Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Bourgeois Dignity by Deidre McCloskey

February 17, 2017

bourgeois-diginity

If you think of economics as a study of how we create wealth, economic theory was pretty much anybody’s guess until we finally made some.  For thousands of years the daily consumption of an individual remained pretty set at around $3 a day.

“Economic history has looked like an ice hockey stick lying on the ground.  It had a long, long horizontal handle at $3 a day extending through the two-hundred- thousand-year history of homo sapiens to 1800, with little bumps upward on the handle in ancient Rome and the early medieval Arab world and high medieval Europe, with regressions to $3 afterward – then a wholly unexpected blade, leading up in the last two out of the two thousand centuries, to $30 a day and in many places well beyond.”  (- McCloskey)   Modern day consumption in countries such as Japan or France hovers around a $100 a day, or in the United States of $120 a day, or in Norway of a $137.

Even at my age I can read a thick, thought provoking book.  What say?  And what I don’t remember, I can go back and check.  The benefit is that I have a bit of my own history and experience to check it against.  This is generally the reason a lot of wisdom is wasted on the youth, I’d guess.

Coincidentally, economics finds itself, at this juncture, in much of the same situation as me.  The world has recently suffered an experience with which to judge its former life against.  And, the metrics are available to measure the reality and amounts of said experience.

This “Great Fact of economic growth discovered by historians and economists in the 1950s and elaborated since then,” has changed everything.   The experience, which Deidre’s book circles, is of an amazing burgeoning of world wealth beginning first in Holland, and then Britain in the 1840s, and then experienced successively by other countries.  “The Big Economic Story of our own times is (when) the Chinese in 1978 and then the Indians in 1991” hopped onto the hockey stick of growth also.

McCloskey has it that modern economics has tended to view the Great Fact of our recent hockey stick growth in narrow materialistic terms because ‘the light is better there’.  McCloskey’s retort would be, ‘but that’s not where the money was made…’   Then he assiduously dismantles all of the classical economic explanations, using material statistics and facts, many previously unavailable to earlier economic theoreticians.

Classical economists like their prudent investors with their rational behavior, but this in not where the money is presently, nor was, at one time, made, McCloskey states.  Rational behavior does not create much wealth.  The historical record demonstrates that rational maximizing behavior generates rather paltry or even unremarkable growth.  One by one, McCloskey eliminates each of the classical economic explanations for the Great Fact – and finds each sorely lacking.  In doing so, he explodes some common beliefs.

For example, wealth is not created by robbing the poor – because they have none.  Certainly some miscreants benefit, but little wealth is obtained.

Slavery was of very little economic benefit to anyone in the supply chain, save the initial en-slavers, who were generally other tribesmen.  The South’s economy would have generated wealth without slavery nearly as it had with.

Trade generates little wealth.  It merely shuffles it around.

The mercantile system likewise generated little increased wealth.  (Though people obviously thought it did!)  While the great business houses (such as the East India Company) might have made some return, the nation’s citizens generally did not share – and more likely suffered  from the increased taxation wrought by the duties of imperialism.  For example, losing the American colonies was of an economic relief to the British.

Even education and scientific research are found lacking as explanations of the Great Fact.  Practical innovative insights generally preceded scientific explanation.  And education can often be counterproductive.  As McCloskey displays, if the wrong lessons are taught and the wrong social structures solidified, an economy can easily stagnate.

McCloskey assiduously eliminates explanation after explanation in order to surround and describe a more humanistic explanation for the Great Fact which is statistically harder to measure.  McCloskey believes that the Great Fact is explained by innovation, which alone has the power to create great wealth.  And he explains the origins and growth of innovation by way of the Bourgeois Revaluation: a cultural transformation, in which added to the value of prudence in handling ones finances, the bourgeois also found the liberty to innovate and cultural dignity for doing so.  These two principles, in McCloskey’s telling, unleashed a burgeoning economy through the creation of wealth through innovation – doing it better and easier.

