Jeff Neal for C.U.R.E. - Certain Unalienable Rights Endowment

Archive for the ‘Everyday Life’ Category

You want civility? Just let me be free.

In Everyday Life, Opinion on December 28, 2011 at 11:56 am



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Why is it that Democrats and liberals are sometimes enthralled by majority rule and occasionally supportive of certain minority “rights?”  It seems that it is the case only when two conditions exist simultaneously.  That is, the Democrats are so inclined only when (1) Democrats hold a majority in Congress, and (2) the minority in question is a group whose power they can arrogate for their own use.  They buy constituencies with promises to [ab]use the powers of a democratically-elected government to take other people’s money and freedom, presumably making their constituents’ lives ‘better.’

However, when a minority is made up of rich, white, fat-cat bankers, black conservative judges, evangelical Christians, southerners who speak with a twang, women who think that abortion is not a constitutional right, or people who voted for Christine O’Donnell, that minority is open season for hate, derision, and ridicule and doomed to a life of being told how to live and think.

That’s just fine, except for the doomed life part, that is.  I don’t object to Rachel Maddow having those opinions and getting paid by MSNBC to entertain her audience by making fun of Rick Santorum’s religious views, John Boehner’s tan, Dick Cheney’s shooting skills, John Ensign’s personal foibles and George Bush’s swagger.  However, I do object to Rachel’s favored politicians having the political power to turn her occasionally more substantive opinions into government policy, thereby nullifying my unalienable right to experience and pursue, on my own terms, the best and worst of a life made possible by my essential freedoms.  Voting for the loser in an election should not make a man a second-class citizen, should it?

Our government has become so untethered from the rule of law that elections are now, unfortunately, winner-take-all contests.  “We won, the election is over” has become a statement of policy, a statement of destiny and power that cannot and must not be challenged.  In Blair House, the summer of 2010, when Barack Obama said as much to John McCain, no one blinked – they simply nodded.  Even the stronger Republicans in the room sort of slouched and looked away as a decorated war hero and five-term senator looked down at his lap, put in his place by a former community organizer wielding the power of a tyrannical majority.

In that sphere, where that tone is the norm, compromise is neither possible nor desirable; there is no compromise between truth and lies.  And the solutions that spring from that level of power, corrupting power, are so far reaching as to effect voters’ daily lives in ways not contemplated by the Constitution and in ways that are not conducive to productive, fulfilling, happy lives, untainted and undisturbed by political bile and vitriol.

That’s why modern political discourse has become so divisive, derisive, personal, destructive and ugly.  The stakes are too high; the stakes are ‘live your life my way, it’s the law now!’  In my America, that’s the same as ‘life or death,’ because Americans know freedom is our birthright, that our rights are inalienable, of our essence, and being deprived of them is tantamount to being executed.  For freedom and civility to reign again in America, we must reduce the stakes.  We must reduce the reach of government so that the loser in a political battle might continue to live his life without the tyranny of the majority forcing him and his supporters to surrender their money and freedom of thought, and live thenceforth according to the demands of the next Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner . . . until the next destabilizing, fight-to-the-death election, of course.

Rachel, Michele and Barack, you can have it your way, really.  Just keep ‘your way’ inside of your lives – let me live my life, raise my children, pursue happiness and dispose of my property as I prefer, pretty please, with sugar on top.  You possess the same freedoms; they’re never going to be threatened by me or mine, I promise, cross my heart and hope to die.

You see, only when government power is so omnipresent (recall ‘Big Brother’ of 1984) that it is omnipotent, does what it does really matter.  If, and only if, we can tame the political class’s ambition and reach, put the government back in its Constitutional cage, will we get along more peacefully.  Otherwise – more food fights and screaming matches will ensue, enormous sums of money will be spent seeking to buy control of Congress and the White House, instead of flowing into private invention and innovation that would make life more bearable, peaceful and healthy for Rachel, Larry O’Donnell, and Chris Matthews, and Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Juan Williams and Glenn Beck (well, maybe not Chris and Glenn) and they could move on to doing something more pleasant and productive than shouting at one another about whose mother smells like army boots.

OH, and that money would flow into innovation that would make life more promising and fulfilling for my two sons – after all, they’re the only reasons I give a damn about any of this.  What, pray tell, are your reasons, Rachel and Barack; why does it matter so much to you?  Why won’t you let me and my sons be free?  Why do we have to agree with you or go to jail for not paying the tax that supports the social program you prefer?  I care for the poor as much as you do, I just think government helping the poor is an oxymoron.  Why won’t you help the poor and fund medical research the old fashioned way – by convincing people your way will work, and I’ll do exactly the same thing.  No guns, no laws, no IRS involvement.  Deal?

