The Queen defends the Church of England from Secular Attacks

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 18th, 2012

Week in Review

The U.S. Constitution prevented the new federal government from interfering with a state’s religious policy.  It did not create a wall between church and state.  It created a wall between the federal government and the states.  And on the states’ side of that wall they could do anything they wanted religiously.  Establish a state religion.  Or keep the established religion they had.  If the Catholics wanted to gather in Maryland and establish a Catholic state church they had that right.  And if there were Calvinists looking for a state to live in they could choose to settle in Calvinist Massachusetts.  With John Adams and his family.  If Quakers arrived in the New World they could move on to Pennsylvania where the Quakers were settling.  The Baptists could head to Virginia.

America was settled by religious people escaping religious persecution in Great Britain.  Which was Protestant.  And anti-Catholic.  They also didn’t care too much for the Protestant Calvinists.  Who they derisively called Puritans.  Yes, those Puritans who sailed on the Mayflower.  The people John Adams called neighbor.  Only a century earlier civil war tore England apart.  Resulting from a long and contentious history.  Pitting Catholics against Protestants.  Which the Protestants won.  But it left bitter resentment throughout the country.  Which is why a lot of people left the country.  For a new start.  And the freedom to worship in peace.  Free from harassment.

So both the UK and the USA have deep roots in Christianity.  And despite all of the blood spilled in the name of religion, that same religion helped to make the UK and the USA the great nations they became.  Based on Judeo-Christian values.  Where the governments and the people were deeply religious.  And even the non-practicing Christians and borderline atheists were steeped in these Judeo-Christian values.  Benjamin Franklin.  George Washington.  And Thomas Jefferson.  Who may have been an atheist but thought Jesus Christ was the greatest philosopher of all time.  Even made his own New Testament by cutting out the God parts.  It was these Judeo-Christian values that made great men.  It’s what made the Founding Fathers different from other men.  And how they were able to create a country that favored the people.  Not the ruling class.  Which they would most certainly have been part of.  But these were selfless men.  They did not do things for personal gain.  Something unheard of in those days when it came to governing a nation.  But they did.  Because of their religion.  And their British customs and traditions.  So it’s sad to see these attacks on Christianity in the USA.  Even more sad to see them in the UK (see Queen stands up for Christianity: ‘Church of England is misunderstood and under-appreciated’ by Rebecca English posted 2/16/2012 on the Daily Mail).

And she emphasised that while the Church, of which she is head, was ‘woven into the fabric of this country’ it also had a ‘duty’ to protect freedom of worship for other faiths in order to build ‘a better society’…

It is particularly timely given last week’s landmark legal ruling banning the saying of prayers at council meetings.

Christians and politicians reacted with dismay after a judge overturned centuries of custom by stopping a council in Devon putting prayers on the formal agenda.

On the same day, two Christian guesthouse owners failed in an attempt to overturn a £3,600 fine imposed for refusing – because it was against their religious beliefs – to allow a gay couple to occupy a double room.

These and other developments, including recent cases of public sector workers being banned from displaying Christian symbols at work, have sparked a debate over whether the country is becoming too secularised and what effect this will have on society…

‘Faith plays a key role in the identity of millions of people, providing not only a system of belief but also a sense of belonging. It can act as a spur for social action. Indeed, religious groups have a proud track record of helping those in the greatest need.’

The Church of England is such a big part of the history of the United Kingdom.  It was critical during the Enlightenment.  For it questioned Catholic dogma.  And a Pope that was only recently selling indulgences to finance some nice Renaissance art.  So there’s no question that politics was creeping into the Catholic Church.  Which is what Henry VIII did not want.  A distant central power interfering with state affairs.  Well, that, and a divorce.  So Henry VIII created his own church.  Lost some of the Catholic dogma.  Some of the politics.  But kept the Judeo-Christian values.  And Britain became great.

Agricultural advances, representative government, economic theory, technological advances – these all flourished in England.  Why?  Critical thinking.  The rule of law.  And Judeo-Christian values.  The customs and traditions that are woven into the fabric of the United Kingdom.  And they should all remain woven in the fabric.  Because customs and traditions define who a people are.  And it’s absurd to think that you can remove customs and traditions just because they are Judeo-Christian.  When we are bending over backwards to accommodate every custom and tradition that isn’t Judeo-Christian in our multicultural world.

