Deep Thinking

25th February
2014
written by Sean Noble

I firmly believe that anonymous political speech is not a danger to our nation—it has played an important role throughout our history.  If Thomas Paine could not have penned Common Sense anonymously, would average colonists have united behind the leaders of the American Revolution?  Would our Constitution have been ratified had Hamilton, Madison, and Jay not written The Federalist Papers under a pseudonym?  Anonymity in political speech protects the speaker from retribution, but it also serves a greater good: it allows the public to listen to ideas without any bias towards the messenger.

Earlier this week, The Arizona Republic republished a story about me written entirely by ProPublica, a left-leaning nonprofit funded by liberal billionaires, like George Soros, Herbert Sandler, and Tom Steyer.  ProPublica spent over 7,000 words painting the activities of my firm and nonprofits with which I am involved as criminal.  The authors repeatedly use the term “dark money” so as to scandalize the Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR) and make legal and compliant activities seem improper. If the money were truly “dark,” these “reporters” and the public would not have broad access to information about the funds granted by CPPR and similar organizations.  The public tax records referenced by ProPublica include significant information about organizational details, activities, priorities, and spending.

Founded in 2009 to fight the government takeover of healthcare that became Obamacare, CPPR does not have its own staff.  Instead, the organization contracts with a variety of individuals, consultants, and vendors to accomplish its mission. CPPR has fully reported these arrangements in its tax filings for several years.

In 2012 CPPR had an incredibly large set of programs and activities.  Instead of building a large, in-house staff, CPPR maintained its existing organizational structure and relied on an expanded team at DC London and an expanded roster of advisors and other consultants to service its mission and conduct its activities and programs: administering grant making activities, maintaining and developing relationships with the organization’s donors, planning, communications, research, media development.

The figures CPPR reported in its 2012 tax filing, which ProPublica described as payments to my firm DC London and Angler are not compensation, but rather a convenient billing arrangement like you might have with a contractor building your home.  During the building process, you don’t receive and pay invoices for all the materials—wood, windows, pipes—and services—plumbers, electricians.  Your contractor collects those expenses and sends you one, simple invoice.

DC London and Angler operated as a general contractor of sorts and warehoused expenses for CPPR.  For example, Angler purchased social media advertising with Google, Facebook, and other networks.  DC London built and supported a massive grassroots infrastructure in more than a dozen states, handled service contracts and subcontractors, executed millions of phone calls to grassroots supporters and voters, and conducted significant messaging and public opinion research.

In discussing the $15.8 million of these sorts of expenses that passed directly through DC London and Angler in 2012, ProPublica clearly failed to comprehend the tremendous scale of CPPR’s work and implied that a very standard and convenient billing arrangement was somehow crooked.

Then there was the rehashing of the California case, already widely reported on by The Arizona Republic and others.  The author says CPPR “circumvented” California law, which of course implies intentional violation of the law.  This is false.  The California Attorney General and individuals working for California regulators, far more qualified than the “experts” upon which ProPublica relies, found no intentional violations occurred, in a public settlement as ProPublica is well aware.  The article attempts to discount this finding by noting that CPPR’s lawyers are national experts in election law.  They are, which leads to a far more interesting and pressing question: isn’t it problematic for democracy that California’s election laws are so vague and incomprehensible that an organization receiving top-notch legal advice can inadvertently run afoul?  How can an average citizen or smaller organization participate in our democratic institutions without fear of doing the same?  Our institutions and laws should encourage, not discourage, participation in the political process, and no one should have to ask the government or regulators for permission before doing so.

The truth, while much less intriguing than the tale woven by ProPublica, is that CPPR and the other nonprofits mentioned in the article operate in full compliance with the law.  Even the authors of the piece admit, “There’s no indication that Noble or the Center are under scrutiny by authorities for violating tax or election laws.”

ProPublica hopes to bully CPPR and other conservative groups out of existence because we’ve been effective.  Thanks to President Obama’s mismanagement of the country, particularly the failure of Obamacare, liberals know they can’t win against us in a fair fight of issues and ideas.

Left unreported was that unions have engaged in this kind of activity for many, many years.  In 2012, union spending on politics exceeded $400 million—that we know of—and to that, I say: good for them!  They have every right to engage in political speech.  The difference is that conservative organizations are only very recently catching up to the level of spending that unions and the other groups on the left have maintained for years.

Now that conservatives and conservative groups are exercising their vocal chords, the “good government”-types start screaming about “dark money.”  The fundamental difference between anonymous speech by conservatives and anonymous speech by unions is that union speech is largely funded by forced union dues, rather than voluntary grants by conservative individuals.

The problem for big-government liberals is that they can’t win on the substance of their argument; instead they must resort to intimidation.  Their tactics include boycotts, threatening businesses, digging through divorce records to personally embarrass and hurt the families of those with whom they disagree, etc.  But, before they can employ these methods, they need to know who to target.  This is why they demand the disclosure of donors to conservative causes.

The best way for ProPublica and others to make this happen is by launching complaints about the political activities of nonprofits.  The true purpose of this piece wasn’t to scream for transparency on behalf of American voters.  It was to attack me and taint the law-abiding work of all nonprofits on the right.  After all, if ProPublica really believed voters have a right to know who’s paying for political activity, they’d have the same concern for their readers and not rely so heavily on unnamed “sources.”

I’m accustomed to baseless attacks like the ProPublica piece, but I was stunned when the Arizona Republic republished, word for word, a story from clearly partisan organization without ever contacting me for comment.  I have been involved in Arizona politics for two decades.  The Republic is my hometown paper; I’ve interacted with its staff regularly and always held them and the publication in high esteem. I was extremely disappointed by the Arizona Republic’s complete lack of journalistic integrity in this instance.

The Republic made itself a willing tool of the Left.  That is a shame and a real disappointment to this lifelong reader. The Founders would be appalled at this organized attack on political speech by the media (and the government).  Consider this: the Federalist Papers were not only anonymously written, they were anonymously funded!   Today, Madison, Jay, and Hamilton would be castigated as “dark money.”  Good grief!

4th October
2009
written by Sean Noble

Crazy.  Insane. Out of your mind. Death wish. Masochist.

Those were just a few of the things that people said to me when I told them I was taking all five of my kids (ages 15, 10, 7, 6 and 2) to Washington, D.C. for the weekend… by myself.

My wife had a long-planned weekend away with a friend.  I was originally going to just be at home with them, but then I had a work related presentation and speech in D.C., so the only choice was to take the kids with me.

On Thursday we loaded up and drove to Phoenix Sky Harbor.  We got to the airport in what seemed like years before the flight (I’m the kind of traveler that gets to the airport as late as possible) but it was actually only an hour and 15 minutes.  And guess what? It takes a while to check four bags and get five kids through security. So, we ended up not having all that much time before we boarded.