Virtue has been often held up to be its own reward.  So it can be calming and reassuring to read a book in which Virtue makes us a lot of money, too -especially when the thinking seems to be wide-ranging and credible.  You might enjoy reading this one – a little bit nightly, taken like a pill following the evening news – with a little tea and chocolate, your dog and cat.

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If you enjoyed this post, you may try more of Carl Nelson found here:  http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html

Why Political Systems Endure to Squabble Interminably

January 28, 2017

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(Spoiler:  It’s the Libertarians)

Perhaps the reason various political systems endure and are argued is that they all have some current application.  For example, monarchy is the ruling system of the family:  King father, Queen mother, the aunts and uncles of Nobility, and finally the lowly Citizen-children.  All are granted their seniority with due rewards and obligations in the hierarchy.  Women especially have a warm spot for the royal touch of the hereditary monarchies, such as the  Camelot Kennedys and Princess Diana.

Communism, which would seem worldwide to be the adversary of free enterprise, capitalism, business and ‘the American Way’ – is actually the functioning paradigm of most business. At work, the resources of the company are generally there for the use of all workers – workers whose value and efforts at building the company are judged and used and disposed of in kind.  One’s attitude is continually monitored with periodic supervisory ‘evaluations’ of performance being common.  You are told which work you will perform, where it will be done, and who you are to report to.  You have a ‘job description’, which describes the type of corporate citizen you are.  Freedom of speech is curtailed.  Dress codes prevail.  Outside activity can be proscribed.  The strictures are manifold.

Socialism is most clearly practiced in the public schools, where labor and money are dispensed – on the basis of need –  to children who are yet unable to contribute to the economy.

Fascism is the essence of professional team sports and corporations, where the workers are employed, fired and transferred on the basis of enhancing the organizations’ success.  Titles, job descriptions, and status designations predominate and rule activity.

But perhaps it is the in the military where the most effective mechanisms of Fascism function.  The struggle of veterans to re-enter a civilian society which after their service seems lacking in purpose and commitment, speaks to the great power of the fascist mental engine in creating an unbreakable bond of loyalty between brothers united in a single focused challenge rimmed with excitement and danger.   It may have been Susan Sontag who said, “The problem with fascism is that it’s too exciting, and the problem with socialism is that it’s too boring.”

Theocracy is the hierarchy of organized religion – and even disorganized religions – which place God at the top.

Democracy is the representation and working mix of this hodgepodge of political loyalties, which, to function, must respect each systems natural dominion.

But as the partisans of each system expand, they seek  to re-create the government in their image.  History abounds with examples of failed countries where each of these systems have transgressed their natural bounds and have obtained the coercive powers of government.

 The American Constitution, by seeking to limit the coercive power of government over its citizens, ironically insures the liberty of its citizens to chose their preferred ‘political’ lifestyle.

Academics and the government employed edge towards Socialism.  Families prefer the Monarchy style.  Corporate and military lean towards the Fascist.  And the Church of course is Theist.    It is the Libertarians, whose vision of government most resembles that of a Constitutional Caretaker, who labor daily to keep the warring political creeds contained within their dominions and voluntary; that is, removed from the levers of power. 

And it’s a thankless task.  Libertarians rarely generate enthusiasm.  And they rarely win elections.  But it’s the wise ruler and citizen who heed their counsel.

If you would like to read more of Carl Nelson’s writing, please visit: http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html

Embedded with the Deplorables

October 28, 2016

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I wished my cousin in LA a happy birthday on Facebook the other day.  He thanked me and asked how life was in a “battleground state”.  I told him it was pretty quiet, pleasant actually.  For the most part it’s just people going to work and coming home.  It’s very hard to get people around here to riot!

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There are kids playing between the parked cars and riding their bicycles, and one who practices his trombone on the front porch.  When a crowd or four gather, they may entertain a grievance for a while.  But it’s usually just long enough to politely disengage so as to couple up with another bunch and discuss high school sports, or job stability.  Now and then the women will chatter about irresponsible behavior, and both sexes can get going about the high school coaching staff.  But mostly it’s about meeting someone or other’s niece who is related to someone else or other and discussing exactly which portion of the various clans they represent.  When they do discuss the federal government, it’s usually with a pained expression.

