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John Adams Blog

The blog of The Antient and Honourable John Adams Society, Minnesota's Conservative Debating Society www.johnadamssociety.org

Saturday, April 30, 2005

It's the end of the world as we know it.

How I stay gorgeous.

More of this, and Western civilization is doomed.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

53% Favor Separate Quebec

Huge news! Recent Canadian government scandal involving government programs to counteract separatists in Quebec has backfired. 53% of citizens in Quebec now favor independence -- highest number in 7 years. We must pray for a peaceful dissolution of our socialist neighbor to the north. Can Minnesota be far behind?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Roof of No Roof?

This weekend's Minnesota Twins-Hennepin County stadium proposal contains no provision for a retractable roof. Personally, I think one is necessary in the unpredictable Minnesota climate. The question, though, is who should pay for it? I sense, and maybe our economists could help us out here, that the retractable roof may actually be an example of a good that would not be provided by the market -- but should be provided anyway. What do you think?

Blogger Craig Westover said...


10:24 AM, April 25, 2005  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

Economist here:

Most goods which are not provided by the market aren't provided because they shouldn't be provided. Government should step in only in those exceptions where the market doesn't provide a good which should be. The canonical case of this is where the good has a positive spillover - that is, where there is no way of capturing through market prices all the benefits of the good. I think there is a spillover to professional sports. I like having the Twins here even though I've never gone to a game. I like the idea that I could. So I am willing to go along with a small tax to partially subsidize a stadium. A retractable roof? Given that a normal stadium appears to be enough to keep the Twins in Minneapolis, I don't see the spillover associated with a retractable roof, and thus I don't see the rationale for government involvement.

10:33 AM, April 25, 2005  
Blogger MJNiemann said...

I suspect a review of average temperatures and rainfall (or snowfall) in the upper Midwest would reveal that a roof is unnecessary. A retractable roof on a baseball stadium is like a retractable roof on a car: that is, utterly superfluous and only a consideration if someone else is paying the bill. The uncovered ballparks in Chicago and (formerly) Milwaukee suffer no undue financial burdens from being open to imperfect weather. Furthermore, rainouts are a part of baseball. Players may dislike the doubleheaders caused by rainouts, but fans enjoy them. The owners don’t mind rainouts, but they shed tears to see a dreary or cold day, because they will lose at the gate. Attendance goes down with the temperature, typically. But recall that the baseball mausoleums in Seattle, Houston, here and elsewhere were demanded by professional team owners who claimed that no one would come to games when it was extremely hot, cold and/or wet. Now they are claiming that no one will come because the environment is too sterile.

The political process here has functioned admirably. Reviewing the political burlesques that have played out in Baltimore, Seattle and Milwaukee, no one can blame the Twins’ owner for bluffing that he would sell or move the team if he didn’t get a free Cadillac. The electorate simply called his bluff, sensing both that a baseball team is not something to cling to at any cost and that there aren’t a lot of markets out there to take a baseball team. Now, ownership will have to contribute, and what they will get is a nice Toyota. That strikes me as a good Minnesotan solution.

12:57 PM, April 29, 2005  

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Degrading Slavery

I am excited about the election of Pope Benedict XVI for many reasons, but one of them is because he is an intellectual, philosopher and theologican. I believe all religious and non-religious people should welcome the debate to come on social, moral and economic issues.

The late Pope John Paul II referred to reason as a privileged path to faith. It is true. Further, learned and educated people have a particular responsibility to be engaged in the forthcoming debate.

This debate, of course, will be among religious and non-religious. But, everyone has something to learn from the other. Catholics can learn a great deal from the experience of others. And, as G.K. Chesterton said, learning from the Catholic tradition can free a person from the degrading slavery of being a child of his own age.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Libertarian Fallacy

I have had a moment today to read some political magazines.

I think it's kind of funny to read libertarians these days when they write about things that are permanent and real as if they are not -- like the Roman Catholic papacy -- and then talk about things that are abstract and imaginary as if they were real -- like freedom without morality.

Libertarians, believe it or not, the Roman Catholic papacy has existed for 2,000 years. It is a fact.

Libertarians, believe it or not, there is no freedom without morality. It is also a fact.

Talk to any pastor or psychologist. Without morality, the mind becomes possessed with bad, wasteful and sinful habits which deprive us of freedom. Is a man truly free if he is consumed by laziness, lust, greed or gluttony? Man is only free when he can do what he ought to do!

Come now, come now, don't be so dumb now. Libertarians, wake up. Join the battle for the soul of America -- or at least choose sides.

Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

I don't understand SSC's continued insistence on corrupting our understanding of freedom by blurring the distinction between external and internal constraints.

If you go back to the Greek roots of the word freedom, it is clear that the opposite of freedom is slavery - being owned by another person. Not having one's passions rightly ordered does not make you owned by another person, unless your willing to say you are literally owned by Satan (in which case you've lost any ability to communicate with non-Christians).

If SSC's statement had been "there is no happiness without morality" I would agree. A man consumed by laziness, lust, greed or gluttony, absent external constraints, isn't unfree, he's unhappy. No is forcing him to lie around, fornicate, steal or eat. In fact, using words like freedom to describe a lack of character flaws, in my opinion, contributes to our society's unwillingness to hold anyone responsible for anything. "Honey, I can't help visiting prostitutes. I'm a sex addict!" (Yeah, that's the ticket.)

One can have freedom without morality. It just won't be used very well.

7:10 AM, April 24, 2005  
Blogger Craig Westover said...

"Man is only free when he can do what he ought to do!"

Am I right in assuming "what he ought to do" is act morally? That being the case he must judge "morally" against either standards or principles.

If he judges "morally" against standards, then is he freely making a moral judgement or is his action constrained by a standard that he dares not question?

If he judges morally based against some principle, then you need to define what that principle is beyond "what he ought to do."

If I am hungry, I ought to eat. Even if I feel desire, I ought not sleep with a prostitute. I agree, but can you tell me what principle rationalizes those two decisions and makes them what "I ought to do?"

10:36 AM, April 25, 2005  
Blogger ssc said...

You libertarians are funny - only dealing with half the argument. Two points. First, if a moral-less liberty is so real in the libertarian's minds, how can a libertarian deny the papacy's claims. There is more evidence of the historical Jesus and apostolic succession than evidence of your moral-less liberty ever working for the common good. Second, perhaps, I assume too much in that libertians want a liberty that would serve the common good. Or wouldn't your relativist sides care -- a liberty that serves our common destruction is equally good to a liberty that serves the common good.
Libertarians (or economists) have to pick between two goals: the common good or our common destruction. If they can't, they are simply relativists -- neither libertarians nor economists.

1:26 AM, April 28, 2005  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...


I don't want to speak for Craig here, but the reason I didn't address the "libertarians don't think the papacy is real" issue is I honestly have no idea what the hell you are talking about. What libertarian has ever said that the papacy wasn't real or that Jesus isn't a historical figure?

9:27 AM, April 28, 2005  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...


Perhaps I'm being too literal. When you write "freedom without virtue is impossible" I assumed you meant categorically. It is also possible you meant "freedom without virtue will not long be maintained." That is, without virtue, those with freedom will almost certianly not be able to keep up the system that allowed the freedom in the first place. If this is the case, I agree completely.

11:53 AM, April 28, 2005  
Blogger Craig Westover said...

In this case, Chris may speak for me -- "What libertarian has ever said that the papacy wasn't real or that Jesus isn't a historical figure?"

Now, I'm sure some have, but not this one.

The point I'm making is that government is not the proper mechanism for instilling individual morality into society.

A choice between the "common good" and "common destruction" is a false dichotomy.

Imposed (as by force) morality is neither common nor good. It is to the benefit of those whose morality is imposed at the expense of those it is imposed upon.

Individual morality, which (again in his second post, Chris states nicely) imposed by (indiivdual) rational self-interest, promotes the common good -- even those who do not accept it benefit by the stability of the society it creates.

12:54 PM, May 02, 2005  
Blogger ssc said...

To my good friends and all my brothers and sisters --
Let's keep it simple then. You have a choice between the common good and common destruction. The common good would be aided by a bill of responsibilities (aspirations really) by which adults would behave, parents would raise their children and children wouild grow up to be responsible adults. The common destruction would be caused by a bill of rights (again aspirations really) by which adults were encouraged to act like children, parents do not raise their children and the children act like irresponsible adults. Which do you choose?

Freedom without virtue is vice.

11:42 PM, May 02, 2005  
Blogger Craig Westover said...

I haven't had to make a choice like that since Jerry Sikorski was my congressman and he sent me a survey asking if I'd rather have my tax dollars go to educating children or building bombs to drop on peaceful villages.

But, here's a way you could sort of to put your plan into action -- but you're not going to like it.

First, get government out of the marriage business, put sacremental marriage back into the churches where it belongs and divorce it from anything having to do with the state. Getting married in a church gives you absolutely no standing with the state whatsoever, but if you're maried in the eyes of God, does that matter?

