What’s wrong with the GOP?

elephants-fighting1-570x301Whenever a controversy erupts, why do democrats seem to always circle their wagons and protect each other, whereas republicans will immediately eat their own? Is it part of the loyalty pledge? What causes one party to act out of self-preservation while the other seems bent on self-destruction?

The Democrat Party has long prided itself on its diverse views of culture and social mores. Until the rise of the Regressive Left phenomenon (a topic for another day), the attraction of the Left has been their promise not to judge anyone’s values. All thoughts and ideas are welcome, no matter how strange or bizarre to those on the Right.

Conversely, the Republican Party has prided itself on longstanding cultural traditions, to include religious and family values. The attraction of the Right has been their support of the Constitution and the principles of cultural assimilation, no matter how old fashioned it may appear to those on the Left.

Looking at these two disparate perspectives will give us a starting point for knowing why each party reacts in polar opposite fashion. But, we need to know one more thing before we can proceed. It is important to understand the concept of groupthink. It is a psychological phenomenon where individuals yearn for harmony or conformity within their group, resulting in irrational or dysfunctional decision-making. They try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus without critical evaluation of alternative perspectives, usually by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints and by isolating themselves from outside influences.

Because those on the Left typically accept a much wider range of social behaviors or actions, their reaction tends to be one of  tolerance. If that person is truly a member of their group, without question, the others in that same group will say to the offending member, “You are one of us so we are not going to judge you.” Therefore, their behavior or action is whitewashed through the prism of tolerance, even if it seems to defy logic and reason

On the flip-side, those on the Right, who typically demand self-control and to aspire to a higher moral code, will invariably choose to dissociate from the wrong-doer saying, “You are not one of us and we don’t want others to judge us by your actions.” Therefore, whatever the problem or failing, the fear of being lumped in with an aberration fuels a need among the Right to isolate and deride the individual, rather than forgive or show compassion.

The Left elects to accept the problematic person or situation, employing a sort of secular forgiveness and absolution while the Right chooses to pass down judgment and condemnation, ignoring the very religious tenants that are supposed to be at the core of the party.

I should note that it would be wrong to paint every Democrat or Republican with the same brush. Groupthink exists within the core — the rock solid center. It is made up of those who tend to be very vocal, militant in their stances and opinions and often are in positions of power, whether it be a political position or one within the halls of opinion, talk or social media. The further out one gets from the core, the less likely to be affected by the blinders of groupthink. And not everyone within the core will suffer, it just becomes far more prevalent.

Once the problem person or action has been identified, both parties will strive to regain conformity within their respective groups. The Left attempts to dilute the situation by surrounding, supporting and, in some cases, embracing the action or behavior of one of their own. Hence the notion of always circling the wagons. Conversely, the Right attempts to absolve itself from the nature of the problem by going out of its way to inform everyone that the behaviors or actions of the one individual do not represent the rest of the group.

This explains how someone like Bill Clinton, with a proclivity toward chasing and bedding women and a habit of lying can be dismissed by those on the Left. Those flaws become explainable. It’s the stress of the job. It’s the allure of the office. It’s a natural byproduct of the weight of the office. No one wants to be judged within their group so no one will do it either. The behavior or action is not only tolerated, in time, it also becomes something to admire.

On the other side, someone like Donald Trump, with a proclivity of boorish behavior toward women and a lack of political-correctness, is unacceptable within the ranks of the Right. Such behavior reflects poorly on the group identity and where Bill Clinton gets a pass from his own party, the exact opposite takes place on the Right. The need for sanctimonious piety precludes any acceptance or forgiveness. There can be no consideration given to an alternative viewpoint.

It explains how, in the last several election cycles, whichever candidate comes to the fore in the GOP, will have their flaws documented, amplified, exposed and used as reasons to then reject and dismiss. It also explains how those on the Left are willing to accept any flaw, even lawlessness and thievery, when their chosen representative ascends the mantle of power.

Many of our Founding Fathers, like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, did their share of drinking and many engaged in unseemly activities. War leaders and heroes like Franklin D. Roosevelt, George S. Patton and  John F. Kennedy have had their vices and vulgarities made known. We should always strive for the best, but our history is replete with individuals who will forever be remembered more for their leadership, bravery, intellect and patriotism than any social flaw or defect.

When the election cycle comes to a close, the GOP needs to engage in some significant soul-searching. There needs to be room for more tolerance. There needs to be room for more forgiveness. Fake outrage will not help the party. Sanctimonious tirades only serve the individual feigning disappointment. The Right needs to recognize that every human being is inherently flawed and to hell with worrying about what the other side is going to say. They need to worry more about achieving strategic victories and less about condemning individual foibles. Failure to understand and address these issues will lead to an even more fractured, divided and angry GOP; a pale shadow of it’s former self.

Maybe what is really wrong with the GOP is trying to shoe-horn too many rigid ideologues under the same tent. Who knows? But, if we cannot figure out how to be a little more flexible and a whole lot more focused, we will watch as the Grand Old Party rips itself apart along ideological lines.

And the Democrats will reign for an age.

 

 

 

Two sides of the same coin

Building on my most recent piece, I want to explore further the current climate within the electorate. Without a doubt, the last two (and soon to be three) election cycles for president are no longer about record. We are not interested in the most qualified, either. We don’t care about experience or integrity. All we care about is which candidate is going to make us feel something.

When I say “we,” I mean a rising majority of those who even bother to vote. Personally, I still hold tight to the belief that record and consistency matter. I dislike identifying with a party, often choosing to describe my views as either Constitutionalist or Originalist. Whenever the government wants to do something, I ask, where does the Constitution provide for that? What was the intent of the Founding Fathers as it relates to such an idea? We have volumes of writings (the Federalist Papers) that provide the context of every word in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. If anyone wants to take time to read their words, you will immediately know how they felt about the role of government.

Regardless of how someone looks, whether they are short or tall, male or female, black or white (or any other shade), I care only about the content of their character. Do they follow through on their word? Are they honest? Do they conduct themselves as though they understand they are a civil servant and not a lord over their own personal fiefdom? If their position on any given subject has changed, can they identify the moment when new knowledge or experiences helped to reshape their views?

In some ways, it’s similar to choosing a mate. I love my wife. Though it started with feelings we had for each other, we didn’t base our relationship on just those. We stayed together and grew stronger because of so many shared views and interests. But, she is not a clone of me, nor I of her. As shocking as this may sound, we don’t agree with each other 100% of the time. We can rub each other the wrong way. We each have our own interests that are less appealing to the other. Yet, she is my best friend in the whole world. I love her intellect, her wit and her sarcasm. Our incompatibilities far out-weight any dissimilarities, but it took time and effort to dig deep to make sure we were basing our future on a rock solid foundation.

We all know or have experienced relationships built only on a shallow view of the other person. Whenever we have opted to put importance on the physical (or the monetary), those relationships disappoint and fall apart. The halls of family courts across the nation are littered with couples separating over “irreconcilable difference.” How many of them realized only after getting married that they really didn’t have enough in common to build a life around? They didn’t take the time to look at their situation logically and reasonably. I’m not saying emotion or passion isn’t a factor, it just shouldn’t be the only one!

In 2008, we saw the first case of this phenomenon in politics when a young, naive and relatively unknown junior senator was able to capture the imagination of the electorate and rocket to the presidency without any in-depth vetting or qualifications. Barack Obama was young, articulate and exciting. We heard over and over about how historic it would be to elect the first black president in the United States. We put looks over substance and it was exciting! Record voter turn-out showed the country was caught up in the euphoria of such a candidate. He became as much a celebrity as he did the leader of the free world. He based his campaign on hope and change and the masses loved how that made them feel.

