Friday, June 24, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: Political Life and Honoring God

     If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
- II Chronicles 7:14

     Political correctness and rampant religious secularism do not have the power to aid our nation.  An obstinate refusal to recognize Christ in the public square because someone might be offended has crippled our nation.  We arrogantly assume we have the ability to fix anything by way of government without divine interference.  Yet, even the wisest of men, Solomon, could not stop national conflict when he wandered from a faithful relationship with God (I Kings 11:6-14).
     Truth is that which corresponds to reality.  Turning away from the Creator is cosmic rebellion.  Rebellion brings judgment.  The judgment is not halted simply because we don't believe in God anymore.  The desire to run our lives and our governments without respect to honoring God does not mean we can do it effectively.  "It is not in man to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 17:5).  Our best and brightest, our intellectual elite, can only bring us to ruin.
     Psalm 2 pictures the Trinity watching as kings strategize against Their authority, trying to throw off the chains of sovereign providence.  God laughs at the attempt.  "Kiss the Son" is the only reasonable response.  Otherwise, the whole ship slips underwater.
     How should people who wish to restore the rightful place of God in society respond?  Prayer.  Public Prayer.  In the face of Disapproval.  It is time to bring God back.  Let's not blind ourselves to our precarious condition.  Either God intervenes...

Thursday, June 23, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: Vote Against or Vote for?

         It is a ridiculous election strategy.  Convince the voting population that your opponent is a horrible choice whose election would bring about the dramatic end of our great nation.  Such attacks accomplish two things:  They hide the vulnerability of the accuser.  They avoid the discussion of specific political goals and objectives.
     Suppose you had a candidate who was famous for ad hominem attacks and political statements that need to be clarified or "walked back" later.  The personal attacks and the abstractions are logical fallacies.  Such things happen when a candidate's knowledge of the topic is incomplete or when the candidate desires to hide his real goals and intentions.  These facts alone would give you pause.  Would you be willing to vote for that candidate or his or her merit alone?
     Suppose you had a candidate who had exhibited real carelessness in managing secure national documents.  The candidate chose political cover in a knowing falsehood in a diplomatic tragedy.  Political donations come from nations with questionable political goals.  These facts alone would give you pause.  Would you be willing to vote for that candidate on his or her merit alone?
     Your answer is probably no.  So, in the current political climate, you are asked to choose between them.  You are told you are responsible to use your vote to support a candidate you cannot support, simply on the argument that not voting will result in the election of the other candidate.
     The same reasoning is used for not supporting a third party.  Your vote would be "wasted."  Your lack of support for the lesser of two evils will result in the worst possible election result. 
     On the other hand, if the candidate I vote for is elected, he may then assume he has a mandate.  My vote has encouraged him to continue in his ways and to pursue his own political ideas and selfish ends.  I have approved of the decisions that candidate has made in the past and the diplomatic tragedies that had resulted.  The candidate has no more need to change his political direction or ethical decision-making.  The voice of dissent is gone.
     If those two options are my only choices, should I vote?  Should I use my sole opportunity to give voice to my political views to support what is unsupportable?  This fall, support those candidates who exhibit your political and ethical views.  It is time for candidates to repent of their past and begin to speak about what is good to do politically for the welfare of our nation.  As a whole.  I'll be waiting.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: What is a Vote?

     The Framers gave each citizen of the United States an important privilege and duty.  The leaders in our Republic would respond to the will of the people because the people were given a strategic tool of accountability:  The Vote.  The temptation to form a political intelligensia would be muted by the idea that the common man was the constituency.  The Framers even made sure that the power of the purse at the federal level would be held by the House of Representatives because it would be the closest to the people and the most responsive to their disapproval.
     It is true that the Framers wanted to protect the government from a sudden whim of the people so they put checks and balances even on the power of the people.  A wave of populism would have to be sustained over number of years to be effective.  The House of Representatives would be vulnerable but the Senate would be more secure (at six year terms).  The Electoral College was also a protection against that populism.
     However, the Framers gave the right to vote to the citizens so they could choose their own leaders and hold them accountable.  An educated populace would be a safeguard against overreach, a vigilant people would be a protection against tyranny.  Liberty would be in our own hands, ours to keep or ours to lose.
     A vote is a formal indication of a choice between candidates or courses of action.  It is the clearest expression of our political judgment.  It is the way we make our voice heard.  It shows our leaders what direction we desire to head and what priorities we expect to be pursued.  Our vote tells what persons or causes share our values.  It tells with whom we wish to identify.
     The purpose of the vote was not to try to pick the winning race horse.  It was to express your sentiment.  It was not to pick the winning candidate or cause but to express our choice.  It is an important civil responsibility because it is our voice.  This fall, don't mess it up by trying to choose the winning candidate.  Choose the candidate whose views best mirror your own.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: Curbing Federal Overreach

