Friday, November 02, 2018

"A Republic, if you can keep it....."

            A friend of mine walked out of his home the other morning and discovered that someone had helped themselves to the wheels and tires that had been on his car the night before. I remembered when the same thing happened to me a few years ago, and at the time I wondered how someone pulled into my driveway, took 4 wheels off of my truck, loaded them up and drove away without waking me up. The police officer who came out to verify the insurance claim said there were probably at least three people involved, two who walked in, took the wheels off, and then rolled them out to the road and loaded them into a get-away truck that arrived at the end of our driveway about the same time my tires and wheels got there.

             I figure there were probably three or four people who wanted my buddy’s wheels just like there were probably three or four people who wanted my tires. I don’t know that the three or four of them wanted to take them any more than my buddy and I wanted to keep them, but they ended up with them anyway.

            It got me to thinking about our upcoming election. Renowned journalist H. L. Mencken once said that “Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.” The truth of that statement always becomes more evident preceding any election, when politicians and aspiring politicians promise to transfer money or favors to what they hope will be the majority of voters, from who they hope will be the minority of voters, or the people who don’t vote at all.

            That’s how a democracy works. Whatever the majority decides it wants to do, it does. The thing is, we weren’t supposed to be a democracy. The Founding Fathers started us out to be a constitutional republic, where the rights of a single individual were protected from the whims of the majority. They threw in a little bit of democracy, so we could elect people to carry out the limited duties of the federal government as defined in the Constitution, and some more people to carry out some limited duties of state and local government not prohibited by the Constitution, but for the most part, as long as you were dealing peacefully with other people, the government didn’t get to involved in your personal life or decisions, regardless of what a majority of your neighbors thought. When someone asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government they had created he responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

            Somewhere along the line, or more likely at several somewheres along the line, we started losing the handle on the republic.  Whenever a majority of voters wanted it to, the government got involved a little more in our private lives. It got involved in our retirement and our healthcare. It started using our tax money to prop up other countries governments, and to replace other countries governments. It started using our tax dollars to support businesses, at home and around the globe.

            When it needed more money it raised our taxes or created a new one, and if it still didn’t have enough money it simply printed some more, and added it to our children’s and grandchildren’s debt. The majority has voted in a government that controls nearly every aspect of our lives Very few people can name even three things that some level of government doesn’t tax or regulate.

            Luckily, my friend and I had insurance to protect us from the people who decided they wanted our property, but you can’t buy insurance to protect yourself from the government if it decides to take your money, or possessions, or your freedom to make your own decisions.

            You can, however, elect people who want a smaller, limited government. This election, a majority of us can start to restore and keep the republic. Or continue to lose it.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Things Change....

            I heard a song the other day that said “Things change, and then they change again.” I don’t think that is any kind of a profound revelation, but I do believe people who get so upset with certain outcomes would do well to remember it.  You might not agree whether things changed for the better or the worse the last time things changed, and you might not agree on whether things are going to change for the better or the worse the next time things change, but you about have to agree things are going to change.

            We drove out to San Diego to see some family a couple of weeks ago. We traveled through three time zones to get there, and every time the time changed on the way out we gained an hour.  I was a little bit disappointed when we reached the Pacific Ocean and the time stopped changing, although I was already nodding off at 6:00 every evening and waking up at 1:00 every morning. I’m sure my social life would have ground to a complete halt if we had traveled any further west.

            But, just as the song predicted, the time changed back and we lost the hours we gained on the drive back home. I didn’t like losing the extra hours as much as I enjoyed gaining them, but I adapted to the change as well as an old man can be expected to adapt, and at least I’m nodding off and waking up at a more reasonable time again.

            The landscape changes a lot in 2400 miles. So do definitions. I’ve been through a few forests in my life. I’ve also been through a few woods that people called forests, and I’ve been through a few forests that people called woods. They all had great big trees. Out in Arizona we drove through something they called a “National Forest.” But here’s the thing. It didn’t have any big trees. Or little trees. It had some shrubs. And a lot of cactus plants. And I guess they can call it a forest if they want. But it’s not. Not unless something changes.

