holding hands

A vision of love and community

Here’s a great column in The Atlantic by Michael R. Strain on how love and community can save conservatism.

Many on the right correctly emphasize individual liberty, but they do not emphasize what conservatism knows to be true: It is in community that people learn how to be free.

[Rep. Paul] Ryan argued that “the federal government has a role to play” with respect to community, but that “it’s a supporting role, not the leading one.” This is generally true. Government should distance itself enough from the individual that civil society — which exists in the space between government and citizen — can flourish. Speaking generally, government should help support these institutions, but it should not do their work for them.

But this is not to say that a communitarian ethic should be absent from politics and public policy — quite the opposite. Proceeding with a spirit of community would help conservatives formulate and support better policies. Let’s discuss a few.

This is the kind of conservatism we want, the kind that would improve life in Utah – or anywhere. Read the rest of this article here.

Photo credit: Sarah Stierch via Wikimedia Commons

As war begins: a vivid glimpse of Pearl Harbor in 1941


For seven ghastly, confused days, we have been at war. To the women of Hawaii, it has meant a total disruption of home life, a sudden acclimation to blackout nights, terrifying rumors, fear of the unknown as planes drone overhead and lorries shriek through the streets.

The seven days may stretch to seven years, and the women of Hawaii will have to accept a new routine of living. It is time, now, after the initial confusion and terror have subsided, to sum up the events of the past week, to make plans for the future.

It would be well, perhaps, to review the events of the past seven days and not minimize the horror, to better prepare for what may come again.

The words above were written by a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Elizabeth P. McIntosh, a week after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. She explained, “After a week of war, I wrote a story directed at Hawaii’s women; I thought it would be useful for them to know what I had seen.”

But her editors pulled the story, fearing it was too graphic. It was finally published 71 years later, in 2012, in The Washington Post.

Two weeks ago, I was at Pearl Harbor, thinking about the Japanese attack and its consequences. It’s tempting to view World War II now with a sort of nostalgia, since we know how it all ended, with the Allies finally triumphant. But looking at the harbor, I tried to imagine what it was like at the time, when it was reality and not history, and McIntosh’s story gives me a glimpse of that.

To 21st-century eyes, her account is hardly graphic. But it is immediate and terrifying, conveying a vivid sense of “what’s next?” and the rumors that must have flown from person to person.

Read it here (includes video) at The Washington Post.

Be ‘warriors’ for social justice, Mike Lee and Arthur Brooks tell audience at Sutherland event

Sen. Mike Lee speaks at Sutherland dinner in Salt Lake City on Oct. 1, 2014. (Photo © Sutherland Institute)

Sen. Mike Lee speaks at Sutherland dinner in Salt Lake City on Oct. 1, 2014. (Photo © Sutherland Institute)

Is social justice a conservative cause? Yes, absolutely.

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, explained why it’s not just a cause, but a moral imperative, last night at a Sutherland Institute dinner in Salt Lake City.

Brooks told the group gathered at La Jolla Groves that conservatives who want to improve social justice cannot be elitist about the type of work considered “worthy.”

“All work is blessed.”

If you believe in fighting to improve life for poor and middle-class families, you cannot believe that trimming a hedge is less valuable than managing a hedge fund, he said.

Sen. Lee said that because nearly every strategy in the “war on poverty” has failed to achieve true societal change, conservatives need to summon the courage to lead this fight with new strategies.

“Defenders of today’s status quo say that any critique of our welfare system is really just a thinly-veiled attempt to destroy the social safety net. But what we all should want – and what I certainly do want – is not to destroy the safety net, but to make it work.”

America’s complicated tax code, health care and justice system hurt working families, Sen. Lee said. “Our justice system tears apart communities and fractures families among our most marginalized communities.” Sen. Lee is a co-sponsor of the Smarter Sentencing Act, along with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

Lee urged supporters of conservatism to help “make poverty temporary, not merely tolerable.”

“We usually refer to the free market and civil society as ‘institutions,’” he said. “But really, they are networks – networks of people and information and opportunity. …

“Networks of opportunity formed within the free market and civil society are not threats that poor families need more protection from. They are blessings that poor families need more access to.”

