Saturday, April 05, 2014

RTW: A Right to... What?

RTW: A Right to... What?
Threading your way out of a tangled web can be... painful, and heated. I'd wanted to get a few more posts in on Progress vs. Regress before turning to 'Right To Work', but I'm too slow and the time is here now. But before getting to the RTW bill Missouri is in the midst of debating, or what I think about it, let me make clear my position on Politics and on Unions.

Politics: I'm not here to aid or support anyone, or any bill, or any policy in any election, or in any other pursuit for that matter. I'm here to present the ideas I've learned to be true, ideas I believe are important to people's lives, ideas which I think that a person who values their life should be aware of and understand. The core of these ideas are what made America possible in the first place and which neither it nor liberty can continue for long without. It's been said that 'Politics is downstream of Culture', which is very true, but Culture is itself downstream from the ideas which it is formed from. If you don't alter or deepen the ideas which the people of a culture are thinking or are even willing to consider, then you won't change the culture, and that, the ideas our culture is aware of, is the target I use this blog to aim at. True, there is circulation between the two, but simply presenting yourself more fashionably or being more 'edgy', won't accomplish a damn thing.


Unions: The heart and soul of the union, the central idea they were originally formed around and which they are battling to maintain, or even strengthen today, is that they are an organization designed to get what they have no right to, in order to exercise power upon all. The first victims explicitly targeted by Unions are those they claim to want to 'represent': the worker. Their first actions are not taken against the rich, but towards intimidating those workers who aren't inclined to join them, into their membership against their will. Only once enough of the workforce has been pressed into their ranks, do they then turn their tender attentions to 'the rich', using the workers they claim to represent, as tools of intimidation in order to rob 'the rich' and the worker of their right to make their own decisions, neatly gaining power over them all.

Whatever guise they hide behind, 'Trade Union' or otherwise, I despise them all. Sure, some good things may have resulted from actions unions have taken, no doubt some good things have come from the Mafia as well. I'm not impressed by such 'good deeds' and give them no credit because of them.

And yes I know, everyone knows someone in unions who are just swell. My Brother in Law spent a couple decades in a union. My Wife is in a union. Because they had the choice to join their union? No. Because they were compelled to join a union. Whatever good it is that you want to chalk up to unions, I can show one or more evils that have been condoned and accepted into society to accomplish that 'good', and which compounds the initial evil done. That they have been legalized, simply means that the Law has been perverted into protecting thuggery.

Unions are the embodiment of 'Might Makes Right' and few things are more Pro-Regressive than that. I detest them for what they actually are, not for who might be in them or what good might appear to have resulted from them. Anything that hinders them, I'm for. Anything that can legitimately be done to limit their power, or to dissolve them from the American landscape, I am for.

That being said, it is difficult to be a whole hearted supporter of RTW, as the position we are in is too like having to use Romney to vote against Obama, and far too familiar for us on the Right; but no, it's not an unprincipled vote and yes, we've got to do it. But. Is it possible to take a principled stand on ground that has already been rendered unprincipled? Care must be taken. The distastefulness is not just because of the bill itself, but because of the deforming federal laws it must 'respect', and because of the approach the GOP has taken to sell it. And to understand why that is, we need to know some of the background behind it.

RTW? How about a Right to Rights?!
Firstly, and probably least in the minds of supporters of RTW, I object to the Utopian title: "Right To Work". Why? Take a moment and think about what it presumes and what it neglects. A hint as to the problem in Missouri's bill, is in a comment Michigan's Gov. made upon a similar bill:
"Gov. Rick Snyder, who took a hit in popularity polls after he pushed for right-to-work, has said the law “isn’t about being anti-union,” but is “about being pro-worker.”"
Anyone notice the vital party neglected by that comment upon employment? Yep, the employer. This is Law we're talking about. Laws which directly affect the rights and livelihoods of all Americans, and at the very least, for a law to be 'Pro' one side or the other, is to slight the rights of some - minority or majority matters not in the least - the result is to undermine the rights of all. It is either 'One nation, under law', or one group pitched against another, for the benefit of yet another.

But more fundamentally, I object to the term 'Right To Work' because there is no 'right to work', and there cannot be. It is a Utopian and self contradictory term. What do I mean? To claim that there is a 'Right To Work', means that someone, somewhere, somehow, at some point in time, must be compelled to provide jobs as an end in itself, and so those providing the jobs cannot have full political rights themselves, and so no one in that utopia can have Rights, or at least not Rights as understood to be inherent in their nature as human beings, and that leaves only privileges. Privileges bestowed upon some, by those with the power to compel the material of them from others.

There can be no 'Right to Work' and Individual Rights.

Secondly, the strategy used to promote RTW laws disturbs me. The GOP approach is to focus on jobs:
"The arguments surrounding right to work center on economic issues and fairness. Supporters point to greater job growth in the states, mostly in the South, with right-to-work laws. Opponents counter that these states also have lower wages."
What's disturbing about that? It's because arguments that focus primarily on results, on statistics, in this case economic issues and fairness, or in ObamaCare's focus on the uninsured and fairness, disregard or minimize the Rights of those involved and the principles that must be fully respected for those rights to have any real meaning and power under law.

That, I find disturbing.

Do RTW states experience a rise in wages? Pardon me, but I don't really give a rat's ass whether they do or not! Do their people - employers, employees and those they choose to associate with - experience the ability to exercise their rights to make their own decisions, while respecting the rights of others to do the same? If they do, then their wages will more closely reflect the values that they've produced - and in the context of exercising power over people, I don't care about anything else, and govt sure as hell shouldn't be freed to either.

What's that? You think it does matter?

Let me ask you this: Do you believe people should be paid more than the monetary value their efforts have produced? Yes? You are for 'something for nothing'? Then you, left or right, are the embodiment of the Marxist ideal of 'greedy capitalists' which they've successfully branded the Free Market with (Thanks Schools!). If you are alright with that, then please, go find your position on the proRegressive left. Don't worry, they'll make room for you, as soon as you make it clear you have no principles but those of convenience, they'll find the right group to fit you in with.

The actual issue here is do people have the right to form businesses, do individuals - business owner and employee and organizations - still retain one of the few rights included in the original un-amended Constitution, the right to contract? Do business owners have the right to make the decisions required to operate their businesses? Do the potential employees have the right to accept or decline? Do others have the right to form associations and offer their services to both? (See the various versions of skilled worker placement/consultants/project mgmt companies which populate the tech industry. No reason why the same wouldn't work in the blue color industries that unions prey upon... except that they aren't free to, of course)

Or more succinctly: Do people have the right to live their own lives, or not?

Not a litmus test
Don't get yourself into a tizzy, I'm not setting up a 'with me or against me' litmus test over RTW legislation. In spirit I'm wholeheartedly in favor of what I think the spirit of RTW bills are (which adds up to way more spirit over material fact than I'm comfortable with in any law... but leave that aside for a moment). And yes, the Unions are opposed to this bill, which will likely have a large impact on their ever diminishing power. Good on that. My natural urge is to swallow the bile rising in my throat and back anything, such as RTW, that reduces the power and place of unions, and I think any conservative is naturally going to want to side with RTW laws. In fact, I would assume sight unseen, that any Republican politician that is opposed to RTW, probably found their position more by calculating the electoral votes of union members against the rights of the rest of their constituents, than by a consideration of principles. Sure, there may be some who actually do oppose RTW upon principle, but before accepting their word on that, I'd suggest taking a look at their other votes first, such as on Smoking Ban's, Common Core, Medicaid expansion, and sweet business/govt partnership deals like 'Aerotropolis/China Hub', etc. And then I'd ask them to take a closer look at their principles as a whole, and what they are for - more on that in a bit.

But there is a reason why RTW makes the bile rise in my throat, which a closer look at the bill itself, House Bill 1770 should make clear:
290.591. 1. Except in instances when this section conflicts with or is preempted by federal law, no person shall be required as a condition or continuation of employment to:
(1) Become or refrain from becoming a member of a labor organization;
(2) Pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other similar charges, however denominated, of any kind or amount to a labor organization; or
(3) Pay to any charity or other third party any amount equivalent to, or on a pro rata basis, any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges required of members of a labor organization, in lieu of the payments listed under subdivision (2) of this subsection.
2. Any agreement, understanding, or practice, written or oral, implied or expressed, between any labor organization and employer that violates the rights of employees as guaranteed under this section is declared to be unlawful, null and void, and of no legal effect.
Now take a look at this portion of the first line again:
"...no person as a condition or continuation of employment can be required to..."
, 'can be required', by who? By the person who is offering them a position of employment in their business, the employer, that's who. Why would they not have the right to make an offer of employment on terms which they judged best for their business? Notice that the bill doesn't say that:
'No business owner shall be compelled to offer as a condition or continuation of employment, a requirement that'
Now let me ask you this: What of a business owner, who, for reasons that would be entirely unfathomable to me, wants his business to be a 'Union Shop'?