It was a bit of a mob scene getting on board.  A woman had inadvertently sat in one of the seats that was ours and my 7 yr-old daughter says in her normal voice (read: loud) “Dad, she’s in my seat!”  You know how people get when they are in the wrong seat on a plane, because they really don’t think they are in the wrong seat and so there is always a bit of hubris first, and then they dramatically take out their boarding pass and the expression goes from irritation to embarrassment.  I kept trying to tell her that it was not a big deal, but that was belied by my daughter’s gestures of “what is she doing in my seat” with the “hmphs” and the overly dramatic shrugs, etc. If you know my 7 yr-old, you KNOW what I’m talking about.  Needless to say, it took that woman about 5 minutes to realize she was VERY happy to have moved to the right seat.

The only thing eventful for the first leg of our trip was that when we hit some pretty good turbulence a couple hours into it, my 7 yr-old and 6 yr-old (it was her 6th birthday that day) girls started laughing and cheering, thinking that it was an amusement ride.  The lady across to aisle from me was obviously not a good flyer and she was gripping her seat handles, white knuckled and looking at the girls like they were insane.

One point on the layover in Atlanta: it drives me crazy to drop $8 for a kids meal of chicken strips only to have three of the kids take two bites of chicken, eat three fries, and then while I’m distracted with the 2 yr-old, go throw the rest away.  Argh!

Thirty minutes out of D.C. my 2 yr-old decided that the last thing he wanted was to be seatbelted in, and he screamed, non-stop, for the duration of the flight.  Talk about humiliating.  I kept thinking about that old Bill Cosby bit about Jeffry, the little boy who was a terror on a flight and then right at the end, falls asleep and then as people are getting off the plane they gleefully wake him up “Goodbye Jeffry!”

All this, and we are just arriving in D.C.!

Friday, because of the kids being wired after getting to the hotel and the time change, they didn’t get up until after 11:00, which was fine, because I had a presentation that morning.  We ate lunch at the hotel and then headed to Capitol Hill where the kids got a Capitol tour from Congressman Shadegg’s office, followed by a Dome tour – also arranged by the Congressman.  I worked on Capitol Hill for 14 years and, inexplicably, that was the first time I’d ever done a Dome tour.  It was fantastic and the kids loved it.

Friday evening I had a brief speech to give to more than 2,000 people, which actually went a little better than I had expected.  I spoke right before Laura Ingraham and she says to me, “Don’t steal my thunder.”  Yeah, like that could happen.  She was very gracious before and after, and by the time she had finished the first line of her speech, no one even remembered that there was someone speaking before her.  She gave a tour de force and had the crowd on their feet repeatedly.

Saturday was another late start for the kids – although we got down to the hotel restaurant before 11:30, so we were able to order breakfast.

We drove to Union Station to park the rental car and then took the metro to the National Archives. We timed it just right, because as we were leaving the rotunda where the founding documents are displayed, the line was out the door.  Seeing the actual documents that launched this great nation was literally a spiritual experience for me.  And to share that with my children, helping them understand what it meant and why it was special, only made it better.  Of course, we did also have a conversation about whether there really was an invisible map on the back of the Declaration, thanks to the movie “National Treasure.”

We then went to the Natural History Museum and the Air and Space Museum.  I have to believe that the “Night at the Museum” movies as increased the number of visitors at those museums and maybe all museums. My kids would see a display and start talking about the movie(s) and start quoting lines.  It made it a more memorable experience for them.

We ate dinner at Union Station and then drove to Lincoln Memorial.  We first went to the Vietnam Memorial, found the list of Noble’s who are on the wall (there are nine of them) and went and found the inscription of a Noble who was killed the day after I was born.  It is a sobering experience to see all the names of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

The Lincoln Memorial was an exceptional experience. The kids immediately felt the importance of it, and were very subdued as we entered the temple that honors the man who held the country together.  There really is no better way to talk about the importance of a man, than in the shrine that honors him.

One thing is for sure – this won’t be the last time all the kids go to D.C.  My wife will make sure of that.

11th April
2009
written by Sean Noble

Some times in life you have a day or two when nearly nothing goes right.  Good Friday was anything but for me.

It actually started Thursday.  I had a very busy morning and then headed to the airport to catch a flight to St. Louis to monitor a focus group that night.  As I’m going into the security line and reaching for my wallet I realize that my pocket is empty.  I had left my wallet on my desk at home.

Now if I were a normal traveler, this wouldn’t have been a crisis, since it would have been 90 minutes before the flight and a loving wife who would have had plenty of time to grab the wallet and drive it down to the airport.  But I’m not normal, and it was exactly 28 minutes before departure.  I was in a bind.

I remembered, out of sheer divine intervention, that I had my old driver’s license (from my previous address) in the console in my car. So I hit the elevator, got back to the 7th level of the parking garage and grabbed the license.  Crisis averted, I got through security and on the plane.

However, still a problem.  No cash, no credit cards.  I made a quick call to a colleague I was meeting in St. Louis (he was in Atlanta on a lay-over) and told him that he would need to cover the hotel and rental car, and if he were feeling generous, feed me.  As expected, he was more than happy to help.

The flight was fine, and other than rain and terrible traffic in St. Louis, the evening was a huge success.

Friday morning I got up, took a quick shower and returned the rental car.  That’s when everything went south.  I pulled into the return lane, and sat their patiently waiting for an attendant to check it in and print out a receipt.  No one in sight.  I start walking around, noticed a shuttle bus at the curb and made a bee-line to get there.  Of course, it pulls away with me eating exhaust flailing my arms trying to get him to stop.  All that was accomplished was me pulling a muscle in my shoulder from swinging my computer bag.

And then I wait. And wait. And wait.  I figure I probably could have walked to the airport faster than it took the next shuttle to show up.  It finally came, and of course stopped at every other possible stop at the airport before getting to my stop.

I ran through security and sprinted to the gate – which was, you guessed it, the furthest gate from security.  And, of course, the door had closed a couple minutes before and the jet-way was just pulling back from the airplane.  

This was at 7:30 a.m. central time, and the next flight wasn’t until 2:30 p.m.  So there I am at the airport with no wallet and a seven hour wait.  There is no US Airways Club in St. Louis, and no United Club, another disappointment.

I was starving.  I had $40 (thanks to my colleague) but that was to pay for parking when I got back to Phoenix, and now with the delay, that would be cutting it close.

Seven hours later, we start the boarding process, and just as I’m about to give the gate agent my boarding pass, they evacuate the plane.  Apparently, something spilled in the cargo hold.  30 minutes later they start the boarding process again, and then we wait on the plane for nearly an hour before taking off.

As soon as we hit 10,000 feet I reach for my iPod to watch a couple episodes of “Mad Men” (my escape when I travel) and realize I don’t have my headphones.  I flip open my laptop to get some work done, and realize that it hadn’t turned off when I had put it in my bag earlier, and it’s down to 20 minutes.  I work on it until it is about to die, and put it away and grab a book, a National Review and read.

