Are Christian values incompatible with right wing political views?

Yes, absolutely. Some examples:

1. Jesus was a radical feminist — not just for his time, but even by standards of the late 1950s.

2. Jesus promoted economic attitudes and practices that can best be described as anarcho-communist— and fundamentally at odds with capitalism and neoliberalism.

3. Jesus consistently respected and honored Nature — something that has been present in previous conservative values, but has been almost completely abandoned by modern day conservatives.

4. Jesus rejected the legalism and dogma of religious conservatives in his day — in fact the attitudes and rigidity of modern Christian conservatives very much resemble those of the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus railed against.

5. Jesus didn’t condemn “sinners” shunned by society, but forgave and embraced them — modern conservatives do pretty much the opposite, especially to any class of “sinner” they don’t understand or are culturally prejudiced against.

6. Jesus advocated caring for the poor, orphaned, widowed, etc. — conservatives consistently defund programs that have proven effective in helping these groups.

So, really, modern conservatives — and most certainly those who have embraced Donald Trump as their folk hero — are living, voting, opining and acting in complete contradiction to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Then again…this is exactly what the New Testament predicted would happen in the apostate Church. So…modern conservatives are at least fulfilling prophecy in that regard.

My 2 cents.

What is the most 'real' philosophy historically (subjective question perhaps)?

What a great question to consider, Nathan. Thanks.

I can only ponder this by dialing through the many definitions of “real” — the many parameters ascribed to the idea — and then applying those to various branches of philosophy. What is “real”…genuine, fundamental, practical, actual, precise, independently existent…for metaphysics, logic, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, logic, etc.? Is it possible to encompass all of this definitively?

A first impulse was to dismiss that such comprehensive intersection could ever occur — nearly all philosophy is inherently speculative, after all.

Yet, even though these variables frame a rather large semantic container for “real philosophy,” I find myself recalling those philosophers whose thinking operated across many of these dimensions, and whose conclusions gained momentum in a sort of inclusive resonance in meaningful and enduring ways. These form a loose constellation that could — in an intersubjective way — act as a finger pointing toward the moon.

Skipping across the centuries, a few glittering points shine back from the infinite….Lao Tzu. Heraclitus. Aristotle. The Prajnaparamita. Marcus Aurelius. Aquinas. Hafez. John of the Cross. Bacon. Descartes. Spinoza. Leibniz. Rousseau. Godwin. Hegel. Mill. Emerson. Darwin. Thoreau. Marx. Green. James. Kropotkin. Dewey. Whitehead. Sartre. Rawls. Chomsky…and many others worthy of mention.

All of them contribute something vital, IMO. No single one of these — or the philosophies they represent — rises above the others. They are all essential to our understanding of what actually is.

Which leads me to conclude that there is no single “real philosophy,” other than the multidialectical synthesis of everything in this vast constellation of knowing — a virtual point that floats lightly among them, as an intersection of the best each has to offer.

The “real” is, after all, forever additive.

My 2 cents.

What do you, as an anarcho-socialist, think of the notion propagated by right-wing libertarians that taxation is theft imposed by the government on citizens?

This has always been a pretty humorous issue to my thinking, mainly because of the source — and because it’s part of a pattern. Consider what’s really going on here:

- Extracting natural resources from the planet — which is really held in common and belongs to everyone — and then selling them for private profit isn’t theft…but taxes are.

- Exploiting workers — their time, their effort, their creativity — in order to, once again, accumulate private profit that is not shared with those workers isn’t theft…but taxes are.

- Property ownership (think of patents or land ownership in particular) that excludes everyone from using or sharing in the benefits of that property — even if the property isn’t being used at all by its owner — isn’t theft…but taxes are.

Using services provided by the government, but not paying for them, isn’t theft…but taxes are.

Can you see the pattern here? It’s really a sort of childish, selfish, whiny entitlement — and it is utterly hypocritical, along the lines of “everyone else should have to pay ME for things I think are important, but that same standard shouldn’t apply to ME…I should not have to pay others for something just because THEY think it is important…”

This mindset embraces an utterly perverse and unworkable conception of freedom, a la adolescent pseudophilosophies like that of Ayn Rand. Why is it unworkable? Because it corrodes the prosocial foundations of civil society itself, where we collectively and democratically agree to limit our own selfishness, acquisitiveness and self-indulgence for the sake of societal stability and collective thriving. We relax I/Me/Mine for the good of All. That’s what adulthood looks like.

Of course, if enough folks don’t agree to given tax, and want to vote it out of existence, they can do that. But that means — in the context of the State — that they will need to give up something in return. A protection, a privilege, or possibly a perceived right. Not appreciating this leads to…well…soaring deficits.

My 2 cents.

What are the biggest unanswered philosophical questions?

Thanks for the question Arslan. Many thorough, compelling and persuasive attempts have been made to answer these questions, but my take is that they are still substantively “unanswered:”

1. What is the nature of being? Of existence? Of reality?

2. How do we know what we know — in the most inclusive, integrative and balanced way? And what is the most constructive relationship, and most dependable process, we can create when interacting with both the known and the unknown?

3. What is the nature of consciousness? And what is language’s role in it?

4. What ethical framework — both collectively and individually — has the highest efficacy for holistic thriving over the long-term? That is, not just for human thriving, but for humans and everything that human behaviors impact?

5. What is “that certain something” that great art captures/represents? (i.e. Kandinsky’s “Stimmung”)

6. What approaches to political economy will solve the dire global cataclysm our current political economy has created?

7. When will humanity (as a whole) begin paying attention to the greatest philosophers who ever lived? (For example, when will every eighth-grade student know Aristotle’s core positions on important topics?)

My 2 cents.

What's wrong with a moderate level of gun regulation like waiting periods, strict and comprehensive background checks (including for gun shows) and requiring safety training? Moderate regulation may b

“What’s wrong with a moderate level of gun regulation” is that, in the United States, there are a lot of extremely irrational, fearful, self-righteous folks who allowed themselves to be hoodwinked by the firearms industry. It wasn’t until after the firearms industry realized that its military weapon sales were tanking (i.e. no more wars) that the 2nd Amendment suddenly had more to do with personal gun ownership and self-defense, and not with well-regulated militias. This was part of a deliberate propaganda campaign to deceive and mislead American consumers. If not for the desire of gun mfrs to market military style weapons to civilians, there would likely only be a few fringe extremists who believe what is now fairly mainstream among card-carrying NRA members.

And of course it’s not infringement. You need a license and training to drive a car lawfully. You need a license and training to serve food to people safely. You need a license and training to build a house for someone. You need a license and training to operate a ham radio out of the privacy of your home. All of this has to do with public safety. And for folks to say that applying what is a normal and reasonable consideration for other potentially harmful skills and privileges in society to guns is somehow unreasonable or unconstitutional…well, what can I say? It frankly boggles the mind…until you realize these folks have been spoon fed their talking points by the companies that make assault weapons.

Unfortunately, it’s not all that surprising that this has happened in the U.S. Americans are hard-wired from birth to believe false advertising…it’s just part of our commercialistic culture: we tend to believe what we are sold.

Oh…and rest assured that nearly all of the claims that “gun regulations don’t solve or stop anything” are statistically dead wrong. Just more lies to sell more guns. Lots of studies show that gun regulation has a positive impact on reducing crime stats and accidental death and homicide stats (both in the U.S. and in other countries). Again though…truth and evidence don’t matter to a lot of 2nd Amendments defenders, as they’re drunk on the Cool-Aid of “alternative facts.”

That said, here are some articles that may be of interest to reasonable, sane people who haven’t bought into the pro-gun-mfr-lobby con-job:

How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment

How The Gun Industry Funnels Tens Of Millions Of Dollars To The NRA

State Gun Laws That Actually Reduce Gun Deaths

States with strict gun laws have fewer firearms deaths. Here's how your state stacks up

Firearm Laws and Firearm Homicides

The Supreme Court’s Worst Decision of My Tenure (re: Columbia v. Heller)

My 2 cents.

How did New Zealand succeed in banning all military-style semiautomatic weapons 1 week after their tragedy, but the United States hasn't been able to do the same following many similar tragedies?

Well take your pick:

1. The U.S.-based firearms industry has tremendous sway over U.S. politics through aggressive and well-funded lobbying efforts, complete capture of the NRA, additional lobbying and legislative influence through the NSSF and ALEC, and a decades-long campaign of amping up irrational fear and paranoia among lawful gun owners. The U.S. would not have so many assault weapons in civilian hands had the firearms industry not used their leverage to market weapons that were — let’s not forget — illegal to manufacture in the U.S. for a decade after the Cleveland Elementary, Luby’s and California Street shootings. Why did gun makers do this? To make money of course. When military sales of the AR15 began to wane (not enough wars to increase orders!), they needed a new market. And, thanks to their ability to hoodwink the American public and influence Congress, they got one.

2. The U.S. Second Amendment is fairly unique among modern democracies, and wasn’t particularly well-written regarding the purpose of the “right to bear arms.” Was it intended to create well-regulated state militias that could, at the state level, resist a federal government’s overreach? Or was it intended to allow every citizen in the U.S. to own military weapons (by extension up to and including nuclear missiles) so that they could defend themselves from their own government’s tyranny, if required? Until very recently (Columbia v Heller, 2008), SCOTUS consistently linked gun ownership rights to militia membership. But clearer writing would have helped prevent the Second Amendment’s misuse IMO.

3. Let’s face it: a lot of Americans just aren’t that bright, don’t think about things very carefully, seem to be very gullible, and are particularly prone to the Dunning–Kruger effect. I’m not sure if it’s the prevailing U.S. diet, or the constant deluge of advertising and mindless media, or a poor education system, or something in our water…but the average U.S. citizen just can’t seem to think very critically or clearly — certainly as compared to the folks in other developed countries I have lived in. In addition, there has been a concerted effort on the Right-leaning end of the political spectrum to “dumb down” their rank-and-file even further: by demeaning academia and defunding K-12 education; by trumpeting anti-intellectual rhetoric in conservative mass media; by actively opposing science with well-funded “Science Skepticism” campaigns; and by generally dismissing evidence and facts in favor of magical thinking and logical fallacies. And this has been going on for many decades now. Just consider the election of Republican presidents Reagan, G.W. Bush and Trump. These men were verifiable idiots, and yet conservatives championed them as competent leaders. I don’t think any other developed democracy has ever fallen prey to this level of stupidity.

