Fleeing to (and Preserving) Freedom

Monday’s edition of Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day on Ballotpedia listed the sixteen States that lost population in 2020.  That’s significant as it will likely affect the apportionment of congressional districts in a number of States, depending on how rapidly other States’ populations grew relative to these States’ shrinkage.

Seven of the States were in New England of the Mid-Atlantic:  Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.  The other nine were California, Michigan, Ohio, Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia.

While I certainly don’t like seeing Southern States in that list (I’ll consider West Virginia “honorarily Southern”), their inclusion makes sense.  Mississippi is a great State, as I imagine West Virginia is, too, but they’re not exactly hotbeds of opportunity.  Similarly, Louisiana is so corrupt, it’s little wonder that it’s shedding inhabitants.

The rest of these States make perfect sense:  New England and the Mid-Atlantic are hotbeds of failed progressive policies and social justice insanity.  Reading photog’s posts at Orion’s Cold Fire gives a good sense for the besieged nature of conservatives in his State, Massachusetts.  I once spoke with a pharmacist who relocated his family from either Connecticut or Vermont—I can’t quite remember now—who said he had to move South because he was run out of his job for not supporting abortion.

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More Mountain Musings

I made it back from my weekend trip to the mountains near Burnsville, North Carolina.  I slammed that SubscribeStar Saturday post out after being up since 5:30 AM, two hundred miles of driving, and a full day of family fun in Asheville, so I skimped on some details, even if I hit the main points I wanted to address.

It was a very rushed trip, with my girlfriend and I departing around 11 AM Sunday to take in some sights before rushing back to prepare for our busy workweeks.  We managed to spend a little time in Burnsville, which is named for Captain Otway Burns, a sailor and hero of the War of 1812.  A statue of Captain Burns, erected in 1909, stands in the town square, with an inscription that reads, “He Guarded Well Our Seas, Let Our Mountains Honor Him.”

From there, we headed into the mountains, eventually reaching the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Our destination was Mount Mitchell State Park, which provides easy access to the summit of Mount Mitchell.  Mount Mitchell is the highest peak in the Appalachian Mountains, and the highest in the eastern continental United States.

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TBT: Family Matters Follow-Up Part I: Divorce and Marriage; Sex Education

Happy Valentine’s Day!  To celebrate the Day of Love, here’s a #TBT about the collapse of the American family and divorce.  This piece was a follow-up to one of my most popular posts on the old site, “Family Matters.”  I received a ton of feedback on that post (in those days, I posted everything to my personal Facebook page, but that was before it became completely unpleasant to be a conservative online—Trump was elected that November and it became much more dangerous to espouse conservative ideas on Facebook), including lots of questions about divorce and such.

Most of those comments fell into the anecdotal, “well, ACTUALLY” range—“what you’re saying is true, but here’s my one exception that I think undermines the general trend.”  Yes, yes—of course there are rare instances in which divorce is preferable to sticking it out, like violent abuse.  That said, we should generally support preserving marriage and discouraging divorce.

So, enjoy your Valentine’s Day with this lengthy rumination on divorce, marriage, and sex education:

Last Friday I wrote a post entitled “Family Matters” about the decline of the traditional family in the United States and the West, which I called “our true national and civilizational crisis.”  To my surprise, the post was very well-received and popular.  To date, it is the second-most read blog post on the site, and I look for it to eclipse the most-read entry, “American Values, American Nationalism.”  It certainly shattered single-day records for The Portly Politico.

It also garnered quite a bit of discussion on my Facebook page, where I always share links to these posts.  There was a great deal of excellent discussion, including questions for clarification on some points.  People also shared some of their personal experiences with matters of family and what sorts of arrangements work and in what circumstances.

As such, I thought I’d dedicate today and Wednesday’s posts to following up on some of the comments, questions, and observations I received.  I do so to facilitate further discussion and to help clear up any confusion about some of my contentions.

(Note:  As I wrote this post, I decided to split it into [at least] two parts.  Wednesday’s portion will deal with questions about same-sex couples and the impact of the Great Society upon black families.)

– Divorce:  I did not mention divorce at all in Friday’s post, but many of the comments I received dealt with this painful scenario.  Certainly, no picture of the decline of the traditional family is complete without a discussion of dissolved unions.

With roughly 50% of marriages ending in divorce, the model of the stable, two-parent family is further threatened, although increasingly families are forming outside of formal marriage.  Neither of these scenarios is ideal.  The rate of divorce naturally increased in the twentieth century in part because divorces became easier to obtain, especially with the rise and success of the women’s suffrage and rights movements.

