On today’s Fightin Words podcast: An interview with Minnesota State House candidate Matthew Kowalski on his unique approach to policy. Instead of an “issues page,” his campaign website highlights “THE issue.” Which overarching concern eclipses all others?
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: The Supreme Court recently upheld a Michigan law banning the practice of affirmative action in public universities. The dissenting opinion authored by Justice Sonia Sotomayor reveals a twisted worldview which seeks “equal protection” through racial discrimination.
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn engaged host Larry King on a recent episode of Politicking, answering questions regarding Obamacare and the Paycheck Fairness Act. Her answers were strong, but missed an opportunity to dispute false premises. Republicans must dare to be truly different.
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: Presenting to a Tea Party group in Minnesota, Minority Liberty Alliance president Walter Hudson explains why every human being can rightfully claim minority status.
Editor’s Note: A goal for weekends this year has been to start highlighting and promoting some of PJ Lifestyle’s tremendously talented writers. See this collection here of our Top 50 List Articles of 2013 to get a broad overview.
Now we’re going to begin focusing more on individual writers. The first in this series is my friend Walter Hudson, a gifted jack-of-all-trades writer-podcaster-political-activist-culture-warrior who continually challenges and inspires me. I included five of Walter’s list articles in the top 50 list but there are many more pieces of his in other styles and mediums those who are new to his work should read. In addition to these five I’ll select five more that showcase some of his core themes for volume one of his greatest hits collection. But to get started, I invite you to check out these installments of Walter’s addictive podcast that were featured the past two weeks at PJ Lifestyle.
Get caught up each weekend on the podcasts you may have missed as these expanding compilations grow when new episodes are recorded and released. Over the coming weeks Walter is going to continue to build on and explore these and more themes in his own monologues and in dialogues with more guests. If you have any feedback or ideas for subjects you’d like Walter to explore please leave your suggestions in the comments.
- Dave Swindle
On Tax Day, I dared to wonder what happiness I might pursue with the money I earn but never see. I asked readers to join me in the exercise and imagine what they might do with the money they lost to taxes last year. Reader Mike Mahoney added this insightful comment:
I would probably wind up spending it on protection, roads, litigation services. If one looks at tax receipts and the portion of the budget that is enumerated as a power to do things in the constitution you’ll note a similarity. The rest is all done on borrowed money. So, if I didn’t pay taxes I would still pay.
Mike lands a fair point. Government certainly provides a value. In the absence of particular government services, we would need to pursue alternatives, thus incurring expense.
Of course, in that case, we could choose to pay as we saw fit, and would benefit from the cost and quality controls of the market. Whether we would pay as much for the same services under a private model is an open question. (I think it safe to bet we’d pay significantly less.) However, we know the percentage of our income spent on such services would decrease as we earned more, instead of increasing as it does today. Market-driven prices are rarely progressive.
You don’t pay more for groceries or fuel just because you earn more. So why should you pay more for the services provided by government, particularly if you prove less likely to use them?
An unspoken assumption which may inform Mike’s comment is that a world without taxes means anarchy. But that’s not necessarily the case. Dr. Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute here briefly explains how government could raise revenue without coercive taxation:
Imagine the effect such an arrangement would have upon our incentives to produce and improve the lives of ourselves and others through trade. The sky would be the limit.
See Part I here
See Part II here
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: What Is “The Right” Anyway?: Part III, concluding a discussion with PJ Media associate editor David Swindle on the distinctions within the right-wing coalition. Can we sort out our differences? If so, how?
See Part I here
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: What Is “The Right” Anyway?: Part II, continuing a discussion with PJ Media associate editor David Swindle on the importance of accurately navigating ideological territory, we consider whether anarchy is “right-wing?”
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: A discussion with PJ Media associate editor David Swindle on the use of “the Right” as a political identifier. Who are we talking about? Who is and is not part of “the Right?”
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: Sunday’s murderous shootings in Kansas City have been labelled hate crimes. What makes an offense a hate crime? Should government seek to end racism by prosecuting it?
As the father of a young family, I have taken a fanatical interest in my household finances. Curious whether I could squeeze more juice out of our budgetary lemon, I took a look at our monthly expenses as a percentage of our take-home income.
To my astonishment, I found that 84% of our take-home income goes to essential expenses. By “essential,” I mean items which cannot be cancelled or reduced. These are things like rent, fuel, insurance, and groceries. We already minimize these expenses as much as possible.
To my further astonishment, I found that all of the elective expenses in our monthly budget, things like Netflix, hosting my websites, and maintaining a subscription to Star Wars: The Old Republic, total up to a mere 3% of my take-home income. If I really cut to the bone and went without my entertainments and hobbies, I would hardly save enough to speak of. This proves problematic, because I have outstanding liabilities which must eventually be met, not to mention things which I would like to save for – including stuff like retirement.
