The Past Is a Foreign Country

This sign used to be at the state border in Nevada.

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Animal Farm Shrugged

I just read chapter seven of Animal Farm, George Orwell’s allegory for the disastrous early years of the Soviet Union, and noted this passage:

One Sunday Squealer announced that the hens, who had just come in to lay again, must surrender their eggs….When the hens heard this, they raised a terrible outcry….they protested that to take away their eggs now was murder.  For the first time since the expulsion of Jones, there was something resembling a rebellion.  Led by three young Black Minorca pullets, the hens made a determined effort to thwart Napoleon’s wishes.  Their method was to fly up to the rafters and there lay their eggs, which smashed to pieces on the floor. 

After which the tyrannical leaders cut their rations and starve the hens into submission.  So much for striking!

But the manner of their strike seems especially interesting to me: they deliberately destroy the beloved products of their own industry rather than see them fall into the hands of the looting collectivists.  The centralized authority that arrogates to itself confiscatory rights is clearly the villain here, and the heroes must make “a determined effort to thwart [the government’s] wishes.”  Further commentary on eminent domain or punitive taxation is probably unnecessary.

So there you have it: mildly socialistic George Orwell writing a scene that would have made Ayn Rand proud.

Dennis Miller vs. Ben Stein

I’ve loved Dennis Miller since before he even became a conservative, and Ben Stein has written some very worthwhile stuff about economics and the culture wars (although he also made the movie Expelled, which I criticized here).  These are both very smart and very entertaining guys, so I was excited to hear that the former was hosting the latter on his radio show this morning. 

Audio of today’s interview is here.  Stein spent his air time endorsing higher taxes, mostly saying, “Rich people can afford it–they won’t be hurt if they pay more.”  It was almost shocking to hear such a brilliant thinker explain a point with no more intellectual grounding than a child would bother to use.  Literally–I remember a class in junior high where the teacher discussed the national debt, and one clown announced that he could solve the problem: “Let’s mug Donald Trump!” 

Miller, for his part, responded fairly well, but most of his time dwelt on the fact that government tends to waste money, and that new taxes would be largely wasted, also.

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Rules By Which a Free Republic May Be Reduced To a Socialist One

Despite the scorn leveled at it by the elite mainstream, the Tea Party movement has illustrated something significant about America: we’re fed up with the status quo and its increasing power grabs.  In the last few years, not only have there been Tea Party protests, we’ve also had a popular political tract called Common Sense, and groups calling themselves Sons of Liberty are growing.  The fact that there are so many new things inspired by that volatile time in our history should be sobering for all of us. 

I’d like to offer a humble contribution to this trend. 

On September 11, 1773–the year of the Boston Tea Party–Benjamin Franklin published a satire of England’s poor management of the colonies, presented as twenty pieces of humorous advice for getting rid of them: “Rules By Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced To a Small One.”  Below, I’ve adapted Franklin’s text to include references to current problems.  The scary thing is, I didn’t need to change or add very much at all.  Most of Franklin’s scathing indictment applies just as well to today’s American government as it did to King George’s administration in 1773. 

Make of it what you will, but the fact that Franklin can be so easily adapted to the Tea Party’s concerns should also be very sobering to all of us. 

“Rules By Which a Free Republic May Be Reduced To a Socialist One”

The Founding Fathers accomplished this, that tho’ they were not perfect, they could make a federalist republic out of a chaotic confederacy of former colonies that had been ruled by fascist autocrats. The Science that I, a modern Simpleton, am about to communicate is the very reverse.

I address myself to all Ministers who have the Management of the American Republic, which from its very Freedom is become difficult to govern, because the Degree of its Freedom leaves no Room for Control.

I. In the first Place, Gentlemen, you are to consider, that a free Republic, like a great Cake, is most easily diminished at the Edges. Turn your Attention therefore first to your remotest States (those on your coasts, like New York, California, &c); that as you deprive them of Freedom, the interior Heartland may follow in Order.

