Archive for December 14th, 2012

Who Really Cares?

For Human Rights Day (yes, there is such a thing), the UN’s Regional Information Center, located in the global Mordor of bureaucracy, Brussels, put out the following chart, explaining to residents of Europe how they can get involved in “public life.”  For anyone who thinks that the goal of the current administration is to make us more like Europe, it ought to be at least a little dispiriting:

The differences between the American and European concepts of citizenship couldn’t be clearer.  To Americans, participation in public life isn’t just about the government or politics, it’s also about community organizations, fraternal groups, religious institutions, and so forth.  To the extent that we have the right to participate in politics, that participation is neither granted by or even really circumscribed by the Constitution.  That document exists to limit government and define its powers; our right to participate in government is really the right to be a part of government, and it comes from God.  Of course, neither the EU nor the UN could ever say such a thing.

In his book about charitable giving and the characteristics of charitable givers, Who Really Cares?, Arthur Brooks devotes an entire chapter to the notion of “continental drift,” in the subject.  Private giving, to private foundations dedicated to the public good, is minuscule in Europe compared to the United States.  Along with that has come a withering of civil society, as most of those functions have been taken over by the state, and the state has increasingly become devoted to income redistribution.  (Brooks shows that those who believe that a primary function of government is income redistribution are among those least likely to contribute time or money to charities.  This is true whether or not such redistribution actually takes place.)

As the government becomes the only venue for channeling help to fellow citizens, politics becomes the only means of differentiating where that help goes, what forms it takes, what conditions attach to it, and what incentives it creates.  Or at least it would, if Europe had a healthy political system.  (As Mark Steyn has pointed out endlessly, the parties that European voters choose between are left-of-right-of-center, and right-of-left-of-center, and the big decisions have already been made and locked in.)  But it’s also likely true that a country without a healthy civil society can’t have a healthy political system for long, either.

I’ve seen this in my own work on the JCRC.  While it’s true that most of the Jewish organizations who sit on it are temperamentally leftish, if not outright leftist, to begin with, it’s also true that many are less willing to criticize a system on which they have come to depend for a substantial part of their operating expenses.  They have decided that it’s easier and cheaper to hire a lobbyist rattle a tin cup in front of a state legislative or Congressional committee than to hire a PR person and make the case to the community at large of the value of their services.  So along with Big Labor and Big Business becoming arms of the federal government, Big Philanthropy is headed in that direction, as well.

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Hickenlooper on Guns, Then and Now

In the wake of the Aurora Theater Shootings, CNN’s Candy Crowley interviewed Gov. John Hickenlooper, and tried mightily – and unsuccessfully – to get him to declare in favor of increased gun control.  Hickenlooper didn’t necessarily commit.  But one would be hard-pressed to see the interview, and read the transcript, and not come away with the impression that the Governor wasn’t interested in imposing new restrictions on Colorado gun owners:

Crowley: Do you see any law anywhere that could stop a man with no record in a society that protects the 2nd Amendment that might have prevented this?

Hickenlooper: You know, we are certainly looking at that and trying to say, “How do you prevent this?” You know, the Virginia Tech shootings, I look at – been looking at the shootings all across the country. And I try to say, how do we preserve our freedoms – right? – and all those things that define this country, and yet try to prevent something like this happening. Let me tell you, there’s no easy answer.

Crowley: What I hear from you is you would be open to people who wanted to suggest a gun law or something that might prevent this sort of thing, but at the moment you can’t imagine what that would be.

Hickenlooper: Yeah, I’m happy to look at anything, but this person, if there were no assault weapons available, if there were no this or no that, this guy’s going to find something right? He’s going to know how to create a bomb, he’s going to – I mean, who knows where his mind would have gone. Clearly a very intelligent individual, however twisted. You know, I know that’s the problem. This is really a human issue, in some profound way, that this level of disturbed individual, that we can’t recognize it.

What a difference a few months – and an election – make.  The Denver Post reports that Hickenlooper is now singing a different tune:

In a significant shift from his statements earlier this year, Gov. John Hickenlooper now says “the time is right” for Colorado lawmakers to consider further gun restrictions.

The Democratic governor made his comments in an interview with The Associated Pressthat comes less than half a year after the mass shooting in an Aurora movie theater that killed 12 and injured at least 58. His latest words also follow a shooting in an Oregon mall Tuesday that left three dead, including the gunman, who shot himself.

“I wanted to have at least a couple of months off after the shooting in Aurora to let people process and grieve and get a little space, but … I think, now … the time is right,” Hickenlooper said in the Wednesday interview.

Hickenlooper didn’t, at the time, say anything like, “Now isn’t the time to be considering this, in the heat of the moment.”  He spoke in terms of protecting freedoms and rights, the difficulty of crafting a bill that wouldn’t impinge on those, and the fact that Holmes would have used other items at his disposal to wreak havoc, if guns hadn’t been available.

But that was then.  The state House of Representatives was in Republican hands, and there was little-to-no chance of passing any sort of gun control legislation.

Now, with the House set to be firmly in Democrat control, Hickenlooper has changed his mind.  This position may more closely resembles his actual views on the matter.  Alternately, whether this may be merely the first of a series of instances where a more hard-line liberal legislature will force him to make difficult choices he has thus far been able to avoid.

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