AEI breaks onto campus with presentation by notable economist

 

 

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., made its first foray onto Northwestern’s campus on Monday with a talk by economist-philosopher Alex J. Pollock titled “The Next Financial Crisis.”

Author of the book “Boom and Bust,” Pollock fulfilled his lecture’s promise with the prediction that the next major economic downturn will occur in the year 2018, following a pattern of historic highs and lows that has proven, according to him, surprisingly reliable.

“The historical average from the last four centuries for financial crises is about once every ten years,” he said. “Some kind of a crisis, someplace.”

“On the historical average, if we take 2008, the historical middle between 2007 and 2009, it should be 2018.”

“Where will you be in 2018?” he asked.

Pollock studies economics from a distinctly philosophical background. He received his master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Chicago and his Master of Public Administration from Princeton. He has since served as president and CEO of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, and currently writes for AEI on topics ranging from banks to housing.

Throughout his lecture, Pollock emphasized that though the financial future is fundamentally unknowable, the economy will continue to improve, because of what he believes to be the essential power behind all economic growth: scientific discovery.

“With each new innovation it’s the same thing,” he said, “a financial euphoria that builds to a bubble. A bubble leads to a bust. But that’s the financial adventure. Underneath that, the trend keeps going.” That trend, according to him, has been positive since the rise of physical science.

AEI’s five-person Northwestern executive council was responsible for bringing Pollock to campus. Students Domonic Burke and Joe Baka, members of the board and leaders within the College Republicans club, said they were very satisfied with the presentation.

“One of our goals was to tap the large econ base that we have at Northwestern,” said Burke. “So I think Mr. Pollock did a great job on touching on those kinds of topics.”

“I think we’re very happy, and it couldn’t have turned out better.”

Fewer people than ever took part in the ASG election

 

Every spring, the smell of soggy campaign flyers and free pizza fills the air across campus as candidates for Associate Student Government’s presidency attempt to win votes from a stereotypically apathetic student body.

But this year has been a bit of a downer. For several reasons, the current ASG election is one of the least publicized and attended elections in recent memory.

Overall turnout dropped by 50 percent compared to last year, and looking at ASG presidential elections in the past, this year’s turnout has been by far the worst. A total of 1,758 people voted on Wednesday, with Julia Watson and Erik Zorn winning a massive 85 percent of the vote. By comparison, for the last six years, total turnout has never dipped below 3,000, much less 2,000, votes.

pic2

 

But why is this the case?

1) Shorter campaigning times. The main reason for the low turnout is that the election’s campaigning period has been shortened to one week, whereas candidates usually had two weeks to make their case. Why the shorter period? ASG voted last year to reduce it because of the burden campaigning placed on candidates and staffers. “I was on a campaign last year and people got really tired,” said newly-elected ASG president Julia Watson, saying that attending classes while running in an election proved overly taxing for many. Erik Zorn agreed, adding that the shorter time period had benefits too: “We were able to get our message out without having to pester people too much,” he told The Chronicle.

2) Lack of choices. Only two sets of candidates ran this year; in 2013, four did; the year before, three. Having different options available adds new ideologies to the mix and can attract voters who don’t usually care about ASG. In 2012, for example, dark horse candidates Dan Tully and Jeziel Jones campaigned on the platform of radically restructuring ASG and essentially abolishing its Byzantine constitution; they didn’t win (Victor Shao and Brad Stewart did), but managed to attract a significant amount of votes.

3) A remarkably uncompetitive race. The main candidates this year were well-supported by the establishment and saw no significant challenge to their policy platform. Julia and Erik, who both have extensive ASG experience, were endorsed by the existing ASG leadership, Ani and Alex, and were (predictably) endorsed by The Daily Northwestern, which usually chooses candidates with insider experience.  This institutional support helped usher in a massive landslide for Julia and Erik, who received 1,489 votes compared to Alex Deitchman and Ronak Patel’s 269.

But considering the nature of the election, this kind of blowout isn’t surprising. For one, Alex and Patel had far less student government experience – Deitchman, a Marine Corps veteran, only transferred to Northwestern in Winter 2013 (although he immediately joined ASG.) Moreover, Deitchman essentially ran to make sure Julia and Erik didn’t run unopposed, which would have been something of an embarrassment for ASG. (He told the Daily he had never actually planned to run for president.) All told, 2014 not only had a low turnout, but also appears to have been one of ASG’s least competitive races. No ticket has won with such a high margin (85 percent!) in the past six years.

