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Archive for the tag “economics”

Title VII’s Religious Organization Exemption Protects Salvation Army

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Garcia v. Salvation Army(D AZ, Sept. 12, 2016), an Arizona federal district court dismissed a Title VII religious discrimination claim brought against the Salvation Army by a former social services coordinator for the organization.  Plaintiff claimed that she was subjected to discrimination, retaliation, and hostile
work environment after she stopped attending services at the Salvation Army’s Estrella Mountain Corps where she was employed.  The court held that Title VII’s religious organization exemption applies to plaintiff’s claim, and that the Salvation Army did not waive the defense by failing to assert it as an affirmative defense.

You can learn more about this issue here.

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WHY MAN AND WOMAN ARE NOT EQUAL

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in First Things which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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Of course, conservative Christians believe that women and men are not equal. We know we believe such things, because the elites outside our faith (today celebrating Women’s Equality Day) regularly tell us we do. How could we forget?

They are right, but in the wrong way. Civilized people realize (even when they don’t realize they realize) that male and female are not equal. G. K. Chesterton, with his table-turning wit, got it right in his essay “The Romance of Thrift”:

I remember an artistic and eager lady asking me in her grand green drawing-room whether I believed in the comradeship of the sexes, and why not. I was driven back on offering the obvious and sincere answer, “Because if I were to treat you for two minutes like a comrade, you would turn me out of the house.”

So it is. Women create, shape, and maintain human culture. Manners exist because women exist. Worthy men adjust their behavior when a woman enters the room. They become better creatures. Civilization arises and endures because women have expectations of themselves and of those around them.

This is not just a conservative or traditionalist idea.

The New York Times’s Gail Collins told NPR unequivocally that the most important primary finding of her brilliant book America’s Women (which faithfully sits to the left behind Leslie Knope’s desk in every Parks and Recreation episode), is that the most powerful and important influence women have had on our nation’s founding, growth, and success is this: They make men behave. All their other important contributions are secondary.

Collins provides examples from history. Here is one: The British investors of Jamestown—who sent only men to establish the work, so that they could not be distracted—were not seeing the expected return on their investment. They sent an agent to investigate, and it was found that the men weren’t working. According to the report of one Sir Thomas Dale, the men were at “their daily and usuall works, bowling in the streetes.” This habit kept the settlement, Collins explains, “a long, rowdy fraternity party, minus food.” The investors’ solution? They began enticing marriageable young women to set out for the colonies with offers of free passage and appealing hope chests. They supposed that wives might turn these “we’ll work tomorrow” fraternity boys into diligent, hard-working, productive men. And they did. One thing led to another, and presto: the most prosperous, hard-working nation in the history of the world. Not just because of women, but through the socializing power of wives and mothers.

Anthropologists have long recognized that the most fundamental social problem every community must solve is the unattached male. If his sexual, physical, and emotional energies are not governed and directed in a pro-social, domesticated manner, he will become the village’s most malignant cancer. Wives and children, in that order, are the only successful remedy ever found. Military service is a very distant second. Nobel Prize winning economist George Akerlof explains that “men settle down when they get married; if they fail to marry, they fail to settle down,” because “with marriage, men take on new identities that change their behavior.” This does not seem to work with same-sex male couples in long-term relationships.

Husbands and fathers become better, safer, more responsible and productive citizens, unrivaled by their peers in any other relational status. Husbands become better mates, treating their wives better by every important measure—physical and emotional safety, financial and material provision, personal respect, fidelity, general self-sacrifice, etc.—compared to boyfriends, whether dating or cohabiting. Husbands and fathers enjoy significantly lower health, life, and auto insurance premiums than do their single peers, for a strictly pragmatic reason. Insurance companies are not sentimental about husbands. Husbands get lower premiums because they are different creatures in terms of habits, values, behavior, and general health.

This is why Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a tale not so much about the dark nature of humanity as about the isolation of the masculine from the feminine. Had there been just a few confident girls amongst those boys, its conclusion might have been more Swiss Family Robinson.

Man and woman are not equal. He owes what he is to her. That is hardly her only power, but it is among her most formidable. Christianity has always known this. The Savior of the world chose to come to us through a wife and mother. It’s why you find what you find at the very center, the honored and singular position, on that superlative ceiling of a certain celebrated chapel.

Woman is the most powerful living force on the globe. She creates, shapes, and sustains human civilization. The first step in weakening her power is to convince her that she must overcome her femininity. This, ironically, is precisely what the most vocal strains of feminism have advocated. Yes, woman should have equality in the workplace, in politics, and in the public square. But to render her more like man in order to accomplish this, and to judge her womanliness a hindrance to her ascendancy, is to get things exactly backwards. It is to treat her as much less than she truly is.

By Glenn Stanton and published in First Things on August 16, 2016 (see here).

Company Settles With EEOC Over Firing of Seventh Day Adventist

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

The EEOC announced last week that North Carolina-based Greenville Ready Mixed Concrete, Inc., has agreed to a $42,500 settlement in the EEOC’s suit (see prior posting) against it for firing a Seventh Day Adventist employee who refused a Saturday work assignment. The company has also agreed to a 5-year consent decree requiring it to create an anti-discrimination policy, engage in employee training, post notice about the lawsuit and submit periodic reports to the EEOC.

You can learn more about this issue here.

 

PC Entertainment as Medieval Allegory

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in Splice Today which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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These days, every piece of entertainment is read as though it were a raw allegory, in which there are no characters or events, only emblems. In a Christian allegory like Pilgrim’s Progress, abstract categories, collective identities, virtues and vices like Christian, Worldly Wiseman, and Obstinate run hither and thither, pretending to be particular people. The point isn’t art or a convincing fiction or shedding light on particular characters or events; it’s the flat didacticism of a hyper-simplistic sermon, pounded into the heads of the peasantry in the form of general categories of people performing generic actions. It was a relief to arrive at artists such as Shakespeare, in whose plays very particular people appeared and spoke and loved and fought.

If Shakespeare were around today, the reactions—even, for God’s sake, by drama critics—would tend to go like this: Danes are not really indecisive (let’s examine the statistics on that); this distortion and vilification of Danes must end. Women shouldn’t be portrayed as passive victims, like Gertrude and Ophelia, for women are super-strong, or at least if we keep saying that over and over we might convince ourselves that they are, which would be a good thing, even if they’re not. People like us want characters who look like us, in every single presentation of anything, so why doesn’t the cast more or less perfectly mirror the population as a whole by race, gender, orientation, disability?

Consider some of the reactions to the Roseanne revival, which really do tell you where we’re at right now. Roxane Gay in The New York Times, and a number of other people elsewhere, said it was funny, which, I remind us all, is a central function of comedy. Then she said she wouldn’t watch it again. She had a number of reasons, but the main one was that she doesn’t like the politics of Roseanne Barr’s Twitter feed. Soon we’ll be demanding an ideological profile of everyone working on any entertainment, so that we can insulate ourselves completely from any sign of disagreement. People, even fictional characters, disagreeing with me is abusive and harms my self-image; it’s like being sexually assaulted.

The new Roseanne has been held by many to be an “inaccurate” or “idealized” “portrait of the President’s base” (for example, by Jared Yates Sexton), which takes it for granted that the purpose of the show is to depict Trump voters, which I imagine is not exactly how Roseanne thinks about it, especially as her character long preceded the political advent of Trump. Now, there’s no doubt that what Sexton and others mean is that Roseanne, and every slice of media which depicts any person who supports Trump, should portray every Trump supporter as an idiot and a bigot. What they are saying flatly, though, is that Roseanne should base her character on statistical averages for Trump voters; that anyone who is depicting any Trump voter ought carefully to jam all Trump voters into a single body. Good luck.

That Roseanne Barr is a particular person, and Roseanne Conner a particular character, both of whom have a long history, is neither here nor there according to this style of criticism. That she’s extremely idiosyncratic and funny is irrelevant: if either Roseanne voted for Trump, she must represent herself as a “typical” Trump voter. There are about a million things wrong with this. It’s an extremely primitive form of raw philistinism that misunderstands art entirely. But perhaps the worst immediate practical consequence is that it’s turning television, drama, film, and fiction into sheer pedagogy. The question isn’t “Was that a good movie?” But, does it manipulate its audience to achieve some sort of social or political transformation?

That’s why Black Panther was welcomed as though it was the Poor People’s March on Washington, even as the cast peddled Lexuses. I’d like to start by demanding evidence that movies or sitcoms or novels actually do have much of an effect on anyone’s opinions or behavior or self-image.

