Thursday, December 31, 2020

A Shocking New Year's Resolution 2021: Prefer being alone with your own thoughts, to an electric shock

As the year 2019 2020 comes to a close, and a new  the decade begins continues, ask yourself this: Can you spend fifteen minutes in a room alone with yourself, with no digital devices, TV, music, books or anything else but your own thoughts? According to a study, 67 percent of men, and 25 percent of women, would rather give themselves painful electric shocks, than spend an uninterrupted 15 minutes of being alone with their own thoughts, without any distraction at all. Apparently there's a connection between that, and why “depending on where you get your numbers, somewhere between 81 percent and 92 percent of New Year's Resolutions fail.

Can you face fifteen minutes alone with your own thoughts? I'll just add, that anyone who expects America to continue while filled with Americans who can't stand being alone with their own thoughts, is... to put it politely... a fool.

While I have zero interest in making New Year's Resolutions, that seems like a worthy one to strive for!

This is an interesting article on how most people fail to face themselves without distraction:
"...What is striking, is that simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 minutes was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid.

Wilson and his colleagues summarized their findings this way: “The untutored mind does not like to be alone with itself....”
Their 'studies say' that your resolutions to avoid snacking, drinking, surfing online fail, because you need those distractions from yourself, and that,
"...We reach for a donut the same way some study participants reached for the electric shock.

Is it a surprise that we turn to celebrity gossip or Facebook again and again? Anything seems better than an uncomfortable feeling. Coping works for a few minutes, but then we reach for a distraction...."
If you too would rather indulge in any distractions, even to the point of experiencing pain, over the prospect of being alone with your own thoughts, might I suggest that rather than making New Year's Resolutions to break bad habits... which you are 80% to 90% likely to fail at, that you instead begin the novel notion of getting comfortable with your own thoughts, by, wait for it: Thinking upon things worth thinking about?

I've suggested some of this for beginning a New Year before, and for giving thanks within the year as well, but now that 'studies show' that my suggestions might have a 'scientific basis' for them 😎, I'll suggest again that instead of making New Year's Resolutions, I propose some old questions to be newly asked. And while you won't have to return any membership fees if you fail to answer them, if you get in the habit of just asking them, you might also get to the the point of preferring your own company, to that of a painful electric shock!

Start off with some basics:
"...Western Civilization didn't catch on because of its answers... those are still being argued about more than 3,000 years on... but because of its questions, and its method of comparing your answers to reality, and pursuing the questions which those answers lead to. Questions such as:
  • What is real and how do we know it?
  • What is Good? Why should we care?
  • How can we recognize what is not Good?
  • What is a Good life?
  • What is Happiness?
  • Should what is Right and Wrong, guide our actions?
  • What is Beauty?...What is Truth?...What is Justice?
  • What does it benefit a man to gain the whole world, yet lose his soul?
Ask the right questions, and your listeners [even if that listener is you] will question their own answers, and reality will do the rest...."
Most of all, question what you assume to be true.

There is of course also another very practical, and very important reason, to get comfortable with asking yourself these questions, and for questioning what answers you might first come to, and that is that they are consequential to your life, and to the future of this nation in the year 2020, and for the coming decade of the 20's. The immediate impact of considering such questions is in fact very likely to be far more compelling to our new present, than when I first suggested asking yourself them five years ago:
"...As the old year slips out and the New Year opens up, it's a particularly good time to ask questions that have to do with what is timeless... lest auld acquaintance with them should be forgot. And while it might not seem so, on the surface, these questions we've been asking most definitely involve issues that are timeless - see if you can see how. For instance: Where do you think you fit in, in today's world, are you Pro-Progress, or Pro-Regress? Are you for the Rule of Law, or the Rule of Rules? Are the 'Big Ideas' of Western Civilization something you think much about, or do you mostly shrug them off and just kinda make a snap judgment on various news stories that happen to flit into your view, now and then... and then forget about 'em? Or are you one of the many of us who don't see the point of considering such questions at all, especially not in the midst of the current events raging around us today - ''I'm not getting sucked into THAT mess!'? I hate to cast a pall upon the coming New Year, but I have a sad suspicion that what most people think doesn't matter, isn't going to matter much longer.

Can anyone really think that the precious snowflakes on our college campuses, or the SJW (Social Justice Warriors) brigades in our streets who are openly advocating to eliminate the Freedom of Speech, or 'unbiased' newscasters talking openly of how those they violently disagree with are 'enemies of the state', can anyone really think that these types are going to be tolerant towards those who say 'Oh, I don't pay attention to that stuff' for much longer? How much longer? And when that vocal 'majority' refuses to allow others the choice to either disagree or evade deciding, what do you suppose is going to be the reaction of those who do disagree with them, and what options will they have to do so?

Will the one side have any option left open to them, but to take the other side at their own words, as being their enemies?

No, the time is coming where all will have to decide, one way or the other, where they stand on these issues, because they are what is driving our current events, and your place within them, and brushing them off cannot remain an option much longer. Each person is going to have to choose what they support, and what they will reject. But for those who haven't been paying attention, those - Left, Right, Libertarian and the target rich Moderate center - who've been coasting along on the strength of their snap judgments on this and that - what are they going to base those decisions upon?..."
Again, don't worry so much about whether the answers that come to your mind are correct, just focus on questioning them. Even questioning just one or two of those questions, is likely to carry you through at least fifteen minutes of time. And at the very least, the results are likely to be less shocking than being left alone with nothing to distract you from them.

And remember, as the 'studies show' showed,
"Try to notice: Right before you reach for the habit you want to break, do you experience an uncomfortable feeling that you are trying to distract yourself from?

You won’t break a habit if you are not comfortable with being uncomfortable...."
Break the habit. Prefer the company of your thoughts for fifteen undistracted minutes, to getting an electric shock, for after all, the new year, not to mention the new decade, is going to be very much longer than 15 minutes!

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2020

What gifts has Christmas brought you?

(With a post from 2011, here's wishing you a very Merry Christmas!)
What meaning is there to be found in Christmas, even by those who find no meaning in Christmas at all?

First off, grant that the false alternative of 'Not all Christians are good, therefore Christianity is bad', is in fact a false alternative, one that you should not burden your thoughts further with. Don't look at how Christians often misbehave as badly or worse than non-Christians, or that Christianity has failed to make heaven on earth, look instead at what is here in our lives as a result of the birth which Christmas commemorates.

Christianity has given us the ability to see that each person, peasant or prince, is as beloved of God as another, and that their choice is such a holy a thing that even God himself does not attempt to prevent it - not even with the choice of whether or not to accept God into their lives - Christianity declared that every man has the ability to accept God into their life - or to reject him - and that such godlike power is given to every man, the power to gainsay the will of All Mighty God - now there's a gift worth giving.

And every man, Christian or Gentile, has profited from it.

It has brought us the concept that the mistakes you make are of little value against what you eventually get right and true. Even if everyone of your choices were to reject God and what God wanted for you... your change of heart is enough to restore you to him... as if you who had persisted your whole life in adding two plus two and behaving as if the answer were three, or one, or any number of other numbers - the fact that you might finally see, and admit, that two plus two equals four, wipes your slate clean (note: it doesn't claim that the consequences of your errors will be wiped away, only that you would be accepted as finally whole and true).

