Musings, Quotes, and Observations on a conservative argument


Musings, quotes and observations: how to debate your liberal friends.  A collection of quick and descriptive concepts.  Some quoted, some from unremembered authors, and some just floating around out there

We’re robbing selective Peter to pay for collective Paul

Individual rights are what we need to mobilize all the knowledge it takes to run a successful society- William Easterly

Democracy is the institutional building of freedom and the institutional building of the rule of law- Condi Rice

If the US stops attempting to influence the direction of liberty and dictatorial cultures and governments, then one of two things will happen: chaos, or someone else (China, Russia, an Islamic Caliphate) will take our place.  This has been relegated to us from Britain- Condi Rice

The costs of federal spending are diffused throughout the population so no one has an incentive to push back.  So therefore the greater federal spending becomes- Larry Arnn interviewed on the Hoover Institution’s “Uncommon Knowledge” podcast

Protecting the equal and inalienable rights of people is the government’s primary responsibility- Larry Arnn

The modern bureaucracy is NOT a disinterested/unbiased/neutral organization.  As in self-interested, self-perpetuating, and self-justifying

Originalist interpretation of the Constitution.  Two ways of looking at it:

–      What the founders intentions were

–      What the original public meaning was

 Your representative [congressman] owes you not his industry but his judgment- Edmond Burke

John Taylor from his book First Principles:

  • Predictable policy framework

  • Rule of Law

  • Strong incentives

  • Reliance on Markets

  • Clearly limited role for government

     

“Is there no word in English [coming from a German elite] for gelehrt [cultivated]?” “Oh yes [from a Brit], we call it a prig.”

“There is no power but the State and the State can’t sin when following it’s own higher interests.”- Descriptive statement of how Central Planners think

Mediocre souls trapped in material enjoyments will readily trade their political liberty for peace and security in those enjoyments

In reaction, they withdraw from the public, forgetting they are citizens, and concentrate their lives on family, friends, and themselves. Losing sight of the public, they become oblivious to any distant goal and welcome the benevolent aid of big government, “the immense being”, that acts on their behalf with their passive consent because it knows better and offers to take over responsibility for the trouble of thinking and the pain of living”- D’Tocqueville

 Religion combats the shortsightedness and fecklessness of democracy, and gives it something to be proud of, above the mediocrity of material enjoyments. D’Tocqueville

 The scientific materialism that deprives citizens of their belief in the possibility of self-government is used to justify instead, the rational control of citizens by experts with knowledge of such science”. D’Tocqueville

Legal positivism definition: Judicial opinions based on the utilitarian authority of the govt. vs. constitutional originalism

These proceedings may at first appear strange and difficult; but, like all other steps which we have already passed over, will in a little time become familiar and agreeable; and, until an independence is declared, the continent will feel itself like a man who continues putting off some unpleasant business from day to day, yet knows it must be done, hates to set about it, wishes it over, and is continually haunted with the thoughts of its necessity-  Thomas Paine, last sentence of “Common Sense”

Our country’s stumbles are the result of human frailty, not a crack in our foundation of inalienable rights and our bedrock of constitutional republican government

State planners always plan for the result they would most like to see, not the one that is most likely to happen.– Friedrich Hayek

We are objects of liberals enlightened interest; then their pity; then their wisdom, then their coercion

Something destructive at its core can’t be fixed at its margins

Property, prices and prof/loss = incentives, information, and innovation. – Ludwig Von Misis.

Liberalism = something between defective temperament and malign intent

WA State income tax failed: People understand wealth destruction = job destruction. Also, they don’t believe they won’t be subject to the tax in the near future

Welfare programs are the oxygen that fuels social pathologies.

Needs morph into rights

Egalitarianism sounds warm and fuzzy but it ain’t necessarily so

NAZI = National Socialist Worker’s Party.  The left throws out this word all the time, but there is not a modicum of difference between the NAZI party and the Soviet Union re: genocide, central planning and authoritarianism

Freedom means the freedom to be unhappy as well

A civilization that feels guilty for defending everything it sees and does lacks the conviction to defend itself.  Blame America first

The Yellow Pages test.  Anything in the Yellow Pages has no business being administered by government

The control of production means the creation of privilege

Liberals’ four states of conservative theory acceptance (when a liberal is forced to admit a conservative theory is proven correct)

1. This is worthless nonsense

2. This is interesting but perverse

3. This is true but quite unimportant

4. I always said so

(As in Bill Clinton‘s statement that “The era of big government is over”.)