If you were to put out a movie right now in which a black female character behaved passively, or in which she was in a self-esteem crisis that left her confused and which didn’t suddenly transcend into self-realization, you’d be regarded as a racist and sexist. People would criticize your work on the ground that it’s an inaccurate depiction of black women. You’d protest, in vain, that you did not write the character to be a representative of all black women, or “the typical black woman,” but rather a completely particular human being. In vain, that it’s be impossible to create a character that represented all black women. In vain, that every black women is in fact a particular human being. In vain, that what the critics want would make your art an idiotic allegory.

And in fact, what the critics demand is not an accurate representation of millions of people as one person, even supposing that such a thing were possible. What they demand is an inaccurate representation, a picture that is “aspirational,” in which each black woman depicted is all black women and all black women are beautiful and strong and overcome whatever hardships and barriers they face. Then maybe when all the black girls see it, they will become more like that.

So in the end, every character has to be an inaccurate and tendentious and impossible representation of millions of people, whether it’s all black women jammed into a single strong and beautiful body or all Trump supporters jammed into the body of Roseanne. You certainly will kill entertainment this way, making it all into an ideological falsification of reality. And if you think that proceeding in this utterly disingenuous and incoherent manner way will make black girls stronger or Trump supporters more ashamed, I demand that you show me the fucking evidence.

By Crispin Sartwell and published in Splice Today and can be found here.

 

What is the purpose of our economic activity?

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

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Based on a talk given at
The American Chesterton Society Conference
5 August, 2016
When we look at the economic conduct of mankind and ask ourselves why the human race engages in such activities, I suppose that everyone would admit that we do so in order to produce goods and services for our use. So far, so good. But I submit there are two contrasting ways of looking at this activity and the products that result from it. This contrast can become clear if I juxtapose two quotations that exhibit two very different attitudes toward the economic activity of mankind. The first is from St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote that “…the appetite of natural riches is not infinite, because according to a set measure they satisfy nature; but the appetite of artificial riches is infinite, because it serves inordinate concupiscence….” (1) St. Thomas was here contrasting real economic goods – “natural riches” – with “artificial riches” – money and other surrogates for real wealth. The former serve us, they “satisfy nature,” and we desire only enough of them as we can reasonably use, for there is only so much stuff which any person can actually use, and if we acquire more than that, we must resort to devices such as renting storage bins in order to keep our extra and unnecessary possessions, something which in St. Thomas’ time happily did not exist. But even in the thirteenth century it was easier to store up money than actual physical things, and today this is incomparably easier, since bank statements and stock certificates take up very little space. But these sorts of goods can serve “inordinate concupiscence,” for there is a constant temptation to acquire and retain more than we really need or that can possibly serve any genuine human need.

My second quote is from the late Paul Samuelson, winner of a Nobel prize in economics, who wrote

An objective observer would have to agree that, even after two centuries of rapid economic growth, production in the United States is simply not high enough to meet everyone’s desires. If you add up all the wants, you quickly find that there are simply not enough goods and services to satisfy even a small fraction of everyone’s consumption desires. Our national output would have to be many times larger before the average American could live at the level of the average doctor or big-league baseball player. (2)

Here we have two opposed conceptions of the purpose of economic activity, one which is focused primarily on what is natural to humanity, which fulfills human needs, and the second which deliberately abstains from any moral consideration of human desires. If someone wants something, that’s all that matters. The economy exists to satisfy any and all desires.

Now I should note that Aquinas is not asserting that it’s only our basic needs for food or shelter or clothing that are natural. The purposes for which we need material goods can be broadly divided into two parts: first, the absolutely necessary goods, sufficient food, water, shelter, to keep the human race alive. But if we stopped there we would be like ants or bees. They also engage in work to provide for themselves these necessities of life. Human beings, however, are rational animals, that is, our capacities surpass the merely material level, and hence for us a proper human life is not limited simply to survival. We need objects of beauty, music, books, even, in some measure, devices and inventions that make life easier or save time and effort. Without these a properly human life is impossible or difficult. But all the same, St. Thomas sets up human nature as the standard against which man’s economic activity must be measured, whereas Samuelson simply takes each and every demand for a good or service as a given.

I trust I don’t need to belabor which of these two attitudes toward economic activity and material things ought to characterize a Christian, whether Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox. Holy Scripture itself is quite clear on this point:

…if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs. (I Tim. 6:8-10)

In Centesimus Annus St. John Paul II speaks of “the right to possess the things necessary for one’s personal development and the development of one’s family” (no. 6). And in the same encyclical he writes in another passage (no. 36),

It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed toward “having” rather than “being,” which wants to have more, not in order to be more but in order to spend life in enjoyment as an end in itself.

Now I realize that it’s not always easy to say how much is “necessary for one’s personal development and the development of one’s family.” In fact, there is apt to be disagreement about what is a reasonable standard that satisfies nature. And to some extent such disagreement is to be expected, for it’s impossible to calculate such a standard with mathematical exactness. But the important thing, and certainly the first thing to do, is to recognize that mankind’s economic activity and the products that result therefrom do have a purpose, to “satisfy nature,” and not to satisfy simply any and every desire prompted by the wish “to spend life in enjoyment as an end in itself,” so that everyone can live in the manner of a major-league baseball player. At some point, any sensible person will have to admit that the needs of nature have been satisfied, and that anything beyond that is simply excess.

Now, If we accept what I have said so far, what logically follows? We can apply the teaching of St. Paul and St. Thomas and St. John Paul not only to individuals and families, but also to societies.  I am aware that many individuals and families do seek in some degree to acquire and use material goods according to these stipulations and warnings. In a society such as ours this is not easy to do, and, as I just said, it’s often very difficult to decide what is a reasonable standard of living that will satisfy nature, especially since American society can make it difficult to live a countercultural life. In this regard I will note only two things.

First, as Benedict XVI wrote in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate (no. 37), “every economic decision has a moral consequence.” Since the kinds of stores we patronize, the kinds of products we buy and use, have consequences that are both economic and environmental, therefore they have both moral and spiritual consequences for each of us. Someone who desires to “live at the level of the average doctor or big-league baseball player” is making decisions which not only have moral consequences but unavoidably shape that person’s soul according to a particular pattern. A lifetime of our economic decisions will determine whether we have shaped ourselves according to the image of Samuelson’s economic man or to the opposite pattern suggested by Holy Scripture and the writings of the saints.

Secondly, just as it’s very difficult for someone raised in a society saturated by pornography and sexual promiscuity to realize what a sane and healthy sexuality is, so it’s hard for us who were raised in a commercial society, a society which more or less makes riches and material goods an idol, to realize what a sane attitude toward work and material goods is. In both cases we have to strive, using all the means of grace available, to form sound judgments. But now I want to turn our attention to the question of society as a whole, that is, about how a society that seeks to orient its productive activity toward satisfying nature might conduct itself.

The following is a description, from Richard Tawney’s seminal book, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, of the outlook of Medieval Europe toward work and material goods.

Material riches are necessary; they have a secondary importance, since without them men cannot support themselves and help one another; the wise ruler, as St. Thomas said, will consider in founding his State the natural resources of the country. But economic motives are suspect. Because they are powerful appetites, men fear them, but they are not mean enough to applaud them. Like other strong passions, what they need, it is thought, is not a clear field, but repression. There is no place in medieval theory for economic activity which is not related to a moral end, and to found a science of society upon the assumption that the appetite for economic gain is a constant and measurable force, to be accepted, like other natural forces, as an inevitable and self-evident datum would have appeared to the medieval thinker as hardly less irrational or less immoral than to make the premise of social philosophy the unrestrained operation of such necessary human attributes as pugnacity or the sexual instinct.

And he continues with his description of medieval economic ethics:

At every turn, therefore, there are limits, restrictions, warnings, against allowing economic interests to interfere with serious affairs. It is right for a man to seek such wealth as is necessary for a livelihood in his station. To seek more is not enterprise, but avarice, and avarice is a deadly sin. Trade is legitimate; the different resources of different countries show that it was intended by Providence. But it is a dangerous business. A man must be sure that he carries it on for the public benefit, and that the profits which he takes are no more than the wages of his labor. (3)

And another historian wrote along similar lines,

We can, therefore, lay down as the first principle of mediaeval economics that there was a limit to money-making imposed by the purpose for which the money was made. Each worker had to keep in front of himself the aim of his life and consider the acquiring of money as a means only to an end, which at one and the same time justified and limited him. When, therefore, sufficiency had been obtained there could be no reason for continuing further efforts at getting rich,…except in order to help others. (4)

The questions I’d like to consider now concern how a truly Christian society would implement these ideals. Many people, certainly most Americans, would think that adherence to such standards must be something purely voluntary. At most, the Church would seek to persuade people of its desirability via her preaching and catechesis. And certainly that is the first thing to be done, to create a social consciousness that the pursuit of riches beyond what one needs is both criminal and stupid. Criminal because it helps create a society that upholds false ideals and corrupts all of our souls, stupid because it detracts from what life in this world is about, and above all, because it makes more difficult our attainment of eternal life. I am not asserting that it is a sin simply to be rich, but I do assert that riches are almost always a near occasion of sin, and therefore we’d better be pretty sure we have a genuine justification for our riches. And especially do we need a very good justification for seeking more riches if we already have enough so that the demands of nature are satisfied.

