Out Of The Past 7

Homeschooling

January 6, 2005
10:10 PM CDT

Reader Mike H. sent me this article about homeschooling, and I have to say that it’s remarkably even-handed about the topic, for a newspaper article. (Go ahead and read it first, if you want.)

Let me address a few of its points, one by one. As a general rule, I’m going to say that every single thing we do with our children is done to educate them—and all our differences with what the so-called “educators” say in the article are based on our opposition to what these people and their institutions represent. Here we go.

As the Beacon Journal examined the state of home schooling in America, no issue sparked more debate or stronger emotions than socialization.

A July U.S. Department of Education report on home schoolers found that 31 percent kept their children home out of concern about what children are exposed to in public and private schools.

Another 30 percent said they wanted to control their children’s understanding of religious or
moral ideas.

Only 16 percent named academic instruction as a reason.

The recent study and one in 1999 that had similar findings make it clear that home-schooling parents want to be the primary influence on their children’s moral, ethical and religious views.

They don’t want their children to be socialized by educators or other children in the public- or private-school setting.

Among Christian home schoolers, this idea is often expressed as their “worldview.”

For others, known as unschoolers or inclusives, there is a “me and my children” approach that asserts that no one – or no government – should interfere with their lives. They resent negative outside influences and want to keep their children from being programmed by commercial, materialistic views present in society. They want their children protected from the cliques, bullies and potential violence in schools.

That’s pretty much us, although we would rank “quality of education” much higher on our list of concerns. Now let’s hear from the Educators:

Michael Apple, a University of Wisconsin professor who opposes home schooling, believes most religious families want their children in a protected environment, a phenomenon he calls “cocooning” within their “fortress home.”

Home schools are “the equivalent of gated communities in which their children will not be tempted by sinful ways or ways that go against their religious beliefs,” Apple said.

He said these families have a worldview that they believe represents the truth when it comes to God. They do not recognize, nor do they want their children exposed to, the broader society, where “different truths” may be represented.

“That’s a pretty dangerous position to take, to me. It’s a little disrespectful of large numbers of equally religious people who may believe that God spoke in Islamic terms or spoke to Moses or spoke in multiple Christian voices that are not recognized as being really Christian by many home schoolers,” Apple said. The words “freedom” and “liberty” ring hollow considering the intolerance among home schoolers for other ideas, he said.

“You can’t say at the same time, ‘Let a thousand flowers bloom’ and ‘All voices be heard’ and then say, ‘Yeah, but ours is the only right voice,’ which means that the ultimate goal for my freedom is to deny you the freedom. In a nice way, I will convert you, I will smile and give you the only truth,” Apple said.

It would be difficult for me to compose a piece of satire which would do as well as this professor’s comment.

“Different truths”???? That’s the whole “multi-culti relativism” mindset encapsulated in one single phrase.

Here’s the fact: we discuss all sides about everything. The difference between us and people like Apple is that we’re not shy to call “bullshit” on something like, for example, the stoning of female adulterers, no matter how precious a tenet that may be in another culture.

Let me deal with another of this numbskull’s little canards, that of the “fortress home”.

What nonsense. Humans, as animals, are rightly protective of their young, and guard them carefully. Bears, for example, don’t let their young cubs go near other cubs until they’re ready to go off by themselves, even though most cubs are born at about the same time each year.

Lions don’t behave the same way. Because lion cubs are born at different times of the year (there being no seasonal need to regulate the birth cycle in Africa), you often have the situation where older cubs bully the younger ones—lions, like humans, are predators—and the resultant loss of younger cubs to injury caused by “rough play” is the result.

Well, humans generally don’t have six babies at a time (singles are much more the norm), so we, like bears, are more protective of our young, and what Apple refers to as a “fortress home”, we refer to as the “nest”.

Yes, we hardly ever let our kids out of the nest unsupervised. That’s why they won’t become teenage parents, juvenile delinquents or accident victims. Neither are we interested in “toughening them up” for life, at an age where they don’t yet have the tools to survive the process unharmed.

Basically, whenever I see an educator moaning about how parents keep their children cloistered away from society, the underlying reason for their concern is not that the children are harmed by such activity (homeschooled kids, by and large, are more well-balanced and mature emotionally than the average high school graduate, not to mention better educated).

What the educators are really worried about is the fact that a group of kids is not under their control—and that these kids are showing up their proteges in every field imaginable.

No wonder they’re appalled. The shortcomings of their own system are being rubbed in their noses, constantly. Hence the near-hysteria of the next statement:

A children’s services worker said parents are isolating their children. “I really think it’s emotional abuse when you don’t allow your children to interact with other children, other people,” she said.

