Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

The latest in Lincoln polemics comes courtesy of Rich Lowry, editor of National Review.  In the latest issue of the latter, Lowry both promotes his new work and takes aim at those of our 16th president’s detractors that are to Lowry’s political right—the “Lincoln haters.”

The “Lincoln haters,” Lowry insists, are limited “mostly, but not entirely,” to a libertarian “fringe” whose members “apparently hate federal power more than they abhor slavery.”  Chief among these fringe characters is Lincoln scholar Thomas DiLorenzo, who Lowry accuses of having “made a cottage industry of publishing unhinged Lincoln-hating polemics.”

To sense what sort of argument Lowry’s promises to be, the reader should note that before it even gets under way, its author seeks to undermine the character of his opponents—not the substance or form of their reasoning.  His interlocutors are “haters,” on “the fringe,” and even, as in the case of DiLorenzo, “unhinged.”  From the outset, Lowry tries to stack the deck in his favor by portraying his rivals as both irrational and disreputable.

Ironically, in doing so, he deprives himself of the high ground, both intellectually and morally, for Lowry’s argument, it is painfully clear, has little to do with history and everything to do with contemporary politics.

“The debate over Lincoln on the Right is so important,” Lowry writes, “because it can be seen, in part, as a proxy for the larger argument over whether conservatism should read itself out of the American mainstream or—in this hour of its discontent—dedicate itself to a Lincolnian program of opportunity and uplift consistent with its limited-government principles.”

Lowry wastes no time in spelling out for the undecided just why conservatives must embrace the course that he has chosen.  “A conservatism that rejects Lincoln is a conservatism that wants to confine itself to an irritable irrelevance to 21st century America and neglect what should be the great project of reviving it as a country of aspiration.”

Now, being neither a Lincoln scholar nor even an historian, I am neither a “hater” nor a deifier of Lincoln. I am, however, a philosopher, a political philosopher, and a conservative political philosopher to boot.  As such, I confess to being at a loss to account for how any self-avowed conservative, any proponent of “limited government,” could look to, of all people, Abraham Lincoln as a source of inspiration.

Lincoln presided over America during what remains, by leaps and bounds, its darkest hour.  More tellingly, he was, at the very least, instrumental in making it its darkest hour, for Lincoln waged a war unprecedented (in our history) for its death and destruction, and he waged it against Americans.  Whether or not he had the constitutional right to do so, whether or not the South was the aggressor, are utterly irrelevant considerations.

To repeat, for our purposes here, Lincoln’s legal and moral prerogatives or lack thereof simply do not matter.  What matters is that for four long years, the President of the United States conducted the bloodiest war that, before or since, our nation had ever witnessed, a war that laid waste to much of the country, to say nothing of the genuinely federal character of the government that the Framers of the Constitution ratified.

And he waged this war against his fellow citizens, men and women who sought to peaceably secede from the Union—not usurp Lincoln or the federal government.

Again, whether Lincoln’s was a morally worthwhile cause or whether he had the legal right to do what he did are matters for historians and moralists to sort through.  The point is that whatever else may be said of Lincoln, it is difficult to see how, with Lowry, we can say of him that he was “perhaps the foremost proponent of opportunity in all of American history,” “the paladin of individual initiative, the worshipper of the Founding Fathers, and the advocate of self-control [.]”  In what universe, one must wonder, can a self-declared champion of conservatism, like Lowry, regard Lincoln as “a fellow traveler with today’s conservatives”?

But maybe that’s the point. Maybe today’s “conservatives” do need Lincoln, for given their obsession with fundamentally transforming the Islamic world into a bastion of Democracy and their own country into the melting pot of the universe, today’s conservatives care as much about preserving the decentralized character of American government as did Lincoln.

As a result, they are about as conservative as him as well.

 

 

 

 

It is now well known that the Internal Revenue Service discriminated against conservative and Tea Party groups—i.e. the enemies of Barack Obama and his party. The IRS’s abuse of power is being treated as a “scandal.”

But it is not a scandal.

And while there is no low to which Obama wouldn’t resort in order to advance his “transformative” agenda, it would be a grave mistake for anyone to think that abuses of this kind are peculiar to his administration.

The point is this: it is of the very essence of an agency like the IRS to abuse the vast power at its disposal, for both in quantity and quality, the existence of that sort of power is itself an abuse.

The IRS, in other words, is inimical to liberty.  Its very existence is a scandal to a liberty-loving people.

First, the IRS is an agency of the federal government. 

American liberty consists in a wide dispersion or decentralization of power and authority.  More specifically, at least as our Founders conceived it, the federal government is a federal—as opposed to a national—government precisely because the individual states are regarded as sovereign.

Yet the IRS is just one signifier, albeit a profound one, of the ominous power that the federal government has managed to annex to itself since the time of the Founding.  It is emblematic of the fact that it has long ago subverted its federal character, that it can run roughshod over the states.

