Cognitive Dissonance: an Observation

As this article is intended to be a kind of “Epistle to the Conservatives”, if it stings a little, then that’s intended.

Part of the conservative argument necessarily requires dealing with criticisms that come from the left. The frustrating thing about these criticisms is far too often the left’s arguments do not conform to any version of reality regarding the conservative position, and the two political ideas are constantly juxtaposed in ways that make no sense philosophically. This makes most engagements with leftists totally unproductive.

Unfortunately, the left is not alone in this cognitive dissonance (www.simplypsychology.org), as half truths and outright jingoism with often no relevance at all to conservative ideas are freely ascribed to by both sides. Certainly there are plenty of people on the right who are misguided in their beliefs regarding what is “conservative”, so much so that their political ideology seems to be very much “I believe something different (but equally wrong) than those people believe”! So this article is directed less at the left and more at fellow conservatives.

Now, please take this article with a grain of salt or sugar, whichever suits the palate best, and try to put aside any immediate urge to reject this out of hand. The basis of this argument is based on the established philosophical positions of John Locke, Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson. So if anything in this article offends, then perhaps the reader should reevaluate whether they are putting their own personal beliefs in place of the established orthodoxy of conservative libertarian classicism that find their roots in Plato and Socrates. As this article is intended to be a kind of “Epistle to the Conservatives”, if it stings a little, then that’s intended.

Why Are We “The Right” Anyway?

A great deal of confusion arises from the words that are used to describe our polar political positions (left versus right). It’s why the political atrocities of Hitler are misattributed by leftists as being “right-wing”, which gives them some semblance of moral cover as they struggle to extricate themselves from the atrocities of Stalin and Mao. In their minds, since Hitler was “right-wing”, at least conservatives have a good deal of blood on their hands, too. Unfortunately for leftists, there are stark differences ideologically between what is considered “left” and “right” in the United States and what those very same labels mean in a European context, particularly in the early 20th Century and coming out of the 19th Century.

Long story short, what is orthodoxy today, may become the heterodoxy tomorrow, and this is most clearly demonstrated by looking at the Founding Fathers, respected to the point of reverence by the “right” for their classically liberal political wisdom and widely dismissed by the “left” for being capitalists and slave holders who promoted wealth inequality. Curiously enough, however, in the days of the Revolutionary War, the classical liberalism of John Locke and Adam Smith put the Founding Fathers very much to the “left” of the rigid authority of the Crown of England and its expansive Empire.

The “left” and “right” convention gets murkier in a politically complex society under economic and social stresses, such as when Adolf Hitler was rising to prominence in German politics through agitation and appealing to cultural heritage in the 1930’s. Would Hitler’s radical pro-worker’s rhetoric have been “left” of the post World War I government of the Chancellor? Was his psychotic hatred of the wealthy and industrious Jewish people to the “right” of anti-capitalist socialists? Did Hitler’s embrace of nationalized heavy industries and higher education for the sake of “The Reich” put him to the “left” of capitalists? Did Hitler’s rejection of international and egalitarian communism put him to the “right” of socialists? Did his abolition of militias that were not affiliated with the Nazi Party and disarming of “un-German” underclasses put him to the “left” of libertarians?

The reality is that in the scheme of political discourse what ends up being called the “left” or the “right” has largely been an arbitrary product of popular consensus, rather than any hard and fast application of political theory. We are, however, stuck with the dichotomy, because, even as arbitrary as it is, it’s still an effective shorthand to communicate differences between political ideologies. It’s just important that everyone, regardless of their personal political beliefs, understands that there is not homogeneity within any political ideology. There is no such thing as a monolithic institutional “left” or “right”, but there are fundamental values that are intrinsic to the ideas of both.

The Conservative Doctrine

As far as Liberty is For the Win, the political spectrum is less a line than a cycle of political positions where political identities will circle around from totalitarianism to individualism and back again, often in the course of a single lifetime. Individuals each have their own internal compasses that spin in whatever direction their personal beliefs may lead them, often in naive attachment to political ideologies utterly contrary to their espoused orthodoxy. This happens when the orthodoxy is unclear, so let’s make clear what we have been given as of first importance, so we can speak clearly about conservative “doctrine”, as opposed to the mystery soup that is slopped around colloquially today.

