SELF-GOVERNMENT REQUIRES SELF-DISCIPLINE
There are a lot of things people like to believe that are patently absurd if you think about it. Much of the Obama Administration was based on making confident declarations – we can’t just drill our way out of an energy shortage, it would take a magic wand to bring back manufacturing jobs, 2 percent growth is the “new normal,” etc. – all delivered in a somber, imperious tone that made them sound like unassailable truth, when in fact, all of them were patently false.
One of the most common pieces of false conventional wisdom is that “the government can’t legislate morality!” But of course, they do it all the time. We have millions of laws, just to enforce society’s consensus of what’s morally right or wrong. Liberals used to protest this, and now they’re the chief generators of morality laws, usually bans on everything they find morally offensive, including smoking, using racist words or an unpreferred pronoun, giving someone an unrequested plastic straw, attending a protest for a cause they personally disagree with, etc. etc. etc. Each law comes with loopholes, so government adds more laws to close them. Plus we’ll need police, courts and jails, because some people will always insist on doing the wrong thing anyway. All to legislate morality.
(I know, today’s liberals want to do away with police and jails, but that’s just for actual criminals. They still want to arrest and jail law-abiding citizens who exercise rights they disapprove of, like reopening their gyms, salons and barber shops.)
Self-government requires self-discipline, self-respect, and respect for others. When people don’t follow an accepted standard moral code, government keeps passing new laws to try to force them to, which creates bigger government and more expense and less freedom for everybody. Maybe the national debt wouldn’t be sky high now if our behavior standards hadn’t sunk so low.
How much do people’s bad personal choices end up costing all the rest of us? You might be surprised at the size of the bill. When I left the governor’s office in Arkansas, we had more than 13,000 inmates in the Department of Corrections. Just keeping them locked up cost taxpayers more than $220 million a year. That’s more than it would have cost to send 13,000 kids to any college in the state, all expenses paid. If every prison inmate had just lived a moral life and stayed out of trouble, the taxpayers could have enjoyed a $220 million tax cut. Or the money might have been used to improve roads and services that benefit everyone.
From the left, I’d always hear that we should spend more money on prisoners or else turn more of them loose. From the right, I’d hear that we should lock up more people and eliminate parole while cutting the prison budget. Both were unrealistic. But hardly anyone wanted to talk about the real problem: the lack of morality that led to all those people being locked up in the first place.
And what about juvenile offenders? Every kid placed into our Division of Youth Services cost taxpayers up to $80,000 a year. If they’d all had stable, nurturing homes and been taught to be obedient, responsible and moral, it would’ve saved the taxpayers of just that one state $80 million a year. Imagine how many parks we could have built for all kids to enjoy, or how many books we could’ve bought for school libraries, if we could’ve freed up $80 million a year in the state budget.
A lot of kids get into trouble because of peer pressure, which social media and Twitter mob shaming have made even more oppressive. They think breaking the rules makes them look cool and that they will never face any consequences for it. So kids, when someone you know starts acting up, instead of rewarding them with your admiration or covering for them with your silence, please have the courage to stand up and say, “That’s not cool! Thanks for costing us our parks and turning our generation into tax slaves, jerk!”
Hey, as long as kids are going to be vulnerable to peer pressure, why not use its power for good?
FREEDOM DOESN'T WORK WITHOUT STANDARDS
We hear often these days that society shouldn’t have any absolute moral standards. Imposing standards is oppressive, judgmental and outdated. Like Linus and the Great Pumpkin, it doesn’t matter what we choose to believe, as long as we’re really sincere in believing it. Well, pardon me for pointing it out, but that’s…well, stupid (sorry, Linus!)
