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The Value of Money Earned

At least here in the West, our political discourse too often devolves to mutual assumptions of bad intentions.  In this regard, the cliché about what each side thinks of the other holds some truth; conservatives think progressives are dumb, and progressives think conservatives are evil.  In other words, those on the Left tend more often to believe that their ideological opponents are either recklessly cavalier or outright hostile toward their fellow human beings.

Comments from Nigerian Roman Catholic Archbishop Augustine Akubeze, while certainly not providing cover for every economic policy of the Right, give a good starting point from which one can see how conservatives consider even their economic policies to be the most moral course:

“The leaders of our future must be formed with a mentality that only the truth sets a people free,”  said Archbishop Augustine Akubeze, during remarks at the conference.

“Corruption will be eradicated if the students begin to learn that only money that accrues to a person as a result of hard work can be enjoyed.”

Given the setting in which those suggestions were made and the theme of the conference (“Peace and National Development”), one can infer that the archbishop was applying the principle on a national scale.  That is, developing countries should find their own wealth within, not rely on wealth donated from other countries.  As with any economy that relies on a massive influx of money from a limited number of sources, the charity model enables corruption by creating distribution choke points.

But the principle applies more broadly.  Only money freely given in exchange for something — money earned — is truly rewarding.  Moreover, it contributes to a sense of mutual value in human relationships.

Charity is good and necessary, but it can’t become the basis of an economic system.

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Behind the Perpetual Push to Make Us Deny Reality

Sean Davis hearkens to C.S. Lewis to help explain our culture’s current pronoun wars, which really aren’t anything new, on a fundamental level:

The natural correspondence between reason and reality, the correspondence denied by the authors of the literature textbook Lewis derides, is the same correspondence between simple things like pronouns to the physical reality of sex. Once reality becomes a function of one’s feelings, though, rather than vice versa, the concept of objective reality itself is destroyed. According to Lewis, as soon as society discards the ideas of reason, rationality, and self-awareness — the very traits that distinguish humanity from all other life on earth — mankind itself is abolished. Hence the title of Lewis’s book.

In most of the particulars and in his broader conclusions, I agree with Lewis.  My one hesitation is that I find there truly to be a subjectivity to reality.  In a given case, a person can choose to see an actual other person as a different sex than his or her biology should prove, for example.  As one expands this flexibility to become rules that apply across society, one must discard other facts or elements.

The question becomes how much “objectivity” one is willing to discard.  We’re finding that, for many people, the answer is “quite a bit,” although a large portion (probably a majority) of them aren’t ignoring reality as much as they’re willfully ignoring their position’s conflict with reality.

Ultimately, anybody who is serious about understanding life (which is turning out to be depressingly few of us) needs some reference point.  I’d say that must be God in the grand scheme, but feelings about other, unrelated facts or principles can be more-immediate reference points.  For example, a desire to let people declare their own sexes can quickly conflict with a sense of fairness in sports.

In some sense, therefore, we’re not really talking about objective reality, but coherent reality.  The real affront of relativism, then, isn’t its challenge to what we call “objective,” but the degree to which it devalues coherence.

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Less Abortion Is Good, a Culture Valuing Life Would Be Better

The notion of killing one’s children is so extreme, this is overwhelmingly positive news:

According to the study, abortion rates have fallen 22 percent between the years of 2005-2014. In 2014, the CDC cited 653,639 performed abortions, while over 1.4 million abortions took place in 1990.

The news would be an unmitigated positive if the numbers weren’t still so staggeringly high and if they weren’t accompanied with a decrease in fertility:

… another factor is the declining birthrate in the U.S. The National Center for Health Statistics found that the number of babies delivered in the U.S. has declined by about 1 percent over the past few years. It said that 3,941,109 babies were born in the U.S. in 2016, which was 37,388 fewer babies than were born in 2015.

Just eying the numbers, it appears that avoidance of pregnancy can’t account for all of the decrease in abortions, so some of the decline would be explicitly pro-life — and in a great many circumstances, avoidance of pregnancy is the better decision.  Still, numbers don’t tell the whole story.  We need a culture that understands that children are valuable — people are valuable — and that the full cycle of life, including parenthood, is not something to be avoided.

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Needing Proof That Government Is Accountable

Maybe it’s a sign of conditioning, but even before I got to the end of the block quote contained in an Instapundit post, Glenn Reynolds’s closing sentence occurred to me almost verbatim.  The subject is the anti-conservative raids undertaken by the bureaucracy in Wisconsin, and here is the key paragraph of the block quote:

The Government Accountability Board, the state’s former “nonpartisan” speech cop, proved to be more partisan than originally suspected, the state Department of Justice report found. For reasons that “perhaps may never be fully explained,” GAB held onto thousands of private emails from Wisconsin conservatives in several folders on their servers marked “Opposition Research.” The report’s findings validate what conservatives have long contended was nothing more than a witch-hunt into limited government groups and the governor who was turning conservative ideas into public policy.

This episode, involving pre-dawn raids of the homes of politically active conservatives was police-state activity through and through.  It ought to be abhorrent to every American across the country, and it ought to produce a consequence so harsh that those tempted by the powers of government learn from the example.

In short, as Reynolds and I both reacted: Those involved need to be disbarred and jailed.  The governing system of our country cannot persist if people even suspect that such behavior by government might actually be plausible and not the stuff of spy-thriller fiction.

