Archive for April 18th, 2013

Advice from Rand Paul

April 18, 2013

Rand Paul has written a column for rare.us which I think is full of good advice for the Republicans, that is if they would like to start winning elections again.

 Many are saying that the Republican Party must change if we want to remain a viable national party. The advice from some is to become less conservative. These critics believe that the GOP will somehow do better if we become more like the Democratic Party. But why would anyone vote for a lesser version of the Democrats when you can vote for the real thing? It doesn’t make sense and defeats the entire purpose of having two parties.

It is true that Republicans will continue to lose if changes are not made. But some of those changes will require us to become more conservative, especially when it comes to economics. Other changes might not neatly fit into what we currently think of as left or right.

The Republicans will never be able to outspend or outpander the Democrats and they shouldn’t even try. One party, at least, ought to stand for fiscal sanity and keeping the country together instead of trying to divide Americans along racial and class lines.

The GOP is supposed to be the party of limited government but it has not done a very good job of proving it. If Republicans can become the party of balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility, we can appeal to millions from all walks of life who genuinely fear for the burden we’re placing on our children.

“Limited government” doesn’t mean no government. It means $2.6 trillion worth of government—the amount of revenue we currently bring in. Over the past number of years, Americans have had to learn to live within their means. Government must do the same and Republicans should be the party that shows how it can be done.

The Republicans have talked a lot about limited government and balanced budgets but have certainly not acted on these beliefs whenever they have had control of the government in recent years. I hope that with the rise of the Tea Party this will change.

We need a strong national defense, but perhaps this does not mean having an overly aggressive foreign policy that puts American troops all over the globe, all the time. After nearly a decade in Iraq and well over a decade in Afghanistan, no one wants to now see a misguided intervention in Syria or Iran, as some from both parties have suggested. A foreign policy that does not try to police the world, does not try to dole out welfare to the world through foreign aid, and that recognizes fiscal limits will be better for our military, our national security and the Republican Party.

The problem here is that somebody is going to have to act as the world’s policeman and like it or not, we are the only ones with the capacity to do so. Besides, would anyone prefer to live in a world dominated by China, or Russia, or the UN? Of course, we do not have to intervene everywhere there is a problem. We can and should pick our battles and there are some situations we should just stay out of. The civil war in Syria is a good example. We probably are going to have to intervene to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. It would have been a whole lot easier, and cheaper to take determined (not necessarily military) action against the Iranians years ago, but our leaders have just kept putting the problem off until it has grown.

We need to recognize that the rising generation does not want people put in jail for unduly long sentences for non-violent offenses. No one supports the use of drugs or encourages that kind of behavior, but too many lives have been ruined due to our unfair and unjust mandatory minimum laws. It doesn’t make sense to put someone who has made one mistake in prison with rapists and murderers—sometimes for sentences longer than rapists and murderers. Under our current laws, both George W. Bush and Barack Obama could have been served jail time due to their youthful drug use, and once released from jail, these two men wouldn’t have been employable, much less capable of winning the presidency.

Mandatory minimum sentencing also disproportionately affects those lacking the means to fight back, particularly minorities. This needs to change and Republicans should lead the way.

I am not for legalizing drugs but I think it is obvious to everyone that the War on Drugs has not been very effective. There is a real opportunity for the Republicans to develop effective and just policies here. I should add that many of the more egregious government violations of civil rights have been done in the name of the war on drugs and perhaps we need to seek a better balance between minimizing drug use and respecting civil liberties.

The GOP needs to be the party that embraces immigration while also demanding strong border security. Nobody wants a party that is perceived as wanting to round-up people. We can move the ball forward by offering an immigration policy that humanely deals with the 12 million undocumented immigrants already in the country, but puts the proper security measures in place so that we don’t have to keep revisiting this issue every few decades.

The problem I have with illegal immigrants is that they are here illegally. I do not like the idea of rewarding people who break the law with citizenship. A lot of the discussion on this issue seems to be fairly muddled on that one point. You may call these people “undocumented” but the simple fact of the matter is that they are in violation of the law. If immigration laws are too harsh or if they are unjust, than the laws should be changed, by an act of Congress. As long as the present laws are in place they should be enforced, and the Executive does not, or ought not, have the options of simply deciding not to enforce laws it finds inconvenient.

Fiscal conservatism, a more prudent foreign policy, ending mandatory minimums and immigration reform coupled with border security are but a few issues Republicans can lead on if we want to build the necessary coalitions that will allow us to remain a governing national party.

