Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Preparing for life in the twenty-first century. Uh, and a half.

What is the state’s role in marriage and the family?—Friday, July 3rd, 2015
Monster family

The family after decades of government intervention.

I have long made the argument that marriage is a religious institution that the government should stay out of. That is an argument long lost. But I’ve also made the argument that the marriage contract is anything but, and that there is a lot of room for improvement in how the state views, supports, and, too often lately, discourages marriage and family.

From our child-protection laws to our divorce laws to our welfare laws, government takes an interest in family. But for the most part it doesn’t realize that’s what it is doing. It tries to focus on individuals rather than the family, and in the process does a lot to destroy family. Too often child protection is a winner-take-all fight; welfare in effect pays people for not providing children a family, and divorce law makes the assumption that marriage is transitory but alimony that it is forever.

Gay marriage is unquestionably a huge shift in what it means to be married. It means long-standing assumptions behind government’s role in families are upended, from local laws about child care to state laws about marriage and divorce, to state and national laws about child and parental welfare. It is well past time to examine these assumptions and codify them.

Republicans should recognize that marriage has fundamentally changed marriage’s relation to family, and take this opportunity to define the federal government’s (and, at the state level, the state government’s) role in family and marriage.

Because this is new territory, the federal government should provide states with the authority to do as much as possible. We need to see as many solutions as possible to know what the best solutions are. Fix the problems created on the national level in the past, but when it comes to making new, untested, policy, give the states the opportunity to experiment.

Government policies have for decades now encouraged a family structure breakdown. The Great Society has turned out to be profoundly antisocial. But a free country requires families that care for each other and that produce good citizens. Not just because it means less crime and less welfare spending, but because a country of people cared for by the government—a country of Julias and Winstons—will inevitably demand less freedom.

The Best of Mike Royko: One More Time—Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Mike Royko is the proverbial study in contrasts. Pretty much his entire career was built on showing how government doesn’t work. Government is always captured by the powerful, not against the weak, because the weak don’t have anything worth taking, but against the middle.

“We’re supposed to take it on faith,” he said, about the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, “that this agency does its job.” He said the same thing in different words pretty much about every government agency that crossed his pen.

It isn’t surprising that Royko didn’t look to Republicans for solutions: at the time, Republicans meant people like Richard Nixon and Nelson Rockefeller, who were more progressive—more for big government—than Democrats. But he should have known better once Reagan was elected instead of somehow claiming that Reagan was wrong, and that the system that produced Leroy Bailey’s Veterans Administration and John Karpowicz’s Chicago should be given more unconditional power.

Yes, the Veterans Administration hospital system, that the left was praising just a few years ago in order to push the ACA on us. Mike Royko knew it was a mess of government sloth over forty years ago. And the very next article in this collection makes fun of Chicago politicians who say that the city government works, when instead it ignores hard problems (crime) and hounds the middle class when they are victimized by either crime from below or crime from above.

Mind you, Leroy Bailey was when Nixon was president. When it came to Democratic politicians, Royko tended to be more forgiving of government corruption. In Whitewater Almost Too Far Out There, he argued that the Clinton scandals were just what everybody did, and that the “McGoofy Group” talking about it should just talk about baseball instead. And then, after Representative Dan Rostenkowski was convicted of felony graft and illegal use of taxpayer money, Royko wrote, in Rostenkowski’s Sin Was Not Changing with the Times that graft was really a good thing. It was how politicians got things done for the little person. Royko writes that “The rules keep changing. Things we could once say or think are now taboo.” Which, while true, misses the point: paying people for jobs they never do and taking bribes may be common in Chicago, but for the rest of the United States we realized it was wrong back when Tammany Hall was busted.

Royko himself realized it when writing about Republicans. Nixon, for example, deserved whatever he got for his own corruption, and “the Republicans” deserved scorn for attending the same lavish balls that Democrats had during the Carter, LBJ, and Kennedy years.

Democrats “oppress” black voters… by killing them en masse—Thursday, June 25th, 2015
Colfax riot

Commemorating Democrats murdering black Republicans.