Enter the seven-year itch.

The electorate has soured on the surface layer fluff and no longer has any excitement for their chosen mate. The problems of seven years ago are either still in place or are much worse. The national debt has doubled from a little over $9 trillion to almost $19 trillion, the workforce participation race hasn’t been this low in over 30 years and 45% of those who do work are not even paying a dime in federal income tax. We are speeding headlong into a complete collapse of the healthcare system due to the exchanges going bankrupt because of the failed ponzi scheme that is the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Illegals pour into our nation unfettered, loan wolf attacks from terrorists are rising and civil unrest in many cities is reminiscent to what led to the riots of the 60s.

That’s when the next “looker” catches our eye from across the room. And just like seven years ago, the electorate is glomming onto the candidate who most makes them feel something. Instead of hope and change, we now just want to make America great again. Fueled by massive unpopularity for anyone else considered to be a career politician, the celebrity candidate, who also happens to be an outsider, is like the bright colored bauble hypnotizing the glee-faced toddler. It doesn’t matter what positions Donald Trump has held in the past, it only matters what he says he’s going to do. And contrary to some pundits out there, he is building a huge coalition of followers across several key demographics who themselves want to feel great again.

I have no crystal ball. Should Trump win the nomination and then go on to win the presidency, he may turn out to be exactly what this country needs to pull out of the socialism dive and get back to the tenents of the Constitution. Or he may turn out to be the accelerant that brings our nation crashing to its knees. There is no way to know for sure.

But we are not increasing the odds of a successful relationship by never going beyond the superficial. Trump followers are in the infatuation stage. It’s how our brains are wired. The reward pathways increase our excitement and joy when stimulated. The better something or someone makes us feel, the more we want it. Like lab rats, we will keep pressing the lever that releases the pellet for as long as the reward is delivered.

Make America great again! Who doesn’t feel a sense of pride at that slogan? We don’t care if the answers for how he will make that happen are shallow and superficial. It feels good and it feels like winning and we all like to win. George Patton once said, “When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big league ball players, the toughest boxers … Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in Hell for a man who lost and laughed.”

Well, we’ve watched Obama laugh (bow, fold, cave, lead-from-behind) and we don’t like it. We want to win. But Obama once made everyone feel like we could all experience hope and change in our lives. Now we are trading that slogan in for the new one because we want to be great…again! The underlying driver of this year’s primary is the same as in 2008. It’s two sides of the same coin.

What no one really knows is whether or not we are playing heads they win, tails we lose.

 

The Ivory Tower of Pisa — Welcome to PCU

The 2015-16 school year started a few months ago. It was my turn to spend a day offering my wisdom and experience in the day-to-day activities of the students. As I walked into the first classroom, I felt like I had been transformed into the role of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie, Kindergarten Cop. Everywhere I turned, it was mayhem. One girl kept yelling, “Mine!” Another child was sprawled on the floor, refusing to listen to anyone. There were three boys in matching shirts shoving a fourth, telling him his color didn’t match and he couldn’t stand with them.

As I made my way through this throng of wild and emotionally charged students, I found the teacher. To my surprise, she wasn’t doing anything to rein in the chaos. Instead, she issued one affirmation after another about the importance of feelings and embracing them. She continued to let the students know, free expression of their emotions is what made them special.

Befuddled, I left to see if I could help with phys ed.

When I arrived, I saw a group of students shooting baskets. Some were going in easily. Others could not even hit the backboard. After a few moments, the coach blew his whistle, called them over and told them how outstanding they did. He reminded them that results are not what mattered, but that they tried real hard. He then added, declaring someone a winner was tantamount to saying everyone else was a loser, making such a statement both hurtful and unfair. As all the students smiled, he concluded by saying the important thing to remember was being part of one big village where everyone remembers their place. At that, he handed each of them a gold star and told them to get changed.

I headed for another classroom, hoping I’d be more help there. As I entered, I was delighted to see the topic being discussed was the formation of our nation and the role the Founding Father’s played in developing the Bill of Rights. The teacher was discussing the Second Amendment. As she talked, I realized she was quoting it incorrectly. She told the students the amendment called for the right to create a militia and only those in the military had a right to be armed. She smiled sweetly and added that it made sense to let the Army have that power and the Founders were very smart to make sure no one could take away the means for the military to protect the people. I began to interject, but was quickly shushed. She told me the First Amendment didn’t give me the right to create a climate of disagreement within the room. She said the Founding Fathers understood a need for harmony and to create a safe place to be free of harassing ideas and hurt feelings.

I turned on my heels and left. I couldn’t believe what these first-time students were being taught. I headed to another room, my thoughts whirling through my head. This time I entered a room where the discussion was basic economics. On the board was a lone stick figure, drawn rather large and with a big sack in his hand and a dollar sign on it. Next to it was written, “The 1%.” Underneath the figure, as though perched on the top of a pyramid, two lines created a triangular wedge, where dozens of smaller stick figures were drawn. None of them were holiding anything in their hands. Next to them was written, “The 99%.”

The man teaching the class then explained that there are a select few in the community, represented by the lone stick figure, who were lucky and able to take home more wealth than others. He went on to caution them not to think that the 99% work less or not at all. On the contrary, he told them, many who are not as fortunate work even harder, but have more of their money taken away by the 1%. Because of such fortune, it was only right that those with less should get their fair share, to create an equal and balanced society. He said it was important, in a healthy society, that those with exceptional gifts, should give to others, based on their needs.

I interjected. I pointed out that wealthy individuals in our country, by an overwhelming majority, had earned their wealth through hard work, long hours and taking risks on innovative ideas. Because of that, they are able to provide jobs to many others. The teacher was polite and allowed me to finish. He then addressed the class. “See boy and girls? This is what we’ve been talking about. This myth of success is designed to keep the 1% from sharing with those less fortunate. They don’t want to give back to others after so much was given to them.” He shook his head with an air of condescension. “Boys and girls, let’s illustrate and you tell me which is fair. When Johnny goes out to the playground, he has all the kickballs, while everyone else has none. No one but Johnny can play. But, if Johnny gives a ball to each student, everyone gets to play. Which way is better?” The room erupted with cheers about Johnny sharing with everyone.

I tried to explain that taking something that belonged to someone else was theft. If someone chooses to share, that makes them a charitable person, but to make them give away their possessions was the same as stealing. The teacher, with less patience this time, pointed out that it is only stealing if one person takes from another and then keeps it for themselves. But, if someone was helping to redistribute wealth from the more fortunate, then that would be the true definition of charity.

I left. It was disheartening. Everything seemed upside down and backwards. I decided to try one last classroom to see if I would be of any help.

When I entered the last classroom, the teacher had moved all the desks and chairs to the edges of the room. The students were playing some kind of game. My heart began to lift. As I came closer, the teacher continued talking, holding her arms out wide, moving in a slow circle, while children moved out of her way. “Safe spaces are very important. Think of it as your special barrier surrounding you on all sides. It is all yours and only you get to choose what can be allowed to enter. You have the right to stop people from judging you, hating on you or even not liking you. It’s a bullyproof space where you can be safe from anyone different than you.”

The kids’ eyes were wide in awe as they smiled, imagining the power of their own safe spaces. She went on. “When large groups of people share the exact same views, it can be even more powerful. For example, no one likes guns because of how dangerous they are. When we all come together, we can create a safe zone where no one will be allowed to bring in something so threatening.” They were delighted, filling the room with the, “Ooos,” and, “Ahhs,” of children being shown a wondrous, magical object.