But there is more. You’ll notice what Tawney said in the passage I just quoted, “At every turn, therefore, there are limits, restrictions, warnings, against allowing economic interests to interfere with serious affairs.” A Christian society will not be content to simply use moral persuasion in order to correctly orient out attitude toward work and material goods. If nothing else, such a society will make it rather hard for someone to get rich. It will certainly do nothing to facilitate such acquisition of riches, and it will try to structure its laws, tax code and general economic arrangements so that it is easy to earn enough to support one’s family, but hard to do more.

Many are familiar with the taxation scheme suggested by Hilaire Belloc in his 1936 book, The Restoration of Property, according to which any enterprise which exceeded a certain size would be taxed at such a high rate that no one would expand his business beyond a modest size. I know that many people have an instinctive violent reaction against such proposals, but those who do should ask themselves a couple questions. How is this an unjust restriction? How is anyone’s true good harmed by such laws? Until recently we as a society in the United States saw this clearly with regard to that other great human appetite, sexual satisfaction. Within the lifetime of many of us divorce was in most states difficult to obtain, pornography was strictly regulated or even prohibited, homosexual activity illegal. And laws on the books even forbade adultery, even if they were rarely enforced. Even today prostitution is illegal in nearly every state.  We justified these restrictions by saying that such activity was contrary to both the natural law and the revealed law of God, harmful to individuals and to the social order, and that therefore the free choices and desires of individuals could justly be limited in such matters.

If we are serious about conforming our lives to the norms of morality with regard to money and property, the same argument applies: “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.” The disordered striving after riches is as hurtful to the common good as is the disordered striving after sexual pleasure.  Both material wealth and sexual pleasure are true goods, but they are goods only in their rightful places. No one’s genuine freedom or legitimate rights are infringed upon if the pursuit of wealth is hindered and directed toward legitimate channels, even by use of state power, just as no one’s genuine freedom or legitimate rights are infringed upon by legal restrictions on disordered sexual behavior.

There is a wonderful quote from G. K. Chesterton in What’s Wrong With the World that juxtaposes so well these two areas of human behavior.

I am well aware that the word “property” has been defiled in our time by the corruption of the great capitalists. One would think, to hear people talk that the Rothchilds and the Rockefellers were on the side of property. But obviously they are the enemies of property; because they are enemies of their own limitations. They do not want their own land; but other people’s…. It is the negation of property that the Duke of Sutherland should have all the farms in one estate; just as it would be the negation of marriage if he had all our wives in one harem. (5)

If it is proper to prevent the Duke of Sutherland from obtaining all of our women as his wives, why is it not proper to prevent him from obtaining all the property as his own?

Let me go one step further, or one level deeper, in our exploration of this topic. Most people who would object to what I just said about the use of social or legal power to restrict our acquisitive appetites, would object, I think, because, usually unknowingly, they hold an idea about social or political authority which is grounded not in classical philosophy or Holy Scripture, but in the Enlightenment of the 18th century, most notably in the writings of John Locke. Government, according to this notion, is merely a necessary evil, necessary because of mankind’s tendencies toward anti-social conduct. “If men were angels,” wrote James Madison in Federalist no. 51, “no government would be necessary.” Implicit in such a notion is the idea that man’s natural state is a-social, and that every restriction we accept as part of living in society is a restriction on our natural freedom, justified usually by the benefits which sociey brings, but still, something essentially unnatural, something which inhibits our natural freedom. Most political discourse in the United States, of both liberals and conservatives, simply assumes such an understanding of freedom and society.

Here again, though, we find Thomas Aquinas teaching a different view. In the Summa Theologiae (I, q 96, art 4) he asks whether there would have been subordination of man to man in the state of innocence, i.e., without Adam’s fall into sin. And he answers his question clearly, saying Yes.  Although there would not have been the domination (dominium) characteristic of the slave (servus), who is “ordered to another,” there would still have been the kind of subjection proper to the free man, when someone directs him to his own good or to the common good. And the primary reason given by Aquinas for this is because man is “naturally a social animal” and “social life cannot exist unless someone presides who aims at the common good.” In other words, according to Aquinas, even if our first parents had never sinned and lost the state of original justice, we still would have required a sort of government, a government that would not have needed to punish anyone, but was still there to coordinate and direct our efforts toward the common good.

I submit that this difference between St. Thomas and Locke manifests the fundamental error of almost all political discourse in the Anglo-Saxon world, especially the United States. But Locke is simply wrong: man is by nature a political animal, our natural state is one of community, with all the necessary restrictions that such community requires and implies. This is not to justify tyranny or to deny that personal political freedom is a good, but it is to insist that such political freedom is far from the highest political virtue.  Justice is more important than freedom, and in fact, any understanding of freedom which regards it as primarily the right to do anything which one pleases, is a disordered understanding. Just as marriage vows do not limit our true sexual freedom, but actually allow for human sexuality to flourish in proper freedom, so society, including government, is not a restriction on man’s legitimate freedom, but the precondition for a true flourishing of such freedom. We do not trade a certain amount of freedom for a certain amount of security, as in the Lockean myth of the social contract, but we are placed by God and nature into society, without which freedom would be a meaningless exercise in randomness.

As a result, then, if a society attempts to channel its economic activity toward the common good, it in no way infringes on real economic freedom. Rather it provides the necessary means by which economic activity can attain its true end: not the goods and services that satisfy everyone’s consumption desires, but the appetite for natural riches which according to a set measure satisfy nature. This is true Christian wisdom, this is the teaching of the Church, the command of Holy Scripture, and the sure way toward our eternal salvation.

Notes:
(1) Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 2, a. 1 ad 3.

(2) Microeconomics, 17th ed., 2001 p. 4.

(3) Richard H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, New York, 1926, pp. 31-32.

(4) Bede Jarrett, Social Theories of the Middle Ages, pp. 157-158.

(5) Part I, chapter 6.

Mike Rowe: America’s Suffering From ‘An Epidemic Of Fatherlessness’

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in The Daily Wire and Facebook which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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ByJACOB AIREY

March 28, 2018

On Tuesday, Mike Rowe, host of “Returning The Favor” and “Dirty Jobs,” took to Facebook to defend fathers and fatherhood in general, pointing to the growing discontent with having a strong dad in the home.

In the post, Rowe highlights a comment by Angelina Jolie he suggests echoes the sentiment of too many people in our culture:

A couple years ago, when Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were getting divorced, Jolie was quoted as saying, “It never even crossed my mind that my son would need a father.”

I was struck by her comment, and I remember wondering how many other Americans might share her view. At the time, I didn’t think many. But today, I’m convinced the number is significant. I’m also amazed at how quickly fatherhood has fallen out of favor. Can you imagine a celebrity – or anyone for that matter – saying such a thing just twenty years ago?

Rowe then cites facts and statistics about the negative effects of a fatherless home.

The facts seem pretty clear.

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes – 5 times the average. (US Dept. Of Health/Census)
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
  • 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
  • 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes – 14 times the average. (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)
  • 43% of US children live without their father [US Department of Census]

Is it really so surprising to learn that a majority of bullies also come from fatherless homes? As do a majority of school shooters? As do a majority of older male shooters?

Rowe goes on to ask readers to “consider the possibility that this thing we like to call ‘an epidemic of bullying,’ is really an ‘epidemic of fatherlessness.’ I also think it’s reasonable to conclude that our society is sending a message to men of all ages that is decidedly mixed”:

Think about it. On the one hand, we’re telling them to “man-up” whenever the going gets tough. On the other, we’re condemning a climate of “toxic masculinity” at every turn. If that strikes you as confusing, imagine being a fourteen-year old boy with no father figure to help you make sense of it.

Read Rowe’s complete post here and the article is here.

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FB:

Returning the Favor

A couple years ago, when Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were getting divorced, Jolie was quoted as saying, “It never even crossed my mind that my son would need a father.”

I was struck by her comment, and I remember wondering how many other Americans might share her view. At the time, I didn’t think many. But today, I’m convinced the number is significant. I’m also amazed at how quickly fatherhood has fallen out of favor. Can you imagine a celebrity – or anyone for that matter – saying such a thing just twenty years ago?

