Friday, December 12, 2008

Who Speaks for the Right?

As to the financial meltdown:

The essential problem with the sub-prime loans was that the market value of the underlying asset could not be sustained forever on the willingness of buyers to pay ever higher prices, on the assumption that prices would continue to rise.

A view of Fannie Mae headquarters is seen in this July 14, 2008 file photo in Washington, DC.Why did investors and lenders operate on the assumption that market prices for housing would continue to rise?

So long as Freddie and Fannie would buy the loans without verifying the ability of mortgagors to pay them off with current income or other assets, there was no incentive to perform due diligence, to verify income, no need to require a down-payment.

Where were the normal checks of free-market capitalism? Does anyone actually believe lenders would behave the way they've behaved during the real-estate boom, if they did not have two government agencies willing to buy whatever was offered? Asked in another way, how many lenders do you suppose would write no-money down deals without verifying income if they were to keep such loans in their own portfolios?

Who is the politician who can make this clear and defend capitalism?

As to the Republicans:

The Republicans lost for a lot of very good and understandable reasons. First and foremost, Republicans have given Americans some very bad government recently. Yes, there were some Republicans, including President Bush, who posted warnings. But what did Republicans do?

The principal disaster of the Bush Administration was the overwhelming and unaccountable failure to exercise leadership, to give an articulate voice for those Americans who believe the United States government is a government of limited powers delegated to it by the states and by the people, and that government is best that tries to perform its specific constitutional duties of providing for the common defense, rather than "reform" society according to the latest and best theories put forth by the liberal social engineers that constitute the Democratic Party.

The other disaster of the Bush Administration was its spending public money recklessly, extravagantly, and with utter disregard and contempt for the idea of limited government. Not once did the Bush Administration even threaten to veto Congressional approved spending bills, at least while Republicans ran the House and Senate.

Click to view image detailsOne has to ask, as I did while the Bush Administration's basic trajectory was becoming clear, where is the political constituency for the big government Bush advocated? Social conservatives, economic libertarians and national defense hawks form the basis of the current Republican Party and Bush sought to appeal only to Social Conservatives and hawks. If any proof were needed of the importance of economic philosophy to a party's electoral success, we have it here.

Over the years of the Bush Administration I have spoken with many ordinary Republicans who became appalled by Bush's spend-without-consequence philosophy. It is rather difficult now, to oppose the spending plans of Mr. Obama, whatever they may be, because Republicans, under Mr. Bush, have completely and totally surrendered the tax issue, a marker for smaller, more limited government, to Obama and the Democrats, who promised a tax break to 95% of all Americans.

The American people may be mistaken to trust Obama and the Democrats with the responsibility of creating smaller and more effective government, but electing Obama was the only way to rid the country of the despised Republicans whose nominee only national defense hawks could respect, who went out of his way to insult social conservatives, and demonstrated complete contempt for economics by declaring he didn't know anything about the subject.

Even then he managed to get 46% of the vote. What would have happened had a candidate of the Right been the nominee, a candidate who was pro-life, pro-national defense, and pro-laissez-faire?

He (or she) would have won.

Tom Anderson
December 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Republican Postmortem

When Reagan was elected president in 1980, he put together a coalition of (for want of better terms) Christian fundamentalists, economic libertarians, and national-security conservatives. A future Republican electoral success cannot pretend the economic libertarian leg of this coalition does not exist.

The current president, because of the Iraq War, because of his tax policies, and because he successfully energized social conservatives by invoking their fear and contempt for homosexuals, managed an electoral success in 2004, a success that unraveled in 2006 with the Democratic victory in the House and Senate, largely over Bush's grotesque incompetence in executing the War, although Bush's extravagant and irresponsible spending policies and the political corruption of so many Republican politicians played a role.

Libertarians in this coalition had no candidate in the 2008 election. As a libertarian myself I still pulled the lever for McCain, but that was simply a vote against Obama. Why? It was virtually impossible to make a positive intellectual case for McCain. McCain knows nothing of economics it seems and he apparently feels embarrassed by social conservatives. Frankly, I am impressed that he received as many votes as he did.

McCain and the Republicans actually lost the tax issue to the Democrats in 2008, having ceded it to Obama's now famous "95% tax cut" rhetoric.

As a libertarian I come to the issues that energize social conservatives from a different point of view than they.

I seek limited government and quite frankly I could care less what anybody does in the bedroom or what they do with their bodies. Individual human beings, in my thinking, "own" their own bodies and lives and should have their natural rights recognized and respected by the law.

Unfortunately, on such issues as a woman's right to choose, the right of individuals to form a marriage contract, and the right to consume whatever they wish in the nature of foods, medicines, drugs, etc., are subjects about which social conservatives and libertarians will disagree profoundly.