So I say to the Queen and Defender of the Faith you go, girl.

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LESSONS LEARNED #71: “For socialism to be successful no one can be allowed to escape it.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 23rd, 2011

Socialism Oppresses and Kills tens of millions of People

It’s easy to point at Cuba as an example of socialism’s failure.  You don’t even have to go to the island.  You don’t have to study their institutions.  All you have to do is to look at the risks people will take to escape Cuba.  And they take some crazy risks to escape.  They will board some barely-seaworthy water crafts and paddle out into the ocean.  Away from Cuba.  And towards Florida.  Away from socialism.  And towards capitalism.  Away from a wretched life of despair and deprivation.  And towards a life of plenty and opportunity.  As they paddle their way to America, how many people do you think they pass who are paddling their way to Cuba?  How about zero?  Because when it comes to refugees, the direction is always towards America.  It’s never the other way.

And it’s easy to point to Mao in China.  His Great Leap Forward killed a lot of his own people.  And by ‘a lot’ I mean in the tens of millions.  Depending on the numbers you use.  It could have been anywhere between 15 and 50 million people.  The Chinese communists were not the record keepers the Nazis were.  Though the actual number may be in doubt the magnitude isn’t.  In the spirit of brotherly love that is the hallmark of socialism, millions were beaten, tortured and killed to ‘encourage’ acceptance of the forced collectivization of farming.  And the funny thing is (not ha ha funny but funny as in sad and ironic) that after beating, torturing and killing so many people to collectivize farming, the agriculture output plummeted.  Partly because of bad planning.  And partly due to nature.  But local party officials reported record harvests to avoid beatings, torture and killings by party superiors.  So China exported much of these record harvests.  Leaving nothing for the peasants to eat.  Resulting in famine.  Again, the record keeping is sparse.  As they often are when your policies end up killing your own people.  But deaths were in the tens of millions.  The Great Leap Forward was a big push to modernize China.  To industrialize it.  For there was little infrastructure in China.  Most of it was rural.  Dotted with peasant farms.  Stretching across vast lands.  With little ways to move around.  Where you probably died less than a day’s walk from where you were born.  Which made it difficult to escape the Great Leap Forward.  Or Mao’s ruthless communist rule.

And it’s easy to point to the former Soviet Union.  Where it all started.  CommunismJoseph Stalin gave Mao Tse-tung a run for his money in the greatest mass murderer of all time contest.  Again, the record keeping was a little sparse.  But the Soviets took socialism to a grand scale.  The government controlled the economy.  And your life.  If you grew up in the Soviet Union, you learned how much better it was there than in the decadent West.  Especially the USA.  Of course, when some Soviets were lucky enough to travel outside the country, they learned that their Soviet teachers were liars.  The West was awesome.  Never before did they see such a wonderful world of plenty.  And some Soviets defected to that better life.  Which was a crime.  And a huge embarrassment for the Soviet Union.  Even Joseph Stalin’s daughter (Svetlana Alliluyeva) defected.  Others included Rudolph Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Alexander Godunov, Sergei Fedorov, Martina Navratilova, Ivan Lendl and Nadia Comăneci, to name a few (both from the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc).  Some got preferential treatment to keep them from defecting like Katarina Witt.  Or they held family members as ‘hostages’ when some traveled out of the country.  It was a real problem for the KGB.  Who had agents living undercover in the West.  And a lot of them didn’t want to come home.  Of course, there was no such problem with people defecting from the West into the Soviet Union.  There were a few.  Like Lee Harvey Oswald.  But he wasn’t playing with a full deck.  And he did return to the United States.  Because even he found it was better in America.  And he hated America.

It’s easy to point at the big socialist failures.  But just about every story of socialism is a story of failure.  And as different as some of the stories are, they all have much in common.  In particular, the exploitation of the people to serve the state.