     The idea of checks and balances in government was based on the idea that power corrupts and the safest way to manage government was to spread the power out.  As originally conceived, each branch would watch the other two and hold them accountable when they tried to reach beyond the boundaries of their office.  They did not anticipate the lack of vigilance by the Legislative Branch.
     Special Interest Groups realized long ago that they could end run the Legislature by bringing social issues before the Supreme Court .  A judgment in their favor had the effect of law.  If they couldn't get the Legislature to pass a law (because of the will of the people), they could get a judge to accomplish their goal another way.
     The Executive Branch has also gained power.  The Framers gave the power of executive order to the president because he was responsible for administering the federal government.  Like any executive, he could make rules which everyone in the administration was responsible to follow.  As the Federal government grows, his power grows.  When we ask the Federal government to fund our roads, schools, and healthcare, we also allow the president to make the rules with regard to how that law will be implemented.
     In this way, the states have lost considerable amounts of power, influence, and self-government.  They must wade through mountains of federal red tape to get a project done.  They must also pursue the President's favor as lobbyists for the welfare of their state.
     How can this trend be reversed?  Shrink the size of the Federal government by balancing the budget and then incrementally reducing it.  Return funds and responsibility for programs to the states.  Let states compete with each other and not the federal government.  Finally, this fall, vote for members of the Legislature who will stand up for their right to make law and not to let that power slide to one of the other branches.

Monday, June 20, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: The Influence of Polls

     Every election cycle deluges the voter with a thousand polls.  The popularity of candidates or causes is displayed in order to win your financial support or to sway your vote.  While most polls are generally close in their assessment, some have been so wrong as to give the voter pause.  How much influence should we allow a published poll to have on our vote?
     The best use of a poll is illustrated by Abraham Lincoln.  He believed he was accountable to the public mandate:  "What I want to get done is what the people desire to have done, and the question for me is how to find that out exactly."  Lincoln was looking for a means to identify the central concerns of his constituents so that he might be held accountable to them.
     Polls can also show how to make your candidate appeal to the voting public or show the popularity of an issue a candidate might support or oppose.  They are not perfect, however.  Polls can fall prey to the following errors:
  • Polls can use samples that are not representative of the population that actually votes.  Even with their weighting techniques, they may fail due to a faulty demographic model.  Sampling errors may be more than the margin of error can balance.
  • The wording of questions is important because it might just give clues to the interviewee as to what kind of answer is expected.  Cue-taking and media-framing may result in an answer that is not candid.  What if a person names the candidate he believes you want to hear instead of the one he will vote for in the privacy of a voting booth? 
  • Polls for candidates may not ask questions about truly important issues or give opportunities for more open-ended answers.  A candidate may be appealing who has not actually addressed your concerns.  America may be in a mess, but not the mess the pollsters are polling for.
  • Polls are subject to the band-wagon effect.  They may be used to call people to join one candidate or issue because a majority of others are.  The voter just votes like he is told everyone else will without doing his own due diligence.  The vote for the best candidate is compromised;  He now votes for the one most likely to win.
     In the end, we don't know how the vote will go until all votes are counted.  Every citizen has the responsibility to cast an educated vote.  So, 1.  Know your views.  2.  Know specifically your candidate's views.  3.  Know your candidate.  Will he be persistent?  Will he be able to convince others?  This fall, vote for the person who will both represent and advocate for your views.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: Undermining the Will of the People

     The government that the Framers gave us for safe-keeping was designed to be protected by the vote of the people.  New laws came from Congress because it had the most accountability to the people of the nation.  If a law was proposed over which a majority of the people objected, the bill was voted down or the legislators were voted out.  Government learned to be responsive to the voice of the people.
      In recent years, special interest groups  have been able to accomplish their goals without the consent of the people.  For example, abortion is not the law of the land because the people voted it so.  Many other issues could also be listed and the people have watched as their voice in moral and political matters has been stripped away.
     How to circumvent the will of the people has been taught at major universities.  Grow government to extraordinary lengths through public debt.  Distribute massive funds for poverty, welfare and healthcare so that the populace becomes dependent on those things.  Promote class warfare and control religion and education.  Collect the guns.  The Federal government becomes an omnipotent, yet uncaring father and freedom is traded for the security provided.
     Power needs to return to the vote of the people.  The government is there to serve the people, not the reverse.  Candidates who advance their agenda behind the scenes rather than opening declaring and debating their goals must be voted out.   This fall, the people must speak clearly by their vote.  Vote for those leaders who believe in being accountable to the people.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: Freedom of Education

