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An Ode to the Barber Shop

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Isn’t it amazing just how much of our lives we take for granted? The vast majority of us have never really taken into consideration the organizational effort that goes into running a local library or operating a small business. Like most of us, I have eaten at pubs, borrowed library books, and gotten my haircut without giving a second thought to the little intricacies that make such things possible. Then my barber decided to retire.

If I’m honest, learning that John, my barber of over five years, had decided to retire threw me in a loop. The prospect of finding a decent, skilled barber who could deal with my thick, wavy hair seemed virtually insurmountable. The truth is that the relationship John and I had ran deeper than just mere haircuts. Our friendship was based on a familiarity built over a number of years. John knew my hair and knew how I liked it. And I had the honour of having my hair cut by a man who had been barbering since the mid-sixties, and who was a pillar of his community.

John was one of a dying breed: the traditional barber. They offered men a haircut and, perhaps, a shave (occupational health and safety not withstanding), and little else. These barber shops were usually small and run by only a few men. They had built personal relationships with their clients over a number of years. These barbers knew their customers, knew their backgrounds, and knew how they liked their hair. (Naturally, this was dependent on clients returning to the same barber year after year, month after month).

The traditional barber is a relic of a bygone age. Whenever I think of old-fashioned barber shops, I think of the 1920s to the 1950s, of a world of glamour and sophistication when ladies wore evening dresses and men had neat hair and wore dinner jackets. When I think of old-fashioned barber shops, I think of the Rat Pack and James Bond and the movie stars of the 1930s to the 1950s. For me, the old-fashioned barber shop is synonymous with timeless male style.

Sadly, society no longer believes in style, glamour, and sophistication. The traditional barber shop has given way to a cruder, wannabe variety. These establishments are more masculinised hair dressing salons than proper barber shops. These places think that by offering cheap haircuts in an atmosphere immersed in masculine nostalgia – usually achieved through wood paneling, empty Jack Daniels bottles, and pictures of men doing “manly” things – they can achieve the mantle of the traditional barber shop.

The truth is that they can’t. Gruff looking barbers with arms covered in tattoos are about as far away as one can get from the dapper gentlemen who cut men’s hair in the past. When I walk out of the barber, I want to look and feel like Cary Grant, not like a thug. John made that happen for me. He and his kind are vanishing rapidly. They will be missed.

CONSERVATISM IN AMERICA

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Conservatism is a strong force in American politics and society. It has helped shape and define America’s political and social landscape. This essay explores the concept and parameters of conservatism in America. It will conclude by stating that conservatism has had an impact on American society and politics and has affected the way in which America thinks about itself. The first paragraph will cover the history and philosophy surrounding conservatism. This will include the definition of conservatism, its influences, and beliefs. The second paragraph will explore conservatism in America, including its historical and political implications.

As a political ideology, conservatism has a complicated and ambiguous nature, encompassing a broad range of ideas, beliefs, and concepts. In terms of ideology, conservatives are well known for seeing change with weariness at best and complete disdain at worst. It is well known that many conservatives cling blindly to the past.  It should be noted, however, that conservatives do not necessarily oppose all change. Conservatives oppose change which they see as threatening to the moral and social fabric of society. This is because conservatives which to protect society’s institutions, traditions, and moral framework.

According to Andy Stern, the former President of the Service Employees International Union, conservatives come with five characteristics. First, conservatives appreciate the need for fiscal balance. To this end, they are generally concerned about overspending, budget deficits, and so forth. Second, conservatives understand people’s romanticism with the concepts of hard work, personal responsibility, and see the Government as lacking understanding in this matter. Third, conservatives are suspicious of big government which they do not necessarily see as the solution to major problems. Fourth, conservatives are strong supporters of private sector growth which they see it as solving problems better than the Government. Fifth, conservatives are, likewise, strong supporters of small business.

