Thursday, October 1, 2020

Search for my White Privilege

The following is my Op-Ed from the October 1, 2020 edition of The Orlando Sentinel


As our fractured nation continues to deal with unending controversy surrounding issues of race, police practices and social justice I have found myself pondering where people like me fit into the equation of equality – or the lack of it – that dates back to the first forced enslavement of black people from the continent of Africa. 

I am a 54-year old heterosexual Christian white male.   That places me in at least five categories that currently subjects me to implied – and sometimes overt – accusation of being privileged to the point of not being able to comprehend my status as such, nor able to understand the plight of people who do not fit within the same profile I benefit from. 

After all, everything about my station in life – race, sexual orientation, age, religious affiliation and gender – pretty much matches up with the people who founded our nation on the principles that we are all created equal while slavery, the political degradation of women, gays and non-Christians went hypocritically unchallenged. 

 Since that time we have seen what people like me would call “great progress” even though there should have never been a need for progress to begin with.  Had our Founders truly believed in the concepts they so eloquently shipped off to the King of England we would not have witnessed the battle for equal rights that so many disenfranchised groups have had to wage in our lifetime and in the lifetime of people who are not even born yet. 

Yet, I am troubled by an assumption – that often borders on accusation – that I am not sure about.    

That assumption is that I, by virtue of being white, have inadvertently benefited from a legacy of white supremacy that I am oblivious too.   I have been told by some of my colleagues that we white people suffer from a form of cancer that dates back to 1619 and that until we reach a true level of higher conscientiousness we will be part of the ongoing problem of racism in this country. 

I was born in Germany.  My mother and her mother were too.  My grandmother was bombed out of her home during WWII, wrapping her children in wet blankets to keep them from being engulfed in flames.  My mother was born without her American father ever seeing her.  She grew up in horrific poverty and depended on care packages from a family in New York to avoid starvation.  By 14 she was working full-time to help support her mother. 

My father’s mother died when he was two.  His father was murdered when he was four.  He grew up an orphan being shuttled around from home to home until he ran away from an abusive house, eventually dropped out of school and joined the Air Force. 

When he and my mother moved back to the United States they had no money and fed me with the free milk our milkman would drop off on our doorstep in Hugo, Oklahoma. 

Hugo is the poorest town in one of the poorest states in America. 

I grew up in a white household but based on the economic conditions I saw – and experienced firsthand – I am not sure how the word “privilege” fits in. 

I was the first person in my family to graduate from high school and attend college.  My parents did not have the money to pay for this so I worked jobs ranging from construction in West Texas to land clearing; grocery bagging and more.   

When I graduated from college my first job application as a college instructor ended up with a department head telling me that I was the most qualified applicant but that due to “affirmative action considerations” I would not be hired.  I did not feel that this was something I should feel privileged about. 

For nearly 30 years now I have taught my students that the long history of economics has proven a few things to be immutable facts. 

One of them is that there has always been –and always will be – people who are too stupid to stop engaging in the irrationality of bigotry, xenophobia, racism, sexism, homophobia and more.   I teach my students that to practice these awful “isms” not only denies other human beings their natural right to life, liberty and property, but it places the person engaging in these acts of hate in the unproductive condition of failing to maximize the value that comes from serving your fellowman without regard to anything other than the mutual gains from trade. 

On behalf of other white people who did not grow up privileged – and teach others how to treat everyone with dignity – I would like to ask the “white privilege” accusers to judge us the same way you would like to be judged. 

Friday, July 3, 2020

July 4, 1776 and what it means today

As our country approaches its 244th birthday I thought it would be appropriate to share with you a scene from the John Adams miniseries.    Our nation is in the midst of what we have always been in the midst of - turmoil, factions and political upheaval.  This is what makes our nation special.   People of all walks of life; of all skin colors; of all belief systems and of all political orientations get to demand that our nation live up to the promises that were supposed to be kept.   I for one am not worried that the pandemic or social  unrest will tear us apart.   People have been predicting the decline of America from the first moment the ink began to dry on the Declaration of Independence.   

We have never been perfect.  We have always been flawed.

But it is our flaws that allows us to incrementally - and sometimes suddenly - realize that all people have a God-given right to life, liberty and property.

It is when any one of us  has  a legitimate argument that our rights are being violated that we stand up and demand change.

This is how it was intended to be.

So whether you are part of the 'no mask' movement of the Trump supporters or part of the 'Black Lives Matter' movement you are living out 244 years of what America is and should always be about - dissent, discord and demands that the principles of our founding documents be adhered to.

