Wednesday, November 18, 2020

We Can Do Better

 I am caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, independent political voices tend to be crackpots. We have a system which produces two mainstream political parties intentionally. May the Lord save me from his crackpot followers, muttering about "the duopoly".

On the other hand, we are at least vaguely aware of the various ways in which political participation is marred by grave errors in moral judgment. It is hard to imagine that we cannot do better than what we have done.

We need better leaders, because if we have bad leaders, the people obviously will follow them, and that is now beyond question. People love to believe that they are self-possessed and independent thinkers, but they are not.

To be specific, I do not understand why it is difficult to affirm the dignity of all human life, from conception until natural death, and consequently, to defend the idea of a robust social democracy.

I do not understand why we cannot maintain basic norms of civility and decorum, and why people insist that such norms are hiding some evil underbelly, as if respecting people and wishing them well means that we must agree with them.

A radical idea need not be a dangerous idea. We may instead find that a particular consensus which has developed is not rooted in anything morally coherent.

Moral coherence and norms of civility go together, because those leaders who cannot orient themselves toward the good cannot lead others in the creation and in the implementation of a public morality. Politics is public morality. Again, the people who say, "you cannot legislate morality" are in fact saying, "I don't like this morality." If the political community cannot legislate morality, then who can? It is foolish to say that a very wealthy person who only pays $750 in income tax has somehow cheated the people, and then to say, "you can't legislate morality".

The dignity of all people rests upon the greatness of their purpose. Human dignity does not begin and end with what any one individual is able to accomplish for someone else. A person's dignity abides, even if he or she chooses to disregard that human dignity. A person's dignity endures, even if they cannot accomplish anything at all.

It is time to finally reject the apparently endless parade of false choices we have been offered, and to begin very slowly making other choices. If we know that particular things are unacceptable for leaders to do and to say, maybe we should stop holding our noses, and start holding our own.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

MacIntyre, Fred Noltie, And Scarcity: A Few Thoughts

 I had gone on a trip with Confirmation Sponsor Guy, and a few others, including Fred Noltie, whom I had met on that trip. I was spouting my usual right-wing economic talking points, and Fred was having none of it. Dr. Cross was having none of it, either, but in his usual diplomatic way, he said something like, "If you had no idea what you're talking about, how would you know?"

I had used the phrase "human capital," and that had triggered something. I got out of that conversation by saying, "I'll think about it more, and get back to you." I know I didn't mean to offend my friends. I also know that I had learned that the purpose of economics was to manage scarcity. The critique of the capitalist system in basic form is this: the system creates artificial scarcities, and claims to be value-neutral when it is not.

It always drives me crazy, when I see that so-and-so "needs to read an economics textbook." Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, literally has a degree in economics. What are the starting assumptions in the traditional teaching of economics? Why must we begin with those assumptions, and not others?

I keep thinking about this, as I read through MacIntyre in After Virtue. Before we begin arguing about whether to accept this or that unintended consequence, we need to talk about our intended consequences. In my reckoning right now, that hasn't happened to the degree that I would like.

It seems to me that the big problem with classical liberalism is that it encourages people not to distinguish between an imprudent action, and an immoral one, as such, with respect to government. The individualism at the heart of the whole thing encourages a person to view all trade-offs as equally valid, and one's own displeasure at a certain inconvenience to be the same thing as opposition to tyranny or genocide. Naturally, the electoral process does the exact same thing; the guy who thinks his property taxes are too high counts the same as someone else, who may rightly believe that their opposite vote was against state-sanctioned violence and tyranny itself.

All those considerations in fact lead a great many people right into the fallacious idea that a popular person or program is just, simply because it is popular. I'm rambling at this point, so I'm going to stop.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Fight Night In Las Vegas

 I hadn't seen a championship boxing match in some time. That is, a live fight. The first warm-up fight was between two small guys at 114 pounds. It ended with controversy, as cuts forced a no-decision after four rounds.

The next fight with between a current and former champion, both at 147 pounds. This is the division dominated by Oscar De La Hoya for so long. Terence Crawford is regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and the champion in this division, by the World Boxing Organization (WBO). His record coming in was 36-0, with 27 knockouts. His title was on the line against Kell Brook of Sheffield, England, who came in with a record of 39-2, with 27 knockouts. It looked like Crawford was a little confused to start the fight. He came out in a right-handed stance, and Brook hit him with several jabs. Evidently, Crawford saw a slow jab from Brook in the fourth round, because he timed a straight right over the top of it, and that was the beginning of the end. Three punches, and it was all over.

Crawford reportedly will fight Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KO) one of the greatest and most popular fighters in the history of boxing, next year. He is also a senator in the Philippines, so that will be some interesting scheduling. I can definitely see why mixed martial arts is becoming popular as an alternative. In MMA, the best fights get made. Rivalries and financial disputes keep the various boxing organizations and promoters at each other's throats, instead of the skill in the sport fighting one another in the ring. Even so, I still much prefer boxing. And it was good to see it again, on a big stage, even during a pandemic.