Many non-home schoolers share the belief that home-schooled children are too confined to their own worlds and that socialization comes from learning to get along in different settings with people from different backgrounds.

“They don’t want diversity. That is why they home-school,” a focus group member said. “They want (the children) to be with people who have the same value system.”

“Emotional abuse”??? Anyone who has met our kids in person would be rolling on the floor with laughter round about now.

Here’s one of the most basic differences we have with the “socialization set”:

“Lord of the Flies” wasn’t fiction.

Anyone who has ever observed children at unsupervised play (which is pretty much what occurs in the public school system) will see that the so-called socialization is really a brutal yet compulsory interaction: the stronger, more popular and more charismatic kids prey on the weaker ones, usually with the support of acolytes—and without adult support and the proper tools to counter such behavior, school life is utter misery.

Our normal response to the “socialization” statement is: “Yeah, Daughter really misses her public school socialization: the teasing about her weight, her ostracization because she couldn’t do Phys Ed, and her physical abuse at the hands of Megan Kampf. She reallymisses the occasional vomiting at the school bus stop—vomiting caused by fear and the prospect of another day’s loneliness and isolation. And Number 2 Son also misses being called a ‘retard’ by the other boys, and being picked on because he took his time in responding to questions in the classroom.” [#2 Son is mildy autistic, by the way—yeah, he used to ride in the “small bus”.]

Here’s the Big News about how we view the socializing issue:

Kids do better when they learn how to socialize with adults, rather than with other kids.

Son&Heir, who’s a little more of a social butterfly than the other two, is of course active in the Boy Scouts (Eagle next year, we hope)—which is also peer socialization under close adult supervision, lest anyone forget. Daughter (17) will be attending community college this year, taking Japanese and sculpture classes. This in addition to whatever topics she studies at home (cooking, sewing, guitar and, of course, voracious reading of just about everything that’s put in front of her). #2 Son socializes with us, his parents, and with his elder siblings—and if you don’t think sibling interaction can be brutal, you’re an only child.

The difference between family socialization and societal socialization is quite simple. As adults, we have the tools to deal with others: manners, morals and so on (which we teach constantly and remorselessly, by the way) which enable us to interact smoothly with others; and, if all that fails, as adults we can simply distance ourselves physically from unpleasant people: quitting the job, terminating the visit, and so on.

Neither of the above options is available to kids in public schools.

In the first place, manners seem to be nonexistent (and have been replaced with stultifying, unworkable regulations in consequence), and in the second place, kids aren’t allowed to distance themselves from the unpleasant ones—their coexistence is forced, just like it was in “Lord of the Flies”.

One of the things we are always telling the kids is, “You may have the hardware [ie. physical capability], but until you get the software [maturity to handle the responsibility], you’re not going to be allowed to do it.” We apply the concept equally, whether it’s dating, shooting or learning to drive.

The kids appreciate this, by the way—there is no “generation gap” in our house—because we’re completely honest and open about everything. The default answer to most requests, by the way, is “yes”, because that’s the way to create responsibility in a young person. If we say “no”, however, there’s always a reason, and a damn good one.

Let’s go a little further into the thicket:

Rob Reich, a Stanford University professor who maintains that he supports home schooling, believes that many parents wield too much control over their children and don’t want them exposed to contrary ideas.

He contends that children need to learn to participate in a diverse democracy.

“In no other setting are parents as able to direct in all aspects the education of their children, for in home schools they are responsible not only for determining what their children shall learn, but when, how and with whom they shall learn,” Reich said in a published essay, Testing the Boundaries of Parental Authority Over Education: The Case of Homeschooling.

Many home-schooling parents see Reich as an opponent because he wants government to play a larger oversight role.

He said that while home-schooling parents insist they must have the freedom to raise their children, they often are intolerant of anyone with different views.

“Children can grow up to become ethically servile to their parents, which is incompatible with them being free persons,” Reich said.

In his speeches and writings, Reich talks about two concepts of society: one in which citizens vote their own interests and the majority rules; and one in which citizens are involved, talk to each other and exchange ideas in the public forum before taking a majority vote.

He believes that home-schooling parents are preventing their children from being part of the public forum, and that the children are being raised in isolation. If they’re not part of that forum, they may not know that other views on life exist.

“I think that is a potentially disabling aspect of home schooling,” Reich said.

The state cannot mandate that children from diverse backgrounds come together, but Reich said government can and should insist upon curricula that expose children to different religions, cultures and points of view.

“Not all home schoolers are going to like this, but this will be part of the aim of regulation – to ensure that even within a home-school environment, children are introduced to and exposed to the world of diversity in a liberal democracy,” Reich said.

