Thursday, September 24, 2020

 Week 11: Supreme Court

 

It is not quite time for the traditional “October Surprise,” so in this election it is reasonable to assume that there will be more to come. In this election, though, we are experiencing a “September Surprise” with the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. In today’s essay, we will not explore Justice Ginsberg’s philosophy or rulings; rather, we will discuss the process of appointing her replacement.

 

The parallel between this election and that of four years ago surely is not lost on us. In 2016, a vacancy on the Supreme Court became open with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February of that year. Following the passing of Justice Scalia, then-President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. The nomination was never brought to the floor of the Senate, because the Senate Republicans said it was inappropriate to consider such a nomination with a Presidential election looming. They maintained that it would silence the voice of the electorate in the appointment process.

 

Perhaps the Republicans were recalling the passage of the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, on Christmas Eve 2009. The Democrats had lost control of Congress in the elections that November. The People had spoken, and they were soon to be turned out of office. Despite the People’s voice, as the election was much about socialized healthcare, the Democrat Congress voted to pass sweeping health insurance legislation, knowing it would otherwise die on the vine in the incoming Republican-controlled Congress.

 

By way of a little more background, the Democrat-controlled Senate in 2013, used a procedural mechanism, Rule XX, commonly referred to as the “nuclear option,” to require only a simple majority to provide advice and consent for court nominees, as opposed to the supermajority envisioned by the Founders for matters of such weighty import. The so-called “nuclear option” also sets aside Senate Rule XXII, requiring 60 votes to close debate prior to a vote.

 

In this election season, the Democrats may reap what they have sown. Be assured, though, that the tables will someday turn. Because neither party deals with the other in good faith, each eventually gets what it deserves. To borrow from and Scripture and to twist it just a bit, those who live by suspension of the rules, shall die by suspension of the rules.

 

For approximately a decade after Independence, our new nation was governed by the Articles of Confederation. As is often the case, once you live with a new approach to doing something (e.g., self-governance), you come to discover the flaws and foibles in the approach. Federalist Papers 15-22, are discussions of the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation, thereby supporting the case for a new Constitution. The Federalist Papers, a collection of 85 essays discussing the rationale behind the provisions of the new Constitution, were written from Saturday, Oct. 27, 1787 to Wednesday, May 28, 1788.

 

Federalists 76 and 77 speak directly to the appointing power of the President. Nowhere in these essays is it suggested that a President not make nominations if he or she is in the last year of his or her term. 

 

Let us explore this further. Prior to entering office, each newly elected President takes the following oath, as written in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

 

Nowhere in Article II does it state that the President’s mandate to faithfully execute his or her office ceases or diminishes in the year final year, months, weeks or days of his or her term in office. Nor do Hamilton, Jay or Madison, writing collectively under the nom de plume “Publius,” suggest in the Federalist Papers anything to this effect. It is clear. When a person is serving as President, he or she is duty-bound to fulfill that role, including the nomination of justices to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court, regardless of the point in time of his or her administration.

 

Article VI of the Constitution also requires of legislators, at both the national and state levels, to swear or affirm their support of the Constitution. Consequently, members of the Senate are duty-bound to perform their collective role in the process of advice and consent. To that point, I think it was a mistake for the Senate, in the waning days of the Obama administration, to forgo a vote on Judge Garland. If the Republicans didn’t want Garland, they should have voted so. I suppose it was easier and politically safer in the moment to prevent Garland’s nomination from coming to the floor of the Senate.

 

Be that as it may, it now poses a – what is the correct word? Dilemma came to mind, but it is not a dilemma for unscrupulous people to reverse a position that was supposedly set on principle. It really just poses a public relations issue, one Senate Republicans will easily pass through, just as Democrats have passed through similar ethical lapses in the past.

 

In the present situation, some are calling attention to the reported last wishes of Justice Ginsberg that her seat not be filled until after the election. As much as it may tug at one’s heartstrings – the dying wish of an accomplished person – it should have no effect in the affairs of state. I understand that she would, as anyone may, want to preserve her legacy, and her wish may have been expressed only in a private sense; nevertheless, a Supreme Court justice should know, better than most, that we are a nation of laws, not of men or women and their whims. I humbly beg your pardon, kind reader, if that critique seems harsh. I do believe, though, that it is an accurate perspective.

 

In short, a President is sworn to execute the office, while he or she is in office. Similarly, the Senate is sworn to do its job. Let it be so and let the political chips (which often seem to be more akin to cow chips than to decisions made in fidelity to the will of the people) fall where they may. In contrast, comparatively little concern is made over dubious pardons made in the final minutes of a President’s term. Why should any other political decision, made in the execution of Presidential duties, be different.

