Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Reformation Day!

Today is one of my favorite holidays, and I’m not talking about Halloween as I do not celebrate it. Rather, I am referring to Reformation Day—a day in which we celebrate the beginning of the Protestant Reformation and its resurrection of the truth that “the just shall live by faith.”

On this day, October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his famed Ninety-five Thesis to the door of All Saints’ Church in the city of Wittenberg, Germany, exposing Roman Catholic abuses and starting a brush fire that would change the world momentously.

The theological implications that followed Luther’s actions on that day are vast and dear to my heart as well as to the heart of anyone who holds a high view of God’s grace and his salvation of sinners. However, this being a primarily political blog, I will spare you that part of the story. Instead, I would urge each of us to take note of the Protestant Reformation’s influence on liberty and modern society as we know it.

I would argue that the modern material comforts we enjoy (which have come by way of economic freedom and innovation) and the very freedom one enjoys as part of a Western democracy owe a massive debt to the work of God in the lives of the protestant reformers.

Our modern beliefs in freedom of conscience, limited government, separation of Church and State, and countless other convictions we now hold dear are actually products of Reformation thought. This is not to say that Luther and the other Reformers were classical liberals, reveling in capitalism, espousing unadulterated political liberty for the individual, or demanding republicanism as we now know it. But I would argue that each of these things came as products of the revolutionary reformation Luther began.

Divorcing society from the Roman Catholic church-state itself allowed for a breakdown in hierarchical structure in society and allowed for democratization in the public square. Coupled with this hierarchal breakdown, the Reformation’s emphasis on Man’s depravity led our Founder’s to be weary of powerful, centralized government and adopt a system of checks and balances.

Moreover, the Reformation belief that faith came not through the Church, but rather, through the work of the Triune God in the heart of the individual paved way for our modern views regarding freedom of conscience. The Reformers realized that the law cannot make converts; God himself is the only agent who can mold men’s hearts.

The list of Reformation influence could go on and on. However, my intent is not to systematically trace Protestantism’s effects on our modern liberties. Rather, I would like us all to give thanks on this day to God for what he has given us through his work in the hearts of the Protestant Reformers by the sovereignty of His hand.

However, if you are interested in the effects of the Reformation on Western Society and classical liberalism in particular, I could not more highly recommend the first essay contained in John W. Robbin’s Freedom and Capitalism. The book itself is well worth reading and will profit all—Christian or not.

In honor of Reformation Day, I will leave you with a passage on civil government from Martin Luther’s own hand. In it we see the very revolutionary nature of his thought, which was grounded in Scripture but lost for centuries on a massive scale. Read, reflect, and see how we can trace these ideas to those of our Founding and how we should apply them today.

“Certainly it is true that Christians, so far as they themselves are concerned, are subject neither to law nor sword, and have need of neither. But take heed and first fill the world with real Christians before you attempt to rule it in a Christian and evangelical manner. This you will never accomplish; for the world and the masses are and always will be unchristian, even if they are all baptized and Christian in name. Christians are few and far between (as the saying is). Therefore, it is out of the question that there should be a common Christian government over the whole world, or indeed over a single country or any considerable body of people, for the wicked always outnumber the good. Hence, a man who would venture to govern an entire country or the world with the gospel would be like a shepherd who should put together in one fold wolves, lions, eagles, and sheep, and let them mingle freely with one another, saying, ‘Help yourselves, and be good and peaceful toward one another. The fold is open, there is plenty of food. You need have no fear of dogs and clubs.’ The sheep would doubtless keep the peace and allow themselves to be fed and governed peacefully, but they would not live long, nor would one beast survive another.

For this reason one must carefully distinguish between these two governments. Both must be permitted to remain; the one to produce righteousness, the other to bring about external peace and prevent evil deeds.” –Martin Luther

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Smoking and Alcohol: Polices to Reconsider

I apologize for my long absence from blogging. I have been spending the last two weeks with a friend who lacks the internet in his home. Therefore, my time on the net has been limited to time spent at the homes of others who have internet access or at coffee shops (which I hate with an unrivaled passion). I would ask, however, that you keep an eye on my blog as I will still be posting when I get the time.

As you may or may not be aware of, I am a Tennessean who has been living in Louisiana since the end of August, working as a field rep for a political non-profit called the Leadership Institute. I miss Tennessee with everything in me. I love and miss my home state, but one thing I will not miss is TN’s refusal to allow for personal responsibility and liberty.

One example of what I am referring to is the state of Tennessee’s liquor and smoking laws.

I don’t smoke or drink, myself. In fact, I am very opposed to both the consumption of alcohol and tobacco products. Heck, I don’t even like people taking medicine for non-migraine headaches. However, I still believe it wrong for my displeasure with the practice of others to hold sway over the law. (Note: I am writing this as a woman is smoking beside me at a coffee shop. The smoke is killing me (literally and figuratively), but I still believe I have no right to tell her she should put it out.)

In Tennessee we have laws that regulate smoking and alcohol in relation to location. Smoking cannot happen in non-bar atmospheres like indoor restaurants, and liquor must be sold in a liquor store or licensed bar. I have noticed the absence of these restrictions in LA.