     In 1926, J. Gresham Machen, a professor of New Testament at Princeton, was asked to give testimony before a congressional committee regarding the formation of a Federal Department of Education.  The bill was an attempt, it was said, to provide better education for the nation by making education more efficient.  Dr. Machen was more than troubled.
      In his opening, Dr. Machen mentioned that there were two reasons one might oppose a bill.  The first was because you didn't think it would do what it set out to do.  The other was that the bill had a evil purpose.  Machen said he opposed the bill for the latter reason.  What could be wrong with streamlining education so that it was more efficient?
     "Uniformity in education under central control it seems to me is the worst fate into which any country can fall,"  he said.  The bill assumed that "children of the state must be educated for the benefit of the State; that idiosyncrasies should be avoided and the State should devise that method of education which will best promote the welfare of the State."  Machen was skillfully pointing out that education's sole goal was not to produce good citizens.  Education served the whole populace so that an educated populace could deliver the nation from temptations to tyranny.
     If good citizenship was not the goal of education, what did Machen see?  He saw education as something radically different:  If you read our history as a nation, "you will discover that our notion has been that parents have a right to educate children as they please; that idiosyncrasies should not be avoided; that the State should prevent one group from tyrannizing over another, and that education is essentially not a matter of the State at all."
     Machen believed in unfettered educational competition.  Let the best ideas win in the public square, whether they are sourced in public, private, or charter schools, or in home schools. He wrote:  "I had a great deal rather have confusion in the sphere of education than intellectual and spiritual death."  The conflict of ideas was important in a democracy.  It is where the best ideas would be generated.  Efficency and uniformity remove the voice of dissent from the public square.  Isn't that where the new ideas come from, whether in science or politics, or religion?
     This fall, vote for the candidate who will reverse the imprisonment of education in uniformity under central control.  Vote for the one whose ideas are open to the full scrutiny of the people.

Friday, June 17, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: Vote against "Bread and Circuses"

     As Rome was in decline, public unrest began to rise.  The government in order to quell the populace began to distribute free food and hold huge spectacles for entertainment.  They diverted the attention of the people from the serious concerns of government to selfish personal issues.  Juvenal, a Roman writer and critic, lamented the moral and political decline:  "Two things only the people anxiously desire- bread and circuses."
     It was a flaw in the character of the people to fall for the diversion.  Our own nation has its own experience with this diversion.  Rebates on taxes whether we paid them or not, cash-for-clunkers, and the promise of thousands of dollars to purchase a first home.  These promises hope to divert the attention of the people from the real issues of a nation.  They also help to curry favor for the giver of such gifts.
    A Scottish judge, writer, and historian saw a dangerous cycle in the distribution of public gifts.  Alexander Fraser Tytler wrote,  “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to liberty; From liberty to abundance; From abundance to selfishness; From selfishness to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage.”
      The Framers put their faith in the common people to protect their liberties by being vigilant to watch public officials in their spending of public monies.  They viewed public debt as a public curse (James Madison).  To Jefferson, public debt was one of the greatest dangers to be feared:  "I am not among those who fear the people.  They, not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom.  And to preserve their independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.  We must make our election between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude."
     This fall, do not vote for the one who will give you the most favors from the public treasury.  Vote for the one who has real ideas about cutting public debt. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: How Should We Interpret the Constitution?

     Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia used to hold debates on college campuses regarding the Constitution.  Specifically, they wanted the students to understand their differing approaches to interpreting the constitution.  Scalia was an originalist.  He believed the Constitution needed to be understood in light of its original intent.  Breyer was a loose constructionist.  He believes that the Constitution is a living document to be used as a legal guide to the changing needs of society.
     As an originalist, Scalia believed that if the constitution addressed an issue and he didn't like it, it was too bad.  He was chained to the original meaning of the text.  Using due process as an example, he wrote:  "Whereas if you say due process of law is an invitation for intelligent judges and lawyers and law students to imagine what they consider to be due process and consult foreign judges, then, indeed, you do not know what you are saying when you swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States."
     As a loose constructionist, Stephen Breyer believes the interpretation of the constitution should bend to fit the needs of an evolving society.  He consults American and foreign jurisprudence for help in deciding cases. While he admits that it would be wrong for a judge to substitute his own judgment for the Constitution or for the legislature,  he admits it can be a danger.  "The greater danger is the danger of the unelected judge as a decision-maker for the elected parliamentarian congress-- member of congress.  And I think there is no way, actually, to resolve that."
     In our republic, we have a danger of one branch or another overstepping its boundaries.  In this case, Breyer sees the error of a judicial decision carrying the force of law, yet believes it cannot be avoided.  How does that work?
      Before the Roe v. Wade decision, abortion was illegal in all 50 states.  When the court found a right to abortion in the right to privacy, the judgment of all federal and state legislatures was summarily dismissed.  The same was true in the case of Gay Marriage.  A court case opened the door to gay marriage without the approval of one official elected by the people.
     Advocacy groups have turned to the courts to progress their agenda.  It is easier to advance your cause through a court system with the hubris to trust their own judgment than to convince a legislature that must go home to face its electorate.
     Scalia was right.  We will miss his voice of reason on the court.  This fall, elect a president who understands the dangers inherent in loose construction of the constitution.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: Can We Legislate Morality?

