Gary Hofmeister: Back to real basics

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The recent election is serving as a wake-up call to many on the conservative side of the aisle, and I have little doubt the remedies will be all across the map — including many who are willing to take our opposition’s recommendation that we echo their big government paternalism.

Sorry. It ain’t gonna happen. But as with many crises, the soul searching will be intense. And as often is the case, the answer may be found with some reflection of where we were not that long ago.

We are conservatives not because we just want more money and things, despite how the other side loves to portray us. Frankly, it’s far down the list for most of us. And yet there certainly is a distinct moral underpinning to our beliefs that tell us we are free human beings with the ability to make choices. We fold this sacred right into the package we call “freedom,” or “liberty.” Being human, we know that we won’t always make the correct choices or even the most moral, but that all is part of the human challenge and what I think we will have to answer for on Judgment Day.

Giving away that right to the government changes everything. It institutionalizes it, thus taking it out of our hands. So even if we voted in such a way hoping that the government will use the money properly to redistribute the resources to help the disadvantaged, once it has left our control, they can do what they want. History has proven over and over that it rarely rises to the challenge and often becomes the antithesis of what we envisioned.

In these pages many months ago, I wrote about my many trips to Ukraine conducting seminars on democracy and how our free enterprise system works. One of the reasons I always enjoyed going back was because of the goodwill of the Ukrainian people. They are wonderful. But, they have had several generations of massive government telling them the state is everything and they are there to serve it. No charities were allowed under the Soviet system because that would demonstrate that socialism couldn’t supply all the people’s needs. Worker’s Paradise, remember? The result of this, which I discerned many times, was an attitude of almost complete detachment from any responsibility for their fellow citizens or anyone else. If it’s the government’s responsibility, it certainly isn’t mine! And those awful words became a mantra: “It’s not my problem.”

The upshot is that by handing over our money and power to the government, it ultimately becomes counterproductive from most people’s initial wishes. In addition, they also are harming these same fellow citizens by making them dependent rather than self-sufficient. Is there anything more evil than this? It doesn’t mean cutting off resources and help to those who truly need it. That’s what a compassionate society does. But once we start handing out goodies to those who aren’t really in need, we have robbed the truly needy and helped destroy the initiative of those who are demanding those resources. Everyone loses.

We also have taken away our own sense of empathy and responsibility to those in need by abdicating it to the government institutions. This robs us our need to be virtuous in our own right. Americans always have been the most generous people in the history of the world. We have recent data showing that those who would choose a smaller government if given the choice are much more generous privately than those who vote for a larger expanding one. No surprise there.

Gary Hofmeister is the owner and operator of Hofmeister Personal Jewelers in downtown Steamboat, a company he founded in 1973. He is a director of The Steamboat Institute and a former Republican nominee for Congress in the 10th District of Indiana.

Comments

Steve Lewis 1 year, 4 months ago

Gary,

Please be more constructive. Your work above paints your fondest caricatures of Liberals and how THEY are screwing things up. Seriously, all you got is "Liberals are the problem"?

Get to work man! You are a conservative with a column! Where are the conservative solutions?

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John Weibel 1 year, 4 months ago

Steve,

Here are some conservative solutions for you...

State level - Today we tax employee wages to fund unemployment insurance. This is counter productive as any time you tax something generally you get less of it. Also, now that manufacturing is starting to move back to the states, via robotic manufacturing as I heard on NPR. While this is great, it gives a competitive advantage to that robot over people. That on top of the federal employer contributions to the tax roles.

Federal Level - Phase out agricultural subsidies, as they contribute to dead zones in the gulf of Mexico and elsewhere. It makes it unfeasible for subsistence farmers in Mexico to farm and thus they immigrate here to make a living. It helps to contribute to carbon in the atmosphere as continuous row cropping depletes the soil of carbon and other minerals. It contributes to our poor health in this country as foods are grown in the same way on the same land leading to a nutritional decline of about 50% in most foods over the last 100 years.

