Archives for May 2012

Marriage and Limited Government

Fifteen years ago today, I married my high school sweetheart. Since the topic of marriage is at the front of my mind, I thought I’d write about an issue of double standards that surrounds the whole marriage argument. The issue of marriage is, to say the least, a very sensitive topic, and this post might end up being one of my posts that steps on some toes. You’ve been warned.

My wife and I were married in a small church in Warner Robins, Georgia. Our wedding was a ceremony committing our lives to each other before God and our friends. We had a state-issued marriage license, but Georgia’s stance on our marital stance was (and is) inconsequential. If Georgia were to revoke our marriage license and declare us single, we would still be married in the eyes of our church because our union is a religious union.

As with most things, the problem with marriage comes when government gets too involved. Since marriage is a religious partnership, the government has no place defining – or redefining – what marriage is. That is the role of the religious institution that administers the wedding; it is not the role of government.

To take it a step further, government has no right to dictate to a church who it will or will not allow to be married. It’s very similar to the issue of a church’s qualifications for pastors or priests. Some churches forbid women pastors while some allow women to serve in that capacity. Some require celibacy, while that’s not an issue for other churches. Each church enforces the qualifications according to its own doctrine, and the government – state or federal – has absolutely no business dictating behavior to a church.

Price controls and value

Carl Menger described value as “a judgment economizing men make about the importance of the goods at their disposal for the maintenance of their lives and well-being.” He went on to say that “[i]t is, therefore, also quite erroneous to call a good that has value to economizing individuals a “value,” or for economists to speak of “values” as of independent real things, and to objectify value in this way.

For the entities that exist objectively are al­ways only particular things or quantities of things, and their value is something fundamentally different from the things themselves; it is a judgment made by economizing individuals about the importance their command of the things has for the maintenance of their lives and well-being. Objectification of the value of goods, which is entirely subjective in nature, has nevertheless contributed very greatly to confusion about the basic principles of our science.

Yet talk of objective,”reasonable,” and “fair” prices abound:

The Arkansas Supreme Court has issued a legal kick to the gut of the fee-happy folks at Ticketmaster and Live Nation, confirming that the ticket seller is bound by the same state laws that prevent scalpers from piling on fees and charging exorbitant prices.

Ticketmaster is the subject of a lawsuit brought by an Arkansas man who says the $49 in fees — on top of the $42.75/ticket — he paid for four tickets to a concert by country singer Jason Aldean violated the provision of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act that forbids the sale of tickets above their face value plus reasonable credit card or handling fees.

Could Romney pick Rand Paul for VP?

Could Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), son of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) be part of the Republican Party’s ticket this year? There is some speculation of that after Mitt Romney, the GOP’s presumptive nominee, met with Paul last week.

Of course, the meeting could have always had to do with the elder Paul’s campaign. The delegate strategy being employed has certainly made some Republicans nervous, though Paul himself has said that he is more interested in pushing through changes to the party’s platform. Romney may have just been trying to convince Sen. Paul to get on board with his campaign before the convention in hopes to avoid turmoil.

But if the younger Paul’s name is indeed in the hat for vice president, should he accept the offer? Writing at Reason, Jesse Walker says that Sen. Paul should decline:

Is DOMA dead?

A U.S. Appeals Court just gave DOMA and its supporters a serious setback:

(CNN) — A key part of the law banning federal recognition of same-sex marriage was struck down as unconstitutional by a U.S. appeals court Thursday.

The Defense of Marriage Act — known as DOMA — defines marriage for federal purposes as unions exclusively between a man and woman.

At issue is whether the federal government can deny tax, health and pension benefits to same-sex couples in states where they can legally marry.

“If we are right in thinking that disparate impact on minority interests and federalism concerns both require somewhat more in this case than almost automatic deference to Congress’ will, this statute fails that test,” said the three judge panel.

The 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, based in Boston, did not rule on the federal law’s other key provision: that states that do not allow same-sex marriages cannot be forced to recognize such unions performed in other states.

Personally, I don’t see why it’s any one’s business who marries who.  Gay friends who want to marry aren’t going to impact me or my marriage…unless my wife and I argue over the wedding presents.

Of course, all this depends on whether Uncle Sam wants to take things to the next level.  Only time will really tell what ther result of The case is Massachusetts v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (10-2204) will really be.

What Motivates The Progressive

One of the things that has always fascinated me is why progressives (I refuse to call them liberals because they’re frankly illiberal) think the way they do. Part of the fascination has been partly “know thy enemy” and part of the fascination has been frankly to try and convert some of them to the cause of individual liberty. A progressive website I think has helped answer the question for me and I did not like the results.

The Applied Research Center published a study called Millennials, Activism, and Race which was a series of focus groups of progressive activists and Occupy members between the ages of 18-30. Here’s the key bullet point that stood out to me:

All our participants named a dominant doctrine of individualism as a critical barrier to progressive change, but people involved with Occupy had a more explicit critique of capitalism as a system than those involved in other organizations.

