Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Working Man

I just got back last night from Washington, D.C. I was interviewing for a position with the premier public policy think tank in the country, and they have informed me that they are going to offer me the job. My primary areas will be education issues as well as family and welfare issues.

I'll start June 1st (roughly 10 days after graduation).

As I prepare for this job, expect a lot of posts on school choice, vouchers, etc.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Sexuality and the De-valuing of Humans

Today in my Byzantium and the Islamic Empire class, we were discussing the effects of the early church's repudiation of the value of sex for anything other than procreation, and its effects on society (we were looking at it from Muhammad's perspective in the 7th century, but that's not important here). My professor asserted that the teaching contributed significantly to the devaluing of women for many centuries, and the subsequent lower status that females had. Based on this assertion, an interesting thesis popped into my head, though I'm not sure if it has been argued elsewhere or not. I agreed with the professor, and going a step further, I believe that the sexual revolution of the 20th century and the philosophical change toward sexuality that has occured has swung the pendulum the opposite direction. That is, the "sex as a commodity" approach that sociologists speak of amounts to a repudiation of sex in a similar way, but this time it does so to the suppression and detriment of all non-married people.

Obviously, I'd have to tighten this thesis up quite a bit, and I haven't developed it very much. I do see an alarming trend in our culture, where sex within marriage is not given higher status than sex outside of marriage. If there is no philosophical difference between the two, the results are disastrous, with children being born out of wedlock, sexually transmitted diseases running amok, and marriages breaking down constantly.

Thus, my basic argument is a descriptive one, and would therefore require a lot of sociological and historical data to back up. At this point, I just want to throw it out there to see what everyone thinks. Is the liberal view of sexuality in our culture leading to devastating consequences? If so (which I think the answer is clearly yes), then is the ultimate consequence the devaluing of humanity in general? I think the answer to this is also a yes. When we no longer care about illegitimate child rates, divorce rates (broken homes with children), and sexually transmitted diseases killing thousands, then I think we have lost a large degree of human dignity and worth.

Let me know what you think.

Friday, January 20, 2006

On Contraceptives

As evidenced by some of my previous posts, I believe the institution of marriage to be fundamental to society. Also, keeping the institution of marriage sacred is vital to the Christian faith and church. Thus, having a proper theological understanding of marriage is extremely important for each and every Christian to develop. One of the most complex, difficult, and debated aspects of the marriage relationship involves the use of contraceptives within the marriage relationship. Many believe the decision to use contraceptives to be a personal one that is made when they are entering a marriage relationship, but I believe it to be a far more important theological question. I will attempt to convey my beliefs on the subject, but am extremely interested to hear what others have to say.

First, it is important to note that the existence and use of contraceptives have, from a practical standpoint, damaged the institution of marriage significantly. Contraceptives were clearly at the center of the sexual revolution of the 60s, and continue to give individuals confidence that they can have sexual relations without the unintended consequence of having children. Thus, contraceptives have divorced the sexual act from conception to a high enough degree to invert the intended, natural order. In terms of social history, I think there can be little argument against this (except that sexual freedom is a higher value, which is the primary tenet of feminism), but the higher question that must be answered is what I would like to deal with. If contraceptives were only used by Christians, within the confines of marriage, would they be considered a moral good or ill? That is, is the use of contraceptives consistent with biblical values or not?

I first would like to state, and then quickly move on, from the most basic argument that is made about contraceptives. Many Christians will argue that contraceptives frustrate the will of God. I have considered this argument, but ultimately find it by itself to be unpersuasive, because every personal decision we make would then have the possibility of preventing the Almighty in some capacity from achieving His will. The point is taken that even within marriage, contraceptives separate intercourse from procreation to some degree - the question is if that is ok.

Clearly, the Bible affirms that sexual activity is not merely for procreation. Paul speaks of women not denying their husband at any time. In the Old Testament, the Song of Solomon also shows the importance of the marriage act beyond procreation. I believe this is the main argument of those who favor the use of contraceptives - that sex isn't just about procreation, so contraceptives merely allow the Christian to be responsible in their decisions about having a family (when to have kids, how many to have based on finances, etc.). I do not believe, however, this issue to be as simple as determining whether sex is about procreation, pleasure, or both.

At this point, let me state that I believe life begins at conception, so I obviously do not condone the use of any types of contraception that would abort what has already been conceived. Anything from a morning after pill to an abortion would clearly be wrong. But, this doesn't answer the simple question of whether using standard contraceptive devices is right or wrong.

Biblically, I can't really give a much better answer than what I have already said. Because the biblical narratives didn't have to deal with this issue, there is nothing to directly reference. Thus, I believe tradition and Christian logic to be important to use here, but perhaps not definitive. I will state my thoughts, and then listen to yours.