Does he not have the right to operate his business as he sees fit? Do you see the problem? Why would we want a law further restricting the liberty of employers? It not only infringes upon the rights of the business owner, but does even further damage to the already battered shell of Property Rights (without which no Rights can have any substance) that are still remaining to us.

If you ask the legislators why they've written their bill this way, there response will probably be that federal law compels them to, and those few who aren't just repeating the talking points that'll keep the union vote happy, would likely direct your attention back to the first line in their RTW Bill:
290.591. 1. Except in instances when this section conflicts with or is preempted by federal law
, and the 'preempted by federal law' refers to lines such as these, from the NLRB which forbids businesses:
"(a)(2) "to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it"
, and,
"(5) to refuse to bargain collectively with the representatives of his employees, subject to the provisions of section 159 (a) of this title." "
So on one side we have the union promoting legislation already on the books, which forbids business owners from using their own judgment and forces them to 'bargain' with unions, while on the other 'Pro-Worker!' side we have 'Right to Work' laws, which forbids business owners from using their own judgment and forces them to not have a full union shop. The result is that The Law is being used to prevent a business owner from having any say in some of the most critical decisions which their businesses face on a daily basis.

Heads you lose. Tails you lose. Wanna flip again?

Do you know what the worst part is? This is the best and most 'Rights' promoting option available to us today, and it is so because of laws such as the 'Wagner Act' (which created the National Labor Relations Board) that 'Progressive Democrats' placed on the books 70+ years ago during FDR's terms, and which the GOP 'fixed' a few years afterwards with 'Taft-Hartley' when they regained power.

What the Briton said of the Romans: "They make a desert and call it peace", might be said of our bi-partisan govt: "They eliminate an employers rights, and call it a Right To Work.".

How'd we get here? The easy way, of course.
Because our laws have already been corrupted, any new laws must make allowances for that corruption, in order to try and make... ehm, progress. How did we get here? By allowing Pro-Regressives to pass off a position that was actually pro-regress, as 'progress', and because the GOP didn't stand for Principle, but ran on poll tested tactics (as they are still doing today), they missed out on the fact that FDR's position wasn't just a modification of the business to employee relationship, but an elimination of the Right to there even being such a thing. But of course the original spin-meister, FDR, dressed it up a bit nicer than that, as he said of the Wagner Act on July 5, 1935:
“A better relationship between labor and management is the high purpose of this Act. By assuring the employees the right of collective bargaining it fosters the development of the employment contract on a sound and equitable basis. By providing an orderly procedure for determining who is entitled to represent the employees, it aims to remove one of the chief causes of wasteful economic strife. By preventing practices which tend to destroy the independence of labor, it seeks, for every worker within its scope, that freedom of choice and action which is justly his.”
Understand, the Supreme Court had already struck down FDR's previous attempt at legislating such a 'Labor Relations Board', so FDR did then, what today's President Obama recently did: he intimidated the court. FDR threatened to pack the court with new appointees to get his way, and the conservative court, then under Hughes, as in our day under Roberts, caved to executive intimidation and approved it, a tactic forever known as the 'Switch in time that saved nine'. However, in a previous case on nearly identical legislation, the court struck it down, saying that setting up such labor relations boards was:
"...The effect, in respect of wages and hours, is to subject the dissentient minority, either of producers or miners or both, to the will of the stated majority, since, by refusing to submit, the minority at once incurs the hazard of enforcement of the drastic compulsory provisions of the act to which we have referred. To "accept," in these circumstances, is not to exercise a choice, but to surrender to force.

The power conferred upon the majority is, in effect, the power to regulate the affairs of an unwilling minority. This is legislative delegation in its most obnoxious form, for it is not even delegation to an official or an official body, presumptively disinterested, but to private persons whose interests may be and often are adverse to the interests of others in the same business. ..."
No matter what subsequent Supreme Court decisions ruled, that is still at the heart of Union power as imposed upon us today, and my natural urge is to do the only thing that seems left to do, and that's back anything, such as RTW.

But the real problem here is the Right's seemingly instinctive resignation to half-measures and our toleration of 'what else can we do?' approaches.

It is not only easy to make the 'pragmatic' case for such laws and actions, but in some sense it is necessary because once pragmatism has been allowed in, principle is necessarily forced out of the door, and it has been - so what else can you do? There is something more we can do, and it doesn't mean rejecting the distasteful steps we do have to take right now, but it does require insisting that those steps be part of a more clearly defined destination - which I'll come back to shortly.

Is that not the same refrain we hear from establishment republicans against ObamaCare today?

Well it's nothing new, in fact it is nearly as old as the modern left and has defined the GOP response to every Democrat gain since FDR, even when they themselves are the party in power! The Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, was the perpetual short term half measure that the GOP proposed because it didn't have the guts to toss out the Wagner Act altogether. Eyes forever on the polls, even once they've secured the power to do what they campaigned on doing, they sought only to weaken Union power, and even that was only effected on the surface. An adviser to the Senators proposing Taft-Hartley warned them against such half-hearted 'what else can we do' measures, warning that if such 'Right To Work' measures were passed, instead of repealing the Wagner Act outright:
" ...Greaves was closely involved in the issue. At the request of Sen. Robert A. Taft in 1946, he helped draft a precursor to Taft-Hartley. According to Greaves, union activity had caused the Wagner Act to fall out of favor with the public. Taft wanted an ameliorative bill that would win enough votes to override a veto by President Harry Truman — in another words, a watered-down bill. Then, after the Republicans won the White House and Congress in 1948, they would pass a better law.
Greaves “opposed this thinking on the basis that it would be better not to have any new law at that time[, contending] that a successful veto of a better law would result in a growing public pressure for the repeal of the Wagner Act and the election of the party that espoused such a move. The senator was not willing to go that far.” Greaves feared that “if the senator’s plan were successful, the public would be persuaded that the then evident economic distress flowing from union activity had been remedied and the next tide of public opinion might well be in the other direction.”
Taft disagreed, and Greaves left the Senate committee. “Freedom … lost,” Greaves wrote looking back, because once Taft-Hartley passed, the pressure on the Wagner Act disappeared...
[Emphasis mine]
Today, nearly 70 years later, we are still taking such palatable, ultimately self defeating measures. The Right is talked into proposing measures which don't repeal the legislative acts which are the real cause of the problem, and always with the promise of "after the next election, we'll 'pass a better law'". The fact is that Taft-Hartley didn't reduce the unions power, but only consolidated it, as this, from the introduction to a book of economist Henry Hazlitt's essays during that time, points out:
"... Taft-Hartley emerged as the conservative counterweight to the Wagner regime, the product of a Republican-dominated 80th Congress elected in 1946 in response to post-war inflation, excessive government controls, and historic levels of labor strife. Passed by an alliance of anti-labor Republicans and Southern Democrats, Taft-Hartley did not roll back, so much as circumscribe, New Deal labor law. It retained the process of collective bargaining supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, but outlawed wildcat strikes, secondary boycotts, and the closed shop. It prohibited both management and labor from engaging in “practices which [sic] jeopardize the public health, safety, or interest” and required anti-communist affidavits from all unionists. Moreover, it authorized the president to intervene in strikes that threatened national security and enabled individual states to pass “right-to-work” laws outlawing exclusive union shops...."
IOW it had given monopoly control over unionized workers to one union in a shop, whether or not the owner of that shop wanted them there, or even whether any other employee might have preferred another union to represent them. Republicans are heading the very same road with ObamaCare and Medicaid Expansion, such as Missouri sleazeball State Sen. Ryan Silvey has proposed doing, and no doubt 70 years from now our grand-kids will be proposing some sort of 'Right To Prescriptions' laws because of it.

This relentless GOP retreat of 'do what we can' half-measures, with no wider strategy having been defined or committed to, not only does not succeed, but they cannot succeed. While such short term efforts may be necessary, in the short term, to adopt them as our overall strategy, as the GOP has been doing for decades, is suicide.

This isn't about Business vs Labor, but about the inconvenient Rights of both - inconvenient to the established powers that be who just want to tend their power gardens, grooming them sometimes to appeal to the Left, and sometimes to the Right, but always producing a bumper crop of incumbents for the benefit of each. Also keep in mind that politically influential business 'interests' were very much behind the 'Wagner Act' to begin with, because they thought it'd make it easier on their businesses by helping to promote cooler headed unions over the real radicals ('Big Business' is almost always as opposed to a Free Market as the radical Left is)... and they've continued to split the difference between Individual Rights and their own interests ever since.

How do we get a right to our Rights back?
RTW does curb the power of unions. But. But it also increases the power of Govt. RTW as written, reduces the grip Unions have on workers, but it does so by increasing Govt's power over business owners, which in the end, means over all of us. It's hard not to hear Gandalf reading in the background: 'One Ring to rule them all...', right?