Second, the IRS has the authority to collect, not just taxes, but taxes on income.  When we consider the implications of this, it is nothing less than bewildering—and nothing more than tragic—that a once liberty-loving people could have ever permitted such an abomination to have come into existence.

The money a person legally earns is his. There is no morally conceivable justification, none whatsoever, for anyone else to touch one cent of his earnings without his consent.  And there is certainly no justification for allotting anyone, like the IRS, the authority and power, to confiscate a person’s wages before he sees one dime of them.

There is no liberty unless property is dispersed wide and far.  And it is only under a set of arrangements in which individuals are permitted to acquire as much property as their talents and good fortune enable that this situation can be secured.

In short, liberty presupposes the old Lockean notion of “self-ownership.”

But the income tax, to a far greater extent than any other kind of tax—for that matter, to a far greater extent than anything else the government does—undermines both the concept and practice of self-ownership.  It undermines liberty.   Indeed, matters can’t be otherwise, for as Walter E. Williams once said, the only thing that “fundamentally distinguishes” a free man from a slave is that the latter labors under coercion so that the fruits of his labor can be used to gratify someone else’s desires.

Whether the slave labors to satisfy the needs of one master or those of 300 million, and whether he lives on his master’s estate or thousands of miles away from it do nothing to change the fact that as long as portions of his property are confiscated to subsidize the desires of others, he remains a slave.

This isn’t hyperbole.  When a person’s material assets are forcefully taken from him, it isn’t just his material assets that he loses.  Taken from him as well are his resources in time and labor.  Put another way, man does not live by bread alone.  Work is as much of a psychological, and even spiritual, necessity as it is an economic and physical one.  When a person is deprived of his bread, his sense of wholeness, his integrity, is assaulted as well.

Yet there is more.

To tax income, the IRS also has to know a whole lot of other information about those who it taxes.  In a nation devoted to liberty, it is unacceptable that the federal government should be privy to the hours citizens work, the names of their employers, exactly how much they make, etc.

Finally, it is a no brainer that those endowed with awesome power to confiscate possess equally awesome political power–the power to reward allies and punish enemies.  That is, they have the power to erode the rule of law and the equity that it insures.

The IRS is an affront to every lover of liberty.  Hopefully, the current controversy in which it is embroiled will raise the public’s awareness of the fact that it, along with the income tax, needs to be eliminated once and for all.

On May 30, Lou Dobbs had a panel discussion with Fox News colleagues Doug Schoen, Juan Williams, and Erick Erickson over a Pew Research Center study showing that women are now the primary or sole wage earners in 40% of American homes.

Dobbs views this phenomenon as a function of “society dissolving around us.”  Erickson, observing that all throughout the animal kingdom males “typically” assume “the dominant role,” remarked that “having mom as the primary breadwinner is bad for kids.” Williams sees this correlating with “the disintegration of marriage” while Schoen characterized it as “a catastrophic issue” that threatened to “undermine our social order.”

Bear in mind, while Erickson of redstate.com leans to the right, Dobbs is an independent and Williams and Schoen are both long-time Democrats.  Yet whatever political differences they have over other issues were forgotten while discussing this one.  As Williams asserted: “Left, right, I don’t see how you can argue” that Pew’s findings are a good thing.

Well, another Fox News celebrity, Megyn Kelly, did indeed try to do what Williams thought impossible. The very next day, she had Dobbs and Erickson on her show.

Kelly wasted no time in getting to the point.  To Erickson she asked: “What makes you dominant and me submissive and who died and made you scientist-in-chief?”

When the imperturbable Erickson replied that the much respected Pew Research Center determined that many in their own study were no less concerned about its findings than he, Kelly shot back: “Just because you have people that agree with you doesn’t mean that it’s not offensive.”

She continued: “I didn’t like what you wrote one bit.  To me you sound like somebody who’s judging and then wants to come out and say, ‘I’m not, I’m not, I’m not,’ and now let me judge, judge, judge [.]”

Kelly alluded to studies that supposedly suggest that children of homosexual parents and single mothers are just as well adjusted as the children of stay-at-home mothers.  She also mentioned that once upon a time that “science” established that the offspring of interracial unions were inferior.  “Tell that to Barack Obama,” she said.

Notice, Kelly didn’t just disagree with her colleagues’ assessment of the Pew study.  She was angry at them for it. She found their comments “offensive,” judgmental, and, in short, “didn’t like” them “one bit.”  From beginning to end, her exchange with Dobbs and Erickson was marked by sarcasm and hostility.

Yet it was also marked by illogic and irrationality.

It may come as a newsflash to Kelly, but the truth of a proposition doesn’t depend upon whether she—or anyone—is offended by it. There are still other lessons that she would be well served to learn.