My heart fell. What was this person teaching these children? They were not being challenged to see multiple points of view. They weren’t being exposed to various cultural differences or traditions. They weren’t even allowed to hear criticisms or learn how to accept skepticism of their own ideas. They were being fooled to believe they would never have to listen to anyone else who was different. Her lesson ran contrary to the entire foundation of the philosophy of education!

Before I could object, they formed a circle and began to sing, “Safe Space,” from the creators of South Park. As they finished, they were all filled with that same sense of inner pride and empowerment as before. I could not control myself. “Don’t you understand that song is a parody?!”

They looked at me with quizzical stares. The teacher cleared her throat and was polite (too polite) and asked me to explain what I meant.

“Parody!” I yelled. “To imitate something for the purpose of ridicule or satire! It’s meant to get you to see just how silly the notion of a ‘safe space’ is by pretending to be in favor of it. Don’t you see?”

A stern look fell over her face. She put her arms out and came toward me. “You are not allowed in my safe space. It’s time you left.” She continued advancing, swinging her arms. I had no choice to but to retreat from her, not wanting to be hit by her ridiculous gesticulations. “You are the reason we have to protect these children,” she snarled.

I left. I had never before experienced such a display in my life. These students were not being given any of the tools necessary to deal with reality. They were being told their invisible bubble would be an ever-present, all-protective layer, keeping them from having to be challenged, questioned, offended or harmed by anyone, nor forced to relate to different races, origins, religions, traditions or views for the rest of their lives if it made them uncomfortable. They had become cry-bullies, embracing a life of victim-hood and self-imposed disenfranchisement. It was an entire generation of Regressive Leftists, ready to abandon all of the hard-fought gains of those who came before, in exchange for the cozy, warm blanket of their own ignorance.

On my way out, I noticed a poster on the wall with a picture of Shakespeare in the center and the familiar red circle and slash overlaid. Underneath were the words, “No more old, dead, white guys.”

No, for all its similarities, I had not visited a preschool. This was a college campus, where the once shiny Ivory Tower of high-minded, thoughtful and enlightened principles of education had given way to a dingy, leaning, corrupted and crumbling structure, ready to fall under the weight of it’s own irrelevance.

As I left the campus, I recalled the words of Aristotle, who reminded his students repeatedly that the highest virtue in the pursuit of knowledge was courage, because, without it, how could anyone embrace any other virtues at all?

Until we teach our young to be courageous in the face of Regressive Leftist cry-bullies (and their nonsense), the world of Academia will forever remain the final resting place of the weak, the insecure, the petulant, the self-absorbed and the pathetic, always holding a stack of victim cards, with no one left willing to care enough to listen to their plight.

Don’t our children deserve better?

 

 

 

The difference between giving a fish and teaching to fish

IMGP0820A few years ago, my wife and I decided to try kayaking for the first time. We have always loved the water, but didn’t know if a day on the river would compare to being at the beach. Comparing the two is like asking a parent which of their children is their favorites? Being at the beach is different from being on the river, but we love them both equally.

Since our first excursion on the Etowah River, we have spent hundreds of hours exploring as much of it as we can within the county in which we live. We have put in as far back as the Allatoona Dam and have gone as far as Hwy. 411 and everywhere in between. Some days we will be on the river for four or five hours. Other times, we could be on the river as much as eight.

In my youth, some of my fondest memories were going fishing at my grandfather’s home on one of the many lakes in Michigan. Sometimes I would fish off the dock, my bright orange life jacket strapped firmly around my neck and waist. Other times we would go out in a small boat with an ancient Evinrude outboard for a ride around the lake, stopping to fish along the way. These are powerful memories filled with joy and nostalgia and always make me smile when I think back on those adventures.

When we decided to buy our own kayaks, I selected one with fishing pole mounts, a small bait well in the nose and a storage compartment in back. My wife has one that has storage in both the front and back, but fishing isn’t her thing. Instead, our smallest dog, Rudy, a Pug-Chihuahua mix, joins us and loves to ride on the fore of her kayak, basking in the sun. They glide along, looking at nature all around us while I troll a line behind me and am more than happy with the few fish I catch and immediately release. For me, being on the river brings back all of the best memories I have had on the water — with my dad, my grandfather and my brothers. And, with each new trip on the river, we create brand new ones. All of our four girls have joined us on the river and I can only hope they have the same feelings when looking back as when I do.

One of our favorite places to put in to the river is a place called Floyd’s Landing. The local farm supply company owns a field that runs along a stretch of the banks of the Etowah River. The elder statesman of the owning family wanted to do something for the people of our community and spent his own money building campsites, picnic tables, shelters and a boat ramp along the river. His business model — make it absolutely free.

Here was a die-hard capitalist, spending his own money to provide a campground for families, and he had no desire to make a penny on it. All he asked was for folks to clean up after themselves, be good to one another and to make room for others. Working with the local Department of Natural Resources rangers, they setup a life vest station where anyone could borrow one at no cost — so long as they promised to return it when they were done.

EtowahRiverTrash4Unfortunately, generosity received from others without having to invest of one’s own, never works. No matter how many times the wizards of smart in their Ivory Towers think utopia can be achieved by following the motto, “From each according to his abilities; to each according to their needs,” it always fails in practice.

EtowahRiverTrash2Over time, squatters began to take advantage of staying in the shelters for months at a time. Baser elements of society began to appear more and more frequently. Police were called to arrest drug addicts and to quell altercations at all hours of the day and night. Picnic tables were found turned over, swinging benches left dangling from a single chain, roofs of picnic shelters were ripped and torn and trash became commonplace all along the grounds.

In an attempt to reach out to these dregs, printed signs were posted all along the campsite asking visitors to please pickup after themselves and to not abuse the amenities being provided at no cost. But it didn’t matter. The signs were not only ignored, but also the recipients of even more vandalism. It took close to three years, but the owners of the land realized they would never be able to change the hearts and minds of those who believed they were entitled to whatever they wanted without worry over consequences or cost.

EtowahRiverTrash3A month ago, they were forced to close the grounds, and installed a locked gate across the entrance, saying they have had enough. The gift horse had been looked in the mouth far too many times and their generosity had run dry at the hands of selfish ingrates who were incapable of even a modicum of common sense and civility. After all, why should they have acted any differently? They had made no personal investment themselves, therefore they had nothing to lose.

My wife and I are no longer able access that boat ramp when we want to spend a few hours with each other, communing with nature. The old saying of, “Give a man a fish and you have fed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime,” continues to run through my mind every time we drive by that locked gate. We had both known this was going to happen. We had seen these examples of human debris use and abuse what had been given to them at no cost, save for a request to be mindful of each other and clean up after themselves. We knew at some point, thanks to them, this was going to end.

Socialism, Marxism, communism…they do not work. They will never work. We all know this at our core. When we tell our children they do not appreciate what we have given them, the flaw in those philosophies is revealed. When we see how a young driver treats their first car based on whether or not they paid for it, we recognize the faults behind those philosophies. When we struggle and save and clip every coupon we can find to maximize our grocery shopping, only to find ourselves behind someone with a government provided EBT card buying better food than we can afford, we are irritated over the mandates of those philosophies. When we inherently know hard work and effort are the keys to success, yet we see case after case of others living off the taxpayers dime, we get angry about the tenants of those philosophies.

It is wrong! Our Founding Fathers talked about this and were very clear that equality for all meant equality of opportunity, not of outcome.