Instead of trying to cleverly rewrite what has been so clearly written, let’s establish this as summing up very succinctly the core doctrine of conservative thought.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness (“property” – Locke). That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” – Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence of the United States from the English Crown, July 4th, 1776.

This can be boiled down into two essential concepts:

  1. The primacy of individual rights. That is Natural Rights exist regardless of what the government may attempt to impose or whether a government even exists at all, and any government is subservient to the People, and not the other way around.
  2. The necessity of rule of law. That is Natural Rights are so precious that governments are built to protect them, not to usurp them, and the best way to protect Natural Rights is through an objective set of laws.

In order to be right of center, we must believe, at the very least, in the primacy of individual rights to “life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness” (Locke and Jefferson). These rights come not from any authority of the State but are endowed to the People by nature of being human beings, capable of thought and action. Any attempt by another individual or the State to remove these rights is a transgression of that endowment.

To be fully and truly conservative, you must take the extra step to acknowledge that there exists at least some necessity of rule of law through which to protect these endowed rights, to which the People can peaceably appeal against minor transgressions of their rights by others. This creates a social compact by which transgressions can be objectively identified and punishments can be justly applied.

political ideology 2016

While a legitimate debate about what constitutes “rule of law” is consistent with the principles of conservative thought, any exemption on the orthodoxy of primacy of individual rights immediately disqualifies an individual as being a conservative or even being “right of center”. The assertion that there exist legitimate exemptions to the primacy of individual rights implies the authority of the collective or the State to usurp the Natural Rights of the individuals. The justification for this is always either that the good of the collective or of the State is higher than rights of the individual, which violates the definition of “primacy”.

For example, the left will impose taxes on individuals, usurping the individual right to one’s own labor, then turn around and use the revenue to fund subsidies to companies or organizations consistent with their ideology, or to build palaces and buildings that increase the power and wealth of the State, against the unanimous will of the People. And, without any irony, the leftists will blame the subsidies on capitalism and conservatives, when the funds wouldn’t have existed except for the violation of conservative values, and the very providing of subsidies violated the tenets of capitalism in the first place.

As conservatives, we must reassert our devotion to these two principles: primacy of individual rights and necessity of rule of law. While we may legitimately and necessarily wrangle with the issue of the extent of the rule of law, the primacy of individual rights is something we cannot compromise on and still consider ourselves conservative in any American theory of the word. When a conservative is wrong about a position of the primacy of individual rights, then it is crucial that we challenge them on that position, and try to bring them back to the orthodoxy with firm conviction.

How can we expect leftists to at least treat our arguments consistently if we cannot even do that ourselves.

Until next time,

Liberty is For The Win!


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Embracing The Market Prosperity Model

America is losing ground, losing opportunity, and losing prosperity, and that’s simply not what America is about.

When we see the struggles facing so many today, such as the 94 Million Americans without jobs (www.bls.gov), steep declines in labor force participation, and many older Americans forced to continue working past retirement (www.bls.gov), we can’t deny that things haven’t gone to plan. America is losing ground, losing opportunity, and losing prosperity, and that’s simply not what America is about. If we want different results, however, we need to start making different choices.

In 2007 and into 2008, the “Great Recession” knocked the American economy right onto the ropes, and the economy continues to stumble on its feet, even after seven years of every conceivable federal program, subsidy, give away and free money. In September, the Federal Reserve Board elected yet again to not raise the interest rates from near 0% where it’s been since the worst of the 2008 Recession (www.nytimes.com). Even with the Federal Reserve’s brakes completely off of the money supply, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate has been more than 4% (robust growth) only 3 out of the last 16 quarters, and 2015 has staggered along with growth rates of 0.6%, 3.9%, and 1.5%*(www.bea.gov).

Why isn’t it working? It’s because the true believers of leftist ideologies believe that government can solve all of our social ills, if only they can find the magical combination of huge government bureaucracies, punitive taxes, and costly entitlements. This is a pretentious delusionThe cold hard reality is that there is no “magic bullet” policy that will eliminate the ills of unemployment, income inequality, poverty, racism or anything else. As the wisest of the wise once said, “The poor shall always be with you.”

