Archive for the ‘#politicalphilosophy’ Tag

Oscar Wilde on Why Wanting to Be Left Alone Is Not Selfish | Jon Miltimore   5 comments

Individualism involves allowing people to flourish and think as they see fit, mainly by leaving them alone.

Source: Oscar Wilde on Why Wanting to Be Left Alone Is Not Selfish | Jon Miltimore

 

Confession: Oscar Wilde is one of my favorite writers. Though he was what Dostoevsky would have described as “a dedicated sensualist,” Wilde possessed a true creative genius perhaps unmatched among his literary contemporaries.

His essay “The Soul of Man under Socialism” is not, in my opinion, his best work. Written in 1891, it’s largely a stream of consciousness detailing what Wilde thought about art, capitalism, socialism, and—most importantly—Individualism.

Individualism is Wilde’s primary concern. What is it? Here’s what he had to say:

Art is Individualism, and Individualism is a disturbing and disintegrating force. Therein lies its immense value. For what it seeks to disturb is monotony of type, slavery of custom, tyranny of habit, and the reduction of man to the level of a machine.

Wilde’s ideas on government in the essay are a strange hodgepodge. He basically rejects both capitalism (too vulgar) and socialism (too authoritarian).

Still, the endgame of his philosophy soon becomes clear. Individualism involves allowing people to flourish and think as they see fit, mainly by leaving them alone.

Is wanting to be left alone selfish? Not at all, Wilde argues:

[U]nselfishness is letting other people’s lives alone, not interfering with them. Selfishness always aims at creating around it an absolute uniformity of type. Unselfishness recognises infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it. It is not selfish to think for oneself.

The tyrants, Wilde says, are those who demand of others to think as they do:

It is grossly selfish to require of ones neighbour that he should think in the same way, and hold the same opinions. Why should he? If he can think, he will probably think differently. If he cannot think, it is monstrous to require thought of any kind from him. A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a red rose. It would be horribly selfish if it wanted all the other flowers in the garden to be both red and roses.

One could easily apply Wilde’s metaphor to the desires of many Americans today. Unfortunately, there seem to be legions of red roses demanding all flowers become red roses.

Knowledge Illuminates   6 comments

If you could make one change in the world, what would it be?

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Good heavens! Just ONE? The world is way more complicated than that and you never know what long-term negative consequences even one small change might have.

It’s tempting as a Christian to say I would go back and have Eve not believe the Liar in the garden. Think of the untold pain we would have avoided if she’d chosen to listen to God instead of Satan. But if she hadn’t of disobeyed God, Adam would have … or one of their children. That’s the thing about free will — it is the capacity to do really stupid things and sooner or later, someone would have disobeyed God because it was the only choice (obey or disobey) they had under freewill, so we’d still be exactly where we are. So, I’m not going to waste my fairy wand moment on betting against humans being humanly stupid.

So, I googled the question and found this is a topic and people have a lot of ideas about what “one thing” they think would fix the world. And as I scanned through those lists most of them were either ridiculous (fix time and gravity, really?) or tyrannical (get rid of guns, free speech, political parties, parents raising children, force everyone to send their kids to public school, etc.) or they had severe unintended consequences that immediately leaped into my mind. These are the sorts of ideas that alternative speculative fiction writers eat up – the stuff of shows like “Sliders”. Change one thing and the world we live in might be utterly different. The difference might be good, and those proposing the change always think it will be, but some of us become speculative fiction writers because we can see the negative consequences nobody else wants to acknowledge. Even if things remain pretty much the same, that’s not a beneficial change, so why do it? Because you can and you’d like to control a few billion people? That’s not a sufficient reason to me. And, then there’s always the reminder that the Alaskan butterfly moves its wings and it causes a hurricane in Puerto Rico. I learned there were a lot of tyrants thinking tyrannical thoughts believing they would make a better world if they could just coerce others to their way of thinking, but I really didn’t come up with what one thing I would change if I could.