We land in Phoenix and by this time I’m actually lightheaded from lack of food.  I get to my car, pull out of the spot and I’m turning left at the aisle and have a fender-bender with a TSA vehicle.  The damage to his truck consists of the front license plate being knocked off, and to my car, a small wrinkle on my front left wheel well.  No biggie, no one hurt, but because it’s TSA, it’s a federal case, and the paperwork starts to fly. 

Forty-five minutes later, as the TSA agent and his partner are filling out countless reports in triplicate, and the Phoenix police officer keeps saying that it can’t possibly take this much effort to deal with such a minor incident, I finally get to leave. I apologize to the TSA agent for making him get writer’s cramp and head toward the exit of the parking garage, praying that my $40 is going to get me out.

I put my parking stub in the machine, and, sure enough, $50 flashes on the screen.  I explain to the guy in the booth that I didn’t have my wallet and I only had $40.  He agreed to bill me for the rest, which took another 10 minutes of paperwork, while a line of cars behind me are honking and cursing me.

As I’m about to pull out, the parking guy points to my rear tire and says, “That looks low.”  Sure enough, it was nearly flat.

I was able to get to a gas station, and miraculously, I had 75 cents AND the air actually worked!  I’ve never been so happy to hear an air compressor start up. So after a missed flight, a seven hour wait with no Club, no food, an evacuation, another delay, no computer, no iPod, an accident with a federal agent, not enough money for parking and a near-flat tire, I was finally on my way. 

It was Friday evening, and that was good.  But it wasn’t a Good Friday.

12th March
2009
written by Sean Noble

What follows are the remarks by Charles Murray upon receiving the Irving Kristol Award at the annual American Enterprise Institute:

The Happiness of the People

 

My thanks to AEI’s Council of Academic Advisers for this great honor.

As best I can estimate, tonight is the twentieth of AEI’s annual dinners that I have attended. It has been a memorable series of evenings. There was, for example, the night in 1996 when Alan Greenspan reflected upon the “irrational exuberance” of American investors, and the next morning the Dow dropped two percent in the first half hour.

The stature of the occasion has led most of the honorees to deliver a summum on some major theme of their life’s work. On occasion, doing this has taken quite a while, and there has been not a crumb of dinner roll or a drop of wine left at any table in this room by the time the lecture ended. But more often we have been treated to an intellectual treat, never more so than in 1991 when Irving Kristol himself gave his audience a dazzling tour of the horizon that integrated the cultural and political history of the West since the Enlight­enment, and made it all make sense. The great disappointment of this evening for me is that Irving is not here. My greatest pleasure is that I nonetheless have an opportunity to express publicly my admira­tion for and gratitude to one of the towering public intellectuals of the last century, Irving Kristol.

When I began to work on this lecture a few months ago, I was feeling abashed because I knew I couldn’t talk about either of the topics that were of the gravest national importance. Regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, I have not publicly said a word on foreign policy since I wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times in 1973. Regarding the economic crisis, I am not an economist. In fact, I am so naïve about economics that I continue to think that we have a financial meltdown because the federal government, in its infinite wisdom, has for the last two administrations aggressively pushed policies that made it possible for clever people to get rich by lending money to people who were unlikely to pay it back.

The topic I wanted to talk about was one that has been at the center of my own concerns for more than twenty years, but I was afraid it would seem remote from these urgent immediate issues. How times change. As of the morning of February 24, this is the text I had written to introduce the topic: “It isn’t usually put this way, but the advent of the Obama administration brings this question before the nation: Do we want the United States to be like Europe?”And then on the evening of the twenty-fourth, President Obama unveiled his domestic agenda to Congress, and now everybody is putting it that way. As Charles Krauthammer observed a few days later, “We’ve been trying to figure out who Barack Obama is, where he’s really from. From Hawaii? Indonesia? The Ivy League? Chicago? Now we know: he’s a Swede.”

In short, the question has suddenly become urgently relevant because President Obama and his leading intellectual heroes are the American equivalent of Europe’s social democrats. There’s nothing sinister about that. They share an intellectually respectable view that Europe’s regulatory and social welfare systems are more progressive than America’s and advocate reforms that would make the American system more like the European system.

Not only are social democrats intellectually respectable, the European model has worked in many ways. I am delighted when I get a chance to go to Stockholm or Amsterdam, not to mention Rome or Paris. When I get there, the people don’t seem to be groaning under the yoke of an evil system. Quite the contrary. There’s a lot to like—a lot to love—about day-to-day life in Europe, something that should be kept in mind when I get to some less complimentary observations.

The European model can’t continue to work much longer. Europe’s catastrophically low birth rates and soaring immigration from cultures with alien values will see to that. So let me rephrase the question. If we could avoid Europe’s demographic problems, do we want the United States to be like Europe?

Tonight I will argue for the answer “no,” but not for economic reasons. The European model has indeed created sclerotic economies and it would be a bad idea to imitate them. But I want to focus on another problem.

My text is drawn from Federalist 62, probably written by James Madison: “A good government implies two things: first, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained.” Note the word: happiness. Not prosperity. Not security. Not equality. Happiness, which the Founders used in its Aristotelian sense of lasting and justified satisfaction with life as a whole.

I have two points to make. First, I will argue that the Euro­pean model is fundamentally flawed because, despite its material successes, it is not suited to the way that human beings flourish—it does not conduce to Aristotelian happiness. Second, I will argue that twenty-first-century science will prove me right.

*

First, the problem with the European model, namely: It drains too much of the life from life. And that statement applies as much to the lives of janitors—even more to the lives of janitors—as it does to the lives of CEOs.

I start from this premise: A human life can have transcendent meaning, with transcendence defined either by one of the world’s great religions or one of the world’s great secular philosophies. If transcendence is too big a word, let me put it another way: I suspect that almost all of you agree that the phrase “a life well-lived” has meaning. That’s the phrase I’ll use from now on.

And since happiness is a word that gets thrown around too casually, the phrase I’ll use from now on is “deep satisfactions.” I’m talking about the kinds of things that we look back upon when we reach old age and let us decide that we can be proud of who we have been and what we have done. Or not.

To become a source of deep satisfaction, a human activity has to meet some strin­gent requirements. It has to have been important (we don’t get deep satisfaction from trivial things). You have to have put a lot of effort into it (hence the cliché “nothing worth having comes easily”). And you have to have been responsible for the consequences.

There aren’t many activities in life that can satisfy those three requirements. Having been a good parent. That qualifies. A good marriage. That qualifies. Having been a good neighbor and good friend to those whose lives intersected with yours. That qualifies. And having been really good at something—good at something that drew the most from your abilities. That qualifies. Let me put it formally: If we ask what are the institutions through which human beings achieve deep satisfactions in life, the answer is that there are just four: family, community, vocation, and faith. Two clarifications: “Community” can embrace people who are scattered geographically. “Vocation” can include avocations or causes.

