Category: The Smoke-Filled Room

A 20s term for a secret political meeting or meeting place, the Smoke-Filled Room is our page for domestic American political commentary.

Confessions of an Educational Conservative

By Colin Black

I was once asked at a job interview to explain a comment made by one of my referees who had described me as an educational conservative. I replied somewhat glibly that, were I to be entrusted with the headmastership of the school, my task would be to identify its strengths and then work to the best of my capacity to make them even stronger.

 

That was three decades ago and, in my naivety, it did not occur to me then that I was voicing a controversial approach to educational leadership. The culture of repudiation of the past is widespread in society and not least in schools and universities. It has been an ingrained article of faith for over fifty years among the educational establishment that, however things were done before, all must now be swept away. Well educated and otherwise very sensible colleagues preened themselves self-righteously as they announced that they were not teachers but “change agents”, or devalued their calling by proudly claiming to be no longer “the sage on the stage” but “the guide by the side”.  Davos-like jamborees, the annual junkets of publicly funded professional associations with high-sounding names, strummed loudly the cacophonous leitmotif of educational iconoclasm. Some of us who attended such evangelical gatherings left with a sense of fashionable guilt that we had not passed muster, but also with a deep feeling of unease that, in rubbing shoulders with these educational Jacobins, we had been participating in something that was essentially bogus.

 

The authoritarian intolerance of the Left is much in evidence in the English-speaking world, especially for those who work in schools and universities. It has escalated rapidly in recent years but the first pernicious shoots were evident five decades ago. Even then discussions among colleagues about, e.g., the pedagogy of reading or whether children really benefited from being taught in mixed ability classes, were conducted at a heightened level of hectoring emotion rather than debated in a measured and rational way. During the last century the destruction of the old academically selective Grammar Schools in England was an act of wanton barbarism wrought by a politically minded and vindictive educational establishment and pursued with the zeal of one-eyed revolutionaries everywhere. Yet it was these age-old institutions, often established many generations previously by royalty, the churches and local philanthropists, and which at no cost to families were open to all who could demonstrate they had the capacity to benefit from the rigorous and traditional curriculum, that provided the ladder of upward social mobility and personal fulfilment for so many children from the lower echelons of society.

The education class gradually became infected by a tangled skein of woolly progressive ideology, neo-Marxist spite and envy, post-modern nihilism and sheer self-interest in its own advancement, and would brook no opposition to its world view. Schools were now to be places of liberation, not of liberal education. In them the young must be “liberated” – from the demands of an intellectually taxing and subject-centred traditional curriculum, from insensitive competition which threatens self-esteem, from authoritarian teachers bent upon their indoctrination and disempowerment, and most certainly from the shackles of the Western cultural heritage which was of course inherently rotten, socially unjust and quite irrelevant to their personal and political needs.        

Throughout my life I have always seen schools fundamentally as places where children go to meet teachers. In them the transmission of knowledge, values and dispositions takes place in an orderly environment designed and set aside from the rest of society for that purpose. Their most valuable resource is a “little platoon” of educated men and women who are committed to the initiation of the young into the riches of the culture into which they are privileged to have been born and of which each generation is the proud and watchful guardian. They approach this daunting task with the humility of the English school-master Hector in Alan Bennet’s play The History Boys:

“Pass the parcel. That’s sometimes all you can do. Take it, feel it, and pass it on. Not for me, not for you, but for someone, somewhere, one day. Pass it on, boys. That’s the game I want you to learn. Pass it on.”

They are not swayed from their lofty calling by leaping upon the latest educational bandwagon which so often turns out to be a tumbrel. They know that teaching is both an art and a craft, and not a science. Teachers, well-read and well-educated people themselves, should be left to function according to their instinctual and inherited understanding of what works. The Austrian economist and philosopher F.A. Hayek argued that because the factors influencing human behaviour are myriad, beyond formulation and forever outside our understanding, central planning of the economy is unlikely to succeed and it is better left to the market to determine in its lumbering but responsive way the costs of goods and services. Similarly the “facts” of teaching are contained in countless transactions between generations past and present, wherever and whenever any well-intentioned person has sought to transmit information, ideas, and skills to young people for their betterment. It is beyond our capacity to codify in some theory of teaching the distillation of educational wisdom and experience inherent in all of these interactions, and so pedagogical theory and educational dogma are largely in vain, just as command economies invariably fail.

