Immigration Reform — My Thoughts on a Sensible Way Forward

America’s immigration debate is stuck.  The last major revision to our system occurred in 1965, and there are obvious problems with current law.  Most glaringly, our system encourages (in multiple ways) an almost random collection of folks to immigrate without regard to the skills and talents that they could bring to America.  That should change.  Also, America has allowed more than 11 million illegal immigrants to enter the country.  They have lived in the shadows for more than a generation — we need to change this as well.  In this post, we’ll review the major issues in America’s immigration debate, and point towards a sensible way forward.

President Donald Trump has made immigration reform a top national priority.  He has ended the DACA program, under which President Obama had decided not to deport illegal immigrants who were brought to America before they were age 16.  President Trump announced that this program would end as of March 2018, in part because he (correctly) viewed President Obama’s order as unconstitutional.  He also announced his desire to make changes to current immigration policy.  One of his key focus areas is construction of a physical wall across America’s southern border.

In my last post, I reviewed America’s immigration history and outlined a few basic principles.  The key takeaways were:

  • From a Christian perspective, compassion for immigrants is mandatory, but no specific policy outcomes are specified.
  • America is a nation of immigrants — the vitality and drive of the immigrant population is a good thing for America.
  • Borders and the Rule of Law matter.
  • America’s immigration policy has veered from focusing on preserving America’s ethnic makeup to a centering on permitting immigrants to bring in their relatives.  Neither approach is consistent with America’s interests or values.

These themes will help us analyze and recommend changes to America’s current immigration policy.

Security First

The first task of any immigration policy should be to ensure that a country’s borders are secure and that its laws are followed.  Over the past 30 years, this first principle has been largely ignored.  America has allowed (and many have encouraged) people to enter the country illegally.  Around two-thirds of  illegal immigrants were initially admitted with temporary visas (like student or tourist visas) but overstayed and became illegal.  The rest crossed the border illegally.

While the U.S. has improved its immigrant security system since 9/11, there are still steps that should be taken.  First, the “e-verify” system, which is an electronic database that employers can use to instantaneously check on the immigration status of their employees, should be made mandatory.   Once e-verify is mandatory, illegal immigrants will not be able to find work, and the incentive to enter illegally will be diminished.

Border security is also essential, not only to deter illegal immigration but also to protect America from terrorism.  I am skeptical, however, of President Trump’s call for a wall

Wall

Border Wall at Tijuana and San Diego

spanning the Southern border.  It appears to be an expensive public relations move and I doubt it will bring the security that he expects.  Certainly, physical structures must be a part of any border security plan, but cameras, electric fences and additional border control agents should play a more prominent role.

We Should Replace the Current Broad Family Reunification Program (Chain Migration) with a Skills-Based Approach

The 1965 Immigration Act included a provision that allowed for immigrants to bring in their spouses and minor children fairly easily.  It also provided opportunities for those same immigrants to bring in their extended family members (like siblings, parents and grown children).  This process can take several years, but it can (and often does) ultimately result in a large number of immigrants to enter the country from one naturalized citizen.  The system is known by its supporters as “family unification” and “chain migration” by its opponents.

Family unification, if it means making sure that nuclear families with young children can be together, is a goal that the immigration policy should support.  Families are a bedrock of civilization — our immigration system should support that idea.  However, Congress should end any preference for other relatives (like siblings or parents) or adult children of immigrants.  This is not out of any dislike for the families of immigrants, but because there should be a more meaningful criteria, which we will address now.

Instead of a system based primarily on family unification, the U.S. should adopt a skill-

Immigration_Bill_Signing

1965 Immigration Act Signing

based immigration policy.  This would be consistent with many other major democracies (like Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand) which admit immigrants based upon their skills and potential contributions to their country.  Attributes such as having a job offer, education attainment, language capability, willingness to invest, and scientific achievement are all factors used by those countries.   Senator Tom Cotton has introduced a bill (the RAISE Act) that advances these idea.  However, a skills-based system is not new — a Commission led by Democrat Barbara Jordan recommended a similar scheme in 1995:

Immigration can support the national interest by bringing to the U.S.
individuals whose skills would benefit our society. It also can help
U.S. businesses compete in the global economy. This national interest
in the competitiveness of business must be balanced by an equally
compelling national interest in developing a U.S. workforce that has
the skills necessary to compete in the global economy

We should adopt a skills-based system to replace the current family reunification/chain migration immigrant policy.

Let’s Bring Illegal Immigrants Formally Into Society

There are an estimated 11 million people in America who entered the country illegally.   They did so from 1986 until today with the vast majority coming in the 1990’s and 2000’s.  Recently, illegal immigration has dropped significantly.  Most experts opine that the economic crashes in 2003 and 2008 are largely the cause, along with stronger enforcement of immigration laws.  That good news, but what are we to do with the many who are still here?

A core value of the Shire is that the government should not upset the settled expectations of people without great cause.  The informal arrangements that have been built by individuals over time usually represent wisdom and good sense.  For more than 30 years, America has allowed people to enter this nation illegally.  They have worked, paid taxes, owned homes, had children, joined churches and integrated into American life.  To forcibly deport all or most of these 11 million immigrants is not only unfeasible, but it is also unfair to both the illegal immigrants and the communities in which they live.

While outright deportation of illegal immigrants is wrong, it is still true that they entered the country illegally.  In so doing, they jumped the line — law abiding folks who seek to emigrate to America typically wait 10 to 15 years to obtain a green card (which grants the right to live in permanently live in the United States).  At minimum, illegal immigrants should also be required to wait 10 years before they obtain permanent legal Statue of Liberty 2status.  They should also pay a fine for breaking the law, and then have to go through the same vetting requirements as all immigrants.  These requirements should include having no significant (felony) criminal background, being able to speak English, passing a citizenship test, along with paying back taxes and a fine.  At the end of this process, the immigrant should be eligible to gain the right to permanently live in the United States.

As for citizenship, it is my belief that this question should be held for a later decision.  After the process above is completed, we will learn more about the (formerly) illegal immigrants, and have a better sense of whether citizenship is appropriate or not.

Children of Illegal Immigrants Should Be Able to Become Citzens

Next, let’s consider the children of illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors.  These children (called “Dreamers” by some, and are the subject of the DACA debate) entered America through no fault of their own and many don’t have significant ties to their home country.   So long as these people have not committed a serious crime and graduated from high school (or joined the military), they should be allowed to obtain a green card and begin the process of becoming citizens.  Of course, they’ll need to follow the same citizenship eligibility rules as all other immigrants.