It is not necessary for any individual to make use of all four institutions, nor do I array them in a hierarchy. I merely assert that these four are all there are. The stuff of life—the elemental events surrounding birth, death, raising children, fulfilling one’s per­sonal potential, dealing with adversity, intimate relationships—coping with life as it exists around us in all its richness—occurs within those four institutions.

Seen in this light, the goal of social policy is to ensure that those institutions are robust and vital. And that’s what’s wrong with the European model. It doesn’t do that. It enfeebles every single one of them.

Put aside all the sophisticated ways of conceptualizing govern­mental functions and think of it in this simplistic way: Almost anything that government does in social policy can be characterized as taking some of the trouble out of things.

Sometimes, taking the trouble out of things is a good idea. Having an effective police force takes some of the trouble out of walking home safely at night, and I’m glad it does.

The problem is this: Every time the government takes some of the trouble out of performing the functions of family, community, vocation, and faith, it also strips those institutions of some of their vitality—it drains some of the life from them. It’s inevitable. Families are not vital because the day-to-day tasks of raising children and being a good spouse are so much fun, but because the family has responsibility for doing important things that won’t get done unless the family does them. Communities are not vital because it’s so much fun to respond to our neighbors’ needs, but because the community has the responsibility for doing important things that won’t get done unless the community does them. Once that imperative has been met—family and community really do have the action—then an elaborate web of social norms, expectations, rewards, and punishments evolves over time that supports families and communities in performing their functions. When the government says it will take some of the trouble out of doing the things that families and communities evolved to do, it inevitably takes some of the action away from families and communities, and the web frays, and eventually disintegrates.

If we knew that leaving these functions in the hands of families and communities led to legions of neglected children and neglected neighbors, and taking them away from families and communi­ties led to happy children and happy neighbors, then it would be possible to say that the cost is worth it. But that’s not what happened when the U.S. welfare state expanded. We have seen growing legions of children raised in unimaginably awful circumstances, not because of material poverty but because of dysfunctional families, and the collapse of functioning neighborhoods into Hobbesian all-against-all free-fire zones.

Meanwhile, we have exacted costs that are seldom considered but are hugely important. Earlier, I said that the sources of deep satisfactions are the same for janitors as for CEOs, and I also said that people needed to do important things with their lives. When the government takes the trouble out of being a spouse and parent, it doesn’t affect the sources of deep satisfaction for the CEO. Rather, it makes life difficult for the janitor. A man who is holding down a menial job and thereby supporting a wife and children is doing something authentically important with his life. He should take deep satisfaction from that, and be praised by his community for doing so. Think of all the phrases we used to have for it: “He is a man who pulls his own weight.” “He’s a good provider.” If that same man lives under a system that says that the children of the woman he sleeps with will be taken care of whether or not he contributes, then that status goes away. I am not describing some theoretical outcome. I am describing American neighborhoods where, once, working at a menial job to provide for his family made a man proud and gave him status in his community, and where now it doesn’t. I could give a half dozen other examples. Taking the trouble out of the stuff of life strips people—already has stripped people—of major ways in which human beings look back on their lives and say, “I made a difference.”

I have been making a number of claims with no data. The data exist. I could document the role of the welfare state in destroying the family in low-income communities. I could cite extensive quantitative evidence of decline in civic engagement and document the displacement effect that government intervention has had on civic engagement. But such evidence focuses on those near the bottom of society where the American welfare state has been most intrusive. If we want to know where America as a whole is headed—its destination—we should look to Europe.

Drive through rural Sweden, as I did a few years ago. In every town was a beautiful Lutheran church, freshly painted, on meticu­lously tended grounds, all subsidized by the Swedish government. And the churches are empty. Including on Sundays. Scandinavia and Western Europe pride themselves on their “child-friendly” policies, providing generous child allowances, free day-care centers, and long maternity leaves. Those same countries have fertility rates far below replacement and plunging marriage rates. Those same countries are ones in which jobs are most carefully protected by government regulation and mandated benefits are most lavish. And they, with only a few exceptions, are countries where work is most often seen as a necessary evil, least often seen as a vocation, and where the proportions of people who say they love their jobs are the lowest.

What’s happening? Call it the Europe syndrome. Last April I had occasion to speak in Zurich, where I made some of these same points. After the speech, a few of the twenty-something members of the audience approached and said plainly that the phrase “a life well-lived” did not have meaning for them. They were having a great time with their current sex partner and new BMW and the vacation home in Majorca, and saw no voids in their lives that needed filling.

It was fascinating to hear it said to my face, but not surprising. It conformed to both journalistic and scholarly accounts of a spreading European mentality. Let me emphasize “spreading.” I’m not talking about all Europeans, by any means. That mentality goes something like this: Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate. The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.

If that’s the purpose of life, then work is not a vocation, but something that interferes with the higher good of leisure. If that’s the purpose of life, why have a child, when children are so much trouble—and, after all, what good are they, really? If that’s the purpose of life, why spend it worrying about neighbors? If that’s the purpose of life, what could possibly be the attraction of a religion that says otherwise?

The same self-absorption in whiling away life as pleasantly as possi­ble explains why Europe has become a continent that no longer celebrates greatness. When life is a matter of whiling away the time, the concept of greatness is irritating and threatening. What explains Europe’s military impotence? I am surely simplifying, but this has to be part of it: If the purpose of life is to while away the time as pleasantly as possible, what can be worth dying for?

I stand in awe of Europe’s past. Which makes Europe’s present all the more dispiriting. And should make its present something that concentrates our minds wonderfully, for every element of the Europe Syndrome is infiltrating American life as well.

We are seeing that infiltration appear most obviously among those who are most openly attached to the European model—namely, America’s social democrats, heavily represented in university faculties and the most fashionable neighborhoods of our great cities. There are a whole lot of them within a couple of metro stops from this hotel. We know from databases such as the General Social Survey that among those who self-identify as liberal or extremely liberal, secularism is close to European levels. Birth rates are close to European levels. Charitable giving is close to European levels. (That’s material that Arthur Brooks has put together.) There is every reason to believe that when Americans embrace the European model, they begin to behave like Europeans.

*

This is all pretty depressing for people who do not embrace the European model, because it looks like the train has left the station. The European model provides the intellectual framework for the social policies of the triumphant Democratic Party, and it faces no credible opposition from Republican politicians. (If that seems too harsh, I am sure that the Republican politicians in the audience will understand when I say that the last dozen years do raise a credibility problem when we now hear you say nice things about fiscal restraint and limited government.)

And yet there is reason for strategic optimism, and that leads to the second point I want to make tonight: Critics of the European model are about to get a lot of new firepower. Not only is the European model inimical to human flourishing, twenty-first-century science is going to explain why. We who think that the Founders were right about the relationship of government to human happiness will have an opening over the course of the next few decades to make our case.

