The Swamp Wins in Alabama

Mark Steyn is one of the two best political commentators in the English speaking world today.

Here is an excerpt of his thoughts on the swamp’s victory in the Alabama Senate race yesterday:

Roy Moore was the nominee only because the smart guys over-invested in Luther Strange (just as in 2015 they over-invested in Jeb Bush). In the first round of primary voting, Mitch McConnell’s priority was to prop up Strange by taking out what he regarded as his principal threat, Mo Brooks. Congressman Brooks would have made an excellent senator, and would have been elected in a walk, and he can also claim more plausibly than Moore to be a populist conservative aligned with the Trump agenda. But McConnell didn’t want him in the Senate and, as he saw it, once Brooks was gone, Luther Strange would have no trouble walloping Moore in the run-off.

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Local Government Regulation Tramples Property Rights

“Property owners do not acquire a constitutionally protected vested right in property uses …” – Texas Supreme Court; City of University Park v. Benners, 485 SW 2d 773 (1972).

To fully solve the problem of local regulations making Texas cities less and less affordable for the average Texan, delaying construction, and costing Texans jobs, the Texas Legislature must undo the damage done by Texas courts that have subjugated private property rights to the whims of local government planners.

Under the Texas Supreme Court’s 1972 University Park v. Benners decision, property owners must have permission from the government to use their property for anything. So cities can tell owners how they can and can’t use their property, tell them how much of their property they can or cannot use, and can even allow property owners to use their property for a specific use for a time then later prohibit that use. Owners must bear the full cost of these restrictions to serve the “public interest.”

Fortunately, the solution to this is simple. The Texas Legislature should subject cities to the provisions of the Texas Real Private Property Rights Preservation Act, just like every other Texas government entity, giving property owners the ability seek compensation for losses due to regulations. By removing the exemption for cities found in Sec. 2007.003 of the Texas Government Code, the Texas Legislature will provide Texans their day in court to recover the costs of local government regulations that result from outcomes like these:

  • In Harris County, media reports indicate the approval process for business permits can cause delays of up to six months while trying to comply with unnecessary provisions.
  • A 2015 study found that bureaucratic procedures can add up to 3.5 months to the already lengthy Austin permitting process.
  • A survey from the National Association of Homebuilders found that “government regulations represented 25 percent of a [residential] unit’s final sales prices.”

No Tolerance at Airbnb

As I attempted to log in to my Airbnb account yesterday, I was greeted with this message:

Before you continue
Whether it’s your first time using Airbnb or you’re one of our original travelers, please commit to respecting and including everyone in the Airbnb community.

I agree to treat everyone in the Airbnb community—regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age—with respect, and without judgment or bias.

Though I too often fail at it, my goal is to treat everyone with respect. But that doesn’t mean I always agree with them. And sometimes, I even think they are wrong. In other words, I judge them. And I judge whatever situation I’m in with the bias that comes with being a Christian who believes what the Bible says because it is God’s Word. I can’t not look at the world other than the way God describes it. And if there are people who are living out their lives outside of God’s Word, I’m going to see it as wrong–just as I see it is wrong when I sin against God. So I clicked ‘decline’ on Airbnb’s community statement.

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Truth through Simplicity

The opponents of freedom thrive in an environment of complexity. One of my favorite examples of this is when Politifact labeled as half true a statement by Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams “Gas prices have gone up $2 since Obama took office.” Politifact looked at the facts, determined that gas prices had in fact gone up $2 dollars since Obama had taken office, but after a long, complex analysis of things that had nothing to do with the statement in question still labeled it only “Half True.”

Our job as free market conservatives is to cut through the false complexity of the left and the big government moderates and simplify the issues so that people can see the truth. It is very hard to do this, because, as R.C. Sproul points out below, we have to have in-depth knowledge of the very complex issues ourselves before we can simplify them without distorting the truth. It is also hard because any errors we make will be attacked by opponents of liberty.

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Why I am Not Voting for Trump

I am not going to vote for Donald Trump for president of the United States. This has caused consternation among some of my friends stuck in the binary choice paradigm that voting for anyone besides Mr. Trump or not voting at all is essentially a vote for Hillary Clinton.

I am comfortable with the decision to support and vote for Trump by those who believe that there is at least the possibility that our country will be better off with Donald as president because with Hillary we know what we will get—and it won’t be good. However, this is not a position we should attempt to impose on the consciences of others; the deliberation of both conservatives and Christians over who to vote for should be informed by a broader perspective than the “Clinton or Trump” paradigm the political and religious moderate elite want to trap us in.

America’s contributions to liberty and prosperity are unparalleled in human history. Today, however, we are best described as the “greatest failure in self-government.” We murder over 1 million of our children every year, trailing only China, Russia, and Vietnam—countries that have made every effort to eradicate God from the culture. Not to be outpaced by the communists, America is rapidly moving toward replacing God with government as the supreme authority in the land. Along with this has come the inevitable anathematizing of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the public square and denial of the existence of inalienable, i.e., God-given, rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Amid this decline, many Republican and Evangelical moderates tell us that if we don’t vote for Trump we will be throwing our vote away, increasing Clinton’s chances of being elected, and contributing to the decay of our nation.

