are in favor of rather than an objective process. And that's perfectly fine, and long as we realize that.

Again, I don't want people to think I'm ramming Mr. Gore. I'm not. I disagree with his characterizations of the issues, but really I'm ramming the Nobel Prize committee. (Here I omit "Peace". I could bring similar criticisms about the other awards too.) I just don't think it's a process that deserves to be clouted as the highest international award available, because it's political not objective, and they proved that again with this recent award. But it's far from the first time.

SM

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Unpatriotism

Check out this piece of work:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,298858,00.html

Sen. Harry Reid is blasting Rush Limbaugh for calling troops who oppose the war "phony soldiers". Now, let me make this clear: I am not a fan of Sen. Reid nor am I a fan of Mr. Limbaugh. Frankly, they both drive me nuts. I think Rush's comment was out of line... if anyone has a right to voice opposition to the war, it's those who have witnessed it first hand. But I also think Reid's comment was out of line. I mean, he defends Sen. John Kerry, Rep. Murtha, and others in his party who have said equally despicable things about those in the military. (Calling them murderers in cold blood, etc.) Sen. Reid, if you are going to demand an apology from Mr. Limbaugh for his comments, you need to be completely honest and fair and demand the same apology from everyone who, in your words, "attack the courage and character of those fighting and dying for him and for all of us." And that includes people on both sides of the partisan fence.

But when all is said and done, I believe that either of these two people can say what they want about the war and the troops. After all, the troops are over there fighting to preserve and spread the freedoms of speech that they and everyone else in the free world enjoy.

Now let me voice my opinion on the subject. Whether or not one agrees with the war in Iraq or not, I do not see how anyone could slam the troops and feel good about themselves. If you don't agree with the war, focus the debate around the policies and leadership and decisions that got us there. Don't take cheap and cowardly shots at those who courageously risk their lives by following their orders. I believe that there should be nothing but respect, complete and totally respect and awe, shown toward the men and women in uniform. Period. Anything else is, I believe, unpatriotic. Patriotism is supporting your country, supporting those who die to keep it free, and debating these things respectfully and in the proper forums. I hate to say it, but lately I just don't feel this kind of patriotism coming out of The Congress. Not from anyone or any party. And it makes my heart hurt. I would like to see more unity. Not in the sense that we all agree on the issues, but rather in the sense that we all respect each other, our leaders (like them or not), and that we debate issues from a "I like you and think you are smart and honest, but I disagree" attitude rather than a "you're wrong" attitude. That's what I think anyway.

SM

I'm back

OK, I took a break from the blog thing for a few months while I got my life in order, moved to Ohio, started my grad program, etc., etc. But I'm back and will start updating this again, at least relatively often. (How often relatively is remains to be seen.) I'll try and get a real post up later today.

Also, note that I have split my blogs: One for personal thoughts, things like what's going on in my life, what's on my mind, etc. and another for political thoughts, which includes rantings about, well, politics.

Anyways, enjoy and feel free to leave all of the comments/hate mail you wish!

SM

One Step at a Time

So, my sister just returned from a mission in New Jersey. Most of you probably already know that, since I've been rather excited and have not been very quiet about it. As much as I didn't want to return from Japan myself, I'd been waiting for her to get back for some time now. You miss your family a lot more when they're the ones out on an adventure and not yourself, I suppose.

Anyway, chatting with her since she's been back has made me think back on the past 18 months of my life to see how much I've been able to grow and learn. The growth in my sister is tremendous and easy to see. That happens when you serve, if you do it right. Which she did. And without going into too much detail about my own personal strengths and struggles, I have definitely used her example to help myself to set new and better goals.

Because while I do believe one person can make a difference in the world, I think we can make a more profound and lasting difference if we seek to better ourselves and the people around us, one individual at a time. I don't think there is a government program that will wholly perfect society, so I'm not going to look for one. It would be nice if there was, but because individuals are by nature individual, blanket cures are not a substitute for individual works. That what impressed me about what my sister did. She hasn't stopped talking about the individuals she met, influenced, and was influenced by. She speaks of them by name, even though I have no clue who they are. And she glows when she does it.