Derek Monson, policy director at Sutherland Institute, pointed out that family strength and culture are intertwined with economic issues – issues that are at the heart of Sutherland’s Center for Utah’s Economy. Read more

Conservative focus on helping vulnerable is long overdue – Conservatively Speaking, 9/2/14

Senator Mike Lee holds a discussion at Sutherland offices about poverty.

Senator Mike Lee holds a discussion at Sutherland offices about poverty.

This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

For conservatives, poverty and eroding economic security for middle income families are not simply social problems, but moral problems as well. Beyond the economic and budget struggles poverty creates, we have an “obligation to help the vulnerable,” to borrow from Arthur Brooks at the American Enterprise Institute. And the lack of ability to enter and remain in the middle class diminishes the meaning and value of freedom for society, not to mention inviting greater dangers by suggesting to people that a free society is perhaps not in their best interests.

Because of the social and moral problems presented by poverty and middle-class insecurity, various political and intellectual conservatives have begun proposing new policy approaches to these issues. For instance, the American Enterprise Institute recently published a compilation of work in a booklet called “Poverty in America, and What to Do About It.” Congressman Paul Ryan published a draft report from the House Budget Committee titled “Expanding Opportunity in America.” And our own U.S. Senator Mike Lee just released a booklet titled “An Agenda for Our Time” detailing his approach to what he calls “the opportunity crisis” faced by the poor and middle class in America.

The renewed focus on poverty and middle-class issues on the right is long overdue. While charitable giving and volunteerism are indisputably good things espoused by conservatives, events such as the recession and the weak economic recovery illustrate that they simply are not enough in the face of a weak economy. A consequence of conservatives’ praise of markets and civil society has been to leave welfare policy largely to the political left, which has turned into unending promises for economic salvation, combined with an unending inability to do much for the poor. Read more

You could win $25,000 for being a super citizen!

382px-U.S._flags_-_Washington_Monument_baseIf you or someone you know is a “super citizen” and could use $25,000 — then this contest is for you! We are looking for nominations of unsung heroes — citizens who work tirelessly to uncover government corruption or advocate for great public policy. These unsung heroes are exactly the types of Responsible Citizens we need: citizens who take the time and effort to make sure our freedoms are protected; our governments are held accountable; and our public policy is sane, prudent and effective.

The winning nominee will receive $25,000 as thanks and recognition for his or her efforts! Sutherland would like to thank the Vernon K. Krieble Foundation for funding this award. State Policy Network is administering the nomination process and will recognize the winner at their annual meeting in Oklahoma City in September.

To qualify, the nominee must meet at least one of the criteria below:

  • Nominee is a policy entrepreneur who has not received many accolades for his or her accomplishments
  • Leadership resulted in a victory that reduced the size or scope of government and made a difference for freedom
  • The outcomes recognized are transformative and truly innovative
  • Story can serve as an example of success and inspiration to other activist groups
  • Reduction in size and scope of government can be replicated in other parts of the country

You can nominate yourself or any number of family, friends, neighbors or acquaintances. Send all nominations to SI@sutherlandinstitute.org by Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, answering all of the following questions:

  1. What was the policy solution, how was it implemented, and what did it accomplish?
  2. How did his or her work reduce the size and scope of government?
  3. Why does this policy entrepreneur deserve this award?
  4. Email address of the nominee
  5. Email address of the nominator
  6. Phone number of the nominator

Good luck, and thank you for your nominations!

Paradoxically, cult of privacy led us to NSA problems

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Photo by Cyberuly

The following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

Are you concerned about the National Security Agency gathering blanket data through cell phone companies and Internet activity? Everyone should be terrified. But why aren’t we?

The answer, of course, is the new nature of war we call terrorism, and the threat of terrorists who often hide in plain sight among us. A central reason we have a federal government is to provide for the common defense. But how does our government protect us in a world where enemies don’t often have an identifiable address, are embedded in any country on Earth and can even live next door to us?