Western Civilization is inextricably a Greco/Roman Judeo/Christian One
Through Christianity and the philosophy of the Greeks and Romans; the Good, the Beautiful and the True, are not just ideals, but principles of eternal Truths attainable by every person, birthrights, no matter their station in life. With this understanding comes the realization that every man, woman and child has the God given right to pursue them, and that the worldly power of government should be devoted to defending their choices in that pursuit. That is an ideal that would not exist, America would never, could never have been, without Christianity having come into the world first.


Has this realization made men better? Perhaps not entirely so. But it has made it possible for men to see that they can, and should, be better, and because of that the world is immensely better off than it was before the advent of Christianity.

Prior to the Judeo-Christian views, the world was ruled by power without rival. Even on those rare occasions where truth and wisdom was sought, and an effort to see the scales of justice balanced was made - Greece and Rome - nowhere did the desire to do good have value in and of itself, so much so that people would expend great amounts of time, effort, blood and treasure in an attempt to improve the lot of others, to bring them not just goods but Goodness, nowhere else did this occur upon the globe (and I do not mean do-gooders, a mirror image, and often a rejection of doing good).

Charities are something you will look in vain to see in pre or non-Christian cultures, and those few exceptions which you might find some semblance of them, simply prove the rule.

Even Art - not as decoration or garish depiction, but as an idealization of truth and goodness and a means of mending and lifting the soul - that is not found outside the Greco/Roman-Judeo/Christian, world view (and no, do not attempt to compare an oriental gong or pipe to Gregorian Chants or Bach, do not attempt to equate a golden Buddha with the Sistine Chapel - do not).

More than all of that, Christianity has brought with it the idea of 'you must be born again', or 'born from above' to a central position in every life; even to secular views this brought the conviction that your ideals and actions must come from and align with higher principles, rather than settling for greater quantities of measures and pleasures; that Quality is infinitely greater than Quantity. With the idea that God became Man, came the possibility of the idea that man could participate in the divine, and that even though you will never become perfect yourself (itself a monumental realization), you can strive to become more perfect through aligning your ideals with those of God - the meaning of progress itself is meaningless without that.

And that is Good.

And through this, there comes the possibility that men can, and should, strive for peace on earth and good will towards all. And whether or not you believe that Jesus was ever even born, let alone the Christ, the idea that he was, has opened the possibility of more meaningful lives for all in this world, than was ever possible before Christ.

Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

How would Secessionists secede from themselves?

Just in time to celebrate the 229th birthday of our Bill of Rights, we have talk of 'secession' making the rounds again, coming this election season from the Right, just as last election it came from the Left (with bonus points to the Left for 4 years of '#resistance!' - sheesh). While then as now it's a (dangerous) bi-partisan foolishness, as it has been brought up, it's worth taking a bit of a different perspective on the matter for those who think it a good idea, which this very worthwhile article has brought to mind. So if you think that secession would be a good idea, I've got a quick two part question for you to consider:
  • With which state(s), and with who?
What I mean by the first part of that, is that presumably you want some states to secede so as to distance yourselves from your fellow un-American states, and avoid being sucked into a civil war (, right? So there must be one or more states you have in mind whose populations aren't as bitterly divided by 40%-60% of their own people fighting with each other over the very same issues that've prompted this secession talk, so that... you know... your seceding state(s) won't fall into their own internal civil wars... right? So for these state's whose populations are solidly 70% or more 'likeminded' with you on all of today's most divisive issues - I assume you have more of a basis for believing that than they all like the flag and stand for the Star Spangled Banner, right? What makes you think that these likeminded Americans of yours will have a better understanding of what America once was and should now be - did its people somehow avoid public schools? No? Huh. And as for the second part of that question: What will you do with that 30% or more of their populations who don't support your secessionary notions? And what if they would rather that your state went with their group of states?

Maybe you've got all of that covered, which would be fantastic news, but for you and your likeminded fellows who think they're up to the task of renewing America, I've got an even quicker question for you (see the opening of the article just mentioned), which, I should probably apologize in advance for, as I suspect it will likely decimate the ranks of your 70%. Brace yourself, it's a doozy - ready? Here we go:
  • What is the name 'Cincinnati' derived from, and what is its relevance to America and being an American?
What? Do you know? You do?! That is fantastic! Now, go ahead and ask it of your selected likeminded fellow Americans. I'll wait. It's ok, I don't think I'll have to wait for too long, because I, like the author of this article, have found that most people, and probably especially most of those with college educations who will imagine themselves to be your new leaders, have no clue whatsoever that 'Cincinnati' refers to anything other than the name of a city in Ohio.

So what, you say? So what, is that this is more than just a trivia question, it's a leading indicator of the kind of knowledge that is tragically absent from the minds and character of those living in America today. That little question is a reminder that the problems that we're facing today involve more than just what that 'other' political party, or parties, thinks or does, it has more to do with what we are no longer thinking of, or with, at all. I won't give away the answer (go read it, I'll wait), but I agree with the author, that,
"...Not that long ago, just about any American knew as much or, even more, probably could even have named a few of the most famous Cincinnati. Today, not so much. But our forgetting is not limited to interesting historical facts. What has been forgotten includes the purpose of essential elements of the Founders’ design...."
That is not a trivial matter, and it is of the utmost significance to anyone who'd rather help than harm America. Our nation was first and foremost founded from and upon an understanding of an ideal that was supported and made possible through a set of knowledge and beliefs which fired the varied peoples of those thirteen individual colonies into forming themselves up and into a new nation. We The People today, do not have that set of knowledge and beliefs - and so more pointedly the question becomes, with whom are you going to secede and reform America?!

IMHO we don't 'get America back' without a population that understands and believes in what made America possible in the first place. Having a population who've simply been born here and grew up watching many of the same TV shows and sporting events, isn't going to cut it. If you disagree, if you think that your birth certificate is all it takes to make you an 'American' (look around you), I'm sorry to tell you that the 'blood & soil' thoughts you've been thinking with have far more in common with ideas of tribalism, monarchism & fascism, than with what first made America possible and exceptional.

The problem here is that America isn't something that can be established by a physical fight alone, in the way that an ethnic nationality or kingly bloodline could just fight over land and then... be themselves. America began as a set of ideas that were known and understood first, and only then were they able to create the tangible 'thing' of America which could then be physically fought for.

John Adams described the moment when the idea of America was lit in the soon to be revolutionaries hearts and minds, which was during an assembly in 1761, when James Otis rose to speak out against King George's 'Writs of Assistance' , when, as Adams recalled it,
"...Otis was a flame of fire! With a promptitude of Classical Allusions, a depth of research, a rapid summary of historical events & dates, a profusion of Legal Authorities, a prophetic glance of his eyes into futurity, and a rapid torrent of impetuous Eloquence he hurried away all before him. American Independence was then & there born. The seeds of Patriots & Heroes to defend the Non sine Diis Animosus Infans; to defend the Vigorous Youth were then & there sown. Every Man of an immense crouded Audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take Arms against Writs of Assistants. Then and there was the first scene of the first Act of opposition to the Arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there the Child Independence was born. In fifteen years i.e. in 1776. he grew up to Manhood, & declared himself free..."[emphasis mine]
We no longer even recognize the relevance of 'a promptitude of Classical Allusions' which Otis fired his listeners with, let alone an eloquence that could stir men's souls with the firm goodness required to stand and fight for that understanding of liberty which meant more than simply doing whatever you felt like at the moment. We don't have that understanding in enough numbers today to be able to confidently recognize each other as being worthy of rallying around. The question isn't whether or not we have enough people with patriotic feelings, it's are there enough patriots who know and understand what they'd actually be fighting for, to the point that they wouldn't soon fall to fighting amongst themselves soon after? As you've guessed, IMHO the answer is 'no'.