The relative legal ease of acquiring a divorce, however, does not tell the full story.  Divorce also increased because of increasingly relaxed attitudes about marriage and family formation.  As the single working mother morphed from an object of sympathy into a perverse ideal–and as social signals and laws increasingly downplayed the importance of fathers and privileged mothers–both men and women came to see marriage as less of an institution and more of a formality.

“[Parents]… should make a good-faith effort to raise their children in a stable home, and to spare them the misery, confusion, and familial turmoil of divorce.”

As several commenters noted, sometimes divorce is, sadly, the better option, such as when a spouse is abusive.  I suspect many such unfortunate unions take place precisely because we’ve come to take marriage (and love) so lightly.  The erosion of a broad, common set of cultural and religious values could also play a role, as more and more “oxen” are unevenly “yoked,” creating deep tensions within relationships.

Of course, marriage is hugely complicated, and couples part way for many reasons (usually money).  However, it does seem that, absent abuse, infidelity, or criminality, couples with children should make a good-faith effort to raise their children in a stable home, and to spare them the misery, confusion, and familial turmoil of divorce.

Marriage, after all, is–or, at least, should be–a serious obligation entered into by two sober-minded adults with shared values and principles.  Of course, actual human relationships tend to be messy even in the most ideal of circumstances, but a proper focus on the point of marriage–two people coming together as one in the presence of God–would go a long way to help realign and heal struggling marriages.

 “Marriage, after all, is… a serious obligation entered into by two sober-minded adults with shared values and principles.”

– Sex Education:  One friend argued that we need more sex education in schools, as well as free birth control for young people to prevent unwanted pregnancies.  While I believe that abstinence is the best method of birth control to emphasize, I’m enough of a realist to know that teenagers find particular joy in doing what they’re told not to do.

The problem I see is two-fold:  first, we already provide sex education in most public high schools throughout the United States; second, the call for more sex education and access to contraceptives merely demonstrate the crisis of the family I’ve noted.

The proper realm for sex education is the home.  The popular media has perpetuated the myth that parents don’t talk to their children about the pitfalls of premarital sex because they’re uncomfortable or prudish, so the schools have to do it to prevent millions of unplanned pregnancies.

The problem, rather, is that so many children are growing up in homes without proper parental guidance, they’re missing out on important lessons about sex, marriage, and family.  Absent fathers aren’t there to teach their children that it’s wrong to get a woman pregnant and then to leave her.  Sex outside of the framework or expectation of marriage becomes devoid of any larger sense of responsibility.

 “[S]o many children are growing up in homes without proper parental guidance, they’re missing out on important lessons about sex, marriage, and family.”

Therefore, teachers have had to take on yet another responsibility that should rest primarily, if not solely, with parents.  Add to this lack of parental involvement the glorification of sex in the media and the general “if-it-feels-good-do-it” philosophy of postmodern America, and you have a recipe for moral disaster.

It’s unfortunate that schools have had to adopt this responsibility, at it suggests a massive decline in the understanding of what parents are supposed to do for their children.

To the point about free birth control in schools, I’ve never really understood this argument.  I understand that the logic goes, “it’s worth taxpayers’ money because it prevents the births of children who would become wards of the state; therefore, it’s ultimately more cost-effective.”  But many forms of birth control are incredibly cheap and readily available.  There’s no compelling argument for why the government should force taxpayers to pay for a box of condoms for high school students.

As far as the birth control pill for girls, it’s actually Republicans who want to make it available over-the-counter, which would further drive down the cost and allow young women experiencing shame or uncertainty to obtain it more easily.

 “[P]roviding birth control pills to minors through public schools introduces a host of sticky constitutional and legal concerns….”

Most importantly, providing birth control pills to minors through public schools introduces a host of sticky constitutional and legal concerns, the biggest being, “what if a family’s faith forbids the use of contraceptives”?  A devout, traditional Catholic, for example, would no-doubt object to being forced to pay for birth control for his daughter and the daughters of strangers.  He would likewise experience a crisis being required to purchase condoms for his or others sons.

Just because most people–including, apparently, most Catholics–are morally comfortable using traditional birth control and contraceptive methods doesn’t mean that we should make those who disagree pay for it.  The need to fund contraceptives becomes even less pressing when the low cost is considered.  Why cause an unnecessary, stressful crisis of faith for millions just to save a kid a quarter on a gas station rubber?

