Tag Archives: conservative

Humility and Conservative Ideology

It takes humility to be a conservative. In fact, I believe being humble is a big difference between liberals and conservatives. A liberal believes they are smart enough to engineer a society to conform to their own views of justice. A conservative acknowledges that people are unique and complex beings, who when put together form an even more unique and more complicated society that cannot possibly be fully comprehended by a single person or group. And without fully understanding something, says the conservative, there is no use trying to alter it “for the better”. There is a small chance the proverbial tinkerer will get it just right and the risk of unforeseen and unintended consequences is too high.

Lets use the economy as a case study. Liberals claim they can fix a bad economy by manipulating interest rates, regulating businesses and using fiscal policies such as deficit spending. Conservatives on the other hand realize that an economy is an immensely complex thing that is the sum of millions and millions of little decisions made by all the people in the economy each day. Because of this complexity, it is foolhardy to think that even the best minds in the world could ever take the perfect actions necessary to fix such a complex thing. Best to leave the managing of an economy to the millions and millions of interconnected yet impersonal people making their own decisions for themselves, and let the magic of the free market do its thing.

This is not to say that government fixing an economy is literally impossible. In theory, a government could take the exact right measures at the exact right time needed in order to improve economic conditions. But this task is simply too hard to complete and the risk of causing more harm than good is too high. It is the equivalent of having a first year biology student preform brain surgery. Yet liberal minded people still have the hubris to believe they can accomplish such a task.

Bias Against Conservatives in Academia

As students begin to flock to college campuses for the fall, we are reminded of the sad truth that on many campuses, conservatives are considered backwards, bigoted, anti-intellectual fools who are against the progress of mankind. It is no secret that academia is full of liberal minded Phd holders. I have written on this subject before, but I think it is worth re-visiting.

I have no problem with liberal professors on campus. I think that universities ought to have an intellectually diverse faculty so that students can be exposed to opposing views, and ultimately decide for themselves where their loyalties lie. Perhaps someday this will be a reality at schools, but I won’t hold my breath because it has been this way for a long time. Even in the 1920s, academia saw the conservative presidencies of Harding and Coolidge as dark spots in history that followed the “enlightening” terms of Woodrow Wilson. Wilson may have been responsible for thousands of American deaths by entering us into World War 1, but at least it was with the good intentions of “making the world safe for democracy”. Bush may have used the same excuse to go into Iraq, but I doubt academics will ever give him the same “good intentions” credits they give Wilson. In comparison, the presidencies of Harding and Coolidge ushered in a new era of rising living standards for the average American. It wasn’t called the Roaring Twenties for nothing.

This brings me to my central point: despite being scoffed at by “smart people”, true small government conservative policies work. Free markets are responsible for our prosperity and constitutionally limited government (not simply majoritarian politics) is responsible for securing our liberties. The types of policies peddled by the “smart people” are what cause the problems in our society. A few examples:

We have poor people, so lets create government programs that traps the poor in poverty and treats them like children instead of human beings.

People should own houses so lets use a series of government policies to encourage banks to give loans to people who can’t afford them (what can possibly go wrong?).

The economy has crashed due to our poor policies, so lets spend trillions of dollars we don’t have and hope growth magically happens (if that doesn’t work, maybe we should put sawdust in the economy’s engine).

Our health care system is broken because government distorts the market, so lets use more government to try and administer a national health plan.

These examples could go on and on, but that is a good taste. Maybe someday academia will wise up and realize that perhaps societies are too complex for them to micromanage and engineer.

Ted Cruz Gets it Right on Free Speech

Ted Cruz recently penned and excellent article for the WSJ about free speech, and the Senate Democrats who wish to endanger it. Basically, the Democrats want to amend the constitution to overturn the Citizens United ruling, thus giving congress the power to regulate money used for “political advocacy”. On the surface this proposal seems harmless. Its intent is to stop billionaires and corporations from corrupting our democracy by spending huge sums of money trying to influence elections. But the problem with this proposal, and those like it, is not what it INTENDS to regulate, but rather what it would ALLOW to be regulated. Cruz puts it brilliantly:

“Speech is more than just standing on a soap box yelling on a street corner. For centuries the Supreme Court has rightly concluded that free speech includes writing and distributing pamphlets, putting up billboards, displaying yard signs, launching a website, and running radio and television ads. Every one of those activities requires money. Distributing the Federalist Papers or Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” required money. If you can prohibit spending money, you can prohibit virtually any form of effective speech.”