In bullying one’s interlocutor by making insinuations against his character, one neither strengthens one’s own view nor weakens that of her opponent. Moreover, even if the charges are accurate, even if, say, one’s opponent really is the jerk, idiot, “sexist,” or “racist” that one suggests, he may still be correct.

The left-wing blogosphere lionized Kelly for combating “the sexism” of her colleagues.  If this is indeed the target upon which she set her sights, then Kelly must be deemed to have failed abysmally, for she only fueled the stereotypical image of the hyperemotional woman.

Meanwhile, Dobbs and Erickson remained as calm as could be and in good cheer.

That 40% of women are primary or exclusive wage earners is no cause for celebration. It is cause for concern.  It may not be an occasion for tears—or it may be so. But this is the point: we simply don’t and can’t know for certain the effect that a shift this dramatic, this unprecedented, in an institution as central as the family will have on the fate of civilization.  The prudent and wise would never think to treat any change of this magnitude as cavalierly as they would regard a change in bed sheets or lipstick brands.

And they certainly wouldn’t demonize those, like Dobbs and Erickson, who are reasonably pessimistic about such changes.

But Kelly has proven that she is neither prudent nor wise.

Nor, for that matter, is she particularly charitable to those with whom she disagrees—especially when they dare to deviate from the politically correct line on gender relations.

 

 

 

For all sorts of reasons, the “comprehensive immigration reform”—i.e. amnesty—on behalf of which Marco Rubio and a whole lot of other Republicans in Washington and “the conservative” media have been advocating from the time of Barack Obama’s reelection is a sham and a disaster.

But these Republicans have convinced themselves that, given the ever growing Hispanic segment of the electorate, their party’s survival depends upon it.

Some of us have always suspected that the influence of Hispanics over our politics has been greatly exaggerated by those who want for Hispanics to achieve more influence, or at least to be perceived as having done so.

Thanks to the Census Bureau’s recently released findings, we now know that we have been right all along.

Exit polling data from last year’s election revealing that Hispanics constitute 10 percent of the electorate was mistaken.  In reality, Hispanics are slightly above 8 percent of the voting public. As writer Steve Sailer remarks: “So the standard story you’ve been hearing in the MSM [“Mainstream Media”] for almost seven months is indeed inflated by 19 percent.”

It wasn’t Hispanics that propelled Obama to victory, but blacks.  In fact, even more blacks came out to support Obama in 2012 than did so in 2008.  As Sailer says, “blacks added another 10 percent to their vote total from 2008 to 2012.  Nationally, 66.2 percent of eligible blacks voted compared to 64.1 percent of whites, 48.0 percent of Hispanics, and 47.3 percent of Asians.”

Sailer continues: “The growth in black turnout was particularly concentrated among those over age 65.  Also, black women traditionally vote at significantly higher rates than black men, and the black gender gap in turnout hit a new record in 2012.”

This is significant, for as Sailer observes, the phenomenon of elderly black women seeking “to keep the White House black” is not exactly “the wave of the future.”  At the very least, it certainly doesn’t call for anything along the lines of “comprehensive immigration reform.”

In fact, even the Hispanic vote doesn’t call for this.  All of the hype regarding the alleged Hispanicization of American politics aside, Hispanic voter turnout was actually down in 2012.  Sailer asserts: “Among Hispanics eligible to vote, gross numbers continued to rise—but the rate of those taking the trouble to vote dropped from 49.9 to 48.0 percent.”  Furthermore: “The number of Hispanics who claimed to be eligible but didn’t bother to get to the polls soared from 9.8 million to 12.1 million.”

Compared to many of his fellow partisans, to say nothing of his Democratic rival, Mitt Romney was a hard-liner on the immigration problem.  Yet, pace those of Romney’s critics who swore that this stance of his would cost him the election among Hispanics, the latter actually showed up at the polls in fewer numbers than before.

Yet it isn’t just the upsurge in blacks voting for Obama that accounted for Romney’s defeat.  Romney still could’ve prevailed—had the rate of white turnout not been at record lows.  It is worth quoting at length Sailer’s summary of the Census Bureau’s findings:

“In contrast to the fervent black effort to re-elect Obama, whites were strikingly unmotivated by Romney. The total white vote dropped from 100 million in 2008 to 98 million in 2012 (down 2 percent).  Only 64.1 percent of eligible whites voted in 2012, down from 66.1 percent in 2008 and 67.2 percent in the recent high-water mark year of 2004.”

Last year was “the first time in the history of the Census survey that whites were not the highest-ranking group in terms of their rate of voting.”

The Census Bureau’s findings suggest a few things.

First, the relentless and rapid rise of Hispanic political power is a myth.

Second, the idea that Republicans can capitalize on this power only by supporting amnesty is a myth.

Third, in promoting these myths, the establishment media proves itself once again to be less than entirely trustworthy.

Finally, if Republicans want to win more elections, they should worry less about engaging in self-defeating pandering to minorities and more about stopping the hemorrhaging of their ever-shrinking white base.