In Socialism, Slavery is Freedom

In George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four, we see a frightening look at totalitarian socialism.  Big Brother is the leader of an oppressive regime.  Where the government plays with language to control the people.  War is peace.  Ignorance is strength.  And freedom is slavery.  War unites a people against a common enemy.  Who then beg for the government to protect them from this enemy.  And they will suffer through any hardship required to defeat this enemy.  Which makes continued war a handy way to control the people.  And to keep the peace among an unhappy and suffering citizenry that might otherwise rise up and complain.  Or riot.  Or attempt to overthrow the government.

Ignorance is strength.  If you don’t know how rotten your existence is you have no reason to be unhappy.  If you don’t know about that better life on the other side of your border, you have no reason to cross that border.  You’ll stay where you are.  And be a good citizen.  You’ll toe the party line.  Work hard.  Sing party songs.  And be happy.  More importantly, you’ll be subdued.  Easier to control.  And easier to lie to.  There’s a reason revolutionaries rounded up intellectuals and people with glasses (people with glasses can read and may be intellectuals) for ‘reeducation’ during revolutions.  Thinkers are trouble makers.  So it behooves them to keep the people ignorant.  So they don’t get distracted from their patriotic duties.  So they can continue to sacrifice to build a stronger nation.

Slavery is Freedom.  Because slaves never have to make a decision.  Or provide for themselves.  What a joyous and simple life.  Someone provides everything you need.  Your job.  Your clothes.  Your food.  Your home.  Your health care.  And your funeral.  And all you have to do is give yourself to the state.  Give up all your freedoms.  Give up all hope.  All your dreams.  And all of your comforts.  You have no bills to pay.  Because you don’t have anything.  You get up, work, eat and sleep.  Simple.  Easy.  And carefree.  True freedom.  Lucky slaves.

Adolf Hitler was a Socialist

Of course, if you talk to some slaves you’ll probably hear a different story.  Real slaves.  Like 19th century American slaves.  Those working the plantations.  They didn’t all buy that ‘slavery is freedom’ line.  If any did.  Because a lot of them did try to escape.  Just like those who tried to escape from Soviet socialism.  Interestingly, there are similarities between the two.  Because if you take socialism to its logical end you do arrive at slavery.  Friedrich August von Hayek wrote a book about this.  The Road to Serfdom.  Even said that if socialism grew unchecked in a state some guy named Adolf Hitler may come along and create an oppressive state dictatorship.  He didn’t quite say it like that.  But a guy named Adolf Hitler did come along and created an oppressive state dictatorship called National Socialism.  Or Nazism.  Anyway, suffice it to say that Hayek was right.  As proven by people everywhere who have tried to escape their socialist utopias.

Despite popular belief, everyone was not equal in these socialist utopias.  The inner party people lived well.  And their apparatchik.  But little changed for the masses.  In fact, life often got worse for them.  They were hungry, living in crowded quarters, with poor sanitation, some without running water, living in fear of state punishment for breaking a rule or not making quota, days of endless labor, no say in your future, no liberty and little hope for a better tomorrow.  Very similar to a 19th century American slave.

The American plantation is a microcosm of socialism.  The few at the top did very well (the glorious leaders).  Those close to them that ran the plantation (the party apparatchik) did not do as well but did much better than most.  And then there were the slaves at the bottom.  Who were all equal.  Equally miserable.  And without any hope.  Living in fear of abuse for breaking a rule or not making quota.  And working days of endless labor.  This is socialism taken to its logical end.  Which is why people risked death to escape places like the Soviet Union.  East GermanyCzechoslovakiaRomania.  Cuba.  To escape servitude.  Because the state could do anything they wanted to you.  And often did.  Just like a plantation overseer.

Slaves of the Social Democracies Riot

Of course, the critics will say that this isn’t true socialism.  That these are just mad dictators who corrupted socialism in their quest for absolute power.  And I’ll say, well, of course.  You’re right.  But they all used socialism in their rise to power.  Not a one of them said anything about cutting taxes or reducing stifling government regulations in their climb to power.  Quite the contrary.  They used every facet of socialism (egalitarianism, redistribution of wealth, taxing the rich, nationalization of private companies, etc.) in their climb to power.  In fact, one could say that without these tenets of socialism to unwittingly rally the people behind them they could never have risen to power.  Which is why socialism is not just a Road to Serfdom.  It’s a blueprint as well.