     Whenever government debates a social issue, there is always the objection proposed that you can't legislate morality.  If by that, it is meant that you can't make a person or society do the right thing, I agree.  The schoolboy forced to sit in his chair will always exclaim, "But I'm standing up on the inside."
     In another sense, every law is an attempt to legislate morality.  If I pass a law about red lights, I am saying that for the good of all involved, I need to curb my right to drive how I please.  It becomes immoral to run the red light and endanger others.  I pay taxes because I have a moral responsibility to provide for a government that can allow us to live trustfully near our neighbor.  To refuse to pay taxes is a moral concern.  When I propose an increase in property taxes, I am saying it is morally right to take more money from the private property of my neighbor to meet my concern.  Do you see how every law has moral implications?
     It is to a government's benefit to write laws that are in keeping with an objective morality.  A law against abortion is a law that regards human life as sacred.  People learn to respect other life as well, including the disabled and the aged.  It is in society's interest to write laws that uphold morality.
     A generation or two of relativism has left us in a moral shambles.  Pluralism has added the attitude that you have no right to impose your morality on me.  As a result, government is impotent to address any moral concern that is not politically correct- which is to say, any moral concern supported by the spirit of the age.  That said, those candidates who adhere courageously to an objective morality deserve our vote this fall.  They are the salt preserving our culture.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: How Do We Address Injustice?

     Edmund Burke, English statesman and political theorist, supported the American cause in the British parliament, but opposed the revolution brewing in France.  Because of this, his detractors like Randall Price, charged him with inconsistency.  One good revolution is as good as another.
     Burke responded, in his Reflections on the Revolution in France, that there was a key difference between the two revolutions.  In America, the colonists had worked for years to redress their grievances.  They lived within their rights and responsibilities as British citizens until it was obvious that the king was not upholding his end of their charter.  In contract law, if the king did not fulfill his duties, the contract was void.  The colonies remained within the rule of law until theydeclared breach of contract and moved toward independence.
     In France, however, Burke saw something else.  The complaints of the citizens were real.  The aristocracy was unresponsive.  In pursuing justice, the French populace overthrew the rule of law in order to establish something new.  Burke predicted that one governmental system would fall to the next until such instability resulted in the nation that the people would clamor for a dictator.  A tyrant has the power to provide security amid chaos.  Enter Napoleon.
     There are many injustices to be corrected in American culture.  Drug sentences are notoriously unequal with much longer sentences given to black men.  Systemic racism keeps communities in poverty generation after generation.  Corporate and government corruption continues to grow.  For young idealistic Americans, correcting these injustices is a worthwhile life's work.
     The Framers of our constitution knew there would perpetually be pockets of injustice in our country.  The very first right they enumerated in the Bill of Rights included the right to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.  They provided ways to fix those injustices without destroying the foundations of our country.  Today's revolutionaries would do well to consider the consequences of overturning the rule of law as they address their grievances.
     William Wilberforce worked within the rule of law to address the abolition of slavery.  For 40 years, he spoke, advocated, and proposed legislation to deal with that stain of slavery on the English nation.  Finally, after 40 years, Parliament abolished slavery in the British empire.  The movie Amazing Grace tells the story.  When the final vote was announced, everyone applauds Wilberforce for his perseverance.  And there was no civil war.
     This fall, vote for boldness that will fight to correct injustice, but do so with a commitment to perseverance within the rule of law.

Monday, June 13, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: The Pilgrim Experiment

     One important reason to study history is to avoid the mistakes of our predecessors.  History becomes vicarious experience so that we can learn what is good and bad without suffering the consequences associated with learning by experience.  The pilgrims left us such an example. 
     In his journal of the Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford wrote that the pilgrims original design for the economy of their colony was a common store.  Each person would contribute to the colony and out of the common store, pilgrims would receive an equal share.  It was our earliest attempt at socialism.
     The colony had reached a point of continual want.  They had no more supplies and no expectation of more to come.  The leadership council, under William Bradford, began to consider how they might raise a better crop "so that they might not continue to endure the misery of want."  The solution they came to was to provide each person with land to provide for the needs of his own household.  Self-interest would provide additional incentive to work the field to provide for increase, not only for your family but the whole community.
     Before their decision, Bradford relates, there was a lot of complaining.  Women complained they could not be expected to work in the fields.  Single men complained that they did the lion's share of the work but only received one share in return. Men did not want their wives doing the laundry of single men.  Everybody did what was necessary but nothing more.
     After the decision, Bradford records the following:  "This was very successful.  It made all hands very industrious, so that much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could devise, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better satisfaction.  The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to plant corn, while before they would allege weakness and inability; and to have compelled them would have been thought great tyranny and oppression."  Everyone, prodded by self-interest, did more, profited more, and was more content.
     When the common treasure was divided among the pilgrims, everyone saw it as their duty to police the size of their piece of the economic pie.  They were not going to do more work for the same size share.  It was judged as unfair.
      When self-interest provided motivation, each worked to increase the size of their piece of the pie and it resulted in a much bigger pie.  The needs of the community were not met by equal apportionment of resources but equal opportunity to work for profit.  This fall, vote for the person who clears the way for equal opportunity rather than equal outcomes.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: Beware of Partisanship!