Promote vs. provide the general welfare. Not as in provide for the common defense

The Supreme Court thinks that California’s attempt to limit welfare payments to new residents is a violation of the 14th Amendment Privileges and Immunities clause, as in limiting welfare payments limits someone’s right to travel.  How bizarre

A study of math skills showed Koreans first and Americans last. But when asked if you consider yourself “good at math”, only 23% of Koreans said they did, but 66% of Americans said they did. Thank you Democrats for instilling self-esteem in our students

Nothing is more guaranteed to attract govt. money than repeated failure

In the “decade of greed/1980s”, charitable giving grew at an annual rate 55% faster than the rate at which it had grown over the previous twenty-five years

Today, wanting someone else’s money is called need, wanting to keep your own money is called greed, and compassion is when politicians arrange the transfer-  Joe Sobran

The MSM newsrooms are filled with those insulated from what is considered common knowledge by those reading the WSJ and other conservative media sources. Therefore the ethos self perpetuates

Where there is a crowd there is untruth- Kierkegaard

Dystopian. No dictionary definition. Means the opposite of utopian.  See Mark Levin’s new book

One of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors- Plato

A lie will go around the world while the truth is still putting its boots on

The constitution stands for fixed principles, a gift from the founding fathers. Legislators, as stated by Lincoln, must look backwards, not forwards for guidance. Lincoln was wary of what he called “progress in govt.” I would call this an anti-progressive explanation of conservative (and by inference) constitutional principles.  The Democrat party/liberal alliance views constitutional principals as quaint and out of touch with progressive legislators’ superior abilities to socially engineer society for an entitlement addicted class dependent on the largess of  “forward looking” progressives

Secular Humanism is blind to the concept that there just might be something greater than us out there

Conservatives must wander somewhere between the ideal and the prudential- William F. Buckley

Free markets, property rights and enforceable contracts will always be at the tip of the spear of prosperity

The “Prohibitive precautionary principle”: An excuse to regulate based on the “just in case concept”, without regard to unintended consequences. A philosophy institutionalizing problems that might otherwise be transcended by time if just left alone

“The gifts of heaven are legitimate. The gifts of the state are suspect”- Andrew Jackson

Classical liberalism (as opposed to the current meaning of liberalism) stands as a corrective to utopian arrogance

Conservative ideology bears antipathy towards state sanctioned privilege

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2nd Post on Frederic Bastiat. Please click here and then scroll to the bottom of the site to add a comment.


Frederic Bastiat

 

“All the measures of law should protect property and punish plunder”      

Frederic Bastiat, 1849

“The Law perverted!  And the police powers of the state perverted along with it!  The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law becomes the weapon of every kind of greed!  Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!  If this is true, it is a serious fact, and moral duty requires me to call the attention of my fellow-citizens to it.”      

Frederick Bastiat, 1849

Drat!  The plan being to move on to my next post, away from Frederic Bastiat and on to the next historical beacon of free market wisdom is foiled.  Just as I didn’t feel one post (see the Liberty Through Knowledge blog’s first two posts) on Friedrich Hayek was sufficient, I now realize that one on Frederic Bastiat will not do sufficient justice to his message and this blog’s intent of establishing a parallel between historical figures of his caliber and our modern times.

My last post touched on Bastiat’s book The Law.  In continuing to read this book, one finds that the parallels between Bastiat’s concerns about France’s rapid descent into socialism in 1848, and our current political and economic quandary become frighteningly prescient.  I use the word frighteningly with neither malice nor forethought.  (Well, OK, maybe just a little malice and a touch of forethought.  🙂  )

The Law is solely a compilation of short statements.  It being impossible to do justice to the book as a whole, I’ll review a few of these statements and then briefly illustrate their parallels to the current philosophical and economic mindset in Foggy Bottom.  (Acknowledged, professed, declared, … or not.)

What follows is a brief explanation of a few selected statements/paragraphs from The Law and their applicability to our modern times.

The Law- Property and Plunder

The main gist of the title of this paragraph is best illuminated by Bastiat’s quote:  “…it is easy to understand how law, instead of checking injustice, becomes the invincible weapon of injustice.”  OK, this one’s easy.  How about income redistribution?  (Yes, a rhetorical question.)  Income redistribution can be viewed as a textbook definition of plundering someone’s property.  How about the new never-ending surtax proposals on the rich [i]or a bureaucrat’s definition of rich), or cash for clunkers: [ii]$24K thereabouts- yes that’s three zero’s, yes that’s per vehicle, and yes that’s per tax payer – per clunker purchased.  So that’s 24K of taxpayer’s dollars redistributed (to newly government and union owned GM and Chrysler and new car buyers) for a regulatory czar’s personal concept (see the last paragraph of this post) of the [iii]“greater good”.

The Law- What is Law?