Voting Away America
And here's another very non-trivial question, for those of you who are (rightly) up in arms about the latest election:
  • When did America first consciously take constitutional steps to distance itself from its Founding?
The answer to that is in 1913, when, before the two party system was fully cemented into our body politic (it was a big part of the final preparations for it), in that year We The People we took two very large steps backwards, first with the 16th Amendment, which established the federal income tax & federal reserve - and was tragic - but even more critical to our problems today, was the 17th Amendment. This same article notes how the 17th Amdt has had a great deal to do with the weakened state of our federal system and the sickly nature of 'the vote' as we know it today, and of how its power is now being used so very differently than it once was:

"...Many of us do not know that senators were originally chosen by the state legislatures—and this change was made not that long ago. In 1913, around the beginning of the Progressive Era, the 17th Amendment to the Constitution tossed aside this critical feature of the Framers’ design, replacing it with the direct election of senators we have today.

The Founders would certainly have opposed the 17th Amendment because they would have understood that it would throw the system they gave us completely out of balance, as it, in fact, has done. It was perhaps the single change that would do the most to undo what the Founders had accomplished by means of the Constitution.

Americans in 1913 showed by their votes they had forgotten the purpose of the Framers’ design for the Senate. We today, by and large, have even forgotten that generation’s forgetting.

The consequences of this change to America’s constitutional order have been many and profound. Probably the most obvious has been the inevitable erosion of the independence of the states and of their ability to counterbalance federal power.

The Senate was once a barrier to the passage of federal laws infringing on the powers reserved to state governments, but the Senate has abandoned that responsibility under the incentives of the new system of election. Because the state governments no longer have a powerful standing body representing their interests within the federal government, the power of the federal government has rapidly grown at the expense of the states. State governments increasingly are relegated to functioning as administrative units of today’s gargantuan central government...."
How we elect our elected officials - particularly Senators and the President - is an extremely important and non-trivial issue, and in much the same way that the 'Cincinnati' question is not a trivial question, what the relation of 'the Vote' is to Representative Government, are not trivial issues, and our treating them as if they are, is the very means by which our once vaunted sense of American Exceptionalism, has been trivialized to the point that it has been today.

We got to this point slowly, 'progressively', and I think it'll take a long stretch of time to get back out of it. Our slide began in the schools with an evermore corrupting form of 'education' (even by respectable Founder's such as Noah Webster, who devised the educational poison of modern 'Textbooks' so as to help steer students away from learning a 'promptitude of Classical Allusions'), and it'll take a return to an actual education, to correct it. If you'd like some advice on how we might begin our journey back from this pro-regressive nightmare, here's a couple steps that I think would actually be useful:
  • Step 1 - get your kids out of the schools, and get your friends & family to get their kids the hell out of the schools, and talk - a lot - about what needs to be known to become an American.
  • Step 2 - establish a consistent, verifiable voting system where paper votes can be securely cast by legitimately registered (and breathing) citizens who - except in isolated instances - cast their votes in person, and establishes a secure audit trail.
  • Step 3 - spread steps 1 & 2 and... wait.
The bottom line is that if you want to fix America, we should each of us first start with ourselves so that we can at least be certain that the population of actual Americans living in America will have been increased by at least 1. The good news is that you can begin doing so together with friends & family and so increase the population by several persons all at once.

That 2020 Vision
I still am not willing to guess at who'll be sworn in as president at the end of January, because I know it would be nothing more than a guess (keep your eyes on Jan 6th though), and that says more about the chaotic nature of our voting systems and of what We The People know of our own laws, than about the bizarre nature of 2020. There is one thing I do know has led us into this mayhem, and that's that the election laws we currently have - while they may enable charging particular individuals with having committed electoral crimes, they are pitifully inadequate for applying to broader organized electoral fraud, and they are entirely unable to do anything at all, once a ballot (or a pallet of them) have been added to the 'ballot box'. At that point, a legitimate ballot and one stuffed in, cannot be distinguished, and the final count of votes is something we are then left with taking on faith.

That's a problem.

What's an even more disturbing problem, to me, is that it's beginning to seem that the nature of the 'Secret Ballot' - a 19th century innovation which I've never questioned the value of before - essentially ensures an unaccountable system which invites corruption and the suspicion of it. 

Could our voting systems be made more effective, secure and auditable, by replacing the 'secret ballot' with a 'private ballot' - where ballots are cast in person (on paper) by an identified, legitimate, and registered voter, so that each ballot could ultimately be traced back to having been legitimately cast? Could that be done without actually identifying that individual voter? And if not, would applying even more legal penalties for unauthorized 'peeking' at a citizen's voting history than is incurred for doing so with tax returns, keep that history private? 

Those who've had their Tax Records leaked or mysteriously 'audited' by the IRS are probably shaking their heads No.

That too, is a problem. Nevertheless, looking around me today, I'm thinking that our current unaccountable system needs to come to an end. Fast.

In short: The system is the way it is, because of the way it is - if we want a change, we'll have to make significant changes to the way it's set up, and that'll likely mean doing so on the federal level (repeal the 17th Amendment!), and also state by state, locality by locality, and person by person.

But to begin with, let's try taking Step 1, Step 2 & Step 3, and rinse and repeat... and please, lets try doing so as Americans, together - the alternative can be nothing but worse.

Happy 229th Birthday to our Bill of Rights - and please God may there be many more!

229 years ago today, December 15th, 1791, our states united in ratifying the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America! How many of the individual rights protected by these amendments as being essential to living in liberty, are what We The People are most divided over, and by, today? 

We should all pay especially close attention to the preamble that I've put in bold below - IOW: if our Founders didn't trust govt led by the Founding Fathers themselves... why should we trust the bunch we've got in our government(s) today?!

It's a convenient turn of providence that the first two amendments originally proposed, weren't ratified at the time (one of those two was ratified in the 1990's), because the keeping of government out of religion and its practice, and barring it from tampering with the freedom of speech, the press (which, BTW, doesn't exclude you), the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances should be the first set of individual rights protected from abuse by governmental powers (even and especially if the We The People are urging it to 'do something!' about something), followed immediately, as it now is, by the right to keep and bear arms in their defense, as the 1st & 2nd Amendments do. 

If you too would like to see our Bill of Rights enjoy many more birthdays, I strongly suggest that you click the links below, and read some of what was in our Founder's minds, when they proposed, debated, and ratified them.

Proposed Amendments and Ratification
1789 Elliot 1:338--40

Congress of the United States;
Begun and held at the City of New York, on Wednesday, the 4th of March, 1789.

The conventions of a number of the states having, at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added; and as extending the ground of public confidence in the government will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution;--

Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both houses concurring, that the following articles be proposed to the legislatures of the several states, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all or any of which articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said legislatures, to be valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution, namely,--

Articles in Addition to, and Amendment of, the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the Fifth Article of the original Constitution.