4. Guns are fun. As a privileged white male in the richest society on Earth, I myself believe I am entitled to playing with the toys I want to play with. Having anyone tell me I can’t play with the toys I want is disheartening, and generally leads me into a bout of cranky pouting. And yes, I do like guns — including the most powerful military versions — and have liked them all of my life. The only reason I support various gun control measures is because I believe it is necessary to sacrifice at least some of my own whims, impulses and childish toy-obsessions in order for other people to feel free and safe. That’s kind of the deal I think folks need to make for civil society to exist at all: we can’t always have everything we want…not even our favorite toys. But I guess not everyone in the U.S. shares that point of view, which means a lot of other privileged folks maintain a perpetual tantrum when it looks like some of their favorite toys might be taken away.

My 2 cents.

Regenerative Mindset, Habits & Economies



A Critical Shift Away from an Extractive Downward Spiral

We can no longer maintain an opportunistic, ever-expanding extractive mindset toward planet Earth’s ecosystems and resources, toward human labor and creativity, toward the cooperative infrastructure of civil society, or in the “taking for granted” of life itself. Our extractive habits are unsustainable in economic terms, but more critically they are destroying everything around us at an accelerating pace. To fully appreciate both our extractivist habits and their consequences, please consult the following resources:

“Deep Adaptation: A Map for Avoiding Climate Tragedy” by Professor Jem Bendell (full paper available here; editorial article available here)

UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’ (Detailed report overview with many key statistics here; full “advanced unedited” IPBES report here)

“Capitalism is destroying the Earth. We need a new human right for future generations” — Guardian article by George Monbiot here.

“Extractivism and neoextractivism: two sides of the same curse” by Alberto Acosta (full essay available here)

The only solution is to shift as rapidly and all-inclusively as possible to regenerative solutions — and a regenerative state of mind. Collectively and individually, there is really no other choice. Why? Because hopes that global capitalism can be reigned in or civilized are naive and Pollyannish — as all such efforts are routinely undermined by enormously well-funded and fanatical neoliberal investment in the extractive status quo. Because trust that human innovation will address the most serious consequences of extractivism with new technologies is contradicted by the enormous complexities of natural ecosystems, the stunning scale and current momentum of the problems we must address, and the dismal track record of a majority previous technologies that created unanticipated negative externalities. Our only reasonable option is to implement regenerative systems and vigorously restrain and extinguish extractive systems.

And again, these changes are not restricted to how humanity views and utilizes natural resources — that is really just the tip of the iceberg. Equally import are how we view people — human creativity, labor, economic behavior, social behavior, spirituality, etc. — as well as how we view the institutions of civil society, and how we view both the wonder of Nature and the miracle of life itself. Does everything exist merely to be used up and exploited? Or does everything in this amazing reality have intrinsic value apart from any utilization by humanity? This is the fundamental question we must answer in order to guide effective transformations of our old, self-destructive habits into new, sustainable and thriving ones.


If These Concerns Are the Primary Drivers of Reform, How Can We Change?

What do “regenerative solutions” look like, then? Certainly there are many proposed frameworks for sustainability that have already proven themselves on various scales — many of which are described in proposals on my Level 7 website, or would easily dovetail with those proposals. Successful recycling programs and materials sourcing, renewable energy, and sustainable agriculture have demonstrated genuine promise in their workability and scalability — even using capitalist metrics, they have increasingly been able to compete with traditional extractive models in terms of productivity and efficiency. As for human exploitation, worker-owned and managed cooperatives, Open Source production, P2P models, and commons-centric governance likewise have an established a meaningful track record of self-sustaining success — again even when using capitalist metrics to evaluate them, they often exceed the productivity and efficiency of traditional exploitative models.

Apart from the understandable resistance of established power and wealth to what will inevitably be a self-sacrificial change, what is the barrier, then, to transitioning away from extraction and exploitation? What is stopping us, and how can we overcome that barrier? Is there something more deeply rooted in our psyche that prevents us from moving forward. . .?

This is my intuition: that we need to fall in love again — with everything that our hectic, worried, materialistic, technological lifestyle has distanced us from. We need to re-invoke some of the mystery and wonder that once existed for us as we beheld the magnificence of Nature on a daily basis. We need to reconnect with each other in more personal ways — as neighbors, as community members, as citizens and fellow travelers of a rich cultural heritage. We need to cultivate more gratitude regarding the stunning gift our very existence. We must abandon a mechanistic, individualistic, reductionist and profit-centric view of ourselves and the world around us, and reacquaint ourselves with the felt experience of community and mystery. And we must not only grudgingly allow the possibility that life on Earth has intrinsic value, but actually celebrate it as we honor all species, all ecosystems, all habitats, all beings — including each other. In other words: we must return to more authentic, intimate and wonder-filled relationship with All That Is.

This is not a new concern, or a new remedy. Writers, activists, leaders, organizations and movements since capitalism first clawed its way to prominence have warned us of its dangers. However, this re-invocation of mystery has often been framed as an individual journey or choice — sometimes mystical, sometimes psychological, sometimes inviting methodological holism or integralism — but I would contend that this individualistic framing is itself destined to fail. A disproportionate emphasis on individual transformation and development is, in fact, just a new manifestation of the underlying error, confining the solution to the same atomistic, alienated, disconnected separateness that is causing the problem. The re-invocation of mystery must therefore be deeper, more encompassing, and more pervasive and participatory for any enduring, systemic transformation to take effect. It cannot be restricted to “me,” or “my tribe,” or “our community,” or even “our species” or “our planet,” for the egotism of individualism is too easily converted into the arrogance of anthropocentrism.

No, the smallest scope of this shift in relationship must, of necessity, be “All Life,” and then cascade through all other strata of being from there. To love all of life itself, to cherish it and commit ourselves to its thriving a a whole, is the beginning of cultivating kind, compassionate, caring relationships with everything else. And humanity must, as a whole, participate in this renewed relationship. We must all collectively revive a worshipful passion for the sacredness of life — certainly here on Earth, but really all of its forms wherever they may be found. And we must operationalize that passion within every system, every institution, every mutual agreement, every law, every collaboration and competition, every collective act. We must all live this truth together as if our lives depend on it — because, in light of the cataclysm we have created, our lives do in fact depend on it.

Yes, there will always be outliers, rebels, egoists and psychopaths, some of whom will continue to attain positions of power and influence. And there will be plutocratic pushback against all reforms challenge the supremacy of greed. But despite corporate capitalism’s endless efforts to reenforce, elevate and amplify such antisocial aberrations — through its heartless obsession with transactional relationships, commodification, externalized dependencies, self-indulgent hedonism, and the almighty dollar — that is not who we human beings are in our heart-of-hearts. Instead, we want to belong, we want to contribute, we want to care and be cared for, we want to love and be loved, and we long to have our intrinsic value and worth acknowledged. That is the basis of society itself — and family, friendship, and lasting romance — rather than the will-to-profit. So it follows that if we can, altogether, remember who we really are, then all the wonder and mystery of our relationship with life itself can be restored.

First Steps

In many ways what we are aiming for here is recovering a long-abandoned faith. Not faith in the sense of a blindly adherent belief system — and not the faith of any particular religious tradition — but faith as an intentional quality of character that trusts in certain fundamental realities: realities like the interdependence of all living things; the true miracle of existence; the joy of connectedness and belonging available to all; the power of lovingkindness; and the awe that we can be conscious of any of this. A faith that leads us to conclude with gratitude that, because the Universe has conspired in favor of our consciousness, our consciousness can now conspire in favor of the Universe. A faith that inspires us to celebrate rather than exploit, to regenerate rather than extract, to create rather than destroy. A felt experience of trust in the triumph of love over fear. A faith in life itself.

If such an intuition is correct, it demands that any reformation or revolution begin with this shift in focus, however that can be accomplished. As a small first step in this direction, consider the following short exercise with one or more friends and loved ones, and — if it feels helpful and right to you — practice and share it with others. And if it doesn’t work for you, perhaps you can come up with your own participatory practice that inspires a similar result.

In a quiet space, free of technological interruptions, have everyone join hands, and describe the following steps:

1) With heads bowed and eyes closed, take three deep, slow and even breaths to calm and center the body and mind.

2) Then, take three more slow and even breaths, and silently say to yourselves “May our faith reawaken” as you exhale each time. Focus on the meaning of those words.

3) After three repetitions, open your eyes and look at each other.

4) Breathe in slowly together, and then, as you all exhale, speak aloud in unison: “May our faith reawaken.”

5) Listen to each other, see each other, and again feel the meaning of those words in that moment.

6) Repeat the slow intake of breath and speaking the phrase aloud together two more times ― as an affirmation and encouragement.

7) Afterwards, pause for a few moments to allow this experience to settle and sink in.

We can of course make this exercise more specific by adding to the phrase: “May our faith in each other reawaken,” or in humanity, or in the power of compassion, or in life itself, and so on. But if we were all to consecrate our day, our actions, our relationships, our intentions, and our purpose with this kind of mutual affirmation and opening up — with a clear understanding of what it invokes regarding a sacred relationship with all of life — could such a small spark make a difference? Could it ignite a unity of compassionate restoration, and energize a critical transformation? Could it reawaken a quality of relationship with ourselves and everything around us that will restore balance and harmony?

In my teaching and coaching, I am always amazed at the power that connectedness and shared intention can create in small groups. That observation is what inspires this exercise, and the entire framework of Community Coregroups that I discuss in much of my writing.

Is it wise to avoid power in order to avoid responsibility?

Interesting question — thanks Robert.

I don’t think power and responsibility are necessarily connected.

