Thursday, March 26, 2020

Stimulating Social Distancing: $2 Trillion for Govt to 'Help you!' /sarc

Just in case you thought that our Govt was thinking about helping you with their $2 Trillion Stimulus Package, here's some fun facts. There are about 330 million people in America, but lets round that up 20 mil to a nice even 350 million, just to allow for errors, or, ya know, respirators & such. If we gave $1,200.00 to all of them, that'd add up to $420 Billion dollars... which would still leave $1.5 Trillion bucks for Govt to 'Help you!' with. And since there are (counting every conceivable variation) approx, at last count, 3.25 million businesses in America, if we divided up the remainder between them, that'd mean making available $48,615 for every business out there. Perhaps we might want to shift that around, based on whether a business has 1 employee, or 500, but... you get the drift.
In case you missed it, that is not what your Govt is proposing to do with this $2 Trillion dollars in stimulus (or the other $4 trillion they've earmarked in the wings).
Nope. But the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts got $35 million. 'Migrants and Refugee Assistance' 'get' (read govt agencies & helpers will 'distribute') $350 million. Unions got something even more worthwhile than money, they got the power to unionize a boatload more businesses. And lots more money is 'spread around' to lots more institutions that your Govt would rather help out than, ya know, you, your health, or your business.
I dunno about you, but I'm really interested in practicing some 'social distancing' right now. Have a nice day.
P.S. Just ignore the fact that there is no $2 Trillion dollars to distribute, let alone another $4 Trillion to earmark, because, ya know, that'd just make things more difficult

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Founders of Ideology: Reducing our vision of Liberty from 3D to 2D - Economic Politics vs Political Economy pt6

Here's a fun word: Ideology. You may not be interested in it, but Ideologies are extremely interested in everything that has an interest in you, from Climate Change, to COVID-19, to 'Free Trade!', no matter what your particular position on them is. Appropriately enough, while nearly everyone feels something about the term, very few have an idea of what it means, or where it came from. Some see it as cheap tool of party politics, some see it as a respectable term, I even had a long and ultimately pointless argument with a professor of philosophy at one of our local universities, who believes (and teaches) that it is simply another name for "Political Philosophy". It is not. But it is a term that, if you spend a moment looking into both the term itself and people's misconceptions about it, and especially the thoughts they end up thinking through its lens (especially visible in the news today), it can help shine some light into those shadows we're finding ourselves so deeply immersed in today.

Wiki gives us The Oxford Companion to Philosophy's definition of Ideology, as:
"An ideology is a set of beliefs and values attributed to a person or group of persons, especially as held for reasons which are not purely epistemic"
, of which the last part, "held for reasons which are not purely epistemic", is, ironically, meaningful, in that it means that an ideology's beliefs are held with no philosophical roots in reality or grounds for understanding and believing those beliefs to be true - they are simply those positions which they prefer, or as Pragmatism would later popularize it, held not because they are True, but because they seem to 'work' for them... at the moment... for the moment. Of course by that justification, arguing by logical fallacies should be A-Ok too, since, no matter how misleading, untrue and illogical those arguments might be, they do 'work' to win people over to your position, right? You see the issue there?

Don't worry, I'm not going to go over how it's being peddled in our school systems today, but it might be useful to glance at the answers that a couple typical graduates of Higher Ed have given to the question of what Ideology & its role is, such as these from Quora, to get a glimpse at how, and how confidently, it works in practice. This first one comes from someone having a B.S. in Sociology & English Literature, from the Tennessee Technological University (2008), who answered:
"Ideology is the study of beliefs of a society within the basis of political or economic systems..."
IOW, within the frame of what you already are pleased to believe (with or without any basis for those beliefs), Ideology furnishes you with the political & economic positions that 'you' find acceptable... with no deeper basis than what 'your' ideology finds it useful to believe. Not only is your role in such thinking, kept to a minimum, but a person could get dizzy from the circularity in the thinking, such as it is.

Another wise guy, having an M.S. in Public Administration & Labor Relations no less, from the University of Illinois at Springfield (2015), tells us:
"Ideology doesn’t exist because it has a function in society, it exists as a result (or consequence of) sentient thought."
, which should call into question whether or not the words 'sentient', 'ideology' or 'thought', mean what he thinks they mean (or that he cares what they mean, beyond their usefulness in his statement), as the term "Ideology" wasn't coined until 1796 (we'll get to that in a minute); or else... does he perhaps think that there was no 'sentient thought' prior to that?

But to see a clearer example of what sorts of positions that ideological thinking leads a person's mind into, we need only look at one of those that I've mentioned several times in this series of posts (and then at some of the ramifications we're feeling from it today), where my Libertarian friend urged that America lift its tariffs with Communist China, and instead engage in:
"...unilateral, unrestricted, free trade..."
That is a sentiment which most supporters of 'Free Trade!' enthusiastically support. Fortunately for our purposes here, because Ideology by nature skips over and evades reality (in favor of what appears to 'work'), we only need to take a closer look at what such sentiments do in reality mean (and ignore), to reveal the illusion that Ideology spins in theory and cause & effect.

Once you brush past the veil of 'liberty' that 'Free Trade!''rs wave in your face and look at the roots of what they're saying, it becomes clear that they chase the lure of low prices which doing business with Communist China dangles before them, by willfully ignoring the fact that those bargains can only be offered to them, because of the nature of what Communist China in reality is:
  • a state that is explicitly founded upon the forcible elimination of private property (how does someone trade what isn't theirs?),
  • a state in which all of their billion people are forcibly deprived of any & all recognition of their individual rights and their power to exercise them,
  • a state that has a sizable number of their own people physically enslaved in order to produce some products at a 'good price',
  • a state in which no business is permitted to operate without the 'partnership' of that murderous state,
  • a state whose businesses would not exist without their ongoing theft of the intellectual property of other nation's people,
  • a state in which none of its people are 'free' to engage in trade,
- to persist in advocating for 'Free Trade!' with Communist China, requires ignoring, evading, or denying that those actions and practices are implicitly endorsing policies which are fundamentally at war with the concepts and principles of individual rights, private property, profits and Rule of Law, which Liberty and a Free Market are based upon and cannot exist without. In addition to that, because Communist China is and always has been actively abusing and imposing its powers upon its own people, and upon other nations - both indirectly today through the theft of intellectual property, and explicitly through direct threats of power - 'trading' with them, means enriching, enabling, and aiding & abetting a direct threat to the existence of Liberty and a Free Market. Promoters of 'Free Trade! with the totalitarian power of Communist China, have vastly enriched it with wealth from America and The West for decades, to the point that it has become a viable threat to both. Why? In order to get a pragmatic bargain that 'works' for them. For the moment. Until that moment's gone (like now?).

