Category Archive 'Slippery Slopes'

14 Apr 2010

America: Land of the “Mostly Free”

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Last week, the Heritage Foundation issued its annual Index of Economic Freedom. The United States’ ranking fell dramatically from 80.7 in 2009 to 78 in 2010, for the first time declining out of the free category into the “mostly free.”

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Bruce Bartlett, in Forbes, says what liberals say: We’re so much wealthier today that we can afford to pay our taxes and the costs of regulations.

Stephen M. Bainbridge responds with some indignation, rightly characterizing Bartlett’s argument as proposing “trading our birthright of freedom for an iPad.”

[I]f I get the gist of this column correctly, he’s arguing that I should be happy about bigger government and higher taxes because I get to buy an iPad . …

I’m happy to acknowledge that the free market economy has produced profound blessings. But I’m not willing to swap my birthright of economic freedom for a “PDA” (how technologically quaint). Nor am I willing to stand by without protest while ever larger chunks of the American economy are turned over to the Obamabots–the very definition of “Social Engineers, who seek to adjust mankind to conform with scientific utopias.” After all, if we rely today on government to provide us with bread and circuses, what will we rely on government to provide tomorrow?

At bottom, my problem with Bartlett’s argument that we can afford higher taxes and greater regulation is that regulation and taxation are like the story about how to boil a frog. If a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.

In the United States today, the thermostat is still set pretty low. The Heritage Foundation has warned us, however, that the Obamabots have turned up the heat a tad. It is the proper function of conservatives to resist and to seek to turn down the heat.

18 Jul 2008

Why Not Incest, Too?

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Conservatives, like Edmund Burke, have repeatedly warned that human reason employed by a contemporary intelligentsia class does not represent an authority wise or competent enough to overturn the wisdom of numberless generations and to remodel the immemorial institutions of mankind.

Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790:

But now all is to be changed. All the pleasing illusions which made power gentle and obedience liberal, which harmonized the different shades of life, and which, by a bland assimilation, incorporated into politics the sentiments which beautify and soften private society, are to be dissolved by this new conquering empire of light and reason. All the decent drapery of life is to be rudely torn off. All the super-added ideas, furnished from the wardrobe of a moral imagination, which the heart owns and the understanding ratifies as necessary to cover the defects of our naked, shivering nature, and to raise it to dignity in our own estimation, are to be exploded as a ridiculous, absurd, and antiquated fashion.

On this scheme of things, a king is but a man, a queen is but a woman; a woman is but an animal, and an animal not of the highest order. All homage paid to the sex in general as such, and without distinct views, is to be regarded as romance and folly. Regicide, and parricide, and sacrilege are but fictions of superstition, corrupting jurisprudence by destroying its simplicity. The murder of a king, or a queen, or a bishop, or a father are only common homicide; and if the people are by any chance or in any way gainers by it, a sort of homicide much the most pardonable, and into which we ought not to make too severe a scrutiny.

On the scheme of this barbarous philosophy, which is the offspring of cold hearts and muddy understandings, and which is as void of solid wisdom as it is destitute of all taste and elegance, laws are to be supported only by their own terrors and by the concern which each individual may find in them from his own private speculations or can spare to them from his own private interests. In the groves of their academy, at the end of every vista, you see nothing but the gallows.

When the argument against Gay Marriage is made that no greater practical impediment to formalized polygamy or incest exists than to formalized sodomy, slippery slopes are pooh pooh’d by the party of alleged progress.

Well, here you are, progressives.

The Times of London publishes memories of an agreeable relationship with her brother by an articulate and clearly well-educated citizen of modernity, who describes herself in passing as an academic.

Their incestuous relationship isn’t something she and her sibling “can share easily.” But that isn’t because there was something wrong with it, you see. It’s simply the case that their relationship was unusual and other people wouldn’t understand.

The lady academic refuses “to be made to feel guilty about it.” Incest may be “traditionally seen as bad, but in some cultures that isn’t the case.”

What really matters is that she can identify no specific utilitarian loss, and she enjoyed it.

So here we are, living in a time in which members of the sophisticated, international haute bourgeoisie are not ashamed to admit to practices normally ascribed uncomplimentarily to rural primitives.

But, we know there are no slippery slopes, and one couldn’t possibly suppose that parent-child incest could ever be described affirmatively or even ambiguously, could one?

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Hat tip to MeaninglessHotAir.

09 Jun 2006

Like Gay Marriage? Get Ready For Polygamy

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Legalization of polygamy following legalization of gay marriage already happend in the Netherlands. It could happen here. Stanley Kurtz, in a must read article, identifies the fundamental connections between monogamy and democracy.

Alexis de Tocqueville, that great nineteenth-century student of America, pointed to the abolition of primogeniture (exclusive property inheritance by first-born sons) as the social key to American democracy. Once American children inherited equally, said Tocqueville, landed estates were dispersed, and the ethos of kin unity and hierarchy was replaced by a spirit of democratic equality. Yet America’s abolition of primogeniture was only the culmination of a process begun centuries earlier by the Christian Church. Muslim families arrange marriages to cousins and other kin, thereby reinforcing couples’ identification with family and tribe. But from the fourth century through the Middle Ages, the Church fought to protect individual choice in marriage, while prohibiting marriage between cousins and other relatives. That undercut social forms based on kinship and collective identity, ultimately leading to the triumph of democratic individualism in the West.

Yet the weakening or even disappearance of extended kinship groups from family life in the West poses a problem. If families aren’t going to be held together by collective honor, mutual obligation, and shared economic interest, how will they cohere? The answer is love. Exclusive affection for a unique individual is the structural foundation on which Western families are built. In polygamous societies, where marriages are arranged and wives and children live collectively, too much individualized love (for spouses or children) endangers group solidarity. Yet in a democratic society, individualized love is praised and cultivated as the foundation of family stability. So take your pick. You can have a love-based democratic culture of monogamy, or an authority-based hierarchical culture of polygamy. But–as the Reynolds Court knew–you can’t have both.


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