It’s easy to see why an otherwise clear-cut case of unconstitutional powers begins to sound and feel reasonable. Normally, when a government official challenges our privacy by reminding us that innocent people have nothing to hide, we quickly remind that official that constitutional protections were made substantially for innocent people. But under the constant threat of terrorist attacks, in our fears, we begin to think that anyone at any time could be a terrorist. We succumb to fear and, as a result, we seek the secure comfort of government agencies – after all, the job of government is to protect us, isn’t it?

That answer is yes and no.

The federal government provides the common defense for a nation just as a local police force provides a common defense for a community. But those sorts of protective provisions do not exist in isolation, as if they’re independent of every other requirement upon every citizen to help maintain personal liberty and lasting freedom. Just because a local police force shares in the effort to protect a community doesn’t mean that we provide that force with every detail of our lives so it can preemptively stop crime. We don’t let that force live in our home to protect us– instead, we buy guns and security systems for our homes and assume major responsibility for our own protection.  Read more

What’s the best way to tackle bullying?

The Deseret News recently relayed a wonderful story about a young man and his football teammates who befriended a girl who had been bullied by others. Their efforts made a real difference in her life and the way she was treated by others.

Bullying is reprehensible and getting some needed attention but it does not seem to be decreasing.

Utah law requires school boards to train school employees on the issue and encourages implementation of “programs or initiatives” for education and prevention. It also requires a bullying policy which “shall include” definitions and prohibitions of bullying.

The Utah State Office of Education’s model policy specifies bullying is “not tolerated.” The policy’s definition of bullying seems to cover all of the terrible behaviors that should be stopped. It also includes, for federal law purposes, a separate section aimed at addressing bullying “that is targeted at a federally protected class” which are specified as race, color, national origin, sex, disability, religion, gender (not clear how this is different from sex), and sexual orientation. These additional items trigger a different response if bullying occurred “as a result of the student-victim’s membership in a protected class.” Read more

Freedom to close businesses on Sunday is worth preserving

Living in a community bordering Highland, we see lots of signs for and against local Proposition 6, which would do away with the city’s Sunday closing. The anti-Proposition 6 campaign is in the right. People don’t need to shop on Sunday, essential services are still available, and communities ought to be able to protect widely shared standards in their policies. The Deseret News made a good case for Sunday-closing laws in April.

What is intriguing to me is the slogan the proponents of adding one more day of merchandising to the week have chosen. The “Yes on Proposition 6” signs include a one-word motto: “Freedom.”

This slogan is fatuous. Freedom from what? Community standards? What about employees who want the freedom to spend the day with their families? What about the freedom of young people to find jobs in the community that don’t require them to miss church services? What about the freedom of businesses that would be forced by national management to open on Sundays absent the law? What about the freedom of people who move to a city because of its standards to choose the environment in which they will live? Read more

No liberty is violated by Highland’s Sunday closures

Residents of the city of Highland are considering repealing a Sunday closure regulation. They alone will decide.

My interest in this debate is intellectual. My two cents is simply to remind Highland residents that there is no liberty interest at stake with your decision about Sunday closures, one way or another. In other words, no resident’s liberty is being violated by maintaining the Sunday closure regulation.

Argue for or against the regulation. Argue that the regulation is arbitrary and inconsistent. Argue in support of the regulation for religious or social reasons. Argue whatever you want … except … don’t argue that any individual’s liberty is being diminished because of the Sunday closure rule. It’s not. Read more

Spending our children’s inheritance

One of the gems in Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France is his description of the tradition threatened by the social engineering of the French Revolution as an “entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers, and to be transmitted to our posterity.” The analogy is to a form of property ownership in which a person inherits subject to the condition that the property is passed along without diminution to the next heir.

This concept has an echo in the Preamble to the Constitution which includes among the purposes of ratification that the States might “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” “Secure” is an action verb here. Noah Webster’s dictionary (1828) defines “secured” as: “Effectually guarded or protected; made certain; put beyond hazard; effectually confined; made fast.”

A recent study in the Journal of Political Economy provides an interesting take on inheritance. It found that only a small part of the correlation between the incomes of fathers and the incomes of sons can be explained by financial factors. The inheritance is more an inheritance of “human capital” — skills, knowledge, capacity, personality traits, etc. Read more