Santorum’s Collectivism

The Objective Standard has published my latest article about the collectivist views of Rick Santorum.

Largely I discuss an interview in which Santorum lambasts the “pursuit of happiness,” one of the key principles of the Declaration of Independence. Santorum instead praises promotes a collectivist notion of the “common good.” I conclude, “Obama and Santorum differ only on the kind of collectivism each hopes to impose on America.”

Read the entire article.

GOP Gay Disparagement, Like Alcoholism, a Choice

I have already (tentatively) predicted that Obama will win reelection next year, and nothing coming out of the Republican Party causes me to doubt this. (Of course, it is still early, and the economy as well as the Middle East are especially volatile right now.)

Rick Perry, who I figured would rise to front-runner status, has managed to turn the religious right’s social agenda into his campaign. Consider this headline from yesterday’s Los Angeles Times“Rick Perry signs anti-abortion pledge.” This is the same issue, more than any other, that cost Ken Buck his senate seat last year.

Now a page of Perry’s 2008 book causes Perry to follow Buck down another dead-end path: toward comparing homosexuality to alcoholism. Lynn Bartels has the details over at the Denver Post.

There is a difference between the comments of Perry and Buck, though.

In order to establish the full context, I’ll quote from Perry’s book On My Honor (page 70) more extensively than Bartels does:

Though I am no expert on the “nature versus nurture” debate, I can sympathize with those who believe sexual preference is genetic. It may be so, but it remains unproved. Even if it were, this does not mean we are ultimately not responsible for the active choices we make. Even if an alcoholic is powerless over alcohol once it enters his body, he still makes a choice to drink. And, even if someone is attracted to a person of the same sex, he or she still makes a choice to engage in sexual activity with someone of the same gender.

A loving, tolerant view toward those who have a different sexual preference is the ideal position — for both the heterosexual and the homosexual. I do not believe in condemning homosexuals that I know personally. I believe in valuing their lives like any others, as our God in heaven does. Tolerance, however, should not only be asked of the proponents of traditional values. The radical homosexual movement seeks societal normalization of their sexual activity. I respect their right to engage in individual behavior of their choosing, but they must respect the right of millions in society to refuse to normalize their behavior.

The key point here that Bartels ignores is that Perry recognizes the political right of consenting adults to engage in homosexual sex. That’s centrally important. Secondarily, Perry calls for “valuing” rather than “condemning” homosexuals. That’s a good start.

Unfortunately, Perry’s position is essentially “love the sinner, hate the sin.” In comparing homosexuality to alcoholism and saying it deserves only “toleration” (as opposed to open acceptance), Perry is basically saying there’s something wrong with homosexuality. And that position is wrong.

Given that Bartels (and others) have compared Perry’s remarks to those of Ken Buck, it is worth returning to Buck’s statements on the matter.

Here’s what Buck said, extemporaneously, on Meet the Press: “I think that birth has an influence over it [homosexuality], like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that basically, you have a choice.” As I have pointed out, Buck’s remark is technically correct. It is indisputably true that “birth has an influence” over sexual orientation, but that “you have a choice” about your sexual partners. For example, some heterosexuals have gay sex or remain celibate, and some homosexuals have straight sex.

Buck’s problem was two-fold. First, his comparison of homosexuality, something inherently fine, to alcoholism, something inherently bad and destructive, was a bad one. However, again his remark is technically true; there does seem to be an inborn component to alcoholism. Perry’s remark is worse because it was written (as opposed to extemporaneous) and because Perry draws a tighter connection (versus Buck’s remark about “some other things”).

Second, Buck was an idiot for not leading with the story about how, as a prosecutor, he pursued hate-crime charges in a transgender-related crime. So here we had a prosecutor whose record was strongly pro-gay rights, being smeared by his critics and the media as some sort of knuckle-dragging troglotyte. That was very unfair toward Buck, though he’s the one who set the tone of the discussion. (Note: I actually disapprove of “hate crime” legislation, because I think all crimes are hate crimes and that harming a heterosexual person is just as bad as harming a homosexual one. Plus I worry about starting down the road to thought crimes. But my motivation is much different from that of the religious right.)

Significantly, Buck quickly clarified: “I wasn’t talking about being gay as a disease. I don’t think that at all.”

We’ll see if Perry backtracks along similar lines. But, as a candidate, if you’re spending your time backtracking, you’re not moving forward.

