Archives for November 2013

Give Thanks for Albion

mapThis Thanksgiving, appreciate the efforts of the British – namely the ancestors of today’s British. It’s largely because of them that freedom started to flourish.

We’re living in unique times. For most of world history, despotism and slavery were the norm the world over. It only has been within the last few hundred years, and only in certain countries, that those to scourges of mankind finally waned. For that, we owe much to the British.

Centuries ago it had been a given that monarchs wielded absolute power, even over their nobles. People were at the mercy of arbitrary edicts from kings.

The Magna Carta in 1215 started to change that. As Thomas Sowell explains in his book Conquests and Cultures, the Magna Carta was truly unprecedented. The document established rights for nobles that the king had to respect. It was the beginning of the concept of separation of powers. During the ensuing centuries in England, those rights were enshrined in Parliament, which limited the powers of the monarchy. Laws emerged curtailing the powers of not only kings but also of government officials.

In 1695 William and Mary, in an effort to gain support from Parliament and the populace, instituted a bill of rights. Monarchs could no longer remove judges except in cases of misconduct. An independent judiciary became firmly established. “All these things which are now so much taken for granted can be taken for granted only because the British pioneered in the development,” writes Sowell. The concept that people had rights that the monarchy could not override was revolutionary at the time.

Key among those rights were freedom of speech, separation of powers, and the right to a jury trial. These ideas spread to England’s offshoot societies such as the United States and Australia, and became a model for a great many other countries including non-Western ones.

Britain went on to become the world leader in abolishing slavery.

Understand that slavery had been the norm practically everywhere – in Europe (up until the Middle Ages), in Asia, in the Middle East. Until the rise of Great Britain, it was widely accepted. There had been no concerted effort to stamp it out by any government.

“It would be hard to find anywhere in history a record of any other country going to such efforts for so long in a cause from which it could gain so little and lose so much,” writes Sowell.

Of course, Britain had been prominent in promoting the slave trade, like governments everywhere at the time. What was different was that, backed by a moral revulsion against slavery among the British populace, Britain was the first government to work to end it.

Christian denominations, particularly Quakers and Anglicans, were a big factor in that moral revolt. It was in 1808 that Parliament, heeding widespread opposition to slavery throughout the country, voted overwhelmingly to ban the international slave trade. Thereafter Britain goaded other nations, through military (particularly naval) action and moral suasion, to stop slavery. Writes Sowell, “Eventually the antislavery crusade took root in the moral consciousness of European civilization as a whole, even in despotic countries such as czarist Russia.”

So this Thanksgiving, raise a glass to Great Britain. Without it, we may be living like people lived for most of human history – in oppression and slavery.

Health Warning on the Healthy Marriage Initiative

We all know that those who lean right are skeptical that government programs can solve socioeconomic problems. Such programs are usually well intentioned, but flops. But what if righties themselves design and implement such programs? Will their roads that are paved with good intentions now lead heaven?

Even then, no.

Case in point: the Healthy Marriage Initiative, launched in 2003 by the Bush administration. Based on studies that show marriage helps reduce poverty and boost outcomes, the $300 million program was designed to reverse the long-term decline in marriage rates among low-income Americans.

It mainly consisted of trying to educate the public on the benefits of marriage, through holding seminars in the inner city, establishing mentoring programs, teaching about marriage in high schools, public service annoucements by professional athletes, and putting up pro-marriage advertisements around town.

unmarriedIt largely fell on deaf ears. In driving up out-of-wedlock birthrates, powerful socioeconomic forces are at play. Setting up marriage education programs here and there are no match for such forces.

Since the program’s inception, out of wedlock birth rates in the U.S. have continued their relentless upward trend (see chart 10): to 72.3 percent among African Americans, 53.2 percent among Hispanics, and 28.6 percent among non-Hispanic whites (for 2011, the latest year for which figures are available).

The results are reflected in the above statistics. Plus, a couple of studies, cited here and here, found that the Healthy Marriage Initiative largely was a flop.

To be sure, government programs and other factors can have a negative effect on marriage by imposing monetary penalties thereon. It’s well established that the prospect of losing welfare benefits or health insurance through marriage, or the prospect of paying higher taxes, prompts many to not tie the knot. In fact, welfare reform in the 1990s may even have temporarily reversed the uptrend in out of wedlock birthrates – see chart 10. It would be worth researching whether welfare reform is what actually caused that reversal.

Meantime, regarding the Healthy Marriage Initiative, that old adage about government programs – that the road to h— is paved with good intentions – holds true whether they’re Democratic or Republican intentions.

