Why are libertarians so afraid of governmental interference in personal freedoms but seemingly so blase about business or management interference in worker’s liberty? Two recent essays and posts by Timothy B. Lee and at Reason magazine reminded me of this conundrum. It seems obvious to me that a worker surrenders plenty of freedoms as soon as he or she enters the workplace. In some cases it is a surrender of political opinions in workplaces where having a different political point of view from your boss can get you fired.
I just finished rereading A Theory of Justice by John Rawls for a philosophy reading group. One of the themes I noticed is the attempt to deal with contingency in politics. Rawls acknowledges that everyone approaches political decisions from their own point of view, with unique biases and ideas. The original position is designed to overcome these biases by acknowledging them and then rationally agreeing to make decisions while ignoring individual personal biases.
My recent trawls around the internet have brought up some interesting finds that seem to cross ideological lines. A week ago David Brooks fired off a column linking the recent recession to a decline in America’s financial values. Brooks decries the growth of debt and consumption as a falling away from our previous virtues of hard work and thrift. I put on my very skeptical hat whenever I hear someone talking about decline from a previous golden age, but I think that Brooks may have something.
A brief recap of things I wrote on during September 2009. I started the month with two pieces in reaction to rereading Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard. The first on the difficulty of faith and the second on the stages of psychological and spiritual development. Two articles on economics prompted some thoughts on the link between money and producerism and the rhetoric of consumerism and choice. Too often the latter becomes a substitute for public and political choice.
Harry Boyte, a senior fellow at the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota, spoke to the Minnesota Independent Scholars Forum on the topic Beyond the Knowledge Wars. The event was held at the Hosmer Public Library in Minneapolis. Boyte began by discussing the cult of the expert, the ultimate outgrowth of the philosophical positivism and objectivism that dominated intellectual culture in the first half of the twentieth century. Objectivity became the byword for intellectual investigation, demanding the removal of all self-interest or awareness from the research process.
Dane Smith, the president of Growth and Justice a local Minnesota think-tank, spoke to the Twin Cities Chapter of the IEEE Education Society on Friday. The event was held at the Bakken Museum on Lake Calhoun. Mr. Smith began by laying out the assumptions made by Growth and Justice when considering education policy in Minnesota. Like many think-tank presidents he describe the mission of Growth and Justice as being bipartisan, neither conservative nor liberal.
Last Saturday I met with some friends from the Minnesota Independent Scholar’s Forum to talk about Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History by Margaret MacMillan. The book is a short, well-written introduction to the many ways people use history for purposes other than understanding or getting to the truth. It parallels Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism by Benedict Anderson. Both MacMillan and Anderson discuss the often contentious moments when history becomes part of nation building and community definition.
My top 7 scholars: Donald Davidson. Reading “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme” is still one of the high points of my philosophic career. I was a pretty naive cognitive relativist in college when I read this essay and it convinced me then and still convinces me now that humans share much more intellectual and cognitive background than not. Thomas Kuhn. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions altered my perception of science and forced me to question my belief in a naive, progressivist narrative of scientific development.
Another of my favorite economic-moral connections is choice. I recently talked with a friend about health care and choice and was treated to the full-on Republican explanation that as long as people have choices they will do fine. Choice becomes the most important value and making bad choices becomes the fault of the individual. The organizations and social structures that force a particular choice are glossed over or completely ignored. It all fits into the Randian argument of the economic overman.
Back in March there was a brief media flurry over a libertarian rant by Rick Santelli. I was struck at the time by the persistently moral language used by the right to describe economics and capitalism. Making money has become a moral obligation for the right and a reflection of the moral worth of a person. If you’re poor then you are a moral failure, if you are rich then you are an angel.