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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.


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.


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.


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.


Backing off Moral Panic over Abuse

Moral panics can destroy lives, and the Providence Teachers Union is right to object to policies that give children the power to bump their teachers out of class, at least temporarily.  Ted Nesi and Tim White report for WPRI:

The Providence Teachers Union is asking the city’s school department to change the way it handles allegations of abuse against students in order to prevent its members from being placed on administrative leave without reasonable cause.

In a letter to Superintendent Chris Maher, the union claimed students have been “emboldened to make allegations at a whim knowing that the teacher will be removed from the building with no questions asked,” with some “taunting teachers with threats” of contacting the R.I. Department of Children, Youth and Families with abuse claims.

Students have to be protected, of course, but giving them that sort of power is reckless.  Trying to control the issue through punishments is also the wrong approach.  Schools shouldn’t want to put themselves in the position that they’ve created an incentive for false accusations and then have to do harm to students’ future prospects because they were drawn in by that incentive.

We need to back off the notion that we can protect everybody from harm with top-down policies and instead allow human judgment to play a role.  Another aspect of that approach is to dilute our sense that human beings are psychologically fragile to the point that every inappropriate word or touch should be assumed to have scarring damage.


Money-Grabbing State Officials Seek To Tax Everything That Moves

Yet again, Rhode Island has been saddled with a bottom-10 ranking: This time for its heavy-handed occupational licensing regulatory regime, which effectively denies many people the right to earn a living. In Washington, the Trump administration is returning to a “light-touch” regulatory strategy, a strategy that our state would be wise to follow.


Big Companies Want Conformity Over Your Rights

How dramatically progressives have lost their narrative!

A little while ago, I was sitting with one of my children, who was watching a Lego movie.  If you care about spoilers, stop reading, but key to my point in this post is how thoroughly cliché the message was.

From what I could tell while not really watching, the villain of the movie was attempting to impose uniformity on the Lego world, using superglue as his weapon.  Toward the end of the movie, the cartoon turns out to be a dimension in the Lego world with real life overlaying it.  Like the villain, the father in the story gets upset when his son messes with his perfectly ordered Lego construction.

Like so many mainstream stories before it, the too-obvious-to-miss message was that suppressing individualism is evil.

This time, though, I happened to be reading a Catholic News Agency article about a number of major companies that have signed on to an amicus brief opposing the right of a small baker in Colorado to decide that it would violate his principles to apply his craft to celebrate particular events:

The companies’ brief said they believe that non-discrimination laws “ensure all Americans are treated with dignity and respect.” They said such laws improve profitability, productivity and creativity in the workplace. Arguing that the lawsuit’s exemption claims are “broad and ill-defined,” they said such claims will “create uncertainty and impose unnecessary costs and administrative complexities on employers”

So, here come the super-powerful corporate giants seeking to impose conformity on the world for the sake of their own administrative convenience, and the villain is whom?  Behold the power of political correctness.


High Poverty, Low Charity Shows RI’s Wrong Path

It seems like just last week that we were hearing that Rhode Island has the highest poverty rate in New England.  This week, WPRI’s Susan Campbell has noticed that we’re also last in New England for charitable giving and last in the country for charitable volunteering:

The Ocean State ranked 49th overall in a comparison of states’ charitable giving that was conducted by personal finance website WalletHub.

The ranking is based on several factors, including volunteer rate and share of income donated. Rhode Island was last on the list for “volunteer and service,” and 31st for “charitable giving.”

If the charitability measure were money only, perhaps we could argue that some adjustment is necessary due to the state’s relative poverty, but the volunteerism points to something more worrisome.  As one of our two U.S. Senators, Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, moves to expand a government employee benefit, with emphasis on the characterization that they “serve their communities,” we might suggest that the Ocean State has cultivated a sense of government as the moral center of society.

Such an attitude isn’t healthy economically or morally, inasmuch as government doesn’t create wealth through its actions nor do a good job balancing competing needs and also drains mutual assistance of its moral component by making it compulsory and filtered through the political process.


Rhode Island 49th On The Jobs & Opportunity Index

Rhode Islanders want to prosper in an economic climate that rewards hard work, encourages small-business growth, creates quality jobs, and can lead to a better life for their families. In this regard, the traditionally cited monthly unemployment rate is often used by state lawmakers as a benchmark to evaluate the effectiveness of state economic policy initiatives. However, this rate represents a very narrow glimpse of the employment health of a state and can often paint an incomplete, or even inaccurate, snapshot of the broader economic picture.


Pay No Attention to the Consequence Behind the Curtain

Felix Fernandes recently posted a video from Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show in which the host is debating a DNC advisor about federal transgender guidance for schools across the country.  The short clip is definitely worth watching in full:

The most glaring point of interest is the extremity of the left-wing position:  a simple statement of belief about your sex can change your sex.  The only objective consideration that the DNC advisor will entertain is the fact that a person in front of you is, at this moment, telling you that he/she is a woman/man.  Plainly put, this is an elevation of subjective feeling over any tangible reality.

Perhaps more important in the long term, though, is the guy’s response when Carlson takes the obvious step of pointing out the consequences when verifiable biology is made immaterial in the face of personal assertions.  Can I proclaim the same about my race?  Answer: No.  What happens if I apply for loans, scholarships, sports teams, et cetera, dedicated to those whose biology is different?  Answer: That’s an irrelevant question.

Carlson’s interlocutor just won’t acknowledge the validity of contrary claims — claims so irrefutable that they would have to be the basis of any logical consideration.  Instead, he breaks out the totalitarian catch phrases of the Left that bully people into submission, even having the audacity to charge Carlson with pseudoscience for asking how it all relates to biology.

