Fear and Loathing At The Altar of Reagan

Ronald-Reagan

The following piece was originally published at a student journal in 2012, but taken down by editors after Republican donors complained and threatened to pull funds. It has since been edited for brevity. 

We were somewhere around Amelia Island when the fine wine began to take hold.  I remember leaning over to one of my colleagues and saying something like, “I feel a bit lightheaded, maybe you should sit through this.” Then suddenly there was this terrible roar, and all around us, hundreds of conservatives stood from their tables to applause a giant Ronald Reagan painting on the main stage. Then it was quiet again.

This was evening number three at The State Policy Network’s 20th annual meeting, and I was doing anything I could to maintain a poker face while Grover Norquist stood behind a squealing microphone and lauded Ronald Reagan as the greatest assemblage of tissue and cells to ever grace planet earth.

The meeting, however, which spread four days and encompassed roughly 700 activists, wasn’t about living in the past. Instead it was about looking ahead and giving likeminded liberty aficionados from around the United States an opportunity to network and exchange ideas.

But while the alcohol may have flowed like there wasn’t a care in the universe, behind the inebriated smiles rested an unmistakable philosophical divide too big to ignore: though Republicans and libertarians share common ground on economic issues, they still wield two very different—still yet to be resolved—social visions for the future of the country.

Nowhere was this clearer than during a panel discussion I attended about how to broaden the umbrella of the Republican Party. Intrigued by the panel’s self-professed “anti-establishment” conservatives, I listened closely, hoping I might actually hear a few contrite admissions on gay marriage and immigration.

I was gravely mistaken. Rather than an earnest and enlightened discussion about reigning in the Tea Party’s inflammatory rhetoric, or conceding America’s pigmentation and social views have altered and evolved, discourse instead revolved around the notion that Republicans merely lost November’s election because they weren’t “conservative enough,” paving the way for a stunning exhibition of willful and malevolent denial.

If conservatives actually believed in free markets and individual freedom, maybe that would be true. The problem is conservatives don’t. Conservatives instead routinely condemn and admonish both in the name of moral absolutism and subjectivity, even if it means resorting to governmental coercion.

The lone exception to this standard is Ron Paul and, to some extent, his son. That being said, other Republicans have also begun to see the writing on the wall.

This past January Rubio criticized conservatives saying: “For those of us who come from the conservative movement, we must admit that there are those among us who have used rhetoric that is harsh and intolerable, inexcusable, and we must admit, myself included, that sometimes we’ve been too slow in condemning that language for what it is…”

Rubio is right. However, a handful of dissenting Republicans on a single issue are hardly adequate to convert an entire party whose broader fanatical nucleus still insists “the gays” are tarnishing Reagan’s “shining city on a hill.” Never mind the ignorant assumption one’s sexuality somehow correlates with one’s economic and/or systemic views. Never mind the economic benefits of immigration.

The real tragedy is Reagan was far from a “limited government” conservative. Reagan, in fact, not only tripled the national debt, increased federal aid, and added more than 230,000 federal jobs during his time in office, but supported abortion in California as governor and granted Amnesty to roughly 3 million illegal immigrants in 1986 (his one noble accomplishment).

And then there are the conservatives who worship at his altar. Indeed, I have gay friends who, despite limited government views, choose to identify as classical liberals because of the incendiary rhetoric on the right. In addition, having spent my entire life in cities predominantly comprised of Latinos, I have witnessed the hardworking contributions of both documented and undocumented immigrants firsthand, and recognize the devastating effects those cities would sustain if the federal government were to “throw them all out.”

Differences between libertarians and Republicans aside, however, the State Policy Network organized a worthwhile event. The hotel was great. The food was superb. And I had the wonderful opportunity to meet a lot of splendid individuals—they just weren’t conservative Republicans.

Then again, who knows. Perhaps after a few more general election losses, the Republican Party will finally bring itself to acknowledge what the rest of the country already recognizes—the world is round.

Until then, keep the fine wine coming.

Brandon Loran Maxwell

Esoteric Gloom

So you feel the way I do
Feel dangerous feel lethal
Always lied to always used
Feel happiness feel peaceful
We’ll I’m thinking me and you
Aren’t like the other people
I’m so grey I’m turning blue
I’m so good at being evil

Isn’t is beautiful
Isn’t it everything
Finally a chance to dream away
Every day that ever seemed
Isn’t it wonderful
Anything can truly be
Finally a chance to leave
All the things that you don’t need

So you feel the way I do
As a hater as a lover
Always lied to and abused
Feel freedom undiscovered
Well I’m thinking me and you
Share the same true colors
I’m so grey I’m turning blue
I feel naked under covers

Isn’t is beautiful
Isn’t it everything
Finally a chance to dream away
Every day that ever seemed
Isn’t it wonderful
Anything can truly be
Finally a chance to leave
All the things that you don’t need

Listen to song

Written by Brandon Loran Maxwell

Dear Jen

Dear Jen
Tears are running down this chin again
As in darkness we descend
I gaze afar and I wonder how you are
Here miles away from it all with this guitar