__________________

To be sure, all the candidates in 2014 had well-crafted and relevant policy platforms which addressed issues ranging from the Title IX lawsuit to mental health on campus and financial aid. And running an entire election campaign in only a week is no easy task. But if the cost of a one-week campaign is a 50% decline in turnout, it’s worth asking whether the idea helps to “engage and empower” the Northwestern community, as Julia and Erik’s election slogan goes.

 

 

Data used for the infographic:

  • Sales-Griffin, 2008: about 3,200  votes cast.
  • McGee & Smithburg, 2009: 4,292 votes cast.
  • Lew & Kawashima, 2010: 3,482 votes cast.
  • Austin & Ash, 2011:  3,035 votes cast.
  • Shao & Stewart, 2012:, 3,597 votes cast.
  • Ani & Alex,  2013: 3,471 votes cast.
  • Julia & Erik: 1,758 votes cast.
  • (Note: in the case of runoff elections, only the first and main round of votes was counted.)

NU-Q faces further censorship

 

Although Northwestern in Qatar is part of Northwestern University, it faces a problem quite unheard of in Evanston: censorship of its class materials. 

A recent article in NU-Q’s student newspaper, The Daily Q, revealed that NU-Q professors have had to remove controversial books from their syllabi because they were stopped by the Ministry of Culture from entering the country.

Associate professor Tracy Vaughn told The Daily Q this was the reason the book Scheherazade Goes West had to be removed from her class’ syllabus. Vaughn speculated it was due to the book’s line “I thank you Allah for sparing me the tyranny of the size 6 harem.”

Other universities in Education City (where NU-Q is located) have faced similar problems, even though the Qatari government is supposed to guarantee their intellectual freedom.

For example, The Daily Q found that the Georgetown School of Foreign Service in Qatar could not receive the full 1001 Nights for its class based on the classic.

And Doha News reported earlier this month that Mohana Rajakumar, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, had her book Love Comes Later banned from entering Qatar.

This occurred despite the fact that Rajakumar said she consciously avoided subjects like sex, politics, and atheism. Every book entering the conservative country is reviewed by the government for potentially controversial or offensive material, and bans are not infrequent.

In a somewhat ironic example of this, the memoir of Qatari-American writer Sophia al-Maria about growing up in Qatar was well-received internationally but is not sold in Doha.  Al-Maria was NU-Q’s commencement speaker last May.

NU-Q’s own work has been censored as well.

As The Northwestern Chronicle reported last month, NU-Q’s much-touted Arab Media Study went under extensive re-wording for its sections on politics and freedom of expression in Qatar.

Under orders of the Qatar Statistics Authority, the study’s survey questionnaire took out any mention of “politics,” “government,” “public officials,” and other terms which could undermine the legitimacy of Qatar’s absolute monarchy.

In the most clear example of censorship, a question which asked respondents which way they thought their country was going (on a good-or-bad scale) was entirely removed.

Although these changes were noted in the study’s final report, they were never discussed in NU-Q’s many promotions of the study.

NU-Q’s Dean and CEO, Everette E. Dennis, a co-author of the study, did not respond to The Chronicle’s requests for comment on the censored research. He did, however, respond to other media outlets who picked up The Chronicle’s reporting.

Dennis told the Arab higher education website Al Fanar that if the research had “in any way caved to some kind of governmental directive, we wouldn’t have done it.”

Dennis said the study’s authors stand by the survey, adding that “we respect local policies and customs.”

 

Kate Obenshain talks feminism – without college feminists’ approval

kate

On March 11th, the former chair of the Virginia GOP spoke to the Northwestern College Republicans about feminism in the 21st century.

Nearly 30 people attended the event sponsored by the Northwestern College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation. Interestingly, the Northwestern College Feminists were absent from the event.

“We have not been promoting the College Republicans’ event because we find some of the things the speaker has said in the past to be very problematic as they seem to be sex negative and anti-LGBT,” Co-Director Anna Nowinski wrote in an email.

In her talk on Tuesday, the conservative author of the 2012 book “Divider in Chief” delved into different 21st century notions of feminism. Obenshain said she hoped to “bring a message to college campuses different from left-leaning professors that present feminism from their side.”