So where does that leave us?

In about the same place that Richard Nixon & Teddy Kennedy's HMO bill left health care back in 1973. It leaves us in that place where every attempt to improve the situation, necessarily restricts our liberty even further, compounds our problems, and hastens the time where an ObamaCare-type solution will be proposed to 'fix' it.

So what do you do when placed in a position of choosing between two evils?

Don't.

First, recognize that sometimes acting 'on principle' can be unprincipled behavior. Principles are an aid to thinking, not a substitute for it, and used imprudently, can do more harm than good. When you find yourself in a place where no good choices are possible, that doesn't mean that you make no choice at all, it means that you widen your perspective and clarify your goals.

Choose instead, where there is a choice to be made, that which causes the least damage to your liberty, and the most damage to the forces arrayed against you - and do NOT accept that as your only or final option. The confused morals of our current laws makes measures such as RTW necessary, but we can and must do more to make it only an inconvenient step, rather than a destination of moral compromise.

Widen your perspective - as the situation stands now, our govt has already asserted its right to compel business owners to do what it wants... 'for the greater good'; it has done so in the 'Wagner Act', and 'Taft-Hartley' and Medicaid and so many other laws since, all the way up to ObamaCare, that this... this is just one more lash in a thousand stripes across our backs. So, sad to say, it is not unreasonable to see that adding yet another layer of restrictions upon us, is like painting an '11' on the volume knob - a distinction which makes no further difference. More to the point, for those thinking that not voting for RTW will somehow leave business owners free to conduct their business without govt interference - that's damn near delusional. Isn't it? So please, remember how laughable that argument is if someone makes it to you.

On the other hand, RTW does limit unions access to our fellows, it will limit the power of unions over the workforce, it will reduce their power in our society, and so on that basis, I do see a more solid strike for liberty being made by voting for RTW, than the strike which RTW itself makes against our liberty.

But having made that painful calculus, the only way to prevent it from becoming a choice of lesser evils, is to NOT accept that as your only or final option. You must have a long term goal, a long term strategy to get the Right to our Rights back. We've got to be looking to strike at the real political root, and that isn't unions, but those acts which gave them power over us, such as the 'Wagner Act' and 'Taft-Hartley'. And measures such as this, a 'States Repeal Act', which I'll dig much deeper into in later posts, is one way to enable RTW states to do just that, and help get back the right to our Rights.

For myself, keeping in mind that Politics is downstream of Culture, and that Culture is downstream of the arena of Ideas, I'm keeping my efforts focused there. For the Culture to come around to the idea that restricting liberty doesn't increase it, and to understand why that is, then the ideas which make liberty a conclusion, rather than a starting point, need to be aired, and discussed, and understood. And that's what I attempt to do with this blog. Air the ideas which we as a culture must breathe in, for Liberty to regrow its roots within us. As those ideas become more commonly understood, then our culture will tear out  abominations such as the 'Wagner Act', and the 'Affordable Care Act', root and branch.

So I will support RTW, as one distasteful step in a long journey, while keeping my eyes on the real goal, one which results in real liberty for all.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Farewell to a friend - The Doubtful Roots of Progress

"Far best is he who knows all things himself;
Good, he that hearkens when men counsel right;
But he who neither knows, nor lays to heart
Another's wisdom, is a useless wight."
Hesiod, as quoted in Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics
"...Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn't there,
He wasn't there again today
Oh, how I wish he'd go away..."
Farewell to a friend - The Doubtful Roots of Progress
In the 21st century, we typically like to see ourselves as living the superior lives which civilization has been longing and struggling to progress to for thousands of years, but... have you noticed how uncomfortably difficult it can be trying to find examples of that progress in anything other than technology? Especially amongst those who're most convinced that they're the epitome of progressive thinking?

Case in point, I reconnected last year with an acquaintance of mine from the 1980's, back when I played in a regional rock band and he was a popular local D.J., "Dice Martin", in Vegas - but unfortunately he disconnected us again earlier this month because he disliked that I disagreed with one of his postings. Understand, my replies didn't use profanity (not that that would've bothered him), or attack him or insult him, or ridicule him - though those were S.O.P's for the continual stream of pictures he posted, captioned to insult Republicans, Conservatives and Tea Partiers. When you add to those the additional comments he & his friends made to them, each one ever more inflammatory than the last... and I can't help asking: what was so inflammatory, to him, about someone simply disagreeing with them?

Whatever it was that made this self described supporter of the 'progressive left' so intolerant of other views, is in no way confined to Dice himself, as we'll see in a moment, rather he is reflecting what is progressively becoming the dominant view across the country - demonize the opposition and shutdown discussion or debate - and I can think of few more appropriate ways to describe it than as I do: ProRegressivism.

Person to Person
The last post of Dice's that I was able to see was a split screen picture that showed three pundits from the left with college degrees, and three from the right who either didn't go or dropped out, accompanied with comments to the effect that everyone on the Left were scholarly icons of wisdom, while vilifying Republicans, Conservatives and Tea Partiers as:
A)"... knuckle dragging drop outs and idiots...",
who ,
B)"... are GUILTY of treason ande sedition when they supported shutting The US Govt down last October..."
, whose disagreements with Obama were:
C)" these (racially motivated, right wing, incoherent) rants."
And about the Ukraine:
D)"...Not a peep when in '08 putin went into Georgia on Bush's watch....not one word."
To which I replied that
A),"as the colleges had gotten out of the wisdom business decades ago, trading tens of thousands of dollars in debt for dated and often substandard skills wasn't necessarily a mark of the wisest person in the room",
B) "he ought to look a bit closer at congress's power of the purse and how all sides have used it in the distant and recent past to rein the other branches in."
C) that "IMHO few rants are more racially motivated, or weak and fearful, than when a clear difference of ideas can only be responded to with accusations of racism rather than dealing with the merits of the ideas in question",
D) I noted that "I and many others had indeed 'peeped' many words at the time, condemning his actions as well as his inaction's."
Dice came a bit unglued at this and expressed his true feelings for tolerance and respect for the opinions of others, with
"Fuck you- Rot in Hell asswipe! Another piece of shit who don't know what he is talking about- in the ashcan of history----chumps-----", and he added one final friendly wave with "You won't matter when we get face to face"!.
As I was responding that I'd been face to face with him before and saw no reason to worry about that mattering, he unfriended and blocked me.

So. Progress, eh? But if cutting off debate in civil discussions and demonstrating absolute in-toleration for opposing political views are examples of the progress that 'progressives' have progressed to... I guess it's up to us to tell them that the progress that they're making is going in the wrong direction.

Now I hope you won't be surprised to learn that Dice isn't a mean guy and he isn't a stupid guy. He isn't lazy, he has his own insurance business in Florida; he isn't (in his mind) unpatriotic, and he isn't, at least as it is commonly recognized today, uneducated. What's worth noting here is not whether or not someone was on the Left or the Right side of an issue, but whether or not their positions further Progress or Regress. What's also worth noting here is a certain something that isn't there, a lack of understanding of what Progress is, what it requires and what cannot be engaged in without reverting into regress.

What this most emphatically is not, is a partisan issue... or even a non-partisan affair - this is a matter of societal ProRegress, and it is a problem for us all.

More than an Academic Question
See if you can see the resemblance here, between what Dice demonstrated, and this recent article in the Harvard student journal, The Crimson, by Sandra Y.L. Korn who's been posting in a similar vein since 2010, "The Doctrine of Academic Freedom - Let’s give up on academic freedom in favor of justice" ,
"Yet the liberal obsession with “academic freedom” seems a bit misplaced to me. After all, no one ever has “full freedom” in research and publication. Which research proposals receive funding and what papers are accepted for publication are always contingent on political priorities. The words used to articulate a research question can have implications for its outcome. No academic question is ever “free” from political realities. If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?

Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue."
This is a student supposedly in pursuit of a Liberal Education... does that mean something? Indeed it does, in general it means being able to engage, free from the threat of force, in the deliberate examination of opposing ideas in pursuit of acquiring the knowledge and understanding most likely to help yourself become fit for living in liberty with others. And yet she, like Dice, believes that opposing views are not only not to be tolerated, but she's even advocating in favor of using all available power to end the active discussion of opposing views in the academy, in order to suppress dissent, in order to promote 'Academic Justice'. That my friends, is Pro-Regress.