The ability to trade freely is an impossibility for any citizen of Communist China, and yet most Libertarians shamelessly promote the notion. The ideology of 'Free Trade!' is concerned only with their financial ledger's facts & figures, and having no deeper interest or concern for their ideas lack of 'epistemic roots' in what is real and true, they blithely endanger that Liberty which they so boldly proclaim to care so very much about (which should also call into question what their notion of 'liberty' is).

With just a little attention given to those pesky 'epestimic roots' that ideology shields its thinkers minds from, it becomes clear that 'Free Trade!' can have no legitimate meaning. 'Ideological Thinking' is unconcerned with the wider reality which its ideological positions give no serious thought to, and it escapes those issues, by pragmatically caring only about 'the facts' it can see and tally.

That is an example of what 'ideological thinking' means.

And for a real life example of what 'ideological thinking' actually means when engaged in over the long term, you need look no further than the COVID-19 pandemic. Communist China's suppression of the news and outright lying about the severity of COVID-19 for months, because "...for reasons which are not purely epistemic..." they didn't think that lives and truth stacked up to the need of those in power to seem respectable and in control, they enabled the disease to become a global pandemic which has ended the lives of thousands, and has caused unprecedented disruption, hardship and economic devastation throughout America, The West, and the rest of the world. Such is the 'penny wise, pound foolish' nature of the ideology of 'Free Trade!'.

That is what results from following Ideological thinking, and that is why it is worth our taking a closer look at Ideology's roots in our relatively recent history, and the hand that even some of our most respected Founding Fathers had in enabling its weeds to spread and infest our lives today.

The Ideological weeds in our Founders garden
The United States of America was founded as a result of revolutionary developments in political philosophy that were rooted in a broad understanding of History, Philosophy, Ethics & Morality, which Jefferson ironically (we'll see what's ironic about it in a moment) called the 'harmonizing sentiments of the day', whose purely epistemic roots drew deeply from "...the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, &c...". The combination of those ideas and sentiments brought a 3D depth to political philosophy that had been absent from history beforehand, bringing into focus not only the individual, and not only the state, but the importance of recognizing the nature and requirements of both, and of their balanced relationship. That culmination is what became apparent in the reality of American Exceptionalism; all of which is necessarily disregarded and discarded, as a consequence of accepting a blinkered 'Ideology' as a guide & starting point for your thinking.

What Ideology amounts to and requires of you in practice, is that you close one mental eye towards what is True, in order to pursue what you find pleases you enough to want to force it to 'work', for the moment, at the moment, and without a thought for what may come in the next moment. AKA Pragmatism (See above points on Communist China for reference).

The Pro-Regressive Left (and Right), as well as most of those who see themselves as being 'on The Right', and as friends of 'Liberty!', have been indulging in ideological thinking for a solid two centuries. 'Free Trade!' (as distinct from a Free Market) is just one more variant of doing what I described in the previous post, as throwing a conceptual throw rug of 'Free Trade!' over the steadily expanding hole in the American mind. It's adherents are blind to how reducing the world to a matter of economics (reminder: It was Karl Marx who famously proposed a new 'Economic Interpretation of History') moves philosophy, morality and law, to that of a sideshow status, flattening the newly acheived 3D vision, to that of a scattering of 2-D images and ideological divides, a mental closing of one eye that effectively derails those who were looking for something more than surface appearances only. There are consequential consequences to the spread of that depthless point of view.

If a Free Market could have existed without the understanding that had been developed by our Founder's era, it would have existed long before America came into being.

But it didn't.

The Free Market requires more than the two dimensional thinking of flatly material pursuits; food & shelter, possessions, comfort, avoidance of pain is not enough, man only really lives by seeking more than bread alone. More materials is not enough. More wealth, is not enough. More government(!) is not enough.

The 'more' that is needed, is a sense of more that is more concerned with quality, than quantity. A prerequisite of a Free Market, is a people who look upwards and wonder what is true, good & Just and seek to emulate it. That sort of thinking is what leads to a desire for living a good life and leads to a people who do see every mans home as being his castle, and which leads to a view of government that supports them in their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

The three dimensional view of life, is what a Free Market is a result of - not a cause of, but what it results from. It requires reflective reasoning built upon valuing the importance of the truths found in Jefferson's ' harmonizing sentiments of the day', while remaining conscious that you might be wrong "...If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too...". For if a people's thinking is not being guided by a quest for what is true, it will be guided by what some want to be accepted as if it were true, in order to get what they most passionately desire - and in case you missed it, that is what the pursuit of power is and means. It's not only the powerful who pursue power, and when all levels of society become engaged in that passionate pursuit, then that entire society is at risk of realizing what Lord Acton warned against, that "... power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Going down the path of disregarding a concern for the 'epistemic roots' in what we believe, means taking our collective emotions and passions as our guides, and leads to the unceasing need for more power to 'make things work' regardless of their being true and right, and that is how Ideology progressively wins the day - 'for the greater good', of course. In such a society as that, it should be no surprise that their markets will be ruled in a similar manner to the minds of those who people them. Which... is where we are today.

How did we get here? Well, without going into the long answer (a somewhat larger thumbnail of which I gave here), the short answer is... with help from the very best of intentions of people like Thomas Jefferson.


One of our earliest pivot points that I've found outside of the standard flow of the Ivory Tower, came well after Rousseau and Kant, and well before Hegel, Marx & the American Pragmatists (Pierce, Dewey & James), and it came with truly good intentions in pursuit of seemingly logical directions of thought, via the works of a prominent Frenchmen named Destutt de Tracy, who in 1796, was the first person to coin the term: Ideology. More ironically, and with more than a little bit of poetic injustice, he devised it as being a new "science of ideas", which he latter incorporated into his work "A Treatise on Political Economy", which was greatly admired by no less a leading light of our Founding Fathers, than (sound the ironic drum roll please): Thomas Jefferson. In fact, Jefferson liked de Tracy's work so much, that he translated it into English himself, wrote an introduction to it, saw to it that it was published in America, and highly recommended it to all who'd pay attention.

