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Posts Tagged ‘progressivism’

God and Moral Relativism

August 16, 2013 Leave a comment

Everything that Someone Should Be Saying About Sandra Fluke, Rush Limbaugh, and Contraception

March 6, 2012 6 comments

When the Obama administration first announced its policy that all employers, including religiously affiliated employers, would be forced to provide health “insurance” to their employees which includes birth control coverage, most commentators seemed baffled by the move.  After all, it seems to make no sense to alienate Catholics, who are a very large bloc of swing voters that broke for Obama in 2008, during an election year.  But now I think we can see the logic behind this move.  As usual, there are several issues converging here, so this will be kind of a long one.  I will break it down into its key components.

The left’s war on reality

As you probably know, last week Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown University, testified in front of congress on behalf of the President’s policy of forcing universities and employers to cover contraception.  It is commonly said that you can boil a frog alive, you just have to do it slowly.  If you turn up the heat to fast, the frog will jump out of the pot, but if you do it slowly enough, he won’t notice he is being cooked.  America, we are being boiled!  We don’t notice it because it’s been going on for a hundred years.  But there are certain moments when we have the opportunity to look around us and realize that it’s getting hot in here.  When I first saw this testimony, I thought this would be one of those moments.

This woman thinks it is an outrage that she doesn’t get free birth control.  She is 31 and attending a prestigious law school.  She lays out a number of horrifying scenarios that her friends have or could have experienced.  For instance, her friend didn’t go to the doctor after being raped because she assumed that her insurance wouldn’t cover it even though it does.  Another friend was humiliated when she didn’t check what was covered by her insurance before going to the store to buy her birth control.  Also, some hypothetical students at other unnamed universities might not get birth control that they need for reasons other than birth control, even though they do at Georgetown.

America, meet my generation.  We make decisions without thinking about the consequences.  Then if there are consequences we didn’t foresee because we didn’t really think about them, we become outraged and expect someone else to fix them for us.  In short: we don’t think it is fair to expect us to take care of ourselves. Read more…

Why the Left Hates Religion

February 14, 2012 4 comments

Many libertarian types, especially the college crowd, are somewhat hostile to religion.  This is unfortunate because it plays into the hands of the progressives who know they must destroy civil religion to accomplish their goals.  Because of this libertarians find themselves in danger of coming down on the wrong side in matters regarding church and state.  My goal here is to convince the atheist libertarian that they should (usually) come down on the side of the church.

I will start by defining religion.  As I explained in this post there are boundaries to what reason and observation of the physical world can tell us.  There are two types of information which lay beyond these boundaries.  The type explained in the above post is positive information regarding the laws of nature.  Some of this information is knowable but we don’t know it yet and some of it is theoretically unknowable like what forces created the universe and created the laws of nature.  The second type of information is normative.  All normative questions are inherently unanswerable by reason and observation alone.  Reason can tell you how to build a gun but it can’t tell you who you ought to use it against.  It can tell you how to make a car safer but it can’t tell you how you should value the risk to your life or the lives of others or the costs of being safer.

A religion is a system of beliefs that offers answers to these questions which reason cannot answer.  These questions include mainly: where did we come from? Where are we going? What should we do in between?  Now the important thing to notice is that everyone, at some point, has to answer something to these questions.  Even an agnostic, must consciously answer “I don’t know” to the first two questions.  A nihilist must answer “there is no answer” to the third.  Nonetheless, these are belief systems which are carefully constructed to arrive at these conclusions, and therefore they are religions by my definition.  (Note: obviously, you can define it in a different way which separates them but this is the definition that is germane to the point I am trying to make so just go with it and see if you really don’t agree with the point when I’m done.)

Read more…

Newt Gingrich

December 17, 2011 1 comment

Beating up on Newt Gingrich is becoming kind of an unoriginal blog topic but I can’t help myself.  I’ll keep it brief though.  If you want an exhaustive list of reasons not to vote for Newt Gingrich you can go here.