On the state side implement civil unions between two people. Because civil unions are voluntary, as long as they are not discriminatory, you can legislatively make them as draconian as you want.

Disolve a civil union -- there's a financial penalty plus you can't form another civil union for "X" years. A civil union doesn't become effective for one year after application.

You pick the responsibilities you want to include -- you're just going to have to balance them with benefits (which taxpayers are on the hook for) that make a civil union attractive.

Yes, freedom without virtue is vice, but virtue without freedom is not virtue, it is merely the corerced absence of vice.

Let me ask, who is the more virtuous -- he who resists temptation (as did Christ in the Wilderness) or he who feels no temptation?

1:22 PM, May 03, 2005  
Blogger ssc said...

Dear Mr. Westover and others who are reading this friendly and respectful dialogue:


First, you changed the topic. I accept that as a concession and move on.

Second, you were right that I don't like your idea -- mainly because it is not libertarian.

As to governmental regulation of marriage, let's again offer two alternatives: the common good and common destruction. Working for the common good would mean long-term stable marriages because these tend to lead to happier spouses and better-educated, better-mannered and better-fed children. Working for the common destruction would be unstable marriages and children born-out-of-wedlock because these lead to unhappy spouses, single mothers and worse-educated, poor-mannered and less well-fed children. (Rightly or wrongly, an affluent state's typical response to this state of common destruction is a social welfare system.)

If you would define the common good and common destruction in different ways, please let's start there. But, I move on . . .

As to your proposal, I think it is glib -- semantics aside -- civil unions are, for all intents and purposes, marriage. Nothing in the proposal recommends the common good. Rather, it appears driven by some form of egalatarianism to include gay marriage or other forms of marriage as equal to life-long, legally-bindig marriage. Boring.

Further, it actually expands the size of government and the court system by complicating the divorce issues by having multiple, different kinds of marriages -- some of which the government would consider in the context of divorce proper and some not (the opposite of your intended effect).

I think your proposal tends toward the common destruction. By watering down marriage -- particularly in its procreative sense -- you discredit and destablize marriage leading to less-educated, less-mannered and less well-fed children. On this issue, you appear to be with Congressman Sikorski.

Lastly, you can put a banana in your ear and call it eating -- but it's still not eating.

For a libertarian idea, consider if the United States permitted ecclesiastical courts to be officially established. The Roman Catholic church already has such tribunals in every American dioceses. In fact, JAS member Rev. Mr. Nathan Allen is a judge of the St. Paul - Minneapolis tribunal. Engaged couples would -- similar to commercial arbitration agreements under the Federal Arbitration Act -- agree to waive jurisdiction of civil courts in favor of the ecclesiastical courts. But, most importantly -- and distinguishing it from your proposal -- the ecclesiastical courts would have jurisdiction over marriage, divorce, divorce settlement and post-dissolution child support/alimony/etc. So, the government and its courts would not at the divorce end have an opportunity to review the choices that the couples made at the front end. Freedom.

The positive benefit of this approach would be the availablility of an authentic, legally-binding, life-long marriage if one wanted one. This in turn would lead to more stable marriages, better-educated, better-mannered and better-fed children.

And for my libertarian friends who think such a world would be no fun at all -- there's still adultery.

Best regards.

2:16 AM, May 04, 2005  
Blogger Craig Westover said...

You write --

“You have a choice between the common good and common destruction. The common good would be aided by a bill of responsibilities (aspirations really) by which adults would behave, parents would raise their children and children would grow up to be responsible adults. The common destruction would be caused by a bill of rights (again aspirations really) by which adults were encouraged to act like children, parents do not raise their children and the children act like irresponsible adults. Which do you choose?”

And then write --

“First, you changed the topic. I accept that as a concession and move on.”

The “expansion” of the topic is hardly a concession. I simply cannot answer a “have you stopped beating your wife yet” question in any meaningful way. You have not established that a bill or responsibilities would necessarily create the effect you desire nor that a bill of rights would necessarily cause the destruction that you fear. There is a connection between neither cause and neither effect.

For every Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed by license (which is quite a stretch from a bill of rights) there is a Sparta and a Third Reich destroyed by a rigid code of responsibilities (which is not that big a stretch). Even a thought experiment has to be logically testable.

Relating to your second definition of the common good, I accept your definitions as majoritarian values, but not totalitarian values -- in other words it would be good for society if the significant majority of families were stable, indeed if all families were stable. It would not be in the best interest of society if all families were coerced into a authoritarian-defined stability so that a minority would not fall into instability.