“The war on women? It is a joke to say there’s a Republican war on women,” Obenshain said. “This mythical war is nonexistent and offensive to women. The real war on women comes from Democrats who undermine women by creating dependency on government.”.”

“This notion is not self-fulfilling or empowering,” she said, “it is the government pushing women down.”

A single mom of four who says she’s experienced discrimination in the workplace, Obenshain said women should be better equipped to speak for themselves.

“A lot of women need that extra push. Women need something different.” Obenshain argued that feminism in the 21st century is very confused and in danger of becoming irrelevant.

She said she thought the future of feminism could be over or irrelevant if women continued to fall for the line about the war on women. In this case women would be permanent victims to government dependency, an antithesis of how Obenshain defines feminism.

Obenshain proposed a new form of feminism: empowerment feminism, which she believes will come from conservatives.

“Empowerment feminism will mean talking about how genuine liberty, economic liberty, and non-dependence brings about the greatest ability to create and build your life in any way you so desire without the government stepping in.”

She closed with a challenge to the assembled audience: “Stop allowing the government to treat you like victims.”

 

The Renewal of Opportunity

 

On May 24, 1607, England established its first permanent settlement in the New World–Jamestown. Though many years passed before its realization, that moment is arguably the singular most substantial gamechanger of the last 1000 years. Suddenly, in a world of monarchy, poverty, injustice, and religious persecution, there now existed a land of second chances. People could escape debt, humiliation, hardship, persecution, and subjugation at the price of a trans-Atlantic ticket. Expatriates could create new lives, new jobs, and better futures for themselves and their children. By the very method of its conception, this country offered opportunities that did not exist anywhere else in the world. The centuries’ old conceptual associations with the American Dream and ‘land of opportunity’ quite evidently conform to the unique legacy of America.

In fact, the legacy of second chances integrally guided the rise of the United States’ influence and economic prowess until at least the time of the Second World War. After political disaffiliation with Europe, many Americans sought renewed opportunity in unsettled lands. In a war cry of Manifest Destiny, Horace Greeley famously stated, “Go West, young man, go West….” The drive West, in its simplest form, amounted to the brave quest for a fresh start.

For a very long time, the word ‘opportunity’ connotated a distinct American concept rooted entirely in the premise of freedom. Opportunity was not provided, but created. Opportunity did not exist institutionally, but was a force of unlimited potential creation for anyone who elected to use it.

Today, opportunity means something completely different–indeed, it is diametrically opposed to its original intent. Politically, “opportunity” often derives support from such reinterpreted broad motivations as “equality of opportunity”. In turn, movements for equality of education, race, gender, etc. have relied upon the reimagination of opportunity’s Americanism, and as a result, educational opportunity equates to “everyone should go to college”, and economic opportunity equates to “everyone has the right a job” or “everyone has a right to a living wage”. But since when has opportunity meant that you have the right for another person to give you something–in other words, since when has “opportunity” become a cover for positive rights? (For a great explanation of positive vs. negative rights, please refer to the former Chronicle article Rights in a Free Society.)

In today’s America, particularly among youth, the word “opportunity” has become synonymous with “privilege”; the privilege of receiving an affordable college education, the privilege of receiving cheap and thorough healthcare, the privilege of being hired at a satisfactory wage. This view of opportunity is rooted in European values. East of the Atlantic, individuals pride themselves on offering the “opportunity” of a non-burdening work weekguaranteed paid vacations, and universal healthcare. None of these are opportunities. They are socially institutional conveniences of a wealthy civilization. So long as the demand for such conveniences exceeds the availability, injustice shall be claimed.

It is in the vital interest of sustained American vitality that our society reject European “opportunity” and return to its original meaning. Here, opportunity means the potential to create a company, rather than the privilege of being given a job. It means the potential to work hard (be it a second job, longer hours, or using education to increase qualifications) to afford better healthcare, a new car, or earlier retirement. It means the opportunity to live anywhere or find success in any career, as so many iconic American heroes have demonstrated.

