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Here’s the story: http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_21118201/unknown-number-people-shot-at-aurora-movie-theater

The first priority now, of course, is taking care of all the people affected by this, showing support, being there for those who need it. Everyone able to offer that moral or material support should do so.

Our second priority is making sure that it never happens again, or happens with far less frequency. We shouldn’t fall into the habit of thinking of this as “an isolated incident,” and treat it the way we might treat a natural disaster, as if it just happens from time to time, and merits mourning but no changes in how we frame our shared existence. Rep. Rhonda Fields, who of course lost her own son to violence, was just on 9-News reminding us that we have to work to ensure that this DOESN’T happen, that we are not a society in the grip of random violence.

And the obvious way for us to stop being such a violent society is for us to stop being such a violent society, in thoughts, in beliefs, in ideology, in how some of us fetishize instruments of destruction, and in actions.

There will be those who insist that it is “wrong” to use this as a catalyst for discussing the underlying social problems involved, but if we don’t draw attention to them in the moments when their consequences explode upon us, then they are more easily minimized by those so inclined in times when their consequences are more remote from our thoughts.

Kyle Clark on 9-News just suggested that we all say or do something nice for someone today so that that ripples out and creates a more caring and mutually supportive society, and Kyle Dyer added that we should do so every day. They’re right; we make our culture and our society through our thoughts and actions. But we shouldn’t live dual lives, one defined by trying to be nice to those around us, and another defined by callousness and a lack of compassion in how we arrange our shared existence.

We need to work to become a different kind of society, a society that believes it’s important to reduce the levels of violence that we suffer, a society that is defined more by how much we care about and support one another than by how much we fear and loathe one another, a society that believes in BEING a society more than it believes in some moral imperative of mutual indifference. We all, as members of a society that participates in the creation of the culture in which we live, share some portion of responsibility for every event of this nature that occurs, either for what we’ve done to cultivate such a violent culture, or for what we’ve failed to do to cultivate something more rational and humane.

Click here to buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards for just $2.99!!!

Click here to buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards for just $2.99!!!

The current Tea Party concept of “liberty” to mean “what’s mine is mine” was most eloquently articulated by John C. Calhoun in Union and Liberty, in which he argued that any attempt to deny southern slave owners of their right to own slaves was an infringement on their (the slave owners’) “liberty,” and should be opposed as such with arms (which, of course, happened a couple of decades after he published it). Calhoun also argued for the protection of “minority” rights, by which he meant the rights of southern slave owners to own slaves.

There is a direct and unbroken line connecting those who opposed ratification of the U.S. Constitution, through those who advocated “nullification” doctrine (that each state has the right to ignore the federal government at will), through the southern secessionists, through the southern opponents to Civil Rights legislation and jurisprudence, to the modern Tea Party.

They are, happily, the losers of American history, whose loss has meant real freedom and real opportunity for hundreds of millions who would otherwise have been denied it. But those whose ideology keeps getting thankfully relegated to the dust heap of history are relentless, incessantly trying to “take back America,” by which they mean a return to some semblance of previous eras characterized by Jim Crow, slave ownership, and the completely dysfunctional Articles of Confederation, not to mention the onset of The Great Depression.

The connection to slavery and Jim Crow is a historical continuum, not a current identity. Virtually no one today identifies themself as an advocate of slave ownership. Relatively few, but some, state opposition to the federal engagement which put an end to Jim Crow. Many oppose current federal efforts to address the legacy of that history still extant today.

My point is not that by being a modern Libertarian you are an advocate of slave ownership, but rather that the history of modern Libertarianism belongs to those who were advocates of slave ownership. Those who succeeded to slave owners defended Jim Crow. Those that succeeded to defenders of Jim Crow oppose any federal commitment to social justice.

It is a logical continuum, with a shared underlying philosophical thread: “What’s mine is mine, as a matter of basic principle, regardless of the injustice of that distribution of wealth and power, regardless of the historical violence implicit within it, and regardless of how politically and economically dysfunctional the belief is.”

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Click here to buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards for just $2.99!!!

(Here is an unedited Facebook thread, continuing the ongoing discussion….): David K Williams Jr: What radical, ignorant tea-bagger said this?

“We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.” 

David K Williams Jr: A: Abraham Lincoln

Matt Arnold: As quoted by yours truly several months ago: http://www.clearthebenchco​lorado.org/2010/10/25/figh​ting-the-%E2%80%9Cprogress​ive%E2%80%9D-takeover-of-s​tate-courts/

Joshua Sharf: I think he even had a low, sloping forehead.

Audrey Lussier Hussey: what a radical.

Lawrence Depenbusch: Barney Frank????

Jacque Rhoades: Crazy Abe. What was he thinking?!?!

Lawrence Depenbusch: Abe said enough great things, he could have had one off day. You try getting selected for Mount Rushmore and the Lincoln Memorial, and the penny…

Steve Harvey: Right. The same guy who led the opposition to your ideology in his time, and who would continue to lead it today were he alive, strengthening the federal government against a secessionist movement, denying the individual liberty asserted by southern slave owners. The words are perfect; your blindness to the fact that today you are those “men who pervert the Constitution” ironic.

Joshua Sharf: Steve: I wasn’t aware that “my ideology” included the ownership of other human beings.

Buddy Shipley: xactly, Joshua. Beat me to it! Steve’s a twit.

Steve Harvey: Your ideology includes an extreme notion of individual liberty that neglects to recognize how its exercise affects the rights and liberties of others. The inability to abstract and apply general principles to new variations on repeating patterns is part of what permits them to be repeated. Or, more conventionally, “those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it.”

Buddy Shipley: Liberals reject principle in favor of moral relativism, screws their reasoning every time.

Steve Harvey: Read John C. Calhoun’s “Union and Liberty,” which argued in langauge almost indistinguishable from Tea Party arguments why the overreaching federal government was depriving Southern Slave owners of their Constitutionally guarnanteed liberty by trying to abolish slavery.

Buddy Shipley: Wrong again, Stevie.

Buddy Shipley: On all counts/

Steve Harvey: Really, Buddy? Because I read it, cover to cover, when I studied American Political History. And that is exactly the argument that Calhoun makes.

Steve Harvey: Once again, you’re entitled to your opinion, but not to your facts, no matter how determined you are to simply declare that the facts are other than what they are.

Buddy Shipley: That’s my line, thief.

Steve Harvey: You are a bunch of throwbacks, lacking the knowledge, humility, or imagination to have the faintest recognition of to what extent that is the case. And, in the process, you try to inflict a utopian farce on an otherwise pragmatic nation, ta…king an idea divorced from its articulation with our lived history and insisting that only that idea must be revered, even if the version to which you reduce it can be implemented only at the cost of our prosperity and our humanity.

Buddy Shipley: WRONG: “ideology [that] includes an extreme notion of individual liberty that neglects to recognize how its exercise affects the rights and liberties of others.” –YOU ARE COMPLETELY WRONG.

David K Williams Jr: Steve – read Massachusett’s abolitionist Lysander Spooner’s “No Treason.” It’s readily available on the internet.

Steve Harvey: Yes, Buddy, you frequently repeat it, though you never demonstrate it. You ignore the historical, economic, and legal empirical evidence that I mobilize. Your last comment, citing another argument, does nothing to address the one that I cited.

Joshua Sharf: Steve, this is a non-argument. I’m not going to be held responsible for Calhoun’s misuse of Constitutional arguments, any more than you would be for early “progressives'” racism.

Buddy Shipley: Lincoln inherited a nation already in conflict over the economic canard of state’s rights to free commerce based on slave labor. Rather than allow the Union to collapse Lincoln chose to fight to keep it together, and that meant he had to choose between sanctioning slavery or ending it –One nation United without slavery, or divided and enslaved. The choice is not difficult.

Steve Harvey: Joshua, you would be absolutely right, if your ideas were fundamentally different from Calhoun’s. Unfortunately, they are fundamentally similar, just in a different historical context. They were used to oppose Civil Rights, and your own Ran…d Paul said that he wouldn’t have been able to support The Civil Rights Bill of 1964 because of how it infringes on the liberty to be (though he of course did not put it this way) a discriminatory racist.

Steve Harvey: The fundamental flaw in libertarian ideology is the de-emphasis of interdependence, and the neglect of the degree to which freedom must be articulated with where its exercise affects the welfare of others, which is extensive and ubiquitous.

Buddy Shipley: ‎”They were used to oppose Civil Rights…” — WHAT?

Buddy Shipley: Steve, you are babbling again.

Buddy Shipley: ‎”de-emphasis of interdependence” — ON WHAT?

Buddy Shipley: The Left has for generations been allowed to manipulate the language to serve their own ends with deceptively crafted legislation presided over by a Judiciary that has been corrupt at least since Liberal luminary Thurgood Marshall who asser…ted: “Do what you think is right and let the law catch up.” — ie: legislate from the bench because we the elite anointed few, surely know better than the great unwashed masses or any Legislative Branch that must actually be elected by the proletariat.

Steve Harvey: Uh, yes, Buddy. Southern leaders, such as George Wallace, used the complaint of an overreaching federal government to resist desegregation and the enforcement of Civil Rights provisions. The history of your ideology begins with the Articles of Confederation, and continued with “nullification” doctrine (that states have the right to “nullify” federal law at will), and then was used to impose Jim Crow, and finally has been reincarnated as Tea Party dogma.

Of course, it has articulated with other essentially absolutist doctrines along the way, such as religious fundamentalism, but the integral thread is very easy to discern, and to recognize as coherent across our history. And, yes, I see that you have now indicted Thurgood Marshall, responsible for arguing “Brown v. Board of Education,” which made desegregation the law of the land, and catalyzed the modern Civil Rights movement. Thanks for demonstrating my point.

Buddy Shipley: I indict Marshall for legislating from the bench.

Buddy Shipley: You fail civics 101, asshole.

Buddy Shipley: Your reading & comprehension skill are also lacking.

Steve Harvey: Right. You indict Marshall for doing what his namesake (Chief Justice John Marshall) had established as the role of the Court in the early 19th century, to the great benefit of the nation (which would almost certainly not have managed to so… closely approach “rule of law” as it has had he not done so, since your ideal of each imposing his or her own Constitutional interpretation, and not tolerating any process which imposes one in any centralized fashion, would have obliterated the law by converting it into a creature of each person’s imagination).

And I have no doubt that I failed your version of Civics, though I have taught it (and US History, and US Government), though not the caricature of it that your litmus test requires.

Steve Harvey: There are three branches of government, all involved in creating the law of the land, in different ways. Congress legislates, but legsilation is not the only law producing process. When the executive branch implements the laws, it must affe…ct them to make them implementable. Executive branch agencies do this in the form of agency rule making, a very elaborate process with lots of in-put from all interested parties. The judicial branch interprets the law, which cannot be drafted to cover all contingencies. The process of interpretation is a process of creation, inevitably.

Part of the genius of our system is this tension in the creation of law, a lathe on which it is forever refined, a lathe that you are determined to smash and replace with a sledgehammer for all occasions.

Buddy Shipley: WRONG AGAIN, asshole.

Steve Harvey: Yes, Buddy, you keep saying it. But, strangely, you are completely devoid of arguments. I know you are convinced that whatever you declare to be true must be, especially if you can accompany it with a profanity. But, alas, that’s just not how it works.

Steve Harvey: Buddy, that’s the elementary school version, not the reality, either by design or in practice. The idealized version is that the legislative branch writes the laws, the executive implements them, and the judicial interprets them. The realit…y is that all three of those processes affect their formation, inevitably, by the very nature of what it means to do those things. The shallowness of your mind is the problem, not the complexity of the real world.

