At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

An Honest Look at Jon Huntsman

posted by Jack Kerwick

Former Utahgovernor Jon Huntsman has just barely been able to have his voice heard in the Republican Party’s presidential primary race, so low are his polling numbers.  Yet, still, he is a candidate that, not unlike every other such candidate, proudly proclaims his commitment to liberty and, hence, “limited government.” 

But is Huntsman really who he claims to be? 

This is the question with which we must concern ourselves.  Yet as we will see, just a brief look at Huntsman’s utterances and deeds discloses in no time that, in his case, appearance is eons apart from reality.

To Huntsman’s credit, as governor ofUtahhe presided over tax cuts—sales taxes especially—and a simplification of the overall tax code.  For this, the Cato Institute lavished praise upon him.  Yet lest we hastily exploit this fact as proof of his commitment to smaller government, we would be well served to note that the very same libertarian-friendly think tank criticized Huntsman for having “completely dropped the ball on spending, with per capita spending increasing at about 10 percent annually during his tenure.” 

Huntsman believes in “global warming,” and in 2007 he combined forces with the governors of others states to sign the Western Climate Initiative, a bill oriented toward reducing the generation of greenhouse gasses.  This, it is worth observing, would have been bad enough if it was just a matter of the governments of individual states asserting their sovereignty over an issue.  But Huntsman does not have the “states’ rights” card at his disposal in this case.  As it turns out, he appeared in an ad for the organization Environmental Defense, an ad in which he demanded that the federal government “act by capping greenhouse-gas pollution.” 

That Huntsman has now retreated from this position seems more than coincidental.  However, his stated reason for revising his earlier view is telling: “Much of this discussion [concerning ‘Cap-and-Trade’] happened before the bottom fell out of the economy, and until it comes back, this isn’t the moment [for ‘Cap-and-Trade’]” (emphases mine). 

Notice, for Huntsman, the problem with so-called “Cap-and-Trade” hasn’t anything whatsoever to do with liberty; the problem—presumably, the only problem that would prevent us from pursuing this policy—is that we lack the material resources to effectively implement it. “Five years ago” we could afford to permit the federal government to conscript American taxpayers into the service of subsidizing this gargantuan policy; today we cannot.  However, once our economy bounces back, we will then be able to afford it once more!

On immigration, Huntsman is no different from his colleague and rival, Rick Perry.  Perry, everyone now knows, permitted illegal aliens pursuing a higher education at any of Texas’s public universities and colleges to pay in-state tuition rates.  Less well known is that Huntsman was equally generous with the resources of Utah’s citizens toward the illegal aliens in his state.  As Governor, he promised to veto any bill that would deprive the illegal residents of Utah of the benefit of in-state tuition rates should they go to college.  Huntsman also signed a bill granting illegal aliens “driving-privilege cards.”  Under this bill,Utah’s illegal residents would be permitted to obtain driving “privileges,” but they would not be permitted to use these licenses as forms of identification.

American liberty is inseparable from the rule of law.  Indeed, without the rule of law, there is no liberty.  Those who would govern should know this better than anyone.  Thus, when someone, like Huntsman, who is entrusted with the heavy responsibility of safeguarding the law not only fails to do so but actively undercuts it, he reveals himself to be a threat to our liberty. 

More recently, Huntsman expressed his desire to break apart our nation’s largest financial institutions, those banks that the conventional wisdom deems “too big to fail.”  That this is no mere desire on his part, that it is something to which he has given considerable thought, is born out by the fact that he has actually designed a plan to bring it about.  According to Huntsman, the only way we can avoid taxpayer-subsidized bank bailouts of the sort to which we were subjected in 2008 is to legislate out of existence these banks that are, supposedly, “too big to fail.”  Because, in his estimation, the banks at present remain “too big to fail,” the bailouts of 2008 were necessary. 

Given these aspects of Jon Huntsman’s record, it is no wonder that the left-leaning Huffingtonpost described him as a Republican “with moderate positions who was willing to work substantively with” President Obama.

