Let’s have a reminder of summer, to take our minds off all of this global warming.
Let’s start with this, an idea I’ve given some thought to myself over the years: Get The State Out of Marriage. Relevant excerpt:
In Oklahoma this past Friday, State Representative Mike Turner boldly challenged, “whether marriage needs to be regulated by the state at all.” He floated a bill that would remove the state’s role of licensing matrimony. This was in response to a recent court order that strikes down Oklahoma’s definition of marriage as traditional one-man-one-woman.
Think about that for a moment. Take your time, I’ll wait right here.
Ready? Let’s move on.
Rather than defend the status quo, I’ll take a different tack; what good reasons are there for government to be involved in marriage? I can think of one; marriage has a legal component to it, in that it is a contract between competent, capable adults. (Normally a man and a woman, but that perception is somewhat in flux at the moment.) Now, contracts are written and agreed to between competent parties all the time without government involvement; government generally only becomes involved when one or more parties violates the term of the agreement in some way or another.
How is government involved in marriage? In one primary way: the issue of marriage licenses, usually at the county level. Why do we need a license – in essence, permission from the county government – to get married?
Many, many years ago, when I was a little tad, we lived on a farm near Fairbank, Iowa. Our neighbors were an older couple, Grace and Brownie, who formed a treasured extra pair of surrogate grandparents for me. I have a distinct memory of sitting with my mother in Grace and Brownie’s kitchen listening to Brownie, a stubborn, no-nonsense WW1 veteran and lifelong farmer, talk about his pursuit of a building permit to extend one of his farm buildings. Most of all I remember his lament that “these days you have to get a permit from the county to take a shit.”
That was in the late Sixties. Things have not improved since that time.
One could make an argument for building codes and the concomitant permits to make sure that those codes are adhered to, especially for commercial buildings. But marriage?
Removing government from the business of marriage makes a great deal of sense. It would make no inroads on the religious observation of marriage. Churches of all sorts could go right on conducting marriages exactly as they do now, with a little less paperwork. It would make no inroad on the secular observation of marriage. People who are not religious (like me) could conduct any type of ceremony or observation that suits them. Would some people forgo marriage altogether? Probably, yes; some people already do. The numerator may change some, but the denominator remains the same.
Here’s the real rub, though, and this is why advocacy of this could be a winner for the slowly-growing libertarian wing of the GOP: Removing government from the business of marriage removes the thorny issue of gay marriage from the debate.
“But Animal,” you might ask, “doesn’t that open the door for all sorts of domestic arrangements? Doesn’t that open the door to polygamy, polyandry, and all sorts of other polys?“
My reply: “Well, sure. But if government isn’t involved in the licensing of domestic arrangements at all, what changes? People all over are free to indulge in those kinds of domestic arrangements now, they just can’t get a license from the county to formalize it. And why should they?”
Now, I’m about as heterosexual as you can get, in case you hadn’t figured that out from my penchant for Rule Five cheesecake. I like women, and to my very good fortune women have always liked me. (Mrs. Animal most of all.) It’s beyond my capacity to understand why a man would be sexually attracted to another man. But then, it’s beyond my capacity to understand why people like watching football on television. And that’s OK; the fact that other people do those things doesn’t affect me. It doesn’t affect my marriage. It doesn’t affect my life. It doesn’t affect me if two men, or two women, or three men and five women, or two men and a rosebush want to live together and call it “marriage.”
I know there are religious objections to gay marriage; I’m not religious and I don’t share them, but I acknowledge the depth of conviction of people who do hold those views. This proposal can easily address that as well. Churches that object to gay marriage should be free to refuse to conduct them.
Removing the licensing requirement from the equation removes the controversy. It’s a good idea. This Oklahoma proposal should be taken on the road.
I didn’t listen to the State of the Union. It’s nothing more than political theatrics, and no matter who the President is, everyone already knows what he’s going to say. I’ve read the transcript, and this one was perfectly predictable in its banality and fact-challenged economic presumptions. Some noteworthy commentary:
Everything Joe Biden Did, Besides Listen to the SOTU. Let’s be honest about this at least; daffy old Uncle Joe should have been retired years ago.
Instead of more SOTU discussion, have a read on tax policy, from Brian Domitrovic of the libertarian Cato Institute: Tax Revolt! It’s Time to Learn from Past Success. Excerpt:
The achievements of the 1980s and 1990s stemmed from one source above all: the centerpiece of Ronald Reagan’s economics, the bill that Congress passed in the summer of 1981. This was the great tax cut that had been originally sponsored in Congress in the 1970s by Rep. Jack Kemp of New York and Sen. William V. Roth of Delaware, “Kemp-Roth.”
The tax cut of 1981 — which took all rates of the income tax down by an average of 23 percent, lowered the capital gains rate by 29 percent, and reduced business taxes — was the point of origin of the renaissance of the 1980s and 1990s whereby the economy expanded well in excess of the government.
The tax cut made everything else easy. First of all, it took the heat off the Fed. The Fed did not have to worry about stimulating the economy, because growth flowed from the tax cut. Furthermore, lower tax rates made loopholes less important as a source of profit, so business focused more on real entrepreneurship.
The 1980s saw the turnaround from years of Nixon/Ford/Carter stagflation and ‘malaise,’ the process began with tax rate cuts (not tax cuts; tax rate cuts. There’s a difference.) but also saw the Imperial Federal government swallowing a simplification of the tax code that eliminated a lot of exemptions and loopholes. The result? Tax revenues soared, the product of increased economic activity.
But there was a problem; Congress increased spending just as quickly. Now, for about the last ten years, Federal policy has become as hostile to economic growth as it was friendly in the 1980s, and Congress continues to spend.