 

As November draws nigh, consider which candidates – for any office – understand the principle and the duty to execute the office they seek, and which blow with the political winds that stink of expediency. Then, fellow citizen, vote accordingly.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

 Week 12: Conformity

 

In an interview with Lenard Larry McKelvey, known on his syndicated radio show as “Charlamagne tha God,” former Vice President Joe Biden stated, “Well I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black.” As it happens, Mr. McKelvey is Black. Mr. Biden was forced to walk back his comments and to offer a pseudo-apology for his statement. It leaves one wondering which remark was sincere: the statement or the apology.

 

As a cynic, not only about Mr. Biden but about almost all politicians, I suspect his true belief was made known in his statement on Mr. McKelvey’s show, as opposed to his apology.

 

For any faults Mr. Trump has, a lack of candor is not among them.

 

Let us return, then to Mr. Biden’s statement, because it bespeaks of the conformity that politicians, specifically those who embrace socialism, be it in the guise of “the greater good” or full-on communism, promote and desperately need to advance their agenda.

 

Racial conformity just happens to be a perennial favorite for the socialist, which for all intents and purposes may be a term appropriately ascribed to today’s Democrat party. Gender is a close second in terms of the characteristics that are used to slice and dice the populace. I would suggest that the use of these means to differentiate and discriminate is insidious and deceitful, but it is not. It is not, because the socialist, be he or she mild or extreme, makes no secret of the fact that they view people of one skin color, one race, one gender, etc. as common in their respective thoughts and beliefs.

 

If, as Mr. Biden suggests, you are not of the collective mind of that group, you lack legitimacy within that group. In the example above, all Black people must be committed to voting for Mr. Biden. If you happen to have black skin but prefer another candidate (i.e., Mr. Trump), you are not Black, thereby disenfranchising you from your lived experience as a Black person.

 

This approach to characteristic-based conformity comes in many forms, providing, of course, those forms are based on characteristics that are easy to see but otherwise have no meaning. Does the one’s race, color or gender actually dictate what one thinks and believes? In other words, is there a causal relationship? If your answer is “yes,” I would be intrigued to hear your argument and evidence. Keep in mind the important difference between causation and correlation. 

 

The notion that a conformity of belief is causal in terms of certain characteristics is an evil notion, as it diminishes the value of the individual and his or her moral worth and unique value. It is a notion, as evil as it may be, that is essential for collectivism, which is to say socialism, and if an individual human being elects to break from that conformity of thought, he or she is cast out and, in the parlance of our day, canceled.

 

Pray tell, what might be more dangerous in a republic than to have an elected representative, especially the head of state, “canceling” individual citizens based on their beliefs.

 

As suggested above, these differences must be easy to discern in order to stir up others in the frenzy of hatred and distrust. As a white man, the socialist wants it to be easy for me to discriminate against someone else. What better way for them to achieve their end than to endeavor to make me believe that a Black person, or better yet a Black woman, might be my political, economic or social opponent. Their wicked chore would be much more difficult if they sought to divide me from my fellow human beings by what we thought – something I cannot deduce by looking at another person. If they sought to sow the seeds of disharmony based on thoughts and beliefs, their end would require as its means discussion and thoughtful exchange among individuals, which is most assuredly the best way to foster harmony and peace, both of which are death knells to their political aims, which ultimately converge in power and control over you and me, the good citizens of this republic.

 

Evgenii Zamiatin wrote about the dangers of conformity in the early days of the Soviet Union. His 1921 essay entitled “I Am Afraid” was prescient indeed, as he foresaw the Bolshevik stifling of non-conformist thinking, be it expressed verbally, in the written word, in music or in art. A couple years later, his novel “We” foretold of a time in which people lived according to preordained constructs, called tables, and conformity to these was paramount for the functioning of the collective.

 

In Record Nine of “We,” Zamiatin writes, “Да, это была торжественная литургия Единому Государству, воспоминание о крестных днях-годах Двухсотлетней Войны, величественный праздник победы всех над одним, суммы над единицей...” As translated, “Yes, it was a solemn liturgy for the United State, a reminiscence of the great days, years, of the Two Hundred Years’ War – a magnificent celebration of the victory of all over one, of the sum over the individual…”

 

Statements, like Biden’s and others of the establishment ilk, lay bare their belief that we neither can nor will think for ourselves or lay claim to our individual Liberty, another concept that is anathema to the socialist agenda of today’s Democrat party and to some Republicans, too.