Art. I. [Not Ratified] After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than one hundred representatives, nor less than one representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of representatives shall amount to two hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred representatives, nor more than one representative for every fifty thousand.

Art. II. [Not ratified... for two centuries, now the 27th amendment] No law varying the compensation for services of the senators and representatives shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.

Art. III.[1st] Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Art. IV [2nd]. A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Art. V [3rd]. No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner prescribed by law.

Art. VI [4th]. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrants shall issue, but upon principal cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Art. VII [5th]. No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia when in actual service, in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject, for the same offence, to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled, in any criminal case, to be a witness against himself; nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.

Art. VIII [6th]. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right of a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law; and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor; and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.

Art. IX [7th]. In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reëxamined, in any court of the United States, than according to the rules in common law.

Art. X [8th]. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Art. XI [9th]. The enumeration, in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Art. XII [10th]. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states, respectively, or to the people.

Speaker of the House of Representatives.
JOHN ADAMS, Vice-President of the United States,

and President of the Senate. 
Attest. John Beckley
Clerk of the House of Representatives.
Samuel A. Otis, Secretary of the Senate.
Which, being transmitted to the several state legislatures, were decided upon by them, according to the following returns:--

By the State of New Hampshire.--Agreed to the whole of the said amendments, except the 2d article.
By the State of New York.--Agreed to the whole of the said amendments, except the 2d article.
By the State of Pennsylvania.--Agreed to the 3d, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th articles of the said amendments.
By the State of Delaware.--Agreed to the whole of the said amendments, except the 1st article.
By the State of Maryland.--Agreed to the whole of the said twelve amendments.
By the State of South Carolina.--Agreed to the whole said twelve amendments.
By the State of North Carolina.--Agreed to the whole of the said twelve amendments.
By the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.--Agreed to the whole of the said twelve articles.
By the State of New Jersey.--Agreed to the whole of the said amendments, except the second article.
By the State of Virginia.--Agreed to the whole of the said twelve articles.
No returns were made by the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Georgia, and Kentucky.

The amendments thus proposed became a part of the Constitution, the first and second of them excepted, which were not ratified by a sufficient number of the state legislatures.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 5, Bill of Rights, Document 12
The University of Chicago Press
Elliot, Jonathan, ed. The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia in 1787. . . . 5 vols. 2d ed. 1888. Reprint. New York: Burt Franklin, n.d.

Monday, December 07, 2020

Remember, Remember, the 7th of December

Remember, remember, the 7th of December, 1941... another morning when a world of change came out of a clear blue sky.

Remember that when you hyperbolically use words to inflate minor incidents into raging crises - that a crisis that is appropriate to those words, can still come about and leave you speechless.

Remember that things can become worse, in an instant.

Remember that the smoke that rose over our ships December 7th, 1941, led to the smoke over Hiroshima and Nagasaki four bloody years later.

Remember, remember, the 7th of December, for if history becomes only about the past, it will lose all meaning, and your children will have to learn its lessons anew.

Remember that on December 7th, 1941, in the midst of negotiations to preserve peace, those we negotiated with, attacked us.

Remember that sometimes negotiations for peace are simply preparations for war.

Remember that those who serve are always at risk of having the ultimate price demanded of them - and they have agreed up front to pay it for you.

Remember that at Pearl Harbor 79 years ago, Americans were reminded that the freedom to be on the left or right, is not free.

Remember to honor them, and to honor that which you share with them, the liberty and freedom of being an American.

These are lessons to learn, and to remember.

Remember... it matters.

Look around you, in time and place, and remember....

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

America - Some things that should not have been forgotten are being lost

It's a dangerous thing that Economics is being taken as a substitute for Philosophy today, in part because it hides from popular awareness things that should not be forgotten, substituting things that seem shiny and pleasing on the surface, absent mindedly putting into other's hands the power to deeply affect your ability to live your life, posing real dangers to society and to our having lives worth living. The last post began to dip a toe beneath the surface of the reflecting pool of economic appearances, peaking at the most obvious issues that can be seen laying just below those words that sound so good, such as Tucker Carlson's monolog from earlier last year. This time we'll poke a little bit deeper and see what populist assertions such as his are made of and how much weight they can bear.

Forgotten or not we're always being tested
Understandably, the populist minded become irritated when Leftists, Libertarians, and Conservatives, pontificate about those 'Economics Realities' which they are expected to kowtow to, but while the populist rails at the problems which such short sighted policies usher in, they are content to remain on the surface of appearances where it's easy to view causes, effects, and corrections, through one conveniently narrow economic lens or another, without ever questioning what economics itself rests upon. But however much they'd all like to ignore it, Economics does rest upon something else, it is not a stand-alone system of ideas, and whether that something it stands upon is bedrock, or mud, they willfully don't know... and they seem to like it that way. Personally, I prefer to see what they prefer to ignore.

A good spot to begin seeing what it is that they prefer to ignore, is where they make a feint towards the philosophical high ground, as Carlson did several times in his monologue, such as in this:
"...At some point, Donald Trump will be gone. The rest of us will be too. The country will remain. What kind of country will it be then? How do we want our grandchildren to live? These are the only questions that matter."
Taking those as the only issues that matter, stated in that way makes it seem as if they do matter to him, but he doesn't examine them as if they do, he simply states it, and states it with no more depth to the opinion than the emotional angst of the moment; it's difficult to see them leading listeners anywhere other than a continuation of the endless series of partisan policy fights that makeup the eternal whirlpool of the Now which we've been trapped in and at each other's throats over, for a hundred years now. The way out of that pool, out of that endless loop, begins with taking a deeper look into the themes of what he says "matters", and noting that these matters weren't spontaneously generated in the storm of the latest news cycle. They developed, they grew, and they have their roots in those very philosophic issues which the Economically minded in general, and the Economic Populists in particular, don't bother to give any serious thought to. What I mean by that is that if any would step outside the economic self-service booth, they'd see a larger view of what he said, rests upon:
  • "...The country will remain" - that is Metaphysics: what is, and the identity it is, as.
  • "What kind of country will it be then?" that is Epistemology - how do you know what you do, or can't, know, and how to verify it
  • "How do we want our grandchildren to live?" that is Ethics, what is Right and Wrong
  • "These are the only questions that matter" concerns Political Philosophy, which is (or should be) concerned with wielding power Ethically, constrained within a rigorous Epistemology, and anchored in the Metaphysically real - but if that is not thought of first, then there can be no limits put upon what must be limited, for freedom to ring.
These issues which are 'all that matters', are so storm tossed today, because Leftists, Libertarians, Populists and Conservatives are so fixated upon the shallow economic appearances, that they pay no attention to their roots, they've no idea what soil they do or don't have to anchor in, or what acts as nourishment or poison to them. It doesn't take that much consideration to look past the level of appearances, to see the nature of what Tucker himself just said was 'all that matters', so why ignore them? Shouldn't they be attended to? If they truly do matter, should we be making careless demands for exercising political power in their direction? If these are the only things that do matter, then oughtn't you damn well better think carefully about them? People like Carlson want to express their feelings of angst about these matters which they say truly matter, but it sure seems as if the truth is that they can't be bothered to actively think about what they supposedly care so much about?

Is that the case?