The reason is a tidal change in our scientific understanding of what makes human beings tick. It will spill over into every crevice of political and cultural life. Harvard’s Edward O. Wilson anticipated what is to come in a book entitled Consilience. As the twenty-first century progresses, he argued, the social sciences are increasingly going to be shaped by the findings of biology; specifically, the findings of the neuroscientists and the geneticists.

What are they finding? I’m afraid that I don’t have anything to report that you will find shocking. For example, science is proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that males and females respond differ­ently to babies. You heard it here first. The specific findings aren’t so important at this point—we are just at the beginning of a very steep learning curve. Rather, it is the tendency of the findings that lets us predict with some confidence the broad outlines of what the future will bring, and they offer nothing but bad news for social democrats.

Two premises about human beings are at the heart of the social democratic agenda: What I will label “the equality premise” and “the New Man premise.”

The equality premise says that, in a fair society, different groups of people—men and women, blacks and whites, straights and gays, the children of poor people and the children of rich people—will naturally have the same distributions of outcomes in life—the same mean income, the same mean educational attainment, the same proportions who become janitors and CEOs. When that doesn’t happen, it is because of bad human behavior and an unfair society. For the last forty years, this premise has justified thousands of pages of government regulations and legislation that has reached into everything from the paperwork required to fire someone to the funding of high school wrestling teams. Everything that we associate with the phrase “politically correct” eventually comes back to the equality premise. Every form of affirmative action derives from it. Much of the Democratic Party’s proposed domestic legislation assumes that it is true.

Within a decade, no one will try to defend the equality premise. All sorts of groups will be known to differ in qualities that affect what professions they choose, how much money they make, and how they live their lives in all sorts of ways. Gender differences will be first, because the growth in knowledge about the ways that men and women are different is growing by far the most rapidly. I’m betting that the Harvard faculty of the year 2020 will look back on the Larry Summers affair in the same way that they think about the Scopes trial—the enlightened versus the benighted—and will have achieved complete amnesia about their own formerly benighted opinions.

There is no reason to fear this new knowledge. Differences among groups will cut in many different directions, and everybody will be able to weight the differences so that their group’s advantages turn out to be the most important to them. Liberals will not be obliged to give up their concerns about systemic unfairnesses. But groups of people will turn out to be different from each other, on average, and those differences will also produce group differences in outcomes in life, on average, that everyone knows are not the product of discrimination and inadequate government regulation.

And a void will have developed in the moral universe of the Left. If social policy cannot be built on the premise that group differences must be eliminated, what can it be built upon? It can be built upon the restoration of the premise that used to be part of the warp and woof of American idealism: people must be treated as individuals. The success of social policy is to be measured not by equality of outcomes for groups, but by open, abundant opportunity for individuals. It is to be measured by the freedom of individuals, acting upon their personal abilities, aspirations, and values, to seek the kind of life that best suits them.

The second bedrock premise of the social democratic agenda is what I call the New Man premise, borrowing the old Communist claim that it would create a “New Man” by remaking human nature. This premise says that human beings are malleable through the right government interventions.

The second tendency of the new findings of biology will be to show that the New Man premise is nonsense. Human nature tightly constrains what is politically or culturally possible. More than that, the new findings will broadly confirm that human beings are pretty much the way that wise human observers have thought for thousands of years, and that is going to be wonderful news for those of us who are already basing our policy analyses on that assumption.

The effects on the policy debate are going to be sweeping. Let me give you a specific example. For many years, I have been among those who argue that the growth in births to unmarried women has been a social catastrophe—the single most important driving force behind the growth of the underclass. But while I and other scholars have been able to prove that other family structures have not worked as well as the traditional family, I cannot prove that alternatives could not work as well, and so the social democrats keep coming up with the next new ingenious program that will compensate for the absence of fathers.

Over the next few decades, advances in evolutionary psychology are going to be conjoined with advances in genetic understanding and they will lead to a scientific consensus that goes something like this: There are genetic reasons, rooted in the mechanisms of human evolution, that little boys who grow up in neighborhoods without married fathers tend to reach adolescence unsocialized to norms of behavior that they will need to stay out of prison and hold jobs. These same reasons explain why child abuse is, and always will be, concentrated among family structures in which the live-in male is not the married biological father. And these same reasons explain why society’s attempts to compensate for the lack of married biological fathers don’t work and will never work.

Once again, there’s no reason to be frightened of this new knowl­edge. We will still be able to acknowledge that many single women do a wonderful job of raising their children. Social democrats will simply have to stop making glib claims that the traditional family is just one of many equally valid alternatives. They will have to acknowledge that the traditional family plays a special, indispensable role in human flourishing and that social policy must be based on that truth. The same concrete effects of the new knowledge will make us rethink every domain in which the central government has imposed its judgment on how people ought to live their lives—in schools, workplaces, the courts, social services, as well as the family. And that will make the job of people like me much easier.

But the real effect is going to be much more profound than making my job easier. The twentieth century was a very strange century, riddled from beginning to end with toxic political movements and nutty ideas. For some years a metaphor has been stuck in my mind: the twentieth century was the adolescence of Homo sapiens. Nineteenth-century science, from Darwin to Freud, offered a series of body blows to ways of thinking about human beings and human lives that had prevailed since the dawn of civilization. Humans, just like adolescents, were deprived of some of the comforting simplicities of childhood and exposed to more complex knowledge about the world. And twentieth-century intellectuals reacted precisely the way that adoles­cents react when they think they have discovered Mom and Dad are hopelessly out of date. They think that the grown-ups are wrong about everything. In the case of twentieth-century intellectuals, it was as if they thought that if Darwin was right about evolution, then Aquinas is no longer worth reading; that if Freud was right about the unconscious mind, the Nicomachean Ethics had nothing to teach us.

The nice thing about adolescence is that it is temporary, and, when it passes, people discover that their parents were smarter than they thought. I think that may be happening with the advent of the new century, as postmodernist answers to solemn questions about human existence start to wear thin—we’re growing out of adolescence. The kinds of scientific advances in understanding human nature are going to accelerate that process. All of us who deal in social policy will be thinking less like adolescents, entranced with the most titillating new idea, and thinking more like grown-ups.

*

That will not get rid of the slippery slope that America is sliding down toward the European model. For that, this new raw material for reform—namely, a lot more people thinking like grown-ups—must be translated into a kind of political Great Awakening among America’s elites.

I use the phrase “Great Awakening” to evoke a particular kind of event. American history has seen three religious revivals known as Great Awakenings—some say four. They were not dispassionate, polite reconsiderations of opinions. They were renewals of faith, felt in the gut.

