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3 Stoic Lessons That Can Help Heal Our Toxic Political Culture

3 Stoic Lessons That Can Help Heal Our Toxic Political Culture

Back in the days of Ancient Rome and Greece, the founding fathers of the stoic school of philosophy taught the importance of rationalism.

Emotional. Tribal. Irrational. These are just three adjectives which could be applied to the political discourse of the 21st century. Both in the United States and Europe, discussions have reverted from constructive criticism and mutual understanding to name-calling, de-platforming, and retreats into echo chambers. None of this is particularly useful for a pluralistic society.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Back in the days of Ancient Rome and Greece, the founding fathers of the stoic school of philosophy taught the importance of clear-mindedness and rationalism in the development both of the self and of society. Here a three of these lessons which now, more than ever, need to be relearned.

1. “The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength.”

One of the great stoic thinkers, Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, argued that emotional reactions to opposition were signs of weakness; to become enraged is to become a slave to emotions, surrendering your logic as you do so. In this way, once one has allowed himself to become angry at his opponent, he has lost the battle.

Instead, one should take the time to face problems and antagonism logically, and with a clear mind. For instance, anger at the ideas of a political opponent does little to highlight the flaws in their argument and even less to demonstrate the superiority of your own. Remaining calm and controlled in the face of opposition allows one the strength needed to change the situation, whether this is through changing the mind of the opponent or through gaining a deeper understanding of the issue yourself.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Bastiat Knew the Proper Limits of Government Force

Bastiat Knew the Proper Limits of Government Force

If you don’t violate the life, liberty, or property of someone else, you should not see the arm of the law.

High school students in the United States are usually required to take a course in government. They learn about the structure of government but rarely discover the appropriate role of government or the justifiable limits for the use of force in our society. If they did, one of their required readings would be Frédéric Bastiat’s treatise The Law, a seminal mid-Nineteenth-century work that describes eternal truths about life and how we pursue justice. These truths are just as valid today as they were then.

Natural Rights and the Role of Government

Bastiat states that individuals are born with the natural rights of life, liberty, and property. From this notion, the only proper function of the use of force or the law is the collective organization of the natural right to self-defense of these rights.

“Every individual has the right to use force for lawful self-defense. It is for this reason that the collective force — which is only the organized combination of the individual forces — may lawfully be used for the same purpose; and it cannot be used legitimately for any other purpose.”

He then defines any illegitimate use of force or of the law as legal plunder. This is an all-encompassing term which includes any unjustified violation of the life, liberty, or property of others. Many examples abound today with regulations on labor (e.g. minimum wage laws), products (e.g. subsidies and tariffs), health care, education, or even the use of marijuana or any other drugs.

Legal plunder has two primary motivations:

  1. The first is stupid greed. For example, you would never think of robbing your neighbor, but are complacent if the government uses legal plunder to rob him on your behalf.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Does Postmodernism Pit Us Against Each Other?

Does Postmodernism Pit Us Against Each Other?

Feminist maverick Camille Paglia has called him “the most important and influential Canadian thinker since Marshall McLuhan,” declaring that “his bold interdisciplinary synthesis of psychology, anthropology, science, politics and comparative religion is forming the template for the genuinely humanistic university of the future.” Meanwhile, conservative commentator David Brooks has echoed sentiments also shared by economist Tyler Cowen, referring to this moment as Jordan Peterson’s ascension to the most influential public intellectual in the West.

A clinical psychologist initially trained in political science, Peterson is a professor at the University of Toronto who has risen to prominence as a firm advocate of free speech and individual responsibility. Raised as a cowboy on the Canadian plains, he toiled through various trades before entering the ivory halls of Harvard, writing Maps of Meaning, a complex but groundbreaking tome in the psychology of religion. His recently published, and more accessible book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, could not come at a more perfect time for Peterson’s career, and perhaps, for Western civilization.

His Personal Ideology

Although he’s been caricatured and mischaracterized as many things, Tim Lott most aptly captures his essence. “He is a strange mixture of theologian, psychologist, conservative, liberal, wit and lay preacher. He’s a powerful advocate of the scientific method who is not a materialist. He can go from cuddly to razor sharp in a beat. His primary concern, however, which underpins nearly everything about him, is the defense of the individual against groupthink, whether on the right or the left.” In his own words, Peterson says,

politically, I am a classic British liberal. Temperamentally, I am high in openness, which tilts me to the left, although also conscientious, which tilts me to the right. Philosophically, I am an individualist, not a collectivist, of the right or the left.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is “Fake News” Really Fake?