Jean Val Jean from Les Miserables taught me the same thing. He faitfully walked past a beggar and dropped a gold coin in his hat every day. Although I don't do it everyday, when I'm approached by someone in similiar conditions, I try and contribute something. I've been told that I shouldn't because "they're just going to buy booze" and maybe that's true. But that's their choice. Whether or not I give is mine. And while I will continue to oppose universal health care (since I'm a conservative and therefore I told that I hate the poor) I will continue to support local charities and individual giving. I think that's really the best way to change society. And not just in areas of health care and poverty, I just use those as examples because that seems to be the hot topic to talk about recently.

Before going on a 50-miler with my scout troop, our scout leader said "the way to eat a whale is one bite at a time and the way to hike 50 miles is one step at a time." I also feel that the way to change society is one individual at a time, starting with ourselves.

SM

A Good Article

I just found the following article that I really enjoyed. It does a decent job of summing up my thoughts on health care and government involvement in general. If you have a minute, check it out. It's pretty short. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/printpage/?url=http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2007/07/where_michael_moore_is_wrong.html

SM

The Border

OK, I've been avoiding debates on immigration and border security since I haven't really known what my own position is on this issue. I still don't, really, so I can't say that I was either elated or crushed when the bill died in the Senate yesterday. I was just sort of like "Huh... The Senate is arguing again..."

But I think I did start to generate some intelligent (well, relatively speaking) thoughts on the matter as I pondered it stuck in traffic this morning listening to Doug Wright (who, incidentally, I don't usually listen to.) I think we're going about this all backwards. To me, it should be a three step process:

1- Reform the actual immigration process... meaning, make it easier for people to get in the country legally. I believe that most people crossing illegally aren't doing it because they're bad people but because they don't want to put up with government red tape. You can hardly blame them.
2- Now that most people are coming in legally since the process has been fixed, NOW we can look at stopping those who are still crossing illegally from crossing. See, now the majority of the people crossing really are the drug smugglers, terrorrists, etc. who still have reason not to come in the legal way.
3- Finally, now that people are coming in and out legally and the borders are protected, NOW we can address the issue of what to do with those who are here. Because if we do make it easier for them to become legal before securing the borders, we'll have a flood of people cross illegally. So this should be the third step.

I dunno, I just thought of this this morning, but it's the first thing I've thought about this whole messy debate that makes sense to me.

SM

Never Forget

So... I haven't updated this for a while. I've been in Hawaii (picture will soon be coming) and doing other stuff... like.... Anyways, please anticipate some upcoming light-hearted posts and cool pictures. You know, stuff you might be interested in.

In the meantime, I've been feeling rather sick to my stomach these past few days over something I learned about a friend. And I guess I need to vent.

I was reunited, rather randomly, with a friend I haven't talked to forever. It was wonderful. I love my friends and love to keep touch with everyone. (That's part of the purpose of this blog.) We chatted about how things have been and spent a lot of time catching up on life. But something didn't feel right. Looking through a few pictures of the past few years was revealing: There was evidence that this person is no longer living a very good life. To the extent that it really made my heart bleed.

Some quick background: This person served a very honorable mission for the LDS Church. Although raised in a family that was only partially active in the church, several experiences convinced my friend that servicing a mission would be a good idea. My friend turned out to be one of the very best missionaries I've ever seen. Not in terms of winning converts, but in a more comprehensive sense. Holes in socks were just surface evidence of how hard working and dedicated this person had been. Hard work and love literally radiated from my friend upon return from the mission and continued for years.

But something happened and that's not the case anymore. The light is gone. And while I don't have a first-person confession as evidence, it's pretty clear that activity in the church has diminished and lessons from the mission have been forgotten. My friend is losing a battle with the secular things of the world. And it appears that the casualties could be pretty bad... I'm not sure. I haven't approached my friend yet and am still debating to what extent it is appropriate for me to.

But discussing my friend's woes is not my purpose here. I have known far more people who have fallen, struggled, and come back as stronger than people I've known who have fallen and given up. Human beings are remarkable in their resiliance to overcome extremely difficult challenges. I trust this situation will turn out the same, but until then I'll probably continue to feel a little sick.

