A Brad’s Blog primer

Noticing that this recent post had attracted some first-time-readers, I thought I’d greet them and give them a quick orientation. And the message I wrote sort of said some stuff that it might be good to remind everybody of occasionally. So I hereby elevate that quick primer to separate-post status:

Marie, Joshua, thanks for joining us. Sorry you’re disappointed, Joshua, but bear with us. And Marie, what part of Tampa are you from? I went to high school for two years there. Robinson High. A long, long time ago.

It occurs to me to give y’all a quick primer on what we’re about here. I’m the editorial page editor of South Carolina’s largest newspaper. We (the newspaper’s editorial board) endorsed John McCain in the GOP primary, and Barack Obama in the Democratic — and had the happy satisfaction of seeing both of our candidates win.

I think the possibility of an Obama-McCain contest in the fall will be the closest thing to a no-lose situation that I’ve seen in my adult lifetime — and I first voted in 1972.

This doesn’t mean being blind to either candidate’s faults. I’m turned off by McCain’s pandering on gas taxes, and Obama has a problem with Mr. Wright — no wishing that away.

Sometime folks come here and have trouble getting their bearings, trying to decide whether this blog goes to the right or the left. Neither. I’m the founder of the UnParty, sometimes also known as the Energy Party — depending on the subject at hand. I’ve also been known to call it the Grownup Party. I’m basically fed up with both the Democrats and the Republicans, although I like some individuals in both parties.

Anyway, welcome.

I should add this: I try, I really try, to encourage a certain level of civility around here. I also try to discourage pointless, cliche-ridden partisan back-and-forth slogan-chanting of the sort you can get out on your ordinary, run-of-the-mill blogs.

But I’ve been pretty laissez-faire about it lately, and it seemed like time to crack heads. So I deleted a couple of, shall we way, less-than-constructive comments back on this post, and banned the posters. Just so y’all know. One was obviously beyond the pale (both the "N" word and the "F" word crowded into a surprisingly short, and distressingly unoriginal, composition), and the other was someone who had demonstrated time and again that he was not here in good faith.

The great thing is that I haven’t had to do that in awhile. I’m not sure whether that’s because y’all have all become so profound and high-minded, or I’ve just gotten more callous. Anyway, thanks for what most of y’all do.

One last thing — to get full value out of the blog, you’ve gotta follow the links…

19 thoughts on “A Brad’s Blog primer

  1. Randy E

    Joshua, I appreciate your thoughtful input.
    New people, Brad is a straight shooter. His support of the Iraq “war” is bewildering. At least he has stopped posting photos of himself in a closet or sporting his middle age crisis beard.
    BTW, some guy named Doug Ross is an anarchist.

  2. Doug Ross

    A happy anarchist, Randy.
    Particularly if we consider definition #3 from the dictionary:
    “Rejection of all forms of coercive control and authority.”

  3. bud

    Since Brad EMBRACES all forms of coercive control and authority does that make him an Archist?

  4. Randy E

    bud, I think the word is Archaic.
    Doug, I give you credit for being a consistent anarchist…but don’t you support parental “authority”?

  5. Doug Ross

    Not coercive authority… I should be able to influence my children through my words and actions, not by threats or intimidation.
    I want a government based on ethics, productivity, and fairness. We have a government based on lies, inefficiency, and

  6. Brad Warthen

    Actually, whenever I have disputes with libertarians, I do so as a parent. I’m in my 32nd year of being a parent. I have five kids and three grandchildren, and my worldview is that of a parent. Whenever I hear people standing up for their "right" to do something stupid — such as not wear motorcycle helmets on the public roads — I hear the voice of a child. By now, it’s sort of hard-wired into me.

    Lots of people look at laws in terms of "what this means to me" in terms of "what I get to do" or "what gets done to me." I tend to look at society as a whole and think, Is this a good idea overall? or Does this make society safer, or healthier, or wealthier? or Is this the logical way for society to function?

    I don’t think, Do I want to pay this tax? or Do I think I should have to buckle my seat belt? To me, those are unacceptably self-centered questions. This makes for profound disagreements, because the basic cognitive processes, the entire perspective going in, is very, very different.

  7. Doug Ross

    You may not understand this but my view on society is the same as yours: Is this a good idea overall? Does this make society safer, or healthier, or wealthier? Is this the logical way for society to function?
    And then I examine the issue using my own personal experience as reference. Take taxes for example… I look at the issue logically based on the taxes I pay and conclude that a) the system is illogical b) the use of tax dollars is inefficient and c) the tax burden is unfairly applied.
    I don’t want MY taxes to be lower, I want EVERYONE’s taxes to be lower… because I believe our economy would be far better off for EVERYONE if we had less government. The same logic applies to my views on Social Security, healthcare, education, etc.
    Your world view is what gives us the government we have today. One where we citizens pay people to sit around making crucial decisions like: when can we sell beer and wine on Sunday? what time does a store need to open on Sunday? what tax breaks does a newspaper deserve that other companies do not? should we give people age 785 and over a 1/2% sales tax break? how much of the taxpayers’ money should we give to the Okra Strut? and on and on it goes. Completely wasted effort… I want to see that abolished for EVERYONE’s benefit, not my own.
    Big government types are worse than selfish – they take what isn’t theirs.