This limitless vision of America, where impossible is meaningless and possibility is everything, resides at the heart of American pride, and even at the heart of the most significant document in United States’ history: the Declaration of Independence. In the most memorable and quoted phrase of that revolutionary document, Thomas Jefferson inscribed four simple words to forever epitomize American opportunity: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Not Life, Liberty, and a Job, or Healthcare, or even, simply, Happiness. Jefferson purposely said pursuit of Happiness. People have the right to do whatever they need to do to achieve happiness, whatever that may mean to them. It has no qualifications. It has no declarations of privilege. Instead, he eloquently and lucidly acknowledged the utterly American idea of opportunity.

It is time to return to that vision.

Bands reflect on NU’s music scene, or lack thereof

Perennially sitting in the shadow of the Bienen School of Music, Northwestern’s rock groups know NU doesn’t have the most lively band scene. But whether they experienced their dreams here or not, recent graduates can still look back and say that it put them in a good place today.

Anyone looking to spend their Saturday nights seeing local bands on campus might soon grow restless with the Northwestern scene. It’s small, it’s disjointed, and like many college campuses it’s not always concerned with the height of musical perfection.

Mori Einsidler, a singer-songwriter who graduated last year, looks back on her senior year Battle of the Bands experience with cheerful exasperation.

“We played some of our own stuff, and it was cool,” she said. “And then we played some Taylor Swift and people lost their shit.” She said that if you’re playing at a Northwestern and you’re not a music major, you’re going to need to get used to a majority of your audience not really caring whether you’re expressing yourself or not.

“They’re just there to party,” she said. Still, a lot of graduates look back on their stage-time here with an unparalleled feeling of home.

“It was like the experience that I always wanted,” said Derek Tam, drummer for Northwestern-based band Jet Jaguar, most of whom graduated in the summer of 2012.

Recalling late-night concerts in the basement of the band’s guitarist Sean Kane, he said “it just fulfilled all those weird stereotypes and dreams that I had. It was like really hot, people were all sweaty and throwing beer everywhere, and it was great.”

“Playing live music is like the best thing in the world,” Kane agreed. “It’s just wonderful.”

After graduation, many Northwestern performers found ways to keep music in their lives.

Mori, for instance, currently holds a day job with a music publishing company, saving her songwriting and performing for after hours. She said she tries to play at least one show a month, and finds the difference between New York and Northwestern refreshing.

“The thing about playing a show in New York,” she said, “is you’re playing to these people who came to this concert because they want to see a show. Which is great.”

“At Northwestern, you’re playing for a bunch of people who just drank a bunch and they’re there for God knows what reason, but it’s probably not the music.”

Jet Jaguar too still manages to get together to play, even though its members are pursuing careers that have them living in scattered cities away from each other.

“We were kind of like a Catholic family about it, in that everybody wanted to stay together, but we didn’t really talk about it,”
said guitarist Matt Connolly. Bassist Katie Park agreed, and added that even though they didn’t all know what they
were going to be doing after graduation, or where they all would be, they wanted to keep playing as much as they could.
“I think we always want to be playing more than we are, just because it’s so much fun,” she said. “But you know, we do what we
can.”

Josh Brechner, who graduated at the same time as the majority of Jet Jaguar, found no shortage of opportunities since his return
to New York, and some of it wouldn’t have been possible without his time spent at Northwestern.

“I’ve scored a play,” he said, “I’ve worked on a few short shows, I’m helping supervise the music for a new documentary that’s
also coming out of the Northwestern alumni circles. My fingers are in a lot of different pots, but I like it diverse.”

Brechner, who works primarily with electronic music, also had some critiques of the music scene on campus, while he was here.

“Basically, I was feeling that a lot of the art that’s created on campus is institutionalized in campus groups and, you know, quartets and such. I didn’t feel that there was really a way for students to share their work.”

He talked about the importance of branching out off-campus, a sentiment that was echoed by every graduate.

“I know a lot of bands really branched out and did the Chicago thing, and that’s something which I really regret not doing more,” said Mori. She and others said that the opportunities available at Northwestern just weren’t enough for a complete musical experience.

“Northwestern doesn’t have a super vibrant music scene,” Kane said. “There were always bands, but most of the shows you’d plan yourself in your basement, or you’d go into the city, or you’d play DM battle of the bands, or Dillo Day Battle of the Bands.”

“I think the best thing you can do before you graduate is to get at least some experience playing off campus,” Connolly. “If you only play school-sanctioned stuff, then after you graduate you don’t necessarily know what to do.”