As a libertarian I ask myself how could I possibly ally myself with people who believe they have moral right to deprive me of my right to life, that is, my right to live my life the way I want to, so long as I respect the equal rights of others?

Let's be clear. The only reason to do so is because the collectivists on the Left are even worse in their disrespect for individual rights than are the social conservatives on the Right.

Social conservatives, if they value their economic freedom and want to have a chance at future electoral victory, might consider showing a little more respect for the economic libertarians that made up the original Reagan coalition.

On the other hand, it is possible libertarians may be able to forge some sort of coalition with voters who have voted Democratic in recent elections but who have no stomach for socialism.

Until and unless social conservatives realize that the libertarian leg is as disgusted with religion-based governmental intervention into a person's most personal and private life, as they are with the libertarian commitment to individualism, the Republican Party will not be able to reclaim Reagan's authority and Reagan's active belief that the only justifiable purpose of government is the protection of individual rights.

Tom Anderson
November 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mr. Obama's Socialism sounds strange to hear Mr. Obama promote lowering taxes, for example, when he also advocates "spreading the wealth" as a form of "neighborliness." Mr. Obama and his followers go to some length to avoid identifying themselves as advocating the political and economic philosophy of socialism, but he let his rhetorical guard down when he told Joe the Plumber on national news that "spreading the wealth" around is precisely what his policies will seek to do.

Today's political discourse makes determining what might be called the political philosophy of the current crop of Presidential candidates difficult to understand, for as candidate Obama has said, "words mean things."

In a Presidential contest where the Republican candidate demonstrated some knowledge and understanding of capitalism, Mr. Obama's verbal slip would have been seized and used to great political advantage.

Unfortunately, today's Republican Party shows all the marks of an institution that has lost its way, and proof is found in the candidacy of John McCain.

What have we come to when supporters of limited government, lower taxes, reduced government expenditure and protection of individual rights might actually believe that Mr. Obama would be the better choice?

Mr. Obama campaigns on a pledge to reduce the taxes on 95% of all Americans; only those making more than $250 thousand annually will be subject to having an increased percentage of their earnings confiscated by the government in the form of increased taxes, to be redistributed by Mr. Obama to those citizens he believes merit the fruits of other people's labor.

Since all Americans do not pay income taxes, Mr. Obama's proposal will, in fact, provide "welfare checks" (i.e., "tax credits") to a lot of Americans, further blurring the moral distinction between money we earn and money that is given to us by having government first take it from others. We will be asked to view Mr. Obama's robbing Peter to pay Paul as a form of economic "fairness." A simpler notion of what socialism means could hardly be described.

Do Americans really want a government that has the power and inclination to rob some citizens for the unearned benefit of others? McCain has certainly made the point, all too briefly, during the last Presidential Debate, that Obama's tax policies will engender a renewed sense of "class warfare," but how many Americans really understand what McCain is talking about?

Obama makes the point that the McCain candidacy is merely an extension of Bush Administration policies. McCain retorts that he has opposed Bush any number of times on important legislation and, most particularly, in arguing for changing the military strategy in Iraq.

But is there a philosophical thread that runs through the McCain proposals, as there is in Obama's proposals?

McCain's responsibility as a Presidential candidate is to provide a consistent alternative to Obama's socialism. But McCain is failing to connect with the American people. His is a campaign of tactics, not strategy, for the good reason that he really has no grand strategy and no general stand on what government should or should not do.

It simply is not a fully worked out answer to this question, to oppose the raising of certain taxes. Nor does his tendency to pander, or to miss the many rhetorical opportunities Obama has given him, afford us insight into his wise thinking on this central moral issue of the campaign.

The question posed is whether people who earn their own living are better able to use and dispose of the fruits of their labor, intelligence, and talent than are a group of politicians pandering to favored constituencies, yet protesting their devotion to the general welfare?

There is a prudential argument implied in the question, and practicality bears upon the moral problem: Does man have an unconditional and exclusive right to the fruits of his own life? Does man's life belong to the state, to the deity, to some earthly leader, or does it belong to the man himself?

Here is the critical distinction between socialism and capitalism. Under capitalism, the people who make the money make the decisions on how to spend it; under socialism, that choice is, to a greater or lesser degree, taken from the people and given to politicians acting as agents for the government.

Mr. Obama should be applauded for making more clear than does the typical politician that he believes one of the primary functions of government is the pillaging of the few for the unearned benefit of the many. An effective opponent does not oppose such class warfare by arguing that the few should be able to pillage the many--what Mr. Obama and socialists generally believe happens when people's rights and property are respected.

An effective opponent of socialism argues instead that no citizen should be pillaged, and that if rich people, such as Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, wish to give their resources away to others, that is their right to do so, but it is not right for government to confiscate private wealth, for the simple moral reason that wealth, as opposed to plunder, must first be created. Who has a greater claim, those who create the wealth or a gang of politicians who have succeeded in getting themselves elected to office?

