Monday, November 22, 2010

This I Believe--Updated

This essay was originally published on my blog in March, 2009, about a month after “I’m Tired.” That was probably a timing mistake, as “I’m Tired” went viral, and has been published on hundreds of blogs since, and in some print media. I still see it forwarded or published every week. Some versions were attributed to the actor, Robert David Hall. A lot of myth got attached—one site listed me as a “former Republican presidential contender,” which was news to me.

I’ve always thought that “This I Believe” was the better piece. So now that my blog followers are close to a thousand and my e-mail list larger, I thought I’d spruce it up a bit and send it out again. If you like it, please forward to people on your list who might be interested. ~Bob.

This I Believe
Robert A. Hall
Updated November 22, 2010

I believe in limited government. Government is at best a necessary evil, which tends to drift toward tyranny if not checked, as Thomas Jefferson, founder of the Democratic Party, noted. Every power that the government has is at the expense of individual liberty. Government is necessary to defend the nation, to provide infrastructure, and to protect us from each other. But as the repository of most force, it is also always a threat to freedom.

I believe in the separation of powers, between the branches of the federal government, and between the federal government, the states and the people. They were created by the founding fathers because they knew that no person or party could be trusted with unlimited power. The concentration of power in the hands of the federal government, especially the bureaucracy, is a great threat to freedom. I believe most people won't learn this lesson until it is too late.

I quaintly believe that all powers not granted to the federal government are reserved to the states or to the people, as the Constitution says. That this is no longer the case is eroding freedom.

I believe that government cannot give you anything, unless it takes it from someone else. And government takes things by the threat of force—police, courts, jail—however silken the glove that covers the fist.

I believe that government does not create wealth. Printing money, as President Mugabe has done in Zimbabwe, only produces inflation, where it costs a $100M to buy a loaf of bread. And our government has started on this path, as it always offers a seemingly painless way to pay off government debts and buy votes. It becomes addictive.

I believe private citizens, seeking to advance their own private interests, create all wealth and progress, which gave western civilization the highest standard of living in history—and provided the wealth for government to do both the necessary, and the unnecessary.

I believe it is bad for America when government is totally controlled by one party, Republicans, Democrats or any other.

I believe that the blame for the economic disaster that started in 2008 goes beyond any one party, one country, or one class of persons. There is plenty of blame to share around.

But conceding this point, I believe my retirement fund, and the economy in general, looked a lot better in 2006, when Republicans controlled the Congress, than they have looked since, with Democrats in charge of the Congress since January of 2007. We will see if the Republican House victory in the 2010 midterms can stop the destruction of the private sector by the statists.

I believe Congress is broken, the courts are broken and the election process is broken. I believe I could come up with solutions to fix those things, but that both parties are so wrapped up in their own short term self interests, that one or the other will defeat or emasculate any reforms in service to tomorrow's agenda or next year's election. I believe most "reforms" proposed by either party are changes they believe will help them in the next election.

I believe we need computerized elections, with built-in runoff where you vote “one” for your first choice, “two” for your second choice and so on, and a candidate doesn’t win until she reached 50%. And I believe we need a non-partisan re-districting process.

I believe nothing can be fixed as long as so few citizens are paying attention, and even fewer have a grasp of basic economics. Polls before the 2008 election gave Congress a 12% approval rating—so the public voted to strengthen the leadership of that Congress. Probably because polls also showed that 67% of the public couldn't say which party controlled Congress. And the trend continues, with a whole lot of folks not knowing which party won which house in 2010.

I believe in individual responsibility. The idea that someone else is responsible for all your troubles, and to take care of all your problems, is the source of much of our misery.

I believe there is no difference between a thug with a gun at the local 7-11 taking the money I earned for his own use, and a bunch of people who want to take that money getting together to elect officials who will send police and tax collectors to take the money I earned and give it to them, under a slogan like, "Spreading the Wealth Around."