As far as his approach to foreign policy is concerned, although it is true that he opposes the Patriot Act and seeks to bring American military personnel home from the Middle East sooner rather than later, it would be a mistake to conclude from this that Huntsman is any less of an “interventionist” than his more hawkish Republican colleagues.  Prior to being confirmed as President Obama’s Ambassador toChina, Huntsman promised that, if his confirmation went through, he would see to it that there would be “robust engagement” with China vis-à-vis the issue of “human rights.”  He also advocates an American/China alliance to pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

Our analysis need go no further, for our conclusion is inescapable: Jon Huntsman is an apostle of Big Government.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published in The New American 





An Honest Look at Rick Santorum

posted by Jack Kerwick

Rick Santorum is widely heralded as a real “conservative.”  Rush Limbaugh has praised him on the air, on multiple occasions, and another nationally syndicated radio talk show host, Bill Bennett, has had Santorum guest host for him regularly.  To hear the Limbaughs and Bennetts of our generation tell it, a real “conservative” is one who favors “limited” or “constitutional government” and “individualism.”  Thus, presumably, Santorum must be an enemy of just the sort of Big Government ideology to which Barack Obama and the Democratic Party are beholden.

But is this correct?  A look at Santorum’s positions on the issues of the day readily reveals that his rhetoric and the rhetoric of the party of which he has been a fixture for decades aside, Santorum is no less a champion of Big Government than President Obama himself.

For one, Santorum is as vocal a supporter of “the War on Terror” as anyone.  This in and of itself tells us about all that we need to know about his view of government.  As Ron Paul has pointed out to the former Pennsylvaniasenator, terror is a means to an end, a tactic.  It makes as much sense to speak of waging a war on terror, then, as it makes sense to speak of waging a war on guns or other instruments.  In all fairness, in spite of his continual use of the language of “the War on Terror,” Santorum concedes the soundness of Paul’s position.  Yet he maintains that we are, nevertheless, in a real war, but it is a war, not on terror as such, but against the terror of “Islamists” or “Radical Islamic Extremists.”

Three observations are here in order.

First, the distinction that Westerners insist on drawing between “Radical Muslims” and “moderate Muslims,” or “Islamism” and “Islam,” is the offspring of the union between considerations of political expediency, on the one hand, and those of wishful thinking, on the other.  It is, of course, true that not all Muslims wish non-Muslims harm; but as Brigitte Gabriel and other students of Islamic and Middle Eastern affairs know all too well, the taxonomy in terms of which Westerners seek to characterize Muslims is nowhere to be found within the Islamic self-understanding.  And what this in turn in means is that whether Santorum supports a war on terror or a war on “Islamist,” he supports a war without end.  Terror, like greed, will always be with us, and since “Islamists” are at bottom orthodox Muslims, a war on them is nothing more or less than a war on Muslims.  Since there are over a billion Muslims worldwide, a war on Muslims, like a war on “terror,” is also a war without end.   

Second, war is the Tree of Life for government.  It is the Mother of all crises, the Emergency of all emergencies.  Libertyis always a precarious thing, but never is its condition more precarious, more imperiled, than during war.  Now, when this war is a war in perpetuity, liberty doesn’t stand a chance, for the war will serve as an all purpose pretext for all manner of measures designed to grow the federal government ever more.

Third, however undesirable any war may be, in our Constitutional Republic, wars must be declared.  That is, our Constitution requires that before our government embarks our country upon a war, the United States Congress must issue a formal declaration.  This, though, it has not done with respect to “the War on Terror” or “the War on Islamism” or whatever Santorum and his colleagues are calling it these days.  Nor, for that matter, have they so much as indicated a desire to do so.

Importantly, Santorum is a self-avowed proponent of “Compassionate Conservatism.”  This too tells us all that we need to know about his stance on government. 

In 2005 Santorum gave a speech to the Heritage Foundation in which he argued passionately for this ideology of Big Government.  An excerpt from the speech was subsequently published at  “If government is to be effective,” Santorum asserts, “charities, houses of worship, and other civil institutions” have to be, not just “respected,” but “nurtured” (emphasis mine).  And because “Compassionate Conservatism” is “founded on an inviolable belief in humanity’s inherent dignity,” respect for the sanctity of human life means that “ending genocide, international sex trafficking and the oppression of minority groups, and promoting the respect for religious freedom around the world will always be top priorities” for the United States government (emphasis mine).       

“Compassionate Conservatism” is oriented toward helping “the poor and [those] hurting for help, whether they are across the street or across an ocean” (emphasis mine).  Thus, Santorum proudly proclaims, he and his colleagues in the Senate have assembled “a domestic anti-poverty agenda” to help the poor here at home.  Yet they also are busy at work to help the poor around the world.  Santorum states that “AIDS has seared Africa into our moral vision.” Apparently, not only is it “morally right” to care “for the sick and dying in Africa,” it is also “geopolitically prudent; if we don’t help, someone else will and that someone else may not be friendly to our interests.”  How do “we” care for “the poor and dying in Africa?”  Santorum’s answer is to the point: “We need to embrace the challenge to dedicate a larger percentage of our GDP to foreign aid” (emphasis mine) [.]

