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Quote for the Week

I believe that all other political states are in fact variations or outgrowths of a basic state of anarchy; after all, when you mention the idea of anarchy to most people they will tell you what a bad idea it is because the biggest gang would just take over. Which is pretty much how I see contemporary society. We live in a badly developed anarchist situation in which the biggest gang has taken over and have declared that it is not an anarchist situation— that it is a capitalist or a communist situation. But I tend to think that anarchy is the most natural form of politics for a human being to actually practice.

–Alan Moore; courtesy of Wikiquote

A Song for May Day

Quote for the Week

Tolkien

My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) … the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.

–J. R. R. Tolkien, Letter to his son Christopher Tolkien (29 November, 1943); courtesy of Wikiquote

Excursus: Neutrality, and Why I Am Neither For Nor Against It

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As I wrote the last couple paragraphs of “Heresy:  Systems of Control“, I began to fudge on the phrasing a bit, and it occurred to me that I ought to write another post explaining why, and elaborating the issues involved.  I almost said that in a pluralistic society we must respect all religious beliefs while keeping public policy neutral.  However, that little word–“neutral”–has caused issues in blog discussions elsewhere to which I’ve been privy, so I want to look at it here.

In a confessional state, there is no question of neutrality.  A given religion is the official one, simple as that.  How this is manifested may vary:  there may be no separation between church and state at all, or there may be moderate separation, or the state may acknowledge the state church in merely symbolic ways.  Religions other than the official state religion may be banned and persecuted, tolerated with restrictions, or left totally alone.  Regardless of the specifics, though, there is no pretense of neutrality–there is the state religion which is favored and enshrined in law, and there is everything else.

The United States, of course, not only has no state religion, but the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment ensures that there never will be an American state religion.  We have been a pluralistic society from the beginning:  first, with most forms of Christianity represented in colonial times;  later on, with immigration and religious ferment, almost all human religions have come to be found within the boundaries of the USA.  As a result of this, we tend to think of ourselves as “neutral”–that is, people of all faiths are treated the same, and no one religion should have a special place over any other.  This had always seemed to me, for one, to be self-evident.  However, in the course of various blog discussions I’ve had over the last year, I’ve come across a frequently expressed counter-narrative.

Read the rest of this entry

Glenn Greenwald and Noam Chomsky

A discussion about workers rights, social justice, perversion of the political system, and such for International Workers Day.

Quote for the Week

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Under present conditions, people are preoccupied with consumer goods not because they are brainwashed but because buying is the one pleasurable activity not only permitted but actively encouraged by our rulers. The pleasure of eating an ice cream cone may be minor compared to the pleasure of meaningful, autonomous work, but the former is easily available and the latter is not. A poor family would undoubtedly rather have a decent apartment than a new TV, but since they are unlikely to get the apartment, what is to be gained by not getting the TV?

Ellen Willis, “Women and the Myth of Consumerism”, Ramparts

Sikhs and Sheikhs

 

Hilarious, and makes a great point.

And for My 200th Post, George Carlin Explains it All!

Thank you to all who follow this blog–I hope it’s been interesting, informative, and worthwhile, and hopefully the next 200 posts (if I make it that far) will be as interesting to me to write or post, and you to read!

 

Entrepreneurs and Washing Each Other’s Laundry

I was reading this post on Megan McArdle’s blog at The Atlantic online yesterday.  It’s one of several places of late where I’ve heard what seems to be the current mantra for dealing with stubbornly intractable unemployment rates:  entrepreneurship.  The idea is that jobs that are well-defined and routine–those that have traditionally been stable, well-paying jobs that, while not exciting, could make for long-term employment and careers–are either being automated or outsourced.  Thus, the solution to this problem is said to be an increase in and encouragement of entrepreneurship, freelancing, and flexibility in the workforce.  McArdle quotes Arnold Kling, at the Library of Economics and Liberty site:

The paradox is this. A job seeker is looking for something for a well-defined job. But the trend seems to be that if a job can be defined, it can be automated or outsourced.  The marginal product of people who need well-defined jobs is declining. The marginal product of people who can thrive in less structured environments is increasing. That was what I was trying to say in my jobs speech.

The money quote from the end of the article, by McArdle herself,  is  “I don’t think it’s unfortunate that progress is being made, and a lot of fairly boring jobs are being eliminated.  I do think it’s unfortunate that people don’t like it.”

This is food for thought. Read the rest of this entry

A Double Shadow, Part III

Not long ago I discussed the novel A Double Shadow, and then I discussed the moral ramifications of the ethical system described therein.  The question then arises, what is the relevance? 

To recap briefly, the novel describes a terraformed Mars over a millennium and a quarter in the future, in which human technology has made practically anything possible.  Death is strictly optional, and reversible, practically infinite resources are available, travel across space, time, and dimensions is instantly and easily possible, and no desires need go unfulfilled.  The result is a society in which there is no concept of morality.  Instead, the main values are aesthetic.  Individuals are judged not as “good” or “bad” people, but in terms of how artistic their lives are and how fully they follow their own individual aesthetic choices in living their lives.  The choices themselves are arbitrary, since there is no transcendent standard involved. 

I would submit that such an ethos is not fictional, and that it has in fact been actualized (to a much lesser degree, of course) many times right here on Earth, and still is in places and degrees.  Any class of any society that has sufficient power and resources tends to live by such values as described of the Martians in A Double Shadow.  That is, wealth and power make anything possible, within the limitations of a society’s technology, and they also shield one to a large extent from undesired consequences of one’s actions.  Members of such a class may not be able to teleport to the Andromeda Galaxy or to cheat death, but they can live their lives pretty much as they see fit.  If problems occur in the process, money and power can sweep the pieces under the rug, and life goes on. Read the rest of this entry