At this point, I would agree with my friend that, unfortunately, schools do have to take some role in sex education, especially given the increased likelihood children won’t receive it at home, since the traditional family unit is on the decline.  If private non-profit organizations want to provide additional information or free contraceptives, no worries–there’s no infringement upon religious liberty via official coercion.  Additionally, schools should stress the moral and financial obligations of parents to their children, especially in those communities where good role models are lacking.

Unfortunately, another government program to hand out free condoms is not a lasting solution to a problem that is one of the soul, not of the pocketbook.  Let civil society address these problems (perhaps with a revival of the good, old-fashioned shotgun wedding).

***
These are certainly thorny problems, and I fully recognize that as a single, never-married man I don’t possess the same perspective as, say, a married couple of twenty years or a divorcee.  Nevertheless, I reject the notion that a lack of personal experience disqualifies one from the discussion (even while acknowledging that personal experience often provides a great deal of clarity).  Besides, I’ve witnessed first-hand the power of strong marriages and stable families.  Indeed, I’m the beneficiary of one such union.

Finally, I appreciate lively (and civil) feedback and discussion, and I look forward to expanding further on this topic on Wednesday.

Babes for Trump

We’ve all heard how President Trump struggles to gain support among women, and the clucking classes of SJW harpies certainly exert an out-sized influence on our politics. Feel-good, soft-Left Oprah-ites in tony suburbs represent a larger threat to Trumpism and Making America Great Again than even the boundless seas of lawless, Third World immigrants, at least in the short term.

That said, there is encouraging news: President Trump enjoys a 93% approval rating among Republican women, the Wall Street Journal reports. That bodes well for the President going forward. It also suggests that, contra the radical feminists, women are not motivated politically just by their sex, but that their views, like men’s, are shaped by a plethora of factors.

Readers will recall then-Governor Mitt Romney’s support from married women in the 2012 election. In essence, married women were more likely to support Romney, while unmarried women of the same age were more likely to support President Obama. That the number of young, unmarried women is on the rise—as is the tragic trend towards single motherhood—presents a problem for conservatives, one that has to be addressed culturally before it can be addressed politically.

In the meantime, though, it’s good to know that there are plenty of babes for Trump out there. No doubt the president’s masculine alpha-ness helps.

Numbers Don’t Lie – The Electoral College

Pollster Scott Rasmussen writes a brief, daily post for Ballotpedia called “Number of the Day.”  It’s an excellent, bite-sized chunk o’ statistical knowledge that gives an enlightening view of our nation from one of America’s great polltakers.

Monday’s “Number of the Day” was “49.5% of the U.S. Population Will Live in Eight States by 2040“—and continued with a discussion of the Electoral College.

For the unfamiliar, the Electoral College takes a lot of heat, usually from progressives (and especially so since President Trump won the 2016 election in the Electoral College, but lost the popular vote by margin of some millions).  There have been multiple attempts to abolish the Electoral College throughout American history, with the most successful effort coming after Richard Nixon’s electoral victory in 1968 (of course, that effort failed—fortunately).  Critics argue that the institution is “undemocratic,” as it seems to violate the principle of “one person, one vote.”

Fortunately, the Framers of the Constitution were wise enough to realize the pitfalls of popular democracy, which they believed devolved into mob rule and, ultimately, tyranny (see also:  the French Revolution), and also anticipated the dangers of a small group of urban voters being able to swing presidential elections at the expense of voters in rural States.

It is precisely this fear that Rasmussen’s demographic data highlights.  Rasmussen writes that nearly half of the nation’s population will live in one of eight States by 2040:  California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Illinois, and North Carolina.  That means that, in a popular system, those States could nearly swing a presidential election themselves.

Some readers might object that those voters are not uniform, and a popular vote would put a State like Wyoming more into play (as those ~600,000 voters—projected to be around 688,000 in 2040), but that assumes a level of individuality that, while attractive to the libertarian-minded, is not realistic.

Rural sections of the country have different goals, values, and concerns than urban centers.  A State with one or more major metropolitan areas would dominate national politics.

Rasmussen touches on this dynamic in Congress, too.  Currently, large States enjoy a huge advantage in the House of Representatives, the most “democratic” chamber at the federal level.  Small States, on the other hand, possess greater leverage in the Senate, where every State gets two Senators, regardless of population.  California—with its fifty-three Congressmen—can run roughshod over Wyoming in the House, but California’s Senators have the same clout as Wyoming’s two.