Clearly Mr. Obama believes that political gangs have greater moral claim to the creator's wealth than does the creator.

Whence comes this idea?

The idea that government has a greater moral claim to a people's wealth than the people do derives from the belief that people's lives belong to the government. If the government owns your life, morally and legally it has the right and even obligation to use and dispose of your life any way it sees fit. This is the central idea of socialism, fascism, communism, and every other form of government men have devised to steal the people's wealth, make war, and enrich themselves at the expense of others.

It is certainly legitimate to make the argument that organizing society on the basis of such altruism cannot work. It has been tried over and over again and failed as often as it has been tried.

But why aren't the great moral arguments against socialism brought out by the Republicans? Could it be that Republicans have come to accept the same flawed morality?

As religious conservatives and traditionalists have gained influence, the Party finds itself intellectually incapable of opposing a political philosophy--socialism--whose moral premises they share. Whether you believe man's life belongs to a deity or to a government, either choice denies the fundamental truth that man owns his own life and a proper, decent government does not presume to overrule a man's choices, unless he violates or threatens to violate another's rights.

Do you have an unconditional right to your own life?

That is the fundamental question in this election campaign that Mr. McCain fails to see clearly. Mr. Obama suffers from no such handicap and each day advances his answer.

Tom Anderson
October 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Politics of Gay Indignation

The, the premier national gay and lesbian news magazine, hosted a lead article by Kerry Eleveld entitled "McCain's" Top Strategist Addresses Log Cabin Republicans," that has stimulated over forty comments. I take note that not one makes any reasoned arguments for its opposition to McCain-Palin. Together, these comments merely make stereotypical assumptions and call names.

I think the gays writing these comments make the error of misunderstanding opposition to "gay rights." If one is a Christian, it is simply difficult, if not impossible, to accept the notion that homosexuals and their sexual expression can be embraced as normal or life-affirming.

As a gay man I can argue all I want to, and disparage all Christians as well as the views of traditional relgious people, but beyond making myself feel self-righteously justified and morally superior, what is the point?

I have wallowed myself in a certain amount of intellectual and moral indignation over the religious influence in the Republican Party. It feels good to protest what one conceives as the moral imbecility of religious people, but the expression of such feeling smacks of personal indulgence, and quite frankly, gays need less drama and more hardheadedness in their politics. Indignation doesn't work.

Hostility to homosexuality is found in both parties, for it is a cultural expression of Judeo-Christian teachings. The best way to promote change is to get off our high-horses and our easy moral indignation and actually work within the parties on those issues, such as economics, foreign policy, etc., where we have opportunity to exert some measure of influence with those who may oppose "gay rights."

As a libertarian, I will be voting for McCain-Palin, first because I believe in limited government, reduced taxation, greater general liberty for people, and second, because Obama does NOT favor "gay rights" either--specifically gay marriage. Neither does McCain, Hillary or Bill, although McCain and Obama both say they support other reforms that advance equal rights before the law.

Notwithstanding, you can be sure that there will never be pro-gay rights legislation until the members of Congress can be elected who favor such legislation, and that will not happen until ordinary religiously-oriented Americans FEEL comfortable around gays and realize that recognizing gay rights does not diminish the rights of other people. How else do we raise this comfort level if we refuse to make coalitions on other issues with which we may agree?

If gays wish to have their rights and interests acknowledged, respected, and supported politically, they simply must begin to advance the case for gay rights on the basis of reason and fundamental fairness. Straight people must come to the realization that gays are, in all respects other than sexual orientation, exactly like themselves, with the same concerns about national defense, taxation, energy policy and every other public issue other than such gay "hot-button" causes as marriage.

It is not likely gay marriage will be accepted by religious Americans as normal or acceptable, at least within the lifetimes of those reading this post. However, progress can be made on other issues, such as employment discrimination, in which straight Americans have had some personal experience and may therefore have the capacity to understand the concerns of gay Americans in not having their livelihoods arbitrarily taken from them.

I suggest there are a number of issues in which gays might ally with members of either of the major parties. Permitting gays in the military does not pose the threat to religious Americans that gay marriage does. The insipidity of cashiering gay linguists in the military, for example, might very well be an issue gays can urge with success upon a new administration, whether Republican or Democratic. But if members or major coalitions in either party feel insulted by self-righteous gays, why would such members offer their support to gays on such issues?

Outlawing anti-gay employment discrimination can be advanced on the principle of equality of rights before the law. At the very least, this is an issue in which no obvious objection can be advanced on religious grounds, as there is with marriage.

So long as the very definition of marriage remains a culturally disputed notion, gays will lose, and even their "victories" will become Pyrrhic, as the opposition uses such apparent advances to prey upon the ordinary fears of Americans.