First, this should terrify you.  I’m so sick of being called a fascist by people on the left.  Can we please not nominate a Republican who in fact is a fascist?  It’s really making us look bad.  The preservation of liberty is an exercise in restraint.  I don’t like a lot of the things the courts have done too.  I agree that someone who thinks “one nation under God” is wrong shouldn’t be on the court.  But that doesn’t mean I want the president to go and kick them off.  There is a process that determines these things and it is carefully designed to protect against tyranny.  If we don’t want these people on the courts we need to not put them there in the first place.  If we don’t like their rulings we need to address it through the legislature.  We can even change the constitution if we have to.  What we must not do is let the president just decide  which courts are acceptable and which are not based on some arbitrary standard like “attacking American exceptionalism.”

And notice what he says is their problem.  They are “grotesquely dictatorial, far too powerful and … frankly arrogant in their misreading of the American people.”  This is a statement I can almost get behind but the ending is all wrong.   If Newt was not a progressive, this quote would go like this: “grotesquely dictatorial, far too powerful and … frankly arrogant in their misreading of the constitution.” The purpose of a justice is not to read the people, it is to read the law!  Furthermore, the trend in the balance of power over the last 100 years has not been in favor of the courts, it has been in favor of the president.  So right now we have Barak Obama railing against an obstructionist legislature and a Republican front-runner railing against a tyrannical judiciary.  One is playing on our frustration with the separation of powers and the other is playing on our healthy distrust of concentrated power but they are both doing it in order to further concentrate power in the executive branch.  At least our side should see through it.

“American Exceptionalism” is an empty vessel.  Just pour in whatever you think is good, chill and enjoy.  It sounds good to everyone (at least everyone on the right).  But what you think it means might not be the same thing that Newt thinks it means.  This is a standard progressive tactic and it reeks of Newt’s favorite modern president FDR, who managed to force his outrageously unconstitutional New Deal through the courts by threatening to pack the supreme court.  They want to redesign the system.  In order to do this they have to break the rules of the system.  In order to do this they have to get the country to not mind that they are completely ignoring the rules and to do this they simply claim that they are doing it in pursuit of something the people want.  We have to stop taking that path: the quicker, easier, more seductive path.

Secondly, nobody who is not a progressive would say this.  Newt thinks Romney should give back the money he earned while laying off employees.  Sometimes, in a free market, employees should be laid off.  This is not an immoral act.  Anyone who thinks it is does not believe in the free market.  They don’t believe that employment is a mutually beneficial, mutually voluntary agreement but that working for someone gives you a claim on their life and their assets.  That employees are the wards of their employers and that if it stops being beneficial to the employer and they end the agreement that they are committing a great injustice.  This view is entirely incompatible with free markets and private property.   It is, however, entirely compatible with progressivism…..

Another Day Another “Woe”

November 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Check out this story from my university.  This illustrates perfectly why progressives will never be satisfied.  A hundred years ago socialists claimed moral supremacy by supporting the “right” of everyone to the basic necessities of life, which at the time included things like food and shelter.  Using this battle cry, they managed to take over several countries and people starved in record numbers.  Meanwhile in America the poor became increasingly obese.  Now they claim moral supremacy by supporting the “right” of everyone to the basic necessities of life wich include, apparently, access to broadband internet, a luxury without which people have somehow managed to scrape by for some 6000 years.

This type of rhetoric is obviously targeted at the most naive members of society which is no doubt why they do this stuff around college campuses.  It’s a really bold move to come out in support of more free stuff for people.  But if you even think about these claims a little bit, the absurdity is undeniable.  For instance, take statements like this:

The telcos have failed America. We have third-world broadband.