Leaving that aside for just a moment, and looking past the irony clad nature of the last paragraph in that quotation, at first glance, there almost seems to be a sheen of sense to that first paragraph, doesn't there? After all, one of the arguments against the public funding of education in general and of universities in particular, is, why should someone who is paying for an education be forced to pay for divisive research and professors professing ideas which they believe to be false, hateful and opposed to what they believe is true? Except of course that she isn't concerned at all with the rights of those who are making her education possible - public or private - or even of those who might best understand what an education actually is. What she is advocating for is NOT a policy where those who are paying for the students tuition, or the alumni who contribute to the college, or those the college has hired to administer and profess the ideals of a Liberal Education, should have a voice in what the college teaches. Nope. What she's advocating for is 'empowering' those who are the recipients of those seats and funds and services, so that they should be able to demand that they be used against the judgment and interests of those who are providing them! As she says:
"The power to enforce academic justice comes from students, faculty, and workers organizing together to make our universities look as we want them to do."[emphasis mine]
IOW, those who do not yet have even what currently passes for an Education, are to seize the power to determine what an education should be, because in their as yet uneducated wisdom they believe that they have already determined what is best, and so they should use the raw power of the mob to disrupt the process of education until the disagreeable voices cave and they get. what. they. want. Those who've had the benefit of some semblance of an actual Liberal Education, should be able to identify this as one of the oldest of political practices: "Might makes Right".

Or, in my other words, using power to negate rights and force compliance with the ideas of a favored faction - that is Pro-Regress.

"History is philosophy teaching by example..." - Abraham Lincoln"
So that was from a college student, at what's often thought of as the premier college in the nation. If you find yourself wondering what it is that they are teaching in college these days, I suggest directing your attention to an essay by a college professor, Lawrence Torcello, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology. This scholar feels that the views of Ms. Korn do not go far enough. This professor, of philosophy no less, feels that we must deal with those pernicious folks who are not convinced that our govts have either the level of understanding, or the means of effectively 'correcting' the global climate, or the political right to impose their final solutions upon us all, and he isn't content with simply demanding, disrupting and shouting down their opposing views to get his way - he wants to take matters to the next level, and put them in jail:
"My argument probably raises an understandable, if misguided, concern regarding free speech. We must make the critical distinction between the protected voicing of one’s unpopular beliefs, and the funding of a strategically organised campaign to undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions. Protecting the latter as a form of free speech stretches the definition of free speech to a degree that undermines the very concept"
Remember, he is currently professing his 'wisdom' to a steady stream of young college students, he wants to actually put those who disagree with what he (who btw, is not a scientist, let alone a climate scientist) is so clearly and distinctly convinced to be true, in jail, for the thought crime of holding opposing views. He's got one thing right, it is undeniable that jailing people for their ideas is most definitely the next ProRegressive step which must follow from professing such a philosophy; where else could it possibly lead to?

And if you're sympathetic with his position, then ask yourself this: How do you respond to the position, that what he just described was what others such as myself see as being an example of political factions and corporate interests in our schools, entertainment, media and government, directing the 'funding of a strategically organised campaign to undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions'? So then I can get my faction together and say 'Hey, I think this fool is wrong, can I have him charged with a misdemeanor please?' And if, like the young miss in Harvard, your answer is that I have no Right to do what you do, because I do not believe the proper Politically Correct ideas as they do (which really means that those with my views aren't in power - yet)... then you are saying that it is ok to bring down the full force of the govt upon me, but not thee, because...of who has the power to silence who - at the moment.

If that is your position, then you've not only dodged the question, but you've endorsed the course which President John Adams foolishly supported, and which far better minds argued for than the one possessed by this twit of a professor, back in 1799
" ...commonly called the sedition law, subjects to a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and to imprisonment not exceeding two years, any person who shall write, print, utter, or publish, or cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, any false, scandalous, malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States..."
The Federalists too had the very best of intentions with the Aliens & Sedition Acts, and they also had what our professing fools do not: the excuse of not having seen it abused here before. We, on the other hand, have a number of examples from the philosophical classroom of history, such as ProRegressive Democrat President Wilson using similar acts to jail thousands of Americans for the crime of disagreeing with his administrations policies.

That my friend, is a step backwards, aka: Regress. And if you are for that, you are Pro-Regress.

Missing the point
My point is not that there is spin in politics or disputes about what climate scientists say the science says, or about what the scientists say politicians say about climate science, but that there is something missing from the views of my friend Dice, from the Harvard student, and from the Professor of 'philosophy', and what is not there, is what enables them to feel perfectly fine about cursing a friend out for disagreeing with them, enables them to feel justified in denying others their freedom of speech, and enables them to advocate jailing those who disagree with their views - and that it is perfectly acceptable, advisable and even admirable for them to do so.

What they are lacking, what their understanding does not have, is not just civility - that's an effect, not a cause - these things they lack are what makes it possible for otherwise intelligent people to advocate actions as progress, which are clearly Pro-Regress.

So what is it they lack, is it simply a lack of knowledge? Simply a matter of knowing who knows what's best? That is after all, the reason why we send our kids to school and on to college, to fill them with the knowledge which good judgment requires, right? Would new books and better tests do the trick? But unfortunately it is no longer as easy as saying what James Madison once said:
"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives"
Part of the problem is that modernity has introduced an ambiguity into what the word 'knowledge' now applies to - there's what is in reality true, and there's what people accept as being true, and many if not most moderns not only do not differentiate between the two, but in any (acknowledged) conflict between them, actually lean towards favoring the later (see Keynesian economics). In this day and age, simply knowing what 'reliable authorities' have told you is so, isn't enough.

Knowledge, in the sense Madison was referring to, expects there to be a standard which new information is held up to and that it must integrate into a deeper understanding of what you know to be true. That classical sense doesn't tolerate the urge, which we all feel at times, to allow what you wish were true to override those contradictions you worry might be true, without verifying what actually is true. Modernity, however, encourages us to embrace contradictory information as being 'true' for a variety of excuses ( and not just factually, for instance what movie characters are more enthused over today than those who are 'conflicted'?), ranging from popularity, to some form of cultural 'authenticity' or political acceptability, aided by one form or another of the modernist philosophical position that we cannot actually know what in reality actually is true.

Modernity isn't comfortable with unambiguous statements such as 'the fact is', nevertheless, the fact is that if you tolerate 'knowing' contradictory positions to be true, then you are well on your way to truly knowing nothing at all. What you Know has to be what you can conform your will and your passions to, and not the other way around, and attempting to do so, attempting to put desire over reality, is the essence of being intemperate, which, again in the classical sense, has consequences. As Edmund Burke, remarked :
“It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France
Intemperate? How does that figure into anything, the word's been out of fashion for a hundred years or more, hasn't it? Well, words have meaning... and what they mean remains even if you change the words you refer to that meaning with. Push a word out the front door, and its meaning will slip in again, unrecognized, through the back door... but you'll no longer have the knowledge to know how to deal with them. See if you hear the sound of the back door slamming in this recent article, entitled "Politicians are good liars 'because they convince themselves they are telling the truth', study reveals", reports that a study, '"Liars or SelfDeceived? Reflections on Political Deception", by a political scientist named Dr. Anna Galeotti, found that for politicians such as Bill Clinton,
: ‘Self-deception is a type of motivated irrationality - the art of believing something simply because it is desired to be true when evidence points to the very opposite.
, and that,
"Because of this, politicians not only lie convincingly, but are still convinced they are telling the truth even after they have proved to have lied, the report added."
IOW the liar becomes mastered by their lies, or more eloquently put:"...men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters....", which applies every bit as much to the electorate who votes for those deceptive policies which they know can't be true ("If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan"), but still really want them to be true. But the interpretation of such actions as being intemperate and bringing consequences, is only going to follow from the older understanding of what knowledge is. Taken through the more modern sense, it'll be given the spin that we should be more tolerant and understanding towards the liar, and the lie, since they don't really know what they are doing.

Which is a view that understandably still strikes many people the wrong way, such as one fellow who responded to that article's title with words to the effect of:
"Oh come'on, what is this bs! Of course they know that they're lying!"
Which, while I completely understand such a common sense reaction and I certainly don't excuse politicians or any others who are in fact lying, the common sense view of things misses the reality of the squishiness we've allowed to creep into what we call 'Knowledge'; and that reality, and its consequences, goes to the very heart of modernity.

For instance: why is it that Bill Clinton's infamous statement that "It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'Is', is.", wasn't laughed out of court and/or slapped with a contempt charge? Under James Madison's conception of knowledge, it would have been. Under Modernity's formulation... such a statement is actually taken into consideration. Why? What makes that possible? It's not just 'old' vs 'new', there's another ingredient which actively separates the two understandings.

Look at it this way, I can't tell you how many smart and knowledgeable people, friends & family that I know, who still think nothing of behaving as Dice did. Is it really just a matter of not knowing the facts or intentionally lying about them? You probably have friends and family too that, although you're frustrated with them, you still can't quite bring yourself to call them completely ignorant or deliberate liars... am I right?

Well if you don't think that those members of your friends and family are complete fools or bald faced liars... then there must be something else that they are doing, or failing to do... the question is, what?