One last thing that many agree on is the importance of getting an album under your belt. It gives you a calling card, they say, establishing you as a serious contender for gigs. “When we applied for any of the Battle of the Bands stuff and we used the recording camera we didn’t get in, and then we recorded it professionally and we got in,” said Kasey.

Sean threw in, “and it gives your kids something to stumble upon when you’re old and uncool.”

Photo via Facebook

The Lego Movie: a Betrayal of Full Communism?

 

 

Working-class hero Emmet Brickowski.

 

Comrades, when I first saw the opening scenes of The Lego Movie, I was thrilled. The movie’s analysis of class conflict is impeccable, approaching the one Marx and Engels made so brilliantly in Das Kapital.

The plot goes like this: the aptly-named Lord Business rules the Lego city of Bricksburg and is also the president of the sinister Octan Corporation. Despite the vast Bricksburgian proletariat’s oppression, their class-consciousness is undermined by insipid reality TV, corporate media, and mindless pop songs with titles like “Everything is Awesome.” But after construction worker Emmet Brickowski stumbles upon an item which has the power to spark a revolution, he finds himself in an epic struggle to stop Lord Business from completely destroying the entire Lego universe itself.

Is this not a perfect metaphor for late capitalism’s predicament? Every single one of these conditions has clear analogues in the United States: corporate control of politics and media; capitalism sowing the seeds of its own demise; proletarian ignorance of its own revolutionary role in history. It is no coincidence the bearded sage who guides Brickowski on his journey bears a striking resemblance to Karl Marx. Not since Papa Smurf has an animated character brought Communism so successfully to the masses!

 

Vitruvius, aka Marx.

The movie’s separate stages also offer pointed criticisms of current reactionary tendencies. One of the first Lego Worlds Emmet travels to, Cloud Cuckoo Land, serves as a powerful antidote to the Randian ideal of the individual-as-hero. Cuckoo Land, a sort of fluffy candy kingdom in the clouds, is ruled by “Super Builders” who have individual special powers but refuse to work together as a group.

But Brickowski forces them  to work communally, and it is only then that they can fight back against Lord Business’ expanding capitalist empire.

With all these criticisms of corporate culture and control, it’s no wonder the imperialist running dogs at Fox News are terrified by this children’s movie.

But they need not be so worried, for The Lego Movie contains a giant cop-out to capitalism. At the end of the film, Brickowski has the opportunity to finally destroy Lord Business with the all-powerful item he found at the movie’s beginning. But Brikowski instead gives a mushy speech invoking the poisonous postmodern dogma that “everyone is special” – even Lord Business himself. Lord Business is somehow charmed by this nonsense and ends his plans for world destruction.

The evil Lord Business.

The evil Lord Business.

What kind of Menshevik appeasement is this? Given the opportunity to begin the arduous path towards Full Communism, any classconscious workingman knows he must completely smash/liquidate the ruling capitalist class and forcibly seize the means of production.

While the Lego Movie had a clear opportunity to show us all that Full Communism was indeed possible, it instead opted for a silly centrist middle ground. It is a terrible pity, but it must be said that despite its incisive analysis of class, The Lego Movie is only Half Communism at best.

All good parents who plan on taking their children to the cinema must be warned of this dangerously subversive movie.

 

Charles Rollet

General Secretary, Evanston Writers’ Soviet

Hero of Socialist Labour ‘98

Director of Marketing, North by Northwestern

 

[This article is satire. Please do not write to us if you think it isn't.]

A brief history of college protests

 

The students standing in a rough semicircle before Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on Friday shouted to claim the attention of the hundreds of donors filing past on their way to the kickoff of Northwestern’s “We Will” fundraising campaign.

They chanted, “We want protection, not misdirection,” passing out pamphlets with their demands for the university to make itself a safer place through transparency, objectivity and appropriate action.

“Appropriate action is not allowing someone who has been charged with sexual assault to continue to teach,” said Andrea Azem, a sophomore in the School of Communication, there to protest the continued employment of Professor Peter Ludlow, who was accused of sexual assault by a student. “I think it’s ridiculous that he’s still allowed to be here.”

While Professor Ludlow is the current face of Northwestern students’ push for justice, however, the demands they are making are not new.

Over 50 years ago, sentiments penned by college students in the stirrings of 1960’s counter-culture echo much of what we as students still feel today.

“We are the people of this generation,” they wrote in the 1962 Port Huron Statement, “bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.”