That’s the heart of the matter right there, isn’t it? Those who think that their idea of education is better for the kids than what parents may decide is better for their kids. (In a curious coincidence, it should be noted that “reich” is of course the German word for “state”—so it’s difficult to think of a more appropriate name for the horrible little statist quoted above.)

I have no idea what this foul person means by the term “ethically servile”—as with much of what his type utters, it’s obscure nonsense, not to mention cheap emotional hype.

Our kids are drilled in having good manners, telling right from wrong, the values of obedience to conscience and morality, and all the values inherent in our society, as embodied in our Constitution and Judeo-Christian foundation principles. (Note to Prof. Reich: We’re not a liberal democracy, we’re a representative republic. Look it up.)

That doesn’t mean that youthful dissent is suppressed—anything but—but at the end of the day, we the parents are wiser and more experienced in the ways of the world than they are, and we expect them to heed what we tell them. We make a very clear distinction between choices which have no serious consequences to self or society, and choices which appear to be such, but which aren’t really choices at all (eg. is it so bad to take stuff home from the office, even if it’s only a pencil?—answer: it’s theft, regardless of the item’s value). The first can be debated endlessly; the second isn’t open to debate, ever.

And let me tell, you I am certainly “intolerant of anyone” who preaches political correctness, historical revisionism, socialism and multi-cultural relativism to my kids.

We’ve seen what’s happened to the generation of schoolkids who have been reared according to the principles preached by people such as Reich and Apple, and we don’t want any part of it for our kids, thank you very much.

Here’s the viewpoint of another homeschooler, Jorge Gomez:

He’s troubled by pop culture and what children learn in organized schools.

“We have the freedom to choose. In a school, you don’t know what books they’re being shown. There are more quotes from Marilyn Monroe than from FDR or about World War II. They don’t need pop culture or revisionist history,” Gomez said.

No kidding. Most of our history and cultural reference works were written before 1970, before the multi-culti PC nonsense started.

And here, in a nutshell, is the difference between the way we are raising and educating our kids, and the way the State would like us to raise them, as evidenced by public school curricula.

We believe that kids in the 1920s and 1930s were raised better (in terms of manners, mores and morality) than kids are today. We believe that the same is true of their education.

So our kids will have had to conform with the standards of those days, rather than the modern-day ones.

Unlike the earlier generations, however, while our kids’ behavior is strictly regulated, their thoughts are not only unconstrained, but liberated. Compare that to the public school system, which attempts to regulate both, and turns out ill-educated, maladjusted boors.

We’ll soon see which approach works better.

I wouldn’t bet against our kids, though.

Out Of The Past 6

Kim The Problem

April 6, 2007
8:45 AM CDT

It’s been a while since I did this. A letter from a Reader:

For about a year, I have really enjoyed reading the GGPs and firearm essays that you post on your blog (I have been shooting since I was seven).
However, I believe that many of your political essays are absolute crap. For example, you continuously refer to Bill Clinton as a liar, while you treat GW Bush as a saint. I’m not saying Clinton wasn’t a dirty scumbag, because that would be a lie, but there is no way you can ignore all of the B.S. the Bush administration has fed us over the past few years. He lied about WMDs in Iraq, he lied about Guantanamo Bay, he lied about wiretapping, and he continues to lie about our problems in Iraq without a second thought. If you can’t see this, you’re a complete idiot.

I challenge you to find instances where I have treated GWB as a saint. My greatest quibble with President Spineless / El Presidente Arbusto (to use just two of the pejorative names I’ve coined for him) is that he’s not conservative enough for my tastes. But more to the point, the old “Bush lied about WMDs” canard is so totally wrong, it’s laughable. Everyone—Republicans, Democrats, the United Nations, the European Union, Saddam’s neighbors—believed that Saddam’s Iraq was in possession of WMDs, for the simple reason that he didn’t allow neutral inspection teams into Iraq to verify that he didn’t. And to answer the oft-repeated but still fallacious charge that Bush & Co invented the WMD evidence, it should be noted that the bulk of the evidence came not from the CIA, but from Britain’s MI5 and other European spy outfits. There is also convincing evidence, once again not from the CIA, that Saddam hastily moved the bulk of his WMDs (gas shells and such) over the Syrian border just prior to Operation Kill Iraqi Bastards.

There have been no GWB lies about Guantanamo Bay. The only lies about Gitmo have been issued by the Left: cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners, flushing of Korans down toilets, and so on. The bald fact remains that Gitmo houses some of the most implacable enemies of this nation, captured in combat (and not wearing uniforms), and held there as prisoners of war to await charges brought by military tribunal. Considering how our soldiers are treated when captured by Islamist terrorists and insurgents, we have shown incredible restraint towards these murderous fucks when we incarcerate them at Gitmo.