On the bright side, in Jefferson's introduction to Tracy's work, he draws very favorable attention to one who I've mentioned here often, Jean Baptist Say, whose works Jefferson elevates (correctly, IMHO) above that of the lesser quality (though trail blazing) works of Adam Smith, noting that,
"...In France, John Baptist Say has the merit of producing a very superior work on the subject of Political economy. his arrangement is luminous, ideas clear, style perspicuous, and the whole subject brought within half the volume of Smith’s work, add to this considerable advances in correctness and extension of principles...."
, which I couldn't agree with more. But as I noted in the previous post, even in the works of Say, you could begin to see the unstable issues emerging in the still new field of Political Economy, which the latter state of modern Economics would exploit with help from the likes of J.S. Mill, transforming it into what we typically, tragically, refer to now as 'Classical Liberalism'. Jefferson continued with:
"....The work of Senator Tracy, now announced, comes forward with all the lights of his predecessors in the science, and with the advantages of further experience, more discussion, and greater maturity of subject. it is certainly distinguished by important traits; a cogency of logic which has never been exceeded in any work, a rigorous enchainment of ideas, and constant recurrence to it to keep it in the reader’s view, a fearless pursuit of truth whithersoever it leads..."
, which I couldn't disagree with more, not just in regards to the content, but to de Tracy's goal itself.

The problem begins by ignoring the deeper meaning of terms being used, and attempting to utilize them based upon their appearances only. It ceases to be Science, and becomes only Scientism, when you disregard the nature and meaning (those pesky 'epistemic roots' again) of what science is. Science is preceded by, defined in, and enabled by, Philosophy, which is what defines and clarifies the nature of quantifying and calculating, let alone those things that can be quantified and calculated, and the attempt to apply a 'science of ideas', to that which defines ideas and science itself, flies in the face of logic. Reminder: Logic as a subject is found and defined within philosophy, not science; it's a subset of Epistemology, which is the 'epistem' in 'epistemic roots', without which there can be nothing 'logical' about its rules. Science itself, and indeed the Scientific Method, are philosophic terms which are what make modern science possible - to put it another way, bootstraps are useful for pulling on your boots, but not so much for lifting yourself up by. Such a notion also collides with one of those central 'harmonizing sentiments' of the day that Jefferson had in mind when writing the Declaration of Independence, from the once familiar Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle's, that,
" is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits; it is evidently equally foolish to accept probable reasoning from a mathematician and to demand from a rhetorician scientific proofs..."
, to even seek further precision than the subject allows, introduces errors and corruption into both what is sought and into your accepted means of seeking it. Ignoring those truths won't stop you from thinking of course, but it will alter and degrade the nature and quality of those thoughts which you persist in thinking through them. Tracy & Jefferson's good intentions, turned a blind eye to common sense, and had far more to do with Scientism, than Science (to be fair, that's a distinction that wasn't yet understood in their time), and among other things, it helped transform the still profound nature of education which Jefferson enjoyed in his day, into the ever more pathetic slop that's been served up to our youth in higher & lower 'educational institutions' down to our day.

Curiously, in a letter written to a young protege of his, Jefferson himself recognized that Tracy's thinking was at least partially flawed. He wrote a short summary of the better points to his friend, noting that laws should be restricted to cases involving the violation of another's rights, and of "...the natural duty of contributing to the necessities of the society..." so that,
"...When the laws have declared and enforced all this, they have fulfilled their functions, and the idea is quite unfounded, that on entering into society we give up any natural right. The trial of every law by one of these texts, would lessen much the labors of our legislators, and lighten equally our municipal codes..."
, and to that point he goes on to praise deTracy's volume as "...a work of the first order of merit now in the press at Washington, by Destutt Tracy, on the subject of political economy...", but then remarkably in the very next line of the same letter, he points out a concern he had with Tracy's thinking which is a fundamental flaw of it,
"...He promises a future work on morals, in which I lament to see that he will adopt the principles of Hobbes, or humiliation to human nature; that the sense of justice and injustice is not derived from our natural organization, but founded on convention only. I lament this the more, as he is unquestionably the ablest writer living, on abstract subjects. ..."
Somehow Jefferson compartmentalized the contradictions between his praise for Tracy's Political Economy, a field which still had 'epistemic roots' that were founded in an understanding of the nature of man and those actions he might rightfully take and justly defend, and his proposed 'science of ideas' which was clearly founded in a deeply flawed understanding of the nature of man, individual rights, morality and Justice. The idea that a view which saw justice as being derived from 'convention only' could lead to a reasonable view of Justice in any area, is a vision that can only be achieved with one eye closed.

In Jefferson's defense, and with all great and due respect to him, he's displaying one of those blind spots that he shared with the "The Quantifying Spirit" of the Age of Enlightenment. That spirit showed up in an inclination and enthusiasm for drawing often hasty conclusions from observations that served (and flattered) people's own calculative and quantitative assessments, and lent to any such effort, the appearance of doing 'science!' (much of which today we'd call 'Scientism'). France was ground zero for this way of thinking, and with Jefferson being a Francophile himself, his views naturally leaned towards the French side of the Enlightenment. This was especially visible in their vaunted 'Encyclopédie', which was packed full of conclusions that were drawn from a prideful faith in their own intellect's ability to believe that they'd understood all they needed to know about a matter, once having put their own thoughts through a rationalistic series of deductive 'if this, then that' steps ( the roots of which go at least as far back as Descartes' notion that truth could be considered to be '...all the things which we very clearly and distinctly conceive are true...'), and with much dubious quantitative 'proof's such as Tracy's work is chalk full of, they endorsed (as people are prone to do in all times) numerous confident deductions which have since been exposed as patent nonsense. That spirit of the day fostered a materialistic tendency to subject all subjects to such 'scientific' analysis, as de Tracy especially demonstrated, by working and writing to have his 'science of ideas', supplant the place of Theology in the French Encyclopedia, , and he also diligently worked to discredit any Philosophy that was not as strictly materialistic as his own, in which he concluded that human thoughts were simply triggered by 'the senses & feelings' in the environment. In particular his conception of 'The Will', is one whose spirit would soon after be reflected and expanded upon by Hegel, and still later by Marx, and which later still would have grave implications for early 20th Century Germany and the entire world. But in their time, lacking what might appear in our time to be a clear path to disaster, they were seen as an equivalent to reasonable reflection and consideration.

The British side of the Enlightenment, OTOH (which had its own issues, especially in Nominalism, and which in its extremes led to the cynicism & skepticism of Adam Smith's best friend, David Hume), was at least more inclined towards the presumption that such clever thinking was likely to hold many an unseen error, and so should be met cautiously.

Nowhere was the Enlightenment's divide between French & British views more clearly on display, than in their respective feelings towards the French Revolution, as seen in the views taken by Thomas Jefferson, and one of those who had been an intellectual ally during the American Revolution, Edmund Burke.

