Category: Culture

Genocidal Libertarianism

| April 15, 2015 | Reply

How much collateral damage are libertarians willing to accept as the price for implementing their policies? In my experience, they avoid this topic by refusing to recognize the existence of collateral damage. Instead, they speak of the Promised Land on the horizon – – the utopian society that will simply occur once government packs up and leaves.

At Think Progress, Ian Millhiser discusses the foundation principles of libertarianism set forth by Herbert Spencer. Here’s an excerpt:

Herbert Spencer was a popular author during the nineteenth century who supported strict limits on the government and even opposed many forms of charity towards the poor. Nature, Spencer argued, “secures the growth” of the human race by “weeding out those of lowest development,” and he also believed that neither government nor private charity should interfere with this process of natural selection. Though Spencer was not a eugenicist — he actually argued that the poor should be treated much more harshly than nineteenth and twentieth century eugenicists did — he was both a social acquaintance of Sir Francis Galton, the father of the eugenics movement, and a significant influence on Galton’s thinking. Spencer also shaped many of the policies developed by some of the most powerful judges and lawmakers of his era.

Reading Spencer’s many works today is an uncomfortable experience — the man devotes hundreds of pages to establishing a philosophical justification for a kind of neglect that most Americans would now view as a moral atrocity. Yet Spencer is also one of the foundational thinkers in the development of the economically libertarian philosophy that drives politicians such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). . . . Not long after we published this piece, two of the libertarian movement’s flagship institutions leaped to Spencer’s defense. Over at Reason, Damon Root does not contest our description of Spencer as one of the foundational thinkers in the development of Rand Paul’s economic libertarianism. He does, however, contest our description of Spencer as a genocidal libertarian. Though we quote Spencer’s 1851 book Social Statics, which opposes “[a]cts of parliament to save silly people” and argues that if a man or woman is “not sufficiently complete to live, they die, and it is best they should die,” Root claims that Spencer “never advocated anything remotely like letting the poor die in the streets.”

Miller quotes Spencer on the roll of charity:

Instead of diminishing suffering, it eventually increases it. It favours the multiplication of those worst fitted for existence, and, by consequence, hinders the multiplication of those best fitted for existence—leaving, as it does, less room for them. It tends to fill the world with those to whom life will bring most pain, and tends to keep out of it those to whom life will bring most pleasure. It inflicts positive misery, and prevents positive happiness. . . . ”

Miller comments on Spencer’s disparagement of public (governmental) and private charity:

Spencer called for a near-blanket prohibition on “relief of the poor from public funds raised by rates,” but he also objected to charity administered by “privately established and voluntary organizations.” When a donor gives to such an organization, Spencer reasoned, the “beneficiary is not brought in direct relation with the benefactor” and this increases the likelihood that the money will ultimately be spent on “idlers, spendthrifts, and drunkards” or someone else that Spencer viewed as “worthless.

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The alleged benefit of an entire office working naked

| April 2, 2015 | Reply

I have nothing against nudity. I like creativity and camaraderie, which nakedness would seem to encourage. But I also like being productive. I’m wondering how much of this article about arranging for an entire office to work in the nude for a month is accurate and how much is spin.

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Owls are perceived to be more lazy than larks

| February 25, 2015 | 3 Replies

Even if Owls work the same number of hours as larks, they are perceived to be lazier. That is the conclusion of this article:

The belief that getting an early start to the day is virtuous is widely held. In fact, finds a forthcoming study, it’s so pervasive that managers rate workers who get an early start higher than those who get in and stay late, no matter how many hours they work in total or how well they do their jobs. And it could explain why other research has found that workers who have flexible schedules have less successful careers.

The study, from researchers at The University of Washington, highlighted at the Harvard Business Review, will be published later this year in the Journal of Applied Psychology. It finds support for the idea that managers have a “morning bias.” In other words, they buy into a common stereotype that leads them to confuse starting time with conscientiousness. They perceive employees who start later as less conscientious, and consequently less hard-working and disciplined, and that carries through to performance ratings.

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The alleged war against Christianity

| February 20, 2015 | 1 Reply

There is no war on Christianity, according to the hate crimes data kept by the FBI. Addicting Information reports:

The ‘war on Christianity’ is a propaganda war. It’s a war that is being waged in the minds of the people who listen to hate radio and watch Fox News. In 2013 there were 7,242 hate crimes committed in the US. In total, crimes against protestant Christians amounted to .0051 percent, a tiny fraction of a percentage point.