An excerpt from What is Law? states:  “…Since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty or property of another individual, then the [“common good”] – for the same reason – cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.”  The first modern parallel that comes to mind is the infamous Kelo decision.  Upheld by five of the non-originalist members of the Supreme Court, this decision removed the property of the plaintiff. (Susan Kelo’s home.)  Amendment V of the constitution states “…nor shall private property be taken for public use…”  (Emphasis added.)  Happily for detractors of Bastiat, including those who don’t believe in the uniform rule of law, the property was usurped to allow a private company to use the land, exercising the tortured viewpoint that tax revenues would benefit the “public use”.  Although admittedly Amendment V essentially explains eminent domain rather than authorizes it, a history of solid case law explains the founder’s intent.  For example much modern case law on eminent domain delineates its application to matters of public safety, public health, valid transportation requirements, and law and order.  Not to tax revenues from a private concern.

And by the way the private company granted land rights through this decision has pulled up stakes and skedaddled.  (How ironic…  😕   This development inadvertently left out of the NYT?)

The Law- The Results of Legal Plunder

The title leads us in perfectly, as does Bastiat’s own first sentence: “…the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder”.  His description of the purpose of law is to support justice.  Therefore any law specifically designed to favor one special interest group or another, forces an unwanted contradiction upon the law-abiding citizen.  When citizens recognize an immoral public statute, they now find themselves in a quandary: give up your moral sense of justice or lose respect for the law.  The clear recognition of legal plunder forces law-abiding citizens into this conundrum.

Fast forwarding into the 21st century, let’s illuminate where we’re going with this.  The recent Senate passage of health care legislation contained several peculiar sops to a few particular states.  (Specifically Nebraska, Florida and Louisiana.)  Health care legislation also could force individuals against their will off of employer health care and on to a public option, while exempting the very legislators voting for the bill (60% of the Senate right down party lines by the way) from its egregious mandates.  How (yes… again meant rhetorically) would Bastiat with his concern for a moral sense of the law and respect for uniformly applied justice view these modern shenanigans?

The Law- The Socialists Despise Mankind, and The Socialists Wish to Play God

These two paragraphs are the last I’ll review in this post.  (And I thank the readers for accommodating one final time traveling parallel.)  This section of  The Law offer truly stunning similarities between our hero Bastiat’s 19th century concerns, and this current disconcerting challenge to our liberty.  Bastiat here ponders the tendency of socialists (read the House Financial Services Committee) to “…. Look upon people as raw material to be formed into social combinations”, as in “… between the inventor and his elements [or] the Gardner and his trees”.

So here’s the “stunning similarities angle”:  Our current President, when questioned about the wisdom of government intervention in the economy while he was campaigning said this (paraphrased): “Just as in the space program, I intend to experiment to find out what works until a solution is found”.  Bastiat calls this mentality (direct quote) “high-handed at the least”.  The attitude here being that with enough experimenting government can rectify all of society’s ills.  Bastiat then – with tongue firmly implanted in cheek – states that: “the socialists believe that they have a creative power whose sublime mission is to mold these scattered materials [read people] into a society.”

Our friend Frederic then continues this description of 1849 France’s legislators (and by inference our current political majority party’s) mindset:   Paraphrased:  [iv]Mankind = evil, legislators = good; mankind = darkness, legislators = enlightened;  mankind = drawn towards vice, legislators = virtuous.  So by inference, our law makers’ arrogance now becomes instituted by force.  Either by actual force as in communism, or by as Friedrich Hayek puts it: arbitrary coercion.

*  *  *

Arbitrary coerciveness by the government knows no bounds: LBJ’s Great Society programs, the Community Reinvestment Act, high corporate taxes (et al.), affirmative action, [v]politically correct textbook alteration  (yes censoring), and one more essential example of unjust coerciveness that can’t be left out:  [vi]the Supreme Court decision granting enemy combatants constitutional protections.

*  *  *

The rule of law and a moral sense of justice are evaporating into the ether.  Destructive altruism, invasive social engineering and moral superiority by our lawmakers seep past our constitutional protections just as water leaks through a dam.  Heed Frederic Bastiat’s good counsel.

Comments con and pro most welcome.  Really!


[i] Is someone who starts a business and invests their life savings, builds up debt over 5 years, assumes a massive amount of risk, and then finally, if they are one of the lucky few who make it and turn a profit of over let’s say 250K the 6th year rich?  What is rich?  Cash flow?  Assets minus 5 years worth of liabilities?  Personal bank account after life savings depleted?  Future revenue expectations?  So what is rich by the current administration’s definition regarding tax liabilities for being “too privileged”?  What about the majority of business starts that don’t make it and therefore can’t hire workers?  Are they now victims?  Should they have their risk based losses reimbursed by the taxpayers? Please  google “moral hazard”.

