“Our practical choice is not between a tax-cut deficit and budgetary surplus. It is between two kinds of deficits: a chronic deficit of inertia, as the unwanted result of inadequate revenues and a restricted economy; or a temporary deficit of transition, resulting from a tax cut designed to boost the economy, increase tax revenues, and achieve . . . a budget surplus.” John F. Kennedy


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Oct 11 2011

Elizabeth Warren and the War On Our Way of Life

C.M. Phippen

Elizabeth Warren has made waves by recently announcing that the rich aren’t paying their fair share in taxes and that as part of a “social contract,” they owe the rest of society for the wealth they have accumulated. Social contract, the most recent buzzword of the left, apparently means that if you prosper in this land of relative freedom, then you owe a greater part of your wealth to a government that has apparently granted you the opportunity to be productive by providing you with things they have been given the responsibility to provide for all of us – roads, education, freedom from criminal interference, etc. Apparently, the social contract doesn’t require anything of those who choose to bleed society dry by taking its resources and producing nothing.

A number of years ago I was involved in an organization that dealt with foster-care issues for my state. At one point, those of us involved in this organization were asked to share why we chose to become involved. The most common refrain was a desire to “give back.” My response was nothing of the sort. I don’t do good because of what society has done for me; I choose to do good because of who I am and because I care about the suffering of others. Government has no real power to provide anything beyond what the productive in society produce and pay; not the other way around.

Our greatest gift is to live an honest, constructive life by doing our best to improve ourselves and those around us every day and to work hard to provide for ourselves and our families. The greatest destruction we can wreak is to allow a sense of entitlement to lead us to expect that others owe us a portion of their labors, especially a greater portion than we ourselves are willing to give voluntarily.

Bill Gates’ and Steve Jobs’ innovation increased the productivity of every single human being in every part of the world. What honest person can say with a straight face that they owe you some cash along with the myriad blessings that are ours because they chose to develop and utilize the brilliance of their minds? Using their God-given talents in a way that makes our lives easier and enables us to do things that just a decade or two ago were completely unimaginable is an incredible gift. To be given such a blessing and then respond with, “Well, we [may or may not have] paid taxes that paid for those roads and enabled thousands of individuals to get to work so they could make all of our lives easier, but could you throw in a couple bucks too?” just sounds kind of trashy.

Would we be a better society if those innovate, productive individuals had chosen to sit on the couch watching Oprah, collecting a welfare or disability check? I’m certain Jobs could have applied for and received disability during most of the past decade if he’d chosen that road. According to the thinking of Warren, had he made such a choice he wouldn’t owe us anything. Because of the fact that he instead chose to work hard, developing products that are sought after the world over and allowing phenomenal efficiency and personal enjoyment, he owes us a portion of whatever he makes. The very act of producing something everybody wants is apparently worthy of punishment. Hey, in the old Soviet Union nobody made anything anybody wanted but everybody there had a job; maybe this administration does have a jobs plan after all!

May 21 2010

Social Justice and Economic Structure

C.M. Phippen

I need some responses from any of you out there who think that we need, through force of law, to seek greater social or economic justice. I talk with a lot of liberals who see this as a major priority but very few who can verbalize precisely what that means. Some of those I know are fine with a socialist society, others say there’s no relation between socialism and social justice. Some are highly offended by our capitalist society, while others say that we can seek greater social justice within our current system but offer no means of doing so except through the repression of the free market and free choice (which sounds to me like being offended by our capitalist system, just without saying so).

The one consistently unanswered question, though, from all those who say that social justice and socialism have nothing in common is: what is the general outline for the new economic system on which this newly just society would be based?

I come from a background where we all help each other and when someone is in need, we work together to help enable them to provide for themselves unless they’re completely incapable of doing so. I was raised by parents who often provided opportunities for those in need to work and support their families through their own labors, never forced to feel inferior or incapable.

