Politicization of the Church

May 22, 2010
By

Today’s guest post is by David H. Bailey.

I am concerned about the increasing politicization of the Church in the U.S. during past two or three years. I can definitely sense it here in our ward and stake in the SF Bay Area, and from what I can see the same is true in Utah, Arizona and Nevada. Consider:

1. Many members interpreted the Church’s support of Prop 8 as an endorsement of a broad range of politically conservative causes (although the Church leaders likely did not intend that message). In most areas of the U.S. people with moderate or liberal political views now feel unable to make comments, even in LDS social settings, for fear of ostracism. Comments such as “the country is really moving in the wrong direction” are often voiced in church meetings.

2. Many LDS listen to Glenn Beck (especially) and Rush Limbaugh, even here in the relatively “liberal” SF Bay Area.

3. Two months ago, a Las Vegas area SP’s invitation to have LDS Senator Harry Reid (a Democrat) speak at a fireside on his conversion experience had to be withdrawn due to numerous threats of disruption and even violence.

4. Last Friday, the Utah Republican caucus booted out 3-term GOP Senator Robert Bennett, who has one of the most conservative voting records in all the U.S. Congress, because he is “not conservative enough.”

5. Mormons are strong supporters of the “Tea Party” movement, particularly in Utah and other western states.

6. Visceral opposition to Obama is common in LDS circles (from what I have seen). Many truly believe that he is not really a U.S. citizen, and that he truly represents Satan in the last days.

7. Visceral opposition is also raised about the new health program in LDS circles — terms such as “socialism”, “communism”, “death squads”, “rationing” are used.

I’m not a die-hard liberal — compared to most people I’m middle-of-the-road. I was supportive of the health care initiative — it was a huge shame for the U.S. to be the only nation in the top 25 industrial powers not to provide some health care program for its citizens. On the other hand, I believe that a relatively free market capitalist system is the most efficient, provided safeguards are in place to prevent excesses and protect consumers. I am also very concerned that politicians are not being realistic about shortfalls projected in the Medicare and Social Security system. In other words, I strongly feel that a viable two+ party system is important, with reasonable, intelligent views represented from both sides. And I think it is important that LDS people be a part of this system.

But I am concerned that an unwritten law is emerging that only a very conservative point of view is welcome in the LDS Church, to an extent significantly greater than at any time in my life. Thoughts?

110 Responses to Politicization of the Church

  1. May 22, 2010 at 12:47 am

    I do fear that too many members think conservative ideas are the “doctrinally superior” ones. (However, I would be just as concerned if the tables were turned and liberal ideas were largely viewed as doctrinally superior.)My stake president has told me he has tried as hard as possible to be completely politically neutral. I wish all members would have this attitude.

    I’ve been told when you go to the temple leave the world and focus on spiritual things. This seems to be fairly well observed in my experience. I wish when we went to church services politics could similarly be left behind.

  2. May 22, 2010 at 3:04 am

    Having lived in Massachusetts and then Iowa, I have served under Church leaders having either conservative or liberal political ideologies. Under such leaders I have not felt any political pressures. But, it is especially hard to keep politics out of the chapel when presidential candidates are sitting in the pews.

  3. May 22, 2010 at 5:18 am

    Prop 8 seemed to me to mark an especially big change in this arena. Before the Church got involved in this, we were specifically counseled NOT to use the Church facilities, rosters, etc. for any political purpose. Suddenly this was all changed. And with official support coming down on a conservative stance, it gave the nod to the politically conservative in our Wards, while de-legitimizing the rest.

  4. May 22, 2010 at 6:48 am

    1. About leaving politics out of religion — Tough to do when you are anxiously engaged in a good cause.
    2. About presidential candidates in the pews — Doesn’t the term “pew” have an odoriferous quality?
    3. About Prop 8 and the conservatization of the congregation — The MX missile “revelation” in the 80s did nothing for the liberalization of the congregation.
    4. About only the conservative point of view being available in the Church — Conservative ideology is primarily involved with entrenching and maintaining the status quo without change taking place — at least by definition. It isn’t surprising that a religion based on primarily on an all white male hierarchy inculcates in its followers a distaste for the multi-racial, for the empowerment of women, and for empowerment of the otherwise disenfranchised (Prop 8). Racism and sexism have long used conservative ideology to put women and other races in boxes that are “separate but equal.” Mormonism does the same to its single members, its homosexual members, its coffee swilling members — they are all still God’s children, same as us, except they chose to sin and that is what separates them. Makes that whole one heart, one mind thing difficult though. As anyone can tell you playing in the “separate” sandbox, it is anything but equal.

    The increased vitriol you are sensing in your wards and stakes of Zion are not the product of this peculiar people, but the rumblings of a conservative establishment that is feeling challenged and rocked to its very core on a national level. The Arizona racism, the Mormon Prop 8, the Tea Party (WoW is apparently OK with you metaphorically dumping the tea) and the political backlash is a formerly entrenched power structure feeling vulnerable and this political power structure happens to rely heavily on the political base that meshes exactly with Mormon demographics — white, married and with kids. Despite what you Ptolemites may think, the world does not revolve around the Church. In this case, the Church is in the world and most decidedly of it.

  5. Jon
    May 22, 2010 at 7:10 am

    Politics should be left out of the church, as Christ taught. Although history has shown the church will push politics like when President Grant pushed for prohibition. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t disagree since, even though Grant pushed for prohibition, it was still defeated.

    The writer of this blog should have let his politics stay out of this post if he really wanted to make people agree with him. It added nothing to the post, but do what you will, I’m fine with that.

    BTW, I’m a minarchist. AKA, I believe the government should get out of our lives except for the protecting individual rights and and the nation as a whole (granted the current government hasn’t done a good job of that for well over 150 years).

  6. John
    May 22, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Two thoughts:

    1. If our church is a worldwide church, is it right to incorporate a narrow American political philosophy into our teachings and make it a de facto gospel?

    2. How can the church claim to be nonpolitical when its Bonneville stations are broadcasting Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage and the whole crew of right-wing hatemongers every single day?

  7. May 22, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Jon, say what? Christ wasn’t political? When was the last time you took a New Testament class? The whole Jew/Roman thing was as hot back then as Arizona immigration is today.

    And that minarchical government did a great job regulating Wall Street. Government is created to protect individual property rights. Laws are all about defining the rules of the game. The better the rules, the better the game — and the more fair for everyone. It isn’t a matter of less or more government, but of better government and a better game on a level playing field. The job of the government is to get the field ready to play on, provide the referees and enforce the rules. Unfortunately, the playing field is a wee bit un-level and the referees need glasses and the players keep playing even though they have six fouls.

    I also disagree about religion and government. While the First Amendment proscribes the government from establishing and incorporating religion, it isn’t a two-way prohibition. There is no reason religion shouldn’t be a fundamental part of political discourse and religious ideals should be subjected to political dissection, but religious ideals are not sacrosanct in the political realm. You can’t introduce them and then refuse to discuss them because they come from upon high. That isn’t playing the political game and failing to engage means that you will eventually be defeated. If you don’t want your religious ideals ridiculed, challenged or discussed, only then should you keep them out of political discourse. If you enter the fray, then you should plan on having all of the weaknesses exposed. This is the nature of politics. Staying out because your position is weak, racist or homophobic? That is a whole different matter, but ultimately the religious/moral discourse in the political realm will show that the anti-military industrial complex, anti-exploitative Capitalist and environmental side of politics would be exposed as the more religious compatible political ideology, rather than a conservative capitulation by the religion to the status quo. Do what is correct, let the consequences follow.

  8. Dan
    May 22, 2010 at 9:06 am

    2. Many LDS listen to Glenn Beck (especially) and Rush Limbaugh, even here in the relatively “liberal” SF Bay Area.

    Having grown up a Mormon in the Bay Area, I can definitively say Bay Area Mormons are like the ONLY conservatives there.

    But I am concerned that an unwritten law is emerging that only a very conservative point of view is welcome in the LDS Church, to an extent significantly greater than at any time in my life. Thoughts?

    It doesn’t help that for several decades, the church was led by some of the most hardcore right wing people, thus setting a trend for the foreseeable future. I was disappointed by two things this past decade. President Hinckley’s support of the war in Iraq, and President Monson’s Prop 8 push. I’ve learned though to keep those two negative points in perspective to everything else the church does. There are many things which the church does that are not political or politically motivated.

  9. May 22, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Interestingly where I live, other political parties are in the churches of the inner city all the time, promoting candidates, and the churches enjoy their seat at the political table.

    That said, I also don’t enjoy mixing politics with gospel doctrine, and I don’t appreciate it when Sunday School lessons are used to promote particular views. It’s true that some political issues find their way in (as noted above, Prop 8, the MX missle question, and of course the ERA).

    It’s interesting to me that no where else in the world I’ve lived (Europe, Asia, Latin America) have I felt such political vitriol as here in the US.

    I haven’t had a presidential candidate in the pew of my sacramement meeting ever.

  10. E.D.
    May 22, 2010 at 9:48 am

    I’m surprised people are only noticing this now. As someone on the far left, it’s been an issue my entire life and one of the main reasons I don’t really socialize at church and would never live in the intermountain west.

    The church was extremely active in defeating the ERA (or so I’ve read since I’m too young to remember), so their position and activity on Prop 8 was not a surprise.

  11. May 22, 2010 at 10:58 am

    The country (and the world?) seem to be increasingly divided into political worldviews that in America have polarized within particular, mutually repelling political movements. Polls show this increasing polarization over time. Opinions toward Obama are more polarized than they were over Bush; they were more polarized toward Bush than toward Clinton, and so on.

    I’ve suggested in an earlier thread “Wired Worldviews” that political conservatism or progressivism reflect fundamental differences in personality type in which it is terribly hard to see ANY validity in the other type’s argument. If you look at sources like the Pew Survey of Religious Preferences, you’ll see that religious traditions are also splitting along these worldview lines even if the traditions themselves were originally formed over schisms of doctrine. A very conservative tradition like the LDS or the Southern Baptists will have a related denomination like the Community of Christ on the progressive side that cooperates with the liberal Baptist analogue better than with the LDS. A progressive Anglican tradition immediately generates its conservative wing, which uses overseas Anglican communions to widwife its formation as a separate denomination.

    Having a worldview that doesn’t match that of your denominational tribe is painful whether the mismatch is left-right OR right-left. I can assure you that the experience of being insulted for supporting Democratic policies in LDS wards and stakes can be matched in intensity by insults for supporting Republican policies in CofChrist congregations and mission centers.

    We all have a lot of work to do over the next few years to keep our differences in worldviews nationally and internationally from spiraling beyong “warm contention”.

  12. Jon
    May 22, 2010 at 11:41 am

    @FireTag, Well said.

    @Ulysseus,

    I was referring to Christ saying give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and some other one I was thinking of where he was basically saying the gospel transcends politics (I wish I could think of that scripture right now but I can’t).

    “And that minarchical government did a great job regulating Wall Street.” – Umm, that wasn’t a free market, that was mercantilism. The US hasn’t seen free markets in a really long time.

