TBT: Phone it in Friday XI: Coronavirus Conundrum, Part IV: Liberty in the Age of The Virus

Earlier this week I was having a conversation with someone on Milo’s rollicking Telegram chat, in which we were trying to figure out the name of a short story involving people living in underground cells, communicating only via the Internet.  I had a feeling I had written about it before, but could not remember the name of the story.

Turns out it was E.M. Forster’s novella “The Machine Stops,” originally published in 1909, and I wrote about it in this catch-all post from the early days of The Age of The Virus (so early, in fact, I was not capitalizing the first “the” in that moniker, which I have texted so much, my last phone auto-predicted “The Age of The Virus”).  I compared the story to Kipling’s “The Mother Hive”–a story that apparently is assigned regularly in India, because pageviews for it always seem to coincide with large numbers of site visitors from the subcontinent.

But I digress.  The story sounded eerily like what our elites asked us to do during The Age of The Virus:  stay home, get fat, consume mindless entertainment, and don’t socialize.  Granted, some of us could go outside and plant gardens (I still got fat, though), but the messaging was not “become more self-sufficient so we can mitigate disaster” but “buy more stuff and don’t do anything fun.”  It was depressing to me how many people embraced this line of reasoning, turning government-mandated sloth into some kind of perverted virtue.

I appreciated the break that The Age of The Virus afforded us, but it came with the severe curtailment of liberty—and Americans ate it up!  Instead of people boldly throwing ravers and partying down, laughing at our elites, we instead retreated into our hovels, shuddering in the dark.  When I did through a big Halloween bash, it was a massive success—because, I suppose, people had finally had it.

I guess that’s the silver lining.  With that, here’s 3 April 2020’s “Phone it in Friday XI: Coronavirus Conundrum, Part IV: Liberty in the Age of The Virus” (perhaps the longest title of any blog post ever):

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Let’s Get Biblical: The Wisdom of Exodus 22

This past Sunday we had a guest speaker at church, a pastor with a children’s home ministry.  The ministry began with a home in southwestern Virginia, and has expanded to an orphanage in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca, Mexico.  Both children’s homes are in poor, mountainous communities—the former the region where my late great-grandmother lived.  Both orphanages do amazing work with the kids, combining work (like gardening, feeding donkeys, and the like) with play—even a band!

In giving his talk about the ministry, the guest pastor referenced a few passages of Scripture.  Aside from the famous passage from Matthew 19:14 in which Jesus told the disciples to “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven,” the pastor also referenced Exodus 22:22-24, which deals with how widows and orphans are to be treated:

22You must not mistreat any widow or orphan. 23If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to Me in distress, I will surely hear their cry. 24My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword; then your wives will become widows and your children will be fatherless.

It’s a pretty powerful passage, and a reminder that God doesn’t mess around with sin, especially against the weakest and most defenseless.  We like to think that God has “mellowed out” since sending Jesus to die for our sins, but that’s dangerously wishful thinking.  God doesn’t change, and His Wrath is still mighty.

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Belated SubscribeStar Saturday: Back into the Arena Again

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

This post was meant to be published on Saturday, 17 July 2021, but I was out of town without Internet.  Apologies to subscribers for the delay.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a detailed update on Lamar Town Council.  Lamar is really a wonderful town, and a great place to live; we’re just experiencing a number of strains that are typical for a small town with an aging population.  Even so, Lamar is uniquely poised for a renaissance, given its proximity to I-20 and the major population centers in the region.

That said, there are some systemic problems that are making that renewal more difficult.  Progress is being made to address each of these problems in turn, but it’s slow and often piecemeal.  That’s no criticism of the fine people who work for the Town—they’re doing quite well—but it’s indicative of the kinds of pressures on time and resources the town is experiencing.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

TBT: Leftism in a Nutshell

In looking at the inflationary effects of so many people staying out of work on unemployment, I’d completely forgotten about this short post from 1 June 2019, “Leftism in a Nutshell.”  The post looks at the “degrowth movement,” a movement that sought “to intentionally shrink the economy to address climate change.”