 

Let us vote in a way that allows for a magnificent celebration of individual Liberty over repression of the sum.

Friday, September 18, 2020

 Week 13: Focus on the policies

 

While character should count in the officials we elect, let’s face it, it doesn’t.

 

In an article today, a woman has come forward to say that, in 1997, Donald Trump forced his tongue down her throat. In the last election there were also reports of his disparaging remarks about women and their genitalia. Is this type of behavior beneath the Office of the President of the United States? Certainly, it is.

 

But it certainly is not a tally in the Joe Biden column of the score sheet.

 

Recall not too long ago the woman, a former Biden staffer, who came forward and recounted Biden’s sexual fondling, not to mention his publicly displayed groping and kissing and sniffing of women on a regular basis.

 

OK, so they may both be creeps. Let’s here no more arguments on this topic. If you want a non-creep candidate, go with Jo Jorgensen.

 

On an almost daily basis, people decry Trump’s childish name-calling and his inflammatory Tweets. Are these becoming of the leader of the free world? Of course not, but neither is Biden’s confrontational behavior and name-calling of citizens who dare question his record in town hall forums, not to mention his challenging people to go outside and fight. At least Trump’s taunts are directed at those in the political establishment, as opposed to everyday citizens.

 

OK, so they are both bullies. Let’s have no more arguments on this topic. If you want a candidate who doesn’t bully colleagues and who respects you and me – We the People – go with Jo Jorgensen.

 

People suspect Trump of violating the emoluments clause, abusing his power to enrich himself and his family. Some may point to his desire to hold a political meeting at one of his resorts, a decision he reversed in light of unfavorable public opinion. Disregard the fact he was fabulously wealthy prior to his election and that he divested management of his companies to his son. Nevertheless, he’s cast as a greedy, power-abusing fiend. But Biden’s hands are not clean in this respect. He used his power, when he was Vice President, to stop an investigation of a foreign company on the board of which his son was a member, going so far as to pressure the head of state of that country to fire the public prosecutor who was investigating his son’s company, using U.S. government aid as blackmail in that transaction. Biden even boasted of the incident on television! Biden, himself, has grown wealthy in his role as a public servant, as has many of his relations, some of whom acknowledge that their good fortune is a result of Biden’s political positions.

 

OK, so they are both greedy bastards. Let’s have no more arguments on this topic. If you want a candidate whose financial house is well ordered and ground in ethical behavior, go with Jo Jorgensen.

 

However, if you, kind reader, are still determined to vote for one of the two major parties’ candidates, disregard the issues of character. As discussed above, neither candidate will win at that game in the public square.

 

Focus, instead, on their policies. Focus solely on their policies.

 

Reflect on which candidate’s policies best conform with the founding principles of our republic. Reflect on which candidate’s policies will truly enrich the lives of all Americans: with sound education that empowers parents to choose the best schools for their children, with healthcare that restores the relationship between patients and doctors, with an economy that grows industry and provides opportunities for employment, with a national security strategy that keeps us safe without losing yet one more generation to the battlefields of foreign lands.

 

After your reflection, good citizen, examine the record of each candidate. Who has demonstrated success? Who lacks demonstrable success? For example, who has implemented policies that provided historic gains in employment to our long-suffering, underrepresented communities? Who has fought to expand the welfare state and to keep those communities as vassals of the state? Who has sponsored crime legislation that disproportionately incarcerated people of those same communities (which is among the reasons so many cry out for justice today)? Who has signed legislation to fix that injustice?

 

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, a man’s deeds foreshadow certain ends. What do Trump’s deeds (i.e., policies) foreshadow? What do Biden’s deeds (i.e., policies) foreshadow?

 

Of course, each American must vote his or her conscience, but let each person’s conscience be informed and guided by intellect, by principle, and by proof from this historical record. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

 Week 14: The rich and the poor

 

Trump and the “Right” love the rich and hate the poor. Biden and the “Left” hate the rich and love the poor. This is the common narrative pushed from almost all corners of the political playing field. With all due respect, it seems that neither is an accurate perception.

 

Prior to our discussion of preceding statements, permit me to share my utter disdain for the terms “Right” and “Left,” as applied in a political context. They are lazy constructs to divide us, to pit us against one another, and to establish an either-or worldview in which there is no middle ground, no room for deep analysis nor for complex and nuanced beliefs.