So, happy Independence Day - whatever Independence looks like to you.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Why Democrats should fight to end Shelter-in-Place orders

In a recent Pew Research Center study it was revealed that 69% of voters that lean democrat or are democrats are also atheists. 

This means that Joe Biden and every Democratic governor in the United States should demand an immediate end to all shelter-in-place orders and a re-opening of the American economy.

Think about it.  If you are an atheist you ostensibly believe in the theory of evolution rather than creation.   If you believe in evolution you, by deductive reasoning and logic, also believe that pandemics are simply part of nature and nature's way of selecting members of various animals - in this case humans - who are most fit to survive the spread of deadly viruses, while the weakest members of the species are naturally 'selected' for their biologically natural fate.

Any follower of Darwin should be perplexed by the fact that we are expending valuable resources to protect the most vulnerable citizens of our country.  That is to say, the elderly.   Atheists should lead the charge to stop this artificial protection of senior citizens under the argument that every dollar we spend protecting a weaker member of our species, the more harm we inflict on younger, healthier member of the human race by subjecting them to greater debt and ultimately higher taxes for decades to come.

Among those 69% of Democrats who do not support creationism, they would also have to argue - lest they come off as ignorant hypocrites - that the shutdown of our economy is unfairly punishing those businesses that had been thriving by serving their customers well.  In biology, only those species that have successfully adapted and mutated as the ecosystem demands it will be selected for success and the rest of the competitors will die off.  So, if you were running a business that had figured out how to serve people faster, or better, or with some unique product or service model that was better than your next best competitor, the government is artificially killing you - and violating Darwin's theories - in two ways.

First, the government is forcing you to shut down, or reduce your service offerings.  This is like a forest ranger forcing a successful pack of wolves to hunt less or move to less productive hunting grounds.  

Second, the government is taking money away from successful members of our species and giving it to less successful businesses all in the name of 'stimulus'.  This is like the same forest ranger taking away the elk that a pack of productive wolves has killed and giving that kill to wolves that heretofore had been hunting in less productive areas, or were not hunting productively.

Now the inferior wolf pack is rewarded for being inferior while the productive pack is left to figure out how to navigate an environment where you are punished for being successful.

This leaves us with the fact that if you are a Democrat - and an atheist - you can only legitimately contend that the pandemic should be allowed to run its course - even if millions die - and that government should not artificially interfere in stopping the pandemic or prevent people from freely choosing to interact with one another.  Atheists can only argue that humans are capable of reason and logic that have evolved over thousands of years and therefore humans should be allowed to freely determine whom they interact with and in what manner.

To argue anything else - like protecting the weak and supporting your brother in his time of need - might sound a little bit like what believers in God would argue.   

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

President Trump has 'Total' Power? Of course he does....

In case you missed it Donald Trump claimed that as president he has "total authority" and that "that is the way it's gotta be" in a news conference yesterday.   Today, there are no mass protests, no marching on Washington, D.C. while keeping with social distancing standards.   There is no public outrage as far as I can see.  There is no figurative middle finger being extended by the cowering governors of most states in our country.  There is nothing.   And it makes sense.

Did any of us really believe this guy has ever read the U.S. Constitution, much less believes in it?

Does it really matter if he has read it, or remotely cares about it?

Well, no, it does not.

The American people have proven to be all too willing to subjugate themselves to the omnipresent, all-knowing, all powerful government - at every level.    

I just finished grading an all-essay exam for my roughly 200 students at Valencia.  One of the questions asked them to consider the proper role of government in a market-based economy during a pandemic and to discuss our rights as Americans within the context of dealing with the Covid-19 virus.   It was sickening to read that the vast - and I do mean vast - majority of my students want the government to go even farther than it has in protecting us from the possibility of sickness.   Most of my students - and dare I say most Americans - are all too willing and ready for the federal government to declare some form of economic and social martial law and strip us of our rights until we are all safe from this virus.   They want government to use force to keep people inside and not let them move about somewhat freely as is currently the case.   They are in favor of jailing people who are caught outside.  They want government to step in and provide -with no end in sight - the greatest expansion of social welfare spending anyone has ever seen.

Most shocking is that my students and their fellow Americans, have imminent faith in the ability of politicians to make these decisions.  They seem, during this grave crisis, to revere elected officials as some sort of secular gods with perfect knowledge of when to say "all clear" and perfect foresight into what measures must be taken and what enforcement mechanisms would be most appropriate.