II. That the Possibility of this Control may come to pass, take special Care the interior States are never respected in your public discourse, that they do not enjoy the same common Dignity, the same Privileges in Debate, and that they are governed by severer Political Correctness, all of your enacting, without allowing them any Share in the Choice of the Rules. By carefully making and preserving such Distinctions, you will (to keep to my Simile of the Cake) act like a wise Gingerbread Baker, who, to facilitate a Destruction, cuts his Dough half through in those Places, where, when bak’d, he would have it broken to Pieces.

III.These Freedoms have perhaps been acquired at the sole Expence of the our Ancestors and Military, without the Aid of the Mother Government. If this should happen to increase the People’s Strength by their growing Numbers ready to join in her Wars, and her Commerce by their growing Demand for her Manufactures, they may probably suppose some Merit in this, and that it entitles them to some Favour; you are therefore to forget it all, or resent it as if they had done you Injury. If they happen to be zealous Whigs, Friends of Liberty, Conservatives, or (worst of all) Tea Partiers, nurtur’d in Revolution Principles, remember all that to their Prejudice, and contrive to punish it: For such Principles, after a Revolution is thoroughly established, are of no more Use, they are even odious and abominable.

IV. However peaceably your Citizens have submitted to your Government, you are to suppose them always inclined to revolt, and treat them accordingly. Smear and restrict their Second Amendment rights, and be ever Hostile to those who assert these Rights. By this Means, like the Husband who uses his Wife ill from Suspicion, you may in Time convert your Suspicions into Realities.

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Clark County and Nevada Ballot Questions

Question #1: Shall the Nevada Constitution be amended to provide for the appointment of Supreme Court justices and District Court judges by the Governor for their initial terms from lists of candidates nominated by the Commission on Judicial Selection, with subsequent retention of those justices and judges after independent performance evaluations and voter approval?

A lot of conservatives are supporting this one, and I completely see their point: voters tend to put stupid people in office.  Case in point: Elizabeth Halverson.  Having judges temporarily appointed would solve that. 

But here’s why I oppose it.  First, just because the people are not doing their research and getting involved is no reason to take away their authority to choose their judges.  We should never, ever give away any of our autonomy.  Agreeing with the mindset that elites should take care of us can only lead to tyranny. 

Second, though there are areas in American politics where some leaders are chosen for us by other leaders (and before the seventeenth amendment, there used to be more), in those cases the latter were elected with the understanding that they would choose the former.  Such would not be the case here, where a committee of lawyers and other yahoos would have that power, but would not be picked by us for that purpose. 

Third, how does this guarantee there won’t be incompetence or corruption?  Unless this new selection committee is headed by Elliott Ness, they’ll be susceptible to mistakes and worse. 

No, Nevada, do not give up your power to choose your judges.

Vote: NO

Question #2: Shall the Nevada Constitution be amended to allow for the establishment of an intermediate appellate court, that would have jurisdiction over appeals of certain civil and criminal cases arising from the district courts?

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Now You Get Mad?

Last week I saw a popular wall post on Facebook that caught my attention.  It’s a diatribe consisting of a list of perceived failures of George Bush, phrased to suggest that people should be angry about him, not at President Obama’s health care plan.  (The beginning and closing references to people being angry now make this look like it’s aimed at tea parties.)  All of these points needed clarification and some, frankly, were so off target that they begged for outright refutation.  My notes on each are below:

YOU WANT TO GET MAD? We had eight years of Bush and Cheney, but now you get mad!

1.       You didn’t get mad …when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.  The Supreme Court did not “appoint” a president; the U.S. Supreme Court merely stopped the Florida state Supreme Court from ordering an illegal recount after they had already illegally extended the deadline for a previous recount.  Gore lost all of those recounts, anyway. 

2.       You didn’t get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate energy policy.  Allowing experts in a field to give input is now “dictating policy?”  When did the administration copy and paste any company’s plan into law?  Liberals are supposed to love “following the money”; where are the sudden surges in energy company profits because of these alleged shady deals? 