Does any of this sound familiar?

It should, because this is essentially what conservatives and Christians have been told every four years since 1984 when we last voted for Ronald Reagan. The bottom line has always been: “Vote Republican because Republican X is better than Democrat Y.”

Unfortunately, the difference has often been marginal at best; one must look closely at times to discern that there have been any Republicans in Washington during the last 28 years. Our votes for moderate Republicans within the binary choice paradigm have led us to a choice for president between two life-long supporters of liberal Democratic politicians and policies. Yet the moderate elite tell us if we follow their advice this time the outcome will be different.

Perhaps a more credible perspective would be, as Doug Wilson puts it, that this is “the least important election in our lifetime.” Where will electing Trump over Clinton make a difference? Not with abortion. Despite his proffered list of Supreme Court nominees, as a longtime pro-abortion supporter Trump is unlikely to appoint someone who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. And even if he does, our previous votes for president guarantee that Trump’s appointee will not be able to find four allies on the bench to join him. Can you imagine Roberts or Kennedy voting to overturn Roe v. Wade? Neither can I. The same will be true whenever Trump is persuaded to overcome his liberal beliefs to do something conservative; it will all be around the margins.

Taking a different tack, other Republican and Evangelical elites have exposed their ideological and theological weaknesses by announcing they are going to vote for Hillary, or by insinuating that their constituencies or congregations should be comfortable voting for her—much like they did with Barak Obama in 2008.

Before taking their advice, though, remember that both factions disliked Trump in the Republican primary and had a chance to derail Trump when it became obvious that Ted Cruz was the only candidate with a chance to beat Trump. Yet they refused to rally around Cruz. They decided that it was better to turn the Republican Party over to Trump—or the United States of America over to Clinton, than it was to let a conservative win the Republican nomination.

Both the pro-Trump and the anti-Trump moderate elite are stuck in a secular binary trap. Though they may have different political and theological beliefs, when confronted with the problems of the world today they too often turn to government for a solution. When dealing with the economy, the culture, or the poor, they can’t cope with what they see as the chaos of voluntary association outside the control of government. This is true even for many Evangelical leaders who still hold to Christian orthodoxy but have been enticed into supporting the progressive social gospel.

Much of this is born out of a lack of toleration of pain and suffering. None of us like pain and suffering and we want to relieve it in ourselves and in others, whatever the cost—for many even if the cost is more oppressive government. Yet while Scripture tells us time and again that we must suffer, it also informs us that suffering isn’t the end: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” Instead, there is a purpose in our suffering. We suffer for Christ’s name’s sake because it is “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” and “reign with Him” in eternity. Sometimes, despite our objections, suffering is the pathway to prosperity and hope.

It certainly was in the case of Israel. God’s chosen people found themselves in a long-term cycle of sin, misery, repentance, and deliverance that spiraled down to the point of no return. God finally brought his judgment upon Israel on the day of the Lord in 70 A.D. by destroying it and its system of worship though the Roman devastation of Jerusalem and the temple.

Yet the hope of all of us grew out of this suffering. Through the destruction of the nation of Israel and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the people of God have been reborn as the New Israel, the church, citizens of God’s kingdom in heaven and on earth with Christ enthroned as our King. God used the sin and suffering of Israel to advance His kingdom and ease the suffering of His children. And the Father calls to everyone to come join Him in His kingdom.

We don’t know what path God has chosen for America. It might be marginal improvement in our civic institutions or it might be the total collapse of liberty. Because of this uncertainty, and the failure of both candidates to meet biblical or moral standards of leadership, it is wrong to press others to vote for either candidate. It should be a matter of individual conscience.

We do know one thing, however; God calls us to repentance and to trusting in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. What we can do together, then, is issue a call to repentance. Americans as individuals must repent. America as a nation must repent. We must repent of idolatry. We must repent of abortion. We must repent of fornication and adultery. We must repent of theft through government taxation and regulation. We must repent of despising our neighbors—particularly our black and poor neighbors—through welfare and various “consumer protection” laws.

It is unclear to me how electing Donald Trump is going to move this country toward repentance. In fact, there might be a clearer path toward repentance with Hillary Clinton as president. Perhaps the suffering she and her administration impose on Americans will be enough for us to stop pretending there is no King in the land so that we can do what is right in our own eyes. Perhaps it will be enough that we will stop whoring after other gods and bowing down to them. Perhaps it will finally be enough that we will cry out to the Lord.

Of course, we don’t know this either. That is why I am fine with anyone campaigning, supporting, or voting for Donald Trump because the alternative is Hillary Clinton. But we are not restricted to a binary choice between the two; we can choose based on our understanding of a future that is not determined by the outcome of this election.

So vote for The Donald. Vote for a third-party candidate. Vote for a write in. Or, for president, don’t vote at all. However, please don’t vote for Hillary, especially out of the belief that she is somehow better than Donald or that she will serve as an adequate placeholder until we can replace her with the latest crop of moderate Republicans; in this you would be sorely mistaken and misguided.