The responsibility of the leader of a school is to create the conditions under which teaching can take place, to enable teachers to be the best they can possibly be, for schools, by their very nature, are places of teaching first and learning second, and the link between the two is contingent, not conceptual. Young people learn from all sorts of agencies, their peers, their milieu, the media or the technological toys to which they are tethered much of their waking hours. But schools, in eschewing “relevance”, are their fall-out shelters from the tawdry, the distracting, the ephemeral and the parochial. It follows that places of education for the young must be deliberately artificial environments where good order and predictability prevail, and they must certainly not be slaves to the vicissitudes of popular culture. The judicious use of ritual and formality, in the dress code of staff and students, tastefully managed assemblies, respectful modes of interaction between teachers and pupils, underlines for all those involved that education is a most serious business even if some are as yet not mature enough to realise this. A complementary programme of co-curricular activities, and the involvement where possible of parents and former students, will help to create a genuine feeling of community and belonging, a first intimation perhaps of what the German philosopher Edmund Husserl called the lebenswelt, which gives meaning to our lives together and bestows on us a sense of home.

Teaching the young can be a most rewarding but desperately difficult calling. It is uphill even at the best of times. We cannot nor should we delude ourselves that we are engaged in some messianic quest to change the world. Most would be well pleased with the epitaph that George Eliot wrote for her heroine Dorothea at the end of Middlemarch:

“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

For more content from Colin check out his portfolio for The Coolidge Review.

Thomas Sowell, the Alt-Right, and an Understandable Aversion to Labels

By Van Parkman

Thomas Sowell, one of the greatest conservative minds to gain prominence in the last half of the 20th century, recently said in a radio interview with Larry Elder that he did not think of himself as a conservative or a libertarian, or as belonging to any other particular political category. Instead, he asserted that he would rather reserve the freedom to call things as he sees them. I personally believe that existing under a conservative or a liberal heading does not exclude one from forming independent opinions; either a great or a horrible umpire, by reputation, may still make the claim, “I call ‘um as I see ‘um.” Being a liberal or a conservative is not about agreeing without question or qualification to every single policy or opinion that falls from the sacrosanct tree of knowledge of good and evil for the respective political category you fall into. Outside of religion there should be no such magical trees.

In point of fact, conservatism is both criticised for and partly defined by the great number of internal policy disputes. More conversation than ideology, conservatism is dynamic by nature. Prompting criticism from its opponents, conservatism is also deliberative and at times quite stubborn, as is known all too well by those of various temperaments dwelling under its banner. Political parties and affiliations by interest allow for the political relevance of priorities agreed upon by the greatest number of people through compromise on lesser priorities. Ideally these priorities find their source in opinion, research, circumstance, culture, religion, history, experience, and tradition on the right. By contrast, the left tends to entertain a few thoughts at a time, as their radar of abstract idealism grants immediate priority to the most emotionally evocative stories. Although they do not always have time to think about the stories in relation to a wider array of issues, they always have time to react. In practice this means that leftism is influenced more by popular culture, incensed rhetoric, Twitter, and Tumblr than the right has been in recent memory. This last election cycle has shown, however, that the left is losing its monopoly on reactionary politics. There are now incensed right-wing reactions to the perpetually incensed left-wing culture of reaction. There are now rigid reactions piled upon rigid reactions and those stacks of reactions are tipping over and shattering again and again, the fragmented pieces finding their way into every nook and cranny of American society.

Conversely, one might say that conservatism is the ideological equivalent to the legal checks and balances of the government itself. This analogy is built on the diversity of conservatism. Due to its hesitancy to play political games that divide society along lines of race and orientation, it doesn’t always appear diverse. But don’t judge a book by its cover: conservatism has many different voices and ideas within, and it often listens to those voices and ideas rather than using the people behind those voices as mere means to political ends. Some of these voices speak from the grave through religion or culture, having proved the relevance of their opinions over time. Because its ideas and wisdom transcend the anxiety of the now, there is no need for the clamour which accompanies the apparent diversity of the left. True diversity does not require a culturally, ethnically, or ideologically heterogeneous family in order to be heard quarreling by the neighbours each night; the only requirement for that is adolescent intolerance.

Even Thomas Sowell’s objection to being labelled is indicative of a conservative alignment. It shows that he is not dogmatically aligned with any particular ideology that promises enlightenment through adherence to universal abstractions. Clearly, Sowell does not get a self-righteous buzz from belonging to a particular group. Nor does it seem the case that he gets his kicks from being seen as the sole constituent of an elitist category beyond all other categories. His demeanor and disposition are not nearly so melodramatic. In fact, most of what Sowell believes and advocates for falls on what is broadly understood as the conservative side of political opinion. The label of “conservatism” does not describe an abstract ideology to which people subscribe after a relatively short period of indoctrination or enlightenment. The idea of conservatism stems from groups of people who became labelled as “conservative” only after centuries of approaching problems with at least a few shared cultural and political expectations and outlooks; they carried similar values, principles, and priorities rooted in a shared disposition which in turn was forged through shared cultural, political, and religious experiences.

