Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Why do the most educated conservatives sometimes doubt scientific consensus?

On some issues, I do doubt the scientific establishment: 1) Darwinism and 2) global warming. Why? Because I think that in those two areas, science takes a back seat to ideology. Specifically, the ideologies of naturalism and socialism. And I’m not alone. Many the most informed conservatives also doubt the pontifications of the scientific establishment.

Reason magazine explains:

The link in the [Instapundit] gloss above goes to a story in the excellent Inside Higher Ed (a must-read for anyone interested in post-secondary education issues, IMO). Here’s the lede of the piece:

Just over 34 percent of conservatives had confidence in science as an institution in 2010, representing a long-term decline from 48 percent in 1974, according to a paper being published today in American Sociological Review.

The paper in ASR draws on attitudes as reflected in the General Social Survey, a “long-term study asking people various demographic and self-identification questions (including political identity) and for their attitudes on certain groups, including confidence in certain institutions.” The author of the paper, a post-doc at University of North Carolina, says:

Less-educated conservatives didn’t change their attitudes about science in recent decades. It is better-educated conservatives who have done so, the paper says.

In the paper, Gauchat calls this a “key finding,” in part because it challenges “the deficit model, which predicts that individuals with higher levels of education will possess greater trust in science, by showing that educated conservatives uniquely experienced the decline in trust.”

[The wording of the key question in the survey]…stresses attitudes toward “the people running these institutions.” It doesn’t ask whether you think science has changed. It’s specifically asking about the folks wearing literal and figurative lab coats who are running joints like the National Science Foundation, testifying before Congress, appearing on The Tonight Show while forecasting famine up the ying-yang and praising coercive population control measures, and who often end up being totally wrong about everything.

If it’s “educated conservatives” who have lost faith in scientists, a fully plausible possible explanation is simply that they recognize what libertarians and crypto-libertarians ranging from Thomas Szasz to Michel Foucault have been pointing out since the early 1960s in works starting with The Myth of Mental Illness and The Birth of the Clinic: That much if not all of what passes for dispassionate scientific discourse is hugely implicated in power struggles that have little or nothing to do with disinterested, true-for-all-times-and-all-places Truths with capital Ts.

So what the most educated conservatives are disagreeing about is not testable, repeatable, observable science.  It’s the politicization of science by the scientific establishment that conservatives are skeptical about. For example, in cases of outright fraud like “archaeoraptor” and “Climategate“, where fake research is used to prop up a philosophy, i.e. – naturalism and socialism respectively.

It doesn’t help when the scientific establishment responds to skepticism with stuff like this: (links removed)

A whole slew of new “research” on conservatives’ and global warming skeptics’ “brains” has hit the academic circuit.

First off, environment and sociology Prof. Kari Norgaard’s new study claims skeptics of man-made global warming fears should be “treated” for their skepticism. The study compares skepticism to man-made climate fears to the struggle against racism and slavery.

Prof. Norgaard’s concept of “treating” those who do not follow the current day’s political or social orthodoxy is, frighteningly, not new. A quick look at the 20th century totalitarian super states reveals many similar impulses.

It’s even more chilling that there is a whole new movement afoot by the promoters of man-made global warming theory to intimidate climate skepticsby using new brain “research.”

Other researchers have attempted to tie conservatism (which is identified with the highest number of climate skeptics) to “low brainpower.”

Some global warming promoters claim it is essentially “unethical” to be a skeptic.

That’s not the evidence we are looking for.

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Why social conservatives should support free market capitalism

The free enterprise system should not be adopted simply because it is the best system for creating wealth. The best reason to support free market capitalism is a moral reason. Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, and a Christian, describes the moral argument for free market capitalism.

Excerpt:

It might seem that the best case for free enterprise is the material one. Free enterprise lets people make more money, buy more and nicer stuff, and have a greater degree of comfort. The freer our economy is, the more competitive the US economy is vis-à-vis the rest of the world. And so on.

But these aren’t our best arguments. There is another reason, a transcendent reason, for which free enterprise matters most—and this is the case we all must be able to make today.

We all learned early on in school that the Declaration of Independence claimed for each of us the unalienable right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Note that the founders didn’t assert a right to be happy; such is the domain of tinpots and crackpots, of 1984’s “Ministry of Plenty” and Josef Stalin’s aggrandizing self-description as the Soviet Union’s “Constructor of Happiness.” So what, in practice, does this right to pursue happiness mean?