First I would say it is wise to avoid striving after power, and avoid holding “excessive” power, in order to avoid the corrosive effects of both. Striving for power is just another form of greed or acquisitiveness, and generally undermines well-being and personal relationships. By “excessive” power I mean having so much power or money that it leads you to the mistaken belief that you are better than others, entitled to lording it over them, are endowed with some sort of special position in society, etc. This is is the kind of power that corrupts people, makes them callous and indifferent, and essentially turns folks without exceptional innate constitutions or a powerful empathic reflex into narcissistic psychopaths. In this case, those with “too much power” actually abdicate their social and civic obligations because they can. They excise themselves from accountability, and look down on “the little people” who are held accountable. In other words, too much power creates an escape hatch for personal responsibility. This is why so many folks who grow up affluent (or members of an entitled elite in a given culture) have difficulties in this area. And we certainly can see many “powerful” people who continually evade any sort of accountability or responsibility for their entire lives.

In terms of avoiding responsibility, we can certainly choose to do that (drop out of society, become alienated from family, shirk civic obligations, reject expectations at work, avoid any sort of commitments to friends, etc.), but this will generally interfere with our own emotional or psychosocial development. Becoming more responsible (i.e. having integrity, following through, aligning actions with expressed intent, agreeing to certain societal or relationship norms, etc.) is basically what “growing up” is all about. Adults are responsible, children are not. But since our current culture (in the U.S. at at least) encourages a prolonged adolescence, many young people are essentially refusing to become adults. It’s a sort of epidemic. Entire ideologies (like Ayn Rand’s objectivism, certain flavors of right-libertarianism, individualistic materialism, etc.) are actually grounded in the adolescent attitude that people have no real responsibility to society or obligations to other people. But this of course flies in the face of the agreements and trust upon which all civil society is constructed, and how all relationships mature beyond transactional shallowness.

So we can have power and avoid responsibility, and have no power and choose to be responsible. And, when choosing to be responsible, this can be done in an attitude of service, with humility and care for others, so that gaining more responsibility does not feel like “having more power.”

I hope this was helpful.

What are the benefits in studying eastern philosophy in comparison to western philosophy?

Thanks for the question.

IMO it is essential to study both. At a thematic level, there are profound intersections that help reenforce and illuminate each other (Confucius and Aristotle, Lao Tzu and Heraclitus, etc.). As well as different methodologies (for example, the koan) to understanding a challenging concept or work through philosophical quandaries. There is the occasional bias that Eastern philosophy is somehow “more religious” than Western philosophy, but that pretty much ignores the dominant influence of Judaism, neoplatonism and Christianity on 1,000+ years of Western thought — as well as what is really a primarily “philosophical” framework of Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian Eastern traditions. As a loose generalization: in the West we have a centuries-long pattern of religious thought with a thin veneer of philosophy, and in the East we have a centuries-long pattern of philosophy with a thin veneer of religiosity. You say po-TAY-to, I say po-TAH-to.

My 2 cents.

Was Jesus a capitalist or corporatist? Are there any biblical examples that would support this idea?

LOL. No. Jesus’s teachings and the later apostolic practices and records describe what is probably most akin to anarcho-communism in modern terms. Capitalism (which also didn’t exist at that time) is anathema to everything he taught and exemplified….though modern Christians often seem to forget this.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Bill Hartmann:

"Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus did not attack commerce or wealth. These were areas of little interest to him, as his objectives were people’s souls. “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, renter unto God that which is God’s. “

In at least three of his parables, one of the roles was a wealthy man: Prodigal Son, Vineyard, and Talents. The wealthy man represented God the Father in each case. In Prodigal Son, he gives mercy to the son who did not deserve it, in response to the son’s repentance. In Vineyard, he punishes those who abuse his property, attack his people, and refuse to listen to reason. In Talents, he rewards the person who invested and gained the most profit (!!) and punished the person who refused to put the money at risk.

If Jesus was so against wealthy people, why did he use that role to represent his Father in Heaven?

Judas Iscariot is seen as the ultimate villain in the New Testament; someone who knew Jesus yet turned on him. Judas put helping the poor above saving souls and was obviously unhappy with Jesus declaring that poverty would never be cured.

My conclusion is that Liberation Theology and Social Justice were not key perspective of Jesus. Lots of support for giving to the poor and other works of charity. None that I can find to changing the government to do these things for us."


What does government have to do with this discussion? I did not mention government at all, and in fact specifically referenced anarcho-communism. Nevertheless. the Apostle Paul advocated in his letters and actions that relying on government to fulfill God’s will was a prudent and spiritually justified position. I can provide many verses on that — even though it wasn’t my main point. But on to what my main point actually was….

Regarding Jesus not attacking commerce or wealth — or asserting that these areas were of “little interest” to him — you are woefully mistaken. The opinion you are promoting is actually the more “popular” one among the prosperity-doctrine crowd of certain evangelicals. Here are just a handful of examples of scripture that contradict your (and their) position. These barely scratch the surface of the plentiful examples available, but nevertheless soundly refute what you’ve stated…

First, from Jesus himself:

Luke 16:9 — “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”

Mark 10:17–22 — “And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

Mark 10:23 -25 — “And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Luke 16:19–25 — “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.’”

Matthew 6:19–21 — “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:24 — “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Matthew 21:12–13 — “And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

Later on, there are countless other examples elsewhere in the New Testament, such as what the newly formed Church did in Acts, etc. But perhaps the most cogent summary of the pervasive sentiment is Paul’s discourse in 1 Timothy chapter 6. I recommend reading all of it, but here is a particularly noteworthy section:

1 Timothy 6:6–10 — “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

I could fill many pages with such excerpts, and there is really nothing at all in the New Testament that supports your position. In all of the parables you allude to, the entire point of the parables is about bearing spiritual fruits in the Kingdom of God, in preparation for Christ’s return — they actually have NOTHING AT ALL to do with making material profits or managing money. Just ast the parable of the sower (in Matthew 13) HAS NOTHING AT TO DO WITH FARMING…but is also about bearing spiritual fruit. A parable is a metaphor, and is not to be taken literally. It would be understandable for someone who has not studied scripture to think of parables as “literal” examples, but that is not what they are. In fact, Jesus himself anticipated that the worldly-minded would not comprehend what he was trying to say in parables:

Matthew 13:10–13: “Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”

Again, “more will be given” is referring to wisdom, insight, spiritual understanding, salvation, etc. Not money.

If you wish to understand the very parables you reference — and why they actually have nothing at all to do with worldly wealth or making a profit — then you need to let go of capitalist culture’s programming, study and meditate on scripture more carefully, and allow holy spirit to renew your mind. You should note, however, that many of the countervailing examples I provided are not parables, but direct teachings and demonstrated actions. IMO this is an important consideration when navigating the meaning of New Testament scripture: there is what is direct, plain and obvious (i.e. that material wealth and money are inherently problematic for followers of Jesus to have or pursue), and what is more nuanced and implied (that a Christian’s “riches” are spiritual in nature, and thinking otherwise is a corrosive distraction from our faith).

My 2 cents.

Was Joseph Smith a mystic?

Thanks for the question. I think it is difficult to know for certain. Joseph Smith did assert that he had mystical knowledge and insight — and he performed certain practices that had the appearance of invoking special spiritual consciousness — but he also did a lot of things that made these apparent mystical practices and insights seem a bit like a con-artist or circus performer, rather than the genuine article. This speaks to motivations, of course, and it is always difficult to know for certain what someone’s motives are — especially if they lived a long time ago. But consider these well-established facts:

1. When Smith — and convicted con-artist — utilized elaborate methods of performance to “interpret” the prophecy of ancient papyri while traveling around the U.S., this resulted in his Book of Abraham, one of the foundational scriptures of the Mormon Church. But when those papyri were later examined by archeologists, it was discovered that they were merely fragments of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Breathing Permit of Hor, and so on. In other words, Smith was completely fabricating his interpretation out of thin air, and making it more authoritative by misuse of these archeological props.

2. Once the earliest Mormon Church was established, Smith’s successor Brigham Young used his lieutenants to enforce rigid control over the Church — not infrequently resorting to murdering anyone who challenged Young’s authority, left the Mormon Church, or were considered any sort of threat.

Just these two points alone are fairly damning, and remind us of many other cults that have made things up and then rigidly controlled the power within the cult. Scientology is another excellent and well-documented example of this.

This is not to say that modern Mormons themselves aren’t good-hearted people, don’t do good work, can’t be compassionate and charitable servants of their faith, etc. I want to be careful to differentiate Mormons from Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, the Danites, etc. in that regard. But, at the same time, it’s pretty clear that Smith wasn’t a good person, wasn’t good-hearted, and engaged in some pretty nefarious deception and oppressive evil-doing while he was alive. Smith just graduated from petty conman (divining gold deposits) to creating a conman’s religion (again, much like L Ron Hubbard did with Scientology).

So was Smith a mystic? Possibly…just not a very kind, wise or genuine one. He certainly didn’t allow his mysticism to mold his conscience, the accuracy of his insights, or the compassionate efficacy of his actions…which leads me to doubt his level of mystical proficiency. Certainly he was not a mystic who followed Christ. Then again, there has been a long tradition of spiritual hoodwinking and cult creation in the U.S., so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that so many people were (and are) so gullible. At the same time, what is fairly shocking is just how large and influential the Mormon Church became, when it was founded on such unsavory deceptions and power-grubbing machinations.

My 2 cents.

Why are deep thinkers rare in society (i.e. Western Civilization)? What is the epitome of deep when deep is oftentimes undervalued by mainstream enthusiasts?

Fantastic question — thanks Elijah.

The main reason deeply contemplative folks are rare in Western society is, I think, representative of a nexus of cultural factors:

1. An emphasis on analytical reductionism at one extreme, superstition at the other, and groupthink all across the middle. In other words…there isn’t much encouragement to think about topics, conditions, experiences, etc. in multifaceted or holistic ways — and instead there is a lot of pressure to conform to ideas and beliefs that signal membership in a particular group or tribe.

