Archive for the Political Philosophy Category

Globalization not causing a recession

Posted in 2008 Presidential Election, Political Philosophy with tags , , on May 3, 2008 by plinynovo

Whether we are entering a recession or not is a question that from a technical economic definition is still debatable.  However what is not an open question is that it feels like a recession and most Americans believe it is one.  That being admitted we are watching the presidential hopefuls pander to the electorate that the cause for the current hardship is “globalization” – by which I include, free trade policies, immigration and out-sourcing, etc..  These same hopefuls then offer remedies of isolationism. 

 

Blaming Globalization is an easy but misdirected target for our troubles.  As Daniel Griswold points out in an article on the Cato Institute’s website, Globalization has resulted in less not more volatility in the economy.  Clearly, some individuals have been hurt by free trade and immigration and other aspects of globalization, however it is clear that the economy as a whole has benefited greatly from the integration of the world economy.  The candidates should therefore, focus on how to help the individuals who have been displaced, not on the boogeyman of the us versus them which now passes for economic policy discussions in the presidential race.  

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Faith v. Science – A Take on the Red-State/ Blue State Divisions

Posted in 2008 Presidential Election, Political Philosophy with tags , , on April 29, 2008 by plinynovo

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” Many conservative commentators are fond of using the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s quote to chastise liberals for alleged fallacious arguments.  I would caution them to be mindful of another oft-used proverb; “it is like the pot calling the kettle black.”  While I could list countless examples of conservative voters relying upon erroneous assumptions (the high percentage of Bush voters who continue to believe in Hussein’s WMDs and that Iraq participated in the 9/11 attacks come easily to mind), I wish to focus on another “fact” which is dear to many Evangelical Christians.  Since the 1980s, Evangelical Christians have been credited with assuring victories for conservative candidates in five of the seven presidential elections. Emboldened by these successes, evangelicals are seeking to flex their political muscle (to spend their political capital) and once again advance the claim that ‘creationism’ stands on equal, if not firmer, scientific ground than does evolution.  These individuals accept as fact a literal reading of the creation story told in the Book of Genesis.  These people are entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.  It is fact that the earth is billions of years old, not thousands.  It is a fact that earth was not created in six earth days (which in and of itself, is a rather circular reference, because what is an earth day, before the earth was created).  A literal reading of the Adam and Eve story is not supportable.  These are facts and school children, are entitled to the facts, not to a Taliban style conservative religious indoctrination.  

 

I do not discount the sincerity of the evangelicals’ beliefs; I do, however, disagree with their attempt to force their faith upon the rest of the nation.  I am a Christian.  I believe that God created the earth; I believe that the Book of Genesis is divinely inspired and does relate certain truths.  I, however, do not believe that it imparts a scientific statement of creation.  I liken it to a common answer a parent gives his or her five-year-old child to the age-old question, “where do babies come from?”  Few parents will respond with a detailed discussion of reproductive biology, vivid descriptions of sexual acts, and even fewer will delve into the complex nature of cellular division. A five years old does not need to hear details of sexual acts and most probably could not understand them if told.  Most such parents see the question as calling for something else and will reassure the child that he or she was born out of love, was terribly wanted and is extraordinarily special.  This is what the child wants to know and needs to hear.  God, as a parent, knew what the people of Israel needed to hear, and I believe that Genesis tells that story.  As with the parent’s story, Genesis is spiritually correct, emotionally correct and an honest statement of what the faithful needed to be told and what they could understand at the time. It is not however, a statement of scientific fact, anymore than is a claim that babies are brought by storks.

 

My views of Genesis are just that, my views, my opinions.  I am entitled to them, but I am not entitled to impose them upon others of any faith, or of no faith. Nor are the Evangelicals similarly entitled.  The genius of our Constitution is that is that it separates the public sphere from that of the religious.  As we go forward, we must be ever mindful of this original intent of the framers.  I suspect that on Election Night in 2008, I will watch the electoral map light up much (if not exactly, as it did in 2004.  Then as I watched the blue and red states light up on the national map, I realized that we are two Americas, not the rich versus the middle class as John Edwards argued, not even the religious versus the secular as the media now claims, but rather one America that is comprised of people of faith and without faith who accept science and a second America of people who chose do disregard science.  As much as I would like to pretend otherwise this division is also a fact, and as I stated earlier I am not entitled to my own facts, but must rather accept this.  The question I ask myself is where do we go from here.  This requires that I recognize other facts – I am not going to be able to convince the Evangelicals that they are wrong, nor are they going to convert me.  Sadly this division will be with us for a very long time. If not checked this division will, if not literally, figuratively tear this nation apart.  We have learned that the Evangelicals will vote against their economic interest to advance their cultural aims.  I must admit that I will do the same.  Both red voters and blue voters now see that economy and even the Iraqi war are less important than what has been dubbed the “culture war.”  Neither side is prepared to give in.  This is a recipe for disaster.  One, which I fear, may come unless something changes.

