Why do conservatives cheer increased government revenues?

An article at NewsBuster about government revenues setting an all-time record sparked the title question. I’ve actually been pondering this question for a while. What this means is that the government is now taking more money from the people than ever before. Why is that something to celebrate?

My hunch is that conservatives have spent so long arguing that the people are overtaxed, they rejoice at being proven right: tax cuts can spark economic development which will increase government revenues. But in focusing so narrowly on that one issue, they lose sight of the larger: we’re working to reduce the size of government, and giving it more revenues is not the way to do that. They might win this battle, but the rhetoric undercuts our ultimate objective: smaller government. This increased revenue is not a cause for celebration in and of itself, but rather a call for further tax cuts.

Keep your eyes on the ball, guys.

Reasons to be excited about McCain

Jim Geraghty gives some excerpts from McCain’s economic address to be excited about:

For Republicans, it starts with reclaiming our good name as the party of spending restraint. Somewhere along the way, too many Republicans in Congress became indistinguishable from the big-spending Democrats they used to oppose. The only power of government that could stop them was the power of veto, and it was rarely used.

Of course, they would like you to think that only the very wealthy will pay more in taxes, but the reality is quite different. Under my opponents’ various tax plans, Americans of every background would see their taxes rise — seniors, parents, small business owners, and just about everyone who has even a modest investment in the market. All these tax increases are the fine print under the slogan of “hope”: They’re going to raise your taxes by thousands of dollars per year — and they have the audacity to hope you don’t mind.

I propose that the federal government suspend all taxes on gasoline now paid by the American people — from Memorial Day to Labor Day of this year. The effect will be an immediate economic stimulus — taking a few dollars off the price of a tank of gas every time a family, a farmer, or trucker stops to fill up. Over the same period, our government should suspend the purchase of oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which has also contributed to the rising price of oil. This measure, combined with the summer-long “gas-tax holiday,” will bring a timely reduction in the price of gasoline. And because the cost of gas affects the price of food, packaging, and just about everything else, these immediate steps will help to spread relief across the American economy.

More stuff like this and I could start getting excited about him.

Hayek with a Hot Dog

“[B]aseball is the professional sport that best embodies conservative principles.”

It’s risky to hold baseball’s leaders up as paragons of wise conduct. Just like politicians, they’ll always disappoint you; the steroids scandal is just the latest example. But for the most part, throughout its history, baseball has been governed according to conservative principles: a preference for simplicity and freedom, a reverence for tradition, and a bias against sweeping changes. The result is a sport that may not reflect America as it is, but does the best job of reflecting America as it should be.

Conservatives Really Are More Compassionate

Townhall.com::Conservatives Really Are More Compassionate::By George Will

— Although liberal families’ incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).

— Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.

— Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.

— Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.

— In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.

— People who reject the idea that “government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality” give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.

So, liberals are compassionate, just with other people’s money. How that’s not just stealing has never been explained, though.

(Read my review of the Who Really Cares?, the source of much of Will’s information.)

Spitzer, Prostitution, Firefly and the Limits of Libertarianism

John Derbyshire has an interesting post that manages to combine all of those above topics:

Prostitution, like drug trafficking, is one of those zones where libertarianism bumps up against the realities of human nature.

To a lover of liberty, it’s hard to see why a woman shouldn’t sell her favors if she wants to. Trouble is, weak or dimwitted women end up in near-slavery to unscrupulous men, and I think there’s a legitimate public interest in not letting that happen.

The best private sector solution would be a guild system, like the geishas had in old Japan. There’d be entry standards for the guild. Women would have to pass exams, and have some entertainment skills other than the obvious ones. The guild would police itself, expelling miscreants. Freelancing outside the guild could be under strong social disapproval, even made illegal.

Firefly fans will get my drift.

Most hard-core libertarians would argue that a woman’s body is her to do with what would and that includes the use of it for purposes of prostitution. While in my more libertarian moments, I have sympathy for that point of view, Derbyshire points out that reality of this world is often in conflict with libertarian idealism. Hollywood romanticism apart, most prostitutes are not like Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman.” (One judge I know once gave me a yardstick to judge prostitutes by: “The good-looking ones are undercover cops, the moderately attractive ones are men in drag, and the ugly ones are the actual prostitutes.” I think we can safely assume that rule can be thrown out the window in the case of elite prostitution rings the likes of people such as Governor Spitzer or Charlie Sheen would visit.)