As Christians, we should be responsible yet trusting at all times. When it comes to planning our family, this is a delicate balance. Perhaps having another child would be a financial burden or too time-consuming. While I understand this argument, I ultimately reject it completely. I believe that trusting God knows when we are ready to have a child is more important (and reliable) than our own plans. Even so, the statistics I have looked at show that Natural Family Planning is statistically equivalent to most types of contraceptives. So, even if one wishes to be responsible, there are other ways than using contraceptives. This brings up the important issue, if family planning is biblical, then why isn't family planning using modern technology biblical? I still can't get around this question, but will provide perhaps my only original thought on this subject.

I believe there to be a fundamental difference between contracepted sex and non-contracepted sex. I also believe there to be a difference between family planning and contraceptives. Non-contracepted sex (within marriage) is safer than the use of pills and such. Natural sex, is also just that, more natural, and thus has a profound psychological edge over contracepted sex. Moreover, it is scientific enough to be responsible, but natural enough to allow God to use the sexual act for its primary purpose: procreation. Furthermore, natural family planning affirms the biblical values of self-control and self-denial. Christians, even within marriage, can act as witnesses to their ability to responsibly abstain from sex, even if they are sleeping right next to that person. As an example to teens who feel it impossible to abstain from sex, this could be powerful, or to friends who find it difficult to be abstinent outside of marriage, this would be a great example. Morever, from a practical standpoint, this type of self-denial could add a lot of romance into a marriage relationship (though from a moral standpoint, this doesn't have a lot of weight).

Ok, so I probably haven't proven anything to you, but I think I've stated why I am not going to use contraceptives within marriage, and also why I think that you shouldn't. My points are not entirely definitive however, so I am certainly open to discussion and disagreement, so have at it.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Excuses

Hey everyone... sorry for my lack of posting lately. Let me give you a few excuses:

1. I was out of town with no access to a computer for over a week.
2. I'm lazy.
3. I was hoping more people would comment on the flat-tax post.

None of those are completely adequate, because I watched the Alito hearings in their entirety, and I definitely could have written something while I was watching, for sure.

Oh well, I'd like to end this by promising to post something interesting soon, but...

I'm getting my wisdom teeth out tomorrow morning, and I won't be posting until I'm not drugged up anymore... Sorry!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Flat-Out Necessary

When it comes to tax policy in America, the issue has become an extremely complex, intricate, and burdensome one to understand. The tax code contains volumes of provisions that few people comprehensively grasp. Moreover, tax policy is used to encourage certain types of behaviors over others through tax credits, exemptions, and penalties. Perhaps most importantly, the tax system is used in our country as a mechanism to redistribute wealth through progressively taxing income, coupled with an extensive welfare state that uses those taxes to provide social welfare programs for those in poverty.

Philosophically, my belief in limited government and protections against government intrusion lead me to condemn the use of government coercion through the tax code. As a rule, government intrusion is highly troubling. While this especially bothers me when the government coerces in a way that I disagree with, any coercion causes me distress. A great example for me would be with marriage - even though as a conservative I believe the government ought to protect the institution of marriage, it is precisely that the manipulation of the tax code that causes homosexual rights activists to call for marriage rights. If there was no economic benefit to marriage, perhaps there would be no debate here.

To answer the second question, as to whether the tax system ought to be progressive, I would like to devote the rest of this post to answering. Many people argue that the conservative, pragmatic view of taxes is in opposition to the liberal, idealistic view of tax policy. Quite simply, this is an unfair and wrong way to frame the debate. Both positions are based on ideals: alleviating poverty, affording equal opportunity, reducing unemployment, and gathering tax revenue for the government to provide important services (roads, defense, schools, etc.).

At this point, I'll advocate my position on taxes: the flat tax is flat-out necessary for the economic well-being of our country. In terms of effectiveness, many estimates have the flat tax creating roughly 5 trillion dollars in wealth in just a couple of years. The Laffer Curve is definitely not "voodoo economics." When countries drop their tax rates substantially, they collect more total tax revenue! If anyone is unfamiliar with the Laffer Curve, just post and I'll explain it more in a comment. Purely based on economic considerations, the flat tax is far superior than a progressive tax. Progressive taxes restrain entrepreneurship and the creation of wealth by creating systemic penalties for creating wealth. As taxes are higher on those that run businesses, they can't hire as many workers, and unemployment goes up.

Need evidence? Look at how America is quickly beginning to lose our global advantage economically. As globalization takes hold of the international economic scene, investing will flow to economies that have unburdensome taxes and vibrant economies. A couple examples: Ireland has slashed its corporate taxes from over 50 percent to 12.5 percent, unemployment has gone from double digits to 5 percent (less than American unemployment). Russia has gone to a 13 percent flat tax, and their economy immediately began to turn around and grow. Romania, Georgia, and Poland have all adopted flat taxes and seen immediate results.

A flat tax upholds all of the ideals that I mentioned earlier. The primary mechanism for alleviating poverty is to reduce unemployment. The redistribution of wealth over the last half-century has proven to be a colossal failure at alleviating poverty (2.2 percent increase in poverty, and we've spent billions of dollars in the process). It is time to realize that economic freedom and prosperity, through low, uncomplicated taxes is the best way to go.