            And speaking of change, we drove on a few toll roads on our trip. As we approached one certain toll booth to pay our fare, we passed a big sign that read “Exact change required.” I had exactly $1.35 in my hand when we pulled up to the pay station, but soon discovered what they actually meant was “Exact coinage required.” While a dollar bill might be legal currency just about everywhere else in the country, it wasn’t acceptable in the collection basket at this spot. I didn’t want to end up like the lady in the next lane who was frantically running from car to car stopped behind her trying to get change for her dollar, so I rummaged through the console hoping to find enough change to satisfy whatever entity changed the red light in front of us. No luck. But people waiting behind us were starting to honk their horns, so I threw what change I could find into the basket, along with a couple of paper clips and some stale Chex Mix, the light turned green, and down the road we went. I suspect a picture of our license plate is in a computer somewhere, and every day I check the mail box for a nasty letter from the toll gate people, but so far, so good.

            Now, I’m not opposed to toll roads in principle. I know roads cost money to build and maintain, and the people that use the roads should probably pay for them. I’m not too thrilled that the government would collect taxes from us to build and maintain the roads, and then charge us to drive on the roads we already paid for. But then I remembered that when it collects property taxes, the government is charging us to live in our own homes.

            On second thought, I guess some things never change.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

It's about time...

            I don’t handle change well. I’ll be the second to admit that. My wife will be the first. So it is with much trepidation that I face the bi-annual time change that we experience every March and November. I never know for sure if we are going on daylight saving time or off of it, just like I can never remember if I am going to gain an hour of sleep or lose one.

            We have two clocks in our bedroom, one on the dresser that my wife is in charge of, which she changes twice a year whenever whoever decides such things decides it’s time to change it, and one by my night stand that never changes, regardless of what anybody else says. Part of the time the one on my night stand agrees with the one on the dresser, and part of the time it’s an hour ahead of it.

            I wake up about the same time every morning, regardless of what time either clock says it is. I use the one on my night stand to tell what time my body thinks it is, and the one on the dresser to tell what time the coffee shop opens. My Dad says that neither clock is right. He says we’re always one hour or two hours ahead of sun time, the correct time. Or maybe he said we’re one or two hours behind.

            Regardless, I’m glad we are entering the period where both bedroom clocks are the same, even if the clock in the wife’s delivery van won’t agree with my cell phone for the next few months. Every once in a while the federal government or the state government changes the rules about changing the time, and my cell phone and Susan’s car seem to know about the changes and adapt automatically, but my truck and that old van are at the mercy of whatever buttons I can figure out to push.

            The last time Indiana decided to go on daylight saving time, Mitch Daniels was governor, and he was concerned Hoosier manufacturers and retailers wouldn’t be able to do business with neighboring states if they switched time and Indiana didn’t. I guess he made a convincing argument, being that we switched and all, but then he ran over to Japan and South Korea to work out some trade deals with them. I wrote him a letter to explain that those countries weren’t on the same time as us, and sometimes they weren’t even on the same day as us. I never received a reply, though. I suspect he was too busy golfing after work with all the extra daylight he had saved.

            I’ve read reports that most people like daylight saving time, and I’ve read reports that most people don’t like it. I’ve also read reports that it saves energy and that it doesn’t, and that it’s healthier for us and that it isn’t. I don’t know who’s correct.

            But I’m going to go to bed when I get tired, and get up when it’s time to get up.

            And I’ll go get a cup of coffee when the coffee shop opens.

            And the government still won’t even know what time it really is.

            Some things never change.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Hey, whattaya wanna give for it?...

            My Uncle Hobart loved to go to auctions, and he brought home a lot of bargains when he attended one. His wife, my Aunt Eullillian, didn’t share his enthusiasm about auctions or the resulting bargains, but she tolerated his collections and commented whenever he brought a new treasure home, “Well, it will go good at the big sale.” The “big sale” she was referring to is the one our children hold to dispense of our extra, uh, stuff after we pass on.

            There’s not much to deny that I come from the same bloodline as Uncle Hobart. I don’t attend a lot of auctions, but I make up for it by saving a lot of, uh, stuff. There is a pull-down stairway to the attic of the shop, and for the last 30 years I’ve been putting the stuff I’ve saved for the last 60 years up there.

            But a little while back, it became apparent that I needed to rearrange some of the stuff in the attic so I would have room to save more stuff. That doesn’t sound like a daunting task, but it probably takes longer than it should because I can’t move a box without opening it and examining the contents. Old newspapers seem to take the most time, because I not only have to read the article that made the paper save-worthy, but I also have to check out the advertisements, and be reminded that at one-time in the not so distant past I could buy a new Chevy Impala for $2800.00, or a gently used one for $695.00. Or 4 loaves of bread for 98 cents. Or striped bell-bottom jeans at all.