But at the same time, what self-respecting woman would demean herself that way? There’s got to be something wrong in a woman’s life, whether it be psychological damage or just desperation that would lead her to such a life. The one night I went to a strip club, back in my less religious days for a friend’s bachelor party, I found them all depressing, even the more “up-scale” ones. Despite not being that religious at that point, the entire night, I just kept thinking, “What’s the matter, didn’t Daddy love you?” I would bet that often in a prostitute’s life you’d find an absent and/or neglectful father. (This explains a great deal of teen promiscuity, as well: Daddy didn’t pay attention, so the girl will do what it take to get attention from a guy.)

And that doesn’t include the prostitutes who are in it due to kidnapping or some other sort of coercion.

The Prohibition argument could he used: these problems arise only due to the fact that prostitution is illegal, but it still doesn’t deal with the roots of these issues. Besides, legalization would still leave a black market of prostitution, just as there are black markets for all sorts of legal products. In addition, it doesn’t respond to the needs of those women who are in the “business” due to psychological damage. After all, what’s the difference between a woman who services a man for $50, $5,000/hour or for a few drinks at a bar? As George Bernard Shaw put it: “We’ve already established what you are, ma’am. Now we’re just haggling over the price.”

Legalization would merely paper over the issues associated with prostitution. It deals with the legal troubles faced by the “johns,” while ignoring the much greater problems facing the women themselves.

(For those who didn’t get te Firefly reference: in that show, prositution is legal, as long as it’s done through a prostitute’s guild. One of the main characters is a prostitute with that guild, played by Morena Baccarin, who John Derbyshire has often expressed fondness for.)

Book Review: Liberal Fascism

I finally finished this book, after having started it back in January. A combination of being really busy and a brief illness kept me from devoting as much attention as I would have liked.

Even had I had more time to devote to it, it still would have taken me a while to read; it’s over 400 pages plus 60 pages of footnotes and is a very thought-provoking book, requiring much reflection and pondering of its many points. It shatters many commonly held myths about the historical Left and Right.

The book had its genesis in the frequent attacks upon himself in particular, and conservatives in general, where members of the Left would attack conservative views and policies as “fascist,” and consider the argument over. Goldberg, like most students of history, knew these claims to be false as Fascism was virtually always a product of the Left. After all, if one philosophy holds for smaller, less intrusive government, while another calls for greater government control over virtually all facets of life which one is more fascistic? The one calling for larger government, of course, and yet it is the liberals, who subscribe to that point of view, who call conservatives fascistic. I believe it’s for this reason this book had never been written before: liberals didn’t know better and conservatives knew the charge was ridiculous and considered it unworthy of a response. Goldberg decided enough was enough and wrote a book that should, once and for all, demolish the association of Fascism and the Right.

He begins with a forward titled “Everything you know about Fascism is wrong” wherein he exposes the falsity of the association of the Right and the Fascists. He then continues with a chapter each focusing on Mussolini and Hitler, showing that their political roots lay in their nations’ respective Left. He shows that the hatred between Communists and Fascists lay not in their political opposition, but in the fact they were fighting over the same political turf: the Left. (Think of how much many Republicans hate John McCain, for example, even though he agrees with him so often. Ann Coulter dislikes him so much she’d promised that she’d support Hillary Clinton over McCain, despite the many disagreements between the two blondes. We get angrier with those we expect to agree with us than those who we write off. Just like no one can make us as angry as those we truly love.) He also makes a point to define Fascism before beginning his discussion of its history: “Fascism is a religion of the state.” The belief that “salvation” will come through a large, interventionist government that will remake society, and Man himself, for the better is the essence of Fascism.

Goldberg then takes us through American history showing development of Fascist thought and practice in our own nation. He points out that although it’s often claimed it could never happen here, it, in fact, already has. Perhaps the most Fascistic President of all was Woodrow Wilson how centralized power, jailed political opponents and increased governmental involvement in the economy to previously unimagined dimensions. (A recurrent theme in this book is that American Progressivism is really just Fascism with a smile. Rather than imposing their will on the people, Progressives claim to be doing what’s best for the people.)

The early 1920s did much to reduce the size and breadth of government, but that trend was reversed with the election of Herbert Hoover as President. Despite his portrayal as a typical laissez-faire President, he was actually a strongly interventionist President, as he had been in every public office he had held going back to the Wilson Administration. So, in the true history, there was a change only in degree, not in kind, with the election of Franklin Roosevelt, who may have been even more of a Fascist than Wilson. Both viewed their program in militaristic terms. Roosevelt created the National Recovery Administration, which determined what businesses could charge for their products and pay their employees. Businesses who did not comply were branded unpatriotic and even charged with crimes. (Declaring businesses “unpatriotic” is part of Obama’s economic platform today.) Goldberg quotes many European Fascists admiring FDR’s accomplishments and even expressing some envy at what he was able to accomplish.