Local level - many of the local governmental functions could probably be outsourced to local firms (park maintenance could be done by landscaping companies, etc.). Local officials, could listen to issues and see if rules are actually accomplishing any goal or are simply there because of some problem once before in a completely unrelated instance that makes it difficult for small business' to start up.

How about those conservative solutions versus, simply having the government do everything for us. I am sure that they will make the world better based upon some groups beliefs in DC, Brussels or elsewhere. Heck on my land the soil structure is different from one area to another and to dictate how the rules should apply from 100's to 1000's of miles away fails to grasp what is happening elsewhere. Just like minimum wage in Colby Kansas probably should be less than NYC, government should be pushed down to the closest levels to the people as possible.

Rules seem to be made to protect us from every possible problem. In the case of dairies those rules are written for dairies milking 1000's of cows a day, yet if we want a sustainable world we need to move back towards a decentralized system which might have difficulties complying with rules trying to eliminate problems that probably will never arise in a dairy with say 10-50 cows.

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Fred Duckels 1 year, 4 months ago

We have a complete class of folks that do very well acting as intermediaries for the the less affluent by demanding larger government and goodies that we are entitled On the other end of the spectrum is private charities that may be less inclined to grease every squeekie wheel. The liberal crowd can maintain power by giving away free stuff but the long range prognosis is a fiasco, The difference between our situation and Greece's is that we can print money,, Consider the picture if we stopped the presses.

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mark hartless 1 year, 4 months ago

Consider the picture if we don't.

Inflation is one of, if not THE most insidious ways a government robs it's people. And not 1 person in 100 seems to care. Most either have no idea why grocery and other commodity prices are through the roof or they just blame the "evil corporations"; as if those corporations are not connected to the government at the hip.

Consider the picture if interest rates ticked up just a mere 5%, not at all out of the question.

Uncle Scam would then have to spend 100 cents of every dollar JUST TO PAY INTEREST on the debt this deadbeat generation has incurred. Where will the handouts come from then????

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jerry carlton 1 year, 4 months ago

People that have rejected God will no longer recieve the blessings of God. Read the Old Testament and see what happened to the Jewish people. The same thing is coming for the people of the United States. It may come sooner rather than later.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 4 months ago

Yeah, only conservatives care about anything that affects the future. And liberals only care about they government can give people today.

Yeah, that's the sort of thinking that will convince the people to vote for conservatives.

Government has generally been miserable at using technology to reduce overhead costs. And has a terrible record of not using proven solutions that are sufficient, but wasting money on trying to create a perfect solution that ends up outdated by the time it is ready.

John is right that government rules often do not apply well for particular circumstances and rules should be less concerned with specific practices and more focused with achieving specific standards. Such as making sure a small diary produces safe food so maybe unpasteurized milk is highly regulated, but aged cheese is lightly regulated (since the cheese itself is a pretty clear indicator if it was made okay).

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John St Pierre 1 year, 4 months ago

very enlightening Mr Carlton.... but as I read all these comments I am reminded of several quote's of a much beloved american.... "the Christian Bible is a drug store. Its contents remain the same; but the medial practice changes." and probably his best "There has been only one Christian. They caught him and crucified him.... early"...... Mark Twain.

Lets please keep this conversation civil without the dispersions of other religions... in another great conversation Twain remarked "man is the only animal that has the True Religion-several of them"

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Fred Duckels 1 year, 4 months ago

Steve, If you need an explanation, none is possible.

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rhys jones 1 year, 4 months ago

Why does it not surprise me, that the same people who believe in the God-given right for every American to own assault weapons, SAY they believe in "smaller government," while also supporting the War Machine which has cost us $3.7 Trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan alone -- as of Jan 26 2012 --

http://www.mediafreedominternational.org/2012/01/25/iraq-and-afghanistan-wars-have-cost-americans-3-7-trillion-12000-per-person/

which is $12,000 for every man, woman, and child in America -- and does NOT include ongoing medical costs for wounded veterans or interest on the war debt. So it's okay to make the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, and Bank of England richer, killing and maiming our own youth and alienating the whole world, while starvation and homelessness are still rampant in our own country? It's so easy to pull the wool over your own eyes, when you can say "Heck, on my land..." and you are twice removed from the death and destruction we are wreaking half a world away. Not to mention shipping all our manufacturing to our erstwhile-enemies, so our remaining dollars go there and stay there.