Yet, for some reason, too many of us are silent. We don’t want to rock the boat. We don’t want to be the upstarts. We believe in a sense of decorum and civility and we just shake our heads and keep going with our own lives. But socialism, Marxism and communism are cancers out to destroy capitalism. They begin as small spots, but when allowed to grow unchecked, will rapidly spread. It is only by remaining actively involved in the body politic will we be able to heal the body that is our country — at least the country as I know it under the Constitution.

The banks of the Etowah River is but one small example of why we cannot allow these deleterious philosophies to be sold to us under the guise of compassion or the label of fairness. These purveyors of anti-capitalism will smile and smile and yet they have daggers in their teeth. They play to the emotions of the useful idiots and the low-information voters and convince them the best solution is for everyone to be the same, that everyone deserves a fish.

The reality is, the best thing we can do is to not give it to them.

The best thing we can do is teach them how to do it for themselves.

 

What freedom is not

us-constitution-pdf-logoHappy birthday, America!

It’s been 238 years since the Declaration of Independence put a series of events in motion that forever changed the face of the world and redefined how government could be structured around the concept that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights and chief among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. However, our Founding Fathers recognized that man is fallible and clearly stated that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. braveheart-1-1024

At the heart of this is one word — Freedom. (Let’s all take a moment and reenact that scene from Braveheart. Ahh! Now we can continue.)

I could spend the next few hundred words or so describing what freedom means to me, but I thought a more interesting approach would be to reflect over the last few years and provide illustrations of what freedom is not. It’s not depriving a group of citizens the right to form political organizations just because they disagree with your point of view. It is not using the IRS to create a “be on the lookout” list for groups who’s names or descriptions include tea party, patriot, Israel, freedom or any other “conservative” sounding terms. It’s not forcing private businesses to discard their religious beliefs while demanding they help pay for abortifacient drugs. It is not drafting executive orders requiring businesses with federal contracts to disclose independent expenditures on federal elections. It is not an infringement of the press — the fourth estate — by seizing emails or tapping phones of reporters whose jobs it is to keep tabs on government.

The First Amendment to the Constitution was written in order to prevent all of the above from ever taking place. Yet, under our current administration, each of these has occurred.

Freedom is not a gun running scandal that ends up with at least two American border patrol agents killed as well as untold others in a foreign nation. It is not about finding creative ways of eliminating the right of every citizen to own a gun. It is clearly not the use of executive privilege to restrict over 1,300 pages of documents related to Fast and Furious from being handed over to the House Committee on Oversight and Government. It is not in demonizing a rifle simply because it’s painted black and looks scary. It is not in the issuing of at least 23 executive orders designed to further gun control and provide mandates in the Affordable Care Act allowing doctors and hospitals to ask patients if they own a firearm.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution was written in order to prevent all of the above from ever taking place. Yet, under our current administration, each of these has occurred.

Freedom is not the indiscriminate filtering of emails and the capturing of meta data, text data, social media interactions or any other forms of online communication activities. It is not the tapping or recording of cell phone calls, either of American citizens or foreign leaders. It is not the infiltration of online computer games.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution was written in order to prevent all of the above from ever taking place. Yet, under our current administration, each of these has occurred.

Freedom is not creating a “kill list” of American citizens by drone if they are involved in terrorist actions outside of the United States, without due process.

The Firth Amendment to the Constitution was written in order to prevent the above from ever taking place. Yet, under our current administration, this has happened.

Freedom is not bailing out General Motors and Chrysler with taxpayer dollars and in the process violating creditor rights and ignoring hundreds of years of established bankruptcy law. It is not creating a command and control economy where unproven “green”  technology companies are granted millions, and in some cases billions, of taxpayer dollars only to have those companies go out of business without any hope of repayment. It is not found in ignoring the Constitution’s Taking and Due Process clauses.

The Constitution provides clear guidelines to prevent the above from ever taking place. Yet, under our current administration, each of these has occurred. 

Freedom is not found in allowing the Chief Executive to determine which laws are going to be enforced, which can be ignored and which can be modified based solely on a speech. It is not in the creation of multiple revisions of a law without any involvement by the legislative branch. It is not allowing the president to arbitrarily decide to delay employer mandates, out-of-pocket caps, insurance requirements, exemptions for Congress and staff and the IRS’s role in the regulation of penalties for the Affordable Care Act.  It is not in letting the president negotiate the release of five terrorist commanders in exchange for one captured American deserter without notifying Congress. It is not found in statements like, “If Congress can’t act, then I will,” or “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.” It’s not found in making recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board when the Senate was not really in recess.

The Constitution provides clear guidelines in the areas of Separation of Powers to prevent the above from ever taking place. Yet, under our current administration, each of these has occurred. 

Most importantly, freedom cannot be found in a government willing to lie to the American people, whether overtly or through obfuscation and cover-up. The Benghazi scandal that left four dead Americans in its wake, the destruction of hard drives and emails of Lois Lerner who is in the middle of the IRS scandal, the hiding of information related to the VA scandal and the illegal call for executive privilege in the Fast and Furious scandal are all examples of what freedom is not.

Our Founding Father’s pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to create a new nation built on the principles of limited government and deriving what little power they needed from the consent of the people. Liberty and individual rights were more important than the body politic. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights were crafted with one overriding goal — limiting the size and scope of government. To make sure this sentiment was made crystal clear, we need only look to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. In the Ninth, the Framers stated that enumeration of certain rights in the Constitution shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people, while the Tenth states powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Our Founding Fathers wanted to make sure the rights of the citizens and the states were vast and infinite, while the powers of the Federal government were specific and few. And, at it’s core, no one’s liberty can be put in jeopardy in favor or benefiting another. In short, no one’s individual liberty was worth more or less than another’s. The moment the rights, property or life of one person belong to someone else, either in whole or in part, is when freedom ceases to exist.

When celebrating our nation’s birthday, think about how our country was able to achieve so much in such a short amount of time. Then ask yourself, what has caused us to fall so far in an even shorter time frame? If your answer to Obama asks Jefferson about Constitution flawthe former is, “following the Constitution,” and your answer to the latter is, “ignoring the Constitution,” then you already have the answer to what freedom is.

There is still time to save our great nation. All we must do is get back to the principles of that very document that is the epitome of American exceptionalism.

Freedom isn’t the lack of government.

Freedom lies simply in the strict limitation of government.

Our writers have been working on a special Independence Day publication

declaration.of.independenceOur writers have had their noses to the political grindstone since the primary election season has been underway in our country. They have been on the campaign trail, speaking out daily on social media and trying to inspire others to get involved in the political process. We are not just about talking — we are also about doing! With such poor voter turn-out across so many states in our union, we began to wonder why we take our freedoms so for granted? It will be 238 years ago that our Founding Fathers signed their own death warrants when they put their names to the bottom of the Declaration of Independence. They pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for a belief in freedom and independence.  Yet today, with early voting, absentee voting and voting on election day itself, scarcely 1 in 5 Americans this year have exercised one of the most important duties we have.

We are at a tipping point in our nation. We have more people on some form of government handout than ever before. We have nearly 100 million able-bodied Americans sitting at home instead of working full-time in the labor force. Our foreign policy has never been so muddled, with confused and disappointed allies and emboldened enemies. Our domestic policy is no better, with scandals involving the NSA, IRS, Justice Department, VA and immigration garnering top headlines over the last few years. We have members of the Legislative branch actively seeking to abdicate the checks and balances afforded to them in the Constitution in favor of giving the Executive branch the authority to circumvent the limitations of that very same document. We have a President who believes he has the ability to decide which laws are enforced, which are not and which can be modified by simply making a speech.