Some will roll their eyes at this.  And say Europe is full if social democracies that treat their people pretty damn well.  Let’s call it socialism-light.  These socialist countries have large and generous social welfare programs for their people.  Generous unemployment benefits.  Generous vacations.  Generous health care benefits.  Generous pensions when they retire.  Some at the ripe old age of 50.  A large and generously paid public sector.  Clearly these people aren’t oppressed.  And I’ll agree.  The people receiving these benefits are not oppressed.  But it places an incredible tax burden on those who work.  Who must make continuous sacrifices as their taxes continuously rise.  Let’s call these people slaves-light.  Because they are not allowed to enjoy the full fruits of their labor.  So, yes, the people in these social democracies in general are free.  And happy.  When they’re not rioting, that is.  Like in Greece.  Again.  Where the nation is broke.  And had to borrow money to pay its bills.  Which they have.  But one of the conditions for getting these loans was to cut back on those generous benefits.  Which hasn’t gone over well with the people receiving those benefits.  So they rioted.

Of course they rioted because they had become slaves of the welfare state.  Politicians promised them everything they wanted for their vote.  And delivered.  Until they could deliver no more.  Having become so dependent on the state the thought of taking care of themselves frightened them so that they ran into the streets and started burning things in protest.  The state had no problem keeping these people from escaping their country.  Unable to take care of themselves they were afraid to leave.  But the people with the jobs, and those who created the jobs, that’s a different story.  They could leave.  And a lot did.  So the state made it as difficult as possible for their money to follow them.

You may be able to Escape the Socialist Welfare State, but your Money may Not

New York City is the financial capital of the world.  For now, at least.  It costs a lot to live in the city.  Cost of living is high.  And the taxes are higher.  Way higher.  Which was never a problem for rich people.  Or rich companies.  Rush Limbaugh did his radio program out of New York City for awhile.  But he left because of the excessive taxation.  Went to Florida.  Where there is no income tax.  But every time he traveled to New York City he was required to pay income tax on his earnings for those days in the city.  The New York tax authorities put him through incredible hurdles to prove when he was out of the city.  Showing in multiple ways that he was, in fact, living in Florida.   With receipts.  Phone bills.  Etc.  They put the onus on him.  Said he owed the tax unless he could prove otherwise.

Then came the subprime mortgage crisis that gave us the worst recession since the Great DepressionWall Street income fell.  As did New York City and New York state tax receipts.  People moved out of the city.  Out of the state.  Worked out of their homes.  Some did no work in the state but still kept a vacation home on Long Island.  Desperate for money and unable to keep these people from escaping the state, the taxing authority went after their income.  Said if they spent any time in the state they owed income taxes for the entire year.  Even if you only vacationed for two weeks on Long Island.  While paying the taxes in the state you actually live and work in.  This was worse than taxation without representation.  It was double taxation.  In addition to taxation without representation.

New York City is generous with their social benefits.  Call it socialism-light.  It’s not all out socialism.  But it still suffers from the same fatal flaw.  It doesn’t work well if the people can escape this socialist utopia.  Especially the ones paying the taxes.  As is happening in the social democracies in Europe.  And anywhere where there is high taxation without a secured border.  To prevent the taxpayers (i.e., best and brightest) from escaping.  Like the Soviets did to keep their best and brightest from escaping.  As did the East Germans.  The Czechoslovakians.  The Romanians.  And the Cubans.

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The UK and Canada get Spending under Control while the USA is in Denial

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 1st, 2011

Teacher Pensions too Generous in the UK, Too

It’s not just in Madison, Wisconsin.  Or Detroit, Michigan.  Those public sector benefits busting budgets in city and states throughout the United States are causing fiscal pain in the UK, too (see Heads vote for industrial action ballot over pensions by Angela Harrison posted 5/1/2011 on the BBC).

A review led by Lord Hutton called for final salary schemes to be replaced by those based on the average salary in a career and said public sector workers should retire later, in line with a rising state pension age…

Schools minister Nick Gibb recently told a teachers’ conference that public service pensions should remain a gold standard – but that rising costs and greater life expectancy meant reform was needed.