The Rothschilds, Rockefellers, and Bank of England (ie Federal Reserve) intentionally caused inflation to begin with, by practicing "fractional reserve" banking, thus creating money out of thin air, thereby diluting and devaluing every dollar already in circulation.

We are making a few people very rich, at the expense of our own youth and entire economy -- and that is "smaller government"? It's okay to ignore our own domestic needs, while waging war on the whole world? Killing Muslims is okay, and feeding our own people isn't? This country DESERVES to go belly-up, and is well on its way.

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mark hartless 1 year, 4 months ago

And those who do NOT believe in the God-given right of every American to own assault weapons and who DO believe in BIGGER government? How exactly have THEY helped any of the situations which you decry, Rhys????

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Matthew Stoddard 1 year, 4 months ago

Where in the Bible did God give us the right to own assault weapons? Considering when it was written, would those assault weapons just be stones?

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jerry carlton 1 year, 4 months ago

Mr St Pierre: Mark Twain was a great Author and wonderful humorist, as were Will Rogers, Bob Hope and Bill Cosby. However for my moral guidance, I will continue to use The Bible.

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rhys jones 1 year, 4 months ago

I don't suppose any of our right-wing gun nuts saw President Obama's speech in Newtown last night, since it opposed good ol' All-American football -- so let me provide a short synopsis: He said that four times since he's taken office, he's had to travel to small towns to console their citizens after a mass shooting, concluding with "Is that the price we pay for freedom, the safety of our children?"

If you need thirty bullets in your magazine to go deer hunting -- you don't need that big clip, you need shooting lessons. If your target is a crowded theater or classroom, that's another story. Any lunatic in America can own assault rifles. I feel safer already.

And if this country needs a war to keep the home fires lit, I'll be on the next flight out as soon as I can afford it.

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mark hartless 1 year, 4 months ago

I hear Costa Rica is nice this time of year.

Yes, it's always "for the children". We do it all "for the children".

We love them soooooo much that we leave them $20 trillion in debt.

We cherish their memory so much that we defend the elimination of more than 60 million of them before they are even born.

We care so much "for the children" that we leave our spouse( their other parent) at record rates.

Our children are sooooo important that, in certain segments of our population most "helped" by government, over 72% of them are concieved, born and raised with NO FATHER.

And we cant understand why on earth things go wrong.

Where, "in the Bible", did God give us any of those rights, Matthew???

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rhys jones 1 year, 4 months ago

Hey Mark -- Maybe if we're real lucky, in another 3 days, Costa Rica will come to us!!

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 4 months ago

Obama's speech was on during the football game. So football fans did not miss the speech.

What was the point of Obama's speech? Why pretend that some ineffective ban of assault weapons is going to make a difference? Unless existing assault weapons are going to be removed then any banning of assault weapons is pointless.

If Obama doesn't like going to towns after mass killings then be willing to say what needs to be done to make such events harder to perpetuate. Passing a ban on magazines that hold more than 10 bullets while doing nothing about the tens of millions that already exist is pointless. It is know what works. Australia banned assault weapons and bought back those already owned so there are not many left there. But it will take many more massacres before that would ever be approved here.

Meanwhile, we lose far more people each year to people without prescriptions dying from using Oxycontin and similar drugs

We have become an ungovernable country where politicians willing to present solutions that actually fix "problems" are unelectable. Instead we get political theater of both sides presenting solutions popular to their supporters, but obviously not going to be efficient, to what are problems apparently not bad enough to actually be corrected.

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rhys jones 1 year, 4 months ago

I've been accused of being a forum troll, but you take the cake, Scott. What, nobody washes their car in the snow? Not enough quarters to count? Is no forum safe? Since you write more than any staff writer -- who do it full time -- have you approached the Piolt to put you on the payroll? The reason so many people skip your posts is because there simply isn't time, not if they have a real life (I barely qualify). Again we are astounded by your vast knowledge and grasp of all subjects. Everybody else is so wrong, and you are so write -- I mean right.