Our Constitutional Republic will cease to be if we continue down this path. It is inevitable. We are far removed from how our Founding Fathers painstakingly crafted the framework of our government, designed to prevent a monarchy, oligarchy or dictatorship from ever taking root. Yet, they themselves admitted, should the people ever decide to forego their role in the affairs of public discourse and allow the usurpation of the Constitution to become commonplace, we would no longer be a free nation.

So, after a bit of a hiatus, each of us will be publishing a piece tomorrow, on the 4th of July, with one simple topic in mind: what does freedom mean? We hope you will find those pieces informative, thought-provoking and maybe even a little infuriating. If it helps to get you involved, we will consider it a success.

I will close with the opening of the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

After reading those words, ask yourself, could that document have been written today, about the very machinations of our current body politic? Do you truly believe we have been endowed with certain unalienable Rights or do you feel only government can grant those? Do you believe, in our current political climate, you have intrinsic access to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness or have you been relegated to accept you are incapable of those on your own without the yoke of government? Would you be brave enough to sign the Declaration of Independence today or are you comfortable ceding control over your life to the government?

What does “freedom” mean to you?

Will the real Messiah please stand up?

“Abolish God, and the Government becomes God…Wherever the people do not believe in something beyond the world, they will worship the world. But, above all, they will worship the strongest thing in the world.”

— G.K. Chesterton

“Well, you’ve touched on it to a degree. He made so many promises. We thought that he was going to be — I shouldn’t say this at Christmastime, but — the next Messiah.”

— Barbara Walters

barack-obama-haloWhen I was in my early 20s, a man I greatly admired once asked me, how did early governments keep people obedient? I stammered something irrelevant and nonsensical about laws and soldiers. He smiled, took a slow and deliberate drag on his cigarette, looked at me over the rim of his glasses and said, “Religion.” He went on to explain how in the earliest days of mankind, only a very small percentage of people were educated and those likely to be schooled fell into two camps: the clergy and royalty. Being learned, they realized they were vastly outnumbered by the rest of the populace. They needed to create a belief system to control the behavior of the people, thereby controlling the citizenry itself. What better way to ensure survival than the promise of paradise for civility and submission and eternal damnation for disobedience and anarchy?

The will to survive is one of the strongest drives we possess. Since our earliest days as sentient beings, this trait has become so embedded in our psyche that it’s nearly impossible to ignore and one of the explanations as to why we have religion, in all of it’s myriad forms. Humans want to believe there are bigger or greater forces at work with sway over our lives. We have an inexplicable need to believe in something outside of ourselves, whether it’s fantastical entities like God, Buddha, Allah, Cthulhu, Gaia or Mother Nature, or more tangible ones like science, mathematics or philosophy, just to name a few. The fact remains, we are wired with the need to believe in something.

As we have grown and evolved as a species, our knowledge and our capabilities have exploded. Sorcery and myth have given way to physics and logic. Yet, our underlying need for belief remains. We may never really know if the early clergy or royalty manipulated this belief to their own gain or if there really are forces at work beyond our comprehension. We can save that debate for another day.  What is of more interest is what happens if the idea of religion is diminished or eliminated? Doesn’t something have to fill the void?

The political class has been leveraging this concept for nearly as long as the invention of government. In much the same way our behaviors can be controlled through the dogma of religion, so too can the citizenry be controlled by political leaders when they convince us to place our beliefs into the collection plate of government.

George Brock Chisholm, Director of the UN from 1948 until 1953, went so far as to say, in a speech given at the Conference on Education in California on September 11, 1954, “To achieve world government, it is necessary to remove from the minds of men their individualism, loyalty to family traditions, national patriotism, and religious dogmas.” Looking back from where we are today, it becomes easy to track the progress that has been made toward this end.  Statists seek to limit or reduce the significance of the individual over the needs of the collective. The dismantling of the family has been a goal of radical progressives who seek to replace one (or both) parents with the state. Cultural relativists seek to rewrite history to remove the ‘stigma’ of patriotism and eliminate the belief in American exceptionalism. And, the assault on many of the tenants of Christianity have been underway for years. 

Today’s social liberals understand, to create a dependence on the state, other existing belief systems have to be curtailed. When a person has a well-defined and robust support structure around them, it is much harder to convince them to put their fate in the hands of the government. However, destroy the family structure, teach them there is no such thing as the “American Dream”, get them to question the merits of the Founding Fathers and shatter their belief in the relevance of the Constitution and now there is a void needing to be filled. We begin to look for a new foundation on which to place our faith. Sometimes that foundation becomes the pedestal upon which someone can stand who is willing to tell us everything we want to hear.

Obama MessiahThis helps explain the deification of President Barack Obama. Many conservatives struggled during the run up of the 2008 election to shed light on the wafer-thin veneer of Barack Obama’s “hope and change” campaign. They tried to reveal the danger in conferring such a deist-like mantle, which so many lauded without hesitation, on a mere mortal. A confluence of circumstances, however, created the perfect environment for the nomination and election of someone who promised everything to everyone. From free phones to extended unemployment to increased social program spending to the promise of cheaper and better healthcare, the never-ending list of largess promised from the coffers of the federal treasury made it feel more like we had elected Santa Claus than a President. After all, there was plenty of wealth to spread around and, at some point, everyone has made enough money. No one in our nation built their businesses on their own. It was time for the Occupiers to be recognized as the 99% who did all the work while the 1% took all the rewards. It was time to take from each, according to their abilities, and give to each, according to their needs.

And the more the naysayers forecast doom and shouted warnings about debt, unfunded mandates and impossible to fulfill promises, the bigger the giveaways and the more popular the President became.

No one had paid attention to the words of Valerie Jarrett, co-chair of Barack Obama’s transition team, to Tom Brokaw of NBC on November 10, 2008, when she said, “Given the daunting challenges that we face, it’s important that president elect Obama is prepared to really take power and begin to rule day one.” Not govern. Not support, defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, but to take power and rule.

hrzgal.obama.08And he has been allowed to do just that. His status as a near deity was not about to be challenged. After all, he ran on the mantra, “Change we can believe in.”

Over the last five years, the Executive Branch has played fast and loose with which laws they choose to enforce (or pieces of them) and which they will not. The lies and obfuscation mount daily on one scandal after another, from the targeting of conservative groups and individuals by the IRS (where there is obvious collusion between the FEC and the IRS)  to the “what difference does it make” cover-up surrounding the Benghazi attack. They continue to obfuscate the facts around the gun running operation, Fast and Furious, that led to the deaths of two Americans and countless other Mexicans. Instead of seeking answers from Eric Holder and the Justice Department, the government chose to sue the state of Arizona for enforcing the laws of the United States and the state of Texas and North Carolina for enforcing voter ID laws. The NSA has been revealed to be spying on anything and everyone, not just around the globe, but in our own country and nothing has been done to rein in these mass data sweeps and unwarranted seizures supposedly protected under the fourth amendment.

And, speaking of amendments, let’s look at the damage that has been done to three of them as a result of all of the aforementioned scandals: the first (IRS), second (Fast and Furious) and fourth (NSA). The only amendment they seem to want to keep 100% intact is the fifth!

