Tag Archives: philosophy

Wait, What?

Everything in moderation, including moderation.

Ancient Wisdom

“The wealth required by nature is limited and is easy to procure; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity.” – Epicurus

A Thinking Point

If a socialized health industry is bad, why is a socialized police, fire, and rescue industry good?

What Does It Do?

Thinking point:

What is the purpose of a society’s economy?

Thinking Points

“RightNetwork launches on television, web and mobile in the summer of 2010.
Mission: To entertain, engage and enlighten Americans who are looking for content that reflects and reinforces their perspective and worldview.”

Wow. Check out that mission statement.

“…content that reflects and reinforces their perspective and worldview.”

Another way of saying that is, “We will tell you what you want to hear.” I’m not kidding; that is exactly what that means. Is that really considered a good thing, now? I suppose it is. There are, sadly, many people who are only happy hearing things that ‘reinforce their…worldview.’ Hearing different point of view just angers and upsets them.

Personally, I am always questioning my worldview, trying to gain a deeper, not necessarily more comforting, understanding of what is going on in the world. Sometimes that results in me changing my mind about things, which is something else that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and is seen by many as a sign of weakness.

Surely I can’t be the only one, though. Thus, my ‘thinking points.’ As contrasted with ‘talking points.’ I don’t necessarily have answers to them; they are things to think about. If I can make even one person uncomfortable by challenging their worldview and making them think, that’s a good day.

Thinking is good for you, right?


Thinking Point #4

Does a country have a right to restrict who can come and live there? Or, conversely, does a country have an obligation to accept everyone who wants to come and live there?

Brown’s Law of Politics

Any mature political system, no matter what it’s particular mechanisms, is based on increasing the wealth and power of the wealthy and powerful.

Ancient Wisdom #2

“The consequences of anger are often more harmful than the causes of it.” — Marcus Aurelius

Winners and Losers

A child who was in 2nd Grade when the 9/11 attacks took place would now be old enough to go fight in Afghanistan. A whole generation of young adults can barely remember a time when America was not at war. We have undermined the traditional values of American society, creating a culture of fear and obedience, and destroyed our economy, all in pursuit of an unattainable objective.

Every war has winners and losers, and the common people of both sides are usually among the losers. We aren’t just losing the War on Terror; we have lost.

A Political Philosophy

Back in the days of my youth, I was a libertarian, and Libertarian. I believed in as little government as possible, leaving everyone free to run their lives as they wished. (I also, somewhat paradoxically, believed in the ruthless crushing of any threats to the government.) Free, anarchistic, and easy. And ruthless.

To put it in its simplest terms, through my teens and into my twenties I was an anarchistic fascist. (Though even then I favored demand-side economics. I remember when I was 16 and my parents describing candidate Reagan’s ideas for ‘Trickle Down” economics, and telling them, “But it doesn’t work that way.”) I believed in a small, but strong, central government that didn’t actually do very much, but which could be very aggressive in enforcing its laws internally and its will internationally. Sort of like a strong pre-modern monarchy. Personal liberty was fine–a requirement, in fact–for the people worthy of it, but most of the mass of people, I thought, were unworthy of it. Too stupid, too uneducated, too irresponsible. I, of course, was one of the worthy ones. What an elitist bastard I was. (I think this may be a phase many young men go through; certainly many have thought the same way I did.)

The Reagan Administration knocked some holes in the youthful certainty of my convictions. The entry of the religious right onto the political stage, and the ‘War on Drugs,’ gave me concerns about civil liberties, but mostly pushed me in the direction of wanting a smaller government. Thus began my Libertarian years.

I was pretty strongly on-board with the whole Libertarian agenda; the smallest and weakest government possible. Deliver the mail, defend the borders, and leave everything else alone. And maybe not even bother with delivering the mail.

During the 1992 Presidential campaign, Libertarian Vice-Presidential candidate Nancy Lord appeared on the Tonight Show. Johnny Carson asked her about Ross Perot, who was making his first Presidential run at the time. Lord said something like, “Oh, well you know, he’s the sort of person who would make the trains run on time.” And laughed at her own joke, while Carson and the entire studio audience (and almost everyone watching at home, I’m sure) sat in silent bafflement.