I made my own list and I kept crossing things out as unworkable, fraught with unintended consequences or tyrannical. As a freewill and natural rights advocate, I kept running up against the notion that I was violating my own principles with this list. I can’t force other people to do what I want and unless I know what the butterfly’s wings will wrought, I have no business with the power to change the universe. I can play around in my fictional worlds as much as I want, but where there are real-world consequences – take the fairy wand away from me and don’t give it to anyone else.

Still, I agreed to write this topic, so …. If there were one thing I would really want to change in the world it would be ….

I’d turn on the intellectual light bulb for people. I’d make them aware of a few simple principles – actually understand them.

  • There is a higher power above your own personal desires – call Him Jesus-God as I do, or something else, but Man (individual and collectivized into governments) is not the highest order in the universe. We will one day be held accountable by the higher power.
  • Only individuals make decisions and, therefore, are responsible for their actions. We exercise rights and have responsibilities. These are not granted by groups. They belong to the individual. Groups are merely a collection of individuals. There’s nothing special about an idea just because more than one person at a time agrees with it.
  • Order does not need to be imposed by a central authority (individuals acting in groups). Groups have no greater rights than the individuals that compose them. The only rules (as in rule of law) we need are those that protect the freedom of individuals to pursue happiness in their own way so long as they are not injuring others. (This is termed “the non-aggression principle” for those who would like to study it further.)
  • Recognize that there is a natural harmony of interests among peaceful, productive people in a just society. Yes, there will sometimes be conflict among individual choices that will require individuals to adjust their plans so as not to aggress upon their neighbors. Individuals in conflict can work that out among themselves with reference to a higher power and the rule of law and so long as they are working it out peacefully, it’s none of their neighbors’ business.
  • Individuals must consistently apply these principles in order for a peaceful and just society to work. You can’t hold two principles to be correct at the same time and you can’t force other people to agree with you simply because you believe you’re “right”.

Okay, so that sounds like five things, but they all five must work together, so they’re really one thing. And I merely propose to turn on the light bulb – to grant the knowledge. The knowledge of those principles doesn’t force anyone to follow them, but once the light illuminates your interior spaces, it’s hard not to see the natural outcomes of tyrannical and inconsistent thinking and start acting to adjust your behavior. I’m speaking from personal experience here. It’s how I moved from political moderate, to conservative, to libertarian, to admiring voluntaryists/anarchists. When you become aware of your cognitive dissonance, you modify your behavior to align with the reality you’ve become aware of.

And, that knowledge, without any coercion or force required, I believe, would make a huge difference in our world without a lot of unintended negative consequences. People with the knowledge that they act as individuals and are personally responsible for their decisions and cannot rely on groups to enforce their wills on the unwilling would change their thinking and that thinking would change their actions and those actions would be peaceful because the initiation of aggression is disallowed. And right there – everybody refraining from acts of aggression (even the ones we currently don’t acknowledge as aggression) would change the world completely and for the better. It wouldn’t stop all conflict, but it would require us to negotiate compromise rather than force it.

Ah, can you feel the stress lifting from the world? I sure can!

Now, I’m really curious about what “one thing” my fellow blog hoppers would change.

Double Standard   Leave a comment

During WWII, ex-Ku Klux Klansman, now U.S. Senator, Robert Byrd vowed never to fight, “with a Negro by my side. Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.” Just a couple of years ago, Senator Byrd lectured us on the floor of the Senate that, “There are white niggers. I’ve seen a lot of white niggers in my time.” I wonder whether he was talking about whites who act like blacks.

Walter WilliamsSan Francisco’s esteemed mayor Willie Brown once described a successful legislative battle this way, “We beat those old white boys fair and square.”

Spike Lee said in disapproval of interracial marriages, “I give interracial couples a look. Daggers. They get uncomfortable when they see me on the street.”

The National Association of Black Social Workers drafted a position paper calling white adoptions of black children “cultural genocide.” They warned against “transculturation . . . when one dominant culture overpowers and forces another culture to accept a foreign form of existence.”

Donna Brazile, Al Gore’s presidential campaign manager called Republicans “white boys” who seek to “exclude, denigrate, and leave behind.”