These generous public sector benefits are no longer sustainable.  There’s a cost to this kind of spending.  High taxes.  Which don’t create jobs.  Or economic activity.  Which is the source of all taxes.  So raising taxes to pay for this generous spending ends up reducing economic activity, job creation and total tax receipts.  Which creates unemployment.  And deficits. 

So conservative Prime Minister David Cameron is trying to reverse this trend.  He and his coalition government with the Liberal Democrats are implementing austerity programs throughout the UK.  A la Margaret Thatcher.  The great conservative from the Eighties.  Who helped to put the ‘great’ back into Great Britain.  By cutting taxes.  And spending.

The Canadian Government becoming more American

The trend is the same in Canada.  Where Stephen Harper may just win an outright parliamentary majority for his conservative party.  Courtesy of the New Democratic Party (NDP) no less (See Stephen Harper and that elusive majority by The Economist posted 4/28/2011 on The Economist).

THE hitherto sleepy campaign for Canada’s general election on May 2nd was jolted awake over the Easter weekend by a surprising surge by the New Democratic Party (NDP), a leftish amalgam of trade unionists and farmers…

So is Canada about to go socialist? Although the Canadian dollar wobbled this week, the answer is almost certainly not.   Indeed, by splitting the centre-left vote more evenly, the NDP’s rise—if sustained—may provide Stephen Harper, the Conservative leader, with the parliamentary majority that has eluded him ever since he became prime minister in 2006. In the ensuing years Canadian politics has become an unusually shrill, partisan and intransigent affair.  Frequent elections—this is the fourth since 2004—have seen falling voter turnout, while polls show that public trust in politicians is also declining.

This cynicism seems to have helped Jack Layton, the NDP leader. He is seen as the cheerful underdog, who, despite suffering from prostate cancer and hip problems that require he walk with a cane, appears relaxed and smiling. Although based in Toronto, he grew up near Montreal. In colloquial French he claims that “winds of change” are sweeping his native province. His message of higher corporate taxes, more social spending, green measures, and an early withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan goes down well in Quebec, a traditionally pacifist, big-government kind of place. Mr Layton seems to be successfully wooing disillusioned supporters of the separatist Bloc Québécois.

Once upon a time Canada was New France.  But the British changed French Canada to British Canada after winning the Seven Years’ War.  But the French never stopped being French in Quebec.  Even put ‘je me souviens‘ on their license plates.  So they would never forget their French past.  French tradition.  Or French culture.  The Bloc Québécois even wanted to get Quebec out of Canada.  It turned out that most Quebecers didn’t.  So the Bloc has been marginalized of late.  But if you ever traveled to the province of Quebec it is clear that they like their government big.  Which is why the NDP appeals to Quebecers.

The NDP is also profiting from the travails of Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal leader, who entered politics in 2006 after spending most of the three previous decades working as a journalist and academic in Britain and the United States. Although his campaign appearances have become more assured, he has failed to shake off the gibes of Conservative attack ads that he is an elitist from Harvard who is “just visiting” Canada in the hope of gaining power.

An elitist from Harvard?  Interesting.  For Ivy League elitists have ruled the US since George H. W. Bush.  The latest being perhaps the most elitist.  President Obama.  Who many criticize as being professorial.  And of talking down to the American people.  Which is what they teach you to do at Harvard.  And the other Ivy League schools.

The biggest problem for the Liberals, a centrist, big-tent party, is that Canadian politics has become less European and consensual and more American and ideological. Mr Harper has been the main cause and beneficiary of that process. After five years, he has earned Canadians’ respect if not their love. He is an astute political tactician: he is the longest-serving prime minister of a minority government in Canadian history. But he comes over as a cold control-freak. A headline on the website of the Globe and Mail, a Liberal-leaning paper, summed up popular sentiment when it described the prime minister as “nasty, brutish—and competent”.