There are all sorts of absolute standards to which we adhere. A rock band might be filled with nonconformists, but they can’t each play in whatever key they feel like. You might concede Hannibal Lecter’s sincere belief in cannibalism, but you wouldn’t go to his house for dinner. It seems counter-intuitive, but freedom can’t work unless we all agree to abide by certain basic standards of right and wrong. When we step outside those boundaries, chaos ensues, as we’re seeing right now with blue city officials allowing leftwing extremists to ignore laws, seize public property or smash monuments and statues, just because they feel like it. That can leave a bad taste in your mouth, and I’m not still referring to Hannibal Lecter. I like to illustrate the concept with a story from the days when my own kids were young.
When my son John Mark was only 12, he decided one day to bake a cake. My wife Janet and I returned home and were greeted by our son, proudly offering ol’ dad the first taste. Well, it looked good, and I was already preparing some fatherly praise as I took that first bite. But what came out of my mouth wasn’t words. It was the cake. It was so awful, I had to spit it out. My first thought was that my son was trying to kill me for the insurance.
As soon as my tongue overcame its shock, I asked John Mark if he’d used a recipe. He said he had, and he’d followed it to the letter. Well, except that he didn’t know what a “dash” of salt meant, so he decided a cup of salt should be enough.
Now, my son worked hard on that cake…he had the best of intentions…and he sincerely believed he’d done a good job. But hard work, good intentions and sincere beliefs meant nothing once he decided he could make up his own measurement standards. That’s literally a recipe for disaster.
Freedom can’t exist in a moral vacuum. It makes some people uncomfortable to hear this, but without clear boundaries of right and wrong, the very concept of liberty breaks down. A person might argue that he should be free to look at pictures others find offensive. But if it’s pornography featuring a child who’s being exploited, then there’s more at stake than just the liberty of the viewer. There was a big controversy over separating children from parents who crossed the border illegally, but very few people brought up the facts that the parents chose to bring their children along as they knowingly violated federal immigration law – or that (as a pilot DNA test program proved) in many cases, those weren’t even their parents but people illegally exploiting children they weren’t related to.
Self-government can’t mean each of us lives by our own unique set of rules. If that’s how you define liberty, then you’re just going to get less of it. When people live outside the boundaries of a principled and agreed-upon moral code, it inevitably leads to government that’s bigger and more intrusive (and an avalanche of lawsuits), just to force people to do the right thing. And if it doesn’t, then society quickly spirals into anarchy. Neither prospect is acceptable.
If you think more lawyers and bigger government actually improve society, or that doing away with laws and police is a good idea, then I have a delicious cake recipe I’d like to sell you. Then again, no…selling people a recipe for disaster would definitely be morally wrong.
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY
Happy Independence Day and happy 244th birthday to the United States of America! No, this nation was not born in 1619 when slaves first arrived, no matter how many trinkets liberal “journalists” award themselves for creating bogus history. It was born on July 4th, 1776, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which officially kicked out the previous regime and kicked off history’s greatest experiment in freedom.
Today is when all Americans celebrate our freedoms. But sadly, too many young Americans have been miseducated to feel no gratitude for the titanic struggles and sacrifices made by those of previous generations to secure and proserve those freedoms. Even those who recognize how lucky they are to be Americans are often too willing to trade away their freedoms in exchange for hollow promises of comfort and security. As the great philosopher Joni Mitchell once said, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.”
That’s why the Founding Fathers took such care to lock our most important rights safely within the First Amendment to the Constitution. There are more freedoms guaranteed in that one short sentence than people in most nations can even dream of. That’s why for centuries now, people from around the world have risked their lives to come to America, and why immigrants are often more aware of how unique America is and more grateful for those freedoms than native-born Americans. The Founders understood that freedom really is that precious.
When the framers of the Constitution first met in 1787, many feared that if they created a strong federal government, it would trample the rights of the people, just like the British king they’d fought to break free of. So to make sure the people’s rights would always be protected, they added 10 amendments - although George Mason thought they were so important, they should come first, as the Preface!