Then click the link a couple lines above it and discover–no doubt to your horror–that the U.S. is 9th among OECD countries in broadband subscriptions per 100 people.  What a colossal failure of the free market that is.  I mean, all the telecoms have done for us is invent a new life-changing technology and disseminate it to a large portion of the population for not very much money.  But according to our governor, in a TV ad which I saw but can’t find, half of low-income people in Washington don’t have it.  (It’s so sneaky how she says it too, she says something like “half of low-income families don’t have broadband–that’s right–half.  She sort of glosses over the “low-income” part and repeats the “half.”)  So this makes us a third-world-country?  That only half of our poor people have broadband internet?  I guess that explains why progressives are fleeing our shores in droves for more enlightened countries like Cuba and Vietnam, where no doubt the broadband internet flows like water.

This attitude that whenever something cool gets invented everyone has a “right” to it is so absurd the only explanation I can think of for people believing in it is that they haven’t really thought about it.  So I’m  trying to do my part to get them to think and you can too.  The next time you see one of these people, ask them what would make them satisfied.  What would a society that was fair and just enough for you look like?  Everyone would have food, and housing, and broadband, and healthcare?  How big would everyone’s house be?  What food would they eat?  How much healthcare would they get?  I mean does everyone just get as much healthcare as they want?  What if someone can be kept alive for one more day at a cost of a million dollars, do they have a “right” to that?  How will the answers to these questions be determined?  Perhaps more importantly, where will this stuff, this food and housing and healthcare and broadband come from?  Who will invent the next drug or the next broadband when as soon as they do, it gives everyone in society a claim against them?

Obviously these questions have no answers (at least not answers that progressives would acknowledge), because they are making that most fundamental of economic errors–assuming no scarcity.  This is why they will never be satisfied.  We keep getting more stuff, our lives keep getting easier, and they keep getting more angry because there is still scarcity.  There is always something that somebody has that somebody else doesn’t have so there’s always something to get outraged by if you are inclined to this way of thinking.  And if you do, then every great invention will become a source of “woe” in no time.

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A New Public-Private Partnership

February 4, 2011 3 comments

There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks about Obama’s appointment of General Electric President Jeffrey Immelt as head of the White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness signifying a newfound dedication by Obama to create a more business friendly environment.  Here is an example.  This, however couldn’t be further from the truth.  Immelt is a progressive who has been at Obama’s side all along.  This is exactly how progressives have always operated.  Let’s take a look at the history.

Recall the true story of the robber barons from a previous post.  Most of the “exploitation” that happened in the 19th century was not carried out via free market capitalism it was a result of so-called “capitalists” buying influence in the government and using it to get subsidies, raise prices, restrict competition and form cartels/monopolies.  The market can’t exploit you because it can’t force you to do anything you don’t want to do.  The only thing that can force you to do something against your will is the government. 

Fast forward to the great depression and observe another so-called “capitalist” Herbert Hoover who explained his approach to economic recovery in his memoirs:

With the October-November stock-market crash the primary question at once arose as to whether the President and the Federal government should undertake to mitigate and remedy the evils stemming from it.  No President before had ever believed there was a governmental responsibility in such cases.  no matter what the urging on previous occasions.  Presidents steadfastly had maintained that the Federal government was apart from such eruptions; they had always been left to blow themselves out.  presidents Van Buren, Grant, Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt had all remained aloof…*

Hoover, however, did not remain aloof.  Instead he formed a vast “public-private partnership”.”  In November 1929, speaking to a group of industrialists Hoover said:

[Your agreement is] an advance in the whole conception of the relationship of business to public welfare.  You represent the business of the United States, undertaking through your own voluntary action to contribute something very definite to the advancement of stability and progress in our economic life.  This is a far cry from the arbitrary and dog-eat-dog attitude of the business world of some thirty or forty years ago.

In January of the following year an editorial in the American Federationist, a labor union publication proclaimed:

The President’s conference has given industrial leaders a new sense of their responsibilities….Never before have they been called upon to act together…[I]n earlier recessions they have acted individually to protect their own interests and…have intensified depressions.”