Usama bin Laden and Holding Little Hands

In Everyday Life on May 2, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Usama Bin Laden’s demise reminds me of, well, of course, 9/11 and the week or so that followed.  On Thursday, September 13, 2001 I made the following introductory remarks to a group of about 125 people at an evening engagement – a gathering which we had contemplated canceling because of 9/11:

If you read my invitation email yesterday (9/12) confirming that we would meet tonight, you read a small portion of an essay I keep in my office and to which I refer for strength at certain times – “Self Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  That portion says:

“Discontent is the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will.  Regret calamities, if you thereby help the sufferer; if not, attend your own work, and already the evil begins to be repaired.”

Another passage of his also has added meaning in light of recent events, but I have to set that up a little bit:

See, I walked into my home on the evening of 9/11, and my two little boys, as they did everyday, came running to the door to greet their daddy with hugs and kisses.  That reminded me of a passage from a favorite novel, Bonfire of the Vanities, based in high-society Manhattan and written by Tom Wolfe.  Sherman McCoy is the main  character.  His daughter’s name is Campbell.  Mrs. Lueger is the mother of one of her classmates whose sexy little body momentarily had taken Sherman’s mind elsewhere after he dropped Campbell off at the bus stop.

“He felt buoyant.  Just why, he couldn’t have explained.  The discovery of the lovely little Mrs. Lueger . . . yes, but in fact he always left the bus stop in a good mood.  The Best School, the Best Girls, the Best Families, the Best Section of the capital of the Western world in the late twentieth century – – but the only part that stuck in his mind was the sensation of Campbell’s little hand holding his.  That was why he felt so good.  The touch of her trusting, utterly dependent little hand was life itself!”

And, now, the other passage from Emerson:

“Not he is great or powerful who can alter matter, but he who can alter my state of mind.”

Americans, not the murderous hijackers and their co-conspirators, are great and powerful.  Our state of mind is not altered.  We, despite their evil, know the truth  – that “the touch of that trusting, utterly dependent little hand IS life itself.” That’s the foundation of our state of mind, and that has not been changed.

God Bless America.

Have you checked your state of mind lately?  How are you keeping the terrorists from winning?

Thank Goodness for Child Labor

In Economics, Everyday Life, Financial, Opinion on March 27, 2011 at 12:17 pm




Child Labor – we only outlawed it because we could, because capitalism improved productivity enough that we could let the kids go to school instead of making a living for their families.  It’s not like mom and dad were sitting at home living off their kids’ wages.  Everyone was working and conditions sucked.

The employers of those pitiful kids were driven by the profit motive.  That term is better stated as one’s desire to own the fruits of one’s labor and to have the freedom and the ability to dispose of that fruit as one sees fit.  That one word – Freedom – is the key.  If you try to eliminate the profit-motive, you are eliminating freedom, simple as that.

The profit motive, freedom, is the reason – and the only reason – we were able to write “child-labor” laws and let the kids spend the first 18-22 years of their lives being sponges instead of having to earn their way.

Can it really be true that it was a businessman’s “greed” and evil that made him hire children for $.10 per hour (or whatever it was) instead of hiring his mother or father for $5.00 to toil in his factory?  It was a necessity, it was the only way he could make a profit, and without a profit, the job wouldn’t have existed, the child and his family would starve.  Without the potential to make money, the businessman could not have borrowed or otherwise raised the money it took to build the factory to begin with.  It had to start somewhere.

Were there examples of “evil” and crooked businessmen who abused their power over a small portion of the labor force?  Of course there were.  But, be serious – if that practice were as widespread as we’re often led to believe, where were all the complicit, cruel parents, and why did they sit idly by?  The kids were working because the family needed them to, don’t you think?  If the vast majority of the businesses that employed child labor were the monsters we often see portrayed, and the families didn’t really need the extra money, wouldn’t the parents have let their kids stay home or at least do the work themselves?  The jobs were low-skill, low-pay jobs that enabled the factory owner to keep the factory open – and open the next one and the next one, increasing productivity and replacing, eventually, the kids with machines.  God bless those factory owners who fed families – including his own, by the way – while building a world in which the next generation of kids could spend their youth contemplating and protesting the evils of child labor, instead of shoveling manure out of the family barn.

Do you really think, for example, that a small businessman, a family farmer in Davenport, Iowa in 1905 worked his whole family from dawn ‘til dusk because he hated his only son, Frank E. Neal, Sr., or because he wanted to, God forbid, make a profit off of his own child?  No, we know he did it that way, because otherwise the family wouldn’t have had enough to eat – Frank, Sr. would have starved.

