Month: November, 2013

Enough Dignity to go Around

Sometime between when my father was my age and the modern day, someone made the decision to take away the working man’s dignity. Perhaps, in a world thriving on automation the idea of a person doing a job that a machine could potentially do better became shameful.

Delivery people, custodians, and degreeless blue collar workers became the subject of the political parties’ appeal to victims. These individuals, regardless of how they felt about their career and lifestyle, were told that they had been dealt a bad hand. That, surely in the land of equal opportunity, they should have risen to higher positions in society. Anyone given a public education and a 40 hour work week ought to be able to reach a dignified position.


The barber who has cut hair under 7 presidents, 3 wars, and endless technological change is told that the craft to which he has dedicated his life is of little importance because he does not make a certain amount of money. He does not meet the criteria of success specified by a government that equates a lack  of formal education to a lack of intelligence. He is a victim to be considered in need because a 4-year degree is not required in his field. The way he has lived his life defies the understanding of politicians passing legislation so that no one will have to live as he has –on such small pay, such little education, and maintain such a modest lifestyle. His shop employs a single mother, a teenager who aspires to do hair for the movies, and a veteran. He has raised 3 children, all of whom have attended college and started families of their own, and yet he has led a life not worth mentioning as an example of success.

Restore dignity to those who are content with their lives, regardless of superficial metrics, and individuals will create careers and occupations never considered worthwhile instead of committing their life to careers they will not excel at due to their lack of innate passion for it. Refuse to homogenize the notion of an ideal life and allow the individual to expose those who are actually in need. Dismiss the projection of your own views as to what is best for others and identify their goals and how you can help them reach those goals. Listen to all of those who need help and find the individuals that you have the ability to help.

The world has enough victims. Do not create more out of ignorance.

What I’m reading about today: The Power of Love


It’s Complicated…

Interventionism is a very dirty word for some. Whether it be in the market or overseas, intervening in conflict or creating conflict seems to be what governments are best at. Of course, it wasn’t always this way. Before WW1, the U.S. government’s involvement in both the market and foreign affairs was looked down upon by the American people. The war changed everything.

FDR New Deal

First came the war boards, responsible for setting prices and rates of production, and eventually the precedent of government intervention in the economy was created. First Hoover, running partially due to his popularity as head of the U.S. food administration during the war, created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation as a means of easing the effects of the Great Depression, then came the game-changing New Deal from FDR.

Hoover and King Tut

Regardless of whether you believe these measures were beneficial or not, they ultimately created a more complicated situation in both foreign relations and the economy. No longer was it a matter of intervening in foreign politics only when American interests were at stake. A crusade had launched, driven mostly by FDR’s rhetoric, to establish a global policy of “self-determination” which loosely translated to America determining that all new countries would be “democratic” and their leaders would be hand chosen by U.S. politicians or “elected”. The economy transformed and grew in complication as well. The SEC was established, ensuring infinite prosperity so long as a firm obeyed their policies. Though I have been half-hearted in my explanations, these new interventionist policies that were now being embraced by the state led to complications. Complications can lead to things becoming both better or worse, but usually both.

Complication often leads to misunderstanding. Misunderstanding often leads to mistakes and undoubtedly mistakes result in unhappiness. But Rome wasn’t built in a day! (Very loose reference) Just because something is hard does not mean it isn’t worth doing. But then again, something isn’t worth doing just because it’s hard.

The importance lies in the goal that the intervention and subsequent complication is supposed to achieve. If the goal is to end war, there is more than one way to suggest reaching that goal. Some goals are easier to meet due to their relation to mathematics and science. If I want to save 100$ and I get a job that pays 10$ per hour, in 10 hours I will have met my goal.

Other goals are much more difficult due to their abstract nature. I want people in my community to eat healthier. Though there are a multitude of ways to  meet this goal, some are more complicated than others. When I commit to achieving this goal on an individual basis, that is without the use of the state, I have far less power to reach my entire community, but the individuals that I do reach can be assisted according to their specific needs. Some may not know what foods are healthiest for their specific body chemistry, others may be trying to eat healthy and just need an accountability partner. Some people may not want to eat healthy at all. I can either choose to be persistent in trying to make them eat healthy or let them face the consequences of their choice. Possibly the most effective attribute of this method versus a state run method is my ability as an individual to recognize who in my community needs my help the most. In my community, I may have individuals in perfect fitness as well as individuals who need to improve their health. I can prioritize my efforts so that the individuals who need the most help receive the most help.