    “Government is created to protect individual property rights.” – I agree.

    “Laws are all about defining the rules of the game.” – The only roll for laws is to protect individual rights, not to “level” the playing field, there’s no such thing as levelling the playing field. Milton Friedman said it best when someone asked him about free markets and stated that people are greedy therefore we need government to “even things out”. Friedman replied, “And politicians aren’t?” As we’ve seen for the last 150 years, politicians are just as greedy as ever. Did you know that if you are a senator or representative of the US you can insider trade? There’s tons of examples like this where they make laws for everyone else but not for themselves (like the recent health care bill). No, laws are meant for helping people have liberty, and the only way to do that is by applying simple rules for everyone to follow, like if you lie then the person can break the contract, etc.

    As for the religious stuff you’re talking about I seem to be missing your point. Maybe your categorizing me for beliefs that I don’t have? I don’t know.

    In the end politics at church should be separate since the gospel transcends politics.

    Also, truly no government is better than the other if people were righteous any government would be OK, as we’ve seen in the Book of Mormon. But anarchy would be my favorite since you don’t use coercive force to get people to do things that they don’t want to. Anarchy only works with a united and righteous people though (as seen by the Quakers in the 1600s in Pennsylvania for a six year period), so I’ll say that extremely limited government is OK.

  13. Chris
    May 22, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    I am appalled by the hate-filled right-wing rhetoric that so many Church members espouse and support. Glenn’s doom and gloom philosophy is depressing at best and fear-mongering at worst. I am disappointed that church-run bookstore carry and support his books, that many Church members believe everything he says without doing any fact-checking, and that the church is verifiably one of the most right-wing churches in the United States. I cannot imagine the Savior turning his back on the sick, poor, elderly, mentally ill, and physically- and mentally-challenged, yet the extremist wing of the Republican party does just that. Although both parties have plenty of flaws–especially with their ties to corrupt and powerful corporations which donate heavily to the campaigns of both Republicans and Democrats, I am disappointed that the Church seems to be taking a radical approach to politics and that many of the members are following suit.

  14. Dblock
    May 22, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    What I don’t like about this is the fact the church sends out a statement like”Prop 8,” and tells members to support the measure. The reason why I don’t like statements like Prop 8 being put out by church leaders is because if you don’t support the measure, then its’ automatically assumed that your not a TBM and then it becomes a matter of speaking out, specifically when members of your ward stand up at a fast and testimony meeting and saying that if you don’t support Prop 8, your against the church.

    Recently, my stupid home-teacher used a ward email list to send out his message of supporting Mitt Romney. I sent him an e-mail back saying that ward email list are not to be used in this fashion and he replied that I should take my name off the list. Hello, until I take my name off church records I’m a member of the ward and people don’t have the right to automatically assume that I want to hear your views. I also sent the email to my BP who essentially did nothing about it.

  15. May 22, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    That picture is crying out for a caption! How about this:

    “Church leaders present President Obama a schematic of the Plan of Salvation, and point out where unrepentant Democrats go.”

  16. May 22, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Chris:

    “I cannot imagine the Savior turning his back on the sick, poor, elderly, mentally ill, and physically- and mentally-challenged, yet the extremist wing of the Republican party does just that.”

    Unfortunately, that characteristic defines EXTREMES of both the right and left. People being starved by Stalin in the breadbasket of the Soviet Union to hide the failure of collective farming look remarkably similar to Jews being starved to death before being gassed in Hitler’s concentration camps.

  17. Ann
    May 22, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    But I am concerned that an unwritten law is emerging that only a very conservative point of view is welcome in the LDS Church…

    Well yeah. Duh.

  18. cadams
    May 22, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about this topic. It’s like arguing against a tsunami.

  19. Badger
    May 22, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    This is an issue that tends to arise naturally in any voluntary association like a church. I once attended a few Unitarian Universalist meetings, and the prevailing politics there were much more in evidence than would be typical at an LDS meeting, in my experience.

    But with the UU, if you don’t fit in politically, you can simply part ways and go somewhere else. For faithful Mormons, that option is not simple. The Church teaches that leaving puts your salvation at risk. One could argue that this imposes a greater obligation on the Church to remain apolitical, so that no souls are lost from taking offense over politics. I’m not sure how strongly such an obligation is felt within the Church; it probably depends in part on individual experience, with more politically liberal members more likely to feel its importance.

    Joseph Smidt said in the first comment that he would be equally concerned by a conservative or a liberal political orthodoxy. This is consistent with the argument I just outlined, and with principles of impartiality and reciprocity. It’s cause for concern if prevailing political view X becomes a stumbling block to members inclined to view Y, and it’s of equal concern however you fill in the blanks; therefore, to the extent possible, a political orthodoxy should be avoided. However, there is another way of looking at it: if political view X is “true”, then there’s a problem only if there is a prevailing view that is different from X.

    There’s a famous TED talk, which I’m too lazy to look up and credit properly, in which–my interpretation–it is suggested that to a political liberal the first way of thinking is far more persuasive than the second. Thus a liberal will be more strongly inclined to think the Church should be apolitical than a conservative, other things being equal. And the conservative can more easily adopt the view that a liberal orthodoxy–a sort of false doctrine–would be a problem, but a conservative orthodoxy, being “true”, is not. So the prediction is that liberals almost all want (in theory) an apolitical church, while only some conservatives do, with the others seeing no problem provided the prevailing politics is conservative.

    That prediction doesn’t strike me as obviously wrong, but I’m not sure if I believe it, either. Of course, it’s just based on my (over-)interpretation of research I’m barely familiar with.

  20. refugee
    May 22, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    FireTag – You comments are most perceptive. I think folks on the left and right live in completely different realities. Politically, I lean toward the right, but am employed at a public defense law firm in the very liberal West Coast city. I have a number of friends who lean toward the left, but live in Utah.

    Neither ideology has a monopoly on virtue and morality – and I suspect if you were to plot out representative IQ scores, you’ve have a similar bell curve on either side. Yet too many on the right hurl the “immoral” epithet at those on the left – and far to many on the left hurl the “stupid” epithet at those on the right.

    No wonder we have such a difficult time getting along!

  21. May 22, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Jared* #15 = Niblet nomination, lol.

  22. May 22, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Thank you, Refugee, and I think Badger’s comment is relevant about the issue of language as well. Badger seems to be using “liberal” in a classical sense of meaning tolerance. But politics becomes increasingly about capturing the meaning of language to draw support by associating one’s party with virtuous words and one’s opponents with villainous or shameful words.

    People’s Democratic Republics are not for the people, they are not democratic, and they are not republican. National Socialist Workers Parties (Nazis) are not for workers, they are not socialist, and they are not for all groups within a nation. Both are primarily concerned with “conserving” their own power, not with tolerantly sharing it with others.

    So, in that sense, Badger needs to include an additional possibility: an intolerant “liberal” religion that is just as rigid in its orthodoxy as an intolerant “conservative” religion.

    It hurts to be a marginalized member in either situation.

    So

  23. djinn
    May 22, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    Western Europe is all socialist/liberal. The countries doing the best–Denmark, Norway–are the most socialist; and let’s not forget aout our neighbor to the north, Canada; also significantly to the left of the US. Were are those conservative havens?

  24. Wyoming
    May 23, 2010 at 2:17 am

    “I cannot imagine the Savior turning his back on the sick, poor, elderly, mentally ill, and physically- and mentally-challenged, yet the extremist wing of the Republican party does just that.”

    Most of the ‘extremist wing of the Republican party’ in my community are very busy providing for the needs of the jobless, the sick, the elderly, the injured, etc. Throwing around your labels may work in liberal Mormon blogs, but not so well in reality.

  25. CarlosJC
    May 23, 2010 at 7:05 am

    “I was supportive of the health care initiative — it was a huge shame for the U.S. to be the only nation in the top 25 industrial powers not to provide some health care program for its citizens.”

    Yeap, but still this new so called US-socialized medicine still falls short of what those other countries have.

  26. Jon
    May 23, 2010 at 7:35 am

    “I was supportive of the health care initiative — it was a huge shame for the U.S. to be the only nation in the top 25 industrial powers not to provide some health care program for its citizens.”

    “I cannot imagine the Savior turning his back on the sick, poor, elderly, mentally ill, and physically- and mentally-challenged, yet the extremist wing of the Republican party does just that.”

    This all comes down to perspective. If you believe that the free market is the best way to help the most people get out of poverty then it is not being cruel to say the least, but to the contrary, it is the best way to help people. The free market also relies on the free will of the people to help their neighbors. So looking at it that way it seems to be the most caring way to help others.

    So what is wrong with the socialized method? Imagine it this way. The mafia says give me your money and we will protect you, don’t give me your money and I will hurt or kill you. The mafia could also show benevolence and help you in times of need or the opposite. What does government do? It says, give me your money or I will take more of your money as a fine, or I will send you to jail, or I will kill you (if you resist having your property stolen from you). This is why I have a problem with coercive efforts to help the poor. Is it really worth hurting others and is it really worth stealing other peoples property to help the poor and indignant? I can’t imagine Jesus advocating theft and bribery to help the poor. That’s why I believe it’s important for individuals to be protected and for individuals to help others. I think the classical liberals have the best school of thought (what now days people refer to as the libertarians, FireTag alluded to this).

    Now what about the two major parties that we currently have in the US? For all practical purposes I can’t even really see any major differences. Take the Bush administration. They had Guatanamo Bay and he resided over the largest increase in health care up to that point. So what does the Obama administration do? He has the largest increase in health care up to this point. He also continues Guatanamo Bay, both wars (BTW two days ago was the cut off for when he said we should be out of Iraq, yep, we’re still there), and he one ups on Bush by saying an American citizen doesn’t need to be put through trial before being given the death penalty, yep, he’s the first president to publicly announce that an American president can assassinate an American citizen without due process. I really don’t see any difference between the two parties, that’s why I left. I like the libertarians since for the most part believe in leaving others alone, don’t believe in theft of your money, foreign entanglements, telling what others should do, etc. In my opinion they are the most humanitarian of the bunch.

  27. Badger
    May 23, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    FireTag @22, thanks for pointing out the ambiguity in my use of language. I was trying to apply the talk I had heard to the LDS situation, and as I understood the talk, “liberal” referred to those who identify themselves as being toward the left side of the current US political spectrum. In other words, it’s a sociological group rather than a specific political point of view, although obviously there is a strong correlation. The speaker’s point (my version) was that certain values such as tradition and purity are very important to some personalities and not to others, and that at the moment in the US those who attach importance to those values tend to be politically conservative. With gay marriage as an example, the argument that it introduces an impure or immoral “contaminant” into traditional marriage is, to a conservative, (1) obvious, and (2) often decisive, while to a liberal it is (1) obvious, although they would describe it differently, and (2) completely irrelevant as a moral argument. The liberal says “well, yes, that’s the whole point of gay marriage”, asks “how does it harm my marriage?”, and in general has no idea why anyone would take the argument seriously when there is an issue of reciprocity to consider. The speaker was arguing that to a conservative, liberals appear to be sort of morally color-blind; they see some distinctions but not others.