 

A Columnist’s Calumny

The left is outraged at Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen for writing that “People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?)”

Then, in attempting to defend himself, he slanders a whole segment of the population by writing, “What I was doing was expressing not my own views but those of extreme right-wing Republican tea party people.”

The affront is multi-fold. interracialHe calls tea party people “extreme.” That’s corruption of the English language. Since when is it “extreme” to want to reduce our burgeoning national debt and slow the rate of government spending, which is mainly what the tea party is all about? The true meaning of the word extreme, in a political sense, is to describe people who carry out violence for political ends.

The other smear is that tea partiers are against interracial marriage. He provides zero evidence to back that up.

Yes, distressingly, there are still folks out there who are opposed to interracial marriage. And you know what? For whites, they’re split about evenly among Democrats and Republicans – 12.5 percent of the former and 11.4 percent of the latter for the years 2000-2010, according to one survey. (The numbers for all races are 9.3 and 11.6 percent respectively. Among blacks, curiously, the numbers are 2 percent for black Democrats versus 13 percent for black Republicans, but one wonders whether there was an error. Why would black Republicans be against blacks marrying whites? You’d think if anyone, that would characterize black nationalists, who certainly aren’t card-carrying Republicans.)

About a year ago MSNBC host Chris Hayes got himself into trouble when he declared that racist Americans “almost entirely” are Republicans. Then a few days later, to his credit, he apologized and pointed out that those opposing interracial marriage are split about evenly among Democrats and Republicans.

Richard Cohen, are you as honest a journalist as Chris Hayes? If so, it’s time for you to apologize as well.

Hurricane Obamacare is Arriving

hurricaneHey Repubs and other opponents of Obamacare. You’re too late in taking the President to task for his “if-you-like-your-insurance-you-can-keep-it” ruse.

Back in late 2009 and early 2010, before Obamacare was passed, the President was repeating that mantra again and again, but the silence on the other side was deafening. Opponents of Obamacare were standing there like deer in headlights amid Obama’s antics. When he said it during the 2008 presidential debate, McCain let him get away with it. It was amazing how many others in Congress, the media and elsewhere during the run-up to the passage of Obamacare let him get away with it as well.

The key concepts of the Obamacare bill back then made it plain to see that millions of people were not going to be able to keep their health insurance after it got passed. THAT was the time to go out and inform the public about the dangers of Obamacare – not now, after it’s been passed!

But remarkably, little was said about that. While I’m sure someone, somewhere must have pointed it out, back in early 2009 I tried in vain to find literature debunking the “if-you-like-your-insurance-you-can-keep-it” deception.

So yours truly back then wrote an article pointing out the folly of believing Obama’s pledge. But I’d be lucky if a few hundred people even read it. Obamacare opponents needed to get the message out to millions. But they didn’t.

I mentioned back then that the President repeatedly assures us that if we like our current health insurance plan, we can keep it. That’s like telling New Orleans residents on the eve of Katrina that if you like your house, you can keep it.

Katrina is here.

 

New Sheriff’s Brother Caught Stealing Campaign Signs

wolfethiefDon’t like the Constitutional right of freedom of speech? We’ll you’re out of luck if you live in the United States. But there still are a few things you can do to help deny freedom of speech to your political opponents: steal their campaign signs.

Carrying out such acts denotes questionable moral character. When it happens one assumes the culprits are teenagers who don’t know any better. But recently a middle-aged man named Erik Kleiner got busted for doing so. Get this: he’s the brother of the candidate running for office. Get this as well: that candidate was running for, of all things, sheriff.

Her name is Stacy Kincaid, who just ran for sheriff of Fairfax County, Virginia. Her brother’s actions paid off. She won!

Yes, I know – we’re not responsible for the actions of our siblings. And she sure as heck had better not have known about his antics prior to his arrest. Had she known about them and not turned him in would be grounds for stepping down.

But stealing campaign signs was only part of it. Her opponent, Bryan Wolfe, lamented that in addition to campaign sign thefts, his car and home property were vandalized, undoubtedly by Kincaid’s supporters.

That’s a very disturbing development – it’s more typical of how political campaigns are run in third world countries, rather than modern-day America let alone one of the most affluent counties in the country. “This stuff happens in the Wild West or the South, I kinda thought it wouldn’t happen in this race,” said Wolfe.

Meantime, if Mr. Kleiner wanted his sister to win in order to more effectively combat crime in Northern Virginia, he certainly did not set a good example for those toying with the idea of thievery.