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The Mystery of the UK Health System’s Urge to Kill Children

Once we hand the power over life and death to bureaucrats, their standards will evolve, especially when that power is paired with inherently limited budgets.  On National Review Online, Wesley Smith observes the socialized health system of the United Kingdom progressing its logic after the Charlie Gard case, in which the government forbade parents from giving an American specialist a shot at saving their terminally ill infant’s life (emphasis in original):

Well, it is happening again–except in this case the baby isn’t terminally ill but has been unconscious for a year. Moreover, as  I wrote here previously, there isn’t even a diagnosis as to the cause.

An Italian children’ hospital has offered to take the child as a patient for further inquiries and treatment. But the UK hospital administration and doctors are not only saying NO, but as in the Charlie Gard case, also seeking a court order allowing them to withdraw life-sustaining treatment.

As horrific as such stories may be, one could sort of understand the logic of declining treatment, beginning with different principles and assumptions.  The component that’s inexplicable is the refusal to allow transfers.

Smith thinks these are examples of the exercise of raw power, and perhaps there’s some of that.  I wonder, though, if the more human answer isn’t something more like insecurity.  After all, if a child dies, then the experts can insist that they were right and that nothing could have been done, except to cost the government money and perhaps the child discomfort.  If, however, any of these parents succeed in transferring their children out from under the government’s thumb and the child thrives, the doctors will have the discomfort of having been proven wrong on a matter of life and death and trust in the entire system could collapse.

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The Other Side on Cleaning the Bay

I forget the specific issue, but some years ago, out of frustration at the one-sided nature of his reporting, I contacted the Providence Journal environment reporter to say I’d be happy to voice the other side if he ever felt inclined to include it.  I think it was Alex Kuffner, but it might have been his predecessor.  Whoever it was, the reply was that he didn’t believe there really was another side.

That exchange came to mind when I read Kuffner’s article about fishermen who aren’t happy that we’ve cleaned Narragansett Bay so thoroughly:

Lanny Dellinger, board member of the Rhode Island Lobstermen’s Association, put the blame on a tightening of restrictions on wastewater treatment plants after the historic Greenwich Bay.

We think of waste as waste, of course, but there’s a reason we put manure in soil to fertilize it.  We do live in an ecosystem, in which creatures tend to have complementary roles.

The article does a good job highlighting the reality that, over time, different forms of life thrive and fade out.  Some human modification or natural event changes the immediate environment, and the balance of life changes.  People have to adapt, both in their diets and their industries.

Sometimes we adopt a hubris that hides that fact:

There are larger questions in play, said Janet Coit, director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

“Given the complexity of everything that’s going on, what are we trying to get to?” she asked.

What’s the right level of nutrients in Narragansett Bay?

“Right” by whose lights?  In some ways, environmentalists are just reactionaries.  The thing that they value in the status quo (or the past) must be preserved or even enhanced without regard to some unseen cost.

There shouldn’t be something that we’re “trying to get to” as a permanent condition.  We should set some controls for outright pollution guidelines for resolving differences and then let life happen.

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Business Burden Reductions Are Good, but Increased Risk Taints

Let’s acknowledge that Ted Nesi is reporting positive news, here:

Rhode Island has long had some of the highest unemployment taxes in the United States. Last year, however, state lawmakers approved a proposal by Gov. Gina Raimondo to change the formula and reduce the levy. DLT said the new policy saved employers an estimated $30 million this year, meaning the two-year reduction will total $40 million in 2018. …

Separately, DLT said the Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) tax rate paid by workers will dip in 2018 for the first time in six years, from 1.2% to 1.1%, which the department said is the lowest rate since 1996. TDI taxes fund both that program and the fairly new Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) program often used by new parents.

We should keep in mind, however, that this is a small piece of the cornucopia of big-government policies that suppress Rhode Island’s economy.  Moreover, this particular tax relief doesn’t come with any adjustment of government priorities.

Basically, these two changes are like the state’s too-high assumption about its pension returns.  The savings come from increased tolerance for risk, not from any actual change in policy.  In these two cases, the tolerance for risk may very well have been too low, but throwing businesses a bone by gambling isn’t an approach on which further reforms can build.

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School Choice a Moral Imperative

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A Healthy Warning for Smaht Folks

This news isn’t at all surprising:

The biggest differences between the Mensa group and the general population were seen for mood disorders and anxiety disorders. More than a quarter (26.7%) of the sample reported that they had been formally diagnosed with a mood disorder, while 20% reported an anxiety disorder—far higher than the national averages of around 10% for each. The differences were smaller, but still statistically significant and practically meaningful, for most of the other disorders. The prevalence of environmental allergies was triple the national average (33% vs. 11%).

Smart people are still human.  Ultimately, they’re just applying more processing power to humanity’s hangups, and the intelligence doesn’t necessarily resolve those hangups, but can exacerbate them because much of life is irrational.

In my view, their ability to process information makes it more important for smart folks to reason their way to a “yes” on the binary question of whether the universe is governed by the divine.  Such a view answers our human nature while giving some rational shape to life.  The categorical alternative (allowing for individual variation) is to become something like a Vulcan from Star Trek and eliminate the irrational, including emotions.

This is also one area in which diversity is actually important.  We ought to structure society in such a way that people of all different cognitive capacities interact with each other in a way that reinforces mutual respect, not the least because doing so fleshes out the principle that any moral philosophy must create space for everybody to lead fulfilling, significant lives.

Your processing power is useful, but it isn’t everything, and it doesn’t make you more equal than the other animals.

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