“We would replace power rooted in possession, privilege, or circumstance by power and uniqueness rooted in love, reflectiveness, reason, and creativity.”

All around them, students saw destruction and competition, a vast, out of control machine run on money and greed.

“As a social system we seek the establishment of a democracy of individual participation,” they wrote, “that the individual share in those social decisions determining the quality and direction of his life.”

Like the protesters on Friday, the authors of the Port Huron Statement felt as outsiders to a wall of opaque decisions and restriction of freedom.

Sexual harassment, discrimination in the workplace, prohibition of certain points of view, these are all ways of restricting personal freedoms, and issues that we continue to grapple with today.

Of course, it’s easy to point out the places where nothing has changed, where students continue to feel restrained and vulnerable to loss of freedom. But progress exists too.

In 1963, the Equal Pay Act attacked sexual discrimination in the workplace. Throughout the 60’s and into the modern era, rights against sexual and racial discrimination gained and lost ground.

In 1966, students marched on our very campus in protest of Dean of Students James C. McLeod, condemning him for putting a stop to an episode of what many would today would consider sexual harassment. According to an article in The Daily Northwestern from April 29th of that year, the pickets were shouting for his removal because McLeod called a halt to a panty raid.

“The boys weren’t running upstairs raping women, they were just having a good time,” were the reported words of one protester.

Think something like that would fly on campus these days? Fat chance.

Adieu, Chronicle

 

After over two years of heading The Chronicle, it’s time for me to say goodbye. I’m glad to leave the paper in the very capable hands of Anthony Settipani, who has stuck with us through thick and thin as Features Editor. I will keep contributing articles as a staff writer until graduation.

As Northwestern’s conservative paper, The Chronicle provides an alternative viewpoint on a campus where liberal assumptions go mostly unchallenged. This starting point immediately makes the Chron an outside player, enabling it to report on campus affairs from the margins – which is usually where the most incisive critiques come from.

If there’s anything running the Chron has taught me, it’s that despite the existence of Medill and a host of media outlets, very few matters of substance get reported on this campus.

Open up a copy of the NBN mag or leaf through your average Daily. When was the last time you read something that didn’t comfort the (already exceedingly) comfortable? That made you question your assumptions? That made you wonder whether Northwestern’s administration (and yes, that includes “Morty”) is really there for you?

I don’t think the Chron is some kind of shining beacon of hope amidst all this, but I’m proud that we’ve broken many stories the campus media ignores. Whether it’s real-life Marxists holding a massive conference at Medill, College Feminists subtly dissing a conservative feminist speaker, or journalism students getting jailed at Northwestern in Qatar, the Chron covers things no one else does.

(Side note: I find the campus media’s total ignorance of the goings-on at NU-Q fascinating. Depressing as it is, I think it will only be when an American student is arrested in Doha that The Daily, or anyone in Evanston, will actually pay attention to what happens there, beyond the usual rewritten press releases.)

Anyways, I am sure the Chron will gain popularity under fresh leadership. And a lot of things about the Chron still need massive improvement.

Yet I hope that in the long run it will become a place not only for conservatives and libertarians, but also freethinkers of all stripes who dare to challenge campus orthodoxy.

For this, the Chron must stay true to its core values of general irreverence, provocative opinion, and healthy skepticism of the administration. We’ve been around in some form or another since 1992, and despite our ups and downs, our relatively small staff, and a limited budget, the clichéd saying stays true: it’s not the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

So ave atque vale, readers.

And stay tuned.

 

 

 

Whose Morality?

 

Let us quickly entertain an exercise in changing perspectives.

This past month saw talking heads, activists, and politicians alike all hammering Arizona over the “anti-gay” bill that landed on Governor Jan Brewer’s desk. The bill, though it never explicitly referenced gays, would have extended legal protection to individuals and private entities who refused to serve others for religious reasons.

The outcry was predictably loud and vapid. On CNN, a commentator called a supporter of the bill a “homophobe”; elsewhere, news outlets decried that a “pro-discrimination” bill could still be passed in this day and age. Governor Brewer vetoed the bill under intense outside pressure, a decision that the New Yorker, focused myopically on the “anti-gay” angle and apparently unaware that Brewer’s decision should have been made with an eye to her constituents rather than to the sentiments of the East Coast voicebox, said it was a sign of “an astonishing American revolution”. (Others had more nuanced thoughts).