Simplifying matters a bit, those of like mind with Jefferson, took a deductive view of how the high minded ideals involved were sure to lead to positive results, to the effect of:
'The French want liberty and equality for all, and as liberty and equality are good, their revolution will lead to more liberty and equality for all as it did in the American Revolution.'
Burke, being less inclined to believe that such ideals could encompass all of the important factors involved, began his assessment with the evidence provided by his own eyes, and working up from there, he found himself troubled early on with concerns for how wrongly the French Revolution was likely to turn out. His thoughts went more along the lines of:
'The French people are very different in experience, habit, temperment and knowledge from the American people, and as any power acquired by them in the name of 'liberty and equality' is unlikely to be restrained as it was in America, the power that their revolution gives them is unlikely to be exercised well in the end.'
Burke wrote extensively about those concerns in his "Reflections on the Revolution in France", which infuriated Thomas Jefferson and others such as Thomas Paine, who both called Burke every name in the book, calling him a fool and a turncoat for daring to speak against their beloved French Revolution. Yet as the French Revolution developed and put power into the hands of the likes of Robespierre, who ushered in the mass murders of "The Terror" (very nearly costing Thomas Paine his own head), as Burke had warned, it was his assessment of the two revolutions, that history showed to be the more realistic and accurate.

This isn't to somehow say that Burke was a greater figure or thinker than Jefferson (there is more than a little in Burke's vision of conservatism that we are better off without), but only to point out that there was something in Jefferson's thinking that blinded him to seeing what stood out very clearly to Burke, and on that score, the French Revolution proved him horrifically correct. The vision of the French intellectuals, and deTracy and his 'Ideology' was very representative of them, saw society as a deterministic science experiment in which man and society could be 'reformed' (which is a very different thing from believing that they can be improved) and were quick to think that what they consciously observed was all that needed to be considered, they ignored their own ignorance of the depths of society's operations, which was a prescription for disaster - not because they weren't brilliant, but because they presumed to understand what they could not know about the deeper structures of society & culture. That blindness has persisted on down the years into our time today - Left, Right & Libertarian - at least in part by means of the ideological path forged by Antoine Destutt de Tracy.

deTracy's attempt to devise a 'science of ideas', is but one example of the spirit of the time, and the widespread tendency in fields ranging from political economy, to history, philosophy & especially in education, to close one eye towards the West's philosophical roots, while focusing their remaining gaze upon shallower perceptions & measurements of social & economic effects. Both Napoleon and Karl Marx despised deTracy, but only for the 'laissez-faire' conclusions which he happened to prefer - de Tracy's methods, OTOH, were very much to their liking, leading as they did, away from the concept of Natural Law that America was founded upon, and towards those growing notions of "Positivist Law", which Utilitarianism, Positivism, 'Progressivism' and Totalitarianism would necessarily derive from. In his 'Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s ’Spirit of Laws’', de Tracy roundly criticized Montesquieu’s ’The Spirit of Laws’ (the single most referenced book by the Framers of the Constitution of the United States of America), and in the process de Tracy rejected the basis of law as it understood by our Founders, whose roots stretched back through Montesquieu, Locke, Sidney, Coke, Cicero and Aristotle, AKA: Jefferson's 'harmonizing sentiments of the day'. As one biographer noted,

"...Rejecting Montesquieu's proposition that laws are necessary relations deriving from the nature of things, Tracy substituted the idea that a law in society is:
"a rule prescribed for our actions by an authority we regard as having the right to make this law..."
, which could have been nothing less than music to the ears of Napoleon, Marx, and every subsequent 'do gooder's tyrannical impulse to 'do good!' unto their neighbor, against their will... for their own good.

Being able to claim a 'science of ideas' was very useful in devising & selling a materialistically determined 'justice derived from convention', and such methods were, and are still, eagerly adopted and used to justify abandoning the earlier 'outmoded idea', that a meaningful sense of Justice could or should be derived from a recognition of human nature and especially that,
...these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...
, and of course without that basis, there was no need to think that a governments laws should be restricted to upholding those 'epistemic roots'. The materialist ethos that de Tracy helped advance, such as in his notions of the Will, would be idealized and amplified tenfold by much worse figures in the decades to come, such as in Hegel's Historicism, and helped expose the West to the anti-Aristotelian thought which enabled them to fit under the banner of 'Science!' (aka: 'scientism') that Karl Marx would find so useful in his marketing of Communism to the intelligentsia.

Also in keeping with the spirit of the times, the 'Right' soon identified with the new 'science of ideas' of Tracy's Ideology, which painlessly trimmed them of their intentions to conserve the older 'outmoded' systems of thought, they cheerfully exchanged Adam Smith's less tangible term of 'Natural Liberty', for Marx's easily quantifiable 'Capitalism', and in that re-branding of their views & positions, it took only an additional nudge from the likes of J.S. Mill's 'Classical Liberalism', for 'The Right' to willingly dumb down the meaning of Liberty from the Founder's understanding of it, to that of Mill's notion of it being little more than a 'freedom from restraint'. Just as a 'science of ideas' has little room for thoughts of ethics & the like, a Liberty that in practice translates into the freedom to run away from your responsibilities, has little use for an ideal of Justice that depends upon a reasonable consideration of the responsibilities that are an inherent component of the exercising of individual rights, or for the notion of those rights being upheld under laws that restricted the awesome powers of government to that purpose ('just think of all 'the good' we could do, without those restrictions!', said both the pro-regressive Left & Right), yet that was the primrose path that 'The Right' eagerly strolled down, especially in America.

Never forget that it was 'The Right', and specifically the new Republican Party, that first pushed for federal intervention in Education in the mid 1860's, and which promoted the ideal of exchanging the understanding and practice of Education which our Founder's era was formed from, for a mandatory means of training the populace in useful skills for getting a good job and improving the economy. Yes, the Left expanded on that, but 'The Right' began it, and that too was a result of the emerging ideology of 'economic thinking'. The adoption of ideological thinking by Pro-Regressive Leftists, Libertarians and Conservatives, meant that they no longer gave much thought to what an economy results from, and so focusing upon the appearances they most desired to see in the end (which meant implicitly adopting a credo of 'the ends justify the means'), people began self sorting themselves into one of the ideologically 'opposing' camps of economic thinking: Capitalists or Socialists.

