Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Citizen vs Government

The reason that the relationship between citizens and government is always, in general, contentious, is because the relationship is involuntary. We do not get to choose what tax dollars we pay or what government programs we fund with our tax dollars. Some of the functions of government are mandated by the constitution--defense of the country against enemies, the objective upholding of the laws of the land, the defense of individual liberty--and are likely supported by virtually every citizen. Those functions of government that are either not prescribed by or are prohibited by the constitution--probably as much as 75% of what Congress taxes us and spends our money on today--are the contentious bits. On any given issue, health care, bank bailouts, grants and endowments to support the arts, even public schools, you can find substantial numbers of people, and in some cases an outright majority of citizens who would prefer the freedom to make different choices than the ones the government is making for them.

The government's justification for their heavy-handedness is that they are trying to achieve that which is good. But the government has no resources of its own to attain its goals. So it reaches into your pocket and mine, forcibly if necessary. And if you don't believe that force is involved, try not paying your taxes. If a private person did the same thing, no matter how admirable the motive, he would be arrested and tried as a thief. The end result of this is Balkanisation. Citizen number one supports program A but not program B; citizen number two supports program B but not program A. The population becomes divided into special interest groups who are pitted against each other in a constant fight for the favors and the limited tax dollars that the government can bestow.

Individual liberty is the antidote to this constant conflict. The more voluntary relationships the better. When a person buys a car, does he or she drive home from the dealership, park proudly in the driveway to show the family, and then lament, "man, I just got screwed." That never happens! In a voluntary relationship, such as the one between a car dealer and a car buyer, implicit in the contractual agreement that is the sale of the car is the confidence that both sides gain from the exchange. The dealer values the cash more than the car, and the buyer values the car more than the cash. Voluntary exchanges typically benefit both parties; involuntary exchanges (bank robbery is a good example) typically benefit one at the expense of the other.

The current trajectory of the Obama administration and the Democratic majority in Congress is to dramatically increase the size and scope of government, and thus to dramatically increase the number and magnitude of the involuntary exchanges that occur between the citizens and the government of the United States. Their justfication is the promotion of that which is fair and just. Should they succeed they will achieve the opposite.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Shariah Financing in Minnesota

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is undoubtedly on the short, short list of formidable Republican candidates for President in 2012. I don't know much about him, but in a recent appearance on Greta van Susteren's show on Fox News he came across as pleasant, articulate, and on the surface at least, committed to principles that have made the United States strong--liberty, opportunity, personal responsibility, and small government.

However, back in Minnesota, the state government is currently engaged in a practice that is a threat to those principles. I have not done the research to know who in the Minnesota legislature voted for this practice and who did not, or to know if the details were hidden in a larger bill that was important to the Governor, but he signed it, and he is the chief, so he is responsible. The practice I am referring to is government sponsored Shariah financing of house purchases for Muslim families or individuals. Basically, the state buys a home and resells it to a Muslim home buyer at a higher price which includes the interest that would be paid over the amortization time. The down payment and monthly installments are agreed to up front at current mortgage rates. Because the state makes the payment to the mortgage company and the individual simply reimburses the state, the Muslim prohibition against interest payments is "avoided." It's a charade. The other part of Muslim compliant financing requires that 2.5% of the amount financed be donated to Islamic charities, some of which funnel money to groups that sponsor terrorism. Isn't that nice. Given that a resurgent housing market is one of the cornerstones of economic recovery, I am certain that lawmakers anywhere in the country would be sorely tempted to sponsor anything that might expand the pool of prospective home buyers. But aside from the possible funding of terrorists, this practice is undesirable for other, more opaque reasons.

The immigrants of the 19th and 20th centuries often settled parts of the United States, or parts of the great U.S. cities, in blocs--Irish neighborhoods, Italian neighborhoods, Scandinavian farming communities. What these diverse populations shared upon arrival in the New World was an adoption of the American value system that emphasized liberty, opportunity, and self-reliance. Unfortunately that adoption process is out of fashion these days. In its place is the acceptance and promotion of a multi-cultural relativism which is loathe to proclaim the superiority of one value system over another. What this leads to is a creeping acceptance, in the name of tolerance, of value systems that are often highly intolerant, and not compatible with traditional western values. Shariah financing doesn't sound too dangerous, but once you accept Shariah financing, what's next? Separate Shariah courts for all matters within the Muslim community?; Shariah tolerance for the various ways in which women are subjugated and killed under Islamic law?; Shariah approved assassinations of critics of Islam and those who dare leave the faith? It sounds like a stretch to go from financing to assassination, but several of the things I mentioned are already being advanced in places like the United Kingdom and the province of Ontario. Shariah law is not compatible with western values and it must not be tolerated here.

How do we stop it? In one of Winston Churchill's famous pre-WWII speeches he said this:

Alexander the Great remarked that the peoples of Asia were slaves because they had not learned to pronounce the word "NO." ... There, in one small word; THERE is the resolve which we should take.

Churchill was speaking of the dangerous policy of appeasement, and of its antidote. If someone will stand up to Hitler now, he was saying, then he may be stopped. If not, then a holocaust may engulf the world. We know which way that one went. Here in the United States, when we appease those who promote Shariah law, we may not risk a holocaust, but we do risk some of our most important values--freedom of expression, the rule of law, and equal opportunity.

Tim Pawlenty might be the next President of the United States of America. If he truly wishes to perpetuate the values that have led directly to the power and prosperity of the United States, then he, and we, should have the courage to say "NO." Muslims in Minnesota, and anywhere else in the United States, who wish to purchase a house on credit, especially when they ask the government for help, must get over their delicate sensibilities and do it the same way as everyone else.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

There's Always New Zealand!

In the 20th century, the primo destination for those fleeing oppression and economic disaster was right here--the United States of America. In recent weeks and months, as the Obama administration has continually pursued policy that is both oppressive and likely to cause economic disaster, I have lamented that there is NO PLACE TO GO! As unsettling as things are here at home, it's still not as far down the road to disaster as Europe, or South America, or Russia, and there's still perhaps the time and energy and will to change course. But what if things got really bad? Is there a place in the world where the concepts of liberty and opportunity still hold sway?