Buddy Shipley: The 3 branches have DIFFERENT responsibilities! The Legislative Branch has the sole authority and power to craft and pass Legislation — NOT the Judiciary, you twit!! The Executive can choose to either sign the Legislation into law or veto it, and the Judiciary must APPLY THE LAW, not MAKE SHIT UP as they see fit!

Aaron Michael: The fundamental flaw with progressivism is that it seeks to cure the vices of men through force via the state. Libertarians acknowledge interdependence among people (hence the advocation of pure capitalism), but stop at trying to impose th…eir social norms on others. That’s not to say they don’t recognize universal morals, but being a prejudice dick does not fall into a category of aggression that would warrant a negative law enacted for the purpose of curtailing persons with discriminating behavior.

Buddy Shipley Just like Obama’s tyrannical policies to NOT enforce the laws of the land, T. Marshall chose to ignore the law and exert his own despotic opinion in place of the law and in blatant defiance of the Legislature that was actually ELECTED by the People. This is tyranny, and Steve wholeheartedly advocates it.

Aaron Michael: And once again Buddy emerges from the swampy soil to give his opinion on a matter he know nothing about.

Buddy Shipley I’ve been here all along, what steamy turd did Aaron crawl out from under??

Buddy Shipley ‎”Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” –P. J. O’Rourke. Why do you leftist maggots insist on doing just that?

Buddy Shipley ‎”Prohibition… goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control mans’ appetite through legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not even crimes… A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our Government was founded” –President Abraham Lincoln (December 1840).

Buddy Shipley: Can your wee wittle bwains expand these concepts to everything else, or is the strain to great?

Aaron Michael: Buddy, O’Rourke is much too sophisticated to have jelly brains like yourself quoting him.

Aaron Michael: Try quoting Justin Bieber; it fits you better.

Buddy Shipley: Ohh, how witty. How many books have you written, maggot?

Buddy Shipley: Debt Default: More Honesty, Less Hyperbole U.S. Annual Deficit spending is projected at $1.4 Trillion this year alone, or 10% of GDP. The national debt is over $14.3 Trillion dollars, or 91.2% of GDP, which is no one claims is sustainable…. Service on the national debt amounts to nearly $400 Billion each year, based on average interest rates of ~3.9%, as Democrats demand a higher debt ceiling! This cannot be permitted. If the U.S. were to actually default on its debt payment we may lose our AAA rating (determined by Standard & Poors, Moody’s, Fitch), which in theory could cause our interest rates to increase; specifically, if the U.S. rating was downgraded from “AAA” to “AA-” it could result in an increase from .25% to .50% percent paid in interest, or a total of between $1 Billion and $2 Billion per year. Compared to our national debt, annual deficit spending and even the annual service on our national debt, $2 Billion is chump-change, especially considering the debate in Congress is about the need to slash federal spending by Hundreds of Billions, even Trillions of dollars! Too many politicians are addicted to spending other people’s money, and like a drug addict they will do anything to satisfy their addiction, no matter the harm done to others. It is well-past time for intervention; our only recourse now is interdiction. True fiscal conservatives must stand their ground at all costs, they must NOT cave-in on demands, threats and scare-tactics to lift the debt ceiling or raise taxes! Raising taxes will only stall an already stagnate economy and facilitate the politicians’ addiction. Defaulting would not be the worst thing to happen, but raising the debt limit and increasing taxes on a stagnate economy with 9.1% unemployment certainly would. This Congress has consistently proven it cannot be trusted to conduct the nation’s business within its means, with or without any wars. If you eliminate the entire $1.2 Trillion in war costs for Iraq and Afghanistan from the budget we’re still smothered under $13.1 Trillion in debt! Our junkie government has a SPENDING problem, not a revenue problem. The socialists have finally run out of other people’s money; it’s time for tough love, they must be forced to quit cold turkey.

Buddy Shipley: You maggots want a revolution? Keep it up.

Aaron Michael: So writing a book makes one smart? Oh and a captain planet coloring book doesn’t count.

Buddy Shipley: So, ad hominem attacks are all you’ve got?

Aaron Michael: Hahahaha and the pot calls the kettle black.

Steve Harvey: Let’s start with a thought experiment: What happens if you remove the state from the pricture? No force, only freedom. Those inclined to prey on others will do so, and will band together to do so, while those who are not will band together …to defend themselves. They will use force in both cases. Some of these bands will defeat others, consolidating into larger entities, with those able to assert or impose leadership becoming de facto governments, only far more tyrannical than those of developed modern democracies that you are now decrying.

If you remove the state, then you essentially press the reset button on political history. The state is a reality, because force is a reality. So pretending that the issue is over whether the state is good or bad is moot; the question is how to limit it and use it to maximum advantage, all things considered.

Yes, limiting it and controlling it is an essential part of the challenge, but not as some quasi-religious notion unrefined by a recognition of both its inevitability and its range of competence. The state is our vehicle of collective action, our public agent, and free people using mechanisms by which they, in effect, ARE the state can, should, and must accept that responsibility, despite the real challenges and obstacles posed by it.

My version of progressivism doesn’t declare the state good or bad, but rather starts with the recognition that we cannot escape the responsibility of governing ourselves to the best of our ability, today, here and now, guided by the brilliant products of our history, but not absolved of our living responsibility by them. We can best do this by first resolving to be reasonable people of goodwill rather than raging blind ideologues, whether on this side or that of any question.

To do that, we need to be somewhat humble, recognizing that we live in an almost infintely complex and subtle reality, with wonderful minds that are more limited than that reality. So we need to know that we don’t know, that we are constantly discovering. Then we need to do our best to mobilize our collective genius in this inevitable effort to continue to do the best we can, as reaonable people of goodwill. When, through that process, we arrive at conclusion which limit the state more, then I am the first to applaud our success. When, through that process, we arrive at conclusions that utilize the state more, then I applaud that success as well. There is no one final panacea that answers all questions and resolves all challenges, once and for all.

The Constitution is a short and vague document, interpretable in mulitple ways, one which provides brilliant guidance, but does not resolve all questions. We are participants in a living history, just as the drafters of that wonderful document were (who knew better than their modern idolators how great the need would be to continue to refine it as history created new challenges and opportunities). There is no escaping that fact, nor should we wish to.

Argue your positions, and I’ll argue mine, and let’s strive to be reasonable people of goodwill doing the best we can in a complex and subtle world. Now, THAT would be tribute to our Founding Fathers, who showed us the way!

Buddy Shipley: “Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it” –Thomas Sowell

“Most people who read “The Communist Manifesto” probably have no idea that it was written by a couple of young men who had never worked a day in their lives, and who nevertheless spoke boldly in the name of ‘the workers.'” –Thomas Sowell

Buddy Shipley: Compromise ALWAYS means losing ground to progressives/liberals! As Thomas Jefferson said, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” For the past century this is exactly what has happened. In the…ir attempts to “bring the country together” many prominent Republicans have pursued the disastrous course of “moderation” and “compromise” as they seek what they mistakenly believe to be some sort of desirable “middle ground.” I say there is no such thing! It is a fallacy to describe compromise with liberals as anything more than the constant erosion of conservatism and liberty — we are constantly yielding more ground to the Left — toward socialism, fascism, communism. They may call themselves Liberals or Progressives or Democrats, but history reveals them to be one in the same: Leftists progressing toward total government rule, always for our own good of course! Whether the Leftist Lemmings are aware of this or not, they seek a form of government better known as Totalitarian. Read Orwell’s “1984” with a different perspective, one where the totalitarian dystopia is Obama’s Leftist dreams made manifest. Forms of Government: http://www.youtube.com/wat​ch?v=DioQooFIcgE. Liberal Fantasies v. Reality: http://www.youtube.com/wat​ch?v=90SdmjuCAqw. And yes, “socialism” is but a few steps away from communism. http://www.youtube.com/wat​ch?v=DioQooFIcgE. “The problem with splitting the difference between opposing sides, as many negotiators are prone to do– whether these negotiators are marriage counselors, labor arbitrators or the United Nations– is that this gives an advantage to the side with the most unreasonable demands, and therefore promotes more unreasonable demands in the future.” –economist Thomas Sowell

Steve Harvey: Buddy, what you are now calling “socialism” has a record of success, not of failure, for not one modern prosperous nation has achieved modern levels of prosperity without the form of government you are now calling “socialism.” Not one. The post-WWII economic boom was participated in only by nations that had large administrative states in place prior to it, and not by any nation that didn’t. Your semantic game of applying a word overbroadly, to indict one system by lumping it together with another completely different one, carefully obfuscating the reality of world history, may be satisfying to your ideological zeal, but it is an affront to reason.

And your loathing of compromise is a loathing of the process which produced the Constitution you turn into an object of idolatry rather than the legal framework it was intended to be, for it was all about compromise. The basic argument has existed throughout our history, between “the Hamiltonians” on the one hand (ironically, the original “federalists,” though “federalism” then meant an argument for stronger rather than weaker federal government), and “the Jeffersonians” on the other (though Jefferson explicitly repudiated many of the notions you now enshrine as sacrosanct).

Steve Harvey: Okay, I can’t spend my life demonstrating the historical, legal, empirical, logical, economic, and just general folly of every bit of nonsense that Buddy Shipley insists is not only Gospel truth, but justification for social and political disintegration. Go for it, Buddy. The podium is yours and yours alone.

Aaron Michael: I added doughnuts to my new workout routine and have lost 35 lbs! Therefore, doughnuts made me lose weight. Steve, you also failed to mention the more appropriate correlation that the 20th century was by far the bloodiest and the perpetrators were those very same gigantic centralized states.

Buddy Shipley: Steve, that previous comment is perhaps the most cogent thing I’ve ever seen you write & share, if only it were not so long and rambling — dude, you need to focus better. I never suggested eliminating the state. The State is certainly th…e problem and direct cause for our economic crisis, but that is because it has exceeded its authority! I am no anarchist, although I’ve recently given it more consideration I still think anarchy is too unstable to survive aggressive parties seeking dominance. You are correct about the effect of a “reset,” and the emergence of groups using force for aggression and defense (now apply that to the current world). Force is essential in protecting individual rights, and the right to exercise that force has been granted to government, and yes, “limiting it and controlling it is essential,” else it might be turned against those it is intended to protect. But again, that is why the founders constrained the government’s authority with the limited powers enumerated in the Constitution! You seem to support these great ideas but then contradict your own position by endorsing ever more excessive government, legislating from the Bench, and progressive nonsense that only leads to more government excess! You do not seem to comprehend your own ideas. It’s certainly a concern that overthrowing our current government could result in even worse tyranny than what it has become. We must certainly seek to govern ourselves rather than depending on Big Government to do it for us, but that concept in and of itself is an ideology, perhaps one some might consider “raging & blind”… Our founders were “reasonable people of goodwill” and to that end they crafted the Constitution and Bill of Rights. We need to return to them. Also, they are only “vague documents” to those who wish to circumvent their intent and exceed the limits of power proscribed by them. In their wisdom the founders also incorporated the means to amend the documents, but our elected officials prefer to ignore that difficult hurdle and again exceed their authority! How is it you do not grasp this? Our Constitution defines the limited powers of government and distributes those powers among the three branches: Executive, Judiciary, and the bicameral Congress. When any of these branches usurps a power of another branch it is unconstitutional, a breech of the Public trust, and a crime that should be prosecuted, but instead goes ignored, thereby establishing precedent for the next breech, and the next, each more egregious than the one before. What you advocate, we already have, if only it were enforced. And finally, you’re wrong about the successes of socialism — it is a cancerous disease destroying every country it has infected.