But how much did that really matter? After all, pro-regressively speaking, what does it matter which side is in control at the moment, when accepting either side still means leading 'The West' further from its roots? Flip the coin all you want, go ahead and call out 'Heads or Tails', but both sides are still sides of the same worthless counterfeit coin. Other than their traditional fondness for custom & religion, little of substance remained to distinguish 'Conservatives' from Progressives, Socialists and Communists, beyond their 'Capitalist' approach to economic policies of serving 'the greater good', and not surprisingly, in nearly every confrontation with 20th Century 'Progressives', the more consistently unreasonable approach won, and liberty progressively lost.

And even if their economic goals were somehow achieved, what of it?! Nowhere in all of the thousands of years of history of all manner of trading between individuals, cities, states, has economic prosperity succeeded in transforming political systems and tyrannies, into systems which respected the individual rights (or what passed for some semblance of the concept) of their own people, or of any other's. In those few scattered historical periods where economic prosperity flared up relative to the alternatives surrounding them - periods such as the heights of Greece, Rome, the Carolingian & Italian Renaissances and the Venetian Republics - they prospered because their people had less reason to fear being robbed by either thieving thug, thieving prince or thieving mob, and their peoples were able to operate more freely and more securely in their possessions. But even that is a result of law & culture, not trade. And still their growing prosperity failed to deliver liberty to their people - Why? What was absent then, and would not even begin to emerge until the late 17th century Europe, and only then finally begin to blossom into the Industrial Revolutions of Great Britain & America? What was missing, and Why?

Liberty, as our Founders era would come to recognize it, only became conceivable after the Judeo-Christian ethical ideal of every life being of equal value no matter their wealth or position, was wedded to the Greco-Roman ideal of justice being achieved through a republic of laws. From there the age old quest to preserve power so as to preserve the privileges & possessions of those in power, gradually gave way to the equality of all before the law, and with the growing ideal of 'Every man's home is his castle' and the growing understanding of individual rights, the power of the state began to be transformed, through its laws, into a means of forming a common defense of each individual's life, rights and property, and that is what brought to light the first glimmerings of Liberty in all of known history. That ideal, which became explicit in the political writings of John Locke, circulated and reached widespread popular understanding, especially in America (see James Madison's essay on Property), was most fully realized with the establishment of the United States of America, within which people could potentially act, speak, associate and yes, trade freely, without fear of being plundered by either thieving thug, thieving prince or thieving mob. Liberty had finally become a reality, and then and only then, was it possible for some degree of a Free Market to exist.

That 'depth perception' of actual Liberty is immediately lost in the ideological pursuit of 'economic policies' which pursue little more than immediate 'economic' gain, because Ideology by definition lacks an ethical & moral viewpoint and so filters out what truly sets Liberty and Tyranny apart. An economy is not a thing to be prodded and pursued as a first cause, it is what results from how well, or poorly, a society engages in those pursuits of culture, religion, philosophy, education, governance & judiciary, which actually are its first causes. To attempt to create, or to maintain liberty, via a nation's economy, is an ideological attempt to reverse cause & effect, and is as impossible as it should be ludicrous. Yet that is what 'Free Trade!''rs preach.

When we close one eye and focus only on the Economics of 'Free Trade!', we ignore and even degrade the actual incalculables of society's framework which that economy cannot exist for long without. Taking a calculative and economic view of 'justice derived from convention', minimizes and endangers the very things that makes a free economy possible in the first place. Seeking profits from such nations as Communist China, implicitly requires a willingness to trade a Free Market for 'Free Trade!', and Liberty for the 'freedom from restraint' & responsibility, all of which share in the pragmatic ideal of 'justice derived from convention'. No one should be surprised to find that a people such as that, would happily send their children to schools so they can 'get a good job', and there should be little to no surprise that such a people would have little or no grasp of their own history, nor that a people who already have one eye firmly closed, would be more than willing to accept any story, told by friend or foe, claiming to be their history. See reforms such as 'Common Core', and 'News' such as The New York Times '1619 Project'... and the last 150 years of wacademia, if you doubt it.

Yet when I say that Liberty is not about 'economics', many if not most of my friends shake their heads and echo Bill Clinton's 'It's the economy stupid!', answering: "Yes, It IS about economics.", and I patiently(!... well...) reply to them, that no, it is not, and that believing it is, is why we lose. Our youth gravitate towards the like of Bernie Sanders & Elizabeth Warren & AOC, because they at least make pretensions of caring about morality, and as our modern 'education' has failed to equip them with the 3D depth perception needed to see the meaninglessness of their words, any 2D facsimile will do.

To sum it up ridiculously briefly, the ideas which have culminated in the various strains of Marxism, have very nearly undone The West in general and America in particular, through the acceptance of the ideas and methods of ideological thinking. That habit of seeing ourselves through the 2D economic lens of 'Capitalism', rather than through the 3D vision of a Free Market, has necessarily replaced actual Justice, with that cardboard cutout of 'Social Justice'. Getting us to look at ourselves and the world through the 'economic interpretation of history', has eliminated those ideals from the mainstream thinking that had made The West in general, and America in particular, historically exceptional. Exchanging Western civilization's philosophical crown jewels of ethics, epistemology & metaphysics - which are the prerequisites for recognizing, understanding, and caring about what is True - for those pragmatic results that seem to 'work' so usefully at the present moment, is the process of exchanging the love of wisdom, for the pursuit of power.

It was our Founders' familiarity with the long & rough history of Western Civilization's development, that led them to the revolutionary idea of putting government in service to the liberty of its citizenry, by making upholding and defending their Individual Rights, its central purpose. The first imperfect stirrings of a Free Market, were the result of that growing understanding, and it will not long endure without it. Our modern attempts to support or defend our 'economic system' on the basis of economic analysis alone, is doomed to... the progressive loss of liberty which we are all experiencing right now, a loss that has tragically been made possible with a huge assist from 'The Right', as both Conservatives & Libertarians have adopted the essentials of the ideological ground which Marxist thought was built upon, and every battle we engage in on that battlefield, is foreordained to be a loss. What the 'Free Trade!'rs determine to be " economic reality...", doesn't take a broad enough spectrum of reality into account to be representative of it. Blind to the deeper issues that their 'economic reality' ignores, 'Free Trade!'rs are sure to be every bit as shocked at the repercussions which must follow from turning a blind eye to the responsibilities inherent in Liberty, as Jefferson & Paine were shocked at the slaughter & degradation which followed from that fundamental nature of the French Revolution, which they were blind to.

Economics is a result, not a cause. The ideological attempt to either reverse cause & effect, or to ignore their relevance, has not and will not work out well in the end... and despite Keynes's quip that 'in the end we're all dead', most of us today will very likely live to regret the attempt.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Give me Liberty, or... if you don't know what that means... whatevs.