He continues through American history with the 60s Hippie movement, which with its violence and attempts to overthrow the existing order, both political and moral, really does recall the early years of the Nazi movement in Germany. Fortunately, America didn’t fall under the sway of such leaders as Germany did. (Another point for the Founding Fathers who prevented swift change the way the drafters of Germany’s post World War I constitution did not.)

The weakest part of the book, in my opinion, dealt with Kennedy and LBJ. While he validly points out that Kennedy, as many actual Fascists did, used supposed emergencies to garner support for their policies, this was more, as Goldberg acknowledges, due to his need to have an emergency to focus on than an real attempt to centralize government power. Similarly, while LBJ did have some Fascist tendencies, I wouldn’t include him as a Fascist either.

He continues on with a chapter on how the Left uses race as a means to achieve their goals, while attempting to cover up the fact that eugenics, which sought to breed out the weaker races, was a phenomenon of the Left. It was the Right, and especially Catholics, who opposed forced sterilization of blacks and the mentally handicapped. Margaret Sanger was clearly a person of the Left and an active proponent of reducing, if not completely eliminating, the black population. (Interestingly, that racism is still apparently extant in Planned Parenthood today.)

Economics is another area where conservatism and leftist views are confused. It’s commonly assumed that conservatives being pro-business, are inherently Fascistic in their desire to help business. In fact, the historical record shows, it is largely the Left who has promoted government-business partnerships in order to increase the cohesion of society and unite it behind their view of how society should be. Again, it’s the Left and their interventionist economic policies who are more Fascistic than the Right.

He devotes a chapter to Hillary Clinton, who I had never bothered to read too much about and shows how from the 60s, she’s been interested in remaking society and overturning many long held beliefs. He concludes the book with a chapter showing how many things commonly held in our society were first promoted, or first widely promoted by the Nazis, such as the “natural food” movement, environmentalism, anti-smoking laws, among others. He doesn’t deride all of these things as wrong in and of themselves; in fact, he shops at Whole Foods frequently himself. However, he does point out that the desire to make things that are personal preferences or opinions mandatory does match the Fascist tendency perfectly.

He finished with an afterword discussing the dangers conservatives face that could draw them into Fascism. He uses Pat Buchanan as an example of a conservative who did become a Fascist. (Fortunately, the conservative movement has written Buchanan out of it in an October 1999 article in National Review. Another example of conservatives kicking extremists out of their movement, a step liberals seem reluctant, at best, to take.) He admits that, in many ways, President Bush does have some Fascistic tendencies, but they are largely in areas that the Left would agree with: the expansion of Medicare and the notion that government has to move when people are in trouble just to name two examples.)

This was an excellent book and one that anyone interested in political discourse should read to clear up a commonly held misconception. It will teach you a lot about history, exposing some myths that have, unfortunately, taken hold in our society and show that the real danger of Fascism comes from those most likely to cry Fascism.

How the Right Marginalized the John Birch Society

Time was given to the John Birch Society lasting through lunch, and the subject came up again the next morning. We resolved that conservative leaders should do something about the John Birch Society. An allocation of responsibilities crystallized.

Goldwater would seek out an opportunity to dissociate himself from the “findings” of the Society’s leader, without, however, casting any aspersions on the Society itself. I, in National Review and in my other writing, would continue to expose Welch and his thinking to scorn and derision. “You know how to do that,” said Jay Hall.

I volunteered to go further. Unless Welch himself disowned his operative fallacy, National Review would oppose any support for the society.

“How would you define the Birch fallacy?” Jay Hall asked.

“The fallacy,” I said, “is the assumption that you can infer subjective intention from objective consequence: we lost China to the Communists, therefore the President of the United States and the Secretary of State wished China to go to the Communists.”

“I like that,” Goldwater said.

What would Russell Kirk do? He was straightforward. “Me? I’ll just say, if anybody gets around to asking me, that the guy is loony and should be put away.”

“Put away in Alaska?” I asked, mock-seriously. The wisecrack traced to Robert Welch’s expressed conviction, a year or so earlier, that the state of Alaska was being prepared to house anyone who doubted his doctrine that fluoridated water was a Communist-backed plot to weaken the minds of the American public.

Read the whole thing

There were a few attempts to recruit me into the Birch society in my younger days. I “forgot” to respond to those attempts. The marginalization of the Birchers is just one of the many good deeds Bill Buckley did for our country.

Now, if only the Left would act similarly towards their lunatic fringe, instead of embracing them.