I'm posting this because I felt a need to, well, testify I suppose. I like to debate politics but every time I do, I shy away from using religious based philosophies in my arguments. Even when discussing moral issues. It is, afterall, politically incorrect to do so. I've been asked why I oppose gay marriages and my response is usually Republican: We need to protect traditional families. This is true, but the real reason I oppose it is because God says it's bad and I trust God. It hit me pretty hard a while ago that my religious beliefs are not something I can, nor should, divorce from my political beliefs. America is a land based on freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. Separation of church and state is an institutional distinction and does not have to imply separation of politics and religion, which is ideological.

Our ideals should come from whatever motivates us. From whatever feels right. (Note that I said feels "right" and not feels "good". But if I was to edit that sentence I would maybe change the word "feels" to the word "is".)

So why mention my friend? My friend is struggling because my friend forgot about the foundation. The secular debates and challenges of life appear to be winning at the moment. It made me wonder: Where do we as a nation stand in this same battle? Is political correctness and the fear of standing up for our beliefs--because often our beliefs are religious--causing us to sit passively? I don't know. I hope not. But sometimes I get the same sick feeling when I listen to politics and it seems like people are afraid to just stand up for a belief and let the people decide. I think Romney handles the religion issue well, but I wonder what the reaction would be if he said something to the effect of "ya I'm Mormon and this is what I believe and it probably will have an influence on my policies because it's a set of ideals that I've seen make a positive difference in my life and others." I don't know how that would go over, but I would certainly respect anyone who did that, be they Mormon, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist or anything else. That is, if they did it and meant it.

So my appeal to my friend and to everyone else is to please, never forget. Never forget what got us here. Never forget the blood shed for this country. Never forget the good fortunes we do have. And never, ever forget what God has done for you.

I really don't know what sparked this post, just a gut feeling I guess. I've been thinking about these things for a while before I ran into my friend. But what I do know is that there are much larger things at work than the petty political debates I love so much. And there really is strength in believing something and standing for it. And in never forgetting where those beliefs come from.

SM

Intelligent Debates

Wow...two posts in one day. But this one is important.

For the sake of brevity, I heard a comment made by Bob Lonsberry this morning on the radio. He asked for callers to phone in and say if they were offended by it or not. I was offended (slightly) but was unable to call in. So I sent him an e-mail instead. His response:

"thanks, steve, i appreciate your opinion.
no matter how wrong-headed.
(smile)
kindly,
bob"

Now, I know this was light-hearted, so I don't want to fly too far off the handle, but I just wanted to make a quick point: Insults don't solve problems. Intelligent discourse does. This is a (very) minor example, I'll conceed that. But I thought the same thing when watching the presidential debates last night. Sure, the John Edwards comment was funny, but it was wholly unproductive. Maybe Bob's right, maybe I'm right. I don't really care. But it should have said "I don't agree with you" or "I think you're wrong because...". See, the biggest problem with the response is not the response itself, but the fact that his second sentence screams that he didn't really intelligently consider anything I said. He just dismissed it as wrong. Whether or not that is an accurate characterization of how he read my e-mail, I don't know, but his response suggests it.

Now, Bob's reply really didn't offend me at all. I actually chuckled at it. In fact, I was flattered that I got a response at all! But come on guys, let's elevate the discussion just a little, huh?

SM

P.S. I'll include in a comment the text of what I wrote to Bob for anyone who is curious about the specifics. I'd be interested in what you all think. But I didn't want to include it in the body so as not to distract from the point of this particular post.

Sharpton vs Romney

Just for the record, I'm not calling for Sharpton's head. I stand on this issue the same way I did on the whole Imus garbage. That is, I think it's stupid. Ya, ya, I disagree with what Sharpton said, but I've disagreed with him from long before this comment. So I'm consistent on that! Ditto with Imus. But give the man a break and let it go. Besides, the more stupid things he says about Mormons, the more people come rushing to their defense and the more positive publicity is generated. So keep it up Sharpton, you're helping Mitt out!

SM

True Conservativism

"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest." --Adam Smith

True Conservativism. This is a topic that I am rather passionate about and one that forms the basis for most of my political beliefs. (As such, I am very interested in your comments and thoughts on the subject. And don't hesitate to tear me apart if you think I'm wrong! I often am.) First a quick note. I do have reserves with using the word "conservative" mainly because of the politicized nature of the term. So I want to explicitly stress that I am not talking about conservativism as the antitheses of liberalism, nor am I talking about conservativism in the sense of the perceived political stance of Republicans. In fact, they miss the point on this as much as anyone. I further warn you: This is gonna be a long post!

