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As Long as We Remember...

April 10, 2012

Society’s Issues Driving Us and the Election

Farrell Keough

While discussing politics with a friend, the issue of social conservatism came up. Generally, when people hear that topic, they think about sex and the current issues of government enforcing religious organizations to pay for birth control and abortifacients.


This is an unfortunate misunderstanding. Social conservatism involves many more aspects to our everyday lives. For instance, government support of various private non-profits is one of the areas involved in this definition. Schools, government grants, unemployment insurance, property rights, and a plethora of other areas fall into this category and are now overseen by our government.


For instance, property owners are the main source of funding for school systems. This situation exists due to a social contract we have accepted as a nation. Very simplistically, we pay to educate our children in the hopes that our next generation will be valuable citizens with a minimum level of knowledge to participate in our communities. Good, bad, or indifferent, this has been an established mechanism to ensure we have an educated populace.


Let’s allow that this method to fund our schools is acceptable. The question then becomes: is the overall practice working? For instance, while we may be happy with our local schools and our national ranking may well be high – as a nation, we rank, (at a minimum) about 15th worldwide. Translated, that means that while we may be number one in the nation, we are number one at being 15th worldwide. Not such an impressive status.


In short, some of our money goes to Washington, where various innovative ideas on standards are adopted. A larger portion goes to our state where further refinements of said standards are imposed. The remainder (and preponderance) goes to our local government where these standards, (created by group consensus) are yet further refined and finally implemented. If you were going to renovate your kitchen and you followed this method, what do you possibly think you would end up with in your home?


We have spent more and more money per student to educate our children in this nation since at least the 1960s. But consider that both Japan and Korea outrank us when measured in areas like math, science, and reading literacy – yet they pay far less per student, (based upon GDP) than we do. So, are we getting the bang for our buck that we should be expecting?


We cannot contrast our nation with Japan and Korea as though it was an apples-to-apples comparison. But, that should not discount a review of the two approaches. It seems fairly evident that we are wasting our dollars and getting a poor return, hence we need to look at that entire system and determine just where the process goes wrong.


Another area of social conservatism is that of property rights. We have seen how this can be usurped by state fiat – based upon environmental protection. Truth be told, this canard is similar to stating “it’s for the children” – we know that is a false proposition, yet our elected representatives seem to feel that is cover to restrict a central theme to our nation – individual liberties and property rights.


Consider the Executive Order to implement the Chesapeake Bay model and implementation by the Environmental Protection Agency. In short, this gave the EPA carte blanche to force homeowners, counties, and states to implement strategies which may or may not Save the Bay, but most certainly will cost every citizen a great deal of money! Not only do states have little recourse, but this implementation was the basis for further regulation by the State of Maryland.


PlanMaryland was implemented in conjunction with this EPA authority. Along with that, new rules and regulations on septic systems have recently been passed by our House of Delegates. Even having well read and articulate representatives like Del. Kelly Schulz point out the serious flaws and problems created by this bill, the majority party still saw fit to take away our long-held property rights under the guise of protecting the environment.


While our local officials are opposing this legislation, this will still cause serious problems when getting permitting from the various state entities. In short, this will either require a legal suit, or we will miss out on state funding, and potentially not obtain the necessary permitting requirements.


These are but two areas, yet they should work well as a general definition of what really encompasses issues of social conservatism. So, why is that important?


We have a major election coming in November. When we consider the people looking to garner our votes, we need to keep in mind these kinds of social issues. As we have seen, these encompass federal, state, and local issues. Hence, we need to review our decisions to include these kinds of issues – in short, “it’s the economy stupid” is not enough! We need leaders who understand how and why these wider issues affect each and every one of us, and why they also affect the economy.


Let’s take our time and consider the many other areas under the rubric of social conservatism – then ask our aspiring politicians and our friends and acquaintances. These are not stand alone issues – they all affect one another.


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