As for lying about wiretapping: I would ask you to name one person who has been unjustly charged (never mind convicted) as a result of an illegal wiretap. Has the FBI abused their wiretap authority? Undoubtedly, yes. Are they going to have their pee-pees whacked? A lot harder than those people who, under the Clinton Administration, used (illegal) IRS audits to go after their enemies—and lest we forget, the Clinton Administration used the really horrible Carnivore system, which was far worse than the current one. Let’s be perfectly honest, here: compared to the venal and corrupt Clinton Administration, whose leader (as you so graciously conceded) was a convicted perjurer, the Bush Administration is a shining beacon of probity. Incompetent? Occasionally, yes, and I’ve excoriated them often for that very reason (unlike what you seem to think). Evil? No. Stop believing your own propaganda. And speaking of propaganda:

I can’t believe that you think Nelson Mandela is a terrorist. He used peaceful demonstrations to bring down Apartheid, not ruthless attacks on civilians. Things like that did happen all too often, but the perpetrators were radical revolutionaries, not Mandela supporters. Mandela was also a close correspondent with MLK before he was killed, and if you’re trying to tell me that King was a terrorist I will kick your ass. You probably think I have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, but my dad and I have both met Mr. Mandela, and he is no more of a terrorist than you are.

This passage is so full of falsehoods, I hardly know where to begin. Here’s an excerpt from his biography (from the Nobel Organization, hardly a hostile source:

After the banning of the ANC in 1960, Nelson Mandela argued for the setting up of a military wing within the ANC. In June 1961, the ANC executive considered his proposal on the use of violent tactics and agreed that those members who wished to involve themselves in Mandela’s campaign would not be stopped from doing so by the ANC. This led to the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe. Mandela was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment with hard labour. In 1963, when many fellow leaders of the ANC and the Umkhonto we Sizwe were arrested, Mandela was brought to stand trial with them for plotting to overthrow the government by violence.

So much for your peaceful protester. Mandela was head of the military wing of the ANC. In fact, the ANC, using tactics designed by Mandela, embarked on a campaign of sabotage, terrorism and assassination. Railway stations, electrical pylons and post offices were blown up, landmines were sown on rural roads, and “Boer sympathizers” (ie. anyone who didn’t actively support the ANC) were murdered. Umkhonto we Sizwe was also responsible for the construction of terrorist training camps in Zambia, Angola and Kenya. While I have as little time for the apartheid system as anyone, it would also be a complete falsehood to suggest that the ANC was ever a peaceful organization under Mandela. Likewise, there is no credible evidence to suggest that Mandela ever communicated with Martin Luther King—for the simple fact that Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island before King ever rose to prominence. As a political prisoner, Mandela was not allowed to correspond with anyone. If he told you that when you met him, he’s still the same lying Communist bastard as he always was. After his release from prison—note, a voluntary action on the part of the same apartheid government which had imprisoned him—Mandela did indeed do good things, most notably, helping South Africa make the transition from a totalitarian minority government to a full democracy. But that was the older, wiser Mandela. The younger Mandela was a terrorist leader, and no rewriting of history can erase that fact—although you seem to be trying to.

Finally, you have a steadfast belief that all liberals are complete GFWs, but that is not the case at all. I live in Burlington, Vermont, and have a profound love for almost all guns. I currently own a High Power in 9mm, a Mauser 98K, and a brand new Vector Arms UZI Para. Both my parents used to live in San Francisco, but they support gun ownership just as much as I do. Their is not a single conservative in my class either, but almost every boy has shot some kind of gun. Just because someone is liberal, (And we are as liberal as a family can get) it doesn’t mean that they are silly unconstitutional pansies.

I likewise challenge you to find anything I have written which indicates that all liberals are GFWs. What we do know is that whenever gun control is mentioned, proposed or implemented, that action is mentioned, proposed or implemented by liberals. It’s called “profiling”: not all liberals are GFWs, but it certainly seems as though almost all GFWs are liberals. (In the United States—elsewhere, gun-control advocates are not just liberals, but totalitarians too.) The Second Amendment does not say that it’s the right of conservatives to keep and bear arms—it’s the People’s right to do so. That includes liberals, and I have never ever suggested otherwise.

So please, try to alter your biased beliefs as much as you can, because us GFW liberals ARE NOT the real problem with this country, people like you are.