I'd love to argue with you some more, but my database needs some attention.

What a BORE. I repeat: GET A LIFE.

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rhys jones 1 year, 4 months ago

BTW -- The network offered two alternatives, for people who wanted to see the game rather than Obama's speech, which I'm sure every right-wing football- and gun-nut availed themselves of, so they didn't have to watch the bleeding heart hinting at gun control. I've been a gun nut all my life, but now I agree, more control is in order, especially regarding assault weapons, still freely available, to any nut who wants one. I'm not ready to throw up my hands in despair, unlike some people. Consider this license for another lengthy tirade. By now we expect it.

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Matthew Stoddard 1 year, 4 months ago

Mark- that's exactly the point. It's been a while since I've read the Bible and unless it's been updated, nowhere do I remember God giving anyone any "rights." In fact, I only remember Him giving us Commandments. There is no such thing as a "God-given right" to anything, from what I remember.

And I agree with Rhys- any hunter who needs 30 round magazines to hunt, isn't hunting very well.

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mark hartless 1 year, 4 months ago

Matthew, you are mistaken.

God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and gave them free reign (dominion) over all things. Genesis 1:28

God gave Adam and Eve dominion over all things with only one exception... The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They were forbidden to eat from that tree (Genesis 2:17). So, what do you think they did???

Now, rather than accepting the Word of God, something you admit you do not have sufficient command of, let's instead just carry forward the argument you put forth; an argument that demonstrates you also lack command of basic principles of Constitutional law...

Government is nothing more than a collective of individuals, right? A "comming together" of "like minded" people who agree to pour their authority into (sanction) the enterprise of government. Can you get that concept??? Good... So

How does a collective of individuals posses a right (to deny the ownership of assault weapons) which was not first POSSESED by those individuals which voluntarily came together to form (constitute) that government???

Another way of thinking of this issue (a litmus test if you will) is to stop approaching every issue from the perspective that government has rights. IT DOES NOT!!!!!

That is your faulty view. The reality is that the individual is free to act without authorization, without permission, without a reason, without a "permit" without a "license", without having to explain his actions. This is true because (and you really need to pay extra special attention here), the individual MAKES UP government. Individuals can't naturally and without limit, be under the boundless authority of an entity they VOLUNTARILY came together to establish!

Dig it???

If you are EVER going to get ANYTHING which will allow you to live as a free man then get this: It is GOVERNMENT which needs authorization to act. Government needs permission> Governments power is listed in the Constitution and limited thereby... NOT that of individual men!!

Without such authorization no act of government is legal, while INDIVIDUALS ARE FREE TO ACT. Therin lies your mistaken assumption.

Got it???

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rhys jones 1 year, 4 months ago

I think it should be a Federal offense for private citizens to own handguns or assault weapons -- that, or the Feds force the States to adopt such laws, threatening withholding of highway or other funds -- so the criminals serve their time in state institutions, not Federal country clubs. So what if there are millions of guns out there: Turn them in, or risk prison. The problem will diminish, as the perpetrators are identified.

Canada does it, and I don't hear their sportsmen complaining, nor do I read about mass shootings up there.

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jerry carlton 1 year, 4 months ago

Ryan I am sorry that you, like more than half the country, accept abortion, gay marriage, illegal immigrants and deficit spending as the new normal for our country. If opposing these things makes me rediculous then I accept the label. I will repeat once again, Read the Old Testament and see what happened to the Jewish Nation when they truned their back on God.

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Chris Hadlock 1 year, 4 months ago

I too am appalled by the extreme right and their desire to shove their social beliefs into my bedroom. I find myself in STRONG agreement with Ryan.

Is there no place in the Republican Party for those that believe in conservative fiscal values but do not agree with the social agenda?

Call me a RINO if you desire but the Republican Party has driven away from my beliefs that are enshrined in the Constitution they claim to follow and admire. Specifically, freedom of Religion should allow me to believe in Allah, Jesus, Noah, Mohammad or simply nothing at all. Until the Republican Party comes to the realization that the social issues they espouse are at odds with the very people they want votes from they will continue to struggle.