America was founded on ideals of personal liberty. The American Dream is the idea that one can, on his or her own initiative, do whatever he or she wants to do and in so doing can go from rags to riches regardless of background. The driving force in this is the part about doing whatever you want to do. No one dictates. There is no government that is going to take your personal property and redistribute to forcibly make others equal. That's socialism, or worse, its evil big brother communism. It is a philosophy that this country has waged wars, like WWII, to defeat.

In a nut shell, True Conservativism is the philosophy that the best way to govern a people is to let those people govern themselves. And that doesn't just mean letting them vote for those who govern. It means letting the people make their own decisions about how to use the resources they individually own on their own. It means as little regulation as is necessary. It means that The Congress fundamentally has no business telling people what they can and can't do. It means we let people do things according to their own common sense--which, as Glenn Beck points out--most people have. Afterall, it's called common sense.

True Conservativism, however, depends on a key assumption: That people are generally good and behave rationally. If that's not the case then sure, we need big brother to tell us what to do. But I, personally, believe that people are good and do behave rationally. And I'm willing to be so bold as to assert that most people will agree this is a safe assumption.

So what? Well, the philosophy of True Conservativism has deep implications on how an organization of human beings--say a nation--should be organized to achieve the best and most efficient results. I'll discuss a few brief examples. Taxes. The government has no business taking our money. We should be allowed to spend the money we earn however we want. (The funny thing is, when we do that we grow the economy and create jobs, which is what taxes are supposed to do.) Centralized government. It's a bad idea. Governmental decision making should be made on a level as close to the people affected by the decisions as possible. That's why the founding fathers originally made the states more powerful than the national bodies. National bodies exist as a unifying organization, but when making laws that have personal impacts, such as issues dealing with marriage, alcohol and drugs, abortion, gun control, environmental regulations, taxes, etc. etc. etc., these decisions should be made in an organization as close to the people as possible. In this way the people are allowed to govern themselves.

There are exceptions. I do not want to be mistaken for an anarchist. True Conservativism is not a catch-all. It won't solve all of the problems. No philosophy that doesn't incorporate the wisdom of God will. So I admit there are times that we need some centralized governmental organizations. National defense is a big one. Interstate infrastructures is another. Public goods and externalities by their very nature require a bit of central planning. Every time a soldier kills a terrorist, the people are protected and should, therefore, contribute to the upkeep of the army. Hence some federally-levied taxes are appropriate. Such things need to be debated on a case-by-case basis. But the underlying goal in such debates should be to figure out ways to establish organization where the people make the decisions, not The Congress. Hence True Conservativism still plays an active role.

The only time I believe it is appropriate for governmental bodies to potentially violate True Conservativism is in the realm of morality. The assumption here is that there are unambiguous moral standards. I proclaim that such standards do indeed exist. Thus government should uphold general moral standards. As an quick example, I support efforts to define marriage on a national level, even though such a definition would be a decision made in a forum removed from the people. This does make my skin crawl a little bit, because big brother is dictating how adults should live and I don't like that. But it also makes my skin crawl to think that there are motions to make socially acceptable a practice that is fundamentally evil and will weaken our nation.

But ultimately, True Conservativism is a philosophy and an ideal, not an action. Where we go with it needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, with an understanding that the best outcomes are generally realized by letting people govern themselves. Government deliberations should not be "how can we establish laws to solve problems" but rather "how can we establish organization that allows the people to solve their own problems."

I also realize that it is not the system as it is currently established. So I will continue to weigh in on the debates, because the Supreme Court's decisions affect me, even if I really feel that such a decision should be made on a level closer to the people.

Adam Smith's invisible hand works because when the butcher and the baker try to provide for their own selfish well-being, they end up producing something that's good for the economy. See, the baker wasn't told to make bread, he just wants a paycheck. And since it turns out that since he's good at baking break, and enjoys doing it, his selfishness has done something good for the people. Why? Because he is the people.