That said, Sowell has the right to be a tad rebellious and reject labels if he so desires. As the most prominent black conservative in America, with a history of transcending labels and statuses, (which leftists, for the sake of the consistency of their narrative, need him to adhere to) his aversion to playing a game so characteristic of the far left is understandable. And perhaps there is wisdom in his aversion to being labelled. If conservatism becomes a label that is too easy to identify with or be identified by, a banner too easy to carry, or a set of dogmas too easy to adhere to, conservatism risks becoming an ideology for giddy gnostics. It ought to be, instead, based solidly within reality and on the wealth of experience which keeps cultures and minds independent of dogmatic ideology and of conveniently simplistic labels. As a substantive collection of people in the present who are in conversation with the past and future, conservatives live by a number of ideas. These ideas have slowly developed to maturity,  permeate society, and give character to a particular culture at a particular point in time. Yet now conservatism risks becoming a culture defined by the label attached to it by enemies within and without. Conservatism can be manipulated by its centralised leaders, its loudest advocates, or even its enemies who rejoice in labeling and defining it further. Driven by and easily defined by labels, it would become a conservatism flipped on its head; conservatives would be manufactured through ideological programing, rather than being born to a particular time, place, and attachments. Therefore, becoming too at ease with the label, rather than the complex combination of past events and ordered thought which led to the necessity of the category in the first place, creates the danger of transforming conservatism into a top-down leftist ideology such as Nazism or Stalinism (You’re likely thinking that Nazism is right-wing. You’re about 25% correct.). Conservatism properly understood is the opposite of that defined-by-creed-and-decree nonsense.

The alt-right learned everything he knows about his long absent and idealised father, Western civilisation, from the incensed derogatory labels overheard while living under the single-parent roof of leftism, Western civ’s noisy ex-wife. She was busy as always, repudiating her ex for being a white, patriarchal, oppressive racist. In reactionary rebellion against his mother, the alt-right proudly adorned himself in the labels worn by his impression of the estranged father. Never truly knowing his father, he wore those labels with adolescent pride and vitriol. Now the alt-right, having adopted the speech patterns of his mother, is obsessed with race, labels, and the systematic prioritisation of such superficial categories. The alt-right, like the left, reduces Western civilisation to a few superficial labels with neither side understanding the true importance of any civilisation. The alt-right is not conservative for the same fundamental reason that progressivism is not conservative; the alt-right is too easily defined by a simple set of beliefs and dogmas. It claims to have broadened the right’s base and to have made it relevant again. Such a broadening seems too convenient to be legitimate, and too easily achieved considering that it is gnostic and propositional in nature, with no apparent need to listen to a diverse array of voices nor any method by which to do so. The result is an idol made in the image of conservatism, whose deficiencies are blamed upon conservatism itself. The worshippers of this idol have prophets who conveniently interpret its will with fiery passion in no uncertain terms. The result is vulgarity, impropriety, and haste.

The far left, likewise, is quite dogmatic and as a result is also hypersensitive and noisy. The deplorable element within conservatism, though often headline material and a convenient political deflect, are quite a small percentage of the right-wing electoral base. Conversely, the essence of the mainstream left is constituted by the anatomical defects which produce their corresponding kin on the political right. Common emotions and sentiments are expressed as dogmas when translated into the self-righteous apathy of political abstraction so often mistaken for empathy. These dogmas are expressed in simplistic tried-and-failed policies under new names, the past futilities of which go unrecognised due to the left’s inability to detect anything beneath labels. This deficiency is shared by the alt-right. Labels are the only means by which shallow people can make sense of the world. Similarly, the alt-right grows the “conservative” base by feeding off of common emotions and circumstantial reactions. This behavior leads to immovable doctrines and policies, which stand in opposition to the traditional values, principles, and institutions of Western civilisation that conservatism is attempting to preserve. Instead of apathy through self-righteous abstraction in the guise of empathy, when the common sentiments of the alt-right are politicised they result in apathy through self-righteous abstraction in the guise of circumstantially justified fury. Both are blind “ends justify the means” approaches to political action: action which nevertheless affects human life in an objective world. This objective world is one that such shallow idealogues only observe through goggles of passive or aggressive disengagement. The former is obsessed with being or defending the victim and making the oppressors pay; the latter  is also obsessed with being or defending the victim and making the oppressors pay.  Especially where the alt-right is concerned, this new propositional, rather than dispositional, approach may be easily manipulated and magnified in the future by simply substituting one dogma or priority for another and sanctifying it with the blessing of a charismatic Führer. The alt-right relies too heavily on emotion, defends with pride the labels bequeathed to it by its opponents, and rejects the more gentile conservatism along with its self-vindicating stubbornness and cautionary elements that both the alt-right and progressives despise. If the gnostics have their way, all that will be left in America is knowledge versus knowledge and sets of dogmatic beliefs versus sets of dogmatic beliefs. That is to say, the pure subjective emotion of one perspective will be pitted against the pure subjective emotion of another perspective: but the minds of all involved are controlled and hijacked by Hannah Arendt’s banality of evil which lurks like a fungus within the best of us. Is it any wonder we are so politically divided?