            Sometimes I find a treasure that belongs to someone else. I’m not sure what it was doing in my attic, but I came across a life-sized stand-up cardboard likeness of James Dean. Apparently it was our daughter’s, and she thought it was lost. It wasn’t. It was simply in the attic. Like the pictures and homework from Millville Grade School, and the bottle from the Norton Brewing Company in Anderson, and the box of incense from Ayr-Way. It wasn’t lost, but simply filed away and forgotten for a while.

            It’s kind of like when we talk about our lost rights or lost freedoms. They’re not really lost. More like displaced, and sometimes forgotten. We’ve turned a lot of decisions over to the government, and things we used to take for granted and do naturally, now require permission, permits and a license from that government.

            I have a couple of friends who are getting married later this summer, but not before they trudge down to the courthouse and pay the lady $18.00 for a license to do so. I guess that’s better than the $60.00 it would cost them if they lived in another state and wanted to get married here, but I have to wonder why they need a license to get married in the first place. Probably because of some of the insurance, retirement, and other previously personal decisions we have turned over to the government over the years.

            We still have the right to get married without asking the government, just like we still have the right to live our lives in any way we choose, as long as we don’t violate someone else’s rights.

            While the government might be preventing us from exercising our rights and freedoms, those rights still exist for all of us. We just need to reclaim them, and we don’t even have to climb up to attic to do it.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Time out.....

       Well, it’s 2018. I’m sure that doesn’t mean a lot to the younger folks out there, but to those of us who thought making it to the year 2000 was a big deal, it’s a big deal. My Father was born in 1928, so it’s an even bigger deal for him. He mentioned the other day that if someone would have told him when he was a child that he would ever live in a house with indoor plumbing, reliable heat and electricity, he would have thought they were crazy. Of course, televisions, microwave ovens, and computers weren’t even on the radar then. Come to think of it, radar was barely on the radar then.

            Technology moves along pretty quickly once it gets started. They used to say that more technology has been discovered or developed in the last 10 years than has been discovered or developed in the previous 1000 years. I don’t know if that is the case, but I suspect it is. In the last few years the television antenna was mostly replaced by satellites and the internet. Then the new and improved antenna made a comeback, just in time for a lot of televisions to be replaced with laptops and smartphones. “Replaced” may not be the right word. Probably “added additional options” would be the more correct description. A lot of people in my generation and the one previous still carry flip phones. I think sometimes change is based more on generations than on years.

            This year will mark some personal milestones for me, just as I’m sure it will for many of you. 2018 marks 30 years since I’ve had a drink of alcohol, and 7 since I’ve had a Mountain Dew. I’ll have been married to same woman for 42 years if she keeps me around until June, and Bell Contracting has been around for 44 years. I thought we were the oldest continuously owned business in town, but then I discovered Dance with Cindy had been around for 48 years. While we’re both shooting for 50 years in business, I’ve conceded that she will probably get there first.

          So while we’ve reached some goals this year, I imagine there are more ahead. As I mentioned, Dad turns 90 this year, and he and Mom will celebrate their 70th Anniversary, if she keeps him around until September. A worthy goal, no doubt, but I’ll have to make it to 94 before we reach our 70th, and I’m not in any big hurry for that to happen, although I imagine if we make it, it will get here sooner than we think.

            Time has a way of moving a little faster as we get a little older. I suspect that’s because the older we get, the smaller percentage of our lives a year represents. 2017 was just 1/65th of my life. 2018 will be 1/66th of it.

            Some of what’s going to happen in 2018 is going to happen no matter what we do, but some of the goals we set for ourselves are going to take some time and effort. And concerning those goals that require time and effort, we had better get started.

            2019 will be here before we know it.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Since you asked...

       A good friend of mine recently became engaged. Before that came about, he asked his future bride’s father for his permission and blessing. It’s something men have doing for centuries, clear back to Old Testament times, I’m told. Sometimes the father would sweeten the pot with a couple of goats and some chickens, just to make sure his daughter’s suitor didn’t back out. I don’t think fathers do that so much anymore, and I’m not sure how many men still ask these days. I know I skipped that step when I was courting my wife, mostly because I was pretty sure her father would have said “Absolutely not!”, or possibly something a bit more colorful to express his displeasure. And I knew he didn’t have any goats or chickens anyway.