One of the questions we've stopped asking, is: knowledge of what? And how well, and how deeply, will that knowledge they acquire in school really be known? Or once known, be regarded by them as being consequentially True? Knowledge is of course incredibly useful, beneficial, and oh so advisable to pursue and expand, but bubble tests and 'fill in the blank' level worksheets only serve to transmit data, they don't develop knowledge. It is not enough simply to acquire and catalog a mass of disintegrated facts, mentally piling them on high into towering tables of data, each one unaware of the contents of the one next to it - such dragon hordes might help you score nicely on the SAT, but they are not the same thing as knowledge, and they are very nearly barriers to wisdom. Data doesn't become knowledge until it is integrated, and if that data is not integrated through understanding its relation to other data and the principles which support them, then it will be integrated through those feelings and preferences you have towards the data itself... and how well wisdom follows from that can be gauged by a quick look around you today.

What we are missing is what is behind the conception of knowledge that Madison and his time took for granted, and what we've accepted in its place is the modern philosophical view which presumes that substance is more likely to be found in polls, than whatever it is that the polls are being taken about.

Doubting the Value of Critical Thinking
My point is that there is something vital that is missing from how particular views are held by my friend Dice, and by the Harvard student, and by the Professor of 'philosophy', and what it is that is not there, is what enables them to feel just fine and dandy about cursing a friend out for disagreeing with them, enables them to feel justified in depriving those who don't agree with them of their freedom of speech, and enables them to righteously advocate jailing people for the crime of not agreeing with them, and whatever it is that they lack, is what is enabling them to believe that it is perfectly acceptable, and advisable, and even admirable, for them to be doing so.

Part of what they lack is the habit of questioning what they do and don't know, substituting instead, the easy flattery and convenience of artificial Doubt.

Huh?

Here's what I mean. Doubt arises naturally when our mind detects a conflict, a contradiction, between what we know, and what we are being presented with as being so, and your immediate reaction is "Oh, I doubt that!", followed soon after with the reasons for your doubt "That doesn't add up with this, this and this, so tell me, how does that make sense?", and you're off to reassessing and perhaps correcting, and so strengthening, your knowledge, and understanding. Such doubts are the result of your knowledge, are healthy and should pretty much always be pursued.

But Artificial Doubt, such as what drives modernity's vaunted 'Critical Thinking', is not something that results from our knowledge, it is prompted by no detection of conflicts or contradictions, but only by your pretending to find something to doubt.

This tendency, which has a hand in what the good Dr. Galeotti calls 'self deception', is the hallmark of Modernity and it began with Descartes' "Method of Doubt",
“I thought it necessary that I reject as absolutely false everything in which I could imagine the least doubt, so as to see whether, after this process, anything in my set of beliefs remains that is absolutely indubitable.”
If the test of truth is whether or not you can imagine the least doubt about that something, and nothing other than your imagining it prompted your doubt in the first place... doesn't that make what you imagine, prefer, wish, determine what you do or don't doubt, and the ultimate test of what you will accept as being true? You do see the problem there, don't you?

Worse, there is nothing positive involved in such artificial doubts. Artificial doubt begins with the end result and pretends to find controversies in it which 'need' to be resolved. You haven't detected a flaw, you only pretend one is there... somewhere... on the shallow surface of the data you have in mind at the moment. For instance, a doubt based approach would begin, begin with mind you, as they do in most textbooks and worksheets everyday in our schools, from a perspective of artificial doubts picked off the surface of an issue, such as this recent example:
"Do you think the Bill of Rights is outdated?"
Based upon what?! The students haven't even investigated our particular Constitution, let alone the idea of laws in general, on what basis are they to 'think' if they are outdated or not? The only basis they'll have for their 'doubts' are their feelings, and where will students, especially young students, feelings about government and law likely come from? On top of that, the worksheet goes on to instruct them to:
"Omit two and add two...[amendments]"
Again, based upon what?! They have no knowledge to draw upon, they have nothing they can draw upon but their own ability to artificially and arbitrarily doubt something, anything, about the 'Bill of Rights'.

That is not a means to knowledge, but only a bold step towards its dissolution.

To start with artificial doubts, is to start without any real problems, without any real contradictions and without any real goals; and so what you are seeking is not resolution, but confirmation of the doubts you only imagined to begin with - it's resolution is as artificial as it's instigation. The result of this is not stronger knowledge, but just the opposite. Even those times when you might succeed in acquiring more facts, you necessarily believe them less. When everything is doubtful, nothing is really Known or believed - it might be accepted... but that's data, not knowledge, which are not nearly the same thing.

What this amounts to in practice, is that if you don't like it, it's doubtful - if you do like it, its not doubtful. This is not only an impractical method for thought, it works to corrode confidence in all of your knowledge (see "In Praise of Prejudice" ). This root method of modernity is even often put forward as the basis of the Scientific Method (which it is not)... and you wonder about why we live in such an uncertain age?

Natural doubts, and true questioning,on the other hand, results from and begins with the substance of the issue, such as 'What are Rights?" and would works its way down and in towards the essentials of what it is you are trying to understand. Along the way real doubts will arise, and can be addressed, strengthening understanding, not trivializing it. Such an approach would work on developing an understanding of human nature, social organization, government, Law and Individual Rights first, and only then, after the basics had been grasped, should students work their way back up to considering our Constitution in such a critical way. Whether or not additional amendments should be added to it, or taken away, would and should be the very last step in considering our form of government, not the starting point.

But wait, there's less!
Still though, while self deception and deliberate deception certainly exist, for most every day folks, self deception doesn't quite fit the bill because it isn't deliberate self deception that most people are engaging in, right? But they don't need to deceive themselves, not if the standard which they've accepted as being 'True', was substandard as a standard to begin with, and has left them exposed to even more issues.

The errors of preference which practicing artificial 'Doubt' as a standard introduces, further encourages a narrowing of the scope of your attention and understanding, as well as what you require as verification for it ('Oh, I doubt I need to bother with learning all of that stuff'), which bears a strong resemblance to self deception. What results from restricting the depth of understanding you seek on a given matter, is that it conveniently requires your attention to extend no further than what it is that you prefer to believe.

Our minds, like our muscles, are more than happy to go slack on us. When your 'doubts' are not prompted by conflicts in your understanding, and no conflicts in your understanding need to be resolved in order to dispel these artificial doubts you go through the motions of applying, then you shouldn't be surprised to find that what you choose to call 'truth' no longer requires of you the effort of integrating your understanding.

Not only do favorable sounding truths become believable when you are unaware of what would make them unbelievable, but if you are feeling no need to doubt that something is true (or false) then Truth becomes something that requires no greater depth, or soundness, than the absense of your doubts about it.

That squishily skeptical, vaguely cynical sense which most people have towards most issues in our daily life, is the doubtful bounty of modernity,and the rot of it permeates our culture today.

Don't doubt the benefits of Questions
Has Doubt driven scientific progress? I doubt it. I suspect that, when actually followed, it actually slowed progress. What has driven scientific progress, is what cannot not drive progress, and somewhere between Robert Grosseteste in the 1200's and Roger Bacon in the 1600's, there emerged a general scientific method, which has been summed up as,
"...a repeating cycle of observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and the need for independent verification. He recorded the manner in which he conducted his experiments in precise detail so that others could reproduce and independently test his results..."
, or for everyday use, methodically questioning and verifying the answers your questions logically lead you to. Rinse. Repeat. More often than not, once the clutter of doubt is brushed away from actual scientists journals, you find that it wasn't arbitrary doubts which drew them on (more often than not they slowed them down), it was the careful application of good honest questions - what do I understand this to mean? How well do I understand it? Do I understand, rather than assume, what this means?

Questions are based upon knowledge, and whether that knowledge is strong, or weak, the act of questioning draws you on to making real progress through positive understanding, and not from negative, empty, doubts. And more than that, questioning strengthens your understanding without leaving you defensive against someone else's questions, or their doubts, because having questioned your own understanding, you have the answers... or the desire to seek them out. What the moderns have accepted as being 'Knowledge', lacks what  'Critical Thinking' cannot provide: Understanding, and the fearless unquenchable curiosity which the desire for, and means of attaining understanding, naturally fosters. What its absence supplies instead, is hostility and baseless self righteousness ("There can be no doubt! It's settled science!") and not only the tendency to resort to using force instead of reason, but a satisfaction in doing so, which the actions of Dice, the Harvard student and the Professor trumpet more loudly than their 'tolerant' words ever will: 'Might makes Right, and that more might makes you more right!'.

Doubtful Progressives
Dice didn't have any doubts about what he wanted to be true and feeling no need for further understanding, he certainly didn't feel he needed to seek any greater 'understanding' of what I was saying, in order to conclude that it was false, hateful and even evil. The fact that he disliked - doubted - what I had to say and wanted it to be 'true', was more than enough for him.

