Category: Public Policy

Blog author: rnothstine
Monday, January 21, 2008
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It appears the citizens of an anti-democratic China have stood up to government authorities who are suggesting smoke free restaurants in preparation for this year’s Summer Olympics. The Beijing Disease Control and Prevention Center urged restaurants in the Chinese capital to completely ban smoking on their premises. While the smoking ban is only a suggestion, the article declares not a single restaurant has taken up the suggestion in the city of Beijing.

Even though the United States has fewer smokers by far, maybe we can send them some of our own big government anti-smoking officials to assist them in banning smoking in restaurants and bars. After all, they have been quite successful in our own country of squashing the rights of proprietors to make their own decisions about their business.

It looks like the first mistake of the Chinese government officials was in offering a mere suggestion to city eateries. The government’s tactic clearly lacked language that exudes a self-righteous and a morally superior tone. Language that assumes to know what is best for our own interest, over the interest of businesses owners to choose what is appropriate for their customers. Chinese bureaucrats have much to learn from freedom squelchers in our own country.

The attempt to diminish smoking in Beijing facilities is part of a larger public relations effort to spruce up the Chinese image across the world. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to say much for the current state of Western values when the Chinese government feels smoking is the biggest negative image maker in a country marked with notorious human rights abuses.

Whatever your personal opinion about smoking in public, I’ve always felt business owners should be able to make up their own rules about smoking in their facility. Apparently even the authoritarian government in China agrees, because after all, it was only a suggestion.

RELEVANT magazine has conducted a reader survey and has a special section on young religious voter attitudes towards politics. A summary bite from RELEVANT founder and publisher Cameron Strang:

Young Christians simply don’t seem to feel a connection to the traditional religious right. Many differ strongly on domestic policy issues, namely issues that affect the poor, and are dissatisfied with America’s foreign policy and war.

In general, we’re seeing that twentysomething Christians hold strongly to conservative moral values, but at the same time don’t feel that their personal moral beliefs need to be legislated to people who don’t agree with them. It’s an interesting paradox, and is creating clear division between this generation and the religious right.

I think RELEVANT has some interest in spinning just how these “new” evangelicals line out on the left/right paradigm (they have Jim Wallis write a feature in this same special section).

Just ‘cuz you’re not down with the religious right it doesn’t follow that Jim Wallis is your homeboy. There’s a big squishy middle among evangelicals (new and not-so-new) that is conservative on life issues but has a range of opinion on other issues of public policy.

And this comes from someone with some “RELEVANT” cred. I’ll have a post up in the next week or so on Huckabee and the concept of “vertical” politics that has got so many pundits and commentators flummoxed.

See also: “A plea to evangelicals — from an evangelical,” David Gushee, USAToday.

Iowa and New Hampshire represent less than 1.5% of the U.S. population, but the way many pundits talk, these two small states apparently possess some obscure Constitutional right to choose the short list of presidential candidates for the rest of us.

After the Hillary Clinton’s second place finish in the Iowa caucuses, several journalists—apparently stricken with Obama Fever—were writing her campaign obituary, never mind that she led national polls of likely Democratic voters and has enough campaign cash to buy Cuba.

On the Republican side, former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson finished a respectable third in Iowa, but when he faired poorly in the New Hampshire primary last week (a state where he did little campaigning), the media began drafting his obituary.

Thompson apparently didn’t get the memo. A recent Republican debate in South Carolina revealed a Fred Thompson many Republicans have been hoping for but hadn’t yet seen—Fred with fire in the belly. He spoke with clarity and authority on issues of national security, and he forcefully went after some of Mike Huckabee’s left-leaning domestic policies.

The question is, does it matter? Is it too late? Maybe there are so many voters with their fingers in the wind that Iowa and New Hampshire really do get to choose the short list for the rest of us.

The idea should offend those who make up the core of the Republican Party. Conservatives are supposed to bridle at the idea of having their choices dictated to them by beltway insiders or by a national media establishment intent on telling them what to think and do.