No matter what the federal government may try to do at the national level, by the time the federal dollars hit actual working parts of the economy, people choose to do what is best for their particular situation, not necessarily what the administration hoped they woul. This is because business owners do NOT hire workers that they don’t need, and consumers do NOT buy things that they don’t want.

So, many might be wondering if there even is any way a society can minimize poverty and disenfranchisement. The overly simple response is “yes”, but the solution doesn’t fit into the any politician’s time scale. It’s slow, so things won’t get better overnight or even in a matter of years. The changes necessary at each of step are incremental and will vary from community to community. Some communities seem hopelessly off track, but everyone can take hope! There is no place that can’t recover and thrive if the community as a whole buys in philosophically and emotionally for the long term (ten to twenty years).

The Market Prosperity Model

To start with, we must look at the fundamental building blocks of a community, and we’ll start with the absolute worst case, where things have gone horribly wrong for so long, that things actually do seem hopeless. Crime is rampant. There are so many thousands of derelict and abandoned homes. Joblessness is almost normal, and people are just existing day to day, with no real aspirations for tomorrow.

Even under these circumstances, there are what the market prosperity model refers to as basic tier one businesses (businesses that provide basic individual needs and wants: food, fuel, and shelter), whether it be gas stations, fast food restaurants, a local diner, a grocery store, or what have you. There may even be a few barber shops or hair salons, because people need to have their hair cut periodically. When taken as an aggregate, however, the maximum possible number of jobs that these tier one businesses could possibly offer the community is far below the number of people who need work, with precious few opportunities for middle class careers.

The good news is if we look anywhere in the world, we will find these sorts of tier one businesses. These tier one businesses will exist even if the people are literally being butchered in the streets by their government. As long as human societies have existed, these tier one businesses have existed, eking out a living. Which leads us directly into “Step One” of the market prosperity model.

STEP ONEEstablish a secure and law abiding community wherein private citizens and business proprietors can reasonably expect that their physical assets are not in danger of damage or theft, and where possible barriers to business growth, such that restrictions of land use and cost of labor, are limited to only those that are necessary and reasonable to all parties.

It’s obvious that living in a community where it’s safe to leave a front door unlocked, kids can leave their bikes lying unattended in a park, windows are not broken for sport, and walls are not gratuitously defaced by graffiti is superior to living in communities where this is not the case. It should be unsurprisingly that it’s also better to own a business in such communities.

Why would a business owner consider opening an expensive store with costly inventory in a community where they have to fear night after night after night what they will find when they come to work the next morning? A business is more than just property or a source of income for a business owner. It’s how the business owner intends to provide for his or her family. If he loses his business, then he loses the ability to pay for a roof over his family’s head. And no one should be forced to put their family’s welfare into jeopardy. That’s why the business owner is not only justified but actually obligated to look for the best possible community to live and open his business in.

As far as barriers to growth, all communities must have reasonable restrictions on resources, especially when resources are limited. Real estate is a good example. This cannot, however, come at the expense or exclusion of the opinion of business owners. It is true that a community can impose whatever restrictions that they want on the business community and plead “democracy”, but that does not then force business owners to stay in these communities where their opinions and needs are clearly not appreciated. Only the community can lose in these situations, that’s why it’s critical that the concerns and reasonable objections of business owners be taken very seriously.

Once a community has a safe and secure business environment that is not hostile to businesses, then there will be a gradual and natural increase in the number of tier one businesses, which should then reach a critical mass and lead to the development of tier two businesses.

STEP TWOPromote a robust market of a sufficiently large amount of established tier one businesses (needs businesses) to create the natural demand necessary to support tier two businesses (trades businesses) that cater to the trade needs of businesses and of the community.

Once the basic needs and wants of a community are covered and saturated, which naturally depends on the size of a community, there is a natural demand for tier two businesses that specialize in the trade servicing of businesses as well as private citizens. Whether it be a plumbing company that mainly does commercial plumbing, but also does residential services, or a restaurant that mainly focuses on its restaurant business but also starts to do some business and private catering on the side, these businesses open up other opportunities for employment for employees of various skill levels above what most tier one businesses can offer, in many cases including middle class salaries.

