Archive for the ‘#principles’ Tag

A President of Principle (Draft)   Leave a comment

I don’t have many politicians that I look on as heroes. Wally Hickel from Alaska comes close. I respected Sarah Palin’s refusal to allow the Alaska Legislature to increase the budget in an era of high oil revenues. I am amazed Ron Paul managed to remain as untainted as he did for as long as he served. And ….

Calvin Coolidge, bw head and shoulders photo portrait seated, 1919.jpgYeah, that’s about it. Lincoln got knocked off his pedestal when I began to respect the Constitution. George Washington too. Learning more about these men convinced me that all politicians are corrupted and

In fact, the only US President I truly admire in history is Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president. When he voted a congressional salary increase, he told Congress:

“No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.”

That’s Coolidge as a man. Not only was he deeply concerned with tax reduction and the federal budget, he was also highly dedicated to serving of both his neighbor and nation. Coolidge had a special understanding of public service and never swayed from his foundational beliefs. These qualities made him the beloved man that he was. Although soft-spoken, Coolidge showed immense amounts of courage in serving his nation and staying true to his fundamental convictions.

An important way in which Calvin Coolidge showed this courage was in his approach to public service. Prior to his term as Commander-in-Chief, the government had grown unchecked for years under the Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson administrations. Wealth redistribution, government regulation, and the strength of unions were on the rise during this era of progressivism. Soon after stepping into the Oval Office, Coolidge promptly went on a budget- and tax-cutting spree to abolish what he referred to as “Despotic Exactions.”

Although scoffed at by many, this decrease in taxation and government spending saved the average American over $200 per year (about $1,500 today – sound familiar?). Coolidge wanted to help the poor, and he saw that this was the only way to enact true, long-term change toward raising the American standard of living. He and his Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew Mellon, referred to this policy as “Scientific Taxation.” Coolidge once said:

“Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.”

This informed approach was his creative service to the least of these, the poor in our society.

It took an immense amount of courage on Coolidge’s part to abandon previous methods and take a new approach to public service. This new approach was both utilitarian and grounded in a strong respect for people’s basic human rights. Though unorthodox, his principled fiscal stewardship caused many poor Americans to succeed in achieving a better life. With the national debt being cut almost in half, the 17.5 percent increase in the nation’s wealth, and illiteracy being cut in half as well, his presidential term was a success by any standard.

Inaction can benefit a nation more than action, as demonstrated by his numerous vetoed bills.

Although seemingly reserved, Coolidge was a man of strong principles. He called his fellow citizens to return to the proven principles of the American political tradition and encouraged them to examine their own beliefs in light of these principles. He believed strongly in the limits of social engineering, the nature of wealth, individual responsibility, and society’s dependence on moral and religious values. His ability to stand by these fundamental convictions in the face of adversity is rare among men.

In her book entitled Coolidge, Amity Shlaes refers to President Coolidge as our “Great Refrainer.” She suggests that inaction can benefit a nation more than action, as demonstrated by his numerous vetoed bills. “This was the boy with his finger in the dike, stopping a great progressive tide,” she accurately states. Throughout his life, Calvin Coolidge rejected what Bastiat called “legal plunder” and worked toward the creation not only of wealth but of beauty.

Calvin Coolidge’s messages regarding public service and his fundamental convictions have held true for almost a century. These firm principles were the groundwork for his ability to enact change for the better in America through public service. The way he thought determined the way he lived; his form followed his function. Calvin Coolidge lived by the principles that defined him. His belief system never aged. Even in the culturally diverse, globalized world we live in where people are desperate for new answers, ideas, and solutions, the simple social and moral code by which he lived remains as relevant as ever.

Posted February 20, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in History, Uncategorized

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Parchment Barrier/Paper Target   Leave a comment

Someone asked me the other day who I considered to be the biggest winner of the 2016 election. I don’t think it was Donald Trump or the people who are aligning themselves with him. I think it was freedom of speech and expression.

Alexis de Tocquevil  (Democracy in America) observed that:

Once the Americans have taken up an idea, whether it be well or ill founded, nothing is more difficult than to eradicate it from their minds.

Tocqueville might as well have been observing the United States today rather than almost 200 years ago. There are no sacred cows in America. Absolutely no one is above criticism and all issues, including politics and religion, are open for discussion. In today’s international community, the United States stands almost alone in upholding near-absolute freedom of personal expression, largely thanks to the constitutional protections provided by the First Amendment.

We take our cherished freedom to think, speak, write and express ourselves for granted. Freedom of speech must be defended if it is to remain actually free and, absent certain internalized principles, all the legal mumbo-jumbo in the world is no more than a parchment barrier and increasingly, it begins to look like a paper target.

Recent developments alarm civil libertarians because they could carry long-term negative repercussions for the United States as a free and open society.

In a global trend, people have come to expect emotional and intellectual comfort as their right. We’ve trained an entire generation that they have a right not to be offended. Are we surprised that they stopped demanding freedom of speech and started demanding to be free of the “offensive” speech of others?

Image result for image of freedom of speechGreat Britain is undergoing what one writer describes as a slow death of free speech. England’s press (but not its broadcast media) has been free of government interference since 1695, but in 2014, more than 200 UK leading cultural figures signed a declaration demanding the the UK press sign up to the Royal Charter of press regulation.  Ordinary people face jail time for callous tweeting. In British universities, student-driven campaigns have successfully shut down debates and banned pop songs, newspapers, and even philosophy clubs.

Of course, that’s on the other side of the Atlantic and the United States has the First Amendment prevent outright government regulation of the press, so we don’t need to be concerned about cultural attitudes dragging us in the same direction, right?

Don’t try to make that claim on most American campuses because the intellectual habits of debate and discussion and tolerance for the views of others has pretty much been eliminated. Trigger warnings and safe places are becoming the norm. We regularly hear of campus outrages involving a controversial speaker or perceived injustice, and the “offended” parties responding with a frenzied social media crusade or a real-world attempt to shame, bully, browbeat, censor, and punish the offender. These days, be careful that what you say doesn’t make someone feel “unsafe” because it will be the end of your career.

 

Image result for image of freedom of speechThere is a brand of millennial social justice that advocates for the destruction of intellectual honesty and open mindedness. It balkanizes groups of people, engenders hatred between groups, lies if it serves their agenda, manipulates language to provide immunity from criticism and then publicly shames anyone who even remotely dares to dissent. This ideology is today’s biggest threat to free speech and genuine tolerance because it prevails among “educated” young people today, spreading through academia.

 

In Kindly Inquisitors, Jonathan Rauch notes that these “humanitarians” who seek to prevent offense to oppressed and marginalized peoples conflate speech with physical action. That you contemplate an alternative opinion is now considered as highly offensive as if you beat someone to death for disagreeing with you.

But the frightening prospect is that these young people will grow up to rule the world we leave them. The future of a free society looks very bleak should these types become a dominant force on the political landscape.

Image result for image of freedom of speechDespite these challenges, free speech has unparalleled potential for human liberation in the Digital Age. The battle between liberty and power and the individual and the collective will continue. I believe the truth can still prevail in the marketplace of ideas if we treasure and defend the principles, practices, and institutions that make it possible.

Under no circumstances do I consider Donald Trump to be a free speech warrior, but many of the people who voted for him did so because he is political incorrect. He did not allow the speech codes of modern society to silence him in speaking of concerns that most ordinary Americans have. People who were fed up with being told “you can’t say that” voted for someone who did “say that” and, whether or not you like what was said, freedom of speech won the election.

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