Rational Patriots

Reason in action, Iowa politics and culture from an Objectivist perspective

Vice Presidential debate – in snippets

I’m trying to stream the Vice Presidential debates through YouTube. Although I usually have a high-quality connection, this debate stream is short and choppy. I’m picking up perhaps 20% of it. Taliban – urinate – ironical – we will not allow.

And that doesn’t bother me. I know that tomorrow, I can read the entire transcript online somewhere. I can watch an archived version on YouTube within hours, most likely.

But what if I couldn’t? What if the words spoken right now, the expressions, the gestures, were only captured within human minds – for the duration of living memory?

I thought about this, and considered that most humans in history have lived in that memory-embedded, impermanent world. I feel very lucky to live a middle-class life, in Iowa, in 2012. I can pay attention to politics, take a sampling of the surroundings, when it suits me.

As an Objectivist, I don’t believe in unchosen obligations. Still, I have a desire to live up to the gift of history, of technology. I want to do my part.

Government “Partnership”

The Register mentions the transcontinental railroad, the Homestead Act, land grant colleges, and the G.I. Bill as evidence that government is a partner in progress, and not the enemy of it.

Yet government’s subsidies and anti-competitive grants of monopoly created so-called “robber baron” railroad tycoons.  The Homestead Act was an example of government doing less, by giving away land it had acquired and asking citizens to do the work of developing the land.  So that hardly seems like an appropriate example for their list.  The land grant colleges may have done what they were supposed to do in the beginning, but they’ve come to dominate higher education because of their government funding, while underperforming on retention rates, class sizes, and quality of education.  The United States spends more, as a percentage of GDP, on higher education than any other nation in the world.  Yet the proportion of Americans with college degrees (of any type) is lower than 8 other developed nations, and we’ve been losing ground.  The answer to that problem is clearly not more government “partnership”.

And even with all these government projects to stimulate this or that economic outcome or social good, it’s private companies that actually do the building. Roads, highways, bridges, public buildings, Internet, fire trucks, fire houses, telephone, dams, rail lines, etc. Private real estate companies build what are practically miniature towns in the form of new residential development and shopping malls. They have the expertise and the funding to do so.

According to the Iowa DOT:

‎”On March 14, 1911, the Des Moines-Kansas City-St. Joseph Interstate Trail Association was organized in Lamoni, Iowa, and the route officially located, and ordered marked by the association who received assistance from automobile clubs, commercial organizations, farmers, and other citizens in the cities, towns and countryside traversed by the trail.”

Highway 65, the Jefferson Highway, was privately funded and managed from its beginning. Businesses and even regular citizens knew that it would benefit them. They didn’t need to be told so by government “partners”. And they didn’t need to be taxed by the President so somebody else could “make that happen“.  (By the way, the DOT article is a fascinating read, even if not for the political lesson.)

With the ingenuity, productiveness, and drive to succeed that Americans have demonstrated throughout our history, one imagines that if our government literally said to the nation “we’re done, from now on you build it” that the nation would simply say “okay”.

What Maurice Strong Knew About Socialism

Keeping in mind that Maurice is a multi-billionaire socialist who hosts the Agenda 21 conferences and that he has lived in China for the last fifty years….

Terry Eagleton tells us in “Marx was Right” that Karl Marx thought that it was very difficult to take a country into Socialism while it was in poor financial circumstances.  Socialists need healthy industry and agriculture to take over. Capitalism needs to precede the move to Socialism.  However if a poor, underdeveloped country made the decision to go Socialist, it just needed another nation to be Capitalist to help it with the money and goods that it needed to carry it through the tough times.

Isn’t that what the underdeveloped countries at Rio+20 are counting on? All they need is the USA and they can skip the Capitalism stage of economic transformation. Quick, somebody tell the US Marxists that we need to remain Capitalist until the rest of the world has been transformed. Then it will be our turn to get transformed.  Hmmm. That sounds familiar, something about “In just five days we can begin to transform this nation.”

Wait, never mind.  We can go ahead with transformation.  The Chinese have instituted “state capitalism.” That should hold all the poor countries over – could even be just the ticket for getting the USA over the transformation hump. O.K. then – no worries.

Conspiracy and Complexity

As a result of a brief conversation with Objectivist, Rachel, I’m feeling a strong inclination to think about the possibility that “conspiracy can be easier than complexity.” That is that a conspiracy is easier for us to identify when we find ourselves facing a multitude of big problems.

In the case of Agenda 21, the conspiracy is actually well documented. The high number of companies and individuals who are jumping on the Green Sustainability bandwagon are the complexity – and they make this subject exponentially harder for us.

