Monday, September 29, 2014
When I was in high school, I learned that my class would be among the first at Prescott High School to be required to take an economics class in senior year. I remember resenting the requirement, and even expressing this resentment to one of the older students who had been involved in making the decision to require it. (He took my outburst well, and we have remained friends to this day.)
But when I took the economics class in senior year, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The subject had a lot of things about it I liked: politics, practical business applications, and a penchant for analytical thinking. I could see the practical arguments for having this be a subject required for seniors, because many of them would need basic economics knowledge when entering the workforce after their upcoming graduation. The class taught in high school almost seemed more like a consumer ed class - a useful one, to be sure, but more focused on business applications than political ones - and although it had some political content in it, I had not really gotten a taste for the political side of economics classes; or for the civic reasons for requiring some basic knowledge about it of high school graduates.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
It's a document that was written 200 years ago, but has remained the law of the land for over two centuries. It's a document that created the most successful government in history, but is increasingly under attack today. It's a document that is more inspiring than most high schoolers would think possible, but which most high schoolers could tell you only a little about.
The document is, of course, our Constitution; and in the words of Abraham Lincoln, "Let reverence for the [Constitution], be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap - let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; - let it be written in Primmers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; - let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars ... While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom." (Source: University of Michigan website)
It created the oldest Constitution that is still being used today, but which was a radical departure from virtually everything that came before it. It created a new form of government, but it was only authorized to modify the one that already existed - not replace it. And it has been celebrated as the best form of government ever devised by man, but was not seen as anything close to ideal by any of the men who were there.
The Constitutional Convention
The event was the Constitutional Convention, held in Philadelphia in 1787 to improve upon the existing system of government. The government of that time was more like the United Nations than the modern United States; because all of the states remained sovereign, acting more like independent nations than portions of a whole. The federal government had no power to regulate trade, no executive branch to enforce laws, and no power to tax - with the latter flaw being the most crippling one. I'm not saying taxes can't be too high (or aren't too high now), but a government must have the power to tax to be able to perform its needful functions; and the government of that time simply was not able to. Thus, it was not able to pay the massive debts accumulated during the Revolution; and the massive war debts of the federal government were in risk of default. Thus, a stronger central government was required than the completely toothless one of that time; and a Constitutional Convention was sorely needed.
Interior of Independence Hall
Friday, September 12, 2014
I posted earlier that one of the most sacred tenets of liberalism is the goal of equality of condition: the idea that there should be no rich or poor, but that all should have the same amount of income and wealth, and that no one should possess any more than any other.
In this previous post, I offered several arguments against equality of condition; but refrained from using the critical argument based on rewards. This is because too many liberals have prejudice against it to lead off with it, in a post about this subject. In liberals' minds, rewarding anyone for being productive is tasteless and vulgar; because it would mean that they would have more money than someone else. It's "vulgar" to reward Bill Gates for providing me with a nice computer, because it would mean that he would become even richer than he is now, and would thus have more money than the lazy bum on the street who refuses to work. Arguments based on people's earning the money fall on deaf ears, because liberals believe no one earns money without exploiting others, and they are thus blind to arguments based on wealth being earned.
Yet even they can see the flaws in their argument when it is applied to criminal punishment. They are perfectly okay with discriminating against criminals, for example, when they commit a violent crime like murder. The equality-of-condition argument, when taken to this extreme, would say that the criminal cannot be put in prison; because then we would be treating him worse than someone else. His treatment would be unequal to the freedom that we respect in the law-abiding members of society. Yet even liberals abandon this argument here, because even they can see clearly that the law-abiding citizens have done nothing to merit losing their freedom, while the criminal has. Equality of condition is cast aside in favor of a theory of justice based on rewards, and good citizenship is made a requirement for the otherwise-inalienable right to freedom.
Saturday, September 6, 2014
One of the most sacred tenets of liberalism is the goal of equality of condition: the idea that there should be no rich or poor, but that all should have the same amount of income and wealth, and that no one should possess any more than any other.
There are several problems with this goal, and the problems include both the practical and the philosophical. I will address one example of each kind of problem, to show that this is a goal that is not only impossible to attain, but whose pursuit actually harms society; ultimately backfiring on its advocates, and making society worse off. (In doing so, I should make clear that I do not oppose equality of opportunity, as I am a fiery advocate of this kind of equality. It is equality of condition that I oppose, and it is equality of condition that I will argue against now.)