Don’t Always Believe What You Think

“The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.”

Winston S. Churchill

A few years ago, I saw a bumper sticker that said something that stuck in my mind firmer than the sticker was attached to the bumper.  It said ‘Don’t Always Believe What You Think’.  Philosophers call this concept “Intellectual Humility”.   This type of humility acknowledges the limitations of our knowledge.  It calls on us to challenge our own beliefs and, in doing so, places the surviving beliefs on firmer ground.

One area that often divides conservatives and progressives is in the level of faith in science.  Why do liberals believe so strongly in data and theories that conservatives think of as a lot of hooey?  Are conservatives anti-science?  Deniers?  Warriors in the War on Science?  These are the insults commonly directed at those who question blind faith in science, yet it is those who adhere to a cultish and dogmatic faith in anything that comes to us from the scientific field who deserve criticism.  They are lacking in intellectual humility.

Another (and probably more important) area where a lack of intellectual humility divides us is in faith in government.  Elitist politicians and bureaucrats who know what’s best for all of us seek to perfect the world in their eyes.   They treat us like we are infants and they are our guardians.   We are too stupid to know what’s best for us, so they are going to protect us from ourselves.  What arrogance!

I believe that those who call for more and bigger government programs lack intellectual humility.  They don’t recognize the limitations of their ability to collect and process economic and social data.   They have a simplistic view of the interconnectedness of the complex system that we call society.  For over 100 years Progressives have sold the idea that government programs can perfect society quicker and more efficiently than a naturally ordered society.  For that same 100 years they have been proven wrong.

It would be wonderful if our Presidents and our Congressmen were intellectually humble.  They need to recognize the limits of their knowledge.  This creates an enormous challenge for us though.  We like to elect strong, firm, and dogmatic leaders.  Perhaps we can one day appreciate intellectual humility enough to vote for humble leaders.

What can you do in the meantime?  Challenge your own beliefs, not as means of destroying them, but as a means of making them stronger.  Know your limitations, but also appreciate the knowledge that you have.  Discussing differences in beliefs is often a fruitless endeavor, but it may also plant some seeds that will lead to areas of agreement in the future.  We are engaged in a battle of ideas that will never end. If we can plant ideas that promote liberty and that limit government to humble endeavors, we can win these battles.

​In Liberty,
Ken Mandile
Senior Fellow
Worcester Tea Party

Women in Liberty

Last month marked the 8 year anniversary of the Tea Party movement (TPM).  One of the remarkable characteristics about the movement that has been largely overlooked is the role of women.   From its beginning, the Tea Party was largely a women-led movement.

Think back to the beginning of the Tea Party.   Who were the faces of the movement?  They were women.  Two of the three founders of the largest (and only remaining) national TPM organization are women  (Jenny Beth Martin and Amy Kremer of Tea Party Patriots). More importantly, hundreds of local Tea Parties were founded and led by women.  Our own organization would not have survived without the involvement of several hard working and dedicated women.

In popular political culture, conservative women are usually relegated to the background by a media that doesn’t want to admit women can be conservative.  High profile conservative women are treated like pariahs who have betrayed their gender.  This year’s Women’s Marches made it clear that conservative women were not welcome.  Half the women in the country were being told that their voices should not be heard.  This message was no surprise though.

Gender politics has devolved into a brutal and divisive battle.  One side insists on purity of thought.  On the other side, “family values” seems to dominate, yet dissenting opinions are still welcomed.  Today’s conservative women are often pro-choice and/or pro-LGBT rights.  Their voices may not be loudest, but they are allowed to have a voice.  The left does not allow for this kind of dissent.  To them, your gender voids your right to an opinion that does not fit their dogma.

The Tea Party movement inspired many talented women to run for office.  These candidates have had a large impact on many issues.  More importantly, they represent a pool of talent that will shift the balance of power from a political system dominated by men, to one equally shared.  Whether it was for School Committee, State Representative, Governor, or U.S. Congress, the Tea Party supported and inspired women have stepped up to claim the power that is rightfully theirs.  They deserve our support and our gratitude for all that they have done and continue to do for our communities and for our country, not because of the incidental fact that they are women, but because they are patriots.

​In Liberty,
Ken Mandile
Senior Fellow
Worcester Tea Party

…Then Dumb and Silent We may be Led

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”

Benjamin Franklin, as Silence Dogood

2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. These 54 lines of Latin were signed at Runnymede on June 15, 1215.  Today, we consider this document to be one of the foundations of our own Constitution.  At the time, it accomplished little for the people of 13th century England.  Within 6 weeks, it was voided, but it was never forgotten. 400 years later, the English used some of the ideas in the Magna Carta to recognize individual rights and less than 200 years after that, Jefferson and Madison scribed their own Great Charter.  The radical notions scribed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1215 and by our own radicals 560 years later, have been under attack since the ink dried.