It means the right to define and earn our happiness through our ideas, hard work, and gumption, to earn our success by creating value honestly, in our own lives and in the lives of others. It doesn’t mean the pursuit of a big lottery win or an inheritance. Those bring money, but not happiness. And a mountain of evidence shows that after a fairly low threshold, more money doesn’t make us happier. The best case for free enterprise has nothing at all to do with money or material goods or wealth. Those are just icing on the cake. We must stop talking about free enterprise as just an engine of wealth creation. It’s much more than that.

In short, the secret to the pursuit of happiness is earning our own success; creating value with our lives and in the lives of others. This earned success is the fruit of hard work and just rewards in a system built on merit. Only in a free enterprise system is effort and innovation rewarded over connections and predation. (And this means that we have to draw a distinction between free enterprise, which is based on opportunity and competition between ideas, and corporate cronyism, which is just another form of statism masquerading as free enterprise.)

Here are 3 reasons why I think that social conservatives should support free market capitalism.

1) Right to work

It’s very important for Christians to have an economic system in place that allows them to work without having to promote anti-Christians ideas. But when government gets too big, what happens is that Christians are no longer free to take any job they want, and still keep a clear conscience. In some states, you have to join a union which uses your union dues to elect Democrats, who very often are liberal on social issues. Or, you have big government forcing Christians to perform abortions against their consciences. Or, you have big government forcing Christian organizations to provide health insurance plans that cover abortions and contraceptives. That’s why Christians need to vote against big government regulations on employment – we need the freedom to work at a job that does not violate our consciences.

2) Right to earn

It’s very important for Christians to keep what they earn so that they have the maximum amount of money to make decisions that make sense for them, according to their consciences. Take the example of day care and education. The big government statist is constantly trying to to create more and more government-run day care and public schools. Why? They want to take money away from families so that they cannot afford individualized private and parochial schools, and lump them all into government run schools that are more “equal”. The problem is that this is bad for Christians who want more oversight into what their children learn. For example, what sense does it make for a Christian man to pay for day care and public schools when he marries a teacher who becomes a stay at home homeschooling mother for his children? He has to pay for day care and public schools he will never use, and it eats into the money he has to afford a stay-at-home homeschooling mom. Christians should oppose a day care and education system run by a secular leftist government. They will never reflect the values of Christian parents.

3) Right to spend

It’s very important for Christians to have the freedom to purchase products and services that make sense in their worldview. Take the example of health care. Secular leftists would love to force private medical insurance companies to cover things like abortion and contraception as health care. In some states, these things are specified as mandatory for every health care plan. That means that Christians who purchase health care are being forced to pay for services like abortion which they will never use themselves. This is nothing more than the redistribution of wealth in order to lower the cost of abortions for people, in order to encourage them to be sexually active before they are able to accommodate children. Christians need to oppose this – we do not want to have to pay for things that go against our consciences.

So, in addition to the reasons that Brooks mentioned (the happiness of earning your own way and serving others), it’s important for Christians to understand how free market capitalism fits into their plans. We do not want to support big government, especially when big government so often is not compatible with Judeo-Christian values. In the free market, it is much harder for ALL the businesses to conspire together to block Christians from working, earning and spending according to their consciences. We must resist top-down control of the free market so that we have the liberty to do what we ought to do in order to be virtuous.

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Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper wins a majority

Stephen Harper Wins Majority

Stephen Harper Wins Majority

You can see the latest Canadian election results here on the Sun News Network.

The Conservatives won 167 seats in the House of Commons. They needed 155 for a majority of the 308 seats.

From the Vancouver Sun.

Excerpt:

Conservative leader Stephen Harper has emerged from the election campaign as a much more powerful prime minister and will lead a majority government with four years to change the country.

At a rally of his supporters here, Conservatives cheered and celebrated Monday as the results rolled in from throughout the country, confirming that Canadians, in large numbers, had given Harper the trust he had sought in the five-week campaign.

As the evening wore on, Harper’s party was coming within striking distance of reaching the benchmark threshold — 155 seats — they needed for a majority. When the Tories crossed that threshold, a great cheer erupted in the hall here in Calgary where supporters had gathered to celebrate and listen to Harper’s speech.

The Conservatives success came as the NDP made historic gains at the expense of the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois, which saw their popular vote drop as they lost seats.

In recent days on the hustings, Harper had portrayed the election as having historic consequences for the country. In addition, his own personal future was at stake.

It was clear that with a majority victory, Harper will be regarded by historians as a political success story who united the political right in Canada.