 

Nevertheless, the political class seems comfortable with the either-or worldview. The establishment politicians, who promote this worldview, prostitute themselves (i.e., sacrificing any principles they may have had for the sake of political expediency) for its advancement and perpetuation. Consequently, I will employ these simplistic terms in a narrow manner to refer to the political elite. I will play the game as they have defined it.

 

Regarding the so-called “Right,” it is true that they love the rich. Generally, those on the “Right” fall into the economic camp of capitalists, some of whom advocate free-market capitalism. They want to establish conditions that make it possible for the machinery of industry to run smoothly and efficiently. They understand that private sector success results in employment and raises people out grinding poverty in a way that government handouts cannot. They also understand that well-being, be it economic or otherwise, is not a fixed pie. Success by one does not come at the expense or failure of another. In fact, in a free-market society, success only comes by way of voluntary exchange and agreement. There is no coercion. 

 

In this sense, not only do they not hate the poor, their policies are designed to benefit the poor, as well as the rich. Another example is education. As we’ve discussed before, those in most need of help to improve their lot in life are the same people who are forced into failing schools and subject to inefficient healthcare systems. The “Right” seeks to introduce choice and competition into these and similar systems. In areas in which such competition and choice has been made available to people, results have been favorable.

 

Regarding the so-called “Left,” it is true that they hate the rich. The exception to this general hatred is the rich of the political elite. Often the people who denounce the private sector’s rich have themselves become rich over the course of a long career in office, a topic we recently discussed. Notwithstanding that exception, the “Left” look at the rich as greedy opportunists, who, rather than create value, exploit the worker and take his share of wealth, believing that economic well-being is a fixed pie. To the “Left,” the rich serve as a source of funding for their social engineering experiments, which interestingly fail time and time again. Look at California, Illinois and New York, for example. Companies are fleeing those states’ socialist economies for states that provide a favorable environment for businesses to thrive. Who is hurt in this situation? The people of California, Illinois and New York. They are left with fewer options for employment and are consequently damned to poverty. The political “Left” blames the companies and their greed for this situation rather than their redistributive policies, which effectively – quite effectively – kills the goose that lays the golden egg.

 

This is where the disingenuous assertion that the “Left” love the poor is shown for what it is: a lie. If the “Left” loved the poor, they would seek ways to lift them out of the terrible poverty that destroys their lives and smothers their hope, such as a quality education, which enriches the mind and spirit, and a robust job market, which provides employment and builds self-esteem. Instead, they offer schools that bear greater resemblance to prisons than to academies, and they offer welfare programs that decimate skills and foster dependency. To the “Left,” the poor are little more than political pawns for tearing down political opponents and for buttressing their own power. There is no love; there is only a twisted form of political utilitarianism.

 

Again, we’re looking at the gross generalities of the either-or worldview of the political establishment. This is not my worldview, but it is the game that the political class has set up, so some analysis of that game is necessary. 

 

The problem is that this is not a game! This is your life and mine – we, the citizens, whose lives are not protected by Secret Service bodyguards nor by loopholes, like those used by politicians to exempt themselves from the very laws they impose on us.

 

Insomuch as we can, I hope each of us will consider the candidates before us and will choose those most likely to mitigate or eliminate the sick, twisted, seditious worldview that we must accept either “Right” or “Left.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

 Week 15: Minimum Wage

 

A popular, evergreen topic to curry favor with some citizens and to secure their votes is that of the minimum wage. People in entry-level positions have a natural self-interest to increase their wages. Those about to enter the workforce have a natural self-interest to do so at the highest possible wage. Others may have a natural self-interest to feel good knowing that those in the former groups have a higher wage on which to live. And unlike many of the other topics we have discussed, which would disappear as election issues if they actually were fixed, there is no end to the political use of wage controls, as they can always go up.

 

In 1912, the State of Massachusetts passed the first minimum wage law in the United States, “An Act to establish the minimum wage commission and to provide for the determination of minimum wages for women and minors.” The act established a three-person commission to determine whether wages in various industries covered the “necessary cost of living and to maintain the worker in health.” The 1912 Massachusetts regulation was not an across-the-board approach. If an industry was of concern to the commission, it would establish a wage board to recommend a minimum wage for workers of average ability in that given industry. Exemptions could be made for workers of lesser ability, or “physically defective,” as the act characterized such human beings. The act applied oversight provisions, which included the publication of scofflaw employers in the newspaper. Any paper that refused to publish such lists or any other notices of the commission (which included provisions about the font size to be used by the paper) were subject to fines. So much for the First Amendment and freedom of the press. 

