Friday, February 12, 2010

The 5000 Year Leap: A Miracle That Changed the World

The 5,000 Year Leap: A Miracle That Changed the World The 5,000 Year Leap: A Miracle That Changed the World by W. Cleon Skousen


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the best non-fiction books I've read in a long time. I finished it in less than a month, and most non-fictions I have a hard time ever getting through them (the few exceptions being The Return of the Prodigal Son and 1776, but even they took months to finish.)

Skousen does an amazing job breaking down what makes America the "miracle that changed the world." In 200 years America progressed more than the world had previously over the last 500 years. Skousen picks 28 foundations of freedom that he believes helped us make such astounding progress. He does so by having studied a lot of the resources the Founders would have had as resources for framing the Constitution and the Government it establishes (including Locke, the Bible, Montesqieu, Adam Smith, and others)

He starts off with an analysis of what freedom actually is, and that the left-right political spectrum isn't the one we should be going by (it's not much of a spectrum); the real spectrum is tyranny-anarchy with the ideal spot being right smack-dab in the middle.

Towards the end of the book I felt he had lost a little of his, unbiased approach; and to be honest a lot of what he talks about (getting back to basics) sounds very close to what Ron Paul's platform was going into the 2008 elections (though I'm not terribly familiar with it, Skousen discusses the idea of separatism and foreign policy, monetary policy, etc.)

I'd recommend this to anyone who would like to be refreshed on the principles our nation was founded on.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Is the 17th Amendment unconstitutional?

In Skousen's The 5,000-Year Leap, he makes an interesting point on the importance of the balance between Federal Government and States.
The federal government was supreme in all matters relating to its responsibility, but it was specifically restricted from invading the independence and sovereign authority reserved to the States.  The Founders felt that unless this principle of dual sovereignty was carefully perpetuated, the healthy independence of each would deteriorate and eventually one or the other would become totally dominant.
Alexander Hamilton further explained,
This balance between the national and state governments ought to be dwelt on with peculiar attention, as it is of the utmost importance.  It forms a double security to the people.  If one encroaches on their rights, they will find a powerful protection in the other.  Indeed, they will both be prevented from overpassing their constitutional limits, by certain rivalship which will ever subsist between them. (Essays on Freedom and Power).
Skousen then asks an important question,
But would the states be able to protect themselves from the might of the federal government if the Congress began legislating against states' rights?  Originally, the states could protect themselves because U.S. Senators were appointed by the state legislatures, and the Senate could veto any legislation by the House of Representatives which they considered a threat to the rights of the individual states.
Well, the 17th amendment pretty much abolished this right of the states.
That amendment provided that Senators would thenceforth be elected by popular ballot rather than appointed by the state legislatures.  This meant the states as sovereign commonwealths had lost their representation on the federal level, and their Senators would be subject to the same popular pressures during an election campaign as those which confront the members of the House of Representatives. (Ibid., Skousen)
I haven't done any research on the circumstances surrounding the ratification of the 17th amendment, but I'd be interested to find out the justifications for taking away this right of the States.  I've often wondered what is the real difference between a Senator and a Representative.  One has a longer term than the other, there's only two of one and the other is proportionate to the states population relative to other states.  It makes a lot more sense the way it was originally defined in the Constitution.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Law Should Be Understandable and Stable

In the Federalist Papers, No. 62, James Madison states,
"It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known and less fixed?"
I don't think Mr. Madison would be very pleased with our government today, particularly with this 2000+ page Health Reform plan that keeps getting shot back and forth between the two houses of congress with earmarks added here and pork there. Our government should not be this obfuscated.

Maybe this is how a lot of laws are, and for some reason the health bill got to be a little more transparent than others.  I don't believe it is alone on the docket.  If a bill has to be so complex and enumerated, I have a feeling that it probably is beyond the capability of our federal government to do anything about it.  The federal government is to provide for the general welfare of the U.S., and this is getting a little too specific; something that should be a concern of the states at most.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Stargirl

Stargirl Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I probably would have given this 4 stars had it ended the way I would have liked it to end. I thought this was a great story on getting outside of yourself and learning to not let other people determine who you are going to be or who you want to be. You need to have courage and love to put other people before yourself.

[Spoiler Alert:]

I think that the ending was a little unfair to Leo. He was actually the one who gave Stargirl a chance to begin with, and even endured the shunning with her (though not for long). I agree he was weak to begin with and probably didn't deserve to be with Stargirl. The unfairness comes in when the whole school (minus Hillari and her boyfriend) ends up forgiving her at the Ocotillo dance. Leo had somewhat befriended her when hardly anyone else would have, and he's the one that's kind a hung out to dry at the end.

Maybe Leo was more of the antagonist in that he's the one who let Stargirl down the most. He couldn't accept her for who she really was. The school couldn't either, but they eventually did. I think Leo may have actually been a little mentally handicapped, to be so dense. Or maybe it's just because he's a guy, and guys are no good at picking up clues.

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