  8. Brad Warthen

    And I see those as unrelated questions, not in terms of some sort of overriding conflict between “government” and… what — “ungovernment?” But you’re right in that government in one sense or another is involved in all those decisions. What I wonder about is what you see as the alternative.
    Basically, we have this thing called a civilization. But even in the most chaotic, anarchic situations, certain arrangements arise among human beings that determine how they are going to live together (or NOT live together). Such things seem unavoidable in a group of any sort of social animals. With gorillas, you have a whole network of decisions and arrangements that tend to be built around the overriding question of, “Who gets to be the alpha male?”
    Things get more complicated with humans because we are a verbalizing race, and think in symbols and abstractions that can’t be communicated without language. But everywhere that there are two or more humans together, some sort of arrangement or agreement has to be arrived at in terms of how to interact and arrange things, from the ownership of property to acceptable behavior.
    In the closest thing to a state of nature — a place where government has utterly collapsed, such as in Somalia; or a place where conventional government is not recognized as legitimate, such as Sicily over the centuries — you have something closer to the “alpha male” model found among other creatures. In Somalia, it’s warlords. In Sicily (and sometimes among transplanted communities of Sicilians) you have a system of bosses and underbosses who hold power through the most elemental system of violence-backed “respect.”
    Now THAT is a system in which somebody is, as you say, taking what isn’t theirs.
    Actually, through much of human history, the warlord model has held sway, in such disparate settings as pre-communist China and Europe during the middle ages. Europeans called it feudalism. Under such a system, wealth that is coerced from weaker members of the society is used in such capital projects as building fortresses for the warlords. What you don’t see in a system such as that is a system of roads. For such infrastructure as that, which might economically benefit the society more broadly, there has to be a different governing system. For well over 1,000 years, Europeans continued to use roads the Romans had built because that was the last time there was a broad government with an overarching concept of acting on behalf of something broader — in that case, an empire in which the rule of law was only helpful if you were a Roman.
    You saw some city-states rise up in Italy, and bands of city states along the Baltic and in other regions, in which councils and other decision-making bodies created infrastructure and regulations that facilitated commerce that created wealth for a somewhat larger group.
    Anyway, to speed ahead… in this country we came up with representative democracy as a means for a free people to work out questions of how they would arrange themselves socially and make the decisions that WILL BE MADE one way or another among any group of humans. Once everyone gets a voice like that, all sorts of questions will come up: Do we need a new road? OK, how will we pay for it? Some people will not want to see alcohol sold at all, others will have an opposite view. Perhaps for a time, the community will strike a compromise: OK, we’ll allow alcohol to be sold in our community, but not on Sunday, because there is a critical mass in the community that finds such activities on a Sunday beyond the pale, and those who don’t feel that way go along to get what they want on the other six days.
    Of course, laws governing alcohol get far more complicated than that, with debates over where to draw the lines in terms of operating a car on the PUBLIC roads after drinking, whether minors can drink or even hang out in drinking establishments, and so forth. And all of these are legitimate areas for regulation as long as we, acting through this system of representative democracy, decide they ARE legitimate areas for such.
    Government, and politics, are in our system the proper place for deciding where all those lines are.
    In our constitutional system, we have in writing certain guarantees to prevent a government answering to a majority doesn’t trample certain fundamental rights (life, liberty, and such) of any individuals, including those in political minorities. This does not, of course, mean that individuals can blow off the more general will. You can’t commit murder just because it’s in keeping with your personal value system. Nor can you take your neighbor’s car without his permission, or poison his cat, or engage in insider trading, or sell beer in a community that has legitimately (acting through the proper processes) decided to make that illegal.
    This is a great system; it beats the hell out of doing things according to the whim of the local warlord. And everyone — libertarians, authoritarians, Christians, Wiccans, what have you — get to make their case in the public square.
    Some libertarians, unfortunately, seem to regard the political and governmental decisions that THEY DISAGREE WITH — a tax they don’t want to pay, for instance — as being illegitimate. But they aren’t.
    Each and every one of us accepts losing political arguments, and submitting to the resulting regulations or laws or lack thereof — as the price of living in this (I would argue) highly enlightened system of making social decisions. We accept it rather than go live in a place where only brute force counts.
    That doesn’t mean we don’t make our case for the next election, and so forth.
    Is anything I’m saying here making sense to you?