Contemporary economists, politicians and so-called social reformers were more transparent in terms of their singular goal in establishing a minimum wage: protectionism, specifically as it relates to job security for white men, even more specifically for unionized white men.

According to an April 5, 2016 op-ed in the “Los Angeles Times,” “Journalist and progressive social reformer Paul Kellogg in 1913 advocated a minimum wage of $3 per day for all immigrants, double the $1.50 per day ordinary laborers were then paid. Kellogg knew that no firm would hire an unskilled immigrant for $3 per day. That was the purpose of his high minimum wage, as he wrote, to exclude ‘Angelo Lucca and Alexis Spivak’ from American shores, thus protecting American jobs for ‘John Smith and Michael Murphy and Carl Sneider.’”

As Congress debated the Fair Labor Standards Act in the 1930s, Texas Democrat Martin Dies stated on the floor of the People’s House (i.e., the House of Representatives), “you cannot prescribe the same wages for the Black man as the White man.” At the time, Black people experienced higher employment rates than White people, due in great measure to the fact that Black workers, just a generation away from emancipation and post-Civil War reconstruction, were willing to work for lower rates. Politicians, primarily Southern Democrats, like Mr. Dies, sought the minimum wage in order to decimate the Black workers’ competitive advantage in terms of the wages they were willing to charge and, consequently, the employment they were able to obtain. Another Congressman, Miles Clayton Allgood, D-Alabama, stated that the minimum wage would eliminate “cheap colored labor in competition with white labor.”

Government intervention, via a minimum wage, eliminated the incentives of the free market. In the pre-minimum-wage market, a racist would incur a financial penalty for his or her bigotry. In many cases, the bigot would have to pay more for organized White labor. While some trade unions of this time had stated anti-racism platforms, they still tolerated and enforced segregation in practice. By establishing a minimum wage, the cost for racist hiring decisions was reduced to zero. The racist no longer had to pay more to hire a White worker and could no longer pay less for a non-White worker. The penalty for racism (and sexism for that matter, as early wage laws targeted women, too) was gone.

The shift in employment began, and Black Americans began to find themselves forced out of the labor market, that is until the present administration. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, employment statistics were at the most favorable levels since such statistics began being reported. 

That is the ethical argument to consider when contemplating government wage controls in a society that claims to be free.

What of the economic argument?

Let us, kind reader, consider a simple example: the loaf of bread. I purchased a loaf of bread today for $3.17, and I made a couple grilled cheese sandwiches to dip in some tomato soup. With a high of 57 degrees, it seemed like the perfect meal. What goes into the cost of that loaf of bread? Ingredients, such as flour, yeast and water (to name just a few) are obvious costs. The machinery to plant and to harvest the wheat, process the yeast, provide clean water, etc.; and the facilities and equipment to mill the wheat and to bake the bread are all “baked” into the cost of each loaf. Packaging, delivery and marketing expenses, as well as allowances for unsold loaves are factored into the cost. Each step described above are performed by someone, be it a person doing manual work or running a machine. The cost of labor is, by far the most expensive factor in the price of bread. There also must be allowance for profit, so that investments may be made in innovation, replacement of equipment, and the like, as well as returns to investors, be they day traders or investors like me – and perhaps like you – who invest through our retirement programs, like 401Ks.

Recognizing this fact, each increase in the minimum wage necessarily increases the price of goods and services you and I consume.

Proponents of the minimum wage refer increases in average household income associated with increases in the minimum wage. For a limited time, this is true, as it takes a short period of time for businesses to adjust prices to account for increased labor costs. There is some elasticity inherent in the cost structure. Eventually – and it doesn’t take too long – prices will rise, minimizing the short-term, favorable effect of increased wages. Soon follows the unfavorable effects of artificially increased wages. In real terms, people have less buying power than before the wage increase. Consequently, renewed calls for another increase in the minimum wage are heard in the halls of Congress and on the campaign trails. It becomes a never-ending, vicious cycle.

What of justice?

As discussed in Week 51 and Week 49, the educational system has been designed to repress the impoverished and those in certain minority groups. How does this relate to the discussion at hand? It’s simple. The government provides inadequate educational experiences for those most in need. With some notable exceptions, many people leave high school without the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities to enter college or the job market. In the past, prior to ever-increasing minimum wage requirements, people with lower knowledge, skills and abilities could find entry-level employment by demanding less from employers for their labor. In such positions, they could build their skills quickly, empowering them with enhanced capabilities to take on new, higher-level, better-paying jobs. With increases in the minimum wage, employers are inherently discouraged from hiring such individuals who, deprived of a solid educational experience by our government, have fewer skills. People who find themselves in this situation are, because of the minimum wage laws, prohibited from working for less in the near-term to build their skills in preparation for long-term financial security that comes from higher-level jobs.

