Skip to main content


Showing posts from November, 2007

Thinking the unthinkable: smaller government (2)

How did we get "big government" at the state and federal levels, anyway? The dynamic between a strictly limited government (restricted from DOING EVIL) and a more empowered state (strong enough to DO GOOD) pre-dates the Constitutional Convention, figures in those debates, and broke out in national politics immediately following ratification between the two camps we tend to personalize under Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Hamilton saw the power of government and public debt finance as essential tools for building a stronger, more modern United States. But it is important to note that social services in the way we think of them, or government that somehow legislated morality had no part in his thinking. Jefferson, on the other hand, was an agrarian elitist who believed strongly in the independent yeoman farmer myth. But it is equally important to note that as Governor of Virginia he proposed the first state-funded public education system in American history, and

Issues, not candidates--a Libertarian strategy

I have made no secret that I am both a believer in the potential future of the Libertarian Party and the continuing disintegration of the Republican Party. I am also not a fan of fusion, which many people see as the best way for smaller parties to field candidates and gain recognition. Tyler Nixon's response to an earlier post ("Revenge of the comic book nerds") is indicative of the traditional idea of a third party achieving meaningful political impact: The Libertarian Party here will forever be moribund until/unless they can really get their asses in gear and achieve an organizing critical mass. It begins with candidates. They need to learn to be less picky and arcane about self-proclaimed but barely articulated standards for selection.... The Libertarians need to start realizing the "half-a-loaf" principle and begin working with like-minded potential candidates. ... One of the reasons I fought so hard to preserve fusion candidacies as an option in Dela

A blurred vision (2015), or pimping for yourself

I love it when the News Journal attempts to raise objective reporting into self-interested advocacy. Today's top headline was "Schools report: more money need for high achievement" Check out the first two paragraphs of the story: Delaware educators would have to increase per-pupil spending by as much as 83 percent to create high-achieving schools under the state’s current system, a new Delaware Public Policy Institute analysis finds. The nonprofit group’s report, released at noon today, looks at the additional per-student investment that would be needed for 95 percent of public school students to score at the highest two levels on Delaware Student Testing Program reading and math exams in 2009 You almost wouldn't know that this is a straight up shill for Vision 2015, unless you dug really deeply into the article. The Delaware Public Policy Institute took $235,000 from the Longwood Foundation and hired Colorado-based Augenblick, Palaich and Associates to look

Thinking the unthinkable: smaller government (1)

In order to win anybody over to the notion that government at all levels from local to national can be made smaller through the political process you've got three primary hurdles to clear: 1. You've got to convince people that larger government impairs their ability to lead whatever kind of life they desire. 2. You've got to convince them that a smaller government could actually handle the critical, essential tasks of governing. 3. You've got to convince them that making the change will be worth the potential loss of government benefits that they might now be enjoying. I'm going to punt on Number 1 right now, because I'm working on a larger, strategic approach to that. So let's look at Number 2, first from the Federal perspective, and let's not take an easy one: begin with homeland security. I want you to think about this: in Al Qaeda we face a decentralized enemy that is as flexible in its tactics as it is inflexible in its religious/politi

OK, finally some useful information

If you buy books--and the odds are if you are reading this you buy too many--you need to stop shopping online at Amazon or Borders or Barnes & Noble. Why? Because there is a better deal out there. Check out . "ABE" stands for Advanced Book Exchange, not an old bald guy in a dusty store. It is a consortium of several thousand online booksellers and several million titles (old and new) in a consolidated marketplace. The search engine is powerful, and best of all the whole place is market-driven. You will usually find far more copies available in a range of conditions and prices than you do from Amazon, and Abebooks stands behind its transactions. Often you can even scoop the bookstores; both Pat Buchanan's and Glenn Beck's new books were available here (sometimes in review copies or paperback advance proofs) several days before they went on sale in bookstores, and at cheaper prices. You do have to watch postage charges carefully, but that's

Revenge of the Comic-book nerd Libertarians?

There are two quotes from Ryan Sager's The Elephant in the Room , Evangelicals, Libertarians, and the Battle to Control the Republican Party that I want to share with you. The first is Sager's assessment of Libertarians, who--kind of like African-Americans and Democrats--he sees as having no option but to support the Republican Party. I don't know if I believe that, but the paragraph is so well written that I can't resist it: Libertarians ... are the comic-book nerds of the political world; if they can find an acceptable partner willing to listen to them prognosticate about who would win in a fight between F. A. Hayek and Milton Friedman, they should consider themselves lucky. And with the only other option around being an ass [the Democratic Party] by turns indifferent or hostile to their core beliefs, libertarians are destined--whatever their grievances--to stay put. Makes me think of the lyrics to Brad Paisley's song: "I'm a sci-fi fanatic, a mild