     George Washington's Farewell Address was a gift to his nation for generations.  Schools required its careful study and memorization.  His address was "the disinterested warnings of a parting friend."  He saw danger in the way politics was taking place in our expanding nation.  He saw it as essential that we maintained our sense of unity as a people.  He saw unity as a pillar of our independence, tranquility, peace, safety, and prosperity.
     What was the danger to our unity?  Partisanship.  He was afraid that as we grew the needs of the industrial north, the agricultural south, the expanding west, and established east would conflict.  Advocates would arise to protect regional interests at the expense of national unity. Today, political parties build coalitions of divergent interests in order to gain power. 
     "The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism,"  Washington wrote.  Partisan dissension "agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection."
     He also saw the threat of partisanship opening the door to foreign political entanglements.  Foreign influence and corruption enter the door of government itself "through the channels of party passions."  Washington did not believe that partisanship provided another example of useful checks and balances to government.  Instead it "would always serve to distract Public counsels and enfeeble the Public Administration."  Can you effectively govern when your statesmen would rather score political victories than compromise for the sake of a united nation?
     Washington wasn't finished.  He believed that partisanship could so weaken a government from continuing conflict that the public would begin to "seek security and repose in the absolute power of an Individual."  The leader of the winning faction could turn his eyes to promote his personal interest and his own elevation in government.
     Washington ended his farewell with the desire to share, as a private citizen, "the benign influence of good laws under a free Government."  This fall, elect individuals who hope to continue Washington's vision.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: Is the Government Omnipotent?

     Here's an experiment in political imagination:  Suppose today by unanimous consent of the governed we turned over all of our rights, privileges, resources, and property to the federal government.  Would our political and economic issues be solved?  Would this bring about a new kind of Utopia?  Would the government be able to manage our affairs in a way that would provide good provision for our physical needs, allow our children to be well-educated, and manage our needs for security, protection and healthcare?
     If you had any doubt in any area that a paternalistic government was not ideal, you sensed that there are limits to what government can do.  An intellectual elite, making our decisions for us, could not bring an end to war.  They could not provide the satisfaction that comes at the end of a day with a job well done.  They could not repair a marriage or return wayward children or end crime.  They can not change the heart of man.
     We ought to exhibit humility in our understanding of politics and government.  There are many things that government can't do.  We ought to be chastened by that fact and abandon our political hubris.  When we abdicate responsibility for our own lives and the welfare of our communities by giving the government the right to control, we ask for tyranny.  The one thing above all that government cannot do is be perfect.  Absolute power always corrupts.  Always.  This fall, vote for the person who clearly recognizes that danger.

Friday, June 10, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: "With Shekels Come Shackles"

   After the Revolutionary War, the federal government had a hard time recruiting exceptional candidates for federal offices.  Under the Articles of Confederation, the real place to wield power and influence was the individual states.  If you wished to make a difference in our new nation, you joined the state.  The power of the federal government was held in check by thirteen state governments.  The money which supported the federal government came from the state governments.
     How much different is the political landscape today!  States send lobbyists to Washington, D.C. to fight for their fair share of the economic pie.  Highways and schools are built and supplied with federal dollars.  State healthcare is constructed along federal guidelines.  Schools were recently issued a new social guideline and then threatened with losing funds if they did not comply.
     Here is the problem with amassing the resources and power at the Federal level.  Government far removed from the oversight and accountability of citizens produces rules and regulations for dispensing those funds.  The funds are taken from the states and localities.  The funds are then lobbied for according to federal priorities.  If the federal government wants to make progress in advancing some new social agenda, it needs only to tie that agenda to the distribution of funds. 
     The Chancellor of the University from which I graduated was fond of saying "With Shekels come shackles."  When a state, locality, or individual is on the receiving end of the public dole, the government will make the rules by which you will get the money.  You are no longer free to hold an opposing view.  Those who choose to go another way will end up paying twice- the federal government will get their share.  Your schools, roads, and healthcare will suffer for your independent thinking.  You are no longer free to do what you believe is best for your constituents.
     This fall, vote for those candidates who recognize a loss of freedom to the federal government.  Vote for those who vow to return the freedom to the hands of the people. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: Should the Government Do Works of Charity?