  9. Doug Ross

    Also, Brad, your view of government is what gets us things like rebate checks to stimulate the economy and gas tax holidays.
    McCain claims both of those are great ideas designed to help everybody out when, in reality, he supports them for purely selfish reasons – to dupe voters so he can get elected President. He hasn’t got the guts to tell the truth. His own personal ambition means more to him than the truth. Guess he’d make a good libertarian, huh?

  10. bud

    You can’t commit murder just because it’s in keeping with your personal value system. Nor can you take your neighbor’s car without his permission, or poison his cat, or engage in insider trading, or sell beer in a community that has legitimately (acting through the proper processes) decided to make that illegal.
    Murder or killing the neighbor’s cat are issues not in dispute by anyone, libertarians or otherwise. Those are acts that clearly affect other people and clearly must involve intervention by the government. Doug nor anyone else has suggested the legalization of murder. Clearly that is the mother of all non-sequetors.
    But selling or buying beer on Sunday is completely different. That is a decision which rightly belongs in a class of activities that can and should best be handled by individuals without interference from the government because it has no affect on others. That is true regardless of who has their say in the public square. If I want to buy beer on Sunday that is a decision that should be made on the basis of my own conscience, religious views and other factors that only I can evaluate. It’s no one else’s business if I buy beer on Sunday. Same with video poker, pot smoking, what I do with my own body – including who I sleep with. It’s no one’s damn business, period.
    Let’s try another example that perhaps Brad can understand. What if some religious extremist came to power and, with the help of Congress, decided that only their religion could be exercised. The majority of the people agree. The folks from the banned religions had their say in the public square but were overruled. Brad could no longer attend the Catholic Church he’s been a member of for decades.
    Or, let’s say that all movies that depict the political process in an unflattering light must now be banned. The Manchurian Candidate can not be shown any longer as a result.
    Or, perhaps hitting close to home, what if the only newspaper allowed is the one run by the government. Even though The State has run editorials oppossing this the law passes anyway. The day after the law passes the government troops occupy The State paper’s operation and begin publishing their own spin on the world.
    According to Brad’s world view all of these events are a legitimate intrusion into the way people conduct their lives.

  11. Doug Ross

    Right, Bud. I don’t want all government abolished, just some of it. I don’t want to abolish all taxes, just some of them. I don’t want to repeal all laws, just those that intrude on personal rights.
    The whole drug issue is a perfect example. Nobody should ever go to jail for using drugs unless they end up doing some harm to another person. We have a society filled with people popping anti-depressants and sleeping pills, abusing alcohol, etc. and yet we have law enforcement people spending time and resources making sure adults don’t smoke a joint. This is a case where the moral minority in power feels a need to enforce its will upon people.

  12. Brad Warthen

    Actually, bud, what you just said is completely inconsistent with what I wrote. So this is a non-argument.
    And Doug, come on: When a majority wants cocaine to be legal (again), it will be. I direct you to the Volstead Act and the Eighteenth Amendment, which were followed by the 21st Amendment…
    A lot of people (primarily libertarians) point to Prohibition as evidence that such things “don’t work.” Nonsense. Prohibition went away for the same reason it came in– the prevailing political will of the time, acting with sufficient force to change the constitution (which is what would be necessary for bud’s farcical scenario to work, and good luck that that one, by the way).
    In other words, “Prohibition doesn’t work” only makes sense when you say, “Prohibition doesn’t work if we don’t want it.”
    Doug is using the reasoning of the child — someone OUT THERE is imposing something on my in contradiction of my sovereign will. With the child, it’s the parent; with Doug, it’s this alleged “minority in power.”
    I don’t look at the world that way, because I am not alienated from the American political system. Therefore I can say WE decide something, whether it was my idea or not. I don’t see the decision-making apparatus as being something OUT THERE.

  13. Randy E

    This discussion started because I called Doug an anarchist – all this probably provides a good primer for those venturing into Warthern World for the first time.

  14. Doug Ross

    “When a majority wants cocaine to be legal”…
    Really? A majority of what? A majority of the people? or a majority of the elected officials? Or, really, a significant majority of the elected officials who are able to overcome the political games played by a much smaller minority of lifetime politicians who hold key positions in government?
    If I could prove that 50.1% of voters wanted to legalize marijuana, how long do you think it would take before that would happen?
    I’ll keep being childish and selfish. It hasn’t hurt me to this point. You keep being Father-To-All using everyone else’s resources to meet your world-view objectives.

  15. Doug Ross

    Another simple question regarding representative government:
    How much legislation in this state is passed without the approval of Bobby Harrell?

  16. bud

    I am not alienated from the American political system. Therefore I can say WE decide something, whether it was my idea or not. I don’t see the decision-making apparatus as being something OUT THERE.
    And I’m not either. Some decisions are best made by government. Laws are needed and taxes have to be raised. But what you’re suggesting goes way beyond the universe of government-appropriate decision making. Instead it encroaches on the individual’s right to the free exercise of his or her will. The concept of freedom goes to the very heart and soul of our great and free nation. And freedom is exactly what the Brad world view discards.

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