Harvey Promotes Social Crusades, Not Tea Party Values

Dick Wadhams has dropped out of the race for Republican Chair, leaving State Senator Ted Harvey to fight it out with attorney Ryan Call (and perhaps others). Some have misleadingly attributed the shift to the Tea Parties.

Nobody can claim authority to speak for the Tea Parties as a whole, particularly with respect to Wadham’s performance. The Tea Parties are a large, diverse, and disorganized group, and many Tea Partiers aren’t even Republicans, much less party activists with a stake in the race for chair. (While I have attended numerous Tea Party events, for instance, I am registered unaffiliated.)

Moreover, Harvey hardly epitomizes Tea Party values of limited government and fiscal restraint, having instead earned his reputation as a big-government social crusader. While I do not deny that many self-proclaimed Tea Partiers embrace big-government social conservatism, the ideals of economic liberty and constitutionally limited government are closer to the heart of the Tea Party movement.

For those reasons, the movement to promote Harvey over Wadhams can hardly be said to be about the Tea Parties. I’m sure that many self-proclaimed Tea Partiers support Harvey and at the same time dislike Wadhams, but I’m equally sure that many Tea Partiers dislike both men equally or even favor the latter.

Contrary to deceptive claims by leftist “journalists,” Wadhams did not “slam” the Tea Party in his statement about dropping out.

Instead, Wadhams said,

I have tired of those who are obsessed with seeing conspiracies around every corner and who have terribly misguided notions of what the role of the state party is while saying “uniting conservatives” is all that is needed to win competitive races across the state.

I have no delusions this will recede after the state central committee meeting in March. Meanwhile, the ability of Colorado Republicans to win and retain the votes of hundreds of thousands of unaffiliated swing voters in 2012 will be severely undermined.

Wadhams told Lynn Bartels: “I have loved being chairman, but I’m tired of the nuts who have no grasp of what the state party’s role is.”

Note that Wadhams apparently is referring also to supporters of Dan Maes, whom many Tea Partiers initially supported but later abandoned in droves.

Meanwhile, it’s not as though Wadhams is some tax-and-spend leftist;Vincent Carroll reminds us that he has spent his career working to elect (relative) fiscal conservatives.

What about Harvey? As Bartels summarizes, he “has made abortion and immigration issues the cornerstones of his career.”

Let’s look briefly at what motivates Harvey. In 2004, Harvey sponsored legislation trying to dictate how bookstores display “explicit materials.” Harvey is also quite interested in restricting the rights of Coloradans to hire the employees of their choice, if they happen to be from out of the country.

The cause that seems to most animate Harvey is outlawing abortion. “Ted firmly believes that it is his duty as a legislator to defend the innocent unborn,” i.e., to outlaw abortion. Harvey also touts on his web page, “Ted received the Legislator of the Year award from Colorado Right to Life in 2003.” This is an organization that wants to totally ban abortion and ban all drugs and procedures that might prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, including the birth control pill. In announcing his candidacy for state senate, Harvey said, “Until my last breath, I will always champion life from conception to natural death” — though his anti-abortion stance undermines the lives and liberties of women.

True, Harvey is relatively pro-liberty on issues like guns, taxes, and selecteconomic controls. Yet I fear that Harvey will animate the religious right of his party and alienate unaffiliated voters and Republican secularists. A “Harvey Party” may well entrench the losing strategy of Ken Buck of leading with anti-liberty social controls. Nothing could be more disastrous for the Republican Party in this Interior West state where people tend to want government out of our wallets as well as our bedrooms.

What Are Conservatives Trying to Conserve?

The following article originally was published on January 4 by Grand Junction’s Free Press.

What are conservatives trying to conserve?

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

Conservatives are a strange bunch. They support free trade, except when they want to outlaw or restrict select medicinal plants or forcibly stop employers from hiring willing workers of their choice.

Conservatives support freedom of conscience, except when they want to censor what they declare to be obscene works, punish the mishandling of the flag, or force people to fund religious programs with which they disagree.

Conservatives advocate strong national defense, except when they support a war the president declares unwinnable, along with years of “nation building” at the expense of American lives.

Conservatives endorse federalism, except when they want the national government to tell states how to handle marriage.

Conservatives uphold independence, except when they call on politicians to imprison women for getting an abortion.

Conservatives tout the dignity of the individual, unless that individual happens to be gay or a brown-skinned laborer from Mexico.

Conservatives declare to stand for time-honored principles, except when they “compromise” to raise taxes, pass smoking bans in violation of property rights, expand health welfare, endorse corporate welfare, and use the invasive tax code to crack down on the “crime” of productive work.