The Harvard Student didn't need to bother with considering the requirements of honesty, of understanding or of valid knowledge, she didn't need to worry about whether or not it was right, or even sensible for her to demand that teachers obey the demands of students, it was enough for her to not doubt her own zeal for what it is that she wanted to be true - and for her it was beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is right.

The 'philosophy' professor didn't need to worry about what powers it would be wise to extend to govt, or how it could be controlled or corrected once given to it; he simply finds that what he clearly prefers to be truthful is beyond doubt, and so concludes, logically, that it must be accepted as the right thing to do.

On the face of it, the idea that knowledge will forever govern ignorance seems all very right minded and such... but when the test of knowledge is that it is beyond your ability to doubt, then whether or not this information is in reality true, doesn't come into question. And how likely is it that you or they will ever discover any deeper and more complete answers, if those who do question or disagree with the accepted positions, are forbidden from challenging those positions?

My point is not that there is spin in politics or disputes about climate science, but that there is something missing from the views of my unfriended friend Dice, from the Harvard student activist, and from the Professor of 'philosophy', and what is not there in their understanding, is what enables them to feel perfectly fine about cursing a friend out for disagreeing with them, enables them to feel justified in denying others the freedom of speech they demand for themselves, and enables them to advocate jailing those who dare to disagree with their views - and that it is, beyond a doubt, perfectly acceptable and advisable for them to do so.

And while I do think it is far more pronounced on the left than elsewhere, I've seen plenty of the like from Libertarians and from the Right as well, and that is the larger point to this current series of posts: When I'm speaking of Progress vs Regress, I'm not simply referring to political matters, but to the lack of understanding of what Progress is, and what it is not, and what Progress is not compatible with, which is very much a bi-partisan, tri-partisan, and non-partisan affair. What otherwise intelligent people lack, makes them oblivious to the fact that the positions they are advancing, have far more to do with Regress, rather than with Progress. And to disperse that obliviousness, we've got to take a trip into the past....next post.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Welcome to our Party, would you tell us who we are and what we believe?

After my rant the other day on how the GOP is fundraising their way to more useful 'principles', a friend, Frank, asked a couple good questions about my take on it. But before getting to those, let me clear up what set me off about that email. I was not objecting to the GOP's making a legitimate attempt to gauge which issues were foremost in the minds of voters. I wasn't even objecting to their disorganized, confused, feeble and cynical attempt to manipulate voter's passions (objectionable, yes, but not what I was objecting to). What I objected to was the idea that finding the reddest of red meat issues could somehow be a useful means of identifying what could then be pawned off as the party's principles.

As appalling and ProRegressive as that is, it goes a long way towards explaining the behavior of the GOP today.

A political party, at least one that claims to stand for principles, doesn't poll voters to find out what it is that it believes. Instead, a political party, by virtue of being one, begins from a particular set of principles and beliefs that it is organized around and which it believes that no one else on the political landscape champions nearly as well. Right? That is their purpose for being! Those principles and beliefs are the very basis for rallying like minded voters around them, and the means for winning over those who haven't fully considered how those fundamentals could be used to resolve the contentious and seemingly separate issues of the day.

When people are contacted by a party such as the GOP, they should come away from those communications and discussions with a better understanding of the political landscape, and how best to navigate it, because of the principles that party upholds, not be more confused and concerned than they were before, and with even less understanding of what the party's, and even their own principles, might be!

A political Party has got to have its principles clearly defined and understood before ever allowing or encouraging others to align themselves with it - that cannot be in dispute - change those principles and it doesn't just change the party, it creates a new party. What can be in dispute, is how to apply those principles. Those could very well be contentious issues which many members might never come to agreement over, but there should be no disagreement about what the principles they are arguing over are! I'd thought, perhaps naively, that already central to the GOP's principles, were such items as the rule of constitutional law, oriented towards an ever smaller and more limited govt, one of defined powers, whose primary purpose was to uphold and defend our individual rights, property and lives, with a corresponding emphasis on fiscal responsibility. All of which follows from the simple statement of principle its founding members resolved at its inception, back in 1854:
"That we accept this issue [freedom or slavery], forced upon us by the slave power, and in the defense of freedom will cooperate and be known as Republicans."
I realize of course that few, very few, politicians give much more than lip service to those principles today, but I didn't think that their existence and centrality to the party was in question, let alone that form letters were being used to come up with more popular replacements for them. Asking potential voters:
"Why Are You A Republican? Tell Us Which Principles Are Most Important To You"
, which is the same thing as saying:
"Welcome to our Party, would you tell us who we are and what we believe?"
, and it does nothing to bring voters any clarity, it does nothing to show how their concerns are best addressed by their party's fundamental principles, and worse, it obscures the idea that they ever had any principles to begin with. Such a strategy is, sad to say, an inherently modernist one, a pragmatic and Public Relations oriented attempt to gauge which positions will suck in more voter$ and will give the party the most bang for their campaign buck$, and it is NOT a position that's taken to advance the principles the party exists for, but to advance the interests of the party itself.

Worse still, that's not the worst possible way of taking their 'voter outreach', the view that this fundraising email was a cynical attempt to plot political strategy, is the most charitable way of looking at it. The worst possible scenario is that the GOP leadership really does not see any difference between positions and principles, that they really do have no clue how its own forgotten principles might have helped bring clarity and understanding to the contentions issues of our day, and that instead all that they are about is grabbing at popularity and power for power's sake.

Is there a place for the GOP polling its members to see which issues they'd most like to see on ballots? Sure there is, but there is a difference between gauging public support for ballot issues and defining (re-defining?) the party's principles, and if they can't tell the difference between the two, well, then... 'turn out the lights, the party's over...'.

A few good questions
Now on to the questions Frank raised. He first asks:
"If ours is a Republic and each representative is elected to mediate for the people, how does the rep know what her/his electorate wants?"
I've got to come at this from behind first. Being that we are a constitutional representative republic, not a democracy, a representative doesn't simply mediate or relay the concerns of the people, into legislative votes - they are Representatives, not proxies. Part of their job is to ensure that their constituents preferences don't exceed the scope of the of their office, or violate their own principles. A representative's informed judgment can be more important than the sentiments of a majority of their electorate. For that reason alone, discovering the principles of a candidate for office,is job #1 of every voter. That being said, having a clear conception of the particular values and concerns, likes & dislikes of their constituents is important for a representative, and it is perfectly valid for a candidate or office holder to conduct polls, send out form letters to their constituents, etc., in order to get a sense of their positions on particular issues.

The now much maligned Todd Akin, used to conduct 'telephone town halls', where with the help of an automated phone dialer, he'd conduct regular conference calls in the evenings which brought several hundred people on the line together, listening to questions and comments taken from others on the call, as the rest listened to them, and heard his replies. I thought that was an excellent means of not only hearing from constituents, but of helping them hear back from him and his take on the wider implications of particular issues.

It seemed as if every few months we'd get a call that plugged us into those conference calls. I haven't had one yet from our current representative.

Frank's next question is:
"If the rep feels differently than the people being represented, should said rep vote and act according to their own values or according to the values of the people?"
As I hinted at above, that's the judgment call a Rep needs to make, which, again, is why it is so important for voters to get a sense of a candidates principles, character and judgment. One of the first questions we voters should have (and if the candidate didn't make it clear to begin with, why didn't they?), is are there areas of the constitution (or the equivalent for the particular state, county, city, township, etc., office they're running for) which they know themselves to have difficulty or even disagreement with. For instance, if I were running for office, I'd have to make clear that, although they are the law of the land and I'd have to abide and uphold them, I'd like very much like to see the 16th & 17th Amendments to the constitution repealed, and if the opportunity arose, I'd work like heck to help bring that about.

I'd also have to state that I'd like to see an Amendment that gave states back a seat at the table of constitutional power (which both of those amendments have contributed to eroding), as in a State's Repeal Amendment such as 'Madison's Lost Amendment'. That sort of information is the type that candidates should communicate to voters in order to give them a fair estimation of their own fundamental principles.

And then there are the more general principles a candidate holds to - are they of a mind that laws which do not help to clarify and uphold Rights, have little or no business being proposed, let alone passed? Or are they of a mind that Govt should be doing things to 'improve our lives'? And if so, there'd follow a whole host of further questions which would need to be asked - if you were still listening to them that is. Personally, I wouldn't be. "Next!".

And then there are operational and administrative concerns, does the candidate believe that all such laws should be uniform and centralized at the highest levels of govt so as to be applied alike to all peoples in every walk of life, or do they favor a more subsidiarity sort of approach, where the administering of laws should be decentralized and handled at the lowest effective level of govt possible, so as to more closely reflect the outlooks of the people represented in that area? And does their view of this vary based upon the law in question? Do they see the issue as a matter of Principles or Particulars?