Furthermore, conservatism comes with numerous advantages. Gary Jacobsen, a political scientist at the University of California, came up with several strengths of genuine conservatism. First, conservatives acknowledge materialisms role in encouraging particular forms of behaviour. To this end, conservatives are suspicious of bureaucracy which they see as stifling of this simple fact. Second, conservatives view with disdain the idea that social science theories can be applied to real-world problems. Third, conservatives value personal autonomy and freedom very highly. They realise that it is the individual that helps build and improve a society, not governments. Fourth, conservatives believe in good parenting having realised that good citizenry starts in the home.  Fifth, conservatives believe in the superiority of the market system which they feel encourages more efficient use of resources. It would be foolish to place conservatism or conservatives into the category of simplicity. In fact, conservatism is a complicated political ideology with a history and philosophy more complex than may initially meet the eye.

Conservatism in America has had a long and varied history and impact on American society and politics. A series of essays known as the Federalist Papers, written between 1787 and 1788, serves as a strong influence of conservative thought in America. Federalist Ten by James Madison, for instance, was written to create awareness of the issues surrounding factionalism and insurrection in the union. In Madison’s own words: “no man is allowed to judge his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgement and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity.” However, conservatism in America differs greatly from many other parts of the world. Because America is a relatively young country their conservatism is based on people’s personal values rather than on social class.

In fact, American conservatism is based on four distinct pillars. The first pillar is freedom based on the notions of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, religious and economic liberty. The second pillar is tradition. As mentioned previously, conservatives are strong supporters oppose change which threatens the established social exoskeleton. The third pillar is the rule of law. The fourth pillar is a strong belief in God.

Politically, conservatism has had a strong influence on American society. Take conservative President Ronald Reagan, for example. In his eight years in office, between 1981 and 1989, Reagan strengthened the American economy by curbing inflation, stimulating economic growth, and increasing employment. He exempted many low-income people from paying income tax through his income tax reform.

Today, the Republican Party consists of a mix of libertarians, neoconservatives, and the Christian Right. As a result, these groups have become a powerful force in American politics. Conservatism in America is more value-based than ideological in nature. It represents who identify strongly with America’s philosophical past and view with suspicion any attempts to alter this system.

As a social and political force, conservatism has had a great impact on American politics and society. The first paragraph explored the history and philosophy surrounding conservatism as an ideology. In this paragraph, it was found that conservatism incorporates a broad range of ideas, beliefs and concepts, and that conservatives value society’s institutions, traditions, and moral framework. The second paragraph explored conservatism in America more specifically. It looked specifically at the history of American conservatism using Federalist Ten by James Madison as an example and discussed how American conservatism differs from conservatism in other parts of the globe. Finally, it focused on Ronald Reagan’s Presidency and the nature of conservative politics today. In conclusion, one would be hard-pressed to argue that conservatism has not had an impact on American. It could be argued that, to an extent, the very way in which Americans view themselves can be attributed, in part at least, to the influence conservatism has had.