My beliefs, such as they are, are based upon a set of rock-hard principles that have been tested and proven over time: that Big Government is a Bad Thing, whether in health care, welfare systems, business regulation and morality; that high taxes are an economic drag on the individual; that gun-controllers are either ignorant or evil, or both; that socialism and Communism are unworkable social systems; that our military deserves all the support they can get, both moral and financial; that a strong foreign policy (as practiced by, say Ronald Reagan) is more effective for our interests than a weak, accommodationist one (eg. as practiced by Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton), and that conservatives do a better job of running this country than liberals do.

If you expect me to change any of that, I’d advise you not to hold your breath.

Out Of The Past 5

Rethinking Conservatism –  Part One

January 24, 2008
4:20 AM CDT

As the Republican primary season wears on, I find myself becoming increasingly introspective—and not just because of the sheer paucity of originality among the front-running Republican candidates (who are actually parodies of stereotypes, rather than actual candidates): Huckabee, the born-again Old South Democrat evangelist; McCain, the authoritarian war hero; Giuliani, the Big City über-lawyer, and Romney, the East Coast Establishment liberal Republican.

Fred Thompson and Duncan Hunter, the only real conservatives in the race, proved to be damp squib candidates; which leads me to ask: are we conservatives actually in the minority in this country? Are our views no longer even close to the mainstream in American political thought? Have we, as a society, drifted so far away from our founding principles and the Constitution, that we are doomed to end up as only a slightly-more conservative society than that of, say, the European Union?

If the above are true—and they may be—then we have an awful lot of work ahead of us, and an awfully-large number of people we need to educate in the values of conservatism, if we are ever to preserve the Republic in any semblance of the vision designed by the Founding Fathers.

(An aside: if you think the job is too much, or if you want to just throw up your hands and give up, uttering defeatist statements about “sheeple” as you do so, or if you start muttering about pressing “reset” buttons, then please stop reading at this point. I know your opinions and rationale, and I’m not interested in hearing them again. This is a working session.)

Most importantly, we conservatives need to reexamine the very essence of conservatism, see what works (and just as importantly, what doesn’t work), and start putting together a consistent vision for others to read, understand and support.

The most obvious way, one would think, is to revisit the principles of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. Or is it? Conservative columnist Mona Charen, in reviewing David Frum’s new book doesn’t think so:

When Ronald Reagan ran in 1980, the top marginal tax rate was 70 percent. Inflation was eroding the purchasing power of consumers. Overregulation strangled businesses. One out of every three households had been victimized by crime within the previous 12 months. The Soviet Union had added 12 new countries to the communist domain in the previous decade. American hostages in Tehran were paraded on international television. Welfare rolls were expanding.

Reagan’s reform package spoke to those issues. He favored tax cuts, deregulation, welfare reform, stricter law enforcement, tight money and a strong national defense.

I’m not so sure that Reagan’s reform package is that inappropriate today, but let that ride for a moment.

Inflation was painfully wrung from the economy in ‘82 and ‘83. The Soviet Union was brought low. Crime has dropped to levels not seen since the 1960s. Bipartisan efforts have reduced regulation. Welfare reform was finally accomplished in 1996.

But it wasn’t just the triumph of conservative solutions that left the Republican Party without a unifying theme; it was also the conduct of Republicans in power. Complacency, corruption and lack of imagination have combined to undermine the Republican brand.

Absolutely true. And yet, like so many diagnosticians, most of the “whip-smart” Frum’s prescriptions for conservatives to regain the high ground are dreadful:

A carbon tax. That’s right. To discourage the use of gas and oil and to fund more tax breaks for young families.

Let me spell this one out: no Republican has ever come to high office promising new taxes.

Cut the inheritance, corporate, capital gains and dividend taxes to zero to encourage wealth creation.

Much better. Not only would this allow Americans to keep more of the money they earn (and I don’t quite care whether it’s earned by actual work, or by investment; one creates the other), but this would dismantle the tax-collection apparatus which Government uses. I used to think that a flat 1% corporate tax would suffice, but I was wrong: 1% becomes 2% becomes, eventually 15%.

Modify an idea from Bill Clinton and permit “USA accounts” within Social Security that would permit even minimum wage workers to save a small fortune. Frum runs the numbers: “That should be our conservative and Republican promise to American workers: ‘Every American a millionaire by age sixty-seven!’“

I would rather privatize Social Security altogether, using Chile as an example, but I’m starting to think that it’s a no-go proposition. Putting a Trojan horse inside SocSec might be a better idea.

Reform the nation’s scandalous prisons. Conservatives put all those people behind bars to make the rest of us safe, Frum argues, but it is intolerable that there are 240,000 prison rapes yearly (compared with 90,000 rapes in the larger society).

Forget about this. I don’t care how awful prison is (although I agree that the situation is horrible), and I suspect that most conservatives don’t care about it, either. It’s a red-herring issue.

Revive conservation and create “green conservatism.”