Now, with the culmination of this executive power overreach, Americans are being forced to deal with the abomination that is the Affordable Care Act, aka, Obamacare. Millions have already lost health insurance and millions more will follow. Enrollment is abysmal and the young, healthy enrollees the government counted on to offset the older, sicker ones, are non-existent. By a ratio of 3 to 1, enrollees are being placed in Medicaid instead of a private insurance plan, promising to break an already overburdened social program. The national website, Healthcare.gov, ended up costing in excess of $600 million dollars (HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified that $677 billion had been allocated thus far, but could go higher). This is roughly 13 times what was budgeted and it still does not work. Add to that all of the patches and fixes being kludged together and the cost will exceed a billion taxpayer dollars wasted on a website that should have never been launched in the first place. obamacare-identity-theft-cartoonThe security flaws alone make it a national security risk and by the latest count, over 700 fraudulent sites have been built by identity thieves to mine the treasure trove of personal information available to them thanks to the sheer stupidity of a White House too smart to listen to anyone but themselves. It’s like President Ronald Reagan so famously put it, “The trouble with our Liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”

Maybe those who have been beguiled by the promises and the incessant campaigning of the President are finally starting to see the serious flaw in the deification of any politician. Like Barbara Walters admits, expecting Barack Obama to be the next Messiah was too much to ask. Maybe now the tendency of so many to turn their gaze the other way with respect to all of the political scandals in Washington, D.C. will fade. Maybe those who put all of their faith in President Obama will start to realize he is only a man.

Perhaps, he should have been properly vetted, like any other candidate running for any other office. Perhaps we should not have taken it on blind faith that he would be the panacea for all our ills. Perhaps we should have realized how shortsighted it is to blindly give our allegiance to a politician based on the promise of a few baubles and an award-winning smile.

Human beings may be wired to put their belief in something but, when forced to place that belief in something as flawed and weak as a single human being, we should not be surprised when the biggest lies being told to us aren’t from that politician, but from ourselves. It’s time to put our beliefs into something bigger and stronger.

There is still time.

We remind you: healthcare is not a right

With the problems surrounding both the launch of the Healthcare.gov website and all of the unintended consequences surrounding the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), it is important to remember that healthcare, in and of itself is not a right. Just because we “want” something or feel we are “owed” something, does not make is a “right.”

To delve into this topic, we must understand and agree upon the definition of “rights.” Here, I use it in the same way as did our Founding Fathers and the framers of our Constitution.  The philosopher, John Locke, put forth the concept of natural rights, which states everyone is born with an equality of certain rights, regardless of their nationality.  Since they come from nature or from God, natural rights cannot be justly taken away without consent.

For the sake of this discussion, let us not get bogged down in a theist v. atheist argument.  Even the Founders made sure to side-step this by using the terms of both God and nature (see an excellent article written by Eric Wojciechowski here).  They were very clear:  natural rights are not granted by man or by government, they exist solely by one’s own existence.

The Founders believed that one of the primary roles of government was to protect the natural rights of its citizens, which include those mentioned in the Declaration of Independence:  the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as well as those specifically enumerated in the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.  They were of one mind in this respect.  Though several of those present at the drafting of our nation’s Constitution believed it unnecessary to add the Bill of Rights (they argued it would be a redundant action given that the Constitution was already crafted with language to protect the natural rights of the people and limit the powers of government), they nonetheless conceded to add the first ten amendments to make the protection of those rights abundantly clear.

We must also bear in mind that our Founding Father’s had lived all their lives under the tyranny of a monarchical system of government, where the power of a king or queen could usurp the right’s of the citizenry without question.  They feared creating any kind of governmental system that could eventually mirror what it was they fought so hard against during the Revolutionary War.  So, even though some felt a “bill of rights” was redundant, there was no argument that those rights existed outside of government and thus were not a gift from government.

Our rights cannot be taken away or infringed upon without our consent, which includes the implicit consent inherent with infringing on the rights of others, or, more easily stated, breaking the law.  Unless an individual’s actions take away or infringe on the rights of someone else, their rights remain intact and cannot be taken away.  Here’s a simple example:

The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the citizens of the United States of America a right to freedom of speech. This means we have the right to speak our minds without fear of government reprisal for having a dissenting opinion over the actions of our elected leadership.  However, that right does not allow an individual to falsely yell, “Fire!” in a crowded theater, thereby creating a panic that risks injury to others.  Creating a stampede falsely not only infringes on the rights of individuals to their happiness, but also a potential infringement to their property as well as lives.

Our individual rights exist only to such extent that they do not deny another individual their rights.  If we can agree upon this concept, we can proceed.  However, if at this point you choose not to accept the premise used by our Founding Fathers and feel, as our current President, Barack Obama, does, that the Constitution is flawed because it is a document of “negative liberties” — in that it tells government what it cannot do instead of what it should do (especially as it relates to redistribution) — then the rest of this reasoned and logical discussion will fall on deaf ears.

Before we continue the subject of healthcare and health insurance (two related, but very different subjects), we must discuss wealth, which is an extension of property.  It is something we own or possess.

Thomas Jefferson was once asked to provide his thoughts on whether the government should take more from those who have and give to those with less.  He writes:

To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.

— letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816.

Individuals own their wealth, regardless of the form it takes.  Money, land, buildings, stocks, investments and more all factor into the personal wealth of a citizen.  As a collective, this block of “wealth” is synonymous with property because it is, in fact, owned.

"homeless - please help" signTo illustrate this concept, let us create an easily identifiable scenario. You and I are walking down the sidewalk when we come upon a destitute individual wearing ragged clothing and holding a cardboard sign that reads: Homeless, please help.  We are both moved by the plight of the individual.  We both feel compelled to help that person. We both agree on the outcome we desire — to provide aid.

If I reach into my wallet and remove a $20 bill, I am voluntarily taking part of my property and giving it to someone else. It is my choice to provide a charitable hand-out. I elect to transfer some of my property to someone else.

pickpocket-crimeHowever, if you put your hand into my wallet and remove that same $20 bill to give to the homeless individual, this is called theft. By choosing to take my property away without my consent, you have infringed on my rights, irrespective of your altruistic intentions.

When I make the choice over what to do with my own property, I have not infringed on the rights of anyone else.  When someone else takes my property, even though it is for the same purpose (to help an individual in desperate circumstances), my rights have been deprived as surely as a thief deprives me of my belongings.

One must understand this basic concept if they are to understand why healthcare and health insurance are not rights, but, indeed, privileges. They will always remain so because to take these services for one’s own means to deprive someone else of their property, which, as we have demonstrated, is an infringement of their rights. It is an affront to the very freedoms we hold dear.

When someone goes to school and spends their wealth on becoming a doctor, they have made a significant investment in their chosen career. They own their degree and certification as well as their knowledge and skill. It is that person’s property, both physical and intellectual.  They may then make the choice to enter into a contract with other individuals who are in need of their services.

If I fall off my porch and break my arm, I lack the knowledge on how to properly set and care for that injury, so I seek the skills of a physician who does. In exchange for his expertise, I agree to part with some of my property.  My property takes the form of currency and his takes the form of both materials and services.

But, that doctor is not the only doctor within my community. His terms and conditions for entering into a contract for services are not the same as someone else in his profession. Some may charge more for their abilities and some may charge less. I have the choice with whom I decide to engage in services.

The same applies for the concept of health insurance.  (I am going to proceed under the auspicious that we all understand that “healthcare” refers to the actual action of receiving care from a member of the health industry, whereas “health insurance” relates solely to purchasing a financial plan to help offset the future cost of healthcare.)  I do not need to own health insurance to get healthcare.  One has nothing to do with the other.

There is no emergency room in this country who will deny anyone healthcare.  In the years of hearing this mantra, that healthcare is a right, not once has anyone found a case where a hospital has pre-screened the financial solvency of a patient before treating them. This is not to say they won’t pursue every avenue available to them for reimbursement of those services, but this is a different subject and irrelevant to our discussion today.  We are not here to discuss the cost of healthcare.