This week’s episode of RTF is about a guy named Carlos who found an effective way to deprogram bullies. Please watch it. It’s a great story about a great guy making a real difference around a serious issue. It occurred to me though, half way through filming, that bullying – like so many other social ills in today’s headlines – isn’t really a problem at all; it’s a symptom. In my view, a symptom of a society that seems to value fatherhood less and less.

The facts seem pretty clear.

• 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes – 5 times the average. (US Dept. Of Health/Census)
• 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
• 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
• 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes – 14 times the average. (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
• 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)
• 43% of US children live without their father [US Department of Census]

Is it really so surprising to learn that a majority of bullies also come from fatherless homes? As do a majority of school shooters? As do a majority of older male shooters?

I know this is controversial, and I’m sorry to inject an uncomfortable element into a post about a “feel-good” show, but I think it’s important to consider the possibility that this thing we like to call “an epidemic of bullying,” is really an “epidemic of fatherlessness.” I also think it’s reasonable to conclude that our society is sending a message to men of all ages that is decidedly mixed.

Think about it. On the one hand, we’re telling them to “man-up” whenever the going gets tough. On the other, we’re condemning a climate of “toxic masculinity” at every turn. If that strikes you as confusing, imagine being a fourteen-year old boy with no father figure to help you make sense of it.

Anyway, the bullying crisis is real, but the root cause has nothing to do with video games, or guns, or social media, or rock and roll, or sugary drinks, or any of the other boogymen currently in fashion. Nor is it a function of some new chromosome unique to the current crop of kids coming of age. Kids are the same now as they were a hundred years ago – petulant, brave, arrogant, earnest, frightened, and cocksure. It’s the parents who have changed. It’s the parents who have put their own happiness above the best interests of their kids. It’s the parents who actually believe “the village” will raise their kids, when the village is profoundly incapable of doing anything of the sort.

Of course, I could be wrong. I often am. But I can tell you with certainty that whatever the root causes of bullying may be, Carlos Flores is part of the solution. Watch the video and see for yourself. And if you’d like to see more men like him, doing similar things in other places, do me a favor and share his story. It’s a good one. And imitation is also part of the solution…

Thanks,
Mike

 

Demographic Nonsense

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in Splice Today which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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Today, when we try to explain political results or describe the political landscape, we often do it in terms of which demographic groups—genders, races, orientations, classes, regions—voted for whom. And as political consultants and politicians try to win elections, they start the same way; they try to figure out how to dominate among white suburban women, for example. I’ve argued that politics relying on exploiting demographics—a style and a strategy more and more relentlessly prosecuted by both parties—is a contradictory nonsense, as well as a terribly unfortunate attempt to make the divisions between Americans ever more extreme. Here, I’m going to elaborate on articles I wrote for The Wall Street Journal.

First, it’s all rather evil.  The basic approach of the Clinton campaign, according to its own strategists and surrogates—white guys such as Robby Mook and Joel Benenson—was to focus on relentlessly on turning out “women and minorities.” As demographics shift, they’ve long held, Democrats will dominate this growing segment of the population, and hence elections. (There is one problem here; the category “women and minorities” makes no sense.)

This has been a strategy for the last several cycles, in particular since the emergence of the “gender gap” in the 1990s; it was relentless in 2016. And I think it’s fair to say that Republicans have implicitly focused on white people and men as their basic constituency for decades, at least since Nixon played “the Southern card.” In Trump/Bannon nationalism, with its throwback style of sexuality and racial signaling, this appeal has become explicit.

In 2016, both sides leaned heavily on demographic analyses in deciding where the candidate should appear, for example, or in figuring out how to assemble an Electoral College majority. Particularly for the Democrats, however, this style of analysis is breathtakingly incoherent. The electoral coalition they imagine—of women, minorities, urban dwellers, gay and trans people—is conceptually impossible. The simplest way to see this is that the population cannot be split into two groups, women/minorities and men/white people.

A majority of American women are white, while half the members of racial minority groups are men. A coalition in which one party represents women and minorities and the other represents men and white people splits each of the white women and each of the minority men right between the hemispheres of their brains. Mook and Benenson were calling on people’s race to vote against their gender, and vice versa. If people can’t undergo fission into their demographic memberships—if, for example, a black, straight, middle-class man can’t be pulled apart into four different voters—this is all nonsense.

As a matter of fact, Trump won white women, leading to an outraged feminist condemnation of their reactionary sisters. Didn’t they know they were women first and white people second? Trump also did surprisingly well among minority men. These splits could continue to grow as the parties try to maximize them, and neither party would win an enduring advantage.

If I want to vote the way the parties want me to vote, and I am, for example, a rural straight Latino female, how would I proceed? The parties not only want to slice up the population and turn bits of it against the other bits, but to slice up each of us and, I suppose, turn us against ourselves, or force this poor sap to figure out whether she’s more straight than female, or more rural than Latino.

This does, in part, explain the interminable deadlock of our politics. Even as Democrats wait for demographic shifts to carry them to power, the growing minority population is half-male, the growing out-gay population is mostly white, and so on. Almost any way they try to maximize the demographic advantages they believe will serve them will also maximize the advantages of their opponents. We’re likely to be stuck here for a long time.

The parties got into this hell through polling, which has dominated every campaign. You can poll women, and you can poll white people. These two polls deliver different numbers; they appear to focus on different demographic segments. But the populations overlap at a rate of 50 percent, and your appeal is liable to alienate the other 50. These data heads seem clever, but they’re making howling mistakes.

If there’s a stage further into or beyond demographic politics, it may be signaled by Cambridge-Analytica-style “psychometrics.” The Democrats were still operating in 2016 at the primitive and incoherent level of large demographic segments, but the data analysis and targeting tools that are coming online now promise to target voters, or consumers, “down to the level of the individual.” If that were indeed possible, it might to some extent overcome the sort of conceptual problems I’m identifying. The Trump’s campaign’s micro-targeting, as opposed to the Dems’ primitive approach to the electorate in terms of large-scale groups demographic segments, might in part explain how Trump beat Clinton.

Micro-targeting might also lead to more sophisticated manipulations, more divisive appeals to group identities, smaller echo chambers. And yet if they come into my social media feeds appealing to my eccentric politics or consumption behavior as well as my demographic memberships—if they really atomize their appeals down to the level of individuals—the lines between groups might liquify a little.

I’m a white, heterosexual, rural male. And yet, if I were forced to choose sides among the demographic parties, I’d choose to go with the women and minorities (or I would, if the category were coherent). I don’t mean to make parties representing male whites and female people of color precisely morally equivalent, and the historical oppression exercised by people like me would make me go in the opposite direction; I don’t want to be in the racist, sexist party (though I also don’t want to be in the statist party). But, standing outside the process, it’s hard not to notice the cumulative effects of both parties together trying to maximize the gender and racial gaps. It’s tearing the country apart, at the scale of whole regions and groups, but also in villages, offices and families.

We might say that demographic politics imply a theory of human identity in which each of us is a stack or collage of memberships in social groups, in which each of us is a race/gender/nationality/orientation/class. Our behavior, and in particular our consumption and political behavior, is supposed to follow out of this stack, and hence to be manipulated through these memberships, which call out loyalties and real interests, but which are also in conflict, between the groups or within the self.

I wonder whether that exhausts the way you understand your self, whether that’s all you are or all you might aspire to be.

By Crispin Sartwell published on March 26, 2018 in Splice Today and can be seen here.

Reasoned Voting

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

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Keeping in mind that this site does not engage in party politics, I still feel prompted to share something in the context of the up-coming election in the U.S. Although most of this will discuss the political climate in the U.S. I also send this out to any readers “across the pond” in the U.K. as they approach the very important vote on whether or not to remain in the E.U. Distributism is based on certain philosophical principles which originate in a scientific view of philosophy. It has become all too common in our political environments to use fear tactics to try and convince people to vote a certain way. These tactics can sound reasonable, but are truly an attempt to get you to abandon reason. Therefore, I want to present certain principles of reason as I think they apply to deciding how to vote.

The philosophical principles of reason which come down to us from the great minds of the past like Aristotle and Saint Thomas Aquinas are those precepts which we must follow when applying reason to anything. The failure to do so will ultimately lead us to accepting absurd things. They are employed by all of our natural sciences. They are employed by all of our ethical reasoning. They are crucial to fulfilling our capabilities as rational beings. Unfortunately, some people throw around some of these principles in an incorrect or incomplete manner. Because we no longer learn true philosophy (even philosophy students seem to spend more time learning about philosophers – both good and bad – than about the actual science of philosophy) many people are ill equipped to see that these are false applications.

“Choosing the lesser of two evils”

This is a frequent claim used as an election draws near. In the U.S. It has long been used by pundits for the Republican party and has recently been used more by those of the Democrat party. The failure to nominate a candidate their voting base can really support has forced them to use this claim. They essentially say, “we know you think our candidate is bad, but he’s not as bad as their candidate.” This call to choose the “lesser” of two evils is usually followed by the next claim.