Lawrence Depenbusch: What Buddy said…

Jacque Rhoades ‎:( Just looked at Steve’s profile, he is a teacher. Sad.

Steve Harvey: Aaron, I did not mention the perfect correlation between large administrative states and modern prosperity as proof of causation (though, unlike your doughnuts analogy, it wasn’t the offering of one anomalous example otherwise disproven by a flood of contradictory examples, since EVERY modern prosperous state has a large administrative infrastructure, and HAD one in place prior to participating in the post-WWII explosion of wealth. Furthermore, the ACTUAL socialist states, that HAVE universally failed, are distinguishable from these modern prosperous states in their political economic form, including the Western European states and The United States, despite the sloppy use of a single ideologically-charged, rhetorically exploited term to conflate them). I offered it as refutation of Buddy’s not only erroneous, but diametrically-opposite-to-​the-truth, statement, that all “socialist” states (by which he meant “states characterized by large administrative infrastructures”) have failed. What have failed are states which have dismantled market economies en masse, which the large prosperous states with large administrative infrastructures have not done.

As for the bloody twentieth century, since warfare is ubiquitous in human history, and states of all types and degrees of development have engaged in it to fairly similar, extensive degrees, the main cause of the distinction in degrees of violence in twentieth century wars is level of technology, thus leading to more destructive warfare, rather than form of state, which does not significantly distinguish the degree of warfare (independent of technological destructiveness) that occurred.

As for Buddy, he continues to ignore arguments and rely on insults and arbitrary declarations, since I argued why the Constitution does not answer all questions, and have previously argued why we are already following it in a systematic, rather than political disintegrative, way (through judicial review, by which determinations are made concerning the constitutionality of laws which do not degenerate into the wild and generally erroneious ideological assertions of a particular fanatical faction). Yes, the Founding Fathers were, taken as a whole, “reasonable people of goodwill,” who did not absolve us of the responsibility to do the same by ending history for us, but rather began our national “experiment” in a brilliant way on which we are challenged to continue to build.

Furthermore, Buddy: The reliance on attacks on style (your literary critique) is both irrelevant and evidence that you feel that merely addressing substance (focusing on the arguments and responding to them) is insufficient to the task of “winning” the debate. I was amazed at your accusation toward someone else of relying on ad hominems, since that is well over 90% of the content of your posts!

And Jacque: I’m a former college lecturer, high school teacher, professional researcher, and author (I’ve presented papers at professional meetings of economists, and my original scholarship is cited in several articles and books); and am currently an attorney who has worked as an independent policy consultant. I have no doubt that you find it sad that your ideology is rejected by those who know what they’re talking about (which is why you, plural, always complain about academics and journalists, supposedly all “leftists,” though you never quite manage to explain why it is that precisely those people who professionally acquire, analyze, and report information should happen to lean en masse in the direction opposite of your dogmas).

You (plural) rely on a bizarre combination of insisting that reason supports your conclusions, while rejecting all reasoned empirical arguments as “intellectual elitism,” and relying instead on a completely irrational semantic game (“since we can erroneously label the modern capitalist hybrid of robust market economies and large, economically engaged administrative states “socialism,” and can point to other states characterized by completely different political economic structures that are generally known as ‘socialist’ [though we will also engage in the revisionism of recategorizing states that were historically characterized by far-right rather than far-left ideology as “socialist” as well, simply naming all failed or reviled states ‘socialist’ as part of our absurd, blindly ideological form of ‘argumentation’], by this sloppy and meaningless equation we have proven that large administrative states are universally failures, despite the historical fact that no successful modern state has not had a large administrative infrastructure.”).

Steve Harvey: As I’ve told David previously, intellectualism doesn’t guarantee success (Marxism was indeed an intellectual paradigm, and a failure both theoretically and politically), but anti-intellectualism guarantees failure, and is an institutionaliz…ed part of all totalitarian states while absent from all modern, prosperous capitalist states. Our Founding Fathers were markedly intellectual, mobilizing classical and Enlightenment thought in the devising of our political framework, and no one is arguing that that intellectual achievement was a failure. Marxism itself was just one of several competing intellectual paradigms, not the only one, and once it prevailed politically, became an anti-intellectual paradigm (the rulers of Marxist and other totalitarian states universally persecuting intellectuals, who are the bane of the kinds of ideas that they and you profess, that are mere blind fanaticisms in service to concentrations of power and impositions of human suffering). We have no choice but to continue to use our minds to the best of our ability, fallible as that faculty is, because the opposite is far more disastrous.

Lawrence Depenbusch: Wrong Steve: It is not modern techonology that was the force that led to the death of so many in the last century, but the rise of PROGRESSIVE idealogy in the hands of media supported tyrants in Russia, Germany and China. Progressive leaders slaughtered millions of people, who did not share their idealogy. Progressive ideas kill…..

Steve Harvey: Sorry, Lawrence, but that’s your semantic game again. Russia, Nazi Germany, and China are examples more dissimilar than similar to Western Europe and The United States, on multiple dimensions. The sloppy use of the word “progressive” to mea…n “any state that I reject, regardless of dissimilarities,” may satisfy your ideological certainties, but it is poor argumentation. To take it a step further, the reality of the world is one characterized by variation along multiple dimensions, to varying degrees.

While you identify “state engagement” as the defining characteristic, it is in fact one dimension, that comes in dramatically varying degrees. Western European and modern American levels of state engagement are, in reality, strongly correlated to prosperity and freedom, while significantly higher degrees of state engagement (displacing markets and freedom of expression and assembly) are associated with tyranny.

This conflation of dissimilar things to argue your position is persuasive only to those who are rationalizing irrationality, not to those who are examining the world, and trying to understand it as it is. Ironically, Libertarianism and Marixism are quite similar in form, even while being substantively opposites, because both are utopian fantasies, divorced from our lived history and our incremental pragmatic social institutional evolution, attempting to impose an internally contradictory and easily debunked extreme absolutism on a society, in ways inevitably destructive to the real freedom and welfare of the members of that society.

Steve Harvey: There is error at both extremes, whether too much or too little state engagement. This is strongly evidenced by history, and strongly supported by any well-reasoned analysis. You cite examples of the error of too much state engagement (“Tyranny”) to defend an argument for too little, in opposition to the paradigm that is most supported empirically and historically as the most effective balance.

Lawrence Depenbusch: ‎”Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” –P. J. O’Rourke >>> (…and Power in the hands of an institution that can tax and punish is even more odious)

Lawrence Depenbusch: ‎”Government is not reason, it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” – George Washington >>> (For an educator -such as Steve- to cast off such primary wisdom against the danger of government force, shows him to be under the sway of this force that has fed him for decades and turned him into it’s guard dog—pity)

Lawrence Depenbusch: “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.” ~Plato >>> (Laws and courts are ultimately at a loss to control evil people, and so more laws tend to hinder the good more than constrain the evil)

Steve Harvey: Again, Lawrence, does that mean that we should have no laws? Everything should be legal, no use of force involved, and if someone decides to commit murder or steal or rape, laws are irrelevant, because good people won’t and bad people will? Or do we, more sanely, and more in accord with reality, recognize that laws play a vital role in regulating human coexistence, and that the question isn’t whether, but rather how and in what ways?

Quotes, BTW, are made in historical context, by mere human beings. Washington’s doesn’t imply that government is bad, but rather draws attention to the real challenges involved in using it well, made at a time when his emphasis was determined by his context. Listing quotes of revered (or not revered) individuals is not argumentation either. It doesn’t absolve us of mobilizing reason applied to evidence in search of understanding and in service to humanity. And even the most brilliant quotes, taken out of context and misapplied, can lead to appallingly erroneous conclusions.

Bumber-sticker wisdom, even when it is indeed wise, is not enough for self-governance; real analysis, mobilizing real data, in service to real understanding, can’t be by-passed by recourse to your version of pithy sayings to live by (a tactic which is used more often in service to ignorance and tyranny than in service to wisdom and freedom). If you want to make arguments about how best to govern ourselves, cite instead the Federalist Papers, which are extensive and in-depth (and are arguments for stronger rather than weaker federal government).

But, more importantly than all of this, recognize that you champion one position in a national dialogue of legitimately conflicting views; champion it, by all means, making your best arguments, and advocating for what you believe in. But engage in the debate with the desire to grow and learn, and, when necessary, to compromise with those with whom you sincerely disagree. Because this nation belongs to all of us, not just to any one radical faction. And we have in place many systems for deciding from among our competing views.

While I fervently disagree with the bulk of your ideological corpus, I also recognize that there are legitimate debates to be had over the balance between investing in our present and future well-being and taming our growing debt, over how best to balance our various social institutional modalities, over how best to maintain a robust market economy. I do not dismiss monetarist economic theory, because I recognize that there are very well-informed and intelligent people who champion it, and so it is incumbent on me to consider the possibility that it is the more valid position, or that it has some validity even if not the more valid position. The most important point is not about our conflicting substantive positions, but rather about our conflicting attitudes toward how to go about engaging in this substantive conflict.

I argue that we are best off, first and foremost, suspending our substantive certainties from time to time, and agreeing that our first responsibility is to strive to be reasonable people of goodwill doing the best we can in a complex and subtle world. We all need to admit that, no matter how well informed we are, we are fallible, and our own beliefs may be in error, those of our opponents may be correct. We all have to recognize that being a human being is being a work in progress, that none of us have the one, true, unassailable final answer on all matters. And on that foundation, we need to continue to build our wisdom, our humanity, and our commitment to being responsible citizens engaged in a common endeavor.

I may be wrong about everything else (and, if so, fervently desire that that be demonstrated to me, or that I be defeated in our political contests, because my commitment isn’t to what I now think I know, but rather to what I don’t yet know and must still discover), but I am right about one thing: We need to recognize that our competing ideological certainties, militantly held and insulated against evidence and reason, do not serve us well. Disciplines and processes that favor reason and goodwill have proven to serve us much better, and the more we are able to extend those individual and collective disciplines and processes into ever-wider spheres of our existence, the better off we will be.

Buddy Shipley: Steve, why do you always ALWAYS misinterpret and exaggerate everything we say?? NO ONE suggested we should have NO laws! I never said we should have NO state! For an educator your reading and comprehension skills F’ing suck! And as I’ve suggested to you on several occasions — LESS is MORE! Your overly-verbose rambling tomes are not going to get read — these are COMMENTS, not books. WTF?

Lawrence Depenbusch: “The government solution to any problem is usually at least as bad as the problem.” —Milton Friedman … It is not an ALL OR NOTHING situation. Realizing that government power is odious, that laws have unintended consequences, that evil is not often constrained by law, we ought to keep our laws general and few.

Steve Harvey: When I am arguing substantively, I try to mobilize evidence and reason to demonstrate what I perceive to be the dazzling empirical and logical weaknesses in the “arguments” dominating the opposition to my arguments on this thread. I see mostly sloppy semantic arguments, overapplying terms and then concluding that all forms stuffed into the overbroad terms are proven dysfunctional by the dysfunctionality of some of the quite different forms to be found in the same overbroad category (akin to arguing that cows must be meat eaters, because cows are mammals, and here are some examples of mammals that are meat eaters, proving that cows are therefore meat eaters too, despite the empirical evidence that they aren’t).

But I live my life with the recognition that what I think I know today may be demonstrated wrong in some or all ways, and so must listen to arguments, address them, respect that others believe something different from what I believe, and engage with the purpose of improving our shared understandings rather than with the purpose of showing how my dogmatic religion is THE RIGHT ONE and yours is THE WRONG ONE. Of all of the irrational positions dominating the arguments against me here, the most irrational of all is the sense of absolute certainty, often in complete contradiction of reason and evidence, though insulated by a shared and reinforced delusion that reason and evidence supports whatever you are certain is true.