Bibliography

  1. Alan Brinkley, ‘the Problem of American Conservatism”, the American Historical Review 99 no. 2 (April 1994), pp. 409 – 429
  2. Alfred S. Regerney, The Pillars of Modern American Conservatism (Spring 2012), First Principles ISI Web Journal, Delaware, available at: http://www.firstprinciplesjournal.com/articles.aspx?article=1813. [accessed 15/04/2015]
  3. David Barstow, ‘Tea Party Movement Lights Fuse for Rebellion on Right’, the New York Times, 15/2/2010
  4. Frank Freidel and Hugh Sidey, Ronald Reagan (2006), the White House, Washington D.C, available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/ronaldreagan [accessed 15/04/2015]
  5. James Madison, ‘The Federalist Ten: the Utility of the Union as a Safeguard against Domestic Faction and Insurrection (continued)’, Daily Advertiser, 22/11/1787
  6. John Mickelthwait and Adrian Wooldridge, ‘Introduction’ in, The Right Nation: Conservative Power in Amerce (Penguin, 2004)
  7. Liliana Mihut, ‘Two Faces of American Pluralism: Political and Religious’, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 11 no. 33 (Winter 2012), pp. 39 – 61
  8. Thomas B. Edsay, ‘What the Right Gets Right’, The New York Times: Campaign Stops: Strong Opinion on the 2012 Election, 15/1/2012
  9. Thomas Turnstall Allcock, ‘America’s Right: Anti-Establishment Conservatism from Goldwater to the Tea Party’, European Review of History: Revue Européenne d’Historie 21 no. 6 (2014), pp. 937 – 939
  10. Bradford Littlejohn, Three Things Conservatives Could Learn from Richard Hooker (February 2014), John Jay Institute: Center for a Just Society, available at: http://www.centerforajustsociety.org/three-things-conservatives-could-learn-from-richard-hooker/ [Accessed 15/04/2015]
  11. Wendy Dackson, ‘Richard Hooker and American Religious Liberty’, Journal of Church and State 41 No. 1 (1999), pp. 117 – 138
  12. Zelizer, J.E., 2010. Rethinking the History of American Conservatism. Reviews in American History. 38 (2), pp. 367 – 392

WHITE HOUSE REVEALS NEW TAX REFORM PLAN

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President Trump unleashed a new plan for tax reform in a speech at the Indianapolis State Fairgrounds on Wednesday.

The plans are the product of discussions between White House Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, the House Ways and Means Chairman, Kevin Brady, the Senate Finance Chairman, Orrin Hatch, House Speaker, Paul Ryan,  Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and White House economic policy chief, Gary Cohn. Their purpose will be to strengthen the middle class, grow the economy, and engender economic recovery by broadening the tax base, closing loopholes, and fostering growth.

According to a press release by the Treasury Department, the reforms will mean that less of the earnings of middle-class families will be subject to Federal income tax, and will reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three: 12%, 25%, and 35%. It will also increase child tax credits and repeal the death tax and alternative minimum tax.

For business, the reforms seek to reduce the corporate tax rate to 20% and limit the taxation imposed on small and family-based businesses operating as sole proprietorships and small businesses corporations to 25%.

The reforms have received support from both politicians and numerous free-market groups. The Republican Congressman from Wisconsin, Paul Ryan, said on Capitol Hill:

“This has been a long time coming. Instead of a source of pride, our tax code has become a constant source of frustration. It’s too big. It’s too complicated. It’s too expensive. Today, we are taking  the next step to liberate America from our broken tax code.”

Similarly, the House Freedom Caucus, which is comprised of Congress’ most conservative members, said in a statement:

“President Trump has delivered a forward-looking tax reform framework that will let hard-working  Americans keep more of their money, simplify our system, end carve-outs for special interests,  and will help make our businesses competitive abroad. The Freedom Caucus looks forward to sending a final  bill based on this framework to President Trump’s desk as soon as possible.”

 

WHITE HOUSE HOSTS SMALL BUSINESS FOR “ENGINE OF THE AMERICAN” DREAM EVENT

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The White House welcomed a hundred small business owners to participate in the “Engine of the American Dream” event on Tuesday. The event was designed to highlight small businesses and the role they play in the American economy.  President Trump was joined by the administrator for Small Business Administration, Linda McMahon, and senior advisor, Ivanka Trump.

During his address, Trump highlighted his administration’s efforts to cut regulations, ease restrictions on energy, and cut taxes. He also thanked the small business owners for their hard work and for their contribution in growing the economy and creating jobs.

“You are the dreamers and innovators who are powering us into the future”, Trump told them, “that’s exactly what you are — and my administration will be there with you every step of the way.”

This event, and others like it (such as the ‘Made in America Week‘), symbolise an administration committed to helping business. Over August, conservative and business-aligned advocacy groups plan on spending millions boosting tax reform.