We have to wonder just what it is that conservatives are trying to conserve. How can we make sense out of the hash of modern conservatism?

A common explanation is that conservatism is a “fusion” of faith-based tradition and libertarian free-market leanings. There’s something to that. The problem is that faith often clashes with tradition, while libertarian government-bashing often clashes with individual rights.

The libertarian anti-government strain is a minor part of the conservative movement. Many libertarians join their own party, avoid politics, or loudly distance themselves from conservatives. Down-with-government conservatism, illustrated by Grover Norquist’s infamous and unfortunate line about drowning government in a bathtub, alienates the general public and tends toward the reactionary, in the sense of reacting against anything to do with government rather than championing some positive value.

That leaves three major conservative traditions: tradition, faith, and liberty.

Tradition explains why so many conservatives oppose gay marriage and immigration. They want things to stay just the way they are. The problem is knowing which traditions to conserve and which to change. Slavery was a tradition for many centuries, overturned by liberal-minded abolitionists who wanted to fundamentally change society. Rule by king was a tradition.

For too many conservatives, tradition is just a rationalization for advocating policies and cultural trends without the bother of having to justify them on moral grounds. Tradition is the fall-back of the thoughtless.

Sensing the weakness of a strictly traditional approach, many conservatives turn to religious faith. Christians may lay aside Old Testament calls to murder people for homosexuality, witchcraft, adultery, and parent-cursing.

Christians cannot avoid the fact that the New Testament “contains scores of commandments demanding the redistribution of wealth and property from those who created it to those who did not,” as Craig Biddle points out in The Objective Standard. The Marxist injunction, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” finds its “origin in the Bible,” Biddle notes.

Many Christians openly apply Biblical principles to the welfare state; for example, the Colorado Catholic Conference advocated tax-funded “health care coverage for all people from conception until natural death.”

Conservative Christians do a lot of comical dancing trying to pass through the eye of a needle with their riches intact. Yet, in terms of Biblical principles, the best such conservatives can do is say that, yes, people have a moral duty to redistribute their wealth, only they should be free to do it or not. The fact remains that the Bible says precious little in defense of political and economic liberty, individual rights, or the value of economic prosperity.

As Sarah Palin writes in her biography, her brand of conservatism rests on the alleged truth “that man is fallen.” The presumption is that people just aren’t good enough to live in a socialist order. Instead, such conservatives argue, politics must cope with vicious humanity. Then faith-based conservatives who appeal to our “fallen” nature wonder why they can’t capture the moral high ground.

We are conservatives only in the final sense of the term: we want to conserve liberty and indeed radically expand it. We hold that liberty is not a gift from men or the gods, but a necessity for thriving human life. To live successfully, we need the freedom to act on our own judgment regarding ourselves and our property. Government must protect our rights, but it must be restrained by a written constitution that limits political power. Unlike the libertarians, we are not against government; we are for a government that robustly protects individual rights.

The interesting thing about this brand of conservatism is that it sounds a lot like what liberalism was always supposed to be, until its purported defenders twisted that movement to the opposite purpose. The best conservatives, it turns out, are also the only true liberals.

Come On, You Homosexual Demon

No need to go to uncivilized, pestilence-ridden hovels at the far corners of the earth for crazy. We’ve got plenty of that right here in the U.S. of A.

Witness for yourself a “gay exorcism;” the attempt to cast a “homosexual demon” out of a teenage boy. The religious scene features a disgusting display of bigoted ignorance.

(It’s unclear to me whether the alleged demon in question is itself homosexual, or if it merely causes homosexuality in its purported victim. I suppose a gay demon that also causes gayness would be particularly hard to exorcise.)

Endowed By Their Creator

Terence Jeffrey briefly reviews Mark Levin’s new book, Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto.

Jeffrey writes:

Fundamentally, Levin explains, conservatives recognize that there is an immutable natural law ordained by God that all men and nations must obey. He also makes clear that while human beings have a God-given right to individual liberty, they are also imperfect by nature and, thus, if given too much power, are likely to abuse the God-given rights of others.

But that’s not quite the whole story. In history and by doctrine, Christianity must limit not only individual power but individual liberty. Human nature is fallen and corrupt, according to Christian dogma, and thus must be controlled. That is why most conservative Christians endorse the drug war, immigration controls, legal discrimination (if not outright persecution) of homosexuals, censorship, abortion bans, and even a welfare state. Christianity reigned in the West from the 300s, when Rome forcibly banned other religions, for centuries. The United States arose not when Christianity dominated, but in the wake of the Enlightenment, with its emphasis on human reason and earthly success.