He will have a four-year mandate to implement significant change in areas ranging from tax policy, to the criminal justice system, to foreign affairs.

Here’s the reaction to the Harper victory from businesses and investors.

Excerpt:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has won for a third time the leadership of Canada, in a stunning vote which changed the country’s political landscape.

As the ballot counting wore on over six times zones and more than 5,000 miles from Atlantic to Pacific, Harper won his great aim, a majority government after two minorities in 2006 and 2008. The television networks declared his majority victory well before 11 p.m. ET. The Conservatives may have won 160 to 165 seats when 155 are needed for a majority in the 308-seat House of Commons.

While a Conservative victory again was always considered quite possible, the countrys political landscape was altered in three stunning ways:

The New Democratic Party, a rump group of social democrats in the 41st Parliament with 36 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons, surged into becoming the chief opposition party in the 42nd Parliament with about 105 to 108 seats.

The former chief opposition party, the historically great Liberal Party of Canada, the government of the country for more than 100 years of Canada’s 144 years since Confederation of separate British colonies into one nation, sunk to a very poor third with perhaps 30 seats. Michael Ignatieff, who became Liberal leader exactly two years earlier to the date, was looking to lose his Toronto-area seat.

The Bloc Quebecois, the separatist party from the French-speaking province of Quebec, was wiped out by the surging NDP, from 47 of Quebec’s 75 seats to perhaps two seats.

While the social democrats in the new Democratic party hold a powerful position in the House of Commons, the Conservatives with their majority will enforce a program which by and large is what foreign and domestic business and investors prefer.

The Conservatives will bring back a budget which was lost in the last Parliament when the election intervened 36 days ago, and will continue with a further tax cut for corporations, but a reduction in spending it said would bring back balance during 2014, erasing the federal budget deficit the Conservatives created after 11 years of Liberal government-created surpluses.

Prime Minister Harper campaigned for a majority saying his Conservatives were the prudent economic managers while the others were “tax and spend” parties. He will keep the same course. Economists have said that they see no significant changes in deficit reduction or in monetary policy under the Conservatives.

Well done, Canada! Congratulations!

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NDP leader Jack Layton wants consumers to pay higher prices for lower quality goods

NDP leaders Bob Rae and Jack Layton

NDP leaders Bob Rae and Jack Layton

Jack Layton is opposed to free trade with other nations, and Jack Layton supports the imposition of tariffs on imported goods. Stephen Harper favors free trade and opposes tariffs, and has pushed through numerous free trade deals during his terms in office. So now we have to ask the questions: is free trade good for Canada? Is free trade good for Canadian consumers? Is free trade good for Canadian companies? Is free trade good for the poor in other countries?

Let’s start by noting that free trade is supported by virtually ALL economists, regardless of their political persuasion. Moderate economist Gregory Mankiw of Harvard University lists the policies that are accepted by virtually all economists.

Here’s Greg’s list, together with the percentage of economists who agree:

  1. A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available. (93%)
  2. Tariffs and import quotas usually reduce general economic welfare. (93%)
  3. Flexible and floating exchange rates offer an effective international monetary arrangement. (90%)
  4. Fiscal policy (e.g., tax cut and/or government expenditure increase) has a significant stimulative impact on a less than fully employed economy. (90%)
  5. The United States should not restrict employers from outsourcing work to foreign countries. (90%)
  6. The United States should eliminate agricultural subsidies. (85%)
  7. Local and state governments should eliminate subsidies to professional sports franchises. (85%)
  8. If the federal budget is to be balanced, it should be done over the business cycle rather than yearly. (85%)
  9. The gap between Social Security funds and expenditures will become unsustainably large within the next fifty years if current policies remain unchanged. (85%)
  10. Cash payments increase the welfare of recipients to a greater degree than do transfers-in-kind of equal cash value. (84%)
  11. A large federal budget deficit has an adverse effect on the economy. (83%)
  12. A minimum wage increases unemployment among young and unskilled workers. (79%)
  13. The government should restructure the welfare system along the lines of a “negative income tax.” (79%)
  14. Effluent taxes and marketable pollution permits represent a better approach to pollution control than imposition of pollution ceilings. (78%)

Now let’s drill down to the research on free trade in particular.

Here’s an article from the  libertarian Cato Institute, a respected think tank.

Excerpt:

There are three important reasons voluntary exchange is good not only for the contracting parties but the world as a whole:

(1) Trade improves global efficiency in resource allocation. A glass of water may be of little value to someone living near the river but is priceless to a person crossing the Sahara. Trade delivers goods and services to those who value them most.

