A short, sweet Easter afternoon round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesIt’s Easter Sunday, and that means all family all the time.  No complaints here, though.  It’s been a lovely day so far and I anticipate an equally pleasant afternoon and evening.  Full blogging will not happen today, but here are a few (a very few) links that intrigued me:

I’ve long known in a vague sort of way that Egypt is one grain of wheat away from a famine.  Having read David Archibald’s article, though, I now know in a very specific way precisely what kind of famine may be facing the world’s most populous Muslim nation.  While the Western world seems to have managed to stay one step ahead of Malthus, that’s not the case in Egypt, where bad things — overpopulation, underproduction, lack of diversification, political upheaval, and probable drought — are coming together to create a Perfect Storm of advanced hunger.

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One of my favorite non-fiction books is Thomas Cahill’s The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels. In authoring the book, Cahill has no ego. To the extent that he’s vastly well-informed, he wants to share his knowledge with people, not overwhelm them with his erudition. The result is a book that is simultaneously scholarly and accessible. I mentioned it here because Shmuley Boteach has written what could be the short version of that same book, describing how the Jews have contributed to the world’s well-being.

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Two very specific things in the early 1980s taught me that socialism cannot work. The first was the fact that, when my father visited his sister in East Germany, shortly after she retired from her decade’s long career as a high level Communist Party functionary, he discovered that she had lived for nine years with a broken and unusable kitchen sink. Not to worry, this true believer told my father.  She was “on the list” and was confident that the glorious Communist Party would one day get around to fixing her sink.  I suspect that it was still broken when the wall came down.

The second thing that taught me that socialism cannot work was the story of two hip replacements. Back in 1974, my father got his hip replacement two months or so after he was told that it was the only way to keep him from spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He walked, albeit with pain for the next twenty years of his life, until his death.

Meanwhile, in 1981, while I was living in England, I met a woman who had been told back in 1979 that a hip replacement was the only thing that would keep her out of a wheelchair. When I met her, she’d been barely functioning for two years, although she’d avoided the wheelchair. After I left, she went into the wheelchair. I lost contact with her about two years after a left England (i.e., four years after the referral for hip surgery), at which time she was still in that wheelchair. I don’t know whether she ever got that hip.

Keep those realities in mind when you read about Sweden’s socialized medicine, which works wonderfully only if you live long enough to benefit from it.

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The DiploMad may not be in the State Department any more, but he has friends who are. He’s learned from these friends that the State Department has a new initiative to ensure that something like Benghazi never happens again. Let me just say that I’m with the DiploMad in thinking that the movers and shakers in State are delusional — and to despair that they’re pursuing their delusions using our dollars and American lives.

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A lawyer friend of mine is brilliant, informed, and an incredibly good writer.  I hope those are adequate reasons for you to check out his post about the Free Speech (and Association) implications of the attack on Brendan Eich.

By attacking Jonah Goldberg, a recent college grad reveals that the American mind is no longer closing, it’s closed

The-Closing-of-the-American-Mind-Bloom-Allan-9780671657154The etymology of the word “liberal” isn’t complicated. It’s from the Latin līberālis, meaning “of freedom,” which in turn derives from līber, meaning “free.” The problem with “liberalism” as a political doctrine comes about when people try to define the control from which they wish to be free.  As a recent attack on Jonah Goldberg reveals, America’s finest colleges are failing miserably when it comes to helping students examine what “liberty” really means, both in theory and in fact.

The definitional problem with the notion of “liberty” was already evident in the late 18th century, so it’s not as if American educational institutions haven’t had a while to wrestle with this intellectual problem. When Thomas Jefferson wrote about each individual’s right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the liberty that he envisioned meant an individual’s right to construct his own life: his own career, his own faith, his own personal relations, and his own economic progress.

The Bill of Rights, a binding contract between government and governed, established that Jefferson and the other Founders knew that this liberty could be achieved only through less government, not more. At various times throughout history, the federal government has stepped in to lift a heavy yoke off of people, including slavery and Jim Crow (both of which were state government initiatives), but the understanding was that the federal government wasn’t then supposed to fill the power vacuum it had created.

At the same time that the Founders were reducing individual liberty to what they hoped would be an iron-clad constitutional contract (with the enforcement mechanism being each individual’s jealously protected right to bear arms), French revolutionaries were contemplating a very different type of “liberty.” When they spoke of “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité,” they meant to substitute one heavy-handed government (the blood-thirsty commune) in place of another heavy-handed government (the ancien regime). The notion of individual liberty, a person’s right to be free from government encroachment, was not part of the French Revolution’s operating system.

In the 220 or so years that have passed since the Bill of Rights and the French Revolution, the diametrically-opposed meanings applied to the words “liberty,” have never changed. A steady strand of thinking in America has always held that liberty means a person’s right to determine his own destiny with minimal government intervention, control, taxation, and policing. Meanwhile, whether under the heading of socialism, fascism, communism, Naziism, or Progressivism, most Europeans and some Americans (including the modern Democrat party) have steadfastly insisted that liberty means a person’s right to be free from the burden of thinking about and caring for himself. (Islam makes that promise too.)