“A vote for x is really a vote for y”

This is a double-attack on your reason. Not only is your decision not to vote for their candidate or policy wrong, but you will somehow be guilty for the fact that the other candidate or policy won. In essence, the claim is that by voting other than the way they want, you are actually choosing what (presumably) neither of you want. This is used by both of the major parties in the U.S. as an attack against anyone who considers a third party option. It is based on the premise that the candidate or policy you want has no chance of winning, which leads us to the next claim.

“Don’t let the best be the enemy of the good”

Politics is the art of compromise, so why don’t you just compromise and vote for us? Since your position or candidate has no chance of actually winning, you should back down a little and vote for us. By doing so, you’ll get at least some of what you want instead of “wasting your vote.”

All of these arguments sound reasonable, but are actually not so, and a serious look at the principles of reason will reveal why.

When people use variants of the “lesser of two evils” argument, keep in mind that this is only a partial statement of the actual principle of reason. The actual principle is, “If one cannot avoid doing one of two acts, from both of which will follow an evil effect, one is obligated to choose the lesser of the two evils.”  Note that the premise here, which is fundamental to the entire principle, is that you cannot avoid doing one of the two acts. For this to apply in the context of an election, you would have to be constrained to only choose one of two candidates and have no other option – you must vote and you must vote for one of the only two candidates presented to you. Is this the actual case in our elections? Do you really only have two choices? I am not speaking of the so-called “practical” choices, by which is meant those choices generally accepted as having a chance to win. If there is in fact another option, then you are not limited by the constraint of the principle, so it simply doesn’t apply. Actually, if one were to insist on applying it to the case of an election, a reasoned expansion of this principle would be that, in the case of more than two choices, you must choose the one from which will follow the least evil effect. Don’t forget that, when electing candidates in the U.S., there is usually a blank line where you can write in the name of a better choice than the ones being presented.

This leads us to the next claim. Is it true that choosing something other than the two “practical” choices is equivalent to choosing one of them? The answer is obviously no. They say that the only choices are A and B because C has no chance of winning. Therefore, if you vote for C, you are effectively giving the election to whichever option they don’t want from the choices of A and B. This is nonsense. They are trying to shift the blame to you for the fact that they didn’t present a candidate you would want to support. They are trying to blame you for all the others who also didn’t want to support their view. This seems to be a mangling of the principle which states, “Things that are identical with a third are identical with each other.”Your actual responsibility in an election is to vote for the candidate or position you think should win. What you vote for represents what you choose regardless of the outcome. You are not to blame for the votes of others.

This leaves us with the only argument that actually deserves any consideration. “Don’t let the best become the enemy of the good” is inherently incorrect, but it can actually be applied in a way that doesn’t compromise the principles of reason. However, this argument must be properly understood in the light of those principles to determine if it actually applies to the current choices.

First of all, using the terms employed, the “good” must always be directed toward the “best” or it fails to be good. (“Every agent acts for the sake of an end.”) Therefore, one can accept the merely “good” for now, but only on the condition that is a movement toward the “best.” If this is not the case, then you would be violating the principle which states, “It is never lawful to reject a greater good for a lesser one.” The lesser good can only be accepted as a means to achieving the greater good, and never as an end itself. This is the essence of political compromise. Realizing that achieving the “best” may not currently be politically possible, achieving the “good” at this time with the intention of continuing to work for the “best” may be prudent.

Another consideration for this argument must be kept in mind. At what point does continual compromise from the “best” end up being an acceptance of the merely “good?” If you keep voting for an inadequate candidate on the grounds that “we can’t let the other party win,” what incentive will your party ever have to stop presenting inadequate candidates? If you continue to agree to legislation that falls short of what you really want, what are your chances of ever getting the legislation you really want? The pundits accuse those who choose to make a stand with their vote of wasting it, but the purpose of voting is to try and get the change you want. What vote could be more wasted than when you vote for something you don’t want?

At what point do we wake up to the realization that the political machines of these parties are actively engaged in saying what their base wants to hear just to secure votes, but don’t actually mean those things? How many times to we have to see them fail to even try to accomplish what they tell us they will before we accept the fact that it really isn’t all the fault of the other party? Remember that this sort of compromise is only acceptable if it is both prudential and will actually help to move from the “good” to the “best.”

A final consideration on this kind of compromise is that we have to examine the risks of the other side of the compromise. It is not enough to look at what we’ve gained, we need to look at what we’ve potentially lost through the compromise.“It is never lawful to take a risk with the right of another.” “It is never lawful to do an evil act to accomplish a good end.” “A good intention does not justify the use of an evil means for the end in view.” If your side of the compromise would fall into any of these categories, then the compromise cannot be made. Remember that your vote represents you. Your beliefs and values. “All human acts must tend towards the good of man.”

I am also reminded of something posted by Ryan Grant. There is another claim that says that you have no right to complain if you don’t vote. Of course, this is also nonsense. The officials of government have a moral responsibility in the exercise of their office. This is true even if those officials are not democratically elected. Citizens always have the right to complain about injustices regardless of how those officials came to hold their offices. In some election campaigns, there were movements of people who wanted a ballot option for “none of the above” as a way of indicating their dissatisfaction with all of the candidates. However, if you believe that elections are useless, because of the corruption of the political parties, the media, the voting process, or the ballot counting process, then why should you bother to vote even to say “none of the above?” Justice in government is a human right, not one just for those who engage in the system of voting.

Finally, I would like to point out how ironic it is when I hear Republican pundits heap scorn on those who would even consider a third party candidate. They seem to forget that their party was once the upstart third party in a political climate dominated by two other parties. The “Grand Old Party” is significantly younger than its chief rival. Why is it that they don’t address the growing popularity of third party candidates among their voter base? The Republican party was propelled to electoral victory because the voting public got sick and tired of the fact that neither of the major parties of the time were putting forth candidates and positions that truly reflected their views. Well, the same thing is happening today in both of the major parties. It is common for pundits of both parties to lay the blame for an electoral loss on the votes “stolen” by a third party candidate. The truth is that these votes were not stolen because they didn’t “belong” to any candidate or party. They never “owned” our votes and they shouldn’t take them for granted. If they want our votes, then they should present candidates and positions we want to support. If they want to keep our votes, then those candidates better use their time in office actually trying to accomplish what they were elected to accomplish. In other words, voters need to remember that parties and individual candidates need to earn our votes, and need to keep doing so. If they fail to do this, then why shouldn’t we look elsewhere and be proud of doing so?

In their attempts to convince others to vote for a particular candidate, many people are using arguments that invoke the fundamental principles of reason from the philosophical sciences. Unfortunately, many of these invocations use these arguments in an improper way. I addressed some of the most common in a recent article titled Reasoned Voting. I recently came across another use of a principle of reason in support of voting for a particular candidate which, in the interest clear reasoning, I would like to address in this follow-up to that article. The principle is known as “Double-Effect.”

The main goal of these articles is not to convince or dissuade people about voting for a particular candidate or party. It is to foster a better understanding of the principles being invoked because an improper use of these principles can have bad results.

“A small error in principle can lead to a big error in conclusion.”

Doing something, even something good, for a bad reason is not something we should be willing to accept because that would be acting contrary to our nature as rational beings. Therefore, even if you continue to support a given candidate, it should not be because of a faulty application of the principles of reason.

Where the principle commonly called “the lesser of two evils” is used to decide between two choices, the principle of double-effect only applies to a single choice. It is the method used to determine if a particular choice can or cannot be made. Thus, we have seen questions like “can a Catholic vote for Trump/Hillary?” Some commentators have attempted to answer these types of questions pertaining to the upcoming election using the principle of double-effect, but I believe these attempts are a misapplication of the principle.

The principle of double-effect answers the question of whether or not a specific single act is permissible when it is known that the act will produce not only a good, but also a bad effect. In the context of the political election it is proposed that, because we know a candidate will do both good and bad things, double-effect applies to the question of whether or not we may vote for a specific candidate. However, I believe that this is a misunderstanding of the principle as it applies to the question at hand.

The principle of double-effect addresses the following question.

Given an act that that produces two effects, one good and one bad, can we do the act?

 

To determine whether or not a particular act is permissible, the principle of double-effect applies four conditions to the act and its effects to arrive at an answer. If all of the conditions are met, then the principle of double-effect applies and the act may be done. The conditions which must be met for double-effect to apply are these.

 

The act itself must be good, or at least indifferent.
Both effects must proceed immediately from the act.
Only the good effect may be intended.
There must be due proportion between the good and bad effects.