In light of this, it would seem that the centuries-old leftist stratagem of drying out the mortar which stabilises our civilisation is finally coming to fruition, now raising its head in the extreme corners of politics. Progressives and alt-righters alike want the privilege of easily defining what old-hat conservatives are or should be. However, as long as we have people like Thomas Sowell with his understandable aversion to labels, we will always have a dynamic conservatism whose constituents are defined by their similar underlying dispositions rather than by labels born from shallow, predictable, and circumstantial outbursts of indignation derivative of uniform adherence to simplistic sets of dogmas.

A Tax on Love: The Social Conservative Case for Abolishing Marriage Licenses

By Brewer Arnoult

The Mississippi Senate recently voted to pass SB 2704, which more than doubles the tax on marriage licenses in the state of Mississippi, increasing the base cost of a marriage license from $21 to $50 for Mississippi residents.

Or to put it in a common 20 year-old Mississippian’s terms: the government thinks that a struggling soon-to-be college graduate “owes” them $50, if I decide I want to settle down with one woman– rather than sleeping around with multiple women or avoiding responsibility– and work to raise a family in Mississippi.

To add to the dilemma: I am also a practicing Catholic Christian, and I fully plan to marry in and through the Church. To a Catholic, marriage is a sacrament, like Baptism and Holy Orders, rather than just a community pledge.

Something is troubling about this thought: the government is taxing my desire to have what I believe is a marriage covenant, which many believe was instituted by God for one man and one woman at mankind’s beginning, as we read in the book of Genesis. This is no casual occasion, for God owns it. In Catholic Christian practice, the public marriage ceremony would typically be interfused with a Catholic Mass celebration as well. Catholic marriage moves beyond the social culture and into the spiritual realm.

My faith compels me to do it this way, and I find the Catholic Church way beautiful. From a conservative’s perspective, I also find our American value for freedom of religion, speech, and conscience a beautiful manifestation of both liberty and tolerance working hand in hand. The God-given right to practice faith and follow your conscience free of coercion and government discouragement, even if others disagree, makes me proud to support the Constitution and our country. However, taxing a church sacrament should bother conservatives and all who support religious freedom or the Bill of Rights.

Government-issued marriage licenses, which had originally been a tool for prohibiting interracial marriage in many states until 1967, have always been inclined by nature to also regulate marriage. At minimum, every state continues to steal money through them. In some states today, however, the government hasn’t stopped at taxing marriage. Allowing the government to “give permission” for marriage has led to the following hassles: requiring a blood test before marriage, assigning mandatory counseling classes before marriage, expiring marriage licenses, and mandatory waiting periods of up to five or six days in some states.

So whether it’s in the name of religious freedom, the Constitution, the free market, or just making life easier for young couples who want to do it the right way, it’s time to consider abolishing government-controlled marriage licensing.

For more information on Brewer and his work, check out his portfolio for The Coolidge Review.

No Country for Conservative Men

By Neil Molaison

With the very best of intentions the brave, free men of these United States have ceded a star spangled Vision for the very systems of the countries that those early pioneers and pilgrims left behind. In the figure of Mr. Coolidge stands the last vestige of a passing era, nearly forgotten in the pages of history. He stands quiet and resolute before the turning of the times, before the deal was new, before the society was great, and before health insurance was a human right.

Conservative principles, e.g. limited government, separation of powers, and sound monetary policy have each had their turn at being chipped away. There are a legion of reasons for this slow decline, and each passing generation has come with a new cause to champion, another compromise to bring ‘progress’ to our system.

The citizens need jobs, why not fund projects?  The security of the American worker is at risk, what will happen when they retire? Do we not care about your future, don’t we want a social security to rely on when we are old? And what of our health? Surely we will want to stay healthy! Our children are in need of education, why not form a federal bureaucracy to oversee this? The banks and moneyed interests are failing, and the lobbyists are demanding a solution. Is bailing out these companies not in the public’s best interest? We cannot leave any children behind, and these institutions and companies are far too big to just let them flounder in an unregulated market!

Don’t we care about the old, the poor, the children, the worker, the student, or the immigrant? If the government can provide a solution what kind of misanthropic miser must one be to withhold one’s wholehearted support or vote?

