Archive for February, 2009

[Philosophy] “…should be made of sterner stuff.”  –William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 2

I’ve observed a strange phenomenon lately: on Facebook, several of my friends and acquaintances list their political views as “I *Heart* Obama.”  It is one thing to support a political leader, but to base one’s entire political philosophy on the views of a politician is troubling–especially when his or her views are as capricious as President Obama’s.  I was thinking about this earlier today, then I found this similarly-themed opinion piece by Jonah Goldberg.  The takeaway quote: “But whether he\’s right or wrong, left-wing or centrist, liberalism will likely mean whatever Barack Obama says it means.”  The implications of that statement are stunning; how will President Obama impact the political views of the Facebook generation?  I don’t know that we can even venture a guess, but I am willing to say “consistent” will not be an appropriate adjective to describe these views.


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What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried?”  –Abraham Lincoln, 1860

For yet another reminder of why conservatives oppose lowering standards in pursuit of otherwise admirable goals, check out this piece from the September 30, 1999 issue of The New York Times. The takeaway quote from this story:

The action, which will begin as a pilot program…will encourage those banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans. Fannie Mae officials say they hope to make it a nationwide program by next spring” [emphasis added].

Increasing homeownership—especially amongst minorities and low-income families—is a commendable goal for the federal government, but doing so by lowering standards is not good policy.

Every proposed policy is besieged by unintended consequences. Responsible leaders should try to foresee as many of these consequences as possible and ameliorate them before they can become a problem. Could no one–Democrat or Republican–foresee that extending credit to unqualified applicants might cause a credit meltdown in the future? Perhaps President Lincoln summed it up best: a conservative should take it slow, make sure that we know what we are about to do before actually embarking on a new, untried path. If Franklin Raines (the former chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae) had taken that tack in 1999, we might not be facing a severe recession one decade later.

For a lighthearted take on this, here is an SNL sketch on the consequences of Fannie’s folly: C-SPAN Bailout.

P.S.  Again, who was president in 1999? (Hint: George W. Bush was still the governor of Texas.)

P.P.S. Thanks to Rush for bringing this long-forgotten article to my attention!

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To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”  –George Washington, 1790

Somehow, during a time of war we have almost one trillion dollars to spend on golf carts, fish hatcheries, etc., but the real problem is that we are spending too much on defense? That’s Rep. Barney Frank’s basic argument in the latest issue of The NationCut the Military Budget–II

Rep. Frank is right about one thing, though: even if we cut our defense budget by twenty-five percent, as he proposes, still we will outspend the defense agencies of every other nation.  In fact, we will spend more in fiscal year 2009 than the next forty-six nations combined (http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending#InContextUSMilitarySpendingVersusRestoftheWorld)!  In an uncertain, post-9/11 world filled with terrorists, the specter of both North Korea and Iran armed with nuclear weapons, a resurgent Russia and instability in Venezuela, can we really afford to take that chance?  Like former Vice President Cheney warned us, to inflict mass casualties, our enemies only need to be right once; to prevent those casualties, we must be right one hundred percent of the time.  Cutting the defense budget makes it that much easier for our enemies and that much harder for our men and women in uniform.  No doubt, somewhere in northern Pakistan, the Taliban is breathing a little easier.

P.S.  Presenting the counterargument to Rep. Frank, Robert Kagan, writing for the Washington Post, reminds us that now is  No Time To Cut Defense.

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Better late than never, I suppose, but the American Issues Project released a sobering ad illustrating just how massive the stimulus truly is.  Perhaps the Democrats were angry that some Republicans were trying to seize the mantle as the party of big spenders?

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You will, by the dignity of your Conduct, afford occasion for Posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to Mankind, had this day been wanting, the World had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.”  –George Washington, 1783

Courtesy, wikipedia.org

Courtesy, wikipedia.org

Between the bicentennial of his birth and the president’s obsession with him, the nation is rediscovering the greatness of Abraham Lincoln.  As my close friends will attest, I am an admirer of Lincoln–the president without whom the United States of America would most likely have ceased to exist.  However, there would have been no Union for President Lincoln to preserve had it not been for our first president, whose birthday we celebrated yesterday.  Of all the presidents, Washington is my favorite (an not just because he is a fellow Virginian).  Although not a great military strategist, Washington was an intelligent, inspirational and resourceful field commander during the War for Independence; had it not been for these traits in Washington, the Continental Army might well have disbanded during the winter of 1777.  His prestige as a war hero gave legitimacy to the newly-formed republican government when he became president in 1789.  His prudence as president set careful precedents to be followed by his successors and safeguarded the infant nation from crises that might have otherwise jeopardized our survival.  Finally, his decision to  return to civilian life after two terms as president preserved the Constitution and ensured that the presidency would not devolve into a monarchy.

Even though this is Lincoln’s much-deserved year, today, to paraphrase Carrie Underwood, don’t forget to remember George Washington; he has more than earned a moment of our time.

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“Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot.  If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad.  And free will is what has made evil possible.  Why, then, did God give them free will?  Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.  A world of automata–of creatures that worked like machines–would hardly be worth creating.  The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water.  And for that they must be free.

“Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way; apparently He thought it worth the risk.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 48

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Courtesy, Wikipedia.org

Courtesy, Wikipedia.org

“…[W]ith no opposition, there is no freedom.”  Vaclav Klaus

One month ago, Barack Obama took the oath of office to become the 44th President of the United States of America.  In the course of that month, President Obama forced through Congress–in a record-breaking 700 hours and largely along party-lines–the largest spending bill in American history, proposed a second, massive, spending bill to reward mortgage delinquency, nominated a motley crew of public “servants” with tax and other ethical problems as well as lobbyists (remember how they were the root of all evil during the campaign?) to serve in his cabinet and on his staff, and revoked the Mexico City policy, just to name a few of his most noxious actions.  For those of us who were at least hoping for a competent and scrupulous, albeit liberal administration, this is not the change we were expecting.

President Obama is the duly-elected President of the United States.  I am not questioning his right to enact policies that he believes will benefit the nation, but I am questioning the efficacy of his policies.  President Obama and his Democrat-allies on Capitol Hill have argued that bipartisanship–for which American voters have long expressed a preference–means acquiescing to the new president.  We must be careful not to deceive ourselves: just as gold is refined by fire, so too, a nation’s policies are refined by informed dissent.

I want to be a part of that informed dissent. Can I contribute anything to the on-going debate that the countless other bloggers cannot?  I don’t know.  First of all, though, I want it to be clear that I am not a blogger; I am a student of politics–both practical and theoretical–and I believe that a rational, systematic analysis of the actions taken by the Obama Administration can indeed be a refreshing addition to this important national conversation.  America is too great to make decisions based upon a monologue.  I look forward to lending my voice to this conversation and, hopefully, saying something worthwhile.

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