    So I was trying to apply this to the subject of this post. I think the speaker would probably not say that he would expect the same association between moral outlook and political conservatism to hold at all times and all places; it’s an analysis of the current US situation.

    I certainly agree that rigid left-wing orthodoxies exist. I think the strongest examples are found outside the US, but even the UU congregation I mentioned had taken a step in that direction, much as I think it would have pained them to acknowledge it.

    I think the talk I remember is by Jonathan Haidt, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vs41JrnGaxc.

  28. May 23, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Badger:

    I agree with your comment, and believe it is important that we try to seek truth within political opponents’ arguments despite our own worldview biases. I really think God intended those multiple worldviews to protect us from vulnerability to each other’s extremes, as I wrote in an earlier thread here

    http://mormonmatters.org/2010/02/23/wired-world-views-preserving-the-others-truth/

  29. CarlosJC
    May 23, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    26, “This all comes down to perspective. If you believe that the free market is the best way to help the most people get out of poverty then it is not being cruel to say the least, but to the contrary, it is the best way to help people. The free market also relies on the free will of the people to help their neighbors. So looking at it that way it seems to be the most caring way to help others”

    The USA over the past 3 or 4 decades proves that these ideas don’t work. The problem with that philosophy is that it has no no incentive and offers no real benefit for the free market to help or service those who can not pay enough.

    There will always be poor in any society for many different reasons, the question is who helps them. When one goes to Scandinavia or Britain or most western countries where governments help the poor one doesn’t see many people homeless on the streets. But in any US city it is easy to see them, living in their cars or plaza or under bridges. Actually the only other place I’ve seen people living that way is in latin america. Seems to me, at times, that the US, and especially the extreme right (ie most US Mormons) are doing the best they can to have an only rich-poor society a la latin america. Just my feel for the situation though, not an academic study off course.

  30. CarlosJC
    May 23, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    26 “The free market also relies on the free will of the people to help their neighbors.”

    Actually I doubt that.

    Free market means everyone is free to try to make the most money. Nothing encourages people otherwise. Only beneficial income tax deductions provide some encouragement for charity but we can’t see income taxes as pillars of the free market system now can we?

  31. Jon
    May 23, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    @CarlosJC,

    As I wrote earlier the US hasn’t seen a truly free market for a very long time. We live under a mercantilist system. There’s a big difference. I would like to see you argue the points I made on coercion vs persuasion though. That’s the big kicker for me, in order for socialism to exist you need coercion.

    If you would like to learn more about free markets and history on economics I would suggests you read mises.org where you can challenge your ideas. A good, but hard to read, read would be Human Action by Ludvig von Mises. After you read that we can banter about which system is the best economically speaking.

    @FireTag:

    You sound pretty level headed. I’ll have to keep reading you. I was telling my wife the other day how the more I learn about politics and economics the more extreme I move. I wouldn’t doubt my politically persuasion one day will lead me to agree with the anarchists. I read how the people of Adam treated Cain after he killed Abel and I just love it. The people didn’t directly punish him but used the shaming principle (as I like to call it) and then God was left to do the punishing. I wish we could apply that to gays etc. I think it would work a lot better than making laws that hurt us all. I don’t even marriage should be done by the government, I won’t go into the details here. I know the Cain story is hard to extrapolate since there is so little detail so I try to leave my mind open to other ideas but it seems nice to me.

  32. May 23, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Jon:

    I hope I’m level-headed, but you’ll have to understand that my idea of horizontal may be twisted 90 degrees from most people.

    Carlos JC:

    Whether you DISTRIBUTE wealth to the poor through the public or private sector, you CREATE wealth through the voluntary actions of private individuals. There is nothing to distribute unless it is created first. Self interest as motivator doesn’t become less in a socialist system. If it is not gain, the self-interest will be prevention of pain.

    Where do the people of the developed countries think their entitlements are coming from? It’s either the bankers, whose interest (in both senses) is in profit to be realized from future taxes, or from current taxes drawn from possible investment in future production of other private or public goods (like environmental protection).

    Our problems of inequality have less to do with the form of our government than with our tendency to consume things without understanding their eventual costs. Even in the leftist countries of Europe, the bills are now coming due, and it turns out you really do have to worry about production before you get those 10 extra years of retirement or the extra housing subsidies.

  33. May 23, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    I should also note that there are serious inequality issues that also have to be addressed between countries. A person who is relatively poor in the US may still be rich on an international scale. So, does a religious community concerned with building a world-wide Zionic society invest more on eliminating inequality within nations, or among them?

  34. Elwood Johnson
    May 23, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    This is a great post. Even here in Florida the conservitive movement is strong in the wards I attend as a HC. I got myself in a little trouble at our last Stake PEC meeting because of the conversations about Glenn Beck’s speech at Liberty College. I have promised my wife that I will keep my mouth shut when politics come up. Please note all of this happend before our meeting.

  35. Jon
    May 23, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    @FireTag,

    Just read your other article. Although I agree with most of the idea that people have a genetic tendency towards a certain ideology I do think people can change their minds with persuasion over time. I’ve been married to my wife for 4 1/2 years now so for about 5 years I’ve been trying to convince my in-laws that the Republican party isn’t good (over all). Now they believe me on that but that’s not really changing ideology. What is amazing is I’ve convinced my mother-in-law that the drug war is worthless and we should legalize drugs, prescription and illegal drugs, except for minors. That’s a big step in my mind. I just see all the death and destruction from the drug war and how it really hasn’t changed how easy it is to access drugs (just makes them more expensive).

    Any ways, I think the big thing is talking to people in a persuasive manner vs arguments. Which is hard to do over these blogs, so really it is much more difficult to do online but still possible as Lew Rockwell has been told by many people. It’s just easier in person. Just like sharing the gospel, bible bashing doesn’t work but gentle persuasion does.

    BTW, sorry for rambling!

  36. May 23, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    lead me to agree with the anarchists — which would get you Albania as it is today. It is an excellent experiment in anarchism.

    yet the extremist wing of the Republican party does just that — exactly the kind of extremest politicization of things that we need to avoid at Church to make it inclusive of all.

    Umm, that wasn’t a free market, that was mercantilism. urghh.

    What it was, in the recent melt down, was an excellent example that free markets rely on accurate and complete information and fail without it.

  37. May 23, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Forgive me for the way I’m citing to these two articles, but I don’t want my post eaten by the spam filter:

    bycommonconsent.com/2010/05/23/can-a-good-mormon-make-over-100000-a year/

    timesandseasons.org/index.php/2004/11/can-a-good-mormon-be-a-meritocrat/

    Worth reading and then revisiting the debate here (which is an interesting extension of the post).

  38. Hawkgrrrl
    May 23, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Personally, I think political feelings run even deeper than religious affiliation. Regardless of your political affiliation, I think you project it onto your religious views and assume it is a confirmation of your bias. I have definitely seen this among Mormons from both major US parties, which is of course kind of silly because politics in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus were nothing like they are now, but we sure do like to simplify and draw parallels.

  39. Jon
    May 23, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    @Stephen M (Ethesis)

    bycommonconsent.com/2010/05/23/can-a-good-mormon-make-over-100000-a year/ ===> Page not found

    Albania as it is today –> Do you have a link to that…it would be interesting to see what they’re doing and how it is working out.

  40. May 23, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    Hawkgrrrl:

    I generally agree with you — especially in religions where you can leave easily and don’t feel like you are losing salvation in the process.

    In the LDS, the trapped minority tends to be the liberal, but it can and does work the other way in the modern CofChrist in the last forty or so years.

  41. Hawkgrrrl
    May 23, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    FireTag – I think that trapped minority issue is really prevalent in highly concentrated areas – e.g. Utah, Arizona, Idaho, California. My home ward in PA was predominantly led by very vocal Democrats (mostly college professors), and interestingly, the conservatives were mostly on the downlow. I was absolutely shocked to discover that many Utah Mormons were openly Republican. Crazy world we live in! No?

  42. Jeff Spector
    May 24, 2010 at 5:59 am

    Having lived in the SF Bay Area for 24 years, I didn’t really notice overt conservatism at church since the Silicon Valley is such a bastion of liberal politics. Clearly, members were more conservative, but it wasn’t that noticeable. When Prop 22 came around, we were asked to support it and, as far as I can tell, most did. They was not the level of acrimony and harsh rhetoric as with Prop 8.

    When we moved to ultra-conservative Colorado Springs, everything changed. The members are most outspoken even in a Church setting and level of discourse is pretty harsh. As I’ve mentioned before, in teaching situations, I generally steer the conversation away from politics. They are more conservative than conservatives. We are also a strong military town and that adds to it especially during this endless war situation.

    I never will understand the member’s embrace of ultra-conservative politics because it seems to fly in the face of what the Savior tuaght and admonished us to be and certainly does not mirror the teachings of Joseph Smith.

    I can only assume the move to conservative politics was a move members made to be more accepted in their communities as “real Americans since there was some much doubt at one time whether Mormons were really American enough for America.

  43. jmb275
    May 24, 2010 at 6:51 am

    Is it too late to weigh in?

    I lived in east SF Bay during Prop 8. East SF Bay is much more conservative than the rest of the Bay area. We had one individual in our ward give a talk in Sacrament meeting in which he challenged the standard reasons for supporting prop 8. I don’t think it went over well. The tension in the room was oozing!

    Re Firetag, Jon
    I dunno about each of us having a proclivity toward one ideology. Perhaps so. I know that I did a complete 180. I was a regular conservative. I was in favor of the drug war, anti-abortion, etc. etc. Then something happened. During the Prop 8 fiasco I started to wonder if the “No on 8″ campaign had any good points. Lo and behold, they did. And, it turns out, so do Dems, liberals, and just about everyone else. This caused me to (over the course of a year) switch my political ideology.

    I think most of us become entrenched in an ideology similar to the one we grew up in. It does, however, take a specific personality to try to see things from another point of view. Once that occurs, it is possible that the POV of that individual will change.

    In fact, I think most political debates can be boiled down to a refusal to see things from the point of view of the opposition.

    For me personally, this is why I support a limited government, and libertarianism. I think libertarianism (and anarchism) are the only forms of gov’t that can be concluded based on a very few basic axioms that virtually everyone would agree with. Other political ideologies universally use force to obtain their desired moral outcome.

  44. Jeff Spector
    May 24, 2010 at 7:07 am

    One other thing, I am caring less and less about same sex marriage and more and more about why 2/3 of the church is inactive.

    SSM, while we may not agree with it, will not bring down the Church. Lack of activity and falling away of its members will.

  45. Jon
    May 24, 2010 at 8:00 am

    @Jeff Spector

    “I never will understand the member’s embrace of ultra-conservative politics because it seems to fly in the face of what the Savior taught and admonished us to be and certainly does not mirror the teachings of Joseph Smith.”

    This sounds a lot like what my bro-in-law always says…”I don’t see how members can be mormon and democrats.” My answer is always, “I don’t see how members can be mormon and repubs.” If you look at both of them they require coercion and theft.