Jeffrey quotes Levin:

Some resist the idea of a Natural Law’s relationship to Divine Providence, for fear it leads to intolerance or even theocracy. They have it backwards. If man is “endowed by (the) Creator with certain inalienable rights,” he is endowed with these rights no matter his religion or whether he has allegiance to any religion. It is Natural Law, divined by God and discoverable by reason, that prescribes the inalienability of the most fundamental and eternal human rights — rights that are not conferred on man by man. It is the Divine nature of Natural Law that makes permanent man’s right to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

But it is Levin who has things backwards. I quite concur that we are endowed by our Creator with with certain inalienable rights — and our creator is simply the natural forces that produced humanity. We have rights, and we deserve liberty, even though God does not exist. Natural Law is just that — the laws of nature — and it neither has nor needs a “Divine nature.”

Election Blues and Reviews II: Religious Right Loses

See also Part I: “Created Equal.”

The Big Loser: The Religious Right

Liberty won another victory in that the faith-based politics of the religious right suffered defeat. I will repeat what I said on the CBS 4 webcast last night: Democrats in Colorado have not won their races; Republicans have lost theirs. (And if Democrats forget that, they will find their majority, both at the national and state level, short lived.) By hitching their party to the religious right, Republicans have driven themselves to overwhelming losses. I’ll start at the top of the ballot and work down.

President: Palin Alienated Nonsectarians

As I’ve pointed out, John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin energized the evangelical vote at the cost of alienating independents and nonsectarian Republicans. McCain selected Palin for one overriding reason: her credentials on banning abortion are unassailable. As a result, McCain selected a running mate utterly unprepared to serve as president of the nation. McCain earned the vote of James Dobson, and he lost the votes of countless others turned off by Palin’s faith-based politics and inexperience.

Notably, the Interior West split over the president. Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada went for Obama, while Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana went for McCain. The Interior West has 44 electoral votes, and they went 19 to Obama, 25 to McCain. This reveals the problem for the Interior West: we had to pick between a candidate who wants more government in our bedroom and one who wants more government in our pocketbook. Generally, the Interior West leans toward liberty — which explains the paradox of Colorado’s election results (which I’ll review in a subsequent part). Both Obama and McCain are enemies of liberty on multiple fronts, so figuring out the lesser of evils was a difficult task (and one that I could not ultimately accomplish).

U.S. Senate: Udall Endorsed Separation of Church and State

It came as no surprise that Mark Udall beat Bob Schaffer; Udall maintained a consistent lead. Udall won because he convinced Colorado that he’ll legislate from the center, while Schaffer will not. As I’ve noted, Udall wrote the most eloquent defense of the separation of church and state I’ve seen from any living politician. His full remarks are worth reviewing. It is that statement, above all, with which Udall earned my vote, despite my profound disagreements with him on economic matters.

A big part of Schaffer’s problem is that he was hypocritical on the issue of abortion, thereby alienating both the religious right and the secular free marketers. Consider, for instance, what Schaffer’s campaign manager recently told Newsweek about Amendment 48 and its sponsor:

“I do greatly respect Kristi Burton and you have to admire her accomplishments,” says Dick Wadhams, Schaffer’s campaign manager. “But there is disagreement over whether this is the right thing to do at this time.” The state Republican Party will remain neutral.

Well, the state Republican Party did not remain neutral when it passed a resolution to overturn Roe v. Wade at its state convention. And many of its candidates did not stay neutral; they endorsed 48. Besides, neutrality on Amendment 48 is hardly adequate. Now that the Republican Party has firmly and steadfastly proven its loyalty to the religious right, and expressly cast out the free market secularists, it’s going to take a lot more than neutrality on a stinker of a ballot measure. It’s going to take candidates explicitly and seriously committed to the separation of church and state.

U.S. House: Markey Upsets Musgrave

The big upset of the night was the defeat of Marilyn Musgrave by challenger Betsy Markey. Back in August, I was ready to declare Musgrave the winner. Yet, as I noted, Musgrave’s faith-based politics played a huge role in that race. And it was repudiated.

I live in District 2, where Boulder too is located, where Jared Polis (who happens to be gay) soundly beat challenger Scott Starin. I considered voting for Starin just to protest Polis’s grand central plans, but I found on his web page the abortion-banning euphemism about “Respecting the Sanctity of life.” The fact that he didn’t even have the guts to detail his views on the matter also turned me off.