I hold down three jobs. My wife has two. So we’re not exactly slacking. Be that as it may, I figure we need to conjure up a way to bring home a certain amount more per month in order to advance beyond treading water to actually getting somewhere.
As it turns out, I already earn more than I figure I need. The only problem is that I don’t get to keep it. It gets confiscated before I ever see it and sent to state and federal government.
If I could actually use what I rightfully earned last year, I would be able to pay off every outstanding bill. I would be able to replace my aging laptop with a decent machine that could get me through the next five years. And I would have enough left over to put a serious dent in my auto or student loans.
How about you? What could you do with the money you lost to government last year? What happiness could you pursue? What values could you secure? Leave a comment below.
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Steve Israel, appearing with Candy Crowley on CNN, says significant elements of the Republican base “are animated by racism.” Rather than argue which party proves more racist, let’s consider which policies lend racism its power.
A just society punishes actions which violate individual rights, like Sunday’s ghastly shootings at Jewish community centers in Kansas City. An unjust society allows, endorses, or even perpetrates violations of rights, as Nazi Germany did. Rather than a world without racism, a utopian ideal futilely sought after through the police of thought, we should seek public policy which condemns any action which violates rights, regardless of its motivation.
Last week saw a feminist uproar over comments made by actress Kirsten Dunst in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK. Expressing her personal opinion that men and women have distinct roles within relationships, and that she prefers to live accordingly, Dunst provoked the ire of many proclaimed champions of woman’s rights. US Weekly reports:
The 31-year-old cover girl has a more traditional view when it comes to relationships between men and women.
“I feel like the feminine has been a little undervalued,” she told the magazine. “We all have to get our own jobs and make our own money, but staying at home, nurturing, being the mother, cooking – it’s a valuable thing my mom created.”
“Kirsten Dunst is not paid to write gender theory so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that she’s kind of dumb about it,” Jezebel writer Erin Gloria Ryan wrote.
Gender theory? All Dunst did was express her personal preference. Since when did personal preferences become subject to expert review?
An appeal to authority and ad hominem notwithstanding, Ryan’s response betrays the real objective of her so-called “feminism.” Rather than protect the right of each woman to pursue her individually conceived values, the Jezebel brand of feminism seeks to subjugate women under “gender theory,” whether they individually assent to it or not.
Dunst expressed what makes her happy. But “feminists” like Ryan don’t want women like Dunst to be happy. They’d rather drag their fellow women through a cultural inquisition, hoping to extract the false confession that a man’s love and provision prove somehow exploitative.
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: PJ Media’s Bonnie Ramthun joins the program to discuss her recent piece “The Rise of the Robot Employee.” As the Left moves to raise the minimum wage, robots become less expensive than human workers.
Sunday, I offered the provocative theological claim that Altruism Has No Place in Christianity. I referenced the biblical teaching of pastor and theologian John Piper, who advances a notion of Christian hedonism summed up in the declaration that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
My colleague Susan L.M. Goldberg approached my claim with reservations. She concluded:
The question of whether or not altruism holds a place in religious life is dependent upon how one defines the structure of their faith: as a business arrangement or a personal relationship. The argument Walter poses is a good one in terms of the welfare state in America. I agree with him that socialist policies should not be promoted as altruistic acts of a benevolent big government. As far as altruism goes in relation to faith, I also agree that God prepares an individual for His purpose in their life and rewards them for their faith. I do, however, question Walter’s contextualizing our personal relationship with God into a business transaction. Before we hasten to view our personal faith in that light, we should bear in mind that the failure of the welfare state was preceded by the transformation of our houses of worship into social halls dedicated to fulfilling our own very non-altruistic needs.
Susan makes a distinction which I reject. Whether business or personal in nature, all relationships prove transactional. Certainly it is possible for people to act altruistically in their relationships. But altruism proves the exception to the transactional rule, and undermines the relational bond.
In my previous piece, I cited the example of a husband buying a bouquet of his wife’s favorite flower with money he would rather spend on something else. That’s altruism, doing something for someone else at the expense of your values. Not only would the husband harbor bitterness from his sacrifice. If his wife learned how he felt about the purchase, she would despise him for it. Why?
We have heard it said that “it’s the thought that counts” when gifts are given. What thought are we referring to? In the case of a bouquet bought for a wife, the thought might be, “I love you and want you to have this symbol of my affection far more than I want the money and time it took to acquire it.” In other words, the wife wants the husband to feel satisfied by her enjoyment of the flowers he bought. It’s transactional. Everyone is better off.
The same applies in our personal relationship to God. 2 Corinthians 9:7 reads:
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
If God wanted altruistic worshipers, He would not care whether they were reluctant or not.