While people brought to America as children should ultimately be eligible for citizenship, they still entered the nation illegally.  Therefore, they should not be eligible to sponsor other family members under the current family unification/chain migration rules (which, as I argued above, should be ended in any case).

End the Diversity Visa Lottery

The final major change that I would advocate is the end of the current diversity visa lottery.  First enacted in 1990, the diversity visa lottery randomly admits 50,000 people each year from countries whose population is relatively small in America.  This policy makes almost no sense — why should we randomly admit people into America, even if they are vetted for security purposes?  Wouldn’t we be better off selecting immigrants based on their skills and potential contributions to America?  We should end the diversity lottery and adopt the skills-based policy that I advocate above.

In summary, it’s time to update America’s immigration policy, strengthen our borders, end chain migration and move to a skills-based system.  At the same time, we should finally resolve the status of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.  If we can adopt these changes, America will have an immigration policy that better reflects our values and interests.

Immigration in America: A (short) History and Some Guiding Principles

Immigration is perhaps the most divisive issue facing America today.  It has dominated the political discourse over the past year, and will do so again in 2018. Over the next few posts, I’m going to explore the issue.  In this first piece, I’m going to start with a review of America’s immigration history and some guiding principles.  In the next, I’ll outline the current state of the immigration debate, evaluate specific policy proposals and make recommendations for policy-makers.

A Quick Tour of America’s Immigration History

While a detailed review of America’s immigration experience is not possible in a blog post, a quick review will help set the stage for the current debate:

  • Until 1921, immigration in America was essentially unrestricted.
  • From then until 1965, immigration was capped on a yearly basis and based on the country of origin of current American citizens (thereby advantaging immigrants from Western Europe).
  • In 1965, Congress eliminated the overall cap on on immigration and the country of origin quotas.  The law permitted unlimited immigration for the immediate family of U.S. citizens.  For other potential immigrants, an overall cap was set at 290,000 per year.  Family ties and (to a much lesser extent) skills drove eligibility.   The net result was “chain migration” whereby family members could bring in their
    Naturalization_Ceremony_(27617092741)

    A Naturalization Ceremony

    extended family, and they in turn could bring in their families.

  • While the sponsors of the legislation believed that the 1965 law would not be a fundamental change, they were wrong.  After 1965, immigration levels went up significantly and most immigrants were no longer from Western Europe, but from Mexico and South America.
  • From 1942 until 1965, Congress also authorized a guest worker program.
  • With the end of the guest worker program, and a lack of border enforcement, illegal immigrants began to enter into the United States in significant number.  As of 1986, around 3 million illegal immigrants were in the United States.
  • In 1986, Congress provided amnesty to these illegal immigrants.  It also took (ineffectual) steps to enforce the border and penalize employers who hired illegal immigrants.
  • Beginning in 1948, the U.S. also began to admit refugees into America based on political persecution or other dire circumstances.  Since 1980, the U.S. has resettled over 3 million refugees.
  • In 1990, the overall limit on immigration was raised to 700,000; unlimited family migration continued.  The 1990 Act also introduced a “diversity visa” program designed to let 50,000 immigrants per year into the U.S. (via a lottery) from countries with relatively low numbers of people in the United States.
  • Current estimates are that 11 million immigrants are in the United States illegally.

With this history in mind, I’d like to introduce three principles to guide our discussion.

Guiding Principle 1:   A Christian perspective requires respect for immigrants, but not a policy outcome

At the Shire, we find it useful to look to the Bible for guidance.  A review of the Bible reveals two important perspectives on immigration.  First, the Bible clearly states that we should treat immigrants as image bearers of God, worthy of our respect and care.  Second, the Bible does not mandate, in fact does not mention, any particular immigration policy that a nation or voter should favor.  Let’s explore both points.

The biblical mandate regarding the treatment of immigrants by individuals is clear and consistent.  In Leviticus 19, God gives Moses laws for the people of Israel.  Verses 33 andEscape from Egypt 34 state that “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”  In Deuteronomy, Zechariah and many other places in the Bible, God explicitly curses those who oppress or fail to do justice to the foreign born.  

While the Bible is clear on how we are to treat the immigrant, it contains no recommendations as to immigration policy.   Each instance of  migration in the Old and New Testament is unique.   There are many cases where immigration is regulated — for example, in many cases, cities had walls and gates that were able to regulate the entry and exit of foreigners.  But, there is no discussion on the proper policy of how to do so.

These two perspectives are an important backdrop for considering any immigration policy.  We have an obligation to care for and support immigrants, whatever their circumstance.  Policymakers have the same personal obligation, and should certainly act with compassion in all they do, but they will need to look elsewhere for specific policy advice.

Guiding Principle 2:  America is a nation of immigrants 

It is a cliché, but America is a nation of immigrants.  Almost all of our ancestors came from somewhere else; for many of us, that past is within living memory.  One of my grandmothers, for instance, emigrated in the 1940’s (from England), and two of my great grandparents in the 1910’s (from Belarus).

Immigration is built into the very fabric of America.  The varied ethnicities, cultures and languages that immigrants bring to this country do not undermine America’s culture because America is fundamentally organized around the ideas embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  It is our shared commitment to these

Ellis Island

Main Immigration building at Ellis Island

ideas, and not ethnicity, that binds us as a people.  Out of those ideas a unique and strong American cultural identity has built over the centuries.  New immigrants come to America and are transformed by this cultural identity and America’s democratic ideals.  In turn, each succeeding wave of immigrants brings their language, customs and culture that further shape America.

E pluribus unum (“Out of many one”), an early motto of the United States, sums it up well — we are a nation of many different nations and cultures that are bound together by a shared vision of freedom and republican democracy.

Guiding Principle 3:  Meaningful borders and the rule of law are of critical importance

While America is no doubt a nation of immigrants, America is also a nation founded on the rule of law and, like any nation, has the right to grant or restrict entry into the country as it sees fit.  People who enter America illegally are, to state the obvious, breaking the law.  While illegal immigration is driven by many factors (which I will explore in more detail in my next post), a bedrock principle must be that borders will be enforced and the rule of law respected.

