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Your Problem with Gays or Guns Is Not Political – Article by Robin Koerner

Your Problem with Gays or Guns Is Not Political – Article by Robin Koerner

The New Renaissance Hat
Robin Koerner

Not too long ago, perhaps as a rite of passage before becoming a new American, I did something I’d done only once before: I went to a range and shot some guns. Lots of guns. All shapes, ages, and sizes.

For a guy born British, such a thing feels very strange – because guns feature nowhere in British culture.

Accordingly, I was unsurprised by the reaction of my mother when I called home and told her that I’d had a great time learning about firearms and discovering I wasn’t a bad shot, even with a second-world-war Enfield. “That’s the last thing I’d ever imagine you’d enjoy doing,” she said to me. She wasn’t being judgmental: it was an expression of genuine surprise.

“That’s because you just can’t imagine why nice or normal people would enjoy guns … because you don’t know any … no Brits know any,” I replied.

Mom thoughtfully agreed.

Many decent people who have no interest in guns simply can’t imagine what it must be like to be someone who is passionate about something whose primary purpose is to kill people. Although the gun debate is waged using words, logic, and fact (to different ends by both sides of course), the arguments constructed using these three tools are not what brings people to their pro- or anti-gun position. Rather, most people are emotionally or intuitively committed to a position first, and deploy these tools retroactively in defense of their position. Despite what we like to think, most, if not all, of our political views come about this way. Studies show, time and time again, that David Hume was right, when he claimed,

And as reasoning is not the source, whence either disputant derives his tenets; it is in vain to expect that any logic, which speaks not to the affections, will ever engage him to embrace sounder principles.

Do You Want to Kill People?

What most anti-gun people are really feeling (rather than thinking) is that there has to be something strange about you if you like guns. I mean, why would you like by something whose primary purpose is to kill people? If you do, you can’t be like me. You are sufficiently different that I am suspicious of your worldview or your motives or both. You are culturally “other.”

Productive engagement, and the pervasive acceptance of individual rights, involves bridging such cultural gaps. With the gun-rights issue, as with all others, the best way to bridge such gaps is the same way all forms of cultural segregation (because that is what we are really talking about) have been permanently broken down over time: get to know, and spend personal time with, those on the other side of the gap.

It works both ways. People who favor more gun regulation are not actually motivated by taking away your liberty. And people who favor robust Second Amendment protections do not have a higher threshold for the acceptance of violence or aggression. You’ll know this when you have them as friends, and having such friends causes the all-or-nothing arguments that make such dramatic claims about the fundamental differences between you and the people on the other side of the issue to cease to be credible.

This mistaking of differences of cultural identity for political differences, or, the erroneous idea that political differences drive different cultural identities, rather than the other way around, severely hobbles our ability to protect all of our liberties and empowers political partisans who have a vested interest in maintaining power by keeping us insolubly divided.

The Rise of Subcultures

Just as gun owners form a kind of (albeit highly porous) sub-culture, the LGBT community does too. Some people who have been brought up in a socially conservative or religious subculture simply can’t imagine even wanting to do (let alone actually doing) the things that those in another subculture (LBGT) do as a matter of course. Again, if I can’t even imagine your experience or desires, then we are deeply culturally separated. Just as gun-control advocates feel a twinge of disgust, or at least condescension, toward the culture of gun owners, some of our religious friends feel similarly about the LBGT subculture.

“Disgust” is of course a very strong word, and most of us sublimate it deeply, but it captures the sense that the division among our “political” subcultures is more visceral than rational. Reason is applied later to justify in the conscious mind the position that the subconscious makes us emotionally comfortable with.

Now, I have, or certainly used to have, a distinctly conservative streak when it comes to the raising of children, and I have an instinctive respect for any political position that is genuinely motivated by requiring adults to do the best by the children whom they create. I can understand, then, the real discomfort of those who sincerely believe that children benefit from having male and female role-models at home, and that society should be very wary of sanctioning anything that does not place the well-being of children above the proclivities of their parents.

However, two of my friends – and two of the kindest and most responsible people I know – happen to be gay partners who adopted a(n American-born) daughter. Phil and Michael are giving their adopted daughter a wonderful life. Their love for her is boundless. The security, values, and richness of experience that they are providing her will set her up forever. And the gap between the life that Mia Joy has and that which she would otherwise have makes the general question “Should gay couples should be able to adopt” sound something between silly and faintly insulting when applied to this particular, inspiring case.

I am blessed with close gay friends with whom I identify as much as I do with many of my straight friends. So for me, the question of gay marriage and adoption, for example, is not so much a political argument that needs logical “deciding,” but the very intuition of the existence of some gay “other” on which the very argument depends has disappeared. As that cultural gap is bridged through actual human relationship, the separateness of that “other group,” on which any suspicion I may have of their motivations depends, ceases to exist.