Because he didn’t starve, and since we live in a free country where innovation is driven by the profit motive, that farmer’s son later moved to Tennessee, became a letter carrier for the US Postal Service and sent his third son to Isaac Litton High School in Nashville.  That son then attended an insurance company’s training program, sold property and casualty insurance for several local and national agencies, and raised six children, four of whom make their living working for the independent insurance agency he founded in 1975.

Which of those two men – the farmer in Davenport or the businessman in Nashville – is an ogre, using the labor of his children to line his own pockets.  Neither.  My father, Frank E. Neal, Jr., is the same man as his grandfather and his father – just standing on their shoulders.  I’m grateful that my great-grandfather pushed my grandfather out of bed every morning to milk the cows and tend the crops.  If that’s abusing child labor, I’m all for abusing child labor.

I want to know, I really do. Why does smaller government offend some?

In Everyday Life, Opinion on February 20, 2011 at 9:56 am

What am I missing.  Why am I wrong.  Why am I the bad guy?  I honestly want to know.

At a big party recently a pleasant conversation with a friend of a friend turned political – government should or should not do this or that.  Her husband makes a good living (I’m led to believe) and is a Republican, while she is a Democrat, socially responsible and sympathetic to a variety of good causes.

I suggested to my interlocutor that government funding of [fill in the blank] good cause isn’t fair, because I [or her husband] or some other tax-payer might prefer that his money be spent other than the way Barney Frank wants to spend it.  Turns out, she was willing to let Barney and Nancy decide how her [husband’s] money should be spent.  I had no objection to that, but made clear that I wanted Barney no where near my financial decisions.  I think that’s where we started to disagree – seems that since SHE trusted Barney’s judgment, I was supposed to agree that he knew better how to spend my money.

After 2 or 3 minutes of what I would call a friendly debate, I suggested that she should have a higher opinion of her husband (and other taxpayers) and what he might do with his money absent government forced ‘charity.’  She disagreed (poor guy, her husband).  So, to make peace, I said that I would let her do whatever she wanted to do with her [husband’s] money – and that I would respectfully ask for nothing more than the same favor in return (to do as I please with my money – I don’t have a husband).

So she said something like “what about the poor woman who needs” this or that.  “Who should look out for her?  What’s a few [of my] dollars to help her?”

After explaining that I earn a finite amount of money, and my charitable priorities (not that one is required to have such) are likely to differ from hers or Barney’s, I said “anyone but the government” should take care of that woman.  She walked away, visibly disgusted.  It was as if I had suggested that her grandmother should be the victim of a death panel.  It was clear she had concluded I was unfit for polite company.

Why are people so willing to impose their personal preferences on me, while telling me in the next breath “you can’t legislate morality” or some version of that leftist tripe when it comes to, say, abortion.   Then, in the next moment, I’m told how my charitable inclinations should be forced and directed by the government.

Why is my ‘selfishness’ (“let me dispose of my money”) unacceptable while hers (“the government must take your money to do with it as I please”) heroic.  Please tell me.  I want to know.  What did I say that is so offensive?  I don’t want to say it ever again.

Wise Words from RWR

In Everyday Life, Opinion on February 6, 2011 at 2:31 pm

From his grave site in Simi Valley.  No truer words ever spoken.

President Reagan and his words of wisdom.  “I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph, and there is purpose and worth to each and every life.”

May God Bless America

CPI – Does it measure anything?

In Economics, Everyday Life, Recommended Reading on February 6, 2011 at 7:39 am

Professor Donald Boudreaux asks (at some length) whether the CPI conveys any useful information.  He looks at the 1975 Sears & Roebuck catalog and analyzes the price of many of its items.  Link to Cafe Hayek — where orders emerge.

It’s an interesting read about the things CPI attempts to measure.  I ask an additional question to which he alludes but doesn’t ask explicitly – How can we compare with a statistic the price of something we take for granted today (the computer screen you’re reading at the moment, e.g.) which didn’t exist at any price in 1975?

Not everything can be measured in terms of money.  The value of the truth and the freedom to innovate is incalculable.

The goodness of friends who are free

In Everyday Life on February 2, 2011 at 11:15 am

A life-long friend wrote this letter to me today and agreed that I might share it here.

Who’s hoarding all the bad friends?

The Facebook phenomenon has reminded me of a startling truth about freedom.

I have led a life surrounded by good people and apparently I’m not alone.  I have hundreds of friends on Facebook. They are just a portion of the people I have met during my life, and as I look at them they are remarkable.  In talking with my friends about their friends I noticed that they also had good friends. [CLICK below to read MORE] Read the rest of this entry »