 

I suggest reading the whole article to hear the rest of Cruz’s simple, articulate, and convincing argument.

No, Capitalism did not Create Putin

A recent article in POLITICO Magazine (a publication that is increasingly frustrating me) tries to make the claim the Western income inequality is the cause of Vladimir Putin’s increasingly aggressive and autocratic Russia. The author claims that inequality has destroyed the America’s economy and created a society with stark class divisions that have caused the average American to become so demoralized that he no longer cares about the world. This is a classic case of “flavor of the month” opining. Pick a problem in the world and then claim it is caused by whatever “issue” is popular at the moment. Recently the popular issue is inequality thanks to Mr. Piketty and his book. Therefore every problem in our world can now be blamed on inequality. Putin invades Ukraine? Inequality. Drought in California? Inequality. Political gridlock? Inequality. Beyonce and Jay Z skip Kimye’s wedding? Clearly a result of inequality. The good news is that eventually the inequality fad will pass. The bad news is that it will only be replaced with other recurring flavors of the month such as climate change, American imperialism, the NRA and everyone’s favorite: racism.

As for refuting the article in POLITICO, simply put the author conflates true capitalism (free-markets, small government, equality before the law, competition) with the cronyism that is all too prevalent in our society.

No Thomas Friedman, Privacy and Average are Not Dead

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What Thomas Friedman’s meetings with young people probably consist of

 

I have some issues with Thomas Friedman’s new column, which can be found here. In it he complains that unlike “the good old days,” today no one has any privacy, and there are no more “simple,” or as he puts it “average,” things left in the world. I’m not a fan of “good old day” rhetoric to begin with. While I think some traditions and cultural norms are important to preserve, I am under no illusion that somehow life was “better” for those who lived with primitive dentistry, no cell phones, no internet and no air conditioning. But lets look at two of Friedman’s claims more closely.

First, privacy. Friedman uses the example of Donald Sterling to show lament the fact that in a society where everyone has a mini video camera, one cannot even have privacy in their own home anymore. I think this is a poorly thought out statement because I don’t think people had as much privacy in the past as Friedman claims. Before the age of suburbs, people often lived in closely packed apartment buildings or even tenements where I’m sure privacy was a rarity. If my experience in dorm apartments is any indication, if a couple is having a loud argument on the other side of the wall, it can clearly be heard. Also, especially in small towns where everyone knew everyone, I’m sure it was awfully hard to keep secrets. Anyone who remembers high school knows that rumors travel fast. Because of these points, I disagree with Friedman’s apparent contention that we “used” to have much more privacy than we do now. 

Secondly, Friedman uses the example of dairy farms to basically claim that nothing is “simple” anymore. He says that in the past farm hands only had to know how to milk a cow, but nowadays they need to know how to use automated milking machines controlled by computers. I actually find his claims insulting because he is assuming that farm and other blue collar related tasks are simple. So simple, that he probably never even took the time to use his advanced brain to look into what these common-folk tasks require in terms of skill and intelligence. I don’t know much about dairy farming, but I can almost guarantee that even before the age of computers, blue collar tasks were much more complicated than Friedman thinks they were. He is insulting American workers by essentially claiming they are no longer “smart” enough to compete in the modern economy where blue collar jobs are increasingly demanding the use of technology. Their jobs were never as simple as Friedman thinks they were. And If American workers are lacking skills today, it is not because they are “stupid”. In fact, it is the fault of college “cheerleaders” who claim that every kid needs to go to college and learn Shakespeare and liberal political ideology if they want to be successful. This is actually the opposite of the truth. As the Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, 48% of college grads are in jobs that DON’T require a college degree. Meanwhile, there are 600,000 blue collar manufacturing jobs unfilled in this country because our workers don’t have the proper hands-on skills. And these are not poorly paid jobs. Welders have become so short in supply that some are making $150,000 a year in Ohio. So maybe Thomas Friedman should stop assuming that blue collar work is “simple” and start preaching the truth: you don’t need college to be a success, and bring back shop class to high school.