Right wing fear and hate-mongering makes people believe that they’re under attack, when it’s clear that they’re not. It makes them believe that others are threatening them, even when the facts tell a very different story. A large compilation of research released over the summer showed that conservatives have a much larger negativity bias than other people. The research also showed that conservatives also have a greater tendency to ‘perceive threats,’ whether real or imaginary.

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Have a nice day

| January 25, 2015 | Reply

Ever notice the way people use the phrase, “Have a nice day”? Or “Have a great week”? Or “Enjoy your vacation”?

These are all essentially wishes, secular prayers. There is no expense involved in saying these things to anyone other than the cheap breath we expend while saying them. This is definitely not paradigmatic expensive signaling explored by Zahavi.

Therefore, we might as well wish BIG. Shouldn’t we say, “Have a nice year”? Or even, “Have a nice lifetime”? Or I hope you live a good life for 1,000 more years”? Or, I hope that you and everyone you know, and everyone you don’t know, and people who aren’t even born yet, have ecstatic lives”? Or “I hope you and all present and future sentient life in the multi-verse enjoy your lives”? Or “If there is an afterlife, I hope that all of those sentient dead people in heaven and hell, and those formerly in limbo until that was abolished by the Pope, have great lives/afterlives”?

There is actually more going on than vapid wish-making. Notice that the length of time chosen by those who utter “Have a nice [choose a period of time] correlates with the next time that that person will communicate with you. A good friend might say, “Good luck with that project next week,” knowing that you will communicate to each other in a matter of weeks. What if you only see someone sporadically? Then you might say, “Have a great summer.” What if you might never see that person again? Then you might say,”Good luck with your new job” or “Good luck with that new diet.”

Regarding those who actually know you, then, “Have a nice day” or “Enjoy your weekend” often signal social or emotional closeness.

This is not the case with the checkout person at a big box store, who hands you your bags of purchases and utters the phrase required by her oppressive corporation: “Have a nice day.” I hate that these folks are forced to work like automatons, to the extent that they are made to utter canned phrases to customers. I like to break through that script, asking how their day is going, or whether they are working a long shift. If they are reciprocating, I “wish” them that they will enjoy the remainder of their evening. At least some phrase to break through the chatter we so often encounter, and make some semblance of a connection, looking them in the eyes and meaning it, when I tell them “Thank you.” But never, “Enjoy the remainder of your life, as the time-treadmill of oblivion moves you inexorably toward your demise.” That, of course, is a different topic.

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The Best Questions For A First Date

| January 6, 2015 | Reply

Fascinating research indicates that certain questions one can ask on a date serve as proxies for complex realities. This is from OKCupid’s blog in 2011, but still quite relevant.

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In favor of non-holidays

| December 1, 2014 | Reply

I had a wonderful visit with a friend yesterday. She and I have been friends ever since we attended law school together in the late 1970’s. We had an engaging conversation in her living room. I couldn’t imagine a more enjoyable visit. We traded numerous stories and observations, sharing more than a few laughs. As I was traveling back home, it occurred to me that we accomplished this without any of the following:

Handing each other gifts;
Dressing up in fancy clothing;
Blinking lights, ornaments or decorations;
A television turned on;
Singing or listening to ritualistic songs;
Eating special food or drinks;
Making unsupportable claims about events that happened 2,000 years ago.

Instead, we celebrated a friendship and took an active interest in each other’s lives. This is an activity that can be enjoyed simultaneously by small or larger groups of good-hearted thoughtful people. In fact, some of my favorite moments this year have involved

Recently, another friend of mine mentioned that her favorite holiday is Thanksgiving because it is the holiday most devoid of commercialism and religiosity and jingoism. I mostly agree, but even Thanksgiving has been clouded with commercialism, obsessions with spectator sports, and the perceived need to display ourselves through decorations, special clothing and special food. To be fair, I do enjoy the spread of food one encounters at Thanksgiving, but it is a secondary consideration to the occasion. What would be more meaningful as a Thanksgiving celebration: A big feast without anyone to share it with, or a room full of special people without special food?

I would like to nominate Non-Holiday Spontaneous Visiting as my favorite “holiday,” because it is this “holiday” that gets even closest to the core of the most important part of what makes us humans at our best.

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On Being Primed For Worse

| November 25, 2014 | 1 Reply
On Being Primed For Worse

Haven’t we been gearing up for some kind of O.K. Corral showdown pretty much since the announcement that there would be a grand jury? Haven’t we been gearing up for some kind of O.K. Corral showdown pretty much since the announcement that there would be a grand jury? Sure looked like we expected what we got. [More . . . ]

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Eulogy by the Deceased

| November 18, 2014 | Reply

Eulogies are best when given by the (not-quite-yet) deceased.

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