Fighting for Freedom
The founders of this country rejected King George III as a ruler because: “A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”* They were willing to fight to preserve the freedom granted to them by their Creator. They deemed it was their inalienable right.

False “Freedom”
There are a number of freedoms we could easily wish for: freedom to binge on ice cream and not get fat; freedom to play endless video games and still do well in school. These wishes, however, ignore the essential prerequisites to achieving those goals. Such “freedom” is based on the false hope that we can obtain our chosen end result without doing the prerequisites to earn it. This would be to disconnect cause from effect—to permit us to obtain the effect we wanted without first causing it. We would not have to exercise to be strong; we would not have to diet to lose weight.

This false belief is at the bottom of many political promises. A result is promised—fair income, quality medical care for all, clean air, a reversal of global warming—yet there is little or no discussion on how to get there and of how horribly expensive achieving these goals would be. It is as though stating the goal were enough. That is like wishing to become thin.

Cause and Effect
Unfortunately mortal life is one long lesson that cause and effect are irrevocably connected. Toddlers learn that bad balance results in falls. Piano students learn a lack of practice results in embarrassment at the next recital. College graduates learn that regardless of how much fun a particular major may have been, to get hired after graduation you need a skill that will earn your employer more than he or she is paying you.

There is no freedom to choose final results. There is only freedom to choose what actions—causes—we can take to get there. You cannot choose to be an Olympic swimmer. You can only choose to make the effort—day after day, year after year—to prepare to be one. But if you make that effort then you will be “free” to compete at that highest level. If you earn a Class A CDL you are “free” to drive a tractor trailer. If you earn a J.D. and pass the bar exam you are “free” to practice law. The freedom to achieve those results comes only because you have chosen to fulfill the prerequisites. We are free to choose goals, but the real choice is to do what is required to obtain those goals.

Truth Leads to Freedom
False information results in bad choices because it misdirects our efforts into causes that will not lead to the results we seek. The ability to make choices that will achieve worthwhile goals depends upon having sufficient correct information to choose correct actions. Free people are free to choose, but that freedom is nullified if they are ignorant. When the German people heard only a steady chorus of how glorious would be the Nazi Third Reich they made choices that resulted in the utter devastation of their country. Had they known the truth about where Hitler was leading them few would have followed.

Carved in the lobby floor of the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia are the words: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”** This is profoundly true for a democracy where the choices voters make will determine their—and their posterity’s—future. If voters are misinformed then they will inevitably make bad choices which, also inevitably, will lead to bad results. Tyrants always silence dissent. They always hide their failures. They pretend their subjects are free—knowing that by controlling access to the truth they can lock the country into the selfishly directed trajectory they have chosen. Enemies of freedom are always enemies of truth.

Examine current news: the glaring absence of answers to basic questions on Benghazi, IRS mistreatment of conservative groups, V.A. misadministration—the list grows weekly. Deceit cripples our ability to decide. Freedom of Speech and Press were intended to give us access to that truth. Congress—particularly the party not in power—was intended to hold the Executive accountable and give us that truth. Both are failing in their Constitutional duty. We want the truth! Armed with the truth and the freedom of choice we as a nation can make correct choices and get correct results. But only when we know the truth.

* Declaration of Independence
** John 8:32

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What is broken in America cannot be fixed until we fix the tax system.

There is no difference between taxation and robbery. Both result in the property of one person being taken for use by another. Governments always have the potential power to rob their citizens. The original Constitution dealt with this challenge (1) by not having any provision for an income tax; (2) providing that all taxes were to be per capita or duties; and (3) guaranteeing that if private property were taken by the government—even for a public purpose—just compensation would be paid to the victim of that taking.

It is almost incomprehensible for American citizens today to picture such a tax environment. We are accustomed to a small (“rich”) fraction of Americans paying a huge proportion of total income taxes. We are inundated with demands that it is only “fair” that they should pay more. Yet nearly half of the population pays no income tax and many not only don’t pay taxes, but are paid an Earned-Income-Tax-Credit with money taken from others. There is a never ending demand from the federal government for more taxes to pay off the deficits that same federal government increases daily.

