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Politics should be less important

4It might sound odd to hear this from someone who’s been writing a syndicated column on politics for nearly four decades, but politics has become vastly more important in our lives than it should be.
Virtually every decision we make in our ostensibly free society is now subject to review, refinement, and reversal by some government agency. We can’t buy or consume what we want, hire whom we want on mutually agreeable terms, inhabit and dispense with our property as we want, or make critical decisions about our families’ education, health care, and financial planning without the intrusion of governmental “helpers.”
I’m not an anarchist. Modern civilization and human progress are impossible without governmental structures.
When administered effectively and constitutionally, governments promote law and order, adjudicate disputes, and ensure the provision of certain public goods that for technical reasons can’t be delivered purely by voluntary means.
That’s not to say human beings can’t live without government. For most of the history of the species, humans lived in small hunter-gatherer bands, consisting largely of relatives, that came together only occasionally to swap, socialize, and find mates. In some places, these social bonds developed into tribal confederations and, later, into chiefdoms.
But not until a few thousand years ago did true states appear in an anthropological sense — social institutions that established a “monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory,” as Max Weber famously put it.
The invention of the state and the invention of cities were interrelated events. The word political comes from the Greek polis, for city-state. Civilization both creates and requires politics in the sense we use the term today.
Humanity can live without government, as I said — but not long or well. Hunter-gatherers may have had more free time than we do, but they starved, shivered, and died early and violent deaths at far higher rates, too.
Tribes and chiefdoms weren’t much more conducive to human flourishing. Even early civilizations, built around cities and states, increased the total population and scope of human communities without necessarily raising the standard of living for the average person very much for very long.
What ultimately did the trick was the marriage of industrial capitalism and constitutional, liberalizing government during the 18th and 19th centuries, beginning in Northwestern Europe and North America and then spreading elsewhere. The public sector played a critical role in this gigantic and unprecedented leap forward in human wellbeing.
But it did so precisely because its power was constrained by law and custom.
In the American context, at least, modern conservatives should be understood as conserving a set of truly revolutionary ideas and practices. One such idea is that government is both necessary and dangerous. As James Madison put it in a post-presidency speech in Virginia, “the essence of government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.”
By “power” here, Madison and other Founders meant coercive power — the capacity of government to force people at the point of a gun to comply with its commands. Whether republican or tyrannical, all governments possess such power. Again, it’s necessary. But it ought to be used sparingly, only for tasks that can’t be accomplished through market transactions, charitable activity, or simple persuasion.
That’s the case that my colleagues and I at the John Locke Foundation, and at other like-minded organizations in North Carolina and beyond, seek to make every day in our programs, articles, interviews, and public appearances. Our work is usually devoted to specific applications.
We advocate liberating North Carolinians to make choices for themselves about how best to educate their children, improve their health, pursue economic opportunity, and build the families and communities within which they live their lives.
Whether the stakes in a particular dispute we discuss seem big or small to you, keep mind that the broader principle couldn’t be more momentous: everything need not be political. Minimize government. Maximize freedom.

Editor’s Note: John Hood is a John Locke Foundation board member. His latest books, Mountain Folk and Forest Folk, combine epic fantasy with early American history (FolkloreCycle.com).