Such a system reinforces cross-generational poverty and despair. It is a major cause for the growing chasm between the haves and the have-nots. And this poverty, this despair, this chasm, all of which separate one citizen – one human soul – from another, represent the nation’s very blood, which may be found on the hands of the political establishment.

As you consider the votes you will cast in November, reflect on who will perpetuate this system and it’s hidden and corrupt intentions and who will set the markets free to restore the equality that can only come from voluntary exchange, free markets and freedom itself.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

 Week 16: The Soul of America

 

In his speech at the Democrat Party National Convention, as well as in his speeches along the virtual campaign trail, Joe Biden has asserted that the forthcoming election is about the soul of the nation. This is to say the party that lays claim to victory on third of November also lays claim, to great extent, to the soul of America. To a certain degree, I am inclined to agree with his assessment.

 

I do qualify my agreement with Mr. Biden’s assertion with “to a certain degree,” because we, good citizens, continue to benefit from the collective wisdom of the Founders. Because our elected representatives must seek our approval through elections every two, four or six years, there are regular opportunities to refresh our government and breathe new life into our nation’s collective soul.

 

To be a bit more precise in terms of the significance of this particular election, the winning party will be in a position to continue or discontinue the economic, regulatory and foreign policies that ushered in widespread prosperity prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and have prevented our engagement in new military conflicts. The winning party will be in the likely position of appointing multiple justices to the Supreme Court. The winning party will set the tone for how we, the citizens of this land, see and interact with one another.

 

In last week’s post, you were introduced to Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian Party candidate for president. We discussed, at a high level, the idea of Classical Liberalism. I know, as anyone familiar with the Founders and their writings knows, that Libertarianism is the only contemporary political philosophy that genuinely nurtures and is nurtured by the soul of the nation, as conceived by those men and women of 1776 and 1789 and as imbued with Enlightenment principles.

 

Alas, pragmatism awakens me from the blissful slumber of the philosophical world, and it calls me to the realities of the political world. In the political world, I fear that the electorate is not yet ready for Libertarianism and the responsibilities for which it calls and the benefits it confers.

 

Consequently, we are left with the Republicans and the Democrats. Pray consider, gentle reader, which party – which candidate – not only understands the soul of our country but also has a record of nourishing and lifting up that soul. 

 

First, let us explore the nature of the soul. The word “soul” comes from the Proto-Germanic word saiwalō, meaning “life” or “living being.” In this context, Mr. Biden could be talking about the very life of our nation. Let us explore the concept a bit further.

The Pythagoreans looked on the concept of soul as harmony within the body. For our purposes, might we conclude that it could be harmony within the body politic?

Plato considered the world-soul as a harmony of “sameness,” which is the universality of “Ideas.” When we consider the fundamental tenant of our nation’s founding, that “all men are created equal,” it is clear that the notion of “sameness” or universality is at play.

In Aristotelian ethics, as it relates to the concept of soul, the idea of rationality is included. This idea of a rational soul includes possessing and being obedient to reason. In their “History of Political Philosophy,” Strauss and Cropsey write, “The proper function of man is therefore the putting-to-work or activity (energeia) of the soul in accordance with reason, or rather the most excellent form of such activity.” They continue, “happiness or the human good can be defined then, as activity of the soul in accordance with excellence or virtue (arete) and, if there are several virtues, in accordance with the best and most perfect.” We will return, momentarily, to the virtues, as they seem integral to our evaluation of those who would lay claim to the soul of America.

In Scholasticism, Saint Thomas Aquinas brings forth the principles of the soul as considered in Aristotelianism into Christian ethics. It is important to note that, according to Aquinas, the soul is created at a specific point in time in an organism’s development. Augmenting the Greek’s conception, Aquinas teaches that the soul is immortal, surviving past the time it leaves the earthly vessel that is our physical body. For our purposes, we may consider the organism to be our society or nation and that point in time to be the one at which a social contract is promulgated, such as our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

While a discussion of the nature of the soul could go on for days and days, or – as it in fact has – for millennia, let us return to Aristotle.