3.       You didn’t get mad when a covert CIA operative got ousted.   Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity was revealed by anti-Iraq war State department official Richard Armitage, who was not a member of Bush’s inner circle and who resigned when Colin Powell did, who told a reporter about it as part of a conversation about her husband’s visit to Africa.  Even the Obama administration has rejected the Wilson’s attempt to sue Armitage and others for damages. 

4.       You didn’t get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.  Continue reading

Ten Conservative Principles Endorsed By The Book Of Mormon

A shorter, edited version of this essay appeared in the July 2006 issue of Desert Saints.

 

A discussion of politics among Church members shows that there are often two kinds of people: those who wince at bringing controversial topics into a gospel forum, and those who roll their eyes because they look down on certain political doctrines as trite cultural assumptions. Such people, perhaps the majority of us, have failed to read the many details in the Book of Mormon that clearly refer to governing practices, some of which the Nephite prophets favor, others of which they warn us against.

There are only two basic political philosophies: conservative and liberal. Conservatives generally believe in limited government, tradition, and freedom preserved by personal responsibility. Liberals typically believe in using government programs to “fix” the world, experimental change, and a kind of tolerance that often ends up promoting immoral behavior.

The editorial comments of Mormon and the examples of Nephite leaders offer an abundant testimony that the Lord favors essentially conservative political principles.

While it would be wrong to use the scriptures to try to support a specific party or candidate, the Book of Mormon does speak clearly on this choice between basic opposites as it does so many other crucial things in life.

1. Governments should prepare weapons in peace time and declare the right to bear arms. Nephi tells us that as soon as Lehi died, his elder brothers started trouble with him (2 Nephi 5:1-4). Nephi then tells us that he took those family members who would follow him and went into the wilderness to establish a new community.

The rest of 2 Nephi 5 is a detailed description of that society, which Nephi tells us “lived after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27). As one part of that program, Nephi “did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us” (2 Nephi 5:14).

Notice that the Lamanites weren’t attacking at the time. Nephi was stockpiling arms to prepare for (and possibly deter) any future conflict.

It’s also good to note that Nephi doesn’t seem to have been referring to a regular army here. This was a new, small community based on an extended family clan which was dealing with basic needs. It seems more likely that Nephi was preparing for an informal citizen’s militia, similar to the one implied by the Second Amendment.

2. Colonizing is good, and people should assimilate into more successful populations. When the Nephites move into the established population at Zarahemla (Omni 1), the native group becomes completely transformed by the new population. The Book of Mormon defies current conventional wisdom by showing us that this was a good thing.

Even though the Nephites were new to the land of Zarahemla, their dominance was recognized by their achievements with language (Omni 1:17), which the native population learned and from which they benefited (Omni 1:18). They then submitted to the Nephite’s superior government. This is reminiscent of the great British Empire, which is despised by many trendy intellectuals of our day.

A similar situation occurs in Mosiah 25:12-13, where another group of Mulekites disavows their old national identity in favor of a superior new one—Nephite. These immigrants also submit to the government of their new land, the Nephite king.

Alma 35 tells us that converted Zoramites were welcomed into the Nephite nation (v. 6-9), but the immigrants fought to defend their new country (v. 14). Indeed, the Nephites don’t appear to have ever turned anybody away, as long as they became, culturally and politically, Nephite.

3. Those whose beliefs are based on feelings of resentment and entitlement are wrong. Mosiah 10 is a great explanation of the growth of anti-Nephite sentiment among the Lamanites. Verses 12-13 in particular make it clear that they didn’t think they were so good, as much as they thought the Nephites were bad: “Believing that… they were wronged in the wilderness by their brethren, and they were also wronged while crossing the sea; and again, that they were wronged in the land of their first inheritance” (emphasis added).

Their whole world view was a petty reaction to their perceptions of the Nephites, always casting themselves as victims of “the man.” Mormon often comments that angry Lamanites (Enos 1:20) and those Nephites who were culturally closer to the rest of the world (Alma 31:8-11) were the wrong ones by refusing to accept the mainstream Nephites’ ongoing invitation to participate in their way of life, just like many “victim” groups today.