The real story of Snow White

5Both of my readers have seen Disney’s Snow White. Today, we rip the lid off Disney’s prettified version. The original Snow White story by Grimm is actually grim. The real story has it all: wicked step mother, fried animal entrails, dwarves, attempted cannibalism, stereotypical women’s work, necrophilia, and red-hot iron dancing shoes. Let us begin.
Once upon a time, a beautiful Queen gazed out her window at falling snow. The windowsill was painted black, the white snow glistened, and the Queen pricked her finger causing three drops of bright red blood to fall on the snow. The Queen had a sudden desire to have “a child as white as the snow, as red as blood, and black as the window frame.” She soon became pregnant, delivering a little girl she named Snow White. The Queen died in childbirth as was the custom in those days. Her King remarried a beautiful woman who became Snow White’s wicked stepmother.
The new Queen had a Magic Mirror into which she daily chanted: “Mirror, mirror on the wall/ Who is the fairest of them all?” The Mirror said the Queen was the prettiest until Snow White turned seven. The Mirror answered, “Your Majesty, you are still lovely, it's true/ But Snow White is a thousand times fairer than you.” This sent Queenie into a major tizzy. She ordered her Huntsman to take Snow White into the forest to kill her. Huntsman had to bring back Snow’s liver and lungs as proof of death.
Huntsman couldn’t bring himself to kill Snow. He let her run away into the deep woods hoping a wild animal would eat her.
He killed a boar instead, delivering pig lungs and liver to Queenie. Queenie, believing the guts to be Snow’s; breaded them, fried them, and ate them with fava beans and a nice Chianti.
Snow wandered through the forest, finally finding the cottage of the seven dwarves. She fell asleep in a bed. The dwarves found her when they came home from working in Mr. Peabody’s coal mine.
When Snow woke up, she told them the Huntsman story and begged to stay. The dwarves agreed to let her stay if she kept house, swept, cleaned, cooked, made the beds, washed the linen, and darned their socks. Women’s lib did not exist in Medieval times in the Dark Forest.
The Mirror blabbed to Queenie that Snow was still living. This freaked out Queenie to no end. She began a series of attempted murders of Snow. She disguised herself as a peddler selling lace. When Snow let her in, Queenie tied the lace so tightly around Snow that she could not breathe.
When the dwarves came home, they loosened the lace allowing Snow to recover. Queenie then poisoned a comb and in a new disguise knocked on the cottage door. Snow was smitten with the beautiful comb. Despite the dwarves warning, she let Queenie in. Queenie combed Snow’s hair which caused her to collapse.
Queenie said, “Let’s see how lovely you are when you start to rot!” This statement is harsh even for the Dark Ages. When the dwarves returned, they pulled the comb out of Snow’s hair which revived her.
Finally, Queenie came up with oldest trick in the book—the poisoned apple. One side of the apple was white and one side was red. There was no poison on the white side, which Queenie bit into to show Snow it was safe. Snow ate the poisoned right side of the apple and died. The dwarves were unable to revive her.
They made her a glass coffin to admire her corpse, like Lenin’s in the Mausoleum in Red Square. Months passed and Snow did not decay. One day a Handsome Prince of Necrophilia Province came by and saw Snow’s casket. He fell in love with her corpse and offered to buy her body from the dwarves. They refused to sell her but when the Prince professed his love, they gave her body to the Prince.
The Prince had his lackeys haul the coffin to his kingdom. A clumsy lacky stumbled, dropping the coffin which dislodged the poisoned apple from Snow’s throat. She immediately revived and fell in love with the Prince.
The Prince threw a grand wedding to celebrate, inviting the Kingdom to party down. Queenie showed up but Snow was ready for her. Queenie was made to put on iron shoes that had been heated red hot in a fireplace. Queenie was forced to wear the shoes and dance until she died. Snow and Prince Charming Necrophilia lived happily ever after.
So, what have we learned today? Don’t let strangers in your house. Women can trade their household labor for dwarf-insured security. Not every apple a day will keep the doctor away. Red hot iron shoes can cure the silent tragedy of toe fungus if you can’t find Fungi-Nail.

Puh-lease have a baby?

5For generations, we worried about overpopulation around the world, but, increasingly, we are now more worried about too few babies arriving in the United States and in many other developed nations.
Let this statistic sink in.
Our nation’s birth rate has dropped an astounding 23 percent since the Great Recession. In less than a century we have transitioned from the unexpected and stunning Baby Boom following World War II to today’s average American mother having 1.6 children, well below the replacement rate of 2.1 needed to maintain population stability.
We are hardly alone.
Nations from Italy to Korea and all in between are in the same or a similar boat, with governments scrambling to entice young citizens into parenthood. Some offer incentives including 2.5-year maternity leaves (Austria), cash payments of $7000 (Russia), and a $30,000 loan which is forgiven if the couple has 3 children (Hungary). Public education campaigns around the baby shortage abound, including one in Denmark asking, “have you counted your eggs today?” Some nations, especially the more authoritarian ones, are restricting access to contraception and reproductive health care, and there is concern in some circles that the United States is moving in that direction as well.
Demographers say there are many reasons for declining birth rates, some positive and others not so much. Education levels have risen since the Baby Boom years, giving men and especially women more options for how to spend their lives as well as greater economic resources to make individual choices.
Many of child-bearing age delay parenthood and some never get there at all. In addition, many young people express concerns about bringing children into our current world of rapid climate change, rampant gun violence, and highly toxic politics. Minority women fear disparities in maternity care and higher pregnancy mortality rates. And, across the board, prospective parents understand the high cost of raising and educating children and understandably wonder whether they can afford to become parents.
I doubt that pleas from politicians and other policymakers for young people to start families ASAP make much difference at all, including promises of cash payments. Deciding to have children changes one’s life forever, and most of us do not care what our government thinks about this most personal decision.
What can we do to encourage young people to reproduce and replace us with new generations, most of whom will become productive, taxpaying adults?
The obvious answer is to make it easier to be a parent, a job that is intense for about two decades and continues even beyond that.
Paid parental leave is a no-brainer. Anyone who has had a baby knows that the adjustment takes not weeks but months and that families need income during that period. When it is time for parents to return to work, someone has to take care of the little one. Some families are fortunate enough to have a grandparent or other relative/friend willing and able to tackle that task for free or with small compensation.
Most families, though, need daycare services, now prohibitively expensive for millions, making affordable daycare a must. Instead of underfunding public education as North Carolina has done in recent years, parents want and need to know that high-quality public education is and will remain available to their children.
The bottom line is this: patriotic pleas for parenthood fall on deaf ears, even for people who might want children.
Smoothing the way for parenthood and supporting those who choose it will help more prospective parents think pink and blue.