Planning to finance my new beach-front condo in Seaford

One of the great problems of Demopublican machine politics like we have in Delaware (aside from those minor issues like corruption, contempt for the public, nepotism, etc. etc.) is the inability of the machine to look into the future. Here's a great example: Delaware and global warming. Let's make one assumption here for the sake of argument: global warming is real and has at least as a partial cause human, carbon-related activity. You can be agnostic or even hostile to that premise, but just bear with me for the moment. I've just been reading the report of the Delaware Climate Change Consortium , and I couldn't help but notice a key point: the whole "Climate Change Action Plan" is all about preventing Global Warming. It shows in great detail how Delaware can reduce its carbon emissions over the next few years, and I don't question the science behind the various graphs and stats at all. I just question the relevance. Here's assumption number

Education reform: Old Visions in a new (expensive) format

I really shouldn't do this without all the sources at hand, but Vision 2015 has reared its head again in the blogosphere over on First State Politics and Kilroy's Delaware in the wake of Education Secretary Valerie Woodruff's recent decision not to provide significant state funding to the enterprise for the second year running. If you have been living in a box somewhere, check out the Vision 2015 website , wherein you will discover that a coalition of concerned Delaware leaders is determined to Imagine... each and every Delaware student fully prepared for success in life . . .no exceptions, no excuses. That's Vision 2015. And it's the moral and economic imperative of our time. Our children deserve it. Our future demands it. Please join us in making it a reality. As Dave Burris says, there are many excellent individuals--especially among the 28 key leaders of the movement--advocating Vision 2015; I have worked with many of them and respect all of them. Which m

Eating an atheist turkey: Non-belief and civil rights

OK I'm about to take off this evening for the mandatory pilgrimmage home to Virginia to eat turkey that I didn't have to cook (my favorite kind). I thought about a nice, sentimental schmaltzy post that covers the leaves in autumn, the warmth of family, word pictures of my adorable children--something to bring a tear to your eye. Then I thought: Naaah. Too easy. I didn't become a baptized Catholic until I was forty-six, and my kids had a lot to do with conversion. Being me, my most memorable moment of the ceremony was the unexpected discover as Father Mast dipped me into the water (and almost lost his balance because I outweigh him) was that Holy Water in the Baptismal Font is chlorinated. My eyes turn bright red in chlorination. Seems that, according to the State, a Baptismal Font is legally a swimming pool, and therefore.... At any rate, such are my deep theological qualifications to discuss Greta Christina's post about angry atheism. Greta Christina is a blo

Finding out what Libertarian means from everybody else

Look, it was on sale for $7.95, and most T-shirts today with anything printed on them cost more than that. When I went shopping at the Libertarian Party website I was really only looking to buy the bumper sticker that says, "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, vote Libertarian." Then I discovered that they had the same T-shirt on clearance. And admittedly (in this case it was my wife who was doing the admitting) it looks pretty dorky. But I wore it to work today, anyway, just to see what the reaction would be. (Truth in advertising: as a professor I can get away with that, even in meetings with vice-presidents. You might not want to try this is a more regimented working environment. And my wife made me take it off before we went to the teacher conference at our twins' middle school. So much for the brass balls, eh, Shirley.) What intrigued me were the responses. Our Human Resources VP just shook his head and smiled, then said, "It's the radical statement we've come

Demopublicans: a definition and a lack of distinction

If you've been reading along, you have probably noted that this is a somewhat different political blog. I'm not an insider, I don't hear all the good rumors, and I frankly am not interested in hosting a lot of witty (and/or scatological) exchanges about whose 4 year-old can lick who, or the personal attributes of various DE politicians. You see, to me, and to a lot of other Libertarians, they're all just Demopublicans. Nearly thirty years ago, when I first started teaching American history, I gave a really crappy assignment, because I didn't really know what I was doing. The university regs said that all general education courses had to assign a 3-5 page paper, so I did. It was one of those really mundane (or inane) assignments to "compare and contrast three leading Federalist and Anti-Federalist arguments about the ratification of the Constitution." Since I had not taught the Federalists very well--let alone the Anti-Federalists--what I got was pred

How to begin: a modest proposal (really!)

When we talk about transforming government, we tend to think about major initiatives: prescription plans from the liberals or the elimination of the Department of Education from conservatives. How about thinking small for a change. Or for some change? The savings rate in America is horribly low. I choose to say "savings rate" rather than "investment rate" because I am talking about lower middle class and poor people trying to sock away money for Christmas or to cover the transmission when it blows, not someone setting up a 401k or diversifying a stock portfolio. So why not stimulate the urge to save, however slightly, by removing the government's disincentive for doing so? Where could we find a sponsor in the General Assembly who would support an income tax exemption on the first $5,000 of interest in bank, credit union, or internet bank savings accounts? I have an Ing-Direct account that currently pays about 4.2% APY. I sock $25 a week into it, plus an

Defining others, defining ourselves; What does it mean to be a Libertarian?