Yes and no. One consequence of substituting Economics for Philosophy, is that there's nothing in your thinking that is going to alert you that you should be more careful and deliberate in your thinking on some subjects, instead, you're going to be blissfully satisfied with quibbling over partisan policy issues, blissfully unaware that your careless ignorance of what lurks beneath those issues is putting those things that you say 'really matter!', in serious jeopardy. Tell me, do you have a favorite movie series? Batman? The Lord of the Rings? The Avengers or Star Wars? What would you think of the person who saw only the last of any of those movies, and then felt confident in telling you what was and wasn't worthwhile in that or any of the preceding movies (which they hadn't seen)? That is what taking Economics as being the starting point of thinking on such matters, amounts to. The fact is that neither Carlson nor any other human being can avoid dealing in philosophic fundamentals - the only thing they can do, to avoid the appearance of contradicting themselves upon those realities, is to speak as if those more fundamental 'matters' don't exist, and as much as possible avoid learning too much about them to begin with. Consciously or unconsciously, populists and the other economically minded, keep themselves at a safe distance from such matters through their well practiced techniques, Leftists say 'no one can know for sure', Libertarians say it all begins not with ideas but with action, Conservative's say that others know (knew) and you must follow, while Populists, and not a few Conservatives, give a disdainful sniff & a smirk and shoo such thoughts away with a curt 'philosophy is elitist'.

Well perhaps it is elitist.

But they are the very same 'elitist concerns' which our Founding Fathers began the American Revolution over; not 'Taxes', as populists, elitists, leftists and libertarians would have you think, but over the deeper philosophical concerns for what rightly constitutes political representation, which is what they expressed with "No taxation without representation!". What had begun to be grasped in our Founder's era, on both sides of the Atlantic, was a growing awareness that the larger timeless philosophical concerns, were what formed the deeper roots of everyone's day to day concerns, choices, and actions, that people made in their daily lives, which was responsible for producing that degree of prosperity which their society did, or didn't, achieve. Adam Smith's "An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations" (a work which makes zero mention of 'Capitalism', that moniker/epithet had to wait 50 years for Karl Marx to bestow it upon a bizarrely willing West), which was first published in that same revolutionary year of 1776, was the first expression of the philosophical realities behind the appearances of what, prior to that era, people had been content to assume that they knew all that they needed to know about. The awareness that appearances aren't enough, is what led to establishing the field of study which was just called 'Political Economy', and which we more misleadingly refer to today, as just 'Economics'.

Our modern society, and populists in particular, are eager to pluck the economic fruits grown from those deeper concerns, while ignoring the soil which is required for them to grow in, but boy oh boy do they ever so eagerly use and abuse that ground in their desire to begin 'taking action!' on those same issues. But it is only after passing through the layered ideas of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and into ethic's subset of political philosophy, and only if done without disabling contradictions, rejecting the illusory freedoms of ignorance and falsehood in favor of the constraints inherent in conforming to what is true, do you get to political philosophy's subset of Economics. Only then can you enjoy real liberty, and its self-evident truths. But instead of seeing Economics as the result of prior philosophy, modern Economics is taken as a starting point, and more often than not today, it will be used as a platform to subvert and corrupt those ideas that brought economics into being in the first place - a violent flip which is possible only because the basic rules of philosophy were ignored to begin with. Those economic policies which attack private property, for instance, are the philosophical equivalent of sawing off the intellectual branch that you are sitting on; endorsing them implicitly cuts you off from engaging with those ideas, without their ever having been raised or examined in your own mind.

How well do you think that's going to turn out? To act on good intentions without regard for what is good, and what is required to be good? How well can that work out? Again - look around you at the world today.

Worse still, the populists entire approach to answering those issues and the means of critiquing them, as Carlson does when he condemns 'the religion of economics', is rooted in the worldview and purview of the very worst of modern Economics. His every substantial question or point, is positioned within an Economic point of view, even his displeasures with economics, such as this:
"...The answer used to be obvious: the overriding goal for America is more prosperity, meaning cheaper consumer goods. But is that still true?"
Is it still true? If you think it ever was true, it's because you're thinking from within the confines of a modern economic box, and I'd suggest first asking if it should ever be true, but... those weren't the questions that Tucker wanted to pursue, and ignoring philosophy was his means of passively not pursuing them. Begging the question of whether that ever was, or should be true, he simply assumes it is and goes on to state that:
"...Anyone who thinks the health of a nation can be summed up in GDP is an idiot...."
That at least is true. But it's also true that anyone who believes that, and yet looks for solutions to that problem in exclusively economic terms and policies to impose them in a thoroughly tail wagging the dog manner, are not only flirting with that very same idiot, but are doing so with a slobbering lip-lock of a truly gross public display of affection.

Even many of the good points he makes in one phrase, he takes away in the next, probably because his points have no deeper ground than the shifting sands of popular public opinion, to sink their philosophic roots down into. For instance - Carlson makes a very good point with this,
"One of the biggest lies our leaders tell is that you can separate economics from everything else that matters. Economics is a topic for public debate. ...
... They don’t care how you live, as long as the bills are paid and the markets function. Somehow they don’t see a connection between people’s personal lives and the health of our economy, or for that matter, the country’s ability to pay its bills. As far as they’re concerned, these are two totally separate categories. "
It is a lie that economics can somehow be separated from everything else that matters - that is the very point that I am making here. But he doesn't seem to understand why that is, and it isn't consistent with what he believes, as is apparent only a few paragraphs further on, when he says:
"Market capitalism is a tool, like a staple gun or a toaster."
Now ask yourself: doesn't treating economics as a staple gun, or a toaster, mean treating economics as a discrete, modular unit, and so imply that it is a mere bit of disposable chattel that is separable from everything else that matters? So 'market capitalism' is just one brand of tool that can be replaced by another brand of tool? Excuse me Tucker, but you just said "One of the biggest lies our leaders tell is that you can separate economics from everything else that matters."? The real problem here, is that he, and they, think of economic policy as dis-integrated choices, matters of preference and convenience, which you, the person living in 'their' economy, have no real right to choose to engage in. That is exactly what comes from thinking of Economics as a first level cause, rather than as a downstream result of higher level philosophical principles, causes, and effects of living in reality.
"... You’d have to be a fool to worship it."
You would. And a bigger fool to think that you can pick and choose and alter or discard one feature or another, as if it has no relation to everything else that is true and matters in our lives (which is the aim of the pitifully poor philosophy of Pragmatism, more on that in the next post). What is betrayed by the populist 'economic man' such as Carlson, as he voices concern that "...they don’t see a connection between people’s personal lives and the health of our economy...", is the idea that the economy isn't something that results from their living their lives, but that the economy is a tool to 'fix' how people like Tucker think that they should be living their lives. To say that this is a case of the 'tail wagging the dog', is putting it in a far better light than it deserves.

Had he had a more pointed concern with the legitimate basis and limited actions that our political 'leaders' can rightly use to exert political power over us, then he might be able to offer actual solutions to them. Instead, Carlson seems to buy into all of the marketing materials of what is a fundamentally anti-American ideology, lamenting only that they are being exercised in ways he doesn't like - but make no mistake, exercising them, the notion of Govt having that power over other people's lives, that is A-Ok with Tucker Carlson in particular, and with populists and other economically minded folks in general.