Is “Fake News” Really Fake?

The more complicated a situation, the more open to interpretation it is.

The term “fake news” has been much in the news since the 2016 election. Unfortunately, it is not usually defined in any clear fashion. The implication is that the media engages in deliberate distortion and misrepresentation of the news. Not just any media, but most of the media, commonly referred to as the “mainstream media,” have been accused of distributing “fake news.”

Recently, I read an extended critique of the media that put everything in quite a different light. It is something I believe every working journalist should read. Sixty short pages that explain that not only is there a distinct bias in the mainstream media, but why this is the case. What is of most importance to note is that this bias is not deliberate. It exists on a subconscious level and influences everything the media does. And it does not matter whether the particular media outlet has a left or a right slant.

The author, Robin Koerner, has a masters degree in the philosophy of science and physics from Cambridge. The information is in the first chapter of his book If You Can Keep It: Why We Nearly Lost It & How We Get It Back, a chapter he calls “Mediography.”

Bias Exists Within All of Us

A paradigm is a framework within which someone observes and comments on the world.

The best way to explain the points he makes is to start with an example. Here is a headline from the Drudge Report dated November 2006: “Iran Fires Missile That Can Reach Israel.” The headline is factually accurate. It is not deliberately biased. But, Koerner argues, it is misleading. It could be considered fake news (though Koerner does not use those terms)….click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

I May Be a Radical, But I’m Definitely Not a Utopian

I May Be a Radical, But I’m Definitely Not a Utopian

I don’t have a grand, sweeping plan. I just want peace.

I become a very fun party guest when the topic turns to politics.

My Mundane Radicalism RE: Politics

I come at questions about policy from a different angle than most. I don’t believe in policy or politics at all. Specifically, I don’t believe that some humans (“rulers”) should get moral sanction to use violence against other people (“the ruled”) to get what they want.

If that doesn’t sound controversial to you, you either 1) agree with me or 2) aren’t paying close enough attention to how politics works.

If I have one ethical ideal for how human beings should relate to each other, it’s that – non-violence.

Force is the essence of all governments from top to bottom. Whether we’re talking about Louis XIV funding the palace of Versailles, George III raising an army to crush a revolt, Vladimir Lenin redistributing confiscated land, or your local police officer enforcing a drug law/tax law/business law (or else…), you’re talking about people who rely on violence or the threat of violence to get compliance for their plans. They ultimately do not ask or require your consent. Their authority ultimately rests on the implied threat that they will beat you up if you don’t do what they say.It’s a long story, but somehow we came to believe that this was a normal state of affairs.

I don’t believe in violence. If I have one ethical ideal for how human beings should relate to each other (“politics”), it’s that – non-violence. There’s a lot more to say about ethical societies and ethical human behavior, but when it comes to politics, I’m really not much more complicated than that. My views are actually pretty mundane.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Great Unraveling: Using Science and Philosophy to Decode Modernity

The Great Unraveling: Using Science and Philosophy to Decode Modernity 

Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | CC BY 2.0

“Forty percent of the United States drains into the Mississippi. It’s agriculture. It’s golf courses. It’s domestic runoff from our lawns and roads. Ultimately, where does it go? Downstream into the Gulf.”

—Sylvia Earle

Our civilization is headed for a downfall, to be sure, in part due to the massive gulf between our hopes for the future and the omnipresent inertia regarding social change in mainstream politics, though a more apt analogy for our society might be circling the drain. The dark, shadow side of our industrial farming practices in the US has resulted in the hypoxic dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately the size of New Jersey and growing every year. Caused by excess nitrates, phosphates, and various chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides draining from farmland into the Mississippi river basin, toxic algal blooms kill millions of fish, shrimp, shellfish, and, almost certainly, thousands of marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico every year. There are hundreds of these dead zones around the world’s oceans, caused by agribusiness and sewage runoff from the world’s largest cities. There are also garbage patches in the Pacific (actually diffuse swathes of ocean littered mainly by microplastics) comparable to the size of Mexico.

