Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Purpose of Government Is Not to Solve Problems or Provide Services

There are two oft-repeated statements about government that are closely related. One is that the purpose of government is to solve problems and the other is that government is supposed to provide services. Both of these statements are examples of a misunderstanding of the true purpose of government.

Liberals especially often speak of “problem-solving” as a function of government. There seems to be no limit to the scope of a government that appropriates itself the authority to solve any problem. In other words, liberals believe that government is justified in doing whatever it wants, as long as it is “solving a problem,” regardless of the additional problems the heavy hand of government creates, and regardless of its neglect of its true purpose. The purpose of government is not to solve problems, but to protect the freedom of the people.

Protecting liberty is a duty to fulfill, not a problem to solve. Now there may be problems encountered with fulfilling that duty, but the duty itself is never a problem. In other words, there are no problems for government to solve. I daresay that if a person considers protecting liberty a problem, then that person is unfit to serve the people in public office, for liberty is not an obstacle to solving a problem. Often it is government that is the obstacle to the people’s ability to solve their own problems.

Similarly, many politicians and commentators declare that the purpose of government is to “provide services.” The purpose of government is not to provide services. The protection of liberty is not a service. Sometimes people even carelessly refer to police protection as a “service,” especially when they are arguing for local tax increases as a way to avoid “cutting services.” Police protection is not a “service” because it protects the liberty of the people, which fulfills the purpose of government. Some other so-called “services” that protect the health or safety of the people are not “services,” either, but functions that also protect liberty, at least to a degree. However, these other functions may or may not be necessarily provided by government, whereas only government may exercise the police function. Other services do not protect liberty at all. Providing any kind of services that are not intended to protect liberty distracts government from its true purpose. Moreover, those services that make people dependent on government at the loss of their independence are the inverse of protecting liberty.

Additionally, solving problems and providing services requires public money in the form of taxation that reduces the liberty of the people to spend as they see fit.

Those serving in government must never lose focus on its true purpose. We would be better served by those who hold public office if they refocus on the liberty of the people and discard everything else that interferes with their sacred duty.

The Democratic Threat to Social Security

One can always tell that Election Day for federal offices is getting close in the United States the more one hears Democrats accusing Republicans of wanting to threaten Social Security with cuts in benefits or “privatization.” This scare tactic, targeted to frighten senior citizens away from voting for Republicans, even though none of their proposals would affect retirees or even those close to retirement, is the Democrats’ favorite trick in their playbook, one that has been disproved time and time again.

The most significant threat to Social Security is that, in the absence of reforms, it is going bankrupt. The bankruptcy of the retirement system created by the federal government is being hastened by overspending by the liberal Democratic Congressional and President Barak Obama, including the spending of the Social Security trust fund for other purposes. Unless Social Security is reformed for younger workers, the retirement age will have to be raised, benefits reduced or taxes increased. In fact, the last tax increase on Social Security was part of Democratic President Bill Clinton’s tax increase in 1993, of which no Republican member of Congress voted in favor.

The proposal to allow younger workers to choose to invest a small portion of their Social Security would be less risky for retirees than allowing Social Security to collapse. The current return on the investment of the Social Security trust fund money is low, but it has been low even under the most prosperous conditions. Workers should be allowed to invest some of their own retirement account funds in relatively safe instruments, such as government bonds. The risk in investing in stocks, which have always gained value over the long term, is minimized by the restriction on the amount of one’s Social Security account that could be exposed to risk (usually the proposal is only for a few percent); moreover, the risk would also be minimized by diversity (e.g. through a managed mutual fund, or a combination of equities, bonds and other instruments) instead of requiring the retiree to pick and choose individual stocks.

The argument about the current decline in the stock market is only relevant for those who sell during the downturn. Like homeowners whose home values have declined, those whose stock values have declined only realize those losses when they sell. Indeed, those who have not sold their stocks have benefited from a significant recovery in the value of stock, even though it is down from the highs it reached in 2007 before the recession.

The Democrats’ claims that Social Security is threatened by Republicans, even though they are false, underscore the fundamental problem with a government pension system: its vulnerability to politicians. However, the threat is not from any supposed mean-spirited politicians who would renege on the pledge of providing income for retirees who have contributed to the fund and relied upon it for their retirement plans. The threat is from those liberal Democratic politicians who would renege on the pledge of Social Security by spending away the money.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Governors Barbour, Pawlenty and Christie Rally for Corbett and Toomey

Governors Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Chris Christie of New Jersey campaigned at the Reading Airport in Pennsylvania today for fellow Republican PA Attorney General Tom Corbett’s campaign for Governor and former United States Representative Pat Toomey for U.S. Senate, both of whom also attended. All of the governors have been mentioned as possible presidential candidates. I was among the several hundred people attending the More Jobs, Less Taxes rally. The local Tea Party participated in the event.

