Monday, April 27, 2015

The Gaystapo and the difference between Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler

During an undergraduate Political Science class a few decades ago one of my professors discussed the difference between Stalin and Hitler. While both were indeed power hungry and responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people, they were distinctly different in motivation.

Stalin, he suggested, was completely focused on power. He didn’t care how he got it or who he had to work with or betray in order to get it or keep it. If you were in his way, he would crush you and not think twice about it. If however you got out of his way and ceased to be a threat, he likely would not care.

Hitler, my professor opined, was another animal all together. While he too was focused on power, power was not his animating influence. The superiority of the Aryan race was. Like Stalin, he would work with those he didn’t respect, and he too would crush anyone who was in his way both enemies and erstwhile friends. But with Hitler there was something more. He wanted to eliminate or exterminate the “Untermensch” or those deemed subhuman. This group included Jews, gypsies and slavs among others. Some could be “Germanized” such as the slavs, while others, like the Jews, had to be exterminated. And in the case of the Jews, had Hitler been given the chance it’s likely he would have sought to exterminate them from every corner of the earth.

And that, according to my professor, was the difference between the two. Stalin wanted power for power’s sake, and so long as someone wasn’t a threat to him, he largely didn’t care. Hitler on the other hand wanted power because he felt it rightfully belonged to him and his race and because those he considered defective sullied the human race, and had to be eliminated, wherever they were. He was a fanatic to the cause.

All of this came back to me when I read a piece on titled “Gaystapo Takes No Prisoners: GoFundMe Torpedoes Sweet Cakes” about the torpedoing of a GoFundMe account set up to support an Oregon couple persecuted by the state for not baking cakes for a gay wedding. Gaystapo is a term I’d never heard, but it immediately seemed to fit. Like Hitler’s Gestapo, the secret police who were above the law and responsible for eliminating threats to the Reich, the Gaystapo seems to believe their role is to eliminate what they consider threats to the gay agenda, wherever they may be.

Just as my professor suggested that Hitler would have sent his troops to the far corners of the earth to eliminate the Untermensch Jews, apparently the Gaystapo seek to eliminate the religious freedoms of any who disagree with them. Whether it’s bakers or photographers or pizza makers or chapels, those whose religious convictions compel them to decline to participate in gay marriage activities must be driven from the public square – even if the issue is purely hypothetical. They should be sued or harassed or prosecuted into oblivion, First Amendment be damned.

And we’re not even talking about people who refuse to serve gay customers, which most of the offending proprietors happily do, but rather, we are talking about people who simply decline to participate in gay marriage activities. Indeed, in some of these cases the targeted establishments had served the aggrieved customers for years and when declining to service the wedding even suggested other businesses that would be willing to participate. Nor is any actual damage required for someone to use government to score a windfall. The tyranny of the Gaystapo is not so different than that of the ADA enabled shakedown artists who earn tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars by searching out targets to drag into court, or simply threaten to do so. Those who believe their faith compels them to decline to participate must bend their faith to the gay agenda or fear state sanctioned prosecution.

One has to wonder where the Gaystapo stops. Once they have forced all businesses to comply with their agenda, do they then get to press charges against a formerly resistant photographer if the photos he’s forced to take come back a bit blurry or off color? What about entrepreneurs who lose their businesses, should they be allowed to get a job at another business even if their views don’t change? What about Christians and Muslims and anyone whose religion holds that homosexuality is a sin, will they have to be sent to reeducation camps? When the transition of marriage logically leads to the union of three or four or five people will hoteliers be prosecuted for not featuring ten foot wide beds?

It’s interesting, in a painful sort of way, that in a nation where the Constitution says nothing explicit about civil rights, somehow the civil rights inferred from its words (or in state constitutions) are now being used to trample on religious rights explicitly protected in its most important amendment.  Of course Hitler came to power legally under the German Constitution and then eviscerated it as he rallied an entire nation to his malevolent cause.  Let's hope the Gaystapo is not as effective as his Gestapo.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Pies, Free Markets and the American Experiment

I've often used the phrase “when I’m rich” followed by, "I’m going to do X and Y and Z". Anyone hearing me say that could certainly be forgiven for thinking my primary motivation is to grow my bank account just for the sake of filling it up. In reality however nothing could be farther from the truth. While I do want to grow my bank account, it’s not the money. If it were I could probably figure out an easier way to do it than tilting at windmills seeking to start a successful business. Robbing a bank would be faster, as might stealing someone’s identity or running a Nigerian prince scam. But all of those things would defeat the purpose.