The first two conditions determine whether or not double-effect applies to a particular act. If not, the act must be examined in light of other principles of reason. The second two conditions answer the question of whether or not an act to which double-effect does apply may or may not be done.

A fairly common example of how the principle is legitimately applied is the question amputating a limb infected with gangrene. Amputating the infected limb will remove the threat to life, but it will also result in the loss of the limb. Can we amputate the limb?

First: The act is amputation of the limb. This act is indifferent because the goodness or badness of it depends on the end toward which it is directed.
Second: Both effects will proceed immediately from the act. The moment the act is performed, both the threat to life and the limb will be removed.
Third: We only desire the good effect. If we could remove the gangrene without doing harm, or with less harm, we would do so.
Fourth: The good of preserving life is greater than the evil of losing a limb.

From this we can see that the principle of double-effect applies to this case, and that the reasonable conclusion is that we may amputate the limb.

Those who attempt to apply this principle as an argument for casting your vote for candidate X seem to do so on the basis of campaign promises. Even though it is likely that X will do some things we consider bad, X has promised to do other things we believe are good. We believe there is due proportion between the good and the bad that X will likely do while in office. Therefore, they conclude, the principle of double-effect shows that we can vote for candidate X. I will explain two reasons why I believe double-effect just doesn’t apply to the question of your vote. Note that I am only addressing the question of whether or not double-effect applies to the question of your vote, there are certainly other factors that do.

Double-effect applies specifically to “an act that produces two effects, one good and one bad.” We are examining the effects of specific individual act, so the act in question must clearly be the cause of those effects. In the case of amputation, both effects are produced by the act of amputation – they are both unavoidable effects of the act and the act is clearly the cause of those effects. Can we say the same thing about your vote? Is your vote the cause of both the good and the bad that candidate X will do while in office? The answer is obviously no. You cast your vote based on various things like campaign promises and position statements, but your vote does not actually cause any of those things to actually occur. Whether candidate X keeps or breaks every campaign promise, whether X does exactly what you expect or the opposite of what you expect can not reasonably be attributed as an effect of your vote. It is an effect of the free will of the candidate while in office.

I know that some will argue that your vote is the cause of the candidate getting elected and therefore, by extension, it is the cause of what the candidate does in office. I maintain that double-effect still doesn’t apply even if we accept the argument. The principle of double-effect states that both effects must proceed immediatelyfrom the act. This is clear in the case of amputation. Both effects are immediate. They happen simultaneously and there is no delay between the act as the cause and its effects. In regard to your vote, none of the effects can be considered to proceed immediately from your vote. Even if we were to say that the effects in question will take place over a period of time, they don’t even start to happen when you cast your vote. The candidate won’t even get sworn in for two months after you cast your vote. X could refuse to be sworn in or die before doing so. Amputation guarantees that both the limb and the disease will be removed. Your vote does not even guarantee that candidate X will win the election. Clearly, double-effect does not apply to the question of your vote.

In the end, as stated in the previous article, you must exercise your prudential judgement. Faced with the fact that the candidate is not ideal, is it prudential to vote for X rather than one of the several other available candidates? Is it prudential to (once again) compromise on what you really want and vote for X as a step toward a greater good to be more fully achieved in the future? There are many factors to consider for this important decision. I hope that these articles will help clarify the good and bad points some are making on the subject. These decisions are unfortunately difficult and complex. The principles of reason exist to assist us in understanding the factors that go into making a good decision. It does not help if our thinking gets muddled by the improper application of these principles, even if those doing it have the best intentions.

Originally posted on June 16, 2016 (part one: see here) and August 18, 2016 (part two: see here).

Ohio town must pay back millions of fines collected from speed cameras, court rules

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights as described in the article below.

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A small Ohio town that lived by the red light camera could soon die by it, after a federal court ruled the speed trap has to pay back more than $3 million in automated speeding tickets.

The case of New Miami, population 2,321, highlights the controversy behind the tickets, which make stoplight-running motorists see red, but help keep the budgets of cities and towns in the black. New Miami will almost certainly go bankrupt if the Supreme Court doesn’t reverse a lower court’s ruling and spare it from refunding tens of thousands of tickets at $180 apiece plus interest.

The case of New Miami is seen by many drivers across the country – including numerous lawmakers and lawyers – as the epitome of municipalities abusing their power by setting up speed traps and red light cameras in an attempt, not to make roadways safer, but to line their coffers.

“As with most issues there are elements of truth on both sides,” Bill Seitz, a Republican state representative from Ohio, told Fox News. “But many of these jurisdictions are using these tickets as revenue enhancements that ticket people for only minor infractions.”

Seitz is currently working to push a bill through the Ohio statehouse that would require cities to file all traffic camera cases in municipal court and would reduce state funding to cities by the same amount cities collect in traffic camera revenue.

The Ohio representative, who himself was caught on camera rolling through a red light in Columbus, added that in 2006 and 2014 lawmakers approved restrictions on photo enforcement cameras and that limits or bands on the devices enjoy wide support in cities like Cincinnati and Cleveland.

The current animosity directed at the cameras marks a shift in public sentiment toward the cameras.

While it is tough to pinpoint the national pulse as most studies are conducted at a state and regional level, but it appears that there are a growing number of areas who are starting to question whether the speed camera programs are effective or even constitutional.

Seven states are currently considering legislation to prohibit red light and speed camera use amid concerns that they are ripe for abuse and IIHS study found that the number of red light cameras in the U.S. dropped to 467 in 2015 from its peak of 553 in 2012.

“It’s really a money making venture,” Israel Klein, a lawyer in New York City, told Fox News. “They’re raking in the dollars and it’s an extreme abuse of power.”

Klein earlier this year filed a class action lawsuit against the city that argues that speed camera tickets are invalid and violate New York state law as the city failed to file all of the required paperwork with the court before allowing a private contractor to drop the photo ticket in the mail. New York City’s 2018 budget expects to haul in $119 million in photo enforcement fines.

“City officials don’t care about the law as long as they’re making money,” Klein added.

Proponents of the cameras, however, argue that they significantly lower the number of accidents on the road as both speeding and going through red lights are two of the biggest causes of car crashes in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The most recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that nearly 1,300 lives were saved through 2014 in 79 large U.S. cities that installed red light cameras and, in a study of one county in Maryland, radar cameras installed on local roads reduced fatal or incapacitating injuries by 39 percent.

“Red light running is one of the biggest factors in crashes,” Russ Rader, a spokesman for the IIHS, told Fox News. “But [these crashes] are sharply reduced when cities use red light cameras.”

But a slew of recent corruption cases across the country involving local government officials and companies selling the cameras is not helping the image of them as moneymakers for municipalities.

In Chicago, camera vendor Redflex won in 2003 a $120 million contract to install 384 cameras and collected more than $400 million in traffic fines. It was eventually revealed that Redflex bribed Chicago City hall manager John Bills with $2,000 for every camera installed as well as giving him vacations, a condominium in Arizona and Mercedes among other favors.

Bills was eventually sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in a corruption scandal that rocked the city, while two Redflex higher-ups were sent to jail and the company was forced to pay $20 million to the city to settle a lawsuit.

Redflex did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

In Ohio, New Miami will have to wait to see if the state’s Supreme Court decides to take a look at their plea – something it only does with roughly seven percent of cases filed annually. Engel, the plaintiff’s lawyer, says he believes that going to the state’s highest court is just another move by the village to delay making their payments.

“The village is well aware that the chances of the Supreme Court deciding to hear this issue is slim. So why are they pursuing this Hail Mary?” Engel told the Journal-News. “This is another stalling tactic to further delay having to pay back the money taken from motorists in an unconstitutional scheme.”

By Andrew O’Reilly and originally published on Fox News on March 14, 2018 and can be found here.

The Ignoble Lie

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in First Things which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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During one of the more infamous moments in Plato’s Republic, Socrates suggests that the ideal city needs a founding myth—what he calls “a noble lie”—to ensure its success. The myth has two parts. The first relates that every person in the city comes from the same mother, and thus encourages belief in a common origin and kinship of all the citizens who live in the city. The second relates that every person belongs by birth to a particular class based upon his or her talents and abilities, indicated by a metal gilded upon each soul at birth: gold for the ruling class; silver for ministers, soldiers, and high-ranking servants; bronze and iron for the workers.

Socrates argues that both parts of the myth must be believed by all citizens for the city to succeed. The myth at once seeks to unite and to differentiate, to explain what is common and distinct, to foster civic patriotism amid significant difference. The first part encourages civic commitment, shared sacrifice, and belief in a common good. The second justifies the existence of inequality as a permanent feature of ­human society.