We all need to start with the recognition that none of us has a monopoly on absolute truth, that we need to rely on evidence and reason and to whatever extent possible submit ourselves to those disciplines of the mind in pursuit of our understandings, and to know above all us that, if we are wise, what we are certain is the one infallible truth today will be shown to be in some ways less than perfect if we do allow reason and evidence to influence us. I have long maintained that the most fundamental political divide in America (and the world) isn’t between any of the conflicting substantive positions we hold, but rather between those who are absolutely certain of a dogmatic ideology in a world that they insist is really quite simple, and those who are committed to using their minds to the best of their ability to address the challenges of life in a world subtler and more complex than our understandings in any given moment.

For this reason, fundamentalist Christians and Muslims are more similar than different, and play a more similar than different role in the world; and Marxists and Libertarians are, in the same way, more similar than different, and play a more similar than different role in the world, despite the substantive diametrical opposition of their respective positions.

I accept, as a fundamental tenet of reason, that I may be mistaken about any substantive position, that evidence and reason must be given primacy over what I think I know, that I must submit to a discipline that goes beyond simply rationalizing my current certainties and be willing to let go of some and gravitate to others as reason and evidence dictate. The most urgent of all political projects is advocacy of that procedural commitment, that shared humility and shared commitment to reason.

Believe what you will, but believe it with the recognition that we exist in a world of conflicting views that are not neatly divided into those that are absolutely and infallibly correct (the ones oneself holds) and those that are absolutely and invariably wrong (the ones that others hold). The more people who take THAT step, the better off we will be.

Lawrence Depenbusch: ‎”I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic. People know this and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me” ~Dave Barry >> reminds me of Steve.

Steve Harvey: Lawrence, “general and few” is a vague phrase. How about “we ought to do the analysis, mobilizing all of the tools and information and reason at our disposal, to determine how much and in what ways to utilize government to optimal advantage, and minimal harm”? Real governance, real policy determinations, are information intensive endeavors, involving huge amounts of phenomena to be taken into account, and require an attention to details.

For instance, markets are easily gamed, at extraordinary and sometimes catastrophic public expense, by central players with unique access to sophisticated information, unless the public implements mechanisms to police those markets and prevent that gaming of them. That is a necessary government function in modern capitalist economies, the failure of which to perform is heavily implicated in every major economic crisis of the last century. But that demand is not captured by an absolute ideological commitment to “less” government.

Buddy complains that I misinterpret when I argue as if you are advocating for no government, but I do not misinterpret; rather, I follow the logical implications of your position. Unless you are arguing for a balance of government powers and their absence, then you are implicitly arguing for no government. And if you are arguing for a balance of government powers and their absence, then you need to recognize that we are faced with the challenge of determining what precisely that balance should entail.

The argument that that has already been determined by the Constitution is both false and a mere appeal to authority rather than an argument on point. It’s false, because, for instance, Art I, Section 8, clause 1 of the Constitution states that Congress has the power to tax and spend in the general welfare. It is up to us to elect members of Congress who do that in ways with which we agree, which means that the Constitution ultimately does not tell us what balance is to be struck between governmental functions and their absence. It’s an appeal to authority because the Constitution, while a brilliant document, is not infallible, and we are still responsible for governing ourselves, and considering when and how we might best serve that function by amending the Constitution when appropriate.

And, thank you once again, Buddy, for your valuable literary criicism. I consider this a debate about our self-governance, but if you feel the need to try to talk about something else, I understand completely.

Steve Harvey: Lawrence, let’s suspend the urgent issue of who and what we are or aren’t as individuals, and focus instead on the topics of debate. Respond to my advocacy that we all strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, recognizing our own fallibility, and acknowledging the irrationality of assuming that everything we believe is, since we believe it, the one absolute truth, while everything our opponents believe, since we do not believe it, is absolutely wrong. I would be happy for every other argument I’ve made to be disregarded, if this one compelling point be addressed.

Don’t you think we would serve ourselves better by saying, “okay, you have your position, and we have ours. Let’s back up here a second, look for merit in the opposing view, acknowledge that none of us has a monopoly on absolute truth, and work together as reasonable people of goodwill to arrive at common understandings and civil compromises as we engage in this difficult task of self-governance”? Or do you think that a mere war of conflicting fanaticisms is the height of wisdom and responsibility?

Buddy Shipley: What Lawrence said! Steve: re-read each one of those quotes and try to grasp at least a fragment of their author’s insight. For all your attempts at intellectualizing political ideologies you utterly fail to acknowledge the wisdom of the …ages stated so eloquently by the people who made that history. Instead of learning from the best of them you advocate expanding the worst of them! Above, Steve stated, “The state is our vehicle of collective action, our public agent, and free people using mechanisms by which they, in effect, ARE the state…” blah blah blah — BULLSHIT. He implies the state is our ONLY vehicle of “collective action.” WRONG! Our ‘state’ was established with the express purpose of protecting our Rights to Life, Liberty and Property, to set free each individual to pursue their own happiness, their own dreams, to allow each to live his life as he pleases — WITHOUT government intervention and impediments to those pursuits. To these ends our ‘state’ — the federal government — was granted LIMITED powers to exercise LIMITED authority over a very finite set of issues, all primarily concerned with protecting the aforementioned individual Rights. In this country the state is NOT all-powerful, its scope of power was purposely restricted to avoid the bloodshed, destruction and ultimate collapse of governments past. To be clear, the majority of power was specifically granted to the individual States and to the individuals in each State, NOT to the central government, as Steve seems to believe. Steve seems to be denying the right or ability of people to freely assemble and create organizations such as churches, clubs, companies, volunteer groups, non-profits, etc to take collective action that benefits them and others. As I’ve said before: Government is NOT a charity, and spending other people’s money is NOT philanthropy! Government mandated “contributions” are tantamount to theft; taken from each according to his ability, redistributed to each according to his need — as determined by government bureaucrats. Karl Marx would be proud! If you want to pursue any certain “social agenda,” I suggest you start your own charity for that express purpose. Do not assume it is any part of the role of government, or that your social agenda is the same as mine. The rights of the individual extend only until they infringe on the rights of others; your pursuits cannot impede, impair or steal from those of others. “What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.” (AKA: Theft). Moochers, looters, thugs and parasites, otherwise known as Liberals/Progressives/Demo​crats and labor unions, have no problem with that. The rest of us object.

Lawrence Depenbusch: ‎”Change is not a destination, just as hope is not a strategy” -Guiliiani- 9-3-08 (Busting the vague slogans of the Left)

Steve Harvey: Once again, are you willing to agree that we should all strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, working together to do the best we can in a complex and subtle world, or do you insist that there is only one absolute truth, and it is the …one that you hold to be true? Are you more committed to perpetuating our world history of endless religious and ideological wars, or are you more committed to seeking the common ground of proven procedures and disciplines?

Steve Harvey: What marks real progress is a growing commitment to such procedural discipline. The growth of scientific methodology revolutionized our understanding of nature, vastly increasing the signal-to-noise ratio in our contemplations of the phenomena that encompass and comprise us. The Constitution is a document establishing a procedural framework, the rule of law, through which we can settle our political and legal disputes in an orderly and rational way. Legal procedure has developed from “trials by ordeal” to a highly rational (if still imperfect) process, by which arguments are made and conclusions and resoutions arrived at.

Our political system is a procedure for deciding among relatively arbitrary ideological positions, but we can improve on that by all committing to procedures which make those competing positions less arbitrary, and narrow the contest more to those positions which fall within the parameters suggested by evidence and reason. Strings of bumper-sticker slogans do not define such a process; empirical, logical, analytical argumentation does.

Steve Harvey: Lawrence, I agree, we should not govern ourselves with slogans. So “busting the vague slogans of the left” with a pithy slogan from the right is not a solution to that deficiency, but rather a continued participation in it. We need governance not by competing bumper-sticker wisdom, by by competing arguments. That’s what I advocate.

Lawrence Depenbusch: In all labor there is profit, But mere talk leads only to poverty. ~Proverbs 14:23

Steve Harvey: More slogans. Do we agree, or don’t we, that we should all strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, humble enough to know that what we think we know may in any given instance be mistaken, and that the views of those who oppose us may in any given isntance be correct, and that we need to allow a vibrant public discourse, as disciplined by reason and evidence as possible, to sort that out? Do we agree, or don’t we?

Lawrence Depenbusch: ‎”A witty saying proves nothing.” ~Voltaire – and I say bye

Steve Harvey: I’ve asked this simple question repeatedly now, here and on other threads. I’ve received before flat out rejections of the notion (because, as Buddy once said, “liberals are neither reasonable nor have goodwill, so fuck you!”). This is what… defines the real divide, with dogmatists from across the political spectrum on one side, and people trying to engage in rational thought and discourse on the other. Which side do you want to be on in that struggle?

Steve Harvey: So, are we to be reasonable people of goodwill doing the best we can, with some modicum of humility, or are we Crusaders and Jihadists, Belsheviks and Tribalists, knowing that our own One Absolute Truth is the only Absolute Truth, and that …all who disagree with us are simply wrong, because they disagree with us? What’s it to be, the battle of Organized Ignorance against Reason and Goodwill, or an agreement to all strive to contain our disagreements within the parameters of reason and goodwill?

Steve Harvey: So, Lawrence, your fortress against Reason and Goodwill is impenetrable after all. What a surprise!

Steve Harvey: Funny, Lawrence, that after relying solely on a long string of witty sayings, you end with the witty saying that a witty saying proves nothing, in an argument against someone not relying on witty sayings at all, but rather complete empirical arguments. It’s disappointing that I’m the only one here who can appreciate the irony.

Lawrence Depenbusch: Steve thinks using more vague terms in longer sentences brings more clarity? Steve thinks only his witty sayings prove anything? Self-Love 101

Steve Harvey: Once again, Lawrence, I ask you: Do you want to strive to be a reasonable person of goodwill, engaged in a debate encouraging other people to strive to be the same, or do you want to insist that the purpose of this debate is to prove what a… terrible person I am? What matters more: Who and what I am, or the issues we are discussing? What is more on-point, and what better serves our public discourse, focusing on me, who you don’t like, or arguing on the debate we are having, in which two citizens of this country are presenting conflicting positions and hopefully both growing as a result?

Buddy Shipley: Reality Check: From the outset our governments were small, their duties few, their powers fewer, and they imposed a very small tax burden on the People. All of this is no longer true, and witness the result of runaway government: Deficit spending $1.42 for every ONE DOLLAR of tax collected! Annual Deficit spending is projected at $1.4 TRILLION! … JUST THIS YEAR ALONE — next year it will be higher. National Debt is now over $14.3 Trillion dollars! … That’s over 91% of GDP, which is NO ONE claims is sustainable. … The entire U.S. GDP is $14.6 Trillion, with no growth in sight. Service on the National Debt is $400 BILLION — EVERY YEAR! Liberals/Progressives/Demo​crats want to Borrow, Tax and Spend even more. Living within ones’ means is not “raging blind ideology” — it is only reasonable, prudent, wise and the fiscally responsible thing to do. To insist on doing otherwise is reckless and criminal, which sums up everything advocated by Liberals/Progressives/Demo​crats

Steve Harvey: Here’s my theory: This debate, and all like it, quickly become very personal, and as far removed from the substance of the debate as possible, because that is the only way to insulate your ideology from any information that challenges it. You simply ignore the FACT that all prosperous modern nations have the political economic structure (a large administrative apparatus) that you are condemning as unworkable.

