Trump is Reprehensible: Does That Create a Moral Duty to Vote for His Opponent?

To use an analogy that is, admittedly, intentionally, and consciously way over-the-top in order to make the point utterly unmissable:

Yes, Trump is Hitler. But, if the choice you offer me is to get rid of Hitler by embracing Stalin, can I be blamed for, instead, wishing that a pox descend upon your house as well as his?

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Health Care Payment Reform

From 25 years ago: My Proposal for Health Care Payment reform.

Still, I think, more rational than anything else I’ve heard. Agree with me or convince me I’m wrong — either is a good outcome if it means we end up with something that actually works without destroying either health care or our culture of liberty or both.

The original cover letter to the Concord Coalition and to various Senators and Congressmen

The original cover letter to then-Governor Howard Dean, of Vermont

The proposal

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Socialism, Capitalism, and the Liberal Republic

It is true that people — not only ignorant self-described “conservatives” but also many ignorant self-described “Socialists” — often throw the word “Socialism” around without seeming to understand what it means.  But,it is also true (OK, it is at least my not-so-humble opinion) that the many articles published recently trying to explain why various brands of “liberalism” are not actually the same as “Socialism” have been overly narrow and parochial in their view of what Socialism is and entails, limiting their argument to the simplistic (and flawed) formulation that it can’t really be Socialism if the government doesn’t “own” the means of production.

But, if that isn’t the defining nature of “Socialism”, then what is? For that matter, what is the defining nature of “Capitalism”? And how do either interact, for better or worse, with the moral premises and practical structures of our Liberal Republic?

In five parts:

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Stand Your Ground

There is, and has been for centuries, a genuine and earnest debate in this country about the requirements and limits of deference to the State when it comes to matters of personal well-being. People who value their right to protect themselves from the burdens of parenthood by having an abortion assert the same principle of personal autonomy as those who value their right to protect themselves from being the victims of predators by bearing weapons; and both assertions come from the same moral and spiritual sources.

There is a primal disagreement about whether, and to what extent, individuals do or do not retain a sacred right to protect themselves when they also claim protection from the State. One view, typically associated with the American political right, asserts that individuals do retain such a right, that the government’s duty to protect augments, but does not replace, that individual prerogative. The other view, typically associated more with the American political left, asserts that the individual prerogative to protect oneself is, and must be, significantly diminished — if not fully subjugated– in order for government to maintain the civil order required for its protections to be meaningful and effective.

To be clear, the legal imperative that you must retreat, rather than defend yourself, in the face of a threat is an explicit mandate that you must affirmatively participate in your own victimization. It reflects a political philosophy that assigns responsibility for and authority over personal well-being strictly to the State and it requires that everyone depend solely on the State for that function — it requires that, if the State can’t act in the moment to protect you against such victimization, then your responsibility as a citizen is to avoid fighting back, to accept being a victim now in the hope that you can attain some form of redress later. In effect, it transforms the role of individuals within such a polity from that of sovereign citizen to that of ward and supplicant, from autonomous and self-directed moral agent to just another drone playing his or her assigned role in the human hive.

Hyperbole? Of course. But these arguments go beyond philosophy to the moral and emotional core of what it means to exist as a human individual embedded within a larger society and, so, they invite a correspondingly moral and emotional response.

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“When Liberals Become Progressives…”

As a rule, I’m not much inclined to use this forum merely to link to other online information sources or posts without comment. That’s what Facebook and Twitter are for; this is something else.

However, given the fact that I wrote a whole book about what it means to be a ‘Conservative’ in modern America, the question of what it means to be a ‘Liberal’ in modern America — a subject I touched on in the book but on which I claim no particular experience or expertise — is a topic I find not only interesting but critical to the future well-being of our country. I am always on the lookout for good discussions about that.

I ran across one today, written by Greg Weiner, a former aide to Senator Bob Kerry (the other Senator Kerry), and published as an OpEd in The New York Times on 13 April 2018. I highly recommend it.

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Must Moral Authority come from direct experience?

Have you ever leaped into the heart of a raging fire to rescue someone trapped by the flames? Have you ever stepped into the middle of a domestic dispute to keep it from escalating into violence? Have you ever taught in an inner city classroom plagued by indifference and hostility? Have you ever tended and comforted patients with some fatal and contagious disease? Have you ever put your life on hold to aid the victims of some natural or man-made catastrophe halfway around the world? Have you even ever spent the day hauling away people’s garbage or cleaning their houses or doing some other equally unpleasant job?

I doubt you’ve done most, if even one, of those tasks. I also expect you think someone should do them; and I expect you think mayors and governors and presidents should advocate — and sometimes order — that people put themselves in harm’s way to see those tasks done, even if they have not done those things themselves.

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Estate taxes and other tax oddities

I actually think the Estate Tax has a beneficial consequence in preventing the establishment of multi-generational economic dynasties. Apart from the potential detrimental effects of such dynasties on society and the economy, they do spiritual damage to those who inherit them: handing someone “success” without any need for effort or sacrifice is almost always a recipe for intellectual, psychological, and moral dissipation.

My objections to the estate tax — and to other tax policies — are based more on basic ideas of economic fairness and on the cultural ideals of “family”.

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Breaking News: People want to get things and make other people pay for them!

Suppose you want me to pay for your health care — or for your mortgage, or for your car, or for your iPod, or for anything else you feel you really need but can’t afford — and I don’t want to do so. If you point a gun at me and tell me to give you the money, it would be armed robbery. Everyone knows you don’t take what isn’t yours by force just because you want it. That would be wrong.

So, instead, you convince your Congressman to take the money from me, as a “tax”, and to give it to you. Why does that suddenly make it right?

What if I still don’t want to pay? What if I refuse — what do you think is going to happen? Federal agents will point guns at me and tell me to give them the money. Is taking my money by force suddenly righteous, rather than outrageous, because you outsourced the job? Is that what democracy is supposed to be about — lending moral authority to what would otherwise be morally reprehensible?

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The ethics of “instant” news reporting

Instant reporting serves the business needs of news outlets — it attracts viewers — and the entertainment needs of the general public — it is titillating.

But instant reporting serves no journalistic purpose. And, therefore, journalistic purpose cannot be used as an excuse for getting the news wrong in the interest of getting it quickly.

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