Of Bailouts and Stimulus

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There are not many times that I agree with Paul Krugman. In fact, I once dropped an economics class because the required textbook was written by him and I refused to give money to someone who is so vile and arrogant. I can deal with someone who respectfully disagrees with me, but when a columnist complains about greedy corporations and the cost of college, and then his textbook is the most expensive one around, I get irritated. This is why I was surprised that when I read his column “Springtime for Bankers” I found myself agreeing with what he wrote. At least the beginning that is. 

Krugman complains that the Wall Street bailouts during the financial crisis in 2008 were misguided and show that Washington believe that “what is good for Wall Street is good for America”. This, of course, is ridiculous. Krugman points out that even after the bailouts, America still suffers high unemployment rates, even if the Dow is hitting record highs. He doesn’t mention this, but I find it ironic that Obama, who decries “trickle down economics” (which is a straw-man, no true conservative economists supports giving money to the rich and hoping it trickles down to the rest of us), uses the stock market’s success to claim he is doing a good job healing America’s economy. Krugman also attacks Tim Geithner for claiming that as Treasury Secretary he did all he could do to save the economy in 2008. Krugman says:

Now Timothy Geithner, who was Treasury secretary for four of those six years, has published a book, “Stress Test,” about his experiences. And basically, he thinks he did a heckuva job.

He’s not unique in his self-approbation. Policy makers in Europe, where employment has barely recovered at all and a number of countries are in fact experiencing Depression-level distress, have even less to boast about. Yet they too are patting themselves on the back.

How can people feel good about track records that are objectively so bad? Partly it’s the normal human tendency to make excuses, to argue that you did the best you could under the circumstances. And Mr. Geithner can indeed blame much though not all of what went wrong on scorched-earth Republican obstructionism.

But there’s also something else going on. In both Europe and America, economic policy has to a large extent been governed by the implicit slogan “Save the bankers, save the world” — that is, restore confidence in the financial system and prosperity will follow. And government actions have indeed restored financial confidence. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for the promised prosperity.

 

This is where my agreements with Krugman end.

Basically, Krugman is saying that when people need to admit when they were wrong and not make excuses. This puzzled me considering that Krugman has never found a problem that can’t be blamed on Republicans, supported creating a housing bubble to offset the dot com bubble in the early 2000s (gee, housing bubbles ended up great), and supports the idea of government fiscal stimulus, despite the fact that it has never worked to truly revive and economy despite being tried multiple times. When he is confronted with the fact that he was wrong about predicting the success of Obama’s stimulus, Krugman used the excuse that he and other policy makers underestimated the severity of the crisis and therefore if the stimulus was only bigger it would have worked. To me, this just shows that governments can’t be trusted to intervene in an economy. If politicians and economists don’t even understand the problem, how can they hope to solve it? 

 

P.S. 

If you want to see two of the great economists of the 20th century debate through rapping, click here

Soccer and the GOP

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There are certain things about American society that are simply accepted as fact. One is that Republicans often have a hard time connecting with latino voters, and another is that Latinos often are big soccer fans. Considering the biggest event in soccer- the World Cup- is kicking off in about a month, and midterm elections are coming up in the fall, I think this summer is a great time for the GOP to begin to relate to latino voters. 

GOP candidates should make it a point to express their interest in the World Cup and soccer in general. Perhaps even show their fun and human side by kicking around a ball every once in a while with voters. Would this possibly turn off “real” Americans who see soccer as sin compared to their beloved football? Possibly. But the World Cup would allow candidates’ interest in soccer to double as old fashioned patriotism by rooting hard for the underdogs USA. After all, the only thing that true Americans love more than football is, well, America. Especially when America is an underdog (Revolutionary War anyone?). 

Various experiences in California and Texas have shown that latinos will consider supporting the GOP, if only the GOP makes an effort to connect with them and not just write them off as a lost cause in terms of winning their support. I think soccer is an easy first step to making this connection.