Civil unions are not driven by egalitarianism, which is the notion that outcomes must be equal. It is driven by equality before the law, which says that a law must apply equally to all citizens. That is far more than a semantic distinction.

As to expanding the size of government -- it’s not the size of your government that counts, but how you use it. Government does not have a limited size, it has limited powers. Its proper size is that necessary to execute its limited powers. Protecting and ensuring equality before the law is one such legitimate power.

My proposal does not water down marriage. It actually strengths the definition of marriage. Today, one can hop a plane to Las Vegas and get married by a guy dressed like an alien. What I propose is that marriage be returned to the churches where it remains a holy sacrament and a commitment to God, the partner, and the community of faith.

In fact, that would open the door to your ecclesiastical court system. For those people who freely opted for it, government and its courts would not at the divorce end have an opportunity to review the choices that the couples made at the front end. Great.

But here’s the rub. Not all people will freely choose that form of marriage. Therefore you are left with one of two options if you agree it is important to maintain equality before the law.

A) The government gets totally out of the marriage/civil union business and there are no inherent legal rights conferred by ecclesiastical marriage outside the church. In other words, all couples would face what same-sex couples face today. No state benefits such as tax breaks; a lawyer would have to be hired to ensure that where the couple met the state, e.g. making decisions about a spouse’s health care, proper legal authority was in place.

Or . . . .

B) There is a civil equivalent for those that wish it through which partnership rights are conferred. Those opting for ecclesiastical marriage would still need to have a civil “contract” that defined civilly conferred benefits and obligations.

My proposal is form B, into which your concept fits quite nicely.

As to adultery -- as Emmanuelle asked in that classic philosophical study “Emmanuelle in the Far East,” “Is it adultery if you do cheat on your husband with another woman?”

6:01 PM, May 04, 2005  

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005


The John Adams Society

April 20, 2005

A conservative ought to be a pessimist, at least about human nature, human society, and the prospects for improving them. – John Derbyshire

IN FREE TO CHOOSE, Milton Friedman pointed out that the 1928 platform of the Socialist Party of America is pretty much all government reality now. And that was twenty years ago. Since then, a Republican Administration and Congress has enacted an enormous new health care entitlement and federalized large portions of elementary and secondary education, all while being called, and believed by many to actually be, the most right wing cabal the world has ever seen.

And the outlook is worse. In nearly every other developed country, America’s Republican party would be considered a right wing fringe group, and its Democratic party right-of-center. Our youth face a constant barrage of leftist propaganda from their teachers and the popular media. To believe we can resist this tide is folly.

ON THE OTHER HAND, leftism is intellectually dead. They see only defeatism abroad and defense of the static quo at home. They have no ideas and no debates, (where is their John Adams Society?). The College Republicans are booming, articulate, energetic and peaceful, while campus leftists are shrill, pie-throwing slobs. And our side has better looking women, a leading political indicator if there ever was one.

THE CHAIRMAN, who rarely sees a half empty glass for long, has called for a debate to settle the question:


The Debate will be held on Wednesday, April 20, 2005 at the University Club, 420 Summit Avenue, in Saint Paul. The Chancellor will preside over drinks beginning at seven o'clock p.m. The debate will begin at half past seven. While there is no dress code for attendance, gentlemen who wish to speak must wear a tie; ladies should adhere to a similar sartorial standard. For those gentlemen who arrive tieless yet wish to speak, fret not: the Purveyor of Ties will keep on hand at least one of his quite remarkable ties for just such an eventuality. Questions about debate caucus procedures or about the John Adams Society itself may be directed to the Chairman at 612-709-1168 or the Secretary at (612) 204-5615.


Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

If you missed this debate you missed a good one. The Resolution failed on a tie vote. However, there was great debate on both sides. Although, I am not yet convinced that the Republican party as a Marxist/Leninist offshoot as was argued by one of the members.

More later....

9:13 AM, April 21, 2005  
Blogger Craig Westover said...

I was frankly surprised by the timidity of faith in conservatism shown by some speakers on both sides of the resolution and the willingness of some to let society’s snap-shot definitions of conservatism determine the health of the (supposedly) non-relative essence of “true” conservative beliefs.

What is frightening is that timidity of faith in one’s beliefs is what causes one to legislate one’s values rather than live them. This is why I believe conservatism, while it has not peaked, has plateaued. It is hard to attract people to conservatism if its proponents have so little faith in its principles that it must legislate them rather than demonstrate them.

Today’s conservative thinks that to preserve his ability to live like a conservative, he must rule like a liberal.