At a celebration for retiring Senator Strom Thurmond (R. SC), Senator Trent Lott (R. Miss) said that Mississippians were proud to have voted for Mr. Thurmond in his 1948 presidential campaign “and, if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years.”

Which among the above statements are the most racist, which have received the most media coverage and which caused the most angst? Clearly, Trent Lott’s statement received the most media coverage and created the most angst but it doesn’t begin to qualify as the most racist. You say, “Williams, that’s different. High officials shouldn’t honor and praise racists or ex-racists.” Then what about Bill Clinton’s acknowledged political mentors – former Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright and former Arkansas Governor Orville Faubus – who were both rabid segregationists, yet former President Clinton highly praises Fulbright and bestowed upon him the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award. By the way Fulbright was one of 19 senators who issued a statement entitled ‘The Southern Manifesto’, condemning the 1954 Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. Board of Education, and defending segregation. That’s a bit more recent than Thurmond’s run for the White House. Does Bill Clinton’s praise of Fulbright, mean that he supported “The Southern Manifesto” just as the assertion that Trent Lott’s praise of Thurmond means he supports Thurmond segregationist stand in 1948? If so, why not also condemn Bill Clinton?

I have several possible theories on the responses to Senator Lott’s rather stupid remarks – stupid in the context of our politically correct world. My first theory is that conservatives are held to higher standards of decency, conduct and decorum than liberals. In other words, it’s like behavior that’s tolerated in the case of children but ostracized when adults do the same thing. That theory might also explain why racist statements made by blacks are excused. Another theory is that since 9/11 and President Bush’s public popularity, both appointed and unappointed black leaders have had no platform and been paid no attention. Senator Lott’s guffaw gives them platform, voice and mission. Finally, the Democrats, having lost all branches of national government in the recent elections, are desperate to get something on Bush and the Republicans and Trent Lott’s statement is the answer to their prayers.

Walter E. Williams

December 16, 2002

Words of Election Wisdom   1 comment

Image result for lysander spooner a man is no less a slave

The blue wave turned out to be a blue ripple. The Democrats won a healthy, but narrow majority in the House and lost seats in the Senate. More tellingly, most state governorships remain in Republican hands. Democrats got a bump, but they didn’t flip big in any state. It was all fairly narrow margins. What does that mean?

Well, people were certainly energized and many new voters turned out to the polls. Democrats hoped they were energized against President Trump, but voters don’t appear to be so upset with President Trump that they are inclined to punish Republicans to a great degree. Suburban voters turned out against Trump — which I find interesting because they have the most to gain from Trump’s economy. Polling out of Texas suggests a disconnect between Democrats and the economic reality. That might change when they file their tax returns in the coming year. For the record, Trump’s tax reform saw a 10% increase in my family’s take-home pay from 2017 to 2018. I’m not a Trump supporter, but I am grateful for that bump which has allowed me to replenish a savings account that had been badly depleted by Obamacare-drive medical insurance premiums.

The Democrats can now exert some power in the federal government, but it is limited and checked power. That means they must either opt for “bipartisanship”, which under Republican presidents generally results in huge spending increases, or in gridlock, which isn’t a bad thing from a liberty perspective. Unfortunately, there are some huge things that need to be addressed – entitlement reform (including Obamacare and Obama’s massive expansion of the welfare state) and the debt being the biggest issues — and I think either way, this election result means those extremely important issues will not be addressed for at least another two years. But, Republicans didn’t exactly work on those issues in the two years they had control of all branches of government, so ….

I prefer divided government and gridlock. More issues may devolve to the states, which I also prefer. The blue ripple is better than a blue wave because it sends a clear message to Democrats that the voters don’t love them, they just don’t like unitarian government. It also sends a message to President Trump that he needs to work across the aisle. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, if he were a fiscal conservative, but he isn’t, so — who’s ready for $30 trillion in debt?

Anyone want to lay a long-term bet on how long the government can sustain deficit spending at these levels?

 

Transcending this Lifetime   6 comments

What do you want people to remember about you?