Because of the necessity of keeping large amount of expensive inventory and the absolute catastrophic loss that the destruction of this inventory would represent financially to these businesses, they simply do not exist outside of communities that are not safe and secure. They also generally need either very large markets or very few barriers from the local government. Florists, furniture stores, art boutiques, and jewelry stores all start cropping up during Step Two, but they are such costly enterprises, that the heavier the burdens of local government on their incomes, the larger the market must be in order to offset the costs of conforming to local regulations, however, when both factors are present (large markets and reasonable local regulations) the development of tier two businesses is that much more rapid.

The most important thing that tier two businesses bring to a community is the opportunity for members of the community to earn middle class incomes without having to own or manage a businesses, which begins to vastly expand the economic base of the community. The marvelous thing about having people that have money is that they tend to want to spend it, and since they want to spend that money without going too far from home, they would prefer businesses that offer things that they want, not just need, closer to their home, which creates demand for more tier two businesses.

STEP THREEPromote a robust and growing market of tier two businesses (trades businesses) to create the natural demand necessary to support tier three businesses (professional services businesses) that cater to the professional services needs of businesses and of the community. 

Eventually, with more and more tier two businesses, there are enough such businesses that eventually someone will open up a tier three business. Maybe the florist, the restaurant owner, and the barber all decide that they need an accountant, and it just so happens that someone from the community studied to be an accountant and had been working for a firm in another community for a while, but would prefer to work in the same community that she lives. She opens an accounting firm, and all of a sudden, the tier three is opened in the community.

The amazing part about Step Three is that it happens entirely by accident. This is why there are such stark differences between communities are plagued by broken windows and obnoxious graffiti everywhere and communities that are buzzing with economic activity. This is why the kind of crushing poverty that Americans see magnified by the media goes so often hand in hand with oppressive crime rates. This is also why crime rates are minuscule in communities that reached Step Three of the market prosperity model.

Don’t get too excited, though. The transformation from an utterly dysfunctional urban community to robust and prosperous step three market economy is huge. The tallest of the three hurdles is unfortunately the first, because it requires that literally everyone in the community commit to the betterment of the community, and that’s a hard change to make when everything has gone absolutely wrong for so very long. The buy in is the hardest part of the market prosperity model, but this model works will work on lifting 95% of people out of poverty. The 5% that remain we will have to address in a later article.

The key thing to remember, however, is that the market prosperity model works so well, so surely, and so predictably every time it’s tried that it has a specific name in economics theory. “Capitalism.”

Liberty is For The Win!


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The Jobs Problem: Life on the Margins

The sad reality is that poverty is not as complex as the left seems to want to make it out to be, and the solutions to the poverty problem don’t actually need to be complex or even expansive.

What do we do about the poor and disenfranchised?

This question in many ways defines the political landscape of the United States, and there are so many stark divides, even within the political parties, that it’s difficult to discuss this issue without hyperbole. We need to focus on the reality of the problem, if there’s any hope of making headway on the issue. Everyone can agree that it is a real social moral good to alleviate poverty and suffering as much as possible, but we can’t kid ourselves. This problem has plagued mankind since the dawn of civilization, so if there were some magic bullet policy that could totally eliminate suffering and poverty for all people, everywhere, surely, it would have been discovered by now.

The reality is that we live in an imperfect world, with limited resources, and quantifiable but effectively unlimited demand. We are stuck with people who have various motivations, some good and some bad, with no way to tell the difference. The whole problem with the “principle of fair“, then, is that there is no way to distribute limited resources to everyone equally in the real world. And worse, to impose this “fairness” on everyone, we necessarily have to violate the rights and liberties of tens of millions of people. Clearly, to the rational person, there is no question that such a solution would not only fail utterly to address the problem of inequality, but would also increase general unhappiness of the people. Incredibly, this is exactly what the policy of this nation has been for the last 50 years.

In a Gallup poll taken in 2009 regarding income tax rates, a plurality of Americans (48%) said that their tax rates were “about right“, while almost as many Americans (46%) said that their taxes were too high. Only a tiny fraction of Americans (3%) thought that their tax rates were too low. Now this was while the Bush era tax cuts were still in place. Obama not only allowed those tax cuts to elapse, he has also imposed new additional taxes, increasing the burden on all Americans. The current Gallup polling shows that the majority of Americans (51%) now think that taxes are too high. A minority of Americans (42%) believe that taxes are “about right”, and the same tiny minority of Americans (3%) still believe that taxes should be higher.