[ii] edmunds.com Senior Analyst David Tompkins, PhD

[iii] For those not convinced that “Cash for Clunkers” isn’t a greater good: consider estimates by the Dept. of Energy of a total of 4.5 hours driving worth of gas saved per year U.S. wide.  So you’re still not convinced this isn’t worth five figures of tax payers $ per vehicle?  How about the unintended consequences – as the vast majority of govt. intervention results in – of the loss of business/jobs for used car parts manufacturers, the reduction of the number of used cars on the market driving up prices for those who can’t afford a new car, the new cars that would have been purchased anyway, the energy required to build a false excess (non free market mandated) of new vehicles, or the extra miles some people might drive due to getting higher mpg?  How do those of our legislators with the current trendy entitlement saturated altruistic frame of mind explain these results?  With an “oops” – I didn’t mean for that to happen.  Oh well, on to the next social experiment.  (As in the above reference to our current President’s method of managing the economy like NASA’s modus operandi of experimenting until finding something that works.

[iv] I don’t think Bastiat would have an issue with mankind’s ongoing internal struggle with ‘evil darkness and vice’, it’s the assumption of ‘good enlightened and virtuous’ regarding some of our elected representatives he would take issue with.  🙂

[v] Here’s a few of the directives California educators have mandated for their textbooks:  The nation’s Founding Fathers must be referred to as “The Framers”.  (Too paternalistic mind you.)  Images of unsafe foods – hot dogs, sodas, cake, etc. – have been banned.  Mount Rushmore can no longer be pictured because “it appears to offend” some Native Americans.  Yachts cannot be depicted in textbooks because theyseem elitist.  Trust me, it doesn’t end here.

[vi] The consequences of course endangering U.S. citizens by the necessary release of classified information outside of military tribunals.  This arbitrary and unjust application of the law by necessity hamstrings our soldiers on the battlefield by potentially putting them into the position of granting Miranda Rights to enemy combatants; non-uniformed mind you.  (Not to mention having to pick up shell casings with a pencil, ala Miami CSI?… Or is that Kandahar CSI?  Sarcasm unfortunately very much intended.)

 

Constitution of Liberty Part II… Please Click Here and scroll to the bottom of the page to add a comment.


This is the 2nd part of my discussion of Frederick Hayek’s  The Constitution of Liberty Chapter 5, and the book’s remarkable foresight concerning the current assault on free markets and liberty.

 

The Great Man himself

The Great Man himself

 

So continuing on from my previous post, how else does this dissertation on individual responsibility tie in with current events?  In one word-entrepreneurialism.  How about the current legislation on “tax cuts” for those not paying taxes, and the inverse relationship taxes have on motivation and risk assumption?

Regarding motivation, Hayek says:  “Yet there can be no doubt that the discovery of a better use of things or of one’s own capacities is one of the greatest contributions that an individual can make in our society…  Whoever leaves to others the task of finding some useful means of employing his [own] capacities must be content with a smaller reward.”

Besides this wonderful argument for entrepreneurialism, there are additional parallels.   How about the continual debate between conservatives and liberals on risk assumption and its relationship to success?  (Or failure!)  And how about those who believe the successful should be punished by making them responsible for those unwilling to risk the consequences of their own decisions?  (Class warfare and income redistribution.)  This is another great tie between Hayek’s ideas in The Constitution of Liberty and our current dilemma.  In other words, he says there are no guarantees in life, and government picking winners and losers in the marketplace is highly destructive.

This is a can of worms that has been opened in our recent political climate with regards to the debacle of GSEs (govt. sponsored enterprises: Fannie Mae etc.) and their unintended consequences of an unsustainable real estate bubble based on a home ownership entitlement for all regardless of credit.  This trend towards the government “insertion” of  individuals into a higher demographic without their earning it cancels out the oftentimes unpleasant but necessary results of risk assumption.  These consequences are what’s called “moral hazard”:  meaning the government mandated reduction of risk caused by bailing out losers in the marketplace. Whether it be the Treasury bailing out defaulting homeowners, or the Treasury bailing out corporate  holders of Mortgage Backed Securites (MBS) at above market prices:  it’s all the same.   The result of market manipulation by the government never changes when people are not allowed to reap the rewards, or suffer the consequences of their decisions and assumption of risk.

The new president and congress is taking us down disappointing and uncharted territory.   Free market conservatives must impress upon their entitlement-centered liberal friends the wisdom of Frederick Hayek’s not only historic but continuously relevant ideas.

For those interested in further review of Frederick Hayek’s works, I recommend these sites.

http://homepage.newschool.edu/het//home.htm

http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Fperson=52&Itemid=28

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2247048/posts

Comments con and pro from readers most welcome!

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