SM

Blame

After yelling at my radio all the way to SLC this morning, I figured I should take a few minutes to vent a little so I can concentrate on the things I'm supposed to be doing today.

First, I wish to express my condolences to the families of all those affected in the recent shootings at Virginia Tech. It is a tragedy. I am appauled that these things seem to continue to happen. I pray for peace and hope that devastating incidents like this will never happen again.

There's another thing that bothers me. Whenever something terrible like this happens, it seems there isn't even a 24-hour mourning period before people start pointing fingers. The radio reported people saying the Virginia Tech administration has "blood on their hands" for not responding more effectively. The KSL news ancors (who I've never been particularly fond of for their tendency to sensationalize everything) continually questioned the administration's competency.

Look, the person responsible for this is dead. He killed himself along with his victims. It was a tragedy. But we will never solve anything by lynching everyone we think should have been able to prevent it. Besides, I'm not convinced that had the administration done everything people say they should have it would have entirely prevented the second wave of shootings. But even if they did, probably there would still be those blaming the administration for the first round.

Did the administration handle this in the best way possible? I honestly don't know. Probably not. But is there anyone who would have done a perfect job? I seriously doubt it. I am sure those in the administration are doing their own personal reflection. They probably already feel a lot of responsibility for what happened on their campus. But when people start pointing fingers, it only makes it worse. Can we learn from this? Of course. Should we have constructive dialog on what can be done to prevent this from happening again? Absolutely. Should we condemn others for it? No. We should move on and get better. Playing the blame game does not move us forward because it doesn't seek a solution, but only to punish those who didn't provide one. It can only prevent us from solving problems.

May those victims rest in peace and may their families be blessed with peace and comfort as they struggle through this. And may we as a nation bond together with unity to solve these problems. We are all Americans. We are in this together. So act like it.

SM

The Right to be Stupid

Since it seems that everyone in the mainstream media is carrying on about the Don Imus story, I thought I'd get my hands dirty too. Who am I to pass up the current political pundit fads?

First, for the record, I am no fan of Don Imus. I disliked him from even before this latest incident. He's insulting, hateful and there's a whole bunch of other judgmental names that I could call him. But then I'd be just as guilty as him. At the same time, I respect the right of CBS to fire him. Because, in my opinion, to concede that Imus has the right to free speech, you also have to concede that CBS also has the right to run their business any way they want to. It's their company, afterall. When you speak your opinion with the backing of a corporation, you are also responsible for representing the corporation. So the right to freedom of speech that we enjoy in America gives companies the right to be socialistic if they want. As long as it stays within the umbrella of their own business. If you don't like it, don't patronize them. Afterall, when someone does something against the will of the people--and therefore the will of the free market--to paraphrase Economist Todd Bucholz, such a person deserves a punch in the face from the invisible hand. Meaning if the market doesn't like you the market will destroy you. Just ask the Dixie Chicks.

But while I respect what CBS did, and frankly I think the airwaves are better off without Imus, at the same time, those of us outside of CBS operations shouldn't be condemning him for saying stupid things. The beauty of living in America is we are all free to be stupid.

The thing that bothers me about this and other similar incidents is how offended people get. I mean, so Don Imus said something bad about you. So what!? I mean, consider the source! An insult from Imus carries about as much credibility as an insult from Rosie O'Donnell or Donald Trump. I'd be flattered to think that people like them don't like me. It must mean the Rutger's basketball team is respectable, since I'm not aware of a time when this creep has done anything respectable himself. But if we are all going to agree that we are better off living in a country where we are free to be stupid, then we need to get over the offended thing. Calling for someone else to step in and punish someone for being dumb is against the principles of self-reliance. We all have to live together, so move on already!

Besides, calling for someone to be canned--and understand that right now I'm speaking in the context of forces outside of CBS internal operations--just because they disagree with you should send a cold chill up the spine of any thoughtful American. It sounds like Big Brother. I mean, the right we have to be stupid is what keeps Rush Limbaugh, Rosie O'Donnell, The Reverend Jesse Jackson, Al Gore, Ann Colter, and a whole bunch of others employed. And while I think the world would be a better place without any of them, they are Americans and have their own liberties too.

SM