You simply ignore the well-argued position that your ideology is a direct descendent of the ideology that has been on the morally, economically, and politically losing side of our national history since its inception, first championing The Articles of Confederation against The Constitution, then championing secession against the abolition of slavery, then championing Jim Crow over Civil Rights, and now championing a hamstrung government prevented from being used as our public agent to address the challenges which continue to face us as a people.

You ignore the economic arguments that you find inconvenient (while I do not; I grapple with them in order to continue to refine and challenge my own positions), the center of gravity of the entire discipline of economics (which is dominated by analyses which do not jive well with your ideology), and the realities of such things as “transaction costs,” which imply a larger role for government than you acknowledge (as demonstrated by 2009 Economic Nobel Prize winners Oliver Williamson and Elinor Ostrom, in their separate analyses on the role of extra-market institutional forms in the maximization of market efficiency).

You ignore the actual Constitution, which enumerates Congress’s power to tax and spend in the General Welfare, while errneously insisting that the Constitution unambiguously and unequivocally supports every article of faith you hold to be true. In fact, “ignoring” seems to be the basis of how you preserve and defend your position, engaging in the verb whose noun best describes your ideology and your attitude.

Buddy Shipley: NO Steve! Your premise is wrong from the start!

Steve Harvey: Reality check: No one is arguing against the need to address our balance sheet. Meeting that challenge, every reasonable person knows, requires both a decrease in spending and an increase in revenues. There are blind ideolgues on the left who resist the former, and blind ideologues on the right who resist the latter. Reasonable people seek real solutions.

As an economic matter, it is a non-linear proposition, so that some of the best solutions are counterintuitive: There are ways in which current investment is the best way to reduce future debt, and an economically and fiscally intelligent policy is not the one that uses your sledge-hammer understanding of the challenges involved. Furthermore, our debt has consistently grown more rapidly under Republican than Democratic administrations over the course of the last 30 years, with only the exception of Obama’s response to an economic crisis catalyzed by right-wing deregulationary fervor and a commitment to siphoning wealth upward into ever fewer hands.

Steve Harvey: But let’s get back to the real question: Regardless of which of us is right or wrong on these substantive issues, can we all agree to strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, exercising enough humility to acknowledge that any of us may be right or wrong on any given issue, and that we should try to build that recognition into our discourse and into our political process?

Buddy Shipley: You assume that because we condemn what the states have become that we are also condemning what they once were, but we don’t!

Buddy Shipley: I do not have time to prattle back and forth with you — some of us have to go earn a living/

Buddy Shipley: But Steve! LIBERALS never admit losing an argument, when they sense they are losing on any given point they just change the topic to a straw man or red herring and declare victory!

Steve Harvey: So, Buddy, you can’t admit to the possibility that you might be wrong about anything? I will: I might be wrong, on any position that I have argued. I hold every substantive position tentatively, submitting it to the continued lathe of evide…nce and reason. Can you meet me there, agreeing that none of us is omniscient, that our conflicting positions require an ability to recognize that no one of us or one faction of us has a monopoly on all truth? Why are you so resistent to this notion?

Buddy Shipley: Of course I can! Why just the other day I thought I was wrong, but then I realized I was mistaken.

Steve Harvey: First of all, I’m only “losing” this argument in the minds of people too deluded to acknowledge any of the evidence or argumentation that has been put into play. Secondly, arguing against ideological dogmatism and inflexible false certainty is not “a red herring,” but the most essential of all issues on the table. It forever astounds me that your entire ideological camp so consistently tap dances around the obvious: You represent (along with some counterparts on the Left) the historical norm of blind ideology and religious fanaticism. That is the core truth that you are so thoroughly insulated against that you can’t answer the question: Will you commit to striving to be reasonable people of goodwill engaged in a public discourse in which we have yet to determine where absolute truth lies?

You can’t make that pledge, just as Christian Fundamentalists, and Islamic Fundamentalists, and Bolsheviks, and Nazis, and Khmer Rouge, and all other militant fanatical ideologues throughout history are unable to make it. Because you represent and fight for the opposite of reason and goodwill.

Buddy Shipley: We are witnessing the collapse of socialist economies all over Europe, and the unelected powers-that-be expect the remaining Eurozone countries to save the others. This, too, is unsustainable. As Margaret Thatcher said, “The trouble with So…cialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” But Liberals/Progressives never learn from these mistakes, they just change their label and argue a different issue, and keep repeating the same failed behavior expecting different results. They are insane. And some of us must work… fin

Steve Harvey: You see? You have repeated a falsehood that I pointed out in one of our recent discussions, to shore up a position that is not supported by the evidence. We are NOT witnessing the collapse of “socialist” economies all over Europe. The German economy, which is far more socialist than ours, has outperformed ours for decades, was less affected by the recent economic crisis than ours, recovered from that crisis sooner, and is not facing any of the credit issues that Greece and Ireland and some others are.

What we learn from those countries that are in crisis is that what they specifically did must be avoided, not that all members of some overbroad category in which you place them is discredited by their failures. Again, meat eaters and mammals; not the same thing.

Buddy Shipley: Only seems wrong to Marxist polyps like you, Steve.

Buddy Shipley: Ask Big Government Spenders, How much government is enough? Or better yet, how much can we afford? Clearly we cannot afford the bloated over-reaching behemoth we now have. Clearly this is not what the framers intended, else they would have… created most of it at the outset. And WHY do those who favor big government and bigger spending steadfastly REFUSE to acknowledge their failures, and why do they insanely insist on repeating the same behavior expecting different results? Environmental Protection Agency: $10.5 Billion The EPA may have served a positive role when first established, but no more. It’s become an apparatchik of the Marxists in DC and it continues to grow like a metastatic cancer. The EPA and the Dept of Energy, along with the current administration, are a clear and present danger to our nations. SHUT THESE SOBs DOWN IMMEDIATELY. Energy Department: $26 Billion The U.S. Dept of Energy has utterly completely failed to attain its 1977 prime directive of U.S. energy independence and should have been terminated decades ago. Instead of euthanizing this diseased sow, DoE’s budget has grown to more than $26 BILLION this year. Instead of pursuing their mission, the fools at DoE are pursuing investigations and filing lawsuits against American businesses! PULL THE PLUG ALREADY! Education Department: $71 Billion, plus ARRA: $23 Billion (and more?) The U.S. Dept of Education is an insatiable and dismal failure. Throwing more money down this rat hole will not do anything to improve education; gutting this bloated pig and returning those tax revenues to the states will keep more money closer to the students where it belongs. There is NO justification whatsoever for a federal Department of Edumacation, Constitutionally or otherwise, and again it is a malignant out of control bureaucracy that defeats its own reason for existing. Fannie/Freddie Bailout cost taxpayers $7 Billion per month (Already totaling $1 Trillion ~ $1.4 Trillion) Their liabilities alone could increase the national debt by $7 Trillion. The GSEs, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac must be shut down and everyone involved investigated and the corrupt indicted and imprisoned, along with the politicians guilty of passing legislation such as the CRA and compelling banks to make bad loans to unqualified borrowers (ie, “sub-prime” borrowers). Instead of blaming lenders for making risky loans resulting in the mortgage meltdown, blame the politicians that compelled them to make such loans; one of those misguided pieces of legislation is euphemistically called the “Community Reinvestment Act” (CRA), starting with Public Enemy #1: Barney Frank and gang. ALL of these government departments and agencies have FAILED HORRIBLY and have been contributing to the demise of our country for decades! WHY keep raping taxpayers to fund them?? Then there’s the oppressive and abusive IRS that enforces the raping… Internal Revenue Service: $13 Billion Eliminate the IRS and save $13 Billion immediately*! Americans spend over 6 Billion hours and billions of dollars yearly struggling to comply with the tax code. If we eliminated the U.S. Tax Code or at least simplified it and made it less onerous we could eliminate the IRS, immediately saving taxpayers $13 Billion, plus do away with the costs shouldered by individuals, families and businesses to pay for tax accountants and lawyers, which are totally unproductive and a waste of everyone’s resources. It would also reduce (or eliminate) tax evasion thereby increasing revenues as it increases peace of mind and insures domestic tranquility… Tax forms could be reduced to a 3″x5″ card and tax collections could be outsourced to several Temp Services – or maybe even the US Postal Service (they need the work!). *The IRS Oversight Board recommended $12.914 billion for 2011, an increase of $767.7 Million over the FY2010 budget of $12.146 Billion. This recommendation is $280.6 Million above the President’s FY2011 request of $12.633 Billion for the IRS. The Board’s recommended budget is 2.2 percent higher than the President’s request. I think these numbers are modest, and by no means do these few items address ALL the government’s insanely expensive, reckless and feckless failures. Not even the proposed $500 Billion in federal budget cuts will solve our fiscal problems, yet Democrats laugh and scoff at the mere suggestion of it – these bastards must be held accountable, indicted, impeached, dragged out of their offices in cuffs, publicly tried, convicted and imprisoned or better yet, sent to Gitmo for use as waterboard practice dummies.

Steve Harvey: It’s mind-boggling the extent to which you carefully avoid making any actual argument, or getting paste the absolute equation of “government engagement” and “socialism.” as if there are no degrees or differentiations to be found within everything you are able to stuff into that word you depend so completely upon.

Garrett Whitehorn: All of you, please! Ad hominem attacks have no place in a battle of reason! If this was in response to a status of mine, I’d have deleted a lot of these comments for that very reason. I’m especially disappointed in you libertarians/conservatives​ … you’re supposed to be better than that.

Steve Harvey: You know, Buddy, in reality, I’m exactly as opposed to Marxism as I am to your ideology, for exactly the same reasons: It is logically and empircally and politically and economically untenable. I am strong believer in the robustness of mark…ets, and in the dangers of not recognizing the salience of individual incentives or the importance of emphasizing personal responsibility. But you are so lost in oversimplifications and overgeneralizations and mischaracterizations, unable to distinguish between green and orange because both have a bit of yellow in them, that such distinctions are defined out of existence, and the ideology built on that contraction reflects the loss.

Steve Harvey: Here’s something I just wrote to a friend, joking with me about how I am “WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG” (to which I replied, “you forgot to call me ‘asshole’!”), which bears repeating: “here’s some irony for you: I actually assume that I AM w…rong, to some degree or another, on almost every substantive position I hold, because the truth is almost always subtler than our representations of it. To me, this more than anything else is the distinguishing characteristic in the debate you are referring to, and others like it.”

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There are many possible ideologies regarding the relationship of the individual to society (see for instance, Individual & Society: Conformity v. Accommodation, and the essays linked to therein, for discussions of this relationship). Among them are the notions that the individual exists independently of the society, and the society is a mere vehicle in service to the individual (what we’ll call “individualism”), and the notion that individuals have no identity other than their identity as members of a discrete and exclusive society, with members and non-members sharply distinguished (what we’ll call “nationalism”). At a glance, one might imagine these two ideologies to be mutually incompatible, and that would be good, since both are brutally deficient, each in its own way, particularly in their more extreme forms (i.e., when individualism is so extreme that equity and fairness cease to be valued within the society, and when nationalism is so extreme that compassion and humanity cease to be valued without). But, remarkably enough, it is possible for them to coexist within a single ideological package, a package which manages to combine the worst of both worlds. First, let’s examine the worst of each world.