Summing Up

America is a unique nation.  Unlike almost all other countries, it is not built upon an ethnicity or longstanding geographic identity.  Instead, America was founded on ideas and principles, along with the labor and ingenuity of immigrants.  As America acquired its own culture, and became the most prosperous country in the history of the world, the question of how to manage and limit immigration arose.  America’s initial answer was to limit immigration to people like the Americans already in the country.  America’s next and current (perhaps unintentional) solution was to permit a somewhat haphazard process of immigration to take place based upon family ties.  America also permitted millions of immigrants to enter the country illegally; around 11 million currently.

In my view, neither approach is satisfying or consistent with America’s values and interests.  We can do much better; in our next post, we’ll examine current reform proposals and make recommendations for a better immigration system.

Add your comments below if you have thoughts or ideas to share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Reason to Care: Why I Found The Last Jedi So Unsatisfying

At the risk of annoying all of you, I’m going to join the minority in criticizing “The Last Jedi.”  While I found the movie entertaining (although a bit long) and some of the scenes were really cool, I ultimately found the movie unsatisfying.  Other critics have focused on the fact that the story echos previous episodes too closely, the weakness of Luke, or the oddity of Carrie Fisher starring in a role well after her death.

While I agree with these points, I was struck by something quite different —  the lack of any sense of what the Resistance (the good guys, led by Princess Leia and Rey) or the First Order (the bad guys, led by Kylo Ren and Snoke) actually stand for.   Yes, the Last Jedi 3Resistance is for the Republic, and they are fighting the oppression of the First Order, and that’s good as far it goes.  But, there isn’t any sense of an idea or nation that the Resistance is fighting to save.  As for the First Order, they are one-dimensional cut-out fascists.  Thin gruel.

Another related flaw in The Last Jedi is lack of reference to any land, culture or people that any of the protagonists are from.  There is no homeland that any one longs for, nor memory of a culture worth saving.  Therefore, the story lacks the emotional heft that a more grounded work can bring.

Compare this to the first Star Wars movie, “A New Hope.”  Two of the lead heroes are Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi.  We first meet them on a remote planet, where we see them (especially Luke) in their daily life.  We get to know Luke’s family, and learn about the Luke’s longing for purpose and significance.  After Luke’s family is murdered by the Empire, his decision to join Obi-wan and fight them makes perfect sense.

A scene from the last Lord of the Rings book (“Return of the King”) is also a useful contrast.  Frodo and Sam are on the road to Mt. Doom in their final attempt to destroy the evil Ring.  They are exhausted, nearly out of food and water, and in danger of losing their lives at any moment.  In his moment of desperation, Sam’s thoughts travel back to Samhis father, friends, and sweetheart back in the Shire.  He remembers the joys of the journey, a warm sunny day on a hill, and a tasty meal shared with his companions.  These memories inspire him to press on and battle the forces of evil.

The Last Jedi fails, in large part, because their is no similar sense of place, belonging, or reason for fighting.  Instead, we see people divorced from family, their own history, or a land worth saving.  There just isn’t much to care about.  Hopefully, Episode IX grounds itself better, and we have a reason to root for something.

 

 

Congress gets the Job Done on Tax Reform

House and Senate leaders announced their final Tax Reform bill on Friday, and passage seems assured by the end of the year.  Enough details have emerged to grade the final product (though I’m sure we’ll learn more in coming days).  Because it makes America more competitive, will spur economic growth, and helps families in some important ways, it deserves a solid “B” and should be approved by Congress.

There are two big failings in the bill — it adds between $1 and $1.5 trillion to the debt over 10 years and adds a significant new piece of complexity in the small business arena,  but these failings aren’t enough to justify a “no” vote.  In this post, we’ll examine the final product.  Along the way, I’ll also revisit the questions that we asked a few weeks ago in an earlier post.

The Big Changes

As of this writing, here are the big changes in the Tax Reform Bill:

  • The Corporate tax rate will drop from 35% to 21%.  Certain businesses that count their business income on their personal tax return (so-called “pass through” entities) will also get a substantial tax cut.
  • The standard deduction will double (from $12,700 to $24,000 for married couples) and tax rates are lowered across the board; personal exemptions will go away.
  • State/local income and property taxes will still be deductible, but only up to $10,000 per year (vs. unlimited deductibility in current law).  This will hurt higher income taxpayers in high-tax states.
  • The child tax credit doubles (from $1,000 to $2,000), is refundable up to $1,400, and the income limits have been raised, making the credit available to most taxpayers.
  • The Obamacare individual mandate tax penalties will be repealed.

Forbes has a good summary if you want more information.

Revisiting the Four Questions From My Earlier Post

Will the new code be simpler?  

It depends on who you are.  If you are a middle class taxpayer, the code will be much simpler.  The doubling of the standard deduction to $24,000 means that most families will no longer need to track receipts or labor for hours over their tax forms.  They will simply fill in the standard deduction and file — that’s good.  Also, a very complex scheme Taxes2known as the Alternative Minimum Tax (which requires some taxpayers to calculate their taxes twice) will now only apply to the very highest income earners.  That is also good.

However, the new law’s “pass through” provisions are complex and will create a powerful incentive for small businesses to restructure their operations to take advantage of the tax break.  Professional service firms (which generally won’t qualify for the lower tax rates) are already talking about splitting up their various revenue streams or restructuring to get favorable tax treatment.  I’m afraid there will be significant gamesmanship throughout the economy — this change will keep accountants very busy.

Simplicity Grade:  C+

Does it help families?

First, raising the standard deduction is good news — families will get the benefit of a large standard tax deduction without keeping receipts or jumping through hoops (large families won’t see the benefit due to the elimination of personal exemptions).  Also, taxFamily rates for families, like all taxpayers, will go down.  The bill also raises the child tax credit from $1000 to $2000 per child and applies the credit to many more families than the current law (from a max income of $110,000 to $400,000 for married couples).   A helpful late change championed by Senator Marco Rubio expanded the refundability of the tax credit to low income taxpayers.   Families will also no longer be required to pay the Obamacare penalty if they do not purchase a health care plan approved by the federal government.  This will save low-income families around $1400 per couple.

Overall, the Tax Reform bill is positive for most families, both in terms of simplification and because their taxes will go down.

Pro-Family Grade:  B+

Is it too radical?

