Sunday, October 30, 2005

Advocating Conservative Values yet Libertarian Social Policies

One of the biggest barriers existing between today’s conservatives and liberals especially on campus is the issue of values. In the United States, the vast majority of conservatives prescribe in some way to Judeo-Christian values which include moral absolutes, personal responsibility, choosing life, rejecting materialism, putting man above nature and other animals, and many other values that stem from Biblical principles. The vast majority of liberals hold secular values that include moral relativism, equating female equality with sameness, equating humans with animals, worshipping nature, and placing feelings above doing “what is right”. These underlying values produce the greatest amount of friction and quarreling between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, and religious and nonreligious. For instance you rarely ever hear a liberal spout their hatred of conservative who are advocating smaller government or free trade but rather you hear them calling conservatives “religious right activists”, “heartless businessman”, or “intolerant racists”. On the other end conservatives accuse liberals of being “stupid hippies” or “godless self centered hedonists”. Values are probably the most important political contrast between Blue America and Red America and will continue to play a huge role in politics.

While I feel that biblical values are central to the future of our country and to the world, enacting them on the public through extensive laws and force is not the way to move people towards Christ or a Christian or Jewish faith-based society. Often the religious right takes positions that clearly restrict freedom and the ability of people to make choices. Examples of vices that many conservatives want restrictions on include doctor-assisted suicide, drugs (specifically marijuana), and other individual centered destructive behavior. So while liberals deride social conservatives for passing laws that promote morality and restrict sin the left promotes their own version of decency.

Laws are the Left's vehicles to earthly salvation. Virtually all human problems have a legal solution. Some men harass women? Pass laws banning virtually every flirtatious action a man might engage in vis a vis a woman. Flood legislatures with laws preventing the creation of a "hostile work environment." Whereas the religious world has always worked to teach men how to act toward women, the secular world, lacking these religious values, passes laws to control men.—Dennis Prager

Instead of taking a neutral stance in terms of morality and social constraint, liberals love to put into law rules that fit their moral stance. Two real examples come to mind from within Madison. First, the Madison City Smoking Ban was put into place in order to keep people safe from second hand in bars and taverns. This law restricts the choices students and adults make when they enter smoke filled bars and allow the government to put more restrictions on business and the health of its citizens. Second, SSFC passed condom line items for LBGTCC, Campus Woman’s Center, and Sex Out Loud giving students a “thumbs up” in terms of bedroom activity making ASM Student Government an advocate sexual behavior. Liberals on SSFC and ASM Student Council would be outraged if the school placed restrictions on particular sexual behaviors on campus but love it when the state advocates their own sexual beliefs.

So both conservatives and liberals want to move the government to support their ideals socially. Conservatives in the United States mostly are moved by Judeo-Christian values in determining policy focusing their effort to eradicate particular vices. Liberals are centered on secular policies which are often geared towards compassion, equity, fairness, and health. From both sides of the aisle, government is used to place restrictions on individuals and advocate morality. Why can’t government simply take a step back and let individuals be judged for their behavior by God?

"For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." Ecclesiastes 12:14

"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." Hebrews 9:27

Christians must stand up for what is right and deride sinful behaviors. Yet, I feel that as mere humans we are not here to place direct restrictions on people’s actions if they are not hurting anyone but themselves. Behaviors such as stealing and murder obviously hurt others in society and therefore punishment is warranted but why would we regulate drugs or other self-centered actions? As a Christian, our role is to bring the light of Christ in our actions and our words. In a more restrictive environment, secularists simply see Christians as police agents and narrow-minded religious zealots. In an open environment, Christians lead by example in not engaging in sinful behavior (not doing drugs, not being selfish, being truthful and honest, etc) and speaking out against certain actions especially when the state is uninvolved. God loves freedom and he gives us the choice everyday to follow his commands and accept the gift of his son Jesus. If God gives us personal freedom in making these critical decisions, let him be the one who judges, not the state. I am an advocate of Judeo-Christian values but allow the government to restrain itself from personal morality decisions.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