Though revisionists abound, the characteristic that marks the Nazi movement of 1930s Germany as a movement to be reviled for all time was its ultra-nationalism, which blossomed into racism and genocide. “Ultra-nationalism” is not the same as “collectivism” or “socialism,” but is rather a sharp distinction being drawn between those identified as members of the nation, and those identified as foreigners. Ultra-nationalism is ugly enough when “foreigners” are identified as those residents of other nations, regarded as of less importance or value than the residents of one’s own nation, leading to aggressions such as “lebensraum,” Hitler’s policy of expanding into Eastern Europe in service to German “superiority.” But it is particularly ugly when directed against those identified as “the foreigner within,” authoring domestic policies of rounding people up, throwing them into detention centers, and removing them in one way or another, that should revolt all decent human beings. (I will return to this in more detail in an up-coming post, and to the speeches and testimonies at the Familias Unidas event yesterday, on June 25, at Bruce Randolph School in Northeast Denver).

America has long flirted with its own version of Ultra-Nationalism. “Patriotism,” which is almost universally lauded in America as a virtuous affection and respect for one’s nation, is a relatively benign form of nationalism, but the line between it and nationalism’s more malignant incarnations is fuzzy and frequently crossed. Not surprisingly, many of those most ostentatious in their demonstrations of patriotism are also most inclined to indulge a demeaning and even belligerent attitude toward foreigners, more often implicit than explicit, but erupting into the latter at the slightest provocation.

Ironically, those Americans who are most strident about the evils of a government used as an active agent of public will tend to be blithely indifferent -or, more, subscribers- to the ultranationalism laced through the American psyche. They are not opposed to our government kidnapping foreign citizens off of foreign streets, holding them indefinitely, sometimes in secret installations, and either torturing them or rendering them to other governments to be tortured, all on wisps of frequently manufactured evidence that wouldn’t even rise to the level of “probable cause” in America (a policy in place throughout the Bush administration, as part of our “war on terror”).

Nor are they in any way outraged by the fact that their own government rounds up people from their homes and jobs in America and places them in detention centers, marking them for removal from the country, people who go to church and commit no crimes and contribute to the economy, mothers and fathers and respected and beloved members of our communities. They support this policy, indeed, demand that it be ramped up manifold, because they define some as members of the nation, and some as foreigners living among us, and by virtue of this definition feel no debt of decency, no recognition of de facto membership in our society, no compassion for the children left fatherless or motherless or the communities left with holes in them, no unease at the brutality or inhumanity of it….

I already wrote of the limited but still horrifying similarities between our current attitudes and policies toward undocumented residents of our nation and that infamous previous chapter of human history in which a population within the nation defined as “foreign” was rounded up and marked for removal (see Godwin’s Law Notwithstanding). And I have discussed the observation that one of the most fundamental distinguishing frames between the right and left in America today is the frame of “in-groups and out-groups” versus the frame of inclusiveness (see Inclusivity & Exclusivity), part of a larger defining distinction regarding the perceived relationship of the individual and society (see. e.g., Individual & Society: Conformity v. Accommodation, Liberty & Society, Liberty & Interdependence).

But American conservatism is built on another pillar as well, one which should be antithetical to ultranationalism, but is somehow amalgamated with it into the worst of all worlds. That second pillar is “extreme individualism,” the belief that the state (i.e., federal government) can never be used as an agent of the polity, serving the interests of the citizens of the nation and of humanity in general. By means of this combination, our government is prohibited from performing any positive or life-affirming function, either for its own members of for others (declaring the former to be an infringement on individual liberty, and the latter to be irrelevant), but is charged with acting aggressively against certain categories of outgroup members (e.g., non-citizens, suspected criminals, etc.), or refusing to protect other categories of outgroup members (e.g., gays, the poor, etc.), in service to a narrowly conceived and largely erroneous national interest divorced from any sense of humanity either to its own citizenry or to “foreigners.”

This marriage of extreme individualism and ultra-nationalism is perhaps the most inhumane and predatory ideological concoction imaginable. It informs an attitude which, on the one hand, preserves unlimited social injustice by simply defining it out of existence and, on the other, promotes unlimited belligerence toward all those defined as non-members of the nation (whether they reside within the national boundaries, or beyond them). It preserves the implicit racism of disregarding the legacies of a racist history, using a perverse definition of “liberty” to prohibit addressing those legacies of racism. It sets America up as a fortress from which we can exercise our military and political power in whatever ways we choose, tempered only by our own interests (and not by any concern for humanity). And, perhaps most unsettling of all, it rationalizes (and clamors for an increase in) domestic policies that bear an uncanny resemblance to Gestapo agents rounding up Jews and Gypsies during the Holocaust.

As Pastor Martin Niemöller famously wrote:

First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

It is particularly telling that, despite the current right-wing revisionism that defines fascism as a left-wing movement, this famous quote, if only you replace “Jews” with “Hispanics,” perfectly describes right-wing America’s current and traditional out-group targets.

The extreme individualism rationalizes the preservation of existing inequalities and injustices, identifying them as something that we cannot address as a nation, because to use our agent of collective action (i.e., our government) to do so would supposedly infringe on the individual liberties of those who are at least tolerably untouched by those current inequalities and injustices. But the ultra-nationalism adds to passive indifference to injustice and suffering an active aggression in service to in-group members and antagonistic to out-group members, permitting limitless crimes against humanity, as long as the humanity against whom the crimes are being committed are not members of their in-group.

The history of Americans using the concept of “liberty” to justify exploitation and oppression is an old and well established one. The famous antebellum southern statesman John C. Calhoun, in his tome Liberty and Union, perversely argued that the “liberty” of southern slave owners to own slaves could only be preserved by protecting the “minority” (i.e., southern states) against the majority (i.e., northern states). The “states’ rights” doctrine was born and thrived as a preservation of slavery doctrine, and I have seen comments by some modern Tea Partiers that continue in precisely that same vein (one insisting that the Union prosecution of The Civil War was a crime against the southern states) .

This tradition continued after The Civil War and emancipation, in the form of Jim Crow. Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, many racist southerners saw the attempt to impose civil rights protections on southern states as an infringement on their liberties. Rand Paul, a Tea Party icon, voiced his own reservations about The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which he admitted he would not have been able to support at the time. After all, his brand of “freedom” means the freedom to deprive others of theirs, or the right to deprive others of their rights. This is the true meaning of Tea Party individual liberty, an old and discredited concept that has a long and sordid history in this country.

It is a movement which dismisses and continues to trample upon those already trampled upon by our history, and which justifies dismissing and trampling upon those that are not defined as a part of our history. And it is a movement that we as a people must confront and challenge and extricate from our national politics and our national psyche with all of the force of reason and human decency we are capable of mustering, because we are sliding deeper and deeper into a national identity that will condemn us to being reviled and disdained by future generations around the world, as one of the examples of a nation that came to embody belligerence and irrationality and inhumanity.

This is not who and what we are. This is not who and what we should choose to be.

(See A Frustrated Rant On A Right-Wing Facebook Thread for a reaction to the aspects of this ideology which facilitate the accelerating concentration of wealth and opportunity in America.)

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Perhaps the best place to start a post titled “musings” is to muse about musing itself. Musing is something inspired by the muses, all nine of them, who were represented as a Black gospel choir in Disney’s “Hercules,” perhaps subtly referencing the “Black Athena” theory about the racial influences on ancient Greek culture. But muses are everywhere, or so it would seem, with their music whose charms soothe the savage breast, and musak whose insipidness aggravates if not riles that same breast into greater savagery; and in their houses (“museums”), where they have traditionally been more dead than alive, but always beautifully so.

Musings are underrated, and underpracticed. Less and less time is spent by more and more people staring into space and letting minds drift. Less and less time is spent by more and more people writing about doing so. More and more people consider that a coup, while I consider it a rout, a rout of the human spirit.

I spent so much of my childhood and youth inside my own head, sometimes uncomfortably, sometimes in loneliness, but always fruitfully. There is a balance to be struck, and forming healthy bonds with our fellow human beings is both precious and critical to our mental and social health, but with cell phones keeping us ever-connected to those we love and like (and work for or with or employ), and the rest of our information technologies keeping us ever connected with the echo-chambers of our preference, the balance is generally lost in favor of too much constant connection and distracting noise protecting us from the challenge posed by confronting ourselves and all that the solitude of our own minds is a portal onto.

We increasingly amuse ourselves all too literally, if we take the prefix “a-” to mean the negation of what follows. For our amusements all too often silent our inner muses more than give them voice, drown them out with the noise of mindless entertainments rather than allow them to whisper to us from the depths of our consciousness. It’s time to learn to re-muse ourselves, to pro-muse ourselves, to discover the music of shared stories and quiet contemplations.

“The Iron Cage of Rationality” that (early 20th century German Sociologist) Max Weber once talked of has become a digital cage stupification. And, just as in the original formulation, it is not that these information technologies are not a set of wonderful tools capable of contributing mightily to the liberation of the human spirit, but rather that too many of us too often fail to use them for that purpose, and instead simply surrender to their own logic as it articulates itself with our own thanatos.

My friend Doctor Mark Foster likes to talk about the history of anti-psychotic medications, how they were initially considered to be “chemical lobotomies,” less brutal and more civilized than surgical lobotomies, but for essentially the same purpose. He, too, identifies the way in which the relentless juggernauts of scientism and capitalism have been the engine for this blind tumble into reduced humanity motivated by the desire for reduced chaos. It is not that these tools can not be put to good and judicious use, but rather that that requires more consciousness, more musing, on our part. The trick is to use our tools in service to our spirit, rather than to lose our spirit in servitude to our tools.

As is often said, there is a thin line between insanity and genius, and, in the same vein, there is a thin line between mental unhealth and the creativity of our individuality. Max Weber, who I mentioned above, suffered from debilitating depression all his life, and yet produced the most wonderful works of intellectual exploration. Mozart drove himself to an early grave with his obsessive commitment to perfect what turned out to be his final composition. If we completely tame the beast of our varying degrees of insanity, chemically lobotomizing those who suffer its ravages, we also kill some part of our individual and collective genius, to our collective detriment.

Part of what drives us to tame that beast is an intolerance of individuality. Despite our ideological declarations to the contrary, Americans (ironically, particularly those who are most ideologically individualistic) have not truly mastered the art of tolerance. We continue to demand conformity, in multiple ways and in multiple venues. “Professionalism,” for instance, has come to mean not saying or doing anything that makes you appear too unique and human in ways that are not perfectly compatible with the generic image that has become the ideal of that profession. The consequence is that those who succeed most, who rise to the positions of most prominence and influence, do so more by conforming than by challenging our assumptions. And yet, it is only by challenging our assumptions that we grow wiser, both as individuals and as a society.

This is not an either/or argument: There is some need to rein in human individualism so that we each are articulating with others in an ever-evolving collective enterprise. But the creativity and robustness of that enterprise benefits from maximizing and encouraging individuality to the extent that it does not actually interfere with our ability to work together effectively. In other words, there is a balance to be struck, and there will always be debate concerning what the optimal balance is.

One of the ways to serve our continuing search for that optimal balance, of balancing the personal and socially damaging effects of what falls along some spectrum of what we identify as personality defects and social ineptitudes and mental illnesses, against their potential benefits to both society and the individual when more easily accepted and more affirmatively incorporated into the recognized range of variation of who and what we are, is to continue to muse.

So let’s put down our cell phones from time to time, and look beyond the gossip of the day, and even the urgent personal and political struggles that we find ourselves in. Let’s remember to find time to muse about this wonderful world of ours, this vibrant social reality so full of potential, this gorgeous living planet which gave it birth, allowing our minds to wander and contemplate and discover and grow. Let’s muse our way to greater wisdom, to greater tolerance, to greater compassion, to greater mental health accompanied by greater acceptance of individuality. Let us recover our primordial recognition of what a truly amusing world this is, and how much more so it can continue to become for so many more people, if we allow our minds to wonder to places they might not have been before, and then follow them there with our actions and efforts.

