Tuesday, March 28, 2006

George who?


The NCAA basketball tournament is my favorite sporting event of the year. One of the reasons I love it so much is because small colleges that would otherwise have no chance to compete for a national title are annually invited to join the field of 64 teams. And, while their chances of beating the "big boys" is slim, they have (at least in theory) an opportunity to play their way to the championship.

This rarely happens. The lower-seeded teams usually serve as cannon fodder for the major college teams in the first couple of rounds. Usually they are all but gone by the time the field is whittled down to 16.

Not this year.

Little George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia is in the Final Four. And they didn't sneak in via some short cut whereby they played other underdogs who happened to upset better teams. No, the 11th-seeded GMU Patriots beat 3rd-seeded North Carolina and the number one seed in their bracket UConn.

Their success has drawn a lot of attention to this otherwise obscure university just outside of Washington, D.C. It has caused some people to wonder, "Now, just who is this George Mason fellow that they named a college after him?"

George Mason was one of the men responsible for founding the United States. He is one of the lesser-known founders, but when looking at his resume' one has to wonder why this is the case.

Mason served as a delegate from Virginia to the Constitutional Convention. He is the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights which detail the rights all men. He argued some form of this declaration be included in the Constitution and is largely responsible for the inclusion of the Bill of Rights. In fact, he is sometimes referred to as the "Father of the Bill of Rights."

During the debates at the Constitutional Convention Mason ultimately sided with the anti-federalists and refused to sign the newly drafted Constitution. He argued it did not provide sufficient protection to individual liberty from federal government usurpation. His foresight has been near prophetic.

How appropriate that the school which bears his name is playing the role of giant killer in this year's tournament. Here's wishing GMU well in the Final Four...more "big boys" are waiting.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sowing the tares themselves


Robert Jansen, a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, stood before a Presbyterian congregation and unapologetically told them he did not believe in God. He openly admits, "I don't believe Jesus Christ was the son of God...nor do I believe Jesus rose from the dead to ascend to a heaven that I don't believe exists."

What did they do?

Welcomed him as a member, of course. (Read Jansen's account of it here)

Recently I read a small piece about how many of our churches have growing populations of unregenerate members. These unregenerate members were characterized as a "cancer" in the church by an article at www.sliceoflaodicea.com.

Now, of course, I fully expect the unregenerate to find their way into the church. Christ Himself told us about this in Matthew 13:24-30:

Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.

"But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away.

"But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.

"The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?'

"And he said to them, 'An enemy has done this!' The slaves said to him, 'Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?'

"But he said, 'No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them.

'Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.'"

It is to be expected that the enemy will plant tares among us. But what makes the situation in Austin particularly troubling is that, with their full knowledge, the Church is planting the tares themselves.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Obscenity, Free Speech, or Both?

According to an Associated Press story a man in Pennsylvania was ticketed in April 2005 for making an obscene hand gesture at a construction worker after becoming frustrated in a traffic jam. The charges against the man were dropped but he has filed a federal lawsuit, claiming he was maliciously prosecuted. He claims obscene gestures should be considered protected free speech under the Constitution's first amendment.

It's an interesting question. One our forefathers considered a long time ago.

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people," said John Quincy Adams (pictured at right), "It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

Our form of government (specifically the amount of freedom we enjoy) assumes a civil population. When the people cease to exhibit proper behavior toward one another you end up with the state stepping in and encroaching on the liberties we hold dear. The truth of the matter is this: if you don't control yourself it will become necessary for someone else to do it. Unfortunately American culture is taking us quickly in this direction. We haven't yet digressed to the point of needing government intervention in these kinds of matters, but a news story like this one should serve as a stern warning for us all.

Personally I think demonstrating oneself to be morally deficient by making obscene gestures should be protected free speech. It may be unpleasant having to deal with the occasional obscene gesture or unkind word, but liberties turned over to the state are rarely recovered. When questions like this arise I almost always lean toward erring on the side of liberty.

I just hope our cultural conduct doesn't deteriorate to the point where I change my mind.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"Educators" get upset

John Stossel's stand against the government monopoly controlled "public" education system has angered a few people. Teacher unions, one of the prime beneficiaries of the monopoly, are demanding Stossel apologize for insisting that school choice and market control of education would be better than the current system. In fact, they are planning to demonstrate against him and his convictions.

Stossel, however, has addressed the situation in an article entitled, "The teachers unions are mad at me," and appears to be unmoved by their demands. He seems convinced of the validity of his arguments and is standing by them. I agree with Stossel and am glad he is remaining stalwart.

I just hope the unions, after becoming frustrated with their failed demonstrations, don't decide to send a "representative," like Knuckles here, to "negotiate" with Stossel the terms of his apology.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Trust Busting


America experienced a lot of economic growth at the end of the 19th century. It was called the “Gilded Age” and it saw a lot of companies develop into monopolies.

Some companies were growing so big, and accumulating so much wealth and power that the federal government began to feel threatened. This prompted John Sherman, a United States Senator from Ohio, to author a bill (the Sherman Anti-Trust Act), which became law in 1890.

Later, President Theodore Roosevelt would use the law to bust up, among others, J.P. Morgan’s railroad trust and John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil trust. Apparently, the federal government’s opinion was that too much control of certain markets in the hands of a single entity was a bad thing. The president became a trust-busting machine.

Of course where the federal government was concerned it was only a bad thing if too much control of markets was in someone else’s hands. Government control is just Jim-Dandy. Education is a prime example.

John Stossel has written a wonderful essay entitled, "Competition Works," on how the application of free market principles to “public” education is the answer to improving the system. Right now “public” education is in the hands of a government monopoly and the consumers of education have little recourse for improving their situation.

In a free market education system educators would have to compete for students and, therefore, would have to concern themselves with the desires of students and parents. In the current “public” education system the vast majority of parents have no alternative to the “public” schools in their area and the educators know it. "Public" schools have a guaranteed clientele and do not need to concern themselves with customer service. They are completely at liberty to teach and indoctrinate in any manner they see fit and the parents are nearly powerless to do anything about it.

Stossel argues that the introduction of competition would take care of this problem and I whole-heartedly agree. Of course, the beneficiaries of monopolies rarely give up their position of power without a fight and that is why there is so much resistance to the concept of school choice. The "public" education system is a monopoly that is in desperate need of busting but little can be expected from the traditional trust busters of years past.

Oh, the federal government is still in the business of busting trusts. Only this time the trust they’ve busted is the one they are supposed to have with the American people.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

First Amendment Ignorance


A recent Associated Press survey shows most Americans know more about the FOX television show The Simpsons than they do about the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Is it any wonder, then, that we find ourselves being ruled by a class of political elites who exhibit a disregard of Constitutional authority that ranges from casual indifference to blatant disdain? Apparently it's just too difficult for us to pay close enough attention to hold our representatives accountable to the framework established by our forefathers.

Speaking of forefathers, Thomas Jefferson said something about this very situation: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."