(2) Trade allows partners to gain from specializing in the producing those goods and services they do best. Economists call that the law of comparative advantage. When producers create goods they are comparatively skilled at, such as Germans producing beer and the French producing wine, those goods increase in abundance and quality.

(3) Trade allows consumers to benefit from more efficient production methods. For example, without large markets for goods and services, large production runs would not be economical. Large production runs, in turn, are instrumental to reducing product costs. Lower production costs lead to cheaper goods and services, which raises real living standards.

Evidence supports the idea nations more open to trade tend to be richer than those that are less open. Columbia University economist Arvind Panagariya wrote in a paper “Miracles and Debacles: Do Free-Trade Skeptics Have a Case?”: “On the poverty front, there is overwhelming evidence that trade openness is a more trustworthy friend of the poor than protectionism. Few countries have grown rapidly without a simultaneous rapid expansion of trade. In turn, rapid growth has almost always led to reduction in poverty.”

According to the Cato Institute’s 2004 report on Economic Freedom of the World, which measures economic freedom in 123 countries, the per capita gross domestic product in the quintile of countries with the most restricted trading was only $1,883 in 2002. That year’s per capita GDP in the quintile of countries with the freest trading regimes was $23,938.

Harper holds the B.A. and the M.A. in economics from the University of Calgary. He knows this stuff cold.

Here’s an article from The Heritage Foundation, another think tank. This article outlines five reasons why free trade is the best economic policy.

Here is an excerpt from one reason from the list of five:

REASON #1: Higher Standard of Living

The most compelling reason to support free trade is that society as a whole benefits from it. Free trade improves people’s living standards because it allows them to consume higher quality goods at less expensive prices. In the 19th century, British economist David Ricardo showed that any nation that focuses on producing goods in which it has a comparative advantage will be able to get cheaper and better goods from other countries in return. As a result of the exchange, both trading parties gain from producing more efficiently and consuming higher quality goods and services at lower prices.

Trade between nations is the same as trade between people. Consider what the quality of life would be if each person had to produce absolutely everything that he or she consumed, such as food, clothing, cars, or home repairs. Compare that picture with life as it is now as individuals dedicate themselves to working on just one thing–for example, insurance sales–to earn a salary with which they can freely purchase food, a car, a home, clothing, and anything else they wish at higher quality and lower prices than if they had done it themselves.

It simply makes sense for each person to work at what he or she does best and to buy the rest. As a nation, the United States exports in order to purchase imports that other nations produce more skillfully and cheaply. Therefore, the fewer barriers erected against trade with other nations, the more access people will have to the best, least expensive goods and services in the world “supermarket.”

Producers benefit as well. In the absence of trade barriers, producers face greater competition from foreign producers, and this increased competition gives them an incentive to improve the quality of their production while keeping prices low in order to compete. At the same time, free trade allows domestic producers to shop around the world for the least expensive inputs they can use for their production, which in turn allows them to keep their cost of production down without sacrificing quality.

In the end, the results benefit both producers–who remain competitive and profitable–and consumers–who pay less for a good or a service than they would if trade barriers existed.

There is no loser to free trade exchanges, otherwise the participants to the trade would not make the trade at all. Both parties gain – that’s why they choose to make the trade.

NDP candidates are not economists

NDP candidates are not known for their demonstrated knowledge and experience in economics, unlike Stephen Harper.

Excerpt:

Usually an election call means all bets are off for politicos wanting to take a Vegas vacation.

But, if you’re a New Democrat, you can be in Sin City with just days to go in the federal election campaign.

That’s where the party’s long shot candidate for the Quebec riding of Berthier-Maskinonge, Ruth Ellen Brosseau, finds herself.

Ruth works in the campus pub at Carleton University. She is not an economist.

But there’s more:

Some NDP candidates in Quebec could prove to be wild cards if they end up winning on May 2.

Several are still university students.

Charmaine Borg in Terrebonne-Blainville and Sherbrooke candidate Pierre-Luc Dusseault are both studying political science.

Actress and former camp counsellor Marie-Claude Morin in Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot is working on a degree in social work.

Others have off-beat political backgrounds.

Alexandre Boulerice, the NDP candidate in Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, is a member of the left-wing separatist party Quebec Solidaire.

In the Pontiac riding, the New Democrats have nominated Mathieu Ravignat. He was a Communist Party candidate in the Montreal area in 1997.