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To read more by Carl Nelson, visit:  www.magicbeanbooks.co

Essays by Carl Nelson

February 27, 2016

Experience

The End of Experience

 

Prior to our entry into WWI, the sentiments of the general citizenry were quite isolationist.  Here’s what Mark Crispin Miller says regarding the work of Edward Bernays (among many others) to change that:

“… it was not until 1915 that governments first systematically deployed the entire range of modern media to rouse their populations to fanatical assent.  Here was an extraordinary state accomplishment: mass enthusiasm at the prospect of a global brawl that otherwise would mystify those very masses, and that shattered most of those who actually took part in it.”

As Bernays was to say later, “We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”

One of the strategies employed by the Federal Government to deflect opposition to the draft in WW1  was to enforce its implementation at the local level.  This insulated the Federal Government from criticism of its policies.   Supporting the draft took on personal approbation.  Patriotic citizenry could question and bedevil the holdouts, the slackers, even root out the traitorous.  The Federal Government, in essence, released the mob.  (My grandmother’s defense of my grandfather’s German roots nearly got him jailed.)   This same strategy continues today.

In political circles there is a concept called the Overton Window, which “also known as the window of discourse, is the range of ideas the public will accept.” (Wikipedia).   What enlarges or shrinks this window are the intellectual and/or political players at the national level.  But what enforces this window of debate are the citizenry all around us.

In sales, when the prospect you have chosen to speak with is not moved by an argument whose advantages are overwhelming , it’s fairly certain that either you are not talking to the ‘decision-maker’, or that, for some reason, they do not find what you are saying credible.  Either way, you have fallen outside of that person’s Overton Window, and are left peering at the Overton Wall (my invention!).

You may have experienced this same level of mystification when discussing political issues either in person or as it more commonly happens today on social media.  Only experts need apply.  The powers that be have ruled personal experience inadmissible and most probably suspect.  Personal experience or anecdote will place you right outside the Overton Window alongside the rustics.  Common sense need not apply either.  It is outside the Overton Window too.  We’re all experts nowadays, or nothing.  And this applies to both sides of the issues.

Web links are the puppet strings.  More and more we move by them.  We think by them.  We exercise our freedom of expression through them.

Or, perhaps, for a less paranoid view, try this which is taken from an article by Nathan Heller in a recent issue of The New Yorker:

“The stories you encounter through your smart phone are stories, basically, asking to be found.

Getting outside of the museum is hard.”

“Encounter thinking” (real experience), “our response to the exceptional, saves us from the errors of consensus and the expectations of smooth process that, like the myths of consolation, leave us ill-equipped to deal with changes when they come.”

Unfortunately, personal experience, more and more, is useful only as a private curio or baubles to be traded in psychoanalysis.  It may rule our stars, but it has little impact socially.  Or worse, it could have a hazardous impact socially and even legally.  You can pass on a link with much less worry of being branded by the content.  You are merely passing on ‘what is out there’.  Whereas, you are personally liable for your personal views.

But what if there is nothing out there that you want to say – which can be copied and pasted?  And a lot that isn’t?

Well, here in our new America, we’re each choking on our own very private experience.  Grin and bear it or suffer the consequences.

P.S.  As a small update, it occurs to me that what the ‘Donald’ brings to politics, regardless the view of him, is personal experience.  He puts arguing a point from personal reflection back inside of the Overton Window.  And I think a lot of people respond to this.

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Conservative Art

February 21, 2016

Poetry with a Conservative Slant

 

Artwork by practitioners of a Conservative viewpoint can be hard to come by.  If you’re a Conservative you’re accustomed to this.  If you’re not, you might be afraid of reaching down into the rabbit ‘hole’.

Well, fear not.  Here are a few sample snippets of some poems:

 

Big Government

 

 Sometimes I lie in bed at night

trying to imagine how big the government is

until I pass out.

 

And summer times I some times,

lie on the grass

and name each constellation

as a separate bureau.

 

That constellation there.

The big one.

That’s the Department of Health, Education and Welfare

with a total budget this fiscal year 2015

of one trillion twenty billion dollars.