So, let's adopt a flat tax of roughly 17-20 percent. A consumption based tax that taxes income just once will promote saving and investing. Overall tax revenues will increase as wealth is created. What we have now, our taxes will continue to go up, because raising taxes causes a stagnation in tax revenues, and law makers will always increase taxes to find money for new programs. As they raise taxes, overall tax revenue will not increase, and thus the spiral toward European socialistic tax practices begins. Let's avoid this, and go with a flat tax.

In discussion, I'd love to express why I'm for a flat tax instead of a fair tax (sales tax).

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Finals Week

I'm only writing this post to apologize for not posting anything lately. It is finals week at school, and I have not been able to find the time to write anything of worth.

When finals week is over, I'd like to wrestle with some of the following topics:

1. Christian Kantianism
2. NFL Playoffs Preview and Predictions
3. Contraceptives (their effect on society and ethicality)
4. Courting vs. Dating
5. The Perfect Presidential Candidate in 2008
6. The Flat Tax (vs. Fair Tax vs. what was have now)

If you particularly like one of these or a few of these, let me know, and I'll do those ones first.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

24 Is the Best Show Ever

The past few months, my eyes have been opened to perhaps the greatest television show of all time: 24. Though I have never seen it on television, my friends and I have been watching the DVD's all fall, and I have now watched all of Seasons 1, 2, and 3. Please keep in consideration that I have not yet viewed Season 4, so in any of your comments do not give away anything that happened if you have seen it. In this post, I'd like to talk to you about my favorite storylines and characters, and ultimately the larger cultural commentary that the show provides.

First, let me explain the basic premise of the show. Each season is comprised of twenty-four, one-hour episodes, comprising a one-day period in which the show occurs in real time. Thus, every season functions as the equivalent of an 18 hour movie (if you take out the commercials) when watched back-to-back (like I have). The main character, Jack Bauer, works for a fictitious "Counter Terrorism Unit - Los Angeles" which is a federal law enforcement agency with regional offices, such as Bauer's in LA. Each season deals with a single terrorist threat, which have ranged from an assassination attempt of the President, a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles, and the release of a deadly virus.

On to storylines. I'll try not to give anything away here, so I'll speak somewhat generally. I love the fact that in every season, main characters die. Their work is dangerous, and the show would be incredibly unrealistic if they were constantly getting into gun fights, being held hostage, etc., and nobody ever died. Also, not to sound incredibly sadistic, but I think it is sweet that the terrorists are often mildly successful. In both season two and season three, the terrorists are able to blow up a federal building, release a deadly virus in a busy building (killing over a thousand people), and twist the arm of even the President himself. I think this is cool, because it makes the urgency of what the good guys are doing that much greater, because their failures lead to the deaths of at least thousands, and possibly millions. Another recurring storyline that I love is that characters are constantly "switching sides." Again, without giving anything away, every season includes characters who you think are good, being revealed as evil, and characters that you think are evil being revealed as good. As you watch, you never know who to trust, and that makes it that much sweeter.

As for characters, everybody has to love Jack Bauer. First, I have a theory that his name is symbolic of the "right bower" in Euchre. For those of you that don't play Euchre, the Jack of the trump suit is the strongest card, and trumps everything else, and it is called the right bower. Just a thought. But Jack is pretty much the sweetest guy ever. He's formerly special forces, and he is the toughest guy alive. He is able to torture bad guys with no remorse, yet he somehow is incredibly compassionate and caring. He is constantly willing to sacrifice his own life to save others, yet is so good that he always saves his own life as well. Let's be honest, every girl wants Jack, and every guy wants to be Jack. But Jack isn't my favorite character that has appeared on the show. This might give something away, but an IT guy, named Gael, from the third season, is my favorite character, because for most of the season, I totally misjudged him. Without going into detail, while you think he is the most evil guy ever, he ends up being a totally sweet guy. The last dialogue that he is a part of before he dies goes something like this:

(Gael is dying from a horrible disease that eats away at his body. Michelle pulls out her gun and places it on the table...)
Michelle: Nobody could fault you for ending your suffering, in this life.... or the next.

(Gael puts his hand on the gun...)
Gael: Are you so sure about that?
(...and he slides it back across the table)

So, there's so much to talk about with characters and storylines, but I've tried my best to not give anything away, because you guys should all rent this show and watch it, all of it. It is amazing. The show has brought up some cultural commentary however, that I will only pose as questions for now:

1. Are mild forms of torture useful in stopping terrorism? Morally justifiable? (The show seems to answer yes and yes.) (A bigger question might be whether it is strategically counterproductive)

2. How should we deal with terrorists when a threat is imminent? We say we will not negotiate with terrorists, but that position is difficult when there is a nuclear bomb set to go off and kill millions.

3. Can the President really pardon a terrorist in order to stop other terrorists?

4. CTU Agents are always conveniently disregarding privacy laws, and they always seem to have access to private phone numbers, email accounts, etc. Are we ok with this? Is it realistic even?

Please comment with praise of 24, answers to these societal questions, and additional comments about the show.