In the mind of the progressive activist, individuality is the main enemy. When you read more of the summary, you find that conformity is the main goal. All the other issues and memes that progressives espouse suddenly become more clear once you see that through their lens. Progressives, and particularly Occupy, hate free market capitalism because it emphasizes individual success and failure, not the collective.

Intimidation of conservative bloggers

There has been some very scary things going on lately as more bloggers take on the story of Brett Kimberlin. Our own Kevin Boyd reported on this last Friday, pointing out the ties Kimberlin has with the State Department, a different angle that most have taken when exposing the convicted bomber.

But Conor Friedersdorf notes that some conservative bloggers willing to report on Kimberlin have been harassed thanks to a new phenomenon called “SWATing,” which has put people in very real danger:

In recent days, the conservative blogosphere has been abuzz about an apparently coordinated attempt to intimidate some of its own. Patrick “Patterico” Frey, an L.A. area blogger, Erick Erickson of Red State, and Robert Stacy McCain, a conservative journalist based near Washington, D.C., all report being subject to threats and harassment as a result of posts they’ve written.

CBO report shows high-cost per stimulus job

President Barack Obama and Democrat have time and time again repeated the talking point that the $831 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed in early 2009, helped save the economy, which was suffering the effects of a severe recession, and helped create jobs.

However, a new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) via James Pethokoukis shows that the stimulus bill was largely wasteful considering its affects on unemployment, with a high cost for what jobs were created:

When [the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] was being considered, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that it would increase budget deficits by $787 billion between fiscal years 2009 and 2019. CBO now estimates that the total impact over the 2009–2019 period will amount to about $831 billion.

By CBO’s estimate, close to half of that impact occurred in fiscal year 2010, and more than 90 percent of ARRA’s budgetary impact was realized by the end of March 2012. CBO has estimated the law’s impact on employment and economic output using evidence about the effects of previous similar policies and drawing on various mathematical models that represent the workings of the economy. …

On that basis CBO estimates that ARRA’s policies had the following effects in the first quarter of calendar year 2012 compared with what would have occurred otherwise:

– They raised real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) by between 0.1 percent and 1.0 percent,

– They lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.1 percentage points and 0.8 percentage points,

New York movement seeks to ban anonymous comments

The idea of freedom of speech seems to be pretty straight forward.  You don’t infringe on anyone’s right to say things.  However, some Republican lawmakers in New York want to ban anonymous comments on blogs and newspaper websites in the Empire State.

The legislation, which has been proposed both in the State Assembly and Senate, would require New York-based websites such as blogs and the online hubs of newspapers and other media outlets to “remove any comments posted on his or her website by an anonymous poster unless such anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post.”

“This statute would essentially destroy the ability to speak anonymously online on sites in New York,” an attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology told Wired, which first reported the news on Wednesday.

Despite the obvious constitutional implications, the co-sponsors of the Internet Protection Act have described the legislation not so much as an assault on free speech and the open web, but more as a safeguard for people—say, politicians—who sometimes find themselves the victims of anonymous online invective.

Obama hammers Romney over Trump

At this point you have to wonder why Mitt Romney has allowed himself to be involved with Donald Trump. Or perhaps more importantly, why have his consultants allowed it? Romney was due to attend a fundraiser with Trump yesterday, but instead of discussing policy or his opponent the presumptive Republican nominee was asked about Trump’s Birtherism.

Between Ron and I, we’ve discussed this issue enough, but Obama’s campaign is milking it for all it’s worth with continued knocks against Romney for assocating with Trump. For instance, take a look at this new ad that was rolled out yesterday.

The ad shows Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Obama’s opponent in 2008, defended Obama from attacks, noting that though he had policy disagreements with him, that he is a decent family man. Then it contrasts with Trump’s idiocy on the Birther conspiracy, tying Romney to the billionaire real estate mogul:

It’s fair gamefor Obama’s team to attack. And it highlights the huge gamble that Romney and his consultants are taking by continuing to give Trump attention. I doubt that it’s going to matter much in November to voters, but associating with Trump doesn’t seem like much of a win either.

Their Blood a Testament of Sacrifice

“It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country … in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray-haired. But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives — the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for their country, for us. All we can do is remember.” ~ President Ronald Reagan

Memorial Day, like Independence Day and Veterans Day, are holidays which evoke mixed emotions in me. On the one hand, it is proper and fitting that we honor the sacrifices of those brave men and women who fought, and sometimes died, in the defense of American freedom, and often for freedom of those not of our nation. We are able to more greatly appreciate their sacrifices when we contemplate the suffering that they endured for their family, their nation and their posterity.

No student of history can fail to understand that our republic would never have come into existence, and never have endured for nearly two and a half centuries, without the unsung heroes of our armed forces; the men who marched with General George Washington towards Trenton on Christmas Eve of 1776, many malnourished and with feet bloodied and torn for lack of shoes, wrapped in burlap sacks. Without these men and their triumph over the Hessian mercenaries, the Revolutionary War would have ended shortly thereafter, with soldiers demoralized after a long series of battles lost, their commanders and the Founding Fathers hunted down and executed for treason.

 
 


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