Of course he wouldn't agree with it being stated that way, and I've no doubt that he does not intend it in that way, but this is the problem, that the words he uses cast deep shadows, and those shadows which when backed by political power, become conveniently dark enough to swallow everyone's good intentions whole. Such shadows encourage and invite the actions of those who do see things in that way which he does not intend, and so 'conservatives' like Tucker Carlson, time and time again, find their own words being used against anything they might do to stop it.

He asks a good question with this:
"What will it take to get a country like that?"
For one thing, it will require our becoming a people once again, who understand what a life worth living is, and that it is not defined or subordinated to economic policies, and will have to understand what political requirements and limitations are required to be in place to support that, and the proper, very limited role, that govt plays in that.

All of this brings to mind a quote from the Lord of the Rings,
“And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for two and a half thousand years, the ring passed out of all knowledge.”
Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings
Whether or not we remember or forget what was needed for America to come into being, we are always and at all times being tested as to whether or not America will remain, and whether it will remain America, or succumb to the lure of power. We cannot gain or regain the benefits of being Americans, without first being Americans in some more meaningful way than having a checkmark on your birth certificate. A nation founded upon ideas, cannot survive its people forgetting what those ideas were or meant, or the foundations which they stand upon.

I've gone into what those ideas are, plenty of times before. The next post will dive a little deeper into what it is which those ideas that are being forgotten, rest upon.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

When the 'Progressive' Left & the Populist Right lead to the same Pro-Regressive ends, Check your Map

Folks sometimes wonder why I'm often shaking my head at the wrong people... meaning the 'right' people of the 'Right'. The short answer is, because they're often wrong... but what is left out of a short answer, simply will not do. Especially in those kinds of cases where what they say sounds so good, on the surface. If you take a moment to wonder about what's under that surface though, and what those attractive appearances must be resting upon, or concealing, it seems to me that it's difficult to avoid gaining an understanding that'll set your head to shaking. Take Tucker Carlson, for instance.

I enjoy watching Tucker Carlson interview people, especially those trying to push an agenda at odds with the facts. I enjoy it as his questions slowly pull their carefully hidden contradictions out into the full light of embarrassment. I also enjoy that he not only gives no ground to the rage mob, but goes on the attack instead. But I don't enjoy watching his show, because when he switches from asking questions of other people's opinions, to giving his own opinions, his own opinions don't always seem to have benefited from having been subjected to that same quality of questioning, and the opinions which he lets slip on through that gap stir up so many misgivings that I soon lose my interest in whatever point he was trying to make. Carlson's monologue in response to Mitt Romney's pitiful op-ed in January 2019 (which I also criticized here), is a good example of the kinds of misgivings that I so often have about him, and a great many others on 'the Right' (and Left, and Center), and it highlights something that's been setting my head to shaking back and forth for some time now: that the place of philosophy in the vast majority of people's minds today, has, for all practical purposes, been pretty much replaced by Economics - or at least by those theories, policies and sentiments most associated with it - which have produced results of very questionable value.
What if neither Left nor Right leads home?

It isn't always easy to see what's questionable about substituting economics for philosophy, because most such statements appear to be fairly reasonable, on the surface at least, as with this quote which is true to the tone of Carlson's monologue, shows:
"The goal for America is both simpler and more elusive than mere prosperity. It’s happiness. There are a lot of ingredients in being happy: Dignity. Purpose. Self-control. Independence. Above all, deep relationships with other people. Those are the things that you want for your children. They’re what our leaders should want for us, and would if they cared. But our leaders don’t care."
Now, on the surface, and taken in the way that I assume he intends it, most of us, myself included, probably find our heads nodding along with him, at least to some of it, right? But what if there are implications to those words, that, if known, would set your head to shaking 'no!' or even 'Oh, Hell no!', instead? You see, you shouldn't mistake my head shaking for missing what sounds good on the surface - I get the appearances of it - but I can't help but be disturbed by what I see lurking in the shadows of the economic points - even & perhaps especially the populist points - that he and so many others on 'our side' so often make.

My own perspective on this comes neither from a Libertarian view, nor from that of a traditional Conservative one, but through my staunch support of those philosophic and moral reasons that leads to a Free Market (Please note: I did not say 'Capitalism' or 'Free Trade'), and which are in fact the very reasons why a Free Market works, works best, and is the most economically sound option there is - and the only one that can hope to sustain Liberty over the long run. It's important to realize that all economic theories - no matter their stated or unstated premises - are derived from more fundamental philosophical, moral reasonings (which are implicitly imposed or violated whenever the more eye-catching policies are adopted), and it is equally important to note how many economically minded folks either don't know that, or don't want others to know that. And you can bet that there are philosophical and moral reasons for that too, and more often than not, that too should set your head to shaking back and forth.

I'll limit myself here to pointing out a few highlights from his monologue that cast the more obvious shadows, which, if not enough to be convincing, will hopefully get you thinking a little further past those appearances. I'll leave it for later posts to dive deeper into the problems I see beneath their surfaces, and hopefully by that point, even if you don't fully agree with me, you'll at least understand why it is that I'm so often over here shaking my head back & forth.

Before returning to what set my head to shaking in the quote above, let me emphasize the need to resist saying "Oh, I'm sure he didn't mean that!". I don't think that Tucker Carlson has bad intentions, and neither do I think that of the other conservatives, libertarians and populists, who are are saying variations on the same themes. What I am saying though, is that the things that are being said by people like Carlson (and the majority of We The People), are said because they believe that they not only can, but should begin their thinking on these issues from within the framework of the policies and positions of economic thinking, or in response to them, which is precisely what enables them to not see and not consider what should have been considered before ever actually giving voice to their good intentions. Worse, if the careless words of influential people like Carlson stir public opinion into putting them into legislation, once on the books they will be put to use by far less charitable people who will wring them of every ounce of power they can get from them, and they will not be swayed by the good intentions which those words will ride into our lives on. Whether Tucker and others meant what their words actually mean, should not prevent us from considering what they do actually mean, and would justify being done in their name, if others took them seriously.

So with that in mind, let's take a look at what's easy to notice just beneath the surface of Carlson's quote from above:
"The goal for America is both simpler and more elusive than mere prosperity. It’s happiness. There are a lot of ingredients in being happy: Dignity. Purpose. Self-control. Independence. Above all, deep relationships with other people. Those are the things that you want for your children. They’re what our leaders should want for us, and would if they cared.... "
As noted, on the surface this seems fine, thoughtful even, with an almost philosophical yearning for the moral high ground of a 'life well lived', doesn't it? Unfortunately it plunges to a messy death with the last line, "They’re what our leaders should want for us, and would if they cared." Why? Because while such concerns that might be fine for your friend and neighbor to express, they should be horrifying to have coming from a "Leader" with a faceless bureaucracy at their beck & call, and the power to act on their concerns. Such a mission given to Govt must result in its intruding into your life to identify those concerns, classify and quantify the nature of those concerns, and determine how deeply 'You The People' are to be affected by those concerns. Any such legislative or regulatory measures would have to be tasked with somehow rating your sense of 'Dignity'... perhaps on a scale of 1 to 10; and of course when you last had a health professional's verification of exactly how much 'Dignity' you have; and no way they could neglect recording Do you currently engage in any of these undignified activities..."? Whether those intrusions come about through new census questions, or with an assist from the likes of what we saw in Obamacare era regulations, such as requiring (at the penalty of perjury of course) insurance and healthcare personnel to probe into your mental health the next time you need a broken bone set, or an allergy shot for your child, won't make that much of a difference in the end, as political power would be used to intrude into your living of what you'd mistakenly (in their less than humble opinion) thought of as being your own life... for your own good.