Compassion is indeed a powerful motivator, and if the charitable giving figures of the U.S. are any indication there is much to be said about the generosity of the average American. Conservatives have always seemed to struggle with one particular clarification when arguing their case: that though there may be a true need in society, it is not necessarily the place of the State to oversee the meeting of that need. Mr. Coolidge, through his marked lack of interference, seemed to understand this even if later conservative figures have not.

Particularly in this most recent election cycle, the true conservative is left without many champions for the cause. Senator Paul of Kentucky has most recently been assuming that mantle in regards to budget reform, living out a recommendation of Mr. Coolidge himself, “It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.” Only time will tell if there is yet room in the American political landscape for true conservative principles.

The Budget That Could Have Repealed Obamacare

By Brewer Arnoult

In the days leading up to the Senate’s decision to repeal Obamacare, Republicans and the media told us that a 10-year budget plan was the best “vehicle” to repeal Obamacare. Were they right? Yes.

Like it or not, Senators are legally prohibited from filibustering budget “reconciliations” under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. Thus, no filibuster–and therefore 60-vote requirement–could have blocked Obamacare repeal or a fiscally conservative budget. With a 52-member majority, this route was truly the “fast track”, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell coined it, to repealing Obamacare and saving our country from sky-high insurance premiums. Also, these 52 Republicans could save our country from a debt crisis by writing in whatever numbers they want. We should celebrate first.

What a beautiful and diabolical way to kick off the new anti-establishment conservative era: Republicans can get rid of Obamacare and balance the budget, and here is a grand slam bill that only required support from 51 of 52 Republicans. Blissfully, we remind Democrats that after all, Obamacare was first imposed on our country via a budget reconciliation; it is only fitting to get rid of it the same way. Conservatives chuckle.

Conservatives held every ounce of the power. With nothing else to do, Democrat leadership held a solemn “Make America Sick Again” cry rally  to lament over the likely loss of Medicaid expansion, the individual mandate, and (at least Bernie’s honest here) the planned transition to socialist healthcare. They also know that Republicans have sole control of the budget, and Republicans will set the tone for the next 10 years of spending. No one can stop the Republicans from balancing the budget besides themselves.

To repeat, Senators: no one can stop the Republicans from bringing the deficit from $500 billion per year to $0 per year. Better yet, Republicans can start creating budget surpluses by cutting entitlements, all while paying less interest on the debt and creating room in the budget for Trump’s much-needed tax plan. With a responsible budget, we can give back billions in stolen money to American businesses and workers, saving thousands of jobs and allowing the economy to grow again. This Republican-owned budget can be the capitalist springboard for the slowly-recovering American economy.

Thankfully, difficult math or difficult logistics and implementation isn’t stopping them either. It is simply “just numbers”, as Senator Rand Paul parroted Republican leadership in his protest speech against Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, which sets the standard for federal spending and taxing from 2017 to 2026. The majority of S. Con. Res. 3’s text consists of lists outlining “appropriate” spending and taxing levels, and here is what the conservative majority came up with:

“(4) DEFICITS.—For purposes of the enforcement of this resolution, the amounts of the deficits are as follows:

Fiscal year 2017: $582,574,000,000. Fiscal year 2018: $541,560,000,000. Fiscal year 2019: $673,600,000,000. Fiscal year 2020: $728,659,000,000. Fiscal year 2021: $785,164,000,000. Fiscal year 2022: $897,085,000,000. Fiscal year 2023: $892,854,000,000. Fiscal year 2024: $863,233,000,000. Fiscal year 2025: $946,057,000,000. Fiscal year 2026: $1,008,577,000,000.”

“(5) PUBLIC DEBT.—Pursuant to section 301(a)(5) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (2 U.S.C. 632(a)(5)), the appropriate levels of the public debt are as follows:

Fiscal year 2017: $20,034,788,000,000. Fiscal year 2018: $20,784,183,000,000. Fiscal year 2019: $21,625,729,000,000. Fiscal year 2020: $22,504,763,000,000. Fiscal year 2021: $23,440,271,000,000. Fiscal year 2022: $24,509,421,000,000. Fiscal year 2023: $25,605,527,000,000. Fiscal year 2024: $26,701,273,000,000. Fiscal year 2025: $27,869,175,000,000. Fiscal year 2026: $29,126,158,000,000.”

Yes, you read that right. It never plans to balance, fully intending to keep us on the unsustainable path of fiscal irresponsibility and add more than $9 trillion to the debt. What is worse, however, and mentioned less often: this fully plans to increase taxes, rather than cut them and fulfill every Senate Republican’s campaign promise.