For instance, does whether the bill is more law, regulation or policy, affect their decision? IOW, if the issue concerns a matter of community preference - 'Should parks be lighted and open till midnight, or closed up by 9:00 p.m.', etc, I'd think that'd be one where a representative should let the prevailing sense of the electorate determine your vote, whether you as their representative liked it or not. On the other hand, if it were a question of serious principle, such as 'does govt have the right to tell private businesses whether or not they can have customers smoking in their establishments' - that's a very serious property rights issue, and a Representative should vote against it no matter what the prevailing sense of the electorate was, and I'd also consider that an important topic for discussion with the electorate to help them understand what their position was and why.

And lastly, it does, and should, come down to the elected officials better judgement - that is what they are elected to exercise, they are not elected as proxies for majority rule - the Representatives are supposed to understand the issues and the laws in question at least as well as anyone else, and hopefully much better - THAT is their job. Important note: it is also their job to understand that they need to listen to what their constituents think, even when diametrically opposed, and to be always re-evaluating their own positions in light of their arguments, even if they still arrive at the same conclusion, you never know who might reveal what you'd not considered before.
Finally, Frank noted:
"The only reason I ever voted for anyone is because they best represented my values. With the exception of one Democrat in the 80's, I voted Republican just because they were the closest. After the election of '12, after seeing what the Republicans did, I will not even vote for THEM."
Which is understandable, but ... that depends. I'd rather have a principled person, whose principles don't deeply conflict with mine, but whose values I don't agree with, than a person whose principles concerning our rights and laws seem poorly understood, but whose values and preferences seem similar to mine. If someone was a staunch defender of the Constitution and clearly understood the importance of our first ten amendments to it, they could be a playboy, and I'd take them in a heartbeat over the otherwise outstanding & upstanding person who reflected conservative values... but who had little or no grasp of the fundamental rights our constitution depends upon. Dr. Ben Carson comes to mind. An otherwise outstanding person, but in expressing his opinion that the 2nd Amendment should be regulated in the same manner as drivers licenses, he makes clear that he has a dangerously poor understanding of Individual Rights, Law, and Govt's relation to them, and I would not want him in a critical office defending the constitution and my rights under it.

But more on that in another post.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Why Are You (embarrassed to vote) Republican? Funny you should ask.

Warning: Rant ahead:
I continually get solicitations for contributions to the GOP, and I continually reply back with words to the effect of:
Not a chance until you not only re-discover your principles and an ability to argue for them, but actually stand up for them.
Sadly, I've held out little hope of their re-discovering them, communicating them or standing up for them. And seeing Sen. Mitch McConnel sauntering on stage at CPAC carrying a flintlock rifle, a toadish retread of Charleton Heston, only deepened my pessimism. But, being an optimistic pessimist, when I saw this email in my inbox, I had a fleeting moment of 'Could it be?!' as my eye picked out and seized upon the word 'Principle' in the email, but that hope quickly flickered and faded away as I read the rest of the words accompanying it.

Here's a tip: If you want to turn me off swiftly, use one or more of these recycled claptrap phrases from the Grand Oldfolks Party playbook:

  • "... travel our great nation..."
  • "... deeply committed to protecting our ..."
  • "... doing the hard work it takes..."
  • "... the hardworking people..."
  • "... makes America exceptional..."
Note: these phrases aren't turn-offs because they are untrue, but because they are used untruthfully, IOW they are self evidently sprinkled about this fundraising message in a hamfisted attempt to manipulate the reader's emotions, rather than to convey honest and heartfelt sentiments.And of course this fundraising email used them all.

Then, to cap it off, and to drive home the point that those driving the GOP not only do not understand their party's principles, but are even unsure of which ones they should be pretending to have, they added the following in the email,:
"... we've compiled a list of our core Republican beliefs. Please take a look and tell us which core beliefs are most important to you..."
Why? So you can trade in your bestest core belief for one that's more popular to more readers? Apparently so, for it was followed by a link to a web page asking:
"What are your core conservative beliefs?"
And from a popularity list of 'core beliefs' we move on to every principled persons deepest concern: 'How many people like my principles too?' 'Ooh! Ooh! I hope my principles get more likes than any others!!!', right? I mean... this is the 'Right'?!

Here's the text of the page::
Why Are You A Republican?
Tell Us Which Principles Are Most Important To You
We’ve been listening to you.
Based on your feedback, we have compiled a list of what it means to be a Republican.
Tell us which principles are most important to you.
I believe that our:

  • Country is exceptional
  • Constitution should be honored, valued, and upheld
  • Leaders should serve people, not special interests
  • Families and communities should be strong and free from government intrusion
  • Institution of traditional marriage is the foundation of society
  • Government should be smaller, smarter and more efficient
  • Health care decisions should be made by us and our doctors
  • Paychecks should not be wasted on poorly run government programs
  • Military must be strong and prepared to defend our shores
  • Culture should respect and protect life
  • Children should never be left in failing schools
  • Veterans should have the best care and opportunities in the world
  • Social programs should help lift people out of poverty
  • America should be energy independent


Hint: If you care more about what someone else thinks of your 'core belief', than you do about your core beliefs, and will reshuffle or discard them based upon their popularity, then you don't have any core beliefs.

Not only are they apparently unable to tell the difference between values, beliefs and principles, but they believe that a popularity poll is sufficient to determine the ones they should pretend to like the most.

For someone who actually cares about principles, the idea that I should review a wish list of statements to select a few favorites, is... not only offensive but disheartening.

Someone who's never paid much attention to principles can be forgiven for mistaking this grab bag of platitudes, sentiments and buzz phrases for political principles, but for a political party, which wants to attract people who supposedly hold the same principles it does, it is very nearly unforgivable.

For anyone thinking that my term 'ProRegressive' applies to the 'progressive left' only, is missing the big picture altogether.
End Rant.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Tea Party - From being ridiculed in the news, to watching ridiculous News nightly, in 5 years flat.

Five years ago the Tea Party kicked off in St. Louis. Much of what we warned America about then, and were ridiculed for, is the horrifyingly ridiculous stuff of the daily news today. I won't go through the laundry list - I don't have the time at the moment, we're still getting settled back into our house (thanks Tornado's!), so continuing my posts on what differentiates Progress from ProRegress will have to wait yet another week - but to mark this date, I'll just note what left leaning, Obama supporter, Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., warned Congress of this week:
Dana Loesch kickoff of St. Louis Tea Party
"“My view [is] that the president, has in fact, exceeded his authority in a way that is creating a destabilizing influence in a three branch system,” Turley said. “I want to emphasize, of course, this problem didn’t begin with President Obama, I was critical of his predecessor President Bush as well, but the rate at which executive power has been concentrated in our system is accelerating. And frankly, I am very alarmed by the implications of that aggregation of power.”

“What also alarms me, however, is that the two other branches appear not just simply passive, but inert in the face of this concentration of authority,” he added."
Whatever good intentions have motivated the Left, and many elements of the Right, to put us on this path, it leads, and can only lead, in relation to Liberty and the Rule of Law, down a progressively regressive path.

The link in my sidebar "To be a house slave... or to be an American - That is the question" is not becoming any less relevant to our futures... but our futures are.

Just do me a favor, when someone tells you that the policy they're promoting will help make progress - ask them to explain what they mean by that, and how it relates to your ability to live your own life. Your ability to live your own life depends upon it.

(Similar comments from Prof. Turley in a debate from November 2013)

Friday, January 31, 2014

We need to make Progress in understanding what Regress is - pt.1

We are a people badly in need of making Progress in understanding what Regress would be. And so to illustrate where these next few posts will be going, and why, lets take a look at a couple snippets from the President's State of the Union speech:
"But America does not stand still, and neither will I. (Applause.) So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do. "
Many, myself included, are alarmed at the President's use of executive orders. Note: It's not so much that he's issuing executive orders - administering the laws is the Chief Executive's job, and executive orders are a legitimate means of executing the laws - or the quantity of them being issued, too few orders could be worse than too many. What's troubling is his stated purpose for issuing them, not for the purpose of carrying out the laws - but to alter, ignore or even to act without the benefit of their even being a law to act upon.

Many others are positively giddy over the promise of his doing so, sure that his orders will get things done and bring about progress.

Which is right? More importantly, how is a person to decide which is right?

And this:
"But the budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises.And in the coming months -- (applause) -- in the coming months, let's see where else we can make progress together. Let's make this a year of action. That's what most Americans want, for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. "
President Obama says that most Americans want the government to be taking action to create jobs, and he promises a "year of actions" to deliver on that promise, assuring us that with his doing so, "we can make progress together". Many agree, many disagree - but why? Is it just a disagreement over policies? Is whether or not jobs are created, the measure of whether or not Progress is being made? The economy is certainly a concern for us all, especially as he's taken his failed economic policies beyond 'a four year proposiiton' to six years and counting, but is an economic basis, basis enough for taking such sweeping actions as he is proposing?