“Compassionate Conservatism” is about “changing the role of government in our lives.”  To this end, we should be “not only cutting old, tired programs, but also advancing new initiatives like the CARE Act [.]”  The latter is “a bold package of expanded charitable-giving incentives that supports faith-based and community organizations” (emphases added). 

Santorum readily acknowledges that “this agenda will require a role for government that some conservatives find disquieting.”  But he assures us “that [this] is a discomfort worth confronting.”

From his endorsement of Mitt Romney in the 2008 GOP presidential primaries to his endorsement of Arlen Specter in the latter’s senate race against the much more conservative Pat Toomey, from Santorum’s sponsorship of the “Iran Freedom and Support Act”—a bill that sought to transfer ten million dollars to Iran for purposes of “regime change”—to his insistence that we must actually enlarge our troop presence throughout the world, there is much more that can be said regarding Santorum’s attachment to Big Government.

But, hopefully, enough has already been said to establish that Santorum is a champion of Big Government through and through.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published at The New American

An Honest Look at Rick Perry

posted by Jack Kerwick

Governor Rick Perry, so goes the conventional wisdom, is a real conservative.  How could he not be?  After all, his three terms as governor of Texas has marked a period of spectacular job creation.  It has been said that nearly 40% of all jobs in the United States at present are to be found in the lone star state.   In addition to this consideration, there are several others to substantiate the pervasive belief that, from the conservative Republican’s perspective, Perry is the genuine article. 

If we are to accept Republican Party rhetoric of “constitutionalism,” “limited government,” “individualism,” etc., then what we must determine is whether Perry is the partisan of liberty that, presumably, Republicans should want as their party’s presidential nominee and, ultimately, their president.  It is to the end of making this determination that we shall now look at some highlights from Perry’s political career.

Domestic Policy


The Club for Growth—an organization dedicated to the lowering of taxes and tax rates, the reduction of spending, and, in short, greater economic liberty and prosperity—generally regards Perry’s record as Texas governor favorably.  Yet it also is quick to point out that it is not without its fair share of blemishes.

For instance, in 1987, while still a Democratic Congressman (itself a telling tidbit), Perry voted in favor of the largest tax increase, not just in the history of Texas, but in that of the United States, up until that juncture.

To the objection that this was when Perry was a Democrat and, thus, it doesn’t count, a reply is ready at hand.  As recently as 2003, well after Perry became a Republican and after he was elected governor, he issued his first budget.  While he did cut spending and did not raise taxes, he elicited billions of dollars in revenue by way of a complex of “‘revenue adjustments, surcharges, and fees’” on an assortment of services.  As the Club for Growth notes, these fees are not equivalent to increases in taxes, “but they are anti-growth and serve the same purpose of funding government.

But there are other spots on Perry’s record.

In 2006, Perry advanced an ambitious property tax-cut proposal.  To insure that his proposal would become law, he is also lent his support to a “gross receipts tax”—a tax on the gross revenues of Texas corporations.  The corporate income tax may have been eliminated, but this new tax “‘nearly tripled the amount that Tex as collected from businesses.’”  According to the Cato Institute, although Perry’s bill supplied property owners with relief, it “really socked it to businesses.”  Moreover, it “centralizes fiscal power at the state level, which will encourage government growth in the long run by stifling local tax competition.” 


Perry is a mixed bag on spending as well.

While his “record on spending generally reveals fiscally conservative tendencies,” Perry has “created well-intentioned, but misguided state-funded subsidy programs to attract corporations to Texas,” a move on his part that “again indicate that Perry doesn’t necessarily fully rely on free-market principles when he makes economic decisions.”  Club for Growth reports that Perry “aggressively used government spending to attract jobs toTexas” (emphasis mine).  The Texas Enterprise Fund and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund are two robust economic development initiatives that Perry signed into law.   The problem is that “initiatives like these, often supported by big business, create huge market distortions in a place that should naturally be a nationwide leader in attracting jobs.” 

To put it simply, Perry has proven himself to be a proponent of corporate welfare.  As Club for Growth states, Perry’s “gimmicky subsidies” implies that he “is more pro-business than he is pro-free markets.”

In his book, Fed Up! Perry objects to the federal government’s several failed attempts to address the economic crisis of 2008.  However, as Club for Growth observes, he also intimates reluctant support for such measures—as long as they are “temporary.”  President Bush may have initiated the expansion of government power over the economy, but, as Bush himself famously (notoriously?) said, he “abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system.”  That is, because government intervention courtesy of Republican President Bush was only meant to be for a limited time to address a crisis, it may be necessary.  But Democratic President Obama seeks to make such intervention “permanent”–and this is bad.