Here, the Tax Reform bill ended in the right place.  Initially, various proposals were quite radical, eliminating medical expense, home mortgage, and teacher expense deductions, and taxing grad student tuition waivers.  All of these provisions were eliminated from the final legislation, and other changes are being phased in to give people a chance to work through the plans they have made.  These are helpful changes.

The two most radical remaining changes involve the deductibility of Sales and Local Taxes (SALT) and providing new, potentially distortive, tax breaks for “pass through” entities.   It is worth considering the SALT issue in some detail.  Under current law, taxpayers can deduct from their federal tax returns all property and income taxes that are paid to their state and local governments.  Because of these deductions, federal tax Houserates must be higher overall to make up for the revenue loss.  Thus, residents of low tax states provide a subsidy to those states that charge their residents high taxes.  That just doesn’t seem fair.  The original proposal, which would have eliminated all SALT deductibility, tilted the balance too far in the other direction.  The final bill, which allows for deductibility of up to $10,000 in SALT taxes, seems like a fair middle ground.   The limited deductibility will also provide an incentive for high-tax states to lower their tax burden (or at least not raise it further) — that is a win for taxpayers.

The main blemish in this area is the new and complex “pass through” rules discussed above.  I’m afraid that there will be many unintended consequences from this change that Congress will have to revisit.

Anti-Radicalism Grade:  B+

The Estate Tax 

Initially, the House bill fully repealed the Estate Tax.  While considering death as a taxable event is a bit unseemly, the Estate Tax actually affects very few Americans, and the revenue lost in a full repeal limited the ability to provide other types of tax relief.  This was a poor trade-off, and the final bill fixed the issue by retaining the Estate Tax, but doubling the exemption to only apply to estates larger than $11 million.  This effectively eliminates any impact on all but the very rich (and they also benefit from the increased exemption) — Congress landed in the right place.

Estate Tax Grade:  A

The Corporate Tax Cuts Will Help Competitiveness

The centerpiece of the Tax Reform is a reduction in the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%.  Currently, the U.S. has the third highest corporate rate in the world, and it is well above the 22% average across the world’s major economies.  Over the past decade, most countries have reduced their rates, and the growing tax gap has disadvantaged U.S. companies versus their foreign competitors.  As a result, many companies have moved their tax headquarters overseas.  The new, lower rates will make U.S. corporations more competitive and encourage companies to maintain their headquarters in the U.S.  These changes will unquestionably help U.S. workers and the economy in general.

Corporate Tax Grade:  A

The Debt will Rise

The major downside of the Tax Reform Act is that it is slated to add $1.5 trillion in new debt over ten years to the already massive $20 trillion federal debt already owed by the American people.  There has been virtually no discussion of any offsetting spending cuts to pay for the loss of revenue.  Optimistic Republicans are counting on growth spurred by the tax cuts to generate additional tax revenues to cover the gap.  While most economists agree that the tax plan will drive growth, most credible analysts believe that well over $1 trillion of additional debt will result from the tax cuts even after the new growth is factored in.

This is really poor public policy.  Already, the U.S. has more debt than its entire yearly economic output.  We should be finding ways to reduce our debt, not increase it.  History is replete with debtor nations sailing along for quite awhile with high debt levels.  Then, a crisis comes, and debtors grow nervous about the nation’s ability to repay.  As Greece recently discovered, the consequences of that occurrence are dire — creditors begin to direct the country, taxes must be raised, the economy slows, and jobs are lost.  The U.S. needs to act soon to avoid this scenario, and the Tax Reform bill only makes matters worse.

The best that can be said about the Tax Reform bill is is that it will have a relatively small impact on the debt — “only” $150 billion per year.  That is less than 4% of the federal budget.  And, the argument goes, when Congress eventually makes the hard decisions on spending, the added debt from the Tax Reform bill can be easily handled given that the economy will be in a strong footing due in part to the economic growth spurred by the lower tax rates.  While this argument strikes me as very hopeful, the relatively small impact of the bill on the debt does diminish the overall level of concern.  However, it is still a significant negative point.

Deficit Grade:  F

The Final Analysis 

Overall, the Tax Reform is positive for the country.  It will strengthen the competitiveness of U.S. companies and therefore spur economic growth.   It simplifies taxes for many, and helps families.  Lawmakers avoided the most radical and disruptive provisions, and states will have a new incentive to cut their own taxes.  On the downside, the bill only worsens our already poor debt situation, and I worry that the “pass through” provisions will prove to be too complex and lead to significant gamesmanship.  However, the positive parts of the bill outweigh the negative.  Congratulations to President Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, and Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady.  Congress should pass the Tax Reform bill, and the President should sign it.

Tax Reform Final Grade:  B

Let’s Call a Christmas Truce

America believes itself to be in a culture war.  Donald Trump’s first year as President has deepened the polarization and anger that has characterized our country for decades.  The nation has essentially split into tribes with both sides being absolutely certain of their own righteousness, and having little interest in finding common ground or shared values with their perceived enemies.

Despicable behavior by men across the country has shocked and offended almost everyone, though sadly many see it through the same tribal lens as they see the rest of the political scene. Many Republicans are quick to condemn Al Franken and John Conyers while “leaving it up to the voters of Alabama” on Roy Moore.  Democrats were quick to attack Moore while “supporting the ethics investigation” on Al Franken…until the number of complaints about his behavior became politically untenable.  Mass shootings seem to occur every other week and the carnage is almost unimaginable.  Much to my despair, the reaction by many in both tribes is to hope that a member of the “other side” did the killing and immediately turn to an argument about gun control.

In the midst of all this, the Christmas Season has arrived.  In the Shire, lights are being hung, the aromas of cookies fill the house, gifts are being bought, and cards sent.  Families and communities may be heartily engaging in these wonderful traditions, but it Treeall feels a bit forced. There is a brittleness in the air, a sense that the cultural conflict that is ripping through the country could be stronger than Christmas.

In this bleak midwinter, can light and peace overcome the darkness and strife?

I’d like to take you back to 1914.  After decades of discord and a significant arms race, World War I broke out.  Initially, both sides believed that the war would end quickly, but by the fall of 1914, the Allies (led by France and Britain) and Central Powers (led by Germany) had stalemated in Marne, a city in Northern France.  This stalemate was a bloody one — an estimated 500,000 souls perished in the First Battle of the Marne in September of 1914.  By December of 1914, it was clear that a long, brutal campaign was ahead.  Peculiarly, the nature of trench warfare in WWI placed the opposing sides quite near each other – sometimes, less than 100 yards.