I must admit when I first entered Wal-Mart here in Louisiana and discovered in-store liquor establishments and saw shelves of Vodka and Jack Daniels, I was a bit taken back. It was quite different for me, growing up in TN without said sights.

Anyone who knows me knows that I hate drunkenness, I hate reliance on alcohol in social contexts, and I abstain completely from alcohol myself. But do I agree with TN’s policy on alcohol? By no means! I believe that we should let individuals act on their own responsibility when it comes to alcohol. I have no right to dictate their ability and limit their liberty. Furthermore, as a Christian, I believe that drunkenness will never be combated through state legislatures prohibiting liquor sales. Rather, only through changed hearts will we see changed practice.

The same should be said of smoking, which I despise on an equal level. (Note: The argument that will follow can be equally applied to alcohol.)

Any establishment that wants to offer the ability to smoke on its premises to its patrons should be allowed to do so. Equally, an establishment has every right to prohibit smoking on its property. This is a decision that is best left to property owners on the local level—not to the government. Before Tennessee adopted its current law on the matter, property owners were able to exercise their God-given rights to their property. Now this is not the case. The nanny-state propped up by the Tennessee legislature now tells property owners how and where property owners are able to use their property in relation to smoking. This is wrong beyond all measure.

Moreover, it robs businesses of the ability to market their establishments to customers. No longer is one’s smoking policy an effective way to cater to demographics.

I remember quiet clearly my parents avoiding certain establishments when I was growing up based on smoking policies. For example, we would not go to certain restaurants because “all the smoke” as my parents put it. Others, we would frequent, seeking better air quality. Businesses who wanted like minded customers could advertise their being a “smoke-free” environment. The same is true of “smoker-friendly” establishments. Now that the policy has changed, those who would like to provide a place for smokers to frequent have lost business to bars and other “smoker-friendly” facilities. Likewise, those who once enjoyed exclusive “smoke-free” clientele have lost their marketing edge as all non-bars are now required by law to remain “smoke-free.”

Not only have property rights been violated by dictating what can or cannot be done on one’s property in regard to smoking, but the government has hindered businesses’ ability to make profits. This is a grave mistake for a free society and a policy that should be reconsidered.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Obama Town Hall Protest at UNO

Watch the following video of what occurred yesterday at the Obama town hall in New Orleans.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lindsey Graham: A Souless Man

I apologize for my absence from blogging as of lately. I have had a lot on my plate and, though I have had some time to blog, I preferred to spend that time relaxing. I intend to be back in the swing of things by week’s end.

For now, I would like to comment on a series of videos featuring Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina facing a hostile crowd at a town hall meeting on Monday.

When addressing the crowd, Graham lauded his ability to throw principle by the wayside in order to “win.”

This is nothing new. I have seen Graham do this for years. For that very reason, I despise Lindsey Graham more than any other figure in politics—more than anyone regardless of party or ideological allegiance. It is not merely his ability to compromise without concern that makes Graham so despicable in my eyes. Rather, it is the way he carries himself afterward in a braggadocios manner hailing himself as someone who knows "how to win."

What I see in said behavior is a politician pointing out his ability to defy his constituents and the Constitution he has swore to defend without ever worrying about losing his job. The cycle is simple: he claims to be a conservative, wins on that claim, and then immediately betrays his so-called “principles.”

The sad thing is Graham has been able to pull off this arrogant display of political theater for years, unchecked. I have seen it myself, and have even talked to those once close to him about Graham’s proud reputation as a compromiser—a compromiser of principle not methods mind you. One of his good friends during their tenure together in the “Republican Revolution” of the mid-90s told me plainly over dinner one night, “I don’t know what is wrong with Lindsey. He always looked up to John McCain, and I think he thinks he can please John by being some deal maker. I personally think he has lost his way and is acting disgraceful.” (a rough quote from memory.)

Though I have long wanted Graham out of the GOP and out of Congress altogether, year after year I continue to see him toddling around Capitol Hill with a smug look and a pocket full of compromise.

Finally, people are taking him to task on his constitutional violations and lack of principle. When I viewed these videos this morning a tear literally filled my eye. I saw people, not even of my generation, standing up and demanding true representation, constitutional fidelity, and principled stands on the issues.

My prayer is that there is still hope for America. We may yet be able to turn this thing around. It will not be easy. In fact, it will involve much sacrifice—principled sacrifice. But we must not compromise what we believe in the process. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Review of END THE FED

The following is my review of Congressman Ron Paul’s newest book END THE FED.

For sake of full disclosure, I will not try to pretend that I came to the reading of this book without prejudice. I am quite a fan of Dr. Paul and the vast majority of the positions he takes on issues of economic policy and beyond. Furthermore, before even hearing Dr. Paul’s argument on the issue of the Federal Reserve, I believed the institution should be dissolved because of the unconstitutionality of a central bank. Jefferson was writing on the issue centuries before Congressman Paul even picked up a pen, and we all know my reverence for our nation’s greatest patriot. Moreover, anyone who reads the founders knows their concern for sound money. So the issue is not a new one. Needless to say, I didn't need convincing, but after reading this book, I am even more firmly in the camp of sound money and free markets.