What does it mean to possess and be obedient to reason? Aristotle tells us that, in part, it is acting in accordance with excellence or virtue. Virtue has a special, well-defined meaning in the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle. The virtues include: courage, temperance, liberality, magnificence, magnanimity, proper ambition, patience, truthfulness, wittiness, friendliness, modesty and righteous indignation. Attendant to each of these virtues are two opposing vices – a vice of deficiency and a vice of excess. The goal is to live in the mean between the two vices.

I encourage you, kind reader, to look up a table of Aristotelian virtues and to consider your candidate and that of the opposition. Based on their deeds, not their words, evaluate where they fall on each virtue: in the mean, in excess or in deficiency. I suspect you will find that neither Mr. Biden nor Mr. Trump is the virtuous leader we deserve. In my own evaluation, based on the virtues, I do believe one is more grounded in the mean than the other, but sharing my personal assessment of the two is not the point of today’s message.

One may be confounded by the dilemma at hand. If neither candidate is the virtuous person we need to preserve, protect and defend the soul of our nation, how can one rightly choose the best candidate for this purpose? Again, let us turn to Aristotle.

Exploring the virtuous person, Strauss and Cropsey write, “Aristotle’s intention emerges with particular clarity in a passage in the Eudemian Ethics. He there distinguishes between two sorts of virtuous men, the ‘good man’ (agathos), who acts virtuously for the sake of acquiring the naturally good things of life (i.e., primarily wealth and honors), and the ‘noble and good man’ (kaloskagathos), who performs the actions of virtue for their own sake, or because they are noble.” Strauss and Cropsey pick up this thread later in the passage, writing, “Aristotle indicates that the majority of ‘political men’ are ‘good men’ in this sense, while denying their right to be called such: ‘For the political man is one who chooses to perform fine actions for their own sake, but the majority of them take up this sort of life for profit and personal aggrandizement.’”

Strauss and Cropsey encourage us, based on Aristotle’s ethics, to distinguish between the person who seeks office for his own enrichment and honor and the person who seeks it for a higher purpose.

Neither candidate is completely virtuous – and to be true, none of is so, as we are all human. Of the two major political parties’ candidates for President, one became wealthy as a result of his public office; the other became wealthy as a result of his private life and then sought public office. The former, Mr. Biden, is a multimillionaire. The latter, Mr. Trump, is a billionaire, who is not accepting the remuneration due him for his work as President, instead, donating each check to charity.

Make no mistake, I begrudge no one his or her wealth. I applaud people who are successful, by any measure. Generally, a person acting in a private capacity obtains wealth through voluntary exchange – making something of value that another person agrees to buy. A person acting in a public capacity becomes wealthy through coercion and corruption, pressuring people into financial arrangements in exchange for political favor.

As the election nears, candidly reflect on the actions of each candidate – words aside – and determine whose actions reveal a “good man” and whose actions reveal a “noble and good man,” and then vote accordingly.

p.s. I would entreat you again to look at Dr. Jorgensen through the same lens of Aristotle’s virtues and through his comparison of a person who is “good” and who is “noble and good.” I would venture to guess that the choice among the candidates would quickly become clear.

 

 

 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Week 17: Vote "for" instead of "against"

Week 17: Vote “for” instead of “against”

Discuss politics with nearly anyone today, and it becomes readily apparent that few people are actually planning to vote “for” any party or any candidate. Some people on the left do not seem enamored of Joe Biden, a doddering curmudgeon who spends his time trying to string together a coherent sentence and belittling potential voters who dare question his record. They are not voting for Joe Biden; they are voting against Donald Trump. Some people on the right do not seem enamored of Donald Trump, a caustic character who spends his time calling his opponents names on Twitter and bucking the political establishment. They are not voting for Donald Trump; they are voting against Joe Biden.

As for the two major political parties, I would suggest that there is relatively little difference between the two. Despite their rhetoric, both spend more and more money in a never-ending scheme to control more and more of our lives. 

In his book, “Rules for Radicals,” Saul Alinsky provocatively, and probably accurately, states, “That perennial question, ‘Does the end justify the means?” is meaningless as it stands; the real and only question regarding the ethics of means and ends is, and always has been, ‘Does this particular end justify this particular means?’”

It is shameful that the major political parties use all manner of scare tactics as means to influence us, the People, to accept government control over our lives, which is the ultimate end for them. What are these means? They say we will die without their involvement in the relationships between us and our doctors. They say we will live in squalor without their handouts, marketed as hand ups. They even sink to the foulest depths – convincing us that we are out to get one another, based on no more than the color of our skin, our gender, or any other number of superficial traits.