State Senator Dave Argall, Republican nominee for U.S. Representative, contrasted himself with his Democratic opponent by declaring the main difference between them is that he would not vote for Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for reelection as Speaker of the House.

U.S. Representative Jim Gerlach, campaigning for reelection, stated that he had grown tired of the metaphor that President Barak Obama and other Democrats were using about the Republicans having “driven our country into a ditch.” Gerlach noted that since the Democrats took over Congress in 2007 and the White House two years later, they have only used the “left turn signals” and have thereby made the economy and federal budget worse.

Pat Toomey pointed out his opponent’s record of voting for all of the massive spending and expansion of federal power policies of the Obama Administration, with a record of voting with Pelosi 100% of the time. Toomey predicted that Pennsylvanians would not elect a “San Francisco Democrat” as their U.S. Senator.

Haley Barbour recalled his service as Chairman of the Republican National Committee at the time of the Republican mid-term sweep in 1994 in which the GOP gained control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years. Barbour observed that the 2010 mid-term elections are much more important, given the massive debt being passed onto the next generations. He observed Pennsylvania’s key role in the federal elections, as well as the signficance of the gubernatorial election.

Tim Pawlenty stressed the importance of providing a better climate for business. He remarked that the Democrats are spending our money as if they were at a wedding reception with an open bar instead of a cash bar.

Chris Christie, who made a grand entrance by arriving late in his jet and pulling up in it to the back of the open hangar, cited his success as governor based upon his prosecutorial experience as a former U.S. Attorney in emphasizing Corbett’s prosecutorial experience as Attorney General. He stated that the problem in both the U.S. and Pennsylvania is simple: spending too much, borrowing too much and taxing too much. Therefore, Christie said, the solution is simple: spend less, borrow less and tax less. The neighboring governor predicted the end of the heavy influence that special interests have enjoyed in Pennsylvania under unpopular Democratic Governor Ed Rendell.

Tom Corbett promised to follow Christie’s example, reform state government and create a better economic climate in the Keystone State in order to prevent young Pennsylvanians from moving to other states.

Vote on Election Day, Tuesday November 2!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pennsylvania October Political Updates

There were positive developments recently on two matters I had posted on previously.

The Pennsylvania Senate has passed the Castle Doctrine law, but the version the upper body of the General Assembly approved differs from the one passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month, which I had posted about at the time.

Pennsylvania’s tax-and-spend Democratic Governor, Ed Rendell, has acquiesced to Republican and industry opposition to his proposed tax on the natural gas industry which is developing the Keystone State’s huge Marcellus Shale natural gas reserve. The natural gas industry is a boon for Pennsylvania’s economy, which helps generate taxable income. The proposed severance tax on the natural gas industry would have been in addition to the relatively high corporate taxes every corporation large and small already faces in the Commonwealth. Thus, the abandonment of the proposed severance tax prevents Pennsylvania from killing the goose that laid the golden egg. I had posted on this issue in May in my post, Analysis of the Pennsylvania Primary Elections.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cinfici Is Polled Again

For the second time this year, I have been surveyed for a major public opinion poll. In March, I was surveyed during the debate over the federalization of health insurance (See my post from March of this year, Cinfici Polled by Rasmussen Reports). This time, I was polled by Monmouth University on Rep. Jim Gerlach's (R-PA) reelection.

After being asked about my likelihood of voting, I was polled this evening on whether I would vote for the Republican Gerlach or his Democratic opponent, whether I approved of the job Gerlach was doing in Congress, whether I had a favorable opinion of either candidate or an unfavorable one, and whether I preferred the Republicans to be in the majority in Congress. I answered that I would vote for Gerlach, approved of his job performance and had a favorable opinion of him and an unfavorable one of his opponent, and preferred the Republicans to be in the Congressional majority.

I was also asked whether I had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of President Barak Obama, to which I responded I had an unfavorable opinion. I was asked whether I thought the country was on the right or wrong track, to which I responded that it was on the wrong track. Finally, in addition to the usual party preference and demographic questions, I was asked whether I had a favorable of unfavorable opinion of the Tea Party movement, to which I responded that I had a favorable one.