I was reminded of this definitional paradox when I read a 23-year-old’s throbbing denunciation of Jonah Goldberg’s challenge to the recycled communism found in a Jesse Myerson article published in Rolling Stone. The 23-year-old guilty of this purple passion in support of the Left’s liberty is Emmett Rensin, who describes himself for the L.A. Times as “a political activist and essayist living in Chicago.”  His website adds that he recently graduated from the University of Chicago, which is one of America’s premier institutions and was once Milton Friedman’s home base.

Rensin may be young, and he may consider himself Progressive, but his article is actually pretty funny because it’s so reactionary in tone. This is a guy who, after four years in a top American university, looks back in longing at communism’s glory days, and regrets that he was unable to live in those heady times himself. Even his insults have a dated quality, rolling of the tongue with all the clunky rhetorical elegance that used to character a good Stalin speech. Thus, Goldberg is a “professional colonialism apologist and perennial Democratic crypto-fascist hunter.” Wow! It’s 1948 all over again.

Obviously, Rensin’s writing is not the stuff of ages, although it’s probably the stuff of old, aged Leftists. Rensin is worth quoting, though, because he so perfectly embodies the long-standing Leftist notion, one that is now de rigueur in America’s colleges, that “liberty” means the freedom to have an all-powerful government take care of you:

Young leftists like Myerson and myself share a moral outlook that fundamentally differs from conservatives like Goldberg: Freedom, in the most prosperous nation on Earth, must entail the freedom to act without the constant specter of homelessness, hunger and preventable illness. But this is nothing new, and the very founders Goldberg implies would have defended the present status quo are cases in point. The revolutionary generation (many of whom, by the way, were theatrically radical young people) was made up of men of means. They were all comfortable; many were wealthy. They had time to recycle the old ideas of Locke and Montesquieu and to dream of a nation outside the shackles of English monarchy.

It’s hard to imagine squeezing in the Continental Congress in a world where Thomas Jefferson had to run across town to his minimum-wage night job.

If liberalism believes that freedom consists of freedom from want, then we want only to extend the means for such achievement beyond the wealthy, white and landed few. Not everyone needs their own Monticello, but an apartment and some groceries might suffice.

Rensin has the youthful college grad’s passion for supposedly erudite references and sweeping pronouncements, not to mention a good acquaintance with the Spark Notes version of Marx’s turgid, lugubrious, boring Communist Manifesto. What Rensin lacks, however, is actual knowledge. If he had knowledge, he would know that freedom from want (which is what he desires) happens best when a society lets individuals decide how to create and spend wealth, rather than in societies in which the state, promising freedom from want, makes decisions for individuals about how to create and spend wealth.

It’s absolutely true that every country predicated on individual liberty and economic freedom has failed to eradicate poverty and has made terrible moral mistakes. What’s also true, though, is that these same countries have raised the standard of living for every individual within the country, from the poorest on up; has contributed wealth around the world; and has repented and remedied its moral mistakes.  (A useful primer on this is Niall Ferguson’s Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World by Ferguson.)

The contrary is true for countries of the kind Rensin envisions, with a beneficent government caring for every individual. Without exception, the promises of a managed economy have failed.  Invariably, and quickly, many more, rather than fewer, people end up mired in abysmal poverty, grinding despair, not to mention existential fear of ones own all-powerful government.  The standard of living for everyone in these countries has gone down. There isn’t one communist country that doesn’t support Winston Churchill’s justly famous observation that “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.  Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery” (emphasis mine).

Worse, in every one of these socialist countries, as the promises failed and the people took notice of those failures, the governments did something that no magnate or corporation could ever do and on a scale so vast even now it’s hard to comprehend: they silenced, tortured, imprisoned, and executed people who failed to be adequately grateful for the state’s vision of “liberty.”  This is true whether one speaks of Soviet Gulags, Nazi and North Korean concentration camps, Chinese reeducation camps, or Cuban prisons.  In each case, people were sent there, not for committing crimes against their fellow citizens (assault, murder, robbery), but for being offensive to the state, sometimes by what they said, sometimes by what they did, and sometimes just by existing.

I can already hear Rensin saying that my statements only apply to the Soviet Union, Communist China, Cuba, Nazi Germany, East Germany, North Korea, and other “communist” countries, but are untrue when it comes to socialized Europe. Again, he would be wrong. Because Europe went for soft socialism, not hard, and because America supported it economically for decades during the Cold War, it’s decline has been the slow-mo version of hardcore socialist states.

When the Cold War collapsed, and America’s dollars dried up, Europe’s economy slowly disappeared. Living standards across Europe are falling, not rising. Moreover, the petty tyranny of the EU is ramping up. Free speech is increasingly verboten in England, the home of free speech; France is reliving the Dreyfus affair with virulent antisemitism rising to the fore; Greece is in social and economic free fall; Spain is broke; and on and on. Norway still does socialism successfully, but that’s primarily because it’s floating on a sea of the Beverly Hillbillies’ famous “black gold.” It’s easy to be socialist when you have an unending stream of one of the world’s most valuable commodities.  And of course, Norway is back away from socialism as fast as it can.