Of Colorado’s seven congressional districts, the Democrats now own five. The two Republicans, Mike Coffman and Doug Lamborn, signed the Colorado Right to Life survey, demonstrating that faith-based politics is not everywhere in the state a loser. But those seats were never in question. Neither was Musgrave’s seat, so I thought; on the whole the GOP’s faith-based strategy has cost them huge.

State Legislature: Hudak Beats Szabo

I live in State Senate District 19, in which Republican Libby Szabo battled Evie Hudak. As I noted, Szabo wanted to outlaw abortion and pass Amendment 48. Nevertheless, I suspected that Szabo would win because her supporters unleashed powerful attacks on Hudak, while Hudak’s supporters did not take advantage of Szabo’s endorsement of Amendment 48.

The outcome: Hudak eked out a slim victory.

On Monday, I received a letter from Focus on the Family Action complaining that rich guy Tim Gill spent millions electing “those favoring the homosexual agenda.” And — bum bum bum — Gill has also funded Hudak! I think that’s the sky falling. Apparently this didn’t scare voters too badly. Nor is it any surprise that Gill spent his money to beat Republicans given the anti-gay vitriol coming from the religious right. A winning political strategy is not to tell successful rich homosexuals that they’re corrupting the youth, headed for hell, and undeserving of equal rights. The Republicans richly deserved every penny that Gill spent to defeat them. Plus, as Ryan Sager points out, younger voters are much more accepting of homosexuals, and this year they were energized by the Democrats.

So Hudak did not just beat Szabo and her abortion-banning agenda; she beat Focus on the Family.

In my state house district, 29, Democrat Debbie Benefield crushed challenger Mary Arnold. This outcome was not a surprise.

On Monday, I wrote Arnold the following note:

Dear Ms. Arnold,

Tomorrow I will vote for your opponent because you desire to “pass legislation that would severely restrict abortions.”

While I appreciate the fact that you also oppose Amendment 48, that is not enough. If Republicans want my vote, they must endorse the separation of church and state and oppose faith-based measures such as bans or “severe restrictions” on abortions. As much as it pains me to vote for statist Democrats, I deem them the lesser threat to my liberties.

Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life

Amendment 48 lost with preliminary results of 72 to 27 percent.

This is the measure that I spent most of my time trying to defeat. Diana Hsieh and I wrote the paper, “Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life,” and I also wrote a lot about it elsewhere.

The timing of Amendment 48 could not have been worse for Republicans, for it kept in voters’ minds the simple fact that Republicans have sold their souls to the religious right. The measure caused Schaffer especially a great deal of grief. And I’m glad of that, because it drew out this issue with finality.

However, while the measure was crushed according to the usual political calculus, the simple fact is that 27 percent of the state voted for the faith-based proposition that a fertilized egg is a person. The religious right is not going away. Its leaders do not care about immediate political success; they care about imposing God’s alleged will on earth.

And the well-funded opponents of Amendment 48 may have done lasting harm in claiming the measure “simply goes too far.” Many on the religious right will be perfectly happy to run a measure that goes slightly less far.

Still, the resounding defeat of Amendment 48, along with the defeat of various faith-based candidates, shows that the religious right is, at this time and in this region, in retreat. And that is the best news of the election.

Cofree Update: Ingraham, Corporate Welfare

New from the Colorado Freedom Report:

Laura Ingraham Supports Iraq War, Religious Values

… After urging Republicans to offer a populist message to appeal to “the little person,” Ingraham promoted religious values. She worried that people are “numb and dumb to the pornification of our culture.” She said that, without virtue, “you can kiss the free market goodbye.” Unfortunately, the “free love generation” continues to influence the culture, she said.

Ingraham suggested that Republicans can win in 2008 with five issues: restraining taxes, fighting terrorism, promoting ethics, fighting illegal immigration, and promoting “life,” by which she meant opposing abortion.

Ingraham said that religious practice is paramount. She quoted George Washington to the effect that religion is necessary to the nation’s morality. …

New administration promotes same old corporate welfare

… To fund corporate welfare, politicians and the bureaucrats they empower take money by force from some people in order to give the money to others who have not earned it. The practice is immoral because people have the right to decide how to spend their own resources. You have the right to spend your income with the business of your choice, rather than the business that politicians force you to subsidize. Each taxpayer is made a bit worse off so that the favored few can collect the extorted wealth. …