And old winds whisk by
And still I wonder
I wonder if I’ll ever see you again
And sometimes I listen to the thunder
And I think of you
Dear Jen

Storm clouds
And chariots embark across our minds
And slip like sands through time
Imprisoned here in solitude we stray
Into the black where memories they fade

And old winds whisk by
And still I wonder
I wonder if I’ll ever see you again
And sometimes I listen to the thunder
And I think of you
Dear Jen

And if they say this love won’t last
We’ll show them and run into the dying sun
Hand and hand
Because nobody understands

And we’ll look back and laugh
And they will ask
About the boy and girl who sold the world
For it all

Listen to song

Written by Brandon Loran Maxwell

 

The Beast Inside Me

I’ve seen rivers and streams
Breathless in a stall
Forgotten like a rotten porcelain doll

It seems despite my dreams
And wishful winds that call
The brightest stars are always first to fall

Well hope it turns out that I’m wrong
Hope this beast burns out and calms
Hope somewhere some sun will break
Hope I care enough to wake

Hope that it’s still not too late
Hope someday for heaven’s sake
That I find the will to shake
This beast inside of me that waits

I’ve passed mountains my friend
And worlds you could not know
I’ve gambled souls away in just one throw

The mask you know me in
No longer fits this show
I’m sorry but I think it’s time to go

Written by Brandon Loran Maxwell

Charles Darwin’s Free Market Wisdom

Charles-Darwin-Free-Market
Charles Darwin

The following originally appeared at The Washington Times Communities, which is now defunct. 

Charles Darwin has never drifted far from political or scientific discussion. Over the decades, his book “The Origin of Species” has been both widely embraced and condemned, and worse, largely oversimplified.

Findings from two recent studies centered on some of Darwin’s most fundamental theories, however, tell us the world is vastly more complicated than the black and white lens many view it through.

Recent genetic tests in Paris appear to suggest flaws in Darwin’s “tree of life” model which attempts to explain the interrelationship between organisms. Conversely, new research at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) appears to validate Darwin’s belief that diversity among species promotes productivity (more on this in a moment).

Evolutionary biologist Eric Bapteste at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, says there is “no evidence at all that the tree of life is a reality,” a position echoed by evolutionary biologist Michael Rose at University of California, Irvine, in a recent interview with Britain’s The Guardian.

New tests on everything ranging from bacteria to plants to animals not only suggest organisms crossbreed, meaning genes in the “tree of life” aren’t always inherited from the branch species reside, far more frequently than previously understood. Those genes frequently transfer from one species to another despite traveling separate evolutionary pathways.

Phys.org, a leading science, research, and technology news outlet wrote about the holes in Darwin’s “tree of life” model as far back as 2007, saying “there is no external evidence to support the idea that evolution is inclusively hierarchical.” Darwin, however, proposed dozens of theories over the course of his influential and controversial career. To disregard his entire catalog would be disingenuous.

A separate second study at UTSC recently confirmed Darwin’s theory that a multi-species plot of land is more productive than a single-species plot of land—a finding that carries with it far more important socioeconomic implications than whether or not species are hierarchical.

In a summary at Science Daily last week, UTSC scholars found “environments containing species that are distantly related to one another are more productive than those containing closely related species.”

In other words, diversity yields greater, more efficient output.

According to Marc William Cadotte, the author of the study, “If you have two species that can access different resources or do things in different ways, then having those two species together can enhance species function.”

If the idea that two organisms with access to different resources, employing different skill sets, are more proficient when they work together sounds familiar, it’s because it is. It’s called the division of labor, an economic concept that transformed Western Europe and the United States into beacons of productivity and prosperity throughout the industrial revolution.

If UTSC is correct in its findings, evolutionary biology would appear to suggest that division of labor and diversity is the most effective form of production and survival. According to Darwin, species wouldn’t have adopted them if they weren’t. The same findings would also appear to suggest that species, like humans, are not all created equal and some are more adept at certain tasks than others.

No economic theory comes without its critics and the division of labor has its longstanding share. The social scientist and philosopher Karl Marx considered the division of labor the catalyst behind human inequality and predicted specialization of skill would be eradicated to the betterment of mankind.

Darwin and UTSC’s latest study, however, challenges Marx. The division of labor is very much beneficial and here to stay, not just conceptually, but biologically.

The irony of this is that many of the same critics of the division of labor—many which reside on the left of the political spectrum—are also proponents of science, particularly Darwin, which raises an interesting question: Now that science has vindicated a very important cornerstone of free market capitalism, will the left embrace it?

Equally, will those residing on the right side of the political spectrum bring themselves to accept the fact that diversity and immigration are beneficial, not detrimental to a national economy? It’s doubtful.

Regardless of how one might feel about Darwin, it shouldn’t take a scientific study to affirm what Americans can already see with their own eyes. History is rife with examples of countries that have enjoyed greater economic output and higher standards of living as a result of division of labor and social diversity. That being said, with an economy in the dumps and immigration levels the lowest they’ve been in years, perhaps a reminder is what’s needed.

Brandon Loran Maxwell