Oy… and how do we do that? With green taxes and more regulations? That’s not very conservative.

Negotiate with Iran, sure, but resolve to deny nuclear weapons to them, whatever it takes.

Screw negotiation with any of these insane countries like Iran, Syria and North Korea. They are not the U.S.S.R., and treating them like they are simply gives them too much leeway to cause mischief. Warn them, then bomb them. End of story. We have bigger things to worry about.

Limit immigration to the skilled, and close our doors to radical Islamists, even if they have Ph.D.s.

I don’t have a problem with that. We didn’t allow avowed Communists to come into the country once (why bother, when we could create our own in Berkeley, Harvard, Austin and Stanford?), and we should do it again, with a different enemy.

All that is well and good, and we could debate them all ad infinitum/nauseam. I’d like to start from a few bedrock principles—principles of government, and of human nature (for government is after all just an extension of mankind’s baser instincts) which are immutable, and which we know have been proven true by history, time and time again, to the point where they are axiomatic. Then we can shape conservative principles around those axioms, avoiding wishful thinking no matter how tempting the proposition.

I also want to ignore the peripheral issues—the Republic is not going to fall because of lousy prison conditions or stem-cell research funding.

The axioms below are in no order of importance: all of them are important. Most critical, however, is this observation: the converse of every single one of these axioms forms one or another plank of a socialist party’s platform.

Axiom #1: All capital (i.e. money) belongs to the individuals who earn it, and not to the State.

—This seems to me so self-evident that I hardly know how to explain it. Suffice it to say that in countries where capital has been considered the property of the State, those countries have generally collapsed, and been saved only by other countries where capital is not the property of the State.

Axiom #2: If you remove the incentive to perform a specific task, then the task will not get done, or at best get done half-heartedly.

—So welfare/unemployment payments are inherently self-defeating, in that they remove the incentive for anyone to get a job. (Note: I am not talking about people who are genuinely needy, such as the crippled, retarded or insane. No decent human being can deny succor to people like that. But the definitions of “crippled, retarded or insane” need to be severely limited and carved in stone.)

—Included in this “welfare” clause is retirement. The problem with having the State provide retirement benefits is that people have not therefore involved themselves in providing for their own retirement, and here we are, with a system wherein income is soon not going to be sufficient to cover outlays.

Axiom #3: In the long run, government tends to become more tyrannical, while The People tend to get less so.

—Ignore for the moment the fact that, under our Constitution, The People are the government—because that’s not strictly true, in any event. We The People do not vote on regulation, only on legislation—and most tyranny comes not from legislation, but from the regulations which follow and underpin the laws. We have seen, time and time again, that over time, government becomes more oppressive, even our own. The Fourth Amendment becomes, eventually, ignored by government agents who seize assets and conduct searches and raids without a warrant or proper legal procedure.

—In the long run, The People will tend to correct egregious mistakes in our laws and society. (To think otherwise is too depressing to contemplate.)

Axiom #4: Government will always grow, and develop an insatiable appetite for revenue.

—Like most axioms, this needs little explanation, just a cursory study of history and/or economics. Here’s one:

Government spending as share of Gross Domestic Product:

1910: 8.2%
1997: 31.1%

And just so we know what that “GDP” really represents:

1910 GDP: $472.7 billion
1997 GDP: $8,703.5 billion. (+1,740%)

Government spending grew from $419.51 per person in 1910, to $9,927.74 per person in 1997. And that was before the Republican-led Congress of the early 2000s started their insane spending spree.

Axiom #5: An armed society is a polite society.

—By this, I don’t mean that people tip their hats or curtsey to each other in the streets. The true definition of a polite society is that with 80 million armed citizens in the country, government has to think twice before loading “undesirables” and “non-conformists” into cattle cars. The ability to defend one’s person against the aggressions of other individuals is a secondary (although worthwhile) benefit; and the ability to defend oneself and one’s family and community against baleful furriners a tertiary one. Any action by government, therefore, to curtail that citizen armament, should not only be viewed with suspicion and circumspection, but with massive resistance. (Remember, in order: soap box, letter box, ballot box and cartridge box.)

Axiom #6: America is not what’s wrong with the world.

—We may, and do, have our faults as a nation. But in general, what we do benefits everyone—whether it’s providing Marine choppers to rescue tsunami victims, or providing the economic engine for the entire world, or providing a blueprint for a free and prosperous society. Once again, this needs little proof other than a glance at the Press photos of the 2004 Asian tsunami aftermath, at the fact that the U.S.A. contributes nearly a quarter of the world’s GDP, and at the lines of people waiting for entry visas at our embassies and consulates abroad.