I use the word “elites” to talk about the small minority of the population that has disproportionate influence over the culture, economy, and governance of the country. I realize that to use that word makes many Americans uncom­fortable. But every society since the advent of agriculture has had elites. So does the United States. Broadly defined, America’s elites comprise several million people; narrowly defined, they amount to a few tens of thousands. We have a lot of examples of both kinds in this room tonight.

When I say that something akin to a political Great Awakening is required among America’s elites, what I mean is that America’s elites have to ask themselves how much they really do value what has made America exceptional, and what they are willing to do to pre­serve it. Let me close with a few remarks about what that will entail.

American exceptionalism is not just something that Americans claim for themselves. Historically, Americans have been different as a people, even peculiar, and everyone around the world has recognized it. I’m thinking of qualities such as American optimism even when there doesn’t seem to be any good reason for it. That’s quite uncommon among the peoples of the world. There is the striking lack of class envy in America—by and large, Americans celebrate others’ success instead of resenting it. That’s just about unique, certainly compared to European countries, and something that drives European intellectuals crazy. And then there is perhaps the most important symptom of all, the signature of American exception­alism—the assumption by most Americans that they are in control of their own destinies. It is hard to think of a more inspiriting quality for a population to possess, and the American population still possesses it to an astonishing degree. No other country comes close.

Underlying these symptoms of American exceptionalism are the underlying exceptional dynamics of American life. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote a famous book describing the nature of that more fundamental exceptionalism back in the 1830s. He found American life characterized by two apparently conflicting themes. The first was the passion with which Americans pursued their individual interests, and made no bones about it—that’s what America was all about, they kept telling Tocqueville. But at the same time, Tocqueville kept coming up against this phenomenal American passion for forming associations to deal with every conceivable problem, voluntarily taking up public affairs, and tending to the needs of their communities. How could this be? Because, Americans told Tocqueville, there’s no conflict. “In the United States,” Tocqueville writes, “hardly anybody talks of the beauty of virtue. . . . They do not deny that every man may follow his own interest; but they endeavor to prove that it is the interest of every man to be virtuous.” And then he concludes, “I shall not here enter into the reasons they allege. . . . Suffice it to say, they have convinced their fellow countrymen.”

The exceptionalism has not been a figment of anyone’s imagination, and it has been wonderful. But it isn’t something in the water that has made us that way. It comes from the cultural capital generated by the system that the Founders laid down, a system that says people must be free to live life as they see fit and to be responsible for the consequences of their actions; that it is not the government’s job to protect people from themselves; that it is not the government’s job to stage-manage how people interact with each other. Discard the system that created the cultural capital, and the qualities we love about Americans can go away. In some circles, they are going away.

Why do I focus on the elites in urging a Great Awakening? Because my sense is that the instincts of middle America remain distinctively American. When I visit the small Iowa town where I grew up in the 1950s, I don’t get a sense that community life has changed all that much since then, and I wonder if it has changed all that much in the working class neighborhoods of Brooklyn or Queens. When I examine the polling data about the values that most Americans prize, not a lot has changed. And while I worry about uncontrolled illegal immigration, I’ve got to say that every immigrant I actually encounter seems as American as apple pie.

The center still holds. It’s the bottom and top of American society where we have a problem. And since it’s the top that has such decisive influence on American culture, economy, and governance, I focus on it. The fact is that American elites have increasingly been withdrawing from American life. It’s not a partisan phenomenon. The elites of all political stripes have increasingly withdrawn to gated communities—“gated” literally or figuratively—where they never interact at an intimate level with people not of their own socioeconomic class.

Haven’t the elites always done this? Not like today. A hundred years ago, the wealth necessary to withdraw was confined to a much smaller percentage of the elites than now. Workplaces where the elites made their livings were much more variegated a hundred years ago than today’s highly specialized workplaces.

Perhaps the most important difference is that, not so long ago, the overwhelming majority of the elites in each generation were drawn from the children of farmers, shopkeepers, and factory workers—and could still remember those worlds after they left them. Over the last half century, it can be demonstrated empirically that the new generation of elites have increasingly spent their entire lives in the upper-middle-class bubble, never even having seen a factory floor, let alone worked on one, never having gone to a grocery store and bought the cheap ketchup instead of the expensive ketchup to meet a budget, never having had a boring job where their feet hurt at the end of the day, and never having had a close friend who hadn’t gotten at least 600 on her SAT verbal. There’s nobody to blame for any of this. These are the natural consequences of successful people looking for pleasant places to live and trying to do the best thing for their children.

But the fact remains: It is the elites who are increasingly separated from the America over which they have so much influence. That is not the America that Tocqueville saw. It is not an America that can remain America.

I am not suggesting that America’s elites sacrifice their own self-interest for everybody else. That would be really un-American. I just want to accelerate a rediscovery of what that self-interest is. Age-old human wisdom has understood that a life well-lived requires engagement with those around us. That is reality, not idealism. It is appropriate to think that a political Great Awakening among the elites can arise in part from the renewed understanding that it can be pleasant to lead a glossy life, but it is ultimately more fun to lead a textured life, and to be in the midst of others who are leading textured lives. Perhaps events will help us out here—remember what Irving Kristol has been saying for years: “There’s nothing wrong with this country that couldn’t be cured by a long, hard depression.”

What it comes down to is that America’s elites must once again fall in love again with what makes America different. I am not being theoretical. Not everybody in this room shares the beliefs I have been expressing, but a lot of us do. To those of you who do, I say soberly and without hyperbole, that this is the hour. The possibility that irreversible damage will be done to the American project over the next few years is real. And so it is our job to make the case for that reawakening. It won’t happen by appealing to people on the basis of lower marginal tax rates or keeping a health care system that lets them choose their own doctor. The drift toward the European model can be slowed by piecemeal victories on specific items of legislation, but only slowed. It is going to be stopped only when we are all talking again about why America is exceptional, and why it is so important that America remain exceptional. That requires once again seeing the American project for what it is: a different way for people to live together, unique among the nations of the earth, and immeasurably precious.

18th February
2009
written by Sean Noble

David Brooks, a syndicated columnist based at the New York Times wrote an interesting piece, a version of which appeared in Wednesday’s edition of the Arizona Republic.   The Republic’s version was entitled “Americans dreaming of return to urban core.”  The original that ran in the New York Times was entitled “I Dream of Denver.”

Usually varying headlines don’t much change the tone of a piece, but these two headlines could not be more opposite.  Anyone who has spent more time than a layover in Denver knows that it is not a city that people move to for the “urban core.”  Denver is very similar to most post-WWII cities – spread out.

Brooks lays out how urban planners dream of a time when Americans will give up on suburban/exurban life and life in urban cores. Brooks writes:

You may not know it to look at them, but urban planners are human and have dreams. One dream many share is that Americans will give up their love affair with suburban sprawl and will rediscover denser, more environmentally friendly, less auto-dependent ways of living.