But let us shift the perspective of the discussion, shall we? Just what is the proper frame of reference? What if I phrased it like this: should the government be able to force you to go against your political or religious beliefs?

That is, of course, essentially what has happened in Arizona. If private citizens are opposed to delivering goods or services to another person on the basis of a personal conviction, they will nonetheless be coerced to do so by a government that knows “better” than them.

I don’t want to take away from the position of the Left on this issue. It is, in my opinion, antithetical to the teachings of the Bible to deny service to an individual on the basis of sexuality, or race, or political orientation. That said, we need to own up to a certain fact: sometimes, people are bigots. Every single person in this country holds views that are not built entirely on love and reason. To be colloquial—sometimes, people just suck. But we lose a serious part of our liberty, our freedom, if we agree that the government knows what moral system is best. People have their own beliefs and opinions, and those should be respected, lest they infringe on the rights of others.

What if the government one day decides that your moral system is bigoted?

Should parents have their children taken away if they teach them “hateful” doctrines? What if they teach their kids that evolution is false? Should we no longer be allowed to vote on amendments banning gay marriage or allowing for concealed carry, as these views are “hateful” or “dangerous’? In each case, the government has, according to the precedent set in Arizona, a compelling and legitimate interest to step in and ensure that a certain moral precedent is upheld. In each case, individuals may sincerely believe in their position while at the same time loving those on the other side of the issue, but the government’s interference immediately labels one side as “right” and the other as “wrong”.

It is instructive to think about why this law was put forth in Arizona to begin with. In New Mexico, a photographer declined to take pictures of a same-sex wedding due to religious beliefs. The State forced her to pay a fine of almost $7,000. This example is not alone—bakers and photographers in several other states have faced similar recrimination after refusing to support gay weddings.

But it’s not just wedding pictures and cakes. The government has become a tool to implement a liberal version of morality in many other arenas, too. The health insurance mandate that forced religious organizations to provide abortifacients and birth control against their beliefs; failing to enforce federal laws on drug use even when those laws clash with state laws; banning soda and other “unhealthy” food and drink. In each case, and in many others, the governing elite has decided that it knows better than the individual. If you hold a deep conviction, you can be fined or worse—your conviction is wrong. You should have known better.

Do people have a right to force others to take pictures of them, or to force others to host them on private land against the proprietor’s will? Fundamentally, we must realize that we cannot even begin to approach this question, and this conversation, unless we have a well-articulated rights theory. Do people have a right to your time, your property, your money? Your beliefs? The answer seems to be self-evident: no. Freedom means the ability to make your own decisions. Sometimes, those decisions will be for the wrong reasons. But they are your own, and you must face up to them and their consequences.

Of course, the opponent to the position that individuals should determine their own morality, rather than the government, will at this point refer to Jim Crow. This is a powerful counterargument—we saw decades of entrenched, institutional injustice that separated whites and blacks. Should there have been no government intervention there?

This question obfuscates the issue, however. Much of Jim Crow came through the government, and so government action to overturn discrimination in the public sphere was just and necessary. But the issue of private proprietors and companies is different; it is a problem solved best by civil society rather than by government intervention. We must trust that the long-term consequences of avoiding government intervention are better than short-term, knee-jerk reactions to social injustice. Sit-ins, education, protests and boycotts—these are all legitimate ways to show bigoted people that they are bigots (indeed, Milton Friedman and Gary Becker often argued against government intervention in this regard on the principle that competition would induce companies to serve as many people as possible—capitalism is a wonderfully integrative system). Over time, such action and education can organically change a culture from the ground up. Rather than government action that stifles discussion and civil reform without ever truly addressing the root causes of the injustice, it seeks to fix the injustice at the core of the issue, without the state officially telling an individual that their beliefs are wrong, and therefore punishable by law. We must believe in the power of people.

Those supporting Brewer’s veto have lauded themselves on their victory, and I admit that their intentions are pure. And yet, their abdication on the questions of “Who should determine your morality?”, and “Do others have a publicly-enforceable right to receive the private services you provide?” betrays the shallowness of their position. Their willingness to force people to act contrarily to their religious beliefs is a dangerous idea, one that we would be best served to avoid. And so I ask: who do you want to determine your morality?