Into this despair, two voices emerged.  The first was a group of British women suffragettes who wrote an open letter to German women under the heading of “On Earth Peace, Goodwill towards Men.”  In the letter, they lamented the “sad Christmastide” that both of their countries were suffering.  They appealed to the common humanity of their counterparts in Germany, and wished for “Christmas [to] hasten that day” when there would be “Peace and Love among the good and free.”  On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict asked for a twelve-hour truce on Christmas Eve so “that the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang.”

These calls received some attention by the warring parties but they were ultimately ignored.  So, the fighting was scheduled to continue through Christmas. But, tentatively, miraculously, things started happening on the front lines in France.  It seems to have started with Christmas carols being sung in both trenches in the days leading up to Christmas Eve.  Christmas wishes were shouted across the deadly “no man’s land” Christmas_Truce_4between the two sides.

Then, just before Christmas, individual soldiers in the trenches began to celebrate the holiday without official permission.  Cautiously, sworn enemies stepped out of their trenches and began to celebrate Christmas.  The soldier’s own words are worth reading:

We shook hands, wished each other a Merry Christmas, and were soon conversing as if we had known each other for years. We were in front of their wire entanglements and surrounded by Germans – Fritz and I in the centre talking, and Fritz occasionally translating to his friends what I was saying. We stood inside the circle like street corner orators. Soon most of our company (‘A’ Company), hearing that I and some others had gone out, followed us.

Here’s another:

What a sight – little groups of Germans and British extending almost the length of our front! Out of the darkness we could hear laughter and see lighted matches, a German lighting a Scotchman’s cigarette and vice versa, exchanging cigarettes and souvenirs. Where they couldn’t talk the language they were making themselves understood by signs, and everyone seemed to be getting on nicely. Here we were laughing and chatting to men whom only a few hours before we were trying to kill!

There were also reports of joint burial services held for the dead and even of a soccer game breaking out in “no man’s land.”  In some places, the truce lasted just a few hours, while in others it expanded into the New Year. Christmas_Truce_1914

The Christmas Truce of 1914 was a miracle and triumph of the Christmas Spirit against overwhelming odds.  It brings us back to the awesome reality of what Christmas means — the entry of God into the world through the birth of Jesus Christ.  And, even more glorious, Jesus was sent by God into this world on a mission to lift us up out of the muck and mire of our daily trench warfare and to redeem us despite our many flaws and bad decisions.  It was (and is) the ultimate gift of sacrificial love to bring us into relationship with God and one another.

That’s powerful stuff, and it puts 2017 in context.  While we are in a divided place, the Spirit of Christmas remains an effective antidote because of the strength of the underlying message.  If we take the time to remember and celebrate Christmas, and honor it’s true meaning, we can be people of joy, humility and peace.

So, take a chance — allow the Christmas Spirit to grab you afresh this year.  Say a kind word to your neighbor, listen respectfully to someone with whom you disagree, be a friend to someone who needs it, re-connect with that family member who you don’t talk to enough.   Call your own Christmas Truce this year — you won’t regret it.

License to Curl? Considering State Licensure Rules

In our ever-specializing world, we are confronted by a dizzying array of service providers who are eager to help us out (for a fee).   We expect some professionals, like doctors, dentists and accountants, to be highly educated, trained and licensed.  Others, like the Captureteen who cuts the lawn, need no training or experience.  But, what about all the providers — the bus driver, bill collector, dental assistant — in between these two extremes?   According to a recent report by the Institute of Justice, the 50 states (and D.C.) have decided to require, in total, licenses for 102 different occupations.  And, the number has been rising for generations (see chart).

Licensure Makes Sense in Some Cases

Few would argue that licensure is always a bad idea. Where there is a substantial risk of public harm, a clear need for training and experience, and evidence of real damage being done to the public, the state should require licenses.  This is especially important where it is difficult for consumers to obtain and assess important information when making decisions.  The medical field (doctors, dentists), sophisticated finance (school-buses-2801134_960_720accountants, auditors), and the legal field are obvious candidates for licensure.  Every state requires EMTs, school bus drivers, and preschool teachers (except for Utah) to get a license.  Occupations like these pose real risks to the public — a license process seems like a good idea.

Many Licensure Rules are Unnecessary and Arbitrary

State legislatures have taken the well-meaning impulse behind licensure and extended it far beyond what is necessary.  Here’s a partial list of some questionable decisions:  home entertainment (license required only in Connecticut), conveyor operator (only Rhode Island), funeral attendant (3 states), interior designer (4 states), travel agency (7 states), barbershop-polebartender (13 states), taxidermist (28 states), auctioneer (30 states), makeup artist (41 states), manicurist (50 states) and barber (51 states, including D.C.).  You can see other examples here.  On their face, these occupations don’t appear to raise the types of harm that licensure purports to solve.

The picture is worse when you consider the variability between states. For example, only 14 states require locksmiths to be licensed.  Most of the locksmith licensure procedures are easy to meet, but New Jersey requires more than 2 years of education and training and the passage of an exam.  Only two states license dieticians, but those states require more than 2 years of education and experience.

Even where most states license the same occupations, the differences are stark.  For security alarm installers (licensed in 37 states), Connecticut requires 6 years of experience, while neighboring New York requires only 18 days and many states (including another close-by state, New Hamphsire) have no license requirement.  Similarly, of the 48 states that license Landscape Contractors, 4 states require four years of experience; 40 others require none at all.  This difference, and the apparent lack of public harm that occurs in those states with the more lenient rules, undermines the case for licensure in general.

Licensure is Costly and, in Many Cases, Brings Little Public Benefit

Licensure is expensive and takes time.  In most cases, an aspiring entrepreneur needs to pay a fee, which can range as high as $2370 (Travel Guide, Wyoming) and an astounding $3000 for a Vegetation Pesticide Applicator in New York.  Midwives in many states pay more than $1000 for the privilege.  Thegrand-tetons-2788700__340 education and training requirements can be absurdly high — in Alabama, barbers must clock 1000 hours of education to be licensed; in D.C., a massage therapist has to put in 500 hours; in Rhode Island, a Shampooer has to work for 1500 hours; and in South Dakota, a Cosmetologist must toil for 2100 hours before getting a license.