“(A) The recommended levels of Federal revenues are as follows:

Fiscal year 2017: $2,682,088,000,000. Fiscal year 2018: $2,787,834,000,000. Fiscal year 2019: $2,884,637,000,000. Fiscal year 2020: $3,012,645,000,000. Fiscal year 2021: $3,131,369,000,000. Fiscal year 2022: $3,262,718,000,000. Fiscal year 2023: $3,402,888,000,000. Fiscal year 2024: $3,556,097,000,000.

Fiscal year 2025: $3,727,756,000,000.
Fiscal year 2026: $3,903,628,000,000.”
Thus, smelling the hypocrisy of a Republican majority raising taxes and spending, Republican Senator Rand Paul proposed a replacement which simply listed lower numbers, outlining a plan to balance before 2026:
“(4) Deficits.–For purposes of the enforcement of this resolution, the amounts of the deficits are as follows: Fiscal year 2017: $582,570,000,000.
Fiscal year 2018: $477,050,000,000.
Fiscal year 2019: $409,980,000,000.

Fiscal year 2020: $314,540,000,000. Fiscal year 2021: $232,080,000,000. Fiscal year 2022: $140,670,000,000. Fiscal year 2023: $41,860,000,000. Fiscal year 2024: -$68,390,000,000. Fiscal year 2025: -$191,380,000,000. Fiscal year 2026: -$314,150,000,000.”

Sen. Paul’s plan, S. Amdt. 1 to S. Con. Res. 3, still waits for 8 years to balance the budget, slightly decreasing spending at slow rate of around $100 billion per year until arriving at a small budget surplus in 2024. Frankly, this is a weak plan from a conservative’s standpoint, especially considering that no Democrat votes are required to pass this budget. A moderate plan at best, this bill still adds more than $7 trillion to the debt:
“(5) Public debt.–Pursuant to section 301(a)(5) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (2 U.S.C. 632(a)(5)), the appropriate levels of the public debt are as follows:

Fiscal year 2017: $20,034,790,000,000. Fiscal year 2018: $20,719,451,000,000. Fiscal year 2019: $21,326,280,000,000. Fiscal year 2020: $22,018,470,000,000. Fiscal year 2021: $22,775,170,000,000. Fiscal year 2022: $23,596,110,000,000. Fiscal year 2023: $24,553,462,050,000. Fiscal year 2024: $25,523,091,900,000. Fiscal year 2025: $26,431,371,000,000. Fiscal year 2026: $27,445,091,000,000.”

Nonetheless, this was an improvement. Did it also plan to “raise revenues”, or increase taxes? Yes, and at the exact same rate as the first bill. Sen. Paul’s amendment was simply to show that a balanced budget can be done. Also, no one could fear that grandmas would be thrown off of cliffs, or that the military would run out of bombs, for Paul’s amendment didn’t even touch Social Security, Medicare, or military spending.

Now, we know that all Republican Senators, besides Sen. Paul, agreed to pass the spending bill to repeal Obamacare and intentionally not balance the budget, with a 51-48  vote. But who agreed to the moderate conservative proposal to repeal Obamacare and balance the budget?

“YEAs —14
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Daines (R-MT)
Flake (R-AZ)
Kennedy (R-LA)
Lankford (R-OK)
Lee (R-UT)
Moran (R-KS)
Paul (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sasse (R-NE)
Scott (R-SC)
Toomey (R-PA)”

Both bills planned to repeal Obamacare. However, only 14 Republican Senators prefer a fiscally conservative budget over a liberal one. We need a conservative majority.

For more information on Brewer and his work, check out his portfolio for The Coolidge Review.

Protestors Too Loud to See Themselves

By Jerry Molaison

Watching the ascent of Donald Trump to the presidency is amusing on several fronts. Foremost is Donald Trump calling out his fellow billionaire class for the frauds most of them are, the Fabian crowd who mouth free market platitudes but are petty socialists at heart.
Then we see the true believers, those who are protesting and marching for LGBT rights, women’s rights, and human rights but really have no concept of what exactly is meant by rights, which is admittedly an abstract concept, but at least you would think they could comprehend the term choice.
Historically, Susan B. Anthony and other prim and proper ladies marched for the right to vote. They also marched in favor of temperance and prohibition, but that didn’t work out too well. From that moral high mark in the 20th century, the concept of women’s rights seems to have devolved into the worship of unlimited abortion and the call for ‘free’ contraception, which is more a rejection of motherhood and responsibility than an assertion of independence.
All their slogans and chanting about Trump being a fascist and Hitler amount to what is called, psychologically, a projection. The Nazis killed innocent lives. The abortionists do the same with unborn children. The marchers all support Obamacare. Socialized health care and compulsory insurance began under Imperial Germany and were expanded to become major parts of the National Socialist regime. In essence, the Planned Parenthood brown shirts and those others who “felt the Bern” are scapegoating President Trump with their own un-American philosophical premises. Their ignorance and duplicity are as palpable as a paper mill.
We forget that, for 150 years, freedom in the United States meant a rejection of the concepts of income taxation, welfare, economic regulation, and Social Security. With the adoption of Obamacare in the 21st century, the United States became exactly like Castro’s Cuba, sharing in the ‘blessings’ of income taxation, welfare, economic regulation, social security, and socialized medicine. It is no wonder Obama opened diplomatic relations.
Trump called out the socialists and interventionists. Maybe we can remember what rights and freedom truly are and the corollaries that follow from their correctly defined premises. Restoring Liberty to its rightful understanding would definitely make America great again.