Socrates is reluctant even to speak the myth aloud, recognizing how repulsive it is likely to sound to his hearers. More, he admits that it will require great acts of persuasion—likely over generations—before it is accepted by denizens of the city, and even then, it is likely not to be persuasive to the ruling class. If anyone is likely to accept the myth, he suggests, it is the uneducated working class.

When I present the noble lie to students in my classes, it rankles—as Socrates predicted it would. They dislike the idea that the just polity must be based upon a deception. But what irritates them even more is the suggestion that the just city must be based upon inequality. As good liberal democratic citizens, they intensely dislike the suggestion that inequality might be perpetuated as a matter of birthright, and they identify with the injustice done to the underclass. Over twenty years teaching at Princeton, Georgetown, and Notre Dame, I can’t recall a single student who regards the myth as anything but troubling. Most find it repugnant.

When pressed on the question of why it will prove more difficult to persuade the ruling class of the truth of the noble lie, most students believe that the ruling class’s superior education and intelligence make them more resistant to propaganda, while the simple working people are likely to succumb to deception because they don’t adequately understand their own interests. My students implicitly side with Marx in believing that the less educated are likely to adopt “false consciousness.”

Plato intends us to understand the myth ­differently. Unlike Marx, he did not believe that the members of the lower class would be unlikely to know their own interests. The underclass is likely to accept the myth because they realize it works to their advantage. Its members are keenly aware of the fact of inequality. That part of the “lie” hardly seems false to them. What is novel, and what works to their advantage, is the idea that inequalities exist for the benefit of the underclass as well as the rulers. That is, members with noble metals in their souls are to undertake their work for the benefit of everyone, including those whose souls are marked by base metals. By contrast, members of the ruling class are likely to disbelieve the myth out of self-interest. They balk at the claim that every person, regardless of rank, belongs to the same family. They do not want the advantages that might solely benefit their class to be employed for the benefit of the whole.

Only if each group accepts each part of the “lie,” as Socrates explains, is a kind of social contract achieved. Elites and commoners both accept the part of the myth that does not appeal to them for the sake of the part that does. Elites are distinguished in a society that justifies inequality; commoners are best off in a society that compels service of elites for the whole. Instead of acting as warring parties, both sides work for the good of all.

Such a compact is difficult to achieve. Much of the rest of The Republic is taken up with the question of how the ruling class can be persuaded, or even compelled, to throw in their lot with the rest of the city, rather than simply dominating or neglecting the others. Given the brute fact of inequality, Plato sees the great challenge of politics to be the task of persuading the advantaged to see themselves as part of the whole.

Compare Socrates’s expected response of the ruling class to this “noble lie” to the typical reaction of students at elite universities. Today’s elite students tend to focus on the myth’s claims about perpetual and generational inequality as the most objectionable part of the myth. The claim of common kinship seems unproblematic and even uninteresting. What explains the apparent reversal of scandal and resistance among the ruling class in our age?

Elite college campuses are hotbeds of activism against inequality, especially as it touches on race, gender, disability, and sexual orientation. In recent years, students and faculty from UC Berkeley to Yale to Reed College have protested instances of perceived bias, but few incidents have been quite so remarkable as the protests that greeted the social scientist Charles Murray at Middlebury College on March 2, 2017. Before speaking a word, Murray was greeted with twenty minutes of unbroken denunciatory chants by hundreds of students in the audience. In order to hold the planned discussion, he and his host, professor Allison Stanger, had to leave the lecture hall for a private studio. Students followed them and beat on the walls and windows of the room. As they left that secure space, the crowd buffeted and grabbed at Murray and Stanger, leaving Stanger with a neck injury and a concussion.

Murray had been invited to discuss his book Coming Apart, a study of the growing inequality between rich and poor white Americans between 1960 and 2010. Murray’s book focuses on two phenom­ena. First, he points to the way Americans have been sorted into separate geographic enclaves according to wealth, class, and education. Second, he points to the way poor and uneducated Americans suffer unprecedentedly high rates of social pathology, including divorce, out-of-wedlock childbirth, crime, drug addiction, ­unemployment, bankruptcy, isolation, and anomie.

The students who prevented Murray from speaking mostly come from, and will settle in, what Murray calls the “HPY” (Harvard, Princeton, Yale) bubble, a place of remarkable ideological, economic, and social homogeneity. Admission and graduation from an institution like Middlebury is the passport into the HPY bubble. This is no mean feat. According to U.S. News and World Report, Middlebury College is tied for sixth with Pomona College, behind Williams, Amherst, Bowdoin, Swarthmore, and Wellesley, in the rankings for best liberal arts colleges in America. It is among the most selective schools in America, accepting only 17 percent of applicants in 2017. Students have an average SAT score of 1450 out of 1600, along with a 3.95 high school GPA. Its cost for tuition plus room and board tops $64,000.

One might have thought that students at such a school would be keenly interested in hearing a lecture by someone who would discuss the evidence, basis, and implications of economic and class divergences in America today. Indeed, one might suspect that if the students were upset about inequality, they would have been inspired by Murray to direct the onus of their discontent against Middlebury College itself as a perpetrator of class division or even against themselves as willing participants in that perpetuation. At the very least, one might have thought that they would be interested in listening to an analysis of the role educational institutions play in creating and maintaining inequality. Instead, they shouted down the man who was going to speak with them about the role they play in perpetuating inequality—in the name of equality itself.

Of course, it wasn’t the subject of Murray’s lecture that was being protested, but the fact that he had discussed statistical differences in IQ among different races in his 1994 book, The Bell Curve. The main point of that book, however, was concern that social sorting would exacerbate class differentiation in America—just the kind of sorting that elite schools like Middlebury help to advance. The violent protests against Murray had the convenient effect of preventing any exploration of the pervasive class divide in America today, and leaving the elite students and ­faculty of Middlebury self-satisfied in their demonstrative support for equality.

Like so many similar demonstrations against inequality at elite college campuses, the protest against Murray was an echo of resistance of the ruling class to the noble lie. The ruling class denies that they really are a self-perpetuating elite that has not only inherited certain advantages but also seeks to pass them on. To mask this fact, they describe themselves as the vanguard of equality, in effect denying the very fact of their elevated status and the deleterious consequences of their perpetuation of a class divide that has left their less fortunate countrymen in a dire and perilous condition. Indeed, one is tempted to conclude that their insistent defense of equality is a way of freeing themselves from any real duties to the lower classes that are increasingly out of geographical sight and mind. Because they repudiate inequality, they need not consciously consider themselves to be a ruling class. Denying that they are deeply self-interested in maintaining their elite position, they easily assume that they believe in common kinship—so long as their position is unthreatened. The part of the “noble lie” that once would have horrified the elites—the claim of common kinship—is irrelevant; instead, they resist the inegalitarian part of the myth that would then, as now, have seemed self-evident to the elites as well as the underclass. Today’s underclass is as likely to recognize its unequal position as Plato’s. It is elites that seem most prone to the condition of “false consciousness.”

The dominion of this new elite has been long anticipated, discussed most cogently by social critics such as Michael Young, C. Wright Mills, and Christopher Lasch. Among the ablest chroniclers of the new elite has been New York Times columnist David Brooks, who in April of 2001 published “The Organization Kid,” an essay describing the replacement of America’s WASP aristocracy by a “­meritocracy.” After spending several weeks with students on Princeton’s campus, Brooks concluded that there had been certain gains and decided losses resulting from this regime change. One loss he bemoaned was abandonment of “noblesse oblige,” or an encouragement of concern among the ruling class for those less fortunate as a consequence of the mere luck of birth and genealogy. Brooks contrasted this with the older WASP ideal based on civic, military, and Protestant values: “The Princeton of that day aimed to take privileged men from their prominent families and toughen them up, teach them a sense of social obligation, based on the code of the gentleman and noblesse oblige. In short, it aimed to instill in them a sense of chivalry.”

Noblesse oblige—“obligations of the nobility”—provided some measure of legitimacy to the older aristocratic order. It allowed the ruling class to claim that their actions weren’t merely self-serving, but instead supported the whole community, especially the poor and powerless. The image of the knight-errant coming to the rescue of the damsel in distress was a romantic and dramatic representation of a much broader ethic, that of the strong protecting and standing for the weak. The ancien régime—premised upon the rule of a hereditary aristocracy that ruled for the good of the whole polity—was overthrown because most people ceased to believe its conceit. Its flattering self-portrait of a paternalistic and caring overclass was increasingly viewed as a self-serving rationalization and a form of societal self-deception in the service of status maintenance. Barbara ­Tuchman described the crisis of legitimacy of the chivalric code in her book A Distant Mirror:

The ideal was a vision of order maintained by the warrior class and formulated in the image of the Round Table, nature’s perfect shape. King Arthur’s knights adventured for the right against dragons, enchanters, and wicked men, establishing order in a wild world. So their living counterparts were supposed, in theory, to serve as defenders of the Faith, upholders of justice, champions of the oppressed. In practice, they were themselves the oppressors, and by the 14th century the violence and lawlessness of men of the sword had become a major agency of disorder. When the gap between ideal and real becomes too wide, the system breaks down. Legend and story have always reflected this; in the Arthurian romances the Round Table is shattered from within.