Thank God industrial leaders didn’t intensify the depression of 1929 by acting in their own selfish interests, or it might have gotten bad…. Hoover’s treasury secretary Andrew Mellon (who was not really a supporter of Hoover’s interference) characterized the situation as follows:

In this country, there has been a concerted and determined effort on the part of both government and business not only to prevent any reduction in wages but to keep the maximum number of men employed, and thereby to increase consumption.

After several years of  “advancing stability and progress in economic life,” we were, not surprisingly, still in a deep recession.  The public/private partnership continued however under FDR’s National Recovery Administration.  That’s the name progressives gave to big business getting together and setting prices and standards for their industries that would not allow smaller businesses to compete and having government enforce them on everyone.  You may have heard of the dry cleaner who was thrown in jail for setting his prices too low.

Maged had been pressing pants for twenty-two years and his low prices and quality work had kept him competitive with larger tailor shops in the better parts of town.  The NRA Cleaners and Dyers Code demanded that 40 cents be charged to press a suit.  Maged, despite repeated warnings, insisted on charging his customers only 35 cents.  “You can’t tell me how to run my business,” Maged insisted.  When threatened with jail, he said, “If you can send me to jail, go ahead.”

Not only was Maged thrown in jail, he was also slapped with a hundred-dollar fine.  “We think that this is the only way to enforce the NRA,” said Abraham Traube, a director of the NRA code authority for the Cleaners and Dyers Board of Trade.  “If we did the same thing in New York City we would soon get the whole industry in line.”

Carl Pharis, the owner of a tire manufacturing company in Ohio described the act.

The Government deliberately raised our prices up towards the prices at which the big companies wanted to sell, at which they could make a profit… where more easily,  with much less loss, they could come down and ‘get us’ and where, bound by N.R.A. decrees, we could not use lower prices, although we could have lowered them and still made a decent profit.

Similarly the Agricultural Adjustment Act sought to raise prices of agricultural goods by destroying crops while people went hungry.

By the time the [Agricultural Adjustment Act] became law and key people were recruited, corn, cotton, tobacco, and wheat were already planted, and livestock operations were moving along.  The contemplated output restrictions wouldn’t take effect until the following year.  So some of the New Dealers began to think their only option, if they wanted to force up farm prices soon, was to destroy crops already planted… Agriculture Department officials signed up about a million cotton farmers, and they were paid $100 million to plow under some 10 million acres of farmland….Hog farmers were paid to slaughter some 6 million baby pigs.  Economic historian Broadus Mitchell noted that “Most of this pork, under agreement of the government with the packers, became fertilizer; less than a tenth was saved as food and distributed in relief.” Mitchell added, “Over 12,000 acres of tobacco were plowed under.  California cling peaches were permitted to rot in the orchard.

So now we have the White House cozying up to the CEO of GE.  GE the parent company of the “thrill up my leg” network MSNBC which sings the praises of the Obama administration and slanders its critics 24 hours a day.  GE the maker of those stupid “green” lightbulbs that cost ten times as much as an incandescent lightbulb which but which you will be forced to buy soon thanks to the latter being declared illegal.  GE the maker of windmills which cost more to maintain than the energy they produce is worth but which the government is paying to build all over the country. 

The reason we get confused about these things is that we have been trained to see only groups and not individuals.  We see a businessman and we assume that his agenda is to help business.  But that’s almost always not the case.  The business man’s agenda is to help his business.  If you have a different business then that businessman in a position of power might not be so great for you. 

The greatest lie in history is that greedy capitalists screw everyone over through free markets but the reason it has been so successful is that it’s largely correct.  It’s true that people are greedy that’s a fact of nature, you can’t change it.  It’s true that capitalists are screwing us over.  It’s not true that they are doing it through the free market.  They are doing it with the government.  With a free market and rule of law, people’s greed drives them to compete by doing a better job, making a better product, or offering a lower price than their competitors.    It is greed combined with government that breeds destruction and disaster.  The progressive dream is to create a giant government populated by angels and have it control the greed of the less virtuous peasants.  If you can find the angels that plan wouldn’t be so bad.  As it is we need to start focussing on controlling the government.