Those seeking “social justice” tend to talk about our responsibility to help others, all the while demanding someone else pay for it, thereby violating their right to their private property and fruits of their own labors. That just doesn’t make any sense to me.

I also have frequently heard the argument of late that communities coming together to provide infrastructure and public safety mechanisms through the taxation of its members is a form of socialisms and thus, no different than income redistribution. Let’s just discredit that argument from the start – government was formed by the people in order to create an avenue for doing those things they weren’t able to do individually such as infrastructure development, public safety, national defense, etc.

Subverting the rights of certain groups in order to reward other groups was never the purpose for which this country was formed and in fact violates the most basic principles of a free society. If the wealthy were seizing the private property of the poor, it would be unjust; why is the reverse not true?

Let’s have a discussion. Rather than knee-jerk reactions to what we view as problems in society, let’s think the problems and the solutions through to where they ultimately lead us. What does this economic structure look like? If we plan on “fundamentally transforming” the most free, opportunity-granting country in the history of the world, we ought to at least understand what the end will be.

Apr 14 2010

Free Press and Freedom

C.M. Phippen

I recently came across some writings of Robert McChesney, co-founder of Free Press. This was one of the organizations whose lawsuit to allow government intervention in the management of internet networks was struck down last week by the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia.

Free Press calls itself a nonpartisan organization, and its name would lead us to believe that the organization’s main goal is, well, an open and free press. Who in their right mind could oppose that? That’s why the writings of Robert McChesney are so disturbing. McChesney actually does oppose that.

In the far-left publication, Monthly Review, he writes that “winning battles to reconstruct the media system were a necessary part of a broader process to create a more just society . . .” (and lest we become confused, it doesn’t take much exposure to his writings before one realizes that “just society” means socialist) and, “any serious effort to reform the media system would have to be necessarily part of a revolutionary program to overthrow the capitalist system itself.”

Early last year, in the same publication, he espouses an “enormous class struggle” in order to “eliminate the evils of capitalism and the dangers it poses for the world and its people.” In the end, though, he concludes that “there is no real answer but to remove brick by brick the capitalist system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles.” He says that the majority of the population will learn this in the course of their struggles for a “more equal, more humane, more collective, and more sustainable world.” If you were confused about just how the left defined those words, now you know – socialist tyranny.

He explains that ” . . . it is the specific responsibility of the left to urge . . . the militant organization of the underlying population . . .” and then adds a list of socialist demands that these individuals should be making on our government, or rather on the productive classes in society (yeah, the 53% who pay federal income taxes.) Further, he says that the entire power structure of US society must be altered in order for this socialist utopia to come to pass, just in case you didn’t understand what he meant by the dismantling of the capitalist system the first time he mentioned it.

Can this guy be any more clear? He’s looking for a socialist revolution and he knows the only way to convince Americans that’s what they need is to control the message by controlling the media. During an interview late last year with Tanner Mirrlees of the Socialist Project, he admitted that ” . . . it will be vastly more difficult to have a revolution” without having made significant changes in the media first.

Are the rest of us just supposed to sit and wait?

Mar 2 2010

Ideology, Religion, and Charity

C.M. Phippen

If liberals are the charitable people and conservatives are greedy and selfish, why is it that though liberals make, on average, 6% more than conservatives (using numbers from 2000), conservatives give, on average, 30% more to charity?

Why is it that religious people are twice as likely as nonreligious people to volunteer (12 times/year v. 5.8 times) and they give nearly four times as much money ($2,210 v. $642)?

Why, even after adjustments for differences in income, does the average religious household give 14% more to nonreligious charities than the average secular household?

Why do conservatives, who make up less than 20% of the population, give over one-quarter of the blood? If liberals and moderates were to give at the rate that conservatives do, the amount of blood collected in the US would increase by 50%!

Just wondering what your thoughts are . . .