What is the root cause? It is easy. Politicians are elected by voters. Politicians get votes by promising voters benefits that cost money. Because of the federal income tax politicians have access to tremendous wealth to distribute as largesse to their supporters. In a democracy, the majority has the power to take money, through Congress, from the minority.

In addition, the federal government uses its vast taxing power to take large percentages of business and personal income. Then the government grants that money back to the states—to build roads, to educate children, to provide for the poor—but only if the states subject themselves to an avalanche of federal regulations. Were the federal government to restrict its spending to only the core roles of a central government in a federation, federal income taxes could be dramatically reduced. Individuals, and states, would have far greater ability to use their money directly to solve the problems facing their communities.

Finally, the income tax system is a ridiculous shambles. It is incomprehensible. It is certain that no one knows for sure if they are paying the correct amount. The rules are so complex that many are paying more than they should and many are defrauding the system by paying far less. Tax enforcement is so harsh that it violates even basic concepts of due process. There is probably a special provision buried in the bookcase of tax regulations for every group that ever hired a lobbyist.

As long as the federal government can tax at will—because the majority (much of it non-tax paying) is always willing to tax others—and spend at will (to buy votes, a sure-fire strategy in a democracy), our present chaos will continue. Until you fix the tax system in America, almost everything Congress is doing is hacking at the branches and ignoring the root problem.

1. There should be a simple, flat, tax that everyone will pay on earned income. Protection from enemies, a functioning federal government, national parks, national highways, etc. benefit everyone whether they are rich or poor. Everyone should have the privilege of contributing to their upkeep. If people need welfare then it can be granted, but not through incredibly complex tax regulations. Equal protection of the laws, as guaranteed by the 14th amendment, should apply to tax laws as much as it does to voting laws.
2. No one should vote who doesn’t pay taxes. A simple, flat tax means everyone can be a tax payer (or part of a tax paying household) without undue burden. If all who vote are themselves taxed it will prevent voters (through their elected representatives) from passing tax laws without having those same laws applied equally to them.
3. There will be no exclusions from taxable income. If the recommendations contained herein are adopted, income taxes will be reduced so much that individuals will be amply able to support their chosen charities and causes without a tax deduction for doing so.
4. Capital games should be taxed at the same rate as any other income. Keep it simple. Differentiating sources of income for tax purposes sends false signals to the economy.
5. No income taxes can be collected that cannot be readily calculated by an average citizen.
6. If we believe as a nation that no one should earn more than some fixed amount then pass a law prohibiting corporations, professional sports teams, Hollywood studios etc. from paying anyone more than that fixed amount. But do not permit the federal government to use the excuse that because some earn too much Congress should be allowed to collect astronomical taxes from them to fund the federal treasure chest of treats to buy votes with.
7. No special benefits to chosen industries, causes, geographic areas, etc. can be granted through provisions lessening their tax obligations. They can only be granted by clearly identifiable largesse from the federal government, not hidden in the tax code.
8. Every federal grant to states, students, universities, etc. should be reviewed to see if it has an essential federal purpose. If it doesn’t, that grant should be terminated and the tax rates correspondingly lowered. The federal tax power should no longer be used as an ATM machine for politicians to reward their favored constituencies. Those subsidies can be replaced at the community or state level if justified.
9. The federal courts should be reminded that the Constitutional right to not have property taken without just compensation is equal, if not pre-eminent, to the taxing power. Just compensation for taxes to protect us from foreign enemies is provided equally to all citizens, so all can be asked to pay for it equally with a flat tax. But no one is justly compensated when their property is taken to pay for some special interest group in a distant state. That is tyranny.

Making these changes in our federal tax laws will seem impossible to many, if not most, politicians. It will require war with every industry, interest group, educational institution and lobbyist who perceives their existence depends upon continued access to the federal trove. It will require battle with the mega-army of tax advisors, accountants and IRS employees whose livelihood arises solely from the complexity of the tax code. But it won’t be unprecedented. Our country exists because an earlier generation of politicians were willing to pledge their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to battle the most powerful nation on earth. It will require many politicians to walk away from, even offend, their sources of power—just as President Washington was able to walk away from the power and status of the White House—creating an unmatched legacy. That generation did what they did out of their dedication and devotion to following generations. Can we?