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: The former Florida governor and would-be successor to the Bush presidential dynasty made an odd play over the weekend, calling illegal immigration “an act of love.” Does he know something most Republicans don’t?
Today’s Fightin Words podcast: The Left lays claim to compassion in the political discourse. What happens when we test that claim against their policy prescriptions?
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: Welcoming new listeners from PJ Media, we consider the effect of Christian-themed altruism on political discourse. Does acting for others require sacrificing your values?
“It is better to give than to receive.” How often have we heard that? The motto of the altruist, this would-be-proverb exhorts us to act for others at our expense. Among the vast culture of Christendom, altruism has been adopted as a tenant of the faith by many if not most believers. Churchgoers are encouraged to give sacrificially, which generally gets interpreted as giving until it hurts.
Yet careful examination of scripture suggests that altruism has no place in the Christian life. Consider this from pastor and theologian John Piper:
After my message to the Liberty University student body [in September of 2013], a perceptive student asked this clarifying question: So you don’t believe that altruistic acts are possible or desirable?
I asked for his definition of altruism so that I could answer what he was really asking. He said, “Doing a good deed for others with no view to any reward.” I answered: that’s right, whether or not it’s possible, I don’t think it’s desirable, because it’s not what the Bible teaches us to do; and it’s not what people experience as genuine love. Because it isn’t genuine love.
What does Piper mean by that? Consider that the phrase “it is better to give than to receive” does not actually appear in scripture. Instead, Acts 20:35 reads:
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
More blessed for who? The Contemporary English Version translates it this way. “More blessings come from giving than from receiving.” The New Life Version among others translates it another way. “We are more happy when we give than when we receive.” Christ, according to Paul, tells us we are better off helping the weak than being among the weak who require help.
That presents a far more precise application than the vague notion that “it’s better to give than to receive.” From an earthly perspective, giving requires abundance above and beyond our requirements for survival. We must have before we can give, and we must get before we can have. From a heavenly perspective, helping the weak in the name of Christ proves an act of obedient worship which draws us deeper into joyful relationship with Him. There’s nothing altruistic about that. You cannot lose upon securing an infinite value.
Another Fort Hood shooting where trained military personnel were unarmed and ordered to hide like children. What’s wrong with this picture?
(10:27 minutes long; 10 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this show to your hard drive.)
By now, you may have read that a technology company head has been forced to resign on account of his support of traditional marriage. Yahoo News reports:
Mozilla Chief Executive Brendan Eich has stepped down, the company said on Thursday, after an online dating service urged a boycott of the company’s web browser because of a donation Eich made to opponents of gay marriage.
The software company came under fire for appointing Eich as CEO last month. In 2008, he gave money to oppose the legalization of gay marriage in California, a hot-button issue especially at a company that boasts about its policy of inclusiveness and diversity.
The boycott and subsequent response from Mozilla stand as examples of free association. Private entities have the right to condemn and disassociate from expression they find offensive. However, the story behind the story is how mandatory disclosure of campaign contributions like that made by Eich violates his rights, and those of countless others.
Consider why we have secret ballots. Why have labor unions and their surrogates fought so hard for card check? Knowing how someone votes enables opponents to retaliate. As Eich’s situation demonstrates, so too do the mandatory reporting requirements of campaign finance law.
This week, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that there should be no limits upon “how much money people can donate in total in one election season.” The Court properly recognized campaign contributions as expressions of free speech and exercises of free association. That recognition suggests that any limitation upon campaign finance violates individual rights.
The income tax has fostered a culture which regards how much someone makes, and how they spend it, as public business. Morally, such matters should remain private. Campaign finance law banning anonymous contributions chills speech in the same way public ballots would. When compelled to disclose campaign contributions, people cannot act freely upon their conscience. Donors must consider possible retaliation from parties who would not otherwise be privy to their beliefs or associations. Privacy emerges as a derivative of property and free association. Mandatory disclosure violates both, and thus violates privacy.
But campaign contributions affect public policy, you say. So how can they be private?
Voting affects public policy too. So when are we getting rid of secret ballots?
Director J.J. Abrams promised a new hope for the Star Wars franchise when tapped to continue the saga in next year’s Episode VII. That hope may have just faded like the cryptic spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Producers today announced that wayward Gungan klutz Jar Jar Binks will return to the series, playing “a significant role” in the 2015 release. This from the official Star Wars website:
Disney and Lucasfilm are excited to announce that Star Wars: Episode VII, directed by J.J. Abrams, will welcome the return of children’s favorite Jar Jar Binks…
“We think there’s more story to tell,” said Abrams. “His arc was never fully resolved in [Revenge of the Sith]. Every other major character either died, went into exile, or otherwise positioned for their role in the original trilogy.”