I believe in fiscal responsibility (And have lived it—I carry no credit card debt and a mortgage for a much smaller home than my salary would have allowed. But I’m not “under water” on that mortgage.). I believe that politicians are buying our votes in the next election by spending our grandchildren’s money on programs that various voting blocs want, with dollars they haven’t printed yet. I believe that we already have "public financing of campaigns," because far too many politicians get reelected by spending the public's money on projects that interest groups want.

I believe that, no matter how "socially conservative" they may be, Republican legislators lining up at the earmarks feeding pen to get money to buy votes back home are the real RINOs (Republicans In Name Only), not those Republicans who are moderate on social issues, but are for fiscal responsibility and limited government.

I believe that political decisions should be made by people the public can replace if we don't like the decisions—legislators and elected executives—and not by those who are isolated from feedback because they can't be removed from their jobs, like judges and bureaucrats. But most law—in the guise of regulations or court ruling—is made by unelected people.

I believe that the bureaucracy and the courts have carried many laws, such as affirmative action and the Americans with Disabilities Act, far beyond what the Congress intended or the people would support if asked to vote in our "democracy." Once the bureaucrats put it in place, of course, it develops a vocal constituency, so legislators are afraid to enforce the original intent of the law.

I believe in Freedom of Speech, and believe it is under threat from both Islamists and liberals who want to outlaw anything they find offensive as "hate speech." Freedom of Speech is already lost on most college campuses, where you now have the freedom to speak the prevailing orthodoxy or shut up. It is the left who shouts down speakers they don't agree with, or threatens them with violence. It is Islamists who want to criminalize any unfavorable mention of Islam, including quoting from the Qur'an and the Hadith, as "Islamophobic" or "hate speech."

I believe in Freedom of Religion, and will tolerate anyone's faith and defend their right to worship as they please, as long as they don't want to use the government or violence to force others to comply with the tenants of their faith. But I also believe that a religion that preaches it should be the government of the world, and the only faith, that subjugates women and girl children and that makes it a religious duty to force others to convert, must be fought. That's not a religion—it's a fascist political party seeking a tyrannical theocracy.

I believe there are tens of millions of Muslims who want to live in peace with each other and with people of other faiths, but I also believe, based on daily news reports, that one can hardly ever know who is a moderate, peaceful Muslim, and who may suddenly “go Jihadist” and kill you for Allah, because violence is preached in so many of their places of worship. I believe that it is the hate and domination preached by many standard schools of Islam that is responsible for violence and terrorism, not poverty and grievances. Bin Laden and some of his lieutenants were far wealthier than you and I. In Britain, it was doctors who carried out some attacks—hardly the underprivileged.

I believe it is Jihadist murderers who sully and insult the name of Islam, by carrying out their horrors in the name of God, not people drawing cartoons.

I believe that not to speak out against thousand of honor killings of young women (many in western democracies), the genital mutilation of young girls, and the brutal subjugation of women in Islamic societies out of a concern for "multiculturalism" or fear of being labeled "Islamophobic," is cowardice.

I believe in tolerance and respect for people who are black, white, red, brown, yellow, old, young, male, female, gays, straights, Democrats, Republicans, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans and Global Warming Devotees, and don't think they should be discriminated against, either by Jim Crow laws or Affirmative Action laws. I believe the law should judge us, and we should judge each other, as individuals.

I believe that gay people don’t choose to be gay, anymore than short people choose to be short. Never was I mad enough at a woman to think, “Well, maybe I should date guys.” You are entitled to believe they are sinful, but not to discriminate against them, in my book. As to gay marriage, I don’t believe in special treatment for gays. I think they should have to marry and suffer like the rest of us. (Note to wife: that was a JOKE, dear!) Seriously, if your marriage is so weak that a gay couple down the block being married is going to hurt it, you have a problem and need help. And I believe that gay couples often provide better homes for kids than a lot of single moms are able to do, where the dad has abandoned the children, which is now the common practice in some sub-cultures and spreading into the wider culture. And certainly they are better parents than straight couples where domestic violence is a factor. (Fire up the computer for the hate mail!)