We may be quick to agree that there was a gap between the stated ethic of noblesse oblige and the ­actual actions of the nobility of the ancien régimeBut, much like those who took for granted the naturalness of political arrangements during the medieval ages, today’s elites seldom subject their meritocratic justifications of their status and position to the same skepticism.

While elites may suffer self-inflicted blindness to the nature of their position, the rest of society clearly sees what they are doing. The uprising among the working classes across the developed West arises from a perception of illegitimacy—of a gap between claims of the ruling class and reality as experienced by those who are ruled. It is no coincidence that these rebellions come from the socialist left and authoritarian right, two positions that now share opposition to state capitalism, a managerial ruling class, the financialization of the economy, and globalization. These populist rebellions are a challenge to the liberal order itself.

Our ruling class is more blinkered than that of the ancien régime. Unlike the aristocrats of old, they insist that there are only egalitarians at their exclusive institutions. They loudly proclaim their virtue and redouble their commitment to diversity and inclusion. They cast bigoted rednecks as the great impediment to perfect equality—not the elite institutions from which they benefit. The institutions responsible for winnowing the social and economic winners from the losers are largely immune from questioning, and busy themselves with extensive public displays of their unceasing commitment to equality. Meritocratic ideology disguises the ruling class’s own role in perpetuating inequality from itself, and even fosters a broader social ecology in which those who are not among the ruling class suffer an array of social and economic pathologies that are increasingly the defining feature of ­America’s underclass. Facing up to reality would require hard questions about the agenda underlying commitments to “diversity and inclusion.” Our ­stated commitment to “critical thinking” demands no less, but such questions are likely to be put down—at times violently—on contemporary campuses.

Campaigns for equality that focus on the inclusion of identity groups rather than examinations of the class divide permit an extraordinary lack of curiosity about complicity in a system that secures elite status across generations. Concern for diversity and inclusion on the basis of “ascriptive” features—race, gender, disability, or sexual orientation—allows the ruling class to overlook class while focusing on unchosen forms of identity. Diversity and inclusion fit neatly into the meritocratic structure, leaving the structure of the new aristocratic order firmly in place.

This helps explain the strange and often hysterical insistence upon equality emanating from our nation’s most elite and exclusive institutions. The most absurd recent instance was Harvard University’s official effort to eliminate social clubs due to their role in “enacting forms of privilege and exclusion at odds with our deepest values,” in the words of its president. Harvard’s opposition to exclusion sits comfortably with its admissions rate of 5 percent (2,056 out of 40,000 applicants in 2017). The denial of privilege and exclusion seems to increase in proportion to an institution’s exclusivity.

Highly touted commitments to equity, inclusion, and diversity do not only cloak institutional elitism. They also imply that anyone who is not included deserves his lower status. If elites largely regard their social status, wealth, and position as the result of their own efforts and work (and certainly not of birth or inheritance), then those who remain in the lower classes have, by the same logic, chosen to remain in such a condition. This scornful view is shared by prominent voices on the right and left. For instance, James Stimson—the Raymond Dawson Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina—recently told the New York Times:

When we observe the behavior of those who live in distressed areas, we are not observing the effect of economic decline on the working class, we are observing a highly selected group of people who faced economic adversity and choose to stay at home and accept it when others sought and found opportunity elsewhere. . . . Those who are fearful, conservative, in the social sense, and lack ambition stay and accept decline.

In other words, it’s their own fault. They deserve to lose, just as Harvard’s meritocrats deserve to win.

That the ruling class today is more prone to denounce inequality from its manicured campuses than promote among its own denizens belief in a common civic life is not a sign of its greater enlightenment and progress, but a sign of a new aristocracy that is unconscious of its own position and its concomitant responsibilities. They are deluded by an updated “noble” lie.

From the vantage of nearly 2,500 years, Plato’s noble lie doesn’t appear to be a falsehood after all. For a society to function, two seemingly contradictory beliefs must be simultaneously held: We are radically different and radically alike. We are extensively differentiated yet bound together. We are called to sometimes radically unequal tasks, but those tasks are part of an effort to benefit the whole. Plato thought the “fact of difference” would be easy for people to acknowledge, since it is so evident to our senses, if not always easy for those in a position of lower status to accept. The challenge was how to achieve belief in a common origin and shared kinship. The Republic of Plato was one effort to answer that challenge, if a fairly absurd and implausible one (as Socrates readily admitted). We have two main answers on the table today.

For as long as our nation has been in existence, confused and diverging streams have fed into the American creed. The first of these was political liberalism. It puts a stress upon individual rights and liberty, promising that if we commit to a common project of building a liberal society, our distinct and often irreconcilable differences will be protected. Liberalism affirms political unity as a means to ­securing our private differences.

Christianity has been the other stream. It approaches the question from the opposite perspective, understanding our differences to serve a deeper unity. This is the resounding message of St. Paul in chapters 12–13 of 1 Corinthians. There, Paul calls upon the squabbling Christians of Corinth to understand that their gifts are not for the glory of any particular person or class of people, but for the body as a whole. John Winthrop echoed this teaching in his seldom-read, oft-misquoted sermon aboard the Arbella, “A Model of Christian Charity.” Winthrop begins his speech with the observation that people have in all times and places been born or placed into low and high stations; the poor are always with us, as Christ observed. But this differentiation was not permitted and ordained for the purpose of the degradation of the former and glory of the latter, but for the greater glory of God, that all might know that they have need of each other and a responsibility to share particular gifts for the sake of the common. Differences of talent and circumstance exist to promote a deeper unity.

So long as liberalism was not fully itself—so long as liberalism was corrected and even governed by Christianity—a working social contract was possible. For Christianity, difference is ordered toward unity. For liberalism, unity is valued insofar as it promotes difference. The American experiment blended and confused these two understandings, but just enough to make it a going concern. The balance was always imperfect, leaving out too many, always ­unstably oscillating between quasi-theological evocation of unity and deracinated individualism. But it seemed viable for nearly 250 years. The recent steep decline of religious faith and Christian moral norms is regarded by many as marking the triumph of liberalism, and so, in a sense, it is. Today our unity is understood almost entirely in the light of our differences. We come together—to celebrate diversity. And today, the celebration of diversity ends up serving as a mask for power and inequality.

In this settlement, the language of rights prevails. But as Simone Weil noted decades ago, the language of rights ultimately cannot build, or even sustain, a common life:

If you say to someone who has ears to hear: ‘What you are doing to me is not just’, you touch and awaken at its source the spirit of attention and love. But it is not the same with words like ‘I have the right . . .’ or ‘you have no right to . . .’ They invoke a latent war and awaken the spirit of contention. To place the notion of rights at the centre of social conflicts is to inhibit any possible impulse of charity of both sides.

Weil predicted what we now experience. After more than two centuries, we can no longer assert the compatibility of Christianity and liberalism. Liberalism is ascendant, but its victory will be pyrrhic. A ­society solely premised upon a shared belief in individual differentiation will end in a war of all against all. The state of nature lies not in an imagined past; it is plainly visible in a near and all too real future.

The new aristocrats believe we have transcended the need for Christianity, which they regard as a myth no less mendacious than Plato’s noble lie. They believe that by dispelling the old myths, they can become the vanguard of an ever more equal society. They blind themselves to the fact that this claim is a form of status maintenance, allowing denial of a deeper commonality with those they regard as benighted and backward. Elites denounce the “populists” while denying that they have fomented a class war. They deplore the obnoxiousness of Donald Trump, perfectly obtuse of their complicity in his ascent.

We are in uncharted territory. Liberalism coexisted with Christianity for its entire history, with Christianity moderating the harder edges of the regnant political philosophy, supporting forms and practices that demanded from elites the recognition of their elevated status, and hence, corresponding responsibilities and duties to those less fortunate. The thoroughgoing disdain and dismissiveness of today’s elites toward the working class is a reflection of our newfound “enlightenment,” just as is the belief among the lower class that only a strong and equally disdainful leader can constrain the elites. Liberalism has achieved its goal of emptying the public square of the old gods, leaving it a harsh space of contestation among unequals who no longer see any commonality. Whether that square can be filled again with newly rendered stories of old telling us of a common origin and destination, or whether it must simply be dominated by whoever proves the strongest, is the test of our age.

By Patrick J. Deneen and published in First Things in April 2018 (see here).

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