If we’re going to start winning on the West Coast and in New England, and if we’re going to attract the young, we must change. If we don’t evolve and adapt, the Republican Party will die.

The GOP of old, stale and moss-covered, is largely responsible for our party’s current quandary. Only a new breed of Republican—bold, innovative and dedicated to liberty—can get us out of it.

I hope the Republicans will listen to what Senator Paul has to say. Being the stupid party, they likely will not.

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Children of the Commons

April 18, 2013

MSNBC commentator Melissa Harris-Perry‘s recent comment that we need to move away from the idea that our children are ours to the idea that children belong to the community has  proved to be more controversial than she, or anyone else at MSNBC, have anticipated, which shows that there is something terribly wrong at MSNBC.

Most conservative commentators have focused on the rather fascistic overtones of her remarks or have noted that public education is not, in fact, underfunded. I would like to tackle this subject from a different angle. I wonder if Melissa Harris-Perry is familiar with the concept of the tragedy of the commons.

The tragedy of the commons is a concept developed by Garrett Hardin in 1968. Put simply, it works something like this. Suppose there is a village in which every farmer has one cow which he grazes in the village commons. The number of cows that graze on the field is limited and the field is able to feed the cows. Now, suppose that one farmer decides to get another cow and let it graze on the common ground. He gets two cows to milk so he benefits more than his neighbors but two cows cost him no more than one. The presence of one more cow doesn’t hurt the green all that much. Then, other farmers decide to get another cow and put it on the green to graze. They get the benefits of having more cows to milk but their cost is no greater. However, as more cows are left to graze on the common field, at some point the field starts to become overgrazed and eventually what was once a fertile field becomes a barren, dusty wasteland.

The reason this happens is that while all of the farmers in the village benefit from the common field, it is no one person’s responsibility to maintain it. Each farmer gains the benefit of feeding his cows, whether he limits his number of cows or works to maintain the pasture and no one gains any extra benefit from doing the work of maintaining the field. Thus what is beneficial to each farmer individually, eventually ruins all the farmers in the village.

Garrett Hardin was an ecologist who was concerned about the problems associated with overpopulation and over use of natural resources. It is not easy to place him on any political or economic spectrum although he did favor government regulation as a means to resolve the tragedy and coercion to limit population. Environmentalists have used his analysis to justify restricting property rights for the common good. On the other hand, advocates of private property and the free market have pointed out that property and responsibility that belongs to everyone, really belongs to no one, and the best way to resolve the tragedy is through privatization of the commons. Human nature, being what it is, people are far more responsible for things that they feel personal ownership for, while common ownership property or a thing  means that no one person really feels they own it and so no one person feels really responsible for it, especially if they benefit from the use of it without the trouble of being responsible for it.

This is one of the reasons Communism didn’t work out so well. Consider Ivan, the worker at the collective farm. He didn’t own the farm, the fields or anything else at the farm. He did not benefit from the harvest and it made no difference to him if the crops rotted in the fields while he got drunk on vodka every afternoon. They weren’t his crops. They belonged to the people of the Soviet Union, so they really didn’t belong to anyone. Extend this sort of thinking over an entire national economy and you can see why there would be trouble.

With all of this in mind, we can revisit Melissa Harris-Parry’s statement that we need to get away from the idea that we personally own our children and are responsible for them and move toward an idea of community ownership of and responsibility for our children. If we make our children the responsibility of the village or the community rather than the responsibility of their parents, then the children will really be no one’s responsibility. Consider, as an extreme example to clarify matters, that there were a dystopian state that took children from their mothers at birth and raised them in institutions with trained caregivers attending to them. Does anyone truly believe that the children would be better off than if they were raised by their own parents? Melissa Harris-Perry has it backward. Children are more likely to be properly raised by parents who feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for them than by a village in which no one feels responsible for any one child. Indeed, it may be that part of the problem with public schools is precisely because they are public. No one really owns the public schools so no one is really responsible for the results of a public school education and no one feels any responsibility for spending the funding for public schools wisely.

The answer to the failure of the commons is not to create more commons but to privatize the commons as far as it is possible. If people have a stake in maintaining a continuing supply of a resource, they will see to it that the use of that resource is sustainable. It may be that the answer to the commons in education is greater privatization as a means of having the parents feel more that they are directly responsible for the state of their children’s education. In other words, we need to have more of a feeling of ownership of our children not less.

 


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