The withdrawal of the Harriet Miers nomination brings a sigh and awe to both conservatives and liberals across the nation who had extensive doubts about Bush’s close friend being a Supreme Court Justice. Without a judicial history and clear judicial philosophy, across the red blogosphere pundit after pundit felt Bush’s choice was bent towards cronyism and made unintelligently. While she probably would have been conservative vote on the court on abortion and business issues, her lack an engrained constitutional philosophy I feel would hurt her tremendously. The last thing we need on the court is another O’Connor who shuffles back and forth, reading the Constitution differently for each issue and case that comes before the court. What the Supreme Court needs are more people that are going to take its original words seriously and serve with consistent principles and judicial ideals. George Will summed up the main problem with Miers extremely well:

In their unseemly eagerness to assure Miers' conservative detractors that she will reach the ``right'' results, her advocates betray complete incomprehension of this: Thoughtful conservatives' highest aim is not to achieve this or that particular outcome concerning this or that controversy. Rather, their aim for the Supreme Court is to replace semi-legislative reasoning with genuine constitutional reasoning about the Constitution's meaning as derived from close consideration of its text and structure. Such conservatives understand that how you get to a result is as important as the result. Indeed, in an important sense, the path the Supreme Court takes to the result often is the result.

We can be thankful that Miers withdrew her nomination today and be hopeful that Bush will nominate a man or woman of great judicial knowledge and a reputation of judicial conservatism and restraint.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

SSFC Committed to Getting Involved in the Dorm Bedroom of Students

Tonight, SSFC decided that we should fully fund condoms, condom cases, lube, etc and there was no discussion about whether these are valid uses of student's money or not. Everyone on the committee has no objection about getting involved in student's dorm room besides me. I was the only one to raise the point that students should buy their own condoms, that student's should take responsiblity for their actions, and that students who buy their own condoms or choose not to have sex should not have to fund those that do take advantage of the service. No one even debated the amendment that I put forward to cut a line item that struck condoms from an event. No one else raised the point that having student's collectively fund this is wrong. I am absolutely pissed that when a budget comes before the committee about sex (LBGTCC, Sex Out Loud) that nobody is willing to make legitimate cuts on their services. Fiscally conservative members (Saar, Frey) were even unwilling to drop the condom cases down for Kiernoziak's amendment. Our student money should be going to legitimate resources like education, transportation, etc., not to encourage and fund people's sexual activities. At least there were members in attendance that agreed with me yet they were not speaking at the meeting. In terms of both LBGTCC and Sex Out Loud, the committee loses their integrity and responsiblity in terms of allocating student fees wisely. If this abhors anyone else, please comment.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Issue of Safety and Security is an Economic Policy Issue

Sorry about my absence on the blogsphere recently. I'm currently swamped with work. I did manage to write this piece last Friday and I am hoping it is published in the Badger Herald. This weekend I will be writing an article advocating open borders for the US.