You can watch a video report on some of the NDP candidates here at Blazing Cat Fur.

How did former NDP leader Bob Rae govern in Ontario?

If you want to know what New Democrats do to an economy, you can read about how NDP leader Bob Rae wrecked the Ontario economy in the 1990s.

Excerpt:

The Liberal government had forecast a small surplus earlier in the year, but a worsening North American economy led to a $700 million deficit before Rae took office. In October, the NDP projected a $2.5 billion deficit for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 1991.[40] Some economists projected soaring deficits for the upcoming years, even if the Rae government implemented austerity measures.[41] Rae himself was critical of the Bank of Canada’s high interest rate policy, arguing that it would lead to increased unemployment throughout the country.[42] He also criticized the 1991 federal budget, arguing the Finance Minister Michael Wilson was shifting the federal debt to the provinces.[43]

The Rae government’s first budget, introduced in 1991, increased social spending to mitigate the economic slowdown and projected a record deficit of $9.1 billion. Finance Minister Floyd Laughren argued that Ontario made a decision to target the effects of the recession rather than the deficit, and said that the budget would create or protect 70,000 jobs. It targeted more money to social assistance, social housing and child benefits, and raised taxes for high-income earners while lowering rates for 700,000 low-income Ontarians.[44]

A few years later, journalist Thomas Walkom described the budget as following a Keynesian orthodoxy, spending money in the public sector to stimulate employment and productivity. Unfortunately, it did not achieve its stated purpose. The recession was still severe. Walkom described the budget as “the worst of both worlds”, angering the business community but not doing enough to provide for public relief.

[...]Rae’s government attempted to introduce a variety of socially progressive measures during its time in office, though its success in this field was mixed. In 1994, the government introduced legislation, Bill 167, which would have provided for same-sex partnership benefits in the province. At the time, this legislation was seen as a revolutionary step forward for same-sex recognition.

[...]The Rae government established an employment equity commission in 1991,[49] and two years later introduced affirmative action to improve the numbers of women, non-whites, aboriginals and disabled persons working in the public sector.

[...]In November 1990, the Rae government announced that it would restrict most rent increases to 4.6% for the present year and 5.4% for 1991. The provisions for 1990 were made retroactive. Tenants’ groups supported these changes, while landlord representatives were generally opposed.

Be careful who you vote for, Canada. We voted for Obama, and now we have a 14.5 trillion dollar debt and a 1.65 trillion deficit – TEN TIMES the last Republican budget deficit of 160 billion under George W. Bush in 2007. TEN TIMES WORSE THAN BUSH.

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Conservative Stephen Harper will cut taxes for families

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper announces his tax cut plan for families.

Excerpt:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today that a re-elected Conservative Government will continue to implement low-tax measures to improve the quality of life of Canadian families.

“The Conservative Party believes in low taxes for Canadian families, because we know household budgets are tight,” said Mr. Harper. “A re-elected Conservative Government will continue to keep taxes down for families so they can keep more of their hard-earned money to spend on what matters to them.”

Budget 2011, the Next Phase of Canada’s Economic Action Plan, included concrete measures to keep taxes down for Canadian families. These include a new Family Caregiver Tax Credit to help around 500,000 families with the cost of caring for an infirm child or an aging parent, and the elimination of the $10,000 cap on the Medical Expense Tax Credit for any expenses incurred in caring for a financially-dependent relative. Our 2011 Budget — opposed by the Ignatieff Liberals and their Coalition partners, the NDP and Bloc Québécois — would also create a new $500 Children’s Arts Tax Credit to help parents cover the cost of putting their children in artistic, cultural, recreational and developmental activities.

“It is important for a Conservative Government to make Canadian families one of our key priorities,” said Mr. Harper. “That is why we will introduce measures to help caregivers, people who make sacrifices for their families, with concrete, affordable measures.”

Prime Minister Harper also reiterated his commitment to double to $1,000 the amount of the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit and to introduce the Family Tax Cut, income-sharing for families with children under the age of 18 years old, once the Government eliminates the deficit in 2014.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative Government cut taxes for Canadian families by more than $3,000 on average.

Prime Minister Harper observed that the Coalition of the Ignatieff Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois has the wrong priorities with their plan to raise taxes on Canadian families and ignore the choices that families make. “The choice is clear,” Mr. Harper said. “Canadians can choose between our low-tax plan for families and their high-tax agenda that will set you and your family back.”

Stephen Harper would also pass a bill to get tough on crime and criminals, in order to protect law-abiding Canadian families.

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