Rights cannot be taken away without our consent.  The Federal government was designed by our Founding Father’s to not only limit the extent of government, but also protect the natural rights inherent to every person.  When someone proffers the argument that healthcare is a right, they are, in essence, saying that their rights supersede yours.  They are wanting you to surrender a portion of your property because they lack their own ability to take care of themselves.

If healthcare (and health insurance) is a “right”, then I have no control over my own property, which, by that very statement, is in direct contradiction to the theory of natural rights as understood by the Framers of our Constitution.  Remember, our individual rights exist only to such extent that they do not deny another individual their rights, which includes the right to our property.

And, more importantly, if we have no control over our property, then where does that infringement stop? Does someone have a right to a seven-course meal every day?  What about the right to have a home? How about a right to a mode of transportation? Occupiers and the D-15 movement feel they have a right to a “living wage” (whatever that is, since one person’s definition of living is rarely the same as another’s). Where do you draw the line between Capitalism and Communism?

More often than not, our society has desperately tried to make the word “want” synonymous with “right” and those two words, as far as the Constitution is concerned, are not even remotely similar and, more importantly, are not exchangeable.  The sooner we can stop those in our society from deluding themselves with misinformation, the sooner we can actually begin to address the true issue — the cost of care.

For now, let us hope we have taken a first step toward helping others understand the fundamental difference between rights and wants and why those two terms can never be allowed to share the same meaning, lest we make an irrevocable leap toward a complete loss of personal liberty.  Our rights are our own and are not conferred on us from any person or government.  Abdicating those rights is tantamount to an endorsement of tyrannical rule, returning us to the very place from which our Founding Father’s fought so hard and sacrificed so much to avoid.

Healthcare is not a right

To delve into this topic, we first need to understand and agree upon the definition of “rights” as used and implemented by the Founding Fathers and the framers of our Constitution.  The first stop is the philosopher, John Locke, who put forth the theory of natural rights, which states everyone is born with an equality of certain rights, regardless of their nationality.  Since they come from nature or from God, natural rights cannot be justly taken away without consent.

For the sake of this discussion, let us not get bogged down in a theist v. atheist argument.  Even the Founders made sure to side-step this by using the terms of both God and nature.  They were very clear:  natural rights are not granted by man or by government, they exist solely by one’s own existence.

The Founders believed that one of the primary roles of government was to protect the natural rights of it’s citizens, which include those mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as well as those specifically enumerated in the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.  They were of one mind in this respect.  Though several of those present at the drafting of our nation’s Constitution believed it unnecessary to add the Bill of Rights (they argued it would be a redundant action given that the Constitution was already crafted with language to protect the natural rights of the people and limit the powers of government), they nonetheless conceded to add the first ten amendments to make the protection of those rights abundantly clear.

We must also bear in mind that our Founding Father’s had lived all their lives under the tyranny of a monarchical system of government, where the power of a king or queen could usurp the right’s of the citizenry without question.  They feared creating any kind of governmental system that could eventually mirror what it was they fought so hard against during the Revolutionary War.  So, even though some felt a “bill of rights” was redundant, there was no argument that those rights existed outside of government and thus were not a gift from government.

Our rights cannot be taken away or infringed upon without our consent, which includes the implicit consent inherent with infringing on the rights of others, or, more easily stated, breaking the law.  Unless an individual’s actions take away or infringe on the rights of someone else’s, their rights remain intact and cannot be taken away.  Here’s a simple example:

The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the citizens of the United States of America a right to freedom of speech.  This means we have the right to speak our minds without fear of government reprisal for having a dissenting opinion over the actions of our elected leadership.  However, that right does not allow an individual to falsely yell, “Fire!” in a crowded theater, thereby creating a panic that risks injury to others.  By creating a false stampede, not only have the rights of individuals to their happiness been infringed, but also a potential infringement to their lives and property.

Our individual rights exist only to such extent that they do not deny another individual their rights.  If we can agree upon this concept, we can proceed.  However, if at this point you choose not to accept the premise used by our Founding Fathers and feel, as our current President, Barack Obama, does, that the Constitution is flawed because it is a document of “negative liberties” — in that it tells government what it cannot do instead of what it should do (especially as it relates to redistribution) — then the rest of this reasoned and logical discussion will fall on deaf ears.

Before we move to the subject of healthcare and health insurance (two related, but very different subjects), we must now discuss wealth, which is an extension of property.  It is something we own or possess.

Thomas Jefferson was once asked to provide his thoughts on whether the government should take more from those who have and give to those with less.  He writes:

To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.

letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816.

Individuals own their wealth, regardless of the form it takes.  Money, land, buildings, stocks, investments and more all factor into the personal wealth of a citizen.  As a collective, this block of “wealth” is synonymous with property because it is, in fact, owned.

Keep this in mind while we shift gears for a moment to provide an illustration.

You and I are walking down the sidewalk when we come upon a destitute individual wearing ragged clothing and holding a cardboard sign that reads: Homeless, please help.  Now, we are both moved by the plight of the individual.  We both feel compelled to help that person.  If I reach into my wallet and remove a $20 bill, I am voluntarily taking part of my property and giving it to someone else.  It is my choice to provide a charitable hand-out.  However, if you put your hand into my wallet, remove a $20 bill and give it to the homeless individual, this is called theft, because you have infringed on my rights — my property.

When I make the choice over what to do with my own property, I have not infringed on the rights of anyone else.  However, when someone else takes my property, even though it is for the same purpose (to help an individual in desperate circumstances), my rights have been deprived as surely as a thief deprives me of my property.

We are now equipped with the building blocks to understand why healthcare and health insurance are not rights, but, indeed, privileges and, therefore, wants!

When someone in this country goes to school and spends their wealth on becoming a doctor, they have made a significant investment in their chosen career.  They own their degree and certification as well as their knowledge and skill.  It is that person’s personal property, both physical and intellectual.  They may then make the choice to enter into a contract with other individuals who are in need of their services.

If I fall off my porch and break my arm, I lack the ability to know how to properly set and care for that injury, so I seek the skills of a physician who does.  In exchange for his expertise, I agree to part with some of my property.  My property takes the form of currency and his takes the form of both materials and services.

But, that doctor is not the only doctor within my community.  His terms and conditions for entering into a contract for services are not the same as someone else in his profession.  Some may charge more for their abilities and some may charge less.  I have the choice with whom I decide to engage in services.

The same applies for the concept of health insurance.  (I am going to proceed under the auspicious that we all understand that “healthcare” refers to the actual action of receiving care from a member of the health industry, whereas “health insurance” relates solely to purchasing a financial plan to help make the cost of healthcare more affordable.)  I do not need to own health insurance to get healthcare.  One has nothing to do with the other.

There is no emergency room in this country who will deny anyone healthcare.  In the years of hearing this mantra, that healthcare is a right, no where can anyone find a case where a hospital has pre-screened the financial solvency of a patient before treating them.  This is not to say they won’t pursue every avenue available to them to get reimbursed for those services, but this is a different subject and irrelevant to our discussion today.  We are not here to discuss the cost of healthcare.

Rights cannot be taken away without our consent.  The Federal government was designed by our Founding Father’s to not only limit the extent of government, but also protect the natural rights inherent to every person.  When someone proffers the argument that healthcare is a right, they are, in essence, saying that their rights supersede yours.  They are wanting you to surrender a portion of your property because they lack their own ability to take care of themselves.

Thus, if healthcare (and health insurance) is a “right”, then I have no control over my own property, which, by that very statement, is in direct contradiction to the theory of natural rights as understood by the Framers of our Constitution.  Remember, our individual rights exist only to such extent that they do not deny another individual their rights, which includes the right to our property.