On the other hand I can use possibly more effective, in regard to population, but definitely more complicated measures in my attempt to intervene via the state. I can create a tax on all foods containing ingredient x. The tax will affect everyone in the community equally, regardless of whether it achieves its goal equally among all individuals. Some may benefit from this tax due to their decreased intake of ingredient x. Others may not benefit at all, as their health is unaffected by ingredient x. And still, some will continue to buy the same amount of products containing ingredient x despite the tax. Even still, there is a possibility that some individuals, dependent on products containing ingredient x, will not be able to afford these products after the tax increase and will subsequently become less healthy due directly to the tax. The complications, or unintended consequences, make evaluating the effectiveness of the tax extremely difficult. The tax sets a precedent of inequality of benefits or results, unless, of course, you reimbursed those who benefited least from the tax by giving them the tax money of those who benefited most from the tax. But in that scenario it may seem more beneficial to an individual who received the health benefits to have the monetary benefit of the tax instead creating unhappiness. Furthermore, the presence or absence of ingredient x in one’s diet is a single factor among many that contribute to one’s overall health. Rather than having a smaller amount of willing individuals, voluntarily trying to better their health, the tax marginally affects, much less improves, the over all health of the community.

While both set out to achieve the same goal, some methods result in more complication than others. The variables associated with complication and, by association, state endorsed methods often result in less quantifiable outcomes. The question becomes: On whom should the emphasis be –the individual of definite need and willingness, or the collective of varying degrees of need and willingness?

What I’m reading about today: Paternal Legislation

Ladies First

I’d like to start out by saying this post should not be considered a piece on social justice or equality. It is pure rationality.

Before women gained the right to vote in 1920, the title of First Lady was arguably the most politically powerful position a female could achieve. While some first ladies established a more influential legacy than others, the pretense of being a representative for their husband , the President, was an expectation.

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Women like Eleanor Roosevelt greatly expanded the role of First Lady by traveling the country and abroad on behalf of her husband as well as writing a syndicated column, raising the bar for those who followed her. Most recently, through her health and education initiatives, Michelle Obama has reinforced the notion of the First Lady’s traditional responsibility of serving as the national conscience.

But in today’s diverse and enlightened society there is an impending question gnawing at the moral fiber of the fundamentally conservative and planting a seed of hope in the socially progessive: What happens when we have a First Gentleman? 

A Gentleman, being the opposite of a lady, would have no historical context from which to draw responsibility or expectation. The fundamentalist American public, provided they have gotten over the initial terror of having a female President, would have no way to scrutinize their new victim. Surely the people cannot expect a man to act as his female predecessors had! Or on the contrary would progressives stick by their vision of a government where gender is eliminated and refuse to refer to her as the first female President, never admonishing her for being a woman, but rather commending her for her individual efforts?

Possibly, despite demographic data, biological differences, and pretense, it could work. Perhaps even…better than before. Not because a man would be holding the position but because there would be no expectation –none to live up to and none to surpass. Instead of saying there would be absolutely no difference between how a man and woman would hold the position or saying a man and woman would handle the position in a completely different manner, why not put the responsibility on the individual?

Nothing good would come of blaming men for a First Gentleman’s failure in the same way that blaming all women in a society for the success/failure of the first female president would result in irrational consequences.It matters little whether you believe there should be a political distinction between the sexes or not in the given situation. The emphasis should be on the individual.

Though this is a severely micro approach to gender’s role in the political process, the message only grows more poignant when applied to a larger population. When responsibility is determined on an individual basis, prejudice and collectivist pretense is eliminated. The implications quickly outgrow the political setting and take root in the foundation of societal norms. It becomes less about arguments of women being too emotional to hold office or men having made a mess of politics from the beginning, and more of a discussion about how one individual’s actions affect an immeasurable amount of other individuals –even beyond their constituents.

Ultimately discourse becomes humanitarian; a conversation not about how to reach certain demographics or shifting your platform to conforms to a group’s agenda, but how to make your actions positively influence the lives of others. It is very difficult to love and care for an entire diverse population with a single unifying characteristic, but it is easy to love and care for an individual, regardless of any characteristic.

What I’m reading about today: How war affects civilization