Fearless Reason

Fearless reason in an age of frightened absurdity.

Tag: Liberty

Modern Malaise: Gen Y

Something is amiss with modern man; a sort of subtle melancholy that at times defies articulation. The history of humanity has thus far been defined by hardship and the struggle for survival. Our forebears lived lives that were nasty, brutish and short, where each day was an unbearable struggle to merely survive. However, over the past hundred years or so a large portion of the human race has managed to pull itself up from the drudgery of mere survival, to a place of prosperity and ease. Physical comfort and survival accomplished, the question has become: What now?

Those stuck in the paradigm of survival have concluded that if what they have now is good, surely more is better. So they set out to acquire ever more wealth, luxury and ease; often at the expense of enjoying any of it. However, an increasing portion of the population, particularly those in Gen Y, are no longer satisfied with their predecessors’ imperative of survival.

This is the generation who has known no great wars, and was born into a world of material abundance and digital connectivity. Survival was never at risk for this cohort, so they often fail to see the necessity or wisdom of the ideas that drive modern society. Survival assured, Gen Y wants more than their parents’ suburban mansions, with garages filled to overflowing with once wanted but now unused adornments and diversions. Instead, they wish to live lives filled with meaning, in communities that foster growth.

People are changing, and the world is soon to follow. What many are experiencing now is the birthing pains of a new paradigm, and a new age. As survival chafes against the paradigm of prosperity, many find themselves trapped in old patterns that leave them feeling empty and unfulfilled. They work jobs they hate, doing thing they find meaningless or wrong, to buy things, once acquired, they no longer want. They live in a world of survival, because they cannot see how prosperous they are. This person feels trapped, and their life meaningless. They know there is a better way, but they see no way to achieve it. They feel trapped in a struggle for survival, not born of the necessity to survive, but out of a system and circumstances that seem to allow no alternative. In short, they are caught in the inertia of a world predicated on a paradigm that enriches their flesh, but impoverishes their soul.

However, only our choice to adhere to inertia’s mandate gives it any power over us. To live a life of prosperity, one need only decide they are prosperous and enjoy their wealth. I do not speak of the ornaments of survival that have given birth to the tremendous waste and shallow consumerism of our society. Instead, I speak of the richness of living a life with meaning, with people you love. To be prosperous, one need only live a life in which your values and actions align, and those you love are cherished.

Consider what the world would be like if everyone engaged only in those things they found meaningful, good and worthwhile. Is it somewhere you would like to live? If so, what is stopping you?

Big Problems, Little Solutions

It is often said that America has big problems that require big solutions. To this, I would say they are half right. We as a country have much to overcome, not least of which is getting our financial house in order. However, as the fiscal cliff looms, and one “big deal” after another gives way to temporary solutions and the kicking of the can down the road, these problems seem ever more insurmountable.

At a time when neither party seems to be able to agree on anything, both appear to agree that the federal government is and should be primarily responsible for addressing the country’s woes. I would contend however, that the fate of this nation should not be left in the hands of a few men with enormous power. The hope of our country, as always, lies in the vast resource of our people.

In the face of insurmountable problems, I propose our federal leaders take radical action. In fact I propose they do the hardest thing anyone with power can do, which is to relinquish that power. America learned long ago that free market capitalism is most conducive to an efficient, innovative and prosperous economy. When people are free to make their own decisions and prosper from them, they innovate, solve problems and by their individual actions create a better more prosperous world. On the other hand, the end of the Cold War and the decline and fall of the Soviet Union taught us that a centralized command economy becomes unsustainable when it reaches a certain level of complexity. A handful of bureaucrats cannot match the efficiency, innovation and flexibility of the invisible hand of the free market.

It is time we recognize that these lessons are not limited to the economic functions of government, but are applicable across the board. Centralization of policy and decision-making at the federal level has resulted in a bloated inefficient federal government, which is incapable of innovation or even carrying out the basic functions of governing. Therefore, I would urge our federal leaders to step aside, and restore to state and local governments the power to govern their people.

We must free the hands of local and state leaders, who understand the problems facing their people. Let the federal government do only that which the federal government can, and leave to the states all else. This was the original vision of our founders and constitution, before the Court rendered the tenth amendment moot. That is not to say I am advocating a return to Lochner, where industry was allowed to run amuck; what I suggest is a return to localism, and re-establishing state and local governments as the focal point of American political life. Let the most ardent red states and blue states realize their most radical ideological excesses, and let the rest of the country learn from their follies and follow a middle path incorporating their successes.