 

Anarchist at the Political Fair

 

If we are our own worst enemy,

as we are so often,

what folly to cast aspersions!

I am not here to rile you up;

I am here to calm you down…

Continue to disagree as you will and as you must.

I am not here to change your minds – but to disperse them!

Altogether we constitute a pox!  There’s the truth of it.

Too much power is granted to too few.

…..

 

If you enjoyed these starter hors d’oeuvres, you might enjoy this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Shoving-My-Way-Into-Conversation/dp/0692617906/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1456076083&sr=1-1&keywords=Shoving+my+Way+into+the+Conversation+by+Carl+Nelson

 

Essays by Carl Nelson

February 6, 2016

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The Day I’m Not Called a Bigot, Racist, Islamophobe, Homophobe, Misogynist, Reactionary or Racist is the Day I’ve Failed My Country and Two Thousand Years of History

(or How I Developed a Soft Spot for Richard Nixon)

 

 I’ve never bagged all of these epithets on the same day, but I have landed three in one posting.  I was accused of “creating an environment where reactionary thinking was tolerated” and called a bigot and a racist all in the same thread.  And this was by my nephew.

There was a study conducted some time ago which was written about in an issue I had of The New Yorker.  It seems that individuals in crowds allow themselves more and more leeway to act delinquently depending upon the amount of implied consensus within the surrounding group.  That is, if everybody decides to kick someone when they’re down, that’s when we’re going to feel most free to get in a few licks ourselves.  If one person objects, several may hold back.  And if several hold back, this could demoralize several more.  We can see how this could start a de-escalation of what I would call bandwagon bullying.

As I heard a character say on a TV miniseries I was watching just the other night, “The law is like a muscle.  If you exercise it, it grows strong.  But if you don’t exercise it,”… it becomes such a weak thing as to be useless.  I feel the same way about the First Amendment.

Even living way out in the woods, such as I, a person can become as deeply involved in some fulmination through social media as if he lived in Brooklyn.   This is the miracle of our age.

Some days I don’t feel quite up to it.  I want to post a cute kitten.   Nevertheless I feel honor bound to pick up a post and swing it if a lynch mob should pass me by.  My feeling is that just one person can send the message that the real world is not quite ready to allow this violence that is fulminating.  They are going to have to wait a while.  They’ll have to cool their heels or search for better circumstances.  They’re not going to get a pass.  Not from me.  “Over my dead body,” as they say.

How does a person become this ‘mean, bigoted, racist, reactionary, misogynistic and homophobic’ person such as myself?

Well, just disagree.  That would be the first – and really only – step necessary.  Then continue to apply as needed.

Everybody is encouraged to go out and “change the world!”.  It’s the progressive way!  It’s Mao’s Cultural Revolution emulsified and fed to our young ones through their schools and media as mother’s milk.  It’s on the breakfast, lunch and dinner menu.  And our youth have become, apparently, what they ate.

Our media extol it.  Our Presidential candidates swear by it.  As George Bush said,  “Hell, if I were running again for President, I’d be for change myself!”

I can’t think of a better slogan for a culture and a life which is never satisfactory – perfection be damned.

 

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Essays by Carl Nelson

February 2, 2016

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Culture

December 30, 2014

Putin

The Russians Get There First

Leafing through this month’s Commentary magazine, I came across James Kirchick’s review of Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia by Peter Pomerantsev, a television producer who was attendant to much of the political doings in Russia during the first ten years of this century.  Apparently the thrust of this book is to chart the accomplishments of Vladislav Surkov, Putin’s political general.

Kirchick writes: “He is the “political technologist” responsible for the concept of “sovereign” or “managed” democracy – a post-modern apparatus of fake parties, fake parliaments, and fake dissidents.”  … “The man’s “genius,” Pomerantsev writes, is to “use the language of rights and representation to validate tyranny.”  …”Pomerantsev writes, “The Kremlin’s idea is to own all forms of political discourse, to not let any independent movements develop outside of its walls.”  The state throws support to transgressive artists while simultaneously funding the Orthodox Church, whose leaders protest those very artists’ exhibitions.”  …”The Russia Pomerantsev paints is a morally corrupt bizarro world that actively discourages integrity of any kind.”