Meanwhile on land, we have lost half of our wildlife in the past 40 years. The implications are inconceivable and beyond words, and calls for global action on a coordinated scale beyond anything that has been seriously considered by the so-called political leaders of the “world community”. This will require an immediate mobilization of international resources (a Global Marshall plan, which will need trillions of dollars of aid redistributed to the developing nations over decades) to combat three main crises: global warming, habitat loss, and accelerating species extinction rates, all of which are interconnected.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The International Road to Serfdom

The International Road to Serfdom

When a global governing body is the ultimate authority, rather than multiple sovereign nations serving as checks and balances to each other the opportunity for abuse is ripe.

In the previous chapter of The Road to Serfdom, F.A. Hayek spelled out his concerns for the problems facing America in the aftermath of WWII. Moving away from discussing domestic policy, in chapter 15, “The Prospects of International Order” Hayek discusses the grave problems associated with global governance. 

Making no effort to downplay the topic of foreign policy, Hayek says:

In no other field has the world yet paid so dearly for the abandonment of nineteenth-century liberalism as in the field where the retreat began: in international relations.”

Hayek has dedicated the majority of his book to explaining why planned economies on a national scale are bound to fail. You can understand his frustration then, when in the wake of World War II there was a bigger push for international governance.

Global Governance Is Not the Answer

As is understandable, there was an overwhelming desire to make sure the atrocities of WWII were never allowed to happen again. Since Germany’s nationalist sentiment had isolated it from the rest of the world prior to WWII, there was a sense that forced globalization would provide the necessary safeguard.

Hayek writes:

That there is little hope of international order or lasting peace so long as every country is free to employ whatever measures it thinks desirable in its own immediate interest, however damaging they may be to others, needs little emphasis now.”

It was easy, after all, for the Third Reich to take full control of the Germany’s economy when all outside influences were cut off.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

England Inches Down the Road to Serfdom

England Inches Down the Road to Serfdom

Hayek’s whole purpose in writing this chapter, “The Totalitarians in Our Midst,” serves as a warning to his readers.

Hayek has spent the last few chapters of The Road to Serfdom explaining the roots and rise of totalitarian governments. In chapter twelve, Hayek highlighted prominent Marxist theorists who would later lay the roots for the German National Socialist party.

Hayek’s whole purpose in writing this chapter, “The Totalitarians in Our Midst,” serves as a warning to his readers. The mass death of WWII had devastated and shocked the world. But unless individuals were able to identify how totalitarianism had taken over Europe in the first place, they would be ill-prepared to prevent it from happening again.

It was for this reason that Hayek uses chapter thirteen to demonstrate to his readers that a similar perversion of truth was already occurring among England’s intellectual elite as had occurred in the leadup to the Third Reich.

Individualism in Danger

England, which, as explained in the last chapter, represented the origin of individualist thought, had steadily been heading down a similar road as Germany had in the decades prior to WWII. While it may have taken a different form, when looked at from the perspective of totalitarianism in all things economic, England, as it stood in 1944, had taken swift strides away from liberalism and instead found itself headed in the direction of complete central authority.

It is for this reason that Hayek’s writing sounds so urgent in this chapter. As fresh as WWII was in the minds of all people, Hayek is urging them to not become complacent. It was not enough to mourn the recent past; they needed to proceed vigilantly and look to the enemies in their own nations.

As Hayek writes:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Don’t Be Surprised by Authoritarianism

Don’t Be Surprised by Authoritarianism

Kids are conditioned from birth to submit to authority.

Most kids are conditioned almost from day one to obey arbitrary authority. No one attempts to explain or justify the source of the parent or teacher’s authority; no consent is sought, and no choice is offered.

Schools demand complete conformity to schedules and activities, controlling everything from when and how long you get to think about what, to when you can eat and go to the bathroom. The authority is entirely arbitrary. The main fallback when kids question is, “because I said so”.

The real wonder is just how rebellious and free humans still are after so many years of control and conditioning.

Kids are also conditioned to believe that, absent this imposed control, they would destroy themselves. They’d be dumb, self-destructive, and socially disastrous if they weren’t controlled in every facet by whatever adult has appointed themselves an authority. Nevermind how stupid, shallow, cruel, or petty that adult may be.Eventually, kids begin to believe it. They assume the world cannot function unless they blindly follow orders. They assume they would hurt themselves and others if they were free. They cannot see beyond the frightful comfort of conformity.