Give to the states the management and control of social security, medicare and medicaid, and give them the power to fund them. Those states that walk a wise and compassionate path that balances the needs of the most vulnerable with economic growth will prosper, while those who chose another path will fail. Those who do not vote at the ballot box will vote with their feet, and the ideological winners and losers will quickly become apparent by the success or failure of their states.

America is a large and diverse country, filled with talented people with different values and ideas. Yet the fate of all has been hitched to the decisions and faults of a few men in Washington, who with their narrow scope of experiences and ideas go about making policy for all. Where the wisdom of a few fails, perhaps the wisdom of the many can do better.

Liberty Revisted

Liberty is a word that has become a rallying cry for both the left and right. Liberals evoke it in the name of their personal sense of justice, while some conservatives use it narrowly, to express their right to be free of moochers and freeloaders, and to impose their personal sense of morality. But liberty is more than a catchphrase to be pulled out of a politician’s pocket on the Forth of July. Liberty is the cornerstone of American identity, and its meaning must be defended as vigorously as the thing it represents.

At its core, liberty is the power or scope to act as one pleases. This absolute freedom is then limited somewhat when we agree to live socially, so that liberty comes to mean the power to act as one pleases, without interfering with the freedom of others. In this respect every law and regulation should serve the purpose of expanding overall freedom, and not curtailing it. If a law does not meet this simple maxim, it must fail.

Our current social order has moved far away from this simple notion. We regulate in the name of humanity, morality and the desire to control. We diminish liberty, little by little, because we believe doing so serves a greater good. But there is no greater good than the right and ability to be free.

A key component of conservative thought has always been to differentiate between government action and private action. Simple reason will tell you that we are “in it together,” and that “no man is an island.” These are simple truths of the civilized man. The liberal does not have the corner on humanity or justice. The real and often obfuscated difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals consider government to be the only legitimate arbiter of justice, and the soul provider of human dignity. The conservative on the other hand realizes that a government cannot create a right in one person without creating an obligation that must be borne by everyone else – an obligation, which carries the force of government coercion. Government mandated humanity is not humanity – it is coercion, and no amount of platitudes or high minded intentions will ever change that. Humanity can only be exercised by humans, who undertake such action of their own free will, and humane intentions. It is true, not every person will live up to the high standard of what is to be human, but certainly no inanimate governmental machine ever will.

The liberal would impose justice and humanity, through the inhuman means of government coercion. The conservative puts the burden on the individual, to create with their own free action the world they wish to live in. Only when one lives with the consequences of their own freely taken actions can one learn and grow.

Dually Damned

Every election cycle our respective political parties wage holy war on one another, and do their very best to convince the electorate that the other party’s victory would be a calamity of doom’s day proportions. This dualistic version of the two party system has caused our political discourse to devolve into the broadest and most fundamental ideological propositions possible, with each party painting the choices as an all or nothing proposition.

As the race for the White House heats up, the political discourse is entering the familiar contour of a basic choice between justice or liberty. The just, it is said, will vote Democratic, while the free will vote Republican. Therefore, depending on your perspective, a vote for one or the other will lead to tyranny and/or injustice.

Perhaps the most distressing aspect of this false and dualistic picture of American politics is that the candidates and parties both seem to encourage this farce. Every election is portrayed as a mortal struggle of good versus evil, and each time, the parties and candidates ask us to chose or forever be damned, between right and wrong, and freedom or justice.

There was a time in our political history, when the welfare of our country and people was the paramount concern of politicians and parties alike. Politics still had the element of duality seen today, but there seemed to be an understanding that once the election was over, the farce would be put aside, and everyone would undertake the nuanced task of governing. While elections may be portrayed as referendums on good versus evil, governing is compromise, nuance and consensus building. Our leaders seem to have forgotten the most fundamental rule observed by conmen and hucksters alike – and that is, never believe your own lie.

Political duality is no longer just the rhetoric of the politician trying to mobilize his base, it is the political reality of our dysfunctional and gridlocked political system. Regardless of who takes the White House, don’t expect anything to change. Obama and Romney have each defined themselves and this race in terms of duality – of good versus evil, and wrong versus right. Yet what few seem to acknowledge is that what may be virtue to one man is vice to another, and that calamity of voices and opinions is expressed in the body of our congress and senate. One party will never capture all three branches of power, nor should they. This dream of total control, which has become the obsession of both parties, has no place in this Republic.

We are a nation of different interests, opinions and values Рeach with a voice in deciding how we should be governed. We are a nation of many, all with different values and idiosyncrasies that cannot be expressed in a black and white picture. Our choices are limited, but we as a people are not. The electorate must reject the childish and false dichotomy in which our political choices have been painted, and instead, demand nuance, variety and compromise.

We the People, in order to form a more perfect Union, must remember that we are both a just and free nation.