Photo from Google Images

The Short Version / Reviews

December 8, 2014

Newsboy

“Read All About It!”

(The Growth of Government)

 Crisis and Leviathan

Crisis and Leviathan by Robert Higgs

 The growth of the private sector is rather magical.  You simply enforce property rights and a few other nurturing legal traditions, and commerce grows.  It’s rather like planting seeds in the proper soil and providing them with sun and water.  The miracle of economic growth occurs, and with it, the rise in individual income and comforts.

There is nothing magical about the growth of government.  It happens because certain people enforce it, and many more persons either allow or agree to it.  Most governments began as what nowadays would be seen as criminal enterprises.

The nature of the private sector is rather splendid and wonderful, both because of its natural quality and diversity – and because of its complexity that passes our understanding.

The complex, brutal, many times exasperating nature of government, on the other hand, can be byzantine, but it rarely appears wonderful, except in its self-limitations.  For example, with our own system of “checks and balances”, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, the wonder of humility has been introduced to government.  A twig of humanity has been grafted onto an otherwise powerful, unfeeling enterprise, which, from time to time, casts its entire monolithic pre-eminence in a noble light.  (Picture the glowing Dome of Congress.)  Other citizenry have found other ways to ‘humble’ their governments.  But, for the most part, “shock and awe” and raw power, the barrel of a gun – and not wonder – are the glistening aspects of most government.

Because the private sector grows from a natural action, whose nature passes our complete understanding – when it fails, when the economy fails us, we believers are left with little but our faith to sustain us.  When the seeds of enterprise we have planted grow and wither, there are many factors we can look at, and remedies we can try… but mostly we must have faith that the seeds still contain life and the plants can be saved.  And that the miracle which passes our understanding will blossom again.

Believers in government, however, need no faith.  In fact, they often disparage faith.  Believers in government are natural atheists and pragmatists.  They are “show me the money”, people.  And when a crisis occurs, the government offers to “show people the money”.  It’s rather like looking for your keys outside the tent, rather than inside where you lost them – because the light outside is better.

The theme of Higg’s book is that what happens when a crisis occurs depends upon the prevailing ideology of the times; that is whether we will hew to a faith in our natural occurring systems, and the value creating miracle of the private sector – or whether we have more faith in governmental directives, whose nature would seem more rational and apparent, and who can print money at will.

In Crisis and Leviathan, Robert Higgs traces the evolving nature of our national ideology, and the crisis’s which have formed it.  And what he has shown, is that in times of crisis, action tends to be valued over faith by the populace.   These crises’s stimulate governmental action which manifest as governmental expansion, which, assuming that the crisis is surpassed and the nation survives, creates a change in ideology.  This changed ideology, which is more comfortable with a larger government, insures that the governmental expansion which occurred, never shrinks to pre-crisis size but solidifies as real growth.  And, over time, and successive crisis, our faith in the natural guiding order of the private sector shrinks in comparison with our comfort in governmental solutions.  And just as a plant grows exponentially, the government grows as each succeeding crisis provides it with the ideological support to do so.  Of course, much of this growth depends upon concealed costs and fiat (printed) money.  And from there comes a sobering foreboding.

Higgs also notes that an ideology is a creation of its time.  Just as a plant cannot shrink back into a smaller plant or a seed, neither can an ideology ever become what it once was.  There is no going back to the yesteryears.

Crisis and the Leviathan is an engrossing, step by step, factual, sobering account, of why our government has gotten to the size it is, and why we are where we are as a nation – and he offers a rather dismal outlook, for anyone who values individual freedoms and the joy of personal enterprise.

Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating tour through history as situations are seen through the differing ideological lenses of history, as black becomes white and white, black – and laws are taken to mean just the opposite of what they appear to have said, when written.  You can almost hear the street paper boy shouting, as if hawking some lurid murder, “Read all about it!”