On the other hand, I believe we can not only discriminate against, but must fight, those who would impose their values, views and rule on us by force, including Nazis, Communists, Islamists, and Bill Ayer's Weather Underground.

I believe that America is far from perfect, but that to equate her flaws with the grinding tyranny of other regimes, past or present, is the worst kind of sophistry and moral blindness. With all her faults, we need to guard our borders not to keep people in, but to prevent the tens of millions around the world who would like to come here from swamping our institutions, destroying the culture that made us great, and further ruining our economy.

I believe that free markets and decentralized decision making have given people in the western world the best standard of living, the most leisure and the more freedom than any place or time in human history. I believe that centralized control of the economy is so inefficient that it destroys prosperity and freedom, and creates poverty. I believe that is being demonstrated now, and is going to get worse.

I believe that business leaders who talk about free markets, but run to the government for taxpayer bailouts when their decisions prove bad, are hypocrites. They are CINOs—Capitalists In Name Only. And while I understand contracts, and the need to attract good talent, I am sickened by huge bonuses for the executives of failing businesses that receive government bailouts. Running a company or bank into failure is “good talent?” And my disgust extends to the disaster at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, where the execs got millions for starting the wreckage of our economy.

I believe that millions of people have died so that liberals could feel good about themselves. Liberals fought to force America out of the Vietnam War, and cut off military support to South Vietnam, so that when the North broke the peace treaty and invaded the South, it had no chance. The Cambodian Communists murdered a quarter of their population. In South Vietnam, tens of thousands died in “re-education camps.” Millions fled the country, with many thousands of “boat people” drowning, or being raped and murdered. No matter, they still congratulate themselves for supporting the “progressive” victory.
And liberals fought to end evil white rule in then-Rhodesia until in 1978 a black-majority government, headed by Robert Mugabe, was installed. Farms were taken from the evil white farmers and given to black supporters of Mugabe—unfortunately, farming skills and work ethic were not included in the transfer. Today, Zimbabwe, which once exported food, is starving. Life expectancy has declined from 60 to 37 for males, and to 34 for females. Infant mortality has gone from 53 to 81 deaths per 1,000. South Africa is on the same path. Liberals fought apartheid until black rule was established there as well. Since then, soaring crime has driven out those who can afford to flee. According to the South African Institute of Race Relations, 800,000 whites out of four million have emigrated since apartheid ended. Skilled blacks who have the financial resources are bolting as well. They take with them the knowledge to run an economy and government. But the disintegration of South Africa isn’t a suitable topic for the Brie and Chardonnay set in wealthy liberal neighborhoods like Chicago’s Hyde Park.

And liberals helped bring down the evil, pro-American Shah of Iran. Since then, Iran under the Mullahs has hanged Gays, stoned women for adultery, engaged in a war with Iraq that slaughtered millions, and started work on an Atomic Bomb to create a new holocaust in Israel. Those deaths don’t matter to liberals as long as they can feel self-satisfied about opposing the Shah.

And liberals all read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and fought to ban DDT, to save the birds. That banning DDT resulted in the deaths of millions of third world children from Malaria doesn’t intrude on their self-congratulations. Tough for the kids, but what's a dead black baby in Africa compared to liberal ego satisfaction?

I believe that liberals want Hispanic and black Americans to remain in poverty, so they must continue to vote for liberals who will provide them government programs. Liberals oppose requiring Hispanic citizens to learn English, even though those who speak English have higher incomes and standards of living. And don't mention that black ghetto culture is keeping so many blacks in poverty and killing thousands of other blacks every year through gang violence. Don't mention that single parenthood is the leading cause of poverty, and that the vast majority of black children are born to single mothers. Let's keep it that way so blacks have no choice but to vote Democrat to get their handouts. If they suffer and die because of it, so what?