And, more importantly, if we have no control over our property, then where does that infringement stop?  Does someone have a right to a seven-course meal every day?  What about the right to have a home?  How about a right to a mode of transportation?  Occupiers and the D-15 movement feel they have a right to a “living wage” (whatever that is, since one person’s definition of living is rarely the same as another’s, it is a puerile statement at best).  Where do you draw the line between Capitalism and Communism?

More often than not, our society has desperately tried to make the word “want” synonymous with “right” and those two words, as far as the Constitution is concerned, are not even remotely similar and are not exchangeable.  The sooner we can stop those in our society from deluding themselves with misinformation, the sooner we can actually begin to address the true issue that drives today’s topic — the cost of care.

For now, let us hope we have taken a first step toward helping others understand the fundamental difference between rights and wants and why those two terms can never be allowed to share the same meaning, lest we make an irrevocable leap toward a complete loss of personal liberty.  Our rights are our own and are not conferred on us from any person or government.  Abdicating those rights is tantamount to an endorsement of tyrannical rule, returning us to the very place from which our Founding Father’s fought so hard and sacrificed so much to avoid.

Equal effort does not mean equal results: a word on redistribution

It’s the Friday prior to daylight savings — an idea first proposed by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 — and it seemed appropriate to grab an excerpt from one of our Founding Fathers to give to our readers to start their weekend.   For those of you who truly cherish freedom and individual liberty, it may serve as a reminder that the concept of redistribution is not new.  Thomas Jefferson made it abundantly clear where he stood in a letter to Joseph Milligan, dated April 6, 1816.

“To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”
– Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816

In Jefferson’s view (and that of the Framers of the Constitution), it was not the purpose of government to take from those whose work and efforts gave them more fruits of their industry, in order to spare those who have not worked as hard or as diligently.  To Jefferson (and all of us here at Freedom Cocktail) this notion was (is) an affront to the notion of the God-given right of free peoples to work as hard or as little as they choose, garnering as much or as little reward as commensurate with such industry.

Obama asks Jefferson about Constitution flawThe first sound that comes bellowing out of the mouths of the low-information-voter at this point is a cry of, “FOUL!”  See, in their minds, equal effort means equal reward.  This is a childish and naive view of life and reveals a distinct lack of ability to understand even the most rudimentary explanations of both federalism and capitalism.

So, rather than argue in that realm, let me give you a sports analogy…

Two football players show up to Day One of the NFL Combine.  They both line up on the track and wait for the crack of the gun (sorry anti-second amendment folks, it is what it is).  Sweat begins to bead on their taunt bodies.  Sound begins to mute as their focus sharpens to the immediate task at hand — to run the fastest 100 here.

The gun fires!

They shoot down their respective lanes, arms pumping in perfect unison with outstretched legs.  They both expend equal effort, in the sense that neither holds anything back.  When they cross the 100 yard mark, they are spent and incapable of another step.

However, one athlete crosses that finish line .5 seconds ahead of the other.

How is that possible?  They both gave equal effort.  Perhaps, if we looked further into physique and genetics, the slower athlete, in an attempt to compensate, may have actually expended more effort.  Yet, one was faster than the other.

There is no more rudimentary example to illustrate the efforts of one individual (or business) over another and why some are more successful than others.  Sometimes, hidden attributes allow for one individual to perform better than another.  Sometimes those attributes are as plain as day.

Before you begin to look to the state to make sure everyone is “paying their fair share,” decrying how unfair it is for some to have more than others, take a long hard look at yourself and try to be as honest as you can.  Are you really putting forth equal effort?

What time are you supposed to arrive at work?  Do you strive to make that time + or – 5 minutes?  Or do you show up an hour beforehand?

What time does your workday end?  Are you the kind of employee who watches the clock, trying to figure out how to look busy for the last 15 minutes of the day while not actually taking the chance of opening another email or answering another phone call for fear it may keep you one second past your exodus from the office?  Or do you work until the assignments are complete, regardless of the hour?

Be honest, now.  How much time do you spend on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest during the course of business hours (we will exclude lunch for the time being)?  When you get a text message from a friend of family member, do you answer it immediately?  What about personal phone calls?

You smokers out there (yes, there are few of you left who are supposedly paying for our children’s healthcare, which seems to have been the golden pipe dream — sorry for the “pipe” pun — and will be left as a topic for another day), tell me if this sounds vaguely familiar?  You and the few remaining of your endangered species have formed a bond, a pack, if you will, and religiously make sure to hit the designated smoking area with each other 4-5 times a day.  You text or email each other: Camel run in 15.  You make sure not to take a call or open an email within five minutes of the preset rendezvous time.

You make your way to the bathroom first.  After all, you don’t want this one vice of yours to be interrupted prematurely, do you?  Then you head to the elevator (stairs/door/escalator) and meet in a clandestine manner at the one place around the corner and out of sight from the do-gooders and nay-sayers of the anti-smoking crowd.  (Doesn’t it tick you off when someone else wants to impose their views on you?  No one is forcing them to smoke, why should they force you to stop?)   You light up and begin to talk about how busy your day has been.  Within five or six minutes you all realize you should maximize your nicotine addiction and light up another.  Like you said, you’ve been busy and who knows when you’ll get a chance to leave your desk again?

Another five to six minutes goes by and it’s time to return to your post.  You casually walk together, knowing you need to give your clothes a few minutes in the outdoor breeze to air out a bit so no one will know what you’ve been doing.  By the time you make it back to your desk, you’ve been gone somewhere around 15 to 20 minutes.  Time to get back to work.  You’re slammed, remember?  Besides, you only take a smoke break four or five times a day.

That’s when your email notifier pops up with a note from one of your crew.  The subject:  Again at the top of next hour?

For a moment, add up that time.  Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe it’s only 10 minutes, five times a day.  That’s 50 minutes a day, or 250 minutes a week.  Using 50 working weeks (you do get your two weeks vacation, right?), that would equate to 12,500 minutes of smoke time, which is only 208 hours or 5.2 work weeks.

Do you think you should give back your vacation time?  Think how much more you could have accomplished had you been given just over a month more on the calendar to outshine your fellow employees.  But, hey, gotta feed the habit, right?

The examples could go on and on but the point has been made.  There are those who show up to work early, stay late, give up their lunch hour and take home work over the weekend.  They don’t spend company time browsing sales specials or downloading new songs to their iPhone to listen to in 1 hour 43 minutes and 15 seconds when they bolt for their car and the drive home.

Our Founding Fathers never promised anyone in this country equal outcomes.  They were far too brilliant to be that naive.  What they did promise, however, was a government sufficiently constrained to afford its citizenry equality of basic rights — chief among them the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

This means each individual has the freedom, unencumbered by the state, to pursue (or not) whatever industry they so choose, as long as those pursuits do not infringe on someone else’s life, liberty or property.  It means the state isn’t supposed to guarantee the success of one at the expense of another.

Now, there is a form of government whose principle consideration is founded on the idea of taking from each citizen, based on their abilities and redistributing to others, based on their needs.  However, that is not found anywhere in our Constitution, nor should anyone ever strive to place it there.

Equality of rights is not the same as equal outcome.  If you want or lack for something, earn it.  Work harder.  Change jobs.  Move to a different company.  Move to a different state. Don’t blame the guy in the next lane who managed to pull off a faster 4/40 or 100 yard dash.  You have no more authority to infringe on his rights than he has to infringe upon yours.  Work harder.  Work longer.  Focus.

And if you still believe the government exists to punish the achievers and reward the failures, then keep that other old saying in the back of your mind: be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.

It’s past 5pm on a Friday.

Now I’m wondering — will anyone see this before Monday?