2. A highly commercialized externalization of authority and “speeding up” of all decision-making to facilitate transactions. It is much easier to get folks to buy things (or vote a particular way) if they learn to reflexively and rapidly respond to “calls-to-action” from external authorities and influencers. In other words, “you can’t be happy/sexy/accepted/affluent/classy/sophisticated/important/righteous UNLESS YOU BUY [fill in the blank with product or service] OR VOTE FOR [politician or initiative].” It is also important to keep the engines of capitalism running full speed ahead because capitalism is dependent on growth — which discourages slower, more thoughtful decision-making in favor of quick transactions that facilitate profit. Bigger/newer/faster/better often trumps all other considerations. And when you combine multi-million-dollar marketing campaigns with the tendencies described in point #1, you can easily produce a pervasive lemming-effect through mass media.

3. Technology that abbreviates thought, communication, and connection — and keeps it shallow. Social media, texting, email…even phone calls are really poor substitutions for breaking bread with folks and having deep, meaningful, emotionally and intellectually rich conversations. But that’s how most of us in the West are communicating with each other nowadays.

4. A longstanding prejudice against both intellectualism and intuition. Aligning with point #2, Western culture discourages folks from trusting either our own critical thinking ability or our intuitive hunches. Instead, these interior capacities become suspect. I don’t know where these prejudices came from, but any nerdy or mystical kid who was routinely tormented by jocks and bullies in school knows how prevalent the prejudices are.

5. Thinking deeply is hard, and humans have become lazy and addicted to convenience and comfort. In the developed world, life has become pretty luxurious. There isn’t much existential worry for citizens of Western countries — or much reason to think carefully or in a concentrated way to preserve a lowest-common-denominator of well-being. I think that has encouraged us to relax our reflective abilities.

Okay…that’s my 2 cents.

How do you recognize true wisdom?

By living it and honestly assessing the outcome. Are the results a deeper understanding, a more profound sense of harmony and connection, a more enduring compassionate affection, a higher efficacy of service and generosity, and a quieting of ego and striving? Then wisdom was probably in play.

My 2 cents.

What is philosophy's take on economics?

That’s a big question, and answers will vary depending on what time periods you are interested in, as well as which schools of philosophy you consult. As a gross generalization (with plentiful exceptions), we might say that for most of its history economics has been primarily philosophical in its basis, with several attempts to justify philosophical positions with empirical observations (Marx was one of the first to attempt this in a systematic way). More recently, however, different schools of economics have been able to start with empirical observations, and extrapolate evaluative metrics and systemic frameworks from there — microeconomics through a lens of behavioral science is one such attempt. Also, if you have a chance to peruse Freakonomics podcasts and literature, there are some very interesting “evidence-based” approaches to economics to be found there. At the macroeconomic level, however, the complexity of analysis has far exceeded most cohesive, integrated models except in retrospect: that is, we can look back on past events and analyze the data to derive some useful principles. Even then, however, ideology has often driven conclusions. There is also the challenge of “the myth of the given” with respect to capitalism: economics presupposes that capitalism can be understood in economic terms, and so an entire language of economic terms has grown up around its analysis of capitalism. But could it be that all of this is just invention? That economics (as a science) really can’t “get its head” around capitalism entirely — and certainly not empirically? This is not a widely-held view among economists…but I suspect that, if you queried some philosophers about economics, this is an hypothesis they might entertain.

My 2 cents.

What does everyone misunderstand about mental illnesses like depression and anxiety?

Thanks for the question. In my own work and experience — as a client, health advocate, coach, etc. — my observation is that neither anxiety nor depression have a single cause, that neither can be mitigated or treated exactly the same way in two different people, and that there is no “silver bullet” that eliminates them entirely from our experience. Unfortunately, there are a lot of clinicians and practitioners who sincerely believe that this or that method, this or that medication, this or that treatment, etc. will be THE SINGLE THING THAT HELPS. But this is almost always a case of partial reenforcement: sure, a given approach does help some people some of the time (thought often only temporarily) — but not everyone. That is why, in my own discipline of Integral Lifework, it is so important to identify which dimensions of well-being are under-nurtured, and to develop long-term strategies and habits to heal those deficiencies.

My 2 cents.

Does W. V. O. Quine's criticism of logical positivism apply to Scientism?

Thanks for the question. Simply put: Quine’s critique tends to support and even exemplify scientism, rather than undermine it. He is basically saying that there isn’t really any kind of “so-called knowledge” that can’t be empirically verified, implying that a scientific approach is humanity’s best avenue for pursuing knowledge. That is, if our insights lack predictive efficacy, then maybe we don’t really “know” what we think we do. We might call this assertion an “a posteriori epistemic bias,” an example of postmodern rejection of all other conceptions, traditions or forms of knowledge. Quine seems to believe this is “pragmatism,” but I would reject that characterization.

My 2 cents.

Short Discourse On Insecurity: Why We Can’t Fix the World by Blaming Others



What if, suddenly out of the blue, I insisted that you stop trying to control other people?


What if I said that, when you try to control what other people say or what they do, it’s just a symptom of your own insecurity? And what if I said you needed to do some tough personal work on yourself first, before trying to make other people conform to your expectations of how they should act towards you? And what if I said that, eventually, if you actually did that tough personal work, you’d almost certainly stop trying to control others anyway?

How would that make you feel? And, most importantly, would it change your behavior at all…?

Or would it just piss you off? Perhaps make you challenge my self-appointed role in policing your behavior? Would you maybe ask: “Who the heck are YOU to tell me what I can and can’t do???”

Okay then. So now consider the following situations:

- A woman doesn’t like the way a man is touching her arm.

- A transgender person wants coworkers to use their chosen pronoun.

- A gay person is offended by the homophobic jokes of fellow students.

- A Vegan is horrified when someone brings a meat dish to a potluck at their home.

- A person of color feels alienated by a politician using coded language – language that reveals prejudice or even hatred towards their race.

- A religious person feels persecuted and excluded by a law, a business practice or a cultural tradition that belittles or contradicts their beliefs.

- A person of a particular political persuasion believes another group routinely looks down on them, dismisses their ideas, and laughs at their beliefs.

- A member of one socioeconomic class feels targeted and oppressed by members of other socioeconomic classes.

- A politically correct audience is angry and judgmental about a comedian’s sense of humor regarding any-of-the-above.

These examples aren’t meant to be equivalant, but in any of these situations there can be real emotional pain involved – a genuine felt experience of demeaning oppression – that could lead to debilitating despair over time. But, even though real harm may be occurring, does the offended person have the right to demand that those causing offense be ridiculed, shamed, accused or blamed? To demand that they apologize, admit they were wrong, and commit to changing their behavior? To insist they be punished in some way – that they resign, be fired, lose status, be publicly harassed, or are deserving of threats and intimidation? To essentially become an example of accountability for all similar wrongs experienced in society...a scapegoat for those collective ills?

Can you see what is really happening here?

It isn’t just that the abused is turning into an abuser – it can be much subtler and more insidious than that. For if each of these individuals (or groups of folks) insists that everyone else conform to their particular standard of conduct, to respect their particular sensitivities, to always consider their feelings and perspective and honor their particular belief system…well, then this leads to everyone constantly policing everyone else’s behavior, and thereby amplifies mistrust and even hatred. And this, in turn, has everyone pissing everyone else off, to the point where we all declare: “Hey, what gives YOU the right to tell me what I’m allowed to say or do?!” And so we all begin to resent the shackles that our society seems to be placing on us; we all begin to question whether living in harmony with each other is really worth it – and whether our civic institutions are all that important…or worth preserving. We begin to doubt the very foundations of civil society itself.

And yet there is increasingly a reliance on impersonal institutions, the court of public opinion in mass media, and often disproportionate personal punishments to correct what are essentially ongoing cultural and interpersonal challenges. Whether it is a left-leaning social justice warrior or right-leaning religious conservative, promoting the imposition of personal preferences via such impersonal mechanisms is actually destroying the social cohesion required to repair these longstanding problems.


And this is where we have arrived in the U.S. culture of 2019. In every corner of our current political, religious, racial, and economic landscape, folks are arming themselves with accusations against other people who don’t seem to respect or honor a particular boundary or standard of behavior. Everyone is able to take offense, and demand that everyone else change. And then the most impersonal, coercive and punitive of institutional tools are used to seek remedy. It is as if we have arrived in George Orwell’s 1984 – or even Golding’s Lord of the Flies – or the worst periods of the Soviet era, or Nazi Germany, or the darkest days of McCarthyism, or the ugly history of the Inquisition…times when folks were ratting each other out to gain praise from those in power, or achieve brief political advantage over someone else, or garner a little more social capital in circumstances where they felt disempowered, or were simply taking revenge on people they didn’t like – and then taking pleasure in their suffering. And, as a consequence, in every one of these historical situations, civil society itself was eventually degraded by pervasive mistrust and mutual oppression.

Is that what we want? Do we want to head any further down this dark and dismal path?

If not, then we need to rethink what is becoming a reflexive and widespread culture of blaming, accusing, ridiculing, shaming, and punishing.

For at its core, when we ask other people to change their behavior to make us feel more comfortable or safe, we are actually giving away our power. We are offering them all the agency in a given situation, and abdicating our own. We are reinforcing our victim status, and strengthening the bullies even as we attempt to punish them. Often, we may even be galvanizing opposing tribes against any hope of reconciliation. We are, in effect, perpetuating both conflict and our own disempowerment at the same time, rather than solving the underlying problems. And as we give away our own power – while at the same time challenging and undermining everyone else’s – we end up destroying the voluntary trust, empathy and compassion that bind society together. Instead, we replace it with fear.

So…what is the alternative?

There are many observable options that have proven more effective, so why not return to those? For example, in each of the awkward and uncomfortable situations described above:

1. We can fortify our own emotional constitution, instead of taking offense. We can become stronger and more secure in who we are, without expecting others to respect or honor us. This may require some real interior work on our part – some genuine fortification of spirit, mind and heart – but the result will be that we won’t constantly require others to conform to our expectations anymore.

2. We can calmly ask for what we want – not as a self-righteous demand, but as a favor from someone who says that they want to have a professional or personal relationship with us. If they really care about us, perhaps they will at least try. But if our response is met with scorn, dismissiveness or skepticism, we have the option of letting it go. After all, that person’s approval, acceptance and conformance is not required…because we have become more confident and secure in ourselves. We don’t need to demand their conformance – and why would we want it, if it doesn’t come from a place of respect, understanding and compassion?