All of this time and expense might be justified if there were significant benefits to public health and safety.  An Obama Administration report concluded, however, that “most research does not find that licensing improves quality or public health and safety.”   Instead, the only clear effects of licensing were to increase the wages of licensed workers and to raise prices for consumers.  This makes intuitive sense, as the necessary impact of a license scheme is to restrict entrants to a field and thereby increase costs. These are not impacts to celebrate.
A Better Way

local, informal arrangements
should be encouraged and respected

The Shire starts from the simple premise that local, informal arrangements should be respected and encouraged.  These decisions and ways of living reflect the collected experience and wisdom of real life.  So, if confronted with a request to impose a license requirement, the first question a legislator should ask is whether there is a real, demonstrated need for the license requirement.  What harms are allegedly occurring in the industry?  Are they significant enough to require a law and the enforcement resources required to enforce that law?  Would classes, an experience requirement, or a test help prevent the harms?

In making this assessment, a legislator should consider whether existing practices and laws already protect the public.  Do third-party certification bodies already exist to set standards of behavior?  Do bonding and insurance (which provide consumers with a means of redress if something goes wrong) exist for the field in question?  Also, legislators should consider that every U.S. state already has a Deceptive Practices Act which provide a right for the State or individuals (or both) to sue people who commit fraud or misrepresent their services.  Perhaps this is enough protection.

A legislator should also ask why a license is required at this time in a new field.  Given the generations that have already passed without licensure, something significant should have changed to justify the imposition of a new requirement. Legislators should be skeptical of claims of changing circumstances.  Licensure is often sought by groups of incumbents that are seeking to block new entrants into their field.  Legislators should carefully consider claims of alleged risks in the industry are real and significant enough to justify the imposition of new restrictions.

It also seems relevant to consider the experience of other states.  Perhaps the Louisiana legislature should have noticed that no other state licensed Florists before it decided to do so.  Similarly, Rhode Island is the only state to require Conveyor Operators to obtain a license — this should have troubled legislators.  Conversely, the 44 states who have licensed pharmacy technicians might cause the remaining states to consider a similar program.

Final Thoughts

Not every problem
requires a central solution

The hardest thing for people in power to understand is that not every problem requires a central solution; not every important issue needs oversight from a bureaucrat.  We should want a society where families, civic institutions, churches, non-profits and neighborhoods, generally take responsibility for their own affairs without undue interference or complexity —  legislators need to think carefully before they impose rules and regulations that stifle this ability.  And, a state only has so many resources.  States should direct their resources to areas of significant, unmanageable risk and leave the rest alone.

State legislatures should review their existing license regimes and repeal those rules that are not serving a public benefit or are just too burdensome.  They should also consider all other options (and the motives of those seeking the new license laws) before they impose new license requirements.

“Let Us Give Thanks to God” — Thanksgiving 2017

We at the Shire love Thanksgiving.  It is such a joy to gather with family and friends around a table covered with our favorite foods (we’re particularly partial to turkey and Freedom_From_Want__-_NARA_-_513539stuffing covered in gravy).  We also savor the spirit of the holiday — it is a blessing to give thanks for all that we have been given.

We’d like to mark the occasion by sharing the inspired words of John Witherspoon, who was a prominent (but little known today) figure in the American Revolution.  He was a Presbyterian minister, the only cleric to sign the Declaration of Independence, an early president of Princeton College, represented New Jersey in the Continental Congress, and was a teacher to many of America’s important early founders, including James Madison.

Witherspoon delivered many public prayers and sermons during the Revolutionary War period.  One of the best is his Thanksgiving Sermon, delivered in the fall of 1782, when the war with England had turned America’s way and peace seemed to Witherspoonbe at hand.  Witherspoon was marking a day of public Thanksgiving he had helped Congress enact.  Witherspoon’s Sermon is a reminder of the priorities and values that animated the founding spirit of America and should guide us today.  The following is an excerpted version; the full Sermon is here:

“We are met together in obedience to public authority, to keep a day of solemn thanksgiving to God, for the goodness of his providence to the United States of America, in the course of a war, which has now lasted seven years, with a powerful and formidable nation.  We are particularly called upon to give thanks for the final successes with which it hath pleased him to bless our arms and those of our allies, in the course of the last year, and the campaign which is now drawing to a close . . .

While we who are here alive before God this day, recollect with tenderness and sympathy with surviving relations, the many valuable lives that have lost in the course of the war, let us give thanks to God who hath spared us as monuments of his mercy, who hath given us the satisfaction of seeing our complete deliverance approaching, and those liberties, civil and religious, for which we have been contending, established upon a lasting foundation. . .

I hope that none here will deny, that the manners of the people in general are of the utmost moment to the stability of any civil society.  When the body of a people are altogether corrupt in their manners, the government is ripe for dissolution.  Good laws my hold the rotten bark some longer together, but in a little time all laws must give way to the tide of popular opinion, and be laid prostrate under universal practice.  Hence it clearly follows, that the teachers and rulers of every religious denomination are bound mutually to each other, and to the whole society, to watch over the manners of the several members.  Those who are vested with civil authority ought also, with much care, to promote religion and good morals among all under their government.  If we give credit to the holy Scriptures, he that ruleth must be just, ruling in the fear of God.

So true is this, that civil liberty cannot be long preserved without virtue.  A monarchy may subsist for ages, and be better or worse under a good or bad prince; but a republic once equally poised, must either preserve its virtue or lose its liberty, and some tumultuous revolution, either return to its first principles, or assume a more unhappy form.

From this results a double duty, that of the people themselves, who have the appointment of rulers, and that of their representatives, who are entrusted with the exercise of this delegated authority.  Those who wish well to the State, ought to chuse to places of trust, men of inward principle, justified by exemplary conversation . . . Those, therefore, who pay no regard to religion and sobriety in the person whom they send to the legislature of any state, are guilty of the greatest absurdity, and soon pay dear for their folly.  Let a man’s zeal, profession, or even principles as to political measures, be what they will, if he is without integrity and private virtue as a man, he is not to be trusted. . .

But if the people in general ought to have regard to the moral character of those whom they invest with authority, either in the legislative, executive, or judicial branches, such as are so promoted may perceive what is, and will be expected from them.  They are under the strongest obligations to do their utmost to promote religion, sobriety, industry, and every social virtue, among those are committed to their care. . .