For the two major parties, We the People – you and I, are little more than pawns to establishment politicians.

My perception is that there are more people voting “for” Mr. Trump precisely because he is not part of the establishment. His policies and record to date, which have lifted the socioeconomic conditions of so many Americans, threaten the power of the establishment. The employment and wage rates for women and minorities, for example, were at all-time highs prior to the novel Coronavirus pandemic. The dysfunctional Veterans Administration health system is beginning to run more effectively and is including care choice for its patients. Affronts to the Natural Rights of Native Americans are being addressed. Things are getting done; things which the establishment politicians have discussed for years but have not remedied for fear of losing an issue with which to bait the American citizenry. The list of his administration’s accomplishments are not lost on Mr. Trump’s base.

What will be an important footnote in history, the novel Coronavirus, certainly has impacted the prosperity our nation was experiencing during the past few years. This, too, shall pass, and if our economic policy continues to tend toward laissez-faire conditions, we will likely be back on good footing quickly.

Mr. Biden’s record after 48 years as a career, establishment politician seems to demonstrate fewer tangible impacts on the lives of citizens, with the exception, of course, of higher taxes and greater government involvement in our lives. For example, he claims to be a lifelong proponent of Civil Rights, yet despite that, he claims that civil rights are as bad as ever. He claims to champion healthcare, yet despite the growth of Medicare and Medicaid since he began his political career, he’s among the first to decry our broken healthcare system.

On July 4, 1786, Massachusetts revolutionary Jonathan Loring Austin delivered a speech to the citizens of Boston on the anniversary of Independence Day. In his rousing speech, set in the now-legendary Faneuil Hall, he cautioned those assembled: “But as similar causes will always produce similar effects; so may we rest assured, that no nation will long continue free, after it has lost its virtue.” The preeminent virtue intimated by Mr. Austin to the good people of Boston was individual liberty.

As we think of whom to vote “for” in the upcoming election, consider who are the advocates of the “similar causes,” or means, as Alinsky would describe them? Mr. Biden’s failed policies are most assuredly likely to fail again. Mr. Trump’s divisive rhetoric is likely to reinforce the political discord that has existed for decades. 

Unless one falls into the small groups voting “for” Mr. Biden or Mr. Trump, I might suggest, kind reader, that it would feel much better to have a candidate for whom one could enthusiastically for “for” in this election. Furthermore, in a pragmatic sense, it would also produce favorable results for you, me and our fellow citizens.

May I introduce you to Jo Jorgensen, MBA, Ph.D. Dr. Jorgensen is the Libertarian candidate for President. [www.jo20.com] She is an industrial and organizational psychologist, who lectures at Clemson University. She is a former employee of IBM, and now she owns her own business. She is a Classical Liberal. Unfortunately, the term “liberal” has been misappropriated by the political left (another Alinksy tactic) and used to mean something it etymologically does not mean.

In the simplest terms, Libertarianism – or Classical Liberalism – is a political approach to executing the social contract in which each individual is free to pursue his or her own interests and objectives, no matter what they are, as long as such pursuits do not adversely impact another individual’s ability to pursue his or her own interests and objectives. In other words, you are free to do whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else. [www.lp.org] 

In the Libertarian model, coercion is minimized. Government activity is strictly limited, and personal accountability and responsibility are restored. The abuse of the Constitution’s “general welfare” clause is remedied, as it is not carelessly interpreted to mean the government has a legitimate role in where one may receive healthcare, how much water one may use to flush a toilet, whom one may marry, etc., etc., etc.

Because, in a Libertarian model, there aren’t these and myriad other intrusions into our lives, there is no need for the expansive and costly departments and bureaus to administer them. Consequently, the need to coerce hard-earned money from you and me in the form of taxes is minimized.

Because, in a Libertarian model, government – and thereby power – is limited. Consequently, the need for politicians to divide and conquer the citizens is limited. At long last, you and I and our fellow Americans can live in harmony, without the power-hungry convincing us that we should hate one another. 

I propose that Classical Liberalism, viz. Libertarianism, is the model that will promote individual well-being and societal harmony. In this day and age, it is the anti-establishment choice.

Gentle reader, prior to casting your vote for one of the establishment parties, I pray your kind indulgence to follow the links above and to explore Dr. Jorgensen and the Libertarian Party. I think you’ll like what you read.

  Week 11: Supreme Court   It is not quite time for the traditional “October Surprise,” so in this election it is reasonable to assume that ...