Leftists will regularly (and inaccurately) assert with great conviction that we live in a “democracy”; though isn’t it curious that they then imposed tax increases that were opposed by 93% to 94% of Americans and only 3% of Americans supported? Why is it only a democracy when it’s convenient for their arguments, but those democratic principles are ignored when they are imposing taxes?

As far as welfare spending, Americans are fairly split on the issue of welfare, but a shift in popular perception of welfare is occurring in the political debate. Another collection of polls found that a plurality of Americans (47%) believe that the government programs for the poor are actually causing actual harm to the welfare of the poor. Many Americans are beginning to realize that dependency on the State is not the same thing as increasing opportunity, and, in many ways, the two goals are mutually exclusive.

The Definition of Insanity

The sad reality is that poverty is not as complex as the left seems to want to make it out to be, and the solutions to the poverty problem don’t actually need to be complex or even expansive. While some individual situations may be more difficult than others, the best solution to poverty is creating a robust jobs market with greater opportunity for all, not just the educated, not just the privileged and well connected, but for everyone. From the kid on the street who might not even finish high school to the single mother who had to put aside aspirations of higher education to take care of ailing parents, all citizens of all stripes deserve a shot at a future of opportunity, not simply of welfare.

Not every person out of the work force or on welfare is a charity case. In fact, millions of Americans are out of the work force simply because they can’t find a job where they live, even if they live in large cities where jobs were once plentiful. A total of 9 million Americans lost their jobs in the recession of 2008 through 2009. And every year, from 2008, through now, about 2 million workers (at least 18 years old) have been entering the job market every single year. Since the beginning of 2008, that’s 16 million new workers who needed jobs of some kind. All together, that is about 25 million Americans who either entered the job market for the first time or lost their job during the recession. Every single one of them not only just needs a job, they deserve one.

So the needs of the country are clear, how many jobs has the economy under this administration created? According to the White House’s own numbers, the economy under Obama has failed spectacularly to create even half of the jobs needed, creating only 11 million private sector jobs since the end of the recession in 2010. Even if we account for 200,000 Baby Boomers leaving the job market (a conservative estimate based on assumptions about the delay of retirement caused by the recession), that is 3 million jobs short of what was needed, with even generous assumptions. In fact, in order to get back on track in the remaining 16 months of his presidency (including October) and to accommodate an additional 2 million new workers entering the work force in 2016, the economy will need to create 312,500 jobs every month, until January 2017 when Obama’s second term comes to an end.

The most jobs in a month created under Obama was 518,000 in May 2010, right before four consecutive months of losses, totaling 282,000 jobs lost, for a net job creation rate of 47,200 jobs per month from May through September of 2010. Over the 81 months since 2009, there have only been 8 months with more than 312,000 or more jobs created. And since 2013, there have only been 5 months that met this requirement. Suffice to say, the chances of hitting a stride of 16 months of consecutive jobs created on target a month are pretty slim. It’s clear by now that the administration, fully influenced by a tiny minority of far left elite, is set on continuing with more of the same. It’s unlikely that we are to experience different results, so how do we get out of this mess?

The Red Pill

The left and the right come at this problem with two very different answers, the reality is that the left has owned this issues since the 1930’s and the New Deal, 1960’s and the start of the “War on Poverty”. And the economic policy since 2009 to today has been the standard “democratic” socialist/Keynesian playbook of the last century. As the recent weakening employment numbers continue to show, the economy continues to slip further and further behind.

The last time the economy was in such a place (1978-1981), it required a bold new vision to turn the economic situation around. America got only a taste of what conservative ideas can do, and we sorely need that kind of bold vision again today, because the leftist playbook that’s been in force since the 1960’s is clearly not only not working but is actually hurting the American worker and the American poor. It’s time to put someone else behind the wheel and try the conservative solutions to employment and poverty, because America and her people deserve better.

We’ll deal with the solutions in the next article.

Liberty is For The Win!


We just checked, and it turns out that fighting for Liberty isn’t free, because it requires time and energy to research, prepare, and propagate this message for you. Please drop just a dollar a month into the proverbial tip jar and become a Patriot Patron. Of course, don’t forget to like, subscribe, and share. Keep this fight for Liberty going! – @LibertyIsFTW