I see little difference between the liberal whine that economic inequality and racial and sexual discrimination make social justice impossible (therefore we must curtail economic freedom and impose equality) and the whine I heard from some that liberal bias in the media and secularization of society means that conservatism had peaked (therefore we need to formally instill conservative values of faith through political power).

Conservatism -- the non-relative kind that has courage of its conviction and uses new experience to exercise its conviction -- has not peaked. The striving for individual freedom is too strong in the souls of men to ever peak. All conservatism lacks is supporters with the courage to not only live like conservatives, but rule like conservatives -- that is with minimal economic and social influence on the lives of others.

2:38 PM, April 21, 2005  

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

News Flash: The Pope is Catholic

Can you believe the audacity of this Ratzinger/Benedict guy?

Unlike every pope before him, he seems to actually believe that everyone should become a Catholic, and that other religions, even other Christian religions, are deficient. That is, this guy seems to believe the Church is the Chuch. The nerve! (Oh wait! All the other popes said the same thing too).

Unlike every other pope before him, he thinks the Church doesn’t have the authority to ordain women. (Oh wait! Whoops again. It seems all the other popes said the same thing here again as well.)

Ok, but what about sex? Surely he’s the first pope to be against gay sex, fornication and artificial birth control? (Man! Wrong again.)

(Sarcasm off).

Overall, I'm not surprised at the animosity of liberal Catholics toward Ratzinger/Benedict. He has always been their boogyman. But I am amazed at the level of feeling non-Catholics have about him. I couldn’t care less who is made the (Anglican) Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the World Council of Churches or the (Orthodox) Patriarchsof Moscow or Constantinople.
Seriously, why is this any of their business?

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

These so called "Catholics" should stop complaining. All night the talk shows blistered with liberals complaining that the new pope won't accept abortion or allow woman priests. If they are so upset they should go and become a protestant...start their own church and stop complaining...that's what Luther did. Perhaps they can adopt Mao's little red book as a substitute to the Bible. I am sure Mao was all for abortion and he solved the priest problem by banning them all together (which would be perfectly acceptable to liberals.)

8:38 AM, April 20, 2005  

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Monday, April 18, 2005

Papal Game Theory

The basic premise behind game theory is that if you understand the rules of the game, you can predict the outcome. This implies, of course, that if the rules change, the outcome can change.
It is often mentioned that in recent history, papal conclaves have lasted, on average, 1 to 3 days. But JPII changed the rules, so this average is no longer relevant.

In particular, now, after 2 weeks of voting, a simple majority can vote to make only a simple majority necessary to become pope. If it really is the case that Ratzinger has a majority but not two-thirds of the vote going into the conclave, (as the Italian press has reported) and if these votes are solid, (two big ifs) I see no reason for this clique not to simply wait out the two weeks. Further, if the other side knows this, I see no reason for them to continue to vote against a man who is going to become pope. My prediction: the next few days will be black smoke as the sides try to figure out if the Ratzinger votes are solid and a majority. If so, then Ratzinger will be pope after a few days. In any event, the more black smoke the better for Ratzinger. He has the biggest block and after two weeks, the bar gets lower.

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

I am bowing to your greatness. Will you be my financial planner?

12:57 PM, April 19, 2005  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

Will you do my (overdue) taxes?

2:18 PM, April 19, 2005  

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Unreliable Sources

On Friday, the Judicial Council of the Second Circuit let stand a public apology by U.S. Court of Appeals Circuit Judge Guido Calabresi, without any further sanction, for remarks made by the Judge about President Bush and the Bush Administration. At a June 2004 seminar of the American Constitutional Society, Judge Calabresi compared President Bush's rise to power with that of Hitler and Mussolini, and decried the Bush Administration's “extraordinary level of incompetence at any number of levels.”

Likewise interesting was the Judicial Council's conclusion that there was a lack of evidence of misconduct relating to remarks attributed to Judge Calabresi's wife, at or around the same time. The Associated Press reported that Anne Tyler Calabresi joined a group of 50 others protesting a visit by President Bush to Connecticut. The article notes that Mrs. Calabresi “was protesting on behalf of herself and her husband, 2nd Circuit Judge Guido Calabresi, a Yale graduate and former dean of the Yale School of Law. ‘I'm profoundly worried about the way this country is going,’ she said. ‘And I'm furious about the lies George Bush has told to us again and again. He has led us into a war that is destroying our reputation around the world and creating implacable enemies around the world that we didn't have one year ago.’”

Despite the Associated Press report, there is real doubt that Mrs. Calabresi said these things. In the quote that is attributed to her there isn't even one comparison of President Bush to a fascist dictator....