In the case of the creation of the Federal Reserve, the conspiracy is well documented. The incredible result of bad economic law here and abroad is the complexity that threatens our personal well being.

In the case of the behavior of the Obama administration’s “criminal” behavior – there are Marxists in our government who want to see Capitalism destroyed once and for all, and that groupthink is real – but the complexity rises out of the willingness of the lovers of liberty to continue to allow a little collectivism to be mixed with individualism – to allow a little of the poison of governmental force against individuals to be mixed with the elixir of governmental protection of individual rights. We need to examine our principles for contradictions; we need to clearly state those principles and act upon them.

We talk among ourselves of the day we woke up to what was going on to bring the U.S. down. There is deep intelligence among the Tea Partiers and 9-12ers and the members of other patriot groups and we need to develop a reliance on that intelligence within ourselves even when the battle has worn us down and made conspiracy look easier to deal with.

I can’t help wondering if the Complexity is more powerful than the Conspiracy. We are demonstrating a pretty good understanding of the conspiracy. We need to understand the complexity as well.

OCON, Health Care, and More

So much has happened since we last posted.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate has been upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court.  Notice the statement the Court seems to be making: States have rights (forced Medicaid expansion struck down) and individuals don’t (mandate upheld).  You can be forced to buy health insurance, but your state cannot.

Two members of our little Iowa Objectivist vanguard, myself and Rachel Garrett, attended the annual Objectivist Conference in San Diego earlier this month.  It was 10 days of intellectual stimulation in beautiful 68° weather while Iowa baked above the 100° mark.  Sorry, guys.

There were several good talks by prominent Objectivist philosophers and other intellectuals from around the country, with a special presentation by the Institute for Justice on strategic constitutional litigation.  One of the courses I attended was on the history of the Supreme Court, given by Dr. Eric Daniels of the Clemson Institute, and explained through the development of parallel legal “doctrines”, including the Commerce Clause, Freedom of Contract, and Substantive Liberty Interests.  What I took from this course, and what is displayed in the recent Obamacare ruling, is that nearly everysingle time a case has come before the Supreme Court, starting right from the founding of the nation, the effect has been to erode individual liberty.  Cases where the Court has ruled against the state have been for the benefit of classes of individuals (African Americans, women, etc) and never for single individuals except as they are represented by a collective or class that they are a part of.  It’s a subject I find endlessly fascinating and seriously depressing.

In other news, there’s an odd story going on in Scott County, Iowa.  According to the QC Times:

A Cedar Rapids businesswoman and Republican nominee in a Linn County Senate race thinks bowing out of the race to serve as a U.S. senator of the Republic of the United States of America and the Republic for Iowa was the right decision.

Randi Shannon, who was nominated to challenge Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Cedar Rapids, in Iowa Senate 34, has filed papers to have her name removed from the ballot because she is no longer interested in serving in the Iowa Legislature.

“I am glad I walked away from it,” Shannon said on the Fallon Forum, a talk show hosted by former Des Moines Democratic legislator Ed Fallon. “I’m disgusted with what’s going on. I was looking for a change.”

I suppose a person has to make those choices in life.

DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional, Again

The First Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Boston, recently decided against a specific provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), specifically the denial of federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

The Act was passed in 1996 with broad bipartisan support, including all of Iowa’s elected Congressmen, both Democrat and Republican, and was signed into law by then-President Clinton.

In an interview with an LGBT-oriented magazine, President Clinton said at the time, “I remain opposed to same-sex marriage. I believe marriage is an institution for the union of a man and a woman.  This has been my long-standing position, and it is not being reviewed or reconsidered.”  According to the nation’s political leader, discussing the government’s role in marriage “is divisive and unnecessary.”  Clinton also authored the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy prohibiting LGBT citizens from serving in the military.

Is discussing the rights of this class of American citizen divisive?  It does seem to be.  But is it unnecessary to have this debate?  Apparently not, because here we are 16 years later still at it.

The Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision is the third such judicial action to declare DOMA unconstitutional.  The case is working its way up the chain of justice, with the Supreme Court its next and final stop.  Only the Supreme Court has the final authority to rule a law unconstitutional.

What’s interesting, however, is that the court deferred on the issue of whether or not the federal refusal to recognize same-sex marriages is just or fair to the couples involved.  It did, however, consider an argument of federalism, what conservatives sometimes like to call “states rights”.  According to the court:

“DOMA intrudes extensively into a realm that has from the start of the nation been primarily confided to state regulation–domestic relations and the definition and incidents of lawful marriage”

This should be a conservative’s dream.  A federal court has, for once, chosen to keep something out of the hands of the federal government, and firmly in the province of state governments.  Just as Iowa is allowed to maintain its tradition of extending civil rights and equality under the law to as many as possible, so North Carolina is allowed to embed discrimination into their justice system.  But… I kind of doubt there will be many conservatives hailing this decision.