Americans want to have their voices heard on the issue of marriage rather than have basic changes forced upon them through the actions of the courts. So long as such basic change comes "top-down" upon the people, Americans will be vulnerable to those religious folks who do bear a grudge against gays. But not all religious folks agree with the Don Wildmons and the Fred Phelps of this world and gays only hurt their prospects by talking and acting as if they do.

I have always argued that the subject of gay marriage was the worst possible linchpin for a political strategy to advance the equal rights of gay Americans. The reason is simple. When has any group been successful in advancing its cause politically by attacking one of the opposition's central tenets of belief?

Satan doesn't attack Christianity by attacking a belief in the existence of God. Rather he undermines the world view by attacking its vulnerabilities, at the margins. He works his will with subtlety. To fundamentalist Christians, gays are in league with Satan to destroy civilization as we know it. We can deny we are in league with the devil all we want to. Instead of fighting Christian paranoid fantasies, why not use them to our benefit? At minimum, this means we don't stand the on the rooftops shouting down Christians as idiotic moral cretins, which many gays do, if the comments section referenced at the beginning of this post are an indication.

To put this insight into another context, why do you suppose Christians still bristle when philosophers and scientists put forth Darwinian evolution as an explanation for the origin of species? They do because evolution substitutes a mechanical principle for the action of a divine creator, leaving the Creator with nothing much to do. In short, evolution trivializes God and makes the entire religious enterprise seem merely jejune, nothing more than bedtime stories and intellectual comfort food for people too weak-minded to accept the harsh facts of scientific realism.

These are just the facts of the case. Let's discuss strategies for reaching our goals as gays rather than attack people whose support we will ultimately need to pass any meaningful legislation.

Tom Anderson
September 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Day of Silence

I find Chuck Norris' animadversions against the annual Day of Silence, where people unite to protest the bullying and harassment of gays, sadly misplaced and intellectually vacuous.

When has the solution to any contemporary problem been found by merely referencing something from the past?

Surely we can learn from the past, but to invoke the Founding Fathers to justify attitudes based in religion and cultural experience is wrong. We appreciate the Founders for having established a successful political system that works to protect individual rights, not for their disparate religious views. By and large, the Founders where children of the Enlightenment, the recognition that human beings possessed rights, and that such rights superseded, as a moral principle, all other principles. They recognized that man's rights were a means of subordinating government to moral law.

Whatever one's particular objection to something that is going on in the public schools, whether it is teaching teenagers to respect differences in sexual orientation, or to understand the role of biological evolution in the science curriculum, there is a solution that is consistent with the politics and lives of a free people.

Compulsory public education, by definition, works to indoctrinate pupils into what the public authorities believe children should learn. Such a system would work reasonably well IF all parents shared the same beliefs. Since they do not, the result is a constant jostling for control of the curriculum, especially on any subject having implications for a student's character development or for his religious views.

Here in Florida we have the spectacle of controversy whether to include fundamentalist Biblical Christianity into the science curriculum under the false equation of "creationism" and "evolution". One would have hoped that particular controversy was settled during the Scopes' Monkey Trial in the 1920's. Clearly such a reversion to antique belief would be hailed by the strictures of Norris' article.

The only way I can see that these bitter public controversies be stilled is for a reversion to private education where parents could choose which school and in what beliefs they would have their children taught. Parents who believed that evolution is a myth could go to fundamentalist Christian schools. Arguments could be made that such behavior would do harm to the intellectual development of Christian children, but so long as such children can not be legally stoned for disobedience, they would be safe to consider other views as they got older.

Day of Silence threatens those parents who believe in fundamentalist religion because they believe any public acknowledgment of gay people works to encourage public acceptance of homosexuality.

That is a demonstrably false belief. I have no problem, as an adult gay man, recognizing the existence of fundamentalist Christians and of learning to respect their right to exist and to speak their minds in public places. Unfortunately, if Norris' article is any measure, fundamentalists are not prepared to recognize my right to exist and to take my place in public life: as a gay man I am to remain hidden, so that fundamentalists can pretend I don't exist.

The facts of the public school situation are these: many pupils are bullied, humiliated, disparaged, and made to feel they do not have an equal right to shine, to show forth their unique talents and abilities. It is a fact that such bullies attack gay pupils disproportionately. It is a fact that fundamentalist beliefs denigrate homosexuality and, by an easy slide into barbarity, homosexuals themselves.

Whatever one's views about what should be taught, the public schools have the fundamental charge to faciliate the education of ALL children, not just straight children, or fundamentalist children. If that means fundamentalists must tolerate the equal rights of gays in the public school situation, then that is something they must learn, in order that we may live in a civilized society that celebrates ALL people, regardless of their beliefs, the color of their skin, or their sexual orientation.

Tom Anderson
March 2008