So what is the purpose? I want to be a part of the success that is the American experiment and feel like I've helped make the pie bigger. I constantly make the argument that the United States is the greatest nation in the history of man, by a long shot. The greatest period of improvement in the condition of man in all of human history just happens to coincide with the birth and ascendancy of the United States. And why is that? Simply put, it’s because of the limited government and rule of law dictated by our Constitution and our embrace of free markets. Those conditions have created a nation where free men can use their minds and bodies to create value where previously none existed. Whereas throughout most of human history scarcity was the norm, with men fighting over slices of the pies, American history has been a continuous march of creating ever more pies.

That doesn't mean that our history is perfect or that injustices did not take place, they did, and they sometimes do. But the history of human civilization is largely one where injustices were the norm rather than the exception and where the law was determined by whoever held the largest sword or commanded the largest army rather than by a constitution based on limited government and fundamental rights of the citizens.

That fortuitous, not to be confused with accidental, combination created an environment where things that simply could never have happened anywhere else happened here, or at a minimum, could not have occurred on an American scale. It was never our DNA that made Americans different, rather it was our limited government and our passionate support of free markets.

The result is more widespread prosperity than has ever been achieved in all of human history, and not only in the US, but in much of the rest of the world that has interacted with us. And the key to that advancing prosperity was a nation of citizens foolhardy enough to think that they could succeed by creating from their efforts products or services others were willing to freely exchange their hard earned money for. While industry and the division of labor are not uniquely American concepts, the notion that anyone from any station could not only participate in the marketplace, but could in succeed in it regardless of their background, is.

Thankfully I do not find myself in a society where heredity decides who succeeds and who fails, nor one where my religion or race or gender dictate my outcomes. No, I've had the good fortune to be born in a society where any individual can succeed in growing the pie of prosperity… it’s just a matter of figuring out how to create value for others… how to do something, to make something that others feel like is sufficiently valuable that they willingly pay you for it.

And so it goes that while I do indeed seek to grow my bank account, that is simply a measure of my success, not of how shrewd I can be to trick others out of their fortune or how strong I can be to take from others, but rather, that I have joined the pantheon of entrepreneurs and innovators who have harnessed the promise of the American experiment and created something of value to others… and ideally eventually leave the world a slightly better place than it was when I got here. Of course if I can afford to fly on NetJets rather than coach once or twice along the way I’ll be happy…

Which brings me to the X in my X, Y, Z… Which is supporting conservative candidates and figuring out how to communicate the value of limited government and free markets to a segment of the population to whom the concepts are utterly foreign.

It pains my heart to see the march of progressivism that has taken place over my lifetime. If you look you can always find problems, everywhere. Like zeroing in on a one month decline in a stock that has consistently grown in fits and spurts for decades, even when things are going well it’s easy to find areas of friction and failure. Unlike most of our history however, when the United States almost single-handedly drove the prosperity of the 20th century, it is those places of friction and failure that are now driving our politics and the resulting policies.

For most of human history the solution to the challenge of scarcity was not men creating more pies, but rather taking slices away from others, usually by the sword. The American experiment changed that and created a new, better, more effective solution for battling scarcity and as a result the world is a far more prosperous place. It’s no coincidence that as progressivism has grown over the last half century, American economic advances have similarly slowed.

Hopefully 2016 will be the apex of cancer of progressivism and the country will begin to return to a time when success meant creating value in the marketplace rather than using government coercion to take from those who do. It’ll take more than a small government, free market conservative in the White House to accomplish, but that’s a hell of a good first step.

Monday, April 13, 2015

"Mr. Smith, do you still beat your wife?" and other lies the GOP must contend with in order to win in 2016

The lies of the left drive American politics. For years we heard the “Bush Lied” mantra chanted endlessly. It didn’t matter that the claim was wrong. A lie is a very specific thing… Saying a falsehood when you know it to be wrong. Bush never did that. While in retrospect the question of Saddam’s WMDs is unclear, at the time George Bush, Bill Clinton and the intelligence agencies of most of the world believed he did. There is a difference between being wrong and lying… but the left doesn’t care about truth when a lie better serves their purposes, whether it’s WMDs, the “rape culture”, the “war on women” or blaming Benghazi on a video.