I believe our universities have become Madrassas of left-wing propaganda. Conservatives and Republicans don't get promoted or tenure, if they get hired in the first place. So our students are exposed only to what the left wants them to believe. I believe the purpose of education is to teach kids how to think, not what to think.

I believe that having the government run entirely by lawyers puts the entire system at the service of the self-interests of the legal profession. Before the 2010 election, lawyers were in complete charge at the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives and of course, the Courts. It has only improved a little. I believe that the endless delays and appeals created in our legal system by the legal profession have been good only for lawyers, but have made a mockery of justice, due process and any deterrence for crime. I believe that this costs all of us a large percentage of our incomes, and many of us our lives. And I believe the Democrat lawyers running the government will make it worse, to increase lawyers' fees.

I believe that any American who denigrates America should have to spend a year in a third world country, preferably one under Shari'a law, living as the natives live. The survivors would be allowed back in to kiss the earth they used to spit on.

I believe that anyone born in America—or who becomes a citizen—has won the lottery, because they thus have a standard of living and freedoms unknown to 99% of the humans who have ever lived.

I believe that if you define someone as “poor” who owns a car, color TV and air conditioning, you don’t have a clue as to what poor means. I lived in the village of Khe Sanh for a few weeks. Poor is a one-room thatched hut, children with only a cast-off tee shirt for clothing, and rice—when they were lucky.

I believe that law-abiding citizens have the right to own firearms to defend themselves and their families. Thanks to lawyers who have clogged the courts, citizens get very little protection from the legal system.

I believe that if you don’t care about something more than yourself (e.g., your country, your place of worship, your community, your family, a great cause, the organization you give your work time to, art, poetry, literature, nature) you will never be happy. The more of these things that subsume you, the happier you will be.

I believe the person who has nothing for which he or she would die has no reason to live, and is to be pitied.

I believe the person without faith is without a future.

I believe that “class” isn’t what clothes you wear, what wine you drink, what car you drive or what house you live in. Class is how you treat people. There are waitresses and plumbers with more class in their little finger than wealthy elites who hold them in contempt.

I believe acquiring wealth should be only a bi-product of doing what you love. Otherwise, you’ve wasted your life.

I believe the person who loves things more than people is always unhappy.

I believe if you can’t trust the people who work for you to manage their own time and work, with only a little direction, you should replace them. (I know that’s hard if they are government employees or in unions designed to protect the jobs of the least productive.) If you can trust them, do so. You and they will be happier and more productive.

I believe that when you want the government to take over something you think is important, you should imagine it being run by the Post Office, the Pentagon or the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

I believe that hard work may not get you ahead, but thinking the world owes you a living makes you an unhappy slave to those giving the handouts. I believe people voluntarily dependant on the handouts of others are slaves. There are exceptions for children, the elderly, and the disabled, but not for capable adults. People addicted to drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, food, or anything else are also slaves.

I believe that if you work hard and are a success, those who don’t will call it luck.

I believe you can know only a very small fraction of all there is to know about your own field, never mind other folk’s area of specialty. There is no person you cannot learn something valuable from. And if you think you know everything, you probably don’t know that you are a boring jerk.

I believe school is always in session. Learning is life—learn every day. If I knew that I was to die tomorrow, I’d still want to read a book, or talk to an expert, and learn something new today. It’s as vital as breathing.

I believe the person with a strong vocabulary has an advantage. The person who loves reading has a huge advantage. Being a good writer is an even larger advantage, but to be a good writer, you must both write a lot and read a lot.

I believe that moral courage is as important as physical courage—just rarer.

I believe that hope is not a strategy. A goal without a plan is just a dream. “Then a miracle happens” is not a plan. I believe that “change” is a process, not a goal.

I believe that humor, like water, is essential to life, but can be equally destructive.