I’ve had many gay friends for many years. And now I am getting many gun-owning friends too. And because they are all good people (they’d not be my friends otherwise, would they?), I see both groups as doing essentially the same thing when they defend their rights – insisting on being allowed to be themselves, and defend the validity of the way they experience the world – as long as they harm no one else.

But That’s Wrong

Of course, if you’re reading this and you don’t like guns, you’re thinking, “That’s wrong. Guns harm people.” Not in the hands of my friends, they don’t. And if you’re reading this and you don’t like gays, you’re thinking, “That’s wrong. Gay adoption is bad for the children.”

Not by my friends, it isn’t.

If I were going to take a stand against gay adoption, I would have to imagine saying to Phil and Mike, “You should not be allowed to what you have done for Mia Joy, and I would use the force of law to stop you.” Even if I could make an abstract political argument against gay adoption, I cannot say that to them in good conscience. And if I were going to take a stand against my open-carrying friend, Rob, I’d have to imagine saying to him, “You should not be allowed to own that to protect your family – or to protect your country against a tyrannical state, should it ever come to that, and I would use the force of law to stop you.” Even if I could make an abstract political argument against private gun ownership, I could not say that to him in good conscience.


By becoming friends with Phil and Mike, and with Rob, their respective subcultures cease to be alien to me.

The truth is that, because I know Rob as a grounded, kind man, I also know that the rest of us are better off when people like him have a few of the guns – rather than their all being in the hands of our political masters. And because I know Phil and Michael as being rather like Rob in those respects, I simply know that the rest of us are better off when people like them have a few of America’s children.

And there’s not a political argument in sight.

You’ll appreciate my delight, then, when, during my day at the range with Rob, he told me that his local organization in defense of the second amendment accepted the open offer made by the organizers of his city’s annual gay pride event to support them by marching with them. The two groups have now formed an ongoing alliance, reflecting the fact, of course, that they are really doing the same thing: protecting the right of people to do anything they want for people they love as long as they harm no one else.

That’s when you know that you really care about liberty: the excitement of marching in support of someone who wants to protect and celebrate their freedom overcomes your “cultural discomfort” (should you have any) with what they want to do with it.

If we can challenge ourselves by focusing as much on nurturing our human connection with our political opponents by relating to them as people, we’d discover a wonderful paradox: we’d all feel, from our opposed initial positions, increased success in getting our opponents to see the world our way.

Dissolving Political Differences

How is that possible?

It’s possible because collapsing the subcultural divides in our society through actual human relationship does something bigger and better than resolving our political differences: it dissolves them. It dissolves them because it reveals that much of what we thought were differences of political principle are really rationalizations of the suspicion we feel toward those whose experiences and pleasures we simply cannot imagine sharing.

As in history, so in psychology: culture precedes politics.

Robin Koerner is British born, and recently became a citizen of the USA. A decade ago, he founded, an organization of over 200 volunteers that translates and posts in English views about the USA from all over the world.

Now, as a political and economic commentator for the Huffington Post, Independent Voter Network, and other outlets, Robin may be best known for having coined the term “Blue Republican” to refer to liberals and independents who joined the GOP to support Ron Paul’s bid for the presidency in 2011/12 (and, in so doing, launching the largest coalition that existed for that candidate).

Robin’s current work as author of the book, “If You Can Keep It”, a trainer and a consultant, focuses on bringing people together across political divisions, with a view to winning supporters for good causes, rather than just arguments. He is driven by the conviction that more unites us as people and as Americans than divides us as partisans, and if we can find common ground and understand the forces that really drive political change, then “We the People” will be able to do what the Founders implored us to do – maintain our natural rights against power and its abuse. As he says, people and their well-being are the only legitimate ends of politics.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

Not Enough Inflation? – Article by Tyler Watts

Not Enough Inflation? – Article by Tyler Watts

The New Renaissance Hat
Tyler Watts
July 15, 2012

Two wrongs may not make a right, but a second dose of poison might just cure the first dose. That’s at least what Paul Krugman, America’s most prominent left-wing economic pundit, is saying about an untapped remedy for our economic woes. In his April 5 New York Times column, “Not Enough Inflation,” Krugman repeated his claim that “a bit more inflation would be a good thing, not a bad thing.”

If you’re wondering how progressively higher prices for everyday goods could help any household get ahead economically, let alone contribute to overall economic recovery, you’re in good company. As all econ-principles students know, inflation is caused by an increase in the supply of money relative to money demand. The increase in consumer goods prices—that’s how the layman defines and experiences inflation—is really just a symptom of the reduced purchasing power of money caused by the increase in its quantity. The higher prices for all goods in turn mean lower real incomes for consumers—which is all of us—not to mention that inflation is also typically symptomatic of the boom-bust business cycle and can cause significant widespread economic damage. In its most severe forms, inflation can wipe out people’s monetary wealth and bring commerce to a halt.