I felt patriotic to participate in these polls, especially in expressing my opposition to Obama. Of course, I feel even more patriotic whenever I fulfill my sacred duty of voting, as the election “is the only poll that counts.” Remember to vote on Tuesday, November 2.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wilders is Right about Islam, but Wrong to Call Muhammad a “Pedophile”

Geert Wilders, the Dutch member of Parliament known for his resistance to the Islamification of Europe, has rightly noted that Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, is viewed as model for Muslims. He cites Muhammad’s militancy as the basis for militant Islam. However, I caution critics of Islam not to insult Islam’s most revered figure unnecessarily.

For example, Geert Wilders called Muhammad a “pedophile.” Muhammad married a young teenager, but she was not a child in the biological sense, which is what is meant by the word, as she had reached puberty, meaning she was capable of reproduction, which is the biological definition of adulthood. This distinction between pedophilia (a deviant sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children) and pederasty (attraction to teenagers who have reached puberty) is not a legal one, which is why there are laws in many jurisdictions against statutory rape (sexual relations with a minor regardless of whether or not the minor is a biological adult), for example, and why parental consent is required for marriage below certain ages, depending on the jurisdiction, although it is allowed for older teenagers without even parental consent.

Although she may have been too young to fully give informed consent under contemporary Western legal standards, Muhammad’s marriage to his young bride is thus not the equivalent of pedophilia. I would also note the significantly lower life expectancy during the Seventh Century in Arabia as a mitigating factor. A similar charge of “pedophilia” is being made by the enemies of the Christian Church against the Catholic priests who are accused of abuse in order to make the scandal seem even worse than it is, even though most of the cases involved alleged victims who were not pre-pubescent children. Therefore, we as Christians ought to be sensitive to Muslims about this matter by being careful with our choices of words.

Muhammad is similarly often accused of “adultery” because of his practice of polygamy. Although it is true that Muhammad had several wives, Muslims cite his marriages as proof of his magnanimity, for he would marry widows in order to rescue them from poverty, into to which women, who had no property rights, would be plunged if they had no children to care for them. Although one can certainly make a reasonable and convincing argument about the immorality of polygamy, the point is that we should be more educated about Muhammad and the origin of Islam in order to avoid counterproductive statements that unnecessary insult and provoke Muslims, and instead make the most reasonable and effective arguments that cannot be easily dismissed as unreasonable insults. It is not necessary, for example, to call Muhammad an “adulterer” in order to refute Islam, when one can instead argue the merits of monogamy versus polygamy.

Legal Docket: Geert Vilders; The Federal Mandate to Purchase Health Insurance

Dutch Prosecutors Ask for Geert Vilders’ Acquittal

Geert Wilders, a member of the parliament of the Netherlands who is most known for resisting the Islamification of Europe, is charged with hate speech against Muslims. His prosecutors have taken the unusual step of asking the judge to acquit him, citing the fact that Gilders criticized Islam, not Muslims. The case is seen as a major test of free speech in the West versus increasing efforts by Islamists to silence critics of Islam.

Update: A Federal Judge Rejects the Obama Administration Defense in the States’ Lawsuit against the Federal Mandate to Purchase Health Insurance

The federal district judge hearing the lawsuit filed by Florida and joined by nineteen other states against the Obama Administration’s mandate to purchase health insurance has rejected the Administration’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The judge ruled that the Obama Administration had contradicted itself by claiming that the mandate to purchase health insurance was a tax, for which the federal government has authority, after having called it a “penalty,” for which it does not have authority under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, which gives Congress the power to regulate only interstate commerce (in order to prevent states from imposing tariffs on goods that are traded across state lines, i.e. to establish a free trade zone within the federal Union). The mandate is part of the Administration’s federalization of health insurance. For the first time in U.S. history, it would require the purchase of a product as a condition of residing within the States of the Union, which the States participating in the lawsuit consider an abuse of federal power and a violation of state sovereignty. The judge dismissed the Obama Administration’s contradictory argument on behalf of its motion to dismiss the case as similar to “Alice in Wonderland” and allowed the case to proceed.