 

Accepting these facts leads me to a single conclusion. The problem is that the two Americas each are, at the core of their existence, operating not with merely different philosophies or opinions based upon interpretation of the facts, but rather each America begins its analysis of the world situation with different facts.  At this point it useful ask the question, “what is a “fact.”  The Oxford English Dictionary defines “fact” as

 

[s]omething that has really occurred or is actually the case; something certainly known to be of this character; hence, a particular truth known by actual observation or authentic testimony, as opposed to what is merely inferred, or to a conjecture or fiction; a datum of experience, as distinguished from the conclusions that may be based upon it.

Facts therefore are the foundation of all discussion.  They form the basis from which opinions are formed, arguments made and conclusions reached.  Two people who agree upon the facts can, and often do, draw different conclusions, but they can talk and listen.  People who disagree upon the facts can only pull their hair out and see the other as misguided or worse.  Those of us who accept the scientific model derive our facts from observation, from inspection, from the scientific method.  We may be liberal or conservative, but we operate with a basic set of facts from which we proceed to argue.  Our disagreements may be heated, but they are capable of resolution and compromise.  Even when we loose an argument (or an election) with another possessing this worldview, we can admit defeat and go on to fight another day.  Similarly those whose worldview leads them to factual determinations based upon the revealed truth of the Bible can also, within their ranks, engage in meaningful discussion and argument.  Within each group Senator Moynihan was correct.  The problem arises, however, that the two groups cannot argue rationally with each other; they cannot compromise on issues if they cannot agree upon the facts. Between the two groups, however, there can be no meaningful discussion.  On a host of issues, this is where we find ourselves.  While we may not be entitled to our own facts, but we have them.

 

I wish that I could state as fact that I knew the solution; I cannot, but I do have an opinion. Many on the left will cringe when I mention my proposed solution, but I ask them to hear me out.  States’ Rights – yes the battle cry of the segregationist right in years past.  I propose that it is in the 10th Amendment that we find our uneasy peace. Since its inception, this nation has been divided, over slavery and race relations, over agrarian and industrial ways of live, over religion, over immigration over countless issues, there have always been two Americas.  The framers recognized this and provided for it.  They created and guaranteed a federal system of government, with State and local governments regulating the overwhelming majority of issues.  On most questions, South Carolina could go its way while Vermont went its.  Under the original framers’ intent it would be the states that dealt with marriage, education, most criminal law, torts and the countless other matters which preoccupy our daily lives.  The national government was to focus solely on a short list of truly national concerns, war/peace, international relations, the currency etc.  If we are to live together we should return to this principal.  Let Massachusetts legalize gay marriage, let California conduct stem-cell research, let other states take contrary views and get these arguments out of the national debate. These issues must be left totally to the states.  Those like myself can live happily in the Northeast and the Evangelicals can do likewise in Kansas and Oklahoma.  This is not an ideal solution and will require blue voters in red states, and visa-versa, to endure local governments making policies with which they disagree.  But it will maintain the peace and allow our future national elections to focus solely on national issues, such as the war and international policy. 

 

Thus, you may ask as I really writing on the “No” or the “Yes” side of this debate.  Maybe you will think me a bit like Hillary Clinton (speaking on driver’s licenses for undocumented aliens) but I will say that while I am strongly opposed to the teaching of creationism, I believe that it should be a local issue and believe in the end that those schools who teach science will, in the end, win out as it will be they that are able to better prepare our youth for the world they live in and the marketplace of ideas will force the correct choice.  In the mean time each of us needs to focus on more important issues.

 

 

Hillarys and Huckabees

Posted in 2008 Presidential Election, Political Philosophy with tags , , , , , on April 27, 2008 by plinynovo

In his excellent op-ed piece, The Hiilarys and the Huckabees, David Boaz, lays out the dilemma  for modern American Libertarians.  The democratic establishment has become the ‘mommy party’ content to take care of citizens as if they were children, making sure they make the’ right’ decisions and the republican establishment, influenced by the religious right and the neo-cons has become the ‘daddy party’ trying to discilpine the population in order to stamp out sin.  Boaz writes:

 

The “Huckabees” want to censor cable television because they don’t think you can be trusted to decide what your family should watch. They support bans on drugs, pornography, gambling and violent video games because you just don’t know what’s good for you. They want prayer in the schools and sound science out. They want to subsidize heterosexual marriage and ban gay marriage. They want government to take the place of God and stamp out sin on earth. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, a classic Huckabee, complains about “this whole idea of personal autonomy, … this idea that people should be left alone.”