Sep 30 2009

Social Justice

C.M. Phippen

Social justice . . . a really nice sounding phrase that isn’t easily defined.  The words themselves would lead us to embrace them; after all, we’re a country that believes in the idea of “liberty and justice for all,” and uses that idea in our Pledge of Allegiance.  But, as always with politics and politicians, beware.  What is the definition of “is” anyway?

According to the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare, “Social justice is a process, not an outcome, which (1) seeks fair (re)distribution of resources, opportunities, and responsibilities; (2) challenges the roots of oppression and injustice; (3) empowers all people to exercise self-determination and realize their full potential; (4) and builds social solidarity and community capacity for collaborative action.”

So, social justice includes violating the rights of those with more resources in order to redistribute them to the “oppressed,” while at the same time empowering all to “exercise self-determination and realize their full potential.”  Does the “all” include those whose resources have just been forcibly taken?  I don’t think they needed someone from Berkeley “empowering” them prior to the pillaging of their resources.  (Then again, maybe that’s part of the plan.)  If that which they’ve worked for has been taken, how are they able to “exercise self-determination and realize their full potential” unless these two ideas (self-determination and potential) are completely divorced from economics.  If so, the question must then be answered as to why the redistribution would need to occur in the first place.  In other words, #1 and #3 are completely contradictory and cannot both be achieved in the same society.

As if that isn’t enough, someone now needs to hand a few opportunities to those who haven’t availed themselves of the myriad already available in this great society.  It’s unclear exactly what that would look like.  Maybe something like the student with the 4.0 who worked hard and excelled in sports and student government just needs to have someone “redistribute” his “opportunities” and give them to the guy who spent his high school years smoking dope.  Put a few of these guys in elite schools and we’ll call it diversity.

Now, the redistribution of responsibilities is a fascinating idea.  From #2 we can make the assumption that the “roots of oppression and injustice” are to be blamed on a society that rewards productive behavior and attempts to suppress, through punishment, destructive behavior.  This could mean that those who engage in productive behavior would need to be responsible for the destructive behavior of others, and possibly those individuals who have chosen a destructive path are now responsible for the productivity of others. 

This sounds like a little experiment tried in Zimbabwe.  Among its many horribly destructive policies of the past 30 years is the socially just redistribution of that country’s wealth:  its land, and thus the responsibility of being productive on that land.  Beginning in 2000, many white landowners were forced from the land which they had farmed and it was redistributed to poor blacks.  That country has been sent into a tragic economic tailspin, in part due to this policy. 

During the period since these redistributive policies began, the decrease in food production has been estimated at 90%.  A nation which less than a decade ago was able to produce enough food to feed its own population and export the surplus has now found itself in the position of needing food aid for over 50% of its citizens.  The beneficiaries of these new “wealth and responsibility transfers” lacked the tools and expertise to contribute to the economy to the same degree as those from whom the wealth was confiscated. 

When those individuals who had the responsibility of producing food for the nation as a natural consequence of free-market principles did so because they chose to use their land in this manner, the people were fed and the nation enjoyed the benefits of exporting surplus.  When the responsibility of producing food was redistributed to the “oppressed,” and the “victims of injustice,” all of society suffered.  I guess this is what the School of Social Work means when they state that “social justice is a process, not an outcome.”  The outcome may be the creation of greater poverty, starvation, and disease, but the process is what they find important.

Historically, the natural state of man is one of poverty and oppression.  In free societies, all are lifted by the exceptionalism of the productive, and all have the opportunity to be one of those who blesses the lives of mankind through their chosen profession, whatever it may be.  John Rawls, in A Theory of Justice, says, “Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override.  For this reason justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others.” 

In this idea of social justice, the “greater good” (which ultimately always turns out to be a mirage anyway) can never been used to deny justice to the producers and possessors of resources simply because they have more; it encapsulates the ultimate value of freedom of the individual to realize his full potential, or not.  It is his choice and it respects each to make that choice.  While not politically correct, it is the only “social justice” on which a prosperous nation can be built and if we want to become one again, the only one through which that can be accomplished.