Do calendars get irony? Today is the same date, March 23rd, of a very different year...245 years different, 1775, that Patrick Henry gave his "Give me Liberty, or give me death!" speech. No doubt there are several pointed contrasts that folks might like to draw between those times and our time now, but the one that I think is most interesting, and concerning, would be between what was meant by Liberty to them then, and by Leftists, Libertarians & Conservatives, today.
What concerns me, is that without that understanding which was common then, can words about Henry's words, amount to anything more than bluster? But, what do I know, like Henry V's phantom countrymen, I'm one of those looking back from years later, who is, 
" a-bed 
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here..."
, but thank God Patrick Henry & his fellows were there in their time, way back then.

"No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Getting Clarity in 2020 - Coronavirus and the responsibilities of individual rights

This last week was a classic case of "Didn't see that one coming!'", eh? Global Pandemic, travel options being shut down, panicked shortages over what were considered the most trivial of products just a week ago, schools, concerts & conventions being cancelled, social distancing and self confinement being strongly suggested, 'soft' quarantines being applied in cities & counties and the threat of real quarantines in the offing, businesses, bars, restaurants being shut down in several states and economic catastrophe in the wings. Just wow. And of course there is the politics, with plenty of people who're screaming that:
  • "It's the 2nd Coming of the Black Death!', or
  • "Hoax! It's not a crisis, it's no worse than the common cold, they're just grabbing power!", or 
  • "Hoax! They're just trying to hurt this President!"
, and I really have no time for any of them. In the first case the issue is alarming enough without piling hysterical alarmism on top of what is already alarming enough; and in the second & third cases, the notion that this is only political spin & machinations requires such an effort to evade and fake reality as to make the wildest of 'Illuminati!' conspiracy theories seem rational in comparison - as a friend said, 'They're two sides of the same woke coin'. Are politicians & media trying to take advantage of a crisis? Of course they are, they're politicians & media, aren't they? Yes they will do their damndest to not let 'a good crisis go to waste', yes they must be rebuffed, but not at the expense of ignoring the real dangers that will actually follow from a too rapid spread of the Coronavirus disease (see the 'Flattening the curve' links below), or from a mis-identification of what our individual rights are, and require of each of us.

There's no doubt that COVID-19 and the responses to it are going to cause real personal hardships and economic devastation - a hint of which I got to experience myself on Friday 13th when I was let go from my job, and as my wife is a flight attendant, I can see that there are all kinds of ways for things to get much worse, in terms of health & finance - personally, locally, nationally & world wide.

I get it - believe me - if money, yours and your community's, is front and center in your thoughts, with rising concerns over jobs, income, BILLS, liberty, health - everything is slamming into our minds at the same moment... what are we supposed to do with that? While I'll suggest that going into a panic buying spree of toilet paper & disinfectant wipes wasn't the wisest of moves, those who had been paying no attention to the news and went to purchase them yesterday because they were running low, that wasn't the wisest position to have been left occupying. Somewhere between those two extremes lies a more practical course of action, but permit me to suggest that thinking about our current situation in only the economic terms of how best to allocate scarce resources, is also going to lead you way off in the wrong direction - economic thinking is not the type of thinking you need to be thinking your thoughts through right now. Ditto for 'critical thinking'.

In order to be able to take a moment to gather your thoughts, to put them in perspective and order so that you can make good judgments, you've got to be thinking a level above the chaos of the moment. The type of thinking we need to be engaging in right now, is not on the level of how to drive and get gas, because that won't tell you where, if anywhere, you should be driving to. The thinking we need more of right now, is what clarifies the mental map & compass... or GPS if you prefer, to get a grip on where we are, and where we should be going.

So back to basics. First... what should we be thinking about first? Which is a different question from asking about what naturally comes to mind in a crisis, or about what is rightfully a major concern in your life right now; instead it's asking what should we, as human beings, as family, as friends, neighbors and citizens, what should we be thinking of first? And how should those first thoughts, give order to, and prioritize, the secondary considerations of economic thinking?

Those first order thoughts aren't going to be found in the economy. Politics either. Or even in worrying about what you are free, or are not free, to go and do.

Those are important considerations, but something else needs to put them into a proper perspective, and that's got to come from higher on up the mental mountain. I'm sure that many of you are thinking that religious thinking is what should come first (and those tempted to laugh at that, you ought to do so quietly so as not to wave your foolishness about you like a flag), that may well be so, but that still leaves some mental ground between the clouds and your boots on the ground, that needs to be covered. Between theology and economics is philosophy - ethics & political philosophy in particular - and that's where your thinking can find the clarity to order your thoughts for acting in the here & now.

You can't jump right into issues such as Quarantines either, without having given some thought to what makes them justifiable or unjustifiable, and issues about the constitutionality & legality of such actions, are also secondary to understanding why any such actions can and should be thought of as proper or improper, and so guides what goes into federal & state constitutions and laws. Worrying about those issues first, without having first oriented your mind around true north, so to speak, is going to have you wondering off the map. What is most important to be thinking about, is thinking in terms of your being a human being, living in society with other human beings, and the first issue to consider in that context, is what responsibilities you have to yourself, and to your fellows, given the circumstances that we are all facing.

Lets start by leaving COVID-19, and the various letters of the laws, out of it. I've put some worthwhile links at the bottom of this post, but for the moment let's try and come at the issue of responsible actions from a very different direction.

Shifting perspectives
If a person was accidentally drugged & suddenly psychotic, a visible danger to themselves and to those around them, that person would in this situation be blameless, but whoever the people are that are around them - family, friends, bystanders, police - matters little, someone should restrain them (or at least alert someone who can) for their own safety and that of others, shouldn't they? Those people would themselves be blameworthy if they did nothing to restrain them. Is there anyone who'd argue otherwise?

If that person had somehow consciously incapacitated themselves, got stumbling drunk by chugging a fifth of bourbon for instance, while that person in this case is no longer blameless, that would not change what those same people around them should do in acting to restrain that person from driving home - right? If you were unlucky enough to not have those people around to save you from yourself, and your drunk driving caused injury or death to others, those actions would be your responsibility, right? Is there anyone who'd argue against that?

Let's add a bit of the crazy unknown into the mix: Let's say that you're about to leave from lunch at a friend's house, and they've just told you that there's a strong reason to believe that they may have accidentally used hallucinogenic 'Magic Mushrooms' instead of Morels mushrooms, in the meal you just ate, and that it'll take about 15 minutes or so to know for sure whether or not your meal is going to take you for a ride. It would be irresponsible for you to shrug your shoulders, get in your car and begin your long drive home through neighborhoods and past schools and into heavy traffic, wouldn't it?