I believe that our culture, our political freedom and our economic freedom are inseparably entwined, and that we are on the road to losing them for future generations. There is no political freedom or economic advancement without protection of the right to own property. People in poverty-stricken third world countries are bright and willing to work hard. But property rights are not protected, so it becomes impossible to gather the capital to create businesses and jobs.

I believe in God, and ask Her every day to protect my granddaughter and my wife, but I don’t believe in telling other people what or how to believe. I believe certitude about the Almighty is the ultimate arrogance of the ego. I believe if everyone would worship as he or she wished—or not—and shut up about it, the world would be a better place.

I believe that there are four key elements of leadership: 1. Leaders set the example. 2. Leaders look out for the welfare of their subordinates and followers. 3. Leaders take responsibility for their actions and decisions. 4. Leaders have integrity and moral courage. And I believe true leadership is in damned short supply in this world.

I believe that every American owes service to our country in some way. I believe those who are willing to risk their lives in that service—our police, firefighters, EMTs, soldiers, sailors, airmen, coastguardsmen, and Marines, are owed honor and respect by their fellow citizens.

I believe the failure of our wealthy elites to serve as leaders in our military today, as they did in WWII and before, heralds the downfall of our republic. Then they will ask, “Why didn’t someone do something?” I believe the "me first" generation will get what it deserves. Unfortunately, so will those who don't deserve it.

I believe that all the success I have had in life is due to the discipline and values instilled in me by my Marine Drill Instructors, Sgt. William H. Harris, Sgt. Michael P. Martin and Sgt. Ezekiel Owens. Jr. Wherever they are, I salute and thank them.

I believe that if the necessity arises where you must send men and women into battle to defend our freedoms—and it will—then the toughest possible training is what will help them survive and triumph. Therefore, I believe, contrary to the bedwetters in the media, that Marine Boot Camp is the most humane military training in the world, because it facilitates survival in combat. I believe if you’ve never been under fire, your opinion is uninformed—and probably ignorant.

I believe that most critics of our military in the media, Hollywood and politics would curl up in a quivering ball of tears if they were asked to endure for a week what our military men and women endure in peacetime, never mind when deployed to a war zone. I believe most of those critics are moral and physical cowards, and they know it—it eats their souls and makes them venomous.

I believe that if all the chips are on the table, and lives are at stake, you’d be better to have one half-dead old Marine at your side, than all the politicians and Hollywood entertainers you could cram into hell.

I believe that it was the highest privilege of my life to wear the uniform of the United States Marine Corps. I don’t believe the country owes me anything for doing so, but that my serving was partial payment on what I owe our country for my freedoms—a debt that can be never fully paid, but with my life.

Robert A. Hall is a Marine Vietnam veteran who served five terms in the Massachusetts state senate.


  1. I'll post the link to this on Facebook.

  2. Robert A Hall; since you commented on my blog, I'll take a minute to comment on yours. I agree completely with some of the things you've said,but wonder how you can include in your lengthy list of what you believe the phrase
    "but I don’t believe in telling other people what or how to believe." I blog to encourage people to reconsider their thinking and to change their minds on some issues; I suspect you do the same, otherwise you'd keep it all to yourself.
    I'd like to encourage you to forego sweeping generalizations with no reference to any particular cases, like, for instance " Conservatives and Republicans don't get promoted or tenure, if they get hired in the first place. So our students are exposed only to what the left wants them to believe." This is not my experience at all, and I wonder how you can make such an accusation without providing some cases in point. What you risk doing is having readers out there who don't know the environment assuming and promulgating a false assessment of ALL universities. Support your comment with facts.
    You seem to have a dim view of your fellow man when you can label those who oppose military interventions as follows: "I believe most of those critics are moral and physical cowards, and they know it—it eats their souls and makes them venomous." What has caused you to believe that genuine persons committed to finding negotiated solutions do so out of cowardice? This really is disingenuous.
    And lastly, I have friends who basically preach to me from a similar vantage point to yours. What I always ask them is, "What would you have me do?" and sometimes, "What changes are you recommending?" They tend not to be able to answer that. I think all of us bloggers on such critical subjects can fall into the trap of haranguing people about what is wrong, but failing to do the work of suggesting alternatives that are possible in the environment in which we all live, here and now.
    I'd invite your readers to visit my blog at another slant on things. I've been labelled a "Liberal" by some, but please, let's let our dialogue go beyond labelling each other and throwing verbal stones. We live in the same house, after all.