This is not a call to disengage from the political process. Just the opposite. It is a call to engage the culture and the political process by refusing to operate within the parameters of the elite. While the presidency, Congress, and the federal courts have violated biblical precepts, natural law, and the United States Constitution, these standards are still available for the states, local governments, and people to make use of. Our hope for the future doesn’t have to be constrained by the lawless elite.

What we are constrained by is the call of God on our hearts. So, please, join me in praying that God would work in my heart and your heart and the hearts of all Americans a revival that would spread throughout our country “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

In the end, we all have only one binary choice: we will either worship God the Creator or we won’t. May He move our hearts and minds so that we all make the right choice. Amen.

Mark Steyn on the GOP

“The reality is that the GOP establishment, after their appalling behavior in the Hastert years, were given a second chance by the base in 2010, and a third chance in 2014. Now they’re demanding a fourth chance – and people go, well, say what you like but a Republican president will at least get to appoint rock-ribbed Supreme Court justices, like, er, John Roberts, who constitutionalized Obamacare, and, um, Anthony Kennedy, who gave us federally mandated gay marriage. Boehner, Mitchell, Kennedy, Roberts… Not much to show for a party that’s been supposedly dominant for 35 years, is it? The GOP thinks the issue is Trump; much of the base thinks the issue is the GOP.” – Mark Steyn

Read the rest of his column here.

 

Chattel Law Enforcement

A Texas state representative recently complained about being treated like a child during an encounter with police after he had been clocked driving 94 miles an hour. His statement was in the context of hearings over the sad case of Sandra Bland.

There are a lot of problems we face today as we move toward not just an administrative state but a police state. But the imaginary problem of this traffic stop is not the big threat we are facing. And while race still factors into many things in our world today—including the criminal justice system, race is not the primary problem either.

One of the big problems is how we are all being treated chattel by law enforcement—witness the John Doe cases up in Wisconsin and other early morning, full body armor raids on law abiding citizens or citizens who may have broken some relatively minor criminal statute.  In such events, we are no longer free citizens, but simply subjects to be treated by the government elite as they choose.

But an even bigger problem is how minorities are being treated as second class citizens by liberals who insist that they can’t fend for themselves and so have to remain dependent on the government—the same government that just so happens to bestow wealth and power on the liberals. In some ways we haven’t abolished slavery in this country—we’ve just transferred ownership of our poor from white, southern plantation owners to elite liberals of all ethnicities in all parts of the country. Yet the liberal elites keep promoting the idea that the source of racism in this country is conservatives, in order to keep minorities on the side of big government that can be used to combat racism. The sad truth, though, is that it is big government and the policies of the liberal elites—rather than conservatives—that are promoting racism and taking away freedom and prosperity from minorities.

Book Review: The Family Romanov

I enjoyed reading The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming to my son William (age 12). It kept him thoroughly engaged. It also provides a sad commentary on elitism, both on the blindness of the elite to the real world around them and on the consequences of that blindness on the rest of the people. This still holds true today; elitism is not confined to the nobility and communists of early 20th century Russia. The American government is today filled with elites at the federal, state, and local levels. Though it didn’t come to pass in Russia, the antidote to elitism is freedom. When people are allowed to make their own choices, they might not always like the consequences, but at least they are consequences of their choosing.

Real Reformers’ Real Advantage

“The real reformer has a real advantage, but one which he rarely recognizes himself as having. Living in the world that actually exists is an enormous advantage. There are times when it almost seems to me like cheating or something. In the long run, we need not worry. In the long run, blind stupidity never works. The revolutionary alternates between throwing rocks at the moon and barking at it.” – Douglas Wilson, Rules for Reformers, p. 176.

When he says “real reformer,” Wilson is referring to those who are trying to conform the way we live and/or the rules we operate under to the way the world was designed to operate. Which is generally what conservatives and Christians are trying to do. So the advantage we have over the left is that our vision for the world is much closer to reality than theirs. Of course, they get to play loose with the truth; that makes our job tougher. Nevertheless, we have the upper hand, and will eventually prevail.

The Wellspring of Freedom

The wellspring of freedom in our world comes from the Judeo-Christian belief that man is created in the image of God. If we are not, then there is no justification for one person to claim equality with those in a better position than she. And no reason for a person in authority to treat others as though they are equal to him. And thus no framework under which individual liberty could flourish.

eagle

We see this clearly in the ancient world where peace, but not individual liberty—such as what happened with life under the Pax Romana, was valued. It has been through the spread of Christianity—building on Jewish Scripture—that the belief that “all men are created equal” has taken root in many places across the globe. And while this belief has spread widely, there are many places where it has not. Asia is a prime example, though that is changing somewhat. But I’d also say that modern liberalism has rejected this concept in much of Europe and even right here in America.

In his article on Mises.org, Economic Progress and the Primacy of the Individual, Patrick Baron explains the connection between the “image of God” belief and economic progress. It is a good read that I highly recommend.