(The following essay is in large part drawn from and inspired by conversations I have had recently with my friend Dr. Mark Foster on these subjects. The opinions expressed, however, are my own. You can find Mark’s blog, “Healthy Living in Colorado,” at http://markfosterdo.blogspot.com/.)

I’ve previously discussed various aspects of the creative tension between the individual and the society, how it implies a more subtle and complex conceptualization of “liberty” than is currently in vogue, and how it reaches to the heart of how we define ourselves as individuals and how we organize ourselves as societies. These essays most explicitly include Liberty & InterdependenceLiberty & SocietyRights v. Security, Freedom & CoherenceInclusivity & Exclusivity, E Pluribus Unum, The Meaning of “Representation”, Free Will, Determinism, Quantum Mechanics, & Personal & Social Responsibility, Social Coherence and DisintegrationCollective Action (and Time Horizon) Problems, The Genius of the Many, and The Inherent Contradiction of Extreme Individualism, to name a few, but really include most of the essays on Colorado Confluence to some degree or another, because the creative tension between the individual and the society is at the heart of so many issues, on so many levels, through so many disciplines.

One aspect of this creative tension involves a set of interrelated issues on both the individual and social levels, touching upon our notions of mental illness, deviance, human variation, professionalism, and tolerance or accommodation, and how all of these things integrate into our social systemic reality.

Mental Health has traditionally been conceptualized as a duality: Those that are mentally ill, and those that are not. Some things that used to be considered mental illnesses (such as homosexuality, until 1974 according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association) no longer are, but it involved the moving of an item from one category to another, not a reconceptualization of the categories themselves. I addressed this somewhat in Sound Mind, Sound Body, Sound Society; Sound Good?

The similar duality involving deviance v. social conformity has experienced some parallel developments. It could be argued that homosexuality, removed from the rolls of mental illnesses in the 1970s, has remained until recently, in many or most minds, within the broader category of “social deviance” (and remains there in the minds of too many). At both the individual level of what we define as “mentally ill,” and at the societal level of what we define as “socially deviant,” we are addressing the issue of where we draw the line between that degree of deviation from the norm that is tolerable, and that degree which exceeds the limits of our tolerance.

To be fair, it is not a one-sided affair, merely a matter of how much diversity society will tolerate, but also a matter of how much deviation from the norm is functionally possible. A person must be able to integrate him- or herself into a society to a degree adequate to thrive within it. A person who deviates from the norm in a way which makes engaging in any productive contribution impossible, for instance, regardless of how accommodating the society strives to be (such as, for instance, by simply refusing to work under any and all conditions), will have a hard time paying the bills. (On the other hand, someone who disengages equally in terms of contribution and in terms of benefits is more easily tolerated.)

Generally, a deviation which involves drawing upon our collective production of wealth and welfare without contributing anything to it is deemed to be parasitic. It makes sense, on some level, not to tolerate such deviance, even if we might want to look beyond it and figure out what is motivating it and what might be done to address it. At that point, considering it either a mental health issue, or a character flaw, and how to encourage or facilitate a change of heart, becomes a functional necessity.

More emphatically, we clearly don’t and can’t tolerate forms of deviance that involve acts of violence or predation against others. This is an important point, because I believe that one of the reasons for relatively low tolerance of less threatening forms of deviance is that they challenge our faith that more threatening forms might not be implicated. For instance, if someone walks toward us acting in extremely odd ways, even if not in any explicit way threatening violence, most of us feel some apprehension that the norms which most of us follow, including those which protect us from one another, are not well enough in evidense to feel secure that they will be adhered to. In other words, when someone is acting oddly in a non-violent way, we generally have raised apprehension that he or she has above-average likelihood of acting oddly in a violent way as well.

But there is a dialectic between, on the one hand, how accommodating and flexible and tolerant a society is, and, on the other, how well that society incorporates and benefits from the true diversity within it. A police state is, by definition, a state in which there is an authoritarian stifling of all officially intolerated deviance, which is usually that deviance which is most threatening to those in power. But it tends to include almost all forms of ordinary minor deviance as well, since authoritarian states tend toward “overcontrol,” considering all variability generally threatening to the status quo from which they benefit.

In America today, those who are the most inclined to support more rather than less stringent enforcement and punishment of laws, and who are least tolerant of human variation (e.g., homosexuality, bilingualism, etc.) are also those who come “wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” Ironically, many who most readily invoke the word “liberty” in America are least tolerant of human variation (i.e., the liberty to deviate from social norms). “Liberty” to them means only the opposite of “collectivism,” which leads to the perverse conclusion that it is better for our social systems to be coopted by powerful individuals and groups than for the polity as a whole to exercise, through its elected agents, some public oversight in the public interest.

In other words, the modern right-wing concept of “liberty” has become co-opted by an authoritarian world view. A true commitment to liberty would involve recognizing the dialectic between the individual and the society, the legitimate demands by society for some degree of conformity or “articulation” by the individual, and the legitimate countervailing force of individuals testing and stretching those limits by deviating from the norm and advocating for a social systemic evolution which ever more organically accommodates such deviations.

There is a dynamic and creative tension between the individual and the society. The society is, and must be, coherent, able to maintain its coherence, to function with the greatest possible efficiency in producing and distributing wealth (and other forms of human welfare), and in doing so in a sustainable manner. But societies benefit from individual initiative and diversity. The division of labor is a more robust creator of wealth than all people doing identical work (e.g., farming). The markets that emerge from a substantial degree of individual liberty in finding one’s niche is more robust than a command economy. But a failure to enforce the laws within which such markets function would result in a disappearance of that robustness; in other words, some centralized conforming forces are necessary and useful. The trick is to figure out how and where to draw the line.

Though we fancy ourselves a society defined by the utmost respect for individual liberty, we may in fact be a more conformity-demanding society than most other developed nations. In any case, we are a more conformity-demanding society than is optimal. This is most apparent in our prevalent standards of “professionalism,” and the impact they have on the vibrancy of our professions.

“Professionalism” has come to mean, to too great an extent, being sufficiently bland and conformist within the professional institutional setting. A doctor who blogs about the over-prescription of drugs in the treatment of mental illnesses may lose his job as a result (as one I know did), or a particularly outstanding teacher who rocks the boat by having too much personality may be driven from the profession, as many are. We are, to some extent, prisoner’s of Max Weber’s “Iron Cage of Rationality,” sterilizing our environment and ourselves in the interests of conformity and the smooth operations that it facilitates.

This does not mean that any and all behaviors should be blithely tolerated, but rather that we need to work at loosening up our social institutional framework, making it flexible enough to accommodate more rather than less human variation, tapping into that variation as a resource whenever and however possible, and demoting it to the status of a self-imposed burden as reluctantly as possible. We have to recognize that our differences, even some of our more dramatic ones, aren’t threats to our collective welfare unless we refuse to accept them and adapt to them, that we don’t have to cure ever deviation from the norm, nor dismiss every person who isn’t enough like every other person.

Liberty requires tolerance. Prosperity requires utilizing rather than ostracizing our diverse human resources. Mental health requires accepting and accommodating our differences more and seeking to eradicate them less.

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Synopsis: Political ideologies do not exist simply on a left-right continuum. To capture the full complexity of political ideological variation, we would need to consider a multidimensional space defined by multiple axes. As a starting point for such a conceptualization, I offer here a two-by-two table defined by one distillation of the left-right dichotomy in terms of substantive beliefs, and a similar distillation of the corresponding dichotomy in form of expression that does not necessarily match the substantive positions.

Cooperatively Expressed Combatively Expressed Cooperative Ideology 1 2 Combative Ideology 3 4

This two-by-two table is, of course, a gross oversimplification, in many ways: The political ideological space is defined by continua rather than simple dichotomies; it is defined by far more than two axes; and there is more nuance and complexity even in these two dichotomies than I am incorporating into them now. But I provide it as a frame of reference to develop and refine. And I want to emphasize that I am using the words “cooperative” and “combative” in broader and more inclusive ways than they are normally used, to incorporate related emotional, attitudinal, and expressive modalities; inclusivity v. exclusivity; and nuances that are not immediately easy to assign to one or the other (e.g., creating a vibrant, competitive market committed to fairness and sustainability is “cooperative” rather than “combative” since it serves everyone’s interests, whereas creating a market rigged or left unregulated in ways that lead to an ever-increasing concentration of wealth and opportunity is “combative” rather than “cooperative” since it is predatory rather than committed to our shared humanity).

Some directly related dichotomies include civility v. belligerence, compassion v. indifference or hatred, strong in-group bias v. tendency toward global humanism, violent v. peaceful, and inclusive v. exclusive (all variations on the same theme). Some more indirectly related dichotomies include rational v. irrational, analytical v. ideological, evolving v. stagnant, predominantly hopeful v. predominantly fearful, and long time horizon v. short time horizon. These dichotomies could define axes in the more elaborate analytical framework alluded to toward the end of this essay.

Though those who identify with the ideology substantively associated with “combative” in this grid are not likely to embrace my characterization of their ideology, keep in mind that I am referring to the ideas and manners of expressing them, rather than to the character of the individuals who serve as vehicles for both. (While there may generally be a strong relationship between individuals’ character, on the one hand, and their ideologies and modes of expression, on the other, they are not always perfectly aligned; what’s in a person’s heart and what underlying emotions motivate them may be very different from both the nature of the ideologies they profess and the nature of their form of expressing them.)

During the many blogosphere discussions on the topic of the postulated (or refuted) possible relationship between, on the one hand, combative political rhetoric and imagery, and, on the other, actual acts of violence (particularly but not exclusively political violence), I found that it’s important to make a distinction between the way we communicate our political ideological convictions, and the substance of those political ideological convictions. In terms of how we communicate our convictions, there is enough vitriol across the spectrum that trying to argue that one side is more guilty than another ends up being more of a distraction than a source of illumination, easily debated and not really very productive.

But when you look at the substance of the political ideologies, you see a clearer distinction: There is a basic competition between, on the one hand, an ideology which almost fetishizes deadly weapons and their use, strongly believes in retributive justice (“revenge”), idolizes the military, vilifies outgroups, and opposes empathy-based social policies; and, on the other hand, an ideology which takes seriously the harm inflicted by deadly weapons, favors restorative justice (prevention, rehabilitation, and compensation for harm done), considers the military the recourse of last resort, recognizes shared humanity with all human beings, and favors proactive policies based on the notion that a society is about lifting one another up rather than knocking one another down. These substantive differences can be understood in many ways, one of which is in terms of a difference in reliance on combative attitudes and combative means.

Now, when you combine this substantive difference with what might be called the expressive similarity among ideologies, you get four basic categories: 1) a cooperative ideology cooperatively expressed; 2) a cooperative ideology combatively expressed; 3) a combative ideology cooperatively expressed, and 4) a combative ideology combatively expressed. I would argue that category 1 is the one to which we should all strive to belong, and category 4 is the one which should cause us all the most concern. (Between categories 2 and 3, frankly, I find category 3 more benign: Gun-loving, militaristic extreme individualists arguing their beliefs without rancor and with a modicum of humility and civility are preferable to dogmatic progressives wantonly spitting venom and bile, the latter group being far more a part of the problem than a part of the solution.)