  46. May 24, 2010 at 8:59 am

    RE: #43

    “I can only assume the move to conservative politics was a move members made to be more accepted in their communities as “real Americans since there was some much doubt at one time whether Mormons were really American enough for America”

    Armand Mauss’ “The Angel and the Beehive” talks about this in detail. The whole problem of assimilating and holding yourself apart and special is really interesting.

  47. Jeff Spector
    May 24, 2010 at 9:05 am

    #46,

    ”I don’t see how members can be Mormon and democrats.” My answer is always, “I don’t see how members can be mormon and repubs.” If you look at both of them they require coercion and theft.’

    If you take it on the highest level, it is true that Mormons should have no affiliation with any of the major political parties because they are “all wrong; … “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” to Steal a quote…..

    The US political system has major problems with corruption, corporate and special interest influence, legalized bribery in the form of campaign contributions, very low accountability and a generally apathetic and uninformed electorate. Until that is solved……

  48. May 24, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I agree with jmb: “For me personally, this is why I support a limited government, and libertarianism. I think libertarianism (and anarchism) are the only forms of gov’t that can be concluded based on a very few basic axioms that virtually everyone would agree with. Other political ideologies universally use force to obtain their desired moral outcome.” But I am independent (not Independent party – just declared neither party) because my preferred method is to keep government hamstrung. If they want to get anything done, they should have to cross party lines and come up with something that pleases neither extreme but that the moderates can all live with.

  49. Jeff Spector
    May 24, 2010 at 11:07 am

    “I think libertarianism (and anarchism) are the only forms of gov’t that can be concluded based on a very few basic axioms that virtually everyone would agree with.”

    Not sure about this. First you have to agree on what a limited government would look like. I suspect there are many opinions on that one.

  50. Thomas
    May 24, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Fair point re: #1, and conservative Mormons need to be constantly on their guard about this. Ditto — in part — #3; Mormons had no business threatening to disrupt a fireside scheduled by a bishop. (However, there were no threats of violence. That, in itself, is part of an illegitimate, McCarthy-like left-wing campaign to smear limited-government types as violent extremists.)

    Strictly speaking, a good number of the points enumerated don’t indicate that the Church is becoming politicized (as opposed to that large percentages of Mormons hold certain political views).

    For instance, what business is it of anyone’s if Mormons listen to Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh? That doesn’t say the “Church” is politicized. Same re: Bennett. The “Church” wasn’t involved. Same with the political positions held “in LDS circles.” Mormons have social circles just like anyone else, and politics will be discussed. The danger, I suppose, is that in Utah or other areas where people’s social circles are homogeneously LDS, there can be an unspoken blending of political and religious correctness. But the mere fact that supposedly beyond-the-pale opinions are broadly held in “LDS circles” doesn’t speak to the politicization of the Church itself.

    Re: #6 — “6. Visceral opposition to Obama is common in LDS circles (from what I have seen). Many truly believe that he is not really a U.S. citizen, and that he truly represents Satan in the last days.” Not living in Panguitch or other stickish locales, I haven’t heard “many” say anything remotely resembling the above. Even the “birther” types don’t deny that Obama is most likely a U.S. citizen — the question is whether he is a “natural-born” citizen — a term which the Constitution didn’t do us the favor of defining, and where the case law is fairly unclear. For the record, I believe that Barack Obama is the duly-elected President of the United States, by virtue of his election having been certified by the House of Representatives. I believe the Constitution impliedly makes Congress the proper adjudicator of the question of the President’s qualifications, and do not believe (per liberal orthodoxy) that courts have the final say on every Constitutional question. My understanding is that the “birther” argument is essentially that whereas we’ve seen copies of computer-generated records of President Obama’s birth certificate, which is legally sufficient under Hawaiian law, there’s a paper original from 1961 that the President has declined to make public. I can think of three reasons he might not want to do so: (1) It’s nobody’s dang business; (2) he likes to “rope-a-dope” the opposition, by making them seem like conspiracy-minded kooks, before releasing the document and proving everyone wrong; (3) the paper original has been lost, or (4) there’s something in the paper that doesn’t quite mesh with the official narrative. I have a hard time believing that if the parties were reversed, large numbers of Democrats wouldn’t continue to wonder about the possibility of the case being #4. In the law of evidence, when a better sort of evidence exists than what a party offers to prove a point, an inference can be drawn from the party’s not using the best evidence. The actual doctrine of law doesn’t apply here — Hawaii law makes the computer printout prima facie evidence of native birth — but the principle behind it is logical enough: People tend to use the best evidence available to prove a point; when they use less conclusive evidence, it’s reasonable to question whether the reason is that the best evidence says something different.

    Bottom line, not all people who wonder about the birth-certificate issue are conspiratorial kooks.

    “I strongly feel that a viable two+ party system is important, with reasonable, intelligent views represented from both sides.”

    I feel the same way. Which is why I look forward to the time when Democratic party-line orthodoxy becomes sufficiently open for people with reasonable, intelligent views to get their voices heard from that direction. Having Mickey Kaus beat Barbara Boxer (/= “reasonable, intelligent”) in the CA Senate primary would be a great start.

  51. kristine N
    May 24, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    #26 “I can’t imagine Jesus advocating theft and bribery to help the poor.”

    Sigh. I can’t imagine why you equate taxation with theft and bribery. Do you have a problem with the government spending money on roads or on the military? Are you aware that the military gets a lot more of the money the government steals from you than poor people?

    I am always amazed that people who have no problem paying tithing to support the LDS religious community take such issue with paying the taxes that support our larger national community.

  52. Thomas
    May 24, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Jeff, I think you’re painting with too broad a brush: “legalized bribery in the form of campaign contributions.” My cousin is running for Congress. If I give his campaign $25, is that “bribery”? What influence am I supposed to be getting?

    Influence-buying rises in direct proportion to the value of political influence. So limit the influence of politics, and you’ll get less “legalized bribery.” Also, I subscribe to the Catholic political theme of subsidiarity — the making of decisions on as close a level to the individual as possible. One thing we ought to do, is return to something closer to the voter/representative ratio (about 50,000 voters per Congressman) of the Founding era. That would give candidates a greater chance to get their positions and qualifications out to the voters — and even discuss the issues with large numbers of them in real depth, not just sound bites — without having to use expensive mass media communication.

    The downside is that Congress would consist of about 2,500 people, which collection of human vanity, lechery, domineering and deceit in one building would radically increase the chance of divine lightning strikes in central D.C. — but nothing a decent Doppler radar and better lightning rods couldn’t handle, and overall worth the risk.

  53. Thomas
    May 24, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    #36 Stephen: “What it was, in the recent melt down, was an excellent example that free markets rely on accurate and complete information and fail without it.”

    The information was there. I was screaming about it since about 2004. But the incentives to ignore it — including incentives provided by Big Government, in the bloated persons of the GSEs — were too great, and the prospect that the costs of failure would be shifted to the government (following the LTCM bailout in ’98) was too obvious. So therefore greedy New York traders and bimbo California realtors acted exactly as you’d expect under those circumstances. And pace talk of “recovery” and notwithstanding various bailouts, we haven’t purged the half of the irrationality from the system yet.

    Free markets, even with imperfect information, get you the occasional recession. It takes a Village(TM — aka, an 800-lb gorilla of a government with far more confidence than competence) to really screw things up.

  54. May 24, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    “Are you aware that the military gets a lot more of the money the government steals from you than poor people?” Ah, but in investing in the military, the government IS investing in the lower economic classes who constitute the majority of the rank & file of the military. Right? (just paraphrasing something Stephen Colbert observed – don’t lynch me!)

  55. Thomas
    May 24, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    #55 Hawkgrrrl – Interesting study countering the Colbertian conventional wisdom re: poor cannon fodder: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2005/11/Who-Bears-the-Burden-Demographic-Characteristics-of-US-Military-Recruits-Before-and-After-9-11. Summary quote: “Put simply, the current makeup of the all-vol­untary military looks like America. Where they are different, the data show that the average sol­dier is slightly better educated and comes from a slightly wealthier, more rural area.”

    Heritage Foundation is conservative, so take that potential bias into account, but refuting their case means refuting their data.

    My impression is that these days, military service correlates more to family tradition and cultural geography (all those bellicose southern Scots-Irish) than with economic class.

    Incidentally, it is true that a substantially higher percentage of American military expenditures go for pay and benefits for servicemen and women, so in that sense, it is a little bit true that military spending represents investment in people who by and large can really use the money. That’s not the case in other, conscription-dependent militaries.

  56. Jeff Spector
    May 24, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Thomas,

    “My cousin is running for Congress. If I give his campaign $25, is that “bribery”? What influence am I supposed to be getting?” Maybe, you get a chance to sit in the Speaker’s chair? Seriously, you know what I am talking about here. Corporations and Special Interests who do expect something in return. When was the last time you sat with your Congressperson (PC) and helped draft a bill? Or block a bill? Well BP, GM, the AMA, Pharma, Big Oil, etc, do it every day.

    “Free markets, even with imperfect information, get you the occasional recession.” And just where is there a free market?

  57. Jeff Spector
    May 24, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Thomas,

    “the current makeup of the all-vol­untary military looks like America.”

    It’s the not the soldiers that are the problem. It is the wasteful and needless spending, the glad-handing that goes on with Contracting. Even the Defense Secretary Gates, said he thought there were too many General Officers. It’s as political and inside as any major corporation. And let’s not forget Congress who votes for programs and things the military don’t want or need because it benefits them politically.

  58. Ken S
    May 24, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Guest,

    Prop 8 is a moral issue, not a political issue. The reason the most of the LDS people are conservative is due to the fact that most of the principles of the church are conservative in nature.

  59. Thomas
    May 24, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Jeff:

    ““Free markets, even with imperfect information, get you the occasional recession.” And just where is there a free market?”

    Well, exactly. The point is that the farther you move from a free market (in the name of “fine-tuning” the economy), the greater the risk of the kind of system-wide blowup that has a hard time occurring absent policy errors magnifying the swings of the business cycle. Even if a “free market” is a kind of Platonic ideal, never to be reached, wouldn’t you agree that it’s possible to move towards, or away from, that pole?

    Re: institutional influence-buying, I still say that if government kept to its proper role as referee, there would be less reason for special interests to purchase the ability to help draft legislation — because there wouldn’t be legislation to draft. Beyond liability law to protect against fraud and injury, and a basic level of regulation to protect the public whose basic frameworks have been in place for close to a century now, little good can come from additional legislation. (The Lord didn’t re-issue the Torah every few years.) With every new regulatory scheme, there are opportunities for the well-connected to game the system in their favor. Which of course they do. (There can be exceptions to every rule — so when a rule goes into place, the price commanded by a person with the ability to grant an exception just went up.) So the specter of well-connected entities pulling strings to “block a bill” doesn’t frighten me much. I wish more bills got blocked.

    As I see it, the only alternative to putting up with the influence of money in politics, is to restrict campaign expenditures. But of course who does the restricting? Government, consisting of people who want to keep their jobs, who therefore have an incentive to use the system of restrictions to preserve their own power. The cure’s worse, in my view, than the disease.