Though the issue of sound money is not a new one, until recently, it has seemed like a cause no longer welcomed in American political debate. Welcomed or not, the issue of money and central banking’s relation to freedom is back in public discourse, and Dr. Ron Paul’s 2008 bid for president seems to have been the catalyst.

END THE FED is written in Dr. Paul’s usual simple, straight-forward prose. One thing that is appreciative in Dr. Paul’s work is his ability to clearly articulate an argument that anyone can follow. Rather than focusing on flashy sentences and meaningless platitudes, he relies on factual information coupled with constitutional reasoning and historical evidence to make a strong case against the nation's central bank and its inflationary policies. At no point does the work seem contrived or convoluted; rather, it comes through honest and simple.

It is for this reason that I think anyone can read the work and clearly understand what Paul’s key points are. This does not mean one will agree, but it does mean that one should approach the work with an open mind. In fact, Arlo Guthrie notes of his own experience reading the book, "Rarely has a single book not only challenged, but decisively changed my mind."

What would lead to such a change of mind? I think it centers on Paul’s clear grasp of the issue from both a historical and philosophical standpoint.

The book is not merely a one sided argument that the FED is bad and, therefore, must be stopped. It goes much deeper than that to show exactly where the issues of central banking and money manipulation fits in the greater pursuit of liberty.

Dr. Paul clearly shows in the book how the both the Democrats and Republicans favor the FED and its policies because of what it affords each as those same policies harm the populace as a whole. Likewise, Paul points to the inability of a state to continue massive expansionism in military endeavors and welfare programs when constrained by a sound currency. Bound by a sound currency, government would be forced to be limited and the people would experience more peace and freedom. Absent the ability to print unbacked currency, Congress would have to act responsibly with expenditures and could not easily take on debt.

In the book Dr. Paul’s argues from against the FED and its policies from the standpoint of morality, the Constitution, history, and one who seeks liberty. In each of these points, I found him to be quite convincing. His passion for and knowledge of the issue is continually found page after page, and will hopefully bring the same to each who reads it.

If not completely convinced, each should still take at least something away from this book. I came into it expecting merely a discussion of the economic and constitutional failings of the Federal Reserve and its policies. But I discovered much more, including a call for responsibility in government and consistency in philosophical conviction.

END THE FED explains the current economic crises while providing solutions. But at the same time realizes that we are doing the wrong things while ignorance and complacency may lead to only more of the problems that have created this mess.

Therefore, Paul's book attempts to bring the masses up to speed with the issues surrounding central banking.

Perhaps my generation, to whom Paul dedicates the book, will wake up and demand change. Perhaps we will realize: “The Federal Reserve should be abolished because it is immoral, unconstitutional, impractical, promises bad economics, and undermines liberty. Its destructive nature makes it a tool of tyrannical government” (pg 141). If we do not, Paul argues, there will be much trouble ahead.

END THE FED is not only worth reading; it should be required reading for anyone seeking peace and freedom for these United States.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

McConnell Claims TARP Was a Success...Wrong!

I don’t know how this story slipped past me, but it did.

Yesterday, senate minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters that the $700 billion TARP bailout of the Wall Street “succeeded in stabilizing the banking system.”

Really it did, Mr. McConnell?

Well, if by stabilization you mean a short-term “fix” which will do nothing more than prolong the inevitable while propping up toxic assets, you are sort of right…again sort of.

But look on the bright side: at least we all now own some great toxic assets that we get to share with our offspring. I know we are still suffering economic hardship, credit is still lacking, and banks are still failing (three things TARP was supposed to fix), but at least we have each other and a common debt to share. If your idea of success is a country brought together under the shackles of debt and financial ruin, TARP couldn’t be more successful.

But in reality, Sen. McConnell, TARP was a massive failure. It did nothing but reward those who failed, passed the buck onto a later date to be dealt with, and robbed us of our liberty as we are now forced to pay out of the fruits of our labor and against our constitutional contract to keep a system going that is rotten at its very core and is based on the principles of statism and corporatism rather than of free markets and individualism.

You sir, and all those like you who voted for TARP, the other bailouts, and unconstitutional government expansion in general, are all tyrannical. You are traitors to our republic and have no respect for the rule of law as you have betrayed the very Constitution you swore to protect.

May God have mercy on your soul, you foul coward. You are nothing but a slimy hypocrite who gladly criticizes the actions of the Obama administration while supporting those same measures when backed by your own party. If you have a spine, I would love to see it for I doubt its existence. If you have a heart, I know where to find it—for it lies solely with your own hopes of power and riches. If you had a brain, however, you would not have voted for any bailouts, you would never have transgressed the Constitution and trampled upon the rule of law, and you surely would never have proclaimed TARP a success as you did yesterday.

I apologize for the polemic tone of this post. It was not the intent, but that is what flowed from me.

I will end by asking Sen. McConnell one more question on a lighter note: Why do you look so much like the Mason Verger from Hannibal?