  3. e-Book readers. Could be a huge boon for students.
    But they won't enjoy the benefit of electronic products. Still will pay OUTRAGEOUS prices for books for their courses.

    Using evil to prey upon evil.
    I realize the horrific days of people planning monsterous acts like the Holocaust are behind us. But that doesn't mean there still are not scams in the economy, besides The Skim, wnich the gods view as necessary for positioning's sake.
    Just as clone hosting selected disfavored whom the gods wanted ot ensure had no chance to ascend before The End, so did being invited into the 21st century real estate scam ensure as of yet undetermined punishment elements.
    They instructed people whom they wanted ot condition into faith in their relationship that since the stock market would top out they should shift their asset base into real estate instead.
    And they told them when to sell before they tanked the real estate market as well, timing all based on the level of confidence they wanted each to understand.
    The victims may cry "Why would this happen to me." but their behavior in a prior life would answer this:::It didin't happen to anyone who didn't deserve it.

    Both the public and the private sector host $400k overpaid employees. The difference?
    The public sector preyed upon the disfavored rejects from motherlands, people too disfavored to stay reproducing with their own blood and enjoying their own culture. Corporate preyed upon the more favored purebloods from their motherland through sourcing. Yet another great example of the god's "reverse positioning".

    They point the finger at me and claim I participate by shopping at WalMart.
    Now this is something I have yet to understand, for they ALL engage in this sourcing due to cheap Asian labor. And Walmart has a very straightforward business model, although not as clear as Costco's "14%", rest assured I pay a margin on each and every product I purchase at Walmart independantly, including my $3 box of American made Cherios and my 68 cent can of Campbell's tomato soup.
    INCIDENTALLY, it seems to me we pay THE SAME PRICE FOR SHIT THAT WE DID BEFORE SOURCING BEGAN. The difference is being poicketed by corporate and the $400k employees who are recruited into playing a part in this evil.
    The gods intentionally set this up to ensure the onus falls upon the preditory capitalist and not the ignorant public.
    Trash at the top just as there is trash in the ghetto.

  4. For George Epp,

    You quote me out of context. I said I don't believe in telling people what to believe ABOUT RELIGION. Pay attention.

    There are a lot of studies as to who gets hired, tenured and promoted at Universities, especially in the Liberal Arts. They are rarely Republicans or Conservatives.

    As to suggesting alternatives, read my blog for pieces like this:

    Change that would fix America

    The first step is to educate the public, of course:

    Reading List for the Educated Voter

    ~Bob Hall

  5. Great piece Mr. Hall. I agree wholeheartedly.

    As for the liberaly tyranny reigning supreme in education, I can testify to that as face, being a college student.

    I major in journalism, and being a libertarian (further "right" than a conservative in regards to government), I'm always a rare minority.

    The liberal majority gloats about being "open-minded", but I've witnessed first hand when a student differs in opinion from the liberal rule: the class, sometimes even the professor, rants and ridicules the differing opinion into oblivion. I've even seen one student (whom was roughly 30 years old), drop out b/c of such an encounter.

    Liberals are the most closed-minded, hypocritical ass hats I have ever encountered. Conservatives can be this way too, have no doubt; but in the academia, liberals take the cake.

    As for other commentator on here complaining about "labeling" (generalizing) people, in particular "liberals": how else are we to distinguish one person or group from another? It's human nature to identify, separate and categorize; that's natural and perfectly "okay". We all do it, liberal or not.

    (Forgive spelling, I had not time to double check this.)