This post started with Jonah Goldberg, and it’s going to end with him too. His opinion piece today at the National Review notes that, while Allan Bloom once wrote about the “closing of the American mind,” that’s no longer true.  The American mind has stopped closing; instead, it’s closed, very tightly.  On college campuses throughout America — the ones that are training the Emmett Rensin’s who are let loose in newspapers and magazines — the door has shut firmly and definitively on wisdom, general knowledge, historical understanding, and analytical thinking.  We are in an intellectual dark age as stultifying and dangerous as the one that swept through Europe with Rome’s collapse and that only slowly lifted in the eight centuries thereafter.

Monday afternoon mish mash

“Monday morning mish mash” would have been more alliterative, but we do what we can.

How corrupt is Lois Lerner and the swamp-like federal system from which she emerged?  This corrupt.

How crazy has the gender obsession at America’s institutions of higher education gotten?  This crazy.

How horrible was the misbegotten Obamacare launch?  This horrible.

Could it be that some Europeans are realizing that socialism is a societal dead-end?  Why, yes it is possible that they are.

Is it possible for you — not “you” collectively, but “you,” the individual reading these words — to change our political culture?  Yes, but it requires some organization and work.

And finally, not a question, but a promise:  If you go into your marriage knowing that marriage isn’t for you, you will be happy.

If there are any questions you’d like to ask, or answers you’d like to give, here’s your Open Thread.

Socialism always values propagandists over providers

I have a couple of high school friends on Facebook who grew up to become teachers.  They are relentless about posting daily materials highlighting the American teacher’s martyrdom.  If you relied on these posters alone, you’d think that being a teacher is the hardest job, with the lowest salary, in the world.

I am not unsympathetic to teachers.  My father was a teacher and, back in the day, he really did earn a low salary.  In 1987, after teaching in his school district for 25 years, my dad’s top salary was $23,000.  (Add just another thousand, and you can get Dan Savage to come and speak for an hour at your university.) I graduated from law school the same year, and with absolutely nothing to contribute to a big law firm, walked into a $55,000 salary.

Daddy worked extremely long days — but those hours weren’t because of  his teaching job, but because of the low salary.  His teaching day was from 8-3.  Grading homework added another couple of hours, for a regular eight-hour day.  The real hours came with the four extra hours of private tutoring he did every day to augment his meager salary.  Also, since he worked only eight months a year, he spent every summer hunting desperately for a mixture of summer school and private tutoring jobs, so that he could pay the mortgage and buy food for us.  In those days, California teachers earned a living wage provided one had no aspirations to be middle class.

Nowadays, teachers earn living wages appropriate to the middle class, and work eight hours a day, five days a week, eight months out of the year.  I don’t begrudge them that.  Theirs is a necessary, important, and beneficial job and, depending on the school, not always an easy one.  Those tasked with spending the majority of their time with our children should get paid a living wage.  But the martyrdom shtick is unseemly.

At National Review, Jason Richwine points out that this martyrdom shtick benefits them in intangible ways, and is the flip side of the disdain with which doctors are increasingly treated in our society.  This got me thinking about the fact that, in every society that socialized its medicine, doctor’s status instantly degraded.  This is true whether you’re looking at the Soviet Union, Cuba, England, Canada, France, or anywhere else.  This is true even though doctors have the longest education and apprenticeship of any job in America and, once they’re working, they truly hold our lives in their hands.  Likewise, in every socialized society, teachers’ status improves.  This is true despite the fact that their training places a moderate demand on their time and they don’t hold our lives in their hands.

Thinking about it, of course, this socialist inversion makes perfect sense.  Teachers produce the next generation of socialists; doctors cost money by saving the lives of old socialists who no longer contribute to the commune.  The relative values assigned these jobs in a socialist society has nothing to do with their contributions to the individual and everything to do with their contributions to the state.

DailyKos proudly boasts about an elderly Republican getting a good deal in the heavily subsidized Obamacare exchange

The Daily Kos is incredibly excited because a 61-year-old Republican got a good deal on Obamacare:

The coup de grace however is the stories that are now coming out of Republicans going onto the exchanges and realizing that they had been lied to. This was the case with Republican Butch Matthews, a 61-year-old former small business owner from Little Rock, Arkansas. ThinkProgress reports that,

Butch Matthews is a 61-year-old former small business owner from Little Rock, Arkansas who used to wake up every morning at 4 A.M. to deliver canned beverages to retailers before retiring in 2010. A lifelong Republican, he was heavily skeptical of the Affordable Care Act when it first passed. “I did not think that Obamacare was going to be a good plan, I did not think that it was going to help me at all,” he told ThinkProgress over the phone.

But after doing a little research, Matthews eventually realized how much the law could help him. And on Tuesday, his local Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) provider confirmed that he would be able to buy a far better plan than his current policy while saving at least $13,000 per year through Arkansas’ Obamacare marketplace.  [Source]

Turns out pre-Obamacare, Matthews was paying $1069.per month with a $10,000 deductible. Matthews’ doctor visits went from a co-pay of $150 to $8. Matthews has a simple message to all Americans. He says,

I would tell them to learn more about it before they start talking bad about it,” he noted. “Be more informed, get more information, take your time and study and not just go by just what you hear on one side or the other. Actually check the facts on it. [Source]

In the face of that (willfully?) naive triumphalism, it seems almost indelicate to point out that socialism (i.e., redistribution of wealth) always works in the beginning, when there’s still some wealth to redistribute.  At a certain point, though, to paraphrase Maggie Thatcher, you run out of other people’s money.