Those scenarios may be odd, but the issues they raise are fairly clear cut and easy to grasp, right? If you are a threat to others, intentionally or not, you should either exercise self restraint, or be restrained by others, from putting anyone in danger of being harmed or even killed, by you. It would be criminally irresponsible for either you or those around you, to do nothing.

Ok, lets make the issue murkier. Let's say that the police, on the basis of solid information from very credible complaints, are aware of a wildly drunken party by escaped criminals, from which several cars were seen leaving, and are presently driving towards them down a single two lane road. The police would have good cause for stopping cars coming down the lane and for checking the drivers out, correct?

But what if while the police had received very credible complaints, there was no certainty about where the party was located, or which roads the likely drunk driving criminals would be heading down; in that case the police might have good cause to alert people in the city to the potential danger, but they would not have cause to stop all cars on any and all roads, correct?

And finally, what if, with no information, no complaints, just an awareness that it being Friday night and the likelihood that there are parties & drunks & criminals out & about somewhere, the police just decide to set up roadblocks on all roads to stop all cars, test all drivers, search them for any sort of incriminating info, on the off chance they could catch someone at something... most people would say that would be an improper and irresponsible abuse of power, right?

The context and knowledge of the issues, changes what actions are responsible to take, right?

Recognizing the Context
So now lets bring the COVID-19 back into it the mix. If you, through no fault of your own, were exposed to this extremely communicable disease, which, with good reason to suspect you could endanger your community - what is your responsibility to yourself and to your community? You have credible reasons to believe that you might be a danger to others, do you not have a responsibility to protect your fellows from catching and communicating that danger that you might be carrying to infect still others? You can do at least as much, and very likely more, damage to your fellows, and it'd be even worse doing that while sober, than drunk, right?

If you were confirmed to have the virus, wouldn't knowingly exposing others to it, be highly negligent behavior? Wouldn't you be responsible for their illnesses and the effects of them? If your family, friends, bystanders, police, were aware that you were infected, shouldn't they do whatever they can to restrain you for your safety, theirs, and the safety of others?

Now what if you know that there's a likelihood that maybe someone, somewhere is infected, is it right, is it responsible to accost any and everyone for that?

Unlike an analogy of people being drunk, we aren't mentally incapacitated, but we also don't know whether we are infected, or whether or not we are bumping into someone who is, and so passing it onto others. In that situation, it would be wrong for govt to treat everyone as if they were 'guilty', but a responsible person who's aware of the potential problems, should limit their contact with others, because there is a very real possibility that they could be a danger to them. It is right, it is responsible, to advise people to restrict their unnecessary activities, to leave space, to wash & wipe - while it's still questionable whether or not people are infected.

It would be wrong for communities not known to be heavily exposed to the virus, to treat everyone as if they were guilty/infected, without strong reasons for believing otherwise. OTOH, areas around Seattle WA, do have good reasons to believe that large crowds are going to contain several carriers of the virus, and they do have good reasons to take actions that in normal conditions would be egregious abuses of power - the context of the situation matters.

A libertarian minded Facebook friend commented that '...rights don't have asterisks after them saying you can't exercise your right in certain conditions', which is another example to me that he's never given any real consideration to what rights are, and a symptom of a far more worrisome viral infection of our understanding of individual rights, that stems from the J.S. Mill school of 'liberty' meaning nothing more than 'freedom from restraint'. Your individual rights are yours by nature of being a human being, and that, so long as you're of sound mind, your having the power to exercise your rights is beyond challenge. But your ability to exercise your rights, most definitely is affected by the context of the situation that you would be exercising them within. What actions you have the power to exercise, changes from one situation to the next, even in normal circumstances, depending upon the context of the situation. Your power to speak your mind on a soapbox in the park, becomes restricted when in a theater full of people who have paid to peacefully watch a show without interruption, and your power to exercise that right is even more restricted in a hospital where patients' health depends upon their being able to rest, and those powers are still further restricted in a war zone where what you are saying out loud, could give a lethal advantage to the enemy.

Your power to exercise and enjoy your individual rights, is most definitely affected by the context of the situation you find yourself within. What powers the state is able to exercise over you, also varies with the context of the situation.

A policemen cannot claim to be exercising his powers responsibly, when stopping cars for no reason, subjecting people to blood alcohol tests without cause, or searching you or your property without just cause, but if you are weaving across the road and sideswiping parked cars, if you smell of alcohol and slur your speech, if a description of your car and you match that of an assault that was reported around the corner just moments ago, then the police most definitely have cause to detain you, test you, and search you and your things, and it would be irresponsible of them not to do just that.

Context matters.

The St. Louis area, for instance, as of yet (and that could change within hours) has no reason to believe that 'the infected are among us' in worrisome numbers. However because of how the virus is known to spread, and is known to be spread by people who have as yet no reason to think of themselves as being carriers, people should be making an effort to reduce the likelihood of spreading the virus to others; businesses should be making an effort to reduce the likelihood of providing a means to the spread of the virus, and it would be irresponsible of them to ignore that. The government should be making an effort to encourage individuals and businesses, to help slow the spread of the virus, and it would be irresponsible for them to not supply guidelines for that. But while making suggestions is appropriate in the current context, taking action, at this stage, to order businesses to close down, is unwarranted.

In the current context.

But once it does become a reasonable probability that any sizable gathering would contain numerous carriers of the virus and spread the disease to those most endangered by it, then if people fail to responsibly restrict themselves, authorities do have the responsibility - and the police power - to protect the public and limit, close, or quarantine them. They also have a legal responsibility to conduct such quarantines with due process - in normal circumstances. If emergency situations escalate, that may very well be determined by that context as well.

When President Trump shut down travel into America from Communist China and other countries which had large numbers of populations infected, that was the right, responsible, action to take. When President Trump was advising people to limit their activities, that was the appropriate and responsible thing to do. Trump engaging private companies in the process, Trump reducing or removing penalties & burdens from daily norms, from regulations to taxes & IRS due dates, is appropriate for him to do. Romney, Cotton, Trump, offering 'Cash for Corona'... those are not appropriate or responsible actions for government to take - removing burdens is good, increasing govt burdens on us all, is not! Govt shutting down govt colleges & public schools, that is appropriate (permanent would be better, but... that's me). But New York, Illinois & St. Louis, San Francisco, shutting down restaurants & gatherings... is not - yet - appropriate or warranted actions to take.