Since Jar Jar did not appear in George Lucas’ original films, the creative team behind Episode VII felt that an opportunity presented to reprise the character in a new setting.
“We understand that for many older fans who experienced the prequels in adulthood, Jar Jar wasn’t the most popular character,” confessed executive producer Kathleen Kennedy. “But kids liked him. They really did. And these films have always been directed primarily at a younger audience.”
Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who returns to the series with a pedigree penning The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, indicated that Jar Jar won’t be precisely the same Gungan we remember. “It’s been 50 years since last we saw him. Even a creature like Jar Jar matures in that amount of time. He has the same heart, but a little more grace and wisdom.”
So what do you think? Has the new trilogy just jumped the sarlacc?
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in in January of 2013 as “5 Ideas You Need to Rise From Poverty to the Middle Class.” It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months… Click here to see the top 40 so far and to advocate for your favorites in the comments.
It was like that moment in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy emerges from the grey remains of her dislocated home into an exotic world of color. That was how I felt at twelve years of age upon my arrival in Minnesota.
Home up to that point had been the dank flat malaise of inner-ring suburban Detroit. In many ways, the Motor City evoked Dorothy’s Kansas. Everything was built on the grid system, many right angles, old houses of stone and brick. It was tangibly dull, colors muted by wear and grime. Winters were especially bleak. An amalgam of overcast, endless concrete and dirt-ridden snow drowned the world in grey. By comparison, the big skies and rolling hills of the Mississippi valley seemed a storybook paradise.
That first trip to Minnesota was made in order to spend time with my father. He had been maintaining an apartment in the Twin Cities while starting a new position with Northwest Airlines. We were to scout out potential homes in anticipation of transplanting the rest of the family, my mother and two sisters. It was perhaps the most visceral manifestation of upward mobility in our family’s history, chasing opportunity across the country.
It was the culmination of my father’s economic journey, which had its beginnings in poverty. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about my father’s childhood aside from the scraps I’ve managed to glean from remarks thrown here and there. I know enough, however, to understand that my father’s rise to the middle class beat the odds — which were stacked against him from the start.
Many years later, I continue to benefit from the choices Dad made. Now the father of my own young family, I stand atop his shoulders looking to grab the next rung. From that position, I realize that some of the essential concepts my father applied are still relevant to me today. As I seek to renew the momentum my father achieved, I reflect upon where he began and how he got to where he did. There are valuable lessons there.
First, it’s important to understand the goal. When we consider the quest for upward mobility, what is our measure of success? In a 2011 piece for Time magazine, assistant managing editor Rana Foroohar makes a crucial distinction:
You can argue about what kind of mobility really matters. Many conservatives, for example, would be inclined to focus on absolute mobility, which means the extent to which people are better off than their parents were at the same age. That’s a measure that focuses mostly on how much economic growth has occurred, and by that measure, the U.S. does fine. Two-thirds of 40-year-old Americans live in households with larger incomes, adjusted for inflation, than their parents had at the same age (though the gains are smaller than they were in the previous generation).
But just as we don’t feel grateful to have indoor plumbing or multichannel digital cable television, we don’t necessarily feel grateful that we earn more than our parents did. That’s because we don’t peg ourselves to our parents; we peg ourselves to the Joneses. Behavioral economics tells us that our sense of well-being is tied not to the past but to how we are doing compared with our peers. Relative mobility matters. By that standard, we aren’t doing very well at all. Having the right parents increases your chances of ending up middle to upper middle class by a factor of three or four.
It’s a mistake to take for granted the notion that “relative mobility matters” without asking why. As we consider some ideas for rising from poverty to the middle class, it will become apparent that improving our individual quality of life is a superior consideration to how our wealth compares with that of others.
I had no intention of seeing Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, a film releasing wider this weekend “inspired by the [biblical] story of Noah.” Though initial glimpses excited me, revelations regarding Aronofsky’s stark deviations from the biblical narrative blunted my interest. Word on the street was that Aronofsky sought to recast Noah in an environmentalist mold and completely abandon key biblical themes.
Thursday night, I found myself out and about with a couple of hours to kill and decided to catch an early screening. As it turns out, everything you’ve heard about the heresy in Noah proves true. Here are 7 ways Aronofsky’s Noah upends the Bible (major spoilers):
7. Return of the Ents
Yeah, you read that right. Ents, the giant walking trees from The Lord of the Rings. What, you don’t remember those in the Bible?
Okay, these aren’t ents precisely. They are “Watchers,” fallen angels who rebelled against “the creator” (God makes no appearance in the film) by descending to Earth to help mankind. They lumber about in clumsy stone bodies as punishment for their disobedience.