Republicans should be particularly suspicious of such winnowing efforts given the short list the media seems intent on assigning Republican voters. Mike Huckabee supported heaping helpings of big government and higher taxes as governor of Arkansas. Mitt Romney endorsed bigger government and higher taxes as governor of Massachusetts, has flip-flopped on abortion not once but twice, and more recently made protectionist, big government noises in an effort to appeal to Michigan voters. Rudy Giuliani (who, ironically, didn’t even contest Iowa or New Hampshire), is pro-abortion. And as Thomas Sowell has commented of John McCain, his “track record in the Senate is full of the betrayals of Republican supporters.”

Each of these four candidates has conservative elements to their agendas, and personal qualities that recommend them. But is it any wonder that the left-leaning national media seems eager to use the earliest contests to winnow a consistent conservative like Fred Thompson from the short list of Republican candidates, a conservative who is arguably the only true Reagan Republican in the bunch?

Thompson isn’t a perfect candidate. And I’m not endorsing him or any other candidate here. Each of them has strengths and weaknesses that Republican voters in each state should carefully assess. What Republican voters shouldn’t do is buy the media line that 1.5% of the American population gets to tell the other 98.5% of us who is and isn’t still in the race.

Yesterday was the fortieth anniversary of Johnny Cash’s live recording of the album At Folsom Prison. On the 1999 re-release, the brief song “Busted” (originally recorded by Cash in 1962) was included.


And while the price of cotton is more like 50 cents per pound now (which is much lower than the cost of inflation over the same period), the song still speaks to the situation of many folks today:

“My bills are all due and the babies need shoes but I’m busted
Cotton is down to a quarter a pound and I’m busted
I’ve got a cow that went dry and a hen that won’t lay
A big stack of bills that get bigger each day
The County will haul my belongings away I’m busted!

I went to my brother to ask for a loan I was busted
I hate to beg like a dog for a bone but I’m busted
My brother said there ain’t a thing I can do
My wife and my kids are all down with the flu
And I was just thinking of calling on you I’m busted!”

Something of note in that tune penned by Detroit native Harlan Howard: when in need, the man turns to his family first (not the government).

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, January 10, 2008
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Alan Donagan, the moral philosopher, in his text The Theory of Morality reflects upon Genesis 1:26 (“Let us make mankind in our image…”). This text can be seen, he writes,

as an affirmation that the earth and all that is on it exist for the sake of the rational beings who live in it; that is, for the sake of man. Yet mankind at large, like any limited human society, is a partnership of the living with the dead and the unborn. The right of the living to use the earth does not entitle them to despoil it. They must respect those who come after them, and not their contemporaries only.

It’s a good thing to remember, and not just with respect to the care of the earth as specifically concerns the environment, but with stewardship of other things, such as oure shared culture, religious doctrine and tradition, and as Dr. J. and others have written recently, fiscal and monetary responsibilities.

Robert Samuelson is absolutely right in today’s column. The next generation faces an increasing proportion of the Federal budget that goes to pay the expenses of retired workers. We can’t go on like this. These costs amount to a massive barrier to fertility for the next generation:

Our children face a future of rising taxes, squeezed — and perhaps falling — public services, and aging — perhaps deteriorating — public infrastructure (roads, sewers, transit systems). Today’s young workers and children are about to be engulfed by a massive income transfer from young to old that will perversely make it harder for them to afford their own children.

That is, we are signing up to look like Europe. Samuelson continues:

No major candidate of either party proposes to do much about this, even though the facts are well-known.

Spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — three programs that go overwhelmingly to older Americans — already represents more than 40 percent of federal spending. A new report from the Congressional Budget Office projects these programs could equal about 70 percent of the present budget by 2030. Without implausibly large budget deficits, the only way to preserve most other government programs would be huge tax increases (about 40 percent from today’s levels). Avoiding the tax increases would require draconian cuts in other programs (about 60 percent). Workers and young families, not retirees, would bear the brunt of either higher taxes or degraded public services.