That, True Believers, is the other side of the tax policy debate. No change in tax policy will extract us from the current fiscal mess until Congress learns to stop the runaway spending.
Mr. Domitrovic concludes:
Instead of conceding long-term mediocrity under Leviathan, we should take inspiration from our past, indeed our recent past. The last time we were stuck with 2 percent growth for the long term, the 1970s and the early 1980s, we mustered a means of narrowing government. The real results were so stellar that to recite them is to take us back to a world we have lost — but only 15 years ago.
Tax cuts, stable money, and the rendering of spending and regulation as superfluous are the formula of the supply-side revolution — the Reagan Revolution. They stand sentinel right there, not long ago in our history, as the way to advance through our sluggishness and purposelessness today.
He’s right. But it’s only half of the picture.
Coming to us today from the RealClearPolitics site, another winner from the always-worth-reading Dr. Thomas Sowell: The Inequality Bogeyman. Excerpt:
One of the problems with so many discussions of income and wealth is that the intelligentsia are so obsessed with the money that people receive that they give little or no attention to what causes money to be paid to them, in the first place.
The money itself is not wealth. Otherwise the government could make us all rich just by printing more of it. From the standpoint of a society as a whole, money is just an artificial device to give us incentives to produce real things — goods and services.
Those goods and services are the real “wealth of nations,” as Adam Smith titled his treatise on economics in the 18th century.
The esteemed Dr. Sowell hits to the very heart of the matter with this definition of “wealth,” and in so doing illustrates why government can not – by definition – create wealth. Government can not create work; the only services government legitimately produces are ‘distributed’ services, such as fire and police protection, services which add value only retroactively following some unforeseen event. Only private enterprise innovates, developing new goods and services before the need is anticipated. This creates value; this creates wealth. The very definition of entrepreneurship, creating value from ideas, is the wellspring of wealth.
Example: Many of us on the wrong side of fifty remember what things were like before microwave ovens – and yet today, not only does every kitchen have one, most folks can’t imagine doing without one. Value was created in the form of an entire line of products, producing wealth for millions, because of that innovation. For a more recent example, see the iPod and iPad, devices that changed the way we listen to music and access information. How many jobs were created by the production of those two devices alone?
Dr. Sowell concludes: Intellectuals’ obsession with income statistics — calling envy “social justice” — ignores vast differences in productivity that are far more fundamental to everyone’s well-being. Killing the goose that lays the golden egg has ruined many economies.
As usual, Dr. Sowell has it exactly right.
Why Hunt? Check it out.
A Pen, a Phone, and a Flailing President.
The Obama Administration may well be characterized by one word: from the article: “Uninformed.” When the administration does admit to knowing about some screw-up or another, it invariably seems to be someone else’s fault.
Moving on to the world of tech, it seems Microsoft is looking for a recovery from the massive Charlie Foxtrot that is Windows 8. Both of my machines are still running Windows 7, and they will stay that way until Microsoft unscrews this particular mess. Mrs. A has a hybrid tablet/laptop that runs Windows 8, and she isn’t impressed. As pointed out in the article, Microsoft seems to go through this process about every other major OS release, so maybe there is some hope for Windows 9.
One more, this one from the sexy world of science: Graphene Condoms. Advantages? The thinnest and strongest condoms ever made, which presumably would boost condom use. An issue with which I have no personal interest, as a happily married man on the wrong side of fifty whose spouse is a frighteningly good shot, but interesting all the same.
Work beckons. Stay tuned, True Believers; more to come.
This is an interesting take on current social and political trends from David Harsanyi: America Isn’t Destined To Be More Liberal. Excerpt:
Marijuana legalization or support for same-sex marriage is far more likely caused by a growing “live and let live” mindset than it is any burst of leftist idealism. And if the “live and let live” mindset starts bleeding into other areas of American life — say, education, health care and religious freedom — the left is in trouble.
In the end, the progressive agenda demands that you trust the state to control economic outcomes — an idea that is yet to be proved especially popular among Americans. Will it be? Who knows? But right now, what does seem to be growing is skepticism toward government, especially among the young. When Gallup asks about what people “think the most important problem facing this country today is,” it doesn’t bode well for the left that a plurality of people — independents, Republicans and Democrats — say it’s government. Fifty-three percent of Americans claim to believe government does “too many things.”
It probably doesn’t speak well for the current state of affairs that, when you mention “government” to most people, they don’t think of their county commissioners, their city council or even their state legislature; they think immediately of that colossus in Washington, the Imperial Federal government. Why is that? Because for decades, it has grown ever larger, ever more intrusive, and far, far beyond its Constitutional boundaries.
The national government has only a few legitimate purposes: To protect its citizens from foreign attack or invasion, to ensure the security of our borders and deal with international trade. That’s really about it. And, for that matter, government at all levels only has a few legitimate purposes; to protect the lives and property of citizens, and to provide a few essential distributed services, such as police, fire protection and basic infrastructure. And, in terms of accountability, those services are most efficiently provided by levels of government as close as possible to the voters.
By way of illustration, look at the Imperial Federal government’s latest major project, the ill-named “Affordable Care Act,” better known as Obamacare. It is a debacle of the worst sort, rammed through by a parliamentary trick, passed without any of the people who voted on it having read it (remember Nancy Pelosi’s notorious “we have to pass it to find out what’s in it” comment?) Now the Obamacare chickens have come home to roost. Employers are cutting hours, businesses are maintaining headcount below the magic thirty, and the less said about the healthcare.gov website, the better.
If this is what it takes to turn the country in a more libertarian direction, though, then it may have been worth it.