While researching my current book, I was in Colfax County, Louisiana. There is a sign there that reads:

On this site occurred the Colfax Riot in which three white men and 150 negroes were slain. This event on April 13, 1873 marked the end of carpetbag misrule in the South.

In this case, “carpetbag misrule” meant “blacks organizing to vote Republican”. Because that is what the blacks were there for: organizing to vote Republican and against their former Democrat masters. Democrats didn’t “oppress” black voters by giving them a photo id so that no one could steal their vote; they oppressed them by massacring them in the hundreds whenever they tried to vote.

Republicans should bear no nostalgia for the Confederate battle flag. From Ford’s Theater to Colfax to The Lorraine Motel, nostalgia for the Confederacy has been used to kill Republicans.

Those 153 people were Republicans. That sign is a memorial commemorating the murder of Republicans in order to perpetuate real racism. John Wilkes Booth and James Earl Ray were Democrats. Lincoln and King were Republicans.

The blanket of Confederate nostalgia covering the south was laid down by Democrats. The sign was put up in 1950. That would have been under Democrat James Davis. Maryland’s state song became the state song in 1939, under Democrat Herbert O’Conor, because Democrats wanted to hark back to the wonderful days of fighting for slavery.1

Here in Texas, Republicans did not do as Democrats would later under Lyndon Johnson, Carter, and so on. They put blacks in charge rather than in the underclass. Norris Wright Cuney led the Republican Party in Texas from 1883 to 1897. At a time when being a black Republican in the south was a lot like being a Christian under Nero.

Texas 2015—Thursday, June 25th, 2015

News from Texas in 2015.

We the Living—Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

I have now read two Ayn Rand books. Despite her reputation for tedium and flat characters, I found both The Fountainhead, which I read several years ago, and We the Living, which I just finished, to be very engaging works with very compelling characters.

The Fountainhead certainly had an ideological bent, but We the Living does not. Yes, it paints a poor picture of Soviet Communism, but that’s because the truth paints a poor picture of communism. From the eastern to western hemispheres communist governments have meant deprivation, tyranny, and fear.

The Fountainhead is an exaggerated view of people who really exist and whose motives seem unfathomable to those of us who have to live with them in power. We the Living makes little attempt to fathom motives. It shows the communists as they actually existed—some idealistic, some opportunistic, all harming the people they claim to be working to save.

We the Living is about three extraordinarily human people living through the soul-crushing chains of socialism: one person who helped create it to help the world, one who simply wishes to live well through it, and one who wants to survive it either by outliving it or escaping to freedom. Because the outside world, despite protestations to the contrary, mostly believed in the power of planned economies, all of the characters fail and succeed in their own way. No one outside Russia will help them.

We the Living is Rand’s first novel, after working for several years in Hollywood, and it is very different from The Fountainhead, which is either her second or third novel depending on how you count it. Where The Fountainhead echoed its main character’s spare and soaring lines, We the Living is filled with lush images of the pain and degradation that followed the socialist revolution in Russia.1

Being illiberal: Same sex gun sales—Wednesday, June 17th, 2015
Christian bakers and guns

Do those who support forcing participation in gay marriage, also support unlimited firearms sales?

The left seems to think that gay marriage is even worse than Christians do:

If selling a gay couple a wedding cake means a “christian” baker participated in their marriage, does selling a gun to a murderer mean a “christian” gun store owner participated in murder?

They’re equating gay marriage with murder! Perhaps their own marriages aren’t as stable as they’d like to think. More likely, for the left it always comes back to gun control, and they’ll even hijack gay marriage for it.

But, of course, this Handy-thought is mixing up its messaging: the equivalent would be if a gun store owner sold a gun engraved with some message about committing a murder, and sold it without complaint. If I were to go into a gun store, here in Texas, and try to buy a gun engraved with the message “this gun is for murdering my landlord”, I fully expect the gun store owner to refuse to sell me that gun.

And I fully support their right to not sell that gun.

