Friday, February 18, 2011

Man's Dominion

I encountered this by Hugh Nibley that appeared in the 1972 New Era. It almost doesn't seem possible that that magazine published such things at one time. I'm not sure what combination of things have changed. Check it out:

Monday, February 14, 2011


The events in Egypt were wonderful and, at the same time, revealed some serious disconnects in our policy, and our beliefs. For decades we have propped up local dictators in order to stop international conspiracies, specifically communism and Islamic fundamentalism. This just doesn’t look so smart anymore and, in fact, the United States, which has in some ways, been the most benign imperial power, comes off looking really bad in the third world. It is looking more and more like the “Do what is right, let the consequence follow” is the way to go. I am reminded of ol’ King Benjamin’s words:

it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.

If W. had anything right, it was that he maintained through much skepticism that people of Arab decent and the Muslim religion are just as capable and deserving of democracy as anyone. His mistake was, of course, trying to weirdly “impose” it on someone. I continue to hear euro-American pundits and smarty-pants people generally assert that “jacksonian democracy” or whatever they like to call it will take a long time to take root among people with “thousands of years”, or “many generations” of supposed “tribal” traditions, etc. that are supposedly against it. These are, however learnedly couched, little more than racial stereotypes.

I believe that all people are endowed by their creator (not by anyone else – they are gifts, birthrights) with certain inalienable rights. And among these(!) are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If anyone does not enjoy these rights on this earth, it is because some other person has stolen them. In the immortal words of reggae master, Carlton (of the Shoes), whom I have quoted elsewhere on this site, “God made man and he gave them all an equal share of blessings. Some men want to take it all and keep the rest of the world in bondage and oppression. But the Father, he’s not sleeping. He’ll set his people free. Better days are coming. Better days for you and for me.”

I am also reminded of Gandhi’s immortal and hopeful words:
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall -- think of it, ALWAYS.”

The Egyptians have proven that it is very difficult to govern the vast majority of a people for very long without their consent. Not only do they have people power behind them, I think they have a little bit of divine power. I have, in my adult life, watched the Berlin Wall and the iron curtain fall, something that very few anticipated. (Think of all the “sovietologists”.) I have also seen almost every Latin American country go from military junta to democracy in a very short period of time. I see no reason to expect repressive regimes that deny civic and religious freedom to continue in the Middle East, all the fossil fuel in the world notwithstanding. Things will change despite our bumbling (at best) efforts, not because of them. The march of freedom will continue until it rings “from every village and hamlet, from every state and city, until all of God's children - black men and white men, Jews, [Muslims) and Gentiles, Catholics, [Hindus, Buddhists, Jainists, Animists, Secularists, Mormons,] and Protestants - will be able to join hands and to sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”

Friday, February 11, 2011

Budget appeasement

I wish I could put more positive posts up here, but I just heard a story on NPR about the budget and the defect, etc. What a sick bunch of people are running this place, tripping over each other to prove how nasty and heartless they can be to the poor. The democrats, including Obama are almost the worst, because nobody is making a case for why "social programs" exist and why the republicans are so bloodthirsty to get rid of them. Actually, I don't hear anybody talking about this.

I'll make an attempt. The libertarian view that has kind of taken over our public discourse is that people should fend for themselves and that when they get help from the government, they lose their will and their creativity. There is a feeling that anyone can just "go out and get" a living somewhere. This may have been true earlier in our country's history in the days of homesteading, when there were abundant free natural resources. ONce you have an industrial society, you have to run things differently. Most of us can't grow our own food, cloth, and forage for building materials and fuel. We're way past that now. We already cooperate and specialize whether we like it or not. And industrial societies make extended family networks unviable. People have to move around to work among other things. So a government that facilitates a safety net is essential in an industrial or post-industrial society.

Moreover, libertarianism only accounts for the able-bodied adults. It doesn't make any sense for anyone else, for children and adults that are disabled or victimized.

Nobody is talking about making cuts in the bloated military, which, by some accounts spends as much as the entire militaries of the rest of the world combined. This is a result of the persistent jingoism and fear-mongering that we experienced in the Bush years. It just feels like collective insanity.

Nobody is even talking about the fact that Clinton balanced the budget, an accomplishment that was viewed as impossible. Bush created the deficit by means of tax cuts for the filthy, obscenely rich and war. If a republican were in the white house, all you'd hear about was how the previous administration messed everything up.

Maybe what it all comes down to is that democrats spend so much time trying to convince republicans that they are not too liberal instead of trying to convince everybody of the tenets of liberalism, or even just basic civic decency.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Advise the Advisor

Response to David Plouffe's email requesting feedback on the subject of "innovation," specifically answering
* How is American innovation affecting your community?
* What are the obstacles to innovation that you see in
your community? And what steps can be taken to remove them?

My Answer:
Job prospects are poor and watered down versions of libertarian principles will not create career jobs with living wages. It used to be that the government set an example and raised the bar by providing decent jobs.

The way to remove barriers is to stop trying to appease or please republicans and start representing a sane and compassionate vision for our shared society. Put it on the table at least. Speak truth to power. The widening gap between rich and poor and the scandalous level of wealth enjoyed by some are ugly unsustainable.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Civil Servants

At the superbowl they recognized Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since 'Nam. I always feel a sense of gratitude when I see members of the military and was predictably teary. I had to make sure my family didn't notice my sappiness. I started thinking about the many souls who serve us in non-military capacities, the people we used to call "civil servants". Surely they deserve some recognition for the things they have done for our society, the postal carriers, the government workers, the people that try to keep our food and water safe, even the IRS auditors. Yet, these people are kind of vilified right now, since "the government" is supposedly "the problem". In a strange moral inversion, it now it seems the most morally suspect among us, those that fleece themselves on the labors of others are the fabulous "job creators" and the people who quietly take care of things that need to be done are viewed almost as parasites who must face up to the "hard choices" that our supposedly broke society must make. It is very sad to be old enough to watch this moral inversion take place.

"Government jobs" used to be viewed as stable, but boring sort of dead ends that nonetheless provided decent compensation and excellent benefits. They also had a very beneficial effect on the labor market, pushing wages and benefits up a bit, setting a good example for the public sector. After a 3-decade process of layoffs, reductions in pay and benefits, and replacing salaried positions with contractors in the public sector, I think we are left with a very bleak and unfriendly employment environment. What a sad devil's bargain.