State gets a pleasant April surprise

4I’ve never been more delighted to be mistaken.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column observing that, over the first eight months of the 2023-24 fiscal year, the state’s General Fund revenue was down slightly from what was collected during the first eight months of the previous fiscal year.
North Carolina faced no “fiscal emergency,” I wrote, but unless revenue collections were “bountiful” this spring, the General Assembly wouldn’t have lots of extra cash to work with during its short session.
Well, state economists have just released their consensus revenue forecast — and bountiful isn’t too strong a description. For the current fiscal year, they now expect $34.1 billion in General Fund revenues. That’s $413 million more than originally projected. As for the $34.4 billion now expected for FY 2024-25, that’s a full $1 billion more than the budgeted amount.
Why was this year’s “April surprise” so pleasant? Collections from the personal income tax finance about half our General Fund and typically drive our revenue trends. That’s true this time, as well, as income taxes are now expected to run 2.6% above the baseline this year and 4.2% next year. Sales taxes are also up, albeit more modestly.
Contrary to the expectations they formed last year, economists for the legislature’s Fiscal Research Division and the governor’s Office of State Budget and Management say our economy “demonstrated greater resilience and avoided a predicted period of stagnant growth, or ‘slowcession,’ in late 2023 and 2024. Instead, the April 2024 consensus forecast expects a ‘soft landing,’ with inflation easing toward the Federal Reserve’s 2% target even as the economy continues to grow at a modestly slower pace than in 2023.”
Could their new judgment be overly sanguine? Sure. Forecasting isn’t an exact science. But it’s now very likely the state will experience a surplus in General Fund revenue of about 1.2% for the fiscal year ending in June. And it is now reasonable for state legislators to assume something like a 3% overage when adjusting the General Fund budget for next year.
They’ll have more transportation dollars to work with, as well. Strong collections from the state tax on motor fuels will generate about $104 million more than projected this year for the Highway Fund and Highway Trust Fund, plus another $101 million next year.
Given the circumstances, you’d expect every state agency, local government, or private interest to line up at the Legislative Building, ready to pitch — and you’d be right!
As I have previously argued, some of these pitches ought to deliver results, as they are in the public interest and consistent with fundamental principles of fiscal conservatism. Lawmakers ought to raise pay for public employees, for example, with a particular emphasis on merit-based increases and hard-to-fill positions such as correction officers, lab technicians, and science teachers.
Also deserving consideration is the community college system’s Propel NC initiative, which would allocate more funds to high-demand fields such as advanced manufacturing, public safety, and allied health while instituting a three-year cycle for reevaluate spending based on job and salary data.
North Carolina is already in the process of phasing out its tax on corporate income and reducing its flat tax on personal income. That’s why next year’s revenue, while likely to exceed original projections, will rise just 0.7% over 2023-24.
Tax cuts are already baked in the cake, as it were. Still, the revenue revisions give lawmakers more fiscal space to tackle other tax-reform priorities while devoting additional funds to the Opportunity Scholarship program, which has attracted far more parents seeking educational alternatives for their children than currently funding can accommodate.
Under existing law, a portion of the General Fund revenue surpluses will flow automatically into state reserves and fund the construction and maintenance of public facilities. Prudence argues for devoting additional funds to high-priority infrastructure projects and to shrinking the unfunded liability in the state’s health plan.
There’s good news on revenues. Now, let’s keep delivering good policy.