4. Heavy taxes and vast government programs are wrong. Mosiah 11:6 says that evil King Noah taxed his people heavily (unlike good King Benjamin in Mosiah 2:14). Mosiah 11:8-13 details all the many needless public works projects he wasted that money on. For any tempted to see this as a good thing accidentally done by a bad leader, read the entire chapter to see that it is meant as a detailed list of the many wrong deeds of this odious leader.

5. Capital punishment is acceptable. In Alma 1, a vocal critic of the church named Nehor is executed by the civil government. Alma 62:9 also mentions government executions, and Alma 46:35 even says that execution is permissible for those who refuse to be patriotic and defend their freedom during a time of war (imagine that one being implemented today!). Keep in mind that these examples all come from a generation when the Nephites were very righteous and highly favored of God.

6. Using the legal system to further a personal agenda is wrong. When the lawyers of Ammonihah attempt to discredit Alma and Amulek, Mormon makes their real motive very clear: “Now, it was for the sole purpose to get gain, because they received their wages according to their employ, therefore, they did stir up the people to riotings, and all manner of disturbances, that they might have more employ, that they might get money according to the suits which were brought before them; therefore they did stir up the people against Alma and Amulek” (Alma 11:20).

Imagine that. They weren’t concerned with discovering the truth, they were manipulating the system to forward their own interests, encouraging more lawsuits by agitating people. Which political philosophy—conservative or liberal—typically encourages using the courts as a shortcut to forcing resolutions to social strife? One thing is for sure: these wicked lawyers would oppose tort reform: they’d be out of business! Maybe they could get a job on the Supreme Court…

7. Good leaders preserve freedom, defend religion, and punish crime…and that’s all. One of the most overlooked treasures in the Book of Mormon is Alma 50:39, where we are given the oath of office Nephite leaders took during one of that people’s most spiritual periods: “to judge righteously, and to keep the peace and the freedom of the people, and to grant unto them their sacred privileges to worship the Lord their God, yea, to support and maintain the cause of God all his days, and to bring the wicked to justice according to his crime.”

That’s it. No social programs, no advocating for progressive causes.

King Benjamin, in Mosiah 2:11-14, cites these same things as proof that he has been a righteous king. Notice that he does not mention any social welfare program in his list, either.

8. Subverting tradition and the mainstream is wrong. Zion needs pure unity, but in too many places in history there have been vocal minorities dedicated to reflexive rebellion. The Nephites were no different.

In Alma 51:16, Mormon tells us that during a great war where a special interest group sought to obstruct the administration’s progress, Moroni’s “first care [was] to put an end to such contentions and dissensions among the people; for behold, this had been hitherto a cause of all their destruction.” Notice that: poisoning your country’s attempts to preserve its institutions is not some alternative form of patriotism, it’s societal suicide.

Another example comes from 4 Nephi, where one of the features of the Nephite Zion is their total unity: “neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of –ites; but they were in one” (4 Nephi 1:17). There were no hyphenated minorities; they achieved unity by all fully joining the Christian Nephite culture.

But the disintegration of that harmonious society is complete when a dissatisfied younger generation sabotages it (1:37). This new movement isn’t just marching to the beat of their own drum, they “willfully rebel against the gospel of Christ” and “teach their children that they should not believe” (1:38). As usual, Mormon makes crystal clear the constant characteristics of those who are wrong. These “rebels” would clearly fit right in with America’s youth-oriented counterculture.

No wonder Nephi quotes Isaiah’s prophecy that in the last days “shall every man turn to his own people” (2 Nephi 23:14), splintering into tribes instead of coming together into Zion.

9. Normal procedures can be changed during a war. In Alma 51:13, we read of a group of Nephites who hated their present administration and wanted it out of power. When they heard that the Lamanites were attacking, these men actually “were glad in their hearts” and refused to serve in the military. Good thing nothing like that is around today! (please note the sarcasm)

In Alma 51:19, when Moroni won a battle against these dissenters among the Nephite’s own population, “those of their leaders who were not slain in battle were taken and cast into prison, for there was no time for their trials at this period.”