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We all hope to leave a legacy. It’s sort of a human ambition to leave behind something that has people remember who we were a decade after our deaths or a century. It’s mainly only the infamous who are remembered millennia after their deaths. Alexander the Great is not remembered because he was a good guy who promoted peace and love, for example. Had George Washington not headed the Continental Army during the American Revolution, he would be no better remembered today than Lemuel Haynes or Roger Sherman.

Proverbs 31 womanAt not-quite-60 I probably have another 20 years to forge my legacy (my mother’s family routinely push 90 when they pass to the next realm), so I am thinking more and more of what I want people to remember about me. I don’t do bucket lists, but today’s post calls me to consider this, so, here goes!

I would want people to remember me as an imperfect (that’s actually important) mother who loved her children enough to let them find their own paths, but who imparted saving knowledge of Jesus Christ to them. If our daughter ever fulfills her potential and God’s leading, you will know her name and not because she’s infamous. To say more would sound arrogant, but there are reasons having nothing to do with me or her for why I believe she could light up the world stage … or that she might be one of those people who is not famous in her own lifetime, but whose work will transcend her own life.

When folks stand around at my memorial service, I hope they remember my faith was in Jesus Christ and that I lived that out in my life even when it was sometimes hard and I wasn’t rewarded for it. Yeah, I think I’m on a theme here.

I would like people to remember my books. I put a lot of myself and my faith into them and so, of course, I want them to live on beyond my lifetime.

Last, I hope my blogging is remembered by the people who have read it (or might read it in the future) and that it helped them to see new and better ways of doing things that leads us away from the current vitriol and insanity of our present schizophrenic society. I’m not alone in occupying a 3rd way that is neither Republican nor Democrat, but seeks to align with economic reality and individual liberty and I pray God that people turn more in that direction before the whole mess slides off a cliff.

So, I think that’s about it. A faithful Christian, an effective communicator, an entertaining novelist and a good mom. Basically, I want to be remembered as a humanized Proverbs 31 woman.

Criminal Justice Reform Must Include Dignity   Leave a comment

PrisonI must confess I’ve always been a lukewarm supporter of the Koch brothers. I know … that makes me an enemy of trees and babies and bunnies … but meh … I don’t care! I’ve researched what they’re actually trying to accomplish and I agree with a fair amount of it. So, while you’re welcome to your half-formed opinions, you might want to gather some facts before you argue with me.

And, now I’ve found convergence on yet another issue.

The Rand Corporation reports that “more than 2 million adults are incarcerated in U.S. prisons,” with roughly 700,000 leaving federal and state prisons each year. There’s about a 40% recidivism rate among the released.

Brad and I have done a lot of jail ministry and seen the struggles behind this staggering statistic. What the heck are we doing, America?

Alaska recently reformed our sentencing laws, but before they even took effect, the legislature reinstituted most of the draconian system that has been the norm here for decades. So, my ears perked up when Koch Industries came forward with a vision of human dignity and individual liberty based on the restorative power of work. Maybe someone is finally getting the point.

How do we reform the criminal justice system to better help and support these individuals in recognizing their gifts and learning to leverage those gifts toward  meaningful work and relationships across society?

Koch Industries is not the only company reflecting on these needs, but they’re taking action and becoming a leading voice in the fight for criminal justice reform, involving an extensive lobbying toward public reforms and instituting changes in their hiring and training practices as a private business—a development that other businesses are beginning mirror.

In an interview with Barron’s, Mark Holden, Koch’s general counsel and leader of its various criminal justice efforts, explains how improving prisoner rehabilitation closely corresponds with an integrative vision of human dignity, individual liberty, and the restorative power of work.

“We’re focused on removing external barriers to opportunity for all Americans, particularly the least advantaged,” Holden explains.

We want a system that keeps communities safe, that is based on equal rights, that is redemptive and rehabilitative, and that provides for real second chances for people who break the law, are incarcerated, and return to society.

As a former jail guard himself, Holden has witnessed many of the problems firsthand, leading him to believe that America now has a “two-tiered system” that benefits the rich while the least powerful are shuffled and reshuffled through an impersonal and dehumanizing system.