But honestly, I'm less interested in turning thumbs up or down on what responsible people, private and public, are attempting to do. I'm interested in you, We The People, giving careful thought to what is, and is not, appropriate and responsible behavior. What is your responsibility, what is your right, what power is it just for you to exercise? If you don't have that understanding, can those you elect to office be expected to understand - or care about - limiting governments powers to respecting and upholding your rights? If your answer isn't no - then why the hell not?!

Knowing what your individual rights are, the reasoning for them and for recognizing and defending them, and having some clarity of mind regarding the actions and circumstances where exercising them is responsible, and when it is not, is of fundamental importance, and the fact that your school may not have bothered teaching you that, is no excuse for your not making yourself more educated upon the matter.

You cannot truly enjoy your individual rights, if you don't consider the context of the situations you are exercising them in, and your not doing so endangers my ability to enjoy those rights as well. You, as a citizen, are responsible for knowing what your individual rights and responsibilities are, and not being aware of that, is inviting a dangerous context where all of our liberties could be lost to us, and to our children, and their children as well. That's the 'disease' that scares me the most, and I heartily wish there were a way to quarantine that.


Tuesday, March 03, 2020

No one fights alone - The secret to making life meaningful

No philosophy or politics today, just a few jet-lagged thoughts and observations from this weekend on watching others fighting the good fight for love and for life. As so many of us know, when cancer comes for you... no one fights alone. But not everyone fights in a way that everyone watching them, even from the sidelines, is lifted up by their fight as well. When one fight is fought as well as Tyler & Jessica Kasch have fought theirs, it's something that the rest of us would do well to take special notice of, if only for our own sakes.

I've met Tyler and his wife Jessica only a handful of times (he's the singer in the band our younger son Chad plays with, Hard Loss), but the fight they've fought, they clearly fought together, and they fought it in such a way that they not only won a five year reprieve from the most deadliest of foes, Glioblastoma brain cancer, but their fight has inspired their friends, and inspired onlookers like me, and even inspired a hockey team from 2,000 miles away, in that most jaded of all cities, Las Vegas, to take notice and join in with them. What Tyler & Jessica did in Vegas, most definitely did not stay in Vegas, and although cancer got to ring the last bell this weekend, it didn't win their fight, not by a long shot.
Selling bracelets for #JessicaStrong

One of their bandmates, Ryan, commented this weekend that: "...Tyler wrote a song for Jessica about her fight with cancer. When we performed the release show at Delmar Hall, it was a truly powerful moment he explained the meaning of "No One Fights Alone"[YouTube & lyrics at bottom] It still stands as one of my favorite live moments...". I saw them perform it that night, and during other gigs as well, and each time Tyler introduces the song, he talks about the wife that he so clearly loves with all his heart, and he brings the crowd along with them into the song and to their feet, and into the fight, and into living life. No one fights alone indeed.

Miraculously, Jessica had been cancer free for over five years, but late last year it returned with a vengeance. They fought back by continuing to live every day without retreating, and their friends rallied around them throughout.
Tyler reached out to Jessica's favorite hockey player, Jonathan Marchessault, of her favorite hockey team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, and both responded with an invitation to attend a home game in Las Vegas as their special guests. Accepting that invitation with her worsening condition was no easy task, an airline flight being too  much stress for her, so they drove out to Vegas in an RV to be the special guests of the team.
We happened to be in Vegas this last weekend visiting family for my wife's birthday, just after they'd been there, and I saw the 7 minute broadcast on the local TV News Channel dedicated to them and to their battle. Jessica passed during the Knights game Saturday night, and the station broadcast another tribute to her afterwards.

Life is meaningful. Joy is meaningful. Love is meaningful. And the hard truth is that meaningfulness comes with enduring repeated setbacks and stunning heartbreak, but fighting for it all is meaningful, no matter how it might seem to end. How you live, and how you love and how you fight for both, is not only meaningful but infuses and inspires those involved, even those looking on from the sidelines, with meaningfulness as well.

No one fights alone. It is heartbreaking. It is tragic. I can't imagine Tyler's pain. Pain is what comes with life and it isn't optional, but what is optional, what only comes from living your life and joining your life to another for the fight, is inspiration that lights and lifts other's lives, even in the lowest of moments. Jessica & Tyler fought the good fight by each other's side... and what a magnificent fight they fought. Well done.

As Tyler said: "Jessica DID NOT lose her battle. My girl would never let that happen. She was swinging right up until her and god decided it was her time."

She did not, they did not, lose the battle. They won it, and their example has helped others to fight the battle, and to not fight it alone. Philosophy is born in wonder, and few things are more full of wonder than two fighting for love and life together; that is where we all find life becoming meaningful, by not fighting the good fight alone. As has been said before, 'no one gets out of life alive', but that's not the point, the point is to live while you are alive - that's the fight that's worth fighting, and by fighting that good fight, there's no way you can lose.

Hard Loss - "No One Fights Alone"

Time stood still, it took everything not to cry
And I fell down, I didn't want to leave your side
We're gonna make it out alive,
I promise everything's alright,
Just brave, you'll say,

It's just a bad day, It's not a bad life, finding the light,
in all the motion, and I won't
Ever let go, never give up, I'll be your rock,
'cause you're my ocean
You are my ocean

No one fights alone, no one fights alone
No one fights alone, no one fights alone

We're gonna make it out alive
I promise everything's alright,
Just brave, you'll say,

It's just a bad day, It's not a bad life, finding the light,
in all the motion, and I won't
Ever let go, never give up, I'll be your rock,
'cause you're my ocean
You are my ocean

It's just a bad day, It's not a bad life, finding the light,
in all the motion, and I won't
Ever let go, if you won't give up, I'll be your rock,
'cause you're my ocean
You are my ocean

Everyday at some point I'm a mess
So I make these, promises
to myself, and with god, we spoke just last night,
he said he's on your side, he said you'll be just fine

It's just a bad day, It's not a bad life, finding the light,
in all the motion, and I won't
Ever let go, never give up, I'll be your rock,
'cause you're my ocean
You are my ocean

It's just a bad day, It's not a bad life, finding the light,
in all the motion, and I won't
Ever let go, if you won't give up, I'll be your rock,
'cause you're my ocean
You are my ocean

No one fights alone, no one fights alone
No one fights alone, no one fights alone
No one fights alone, no one fights alone
No one fights alone, no one fights alone

Jessica appears in the opening and close of
Hard Loss's video "In The Grey: