A Bit of Monday-morning Quarterbacking

Yesterday afternoon I waded into the discussion regarding NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. For better or worse, I explained that my personal take was that watching Republicans get all fussy about kneeling for the anthem was on par with liberals spazzing out regarding a Ben Shapiro speech.

If you aren’t aware of the back story (and bless you if you aren’t), there was a great deal of hubbub over the weekend due to the President of the United States colorfully condemning NFL athletes who “disrespect our flag” by kneeling during the national anthem, suggesting that the owners should fire them on the spot.

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Quote-worthy Material

From Peggy Noonan:

  • “The U.S. surveillance state as outlined and explained by Edward Snowden is not worth the price. Its size, scope and intrusiveness, its ability to target and monitor American citizens, its essential unaccountability—all these things are extreme.”
  • “It is a great irony, and history will marvel at it, that the president most committed to expanding the centrality, power, prerogatives and controls of the federal government is also the president who, through lack of care, arrogance, and an absence of any sense of prudential political boundaries, has done the most in our time to damage trust in government.”

From Niall Ferguson:

  • Toward the end of “Democracy in America” he warned against the government becoming “an immense tutelary power . . . absolute, detailed, regular . . . cover[ing] [society’s] surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way.”
  • “Tocqueville also foresaw exactly how this regulatory state would suffocate the spirit of free enterprise: ‘It rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces [the] nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.'”
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The Danger of Re-Definition

One of the major problems with living in a postmodern world is the desire by society to redefine the world. Our 21st century culture has thrown off the chains of definitions, standards, and common practices in order to recast society in a new, liberated light. We have no “traditions,” nor do we want them. We live in the moment, and the moment has no boundaries.

Consider the definition of “definition.” To “define” something is to put it in a box… to “state or describe exactly the nature, scope, or meaning of” something. In other words, when we “define” something, whether it’s an emotion, an expression, an institution, or a way of life, we pigeon-hole it… classifying it as one thing and not the other.

Today’s culture has rejected this notion of “definition.” American society kicks against the goads of both definition and tradition. We deny any need for what is normal, what is accepted, or even what is right and moral. If something goes against the norm, it must be good. After all, it is new, shiny and attractive.

But to quote Shakespeare, “All that glisters is not gold.”

As a 20-something who is not yet five years removed from college, but already has a wife, two kids and a mortgage, I am one of those “young people” who as a whole are fighting to redefine this world we live in. It is my generation which gasps for individual expression and liberty, pushing against tradition and cultural norms. Over the last 20 years, we have witnessed a push to redefine marriage, to redefine sexuality, to redefine the roles of our social institutions, and even to redefine life.

And now, we are beginning to suffer the consequences for our postmodern way of life. Because of the popularity of the murder of the unborn, there are those who would seek to extend our abortive liberties. Why not just end their lives right after? Or for that matter, why not let them live for a year or two to observe their behavior and then terminate the living “organisms” that don’t meet our standards then? Or what about pedophiles, and those who commit sexual crimes? Maybe they were just born that way – they can’t help themselves. What we ought to do is learn to make them comfortable and accepted in society. We won’t judge! Or what about a guy who decides to marry his poodle? Man’s best friend is capable of communicating as well as showing and feeling love and other emotions. Why should we judge them? Let’s marry them at the local Episcopal church!

You might laugh with incredulity at my suggestions, but I warn you – these days are coming, and they’re coming quickly. This is what happens when a society rejects “definition” and “tradition.” This is what happens in an age of REdefinition. If you break down the boundaries on sexuality and life, there is no stopping the slippery slide.

These are the dangers we face living in a 21st century world. These are clear and present dangers, and we who embrace morality and recognize the need for “definition” in culture need to be bold in making a case for it. Do not get me wrong – I am not suggesting that we should assume all traditions are good and beneficial. But a train is freest when it is on the tracks, and there is peace and liberty and joy that is found in societies where boundaries exist. If we don’t want to live in a world where we can murder our children at any age, or smile upon pedophilia, then we need to recover a healthy desire for standards and definitions. And if we want to do it right, let’s recover a desire for God’s standards, in which we can find the ultimate freedom.

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“Ban the Bag” – Is Government the Answer?

Right at a year ago, I wrote a post on a “bag ban” proposal passed by the city of Austin, TX. That proposal has now gone into effect, and has created a hubbub once again among clear-thinking, sensible conservatives across the state. In memory of free markets and liberty, I re-post my original article:

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Thanks to our local Daily Sentinel’s Facebook page, I was recently made aware of a ban passed by the Austin City Council regarding the use of plastic bags at retail and grocery store checkouts.  I did a little reading on the details of this “ban,” and am frankly appalled that such a proposal ever came to a vote.  In Texas, no less!

In the city known for keeping it weird, however, Austinites managed to propose and pass yet another regulation that infringes upon the rights of private businesses and the citizens who own and manage them.  Of course, the proponents of this ban are ecstatic over their success.  From an article written back in August of last year:

“Council members say plastic bags are an environmental scourge – polluting waterways, clogging drainage systems and taking up landfill space, where they don’t biodegrade.

Austinites use 263 million plastic bags a year, and they cost the city and taxpayers about $850,000 a year to clean up as litter and put in landfills, according to city estimates.

A voluntary effort by large Austin retailers, including Walmart and Target, to cut plastic bag use was not effective enough, city officials have said.

On Thursday , the nonprofit Texas Campaign for the Environment called on the city to ban both plastic and paper bags, saying that would achieve the larger goal of helping consumers get in the habit of using reusable bags instead of single-use bags.”

Yes – the answer to this incredible waste is more government regulation.  After all, if our city councils aren’t forcing us to be more environment-friendly in our businesses and private lives, then we will ultimately destroy the earth.  Therefore businesses are evil and we should do everything in our power as citizens to SAVE THE EARTH and keep people from littering.  Because people who litter stop their littering ways when retail and grocery stores provide only reusable bags.

Right.

Unfortunately, at some point way back in the day, people thought the only way to solve their problems was to ask the government to fix their problems for them (read: regulate).  Ever since then, governments – local, state and federal – have always been happy to take on more power and more responsibility, thus taking power from the citizens and consequently issuing ridiculous regulations and laws such as this “bag ban” in Austin.

We seem to have forgotten that government should be in the hands of the people, and the people alone.  Our government’s job is to keep us safe, make sure that we’re all being legitimate and fair in our business (just and equal measures), and deal with those who violate the rights of others.  Regulating how we run our businesses is not part of the government’s job.

So what should we do if we feel like our local businesses and citizens are being wasteful with the products they use, or if we see that our community has a littering problem?  Educate our citizens!  Write an article in the paper.  Speak up in your community organizations.  Clean up your own act, or your own street, or your own neighborhood.  Govern yourselves.   The answer is never more government regulation, but rather self-government.  Team up with other individuals or organizations and make your community aware of what seems to be an issue.

But don’t go too far – we must always allow for differences, both in opinion and operation.  If someone doesn’t like what you’re proposing, as long as they’re not oppressing you by stating their opinion or by their actions, then don’t worry about it.  This is the beauty of a free economy, built on a free-market system.  If your way of doing things is better, then the businesses that agree with you will thrive – and they will do so on their own, through competition.  We shouldn’t be suggesting to our governments that we want all of our businesses to be the same.  Let them be different!  They satisfy unique groups of customers – those who care about what kind of bags are being offered, and those who don’t.  And if you’re having a problem with littering, then work on the customers; don’t punish the businesses.

As is often the case, there are a dozen different ways to handle situations like this, but the answer is very rarely civil government.  It’s simply not the government’s business what kind of bags businesses are using.  Let the market decide – let the customers decide.  But regulation is not the answer.  And because people so often believe government regulations are the answer, regulations have largely become the problem.  Freedom and prosperity are the consequences of an unencumbered society and market.  The cream will rise to the top in a competitive free-market economy, and will do so on its own.

This is yet another example of how we must begin to take an account of our government – federal, state and local – and recognize that we have a responsibility to govern ourselves, and if we do so, our need for government regulation will almost completely disappear.

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