3. We can accept where other people are, let go of judgement, and be a positive example for them. This is what authentic, effective leaders (and parents, and managers) do: they lead by steadfast and dedicated example…not through blaming, threats, accusations or fear of punishment. Bullying is the easy way out. We can do better.

4. We can passively, actively and nonviolently resist. We can refuse to participate in activities, systems, environments and relationships that demean who we are and what we believe. We can then vote to support compassionate candidates and friendly initiatives. We can purchase goods and services from those who are supportive to our identity and beliefs. And we can do this without hatred, without fear and anxiety, without shame or blame.

5. We can create supportive communities, while also cultivating challenging relationships that bridge differences. We can surround ourselves with like-minded folks who nurture and encourage who we are and what we believe – especially in our closest relationships. At the same time, we can also cultivate friendships and social or professional connections with people who are different, who disagree, who aren’t as accepting or as tolerant. For how else can we teach by example, or demonstrate compassion, empathy, tolerance and acceptance if we don’t have such diverse relationships in our lives?

6. We can be brave…and bravely be ourselves. We can speak our truth, share our perspectives, broadcast our preferences, celebrate our identity, and proudly honor our chosen tribe…without making others feel belittled, excluded, accused, blamed or shamed. We can joyfully be who we are, while also being welcoming and kind at the same time. We can be stalwart in our own principles, while being generous towards those who do not share them. This is what real power and agency looks like.

7. We can recover our sense of humor. Perhaps it’s time to allow just a little bit of playfulness back into our lives and public discourse. A little bit of good-natured joshing. Humor isn’t by definition “mean-spirited.” There is a difference between a joke and a slight – and often this is has just as much to do with how the humor is received, as with how it is intended. If we are always reactive, always defensive, always on-edge…well, we are not likely to be able to create or maintain the relationships required to heal a polarized society. Perhaps, if we let a little humor back into our world, we wouldn’t all be so angry, defensive and fearful so much of the time.

These are the methods that make a real difference over time, that can effectively heal through compassionate and welcoming personal relationships, rather than deepening divides with institutional vindictiveness and “Us vs. Them” groupthink.


In essence, if we want everyone in a diverse and multifaceted society to thrive together, then we all must assert our own place and space to do that – not by demanding others create that space for us, but by claiming it ourselves and standing firm…without anger or condemnation towards anyone else. In essence, we need to stop blaming and accusing. This is not easy, but it demonstrates genuine strength of character. And it is the content of our character by which we all would prefer to be judged, isn’t it? I think we need to return to this standard of measure, if we want to avoid spiraling backwards and downwards, into the greatest horrors of human history.

Just my 2 cents.

Do mystics like science? How much science are they interested in?

I am a mystic and I love science. All fields (formal, natural and social) interest me, but particularly physics, astrophysics, astronomy, biology, anthropology, archeology, psychology, sociology, history, ecology, geology, oceanography, meteorology, economics, systems theory, etc. as well as applied sciences like medicine and computer science.

Why do people seem so surprised about inequality of wealth, the 10% having holdings, when so few save, even those that could?

Thanks for the question.

I think mainly it’s a matter of scale. The gap between that upper 10% and everyone else is almost too vast to comprehend.

Then there is the issue of what “savings” can actually accomplish. Even though I learned about the miracle of compound interest in my early 20s, the most outrageous predictions about my own potential wealth after 40 years of saving could never come close to what the upper 10% have amassed individually today. A couple of million maybe. But 200 Billion…?

People can intuitively grasp that not saving has consequences — especially if they’re going into debt at the same time in order to consume conspicuously. Almost everyone I know who is over 60 has looked back on their lives with chagrin regarding how they spent everything they earned. At the same time, many would not have made different choices. They don’t regret traveling in Europe in their 20s and meeting the love of their life overseas. They don’t regret buying expensive instruments and making music with friends. They don’t regret paying off their college loans, or buying their dream house on some wooded acreage. So what quality of life is anyone really willing to sacrifice in order to amass more wealth…? But the conspicuous consumption issue…or not budgeting…or not planning financially at all…well, that’s probably an issue of education more than anything else. I was very conscious about what I was sacrificing (over the longer term) by traveling, eating well, going to concerts, etc. But I don’t think most people are all that aware…until it’s too late.

And that brings us to what the “surprise” is really all about: an awakening to an unpleasant situation that was truly unexpected. I am currently helping manage the finances and healthcare of family members with dementia. Some of those family members had saved quite a bit. Some saved nothing. In both cases, they weren’t at all prepared for what was coming. ALL of their resources will be exhausted LONG BEFORE they arrive at the final stages of care. ALL OF THEM. And so for the ones who saved, it really didn’t matter that much — they are still suffering and will continue to suffer, and there will very likely be nothing left to pass on to their beneficiaries…little safety or comfort for themselves, and no legacy for their loved ones, despite all that careful saving and planning.

So even the objective of amassing wealth loses its allure in the face of such circumstances. If things are going to end like that regardless, then why NOT spend everything now to enjoy life?

And this speaks to a much more fundamental problem IMO: the reliance on individual or familial wealth to navigate well-being, instead of developing a more compassionate civil society with supportive institutions. It points, I think, to the fundamental flaw in the materialist/individualist mindset.

My 2 cents.

The Evolution of Capital



At the prompting of Lincoln Merchant, I have cobbled together my current thinking on a definition of “capitalism.” I am grateful to Lincoln for encouraging me to distill something concise and concrete from an admittedly tangled jumble of assumptions, observations and definitions floating around in my head. Hopefully this quick overview will suffice – though I suspect it still requires refinement.

To begin, I view capitalism as the natural consequence of feudalism and mercantilism, where capitalism maintains similar economic, racial, class and other sociopolitical power structures and stratification found in these systems, but morphs and reworks these components to support larger scales of production, adapts them to larger human populations, takes better advantage of rapidly emerging technologies, creates more diverse opportunities to become an owner-shareholder and concentrate wealth, and encourages (and exploits) a more economically mobile worker-consumer class out of what had been serfs, vassals and slaves. However, for the purposes of this discussion, all of those morphed components can be conveniently distilled into some form of “capital.” The basic definition of such capital would sound something like this:

Capital is anything that can be shared or accumulated to gain and maintain individual and societal existential security or advantage – that is, to support human thriving.


There are therefore many recognized forms of capital that fulfill this function – many of which mingle and overlap – which have played a role in most cultures throughout human history, and were certainly present in forms of political economy prior to capitalism. We could call these original, simple forms of capital:

1. Social capital: tangible and intangible resources made available through immediate relationships with others – through family ties, geographical communities, institutional and affinity group memberships, social networks, shared class stratum, and spontaneous agreement around values and ideology

2. Cultural capital: acquired skills, education, style and appearance (racial capital is a subset of cultural capital) – all of which facilitate social mobility and accumulation of social capital

3. Natural capital: wildly occurring land, plants and animals, water, air, minerals, etc.

4. Intellectual capital: ideas, knowledge, information, methods, etc.

5. Creative capital: human labor, inventiveness and ingenuity

6. Attraction capital: confidence, happiness and satisfaction, cultural “success” signaling, promise of pleasurable outcomes, vitality and charisma

7. Technological capital: technological advancements of any kind, i.e. “new tools”

8. Energy capital: the energy available to power any given closed system, the harnessing of which must generally comply with the laws of thermodynamics

9. Agency capital: natural ability to exercise agency in the world (i.e. to exist, express, affect and adapt – via self-directed volition, in willing concert with others…rather than through coercion, deception and manipulation)

10. Political capital: social capital and agency capital that have been consolidated into positions of power, privilege and influence

11. Temporal capital: the passage, measurement, estimation and active apportioningof time as a critical contributive factor to all goals, metrics and processes

12. Spiritual capital: intrinsic individual and collective spiritual capacities that have transformative influence

Capitalism, as it evolved into its modern form, concerned itself mainly with actively organizing, managing and combining these original, simple forms of capital towards a very specific end: the production of additional, more complex and abstracted forms of capital that permit every form of capital to be harnessed for the purpose of exchange and accumulation. We could therefore describe these additional forms of capital as complex, secondary forms, which include:

1. Private capital: the designation of “private ownership” for as many categories of capital as possible, in order to facilitate exchange and accumulation

2. Commodified/objectified capital: the creation or designation of tradable “objects” of value from other forms of capital (i.e. services, ideas, goods, etc.)

3. Productive capital: engineered and accumulated inputs that are focused solely on the production of goods, services, ideas and other commodified capital (this includes circulating capital/intermediate goods; fixed/physical capital, etc.)

4. Financial capital: a system of money – and currency itself, as a representation of value – that permits accumulations of debt, equity and interest in the course of production and exchange

5. Competitive capital: a tactical or strategic competitive advantage in production (product differentiation, persuasive marketing, monopolization, engineered scarcity, “noncompetitive” business practices, cronyism, regulatory capture, revolving door politics, etc.)

6. Entrepreneurial capital: the skills and ability to create enterprise, innovate, adapt and succeed in a competitive marketplace

7. Global capital: the plutocratic coordination of all political, cultural and economic systems into a global, interdependent conglomerate through which all capital flows can be managed, controlled and directed

Ultimately, these complex, secondary forms of capital have their own singular objective of aggregating and concentrating all capital within the capitalist system into profit. What is profit? In the simplest terms, it is the ability to extract value from a system of production and exchange. But what is “profit” for? What aim does it have? Why does profit exist? Here we come full circle, because aside from hoarding for its own sake, the consequences of generating and accumulating profit are a perceived and actual increase in “individual and societal existential security and advantage” – at least for owner-shareholders. How does profit achieve this? By representing a distilled, transmutable, extensible and durable form of surplus capital that arises independently from other capital, and which in turn facilitates ROI and IRR. In other words, profit becomes an abstract but enduring representation of extracted value, a “distilled” representation which itself can be converted into many of other forms of capital (thus “transmutable”), while nevertheless maintaining autonomous facility for its own enlargement (thus “extensible and durable”). It is really quite ingenious…almost magical in its inventiveness. Profit therefore equates a mutually accepted reservoir for transactional power by aggregating, concentrating and superseding all other forms of capital, and then creating value from itself.