In another federal case brought by private citizens in Michigan, a federal judge upheld the federal mandate, but the media reports did not explain her rationale. It appeared that the judge assumed that the federal government has constitutional authority over all economic activity, instead of only interstate commerce. The state lawsuit is considered the stronger case, at least until the federalization of health insurance is complete and private citizens can prove they have actually suffered harm.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Congratulations, Chile

I congratulate the Chileans for their marvelous accomplishment of rescuing the 33 miners who were trapped for 70 days in the San Jose gold and copper mine in the Atacama Desert. The miners endured the longest known period of being trapped underground in world history.

The mine partially collapsed on August 5, confining the miners nearly half a mile below the surface. For the first 17 days, no one on the surface knew whether the 33 men were alive until a probe broke through to the safety chamber in which the miners were at the time of the collapse – to the surprise and relief of the world. Shift supervisor Luis Urzua, who received the honor he had requested of being the last miner rescued, is credited with organizing the men and looking after all their needs in the dark mine with little food or other provisions. Once communication was established with the surface, among the first items the miners requested from the surface were articles of Christian devotion.

The Chilean mine collapse reminded me of the flooding of the Quecreek coal mine in Pennsylvania in 2002, from which all of the trapped miners survived because of an unprecedented successful rescue operation after they had managed to find a small area of higher ground to escape drowning. Governor Mark Schweiker coordinated the state’s effort to save the miners, backed by United States President George W. Bush, who provided critical federal support. I am proud that a Pennsylvania driller was among the Americans who assisted in the Chilean rescue, an effort for which much state-of-the-art technology was necessary. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera not only backed his state’s effort to rescue the miners, but this extraordinary leader had encouraged the effort to continue try to locate the miners when others doubted they were still alive. Like Schweiker, he kept the public informed of the advancement of the operation.

As in the case of the Pennsylvania mine disaster, it is hoped that much will be learned about mine safety and rescue from the Chilean disaster. Mining is of great economic significance in Chile, as it is in Pennsylvania, which made this rescue critically important. Copper, for example, is among Chile’s main exports to the United States, along with fruit and wine. Trade between the U.S. and Chile, one of the most prosperous Latin American states, increased dramatically after the free trade agreement negotiated by the Bush Administration was implemented in 2004.

One thing, of course, that has already been learned from the Chilean miners is the human ability to endure such a difficult confinement for such a long period. How they survived their ordeal will be studied, and the efforts of the rescuers from the surface to supply the miners with all of their provisions will be a model. Also worthy of praise are the brave Chilean rescue workers who had to take the unusual step of being lowered into the mine chamber in which the 33 miners were trapped.

Chile suffered a major earthquake earlier this year. The successful mine rescue is a sharp contrast to that deadly disaster. It also punctuates the celebration of Chile’s Bicentennial, which occurred during the miner’s confinement. Chileans are right to proud of themselves for accomplishing something no one else ever has.

Thank God for this successful rescue. I pray the miners make a full recovery. Viva, Chile!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Some House Democratic Candidates Are Trying to Run Away from Obama and the Liberal Democratic Congressional Leadership

There have been reports of Democratic candidates for United States House of Representatives distancing themselves from fellow Democratic President Barak Obama and the liberal Democratic Congressional leadership and some of their more unpopular policies, such as the federalization of health insurance and deficit spending. Some Democratic House candidates are avoiding identifying themselves as Democrats even in districts with a history of voting Democratic. Others are campaigning openly as moderates or even as conservatives.

I can report on one such Democratic candidate locally, Tim Holden, in whose Pennsylvania district I once was until the redistricting after the 2000 Census. The usually safe nine-term incumbent is running television advertisements in which he calls himself a “conservative,” despite his record of having provided the one-vote margin necessary to pass the Clinton tax increases – the largest in American history (the so-called “deficit reduction” plan that proposed to increase the federal budget deficit, which it did), as well as voting for gun control during the Clinton Administration and for public money for pornographic “art,” while voting against missile defense. Among other pork-barrel spending for which he has voted, Holden infamously voted to maintain the federal subsidy for sugar growers, even though there are no sugar growers in his district, after having accepted thousands of dollars in contributions to his campaign committee from the sugar special interests. Although he occasionally votes with the Republicans, especially when his vote is not needed by the liberal Democratic leadership, as it was for the Clinton tax increase, the most important vote he casts every two years is for a liberal Democrat for Speaker of the House, such as when he voted for Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Indeed, all Democratic candidates for House, no matter what their ideology or platform is, are committed to voting for her for Speaker, which would keep control of the legislative agenda of the House in the hands of the liberal Democratic leadership. Similarly, all Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate would vote for liberal Democrats to retain control over the legislative agenda of the upper body. Control of the legislative agenda means that the leadership determines which bills or amendments it wishes to permit to be considered or debated and under what rules. In other words, the minority can pass only non-controversial bills or amendments. The majority party also holds the majority on all committees, where legislation is drafted in the first place, and names all of the chairmen.