As far as entitlements, Perry’s work at trimming them down has been not altogether unsuccessful.  Yet it isn’t just congratulations that he his owed.  As the Governor of Texas, Perry couldn’t resist trying to impose a mandate on insurance companies that would have required them to offer a specific prescription drug plan.

It is also important to recall that while Perry was a candidate for Agriculture Commissioner in 1990, he advocated price supports for farmers.

Other Issues

That Perry is most definitely not the champion of liberty that he makes himself out to be is also born out by two other highly significant facts. 

First, as governor of Texas, Perry permitted illegal aliens to pursue a higher education for the same tuition price charged to the state’s legal residents—a decision that amounted to the decision to grant a de facto amnesty. 

Secondly—and this is particularly disturbing—Perry attempted, by way of executive order, to impose a vaccination upon young girls—whether they or their parents wanted it or not.  That is, in order to get his way, Perry sought to circumvent the legislature.

Foreign Policy

Perry’s foreign policy stance is not easy to differentiate from that of every other establishment Republican. He supports “the War on Terror,” specifically, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he is a stalwart defender ofIsrael.  Considering that Perry has never so much as come close to signaling a desire to alter the current relationship between America and Israel, it is most reasonable to conclude that he wishes to continue subsidizing the latter via American foreign aid.


There is only so much that can be said about Perry within the little amount of time available to say it.  Hopefully, what has been said here is sufficient to establish that Rick Perry, like the Republican Party to which he belongs, is bewitched by an ideology of Big Government.    

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published at The New American

An Honest Look at Michele Bachmann

posted by Jack Kerwick

Second only to Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann is the most consistent of the GOP presidential candidates when it comes to the subject of liberty.  Her record is, for the most part, commendable.  Beyond this, Bachmann strikes the unprejudiced and prejudiced observer alike as a woman of conviction, a woman with a keen intelligence, intestinal fortitude, and the ability to articulate her views with concision and clarity.

Still, from the perspective of the lover of liberty, Bachmann’s positions on the issues are anything but unproblematic.


Foreign Policy

War in Afghanistan

It is one thing to have initially lent support for the invasion of Afghanistan.  Our country had suffered a major terrorist attack the likes of which it had never before experienced and the government of this Middle Eastern land, we knew, was harboring those responsible for it.  It is another thing entirely, however, to not only continually support our efforts to “democratize”Afghanistan, but to resolutely oppose attempts to diminish our troop presence there.

But this is exactly what Congresswoman Bachmann has done.  In March of this year, Bachmann voted “NO” on removing our armed forces from Afghanistan.  

Bachmann presumably agrees with Republican Congressman Ros-Lehtinen who conveyed her colleagues’ position on the matter.  She states: “Completing our mission in Afghanistan is essential to keeping our homeland safe.  This is about our vital national security interests.”

War in Iraq

As for Iraq, the war was launched before Bachmann was elected to Congress.  Yet she has been a vocal proponent of it. In fact, she had voted against a measure in May 2007 to begin withdrawing American troops from the conflict-ridden region within 90 days.  The following statement issued during this congressional debate represents the view of Bachmann and her colleagues on this issue.  “This legislation embraces” not only “surrender and defeat;” it as well “undermines our troops and the authority of the President as commander-in-chief,” and it “places military decisions in the hands of politicians rather than military commanders in the field.”  Worse yet,America’s enemies inIraq “view this bill as a sign of weakness.”  The statement concludes: “It is absolutely essential thatAmerica, the last remaining superpower on earth, continue to be a voice for peace and a beacon for freedom in our shrinking world.” 

Notice, as the statement’s conclusion makes abundantly clear, Bachmann is indistinguishable from her Republican colleagues who wanted to prolong the war in Iraqin regarding the latter as part of a grand ideological crusade.  The significance of this can’t be overstated, for if American-style liberty can be said to have an arch-nemesis, it is precisely the sort of militaristic ideology that Bachmann wholeheartedly endorses.

Strangely, because it is primarily this ideology that resulted in two crushing defeats for the Republican Party in the elections of 2006 and 2008, one would think that every GOP presidential aspirant would emphatically repudiate it.  But this is far from the case.  As further evidence that Bachman is a true believer in it, there are other facts to visit.

Defense Spending

First, Bachmann insists that defense spending hasn’t anything whatsoever to do with our “budget crisis.”  The Department of Defense must have “efficiency,” she says, but as far as she is concerned, there is no need for any cuts in defense. 