How much imagination and news cycle recall does it take to see that? Can anyone doubt that such a popularized concern when transformed into Govt policy, would lead 'community minded leaders' to write some asinine legislation along the lines of a "Federal Citizen Dignity Assurance Act" would be stepping in to 'help you' achieve your minimum daily dose of 'dignity'? Surely anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the last century, should realize this?

I can understand if you're thinking "Van! Get a grip! He's just a 'T.V. Commentator voicing concerns!", and while I get that, you do realize that commentators voice their comments in order to influence people, right? And that as enough of those people are perceptibly influenced, their support becomes useful to those in power, right? Did you happen to catch MO freshman Sen. Josh Hawley's 1st Senate Floor Speech? It's worth comparing to Carlson's monologs. I also wonder if you realize that similar commentators commenting their particular views into popularity, have led up to everything from Prohibition, to LBJ's 'War on poverty', and of course ObamaCare or Medicare for all? No one should need to look any further than the lives and families of those who're existing in our inner cities, to discover just what Govt concern for their well being and 'deep relationships' can do for the depth and quality of their lives and relationships, and I can find no excuse for those who fail to connect those obvious dots. I really don't think that I'm the one that needs to 'get a grip' here.

All such governmental attempts would soon make a mockery of Dignity, Purpose, Self-Control and Independence, and render those words utterly meaningless. It would also require violating one and all of those privileges and immunities which our Bill of Rights identifies and forbids our govt from intervening in - limitations that were not made for economic purposes, but in order to preserve and protect our individual rights from the abusive and intrusive use of governmental power. We're rushing towards dystopia fast enough as it is, do we really need to encourage a merging of Orwell's 1984, and Huxley's Brave New World?

It seems reasonable, responsible, that the words of talking heads having an audience of millions, should be taken as seriously by us as the political passions and actions which their words are intended to arouse in us. Doing so requires poking into the shadows that lay behind and beneath the apparent meaning of their words, as even the slightest poke reveals realities that would be at odds with the apparent good intentions which those words deeper meaning are hiding behind. That is the danger of economic populism - if the popularity of the words they used to express their good intentions with, ever succeeded in carrying their words into law, they would be made use of by those who do grasp the darker powers implicit in them, and you can be sure that those people will use the real power and force of law which they give them, for very different purposes, and their true meaning would soon be felt by all.

That is at least partly what I mean about his opinions lacking the benefit of his own skillful questioning. And it's not like that was a fluke of a single careless line, as in the very next line he can be seen scolding economic thinking, from an economic perspective!:
"... But our leaders don’t care. We are ruled by mercenaries who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule. They’re day traders. Substitute teachers. They’re just passing through. They have no skin in this game, and it shows. They can’t solve our problems. They don’t even bother to understand our problems."
And again, because he's speaking to millions of viewers, you have to take his words seriously, and that might as well start with the word Rule. You might be able to speak of 'dignity, independence...' etc in terms of self-governance, but not in terms of some people ruling over others or being ruled by them. Of course you could say that he didn't really mean the reality which the word 'Rule' really means - but that again is just my point: his opinions have more to do with his deepest feelings than with coherent thoughts on the real world, indicative of a set of boxed in views which are all that a disjointed economically based view permits. And seriously, what sort of POV is a 'conservative' conserving, in wanting Govt to 'understand' or somehow solve their problems?

And it's difficult not to notice how closely Carlson's line "...They’re what our leaders should want for us, and would if they cared...", resembles the spirit of a similar line in the execrable Romney op-ed that he's reacting to, that:
"...To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation...."
Both of them fail to see into the shadows of their own words, and to both of them I'll repeat what I said of Romney's, that it has
"... the rancid odor of pro-regressive conceit & the 'nudge' of political correctness about it of the typical Pro-Regressive republican who believes that govt can 'help you' by making better decisions for you - which is also one of the reasons why Trump won..."
Ironically, both elitist Romney, and populist Carlson, blunder through those shadows, without the light or awareness needed to see where they're going, which is exactly what leads to govt stumbling into our personal lives with political powers that it has zero 'business' concerning itself with.

The painful fact - and a painfully common one, which is in no way limited to Tucker Carlson - is that the meaning of what his words would in reality require for Govt to act on and implement them - are in pursuit of the very same unrestricted power of govt that the Pro-Regressive Left (and Right) desires - Govt having fewer and fewer limits on its power to take an active part in our lives, giving it control over our lives - for our own good. Fuzzy economic thinkers of the Left and Right, want govt to have the same interests in, and powers over, our lives, they differ only on what their vision of 'the Right' good intentions are, which they see as justifying the economic policies that please them.

Both rely upon evading the same reality.

And both rely upon the absence of philosophy in We The People's minds in order to do so, and thanks to over a century of Govt controlling our educational system, that absence is a no-brainer, and among its more devastating consequences is the loss of principled foundations to stand upon, and reliable roads to follow.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Looking beneath 2020 to spot our foundational issues - The diminishing returns of Economic Thinking

As electoral events continue to spiral up towards peak 2020, it seems like an exceptionally good time to step outside of the 2020 timeframe for a moment - not to avoid or evade it - but, as America continues to slide from it's foundations, to face up to the fact that this didn't 'just happen... somehow'. Doing that, requires taking a step or two back from the intensely partisan distractions of the moment, lowering our ideological blinders to notice the plentiful clues around us that some things just don't fit together quite right... some seemingly broken and carelessly glued back together, others being foundational supports which offer no support. If you need an example of such disjointed repairs, here ya go: Have you noticed that whenever discussing the politics of what the govt should and shouldn't do, those discussions are immediately refracted through the lens of economic policies? You know that's just not right, right? Even with non-economic issues like public education, people have developed the habit of justifying their positions on an economic basis. A quick search outside of 2020 finds posts like this one from three years ago:
"Is Schooling a Public Good? A public good, according to the economic definition, must satisfy two conditions
Critics of the proposed policy to expand private school choice in the United States argue that the government must fund and control schooling since it is a “public good.” This may sound accurate..."

2020 didn't just happen, we've been steadily building towards it for years & decades that've made such disjointed views into the norm, so much so that even when addressing broad cultural concerns, they're reduce to economic factors, wrapped about with ribbons of virtue signaling adorning foundations of sand. Here's an example of that from Vox's site last year, where in a discussion with Ben Shapiro about his book "The Right Side of History", Shapiro's concern that "... abandoning our “Judeo-Christian heritage”..." might have something to do with "...record drug overdoses, declining marriage rates, increased rates of depression, high levels of distrust, etc...", the Vox writer felt compelled to reduce that broad sweep of circumstances down to the particular things, conditions and transactions of an economic scenario:
"...What’s astonishing to me is that in noting all of this, you dismiss material conditions as a relevant causal factor. Wages have been stagnant for 40 years, Americans are working longer hours for less pay, the vast majority of wealth being produced is going to ever smaller numbers of people, more people are facing economic precarity due to rapid technological change — you don’t see that as part of the story here?..."
Meaning that, in this person's eyes, all that has come before in Western Civilization, including all of the concepts and principles which led to and guided the development of what is now known as economics, should 'obviously' take a back seat to the immediate quantities, theories and policies of economic thinking. That same impulse extends to medical care, judicial policy, military planning, and... - etc. - it is difficult to find a careful consideration of the issues that isn't shaped by, or even rooted in, economic thinking. Few however bother to consider what, if anything, it is that Economics itself rests upon - it is simply their default perspective for starting to think about our world. Even with populists like Tucker Carlson, while he's railing at the various 'economic realities' that Libertarians, 'Capitalists' and establishment 'Free Traders' expect us all to accept and abide by, Carlson turns to justify his populist opposition to them, on economic grounds! That quirk is very much on display in this, one of his central observations from January of 2019, for why it is that America is in trouble:
"Here’s a big part of the answer: male wages declined"
Which, BTW, is far more amenable to the Vox writer's worldview, than Ben Shapiro's.