It’s important also to recognize that the substance and the form either mutually reinforce one another, or are mutually inhibiting to one another. So, a cooperative ideology cooperatively expressed (i.e., expressed without rage and vitriol) is a powerful message, full of credibility and inherently persuasive, while a cooperative ideology angrily expressed loses credibility, and seems to be a false belief in service to a destructive emotional inclination. Similarly, a combative ideology combatively expressed is particularly frightening, boding ill for society and for people caught in the cross-hairs of that substantive belligerence expressed in belligerent terms, whereas a combative ideology argued by people striving to be reasonable people of goodwill holds the promise of eventually yielding to reason and goodwill, of being dominated by the good nature of the people arguing it rather than by the bad nature of the ideology they are persuaded by.

One important caveat to the desirability of aspiring to the ideal of a cooperative ideology cooperatively expressed: a commitment to “civility” (the form of productive discourse) should never trump a commitment to “humanity” (the substance of productive discourse). When the allies invaded the European mainland, for instance, that was very uncivil of them, but also very humane of them, for defeating Nazi Germany was essential to our shared humanity. And there are times when laying bare the irrationality or inhumanity of a position seems impolite, but is essential, in order to create a more powerful narrative that attracts more people.

This model can be refined in various ways. A slightly more elaborate version would be to conceptualize an ideological plane defined by two axes: how substantively combative an ideology is and how combatively it is expressed, representing the dichotomies in this grid as the continua that they in reality are. Further refinement would involve unpackaging what I lump together into “combativeness” here, creating various substantive axes (e.g., “mutual indifference v. mutual support,” “nationalism/tribalism v. humanism,” “retributive v. restorative justice,” “reactive v. proactive,” “collectivism v. individualism,” “dogma v. humility,” etc.). Ultimately, such continuing refinement of this model would involve both broadening the range of independent variables included, and including dependent as well as independent variables (e.g., rates of violent crime, poverty rates, homelessness rates, children’s educational performance, unemployment rates, access to health care and health outcomes, etc.). Such a model would try to explore how changes in independent variables affect changes in dependent variables, using a dynamical systems analysis (the paradigm of which I begin to delineate in the series of posts in the first box on the Catalogue of Selected Posts page).

In some cases, maximizing human welfare requires moving as far as possible along one continuum; in others (such as “collectivism v. individualism”), it involves striking optimal balances in relation to other variables (e.g., economics, morality, social responsibility). But however we conceptualize this political ideological space or these political ideological categories, the challenge remains the same: To continue to strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, both in what we are advocating, and in how we advocate it.

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My arithmetic lesson for the day: extreme individualism + military infatuation + gun infatuation + retributive orientation to justice + unwillingness to invest in proactive social policies to reduce underlying causes = higher rates of violence (among other things). Study hard, kids. There’ll be a test on this in one year and ten months.

Though I had intended not to make any new posts until after I take the Bar in late February, the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona raises an issue that truly does require our attention, and every voice of reason and goodwill in this country needs to urge in unison that we attend to it.

The question is not whether this shooting was influenced by the overheated rhetoric of an implicitly violent right-wing movement currently infesting the United States, but rather whether there is a reasonable concern that the violent rhetoric and imagery of that movement, the ten-fold rise in membership in armed militia movements in this country in recent years, the anger and vitriol spewing forth from radios and social media accounts and one television broadcast network in particular, contribute to an environment conducive to violence and not conducive to civil discourse and rational self-governance. The answer is, clearly, “yes,” and an incident like this one, regardless of what the impetus for it turns out to have been, serves as a wake-up call for all of us.

One thing needs to be made clear about this incident and this conversation: It makes absolutely no difference what the explanation turns out to be for Loughner’s attack. The fact remains that we are a violent society suffering the disease of a (thus far mostly implicitly) violent political movement, and the probable result is an increase in incidents such as this one (as indeed is already in evidence, even independently of this incident). We are a society in which reason and goodwill have been sacrificed to blind fanaticisms, a society in the throes of an angry mania.

It is natural that when a member of the group that those infected with this cognitive virus call every pejorative imaginable gets shot in an act of predictable and predicted violence, the inference will be that it was probably a direct symptom of that implicitly violent political movement. Whether it was or wasn’t doesn’t matter; the probability remains intact. It’s the same as the original assumption that the Oklahoma federal building bombing was committed by Middle Eastern terrorists; the fact that it wasn’t didn’t mean that the danger of attack from Middle Eastern terrorists wasn’t real (and that recognition of that danger led many to make an inference that turned out to be mistaken in the particular, but correct in general). Similarly, in this case, if it turns out that the most probable interpretation is incorrect, that doesn’t change the fact that it was the most probable interpretation, and that the danger and general dysfunctionality it recognizes still exists.

There is nothing wrong with people feeling and arguing passionately in service to their beliefs about what best serves the public interest.  We can all hope that those beliefs will be as informed as possible, as reasonable as possible, as committed to humanity as possible, but whether or not that is always the case, we live in a country that thrives by having a robust marketplace of ideas, and all ideas are fair game. Vigorous debate on matters of public interest and public policy is good and proper; let it ensue. But we must strive to remember that we are all entitled to be participants in that debate, that those who disagree with us are not our enemies just for disagreeing with us, that none of us has a monopoly on the one infallible truth, and that usually others with whom we disagree have something of value embedded somewhere in their perspective. We need to strive to be less certain, and more open to the possibility that we each may be wrong about some things, and that others with whom we disagree may be right. We need to be civil.

But this incident is relevant beyond how we engage in public discourse and debate. It is relevant to the substance of the ideas held and expressed in that debate as well. The Tea Party is not just about the rhetoric and imagery of violence, it is also about an attitude of social disintegration, of extreme individualism, of indifference to the welfare of others, to a dismissal of a sense of mutual responsibility to one another. And, in that way, it contributes not just to violence in service to a political ideology, but is a political ideology in service to violence.

We are interdependent, and our actions have consequences that ripple outward, beyond their immediate vicinity. When our words or actions implicitly or explicitly condone violence, they contribute to the violence that actually occurs. When they try to reinforce mutual goodwill, or reason, or generosity, they contribute to the mutual goodwill, reason, and generosity in the world. There are reverberations, feedback loops, in human systems, amplifying our words and deeds in how they affect others. No one is all of the sudden, after the fact, noticing the potential for inciting violence that this violent imagery and rhetoric carries with it; many have been very aware of it for quite some time. When the predictable and predicted consequences of an attitude and mode of behavior actually result, it makes perfect sense to say, there you go, this is what we’ve been talking about.

In The Evolutionary Ecology of Social Institutions and The Fractal Geometry of Social Change, I described how memes spread through the social institutional landscape, defining and redefining it constantly, and how our own words and actions contribute to that process. This is an example of how that works: People churn the waters with certain ideas and attitudes, and our world is transformed by the cumulative and sometimes mutually reinforcing effects.

Blaming Sarah Palin for this is a distraction, and beside the point. I have no way of knowing and no reason to suspect that Palin’s rhetoric itself, directly and sufficiently, inspired the actions of the shooter. But I do have reason to know that she contributed to an atmosphere conducive to those actions, whether they were relevant in this instance or not. And that is on her; that is her culpability, by contributing to the creation of a hateful and violent cultural context. More importantly, it is the responsibility of all who have participated in that dynamic to step back, take a breath, and recognize that it’s not what we want to be as a people.

We all have a responsibility for doing what we can to increase the roles of reason and goodwill in our world, and decrease the roles of anger, hatred, and irrationality. We all slip up (at least I do), but underneath all of the politics and rallies and fighting for certain policies, what I hope we’re all really struggling for is a kinder, gentler, and wiser world. Few things are more frustrating than the extent to which humanity inflicts suffering on itself. And every unkind word, every attempt to put someone else down, is a drop in the ocean of anger that crests, as it did today in Arizona, in acts of violence. Let’s all strive to do better.

(See A Proposal: The Politics of Reason and Goodwill and The Politics of Reason & Goodwill, simplified for specific ideas about how to do better.)

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Given Douglas County’s move toward school vouchers (http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_16803779), now is a good time to cut through the rhetoric, the ideology, and the assumptions, and examine the idea thoroughly and fairly.

The logic behind school vouchers is that by providing parents with the ability to take the tax revenue allotted to their child(ren) to whatever public or private school they choose, competition for students will ensue, and the quality of education in all schools will improve (or some will simply “go out of business,” to be replaced by those that have a more successful business model, better competing for the revenue that follows students to the schools of their choice). The argument against school vouchers revolves around the notion that they undermine our commitment to public education.

On the plus side, school vouchers empower parents and students to make their own choices regarding what school they feel best serves their educational needs. They incorporate market forces and competitive pressures into our national struggle to improve our abysmally poorly performing public education system. They do not, inherently, reduce the public investment in education, but rather merely contract out for educational services to the private sector.

On the negative side, school voucher programs are likely to create a permanent underclass of the poorest performing students left isolated in the most underfunded schools. They undermine communities most in need of the benefits of strong community solidarity, by creating a vehicle for abandoning what is often the central cohesive force in our modern communities: The local school. They undermine our commitment to education as “the great equalizer” by, ironically, assigning to each student an equal share of the tax revenue dedicated to public education, thus disenabling increased spending on those with greater needs. And they do absolutely nothing to address the problems of education where they reside, in our homes and communities, in our norms and ideologies, in our cultural anti-intellectualism and preference for mindless distractions over disciplined engagement with the world.

Since private schools are able to accept or reject applicants at will, and acceptance of vouchers will be made on the basis of their school mission and their profit-motive, the students most in need of the most attention will tend to be declined, while the students who are easiest to teach and need the least investment of resources will be preferred. This means that those children most in need of improved educational services will be least able to get them, and, in fact, will see resources that have been dedicated to them siphoned off by the flight of the higher-performing students from their local schools. This is a recipe for abandoning and defunding those children most in need of our attention and resources. It is a retreat from a commitment to equality of opportunity, and toward the reincarnated “social Darwinist” tendencies of the modern far right in America.

Student success is predicated most on their family and community environments; those children who have parents or community members who frequently engage them in intellectually stimulating conversations and model for them the disciplines and attitudes most conducive to success of all kinds will almost inevitably achieve academic success. Our primary focus on educational reform should be on cultivating more of that social support infrastructure outside the schools and school hours, not on dismantling that social support infrastructure even more. Academic failure in America has more to do with the advance of extreme individualism, and the decline of communities, than it does with any defects in the schools themselves. Giving those students already rich in the ingredients for the success increased opportunities at the expense of those poorest in those ingredients will certainly benefit some people, but it will hurt those who are most vulnerable, and will hurt us collectively as a society (by breeding a more entrenched substratum of despair, and all of the social ills that ensue from it).

The projected market-disciplining benefits of vouchers are at best dubious. “Market success” does not, in fact, automatically mean “higher quality”. All it means is that people tended to choose that particular good or service over its competitors. The higher the information costs (i.e., difficulties and obstacles to consumer-assessment of quality), the lesser the degree to which competition improves quality. Parents and students can indeed look at how past graduates of a school have fared, and make assessments on that basis, but those outcomes are based as much or more on the quality of the students that were admitted to the school as on the quality of education they received at the school.

Higher quality students moving from poor performing schools to these more selective schools may indeed on average experience improved individual performance, but not because of any improvement in the quality of educational services delivered; rather, as a result of isolating and removing low performing students from the equation. We have to ask ourselves who and what we are as a people: Are we committed to the continuing march of extreme individualism, the resurrection of “social Darwinism,” or are we committed to being a people who works together to increase opportunities for all? If the former, vouchers are the way to go. If the latter, we need to go in the exact opposite direction: A greater commitment to improving the services offered to families to assist them in better supporting their children’s education, and to communities to help move them in the direction of better facilitators of better educational performance and better citizenship in general.

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