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IS THE MOON A SUN? I overheard the Moon and the Sun having a rather contentious conversation. The Moon was saying he was as good as the Sun. In fact he was angry with those that kept saying how wonderful the Sun was, how bright, how essential to life. He demanded the same respect.

The Sun, trying to be diplomatic but still realistic, replied: “No oneThe_Sun_by_the_Atmospheric_Imaging_Assembly_of_NASA's_Solar_Dynamics_Observatory_-_20100819 is saying you aren’t bright and beautiful. You are an impressive satellite circling around the earth. But to be a sun you have to be a shining star.”

The Moon pouted and said, “You’re wrong! I can be a sun too. Just because bigoted people think we’re different, just because they labeled me a ‘moon’ and you a ‘sun’ doesn’t mean I don’t deserve the same respect you get.”

The Sun, somewhat surprised, responded, “But dear Moon, as a sun I create energy, give off light, make life possible. That’s what suns do. You simply can’t do that. You can’t create energy. You can only reflect the light created by a sun. All moonlight is reflected sunlight.”

“That’s just more of your prejudice, Sun. I demand that you call me a ‘Sun’, just like you. I refuse to be a second class heavenly body any longer!”

“Would it be O.K., Moon, if we created some term that would be acceptable other than ‘sun’ because ‘sun’ has an age-old meaning that just doesn’t describe you. There are some pretty fundamental differences.”

Full_moon_jpegNow the Moon got really angry. “You know, Sun, there are laws against hate speech. Your refusing to acknowledge that I am no different than you is just based on your irrational prejudice. I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’ll get the U.N. or some government to pass a law that says ‘All bright heavenly objects are suns,’ and then I’ll be legally recognized as a sun. I can do it, you know. All I have to do is threaten to call them “Intolerant” and they will do anything I ask.”

“Maybe so,” replied the Sun, “but you still can’t produce light.”

MALES AND FEMALES MAKE FAMILIES: A family begins when a male sperm merges with a female egg. There is no other way! When male and female gametes merge a baby can be born. There is no other way! It is true children can be abandoned, shuffled around, adopted, adults can live together in any number of combinations, laws and regulations may expand, contract, redefine. But only a male sperm merging with a female egg can create a human.

FAMILIES ARE NOT CREATED BY GOVERNMENTS: Families existed before governments, before countries, before civilization. They will exist long after all governments that now exist have faded into the forgotten past. One hopes that when a male and female unite to create life that every worthy and noble instinct will come into play to provide for, nurture and protect the children of that union. Human babies must be cared for. That is done far better by a family than by any other institution. No human lived to puberty without at least basic physical care provided by others for many years. Human folly and sometimes unavoidable tragedy—physical or emotional— may require that other than the natural parents step in and provide that essential care. Fortunately, adults other than DNA parents can love and care for children when natural parents are unwilling or unable to fulfill what, to most of us, seems the most basic, normal parental roles. They can, in the best way, provide a family. How fortunate that so many are so caring.

THE WORD: We live at a time when many want to use the words for “marriage” and “family” to describe other relationships. A most extreme example is Mafia murderers describing their criminal combinations as “families.” They hope to impart some acceptability, some legitimacy, to a relationship that, in fact, is destructive of families. Like the Moon’s demands, it is not unusual for those seeking legitimacy to hijack words, words imbued with the greatest respect, and to change their meaning in the hopes that by changing the definition of the word they can change our perception of reality. We cannot expect our legislatures and courts to prevent it.  But redefining a word, whether done by legislatures, courts, voters or tyrants, cannot change the most significant, core, reality of all human existence: every human exists because of the union of a male and female. “Marriage”, at best protected by tradition, law and the finest human instincts, is the most essential of all relationships—the one that produces humans. It deserves, at least, a word of its own.

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Plants Need Energy:  At first glimpse a tropical rain forest appears to be a verdant paradise.  Upon closer examination, however, a visitor realizes it is a cruel battle-to-the-death between competing plants—all struggling for access to sunlight.   Taller trees overshadow shorter ones.  Clinging vines reach upward to the canopy.  Fallen trees create temporary spots of sunlight on the jungle floor where younger competitors gain a foothold.  Ultimately, however, it is all a never-ending competition for sunlight.  Sunlight is ENERGY— that most basic necessity for all living things.