You did notice, I hope, that Butch is 61 and retired.  That means that he’s one of the subsidized ones under Obamacare, so he’s necessarily going to get a good deal.  At least, it’s a good deal for now.  James Taranto offers a neat distillation of the fundamental structural problem plaguing Obamacare, one that entices the Butch’s of the world into the program but that guarantees to leave them high and dry in a few years (or months?):

ObamaCare relies on price controls that jack up premiums on the young and healthy in order to keep them low on the old and sickly. If the latter but not the former are signing up in huge numbers–that is, if people are responding rationally to incentives–then the scheme is unsustainable.

Here’s a perfect example of the person paying for Butch’s cheap insurance.

Socialism can temporarily stave off market realities but the problem with pushing cans down the road is that, when you get to the end of the road, those cans have piled up into an impenetrable mass of rusted, sharp, twisted, destructive metal.  (And just to make the metaphor even more juicy, they’re probably populated by botulism too.)  Problems deferred are still problems.  Butch is happy now, and rightfully so.  Will anybody be happy next year?  Doubtful, very doubtful.

Bergen, Norway

We visited Bergen today, which is very, very far north. So far north that, during December, the residents can get as little as 9 hours of daylight the whole month, if the ship’s expert is to be believed. During July, though, Bergen gets 160 (or maybe 180) hours of daylight. It’s 9:00 at night now, and back home we’d look at the same sky and guess that it’s about 5:30.

Bergen was founded in 1070 by one of the first Kings named Olaf. There where a lot of Olafs, and I don’t remember which one founded Bergen. For a long time, Bergen was Norway’s capital city. Since Oslo took over, though, Bergen has dropped to second place, with a population of about 240,000.

The visual highlight of Bergen is the wharf area, which has a small castle and the famous row of 18th century houses, some of which sag delightfully, like colorful drunks next to their more sober sisters. From travel brochures and shows, one has the sense that all of Bergen has that charming, somewhat loopy antiquity, but that’s definitely a false impression. Outside of the historic area, Bergen is a thriving, modern city. The white Norwegian houses, with their black tile roofs, seem to climb every one of the seven hills that make up this charming city at the far end of a fjord.

After admiring the wharf, we took a funicular up to a spectacular view area that allowed is to see the entire city spread out before us. We then hiked even further up, to some of the most beautiful little glades I’ve ever seen. Bergen gets around 240 days of rain and snow annually, so the woods are lush, and mossy, and dotted with small lakes on which float delicate lily pads. I kept feeling as if I’d wandered into one of those 19th century pastoral landscapes we saw at the museum in Oslo. Only the cows were missing.

Marin is semi-arid, so a hike up Mount Tam or Ring Mountain tends to be a yellow and dusty experience. If there’s been rain, the dust turns to mud, and the yellow scrub takes on a greenish cast, but lush is not the word I would use to describe it. Lake Tahoe, like Bergen, is carved out of wonderful, solid, glittering gray and pale gold granite, but it too is arid. Unlike Tahoe, the granite in Bergen was softened by feathery trees, moss in all shades of green, soft, waving grasses, and meadow flowers.

It’s a good thing nature was so satisfying, because everything else was too expensive to enjoy. Norway is one of the most expensive, and profitable, countries in the world. This doesn’t come about because of exceptionally good management or unusually hard work. Instead, Norway floats on a sea of oil (or, as they said in the “Beverly Hillbillies,” “black gold, Texas tea”). I think a guide told us that Norway is the third largest oil exporting country in the world.

The Norwegians don’t use the oil themselves (for the most part). Instead, they ship it out to great profit, and then turn around and piously use renewable energy within their own borders.

Okay, that was a bit snarky of me.

Where the Norwegians get great credit is that they’re like the Alaskans in that they think the oil wealth is a bounty owned by all, rather than just by the oil companies. Unlike Alaska, though, which sends checks to each Alaska citizen, the Norwegians are so homogenous in their belief systems that they willingly plow it into socially agreed-upon infrastructure and social services.

Norway’s socialism thus works to the benefit of all, not because socialism itself works, but because the Norwegians can bankroll socialism with black gold, and impose it upon people who all think alike. What this means is that, while many can admire the Norwegian model, few can emulate it.

Both systems — Alaskan and Norwegian — are good on their own terms, and especially good when compared to the Russian and Middle Eastern models, which see corrupt oligarchies and poor masses.

And that’s pretty much all I have to say about Bergen. More tomorrow.

The wages of socialism — mass murder

Ukrainian peasants starve to death in the streets, 1933

Last year, my friend Bruce Kesler, who blogs at a wonderful conservative group blog called Maggie’s Farm, directed me to a book called Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. What makes this book different from other books about that era is that it doesn’t just examine the murderous years of WWII.  Instead, it also examines the carnage Hitler and Stalin wrought during the 1930s, in the lead-up to WWII.  It is an absolutely devastating book, describing the unimaginable scale of death that two socialist leaders — Stalin and Hitler — visited on the region between their two countries.