The entirety of the remainder of the piece lays out why Americans and urban planners don’t see eye-to-eye.  In fact, his concluding paragraph is this:

The results may not satisfy those who dream of Holland, but there’s one other impressive result from the Pew survey. Americans may be gloomy and afraid, but they still have a clear vision of the good life. That’s one commodity never in short supply.

His point is that the majority of Americans view suburban or rural living as “the good life.”  Which is what makes the headline in the Republic so misleading.  The editors at the Republic may dream of more “urban dwelling” but it is not going to happen – at least not in my lifetime.

I am very familiar with the mindset of urban planners.  I spent nearly full-time for almost a year back in the late 90’s working with Governor Jane Hull’s Growing Smarter Commission.  I sat on three of the task force groups and spent innumerable hours driving all over the state participating in local meetings about growth in Arizona.

Sidebar:  It was on one of those trips that I learned that some people are natural runners, and others, like me, never will be.  I mistakenly agreed to accompany Steve Betts – now head of SunCor – for a “jog” one morning in Flagstaff.  About ½ mile into the run I thought I was going to have a heart attack because Steve was running at a near sprint while I was trying to keep up with him.  He graciously stopped, and I noticed he wasn’t even breathing heavy.  It was then that he told me he could run all day. I thought to myself, the only way I’d even attempt to run all day was if I was being chased by murderous thugs.  End sidebar.

The natural inclination of urban planners is to incentivize (read: force) people to live in very dense housing – preferably apartments or condos with no yards – and not own a car.  That may work in Manhattan, but it doesn’t in Phoenix.

I remember debating this issue with Sandy Bahr from the Sierra Club at a Valley Leadership forum.  This was during the time the Sierra Club was trying to pass a ballot initiative creating an urban growth boundary – essentially saying that cities would be prohibited from providing services to homes built outside the arbitrarily set boundary.  She argued that people “wanted” to live in a more dense, less car-dependent place and that developers were “forcing” people to live farther and farther out because that’s where they were building.  She completely ignored the basic economics of supply and demand.

Last time I checked, homebuilders were not putting a gun to people’s head saying that they HAD to live in a certain place. I pointed out to her that when my wife and I lived in D.C., we lived in a high-rise apartment and that for our daughter to “go out and play” we had to take the elevator 22 floors down, and walk down the street to a small patch of grass that was terrible misnamed a “park.”

When we moved back to Phoenix in 1998 we bought a house with a yard.  When we decided that our house was a little small to contain five children, we went on the prowl for a slightly larger house with a larger yard.  Talk about supply and demand!  We settled on a neighborhood even farther out and then discovered that we had to come back the next week for the “lottery” to get a lot.  On that Saturday morning we were one of 86 people vying for six lots that were going to be released that month. Somehow, we were drawn, and thus continued our dream: a house large enough for five kids, a yard they could play in and within our price range.  By the looks of it, that’s the dream of most Americans, urban planners be damned.

6th February
2009
written by Sean Noble

Is “Reaganism” dead?  There have been plenty of pundits who suggest that Republicans “move beyond” Reagan and come up with “fresh” ideas to capture voter’s imagination.  They point to the success of The One (Barack Obama) and say that we can’t continue to trot out the same, tired policy initiatives.

They’re wrong.  Reaganism is timeless, because it is based on the principles of our Founding Fathers, who based much of their principles on concepts dating back as much as 2,000 to 3,000+ years (think Moses of the Old Testament, and Plato, Socrates and Aristotle).  The principles of a representative, limited government are exactly what we need to be championing as conservatives today.

You want hope?  This is Ronald Reagan in 1981, as the nation dealt with a massive economic crisis:

It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government. It is time for us to realize that we are too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We are not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope.

 

You want change?  This is Ronald Reagan in 1967:

“Government is the people’s business, and every man, woman and child becomes a shareholder with the first penny of tax paid. With all the profound wording of the Constitution, probably the most meaningful words are the first three: ‘We, the People.’ Those of us here today who have been elected to constitutional office or legislative position are in that three-word phrase. We are of the people, chosen by them to see that no permanent structure of government ever encroaches on freedom or assumes a power beyond that freely granted by the people. We stand between the taxpayer and the tax spender.”

 

Conservatism is about hope and change.  Conservatives have historically been the most optimistic of political animals, believing in individual ingenuity, self reliance, self discipline and free-markets.  Liberals don’t trust people to make their own decisions and believe that Government knows better how to run their lives than they do.  That’s not hope and change, that’s pessimism and servitude.

So what can we do, as conservatives, to move the country forward again, to find a winning message that will appeal to the masses?  We must return to the principles of freedom, free-markets, responsibility and hard work.  We must educate our neighbors about the history of this country, how we became the greatest nation on earth.  We must help people recognize that salvation does not come from more government, it comes from freedom.

Many will say that we have already lost the fight.  That it is too hard to convince enough people to care about the cause of freedom.  Reagan had an answer to that complaint:

“Don’t give up your ideals.  Don’t compromise.  Don’t turn to expediency.  And don’t…having seen the inner workings of the watch, don’t get cynical…. Don’t get cynical, because look at yourselves and what you are willing to do, and recognize that there are millions and millions of Americans out there who want what you want, who want it to be that way, who want it to be a shining city on a hill.”

            Yes, it is hard to defend freedom.  But many of us have never had to put our life in harm’s way to do so like so many millions of brave men and women have done for the last 235 years.  If we don’t work to defend freedom, to educate people, to voice a call to action, who will?

            Now is the time for us to renew ourselves in demonstrating that Republicans stand for real people. That the policies of less government intrusion, free-markets and personal responsibility are what made us the greatest nation on earth, and that we must ignite those passions again with millions of Americans so that we may remain “the shining city on a hill.”

19th January
2009
written by Sean Noble

“For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.” 

These were the words of pilgrim John Winthrop nearly 400 years ago.  Since that time, America has been the product of that vision, welcoming those who have yearned for freedom.

Our Founding Fathers recognized the unique nature of America when they signed their names to one of the most powerful documents in the history of mankind.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  The Declaration of Independence codified the vision Winthrop had of a city upon a hill.

 What makes the message of the Declaration of Independence so powerful is the promise of freedom and human rights for all people.  The Founders were not writing a document just for those in the American colonies, but for all people who sought liberty.  This promise of freedom, and the protection of the rights afforded us by our Creator, is what makes the United States the greatest nation on earth.

No other country provides so much opportunity to so many.  Rather than a system of government like the former Soviet Union, that people risked death to escape, we offer the protection of God-given rights that enables liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  It is a blessing worth dying to attain and defend.

 American history is one of determination and success.  For generations, people seeking a better life have left all behind in their home country and come to America.  In general, America has welcomed these new faces in the spirit of the inscription on the Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” (“The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus)

The history of immigration to America is not one in which the wealthy and successful uproot from their home and come here.  It is, as Emma Lazarus described, the poor, yearning to breathe free.  That is the greatness of the American dream – come here with nothing, and through hard work and dedication become productive and successful members of our free society.