  60. Thomas
    May 24, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    #58 — No argument here.

  61. May 24, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Ken S – “Prop 8 is a moral issue, not a political issue. The reason the most of the LDS people are conservative is due to the fact that most of the principles of the church are conservative in nature” The church’s stance on polygamy was absolutely not conservative. Prop 8 is only conservative because current political lines put so-called social conservativism in the Republican party. And it’s political, not moral, because morality is what you as an individual choose to do. The political issue is enforcing your individual definition of morality on other people: that’s what social conservativism is. We do it all the time, BTW – I’m not saying the left is immune to that either because they are absolutely not – they just have different morality to enforce on people. Frankly, politics is both parties wanting to control others’ human behavior to align with their own definition of morality.

  62. Thomas
    May 24, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    “The church’s stance on polygamy was absolutely not conservative.”

    Well, polygamy does seem to be older than monogamy. By that standard, the LDS polygamists weren’t just conservative, they were ultraconservative.

    “And it’s political, not moral, because morality is what you as an individual choose to do. The political issue is enforcing your individual definition of morality on other people.”

    A decent description of the political/moral spheres, although reality invariably gets messy. The twist here is not so much “wanting to control others’ behavior” — most Mormon Prop. 8 supporters aren’t clamoring for the reinstitution of sodomy laws. Nor (as far as I can tell from my California perch) is anyone suggesting that gays ought not to be able to have ceremonies and consider themselves married. Rather, the argument is about what kinds of arrangements government will officially classify as “marriages,” and compel everyone to honor as such.

    In other words, the “Prop. 8 = controlling others’ behavior” narrative isn’t a perfect fit for the specific circumstance.

    From my way of thinking, “social conservatism” is no longer so much about “enforcing” morality, as about trying to avoid government from actively countering traditional morality.

  63. May 24, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Here in Texas, Mark Davis (who is a host on the talk show AM station with the best traffic reporting) who fills in for Rush Limbaugh on occasion calls birthers “kooks” and basically said that failing to instantly distance oneself from birthers basically reflected that a politician lacked the sense to be an honest “prime time” candidate.

    I didn’t realize that anyone felt that much differently on the right.

    #54 Thomas — excellent points.

    Jon, did the fixed link work for you?

  64. Jon
    May 24, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    @kristine N
    “Sigh. I can’t imagine why you equate taxation with theft and bribery. Do you have a problem with the government spending money on roads or on the military? Are you aware that the military gets a lot more of the money the government steals from you than poor people?”

    -Yes, I do have problems with that. There are whole books written about how the private sector can take care of those things. But, I don’t mind a very limited government that could do that function, very limited though, we don’t need our military in 157 (147 countries and 10 territories) regions of the world. Visit cato.org, mises.org, and lewrockwell.com and you can learn all about limited government and find entire books on the subject.

    In post #26 I talked about how the government acts as the mafia. Remember you’re writing to a libertarian here, socially liberal and fiscally conservative, or you can just say classically liberal.

    “I am always amazed that people who have no problem paying tithing to support the LDS religious community take such issue with paying the taxes that support our larger national community.”

    - Umm, my contributions to the church our entirely voluntary. Is someone using coercion to get you to pay yours? Is someone holding a gun to your head and threatening your family?

    @Stephen M (Ethesis)

    Yes, it did work, what did you want to discuss on that?

  65. May 25, 2010 at 5:39 am

    Jon, I just thought the conversations there reflected on the ones here, to expand thinking, nothing specific.

  66. carlosjc
    May 25, 2010 at 5:57 am

    firetag, #32

    “Whether you DISTRIBUTE wealth to the poor through the public or private sector, you CREATE wealth through the voluntary actions of private individuals. There is nothing to distribute unless it is created first. Self interest as motivator doesn’t become less in a socialist system. If it is not gain, the self-interest will be prevention of pain”

    but self interest is what overwhelmingly motivates private enterprise; true on the distribution, wealth will come from someone else then onto the poor. the issue is who handles that distribution and how much is handed out and where the funding comes for it, ie the amount of taxes that funds it. if you do it the way greece has, dificits over decades, well you eventually go broke but if done the way sweeden does or canada which is within a budget surplus environment (most years) then there isn’t a problem.

    “you CREATE wealth through the voluntary actions of private individuals” but government has also created wealth over and over in history -nuclear industry, pioneering aviation and civil works, military/industrial complex etc- but private sector is usually more efficient at wealth creation than the state is; almost a universal law.

    “Where do the people of the developed countries think their entitlements are coming from? ” other citizens taxes; i thought that was clear?

    #33 the US poor? no, they are just as poor as India’s poor are today. You are probably thinking of US working class vs third world working class. there there is a huge difference.

    problem i find when talking about these issues with right wing US citizens (not saying you are) is that they inevitably turn on the ‘danger-socialist’ rhetoric, the socialism which proceeds communism, which died back in the ’80′s. western europe/canadian ‘socialism’ is not running down the communist road, its something totally different: safety nets, general basic health care with private health care for those who can afford it, basic social justice, no death penalties, no guns for any nutcase etc all within budget surpluses, something the US hasn’t achieved for some time now and only manages to keeps its currency strong based on the backbone of its military might -as england, spain, france, holland and others did centuries before.!!

    interesting topic though..

  67. carlosjc
    May 25, 2010 at 6:16 am

    #42 “FireTag – I think that trapped minority issue is really prevalent in highly concentrated areas – e.g. Utah, Arizona, Idaho, California. My home ward in PA was predominantly led by very vocal Democrats (mostly college professors), and interestingly, the conservatives were mostly on the downlow. I was absolutely shocked to discover that many Utah Mormons were openly Republican. Crazy world we live in! No?”

    As an outsider who visits the US once or twice a year , i’d say, in my humble opinion , that this is symptomatic of US society in general. it is split almost evenly down the middle nationwide between librals/conservatives.

    it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the church, whose members are a part of society, will also see this split. plus members have been actively encouraged to participate in politics for many years now, probably since joe smith was around i’d say, so yeah, it shouldn’t surprise us that politics creeps into the chapel

    and if the church keeps promoting more republicans than dems to top leadership, then its natural to see more members following gop more than democratic side, i’d say imho

    (wish i had time to read all the comments here, very interesting topic i’d say)

  68. jmb275
    May 25, 2010 at 6:28 am

    Re Jeff

    Not sure about this. First you have to agree on what a limited government would look like. I suspect there are many opinions on that one.

    Why do we have to agree on what a limited gov’t would look like? I’m talking about a few basic axioms.
    1. People do stuff and act as individual actors consciously using scarce goods.
    2. When actors act they are seeking happiness (whatever that means)
    3. There is no non-arbitrary way to compare the happiness of one actor with that of another.
    4. Goods that are used in action are scarce, meaning they’re limited in number and are not infinitely reusable.
    5. Motivated by 5, an actor’s “private property” are those good which are allocated to him by whatever economic system we use. These are the goods he/she can use without having to obtain permission from any other.

    Now if we agree on these basic axioms (and assume everyone does) what political/economic system should we design? My claim is that a very limited gov’t (protecting basic rights) or no government (employing markets, insurance, etc.) are the major systems possible from logical deductions made from these axioms. Today’s Rebublicans and Democrats have added about 50 other axioms to this list from which they derive their ideals. And again (I feel like we’re beating a dead horse) all other systems use force (i.e. violence) to obtain their desired morality.

    And yes, re Kristine, taxation is theft. Whether we decide, in our case, that the “ends justify the means” in this case is one issue, but it is most definitely theft. As for me, I do actually support some taxation for a few basic services.

  69. jmb275
    May 25, 2010 at 6:41 am

    the issue is who handles that distribution and how much is handed out and where the funding comes for it, ie the amount of taxes that funds it. if you do it the way greece has, dificits over decades, well you eventually go broke but if done the way sweeden does or canada which is within a budget surplus environment (most years) then there isn’t a problem.

    No this is not the only issue. If that’s the only issue then why not have a dictator that distributes the money? The issue is wealth distribution COUPLED with respecting private property and individual rights. Taxation necessarily violates those rights and private property. Hence they are immoral (at least to me).

    but government has also created wealth over and over in history -nuclear industry, pioneering aviation and civil works, military/industrial complex etc- but private sector is usually more efficient at wealth creation than the state is; almost a universal law.

    We really need to back the economic train up here. The gov’t does not create wealth, ever. In fact it is the worst economic player in the country. It creates nothing (except bureaucracy). It steals from its citizens and lives off the borrowed money of others. People, through their labor/ideas/etc. create wealth. Wealth is created through savings. That savings, if used in a capitalistic fashion, according to a free market, will properly be allocated (in the long run) to improve the quality of life for everyone. Why is a car dramatically cheaper today than it was in 1920, and why does virtually everyone own one? Because of capital investment.

    Incidentally, aviation was not initiated by the gov’t, it was hindered by the use of patent law (a direct result of gov’t involvement). The fact that gov’t used stolen money to advance aerospace later on says nothing about its ability to create wealth, but about its ability to allocate funds in a particular field. But a free market would allocate those funds in the right direction anyway.

    western europe/canadian ’socialism’ is not running down the communist road, its something totally different: safety nets, general basic health care with private health care for those who can afford it, basic social justice, no death penalties, no guns for any nutcase etc all within budget surpluses, something the US hasn’t achieved for some time now and only manages to keeps its currency strong based on the backbone of its military might -as england, spain, france, holland and others did centuries before.!!

    This is just it though Carlos. Have you EVER seen a gov’t shrink, or even stay at the same capacity? Ever, in the history of recorded world? Have you ever seen people not seek more power, more control, more authority? I mean look at the U.S., are we repealing laws that are outdated and silly? Have you ever seen California’s law books? They make a LDS scripture quad look like a children’s book!

    The gist is, history has taught us, over and over and over again, ad nauseum, that a central planner model will fail and ultimately its citizens will revolt to regain their liberty. It’s just a matter of when.

  70. Jeff Spector
    May 25, 2010 at 7:09 am

    Thomas,

    “Even if a “free market” is a kind of Platonic ideal, never to be reached, wouldn’t you agree that it’s possible to move towards, or away from, that pole?”

    Totally agree. I’d love to see that. but, I suppose we’re talking “chicken and egg somewhat.”

    If we accept the premise that the country was founded on the principle of free enterprise and free markets and the law of supply and demand, (of course that can be debated as well since it was essentially the well-to-do that made all the rules), then when did things start to go off the rails?

    I suspect the quote/unquote government stepped in when someone did something that was either dishonest or taking advantage of the system. So, a law was created to prevent it. As people found ways around that law, another law was created. Then an agency to enforce those laws. and so on. And government grew.

    The size of our federal government mainly grew in relation to major events in this country. West migration, industrialization, The depression, WWII, the Great Society. By and large, the people wanted it. They asked for it and they voted for it.

    Every step along the way, more and more manipulation of the so-called free market system was made and politicians realized that could buy votes with their actions.