“Democratic Revolution” in Iran

Second, in June of 2009, Bachmann signed a bill expressing support for Iranian demonstrators, “all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and [the] rule of law.”

The Patriot Act 

Third, in February of this year, Bachmann voted in favor of extending the Patriot’s Act “roving” wiretaps.  It is true that, by itself, this course of action on her part does not necessarily imply that she subscribes to an ideology of “American Exceptionalism” or “Global Democracy” or whatever we may want to call it.  But, coupled with the foregoing considerations, it certainly lends support to this claim, for beefed up surveillance of American citizens at home is among the more notable, and notably controversial, measures appropriated by our government in its prosecution of “the War on Terror,” a phenomenon that has alternately, and euphemistically, been characterized as a global “Freedom Agenda”—which in turn is, for all practical purposes, inseparable from “American Exceptionalism,” “Global Democracy,” etc.   

Furthermore, whatever her motivations are for voting for an extension of the Patriot Act, that Bachmann would feel comfortable granting our already expansive federal government that much more authority and power over our lives, that she would have no cause for concern that this awesome power could all too easily in the future be abused by the foes of liberty, bespeaks much regarding her own relationship to the latter.


Fourth, as if we haven’t already invested more than enough of our blood and treasure in our efforts to fundamentally transform the Middle East into a Western-friendly oasis of Democracy, Bachmann has advocated imposing sanctions against Iran while clarifying her openness to the possibility of using nuclear weaponry against it in the event that its government acquire a nuclear weapon for itself.

Foreign Aid to Israel

There is one final consideration that substantiates the thesis that Bachmann is as beholden to an ideology of Big Government vis-à-vis foreign policy as anyone else: Bachmann has unabashedly proclaimed her support for foreign aid for Israel.  Even the most impassioned of defenders of Israel—like Alan Keyes—have long observed that materially speaking, America has nothing to gain from Israel.  Rather, the relationship between the two countries is essentially moral—that is to say, ideological.  Now, it is one thing to recognizeIsrael as an ally; it is quite another matter, however, to insist that the federal government of the United States confiscate the legitimately acquired resources of its citizens in order to subsidize the Israeli government. 

Yet it is upon exactly this that Michele Bachmann insists.


Domestic Policy


Domestically speaking, Bachmann’s predilection for Big Government in foreign policy is not utterly devoid of a counterpart. 

For instance, while she is, to her credit, adamant about trimming down the Environmental Protection Agency, she has never argued for eliminating the agency altogether.  Bachmann says that by the time she is done with the EPA, it will be limited to the task of “conservation” only. 

That is, it will still exist.


As for marriage, again, it redounds to Bachmann’s credit that she is as devoted to preserving the integrity of the institution of marriage as she is.  However, from the standpoint of liberty, the creation of a constitutional amendment explicitly defining marriage as a monogamous, heterosexual activity is, at the very least, a problematic course of action.  Such an amendment would usurp the right of the individual states to negotiate marital arrangements while consolidating that much more federal power.

The “War on Drugs”

Bachmann is a warrior all right.  In addition to our overseas adventures, she is as well committed to fighting “the War on Drugs” here at home. From the vantage point of the lover of liberty, the task of reconciling, on the one hand, individual liberty and, on the other, the federal government’s criminalization of harmful substances is no mean feat. 

The reasons for this should be obvious.

First of all, there isn’t a single substance or activity that isn’t potentially harmful, and an equal number of such things that are potentially good.  Once the government proceeds to dictate to American men and women—supposedly self-governing citizens—what they must and must not do, liberty is compromised.  Whether the government forbids one potentially deleterious substance or a countless number of such substances, liberty is diminished.

Second, precisely because there is all manner of practices that citizens should and should not engage in, once the government seeks to determine what citizens must do with respect to any one of them, in principle, it can do the same with all of them. 

Third, sensibilities vary considerably among our country’s 50 states.  It is bad enough that any government should seek to criminalize the use of a substance; it is cause for no slight measure of alarm when the federal government should seek to do so.

Fourth, not only has the federal government criminalized recreational drug use.  It has done so in the absence of a constitutional amendment.  Ron Paul has raised this point on more than one occasion.  Whereas the federal government’s prohibition of drugs is as foolish and inimical to liberty as was its prohibition of alcohol, at least the latter was achieved by way of an amendment to the Constitution.  The former, like so many of the “wars” our government has been waging over the last sixty years, is “undeclared,” so to speak.



This analysis of Michele Bachmann is not intended to be exhaustive.  Although she is preferable to most of her rivals in the GOP presidential primary race, Congresswoman Bachmann’s relationship to liberty remains confused.     

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published in The New American 




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