Let us cherish a love of piety, order, industry, frugality. . .  Let us in public measures put honour upon modesty and self-denial, which is the index of real merit . . .

We are one of the body of confederated States.  For many reasons I shall avoid making an comparisons at present, but may venture to predict, that whatsoever State among us shall continue to make piety and virtue the standard of public honour, will enjoy the greatest inward peace, the greatest national happiness, and in every outward conflict will discover the greatest constitutional strength.”

From Witherspoon’s pen to our heart, soul and mind.  Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Rotten to the Core: 100 Years of Communism

100 years ago this November (based on the Russian calendar), Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky led a group known as the Bolsheviks in overthrowing the Russian Tsar and created the world’s first Communist nation. This event ushered in one of the world’s darkest chapters, one in which we are still living.  Given the continued existence of explicitly 640px-Flag_of_the_Soviet_UnionCommunist regimes in Cuba and North Korea, the unwillingness of China to formally discard the system it no longer practices, and the popularity of Communism in some sectors (especially academia), it is well worth recalling the 100 years of brutality and despair that Communism has brought the world.

The Core of Communism is Rotten

Communism starts with several flawed premises. Most fundamentally, as defined first by Karl Marx and carried through by the Soviet Communists and their fellow travelers, Communists see people as material beings driven by needs like food, clothing and shelter.  While that is obviously true, it ignores the reality that people are also driven by ideas, principles, feelings and faith.  A second related dogma is that people are instruments and almost mechanical.  In the Communist worldview, people exist to produce and work — their labor is the very essence of who they are.  Again, work is a critical and noble part of what it means to be human, but it is far from our essence.  We also exist to love, laugh, serve and hope.

Underlying both of these core beliefs is a denial of God — Karl Marx rejected any notion that religion was anything other than a creation of humans.  He famously called religion “the opiate of the masses” and called for its abolition.  As a result, Russia, Cambodia, North Korea, China and Cuba all (at least initially) banned all types of religious practice.  If you believe, as we do at the Shire, that faith and religion are at the very essence of what it means to be human, then it is no surprise that misery and failure followed.

Because the Communists denied the existence of God, they looked elsewhere for their faith.  They turned to a belief in the perfectibility of man and the promise of a utopian society.  In the Communist worldview, Eden on earth could be achieved if the poor would rise up and take what is rightfully theirs from repressive owners of property.

From Rot Comes Destruction

In every case, the Communist philosophy has resulted in a totalitarian and violent state, which has been justified because the Communists were supposedly helping the poor.  Pope Pius XI recognized this reality in 1931 in his Quradegismo anno: “Communism teaches and seeks two objectives:  unrelenting class warfare and the complete eradication of private ownership.  Not secretly or by hidden methods does it do this, but publicly, openly, and by employing any means possible, even the most violent.  To achieve these objectives there is nothing it is afraid to do, nothing for which it has respect or reverence.”  The Communists were (and are) willing to kill or imprison those people and groups who oppose them.

Thus, as practiced, Communism has always been totalitarian.  From Russia to North Korea, and all regimes in between, Communists lead from a central authority and are repressive and brutal.   It is often said (especially by Professors) that communism starts with good intent, but has been let down by its leaders. This is not a supportable proposition.  For example, from the beginning, Lenin’s Russia fomented a 2017-11-19_20-22-21civil war to crush all so-called “class enemies.”  Only a few weeks into the revolution, Lenin called on the masses to “rise up spontaneously” since “for as long as we don’t treat speculators the way they deserve — with a bullet in the head — we will get nowhere at all.”  Lenin soon expanded the purge to all prominent landowners, moderate intellectuals who had initially supported him, and even those peasants who owned a small farm or animals.

Lenin’s brutality was just the beginning.  According to the “Black Book of Communism” (perhaps the best catalogue of the horrors of Communism in the 20th century), 85-100 million died from 1914 to 1991 at the hands of Communists.  The enormity of the evil and destruction are hard to comprehend, but it is important to mark some specific examples:

  • 6 million Ukranians died in 1932-1933 via executions, forced labor and due to a state-imposed famine designed to punish farmers for refusing to follow Communist collectivization orders.
  • In a 1939 horror known as the Katyn Forest Massacre, Stalin approved the cold-katyn-massacreblooded execution more than 20,000 Poles captured during World War II.  The Soviet Union hid its actions and denied any culpability until 1990.
  • As recounted brilliantly by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn in his book The Gulag Archipelago, about 14 million Russians, many of whom were political prisoners or had committed petty offenses, were placed into prisons known as “Gulags.”  Many were executed while imprisoned — hard, forced labor and torture were the norm.
  • From 1966 to 1976, Chinese Communist leaders imposed a “Cultural Revolution” on China.  Following the familiar script, they sought to purge elites from positions of authority and raise up the peasants.  In the name of upending the bourgeois elite, Universities were closed, historical and cultural treasures destroyed, and many people executed.
  • In the 1970’s, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge murdered between 1.7 and 3 million Cambodians in the name of remaking society towards a Communist utopia.  The brutality of the killings were beyond comprehension — many victims were required to dig their own graves and then buried alive.

Cultural and religious iconography suffered as well.  Stalin destroyed dozens of churches in Moscow, Ceaucescu destroyed the heart of Bucharest to remake Romania in his image, and Pol Pot obliterated Phnom Phen cathedrals.

So, Why is Communism Still Acceptable to Many?

In 1989, the Soviet Union’s Communist leadership fell, and the rest of Eastern Europe soon followed.  It appears for a short time that Communism’s deadly ideology would be placed in the “dustbin of history.”  Two decades on, however, Communism retains some respect and a following in many quarters.  In a recent poll, Russians ranked Stalin as the “most outstanding person” in world history.  When the murderous Fidel Castro died last year, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau called him a “remarkable” man and a “larger than life leader who served his people.”  As recounted by Paul Hollander in his book Political Pilgrims, this fawning just continues the tradition of western leaders who have been duped or justified the evil of Communist regimes. che-guevara-in-havannaBut it’s not just elites — it is not uncommon to see people wearing Che Guevara (a supporter of Fidel Castro) t-shirts to this day.  And, more ominously, various polls show that a many American Millennials prefer Socialism (Communism’s close-in counterpart) to Capitalism.