Well, the degrowth movement—which I have not heard of since 2019—had the chance to try out their deranged economic experiment in 2020 during The Age of The Virus.  It turns out that fewer people working doesn’t mean “not as many brands at the grocery store”; it just means less of everything, and it’s all more expensive!

I’m not opposed to some personal minimalism.  Despite my love for miscellaneous bric-a-brac, I appreciate living beneath my means and cutting down on spending (I’m only a spendthrift at Universal Studios).  But re-reading the Vice article about the degrowth movement makes me think it’s just a flimsy intellectual excuse for laziness.

That is, after all, Leftism in a nutshell:  always the grasshopper, never the ant.

Here is 1 June 2019’s “Leftism in a Nutshell“:

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Fighting Back Against Critical Race Theory

In the waning years of the Obama Administration, a strident new form of race hustling emerged.  Combining elements of identity politics, Foucaultean power dynamics, Cultural Marxism, and Nineties-style corporate diversity training, Critical Race Theory (CRT) emerged as a powerful ideological bludgeon with which to batter anyone with the audacity to be white.

At its core, CRT proposes a simple thesis:  any person of color, in any material or spiritual condition, is automatically oppressed compared to white people, because white people benefit from inherent privilege due to their whiteness.  Alternatively, black and brown people face systemic racism—racism present in the very structure of the West’s various institutions—so even when not facing overt acts of racism, they are still suffering from racism nonetheless.  The source of white people’s “privilege” is that systemic racism benefits them at the expense of black people.

The problem is easy to spot:  any personal accountability is jettisoned in favor of group identities, so any personal setbacks for a darker-skinned individual are not the result of that individual’s agency, but rather the outcome of sinister, invisible forces at play within society’s institutions themselves.  Similarly, any success on the part of a lighter-skinned individual is due to the privilege that individual enjoys.

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Ending Neverending Benefits

According to Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day for Tuesday, 8 June 2021, 71% of voters favor ending supplemental insurance benefits.  Indeed, according to last Friday’s Number of the Day, twenty-five States have already ended or plan to end pandemic-related unemployment benefits.  South Carolina is among those twenty-five States, all of which have Republican governors (Vermont and Massachusetts are the the only two States with Republican governors who have not ended the benefits), thus demonstrating once again that the Republican Party, for all of its faults, is still the party of commonsense.

As I’ve written recently, excessive unemployment benefits account for the current labor shortage, which in turn has fueled inflation.  It seemed to hit the fast food industry first, as workers could make more money staying at home than returning to their reopening restaurants.  As I detailed in “Fast Food Premium,” restaurants began offering higher pay, signing bonuses, and even cash for submitting an application.  All of those costs get factored into the price of the final product, causing prices to increase.

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The Interstate

I made it back from my latest trip to Universal Studios after a long, tedious drive that took up the better part of Sunday.  I’d intended to hammer out a belated Lazy Sunday upon my return, but I was so wiped from the drive, I just watched television instead.

With all the driving on I-4, I-95, I-26, I-77, and I-20, I had ample time to think about the pros and cons of the Interstate Highway System.  I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Interstate.  On the love side of the equation, I appreciate the convenience of being able to drive vast distances in reasonable times.  The trip that took us around seven hours to complete yesterday (and that was with terrible traffic and inclement weather) would have taken, according to Google Maps, between nine and ten hours.  In reality, that would have been closer to eleven or twelve hours with stops, traffic, etc.

As an engine for economic growth, the Interstate is probably the best investment the federal government ever made.  It was pitched to Congress as a national security project—we needed broad, interstate boulevards for our tanks to deploy swiftly against a Soviet invasion—an approach that John C. Calhoun attempted as Secretary of War in 1817 (under the strict constructionist Democratic-Republican James Madison, Calhoun’s Bonus Bill faced a swift veto).  But the real benefit of the Interstate Highway System is its ability to move people and goods swiftly, cutting down on shipping and transportation costs, and making longer commutes feasible.