There are more, but those will do to start with. Note that I have not included anything to do with abortion, or education, or stem-cell research, or strip clubs, or homosexual activity. These are red herrings in the political process, and have nothing to do with government. Most importantly, none of them are allowed, or proscribed, in the Constitution.

Out Of The Past 3

Separate But Equal

November 12, 2008
11:16 AM CDT

A German Kurd looks at “parallel” societies within a single country:

The largest group in Germany with an immigrant background – after the Aussiedler or ethnic German resettlers – are the Turks, who were once recruited as guest workers and, unlike many Portuguese, Spanish and Greek economic migrants, did not return to their native country. These people of Turkish origin have now lived in this country for half a century. That would be a success story in itself if the following problem did not exist: many of them are not culturally, religiously, economically, socially or politically integrated. That creates an atmosphere of mutual critical scrutiny. Many issues have been debated in Germany – from the smell of garlic that allegedly wafts from housing blocks where the majority of tenants are from the Orient and how to tie a headscarf so that it doesn’t allow ambiguous assumptions about someone’s loyalty to the constitution and democracy to ethical controversies about specific slaughtering methods that are traditional in some cultures. Nevertheless, there is no subject that people argue about more passionately than Islam. All in all, you could say that although these debates have been vigorously and tirelessly conducted, people still haven’t really got to know one another even after 50 years. That applies to both sides. We stand on the threshold of the others’ home, as it were, but know nothing about them apart from their name. You may consider that good, you may consider that bad; there are equally good arguments for ignorance as there are for interest.

Here’s what I know: nothing creates friction within a society more quickly, or more certainly, than separate-but-equal mini-societies, who do not share a common language, culture, religion or worldview.

It is, despite the writer’s example of Israel, a recipe for failure. (Israel can have a divided society because it allows its security apparatus a degree of freedom unknown in the West.)

Now, I’m not suggesting some monolithic all-or-nothing nation: far from it. Monolithic cultures, and people who advocate them, tend to lead to State-sponsored activities like public beheadings, extermination camps and mass resettlement/expulsion of “the others”.

But there has to be some kind of glue, some common ground, or else humans, by nature, will always be suspicious of “the others”. This is a genetic impulse which is so deeply implanted in the human psyche as to be fundamental, and not capable of change.

So: what common ground, then?

Religion is pointless—too many imaginary friends, too much subjectivity, and (such as in Saudi Arabia or the Gulf states), too much fertile ground for oppression.

Culture is essentially a meaningless basis for a society, especially in a nation of immigrants such as ours, or in a world which has become far smaller since civilization (and its corollary, mechanical progress) increased. We are, in essence, made richer by diverse cultures in a society, as long as one does not exist to the exclusion of the other, or another does not nullify the country’s principle culture.

Language. This is it. Unless people can talk to each other and be understood, there is absolutely no way that hostility and enmity can be prevented, and there is no way that people can come together. And note that I’m not supporting language chauvinism such as has been practiced in France over the years: that way ultimately ends up stultifying not only progress, but the society as a whole. The Language Police are little different, in their rigidity, than the Religious Police.

Note too that I’m not suggesting that retail stores, for example, be disallowed from speaking to their customers in any language they choose—but I am insisting that government should use one, and only one language to communicate with its citizens. (I don’t care, for example, if Mexican immigrants can’t read an IRS form. Call it a “spur to learning”, if you will.) In the long run, while accommodation to non-English-speakers may sound high-minded or even polite, it will end up doing more permanent harm than the temporary inconvenience caused by its opposite policy.

There’s more, of course, a lot more, but that would do for a start.

The very existence of nation-states creates the basis for “parallel societies”—but to create a microcosm of that situation within a nation will simply bring the global turmoil and enmity to people’s front door, instead of keeping it outside the borders.

Out Of The Past 2

Barricades, Explained

November 26, 2008
5:04 AM CDT

In a long-ago discussion in Comments, I made the statement that if I had my preference, I’d like to die either asleep in my wife’s arms, or else on the barricades.

I think I’d better explain the latter, because someone may get the wrong impression, and I’d hate that to happen.

Although I’ve started to look like a Frenchman and am descended from the French, most Gallic qualities have long since been burned off by the passage of generations. Most especially, the need for le geste magnifique, mais inutile (the magificent, but futile, gesture) has long ago been purged from my psyche.

So don’t expect me to rush to the barricades when The Glorious Day comes, AK clutched in wrinkled grasp, with ringing exhortations coming from my lips.

I am uncomfortable in the role of “revolutionary leader”. I’m not a rabble rouser, or an agitator. I seek not to form an army, or an underground movement, or any kind of Maquis. I don’t care about glory, or notoriety, or any of that nonsense. I am, quite simply, a man who will go so far, and no further, and who will resist oppression without fanfare, without recognition, and without a qualm.