I am reminded of the French economist, Frederic Bastiat, who, in 1849 wrote a book called, The Law. Towards the end of this book he writes: 

“If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?”

Which brings us to Donald Trump and his claim of total authority.   If we live in a nation of people who are largely recipients of the gift of liberty and who, with the exception of people nearing 100 years of age - have not had to fight to defend this gift, how can we possibly see that Donald Trump -and other government officials - are simply doing what all politicians do.  That is, during times of crisis, we see those in power push the boundaries of that power in order to expand the size and scope of their authority.  Lincoln suspended many of our Constitutional rights during the Civil War.  FDR oversaw the internment of Americans who happened to be of Japanese descent.   George W. Bush used September 11th to justify the Patriot Act.  President Obama used the last financial crisis to push through Constitutionally questionable banking and health care laws and so on.

Now we get to a president, who appears to be a classic narcissist - and one whose core supporters do not seem to interested in limiting his authority.  What else should we expect but to see him claim total authority?  He knows his supporters will ignorantly cheer him on.  He knows the rest of us will not put on our masks and take to the streets.  He knows that maybe 1/2 of one percent of Americans even know what the Constitution says about presidential power and that not even 1/2 of one percent care about what Alexander Hamilton called, "this frail and worthless fabric."   

Therefore, if history records that the acceleration of Americans slide into a despotic state began during the 2020 pandemic, it will be because of overwhelming ignorance of what our Founding Fathers gave us - and apathy to what it means - that will be the primary cause.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

A Millennial Introduction to Socialism Part II

One of the great complaints about capitalism that all supporters of Bernie Sanders cite is the incessant greed that the pursuit of profit creates in our country.   We are told - by people who most likely majored in the humanities - that we should not put profit over people and that community well-being is a more laudable goal.

Let me ask you young folks a question...

Have you enjoyed toilet paper shopping lately?  How is that going?  Are you enjoying finding empty shelves, long lines and near panic-like conditions among shoppers desperate to find cleaning supplies, meat and bread?

Well, my friends, welcome to what the world looks like in Venezuela every day.   Take a look at this video.  It will take only 3 minutes and 43 seconds away from your Instagram posting and will help you see what the world would look like if we adopted socialism on a macroeconomic scale.

Shortages happen from time to time in a market economy.  The shortages we are seeing at this time stem from historic increases in the demand for everything we think we will need to get through this pandemic.   As demand increases, suppliers scramble to increase production in order to profit from this unique opportunity.  We have seen countless stories of companies shifting away from beer production, for example, in order to produce hand sanitizer.  Car makers are shifting into the production of medical equipment and so on.

The driving motivation behind this shift is not the common good, but rather the uncommon profit opportunity.

In socialism, businesses would be prevented from capitalizing on this shift in demand.   Prices would be controlled by government, inventories would be rationed - by the government - and the incentive to increase production would be eliminated - leading to permanent shortages.

This is what life is like every day in Venezuela.   The government there has waged war on entrepreneurship for over two decades and thus the incentives to produce toilet paper - and everything else - has been wiped out.  People in this once prosperous nation now line up every day to try to find things that will help them survive.

In America, because of capitalism, we know that eventually the flow of goods will return to its normal level.  None of us go to bed at night wondering if there will ever be meat at the store again.

If left to the devices of people like Bernie Sanders - and his young followers who have not taken an economics class, nor have ever lived in Venezuela - we would face shortages of everything, every day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Dear Millennials, THIS is what Socialism looks like!

One of the greatest unintended consequences of the government's reaction to Covid-19 is the first-hand, once-in-a-lifetime lesson in what socialism really looks like.  So to all of you folks out there who are somewhere between 18 and 35 please read this carefully.  It could save your life.

I know many of you have been super-excited for quite some time with the Presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders.   Some of you have acknowledged that Bernie is now finished but has laid important groundwork for youger socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who can pick up his mantle and carry it forward in your quest to finally have Democratic-Socialism arrive in the United States.

It is somewhat understandable - for two reasons - that you would want this.  First, if you are 35 years old it means you were in kindergarten when the Soviet Union fell apart.  It means you have never lived one day in a nation that was pitted against a nation that was threatening to export human misery on a mass scale to the rest of the world - or bomb us into oblivion as a second-best choice.