Early Human Energy Sources: Like plants, man’s struggle for improvement, growth, prosperity and civilization is, to a large extent, the struggle for access to Energy.   At the beginning, the only Energy available to humans was human muscle power.  Later, still in pre-historic times, domesticated beasts, oxen, water buffalo, even elephants, permitted plowing and burden moving .  Wind power was early on tamed to move sailing ships—permitting grain ships from Egypt, for example, to feed the Roman Empire.  Water wheels powered mills.  But still human muscle power was the essential ingredient, whether it was as galley slaves or serfs harvesting.   The Roman Empire was so in need of human power, in the form of slaves, that conquest was an essential part of its national policy.

Energy Makes the Difference: Power from fuels, burning wood, peat and coal, was used from pre-historic times to cook, and from early historic times to smelt metals.  This led to better farming tools, permitting a level of prosperity and population growth which we now call civilization.  It also led to better weapons which meant those with access to these high-energy forms of metallurgy could subjugate those without them.  Feudalism reigned because those with metal armor were invulnerable and could tyrannize those without.  The Industrial Revolution with steam power, followed by electric power and now petroleum and nuclear power is the foundation, the underlying essential, of all the material success that we so prize, and even consider essential, in our modern world.  Cultures without access to, or the knowledge to use, these ever better sources of Energy, such as the Aborigines of Australia, remained at a Stone Age, bare subsistence level.  The descendants of those most successful at harnessing new sources of energy and the technology to use them peopled whole continents.  The difference was access to and use of Energy.

Without Energy We Die: Fish in the sea may be unaware of the water that sustains them.  It is ever-present.  We go unaware of how our constant supply of Energy underpins our very lives because it is ever-present.  Were America to return to the available Energy levels of the mid 1800s—when mules pulled plows, waterwheels powered machinery, and wind drove sailing ships— its economy could support the population it did then: about 20 million people.   Likely 290 million people in today’s America would soon die.  Without electric power refrigerated food would be impossible.   There would be no lighting.  No heating.  Electric pumps to push water into water towers would not function so water to homes and businesses would soon trickle to nothing.  All hospitals would cease functioning.   Without gas, diesel and natural gas (all petroleum products) to power engines, plowing, planting and harvesting on farms would cease or shrink to the few acres farmable by those who still owned horses and mules.  Almost all transportation would end.  No trains, no pipelines—which are powered by pumps, no airplanes and, most critical of all, no trucks.  Regardless of where food, medicine, clothing or anything else is produced, and no matter how it is transported long distances, the last stage of the trip always occurs in a truck going to a neighborhood store.  If there were no trucks, all store shelves would be empty in a few days.

No Energy, No Win: Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor?  To wipe out the U.S. fleet which threatened Japan’s ability to obtain oil from a conquered Indonesia.  The Japanese High Command knew oil was key to their ability to wage war.  The U.S. military leaders had the same knowledge in planning their attacks on Nazi Germany:

The [U.S. Army Air Force] attack on oil production, oil refineries, and tank farms was, however, extremely successful and made a very large contribution to the general collapse of Germany in 1945. . . it is fair to say the oil bombing campaign materially shortened the war, thereby saving many lives.[i]

Renewable Energy Is Diddly: Where does our energy come from?  Almost two-thirds comes from petroleum and natural gas.  If you used only Renewable Energy you would eliminate 93% of the energy in our country.  Try cutting back the amount of food you eat, the amount you air condition or heat, the amount of water you use by 93%—that’s the world powered by Renewable Energy.  The idea that Renewable Energy is somehow going to replace traditional sources like coal and oil in our lifetimes, even with hugely expensive federal subsidies, is laughable.  Only the willfully self-deceived would believe it.

Energy Companies Are Not the Enemy: If you want to make America great; if you want to improve the living standard of the poor and everyone else along with them; if you want to make a better world than the one we live in; increase the amount of Energy.  If we lived like people before the Energy Revolution of the past two hundred years, we would stink from uncleanliness, live on the edge of starvation, be largely illiterate, doomed to poverty.  Energy is an essential input to everything we use and consume.  A rational Energy Policy would be devoted to increasing, and making cheaper, available Energy.  Making an enemy of Energy Producers is like fish declaring war on the sea.

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2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 4 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in Political Culture