Sunday, January 6, 2013

Clear and Present Dangers 14

I finished M. Stanton Evans' 1975 book, Clear and Present Dangers: A Conservative View of America's Government.  In my latest reading, Evans proposed conservative solutions to our country's problems.  He acknowledged that he supports solutions that would go much further than what is politically feasible, but he's open to meeting people halfway and taking half a loaf rather than none at all.  For example, Evans supports abolishing the minimum wage, but he'd be open merely to exempting teenagers from it.

There were two items in my latest reading that especially stood out to me.  First, on page 395, Evans proposes that residents of the inner-city be allowed to vote on whether or not urban renewal will take place in their area.  Evans says that this "would give the otherwise voiceless citizens (usually blacks) in the central cities a say-so in their own affairs."  That sounds rather populist!  I like it!  Evans also referred favorably to a proposal to "eliminate taxes on structural improvements on property", thereby encouraging inner-city buildings to be upgraded and made more liveable, as well as a proposal to reform zoning ordinances that inhibit "new construction" in the inner-city, thereby addressing housing.  Evans does not go into much detail on ways to improve the inner-cities, but I appreciate that he not only said what he thought was wrong with the government policy of that time regarding the inner-cities but also demonstrated his willingness to consider alternative approaches.

Second, in his discussion on pornography, Evans affirms that the matter should be left to the states, but then he goes on to say that the pornography industry has suffered, even though states have avoided a repressive policy.  Evans says that states should have the authority to set their own policy regarding pornography, yet he himself seems to prefer a more libertarian approach.  I'd say that he was overly optimistic about the demise of pornography, however, for television, movies, and the Internet these days show plenty of sexually-explicit images.

Overall, I thought this was a good book, even though I'm not much of a conservative nowadays.  I admire Evans for challenging the liberal consensus of his day, and I thought that he made a good point when he argued that legal limits on government authority should be consistently followed, lest the state get out of control.  I feel that the Tenth Amendment (at least as conservatives understand it) is too rigid of a limit, for I have problems with hindering the government from doing good, especially in situations where people cannot really help themselves.  But I understand why limits are important.  One problem that I have, though, is with Evans' insistence that the Fourteenth Amendment does not apply the Bill of Rights to the states.  So we should fear the federal government becoming a tyranny, but we shouldn't mind if the states suppress the rights listed in the Bill of Rights?  What sense does that make?  Isn't tyranny bad, whether it occurs at the federal, state, or local level?

I thought that Evans made valuable points about certain government policies causing more harm than good.  That's certainly plausible!  I was a little skeptical, however, when he sought to downplay the extent of the problems that the government was trying to solve.  Moreover, my hunch is that laissez-faire would create its own set of problems.  I think that one should seek to reform how the government does things, rather than rolling back government involvement and expecting for problems to go away as a result of that.  What's interesting is that President Barack Obama, specifically Obamacare, has sought to tackle some of the health care problems that Evans discusses, such as subsidies to hospitals that increase the cost of health care.

I have to admire Evans for the extent of his documentation.  I did not fact-check everything he said, for I did not have the time or the energy, considering the vast wealth of information that is in Evans' book.  Surprisingly, I found fact-checking Newt Gingrich's works and Mitt Romney's book to be a more manageable task than fact-checking Evans would probably be.

Evans' book was definitely worth reading.  In a couple of days, I'll be starting my Year (or More) of Nixon, so I'll play by ear what I post in the two days before then.  One of my posts will probably introduce my Year (or More) of Nixon, defining what it will be and my reason for it!

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