It didn’t take long for libertarians to condemn Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate. Ryan may have required his staffers to read Ayn Rand’s novels, but he’s no John Galt. Over his nearly 14 years in Congress, Ryan has cast several votes unfit for an advocate of limited government. He voted for TARP, auto bailouts, and Medicare expansion. He also voted for No Child Left Behind, and twice voted for stimulus spending.
The criticism of Ryan is a classic example of the saying, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” And it comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of how our system of government operates.
The Founders’ great achievement — an achievement that today is often ignored and even dismissed by the cynics in our education and media establishments — was to protect the people from tyrannical government. States’ rights, the separation of power between the legislative, judiciary, and executive branches, and a system of checks and balances were carefully designed to prevent any one person or party from acquiring a monopoly of power.
The White House and the Media continue to misrepresent the deficit controversy. They say that we must raise the debt ceiling or very bad things will occur. But they have it backwards. Raising the debt ceiling at a time when we are spending way more than we can afford is irresponsible. It can only lead to even worse consequences down the road.
A family budget analogy is useful here. Imagine a family with a modest income goes on a spending spree using credit cards. The cards have all reached their spending limits. The family is able to pay the monthly interest on the cards and other living expenses. But the family wants to continue its spending spree. So it demands that the credit card companies increase the cards' spending limits. And not to worry, the family promises it will get its spending under control later.
There are two key questions here. The first is whether a family budget is a reasonable analogy to a government budget. The second is whether it is reasonable to trade an immediate increase in the debt limit for a promise of future spending reductions.
Some economists insist that a large federal budget deficit is not necessarily bad. In fact, my Economics 101 professor, the late Robert Eisner, was among the most vocal proponents of large federal budget deficits (though with some caveats). According to his theory, the analogy doesn't work because unlike an individual family the federal government can stimulate the nation's economy through targeted spending.
That certainly hasn't worked lately. (Has it ever?) While a federal government has more potential sources of future income than a family, it has fewer options for obtaining assistance should things go wrong. No family or government can continue to spend more than it can afford without eventually suffering the consequences. (Arguably, we already are suffering the consequences in the form of high unemployment and a complete absence of private sector growth.)
Raising the debt ceiling is like allowing an alcoholic just one more drink. Anyone can promise to change their ways mañana.
If we truly understand the dangers of a massive and growing federal deficit then we can only reach one conclusion. We must resist calls to raise the debt ceiling and start reducing our spending immediately.
Colleges and universities are supposed to be centers for the free exchange of ideas. In the U.S., many have become centers for sorting ideas into two bins. The approved ideas are inculcated; the disapproved ideas are censored.
There’s no indication that Howell did anything other than express an opinion. According to the Facebook page Save Dr. Ken, “His teaching what the Catholic Church teaches in a course on Catholicism was deemed to violate University rules of inclusivity…”
I can't say whether I agree or disagree with Howell, because it's not something I've given much thought. But I don't know how a university can have "rules of inclusivity" concerning opinions. (Actually, I do know how: by applying them selectively.)
It turns out that Howell is popular among students—and not just Catholic students. Even the student group Atheists, Agnostics & Freethinkers has rallied to his side. (I think it’s a safe bet that they aren’t defending his opinion—just his right to express it.) Howell apparently has a reputation for promoting open, honest, and civil debate. And that’s exactly the sort of thing that’s supposed to take place at universities.
I think I can justifiably claim I’ve lived an interesting life, but a recent experience was downright bizarre.
I confess I have become addicted to some of my teenage boys’ video games. Just after midnight a couple of weeks ago I was feeling too awake to go to bed, so I decided to quietly play TimeSplitters 2 in what we call our upstairs “media area.” (When we built an addition to our house a few years ago, we created access to three new rooms by converting one of the original bedrooms into an open space leading to the new hallway.)
As I was playing I noticed something near the periphery of my vision fluttering by. I assumed it was a large moth. A few seconds later, the creature returned, flying in the opposite direction. This time it passed directly between me and the TV screen. There was no mistaking that this was a warm-blooded, winged animal.
I ran into the bedroom, roused my wife, and informed her that a bird had somehow gotten into the house. Even I thought it sounded unbelievable, so I opened the door a crack to make sure. “Now there are two of them!” I told my wife.
We were baffled. All of the windows in our house have good screens, and we close and lock all of the downstairs windows every night. My wife suggested that we remove the screen to an upstairs bathroom window, drive the intruders into that room, and shut the door behind them. I grabbed a webbed laundry hamper hoping to either catch one or shoo it into the bathroom. I was struck by how the intruders cruised back and forth with nearly identical flight paths.
It wasn’t long before one of them flew into the bathroom to avoid me—and promptly out the window. But I knew there was another somewhere in the house. We told our children there was a bird in the house and to keep their bedroom doors closed. My wife suggested we ask our oldest son what to do next; he has bought books about dealing with emergencies, surviving in the wild, and so forth.
About a minute later I heard him exclaim “Cool, bats!” He was standing at the end of the hallway pointing at a vent near the ceiling. Hanging on the vent with its wings folded was indeed a bat. I put the laundry hamper over the creature; it helpfully climbed into the webbing. I dragged the hamper with its open end against the floor down the hall and into the bathroom with the open window. I lifted the hamper just outside the window and the animal flew away.
How did a pair of bats get into our house? There had been an opening into our attic, but we had that repaired. I remembered that I had heard what sounded like something hitting the recycling bag we keep downstairs by the back door. At the time, I assumed something shifted and the bag fell over. Now, I was pretty sure the bats had come from downstairs—when I first caught a glimpse of one it was flying away from the stairway—and that suggested they got in through the chimney.
Local regulations require homeowners install fireplace damper clamps to ensure adequate ventilation. Though our chimney has a cap, it was installed many years ago. It's even possible the bats are nesting in the chimney. We have a chimney sweep scheduled for this week.
When I first noticed a winged animal flying in the house, I felt like I was in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Apparently, this is by no means an unheard of occurrence. There are web pages about how to deal with house bats here, here, and here. One thing I learned online was that if such intruders come into contact with people or pets in your house, it’s best to capture them and have them tested; bats are notorious carriers of infectious diseases. Fortunately, all of the bedroom doors were closed and the dog was in its crate when the bats appeared.