Now, in case you’ve never heard it or have just forgotten (as too many federal judges and a few Supreme Court Justices I could name have), here is the First Amendment, in its entirety. Don’t worry, this really won’t take long:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Yep, that’s it. This was before government needed a 2,000-page bill just to ruin your health insurance. Only 45 simple words were needed to protect our right to speak freely without fear of government retribution...Our right to publish those words so that other Americans can read and debate them…Our right to band together with like-thinking Americans and protest peacefully without fear of arrest (note: protesting peacefully does not include rioting, arson and looting)…Our right to petition our leaders to change their policies…And our right to be free from having an official state religion forced upon us, but also from government interference with the free expression of our personal religious beliefs (like telling us we can’t gather in church to worship, but we can gather in Walmart.) A lot of people celebrate the first half of that religious right (no state religions) but pretend the second half (no state interference in religion) doesn’t exist. The Supreme Court even seems to be reticent lately to make clear that it means what it says, even though it takes only six words to say it: “…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
These are the rights that together create the free American culture that those of who know real history celebrate today. The Founders thought they were all so important that somehow, they found a way to list every single one of them first.
Then, just to be certain that no future government ever tried to take those rights away, they made the very next amendment the right to bear arms.
And they emphasized that these rights are given by God, not government. So no matter how hard some people might try to scratch some of them off of the parchment, it won’t make a lick of difference. You can’t edit God.
THE TRUE STORY OF YANKEE DOODLE
Usually around the Fourth of July, we hear a lot of songs about all the great things about America: “God Bless America,” “God Bless The USA,” “America the Beautiful” (although you might not have heard them this year because of some people whining that hearing God’s name or praise for America “triggers” them.) But before them all, even before “The Star-Spangled Banner,” there was the original American patriotic anthem, “Yankee Doodle.” However, it didn’t start out as a celebration of Americans, but as a mockery of them.
Since 1776, the song “Yankee Doodle” has been as much a symbol of America as the flag. Every child learns it from the cradle. But many of us grew up without ever knowing what it really means. Like, why did he call his cap macaroni? Did he use cheese for hair mousse (I’ll bet a lot of recent college graduates actually believe that)? Well, I’ll answer those questions and more.
“Yankee Doodle” dates back long before 1776. It most likely started as a German nursery rhyme, since “dudel” is an Old German word for “fool.” It first became associated with America when British soldiers made up their own lyrics to it to mock the ragtag American Revolutionaries. That baffling line – “stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni” – makes sense when you know that a macaroni wig was one of those ridiculously large powdered wigs that dandies of the time wore. The Brits were ridiculing Americans as a bunch of hayseeds, so dumb they’d think sticking a feather in their hat would make them look sophisticated. Imagine a Huffington Post article about Trump voters from Alabama, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of just how much arrogant condescension they intended to convey with that.
Unfortunately for the British, it turned out wars weren’t settled according to who had the spiffiest uniforms (in fact, red coats just made you a brighter target.) Those unfashionable Americans were fighting for their homes, their families and their freedom. So they did what Americans have done ever since: they took the ridicule aimed at them, threw it back in the faces of those who mocked them, and got the last laugh.
The Americans took the song “Yankee Doodle” that was meant to belittle them and adopted it as their anthem. They marched to it in the streets, sang it in bars, and made up their own new lyrics to promote the cause of freedom and glorify leaders like General Washington, “upon his strapping stallion.” It wasn’t long before the British learned to dread the sound of that tune, especially when it was played on a fife and drum, accompanied by American militiamen. A Boston newspaper reported that Minutemen who captured two British officers forced them to dance to “Yankee Doodle” until they collapsed. After that, the Brits admitted that that mocking little song didn’t sound so funny to them anymore.
Well, now you know how “Yankee Doodle” came to be the unofficial American battle anthem that later inspired another great patriotic song for this time of year, George M. Cohan’s “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” As Cohan proudly sang, “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy, a Yankee Doodle, do or die…A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam, Born on the Fourth of July!”
Of course, Cohan was actually born on the third of July. But that’s another story for another day.