*The quotes from this post were all taken from Robert Murphy’s excellent book The Politically Incorrec Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal.  They are all from other sources which I am too lazy to cite.  I can provide them upon request if anybody is interested.

Democracy

February 1, 2011 6 comments

Since I was a child I have been taught that democracy equals freedom.  But this is not the case.  Well at least it’s not the good kind of freedom.  To see what I mean let’s play the two codes game.  Consider two moral codes which both value “freedom” and despise “oppression.”  The difference is in what type of entity each code identifies as a candidate for freedom or oppression.  A holder of the first code believes the relevant entity is the individual and the holder of the second believes it is the collective.  You cannot simultaneously believe in individual freedom and collective freedom.  Here’s why.

If you take a free individual, his decision-making process is simple.  He looks at a situation, decides what he wants to do and then does it.   If you take a collection of individuals, the process is much more complicated.  The reason is that there is no way to aggregate preferences.   At least there is no way to aggregate preferences when you think of a collective as a collection of individuals.  If however, you consider the collective to be a monolithic being, then it becomes simple again.  You just ask it what it wants and then do that.  But how do you ask the collective to make a decision?  You have a vote of course.  And that’s democracy.  And as long as you only care about collective freedom you feel just fine about this because the collective always gets what it “wants.”  It’s free.

Of course if you care about individual freedom this just won’t do.  The reason is obvious.  This is tyranny of the majority.  If at any time, your life and or property can be disposed of by a majority of the other people in society you are not free.   This is problematic if you are not very popular.  But even if you are popular, you are bound to the whims of the masses at every turn and I think it is self-evident that the majority does not always make the right decision.  This, of course, is the view held by Bernays and the progressives which is why they devote so much energy to propaganda/public relations.  But it is also why they are such ardent advocates of democracy.  They believe the masses are idiots that they can convince to do whatever they want.  Of course not everyone is an idiot, but if you have democracy it’s ok, you only have to get 51% of them, the rest have no choice.

So progressives and I have one thing in common, we both don’t trust the masses to make the right decisions for society.  But we have different ways of dealing with it.  They want to vest as much power in the masses as possible (democracy) because they think they can manipulate them.  I don’t want to manipulate anyone, I just want to be free from the consequences of their potential idiocy.  To anyone who shares this desire, democracy is a terrible governing concept.

If you believe in collective freedom, then democracy equals freedom and all you would need to form the perfect union would be this:

“The government can do whatever it wants as long as it’s supported by a majority vote.”

If on the other hand you believe that government should be established for the purpose of protecting individual liberty then it is a much more delicate process.  It requires things like enumerated powers and a bill of rights.  These things exist to protect the individual from the masses.  These are the things which have been eroded by progressivism.  The perfect example is the case of income taxes I spoke about recently.  This allows the government to target certain people, and dispose of their property for the benefit of some other people.  Also we have the popular election of senators, socialized healthcare, etc.  And their justification for all these things is that it’s the will of “the people.”  As long as it’s what “the people” want, it’s ok. 

But it’s not my will.  I don’t want to be bound to a government-run healthcare monstrosity.  I happen to know that it’s a bad idea (in this case the majority seems to be on my side but they won’t be when it comes time to actually fix the healthcare system).  If we were left to our individual liberty, I could choose to participate in free market health insurance and the leftists could go voluntarily institute a collectivist healthcare collective.  The only difference would be that they couldn’t take money from those of us who think it’s a stupid idea in order to pay for it.  Then we could see which works best (even they know which one it would be that’s why they don’t do it this way) and make our own choices.  But progressives’ moral code holds that it is just to force anything on anyone as long as a majority of other people support it.  This makes it entirely incompatible with individual liberty, and that is why our founders did not establish a democracy.

I’m not very happy with this one but I have had writer’s block and I promised this one would be coming soon so I’m pushing it out, sorry.