Last week, the Student Service Finance Committee had to make a hard decision on whether the SAFEwalk service was overall beneficial to campus given its steep costs per walker. The service maintains that the two central components of transportation and safety. With regards to the transportation service, SAFEwalk does not perform well in terms of serving a large percentage of the student body where the SAFEride and SAFEbus have shown to be much more widely used. No one on the committee was vouching for the service to be saved on efficiency or transportation use grounds.
The main premise then in opposition to cutting the SAFEwalk program was the component of safety. Without clear evidence and statistics to backup the claim of SAFE officials, employees, and supporters that SAFE is making the campus more safe, it is hard for me as a committee member to assert these claims as being fully valid. That being said, the main argument to support the SAFEwalk service on the basis of safety then is that safety is priceless and if we could only save one woman from being assaulted or raped, it would be worth it. This illogical assertion needs to be addressed because in full in order to be able to make wise policy decisions.
Within the realm of economics, there are a number of tools used to justify or make public policy decisions. Two specific tools are particularly pertinent when evaluating a safety or security decision. The first is the precautionary principle, a tool often used in environmental economics when determining what level of a specific pollutant is deemed to be both safety conscious and economically viable being based partially on science and partially on opinion. According to definition, it is supposed to be used when there is a “reasonable suspicion of harm, lack of scientific certainty or consensus must not be used to postpone preventative action”. In applying it to SAFEwalk, what is the adequate level of safety and crime for how many walkers are needed in a specific area to be the “eyes and ears” of campus and prevent crime in a given area. Government or SAFE itself would then make the decision based on the crime level that keeps people and property relatively safe. Even by setting a precautionary principle in place, crime will still occur and low-level pollutants will hurt particular people and the particular level and therefore costs and benefits should be calculated and used in the analysis even if costs and benefits are not the main criteria. The precautionary principle is designed however then to lower the likelihood of harm to the public.
The second tool is cost-benefit analysis which weights the cost and the benefits of an action while accounting for time through discounting. Cost-benefit analysis is particularly popular in the financial world but it is also used when making individual purchasing decision, environmental policy decisions, and is applicable in many decisions a particular individual makes. Applying the tool to security, one would need to weight out the costs of patrol officers or security officials with the overhead of the program and then designate the benefits of prevention. The costs are easy to evaluate. The benefits are not. In order to define the distinct benefits of SAFE, we would need to evaluate the benefits a SAFE employee stopping people from damaging property (possibly $200 for a street sign) or the benefits of ending an assault which clearly is very difficult (maybe $500,000, $1,000,000 or any particular number that the department or government chooses to value it). The fact is that if you do not put a value on stopping even an abhorrent act like rape, then you cannot evaluate the opportunity costs of the decision. For instance, if we put all of society’s taxes and stock into stopping rape/assault with security and technology, then we will have no money in this hypothetical “police state” of ours to regulate environmental quality, provide social services, carry out government, fund national defense, and do all the other things that make society run.
The argument I am merely trying to make is that in public policy, officials cannot try to view certain aspects of people’s lives or even an individual’s life itself as “priceless”. With any policy, government needs to put a price on the cost and benefits of the service being provided whether it be police protection, transportation infrastructure, or pollution controls. Right now actuaries have already determined what your life is worth in the case you want to buy life insurance. Homeland Security officials quite possibly could be taking this actuarial data into account when determining where to place specific security measures. The quality of your health might be being evaluated at this current moment by the Environmental Protection Agency Staff when deciding air quality laws and the fact there are coal power plants on or near your place of residence. If we cannot put even place high numbers of dollars on safety, government and public officials have no way of evaluating many important policy decisions. As a committee member of SSFC, one of the main points I had to consider is whether SAFEwalk as a safety service is worth over forty dollars per walk (to the students). I had to evaluate whether this money could be better used elsewhere in the name of transportation and safety and also had to determine whether SAFE indeed does make the campus a safer place. The committee made the decision and I stand by it.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Political View Comparison

You are a

Social Liberal
(60% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(76% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

Sunday, October 09, 2005

UW Conservative and Liberal Types

UW Political Segments

Making your way from Humanities to Agriculture, different types of political people abound at the University of Wisconsin. The greater majority of these people lie left of center and their issues, majors, persona, and lifestyles clearly differ depending on not only their personal preferences but what leftist segment they fall into. Conservatives also exist on campus in many forms. These categories of people are not mutually exclusive as many people may fall into multiple segments. These descriptions are simply social commentary and not meant to be offensive. I wrote the majority of these description a month or two ago. They are meant to be fun and are written in a David Brook-esque type of way (ie read Bobos in Paradise or Paradise Drive). Comment if you feel the stereotypes of certain segments are innaccurate.

UW Liberal Types

Natural Idealists

Wandering around Science or Birge, you are bound to bump into the liberal types who not only enjoy the environment but they clearly revel and worship the earth. Walking around in Birkenstocks, a faded Phish or geographic t-shirt, and generic cargo shorts/pants, their dedication to keeping the planet clean and green is unmatched. Typically majoring in some area of environmental studies or natural sciences, natural idealists not only spend their academic duration celebrating and learning about the water, earth, and life but also often get involved in active groups such as WISPIRG or the Sierra Club. Their dedication to the environment also shows in their typical summer jobs where they lead rafting trips, camp counsel, lobby green at governmental centers, etc. Politically, they often hold pessimistic views on global warming and free trade, ridicule big business, celebrate family and organic farms, and give an uncompromising view on things environmental.