Mr Harper’s campaign pitch is that he needs a parliamentary majority in order to sustain the country’s recovery from recession. His message of low taxes, small government and tougher treatment of criminals has won him support everywhere except Quebec…

Now this is very interesting indeed.  Becoming more American?  All the while the Americans, under the rule of those Ivy League elitists, are trying to become more European.  Where the big social democracies wield great power.  And budgets.  Meanwhile, America’s friends to the north are going low taxes and small government.  And however cruel and unfeeling that may be, the Canadian liberals even admit Harper’s government is competent.  Which is another way of saying responsible.  Or grown up.

Medicare Reform has had Bipartisan Support for Decades

The UK and Canada have little choice.  They have to be ‘grown up’ in light of their financial woes.  And it’s no different in the U.S.  Their financial woes just have taken a little longer to hit them.  Because they are the world’s largest economy.  But even size doesn’t matter in the long run.  And some have seen the writing on the wall since the early eighties (see GOP plan to change Medicare is rooted in bipartisan history by Amy Goldstein posted 5/1/2011 on The Washington Post).

There is a broad consensus that Medicare in its current form will be overwhelmed by the financial pressures of the aging baby-boom generation, longer life spans and sophisticated medical treatments. Various estimates say the fund that pays Medicare hospital bills will run short in a decade or two; the program’s trustees are to release new predictions in a few weeks.

The thinking about Medicare and market forces has long bipartisan roots. In the early 1980s, then-congressmen Richard A. Gephardt, a Missouri Democrat, and David Stockman, a Michigan Republican, proposed vouchers to help people on Medicare buy private health plans.

The term “premium support” was coined in 1995 by two respected health policy experts, neither a conservative: Henry Aaron, a Brookings economist, and Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute. “The idea of vouchers was abroad in the land,” Aaron recalled. “We thought there was sort of a free-market-will-cure-all mentality.”

Their idea was to marry market competition in Medicare with regulation to ensure proper benefits and enough financial help. The Medicare commission’s work was an heir to their ideas. Proponents point out that the popular Medicare drug benefit created in 2003 relies on a such a model.

So America has had its grownups looking at the inevitable since the eighties.  Medicare will break unless it’s changed.  For three decades the grownups have been discussing this.  But the Ivy League elitists say ‘pish tosh’ and laugh with all knowing condescension.  For they don’t live in reality.  Their world is an insulated one where the privileged elite don’t work.  But spend their days pontificating.  Safe and snug in their universities.  Or in the federal government.  Where the consequences of their policies will never touch them.

Myopic Ivy League Pretentious Condescension

So we have unsustainable spending in the UK, Canada and the USA.  Concerned citizens in these countries voted in conservative governments.  Rising costs and greater life expectancy have made the state pensions and health plans in days of old no longer doable.  No, austerity is now the name of the game.  People are getting it.  Despite the lies of the politicians.  For the people live in the real world.  The world of paychecks.  And taxes.  Unlike the elite who like to pontificate from their lives of plenty and extreme comfort.  But that doesn’t stop the lying.  The myopic Ivy League worldview.  Or the pretentious condescension.  Case in point is the wonkish Paul Krugman. 

He posted a chart showing changes in revenue and spending from 2007 to 2010.   Spending is up.  And revenues are down.  Ergo, it’s not a spending problem.  We’re simply not taxing enough (see Origins of the Deficit by Paul Krugman posted 5/1/2011 on The New York Times).

Even on this crude calculation, it’s obvious that the slump is responsible for the great bulk of the rise in the deficit. Anyone who says otherwise is either remarkably ill-informed or trying to deceive you.

Budgets in cities and states across the country are facing their biggest deficits in history.  Why?  Recession.  Tax revenues plummet in times of recession.  Housing values tumble during times of recession (and with them property taxes).  People lose jobs during times of recession (the unemployed don’t pay income taxes or payroll taxes).  And it’s the same at the federal level.  Especially during the greatest recession since the Great Depression.  Sustained government spending during times of recession empties treasuries.  And creates deficits.

Federal spending has averaged approximately 20% of GDP since 1960.  It jumped to approximately 25% during the Obama administration.  That’s a huge spending increase.  No matter how you look at it.  And this is why the deficit is soaring into the trillion dollar territory for the first time.  Record spending during the worst recession since the Great Depression. 

“Anyone who says otherwise is either remarkably ill-informed or trying to deceive you.”

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