Anti-gun activists have tried, in the past, and as far as I know are still trying, to tie the simple act of selling guns as being complicit in the murders committed by the purchaser or even subsequent purchasers or burglars. There is no question that the left would hold a seller responsible if the gun actually was engraved with a murder message!

This is the kind of clichéd thinking that requires the viewer to stop thinking the moment they hit the end, because any level of thought shows how silly, and even counter-message, the comparison is. Because the opposite is also true: if you believe that selling guns make you complicit in gun crimes, you should also believe that selling wedding cakes makes you complicit in weddings.

Of course, the “Christian bakers” mentioned in the meme don’t believe that. They believe that making statements makes you complicit in what those statements say and are, then, choosing not to make statements that offend their religion.

They aren’t trying to force others not to make those statements; in many cases, they recommended a good baker elsewhere. In some cases, they even offered to bake the cake and have someone else put the message on it. All they’re asking is to not be forced to make that message themselves.

Mitt Romney Day 2015—Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

The competition this year, from pundits in the press who see nothing wrong with Hillary Clinton running her own email server and then erasing the whole thing, but who still make references to Richard Nixon’s 18 minutes, made choosing the Mitt Romney Day winner difficult this year. But, well, that was months ago, and “at this point, what difference does it make?”

At least the newspeople didn’t actually work in the White House themselves and help Clinton erase the messages.

For that, for this year’s Mitt Romney’s Day award, for pundits who make up the rules for when it’s a class violation if we discuss the policies of politicians, the award has to go to George Stephanopoulos.

He interviewed Peter Schweizer, author of the wonderful, if scary, Throw Them All Out about his current book, Clinton Cash (which I have not yet read), about people who throw money at the Clintons in a transparent attempt to win favor.

Stephanopoulos gave Schweizer a hard time for it. After all, Schweizer used to work for President Bush as a speech writer.

That’s right, George Stephanopoulos, former Clinton Press Secretary1 and senior advisor, said that news from a former Bush speech writer was discountable for that reason.

But it doesn’t stop there. Stephanopoulos was attempting to discount Schweizer’s claim that people were donating to the Clintons in order to gain favor with the Clintons. Turns out, he could have said, “Hey, Peter, even I have given $75,000 to the Clintons. Do you think I was doing it to gain favor?”

But, of course, he didn’t ask that question. Because he knows that the answer, not just from Schweizer but from everyone else in the United States, would be yes, we do. The revelation would have reflected badly not on Schweizer, but on himself and his attempt to paint Schweizer’s revelations as irrelevant.

Strangling the iPhone of health care—Friday, May 29th, 2015
Osborne Model 1

Can you imagine being afraid to give this up as your daily computer because you have never seen an iPad or iMac, and believe that a laptop weighing less than three pounds is not only impossible but dangerous to even imagine? That’s where we are with health care today. Except that instead of being stuck with a computer of the eighties, we’re stuck with health plans of the forties. (Image courtesy Johann H. Addicks, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0)

In the latest Commentary, a Dale Edmondson writes in that its all well and good to say that employee wages would increase if employers didn’t pay for their health insurance, but wouldn’t this just mean that the employee would have to spend the same money to get the same care?

The author of the original piece, Benjamin Domenech, writes that there would be significant savings because

By funneling benefits through employers, you increase transaction costs, subsidize demand, and insulate consumers from price signals. We see this particularly in the health-care arena, where the subsidization of employer-sponsored health insurance and the problems of third-party payer form a particularly dangerous combination.

There is no question that reducing the number of middlemen from three, four, or even five1 down to one would vastly improve our health care market, reducing prices and increasing quality.

But there is a bigger issue involved that almost always accompanies government mandates of a particular form of something. We do not know how many better forms exist.

The assumption is that an individual market would replace, on an individual level, the very strange system of health “insurance” that has arisen around government mandates, subsidies, and tax incentives. But there is no reason to assume that this is true, and in fact a direction connection between people and their health needs would almost certainly bring about not just a better version of what we have now, but entirely new means of meeting health care needs customized to each individual.

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