The “Hillarys,” meanwhile, want to raise taxes because they think they can spend your money more wisely than you can. They don’t believe in school choice because you don’t know how to choose a school for your children. They think they can handle your retirement savings and health care better than you can. They think, as Hillary Clinton has advocated, that the government should produce video lectures on how to burp a baby and how to brush your teeth and have them “running continuously in doctors’ offices, clinics, hospitals, motor vehicle offices, or any other place where people gather and have to wait.”

 

As a libertarian, at election time, I used to find myself choosing between three bad choices:  (1) vote third party, knowing that my vote will not count, (2) vote democratic and betray my principals of economic freedom while at least slowing the most draconian intrusions into my personal social freedoms, or (3) voting republican and betraying my social values while generally limiting intrusion into the economic sphere.  Recently however, the republicans have made that choice somewhat easier.  The current Bush administration, I would argue has become the ‘mommy and daddy’ (perhaps we should call it the ‘traditional family’) – seeking to control all aspects of my life.

 

If the John McCain of 2000 was running in 2008, I might have some hope that the Republican Party had seen the error of its ways under Bush, but the McCain we see now, promises to be a continuation of the new Republicanism.  Hillary on the other hand, is the uber-‘mommy’ seeking to force us into an ever increasing collectivization of our society. 

 

This election, I will still have a hard choice, but there will only be two options, (1) vote libertarian or (2) vote Obama.

Masturbation is destroying the Earth: Global Ban needed!

Posted in Political Philosophy with tags , on April 25, 2008 by plinynovo

A provocative title, I admit but stay with me. In the culture wars I often hear people argue that homosexuality affects everyone else and therefore must be regulated, banned and/or discriminated against.  In the gay marriage debate, claims are made that allowing gay and lesbian people to marry will affect “traditional” marriage or will harm children.  When asked what that affect is, the individuals almost always claim that, “it doesn’t affect me personally, but . . ..”  Then they come up with some step-by-step, incremental global affect on society as a whole. 

 

I am here to urge those who oppose gay marriage to refrain from using this type of argument.  This argument is dangerous to everyone, especially to conservative values (it is after all mostly conservatives who are using this argument).  It is dangerous, not only because it is being used today to deprive gays and lesbians of equal treatment, but also because this type of argument undermines the very liberties that we, as a nation, hold dear.  To accept this type of argument, is to say that nothing is beyond regulation.  Since the Depression era, this “affectation doctrine” has been used to expand Federal power into almost every sphere of the economy.  Conservatives have been so conditioned to the argument, that they are now using it to grant a license to expand that power universally throughout the society.  It must be stopped, if we are to remain a free society. 

 

If this is a valid argument on gay issues, then it is valid for everything, and an argument can always be constructed that everything affects everything else.  Let me illustrate:  Masturbation is causing the extinction of species and therefore must be criminalized.

 

 

  • If a person masturbates he needs tissue;
  • If a person needs tissue, he increases the demand for tissue;
  • If the demand for tissue rises, companies will produce more tissue;
  • If companies produce more tissue, they buy more wood pulp, increasing the demand for wood pulp;
  • in order to meet the increased demand for wood pulp, timber companies buy more wood;
  • When timber companies buy more wood, more trees are cut down;
  • As trees are cut down, the rain forest is destroyed;
  • as the rain forest is destroyed, habitat is lost;
  • the loss of habitat causes extinction of species.
  • The effect of one person masturbating may be insignificant, but there are more than 3 billion men on earth.  Three billion men masturbating will destroy millions of acres of forest.
  • THEREFORE, masturbation is causing substantial damage and a global ban is needed.

 

After this argument is made, people will accept begin to accept the connection between masturbation and deforestation, and even the “pro-masturbation” contingent will argue that a ban is not needed, but rather an “educational campaign” should be used to teach people to stop using tissues and instead use a sock.  Billboards will abound with the phrase, “put a sock on it!”  Grants will be issued for a global awareness campaign. 

 

Do we really wish to live in a world where the government can regulate everything? We must stop this insanity.  Just because an argument can be made, does not mean it should be made.  Yes, we all affect each other in a variety of ways. But government action is only justified, as J.S. Mill so skillfully pointed out:

 

“The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right…The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

 

This nation was founded on and has been guided by principals of individual autonomy and responsibility.  Those principals have been severely eroded over the past 60 years, but still survive and, until recently, have been most defended by the conservatives amongst us.  The fact that it is they who now use the affectation argument to argue for a ban on gay marriage raises a serious threat to the single most important core value in our political culture. 

 

I leave you with a Ayn Rand quote, “Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.”