You did not get to live in a world where 40% of the population lived under communism or socialism.  You have never even lived in a world where Scandinavia, long held out as the dream of you young socialists, actually practiced socialism.  See

So, having no frame of reference other than modern-day Venezuela, for what socialism looks like, you are largely ignorant of what it would look like to live through it.  Of course my students from Venezuela do not need to read any more of this post because they have lived through socialism and are well versed in the deprivation it creates.   That is one reason why they are my favorite students.  They live for liberty and value it more than my American students do.

A second reason why young Americans want socialism is because this has been a lousy century for you.  When you were babies your government turned on its own people in the wake of September 11th on a scale that would make George Orwell shudder.   From the Patriot Act to domestic surveillance to a nation that makes us cow-tow at airports, you have lived in a nation that has largely traded in its liberty for security.

Then, when you were a little older, you got to see the second worst recession in our nation's history and the mass-hijacking of your futures when the Federal Reserve Bank and the federal government combined to bail out large banks and corporations that would make Robin Hood cheer.   It is no wonder you want Grandpa Bernie to give you free health care, free tuition and free child care.  You have grown up watching government give away your future earnings in the form of artificially pumped up money supplies and plunder in favor of the well connected.  Now you want your share.

Finally, we now see your government destroying liberty in the name of health care security by locking us down and telling us we cannot go places they do not approve of and that we have to be in our homes at 11PM.  In exchange for that, Congress is going to steal another $2 trillion from your future (did you think the stimulus was free money?) and destroy your jobs and income in the present.

Socialism is an economic system that violates the rights of the individual in order to serve the desires of the state.  Socialism means the nationalization or overt control over key industries.  Socialism means a huge expansion of the size of government on the backs of future taxpayers.  Socialism means lots of rules and regulations in order to make us all safe.

As you prepare to be locked in your homes by our new quasi police-state think about this...

Which seems better - the freedom and chance for prosperity you had a few weeks ago, or the security and reliance on the state that you are getting now?

Remember, be careful what you wish for....

Sunday, March 22, 2020

A Libertarian Guide to Social Distancing

I hate to admit this but all this social distancing stuff is coming pretty easy for me.   As a Libertarian (since around 4 seconds after George H.W. Bush became president) I have long valued being, well, alone.

The Republican party has the elephant for a mascot.  The Democrats have a Jackass (insert joke here).  The Libertarians have a porcupine!  Think about it.  The porcupine is a solitary animal who just wants to be left alone to look for food and other porcupines.   Voluntary association is the hallmark of a good porcupine.   If you bother one you get a face full of quills.

For around 50 years I have been the human equivalent of a porcupine.  The one friend I have who lives near me (my Texas and Tennessee friends do visit much...) also happens to be my wife.  I do not own a cell phone because I find human contact overrated.  I therefore have no social media presence.  This blog does not count because I post what I think and do not really care what people think about what I think.  I don't ask for, or expect, "likes" because I do not care what you like.  I like what I like and then, if I feel like it, share it with other people.

I have been this way forever.   When I was in Eugene Field Elementary school in Hugo, Oklahoma, I used to run a way every year during the school picnic to play in the woods with whatever kid I could convince to break out with me.  The moment the teacher had us stand in a socialistic line to march to the park I was plotting my escape.  Right after lunch I would bolt with my willing partners and not come back until it was time for all the sheep to march back to school.

In the first grade, on my very first report card, my teacher wrote, "Jack is progressing well but refuses to comply with society's standards of behavior."  Damn right. Society is not my boss.  I, as a six-year old, felt that I was my boss until I got home and my parents let me know that I needed to comply with some rules - or get a belt across the behind for refusing.

With this Coronavirus I find that my life has not changed much.  I still have one friend who I hang out with regularly.   I am now at home, with my wife and dog Jake and I am fine.   I have been re-watching Stranger Things, working out, folding socks for the first time since Obama was president, cooking a little more often and doing projects that need to be done.  I miss talking to my students but they are fine.   I miss sports on television but not enough to stress over it.   Since I have never texted anyone, I do not miss that.  Since I am not on Instagram I do not miss that.  

I would recommend to anyone reading this to consider the possibility that most human interaction is not necessary and in fact, is actually pretty annoying.   Do you miss the way people drive on the roads?  Do you miss people blathering on their phones in restaurants and movies?  Probably not.   

I think the world would be a better place if we could just learn to enjoy our time away from each other.  Maybe we would be a little nicer, a little more tolerant and actually engage in meaningful conversation once we are allowed to hang out again.

Until then, enjoy the solitude.  After all, unless you hate yourself you will enjoy your company.