Although Hitler industrialized the killing machine, it was Stalin who created the model when he decided to destroy the Ukrainian kulaks (independent small farmers) who were standing in the way of his vision of a collectivized agrarian nation.  To achieve his goal, he brutally starved these farmers to death — 20 to 30 million of them.  Reading author Timothy Snyder’s description of their suffering is horrible — but it’s something that we need to read in order that we never forget how fundamentally evil socialism is.  The ones who really should read this book, of course, are American socialists, but sadly, they’re unlikely to do so.

If you can get a socialist to read Bloodlands, but he has still failed to learn his lesson about what happens when government — which lacks a conscience — decides that its job isn’t to enable individual freedom but is, instead, to control all people without regard to individualism, have him read Yang Jisheng’s book, Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962. Hard as it is to believe, Stalin and Hitler were just the warm-ups for Mao, the Chinese leader who, inspired by Stalin, may well hold the record for being the biggest mass murderer in human history.

Arthur Waldron, writing at The New Criterion reviews Jisheng’s book and his review shows that this is a must-read book for anyone who wants to understand why Leftists are fools when they’re frightened of corporations and, instead, want desperately to place control over every aspect of their lives in government hands.  It is impossible for a corporation to wreak the kind of havoc that socialist governments have visited upon their people.  The estimates for Mao’s killing fields during his “man-created disaster” range from 36 to 70 million.  (The higher number includes the babies that never got born to a starving population.)  As happened with Stalin’s socialist-created famine, people in dire straits did unspeakable things to survive, including cannibalism.  As Snyder said in his book (and I paraphrase), “an orphan was a child whose parents died before they ate him.”

When word of the Chinese famine got out, Mao blamed unspecified natural causes, and a credulous, Left-leaning, Walter Duranty-esque media dutifully passed this on.  It was a lie, of course.  There was nothing unusual about Chinese weather patterns from 1958-1962.  Moreover, even as the people died in the millions, food filled warehouses and party officials dined in style.

Jisheng knows firsthand about the famine:  alerted that something was wrong in his native rural area, he left the city with a rice ration, but arrived too late to save his father who, though alive, had become too starved to do anything but die.  When this happened, Jisheng accepted the party line and didn’t question the thousands of deaths in his area of rural China.  It was only during the mid-1960s Cultural Revolution, which saw many millions more die, that Jisheng began to realize that the problem wasn’t nature or farmers or people who needed re-education — it was Mao’s socialist policies, all of which officials throughout China unquestioningly accepted, either because they were true believers, because they were mindless party drones, or because they were afraid.

Although Jisheng’s book isn’t the first to tell about the famine, Waldron thinks it’s the best:

Tombstone, however, is without a doubt the definitive account—for now and probably for a long time. The Chinese original is two volumes and banned in that country. In Hong Kong it has sold out eight printings. The English version has been most skillfully shortened, edited, and rearranged by a team of Western and Chinese scholars, with an eye to making what is very much a massive compilation of statistics and reportage into a volume more accessible to the English-speaking reader.

This is a book whose importance must be compared with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago (1973) in that it documents beyond the possibility of refutation ghastly horrors that were first rumored, then denied, then written about a bit, but only with Solzhenitsyn and Yang were so thoroughly documented and analyzed as to place them beyond question.

You should read Waldron’s review and then, if you have the heart and stomach for it, read Jisheng’s book.

When socialism fails, as it invariably does, the American Left equally invariably claims that the failure isn’t because the plan was fundamentally flawed.  To socialists, the problem is always implementation and the culprit is always the Republicans who made it impossible for the Democrats fully to implement their plans.  Books such as Bloodlands and Tombstone remind us precisely what happens when the Left has unfettered access to a helpless population.  Every person in America should be thanking God for Republican foot-dragging, and should hope that they drag their feet ever harder and faster.

The Left uses sex to break up American families

I had an interesting conversation with my mother, who may be 90, but is still sharper than most people you’ll meet.  We got to talking about the Gosnell abortion/murder trial, which came as something of a surprise to her.  Despite the fact that she watches the news and reads the newspaper, she hadn’t heard a thing about it.  That wasn’t a surprise to me.

From there, the conversation wandered to the moral merits of abortion.  My Mom came of age in a time and place when abortion was neither approved of nor frowned upon.  It just existed.  In the turmoil after the war, when people were starving in cities decimated by fighting, having a baby seemed like an impossibility — and it could be a death sentence for both mother and child.  Nobody approved of abortion in war-torn streets, but they didn’t stop it either.

For that reason, it’s always been hard for my mother to understand the fervor Americans feel about abortion.  To her, it just . . . is.  (That’s probably the case for a lot of people who aren’t committed to one side or another of the abortion debate, which is why the media couldn’t risk the Gosnell trial coming into the open, in case it swayed indecisive people into the pro-Life column.)

While Mom couldn’t quite get the morality of abortion, I was able to get her to understand that the modern American state uses abortion to separate children from their families.  We’ve talked before here about the fact that, in California, youngsters under 16 or 18 can’t play paintball, get their ears pierced, or get a fake tan without a parents’ permission.  They can, however, get birth control, get abortions, and get treated for sexually transmitted diseases, all without a parents’ knowledge.  Putting aside the invitation to the worst kinds of child sex abuse, what’s happening here is that the state promises children the keys to the kingdom of pleasure.