At this point we can reflect on how the power structures of feudalism and mercantilism reassert themselves in capitalism. As in feudalism, capitalism tends towards winner-take-all scenarios, where the greatest security and advantage is afforded owner-shareholders (nobles) who can accumulate and secure wealth for their progeny; a small group with exceptional talents, skills, inheritance or luck can increase their economic freedom and mobility (freemen, franklins); and the vast majority of worker-consumers lack any real economic freedom and mobility, and remain as exploited labor (serfs, vassals and slaves) for the owner-shareholders. In order protect and expand these power dynamics, crony capitalism creates a similar relationship between corporations and elected government that merchants had with aristocracy under mercantilism – where workers were oppressed for the benefit of the State, and the State expanded its power through corporate monopolies in international trade. Even where capitalism diverges from these old institutions and relationships, it still maintains similar hierarchies in all of the systems it creates. Perhaps this is why there is such a natural antagonism between democracy and capitalism: the former aims to diffuse power and promote egalitarian distributions and protections (i.e. civil rights and civic institutions) for all classes, while the latter is still aiming to concentrate controls, power and influence for the owner-shareholder class to enlarge their profits. In so many ways, capitalism is really new wine in old wine skins…albeit much more voluminous, complex, and effective wine.

So an approximation of capital’s evolution within capitalism might look like this:



The kernel of truth in ideologies like pro-capitalist market fundamentalism is that there is, in fact, a normal and natural inclination among human beings to increase their own existential security and advantage – their own thriving. However, a disconnect occurs when capitalism is consequently described as an obvious or inevitable outcome of that impulse. There are, after all, many other ways to structure society – and to interact with original, simple capital – so that a greater level of individual and collective security and advantage is facilitated. History is replete with examples that do not include features like private ownership, or prioritizing individual transactions above communal sharing, or emphasizing competitive advantage over collaboration. These include both naturally occurring, self-organized, commons-centric solutions that have endured around the globe (as elaborated in Elinor Ostrom’s common pool resource management research); consciously engineered commons-centric arrangements that have likewise demonstrated success in the real world (such as the societies in Spain, Ukraine and Korea that were modeled on Kropotkin’s anarcho-communism); and experiments that illustrate how original, simple capital can either remain “shared” as a public good within the commons to varying degrees (direct democracy, Open Source, Creative Commons, P2P, National Parks, public highways, etc.), or can be more sustainably and collectively managed (Transition Towns, worker-owned enterprise, community NGOs, non-profit cooperatives, etc.).

In these alternatives to capitalism, we observe mainly one type of secondary, complex capital: common capital. There is, however, no longer a need for surplus capital. Common capital designates “common ownership” for as many categories of capital as possible, so they are treated as public goods, available to all for collective benefit. Most of the other forms of secondary, complex capital found in capitalist systems either don’t exist, or are greatly attenuated, deprioritized or transformed. For example, there could still be competitive, entrepreneurial, or financial capital, but they have a more egalitarian, mutually nourishing expression. The consequence of such arrangements is that existential security and advantage – human thriving – is provided for everyone is society, and the old power dynamics and hierarchy of feudalism and mercantilism fade away. In addition, as demonstrated by Ostrom’s research, tragedies of the commons are easily averted, so that the original, simple forms of capital can be preserved. This is the real meaning of “sustainability” in commons-centric systems.

An approximation of the commons model might look like this:



It is important to recognize that, although ingenious in many ways, capitalist activity is entirely invented; there is nothing natural about the process of managing, concentrating and accumulating other forms of capital so they facilitate private property, free enterprise or competitive markets – and there is no reason that all capital must become transactional in nature, or must result in profits. These are, rather, evidence of a highly inventive species…and perhaps a fairly insecure and immature culture as well. For if all forms of capital can be negotiated purely through transactional relationships, then any need for interpersonal trust, spontaneous reciprocation, or genuine depth of emotional connection can be attenuated or even eliminated. And if, as many researchers suggest,[1] prosociality evolved mainly to facilitate existential security and advantage for tribes, families and individuals, then there is no longer a strong need for prosociality itself in capitalist societies, since original, simple capital has been pervasively overtaken by complex, secondary forms. The development of these complex, secondary forms understandably disrupts collective valuation of the original, simpler forms – it subjugates them to rigidly hierarchical transactional priorities, and disallows more subtle and dynamic relational priorities. Ideas, friendships, creativity, technological tools, the natural world and so on no longer sustain intrinsic, facilitative value for individuals and society – certainly not in the context of survival. Instead, the focus of human energies, interactions and agency becomes centered around the secondary forms that assure advantage and security within a capitalist system. Very much like losing oneself in a video game, or gambling in a casino with no windows or clocks, capitalism creates an ecosystem that is increasingly disconnected from preceding social and ecological systems. Reality becomes externality. And profit, in turn, becomes an end-in-itself, usurping the value of all other forms of capital; and all existential security and advantage is then (philosophically and pragmatically) concentrated into the surplus capital of profit.

The corrosive qualities of capitalism’s secondary forms of capital have of course been intuitively predicted by socialists and anarchists over previous centuries.[2] There are also increasing observations among modern disciplines that outline some of the least attractive psychological and sociological impacts of capitalist systems;[3] that is, what we might call a “casino effect” or “video game effect” on the human psyche. We also have fairly strong evidence that modern capitalism isn’t sustainable, mainly because of snowballing negative externalities that are destroying the original, simple forms of capital.[4] Over the course of being privatized and commodified, natural capital is polluted and depleted; agency capital is abdicated and externalized; social capital becomes isolated, diluted and fragile; political capital is corrupted; spiritual capital is corroded and distorted; cultural capital is homogenized; and so on. So one benefit of appreciating the evolution of capital as outlined here is the potential explanation for why these failures are occurring…and will continue to occur under capitalism. It also suggests how a commons-centric vision can restore more pristine and flourishing versions of original capital and collective thriving. Despite its initial impetus to improve human existential security and advantage – and its spectacular interim success in economic growth and wealth creation – capitalism is now actually undermining and annihilating that security, even as it continues to ensure superficial and temporary advantages for a select few.

There are other characteristics of capitalism that are contributing to its instability and decline, and these can also be described according to dynamics of different forms of capital as we have defined them. As described in Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, profits that have been increasing regardless of the rate of economic growth are concentrated in the owner-shareholder class, amplifying economic inequality and the potential for societal instability. Piketty argues this concentration is by design, and points to factors like inheritance that perpetuate unequal distribution. Consider, then, that this process is easily understood by examining the different forms of capital, and how they interact both qualitatively and quantitatively. Certain types of capital have hard limits: natural and energy capital are inherently limited and finite. Other types of capital have soft limits: technological, social, and cultural capital, while amplifying other forms of capital, have diminishing impact as scale and complexity increases. Some types of capital are effectively limitless: creative, intellectual, and indeed agency capital can perpetually expand through other forms of capital – especially the secondary, more complex forms – as those forms are aggregated and consolidated. And some capital is both finite and limitless: temporal capital, for instance, which alternately constrains, distills or expands other forms of capital, depending on how it is applied.

Can you see what is happening here? The efficiency by which capitalism concentrates and combines various forms of capital inherently creates tremendous tensions and imbalance between finite categories of capital and infinite categories of capital. And that conflict inevitably results in unsustainability. In the simplest of examples, we cannot produce more orange juice if there is a finite supply of oranges, we cannot convince every consumer they need four additional smartphones, and it becomes more and more challenging to generate private capital if nearly everything is already privately owned (at least, it becomes decreasingly easy to do so). At the same, we also cannot reliably extract value from creative or intellectual capital when it is ubiquitous and instantly accessible to all, or transfer so much social and agency capital into political capital that it produces fascism (at least not without perilous consequences), or demand that time capital always conform to rigidly constrained expectations where organic variability (in humans and the rest of the natural world) is involved. But as capitalism is growth-dependent and profit-dependent, it insists that resolving these tensions somehow be made predictable, constant and profitable. Capitalism thus keeps setting one form of capital in opposition to other forms in untenable ways, exciting a self-sabotaging conflict. And while certain innovations, newfound resources, and increased efficiencies have aided capitalism’s eternal quest for more, most of that low-hanging fruit has already been harvested; the expectation of resolving these conflicts – or profiting from them – has become an asymptotic wager. And, eventually, likely in our not-to-distant future, this wager will effectively arrive at a dead end where progress is indistinguishable from stasis, even as the most destructive externalities of capitalism continue unabated.

Which is why we must return to commons-centric proposals in the hope of restoring sanity to managing and utilizing all forms of capital. The pressure cooker needs to be vented and reduced from boil to a pleasant simmer, so that we have a hope of balancing the finite and the infinite, instead of pitting them against each other. In essence, humanity must humbly awaken to its limitations, and let go of vestigial hierarchical systems. We must stand down, and simplify. And that is what the unitive, egalitarian, ecologically responsible, prosocially restorative elegance of common capital proposals offer us.

(The most current version of this paper is available at www.tcollinslogan.com/Evolution_of_Capital.pdf)

For further exploration of alternative political economy, please visit www.level-7.org

[1]http://socialinteractionlab.psych.umn.edu/sites/g/files/pua1356/f/2010/2010/Simpson%20%26%20Beckes%20(Prosocial%20chapter,%202010).pdf, https://www.sarah-brosnan.com/research/the-evolution-of-prosocial-behavior, http://www.professormarkvanvugt.com/publications/articles/21-evolution-and-cooperation/125-the-evolutionary-psychology-of-human-prosociality-adaptations,-byproduct,-and-mistakes.html

[2]See Godwin, Paine, Thoreau, Proudhon, Owen, Fourier, Bakunin, Marx, Kropotkin, DuBois, Robinson et al.