To the extent that progressives are able to pull our society along in this emperor-has-no-genitals delusion, we’re signaling a willingness to gamble our entire civilization on the premise that the entire universe is a flexible social construct.  A much healthier path is simply to note that people who express such views are plainly insane.  They’ve already ruled out debate and common ground, so the wise choice is to side with reality.


All But Admitting That RI Has Not Been In Compliance With Federal Election Law

At its Monday meeting, the Rhode Island Board of Elections directed its lawyer to propose fixes to the loophole created in 2008, which no longer required proper identification for those registering, in person, to vote … as required by 2003 federal law. Despite baseless attacks against Ken Block, it turns out that his research was accurate.


The Advantage of the Blue States

Providence Journal columnist Mark Patinkin continues his series of essays learning about the United States by way of his old college buddies with a review of what one of them learned by biking across the country.  The short version:  The fly-over states are filled with nice people whom our economy is bypassing, which explains why they were willing to look past Donald Trump, the man, and see him as a challenge to the establishment.

Of more interest, to me, is this bit of parochial chauvinism in the comments to Patinkin’s article, from Douglas Maiko:

people in blue states are much wealthier than midwest red states. It comes down to blue state economic policies and great opportuites to create wealth for one self here in blue land. Red State people tend to be cynical about the american dream, watch too much fox news, obsess with cultural issues. The numbers speak for themselves, move to a Blue state if you want the american dream

Even to the extent that there’s truth to his assessment of economic balance, Maiko’s attitude exhibits the dangerous arrogance seen in successful civilizations whose people believe their condition is permanent.  The likelihood is that the coasts are thriving based on a legacy of lucky geography and historical accident.

After all, the East Coast is the oldest region in the country, and both coasts have access to the world’s waterways, which is of decreasing value.  The coasts’ living generations, in other words, started from an advantaged place that had nothing to do with “blue state economic policies.”  Rather, the natural and cultural advantages of the areas allowed advocates of those economic policies to impose them without people’s feeling it as acutely as they would in regions requiring harder work and more sacrifice.

We should fear that our advantages won’t last if we keep driving out our productive class — those who want to cash in their drive and abilities for income, forcing established players to compete.  The crisis point may take time, or it might come all at once, when some fly-over city comes up with the next big thing that makes our legacy institutions and industries unnecessary.

Perhaps they’ll maintain the generosity that Patinkin’s friend observed in their roadside diners even when the coasts become dependent on the fly-overs.  Counting on that probably wouldn’t be a wise plan, however.


Civic Groups and Socializing Just Aren’t What They Used To Be

Although I’m not sure why it was above-the-fold, front-page news in yesterday’s Newport Daily News, Sean Flynn’s mention that the Newport County Retired Teachers Association is struggling for participation is worth noting for its broader implications:

The annual dues for the organization are only $10 a year, which about 160 retirees currently pay.

“Only about 20 to 25 of them are active,” Bugara said. “NCRTA is not sustainable with that low a number. It’s the same people putting on the luncheons. We don’t have that much help.”

The retired teachers meet every three months for a luncheon at a local restaurant.

Mainly, the group meets for social reasons, puts out a newsletter to keep retirees informed about their mutual interests, and gives out a couple of scholarships to students each year.  It’s tempting to speculate about some cause specific to public-school teachers, who may be more likely to move on to second careers after retiring relatively young than in the past, or something like that.  After all, retiring in one’s early 50s now leaves multiple decades to fill with activity.

But this story is too familiar to anybody who has anything to do with volunteer social organizations to be specific this group.  Are people busier than they used to be?  Do we have too many more distractions?  Are communications and transportation technologies so improved that we more-easily satisfy our need to socialize with family and people more of our choosing?  Or has something changed in our culture?

Personally, I’m not in a good place to judge.  Four children, two working adults, and a wide array of responsibilities prevent me from going to many events that I’d actually like to attend.  The answer to the mystery of reduced participation, however, seems unlikely to be that increasing numbers of people match my circumstances.

Something, somewhere seems to be slipping, and I haven’t seen a good explanation.


Making Meaning a Real Part of Economic Discussions

Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz is right to point out that we don’t put enough emphasis on an important aspect of our working lives:

A job’s meaningfulness — a sense that the work has a broader purpose — is consistently and overwhelmingly ranked by employees as one of the most important factors driving job satisfaction. It’s the linchpin of qualities that make a valuable employee: motivation, job performance and a desire to show up and stay.

About the closest one gets to this conversation comes when, as part of political debates about living wages and mandatory benefits, some religious leader adds the phrase “meaningful work” to the list of workers’ rights.

Although she didn’t go so far as to raise the prospect of government action, Elejalde-Ruiz’s article does emphasize that employers are doing something they shouldn’t when they don’t give meaning to their employees’ jobs, not unlike the presumptuous statements that RI employers are cheating themselves by not offering sick time.  Perhaps she backs away because talk of meaning begins to illustrate how little ground one can actually cover when insisting on assigning people to categories (boss versus worker) and trying to resolve perceived problems categorically.

Blanket rules won’t help employers make employees’ jobs more meaningful, just as one can’t force the employees to take a deliberate approach to seeking meaning.  These questions are bound up with individual worldview and personal interactions.

What we can do is to stop oversimplifying our lives for the sake of political tugs-of-war.  Consider how easily the notion of meaningful work can flip:  Human beings will be attracted to work that is meaningful, which means they’ll tend to work for less pay.  Conversely, employers have to pay more to attract employees when the work isn’t attractive in its own right.  Put that way, it’s simply inappropriate to make declarations about, say, low pay for teachers without also commenting on how much they’re paid in meaning, so to speak.

Indeed, an interesting study could probably be made of gender gaps in these terms.  What if the longstanding cultural expectation that men would provide for their families left them with a meaningfulness deficit?  That could certainly play into suicide rates.