Food and shelter are necessities.  Good food and good shelter are pleasures.  But sex . . . there’s the ultimate endorphin rush.  Mom and Dad, being mean, spiteful people, won’t let you have it, and they’ll give you Hell if there are consequences because you ignored their strictures.  The state, though, it puts no obstacles in your path.  Indeed, it helps you along with condoms, birth control pills, patches, and morning after pills.  If you get pregnant, you get the Morning After pill or an abortion, and if you get an STD, it gives you antibiotics — all without the knowledge or consent of the people who, in 90% of all cases care about you most in the world.

The Left claims that this legislated immorality is to protect young girls from abusive parents who will leave them homeless or beat them if they come home pregnant.  (Again, let’s ignore the fact that everything the Left does actually encourages the sexual abuse of children.)  Using an argument that focuses on an extreme minority, the Left has put us in a position that sees all girls and boys in America get to have free sex courtesy of the State.  The state has driven a wedge into the family unit, using the most potent endorphin driver available to motivate and reorient young people.

When I put it that way (as opposed to debating abortion’s morality), my mother suddenly sat up very straight, looked me straight in the eye, and said “But that’s socialism!”  I practically jumped up and down applauding that she had realized what was going on. It turned out there was a reason for her insight.

I’ve mentioned before that my Dad came from a Communist milieu and, while he eventually voted for Reagan, his sister remained a devoted Communist until the day she died.  Although she escaped Nazi Germany and eventually ended up in Palestine (and, after the War of Independence, in Israel), she decided that this young socialist state wasn’t properly committed to true Marxist socialism.  She therefore returned to East Germany, where she lived out the remainder of her life.

She was still living in Israel, though, when my Mom and Dad got married.  One day, when my Communist aunt was present, the subject of children came up.  Mom said that she wanted to wait until she had a nice home of her own and some security before she had children, so that she could have the joy and comfort of really raising her own family.  My aunt was shocked.  “No.  That’s wrong.  The children belong to the State.  You do not have the right to withhold them from the state, which should raise them.”

With this conversation living in her memory, my mother immediately understood the ramifications of a government severing the ties between parents and children.  In some places, such as Mao’s China, it uses coercion.  In America, it uses sex.  No matter the method, the goal is socialist.

Keeping in mind the above, it’s understandable why people who fear socialism (as I do) greeted with howls of outrage the MSNBC contributor who said quite clearly, “All your children are belong to us.”  Melissa Harris-Perry framed it cutely as it takes a village to raise a child, but that soft overlay covers pure, brute-force socialism.  Villages are voluntary communities that share values.  Homes are the ultimate refuge of the individual.  Socialism holds that individuals have no value, except to the extent that they provide bodies to power the socialist state:

RIP to the late, very, very great Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher dismissing personal attacks

I was living in England in 1981 and 1982, so I was there for the coal miner riots and the Falkland War.  Since I was at a Northern University, the official posture of every student there was that Maggie Thatcher was evil.  I kind of admired her then, and I greatly admired her later.  This is the obituary I wrote for her at Mr. Conservative:

The indomitable Margaret Thatcher is dead at age 87, after having suffered a stroke. Thatcher was England’s Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990. She got elected after promising England that she would end the socialist hold over the British economy and, despite fierce opposition, that is precisely what she did.

Thatcher was absolutely sure of her convictions – she knew that Communism was evil; and that British socialism, a soft form of Communism, was simply a slow-moving evil sapping away the will and moral fiber that had once characterized the British people.

As is always the case when people who have been dependent on government benefits suddenly have those benefits pulled out from them, violence ensued. Thatcher was unmoved, and delighted in the fact that the British adopted the Soviet nickname for her: “The Iron Lady.’ She knew she was right, and she was not going to back down. She relished battle.

Thatcher on socialism

When, in 1982, Argentina attempted to take over the Falkland Islands, a small British governed island chain off its coast, Thatcher unflinchingly sent battleships off to war to take those islands back. The British, even those who hated her economic policies, cheered her on and celebrated what turned out to be a swift victory

Thatcher was the daughter of a conservative grocer and his wife. They raised her to believe in herself and in the fact that others had the right and the ability to be equally self-confident and self-sufficient. In the Thatcher family, dependency on government wasn’t just an embarrassment; it was a destructive force that had to be fought at every turn. This belief guided Thatcher’s entire career. Thankfully, her education at Oxford was in science and then law, so she was not indoctrinated in the leftism that was already then infecting Western liberal arts education.

Thatcher also had a wonderful gift for pithy sayings that readily encompassed serious conservative political thought. Small wonder that she and Ronald Reagan, whose presidency overlapped with much of her time as Prime Minister, delighted in each other so much:

Individualism has come in for an enormous amount of criticism over the years. It still does. It is widely assumed to be synonymous with selfishness…But the main reason why so many people in power have always disliked individualism is because it is individualists who are ever keenest to prevent the abuse of authority.

To be free is better than to be unfree – always. Any politician who suggests the opposite should be treated as suspect.

Because she understood socialism so well, she had the gift of prescience, predicting the socialist future with remarkable accuracy:

The European single currency is bound to fail, economically, politically and indeed socially, though the timing, occasion and full consequences are all necessarily still unclear.