Two illustrative examples can be found in Ferguson, MO and Indiana. One was the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” meme that played itself out everywhere from the House chamber to the NFL and countless places and broadcasts across the country. Of course the basic premise was a complete lie, and an easily known one at that, but that didn’t matter. There was little hard reporting by the mainstream press to illuminate that fact because it supported their political agenda.

Similarly a similar scenario played itself out on the national stage recently when Indiana passed its Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Across the mainstream media and the left (sorry for being redundant) cries of discrimination could be heard. The suggestion was that the RFRA would allow any business to choose not to serve gay customers simply because they were gay. That was a lie. The legislation did nothing of the kind. It simply protected from suit or prosecution those whose believed their religion was against gay marriage and therefore declined to participate in the wedding or its various supporting activities. The difference may be subtle, but it’s distinct. Not that that matters to the left because fealty to the truth are foreign concepts to them.

Why does any of this matter? Because government responds to the voices of the people, eventually. We got the disaster of Obamacare because the left convinced enough people that the failures of the healthcare marketplace were due to insufficient regulation, despite the fact that the opposite was true. We got Dodd-Frank because the left convinced enough people that the financial collapse of 2007 / 2008 was due to a lack of regulation when in reality the opposite was true. Even now Barack Obama is ramping up his push of the fictional “global warming” agenda because he buys into the hoax that’s been foisted on the nation over the last two decades despite overwhelming evidence that no such warming exists.

In modern day America reality is no longer the driving force for policy, instead it’s whatever the left says it is, factual or otherwise. Even when it comes to the GOP, they play according to the rules established by the left rather than dealing the reality most Americans actually live with. And that’s a problem… for the GOP and the country. If the GOP agrees to play by the ground rules set by the left, they will have handed victory to Hillary or Pocahontas or whoever emerges from the cesspool of the Democrat party.

2016 promises to be the single most defining election in a century and a half. The choice will be between continuing down our current path that inevitably leads to a fascist state where economics and culture are dictated by whatever the left deems is acceptable, or returning to a path ordered by limited government and individual rights. But that choice only exists if the GOP is willing to stand up and make the argument for freedom.

In both 2008 and 2012 the GOP candidates allowed the left to set the agenda and played a defensive game throughout. Defense may be the winning strategy in the NFL, but it’s not in national politics. It is preordained that the GOP is going to be labeled racist, sexist and homophobic. The left and the media (again… apologies for the redundancy) will no doubt seek to portray the GOP as the party of the rich that cares not for the pain and suffering of the poor. Like the innocent man who spends his time answering “no” to the question “Mr. Smith, do you still beat your wife?” rather than disputing the premise of the question in the first place, if the GOP allows the left to define the parameters of the campaign they’ve lost before the nominee is even selected.

During the run up to the convention and through to the general election, the GOP candidates have to be willing to take the slings and arrows that come with saying that Michael Brown was not the “Gentle Giant” the left has made him out to be and that his death was directly related to his actions, not his skin color. They must be willing to withstand the vitriol directed at them as they articulate the difference between discrimination against gays and the religious freedom that protects Christians from being forced to participate in gay “marriage” activities. They must be willing to endure the accusations of racism that would follow any suggestion that the need for strengthening the southern border is a matter of national security.

Whoever the eventual GOP nominee is, he or she will have the most fertile soil to till since Ronald Reagan in 1980. Eight years of Barack Obama will have set the lines stark, between economic fascism and free markets, between cultural coercion and individual rights, between international retreat and international leadership. The challenge for the GOP will be to articulate conservative positions that offer the greatest prospect for prosperity but rarely fit easily on a bumper sticker like “Coexist” or “Hope”. Not only will they have to figure out how to make the arguments in a way that a majority of Americans can understand and embrace, they’ll have to do so while facing a media that is lined up against them from the start and who is actively carrying water for the other side. The first step to doing so would be learning that the right answer to the question “Mr. Smith, do you still beat your wife?” is not no, but “I reject the basic premise of your question and here’s why…”.