In the current issue of Reason magazine, columnist Jacob Sullum explains this phenomenon, which he calls “Fair-Weather Federalism“.  He quotes a University of Georgia law professor who says:

“One scans American history in vain to find a major figure whose position on states’ rights was not directly connected to his or her position on the underlying political question.  When it suits our leaders, they are in favor of broad federal power; when it does not, they claim ‘states rights’.”

Is this the right decision by the Circuit Court?  I don’t know.  I’d love to hear your opinion.

G-Skeptics Wrong on Rand

The Skeptics Guide to Government is an Iowa podcast, produced by Dr. Alan Koslow along with co-hosts Bob and James. In the most recent episode 55, Dr. Koslow referred to Ayn Rand’s politics. I was surprised to hear Rand mentioned, but also disappointed, because I think he incorrectly attributed ideas to Rand that she would not have supported and, in fact, would have been diametrically opposed to.

The topic was ALEC, a non-profit group who, according to the organization’s website “provides a constructive forum for state legislators and private sector leaders to discuss and exchange practical, state-level public policy issues”, but it also claims to “focus on free markets” and “limited government”. Koslow referred to ALEC as “pure Ayn Rand corporatism”. I don’t know enough about ALEC to confirm whether it is corporatist, but I’ll assume so for the sake of argument. Ayn Rand however, from what I have read, would be firmly against corporatism.

According to Merriam-Webster, corporatism is: “the organization of a society into industrial and professional corporations serving as organs of political representation and exercising control over persons and activities within their jurisdiction”. According to Koslow’s own definition, “Capitalism is where a small guy can open up a small little store, and can reach for the brass ring, the American dream. Corporatism is the keeping down of the small people and only the big corporations control everything.” That may focus too much on smallness verses bigness, rather than the essential intermingling of private and state power structures, but it’s not altogether a bad explanation. Where Koslow is mistaken is attributing support for this idea to Rand.

The political idea that Rand championed was capitalism, not corporatism. In Rand’s magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, she clearly showed corporatists such as Jim Taggert and Wesley Mouch as villains who destroy capitalism and free enterprise with laws protecting established big business interests. The heroes were the morally courageous entrepreneurs and creative people like Dagny Taggert and Hank Rearden, who strived to achieve, produce, and innovate, despite the state and monopolistic corporate interests colluding against them. Ayn Rand valued freedom and free markets, and there is nothing free in the tyranny of corporatism.

New IaGRC.com Website!

I have very exciting news!  The Iowa Grassroots Coalition, of which Rational Patriots is a part, has a new website thanks to the hard work of Steve Edwards.  The work has really paid off.  If you haven’t seen the website, I suggest loading it up right now and taking a look.  Iowa Grassroots Coalition is at:  http://iagrc.com.

The site now features:

  1. Who we are as a coalition
  2. Where our member groups are
  3. A list of bloggers who support freedom
  4. Resources for patriots to use
  5. An events calendar
  6. And, maybe most exciting, forums!

We are very happy to have this much-needed tool up and running.  It really is a collaboration of many in our movement.  The map was originally constructed by Rachel Garrett and got a really cool upgrade by Steve.  The text of the Welcome page and About Us was created by Michael Patomson and others.  The list of blogs is from a lot of research by Marcia Hora.  The organization and vision for the site was from the mind of Gregg Cummings.  And there’s just so much more to explore on the site.

Because we are now bringing the IaGRC.com website to all patriots, this will quickly become an invaluable resource for the Tea Party movement in Iowa.  Please let anyone know who’s interested in advancing fiscal sanity, constitutional principles, and personal responsibility in the public arena.

If you have any questions about the website or need help with anything, please let me know.

Obama on Student Loans

President Barack Obama was at the University of Iowa on Wednesday mostly talking about student loans. He was rallying support to keep the interest on the government student loans at a low rate. Mitt Romney favors the same proposal.

Those politicians advocating for centrally planned government involvement in higher education, which appears to be almost all of them, have a problem. They want two contradictory things. First, they want college education to be affordable. Second, they want a high participation rate. This is an evasion of the reality of economics and ends up costing more in the long run.

The law of supply and demand will tell you that if you artificially lower the price then you shrink the available supply. Government then must subsidize the universities more to avoid rationing. So in the long run, for the lower price of their student loans, those students will pay a higher price in taxes for government subsidized schools, plus government overhead, plus a premium for market inefficiency, plus the cost difference of lowered interest rates for the next generation of students.