Rubio, Tillerson, and the Siren Call of Putinism

By Van Parkman

        Rex Tillerson’s opening statement at his confirmation hearing was heartening to many conservatives. Praises came from a broad array, from those who were already in the tank for Trump and praise his every decision by default, through to principled and consistent Trump critics like Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal. In the statement, Tillerson claimed that the U.S. was uniquely qualified, both morally and strategically, to assert its leadership at the expense of the other more morally deficient and less conscientious powers who have been filling in the gap of late. 
        In the eyes of this writer however, a lot of that heartening sentiment is effectively nullified if he completely suspends judgement on our most active, paradigmatically divergent, and morally and strategically inadequate substitutes on the global stage. Throughout Sen. Marco Rubio’s interview, Tillerson suspended judgement on the subject of the character and actions of Vladimir Putin, an epistemic caution he did not wield in his controversial sketch of the situation in Syria with reference to U.S. policy on ISIS. The incongruence is bewildering unless you take refuge in the observation of the only detectable constant, a yielding to Putin and his interests. I’m not much for conspiracies. I don’t think Putin or Trump have Tillerson in an arm bar of sorts. Tillerson is no doubt a strong, principled, and independent mind, a Texan who probably wouldn’t take kindly to threats. It’s a sufficient explanation to believe that Tillerson is simply drinking from the same fountain as so many other seemingly level-headed individuals at every tier of society, and in a diverse array of countries, who can’t bring themselves to commit thoughtcrimes against Putin. I have further doubts. As Rubio made clear, Rex already knows the four corners of the situation. There is no conceivable point in time where Rex learns anything categorically new about Putin that might elicit the utterance, “Well I’ll be darned, Putin IS a war criminal!” if he isn’t already inclined to say so. The reasons for Putin’s unearned but widespread loyalty is an article for another day. For now, I’d like to focus on the convenience and consequence of it all.
        By anointing Putin a white knight, and whitewashing all of his actions in the Middle East, you defer responsibility. There’s no doubt that Tillerson is a responsible man. However, CEOs of massive corporations are also maverick delegators. Even some of Trump’s signalling to other NATO powers that they should be more independent is in the same vein of deference of responsibility. Where there is a lack of conviction, rather than mere patriotic rhetoric, about the need for a proactive role for America in the world, shortcuts will be taken. But what’s wrong with that? Let’s take a moment to consider what’s at stake if Tillerson lacks the convictions Rubio was mining for.
        Russia and its proxies not only lack the economic strength and military finesse to assert their power and bring order to the Middle East whilst minimising civilian casualties, they lack the will. For one, they are too preoccupied with defending their interests and the interests of their nefarious allies to care about universal principles like the general welfare and universal rights of mankind. This exhibition is on display not only in their war crimes, as rehearsed by Rubio, but in the fact that their campaign against ISIS, their geostrategic godsend, is merely a pretence for propping up Assad. As I will assert, that’s part and parcel to the organic structure of their political traditions, institutions, and structures. That is to say, the fundamental reason why Russia can’t be left to pursue its own interests without checks on their intentions is the same reason why the world as a whole cannot. The greatest and most constant of U.S. and western interests are also the universal interests of mankind. For many countries throughout the world however, if those principles exist as political expectations, they don’t take priority. What people take for granted, and therefore fail to understand, is the fundamental differences between not only the social inheritance of the west vis-à-vis its universally applicable Judaeo-Christian and Enlightenment values and Graeco-Roman, and also the largely British, legal traditions and civic expectations, but also of its unique experiences and painfully learned lessons.
        Are the resurgent powers on the world stage checked and motivated by priorities consistent with Enlightenment and Judaeo-Christian principles of a universal variety, or are they motivated by preserving personal power, wealth, and control with the handmaidens of radical ideologies at their side? Will it be a good thing when the world is divided into delineations of ancient imperial interests to the long-term detriment of a modern world with proliferated weapons of mass destruction? When America is asserting itself, it’s generally helping to prevent conditions of a permanent cold war, or worse, conditions where global human rights efforts are permanently frozen and rights violations go completely unreported which of course eventually results in the dissolution of those rights. Such is the situation with Erdogan’s current campaign against the Kurds, a story that he’s allowing no one to cover. The little coverage that is reported isn’t being broadcasted in Turkey. It’s getting heard only in states with a free press.