So the prisoners of war were left in a holding tank since conducting the war took precedence over any due process the prisoners might receive. Even the habeus corpus procedures for Nephite citizens, apparently, could be suspended.

Critics of Guantanamo Bay and the Patriot Act might want to read these verses before their next protest.

10. Good leaders must have private morality. Those who would defend unethical public leaders, saying that their private lives are not connected to their work, might take this as a warning. The Jaredite king Morianton “did do justice unto the people, but not unto himself because of his many whoredoms; wherefore he was cut off from the presence of the Lord” (Ether 10:11).

One would have a hard time arguing that men who are cut off from the Lord’s presence because of their loose morals are fit to lead us, whatever their apparent competence in office. Moroni includes this detail of judgment for a reason; one of the themes of the book of Ether is that wicked leaders, in an inevitable cycle, bring sorrow to their nations.

This list is only the tip of the iceberg. It does not include, for example, the many references to righteous societies embracing wholesome living and strict religion, references which would alienate today’s so-called blue states.

It’s interesting to read the overview of the last days as given by Nephi after his great vision. He describes the church of the devil which scourges the righteous in our era as a political entity that is openly hostile to religion (1 Nephi 13:5), embraces sexual immorality (1 Nephi 13:7), and constitutes an international political entity (1 Nephi 14:13-15). John the Apostle, in his Book of Revelation, adds the detail that this civil Babylon will control a heavily-regulated global economy (Revelation 13:16-17).

Now, which side of the American political spectrum—conservative or liberal—is more likely to get on board with that program?

 

 

Those who are riled up by this are welcome to comment, but please keep two things in mind: first, railing against policies you don’t like isn’t a rebuttal. My comments here are the result of honest textual analysis. If you wish to correct me, please make sure your position is grounded in the text of the Book of Mormon. Second, I’d actually like to hear from any liberals who could find so many clear references to their political principles in the text. Keep in mind that my references are all to federal, political issues; not personal virtue or community values.

Bottom line: a close reading of the Book of Mormon should persuade us to adopt conservative political principles.

 

Cycle Of Civilizational Decline Illustrated By American Southwest

It’s no secret that for a decade Southern Nevada has been the fastest growing area in the country.  Why?  What makes the Las Vegas valley so great?

The answer might lie in this sign (courtesy of http://www.lifeinthepast.com/renotah.html), which stood at the border between Nevada and California at Lake Tahoe in the 1940’s:

 

It reads: “No income tax, no sales tax, no inheritance tax, no corporation tax, no gift tax” and “A debt free state welcomes you.”

That sign isn’t there any more.  Cue Bob Dylan: “The times they are a changin’…”

To answer our question, Nevada became such a great place to live because it was founded on conservative, libertarian principles that built a solid economy here.  Now, among many other things, a decade of refugees from the People’s Republic of California has eroded that success.  Las Vegas is not nearly as friendly to individual freedom and entrepreneurship as it used to be. 

This is hardly the only place where such things happen.  Next door in Utah, the Salt Lake Valley was settled by Mormon pioneers.  Today, the astonishing success of Utah’s socio-politcal climate has attracted the usual hordes of leeches: in recent elections, while the rest of Utah is still solidly red, Slat Lake County has turned blue. 

America itself follows this pattern.  Award-winning historian Joseph Ellis has called our nation’s founding a “conservative revolution.”  Today, our government makes the small, simple world of the Constitution look more anachronistic than Paris Hilton at a Mensa meeting. 

Southern California has long since turned into a wasteland (for example: http://www.city-journal.org/html/17_1_mexifornia.html).  Over the last couple decades, property values in Southern Nevada have skyrocketed as swarms of disgruntled Los Angelinos sought shelter here.  In the last few years, a building boom has erupted in Southern Utah as forlorn Nevadans flee the crumbling infrastructure of their once-safe haven.  My advice: invest in land in Idaho and Montana while it’s still cheap.