Picture from Google Images

From the Editor’s Perch…

September 2, 2014

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Question Rebellion

 

It has been found that when blind-from-birth persons have had their sight restored by operative means, they don’t automatically ‘see’ like you or I.  These newly sighted people have to learn what the various colors and shades of light coming in through their eyes mean.  They must walk around and explore the world in order to recognize what a ‘chair’ is, for example.  Then, they can understand what a chair ‘looks like’.  It seems experience of the world is necessary before we can understand what the perceptions we have mean.

 

It has been widely recognized that as people age, they generally become more conservative.  It has also been noted, in this recent article “Why Won’t They Listen?” by William Saletan in the New York Times, (which is a review of the book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt), that “Conservatism thrives because it fits how people think, and that’s what validates it.”  Minds are like eyes.  They must ‘learn’ to ‘think’.  They must learn to ‘see’ what is there.

 

Saletan goes on to note that whereas Conservatives tend to base their convictions on 6 moral foundations (including faith, patriotism, valor, chastity, law and order), Liberals “focus almost entirely on care and fighting oppression” (my italics).  Because of this, he goes on to note, Conservatives most often can understand what Liberals are arguing (because of their wider moral stance), but Liberals often cannot make sense of Conservatives (because of their narrower moral stance).

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In my own world I’ve often heard liberals scorn the ‘hypocrisy of Conservatives’.   They would do better to scorn the hypocrisy of thought – or of reality in toto.  A true evaluation usually contains a dark side.  Nearly any effort suffers ‘unintended consequences’.  Liberals seem especially poor at discerning this.  They are like actors who cannot grasp the subtext.  They seem to prefer living in a world where if there is a problem hole, filling the hole will solve the problem.   In the real world something caused the hole, and will cause there to be a hole again.  This is what Conservatives would like to discuss with them.  But a Liberal will say, “You say you hate holes, but here you are, refusing to fill them.”  To which a Conservative might answer, “Filling the hole will not make it go away.”  This dumbfounds the Liberal.  ‘How can filling a hole NOT make it go away?  A child could understand this!’
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Exactly.

 

In lieu of gathered wisdom, Liberals often dismiss Conservatism as representing a particularly nasty side of humanity.  Rarely a day goes by that I do not hear the grumbling of some Liberal that they are just giving up on talking to any more idiotic, brutal, blind, closed-minded, and greedy, Neanderthal Conservatives.   And if I am lucky enough, within the same day, to meet with a fellow Conservative, I’m mostly likely to see a shake of the head, whenever they speak of Liberals with chagrin, and a response somewhat of the retort, “They are like children!”.

 

Living as a ‘declared’ Conservative can be lonely, isolating and quite trying experience, rather like a beleaguered parent.   You feel like a piece of hanging meat being pestered by flies.

 

 

And trying to get on in a world where there are people, who would fashion themselves as Progressives  – shopping for their politics at the only the best stores – this is the Conservatives burden.  ‘Progressive’  is a name brand which declares its own infallibility.  Progressives walk around in designer thoughts, bemoaning all of the unwashed; while swearing at the odd Conservative as if stubbing their toe on a chair they cannot comprehend and spilling their Kool Aid.  They don’t care that you don’t agree with what they think – or drink.  What offends them is that you can’t recognize extremely fine fashion when you see it.

 

But we Conservatives DO recognize fashion.  We just feel that life requires practical, tested measures.

 

A Conservative might hope Liberals would take advice from their own ecological laments and realize culture is a profoundly complex thing best left to grow organically; that culture is an accretion of collected individual wisdom best tended within a wisely structured environment of what lawyers call ‘natural law’, and is not something to be corrected and rearranged at intellectual whim.  That you can kill things this way; completely destroy a habitat.  (As Ronald Reagan noted, civilization is fragile as an eggshell.)  But they don’t.  They keep importing their intellectual kudzu and disseminating it as far as able.  As Saletan points out in his article, they destroy ‘moral capital’.

 

After a day of trying to get through to these modern day knuckleheads, a Conservative can be sorely tempted to wander off by themselves for awhile, sit on a rock and pray.

Pictures taken from Google Images

 

 

 

 

 


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