            But, regardless of my father-in-law’s thoughts and opinions (he often said the devil owed him a debt and paid him off with son-in laws,) I’m satisfied I made the right call in not asking. My wife and I have been pretty evenly yoked for nearly 42 years. It seems often times you’re better off asking forgiveness instead of permission.

            Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill recently decided (and Governor Eric Holcomb backed him up,) that cannabinoid oil, or CBD, is illegal in Indiana. CBD is a medicinal oil made from hemp, which is related to marijuana, and therein lies the rub.  Although CBD doesn’t contain THC, the active (or inactive) ingredient found in marijuana, it still has managed to incur the wrath of the pharmaceutical industry and by extension, the hierarchy in our Hoosier government. CBD has shown positive signs of healing or relief in many people from the symptoms of Parkinson’s, anxiety, seizures in adults and children, diabetes, and numerous other health problems some people face every day. Even if not every person benefits from its use, there is certainly enough evidence to allow people to use it if they feel it helps them or a loved one.

We shouldn’t have to ask the government’s permission to use a medicine or anything that improves our quality of life and doesn’t harm anyone else. If you stop and think about it, for a free people, we spend entirely too much time asking the government for permission in all areas of our lives.

            Luckily, we have a few options for relief until the politicians and their sponsors can be convinced to do the right thing. Whenever the government charges a person for doing something without permission, and puts that person on trial for their supposed offense, jurors have the option of finding that person not guilty, even if they have in fact violated a law. It’s called jury nullification, and the Indiana Constitution provides for it in Article 1, Section 19, stating “In all criminal cases whatever, the jury shall have the right to determine the law and the facts.”

            Thomas Jefferson said that it is the natural progress for liberty to yield and government to grow. We have no doubt witnessed that. It has become increasingly difficult to name three things that the government doesn’t tax or regulate, and with every session of congress the list of things that require government permission continues to grow. And some judges will rule that jurists don’t have the right to nullify bad laws.

            But you do, and you don’t even have to ask.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

All things considered...

        I had a stroke about a year ago, and the doctors who worked on me said it would probably take a year to get back to normal. I’m not sure what constitutes normal, but for the most part I’m doing pretty well, I think. I’m back to work, getting ready to start my 44th year in business. I still have some trouble speaking and swallowing, and my balance isn’t what it used to be, and I spend a lot of time (when I’m out of earshot of anyone) enunciating “chocolate milk truck” repeatedly, in an effort to strengthen the damaged muscles that affect my speaking and swallowing capabilities.

            But all in all, I’m not complaining. Some of the doctors I used to see every day, I don’t see at all anymore, and the ones I do see I don’t see as often. I’m taking 4 pills a day, down from the wheelbarrow full I was taking a year ago. And I know a lot of people who have had strokes that are a lot worse off than me. But on the other hand, there are a lot of people who have had a stroke, and people who haven’t, that are a lot better off than me.

            I realize everything is relative, but no matter where we are on the health scale, I don’t think there is anything wrong with aspiring to improve. I feel the same way about politics.

            I hear a lot of people defending our current president by claiming he’s not as bad as his predecessor was, or as bad as his opponent would have been if she had won.  While I wouldn’t argue either way, I’m not sure we want to choose our president based on the criteria of “He or she not as bad as he or she could be.” And I don’t believe we should be satisfied with a president just because they aren’t as bad as the last one or the next one. We’d be a lot better off as a nation if we expected our leaders to follow their oath to obey the Constitution, compared to what we expect of them now.

             And speaking of nations, the citizens of the United States take a lot of pride in being the “Land of the Free”, and certainly we enjoy freedoms that a lot of people in the world don’t. But we aren’t the freest nation in the world, and according to the Human Freedom Index, published by the CATO Institute, we’re dangerously close to slipping from the top 25.  Based on a study of personal, civil, and economic freedom, the United States has fallen from 16th place in 2008, to 19th place in 2013, to our current standing as the 23rd freest country in the world.

             While people might disagree on what exactly constitutes personal, civil, and economic freedom, it’s hard to argue with the fact that most people can’t name three things that government in this country doesn’t tax or regulate.

            I suppose we could be satisfied that we are more free than 172 countries in the world, but that is the kind of thinking that will keep us satisfied when we are more free than 171 countries in the world. Or 170.

             Our goal should be to be not only the freest nation in the world, but the freest nation with the freest people ever.

            I’m not willing to settle for 23rd, any more than I’m willing to settle for 2nd.

            I hope you aren’t either.