        Gun related crimes in the U.S. skyrocket in areas and subcultures that are alien to, or out of touch with, the western values and gun use customs which traditionally accompany gun use and ownership in the U.S. Those values and customs are the only reasons we were able to reach so high a level of gun proliferation and still maintain a relatively very safe country to live in. When those values breakdown, gun related crime rates, and crime rates in general, rise. You don’t have to personally adopt the moral priorities of the ideal policeman in order to comply with the order and safety he helps to bring about as he is guided by those inner principles. It makes a good analogy to the proliferation of modern military technology and weapons of mass destruction.
        Not all counties naturally incubate the kinds of political values which westerners take for granted. For the entire life cycle of modern warfare the world has felt pressure to use modern weapons with considerations to universal principles, principles which are universally benefited from, not universally upheld, but are more or less adhered to on the global level when it comes to international relations. These principles are adhered to because of the pressure from the few who have the political structures and traditions that have evolved over time to be reflective of western values, values which grant the capacity for self-assessment and also allow for the prosperity and privilege whence to defend those political and social priorities.
        This goes beyond values however. In the U.S. Civil War, and even more so with WWI in Europe, we learned all too well that traditional approaches to warfare were not compatible with 20th century military technology. It was a lesson we were still learning throughout WWII and it was a lesson that came with a very great cost. We continued to adapt our military policies and strategies to the conditions of an existential nuclear threat during the Cold War and to more urban, guerrilla, and terrorist challenges since then. We have been engaged in the world not just to police the world, but to act sometimes upon necessity and sometimes upon the lessons learned from the past century. The stakes are too high in modern times to allow the world to turn into Chicago. To surrender America’s proactive role in the world is not to sow the seeds of utopia but to defer authority and power to nations and ideologies which have yet to learn the lessons we are still so conscientious about, and invite those powers to teach us a lesson the world may never have the opportunity to forget. It’s important to stress that we haven’t merely suffered unique experiences. Russia has suffered as much as any nation from modern wars. The big difference is that we’ve had the social and political traditions necessary to learn from our mistakes and adapt to the new and global existential threats of mankind. Ideologies like radical Islam, in which category Iran should be included, don’t care to learn these lessons. Their ideology hastens to world’s end. The more dictatorial or oligarchic nations don’t have the privilege of learning about, or even being conscientious of, their role in, and effect on, the world beyond the solipsistic concerns of those few who hold power. It only takes a modicum of reflection to see that the interests of western values are the interests of the world regardless of whether the rest of the world sees it, or is capable of seeing it. Ultimately however, we are our own worst enemies. Millions of those who are most capable of learning these lessons are also those most prone to heed the siren’s call.
        You can’t expect all countries to share the very values that help keep misuse of modern weapons technologies in check, but if you take away even the global projection of expectations generated from those values by having the defenders of universal rights retreat from the world stage, the world turns into Chicago. That’s an argument even libertarians should be able to appreciate. It’s kinda paradoxical and kinda ironic. The European and American countries capable of being enticed by the siren call of Putinism and isolationism are also the ones most needed to project those values throughout the world in the form of strong diplomatic expectation, and even occasional armed interventionism, until the day comes when humans are transfigured and their natures transformed by God himself. When westerners take their traditions for granted, they also blind themselves to how unique the devotion to such universal principles and neighbourly love is in the world as manifested through western political structures and action, as imperfect as those may be. It’s important to note that I’m not referring to personal behaviour. A lot of people from non-western cultures are far better behaved than we are as a whole and are often superior in the realm of personal morality. What I refer to are the institutions, the political culture and expectations of individual rights, and history and development of checks and balances of power in the west, and the philosophies, prosperity, and unique culture which sustains it all. What I refer to is the story and burden of good guys throughout history. Chicago needs policemen. Human nature demands it. When police back away and the district attorney is too lenient, the problems don’t solve themselves. Two hundred thousand Christians have been killed as a result of targeted persecution in the past two years. Chicago saw 762 confirmed homicides in 2016. Those two statistics have a common root; good guys hiding their faces in the sand, conveniently, in the name of peace. If we can’t even speak the name of Voldemort, how can we prevent, or prepare for, his rise to power?
        Marco Rubio knows that we have to make the best of a bad situation and that requires a proactive strategy. Rex’s principle of epistemic caution seemed to be inconsistently applied throughout his confirmation hearing, an application that coincidentally defended the name of Vladimir. But hey, Rex still has potential to make a great Secretary of State. Anyone with that accent deserves a chance.