Archive for the ‘free speech’ category

Is Socialism A Real Fear?

January 20, 2019

Recently I got into a discussion with friends over what danger some of the new Democrat Congress members posed.  “Why that woman from New York wants free college education for everyone” one friend said.  “How is the country going to pay for it?”  The person added, “that woman wants to tax the rich to pay for it and that means we are going to have to pay more in taxes”.  Hmmm.

Where does one begin?

The friend making that statement probably lives in the 90th% income bracket which is about $150,000 in yearly income.  The couple probably have a pension, social security, and some income from investments.  They own a home and a vacation house.  They live comfortably but certainly not extravagantly.  Compared to average household income of $61,000, they are doing well.  So why the fear of free college?

My friend did not stop at having to pay higher taxes.  My friend quickly added, free college education would take the US to socialism.  And another friend said, “from socialism, communism was next.  And just look at Russia, Venezuela, and Cuba”  (I guess they had never visited China.)  Hmmm.

These two friends are both educated, well spoken, and otherwise reasonably charitable people.  From where could this disconnect from logic and reality come?  That’s a “foxy” question I think.

I wonder whether my two friends have thought why someone would advocate for free college education in the first place?  I wonder whether they realize that educated people are a resource just like rivers, roads, and electricity.  An educated work force drives prosperity.  In the US, unemployment, average income, and home ownership are all correlated to whether one has a college education or not.

Of course the likely reply would be, “I had to pay for my college education, so should the kids today”.  Hmmm.  I would quickly agree to that if there were options for kids to borrow at no interest the money to pay for their college education and depending upon what profession they chose or where they applied their college education, there were “forgiveness” provisions.  

In many respects, the free college education argument is a red herring with respect to the risks posed by socialistic regulations and laws.  And the connections between socialism and communism are faint if at all.  Socialism arises invariably to counter the excesses of capitalism.     Hmmm.

Most people are surprised to see how much in our daily lives is a form of socialism.  Public roads, libraries, and utilities are starters.  Social Security, the VA hospital system, and the host of consumer protection agencies are socialistic in nature.  All our discrimination laws, rent protection, and FHA loans in some way overcome excesses of unfettered capitalism and are a bit socialistic.

The question of why unfettered capitalism is not dangerous is deceptively difficult to answer.  Unfettered capitalism opens a world of possibilities for those who seek to succeed in business and accumulate wealth.   But given time, the entrepreneur becomes very wealthy and for most everyone else, life can become a little (or a lot) less good.  

In a wealthy country, like the US with abundant natural resources and protection from enemies by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, great wealth can be amassed though hard work and intelligence. Question… if all it took was hard work and intelligence, why would these entrepreneurs not go to the Sahara Desert or the North Pole and put their skills to work?  Capitalism’s success has a lot to do with the inherent natural resources, which in some way belong to everyone, and how these natural resources are harvested by the risk taking capitalist.  A hard working, risk taking socialist should be just as successful under similar circumstances, I would think.

But, one might ask, why aren’t socialist Venezuela and communist Cuba successful countries?

Does anyone think that if Venezuela or Cuba simply said “unfettered capitalism” is the way of the future, that life would change?  IMO, history has shown that all that would change is who the rich people were.  The poor would remain poor.  

There is no simple formula for accumulating national wealth.  Clearly abundant raw materials play a big role.  So does motivated entrepreneurs and an educated and skilled work force.  And, don’t forget “guns and butter”.  A country consumed with defending itself militarily will not have the time or ability to concentrate on economic development if it is preoccupied defending its borders.

With Venezuela and Cuba there is another factor which IMO outweigh all the others.  These countries lost their way when they cast aside “democracy”, rule of law, and free speech/free press.  Graft, corruption, and incompetent leader escape the natural consequences of their decisions when free speech and free press are suppressed.

One last observation.   Countries like Japan, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, or Canada all utilize more socialistic laws and regulations than the US.  None of these countries are teetering on the edge of communism.  And all these countries offer their citizens healthcare costs roughly 1/2 or less that the US with healthcare outcomes uniformly better.  Hmmm. 

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Woodrow Wilson and Black Lives Matter

November 25, 2015

There have been a number of college campus protests recently initiated allegedly over claims these institutions engaged in racial discrimination. The unrest at University of Missouri resulted the President’s and Chancellor’s resignation as demanded by the protesting students.

Now Princeton is looking at a set of “demands” which include eliminating all public references to former President Woodrow Wilson (as in 28th US President and Princeton’s “Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs”). Hmmm.

Black Lives Matter seems to have arisen following a series of police shootings where African Americans were killed during run ins with police. In many of the incidents, two characteristics seemed present. First, excessive lethal force was apparently employed and second, incident investigation exonerated the accused.

Even though data shows that police have killed almost twice as many white persons as African Americans, when the data is corrected for population, the disproportioned African American police shootings jumps out.

These two issues are tempting to conflate. Racism and Police prejudice may seem potentially interrelated.

Being human, the tendency is to assign behavior of some to the group as a whole.   The charge of prejudice is unavoidable. For the police, dealing regularly with dangerous people, they could easily see most everyone (like those in the poor areas) as a criminal and justify lethal force.