Today, our First Amendment, particularly freedoms of speech and religion, are being viciously hacked away under the guise of political correctness.  On college campuses, supposedly the bastions of free thinking, students, professors, and guest speakers are being silenced out of fear that they may harm someone’s sensitivities.

It’s so bad, that even President Obama, who has hacked off huge parts of the Constitution himself, recently said;

“I’ve heard some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women. I gotta tell you I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view.”

The sad thing is that it’s more than college students who are demanding coddling, its adults too.

Most contemporary democracies contain some form of speech protection, but ours is among the broadest.  We protect the most odious words, flag burning, offensive art, etc.  Many countries have settled on their own version of freedom of speech.  As much as I’d like to shut some people up, I realize that one day, I may the one being muffled.  It’s best to keep this freedom as broad as possible.  If we do not, then we will be leaving it to the courts and Congress to implement restrictions.  Once they start, the censorship will keep going.

As conservatives, we believe that civility is necessary to keep social order.  Good manners in speech should never be shoved aside to win an argument, to advance a political position or even as a means of pushing back against political correctness.  It’s ironic that today’s progressives are among the most vehement advocates for squelching offensive speech, while at the same time, spewing some of the most vile words to demean their opponents.  We shouldn’t stoop to their level.

Franklin knew that restricting speech was the tyrant’s way of dousing the flames of rebellion.  Free speech is necessary to transmit knowledge.  It is an essential part of being human, allowing us self-expression and allowing us to develop as individuals.  Most importantly, it allows for peaceful social change.  The potential for change is a threat to those who want to grow and project the power of the state. To paraphrase Franklin, those would overthrow our liberty depend on subduing the freeness of speech.  Many before us have defended against these attempts.  We are duty bound to continue to defend our right to speak our thoughts from all attacks.

In Liberty,
Ken Mandile
Senior Fellow
Worcester Tea Party

Choosing Words

“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

George Orwell

In  “Politics and the English Language”, George Orwell said  “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. ”   In corrupting the use of words, our competitors are able to disrupt the common sense of the citizenry.   “Social justice” is one good example of such corruption.  You’d have to be very cold hearted to oppose something called social justice, so what’s wrong with social justice?  Well, to begin with, and end with, it has nothing to do with justice.  By throwing together two good words and using them in a way that deceives the listener, the anti-liberty crowd has been able to fool the uninformed.

 

One of the main purposes of the Tea Party Movement is to convey the message of liberty.  To do so, we need to be careful about the words we choose, but more importantly, we need to point out the misuse of words by those who look to steal our freedom.   “Liberal” and “conservative” are two perfectly good words that have been corrupted.  Tea Partiers make the error of using the word “liberal” as an insult, when it should be compliment.  We have ceded this word to those who blasphemy it’s real meaning.

 

The left has a habit of changing the language when it stops working for them.  “Global Warming” seemed scary enough, until it didn’t work for them anymore.  They were forced to switch to the less scary phrase “Climate Change.”

 

Remember how a few decades ago, poverty was such a big concern?  We don’t hear so much about poverty anymore because the worldwide poverty rate has unexpectedly plummeted.  The lowest 10th percentile income earner in the U.S. enjoys an economic lifestyle that is better that almost every other country on earth.  What are the progressives to do if poverty is plummeting?  Let’s change the word.  Now poverty becomes “income inequality.”  All inequality is bad, isn’t it?  So income inequality must also be bad.  If income equality is bad, then one could make the case that income redistribution is good.  We lose just by accepting the phrase “income inequality.”

 

At this month’s Worcester Tea Party meeting, we heard two speakers on Agenda 21.  The very next day, I saw the agenda for next week’s meeting of my town’s Board of Selectmen.  I saw the phrases “International Property Maintenance Code”, “Master Plan Implementation”, and “Revised Water Conservation Language”.  Immediately, bells went off in my head.  I knew that they were using corrupted words that sounded perfectly well-meaning so that they could be used to advance an ideology that disputes private property rights.

 

The words of liberty, as articulated by our classical liberal founders, ring true in the ears of almost every American.  It is only those who seek to deceive by twisting good words into bad that we need to fear. They are charlatans who will lead people down a disastrous path.

 

Be careful in the words that you  choose.  Be honest.  Don’t deceive in the way our competitors do.  When you are speaking the truth about the value of liberty, you do not have to grovel in the gutter of euphemistic deception.

 

In liberty,
Ken Mandile
Matt O’Brien