Dante’s Vestibule

Posted on by Phil Querin

Dragon bridge, Ljubljana, Slovenia, Europe.

“THE VESTIBULE: This Is The First Part Of Hell That You Come Across In Dante’s Inferno. It Is Reserved For The Indecisive. The Souls Here In The Vestibule Were Called “Opportunists” Who In Life Were Only For Themselves, And Were Neither Good Nor Bad. It Was Also Where All Of The Angels [Were] Who Didn’t Take A Side During The War Against God. The Punishment For This Area Of Hell Is The Souls Have To Follow An Aimless Banner That Never Plants Itself. The Souls Are Also Chased And Stung By Hornets.” A Guide Through The Circles of Hell.

In the Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri, the author describes his journey into Hell and Purgatory, through which he must pass in order to reach Paradise.  He is at first guided by the Roman poet Virgil.  At the entrance to Hell is the famous warning: “Abandon all hope yea who enter here.” Dante describes Hell as composed of ten circles, each containing various sub-regions, all reserved for certain types of sinners, based upon the nature and severity of their sins.

Outside of Hell is the Vestibule, or waiting area. To this area are assigned the souls of the indecisive, i.e. those who in life always declined to make a decision, or take a side. Neither Heaven nor Hell wanted them. In life, we might liken these folks to those that when voting, “abstain” so as not to step on anyone’s toes, believing that is the safest and easiest course of action, or non-action, depending on one’s point of view.

“What” you ask “does this have to do with anything?!”  For those daring to have an independent thought – which seems a rarity these days – let me suggest who I would consign to Dante’s Vestibule today: Every politician in the country, regardless of party, who has permitted the status quo to permeate American thought and action; who go along to get along. And crazy as he is, the one person you will never find in the Vestibule will be Donald Trump. He may end up in another circle of Hell, but not sharing space with the chronically indecisive.

Here are some recent examples of where, heretofore, political correctness, a.k.a. cleaving to the status quo, rather than forcing action, thought, and discussion has threatened to turn this country into the Vestibule of Hell for the living.

  1. Strategic Patience. This was the Obama Administration’s foreign policy with regards to Russia, Syria, and North Korea. Since when did inaction get elevated to a “strategy”?  Cynics, such as myself, would call it “appeasement” à la Neville Chamberlain in 1938-39. Germany was all but invited to invade Czechoslovakia in the Munich Accords, making war in Europe inevitable.
  2. Obama’s Red Line. In 2012, then-President Obama said that the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons which had previously killed thousands of his own people, would cross a “red line”. Later that year Assad’s forces killed nearly 1,500 people in another chemical-weapons attack. What did the administration do to Assad? Nothing. As a result, American credibility was damaged, and Russia and Iran became emboldened to intervene on Assad’s behalf. Now, five years and 60,000 deaths later, half of the Syrian population has been displaced, and the country is still fighting.
  3. Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital. Whether one agrees or disagrees with President Trump’s decision, there is an undeniable truth leading up to his action: Jerusalem is the de facto capital: It is the seat of the Israeli prime minister, its parliament, its Supreme Court and its president.  What country does not have the right to designate its own capital? Historically, discussion of this issue was always left to the unsuccessful peace talks, and the can, metaphorically “got kicked down the road”.  Now, at least, there will be discussion of the issue, and the parties can always agree to modify the decision if they wish. But now, at least a decision has been made, rather than political inertia.
  4. Attorney General Sessions’ Marijuana Edict. Again, whether one agrees or disagrees with his having done so, he has removed the Obama-era decision to do nothing, despite the fact that marijuana is classified as a “controlled substance” under Federal law. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “Jeff Sessions’ Marijuana Candor”:

President Obama tried to dodge this conflict, as he so often did, with an executive diktat. After Colorado and Washington State voted to legalize pot, his Justice Department in 2013 instructed U.S. Attorneys to refrain from prosecuting marijuana offenses in states where the drug is legal. This let him side with the legalizers without taking responsibility for it.

***

Social mores are changing, and a majority of Americans support legalizing pot. But instead of taking the cop-out of blaming Mr. Sessions, legalizers in Congress ought to have the courage of their convictions and try to decriminalize pot nationwide. Let Senators Cory Gardner and Kamala Harris persuade their colleagues that what’s good for Colorado and California is good for the country.

  1. Deregulation. “Inexorable” is the only way one can describe the federal administrative machine’s capacity to pump out new regulations, year, after year, after year. And like the weather, everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it – if they could.

Well, now, something is being done – a decision has been made to reduce the footprint of the administrative state. The Federal Register, where the government’s rules are published, has grown exponentially every year.

For the first time, the Trump Administration is actually doing something about this, and it’s diametrically opposed to the past:

…there is now an emerging consensus in the business world, and even among economists, that “a wave of optimism has swept over American business.” And that wave is bringing with it “the sort of investment in new plants, equipment and factory upgrades that bolsters economic growth, spurs job creation — and may finally raise wages significantly.

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The impact of Trump’s deregulation is amplified by the way Barack Obama piled them on in the years before him. While Obama wasn’t the first president to use the vast power of the federal government to impose liberal patent nostrums on the business sector, his was easily the most left-wing administration in generations. The period from 2009 to 2016 was one of regulatory overkill, as liberal ideologues throughout the federal bureaucracy skillfully imposed their will on many industries.

The result was a regulatory nightmare that was a godsend to lawyers, accountants, and lobbyists, but added immensely to the cost of doing business in the United States. Just as importantly, the prospect of ever increasing regulation that was neither logical nor predictable made it difficult for even the most financially solid businesses to plan for the future. Can The Trump Deregulatory Boom Save The GOP In 2018?  The Federalist, January 4, 2018.

  • On November 9, 2016, the day following the election, the Dow Industrial Index closed at 18,613.52. As of January 5, 2018 it closed at 25,295.87 – a 36% increase.
  • This year, Apple and the other tech companies are repatriating $300 – $400 Billion in funds stashed overseas before the just-enacted GOP tax bill.

But why the optimism by American business, if the moving force behind it is a “complete idiot”?  Is American business a collection of dolts?  Has the stock market buried its head in the sand? Why did none of this occur before now, with all the “bandwidth” ostensibly residing in the White House for the past eight years?  The answer can be summed up as follows:

Conformity leads to positive feelings, attachments, solidarity — and these are what motivate people to continue their behavior,” said Kyle Irwin, Ph.D., an assistant professor of sociology at Baylor University. PsychCentral “Go Along To Get Along Leads to More of the Same”

   6.  Corporate Tax Rates.  For years, the United States, at 35%, has had one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. The result? Companies and jobs have relocated, choosing countries with lower rates.  But this also meant that the enhanced profits made by these companies abroad, could not be returned to this country…unless they paid the exorbitant rates.  So these profits were reinvested overseas.

Now, after 31 years, the Trump administration passed a sweeping new series of tax laws that lowered the corporate tax rate to 21 percent. “…and presto: Corporations are announcing plans to hire more workers, and the economy, which was expected to slow after seven years of weak growth, is heating up. The markets are predicting that growth with their surge.” (Corporate Income Tax: Definition, History, Effective Rate, The Balance, December 27, 2017)

So, while those in Dante’s Vestibule will spend an eternity being stung into action by swarms of hornets, and aimlessly carrying banners they cannot plant, this will never be said about Donald Trump. Sometimes I think one has to be a bit crazy to take on the tasks he has. And perhaps he is. But so far, the country, as a whole, is the better for it. ~Phil

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