Mike Mahaffie, in a recent comment on First State Politics about anonymous blogging , makes the following interesting observation: I am not a Libertarian, though I place value on some libertarian precepts. I don’t think we should have complete personal freedom tempered only by common sense and decency. Lets face it, some people are assholes. Some people are stupid. Some people are violent. Some are all three. There should be some laws and societal controls to help us temper our nasty habits. I am always suspicious of being defined by somebody who doesn't share my political philosophy, but it's also useful to understand how people view your beliefs. Let's unpack Mike's comments. "I don't think we should have complete personal freedom tempered only by common sense and decency." Funny, I don't either. My individual liberty ends when my actions harm somebody else or materially interfere with their liberty. That's why we have laws. I don't

Moving toward a Libertarian Delaware: The first painful step

One of the reasons, a long time ago, that I left active participation in the Libertarian movement is that nobody could ever provide me with a map of “how to get there from here.” By and large the answers I got were either: “We’re going to have to educate the younger generation because this one’s too addicted to the current set of government hand-outs to change,” or, “Eventually, the existing set-up will collapse of its own weight, and we’ll be there to pick up the pieces.” Neither approach appeals to me, because both of them appear to punt on the idea that we can begin making incremental changes toward greater individual liberty and smaller government today. Ourselves. With our neighbors. And organize to go forward. If you want to break other people of the idea of taking government hand-outs (in exchange for paying high taxes and turning over control of your own life), then the first thing you have to do is stop or materially reduce the government hand-outs you accept. Doing so

"Judge" for yourself: do more police reduce or create crime?

Today I was listening to Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court Myron Steele interviewed on WDEL by Rick Jensen, Tyler Nixon, and their audience. One call in particular struck me--not then, but about ninety minutes later when I was doing something else. The caller asked the Chief Justice to explain why the Superior Court needs four new judges. Chief Justice Steele explained that the Superior Court had not had a new justice added since 1994, and that the court's caseload was at the "breaking point." He pointed out that both the Attorney General's office and Delaware law enforcement in New Castle County had received substantive personnel increases since 1997 (I did not get down the exact percentages and don't want to misquote him), which had in turn lead to a dramatic increase in cases before the court. This all sounded logical, until.... I started to think about what such a correlation really means. What we have been sold on in a statist society is th

Immigration, doughnuts, and the Eucharist: my conundrum

So the latest spasm of immigrant controversy arrives with radio host Glenn Beck going to war with Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas , and it just adds to the finger-pointing and pseudo-debate over illegal immigration. It’s hard to find something new to say, but let’s try. At church I often end up sitting across from some very nice people who work in the Wilmington area as house cleaners, landscapers, or construction workers. They are Hispanic, and many if not most of them are either—choose your politically identifying label—illegal immigrants or undocumented workers. I wonder, do different rules apply at Mass? The ongoing political debate hinges on immigration law, national security, and fears that our culture—whatever that is—is under assault. Yet my priest teaches in the name of my church that human rights to a better economic life and to get out of poverty trump national rights of exclusion. My church holds that our transient, worldly culture is of far less importance than our common

Not for the faint of heart: erotic fiction and free speech

I want to present you with the opinion of an individual who writes erotic fiction online (OK, call them pornographic stories if it pleases you) under the pseudonym "Dirty Old Pervert." It fully encapsulates an important argument about freedom of the imagination that, quite frankly, isn't politically correct either on the right or the left these days, and it is as well-written on the subject as anything I have ever seen. Dirty Old Pervert has graciously allowed me to reprint this here, with only the requirement that I also give you the link to the original statement as well as his works at the BDSM Library . I do so because I believe you have the freedom to decide whether or not you will choose to go there, and with the explicit understanding that to direct anyone to this site who is under 18 or objects to erotic fiction may well be committing a crime against the state. Please consider DOP's views, expressed in the afterword to his story, "Trading Up," b

Why don't they care about politics?

Downstate nobody really knows who Jack Markell is. This came as a shock to me when I read the voter recognition numbers in a poll the other week, because I thought everybody (like him or not) knew who he was. Downstate everybody may know Carney's name as Lieutenant Governor, but nobody knows a thing about him. And they don't care. As I wander around the state, nobody except political insiders knows or cares who Levin is, or remembers that Protack keeps running and losing. When I hear people talk about political apathy in this state I take it with a grain of salt. When political apathy rules and Democrats hold a substantial majority in registrations, then co-equal apathy means victory at the polls and a lack of accountability in office. When political apathy rules and the Republican Party is disintegrating on both the state and national levels, then it means the possibility of a prolonged period of one-party rule (and for how much good that does, look at the history of Me

HB 259: Hiding a devil in the details of revoking teacher liscenses

This bill , sponsored by Representative Joseph Miro (R-Pike Creek), is currently in the Hosue Education Committee. Hopefully it will not leave until someone excises certain pieces of arbitrary authority that the Department of Education has been attempting to slip into law for the past decade. This bill would provide the Secretary of Education with “the discretionary authority” to deny or revoke teaching licenses under certain conditions. The conditions listed in the bill’s synopsis include those of teachers or applicants convicted of violent felonies and the like—something nobody would seriously argue. Not listed in the bill’s synopsis, and carefully buried, however, is a provision that both strengthens DOE’s authority with regard to teachers and the dreaded DSTP, and significantly weakens the civil protections of our public school teachers and administrators from arbitrary suspension. Meet the devil in the details: Currently, Paragraph 174 (“Civil Sanctions for Violations”) of S