I agree with Samuelson. We need to act now to make the necessary corrections. I am a Baby Boomer. I’ve been talking about this, and I must say, planning around these facts for my entire adult life. It’s time to act.

Crossposted at my blog.

I’m a big fan of Touchstone’s blog and the posts of senior editor S. M. Hutchens in particular. A very deep guy. That’s why I was intrigued when I found a book review of his in the New Atlantis entitled "The Evangelical Ecologist" while googling myself (if that doesn’t sound too crude).*

He’s responding to E. O. Wilson’s The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, in which Wilson

asks the imaginary Baptist pastor to whom the book is addressed to search his faith for reason to make common cause in earth-saving with Wilson’s own secular humanism, the dogmatics of which assert that “heaven and hell are what we create for ourselves on this planet.

Wade through Hutchens’ dialectic and what emerges is a fantastic insight into how easily the Church can be gripped by the humanistic evangelism of the environmental movement, where conservation of Creation is an end in and of itself, and God’s privilege to destroy and remake the earth becomes as much of an anethama to us as Peter’s revulsion to the Cross.

Get thee behind me, satan!

The Westminster Catechism "suggests" the chief end of man is to glorify God, but it’s pretty easy to find ourselves absorbed in thinking a green earth is an end rather than a means. Similarly, our common use of Psalm 24 to proclaim God’s ownership – and by extension, proclaim our stewardship – rarely sweeps us into verses 3-4 (only the pure in heart stand in God’s holy presence), let alone verses 7-10 (Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle…). But it should.

No, not should. It must, because He Is.

~

HE’S ALSO FOUND the spot that I couldn’t itch the past couple of trips to Boise. [Click and scroll down for my thoughts under Ed Brown’s lecture notes. db]. There I found myself among Christ-loving people who earnestly believe God would never, could never, destroy the earth as we know it to establish a New One, but instead wants the Church to serve and redeem the planet through our charitable stewardship.

Here’s Hutchens’ reaction to this sort of thinking:

Here, then, is the first inescapable offense Christianity gives to earth-piety: the earth as we know it empirically is not a final thing but a first creation. The second offense is that Christianity’s principal reason for the earth’s existence is to serve the cause of human redemption, to be defined and carried out not by what seems reasonable to man, but the purpose and method of God. The earth is presented to the faith as sacramental, and as sacrament its end is to be consumed so that a second and higher Creation may come. Its end is as the end of man who has been made from and returns to its dust, who must pass away so the Second and Eternal Man can arise to take his place in a new heaven and earth, the old having passed away. It is difficult to exaggerate the breadth and depth of the chasm that exists between biblical religion and earth-piety.

Thinking of the earth (and all those bullocks!) as a sacrament to be consumed might jive with the Old Covenant but doesn’t exactly lash up with John 3:16, where Christ’s sacrifice is by definition substitutional and given for "the world." And what about those who never returned to dust? Will Enoch or Elijah single-handedly keep Christ from assuming the throne? Not likely.

Regardless of which perspective you take on God’s ultimate intent for the planet just chewing on both is pretty humbling. It gets me to my knees in an earnest prayer to ask for wisdom to do whatever He wants me to do with the earth today, that His will will be done. And maybe that’s the point of such an exercise.

In the end Hutchens offers a scriptural antidote ("Let me suggest that the rule for proper treatment of the biosphere contemplated by the scriptures is not based in consideration of biological life itself, but upon the law of love of God and neighbor…"), an encouraging word on the good to be gained when all men recognize God’s majesty in nature, a reminder that all things are ultimately governed by God’s will, and a warning that the tendency of humansim is invariably worship of creation rather than Creator.

I appreciated getting all four of these today. Absorb the whole article when you have some time.

______________

*No, in case you’re wondering, he didn’t ask me whether "The Evangelical Ecologist" was protected under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License [Exodus 20:15], or whether I thought it was o.k. to be associated with an atheist like E. O. Wilson. But hey – that’s what grace is all about, right?