     It was a small, compassionate proposal.  Texas had experienced a long and extensive drought that had resulted in crop failure.  People were really suffering distress and destitution.  As a result, congress put forth a bill to spend $40,000 to help buy seed for the farmers for the next year.  The Bill (#10308, Distribution of Seeds for Texas farmers) was vetoed by the president!
     What insane kind of reasoning could have possessed Grover Cleveland?  Luckily, we have the text of his veto which always gave the reasoning for his decisions.  In the decision, he admitted that the need was real and the proposal would effectively alleviate the distress.  So, why did he choose not "to indulge a benevolent and charitable sentiment" by appropriating the funds?
     Try to follow his reasoning:
  • It was not the duty of the government nor within the jurisdiction of its power.  There is a prevailing tendency, he wrote, to disregard the limited power of government and he felt it his duty to stand against it.  "The people support the government, the government should not support the people."
  • Individuals, churches, and civic organizations could be relied upon to answer the distress.  "Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character,"  he wrote.  "It prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthen the bonds of a common brotherhood."  
     Is it possible that we have not grown together into a common brotherhood because government has become our parent?  States, localities, and schools all gather at the public trough to compete for free money.  No one develops a self-sacrificial character.  Instead, we all are greedy for our fair share of the economic pie.
     It is time for us to ask ourselves some serious questions about sacrifice and charity.  This fall, vote for the person who recognizes the need to support a sturdy American character.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: Beware of "Manufactured" Urgency

     There is a delicate balance in leadership.  A leader who waits too long to make a decision is labeled "indecisive."  A leader who makes decisions too quickly is "hasty" and "impetuous."  Good decisions require competent evaluation and a commitment to act.  Some leaders will take more time in reaching a decision than others.
     One political strategy, however, is to introduce a sense of urgency into the decision-making process.  When our founding fathers were trying to decide about declaring independence from Great Britain, they had several factors to consider.  Poll numbers would have indicated about a third of the people were patriots, a third were Tories, and a third were undecided.  As well, the cost of war against a power like England in lives and resources weighed heavy on their minds.  Some, like the Quakers of Pennsylvania, were pacifists.
     A little book was published early in 1776 entitled "Common Sense."  It was mistakenly believed to be written by John Adams and so gained a quick notoriety.  The real author, Thomas Paine, underscored the urgency of the hour.  Now was the time for independence, while we had resources and before the colonists again became complacent.  The little pamphlet may well have been the reason we had the energy for a revolution.
     "Common Sense" was propaganda.  It was clearly one-sided.  It attacked the monarchy of England and highlighted America's strengths.  Cooler heads may or may not have agreed with his arguments.  Propaganda is like that:  Pushing the agenda with an exaggerated sense of urgency.
     Common in political debate today is a similar sense of urgency.  The urgency is manufactured because it is easier to get a law passed when emotions are raised.  Gun laws follow a massive school shooting.  Declarations of War come soon after the threat of attack.  Urgency can make lawmakers do foolish things.
     Manufactured urgency appeals to the emotions and creates the sense that we have to do something.  One recent political statement was silly with urgency:  "We have to pass the bill to see what's in it!"  This fall, vote for leaders who have a track record of good decision-making.  Don't vote for proposals that are presented without substance but with great urgency. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: Beware of Abstractions!

     "Liberty," "Equality," and "Fraternity" are great political ideas.  Such words were slogans during the French Revolution.  They were flags to rally the masses.  The problem is the words were abstractions.  They were hollow terms into which everyone poured their own personal meaning.  Did equality mean the poor and the aristocracy had the same amount of power, influence, or resources?  Did the guillotine help the aristocracy feel more equal?  Is revolution after revolution what we meant by brotherhood?  Is Napoleon what we envisioned by liberty?
     Our current political discourse is riddled with abstractions.  "Hope" and "Change" sounded great to those who felt the government, especially at the federal level, had not been responsive to their needs.  Change has certainly come, but is it what we thought?  Do you have more hope in your future now?
     "Make America great again" is another abstraction.  Everyone gets to fill in the blank.  Nobody wants to vote against political greatness, but what do we mean by it?  Every citizen worth his salt needs to follow up an abstraction with a question:  What do you mean by that?
     Abstractions are great for sound bites.  The politician is faced with the task of winning support in a catchy sentence or two.  No news organization will give a half hour to a candidate to lay out his specific ideas.  Too boring.  They will lose audience.  So, we think we know what we are voting for, but we may be just guessing.
     Voters must take their obligation as citizens seriously.  Be patient to learn what your candidate, at any political level, actually believes.  What does he or she intend to actually implement?  This fall, vote for the candidate who has described their goals in specific, concrete ways.

Monday, June 6, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: Does Character Matter in an Elected Official?

     Some, in this heated political season, have argued that effectiveness in governance is more important in an elected official than character.  Managing an organization the size of the federal government takes a special kind of skill.  Experience in billion dollar budgets is more important than personal integrity.
     Certainly, elected officials need the requisite leadership skills.  But can those skills be divorced from the character of the candidate?  Can a good leader reverse course on a promise made to his constituency if it seems to negatively affect his poll numbers?  Can a good leader drive an enterprise into financial ruin as long as her own interests are protected?   Will a good leader abandon the people he or she has sworn to protect?
     Leadership and character are inseparable.  Situations in leadership arise all the time that are unexpected and unplanned.  Will your candidate address the problem with an objective standard of what is right and wrong?  Will your candidate be pragmatic and follow the path of least resistance?
     The only way to tell how your candidate will perform when a moral crisis arises is to check his track record.  If he or she has been consistent in following an objective standard, support that integrity with your vote.  If their decisions are all over the moral map, they are pursuing their own interests first and are not worthy of your consideration as political statesman.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: What is a Good Education?