[3]https://www.researchgate.net/scientific-contributions/16246606_Paul_K_Piff, http://www.tcollinslogan.com/code-3/images/StupefactionOfHumanExperience.pdf

[4]https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/02/does-capitalism-have-to-be-bad-for-the-environment/, https://www.counterpunch.org/2014/06/04/the-externalities-of-global-warming/, http://www.level-7.org/Challenges/Capitalism/

Grace



Unconditional condition of being
Felt substance of reality
Destroyed and transformed
In Spirit’s fire:
Phoenix daemon
Ill-fitted with flesh
Lavishing heart that loves, is loved
     in the fierceness of Kali.

Mind distilled by breaking
Breaking in, out, loose, free
A gift so great
It can’t be carried
Only given, constantly given
In glorious rivers
     from the Center of All
Fountains of service, compassion and kindness
Flowing without constraint
Into an aching world.

Suffering
A long dark night
     alone and forsaken
Death in the absence of Light
Then knowledge: wisdom and agape
Blazing beacon of return
Annihilating every fear
And every ignorance
For skillful bodhicitta.

I am no more
Beyond Nothing
There is only YES
Joyful sorrow tips the precious oil
Upon His feet
Released at last
Soul shattering with gratitude
Devotion weeps.

Peace be with you.
It was only ever Peace.

The Shedding Tree



At length I understand
What this vague tickling sensation is
This loosening and lifting
Like forgetful daydreams
Between one room and the next:
It’s one more leaf of me, drifting loose
Wending on a breeze of years
Slowly, inevitably, settling to earth.
What was it once?
What marks the feud of my denuding?
Perhaps it is a memory of France in summer
Or some simple skill – like sketching – that my body now finds strange
Or an extra surge of strength on winded climbs
Maybe a kettle full of turgid words, boiled completely dry
Or some delicate, fluttering, once-cherished yearning….?
Or wait…was it something else
Something more important
Woven deeper and more intimate…?
I don’t know.
I. Don’t. Know.
And in not knowing I lose more
Than all the precious selves I’ve stored
A barren ignorance crawls forth
Like Proustian sleep
While chilling winter
Storms my leafless limbs.
Such stillness
On this privileged ground
Gone cold beneath the heaping foliage of life
I am bereft and overwhelmed
In unkempt gloom
Gray gray gray!
And yet…and yet –
Defiant, my reach of bony branch
Jagged and accusatory
Against indifferent and implacable sky
…another vague, tickling sensation in reply.
Then, sensing what is leaving…has left
Burrowing through vague aromas of decay
I try to remember
Intricate, infinite, fiercely desperate
I try to remember
Those many paths that brought me here
I try to remember
And in my clambering effort
The leaves that grace my feet
Sweet and soft and bronzed by time
Reward me with a childhood game
Oh yes, frolicking amid the scent of fall
Oh yes…
That memory is wholly mine
Before I gift it to oblivion.

How can you determine spiritual progress?

Thank you for the question.

We could simplify (or refine) all of this into the one primary indicator of spiritual progress: the scope and skillfulness of our compassion. That is really what is reflected in different descriptions of both insight and growth among various traditions. Is our compassion deepening and distilling? Is our love expanding to embrace more and more within and without? Is our ability to translate that affection into helpful, healing, creative and supportive action becoming more fluid, unselfconscious and efficacious? Then our journey has been profitable in a spiritual sense. Everything outside of this is, I think, secondary…in orbit around this central theme.

I hope this was helpful.

What are the best books that explain libertarian conservatism ideals and philosophy?

Thanks for the question. I think that kind of depends on what you want to know. For example:

Want to understand the “populist” conceptions of the right-libertarian movement? Read Ayn Rand. She’s not libertarian but more laissez-faire (and in fact criticized libertarianism), but many folks conflate her “objectivist” philosophy with justifications for right-libertarian ideals. Of course, genuinely thoughtful folks don’t really take Ayn Rand seriously, as so many of her assertions are either purely invented or just plain mistaken. In the same vein, you could also consult Ludwig von Mises of the Austrian School — completely separate angle from Rand that brush up against populist libertarianism, but equally crackpot and arriving at similarly non-evidenced-based conclusions.

Want to understand some broadly-held, philosophical foundations for right-libertarianism? Murray Rothbard and Milton Friedman are very popular among the deeper-thinking crowd. However, these two are not very…shall we say…disciplined or clear thinkers themselves — their work is sometimes laden with logical fallacies, contradictions and baseless assumptions. However, to understand the central tenets of modern right-libertarianism today, they are fairly go-to authors.

Want to dig deep and really get your head around right-libertarianism? To rigorously delve into more intellectually honest and nuanced underpinnings of right-libertarian ideology, I would check out these two books:

Friedrich Hayek’s The Transmission of the Ideals of Freedom, and

Robert Nozik’s Anarchy, State and Utopia

IMO these two thinkers are able to more honestly engage the challenges of their own ideology, and are capable of real nuance and abstraction around complex issues. They are simply much more sophisticated. As a left-libertarian myself, I have respect for these authors, and have been happy to engage their writing in order to refine my own ideas (often opposing ideas…but not always!).

My 2 cents.

Do you agree with Milton Friedman's statement: "Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself"?

Thank you for the question.

This quote is from Ch.1 of Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom. The chapter, entitled “The Relation between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom,” is a tour-de-force of propagandized half-truths. In one unsupported claim after another, Friedman insists a specific flavor of economic freedom that he believes necessary is more important to personal liberty than political or civic freedoms. He doesn’t offer any real data on this, he just keeps repeating this claim over and over again, thus generating what is called an “illusory truth effect.” Friedman — along with many other neoliberal evangelists — does this a lot in his writing and speaking: and many people have been hoodwinked into believing neoliberal propaganda extolling market fundamentalism as a consequence of precisely this technique.

The reality, however, is that political freedoms (i.e. civil liberties, and strong civic institutions that protect those rights, etc.) facilitate smoothly running, productive, wealth-creating market-centric economic systems, which in turn can — with the right political economy in place — facilitate economic freedoms supportive of civil society. It is a symbiotic relationship, which is likely why ALL of the most successful economies in the world have been (and still are) “mixed economies.” That is what the actual evidence supports — and not Milton Friedman’s version of laissez faire. Interestingly, Friedman actually hints at this symbiosis in the referenced chapter (describing the failure of freedom in fascist States like Nazi Germany that nevertheless had competitve free enterprise), he just ignores his own observations about it in favor of his preferred — and unsupported — conclusions. To do this, Friedman constantly makes untrue claims, for example: “there are only two ways of co-ordinating the economic activities of millions” (incorrect, there are many more ways…but those alternatives don’t serve Friedman’s arguments); “The consumer is protected from coercion by the seller because of the presence of other sellers with whom he can deal” (incorrect, whoever has the biggest marketing budget — or most persuasive advertising — can undermine all competition…and that marketing can indeed rely on coercion through fear-mongering); “It is a mark of the political freedom of a capitalist society that men can openly advocate and work for socialism” (incorrect, it is a mark of a strong civil society that folks can advocate for a particular ideology…and much of civil society in capitalist countries was strengthened by socialist efforts, see How_Socialism_Saved_Capitalism_From_Itself.pdf).

As to this specific quote, it is nested in the context of Friedman’s belief that: “So long as effective freedom of exchange is maintained, the central feature of the market organization of economic activity is that it prevents one person from interfering with another in respect of most of his activities.” Friedman believed that markets protected all the players involved from coercion. The problem, of course, is that they really don’t. Billion-dollar marketing campaigns can deceive consumers into buying things they don’t want or need, and then become addicted to/dependent on those products. Business owners can coerce workers into horrible working conditions, and keep them there with subsistence wages. Activist shareholders can coerce businesses into really bad business decisions (for the longterm viability of the business itself, for consumers, for workers, etc.). And of course this doesn’t even touch on the horrific negative externalities of a given industry (like Oil & Gas, or Big Tobacco, or Industrial Agriculture, etc.). You see the problem? Capitalist markets alone don’t do squat for the supportive conditions of liberty itself…in fact, they can quickly undermine it (research “resource curse” countries for examples of this).

So Friedman’s assertion about arguments “against the free market” not appreciating freedom is simply an ideological distortion: because Friedman badly wants capitalist markets to fundamentally equate freedom, he assumes anyone opposed to them must be opposed to freedom.

In any case, to dig more deeply into this topic, I recommend reading this essay:

The Goldilocks Zone of Integral Liberty.pdf

My 2 cents.

What are your thoughts on dialetheism?

Thanks for the question.

I tend to agree with the premise of dialetheism, which is that a given conception or expression can be inconsistent or contradictory without being incoherent or trivial. Paradoxical propositions can contain meaningful truths. I think anyone who successfully navigates a robust dialectical process would readily agree that dialetheic efficacy is somewhat obvious, and not merely semantic. The question then becomes one of specificity and granularity: is there some concrete “formula” for precise dialethic analysis, or is this more a matter of nuance, abstraction, and “holding truths lightly”…? This is where I tend to unfetter analytical rigor in order to invite other input streams. I suspect this isn’t a black-and-white situation, but instead that dialetheism plots across a spectrum: some conditions are “more” contradictory than others, and the paraconsistency of any such contradictions may be more fluid and conditional than rigid and absolute. In other words, it’s not likely that math is going to capture this level of subtlety.

That said, I’ll offer a “multidialethical” (or what I call multidialectical) construction that I believe has merit: “Dialethism, the law of non-contradiction, and the principle of explosion are all valid, and should be part of any rigorous evaluation.”

To appreciate why I find this approach compelling, I recommend reading this: Sector Theory 1.0 – Todd's Take on Epistemology

My 2 cents.

What are some misunderstanding that people have about mysticism?

Thank you for the question. Here are some misunderstandings I’ve encountered about mysticism:

1. **It’s “New Age.”** Nope…mysticism has existed in various forms all around the world for thousands of years.

2. **It’s about magick, or alchemy, or conversing with spirits.** Nope…it’s about inviting innate spiritual perception-cognition and wisdom that every person has within themselves.