    I probably don’t even need to mention this. However, my overall observation is that the American people are generally apathetic and not interested in what goes on around them unless it affects them personally. We sit here, mostly fat, dumb and happy. So long as the government does not intrude on our daily lives that much, we do not rock the boat. And we’ve allowed Washington and our local governments to get way out of hand.

    The other issue is that we are an arrogant people. Mostly because we’ve taken the best arrogance from around the world and concentrated it here. With that arrogance, we also allow things to happen because we a have a great country and that is it. no need to watch out for what is happening to it.

    We do have a great country but not nearly as great as it could or should be.

  71. Jeff Spector
    May 25, 2010 at 7:18 am

    Jmb,

    “And yes, re Kristine, taxation is theft. Whether we decide, in our case, that the “ends justify the means” in this case is one issue, but it is most definitely theft.”

    Interesting. Taxation has been around since almost the beginning of time. God, in effect, sanctioned taxation and the Savior even acknowledged it, not condemned it. We are in essence “taxed” by the Lord in the form of Tithing and Offerings. And guess what, the money is “distributed mostly to the poor.”

    Also, when referring to distribution of wealth,it is always the “Robin Hood” model that is referenced. What about the re=distribution that goes on when the money of the middle class goes to the wealthiest in the form of tax breaks and illegitimate profits? I never heard a conservative condemn that. That is called capitalism….

  72. May 25, 2010 at 8:51 am

    RE: #70 JMB

    “The gist is, history has taught us, over and over and over again, ad nauseum, that a central planner model will fail and ultimately its citizens will revolt to regain their liberty. It’s just a matter of when.”

    While we’re waiting for the revolution, who or how will we, the people. pay for public safety, roads, water and sewer, schools, etc.. Take up a collection, bake sales, theft?

  73. Jon
    May 25, 2010 at 8:57 am

    @Jeff Spector,

    “The size of our federal government mainly grew in relation to major events in this country. West migration, industrialization, The depression, WWII, the Great Society. By and large, the people wanted it. They asked for it and they voted for it.”

    -I can’t speak for everything but saying the people voted for it is a lie. And you can’t say that when people vote for something makes it good since we don’t truly get all the information we need to make logical decisions. Take WWII, the people voted to stay out of WWII but FDR staged Pearl Harbor and we went in anyways. I know people don’t like conspiracy theories but you have to think outside of the box a little bit and accept the fact that when government goes to war most times it is due to lies. You’ll have to read on your history to learn about that.

    “God, in effect, sanctioned taxation and the Savior even acknowledged it, not condemned it.”

    -He didn’t say it was good or bad. He said render unto Caesar’s what is Caesar’s. Could it be because “And while ye are in prison can ye pay even one senine? Verily, Verily, I say unto you, Nay.” Just a thought. Also, consider Mosiah chapter 11, “And he laid a tax of one fifth part of all they possessed….”

    I know I shouldn’t use scriptures since you can make them say whatever you like but I thought I would throw them in there anyways.

    “goes on when the money of the middle class goes to the wealthiest in the form of tax breaks and illegitimate profits? I never heard a conservative condemn that.”

    -Read the libertarians, they talk about it all the time. It’s called mercantilism. That’s what we live under. This was spoken of in the above posts too. Repubs and Dems are both wrong. There might be some truth in the ideologies of liberals and conservatives but the overall fruits of their labors is only that which is not good. Read what I had to say about this in post #26.

  74. Jon
    May 25, 2010 at 9:19 am

    @JMB,

    “While we’re waiting for the revolution, who or how will we, the people. pay for public safety, roads, water and sewer, schools, etc.. Take up a collection, bake sales, theft?”

    -We already use theft so what about the alternative?

    Here’s some reading for you if you would like to understand how it would all work:

    The Privatization of Roads And Highways: Human And Economic Factors
    Gridlock: Why We’re Stuck in Traffic and What to Do About It
    The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey Into How the World’s Poorest People Are Educating Themselves

    Also, read cato.org, mises.org, and lewrockwell.com. They have many research papers that they have done to figure out how to do all this. Also, you can have a voluntary tax scheme to pay for police and judges…granted you wouldn’t need so many taxes if you everyone learned self defense and carried weapons (granted that’s a whole other topic).

    Like I said before too, if everyone were righteous it wouldn’t matter what sort of government we would have. Any of them would work. But since we don’t the one that produces the greatest free market seems like the one that would work best. This would bring the greatest amount of prosperity to the people and would produce a people that would be willing to help the poor and have the poor help themselves.

    Many people talk about the homeless. When you talk about this you have to remember, who are most of the homeless? People with mental problems that don’t trust institutions. People with drug addictions, etc. What’s the best way to help these people? I don’t know. But I bet if you have a bunch of different people all over the nation working “independently” you would find ways to solve, or at least alleviate these problems. I bet if you looked into it too, you would find government regulations make it more difficult for these people to help (like having to have a food license to distribute food you made in your house).

    Check out the research of Elinor Ostrom has done on the subject of not having a grand central authority:
    http://azdistrict1.blogspot.com/2010/04/collective-action-singular.html

  75. Jeff Spector
    May 25, 2010 at 9:22 am

    “-I can’t speak for everything but saying the people voted for it is a lie.”

    “Is a lie, Jon.” Do you think that is an appropriate statement?

    “And you can’t say that when people vote for something makes it good since we don’t truly get all the information we need to make logical decisions.” And whose fault is that? The American people are generally apathetic, uninformed and choose not to become informed. They do not take the time to find out what is going on. Electing the same people over and over is also part of the problem.

    “Take WWII, the people voted to stay out of WWII but FDR staged Pearl Harbor and we went in anyways.” How did the people vote against it? There are no federal referendums. They re-elected FDR after he took the country to war. The US was attacked. If they really didn’t like it, they could have voted him out.

    Staged Pearl harbor? At most, the military were not very diligent about the data they were getting. But staged it? I doubt you’d get much agreement on that.

    “-Read the libertarians” Which ones? The true libertarian ideologues or the Republicans masquerading as libertarians? What website would you recommend?

  76. Jon
    May 25, 2010 at 9:54 am

    @Jeff Spector,

    You’re right, saying it was a lie is over board. But it isn’t black or white like you portend.

    As for not being informed. The government gets the evidence covers it up and then we don’t know anything about it. Take 9/11, the people that did the 9/11 report for the government don’t even believe it and have spoken against the government on this subject. It doesn’t get more blatant than that. We should all be truthers, not in the sense that we should believe that the government caused the atrocity but in in the sense that the government isn’t telling us the truth and not letting us find it out. Just ask the official commission people themselves that that’s what they tell you.

    As for the people being apathetic who causes this? Maybe we should look at our indoctrination schools, or public schools, should I say? When the country was originally started people would learn to love the constitution and the freedom it gives, in detail, but I don’t see that any more. I see teachers teaching the people to love government oppression.

    As for WWII, take a look at the history of the elections, you’ll find that indeed, FDR was voted for because he advocated for not entering the war. He later let Pearl Harbor happen which caused us to go into the war and caused the people to rally behind him. Sound familiar…wars based on lies, read up on Iraq. You can read these two articles that review books on the subject:
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/north/north26.html
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig2/denson8.html

    Read post #75 where I listed the websites you can look at that talk about pro freedom and regularly update us on government atrocities against the people.

  77. May 25, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Carlosjc:

    People probably do think they come from OTHER PEOPLEs taxes. But they are deluded. The taxes are passed through to the beneficiaries and their children and grandchildren.

    Self interest exists in both the public and private sector; you seem to be arguing that is not the case for government officials. People move back and forth between government and private sectors at the top levels all the time. They don’t become individually more or less moral just because they change hats, in my experience.

    Even the European government authorities are now admitting that the European social model is unsustainable. Fewer and fewer workers exist over time to produce the benefits to be consumed. The unsustainability isn’t something that has to still be proven by us reactionaries. There’s an interesting set of interactive maps at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/04/06/business/global/european-debt-map.html that show how rapidly things are deteriorating. And projections out into the future, which I believe someone linked earlier in this thread, show potential for almost exponential increases in social stress over the next quarter-century.

    GB Smith:

    We end up NOT paying for the public services we’ve promised, sooner or later depending on how much we’ve promised and how much wealth we produce. We fall back on personal compassion (for BOTH the producer and the consumer), and when that runs out, the riots start.

  78. Thomas
    May 25, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Carlos #67: “#33 the US poor? no, they are just as poor as India’s poor are today.”

    Now, it drives me crazy when a leftist whom I’ve cornered in an argument resorts to “Oh, come on! You can’t seriously believe that!” But…come on. You can’t seriously believe that.

    I’m intimately familiar with the poorest SoCal neighborhoods. I’m familiar with all the government and private-charity resources that are available to them. And I’ve seen pictures and read accounts of what it’s like to be poor on the streets of Calcutta, or in Haiti. No frickin’ comparison whatsoever.

    The greatest inconvenience of being a poor American, is having to live in neighborhoods inhabited by other poor Americans. Not to say that the vast majority of poor Americans are decent people — it’s just that dysfunctional personalities are typically unable to afford better neighborhoods, so they naturally become concentrated in poor neighborhoods, where they make their neighbors miserable.

  79. Thomas
    May 25, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    #71 — Agree with much of that; in fact, can’t identify any real points of disagreement, except possibly the extent to which the people actually wanted the precise kinds of Big Government they got — as opposed to a general wish that government do something to address a perceived problem. The “something” the people wanted, may not necessarily always have been what government gave them in response to their expressed desire.

    Self-government has definitely become attenuated. There are many causes for this — but a large part, I believe, goes back to slavery and the Civil War. As someone expressed very well the other day in response to Rand Paul’s college-sophomore bull-session musings on the Rachel Maddow show about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, doctrinaire libertarianism can sound good when everybody’s on a relatively equal footing — but when the original position is marred by a grossly anti-libertarian institution like slavery, and its lingering effects, you can’t very well expect the people handicapped by that institution to be happy with the status quo. So some vigorous government action — taking the form of shooting the Army of Northern Virginia full of Minie balls, having the Supreme Court break the deadlock of die-hard Southern Democrats in the Senate by pushing the frontiers of the Constitution, and enacting some technically non-libertarian legislation like the Civil Rights Act, was the better course, in the limited and special circumstance of slavery and its aftereffects.

    The problem is that, activist, centralized government having done indisputable good in addressing America’s greatest original sin, that kind of government and the extra-Constitutional concept of judicial supremacy got a certain prestige, which they proceeded to exploit to the limit — into circumstances far removed from the special circumstance of race. For instance, whenever someone raises concerns of Constitutional federalism — even in circumstances that have nothing to do with civil rights — some opportunist, or an execrable self-serving organization like the Southern Poverty Law Center, basically says “you’re talking state’s rights, and everyone knows that’s code for racism, you racist!” And many Americans, having neither the time, the intellectual courage, or the basic intelligence to see just how moronic that argument is, go along with it.