Feminist Enthusiasts

Around Bascom Hill and Humanities, you are certain to see the modest dressing intellectual females walking to some liberal arts lecture. Abounding in disciplines such as Woman’s Studies, English and other humanities, these females will often hold a similar outlook on both men and politics. In many ways, they feel threatened by Patriarchal societies and feel that the glass ceiling must be smashed, traditional gender roles should be ignored, men should be educated about rape, and abortion needs to be available. Coming from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, they hold alliegance to many of these feminist values and spend their time volunteering and working for organizations such as PAVE, Campus Woman’s Center, and other organizations that fight rape, inequality, and suffering. Politically, they hold pessimistic views about men, business, and traditional Christian values while working towards woman’s rights, abortion rights, minority racial rights, and racial/economic equality.

Creative Artists

Art in many forms is celebrated and held in high esteem not only at UW but other campuses across the country. Varied in dress, stature, and gender, creative artists abound in the music, art, theatre, communications and other humanities departments across campus. Whether it be singing in Redefined, watching a play in Vilas, helping run a concert at the Union, or sculpting a pot inside Humanities, their lives revolve around creating, designing, and facilitating representations of our world. These are the people who truly dislike the mass commercialization of music (ie pop music), homogenous cookie-cutter suburban architecture, and any form of art done in uniform un-thoughtful and unaesthetic fashion. With their passions abound in the artistic world, they often try to ignore the reality and are hostile to the hard analytical business world that awaits them once college ends. Their career paths and mindset are then to live out their theatrical fantasies on Broadway, start their own art studio in a city like San Francisco, help record music for an Indie record label, or teach art/music at a private performing arts school. They hope for a more a soft world where people can follow their artistic dreams and live plentifully even if this means ignoring the market for their ideas and work. Not torn then to any specific liberal agenda (environment, woman’s issues, race), they hold people and their ideas in high esteem and wish for a peaceful, creative, and economically equal world.

Concerned Socialites

A segment of liberals hard to point out on the UW campus, you will not find these individuals wearing Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirts, Ugg boots, or status clothes that would display a materialist aura or show their money. Spread out amongst a variety of disciplines including sociology, social work, political science, and other social sciences/humanities, concerned socialites believe that we must work towards the greater good of humanity both as individual consumers and government to achieve social ideals and goals. These social ideals would often include economic equality (often to the extreme of socialism or communism), upward mobility of the lower class, environmental sustainability, racial equality, etc. In order to maximize social welfare, they often have grandiose visions of the government (at all levels) playing a large role in redistributing wealth, organizing and regulating businesses, and celebrating diversity and equality amongst ethnic groups, religions, genders, and peoples. Maybe the most intellectually liberal and racially diverse segment of the population, they also tend to be geographically from central cities or inner suburban neighborhoods. Creating a more collective and government ran society is their ultimate goal and often their post-collegiate efforts go towards serving in non-profits, governmental agencies, and other nurturing and activism professions that will hopefully achieve their political desires.

Compassionate Females

A large group of females with their origins in traditional families from suburban and rural America, their movement towards more liberal politics lie in their drift towards nurturing and helping professions. The segment varies from J-Crew Langdon party girls to more traditional Old Navy farm girls. Commonly found in academic areas like nursing, teaching, social services, and other majors, they find themselves in traditional female helping roles in the 21st century workplace. With a genetic predisposition to being compassionate, kind, and loving, their worldviews often revolve around not only some form of Christianity and God but also the idea that a softer, less harsh society is ideal. Often their assumptions of conservative thought and Republicans will be ones of selfishness, intolerance, and disregard for others. A more moderately liberal segment, these woman are the probably the most susceptible to becoming more conservative once they get married due to their often more religious worldview, traditional family upbringing, strong work ethic, and less embedded leftist ideals.

Conservative Types

Independent Masculines

Off of Bascom Hill, numerous UW collegiate men are readying themselves for professional careers in engineering, business, or agriculture. Whether sporting Ralph Lauren Khakis and a Tommy Polo or Levi’s Jeans with a Badger T-shirt, these men adapt their attire to work/class and social situations. Many type-A and other motivated individuals, they see themselves as champions and drivers of the world through developing new products, providing essential services, and creating efficiency in what they see as a competitive and hard world. Committed to solidifying their place in the 21st century job market, free time is often spent in internships/Co-Ops, preparing for MCATs and graduate level tests, and networking within clubs/organizations. Their value of hard work, self-sufficiency, and individualism translates to a more conservative and less government worldview. Valuing the free market, empowering people to succeed, and harder nose to criminal activity, they traditionally see government as an institution that’s role is not to help people but rather to provide essential services like infrastructure, education, and law enforcement.

Religious Traditionalists

Dispersed through the campus and in a variety of majors, a significant minority of religious conservatives exist on campus. While they may be hard to pick out externally and geographically, look towards specific religious studies classes and inside St. Paul’s, 3650 Humanities Thursday nights and other specific spiritual events. Most likely not counter-cultural, excessive piercings, tattoos, and alternative clothing are not the norm for most Religious Traditionalists. Carrying traditional Judeo-Christian or Islamic worldviews, their political beliefs most often stem from orthodox social views. Valuing and finding truth in the historical texts of the Torah, Bible, or Koran, they draw clear moral absolutes which blend into public policy. Standard ideals include pro life, anti gay marriage, and other ideals that would hopefully curb sin within society. Though many religious traditionalists may believe in other conservative ideals such as self-reliance, free markets, and a more hawkish military, they maintain their confidence in the Republican Party due to the platform on social issues.

Common Heartlanders

From Weyauwega to Waukesha, many young college conservatives follow in the footsteps of their parents in dedication to right-wing principles and values. Fairly mainstream, designer clothes or counter culture attire are not in the wardrobe for Common Heartlanders. Studying a variety of disciplines, they are fairly spread out across campus. While not being totally abiding to neoliberal orthodoxy of Independent Masculines or religious principles of Religious Traditionalists, they find themselves resistant to extreme political and social change of most sorts. They essentially believe in traditional America pledging allegiance to domestic businesses, frugality, hard work, the Armed Forces, God, and family. They see government in a less positive view and feel that people should be running their own lives, not Washington. Certainly not the ideologues of the neoliberal or religious right, they may feel threatened by overbearing liberals and choose not to talk politics. Their conservatism is more out of parental upbringing and culture than religious or economic truths.

Upper-Class Coasties

Easily visible at a bar like Johnny O’s, walking down Langdon Street, or attending a normal college lecture, the outward appearance of the upper-class at University of Wisconsin gives way to many common stereotypes amongst the student body. The party and pop/materialistic culture of the segment can be seen by packed fraternity parties, designer pop-collars, Brought up not only across the country in blue blooded suburbs like Scarsdale (NY), Irvine (CA), or Potomac (MD), many so-called Coasties hail from Midwest money and grew up in wealthy suburbs like Edina (MN), Winnetka (IL), and Bloomfield Hills (MI). So whether the label holds geographical merit, this segment of UW students holds many of the same values which translate to politics. And whether you’re an ally or adversary of the lifestyle and culture of the common Coastie, a major segment of this population have conservative streaks whether actually conscious of the politics involved or not. While they may not hold the strong religious or moral beliefs, they do believe that the money they make is theirs and it should be theirs to spend. They may not be making this money currently and are receiving their education through inheritance or parent bank accounts yet there is a desire to maintain the money, lifestyle and power they used to. Even if they do consider themselves liberal at this stage of their life (probably because of specific social issues like pro-choice, anti gay marriage, anti religious right, etc), they are most likely to move and vote right in the future. Why? Getting jobs through good connections or good grades once done with college, they will want to maintain their edge in society and their adolescent lifestyle. Why would they support higher taxes, labor unions, protectionism, welfare, and anything revolving large government? Doing so would be against their economic self-interest though I know due to cultural and social beliefs many Upper-Class Coasties will vote Democrat. Due to culture, the least likely to move right will be Jews due to their continued support for the Democratic Party (though there are many Jews that are conservative). Yet there will be a sizeable number who will vote Republican in the future as they gain experience from work in the private sector. This segment’s conservatism comes from both their parents and culture rather than strict economic or religious thought.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Janice Rogers Brown: A libertarian Supreme Court justice would be nice