That this has become the 'default' setting in our society today - a nation that was the 1st nation in history to be founded upon philosophic principles - is not a mark of progress, and it is something that we should find shocking - but most of us do not. Is it really surprising then, that as we look no deeper than the field of economics to resolve societal problems, problems which we identify and view through economic lenses, and describe in economic terms, that we are then unable to see any deeper into these problems than the various ribbons and bows we've neatly wrapped around the economic and political boxes which we expect to find what we want in? It is a very, shall we say, economical means, of self-deception via selectively fostered ignorance.

That same sort of limited view is what follows from our sending out the 'eye-witness news!' reporters to take our pulse through the proverbial 'man in the street' or student on campus, by asking 'them':
"So, 'Capitalism' or Socialism - which do you prefer?"
, with neither the interviewer, nor the interviewee, nor the viewing audience, showing even a hint of a suspicion that that question frames and presents something significantly less than the full picture which such a question is and should actually be concerned with - not least of which is that such a question cannot comfortably, or safely, be asked in a Socialist nation, nor for that matter even in an American school. In all fairness to the reporters though, I can't imagine them asking something else, can you? How do you suppose the question "So, Moderate Realism, Post-Modernism, Stoicism, Subjectivism, Pragmatism, Existentialism or some other Grab-baggism - which do you prefer?", would go over on an 'Eye Witness News!' spot? Awkward. I do wonder though, if you were to ask:
"So, Liberty or Tyranny - which do you prefer?"
, would that be any less awkward?

It's almost as if they have no idea that the Economics which they unquestioningly do their thinking about society with, is, at best, only one small feature, of a subset, of a third level branch, of that philosophy which the field had been developed out of. If you don't see what I'm talking about - and there is no way you're going to understand what is happening to us here in the year 2020 without it - there is a hierarchical structure to our concepts and their grounding in reality, which, through its order, or disorder, shapes everything you understand and are aware of (or not).

This is not open to dispute (well, didn't used to be), but it is simply ignored or miscast today. But ignored or not, the reality is that Economics is preceded by, defined through, and is entirely dependent upon, that Western philosophy of which it was, and is, but one small expression of. Economics can only be properly understood through, can only come to be, after developing the more fundamental philosophical structures and suppositions of:
  1. Metaphysics (What IS, is),
  2. Epistemology (How do we know what we know, and what of it is or isn't it true),
  3. Ethics (How we ought to respond to what is)
, and from there it's necessary to drill further down through the layers of Ethics, in order to reach its major subset of,
  • Political Philosophy (How a society should justly organize itself)
, and it's only here, at this point, finally, that we come to find nestled all snugly within what has developed from the hierarchy of all of those previous layers of ideas, boundaries and principle branches of the philosophical tree that lead up to its development, that we then find in its modernized form, that upstart babe in the philosophic woods:
  • Economics (how to manage scarce resources that have alternate uses in society).
Economics derives all of its concepts, methods and assumptions, through those preceding branches of philosophy, which in turn shape the form of its economic policies, and when economists are respectful of that - assuming that their underlying philosophy is respectful of reality - all is well - the health of that economy can be evaluated, threats to it can be identified, and reasonable forecasts about it can be made.

But if that structure isn't clearly known, or at least generally acknowledged, it will be unwittingly assumed with that ignorance as a part of its foundation. Most modern economists, Left, Right and Center, when making their own pronouncements, do so without reference to, or regard for, those preceding limbs of the philosophic tree of knowledge which had to be climbed up and over in order to first comprehend the necessity and value of that 3rd level subset of philosophy which economics is but an offshoot of, which they then presume to lecture to us from, about everything else in our lives - and what's worse, if the economy goes wrong, they use that spindly position as a basis for warping even further, the much larger branch which it grows out of, in order to force the limb to conform to the twig.

And still they use the words and concepts of those preceding limbs & branches branches, of course, as they can't avoid dealing with Substance, Identity, Logic, Causality, Justice (though they do so through the more narrowly filtered terms of Wealth, Dollar, Profit & Loss, Production & Consumption, Property), but they do so with little or no regard for what their deeper and more extended meaning is, or for what was required for their development and continuance, they simply repurpose and redefine them to suit their own purposes, and they do so without a reasonable regard for that chaos which could - should - be expected to follow from that.

This is both "the tail wagging the dog" on steroids, and of foundations built on sand, instead of stone.

Now, you might well ask
'Van? Why does that matter - At All? I mean, it's not as if they don't use the same words of Identity, Logic and Right & Wrong, and we are all affected by economic issues - What in the hell's your problem?'
Well. Sure the same words are being used, but if those words aren't understood to begin from the same roots, or are maybe even unconcerned with having any roots at all, then those words that they're using to think with, become vague floaters in their own minds, with no real thoughtful significance for them, or for you, or for any of those who're doing their thinking with them, and if that's the case, then those words which you and they are using are not serving to connect your thinking to reality, but are instead actively facilitating your disconnection from it.

That's a problem. And there's more.

When the misuse of words are given such free reign in these boring 'policy choices', they implicitly pivot us away from one familiar mindset, into an entirely new and alien philosophy, implicitly undermining and subverting the philosophic world which the American Dream sprang from, and they do so in plain sight and with a great deal of mis-directional fanfare. And while they typically begin with associations to a worldview of people at liberty to live their own lives, as they stride boldly 'forward!' on the legs of unexamined assumptions, they easily carry you with them into a darker and more oppressive world where 'those who know best', are empowered to 'choose' how to live your life for you.

That's a problem. And it's a problem that's not limited to the Left ('equal distribution of wealth!'), but is easily found in the policies of Conservatives ('strengthening the family' through a 'Family Leave Act'), Libertarians ('Net Neutrality', 'Universal Basic Income', 'Eliminate Intellectual Property') and so-called Centrists ("govt must cool the economy"), all of which introduce numerous societal consequences which Economic thinking is powerless to resolve and unavoidably exacerbates, with each new solution leading to still more problems, and especially so for those trying to solve the problems which we as a society 'mysteriously' persist in making, and still further affecting the experiences of every one of our lives.

Seeing the problem isn't difficult to do, once you know where to look and what to listen for. I think that this can be conveyed in just a few examples, some obvious, some not so much until you've looked differently at what seems obvious, to reveal the very real philosophical threats that lurk behind and beneath the economic thinking that is commonly found in the Left, Right and Center - and that is what I'll spend the next several posts digging further into.