Is "a year of action" by government something that can be called Progress? Is it just a matter of your point of view?

What does the President mean by Progress? Does he mean what you think he means? Just for the moment, consider what happens if what he means by progress, is not what you mean by progress (maybe keeping the NSA in mind will help), and if that's the case, is such a 'year of action' likely to result in progress being made?

Obviously the issue here is how is "Progress" to be judged, and by who? You? Me? Congress? The President? Wall Street?

Without some common standard to measure Progress by, the term becomes worse than meaningless, it becomes an empty verbal decoration that pleases all who see it, while what is actually meant by the word is known only to the person using it. And in the hands of those who hold political power over our lives, property and rights - that becomes a very dangerous decoration.

What should you do when words are being used as decorations to help obscure what is actually meant by them? Well at the very least, it seems to me, we shouldn't comply with such, at best, ambiguous, at worst deceptive, uses of our words. For instance, Liberal is a term I rarely use when referring to the Left, as, in my judgment, they no longer understand or practice what it actually means. But while not misusing a word might hold the line, it won't advance our position. And with that in mind, I sometimes try turning those misused words against those who would, intentionally or not, abuse them.

Opinion, mine or anyone else's, isn't enough
'ProRegressive' is an example of my attempting to turn a misused word around towards highlighting its neglected meaning. "Progressive" has been the preferred term of many for over a century, from Teddy Roosevelt & Woodrow Wilson to John McCain & Hilary Clinton, and given how, IMHO, their use of the word is a misuse of the term, I choose to not grant them its cover. Instead, whenever possible, I substitute my pet term, ProRegressive, for the persons and policies of the Left and Right who promote ideas and policies that I see as being in fundamental opposition to Liberty.

Why? Because when you abandon Progress, for Regress, you become Pro-Regressive, no matter how kind hearted and 'good' your intentions might be, so why on earth should I, or anyone else, refer to them or their policies, with a term whose meaning they fundamentally oppose?

But while my term is meant to tweak them, even to mock the positions of those it describes, I don't use it as an insult (such as leftists using 'teabagger' do), but as a means of combating what I see as an ideological misrepresentation of the aims of those who characterize themselves, or their policies, as 'Progressive'.

It doesn't always go over well when I do.

I was responding to a 'Facebook friend', Karl, who took it as an insult, and I replied with
"Oh it's not an insult, simply a refusal to go along with a gross ideological misrepresentation.

The first real progress in history came from the successful threads of Western Cultures development, culminating in the Liberal views of the early enlightenment, across philosophy, religion, arts, science, manners, economics and law (particularly in revolutionary America), and possessed the society and educational views to sustain it.

The modern left has consciously, from at least the time of Rousseau, been intent on denying everything from man's ability to know reality, identify what is true, and make those choices which a life worth living requires, in part, by repudiating Rights as 'nonsense on stilts', Free Will as illusion and espousing govts proper role as 'forcing men to be free'... efforts which have been progressively (the only sense in which that word is appropriate) dismantling the society which first made that state of liberty possible.

To call any ideas of the modern left, whether in philosophy, religion, arts, science, manners, economics,law or education as 'progressive' is thoroughly mistaken (at best), they are Not progress, but Regress.

Hence 'ProRegressive'."
Karl replied that he thought it was "...sarcastic, at best, and vacuous, at worst", as well as "...But I'm an adult and I can simply choose to ignore it."

Uh-huh. This from a fellow who blithely posts cartoons and captioned pictures depicting any and all on the Right as being illiterate and dim-witted bumpkins. Ok, fine. But if you notice, I didn't simply reply by asserting my rightness and his wrongness, instead I gave a quick thumbnail sketch supporting why it is that I think my term is a more appropriate description of his positions, than either 'Liberal' or 'Progressive' are. Why? Because it's not enough to just state your opinion, especially when it goes against the stream, we have a responsibility to provide some framework for understanding the point that's being made.

What Karl didn't do though, is even attempt to refute my explanation. He only asserted that I was wrong and then added an actual insult to it, and then, after a bit of condescension, he actually replied with his summary of someone else's history of neo-conservatism.

What is that? I don't mean his passive aggressive hostility - it's a political issue, I get that, no biggie - but why go through the pretense of an argument... if you aren't going to bother making one? What is that?

It's the result of this: When words are used as pretences, rather than for their meaning, then the sort of evasion and strawman rhetoric that Karl used, provides a typical example of the thinking which ProRegressive thought imposes upon the words and actions of those who practice it: They cannot avoid being evasive, convoluted, and deeply misleading, because of what they believe, or rather, because of what they don't believe.

If you wish to identify yourself as a Liberal (a term which has a specific meaning), while promoting ideas and policies which, in principle, forcibly restrict the liberty of the individual, then you have to resort to misusing and redefining words, and then you will have to back those assertions with necessarily convoluted explanations, and finally, you will have to resort to using power - whether verbally, with unsupported and fallacious assertions, or physically, with individual or government force - to pull it off.

Is that an overstatement? Or even an insult? No, it is simply a statement of what I see as being fact. Sometimes though, simply stating a fact, is not enough, and sometimes summaries won't carry the point far enough across either, and so a deeper explanation is necessary. And with this subject in particular, I think it is important to give not just an explanation, but a lengthy and verifiable one, for why I think that the point I've been making is true and important to be grasped.

And as a fuller explanation is warranted, and as it will serve as reference for future posts, it'll save me time later, to make the case now.
NOTE: Progress does not mean Perfection, neither does it mean something we should return to, but something we should strive for. Anyone thinking that going back to some idealized point in the past could in any way be progress, is a very confused person, and not just about the meaning of words.

Likewise, those thinking that they can make progress, by discarding the lessons learned in the past, is just as deranged as the person seeking progress in the past.

Additional Note: Seeking after original understanding does not mean or require discarding new knowledge for old. I highly revere Aristotle, but anyone who has read his Politics, particularly the portion pertaining to Education, and takes that as being Progress for us on this end of time, might not have paid enough attention to what it was they were reading. Progress requires consideration, re-examination and re-consideration, and often it requires discarding that which does not comport with what can be understood to be true, in the current context.
Holding something to be true, that is not, can only hold you back. There is no way to make progress, through Regress. So, first things first, we need to define our terms.

Liberalism - in its original understanding:

  • * 'liberalism, philosophy or movement that has as its aim the development of individual freedom' - or restated, a philosophy which believes that that society is best whose members are at liberty to live their own lives, respecting others right to do the same, and participating in the govt which keeps that possible.
Part and parcel with this position, was the understanding that:

  • the faculty of volition, 'Free Will', is central to the nature of man, without which morality would be meaningless, and Reason a charade.
  • men are capable of Reason and are responsible for their actions.
  • the best way to live responsibly, is to develop prudent habits and to not allow valuable long term goals to be jeopardized by impulsive actions of the moment.
  • the Arts (legitimate Art, as opposed to stylized political propaganda) have a very real importance and benefit in man's life, not only showing and inspiring us towards what is good, beautiful and true, but strengthening the appreciation and inclination towards virtuous thoughts and actions through contemplation of the arts.
  • a proper system of government will be representative of those living under it, will have clear, fixed principles and defined methods of administration and for administering justice, whose laws will limit the government's power to intervene in those moment to moment decisions which the lives of its citizens are lived through.
  • Economics is a study of people's use of scarce resources which have alternative uses, rather than a political tool for controlling how they should act.
  • Govt's sole interest in economics, aside from setting a static reference for weights & measures, is in how best to stay out of an economy's (being nothing but the decisions of its citizens) way.
  • And finally that behaving Anachronistically, applying our modern sensibilities to what was uncommon or unknown at the time, doesn't increase knowledge or wisdom, but diminishes it.
Pursuing progressively greater realizations of these ideals, constitutes real Progress. Progressively undermining, obstructing or reversing these goals, is not progress, and is regress. Those policies which their supporters refer to as "Progressive", and which I refer to as ProRegressive, are advancing policies which cannot not require the use of force to restrict or eliminate the principle of freedom of choice, under the guise of being a "liberal" proposition, and I will not comply with their Alinsky-ing of such a vital and noble concept.

But this too is only my summation of the direction of Progress, and it does not provide you with the necessary perspective for determining whether it actually is progress, or just my opinion of what I think would be best.

To be able to properly understand what Progress really is, we've got to understand what it really is not, and the best way to grasp that, is by examining its complete absence, and what the first steps away from it actually looked like. Grasp that, and not only will Regress become much clearer, but real Progress will stand out clearer and dearer as well. Accomplish that, and I think the Pro-Regressive wolves in progressive sheep's clothing will be much easier to spot. Maybe even for Karl.

The true understanding of Progress has to begin with understanding what its absence is, and we'll begin reviewing the history of that in the next post.