As Bush contemplates his final decision for Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat on the court I would like him to remember his promise to bring someone of Scalia and Thomas’s judicial philosophy to the bench. I would also like him to remember a specific member of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, Janice Rogers Brown. Known for biting words of dissent in numerous court decisions and her words in “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, a 2000 speech to the University of Chicago Law School, she will surely be attacked and “borked” most likely by the Democrats if selected by Bush. An African-American female, she surely fits the diversity model the Democrats and some Republicans want in the next Supreme Court nominee. Her judicial philosophy however will not run with many members in Congress or the liberal interest groups. Here are some comments by interest groups:

“Justice Brown threatens to wreak havoc on worker, consumer, environmental and civil rights protections from her seat on the D.C. Circuit”—Alliance for Justice

“Justice Brown’s entire career shows that she has no respect for the federal regulatory process or for the role of the federal government whose laws she would administer, particularly laws that address the long-standing problems encountered by racial and ethnic minorities, women, workers, seniors, and others.”—Congressional Black Caucus

Here are some quotes by Janice Rogers Brown:

"Discrimination based on age is not, however, like race and sex discrimination. It does not mark its victim with a 'stigma of inferiority and second class citizenship' (citation omitted); it is the unavoidable consequence of that universal leveler: time."-- Stevenson v. Superior Court 1998

"The Framers understood that the self-interest which in the private sphere contributes to welfare of society — both in the sense of material well-being and in the social unity engendered by commerce — makes man a knave in the public sphere, the sphere of politics and group action. It is self-interest that leads individuals to form factions to try to expropriate the wealth of others through government and that constantly threatens social harmony."8Collectivism sought to answer a different question: how to achieve cosmic justice — sometimes referred to as social justice — a world of social and economic equality. Such an ambitious proposal sees no limit to man's capacity to reason. It presupposes a community can consciously design not only improved political, economic, and social systems but new and improved human beings as well.—“A Whiter Shade of Pale”

Writing 50 years ago, F.A. Hayek warned us that a centrally planned economy is "The Road to Serfdom."3 He was right, of course; but the intervening years have shown us that there are many other roads to serfdom. In fact, it now appears that human nature is so constituted that, as in the days of empire all roads led to Rome; in the heyday of liberal democracy, all roads lead to slavery. And we no longer find slavery abhorrent. We embrace it. We demand more. Big government is not just the opiate of the masses. It is the opiate. The drug of choice for multinational corporations and single moms; for regulated industries and rugged Midwestern farmers and militant senior citizens.—“A Whiter Shade of Pale”

"If we can invoke no ultimate limits on the power of government, a democracy is inevitably transformed into a kleptocracy - a license to steal, a warrant for oppression."—another speech

Is Janice Rogers Brown an extreme libertarian? Yes. Would she be what many would consider an “activist” judge who would ignore precedent in many cases? Yes. But would she bring back to the Supreme Court Bench what the Constitution (in my opinion) was originally written for and currently supposed to be interpreted? Yes. This is not endorsement by any means but I feel she would be an asset to the court by restoring the government to a background in public life where it should be. Also reasons why I think it would be great if she were nominated:

1. The liberal outcry here at Madison and during the hearings

2. Her quotes would be intelligently debated both in the hearings and in the public arena

3. A libertarian voice in high judicial office