Holden and Koch approach the issue through three distinct “lenses”—moral, constitutional, and then fiscal:

The moral case is basically the two-tiered system. I’m a big fan of public defenders, they are heroes, and the Sixth Amendment says that it’s a natural right that you have a lawyer. But 80%-plus of the people in the system need a lawyer and oftentimes don’t get one who can work on their case full-time, beginning to end. Then you come back out [with] a criminal record, which makes it difficult to get a job, to get housing, loans, the whole drill. The whole system, from our perspective, is immoral.

The constitutional case is based on the Bill of Rights: 40% of the Bill of Rights deals with criminal justice issues, whether that’s the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, or Eighth amendments.

Lastly is the fiscal case…States are responsible for their own budgets, and once someone starts to look at different line items in the state budget and sees how much they’re spending on incarceration, they want to peel back who’s in prison and why. That’s what’s happened in Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, Delaware, Michigan, and many other states… We say the fiscal case is the moral case, because when you stop spending so much money on incarcerating people, you have a lot more resources to pay for better education systems, roads, mental health issues.

Education is a critical part of the restorative journey, particularly as it relates to training and mentoring individuals for re-entry into the workforce. Opportunities could be created in a variety of ways, whether by granting organizations and businesses easier access to prisons or by simply shifting the thinking and hiring processes among private businesses on the “outside.”

All of this leads to greater access to work, which brings dignity and meaning to the individual, channeling creativity, and facilitating connection and relationships:

It’s good for the individual; having a good job is a big indicator that you won’t go back to prison. That’s better for society; [it saves] money, it keeps communities safer, and keeps law enforcement safer. We see it as a win/win/win, completely consistent with our philosophy about individual liberty, consistent with our view of what will make for a much more just, better society, and help people improve their lives, if it’s done right. The reforms in the states give us that road map.

Whenever you hire anybody, record or no record, it’s a risk. A criminal record is one data point. We’ve learned over time that just because someone has a criminal record doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. Now, with a tight labor market, there’s a lot more opportunity for people with criminal records, which is good.

Among the many barriers (or let’s just call them what they are — injustices) prisoners will continue to face—political, institutional, cultural, and otherwise—work is an area where real redemptive fruit is visible almost immediately.  For Koch Industries, it will require greater risk, vulnerability, and investment but God has given Holden and his employers the wisdom, relational capacity, love and grace to begin repairing the fragments of society at the ground level.

As we continue to fight for better policies and a more fair and equitable criminal justice system, let’s not forget the powerful role that work can play in facilitating personal journeys of restoration and rehabilitation in the everyday and everywhere in-between.

Why Does Separation of Church & State Grow Churches?   2 comments

Image result for image of a anglican churchHave you ever noticed that Europe is largely a non-Christian society while in the United States, we value freedom of religion and have relatively higher levels of faith?

It’s sort of interesting how that works because in Europe, most countries have a state religion that is subsidized by the government while in the United States people have to dole out their hard-earned money if they want to support a church.

Seventy percent of young people in Europe identify with no religion. But almost every country in Europe has a state religion. In the UK, only 7% of young adults identify as Anglican, which is the government-sponsored religion of the United Kingdom. In Germany, where the state church is Lutheran, about 45% of young people never attend church. I’m told by a friend who is from Germany and attends our church here in the States that there is a growing independent evangelical movement in Germany.

“And we want nothing to do with the state. We’d rather meet in someone’s home than take a dime from the government because it appears the government is a killer of faith.”

His view echoes a friend from England who says the same thing — that non-subsidized evangelical churches are growing while the government-supported Anglican churches are mostly empty.

I read an article a few days ago about how the Church in the Czech Republic is almost non-existent. Meanwhile, small evangelical and charismatic denominations are thriving. These are the churches that never used the State to compel them to come in and now the faithful are willingly coming into their sanctuaries.

Of course, church attendance was declining in the United States for a long time even without government interference and I’m not convinced it has stabilized. But I just find it interesting that churches without government support do better than churches with government support.

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