After nearly every citizen spends the first two decades of their life conditioned to obey authority without question, something odd happens. People act surprised when those same citizens follow political strong men and seek legislative solutions for every problem.

The real wonder is just how rebellious and free humans still are after so many years of control and conditioning.

How to Cope with Inevitable Chaos

How to Cope with Inevitable Chaos

And that’s okay. You don’t need to. And neither does governments.

Is it me or does it seem like current times are more chaotic than ever?

The world seems to be constantly threatened by mass shootings, terrorism, war in the Middle East, nuclear proliferation, and lack of international diplomacy. Turn on the news and you’re bound to find a new threat that purports to destabilize the order of the world.

Right here at home, the national debt continues to soar to new heights, and the student-debt bubble seems more concerning as each day passes. Congress is failing to repeal and replace Obamacare, even with a Republican majority. News circulates about Trump’s administration constantly changing, while he still has over 1,000 top-level positions to fill. It seems like the people in charge of our domestic order can’t even seem to accomplish the very thing we elected them to do.

It makes one question just what is going on in our modern society? Are we seeing the social fabric unravel before our eyes? Why have things gotten so disorderly?

The Struggle Against Chaos

These are the questions posed, but something is missing. A certain historical context is left out. The real question we should be asking is, are current times truly more chaotic than ever before, or have things always been this way?

The history of humanity has been a struggle between order and disorder. Mankind has always been walking that fine line, struggling to find a balance.

This story goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. A land of harmony and order, but man descends into chaos when a snake is let in and convinces Eve to eat the apple. Ever since, mankind has been subject to a world of disorder, struggling to keep a grasp on a life that seems random, and chaotic.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Dream of the Machine

The Dream of the Machine

As I type these words, it looks as though the wheels are coming off the global economy. Greece and Puerto Rico have both suspended payments on their debts, and China’s stock market, which spent the last year in a classic speculative bubble, is now in the middle of a classic speculative bust. Those of my readers who’ve read John Kenneth Galbraith’s lively history The Great Crash 1929 already know all about the Chinese situation, including the outcome—and since vast amounts of money from all over the world went into Chinese stocks, and most of that money is in the process of turning into twinkle dust, the impact of the crash will inevitably proliferate through the global economy.

So, in all probability, will the Greek and Puerto Rican defaults. In today’s bizarre financial world, the kind of bad debts that used to send investors backing away in a hurry attract speculators in droves, and so it turns out that some big New York hedge funds are in trouble as a result of the Greek default, and some of the same firms that got into trouble with mortgage-backed securities in the recent housing bubble are in the same kind of trouble over Puerto Rico’s unpayable debts. How far will the contagion spread? It’s anybody’s guess.

Oh, and on another front, nearly half a million acres of Alaska burned up in a single day last week—yes, the fires are still going—while ice sheets in Greenland are collapsing so frequently and forcefully that the resulting earthquakes are rattling seismographs thousands of miles away. These and other signals of a biosphere in crisis make good reminders of the fact that the current economic mess isn’t happening in a vacuum.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Moral Code For The Post-Collapse World

A Moral Code For The Post-Collapse World

Popular media today, including television and cinema, are rife with examples of what is often referred to as moral relativism — the use of false and fictional moral dilemmas designed to promote the rationalization of an “ends justify the means” narrative. We are also bombarded lately with entertainment depicting an endless array of “anti-heroes,” protagonists who have little to no moral code fighting antagonists who are even more evil, thus vindicating the otherwise disgusting actions of the heroes. From “24” to “Breaking Bad” to “The Walking Dead,” American minds are being saturated with propaganda selling the idea that crisis situations require a survivor to abandon conscience. In other words, in order to defeat monsters, you must become a monster.

This theme is not only unavoidable in film and TV, but also in military journals, politics, and even within liberty movement discussion.

What I see developing is an extremely dangerous philosophy that rests on the foundation that victory (or survival) is the paramount virtue and that it should be attained at any cost. Moral compass becomes a “luxury” that “true” apex survivors cannot afford, an obstacle that could eventually get one killed. I have heard some survivalists and liberty proponents in anger over the trespasses of the corrupt establishment suggest a strict adherence to the eye-for-an-eye ideology, up to and including torture, harming of the enemy’s families, and even harming the children of those who would harm us.

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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