In essence, then, the different sections of the country have to reach some level of compromise to accomplish anything.  Rural States have to throw urban States a bone to get legislation passed in the House, and urban States have to support some rural State measures.

Indeed, this is largely how the farm bill and food stamps get passed:  rural Republicans vote for food stamps for the urban poor, and urban Democrats vote for corn subsidies for rural farmers.

That’s all Civics 101, but, as Dr. Samuel Johnson wrote, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”

A final thought:  what happens when rural-urban compromise breaks down?  The values of the rural portions of the country—chiefly the South and Midwest—are increasingly at odds with the values of the bicoastal elites and their scattered archipelago of continental metropolises.  In that case, shouldn’t we throw out the system, as we’ll just get gridlock?

To quote the Apostle Paul, “God forbid!”  That divide highlights the necessity of separation of powers.  I’d rather not have a demiqueer otherkin alternative poetess-programmer (that’s the most ridiculous caricature I could conjure up) and xyr pansexual two-spirited Wookie life-mate ramming ultra-leftist progressive policies up my butt like a hamster at their next vegan pottery party, just as I’m sure the Wookie life-mates wouldn’t want me dictating my rustic Biblical morality to them (but, just so we’re clear, you people have lost your way).

The only major threat, as I see it, is that Congress has so abdicated its responsibility to the executive branch and its unelected bureaucracy of careerist swamp creatures, that we could see the further rise of executive overreach.  That’s why progressives howl at the moon in protest to President Trump—they think he’s going to wield the sword of executive power against them the way President Obama did against us.

But with the Deep State so ensconced in our national life, I sometimes fear that we’re living in pre-Augustusean times.  In the meantime, let us hope President Trump can correct the course; that Congress will once again jealously guard its prerogatives; and that the Electoral College stands for centuries to come.

Surf’s Up

Demographer and statistician Steve Sailer has a book review (“Surfer Privilege” at Taki’s Magazine) of war correspondent William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life.  It’s about Finnegan’s idyllic youth in Southern California and Hawaii at a time when a working-class Irish family could afford real estate in some of the United States’ most desirable zip codes, while also supporting four children (Finnegan’s father worked in television, but was a pump jockey at a gas station upon first moving to Los Angeles; he could purchase a house and support his wife and child on that salary).

I recommend reading the book review linked above, as it contains classic Sailerean demographic analysis.  The real estate opportunities accessible to working- and middle-class Americans in the 1950s and 1960s are truly astonishing, and Sailer argues that, if you were born in 1946, the world was your oyster (Sailer was born in 1952, which he argues was also a pretty good year to enter into this world).

The real estate analysis rings true.  I’m 33 and earn a modest income as a history and music teacher at a small private school in rural South Carolina, which I supplement with adjunct teaching at a local technical college and with private music lessons (as well as the occasional music gig).  I’m also an extreme budgeter and put a significant chunk of my earnings into retirement accounts (IRAs and a 403(b) through my employer), and I drive a twelve-year old Dodge minivan.  While I live like a king compared to most people in human history, I still rent a little cottage and don’t support any dependents, much less a wife.  I’ll probably work hard for most of my life (though my long-term retirement planning should pay off over the course of decades; I’m definitely “getting rich slowly”), and I’m not counting on Social Security being around when I hit 70.

Had I been born when my parents were, I’d probably have a house, a wife, four kids, a pension, and a convertible, earning six figures in “consulting.”

I’m not complaining.  I highly value hard work, and I don’t think demography is always destiny (just look at all the miserable, divorced Boomers who are trying to figure out what went wrong).  I believe God has a purpose for us, and we live in our respective time for a reason (not that I haven’t, at times, experienced a sense of dislocation from our current era).

But Sailer’s demographic analysis of the period under consideration—a time that was so safe and prosperous, a kid could spend thousands of hours surfing and his parents didn’t much worry about him—is compelling, and points to long-term problems endemic in our culture today, such as mass immigration, an overly-rosy view of diversity, and idealistic subjectivism.

The Boomer generation was blessed to ride a long wave of economic prosperity and expansion.  As a product of the Great Recession, I’m growing more optimistic that future generations will enjoy similar gains.  I’m also cautiously hopeful that economic growth can prevent the unfortunate Millennial tendency toward idealizing socialism.

Hopefully, we’ll all be able to say “surf’s up!” again soon.