    Likewise, after the great Brown vs. Board of Education decision juiced the Supreme Court’s prestige, the concept of judicial review has been expanded far beyond John Marshall’s or the Founders’ expectation for it, and come close to giving the Supreme Court a roving commission to strike down policies it deems unjust, whether their opinions are fairly rooted in any Constitutional text or not. The Federalist Papers assured skeptics of the Constitution that this kind of thing would never happen. Oops. Whether you like the Court’s policy judgments or not, the fact is that their usurpation of political questions decreases the scope of self-government, and reinforces the sense of the people that their voice doesn’t matter. Judicial supremacy is a major cause of American political apathy. I would like to see Congress exercise its Constitutional power, under Article III, section 2, to set limits the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, putting the kind of judicial legislation it has engaged in out of its power.

    Some procedural adjustments would help — repeal the 17th Amendment (ending direct election of senators, to give states qua states the Congressional representation the Founders intended), and add more legislators, to return the ratio between representatives and the represented back to a level where an individual constituent has a greater mathematical chance of mattering.

    But ultimately, Jeff, I think you have your finger on it: Americans won’t get meaningful self-government, until they get involved enough to decide they want it and notice they haven’t got it. As it is, too many of us have too many distractions. We’d rather be fed than practice independent virtue. Seems we really do want Grand Inquisitors taking care of us rather than Christian liberty.

  80. May 25, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Jeff: “I probably don’t even need to mention this. However, my overall observation is that the American people are generally apathetic and not interested in what goes on around them unless it affects them personally. We sit here, mostly fat, dumb and happy.” Somebody’s been watching Wall*E!

    I agree with Jon on two points: 1) “render unto Caesar” doesn’t equate endorsement of taxes so much as a politically neutral statement from Jesus which is either wise (I tend to think so) or cowardly (those Romans had major power to kick your trash for any anti-Roman sentiments), and 2) ultimately I voted against McCain’s lack of diplomacy and choice of running mate (and her inability to navigate an interview with Katie Couric) more than for Obama, so when I was standing in the voting booth I wasn’t tacitly approving every action my duly elected president could cook up over the next four years.

  81. Jeff Spector
    May 25, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Thomas,

    You wax quite eloquent of these topics, you must be quite interested. While I don’t share you views in a number of areas on this we do agree 100%:

    “Americans won’t get meaningful self-government, until they get involved enough to decide they want it and notice they haven’t got it. As it is, too many of us have too many distractions. We’d rather be fed than practice independent virtue. Seems we really do want Grand Inquisitors taking care of us rather than Christian liberty.”

    Absolutely.

  82. Jeff Spector
    May 25, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Hawk,

    “ultimately I voted against McCain’s lack of diplomacy and choice of running mate (and her inability to navigate an interview with Katie Couric)’

    I thought that made it easy for a lot of people. But, on the other hand, as a “quiter” governor, who seems to have such an easy time criticizing others rather than looking in the mirror, she has quite a following.

    She would be like Peter Sellers in the White House.

  83. May 25, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Shantaram is well worth reading to get a feel for India.

    The new picture on the web site related to the book is worth the visit http://www.shantaram.com/

    That is pretty much how he got caught in Europe (he left India and was headlining for a band when the police from Australia caught up with him).

    http://www.shantaram.com/pages/author_essay.html is some interesting background, but the novel catches very well what it is like to be poor in India.

    I’ve been poor in Los Angeles, it is nothing like India.

  84. May 25, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Jeff:

    You have noticed that John McCain is still alive, haven’t you? :D

  85. Jeff Spector
    May 25, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    You have noticed that John McCain is still alive, haven’t you? :D

    That had occurred to me

  86. Jon
    May 25, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Am I missing something here? I got stone walled on my last comment this morning. “Awaiting moderation.” I don’t see any rules for posting so I don’t know if I did anything wrong.

  87. Thomas
    May 25, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Jon — Did you include more than one link? That has me “Awaiting Moderation” on another post.

  88. May 25, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    Sorry–I just freed about 5 comments that had links in them.

  89. GBSmith
    May 25, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    It seems in the argument against government that I’ve read in the posts above by Jon there are a lot of if’s. If people were more righteous, If people would voluntarily pay taxes for judges and public safety, if more or all people carried guns, if things like roads were just in the hand of the private sector, if we just had a totally free market. Lots of ifs. Maybe you could make something like this work in a town in Vermont with a population of less than a hundred but in something larger like the US? I don’t know. And trusting business and the market to do the right thing? I’ve always assumed that the most perfectly amoral system was unfettered capitalism. The only good is a profit and the only bad is a loss. I guess I should feel more oppressed and downtrodden and daily and in multiple cruel and devious ways stripped of by God given rights but I just don’t quite feel that bad off. Oh well. I’ll just have to listen to more right wing talk radio.

  90. carlos
    May 26, 2010 at 4:42 am

    FireTag #78 “the European social model is unsustainable

    Again, the problem is debt and deficit spending not ‘socialism’ or ‘conservatism’. Some European nations are in trouble due to debt but, remember, the US is the biggest debtor nation of all since Reagan’s days.

    Thomas #79 “…me crazy when a leftist whom I’ve cornered in an argument”…obviously you are talking about someone else, someone who is a leftist?

    re the US poor , you say: “I’m intimately familiar with the poorest SoCal neighborhoods. I’m familiar with all the government and private-charity resources that are available to them..” them?? really! Reading that statement I can’t help but quietly think ‘what ignorance’! The ‘poorest’ you should be considering are those homeless on street corners or parks or sleeping under bridges and in water drains, not those other so called poor neighborhoods , which are mostly lower working class. but again I get the feeling that it is pointless to tell you this since that republican wacko cocoon hasn’t hatched yet in Utah right?

  91. Thomas
    May 26, 2010 at 11:46 am

    “The ‘poorest’ you should be considering are those homeless on street corners or parks or sleeping under bridges and in water drains”

    Those guys’ problem isn’t poverty — it’s overwhelmingly mental illness or drug addiction. And even *those* guys have it *much* better than comparable homeless on the streets of Calcutta. The dollar bill I gave to the panhandler at the freeway offramp the other day would take a poor Indian literally days of hard labor to earn. We have shelters, soup kitchens, rehabilitation programs — all kind of resources for the destitute. The problem mainly goes back to the sixties, where we decided that it was unjust to lunatics (“who’s really crazy, after all, in this age of nuclear weapons, toxic air, etc.”) to institutionalize them in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” hospitals. So we turned them loose, trusting that they’d take the new miracle drugs that would solve all our problems. Oops.

    The problem isn’t systemic — it’s a specific policy failure, which can be solved. But that would require acknowledging the true causes, not posturing self-righteously about homelessness being some systemic failure of a free market democratic system.

    Re: “republican wacko cocoon,” and “what ignorance!” (1) I’m a Californian; and (2) [discourteously cutting remark deleted, reluctantly, by yours truly].

  92. May 26, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    carlos:

    Let me ask you to be consistent in how you compare the US to Europe. Please do not compare the US to individual European states when it suits your argument, but switch to considering Europe or the EU or the Eurozone when it doesn’t.

    The US became a debtor nation, considering both public and private borrowing because it was the largest economy period. Everything was magnified. Of course its debt was larger when you compare public and private debt of a continental nation to that of a single nation within Europe.

    I’m not quoting American right wingers; I’m quoting European national and EU officials about the unsustainability. Go pull up today’s BBC web site if you don’t believe that “right-wing” New York Times.

    To understand the extent to which indebtedness relates to creditworthyness, it is more appropriate to compare debt to GDP ratios. US public debt is now launched on an exponential growth path that Administrations of both parties have been warning about repeatedly in private.

    During the early Clinton Administration, I was a support contractor for Department of Energy Environmental Management programs responsible for cleaning up the waste from the nuclear weapons manufacturing process. One day I was asked to accompany one of the Feds to a meeting at the Office of Management and Budget where he had to justify the program requests to budget officials. After that meeting, he decides to visit an old friend working for OMB in another department, and, since my clearance doesn’t allow me to wander around OMB unescorted, I’m invited along.

    Within about 10 minutes, the second Fed was showing the first what he was working on: social security revenue and outlay numbers out into the 21st Century. The problems stood out on the charts like the proverbial sore thumb even then four Presidential elections ago. But guess what. Even then economists were pointing out that Europe’s future was worse and the bad times would arrive faster. European birthrates are so low and benefits so generous that their debt to GDP ratios, even in the Northern tier can’t sustain the Southern tier.

    In neither North America nor Europe do countries spend more than a modest amount on the sub-working class poor you emphasize. Entitlement money is spent in bulk on the working class, the middle class, and even the well to do — not necessarily in that order.

    Switching the system of government so that political connections are even more emphasized than at present does nothing to address that concern, and arguably makes it worse.

  93. Thomas
    May 26, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    +1 FT.

    On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
    (Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
    Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

    In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
    By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
    But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

    Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
    And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
    That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

    As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
    There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
    That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
    And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

    And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
    When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

  94. carlos
    May 26, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    #92, OK.

    #93 “Go pull up today’s BBC web site if you don’t..”, BBC now has conservative bosses and it need to now sell a debt reduction policy -which I agree with

    “Let me ask you to be consistent in how you compare the US to Europe. Please do not compare the US to individual European states when it suits your argument,”

    I was only following your lead there when you mentioned ‘the European social model’ in #78. People do pick out Greece or Spain for example to point to this so called failure of socialism. But those countries simply aren’t socialist in the way the US right defines it. Over burdened by debt? yes; its industry damaged by a high euro too? sure.

    But sure, I agree with you here that to compare them we should compare all the US to all the EU to be fair. Still the entire EU, with Germany leading, is doing better than the USA

    “To understand the extent to which indebtedness relates to creditworthyness” that’s not really the issue here. Problem is when debt starts to affect your currency because, as you know, printing of the US dollar has been excessive over the years as it functioned as the worlds currency.

    We agree on “an exponential growth path that Administrations of both parties have been warning about repeatedly in private.” Question is who and how will they change this. I’d say (my forecasting) that eventually the US will have to go to war against China to both cancel a major part of its debt -and also get rid of communism once and for all so the church can get in there freely jmho

    Interesting about your experience with OMB.

    “..Europe do countries spend more than a modest amount on the sub-working class poor you emphasize” Well that’s the point. Europe (most countries) has a safety net that the US lacks but it is a modest amount. Pension funds? , yes, they are in trouble and need to change asap, as France has been trying to do since about 04 odd because it is unsustainable (Still though in France if you break a leg, treatment is free in a large decent public hospital ie socialized medicine as US rightwing calls it!!)

  95. May 26, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Carlos:

    What do you think we do if you break a leg here and can’t pay? Shoot you like a horse?

    You get treated. The costs get spread over other “paying” customers, be they government, employers, private insurance or personal out of pockets. Neither in Europe or America is care “free”. TANNSAAFL.

    We just have different ways of hiding the costs in the price structure. And different ways of rationing. Here we ration by price and paperwork inconvenience. Europe hides it in VATs and procedural wait times.