Jerry/Mark, you can believe whatever you want and can preach that on the corner soapbox to anyone that will listen. I encourage you to to present that viewpoint and your views as a citizen should be heard load and clear. However, I do not want the Gov't trying to enforce your beliefs in my life or anyone else. At the same time, I can accept that there are people out there with beliefs that are different than my own.

Can you accept that in the Republican Party or will I be voting Democrat again? Are the fiscal problems important enough to accept individuals and representatives that support social issues you find distasteful?

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Matthew Stoddard 1 year, 4 months ago

Chris and Ryan- right there with you. I finally re-registered as Independent this year. I would love to see a Moderate Independent party rise up like Perot's Reform Party but just not implode.

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Chris Hadlock 1 year, 3 months ago

4 days and Crickets from the right....... Congress negotiated most of the bills passed the last 4 years in much the same way. No input from the right on:

Fiscal Cliff Budget Healthcare Stimulus Several Treaty's

Don't you think that our country would be better served with compromise and actual constructive input from both sides of the isle? This tactic of obstruction, obsfucation and gridlock IS the problem that needs to end. The American people have asked all of you to work together for the common good. Are you listening?

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Brian Kotowski 1 year, 3 months ago

3rd-party candidacies are nothing more than exercises in vanity. If we used an electoral system similar to Israel or Japan, voting on the fringe might not be be a wasted effort. But we don't, so it is.

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Eric J. Bowman 1 year, 3 months ago

If the two-party system were working, I might be inclined to agree. But, it isn't. Exhibit A is Michigan -- the incentive against the GOP behaving the way it's behaving, there, is that then the Democrats would have no reason not to behave the same way. A system which has pretty much worked, but which relies on such "gentleman's agreements" as are now routinely violated (Exhibit B is the perma-filibuster in the Senate). I agree with Moynihan's assessment, here:

http://academic.regis.edu/jriley/413Daniel%20Moynihan-Electoral%20College.htm

I also agree with Moynihan that this only works so long as the two political parties are both sane. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case, as so eloquently put by these Republican insiders:

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/13336-a-former-republican-insider-begs-for-sanity http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/lets-just-say-it-the-republicans-are-the-problem/2012/04/27/gIQAxCVUlT_story.html

So, yeah, it's time to stop wasting our votes on Republicans, officially now the party of non-governance, and break the dysfunctional two-party system of the 21st century. A tall order, for certain, but what else to do when one party becomes ideologically opposed to the very concept of government? Madison never envisioned this reality coming to pass, so it's no surprise our system isn't designed to handle it better.

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Eric J. Bowman 1 year, 3 months ago

Forgot a link:

"The one available majority for action, especially on budgets, is a coalition uniting most Democrats with those Republicans who still hold the old-fashioned view that they were elected to help run the country."

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/13516-its-our-system-on-the-cliff

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Brian Kotowski 1 year, 3 months ago

Sound & fury signifying nothing. Absent a repeal of the 12th amendment enabling the implementation of something akin to the parliamentary systems used elsewhere, a 3rd party is the kiss of death.

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John Weibel 1 year, 3 months ago

Eric,

So if non governance means that we are no longer trying to manage for one variable via policies, that is for the best. The management for cheap food via grain subsidies leads to a host of health, environmental and other problems. So yes less government is better here.

Another single faceted solution is in the desire to see that everyone has a home via a tax break. This coupled with the desire for the government to ensure people are saving via 201.5Ks (half of a 401 K with the way the market has gone), IRA's, the pension benefit guarantee trust have all led to people taking on debt in the form of a mortgage and then invest it in the speculate markets. So here is another example of a case in point where had the government not been trying to manage for one variable then the general population would have been better off, though the bankers might not have.

Maybe less federal government is better and more local government is better, where those leading us have to look us in the eye to explain their policies. Though unfortunately many local policies are being directed by groups of individuals in far off regions with reasons for implementing such policies are hard to understand.

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