Racism and racist policies are not always that easy to detect. Universities have been under pressure to open enrollment to a more “diverse” group and clearly now feel betrayed when minority students bite back.

Looking back most higher learning institutions some group had to be the minority. Each of these groups would have struggled with slights and often outright prejudices. Over time the schools evolved to be more inclusive and probably the minority group grew thicker skin. One might see the current African American discrimination claims as simply they are going through the same process. Hmmm.

Woodrow Wilson and Princeton represent something a little different. African Americans have a legitimate grievance if Wilson is presented as a great man without flaws. Having his name on a prestigious University School could certainly convey this. But to suggest all will be ok if Wilson name was struck from the school’s official name borders on naive if not short sighted.

Renaming institutions cannot change what the historical record already says. It is far more to everyone’s benefit that Wilson be remembered as a Statesman and College President who endorsed many good beliefs and who unfortunately also held other discredited beliefs.

Championing the “League of Nations” does not make his segregation views any more acceptable, nor does his views on race subtract from his contributions in other areas.

The excessive use of force in police matters can arise from a great many causes, not just racism. Emotional aptitude, training, and supervision can all contribute to a mind set that is ready to employ excess force.

Black lives must matter and so should all lives matter. If we allow police excesses (that African Americans are calling out) to continue, all other groups may live to experience these same excesses should police be ever called into confront some other type of protest or demonstration.

African American leaders will do well by their peers to emphasize education and acquiring the emotional and executive skills to compete and succeed in life after school. While some protesting and push back on perceived organizational slights is part of human nature, the victim would be wise to match, no double, their protest efforts with even greater academic work.

Excessive police force is a danger to all Americans. Since we can not do without police support of law and order, we all need to support proper police selection, training and supervision.

The Pope’s Words – Close But Wide Of The Mark

January 16, 2015

Pope Francis spoke yesterday about the tragedies at Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher market. His common sense message was quite simple… if you insult someone else, don’t be surprised if the other person smacks you in the nose… The Pope’s words were meant to ease the tension while still condemning the murders that took place. The Pope emphasized that killing anyone in god’s name was simply wrong. Hmmm.

The Charlie Hedbo incident is far more complex than one might think. Most everyone would find fault in the use of deadly force to rectify an insult… but to many, especially those from tribal communities, honor killings are an accepted part of life. It’s not so long ago that such events took place in the US too. Remember Arron Burr and Alexander Hamilton?

But Charlie Hebdo is much more the righting an honor grievance.   This incident exposes what constitutes free speech. In America, most anything goes in public discourse. In Europe, however, many countries have enacted “hate speech” laws which make it illegal to “incite” racial hatred. Recognizing Europe’s past, one can understand why they might choose to limit free speech.

The publication, Charlie Hebdo, has no sacred cows, all religions, governments, and political parties are subject to cartoons when they acted hypocritically. So is calling a group out for hypocrisy an insult or just treatment?

Holding the Koran or Allah as unmentionable when some people committing terroristic or just plain sadistic acts do so under the false justification that the Koran or Allah, himself, welcome these acts, is just plain ridiculous. Depicting this hypocrisy seems quite in order.

Charlie also has lambasted Israel and Judaism. The conduct of the Palestinian-Israel conflict has provided many opportunities to call into question Israel’s real intents, ample material for cartoons. Consider this recent event.   While many of the world’s leaders were marching arm in arm in Paris this week, the inspirational photo got a little touch up in an orthodox Israeli newspaper. The picture the rest of the world saw which included who were actual in the march was “photo-shopped” and all women, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, were removed. The Israeli newspaper published an all male picture.

Hmmm.

The Pope and the catholic church have found themselves in number of hypocritical situations. The church’s death grip man made rules (they call dogma) acts as if these policies were divine in origin.  This dysfunctional behavior has set up many contradictions. Women, homosexuals, and all too often those who are not catholic have been set up situation which deserved to be called out for obvious hypocrisy.

We should remember that there are in each generation anarchistic behavior. ISIS, al Qaeda, and those responsible for the recent murders in Paris were principally anarchists. Their goal has its foundation on overthrow of the established order. Nothing more, nothing less.

Free speech, however, is a far more important principle than the Pope’s remarks would indicate. All major religions, if sheltered from free speech criticism would head rapidly back to the dark ages. They would seek conditions which ensured their control over enough people to maintain their bureaucratic structure.

Free speech has other enemies too. Just think about what life would be like if the George W Bush Administration had been able to suppress the facts surround the invasion and occupation of Iraq, for example. If Bush (or Dick Cheney) had been able to write the Iraq war history without a secular free press, what do you think the public would be told?

Free speech comes with responsibilities too. Slander, incitement to riot, and use of surrogate targets (like ridiculing a politicians uninvolved family in order to attack the politician) are generally out of bounds and inconsistent with free speech.

The Pope’s words suggested the free press, like Charlie Hebdo, should lay off criticizing Islam (and by extension, Judaism, Christianity, etc).

I think the Pope was wide of the mark.