    I thought it wonderfully ironic that my daughter brought home a sweet British mystery DVD starring Patricia Rutledge as a senior citizen private detective, who starts a career in her 60′s to supplement her husband’s pension, and in which a key element of the plot was her inability to give up a slot for varicose vein surgery because she’d been waiting for more than 10 months to get in. Here, we’d be more likely to recommend varicose vein operations to women who weren’t even in pain since it generates revenue for both the surgeon and the hospital than to deny necessary care, since that might risk lawsuits. Different systems, different weaknesses and strengths.

    Interesting comment about the BBC as well. Would I then be entitled to presume that the BBC was spouting leftist twaddle when Gordon Brown was at 10 Downing? :D

  96. May 27, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    .

    I’m not feeling up to catching up on all those comments up there, so forgive me if I’m retreading.

    A note to the post’s author: Are you the David H. Bailey at Lawrence Labs? I’m pretty sure you’re not in my stake (Oakland) so I want to give a positive report; at least from my ward (Berkeley) but I believe from the stake generally.

    My stake was in the news recently for reasons that show that your concerns are not unmerited, but it’s worth mentioning that as part of my current calling, I’m privy to many complaints from members who complain that church meetings swing too dang liberal for their tastes.

    While I suppose that it would be better if members on both sides of the political spectrum felt full incorporated, I would argue that the next best thing is for members on both sides of the political spectrum to both feel somewhat estranged.

    We have a hope here that members who feel like they are marginalized for their conservatism — generally grad students — will, when they graduate, leave to other areas of the church more empathetic for any one who might, at church, feel marginalized for their politics.

    May we all be charitable and learn to separate doctrine from politics.

  97. Jon
    May 27, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    @GBSmith,

    “And trusting business and the market to do the right thing?”

    - And you trust the government to do the right thing? You think they aren’t greedy? Wake up man. You feel OK with everything right now? Your skin color must not be brown. Sorry for the racist commentary but it’s true. Listen to this podcast about problems that our nation faces, what is libertarianism, etc.

    Lew Rockwell interviewing Naomi Wolf:
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/lewrockwell-show/2008/10/31/58-americas-slow-motion-fascist-coup/

  98. Jon
    May 27, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    OK, this will be my last post.
    Some light humor on Europe’s financial situation:

  99. May 27, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Jon, changing the subject isn’t speaking to the question. Government has it’s problems but that’s not what I said and your answer wasn’t one.

  100. Thomas
    May 27, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    GBSmith: “It is a mistake to think that they [i.e. businessmen] are more immoral than politicians.” (John Maynard Keynes to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Feb. 1, 1938.)

    How many times does a libertarian-leaning conservative have to explain that limited government /= anarchy?

    The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind….

  101. May 27, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Thomas, what I said was that I wasn’t sure that one could count on business and the market to do the right (capital R) thing since profit and loss are the guiding principles. As to who’s the most venal politicians or businessmen I suppose it depends on time, person, and circustance.

    As to anarchy I’ve always had a soft spot for it since reading Ursula Le Guin’s “The Dispossessed”. Anyway big anything has it’s risks so I guess you pick your poison.

  102. Jon
    May 27, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    @GBSmith,

    It seems in the argument against government that I’ve read in the posts above by Jon there are a lot of if’s.

    -That’s what all political philosophies rely on. The Soviet Union used to be the mecca that modern liberals would point to as a “success” but once they collapse they all back pedaled. And their answer was always, if this was better or if the people would have done this instead, etc. So, the ifs argument doesn’t hold water. For libertarianism the ifs eventually would since, if you want a good life, you would work with it. If you don’t want one, or can’t for some reason out of your control you would have to rely on the charity of others. But it would grow the people more morally, physically, mentally than socialism does since it puts you in a stressful situation that makes you work hard.

    “And trusting business and the market to do the right thing?”

    -The political or economic philosophy is perfect but I think the free market/libertarian view would be the most caring and produce the best results for the greatest amount of people. The opposing question to that would be, and you trust politicians and bureaucracies to do the right thing? I don’t, I know that the people that run this country are just about as intelligent as I am. So I trust the that 300,000,000 people working together for their own betterment and for the betterment of their fellowman would be better than having a few people at the top who aren’t connected to what is going on in my life to make judgments for me.

    See Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom’s work on this one. You can see an article written specifically of what I’m talking about here:
    http://azdistrict1.blogspot.com/2010/04/collective-action-singular.html

    “I’ve always assumed that the most perfectly amoral system was unfettered capitalism.”

    -People are more moral if they’re put through hard times themselves and then can look on others with more compassion. Not always the case but given stressful situations it gives individuals the opportunity rise up and become what they are capable of becoming.

    If you read the literature you can learn more about markets and what they really mean. As you said, you’ve assumed but have not read about political and economic thought. Some good sources are Cato Institute, a political think tank, Mises Institute, a Austrian economic society and college, LewRockwell.com a libertarian website with articles. The Lew Rockwell website is a bit out there for some people and the post some information that even the administrator of the website might not agree with but interesting nonetheless.

    “The only good is a profit and the only bad is a loss.”

    -Nope, good can come of loss. That’s how the free market works.

    “I guess I should feel more oppressed and downtrodden and daily and in multiple cruel and devious ways stripped of by God given rights but I just don’t quite feel that bad off.”

    -I guess you don’t read very much about the atrocities perpetuated by the governments. Listen to the podcast that I had in my previous post where they very briefly introduce you to some of those atrocities, then you can dig a little deeper. The cow is fattened and feels good until the day it is slaughtered and no one comes to help. You can also read Pro Libertate, a blog/investigative journalist by Will Grigg. Or you can go to FlexYourRights dot com and there is another blog that a guy documents the atrocities against the people with cameras and video cameras, can’t remember the website right now but you can google it.

    “Oh well. I’ll just have to listen to more right wing talk radio.”

    -I don’t listen to right wing radio. I would suggest you don’t either. I would deem it hazardous to your health, way to angry for me.

    You can listen to freedomainradio dot com, he’s an atheist that is pretty interesting but does get angry sometimes when he’s talking to people that have been abused and he tells them to get out of the situation and separate from their families. You can listen to Lew Rockwell. You can listen to libertynewsradio dot com. I listen to Ernest Hancock (the love-o-lution).

    Hope this better addresses your concerns and helps you understand where I’m coming from. Remember coercion vs persuasion. Which one do you like?

    “There are some people who just want to be left alone. There are some people who will just not leave them alone. Which one are you?” – Ernest Hancock

  103. Jon
    May 27, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    @GBSmith,

    Yeah, big government leads to genocide. Anarchy (without righteous people) leads to tribalism and wars. That’s why I prefer the extremely limited/localized government which is really hard to keep since people always want more power over others. Even in the early years of the country the constitution wasn’t very well adhered to.

    The best answer to a really good government is a righteous people, AKA spread the gospel.

  104. GBSmith
    May 27, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    A couple of things. First I prefer to deal with the devil I know rather than the devil I don’t. The examples from the past of unregulated capitalism don’t seem to me to be all that better than the government systems to which you’re opposed. I don’t see evidence from then, big steel, Ford Motor Company, big oil, coal companies, etc. acting in the best interests of even their employees much less We the People. I don’t see what you describe as being better able form a more perfect union, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare or secure the blessings of liberty than what’s being done now. And you seem to describe selfless committed citizens who’s only interest is to work together for the good of all. It reminds me of everyone going to the harvest on the collective farm singing as they go. And I agree righteous people would solve a lot of problems but counting on that is nothing to hold your breath about.

    When I see what you describe working in a sustained way on a large scale and not just position position papers from libertarian think tanks then we can talk some more. But for now we’ll just have to disagree.

  105. Jon
    May 27, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    @GBSmith,

    Sure, if that’s what you want, read the following:

    The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey Into How the World’s Poorest People Are Educating Themselves
    The Privatization of Roads And Highways: Human And Economic Factors
    Gridlock: Why We’re Stuck in Traffic and What to Do About It
    The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History
    Railroads and Regulation
    John S. McGee, “Predatory Price Cutting: The Standard Oil (N.J.) Case,” Journal of Law and Economics 1 [October 1958]: 137–69
    In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918–1938 by Butler Shaffer

    Some of the books mentioned came from this article which gives a very brief overview of the contents of the book:
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/woods/woods117.html

    Also, read the websites I mentioned before and listen to the podcast. If you are really interested in learning current history and past these guys have written a ton of books on the theory and history (past and present) on the subject. Of course, if you’re not interested in learning, that’s fine too. It’s your prerogative. The Lew Rockwell site writes a lot on current and past history. Cato writes a lot on theory and past and present history as does Mises Institute. If you don’t want to open your mind to the atrocities that our country is currently committing that’s fine. Just hope we’ll never have to find out the hard way because we choose to keep our eyes and ears shut.

  106. Ernie
    March 30, 2011 at 6:00 am

    Mr. Bailey, I applaud your statement and to some degree have restored my faith that not all LDS members are nearing the point of anarchy. Like you, I am a middle of the road Democrat. I believe there is a need for affordable health care for everyone. I am very cautious on my views of gun control, but as a retired police officer have concerns with Arizona’s recent legislation allowing anyone to carry concealed nearly anyplace. I think that is a recipe for trouble in some respects. I too, listen to Glenn Beck, and agree with some of his philosophies, but not to the extreme he seems to take them. He comes across as being asked personally by God to deliver the messages he so vehemently airs as near prophetical gospel. It reminds me of a political version of Jimmy Jones, and I think the outcome could be near the same.

    I was / am worried that the LDS church has / is becoming a political device, rather than a community of people seeking to do good for all. Not being LDS (Baptist) I am not privy to the inside messages, and the Mormon religion already appears secretive and shady. This recent increase in the politicization of religion is only increasing that sentiment among many of my friends, and unfortunately myself at times. But, one only has to listen to a couple of episodes of Pat Robertson to realize it’s not restricted to the Mormon faith.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and letting some of us know that not all LDS members are raving Tea Party fanatics.

    Best wishes,

    Ernie

  107. May 21, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Although some in the general Church membership may display the trappings of ultra-conservative dogmatism, I have it on a VERY good source that the General Authorities see such behavior as being damaging and harmful to the nation, Utah, and the Church. An apostle (I won’t say who- I don’t want to compromise my sources) recently explicitly stated to the Democratic Senate candidate in Utah, Sam Granato, that Utah HAS to establish a more viable two party system. He also heavily implied that many in the upper quorums of the Church voted against the Tea Party GOP candidate for Senate, Mike Lee, despite his father’s former status as president of BYU. Point is, the Brethren know what is up, and they are by no means fans of Glenn Beck and his crowd of John Birch-esque fear-mongers.

  108. Gazelam
    May 23, 2011 at 4:22 pm

     What I want to know is how do the Tea Party anti government types in  the LDS church see the Q12′s role in politics? With Prop 8 they were very vocal  about there views but they are silent about Beck. If they could call in Sister Johnson and Trey Parker for a court of love why not Beck? Are they afraid this would fracture the church or do they secretly agree with the Tea Party people? Is there anyone within the Church you would call the mad hatter? Who pulls the strings? I have never seen the LDS church leaders back off before on ERA or  other hot button problems. If they are so concerned about right wing control then why not say it from the pulpit or in GC?

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