I do believe that political arrangements which are based upon violence, intimidation and theft will eventually break down – and will deserve to do so.

Margaret Thatcher was a great lady, with the highest degrees of moral courage and political conviction. For a short, but golden time, she was able to stop Britain’s miserable slide into socialism. Although her control over Britain ended in 1990, it is her death that truly reminds us how rare her courage was, how difficult her conservative gains were, and how easily they were lost. All that’s left of Britain now seems to be embodied in an ugly, mean-spirited Leftist carpetbagger who seeks to destroy America as he and his kind have succeeded in destroying Thatcher’s Britain.

Found it on Facebook — Socialism versus Capitalism

In an earlier post, I ranted about the nasty vapidity that characterizes the “posters” my liberal friends put up on Facebook whenever an election draws near.  I also mentioned that my conservative friends consistently post more substantive articles and images.  This one, from my brother-in-law, manages to be both pithy and substantive.  It packs a world of ideas into a picture and two sentences:

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything before that so clearly distinguishes the fundamental differences in the premises from which socialists and capitalists operate when they make their political arguments.  This poster provides a perfect visual to Winston Churchill’s own epigrammatic statement that “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

Let not your heart be troubled — nations can be saved

I thought about Margaret Thatcher today.  Lord knows, she was something.  Brilliant, indomitable, focused, feisty, witty, and absolutely convinced of her right-ness and righteousness.  She was the un-RINO.  Her unswerving commitment to her principles enabled her to turn England around.  We forget that sometimes, because the Labor party managed to take her legacy and destroy it by turning England into an Orwellian state.

For a few brief shining years, though, she fought back against a socialist norm that had turned England into a decayed, drab society.  She privatized businesses, fought victorious wars, and generally reminded the English of their greatness.  I was there during that transition period.  The unions fought back ferociously but Maggie, unlike today’s loosey-goosey Republicans, would not back down.  She wasn’t driven by polls or scared by a Leftist media.  She understood economics and human nature.  The last half of the 1980s and much of the 1990s saw an English economic renaissance.  Had the British people been smart, they could have kept it going; instead, they opted for a renewal of socialism, the EU, unlimited immigration, and the strong velvet chains of a nanny state.

I mention this because I refuse to accept that Obama can “destroy” America.  He can — and will — damage it.  If we can get a handful of Maggie Thatchers, though, or even one Maggie Thatcher, someone who is both a visionary and a fighter, America can be turned around.  And if we’re smart, once that turnaround happens, we’ll stick with it.

Incidentally, although this sounds awful, I think we need to go over the fiscal cliff in January.  Three reasons:  First, this is what Americans voted for and, in a republican democracy, they should get it; Second, the longer we delay, the worse the inevitable fall will be; and Third, this disaster needs to happy during the long haul of a Democrat presidency (and Senate) so that Americans can grasp cause-and-effect.  Only when the socialist economic infection erupts in its full fury will Americans begin to accept that their nation is sick.  When that happens, God willing, we’ll have a Thatcher-esque politician cogently explaining to Americans that the cure lies in reaffirming constitutional and free market principles.

Sometimes you need to see the infection to know you're sick

Sometimes you need to see the infection to know you're sick

 

The West’s perpetual adolescence — affluence and socialism create a nation of Peter Pans who refuse to grow up

One of the things I find most distasteful about ObamaCare is its requirement that employers must provide insurance coverage for their employees’ children through their 26th year.  I don’t find this just economically wrong, I find it cosmically, morally wrong that our federal government has officially extended childhood until citizens are 26.  I cannot think of a single reason why our national policy should be to delay normal human mental and emotional maturation.  Progressives seem to have added to the Constitution, right after “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” a coda saying that being Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, is a legitimate career goal.

I mentioned yesterday that, over the Thanksgiving weekend, I listened (and am listening to) both Joseph Ellis’s American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic and David McCulloch’s 1776. One of the things that comes through so clearly in these books is that the Founding Fathers were adults, not children, and they were adults because, from a very young age, all of them had taken on adult responsibilities, whether as soldiers, surveyors, blacksmiths, booksellers, lawyers, farmers, printers, or whatever other careers the Founders pursued.  Even gentlemen farmers such as Jefferson still had myriad responsibilities for their estates and the people dependent on those estates.

That all of them took on responsibility so early was not unusual; it was the norm.  What would have struck all of them as peculiar was a world view holding that, during your peak years of childbearing, physical strength, and mental adaptability, you should lounge around the house pursuing your bliss and living off of your parents.  Necessity required the Founders to work and grow.  A combination of affluence and socialism ensures that our children can remain adolescent well into their late 20s.

Nowadays, the majority of American children stay in school until age 18.  In Colonial times, but for a few college-bound gentlemen, by 18 most would have been employed for years.  The women would already have had children and that would have been true whether they were ladies of leisure, or working women responsible for a family farm, a washing business, housework, etc.