Granted, there were downsides:  the small towns and tourist traps alongside old federal highways and State roads.  Just as the old railroad towns withered up when the trains stopped running—or repurposed into some other form—many small towns died out when the Interstate diverted traffic away from them.  Of course, the converse is true:  many towns boomed when the Interstate weaved their way.

So, one could surmise I appreciate the Interstate for its convenience and beneficial qualities.  So, where is the hate?

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Egged Off

An unfortunately perennial story that always gets traction here on the Right goes something like this:  precocious youngsters, hoping to engage in some earnest enterprise, start selling lemonade or the like from a roadside stand.  The kids are doing well and making good money (for kids), until an overzealous local health board official sends in the cops to bust up the lemonade stand.  Like Treasury Department revenuers smashing up a yokel’s still, these local officials destroy children’s dreams—and sometimes slap them with a fine.

It’s a story that guarantees outrage, and highlights the clueless, stringent rule-following of bureaucracies.  Yes, yes—technically you’re not supposed to sell lemonade and hot dogs without some kind of license, and the health department is supposed make sure your establishment is clean.  But these are kids, selling stuff on the side of the road.  Why bother?  Let them have fun and make a little money.

The latest such story involves two young ladies selling eggs in their town in Texas.  The Lone Star State has been reeling since the major winter storm hit a month or so back, and food supplies have been disrupted.  Having some backyard eggs for sale surely helped out some locals.

Unbeknownst to the girls—but beknownst to some overweening Karen, no doubt—a local ordinance prohibits the selling of eggs, though it permits the raising of chickens on one’s property.  That’s asinine.  Why can’t people sell eggs in a small town in Texas?

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TBT: Cass on Our Diminished Income

The other day my students and I were talking about the Model T Ford, which in the 1920s ran around $6000 in today’s money for a new car.  It is impossible to find a brand-new vehicle of any make for $6000 today.  Granted, a Ford Focus, for example, is packed with way more technology and safety features than a Model T from 100 years ago, and that technological advancement gets factored into the price.

But consider that in the 1990s, when Kia hit the American market, they advertised a new sedan for around $6999 (in 1990s’ dollars).  What would that be twenty-five years late—maybe $9000 or $10,000?  That price point, too, is virtually impossible.

I managed to purchase my current vehicle—a 2017 Nissan Versa Note SV—for right around $9100.  It has around 45,000 miles on it when I bought it, and had been a rental vehicle before I purchased it.  I got a steal on that car—the closest comparable I’ve found since then was a list price of around $8900 (the list for my car was $8000 even).  That’s for a four-year old subcompact hatchback.

I got lucky when I found that car.  I figured it would be easy enough to find a decent car for under $10,000 when I began vehicle shopping in late 2019.  Boy, was I wrong.  Vehicles last longer than ever before, and maintain their value a very long time.  They’re also, as mentioned, packed full of technology and safety features that weren’t present even twenty years ago.  Trucks in particular hold their value extremely well; to find a truck in my price range, I’d have had to purchase a Ford F-150 from 1994 with half-a-million miles on it.

It’s great that cars last longer and are safer.  But those features—many of which drivers will never need or use—drive up the costs substantially.  Such was the point of an illuminating Twitter thread by Oren Cass, which demonstrates that, despite earning more money, Americans’ expenses for basic goods are substantially higher, requiring a whopping fifty-three weeks of pay to cover now versus a mere thirty weeks in 1985.  Naturally, given that there are only fifty-two weeks in a year, that presents a problem.

I don’t know the solution, but as I wrote a year ago, “Something’s gotta give.”

Indeed.  Here is 28 April 2020’s “Cass on Our Diminished Income“:

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