She was comparing Perot to Mussolini, you see, calling him a Fascist, but no one got the joke. In retrospect, years later, I would see that moment as summing up everything that is wrong with the Libertarian Party.

At the time, though, it was just an amusing incident that made me feel superior to the unwashed masses because I got the joke.

As the ’90s went on, I grew dissillusioned with the Libertarian Party’s inability to speak to any meaningful number of voters, and general irrelevance, and began to split my support, voting Democratic in some races and Republican in others. Gun control played a large part in my putting my negligible weight behind Bush the Younger for Governor and then President in 2000.

That was a tactical shift, though, not a philosophical one. I still identified as a libertarian, just not a Capital-L Libertarian. My ideal was still a small, weak government, with little or no power internally, but great power internationally. My method amounted to opposition to whichever party was in power at the moment (on the theory that the party out of power couldn’t do me any harm, and the party in power wouldn’t do me any good).

Then the Bush Administration showed me what that really meant.

With control of both the White House and Congress, the Republicans went wild. They passed the law enforcement industry’s Christmas wish list in the guise of an anti-terrorism law package, started a couple of wars, and gave the corporations a free hand in the economy.

The predictable result was a total disaster. The financial industry looted the US economy, then when the country’s economic destruction threatened them, they asked the taxpayers to cover their bets. The Bush Administration obliged. It was a defining moment in the evolution of my political philosophy. I realized that all the things I’d worried about the government doing–taking our freedoms, spying on us, taking our money–corporations could do as well. And they were.

(Current debates over free speech point this up. The US Government is bound by the Constitution to not restrict our free speech. Corporations are under no such obligation, and Internet companies regularly censor what appears on their sites or services.)

That realization changed my view of government. It went from a threatening necessary evil that should be kept as powerless as possible to being the only possible counterweight to the immense power of huge corporations.

Hundreds of years ago, the typical sort of power struggle that you would see in many countries was between the central government and the powerful noble families. Most of the people–the tiny middle class and the huge mass of poor people–were just pawns, or less, in this game. In the early and middle Byzantine Empire, for example, power was divided between the central government (run by an entrenched bureaucracy), the Church (supported by moral authority and urban mobs), and the rural nobility (supported by the wealth of their vast estates and the army, for which they provided the leadership).

In the modern United States, we only have two bases of power: The State, and the corporations, particularly the banks. The people, the voters who we like to pretend are in charge, line up behind one or the other of these two and do not really form a power base of their own. Our two political parties are aligned on this structure; a corporate party, that seeks to weaken the government; and a government party that seeks to weaken the corporations.

(Yes, this is an oversimplification; there are many nuances I’m glossing over. But I believe the generalization is broadly accurate.)

Put this way, it is clear to me why I do not strongly support either political party, but swing back and forth between them. Neither party is for me, so why would I be for them? I believe in the greatest liberty for the greatest number of people, but neither political party cares about such a thing. They only want to strengthen their power base.

Thus the evolution of my view on the role of government. I still distrust its power, but a central government does perform functions that no other social institution is capable of. Most importantly, in many different ways, it is the only counterweight to the corporations that would otherwise strip-mine both the economy and the environment, leaving everyone but the executive class poor and sick while they remain safe and comfortable in their gated and walled enclaves.

The key is balance between the power bases. If either one becomes too strong, things go badly for the common people. There are more examples of government excesses in recent history, but private enterprise has had its time in the sun as well, from the Roman publicani to the British East India Company and other colonial entrepreneurs, to the corrupt America of the Gilded Age.

Ideally I would like to see the people have some say in how the country is run, but that’s not how our system was set up. This country was founded as an oligarchy, and an oligarchy it has remained. And that is why today, in these United States, a philosophy of encouraging the most liberty possible, for the largest number of people possible, requires a strong central government. Not too strong, but strong enough to stay locked in its struggle with the great corporations, a struggle that we must hope never ends in victory for one side or the other. Because the one that falls will, in falling, crush the people beneath it.