America remains the place people want to come for a better life.  Unfortunately, our policies of the last few decades makes getting here legally a process which can take more than a decade, creating an incentive for people to come illegally.  This creates conflict for those who resent people who “cut in line.”  The conflict builds to the point that otherwise rational and generous people forget about America as an ideal.  Rather than embracing those willing to risk their lives to participate in the American dream, some shout that they “must go back.”

One of our nation’s greatest conservative leaders, Ronald Reagan, envisioned a different America than what some seem to want.  In his final address to the nation from the Oval office he spoke of the success of America as a place for all to come to enjoy freedom. 

“I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it.  But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”

Yes, we are a nation of laws, but we must make sure the laws work, as Sen. Barry Goldwater said, “to maximize freedom.”  And to enact those laws we must be Americans: a welcoming, inviting people.  America can only remain great when its people recognize that those who are willing to risk all, even their life, are worthy inhabitants.  They embody the spirit of Winthrop, Jefferson and Reagan through their yearning for the full benefit of their God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Our obligation, as Americans, is to continue to be the shining city on a hill, lifting our lamp beside the golden door.

 

19th January
2009
written by admin

The Arizona State Treasurer’s office recently announced that there may not be enough cash in State coffers to pay the bills as early as next month. In fact, there is no question that Arizona is going to need to borrow money to pay operating expenses, and it is an open question as to whether any lenders will actually loan money to the state, and if so, under what terms. Because of the current condition of our financial markets, the terms of any potential loan are likely to be pretty steep.

The smartest guy that most Arizonan’s don’t know is an economist named Alan Maguire. Maguire has been a fixture in and around state government for the better part of three decades. He served for years as the right-hand guy to then-State Treasurer Ray Rottas. He has advised multiple Speakers of the House and Senate Presidents. He has developed complicated legislative packages, financing packages, and stuff that I can’t even begin to explain.

And right now, he is like a prophet in the wilderness, trying to warn anyone who will listen, that we are on the very edge of financial doom. Everyone in this state, particularly policy makers, needs to be listening to Alan Maguire.

The numbers are very stark. For the remainder of FY 2009 (which ends in June) there is a $1.2 billion shortfall – which if annualized is the equivalent of a $3.6 billion shortfall. The state budget is about $10 billion per year, half of which is off-limits because it is “voter protected” or federally mandated. So, with $5 billion to work with, the state needs to save the equivalent of $3.6 billion for the rest of this year and another $3 billion for FY 2010.

To give you a sense of the enormity of the problem, you can take the ENTIRE budgets of our Universities, Department of Corrections, Department of Public Safety, Department of Revenue and Department of Administration and still not cover the shortfall for this year.

How did we get here? Well, we were in good economic times for nearly the entire six years that Janet Napolitano has been Governor, and she has pushed an aggressive agenda of higher spending. In fact, state spending increased by an eye-popping 63% from 2004 to 2008! That makes Congress look like a piker.

That kind of growth of government was bound to catch up to us, and it has in spades. Now, Napolitano is high-tailin’ it out of the State and leaving soon-to-be-Governor Jan Brewer holding the bag. The severity of the budget crisis has been largely ignored by the mainstream media, particularly the Arizona Republic. My guess is that they will discover the problem the day after Brewer is sworn in as Governor.

Brewer and her transition team should be aggressively pushing the narrative that this crisis is Napolitano’s making. The way out of this financial hole is going to be very, very painful for hundreds of constituencies across the state. They need to understand that it was the big-government mentality of Gov. Napolitano that got us into this mess.

So, let’s say it together – it’s all Janet’s fault.

*******************************************************

In 2002 I drafted an op-ed for Congressman Shadegg which was a response to a book about Barry Goldwater’s life and political philosophy titled “Before the Storm” by Richard Pearlstein.  Below is that draft op-ed.

In America we are engaged in a great ideological debate. Arizona’s Senator Barry Goldwater framed that debate. At its heart the debate is whether America should embrace the founder’s premise that we are a free nation valuing individual liberty and responsibility, or, if America should embrace a social welfare state in which a larger government takes care of the needs of its people. It is a debate we as a nation have been engaged in since the founding of our country.

In his book “Before the Storm,” Rick Perlstein, unlike any other liberal historian of our time, understands that Goldwater had a significant impact on American politics.

His book is interesting, well researched and immensely detailed. Unfortunately, Perlstein, who describes himself as “left of liberal,” never gets beyond his bias and fails to understand the merits of the debate. His venom for the philosophy Goldwater articulated comes out in hundreds of unfair characterizations and disparaging comments unsupported by proof or authority.

Perlstein so thoroughly accepts the welfare state thesis — that people should be cared for by their government — that he fails to recognize that people might be better off in a free society as the founders believed.

Because of his lack of understanding, Perlstein’s thesis, which he barely supports in the book, that Goldwater destroyed the American consensus, is completely wrong.

While FDR and others advocated that America abandon its experiment with individual responsibility and liberty, and launched a legislative agenda against that liberty, the American people were torn on which path to follow.

Goldwater was aware that the welfare state was the easy and politically popular path. He was also painfully aware that America’s great experiment with freedom was just the opposite. But because of his principles, he was willing to launch the fight and make the case for the less popular approach.

Lacking the typical politician’s ego and desire to advance himself personally, Goldwater was a reluctant leader of millions of Americans anxious to reject the social welfare state.

Though many criticize the ‘64 campaign, and Goldwater’s commitment to it (including Perlstein), what they fail to recognize is the context in which the campaign occurred and that, perhaps more than anyone else, Goldwater himself understood what was at stake. It was not the presidency – it was the course of the nation.

Before JFK’s death, Goldwater looked forward to a campaign of ideas. Kennedy was honorable and Goldwater respected him. And, contrary to Perlstein’s assertion that there was an American consensus in support of a big government welfare state, Goldwater recognized that Kennedy himself had not fully bought into the welfare state. As evidence, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

When Kennedy was assassinated, Goldwater lost all hope. Clearly, all hope at winning, and more importantly, all hope of a high-minded debate, was lost.

Instead of an honest exchange of ideas, Goldwater was forced into a no-win contest with Lyndon Johnson, a man he didn’t respect and felt the American people shouldn’t trust. He knew Johnson would reshape his positions to win at any cost. But Goldwater refused to employ such tactics. For him the race was not about winning the presidency, it was about reframing the political discourse in America.

And he did. He made Ronald Reagan’s presidency possible. And because of Goldwater’s courage in the face of certain defeat, the founders’ notion of a free nation remains a viable option for which many Americans fight every day.

Perlstein, while missing the political points, did get it right about Barry Goldwater the person. In his book he acknowledges Barry’s “deep sense of honor.” And we remember him the way he wanted to be remembered. “An honest man who tried.”

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