But smart guys like Professor Krugman aren’t mere monetary cranks. They know that high inflation is economically dangerous. What they’re asking for is just a small, temporary dose of fresh money to inject some new life into the economy. There is a kernel of truth to this inflationary prescription. As the Scottish philosopher David Hume explained in his 1752 essay Of Money, prices for different kinds of goods react differently to new money entering the economy. Generally speaking, commodities or consumer goods prices will rise faster than wages. So for a manufacturing entrepreneur, for instance, who employs many workers, inflation will cause output prices (revenue) to increase relative to wages (costs), bringing an increase in profits that will induce an increase in output. Therefore, in Hume’s terms, an increase of money “must first quicken the diligence of every [entrepreneur], before it increase the price of labor.”

This “sticky wages” effect is what economists like Hume, John Maynard Keynes, and Krugman have in mind when advocating inflationary stimulus. Krugman also notes that “parts of the private sector continue to be crippled by the overhang of debt accumulated during the bubble years,” and that “modest inflation . . . by eroding the real value of that debt . . . [would] help promote the private-sector recovery.” So higher inflation not only increases the demand for labor, but can also help clean up companies’ and individuals’ balance sheets, giving them the ability to ramp up their hiring and spending. What’s not to love about this miracle elixir?

There are two big problems with inflationary stimulus. The first involves the process dynamics of the market economy. The inflationists tend to omit the rest of the story, which involves the long-run effects of new money. New money will eventually increase all prices—even wages—meaning the stimulus effect can only be temporary. For if entrepreneurs read the price increases not as mere inflation, but higher demand for their products (as the inflationists hope), they are liable to make investments to expand their production capacity. Once the inflation effect peters out, once rising wages eventually push profits back down, they find that extra production is no longer profitable. The expansion can’t be sustained without more inflationary stimulus.

In a rising inflation environment, moreover, people will eventually come to anticipate further price increases. Workers demand upward wage adjustments in advance, and entrepreneurs anticipate rising costs and thus scale back their expansion plans. Once people catch on to inflationary stimulus in this fashion, larger and larger money injections (that is, higher inflation rates) are needed to merely maintain output levels. At some point, the high, rising, and volatile inflation rate itself becomes a drag on the economy. Miscalculation of next year’s, or even next month’s, inflation rate could spell disaster for entrepreneur and worker alike. As inflation heats up, it can actually drag investment down, as people seek to shelter their wealth in “sterile” assets like gold. Inflation, instead of a stimulus factor, becomes a source of economic confusion and frustration. Iconic images of people hauling wheelbarrow loads of money to buy a loaf of bread in post-World War I Germany remind us of the potential economic turmoil of unchecked inflation. This of course is not what Krugman has in mind, but we should not forget that the mightiest river begins as a trickle.

The second big problem with inflation is a moral one. Along with causing economic confusion, inflation redistributes wealth. The key fact here, again, is that not all prices rise immediately when new money enters circulation. People who are first to receive the new money get to spend it before prices go up. Those last in line see prices go up before their own incomes do. Inflation also redistributes wealth from lenders to borrowers, as Krugman indicated, by reducing the real value of debt. But Krugman conveniently ignores the corresponding fact that, whenever a borrower’s real debt burden is eased, a lender’s asset value is eroded. Thus to use inflation as a partial bailout for borrowers is to harm lenders and investors. This is happening already—even at “mild” inflation rates that are too low for Krugman’s tastes, real returns on investments like bank CDs are driven into negative territory.

Through these redistributions of purchasing power, inflation acts like a tax: a tax on savers, on investors, on those at the very end of the monetary policy food chain. Ironically for Progressives like Krugman, this inflation tax arguably hits the poor and uneducated hardest. Educated, economically sophisticated people know the warning signs of inflation and know how to shelter their assets—as attested by the flurry of gold bullion dealers’ ads on cable news and AM radio. The poor are much more likely to be wage earners whose incomes tend to lag inflation, or pensioners who, even with annual cost-of-living adjustments, can still see consistent reductions in their purchasing power.

Nonetheless, Krugman and the inflation party don’t understand the free-market camp’s arguments against inflation. He accuses us of “obsessing” over inflation, while he thinks the Fed should focus on curing unemployment. Even conceding that inflation can provide a temporary, halting employment stimulus, the objection remains strong. It comes down to the fact that inflation is a big lie—or, should we say, a million little lies, because inflation distorts all prices and thereby hinders their crucial function of giving entrepreneurs and workers the correct information and incentives on which to make the best economic decisions. Inflation’s promises of faster growth and greater wealth are illusory. Like alcohol or drug abuse, every high begets a crash that demands larger and larger doses to maintain the effect. Inflation is a dangerous medicine that stands to do the patient more harm than good.

Tyler Watts is an assistant professor of economics at Ball State University and the winner of the 2012 Beth A. Hoffman Memorial Prize for Economic Writing.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.