     Congress recognized, in an expanding nation, that education was a vital concern.  Every territory that desired admission into the United States had to provide a means for the education of their citizens perpetually.  Why was education such a vital concern?
     The Northwest Ordinance, which set the rules for admitting territories into the union, gave three goals for education: 
          "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."
     Two results of Education were mentioned in the Northwest Ordinance:  The happiness of mankind and good government.  The happiness of citizens and effective rule both depended on a good education.  It becomes obvious that a good education moved beyond the usual academic disciplines of reading, writing, and arithmetic to character development, civic responsibility and even worship.
      Three elements were essential to an education:  Religion, Morality, and Knowledge.  These three are conjoined.  Knowledge must be controlled by morality:  Look where science can now take us.  Is anyone concerned about the growth of technology without a corresponding growth of morality?  Morality is essentially linked to religion.  Even Rousseau saw the need for some sort of civil religion to keep the masses governable. 
     If a people can lift trustfully near their neighbor, law enforcement need only be big enough to manage the occasional squabble.  However, if a people are immoral and accustomed to mayhem, no government is large enough to keep the peace. 
     Religion is linked to both morality and knowledge.  If God created the universe, every advance in science will be "thinking God's thoughts after Him" and defining the boundaries of objective reality. Knowledge divorced from an orderly and moral Deity is subject to man's hubris and corruption.
     Man is both made in the image of God and fallen.  If a man will not be moral out of reverence for God, he may be moral out of fear of punishment.  Removing the thought of eternal judgment allows a man to pursue guilty ends believing he will get away with it.
     What does this have to do with the fall's elections?  Our culture needs to find its way back to an objective, definable morality.  Reuniting religion and morality to the academic disciplines will be a first step.  Vote for those who can see the need.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: How Big Should Our Government Be?

     This question spilled plenty of ink as congress debated adopting our present constitution.  Two camps formed.  The Federalists, led by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, believed a stronger Federal government could make our government stronger when dealing with world problems and repairs some of the weaknesses we faced in our domestic policy.  The Federalists knew the dangers of power and influence.  They proposed a collection of arbitrary checks and balances so that a growing government could be protected from ambition and lust for power.
     The other camp, represented by men like Patrick Henry and George Mason, believed that a bigger government was a threat to their individual liberties.  Patrick Henry saw his role of statesman as a kind of night watchman, whose sole purpose was to keep his eye on the precious jewel of liberty.  He was suspicious of any movement toward the jewel.  Liberty, in his mind, was more important that international prestige or prosperous commerce.  Each movement toward increasing the power of government brought a quick and fiery word from the impassioned orator. 
     Every generation should wrestle with the question of the size of government.  Every time we ask the government to take care of issues like poverty, education, and medicine, we transfer power and resources out of our hands and into the hands of government.  Who is better able to address the issues of poverty?  Individuals, local communities, churches, the state, or the federal government?  Who is better able to address the educational needs of my daughters?  Individuals, local communities, churches, states, or the federal government?  What about health and medicine?
     I can bring pressure to my local school board or city council if I want to oppose a decision they make.  I know their names and can lead an opposition in the next election.  Local candidates feel a need to respond to my interests.  Not so with the federal government.  I have much less power and influence at the level of the federal government.
     One question we must answer in the coming election is a question of freedom and paternalism.  Should government play the role of a father, making sure the needs and wants of Americans in areas like education, medicine, retirement, and welfare?  Our uncontrolled national debt is proof that this is our direction.  As a result, individuals have less money, more regulation, less freedom? 
     For example:  Suppose our taxes were not reduced but flipped!  What if most of my tax dollars went to my local government?  Would we have better roads, schools, and development?  What if the state received the same share and the federal government received what my local government gets?  In that scenario, you can see the issue clearly.  Would we have better accountability?  Better effectiveness?  It's worth thinking about.
     This fall, vote for the person who sees value in local communities and has natural suspicions when it comes to the need for a bigger government.

Friday, June 3, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: How Do We Know What Our Rights Are?