I am also not a terrorist, or “freedom fighter”, and I will never engage in any activities which are proactive against Our Enemy, The State.

may, however, choose to resist, in a manner of my own choosing, because I have various boundaries, personal boundaries, which may or may not be the same as those of others.

So my “barricade” would be a lot simpler, and a lot more personal.

It could be at my doorstep, when agents of the State come to confiscate my suddenly-illegal guns.

It could be in a court of law, when I am forced to choose between paying a fine for disobeying an unjust law, and going to prison. (It will, I promise you, be the latter.)

It could be when the State tries to confiscate or trespass on my property.

It could be when the State threatens my family.

It could be when the State tries to load me, or any other “undesirables”, into the cattle cars (real, or metaphysical).

It could be when an agent of the State demands “Papieren, bitte” and I show them my tattoo instead.

It could be when I am restricted in, or forbidden to exercise my freedom of speech, or any of the other freedoms enumerated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I will decide what constitutes “reasonable” when it comes to restrictions thereon, and not some Congressman, lawyer, judge, policeman or government bureaucrat.

Just like Nock before me, I’m not intent on “setting an example”, or influencing others, or making a splash of any kind. Those who wish, may do what I do, or not. Those who wish to castigate me for my choices may do so, but it will have no effect. Those who wish to use me as an example do so without my consent or blessing, and those who expect me to “lead” them will be disappointed.

I am a quiet man, a reasonable man, but I am not nor will ever be a slave to the State. I left one country to escape that, and I will not live like that in my adopted one.

So if I die on the barricades, it may be known to others, or else just an unseen spark which flickers and dies in the darkness. Either way, I am indifferent. But it will be known to the agents of the State, I can promise you that. I will not go quietly into that dark night of oppression. It may well turn out to have been a futile gesture, but it will not be futile for me.

I may have lost most Gallic qualities, as I said earlier, but the one I have most definitely lost is the impulse to surrender.

And that’s all I’ll have to say on the topic. Ever.

Out Of The Past 1

Titfers

November 14, 2008
8:45 AM CDT

Oh gawd, here he goes agaln, banging on about the decline of civilization…

I know, I know. And yet, this piece by Tom Utley struck home:

The more I have thought about it, the more I believe that the urban male’s decision to abandon the hat — taken en masse on both sides of the Atlantic in the middle of the last century — is one of the most inexplicable phenomena of modern history.

I could have understood it if neckties had disappeared. They are a perfectly absurd adornment, serving no practical purpose but to attract egg stains and keep us feeling uncomfortable around the neck at the height of summer. Oh, and a lot of them are a great deal more expensive than the average hat. But the tie remains with us and it’s the hat that’s gone. Why?

Actually, I think that the disappearance of men’s hats is quite simple: JFK refused to wear them—who knows, maybe he knew that he looked like a total dweeb compared to other politicians of his day, most of whom, like Ike, looked as though they’d been born wearing them.

My beloved grandfather wore one all his life—I think he’d have gone out without a shirt before leaving off his hat—and had, as I recall, at least four: a selection (black, grey and brown) for “dress” (i.e. work, to match his suit of the day, and the black only for funerals), and one or two for “casual” outings (to work in the garden or to take fishing). Of course, he also always wore a jacket and tie when he went out, even if he was just going to visit friends, or going to the supermarket. Utley again:

There’s also something about hats — perhaps because they remind us of a past and gentler age — that seems to encourage courtesy and civility. The rituals of removing them indoors and raising them in greeting or deference to a woman seem to shape their wearers’ general conduct throughout the day.

Yup. That’s as good a reason as any why men today are slobs, and especially so towards women. The net result is boorishness, in appearance, speech and behavior. (Richard Littlejohn hates that, too. He’s talking about Britain, but we’re not far from that in this side of the Pond, either.)

In the pic which accompanies his article, Utley looks quite debonair in his new hat, although he could have tightened his tie, to avoid the Mike Hammer/Damon Runyon disheveled look. (And I understand his comment about ties being useless and impractical—I just don’t agree with it.)

I think, as I get older, I’m going to start wearing a jacket and tie every so often. I know I’d look better than I do now, and most of all, I’d feel better. (It’s the same reason why soldiers have “dress” uniforms: it’s impossible not to feel proud about yourself when you’re smartly dressed.)

I bet that if we all did that, the national civility level would improve—and that, my friends, would not be a Bad Thing in these, the waning days of our republic.

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For my Murkin Readers, the title of this piece is Cockney slang for a hat: “tit for tat”, ergo “titfer”.