Editor’s note: John Hood is a John Locke Foundation board member. His latest books, Mountain Folk and Forest Folk, combine epic fantasy with early American history (FolkloreCycle.com).

Fayetteville streets are becoming deadly raceways

4Publisher’s Note:
I’m yielding my editorial space to publish a Letter to the Editor we received from a Fayetteville resident who addresses a major (and common) local safety concern that weighs heavily on the hearts and minds of thousands of Fayetteville residents. I applaud this writer for his bold initiative in attempting to bring his concerns to our city leaders.
It is my hope, that this letter will inspire and motivate others to get involved by voicing their opinions and sharing their experiences with elected officials. This is the ultimate way to effect change. Thank you for reading the Up & Coming Weekly community newspaper.
— Bill Bowman

I went to the April 3rd meeting of Fayetteville City’s Council Community Safety Committee to voice my complaints over speeders with their ear-piercing, unmuffled cars and motorcycles. I never knew we had such a committee until I was directed there by the 911 operator.
I came prepared with a speech and expected to see many more like-minded concerned citizens present, but I was the only non-committee member there. Maybe not too many people know about this resource. Interesting.
I was cordially greeted and asked the nature of my presence. I told them my intentions and gave the Chairman of the Committee, Council Member Mario Benavente, a copy of my presentation since I would not be allowed to present it. He said the first step for concerns like mine begins with my District Five representative, Lynne Greene.
He took my contact information, and I showed myself out. This is my speech to the committee:
Fayetteville police do not rule the streets. They are overwhelmed by speeders with their ear-piercing, unmuffled cars and motorcycles. The lack of police cars with radar is only part of the problem. In my opinion, the will to enforce the law is also lacking. (At this point, I was going to relate my personal experience.)
My wife and I were waiting to turn left from S. McPherson Church Road onto Raeford Road when a speeder ran through the red light just before I was about to turn.
I looked up and saw a police car sitting at the BP station facing the intersection. Both my wife and I said at the same time, "Look at that!". I made the turn, and my wife said, "You go over there to that policeman and ask him why he did not go after that car!"
I resisted, but she was insistent. So, I did.
I came up to his window, and he was very nice. He answered me, "I don't have radar."
He also said he was one of only two officers available for the entire area. This incident caused me to question the city's resolve to provide an adequate police force with proper equipment—end of story. My presentation continues.
South McPherson Church Road and the All-American Freeway serve these lawbreakers as their personal Indianapolis 500. Also, misfits draw doughnuts in intersections and parking lots, showing contempt for authorities and private property owners.
You should take it personally and direct more funds to the police force. Without safety and respect for the law, you cannot pursue other projects to improve the city—end of presentation.
The constant blaring of speeding, unmuffled cars, and motorcycles just got too much for me recently, which is why I called 911. This led me to the Community Safety Committee on where I received their meeting agenda and the minutes of their last meeting on March 6, 2024.
I then focused on one agenda item and two organizations I was not familiar with:
1. Driving Equality Laws Presentation Recap (agenda item)
2. Emancipate NC (organization)
3. Forward Justice (organization)
Upon reviewing the minutes, I noticed both Emancipate NC and Forward Justice made presentations to the committee, and received general approval with City Council Member Banks-McLaughlin saying there was "great dialogue between Fayetteville Police Chief Braden and Attorney Carpenter" of Forward Justice.
What is Emancipate NC, and who is Forward Justice? Emancipate NC has a website that states, "It is an organization founded on the knowledge that incarceration and structural racism is harmful.
It is an organization dedicated to shifting the narrative on racialized mass incarceration through community mobilization.” They maintain that the mainstream narrative that criminalizes Black and Brown people must be transformed.
The Forward Justice organization is a nonprofit center in Durham, NC, dedicated to advancing racial, social, and economic justice in the South. This group challenges laws, policies, and practices that harm the most vulnerable in society- the Black, Brown, and poor populations, keeping them from full liberation.
You should Google these groups for yourself. They are anti-capitalist (Marxist), anti-police, and anti-law and order. They promote the ideas of systemic governmental racism and racial injustice.
So, why do these organizations have the ear and endorsement of our city council without public knowledge?
Does not the law read the same no matter what race you are? Is there a need for any organization to cheer on one race over another? Justice must be blind no matter what your situation is.
I went to the April 3rd meeting to complain and voice my concerns about noisy, speeding, and contemptible behavior on the roadways. I came away more troubled over what appears to be a bigger problem.
Craig Stewart
Fayetteville, NC 28314

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