Sticks and Stones

Dick Morris describes America as exceptional because power is held by the majority, who enjoy freedom with self-control. This is contrary to the historical norm wherein ruling elite hold power using force. Progressives are successfully promoting regression toward the historical norm by redistributing power from the majority to a ruling elite. Americans already believe that the government has too much power. In order to reverse course and undo the damage, conservatives simply need to change tactics.

According to Dennis Prager, the Left's most successful tactic is name-calling, which creates an emotional barrier so formidable that millions of Americans vote for Leftist Democrats while not sharing their values. And, when Leftists call the opposition sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, homophobic, Islamophobic, racist, and bigoted, they avoid debates they can't win. He laments that it's almost impossible to name a leading conservative whom the dominant media have not marginalized as one or more of the foregoing.

If you're opposed to such rude, juvenile, and anti-intellectual tactics, consider that nuclear power can be used to provide energy or kill people depending on who's using it and how. Leftist bullies use name-calling to demonize and obfuscate, as big government dependency promoter Joe Biden did in accusing freedom-loving conservatives of desiring slavery. But another way to think of name-calling is as accurate labeling -- an intellectual tool to provide clarity, stimulate thinking, and provoke honest debate. Conservatives can clarify and liberate by labeling politicians based on how they will use power, rather than party affiliation or self-proclaimed worldview.

Politicians can generally be categorized using three power labels: Guardians, Pigs, and Fools.

Guardians seek to limit regulation and taxation, whereby choices and purchasing power are transferred to ruling elite. When individuals fall on hard times, voluntary giving through private charities or direct contact with the recipient provides the most specific and efficient help. Unlike welfare, there aren't rules requiring the breakup of families to receive benefits. Also, direct participation by the giver and recipient minimizes fraud and reinforces feelings of compassion and gratitude between parties.

Pigs tell voters to join with others and hand over their money and decision-making power to a politician acting on everyone's behalf. Voters are told that their own power is increased by becoming part of a larger group. However, comprehensive plans to address a widespread need like healthcare or education are cobbled together by politicians given power by voters with widely differing views and needs regarding specifics. Negotiation dilutes, pollutes, and prostitutes the power of individuals in order to come to an agreement. A middleman is added and the final result is a severely compromised choice that the individual may not want or is too expensive. Compare that to a consumer browsing an open air market, cash in hand, eager to buy something with every vendor focused on selling him what he wants. The consumer is all powerful and able to decide what best suits his needs, desires, and financial situation. If he fails to make a decision or makes the wrong choice, there isn't a widespread emergency like that exemplified by the recent EBT card snafu. When power is limited, damage is limited.
On the other hand, Guardians can bring power to the combined group because the overall goal is the same for all participants -- protect and maximize individual liberty by limiting government.

From fraud within the Lifeline phone program to the Clinton scandals, corruption is endemic from the bottom to the top. Government bureaucracy is a series of gatekeepers. People try to gain preferred access through contacts or political contributions. As bureaucracies grow, opportunities for corruption multiply. Legislation to control government corruption sends power to government as enforcer and opportunities for corruption increase even more. Corruption declines by simply returning power to the people. Forget motivation or theoretical desirability regarding a politician's agenda. What we consistently need to know is: where does the power flow?

Pigs breed corruption. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. summarized the trademark Kennedy lust in his diary, writing: "I have been given everything that I coveted -- a beautiful wife and kids and loving family, wealth, education, good health and a job I love yet always on the lookout for something I can't have. I want it all," he writes. "No matter how much I have -- I want more." It is human nature to want more and it is common sense that if you want power, you will seek it. Those who want power most will likely get it, focusing on obtaining more with Kennedy-style passion. Pigs at the top insure an ever expanding government and corruption as a by-product.

Some of the biggest Fools are businessmen. They mistake government for a business and believe no problem is insurmountable if they have absolute decision-making power. Mitt Romney exemplifies a power Fool. While running for president, he defended Romneycare by saying taxes increased only after he left office. It's foolish to think that things will never change once a system is implemented. Some day he would have to leave, even if he died at his desk. Did this never occur to him?

Fools and their appointees are often lost in a theoretical fantasy land. Take Alan Greenspan, for example. It was reported that his "biggest revelation came one day about a year ago when he was playing with gross domestic savings numbers. What he found, to his surprise and initial skepticism, was that an increase in entitlements has closely corresponded to a decline in the country's savings." Yes, Alan, taxing away what people earn to pay entitlements reduces what they have left to save.

Clinton's campaign in 1992 is famous for the saying "It's the economy, stupid." The saying itself is stupid because the economy is simply a sign of how a society is functioning. When you have widespread freedom you have widespread prosperity. Who holds the power determines how well a society functions. The power message is easy to remember and simple to apply to any situation, like the erosion of property rights by the EPA or planned confiscation of private wealth by the IMF. Both have a disproportionately adverse impact on the poor. Unlike attacking the idea of spreading the wealth around, wherein people erroneously think that Soros and Buffett are the only ones who will pay (like this Fool), everyone can easily understand power and recognize that they can lose it.

Another successful Leftist tactic is pivoting every discussion to their talking points. Conservatives should do the same and pivot every political discussion to an analysis of power flows.

While Mr. Prager accomplishes immense good with his understated approach to providing clarity through in-depth analysis, the hour is late and some believe that a coup d'etat of sorts has already happened. Even though he's successful at slowly changing minds, he's too easy to ignore. The conservative message of freedom needs to be carried as if on a desperate rescue mission of Titanic proportions. Instead of an easily missed perfectly appointed lifeboat, we need a gaudy brightly colored cruise ship with loud music and flashing lights.

If you're uncomfortable labeling people, then label their behavior as piggish or foolish. Let's pivot and talk power to reclaim our freedom because it's the power, stupid!

Jeanne C Minton is a retired financial executive and the author of Second Nature.