     If our rights are not arbitrary, if they are objective gifts from God, how can we know what they are?  If they are built innately into the fabric of our lives, then what are they?  This is one of many areas in which religion and politics necessarily intersect.
     In discovering our rights, theologians can argue in two ways.  The first is to read the commandments of God in reverse:  If I am not to kill, I must have a right to life.  If I am not to steal, I must have a right to private property.  If I am not to sleep with another man's wife, then I must have a right to marriage.  If we are responsible before God to behave in a certain way, then he is showing us the boundaries of our freedom.
     Theologians can also look at our creation.  In the stories of Genesis 1-3, we have a description of the reality in which man finds himself.  We are made in the image of God, so what aligns with His character is good for us and what doesn't runs against reality itself.  Creation reflects the character of the Designer.  The shape of our rights, freedoms, and responsibilities can be described by enumerating five Design Decrees:
  • Sanctity of Life.  Because man is made in the image of God, his life is special.  Murder, abortion, euthanasia, and infanticide are wrong because it is only God can give life and take it away.  Capital punishment is permitted to redress the injustice before God of taking human life.
  • Sanctity of Law.  God, by right of creation, sets the boundaries of our  actions.  Good law is in line with His decrees.  Bad law opposes it.  
  • Sanctity of Marriage.  Society has a vested interest in marriage as an essential building block of civilization.  God defines, by right of creation, marriage as a man and woman leaving their parent's home and forming a new home.
  • Sanctity of Work.  Vocation and calling are essential parts of our make-up.  The work we do is to be respected.  Work is to provide for our families and to help us understand the world around us.  Work includes all kinds of pursuits of profit and discovery.
  • Sanctity of Rest.  Man is made to rest, reflect, pursue social relationships, and to worship.  From rest we receive reflection, satisfaction and new energy for other endeavors.
     If this is the reality in which we find ourselves, then it is easy to see how our rights spring from the way we are made.  This fall vote for those who are willing to secure our rights for us.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: Where do we get our rights?

     Two sources have been proposed for the idea of a human right:  God and the government.  If the government grants rights, then they are necessarily arbitrary.  Your rights will be defended or withdrawn by the judgment of the government.  Rousseau believed that once a government was formed, all of your rights were given to it.  If the government at some point desired to take your life you should willingly surrender it because of all the benefits you had already received from its rule. 
     If this is the source of our rights, then force and persuasion become omnipotent.  If I want a right, all I must do, however unjust that right, is persuade 51% of people to vote my way.  If I can't persuade them, I can force them.  However, as soon as I lose power or influence, every right I have fought for can go away in favor of your opposing right.
     Jefferson wrote in our Declaration of Independence that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.  This means that certain rights are part of our nature, whether the government grants them to us or not.  We have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  This is a way of describing our right to freedom.  We have a right to be secure in our persons, to make our own decisions and to pursue our own ends.  As moral people, we are to be free and unencumbered by others.
     Jefferson used this idea of innate human rights to explain that one purpose of government was to secure our rights for us- not give us our rights, but to make sure that we got them.  If government became a tyrant, Jefferson argues that we have a natural right to dissolve that government and to create another one that could do it better.
     When we pursue our rights, are we pursuing those given to us by God?  Our nation is pursuing new rights, civil rights, all the time.  Are these rights coming from a recognition of what God has given us by our design or are they being foisted upon us by political power and persuasion?  This fall, vote for men and women who believe human rights exist objectively as gifts from our Creator.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

2016 Voter's Guide: What is the Purpose of Government?

     Given the political season America is currently experiencing, it would seem long overdue to revisit those principles that make for good government.  The founders believed that government is good and necessary and could serve the people of the United States well.  As long as it stayed true to its purposes, it could serve the people without abusing them.
     Those who framed our constitution said our government was designed to serve five ends:  To Establish Justice, Insure Domestic Tranquility, Provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
  • "To establish justice" means to make sure every citizen stands equally before the judgement bar.  Lady Justice, holding a pair of balanced scales,  was blind-folded so that justice was meted out without regard to race, wealth, or popular influence.  Justice was not seen as an advocate for the victim.  Today, Justice has then taken off her blindfold and put her hands on the scale.  She purposely adjusts the scale in order to fix social problems.  The problem is every adjustment leads to injustice for all.
  • "Insure domestic tranquility" means to aid in the process of people being able to live trustfully near your neighbor.  The role of a police force is to punish the evildoer so that the populace might live in peace.  A moral people make this job an easy, less intrusive task.  An immoral people means a greater governmental presence and intrusion.  John Adams reminds us that our way of government is not sufficient to keep the peace if we are not a moral people.
  • "Provide for the common defense" means to protect our people from enemies from without.  It is the authorization to raise a military to protect our citizens and allow them to live in peace.  
  • "Promote the general welfare" is an elastic clause that gave governmental leaders some flexibility to do what was in the best interests of all of us.  Today, every expenditure of Congress could be defended by this purpose.  However, the Framers added the word "general."  This was meant to prohibit government from pursuing the interests of some of us at the expense of others.  Rivalry between economic station or social condition was not seen as justification to break the unity between political factions.  The goals pursued under this purpose must be good for all of us.
  • "Secure the blessings of liberty" means the government is designed to rule with only as much force as is needed to keep peace.  It must take a hands-off approach in other matters not related to its purposes.  Liberty is the goal, not power, influence, or income equality.
     If the government performs its functions well, we pass freedom on to our children.  If it does not, it becomes as tyrannical as the government from which we separated.  This fall, vote for candidates who understand well what is and is not the purpose of government.