I think there are several reasons for the continued popularity, or at least polite acceptance, of Communism.  As a historical matter, the unprecedented evil of Nazi Germany diverted attention from Communist atrocities.  Nazi Germany’s horrors were almost unfathomable and fully exposed to the world after their defeat in World War II.  The Communist’s evil was hidden by the rightful focus on the Nazis.  Additionally, since the Soviet Union was allied with the West against Nazi Germany, it was easier to ignore the Soviet’s misdeeds.

But, that really doesn’t explain the continued acceptance of Communism given that the facts outlined above are now well known.  Communism remains popular, or at least acceptable, in part because many want to believe in the ideals that Communism represents.  Many believe that man can be perfected if only society was run by the right people.  Others are attracted to class struggle or look to the state to bring social justice to the poor.  Communism offers a tidy package containing all of those elements.

Our Responsibility

On this 100th anniversary, the threat posed by Communism has not faded away.  We can do four things to address this threat.  Our first job is to tell the true horror stories that result when that ideology is allowed to roam free.  When people know these stories, they will be much less likely to fall for the Communist siren song.  We also need to call out and oppose those leaders who seek to impose collectivist or class warfare ideology.  We should also acknowledge that some of the issues raised by Communists are valid (including the need to provide opportunity to all, care for the poor, and ensure that justice is fairly administered) and work to ensure that our society delivers better solutions to those problems.  Finally, we need to vigorously protect the rights of all people to worship God freely.

Communism is a bankrupt ideology that has brought suffering and death to millions around the globe.  Unfortunately, the long “twilight struggle” against Communism and its ideas did not end in 1989 — we must remind people of its horrors and speak out against its remaining vestiges to ensure it does not rise again as a major force in the world.

 

Continuity, Change and Leadership

In his acceptance speech after winning St. Paul’s mayoral race, Melvin Carter said that in St. Paul, “the only constant is change” and spoke eagerly of an ever-transforming city. Not to pick on Mayor-elect Carter, but this seems like a fairly significant overstatement. Let’s list just a few things that have stayed the same in St. Paul for generations:

  • Starting with the obvious, the name of the city, its geographic environs and the fact that the Mississippi River runs through it has been the same for well over 100 years
  • St. Paul has been Minnesota’s capital since it became a state in 1858, and the current Capitol building has stood since 1905
  • Central Presbyterian Church has been a place of worship since 1888; the Cathedral of St. Paul’s first liturgy was held in 1915
  • The Landmark Center opened in 1902 and been home to Twin Cities’ art groups for 40 years; the Ordway has hosted musicals and opera for over 30 years
  • The St. Paul Hotel has been serving guests in the same building since 1910; Mickey’s Diner has been slinging burgers, fries and the best malts since 1939
  • The James J. Hill house has stood on Summit Hill since 1905 and been a public museum since 1978
  • Built in 1930, the St. Paul City Hall and Ramsey County Courthouse still serve the needs of justice and city administration
  • The population has been quite stable over the past 80 years, hovering around 300,000 residents

Of course, much has changed as well.  St. Paul has gone from overwhelmingly Caucasian st-paul-210461_1280(95% in 1970) to having a very diverse population (as of 2010, St. Paul is 60% Caucasian, 15% Asian, 15% African American and 10% Hispanic).  It’s added a hockey team, opened and closed different restaurants, built a baseball stadium and attracted new corporate headquarters (while losing others).  Clearly, like all cities, things change in St. Paul all the time.

That’s the challenge of being in politics.  A leader is faced with a complex community full of people, businesses, churches, non-profits, volunteer organizations, block associations and many other groups and interests.  While aspects of communities change over time, much stays the same.  A good leader will seek to fully understand the people that he or she governs, appreciate the good in them and their institutions, and seek to retain and build on that good as new situations arise.  That has the important benefit of allowing people to maintain the arrangements on which they have built their lives and prevents the destruction of important places and institutions.

Edmund Burke said it best in Reflections on the Revolution in France, in which he wrote: “A good patriot, and a true politician, always considers how he shall make the most of the existing materials of his country. A disposition to preserve, and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman.”  A leader who says “the only constant is change” could easily miss this key point, and leave behind the good that people and communities have built over time.

The irony is that Mayor-elect Carter knows all of this.  He is a longtime Minnesotan whose family’s roots trace to an area of St. Paul known as the Rondo Neighborhood.  Rondo boomed in the 1910’s and 20’s, housing 85% of St. Paul’s African-Americans by the 1950’s.  Unfortunately, it was substantially destroyed by the construction of U.S. Interstate 94 in 1956.  As the Minnesota Historical Society states “the construction of I-94 shattered this tight-knit community, displaced thousands of African Americans into a racially segregated city and a discriminatory housing market, and erased a now-legendary neighborhood.”  Mayor-elect Carter, who calls himself a “son of Rondo” remembers well that his own grandfather lost several properties when Rondo was cut through.

So, what’s the disconnect?  First, “change” is a handy talking point for politicians, especially for an outsider seeking to gain election for the first time.  Also, people confuse the world of business and politics.  In business, change is constant and beneficial to society.  Only one of the original members of the Dow Jones Industrial Average is still part of the index.  Business change reflects the massive disruptions caused by technology, international trade and consumer tastes.  These forces cause companies to rise and fall, and those that remain are constantly remaking themselves.

But life in a community is not the same as a business.  Unlike a business, geography, topography, history, weather, natural resources and important landmarks create an environment within which an organic and settled place emerges.  Of course, change should and does occur in a community.  But, the wise politician takes the best of their city and builds on its strengths to help shape a better future for his or her citizens.

 

 

 

Welcome to the Shire

This is a mostly political forum that exists to reclaim the idea that life isn’t politics and politics isn’t life. We seek to defend and celebrate the small, the settled, the personal, the practical and the private against those who wish to exalt government, central planning, rigid ideology, utopia and experts. We believe first in God and seek to live our lives under His wisdom. We support the American experiment as lived out practically by real people over the past 200 plus years. We know that a life lived among friends and family dedicated to doing what’s right in the moment and for the long-term is a life worth living. If you believe these things too, think you could, or are just interested, we welcome you to the Shire.

Scenic Door County Wisconsin autumn aerial of Sister Bay

Scenic Door County Wisconsin autumn aerial of Sister Bay.

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