For too many Americans, though, adulthood doesn’t even begin at 18.  The middle and upper classes send their children to college.  For $20,000 to $50,000 per year (payable by their parents or the government, either through direct grants or guaranteed loans), they attend a few classes, take some tests, meet new people, party a lot, travel (always at someone else’s expense) and generally delay taking on any real responsibility.  Many of them study subjects that will have no measurable benefit on their lives, either in terms of future income or acquired knowledge.  Only once these youngsters graduate, at 21 or 22, do some of them finally start working for real.  Some of them get married and have children.  Too many, however, continue to be adolescents:  they get low-level jobs (although it’s not always their fault in the Obama economy) and they still look to Mom and Dad for financial support and insurance.  Partying remains important.

The degree jockeys further extend their adolescence with further education.  Some actually study things that will prove remunerative (law, medicine, architecture, business, etc.), but many opt for purely academic disciplines, getting advanced degrees in History, Medieval French, Puppetry, Womyn’s Studies, etc.  They do so despite knowing that there is almost no chance that they’ll get a job in their field.  I would never make such a foolish decision with my time and money.  When I finished my undergraduate education, despite my abiding love for history, I knew I would never get a job in my field.  The grad students in the history department told me that, in my graduation year, there were only four PhD level job openings for history majors in the entire United States.  I went to law school instead.

People need to grow up.  They are just as stunted without mental maturation as they would be if a disease or dietary deficiency kept their bodies from growing properly.  I realized the truth of this when I had children.  Although I’d worked as a lawyer for many years, and had my own business, until I had children and truly had others entirely dependent upon me, I was still a kid.  Nothing I did really mattered.  When you have children, everything matters.  Your choices are suddenly monumental, since they affect not only you but a helpless human being, who needs you desperately and looks up to you with love and respect.  I definitely miss the irresponsibility of my youth, but I wouldn’t go back.  I was biologically destined to mature, and it feels right.

What triggered this post about the terrible effect of ObamaCare’s perpetual adolescence factor is an email that has been making the rounds in Britain.  Nick Crews, a British Navy retiree, apparently had a bad Christmas with his three adult children last year.  By February of this year, he couldn’t keep it bottled up any more, so he sent them an email saying that they needed to stop whining and flailing about, and needed to begin taking responsibility for their lives.  Crews is absolutely right, although I believe that, because his children were raised in a socialist nation that turns the state into a perpetual parent who feeds, clothes, and otherwise provides for the citizen-children, he’s fighting a rearguard action:

Dear All Three

With last evening’s crop of whinges and tidings of more rotten news for which you seem to treat your mother like a cess-pit, I feel it is time to come off my perch.

It is obvious that none of you has the faintest notion of the bitter disappointment each of you has in your own way dished out to us. We are seeing the miserable death throes of the fourth of your collective marriages at the same time we see the advent of a fifth.

We are constantly regaled with chapter and verse of the happy, successful lives of the families of our friends and relatives and being asked of news of our own children and grandchildren. I wonder if you realise how we feel — we have nothing to say which reflects any credit on you or us. We don’t ask for your sympathy or understanding — Mum and I have been used to taking our own misfortunes on the chin, and making our own effort to bash our little paths through life without being a burden to others. Having done our best — probably misguidedly — to provide for our children, we naturally hoped to see them in turn take up their own banners and provide happy and stable homes for their own children.

Fulfilling careers based on your educations would have helped — but as yet none of you is what I would confidently term properly self-supporting. Which of you, with or without a spouse, can support your families, finance your home and provide a pension for your old age? Each of you is well able to earn a comfortable living and provide for your children, yet each of you has contrived to avoid even moderate achievement. Far from your children being able to rely on your provision, they are faced with needing to survive their introduction to life with you as parents.

So we witness the introduction to this life of six beautiful children — soon to be seven — none of whose parents have had the maturity and sound judgment to make a reasonable fist at making essential threshold decisions. None of these decisions were made with any pretence to ask for our advice.

In each case we have been expected to acquiesce with mostly hasty, but always in our view, badly judged decisions. None of you has done yourself, or given to us, the basic courtesy to ask us what we think while there was still time finally to think things through. The predictable result has been a decade of deep unhappiness over the fates of our grandchildren. If it wasn’t for them, Mum and I would not be too concerned, as each of you consciously, and with eyes wide open, crashes from one cock-up to the next. It makes us weak that so many of these events are copulation-driven, and then helplessly to see these lovely little people being so woefully let down by you, their parents.

I can now tell you that I for one, and I sense Mum feels the same, have had enough of being forced to live through the never-ending bad dream of our children’s underachievement and domestic ineptitudes. I want to hear no more from any of you until, if you feel inclined, you have a success or an achievement or a REALISTIC plan for the support and happiness of your children to tell me about. I don’t want to see your mother burdened any more with your miserable woes — it’s not as if any of the advice she strives to give you has ever been listened to with good grace — far less acted upon. So I ask you to spare her further unhappiness. If you think I have been unfair in what I have said, by all means try to persuade me to change my mind. But you won’t do it by simply whingeing and saying you don’t like it. You’ll have to come up with meaty reasons to demolish my points and build a case for yourself. If that isn’t possible, or you simply can’t be bothered, then I rest my case.

I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed.

Dad

Despite the letter’s harsh tone, at least one of his children said it was something she needed to hear.

In Obama’s America, a lot of parents will soon feel like writing to their children the same letter Crews wrote to his.