That many of these Democratic candidates are running away from the unpopular Obama and the liberal Democratic Congressional leadership to such an extent that are trying to pass themselves off as not liberal is a good sign not only for Republican and conservative congressional candidates, but for conservatism in general. It suggests that even liberal Democrats recognize the rising popularity of common sense conservative ideas like smaller government, more liberty, a strong defense and public morality. As is often true in elections, liberals sometimes can only win by trying to sound like conservatives. Let us not be fooled, but vote for true conservatives pledged to vote for conservative congressional leadership.

The Pennsylvania House Passes the Castle Doctrine

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has passed the Castle Doctrine, which defines the right of homeowners to use force with deadly weapons, including firearms, in order to defend themselves.

The Democratic-majority lower chamber of the General Assembly approved Republican-sponsored House Bill 40, which codified the Castle Doctrine, by an overwhelming margin of votes this evening. The measure moves to the state Senate.

For a more detailed analysis of the Castle Doctrine and House Bill 40, see my post from November of 2009, Pennsylvania Considers the Castle Doctrine.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Popular Global Shift Rightward

I have been observing a shift toward the right in popular elections around the world this year. I have posted about this trend in commenting on the elections in the United Kingdom, Italy and Australia, in which the results for conservative parties constituted improvements over the previous corresponding election, while the conservative party was reelected in Columbia, the ruling conservative party won a plurality of votes in the Swedish national elections, and a moderate Republican won a special election to the United States Senate campaigning on a conservative platform. Recently, that trend has continued in some noteworthy ways.

In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’ party won more seats in the Dutch parliament, even before the recent terrorism threats to Europe were reported. He is known for his opposition to Islamism. Although his party will not hold any seats in the cabinet, the coalition Dutch government depends upon its support to govern.

The Venezuelan opposition united against the autocratic Marxist leader, Hugo Chavez in legislative elections. Venezuelan voters deprived Chavez’s party of his nearly unanimous majority, which it had enjoyed for five years because the opposition had boycotted the previous election. The opposition gained more than a third of the legislative seats. Without a two-thirds majority, Chavez and his supporters will no longer be able to force through whatever legislation it wants.

In Brazil, center-left President Lula da Silva’s chosen successor unexpectedly has been forced into a runoff with centrist Jose Serra. Despite the popular Lula’s leftist rhetoric, except for ending privatization, he has continued the anti-inflationary policies of his centrist predecessor (who came from the same party as Serra), which has allowed Brazil to attract foreign investment and to prosper. Brazilian voters were concerned about scandals in Lula’s party, the possibility that its presidential candidate would favor a more leftist economic policy than Lula and her apparent support for legalizing abortion. Although she is likely to win in the final vote, her failure to win a majority decreases her mandate.

Although most of these elections represented only slight changes in electoral trends, except in the British elections, where their impact was correspondingly the most significant, they collectively signify a popular rightward shift toward smaller government, more liberty and more effective resistance to terrorism that could be a harbinger of even larger changes in elections to come.

Eighteen-Month Blog Report

Thank you for visiting my blog. In the year and a half since I began tracking hits, it has been visited at least 2,127 times (not counting my own visits, and only counting hits at least one hour apart as separate visits).

In addition to those who have visited my blog homepage, visitors have landed on 127 posts and visited 17 more. Eight posts have been visited over 50 times, and two have received over 200 visits. The Rise and Fall of Islamic Civilization is the post that has been visited the most: nearly 450 times. The two posts that have been visited the most half-way through my blog's second year of being tracked are the following: Report from the 2010 Pennsylvania Leadership Conference and Arizona Border Control Update: A Federal Judge Violates States' Rights.

Visitors have come from 49 American states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam, as well as 71 foreign states. Interesting recent foreign visits since my last report have come from Iceland and Papua New Guinea, with the most continuing to come from Malaysia.

Again, thank you for making this blog a success. I am especially grateful for my blog's most loyal visitors. Please continue to visit, suggest topics and post comments. Thank you. God bless.