The Origin of Liberty

You were born free; a gift from God. Or, as someone else once wrote, we are all “endowed by (our) Creator with certain unalienable rights” including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Yet those rights have been pretty alien to most of humanity. From the beginning, roving bandits raided farmers and travelers, depriving them of life, liberty, and any opportunity for happiness. Eventually they became stationary bandits and called themselves kings.

Thus formed governments, which used their monopoly of the legitimate use of force to deprive all their people of liberty in exchange for a measure of security.
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#liberty, #principles

The Curse of Socialism

Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery. – Winston Churchill

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Saudi Arabia has an estimated 269 billion barrels of crude oil reserves ready to be extracted. They used that oil to turn a desert full of nomads into a player on the world stage. Despite having almost no other valuable industry, Saudi Arabia has used it’s oil exports to make it the 15th wealthiest country in the world, sitting two spots above Canada. That is what oil can do for a somewhat well managed country even while virtually ignoring all other industries. Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world with an estimated 300 billion barrels of crude, yet it’s economy is in free fall.

3,000 miles to our south, a country that should be prosperous is falling apart. At this point, some Venezuelans cannot even join bread lines, instead they line up outside bakeries for the chance to dig through the trash. Everyday items like toilet paper or eggs are nearly impossible to find in some places. The fortunate few who can find these items need to bring stacks of Venezuelan bolivars because inflation is through the roof. The Venezuelan economy is in shambles. But why? Why is a country rich in natural resources so broken that millions of its people take to the streets to protest their starvation?

Because years ago, socialists took power and began to faithfully implement their ideology.
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#economy, #principles, #socialism

Preserving the First Amendment

In 2014, Democrats tried to “repeal the First Amendment.” You may have heard that phrase before, because during the 2014 midterm elections just about every Republican uttered it. It’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not entirely untrue. Democrats did not try to repeal the whole First Amendment, just part of it.

In 2014, Congressional Democrats launched a quixotic quest to pass a Constitutional Amendment that would allow the government to regulate political donations, a power that would easily and obviously be abused for political gain. But Democrats did not have a chance of ever passing their Amendment, it was just about virtue signaling to their base voters who think elections are bought by evil corporations.

Despite the Amendment’s inevitable failure, Republicans were right to make it a major issue. The First Amendment is one of the things that makes America special, that makes America great, that makes us who we are. Any threat to it, no matter how small, needs to be combatted forcibly.

That is why I was proud of Republicans in 2014, and so, so disappointed in them in 2017.

On Wednesday, President Trump made statements about the media that go way over the line. In answering a reporter’s question, he said “it is frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write, and people should look into it.” Then Trump clarified his views when he tweeted “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked.”

Let’s ignore the purely politically motivated self interested reasons Republicans have to oppose this. If the president is granted the power to take a news network off the air because he doesn’t like its reporting or thinks it’s fake, what will happen when Democrats inevitably regain power? It’s entirely possible Elizabeth Warren would be making these decisions in a few years. And let’s not forget the entirely justified anger Republicans showed when Obama simply tried to exclude Fox News from White House briefings. Imagine what President Warren would do if it was up to her to decide if Fox News was even allowed to be on the air.

That self interest should not even be necessary for any Republican to oppose this.

Don’t look at this as a Republican or a Democrat, but as an American, as someone from a country that prides itself on being born from the pursuit of liberty. If any other world leader had said what Trump said, our State Department would have released a statement about the worrying trend towards authoritarianism.

I completely agree that NBC is biased and has been for a long time. But if Trump is concerned that a news organization is reporting inaccurate data or even lying, he can use all of the trust and goodwill he has built up by always telling the unvarnished truth and never making wild, exaggerated claims.

All joking aside, consider for a moment what Trump is proposing. The press should not be able to write whatever it wants to write, and any network that publishes a report Trump deems unfair (aka anything critical of him) might be taken off the air.

On Wednesday, the leader of the free world came out against a free press.

Even if initially implemented purely as a check against news organizations actually inventing reports instead of ones who criticize trump or just get the story wrong, such a policy would be almost immediately abused. It is not only thin skinned politicians like Trump who would want to avoid criticism or who thinks they are unfairly maligned by the press. In this incredibly polarized environment, opposition can easily be viewed as intentional lying.

In our early years, America actually tried what Trump proposed. It was called the Sedition Act and was supposedly intended to combat a lying press at a time when a still new and fragile nation was threatened by war. It was quickly used to silence newspapers critical of the party in power, while the opposition party remained fair game.

Any limit to a free press is a danger to our democracy and the values we cherish. It is the very foundation of a free society.

No, I do not think Trump will actually make a move to pull the licenses of networks he doesn’t like (and not just because that’s not how it works). But he is not just some celebrity with a TV show anymore; he is the president of the United States and his every utterance is important.

Most people will move on from this. But a few dedicated Trump supporters will rationalize their way into supporting whatever their man says. Day by day, more and more people who called themselves small government, liberty loving conservatives come to support big government, authoritarian policies because the president of the United States proposed it. The Overton Window is steadily widening, and one day we may wake up to find that instead of shrugging at these authoritarian ideas, our neighbors are nodding in agreement.

It is frankly disgusting that the president would oppose the First Amendment, and people should look into it.

#free-speech, #government, #media, #principles

Second and Third Order Effects

“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” – F. A. Hayek

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The American military is often perceived of as an institution with a simple mindset: see bad guy, blow up bad guy. Truth be told, American service members do little to counteract this impression with their often macabre humor. But throughout my stint in the Army, I was repeatedly reminded to consider second and third order effects. In other words, for any action we took, how would the enemy and Iraqi civilians respond, and what would be the response to that response? With many of their policies, this is a question liberals do not seem to have learned to ask.
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#government, #principles, #unintended-consequences

The Important Things in Life

“To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind.” ~ Edmund Burke

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This may seem like a strange thing to write in a political blog, but we should all care less about politics. Conservatives often talk about our desire for limited government and why that is important, but that is still placing the focus on government. In a conservative utopia, the vast majority of Americans would go about their day barely thinking about the government because it has a minimal impact on their lives. Ah, to dream.

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#principles

American Exceptionalism

“Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy.” ― Margaret Thatcher
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American exceptionalism is a concept that is easy to misunderstand. When President Obama was asked if he believed in American exceptionalism, he famously responded “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” This is how many people understand that term, as just another expression of patriotism; that saying one believes in American exceptionalism is just a louder way for an American to say they are proud of their country. This is false.

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#america, #democracy, #government, #patriotism, #principles

What Does it Mean to be a Conservative in America?

I have written about what conservatism is not, so I suppose it is time to write about what conservatism is. It is always a bit difficult to write about overarching ideologies when we are accustomed to think about policies in the here and now. Modern American conservatism has been a major political force in America for over half a century now, and while the principles assembled over the centuries endure, the policies change. When examining the philosophies behind conservatism it makes little sense to discuss the Conservative reaction to Obamacare in recent years or the conservative reaction to President Ford’s plan to whip inflation in the 1970s. With that in mind, I will instead discuss four enduring principles that are the foundation of modern conservatism.

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#principles