3. **It’s not part of any religion.** Nope…some flavor of mysticism exists in every spiritual tradition: Sufism (Islam); contemplative Christianity; Kabbalah (Judaism); Wicca; Hinduism; Buddhism; etc.

4. **It’s “of the Devil.”** Nope…it’s the esoteric basis for every form of compassion-centered spirituality — and indeed every formal religion.

5. **Only special people can be mystics.** Nope…there are tools and practices available to anyone and everyone to activate mystical awareness — there are just some techniques that are more suitable to one person than another.

My 2 cents.

Is anarchism a feasible idea? Could an entire society of anarchists work?

Thanks for the question, James. Of course certain kinds of anarchism are feasible, and for fairly large societies. There is historical evidence of this in the following places:

Free Territory - Wikipedia

Strandzha Commune - Wikipedia

Guangzhou - Wikipedia

Revolutionary Catalonia - Wikipedia

(you can see a full list here: List of anarchist communities - Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, many folks don’t know of these experiments, some of which endured for years before they were violently suppressed (usually by authoritarian dictators…and, rather ironically, “communist” ones of the Stalinist variety). Peter Kropotkin inspired many of these experiments, and I would encourage reading him (Conquest of Bread is a good place to start).

One interesting place to watch is the anarchist region of Northern Syria (previously called Rojava). You can read about it here: Syria's Kurds Experiment With Democracy Amid Civil War. It’s still thriving today…although with the U.S. abandoning Syrians now, it may not endure much longer.

Lastly, we must recognize that only left-anarchist experiments have been successfully tried. These actually fall under the “libertarian socialism” heading. Right-libertarianism, “Libertarian” with a capital “L,” or anarcho-capitalism, has never been successful.

My 2 cents.

Why was the FCC Fairness Doctrine revoked in 1987? What have been the consequences in the 30 years since, intended and otherwise?

Thank you for the question.

Reagan’s recision of the Fairness Doctrine had huge and enduring consequences regarding news media and information delivery in the U.S.…and the action was not “inevitable” as some have suggested.

Consider the Fairness Doctrine terms “honest, equitable and balanced,” and then consider how the Fairness Doctrine applied those to “controversial matters” that were in the public’s interest to report. This is the heart of the Fairness Doctrine: to inform U.S. citizens in a balanced way regarding diverse perspectives around critical issues. The spirit of the Fairness Doctrine was to prevent biased or misleading journalism and media coverage, and to represent as many different perspectives on a given issue as possible — and especially opposing viewpoints — as fairly as possible. In essence, this was an effort to discourage propaganda in U.S. media that served private agendas. Propaganda is often, after all, simply reporting one side of a given issue.

You’ll notice that other answers so far completely leave this critical point out.

Now, why did the FCC revoke the Fairness Doctrine? The Reagan administration framed the revocation under “concerns about free speech;” in other words, that the FCC’s continued enforcement could potentially interfere with some forms of free speech in media (there was no evidence that this was the case, only that this could be a concern). Even if such concerns had been validated, this simply would have required additional legislation to refine the Fairness Doctrine from Congress — but such worries are completely and utterly contradicted by the subsequent explosion of alternative media platforms (cable TV, Internet streaming, etc.). Do you see the problem with some of the other answers now…? If the main concern about the Fairness Doctrine (from conservatives at the time) was really impingement of free speech, how could “the Fairness Doctrine being outdated” due to a plethora of alternative media platforms also be a central consideration…? This is a duplicitous ruse. We know this because there is ALSO the issue of the 1986 SCOTUS ruling that affirmed the FCC’s ability to enforce the Fairness Doctrine on teletext technology…opening the door for its application to other media platforms as well. We can even speculate that this expansion of FCC authority over newly emerging media stoked efforts by conservatives to eliminate the Fairness Doctrine completely.

Now, it is important to appreciate that Congress DID update the Fairness Doctrine, at the time of its revocation, to address some of these issues…but Reagan vetoed that legislation anyway. So, in reality, conservatives just didn’t like the way the Fairness Doctrine was being applied by the FCC, or how Fairness Doctrine cases had played out in the courts, or how it was already being applied to future information technologies. THAT is the real reason conservatives wanted it gone. Why? Well, not only did the Fairness Doctrine dampen neoliberal propaganda efforts, it also did not allow conservatives to restrict progressive opinions being broadcast on publicly funded media (like NPR/PBS) when conservatives controlled the FCC (this was decided in the 1984 SCOTUS ruling FCC v. League of Women Voters of California.) In other words: the Fairness Doctrine was useless to conservatives who wanted to promote their own agenda while suppressing progressive ideologies…and they just could not stand for that.

And what has happened since? Propaganda has taken over conservative for-profit media, and conservatives have both doggedly sought to defund publicly funded non-profit media, and to disallow the FCC to regulate ANY media with fairness in mind. For example, the latest repeal of Net Neutrality by a conservative-controlled FCC is completely consistent with such efforts — why not let corporations decide who gets access to what and when? Neoliberals simply do not want there to be “honest, equitable and balanced” coverage of controversial issues — not even if propaganda is being funded by Russia on Facebook or Twitter! They believe “the market” can and should determine all outcomes — in other words, whoever has the most money to begin with, or who can most effectively deceive and manipulate people, should determine what information is available to the public.

So…again, WHY are conservatives so concerned about the consumers and voters having access to good, balanced information? Well, we’ve seen exactly why over the intervening years since the Fairness Doctrine was revoked:

- The Oil & Gas industry doesn’t want you to know about the realities of climate change.

- The Pharmaceutical industry doesn’t want you to know how dangerous and/or ineffective their drugs actually are.

- The Tobacco industry doesn’t want you to know about the real health risks of tobacco and vaping.

- The wealthiest owner-shareholders don’t want you to know that trickle-down economics has never, ever worked — and that economic nationalism won’t ever bring certain jobs back to the U.S.A. — but that conservative economic policies instead enrich only those wealthy few.

- Evangelical Christians don’t want you to know that Planned Parenthood is a much more effective way to prevent abortions than outlawing abortions has ever been.

- The Firearms industry doesn’t wan’t you to have statistics about just how lethal their products actually are — or how rarely those weapons in the hands of ordinary citizens actually prevent crime.

- (And so on with all sorts of other vested interests: agriculture, petrochemicals, insurance, financial institutions, etc.)

You see the pattern? There is a tremendous amount of money at stake — and the underpinnings of tribal belief systems along with it. Facts, evidence and statistics almost universally undermine conservative positions…so why would conservatives EVER wan’t news and information media to really be “honest, equitable and balanced?”

So…what happened? Well, if you do some research on this you’ll see that ALL conservative news media is, in fact, not just heavily biased towards supporting untruths, they are also more prone to deliberate counterfactual reporting, sometimes even fabricating stories that support neoliberal agendas and a conservative worldview. In contrast, left-leaning media can indeed be biased, but doesn’t approach the level of deceptive misinformation and outright lies that are perpetrated by right-leaning media. And so, as with any democracy, the quality of information that a voting population has is going to determine the quality of politicians they elect, and the agendas that are moved forward in government. Which is how we’ve arrived at a Trump presidency and Republican Party that is so woefully disconnected from reality — to a degree that is clearly harmful to the well-being of citizens in the U.S. and around the globe. And this is what Reagan’s revoking the Fairness Doctrine and blocking its revision by Congress has gifted to the American people and the world.

Lastly, in addition to helping neoliberal propaganda efforts, ending the Fairness Doctrine has also helped even more nefarious efforts — such as the “active measures” of Russian intelligence — to distort public information and perception as well. It is more than a little ironic that Ronald Reagan, champion of anti-Soviet rhetoric and disruption of the Soviet Union itself, was single-handedly responsible for the ability of an ex-KGB officer, Vladimir Putin, to directly manipulate the American public today. See the link below for more on that.

In closing, here are some resources I would recommend to more thoroughly understand and navigate these issues:

L7 Neoliberalism (covers neoliberal propaganda efforts and agendas)

L7 Opposition (covers Russia’s “active measures”)

Media Bias/Fact Check - Search and Learn the Bias of News Media (great resource for checking media bias and accuracy)

My 2 cents.

If you were the mayor of a town, what rules would you enact?

Oh thank you for this! My mayoral edicts:

1. Only popcorn would be served in restaurants from 3–5 p.m.

2. Large animal veterinarians would be given special privileges at all public water fountains.

3. Strong smells would be banned. Permanently.

4. A radio signal would be beamed out into space requesting that our neighborly alien visitors stop beaming stupid rays at planet Earth (we would promise not to leave the solar system if we could just regain a few IQ points!)

5. On alternate Thursdays, MAGA hats would be piled up and burned in the public square to the tune of Pete Seeger’s “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.”

6. Only homeless people would be allowed to vote…until there was no more homelessness, and then everyone else could vote again.

7. Open carry would be permitted for everyone in town, under the following conditions: 1) Firearms must only be loaded with rubber bullets, and 2) Anyone riding an e-scooter on city sidewalks at unsafe speeds must be fired at.

8. In order to test Elinor Ostrom’s common pool resource management schema, all common spaces will be converted to alfalfa fields for grazing free range Alpacas that belong to everyone.

9. Anyone caught trying to sell something to people that they don’t need or want (goods, services, religion, etc.) will be subject to fifteen minutes of public caning for each offense.

10. Anyone who parks their car across multiple parking spaces to keep it safe from dings and scratches will have their driving privileges revoked within the city limits for five years.

11. City employees will dress up as frail elderly people and solicit fellow citizens for help; good samaritans will then be rewarded with a modest “Basic Income” salary for life.

12. Free classes in formal second-order magic will be taught at public libraries on a daily basis.

That’s all I can think of for now, but I think it’s a start….

Some thoughts about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez


After reading through a number of articles and news about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, four things have become very clear to me:

1) Ocasio-Cortez has a vision – and it’s a vision that is not only a direct threat to a plutocratic “old guard” of Republican crony capitalists, but also antagonizes more mainstream elements of the Democratic Party as well. The key components of that vision are captured in the Green New Deal, which you can read about here: https://ocasio2018.com/green-new-deal (see item 6 on that page for an overview of objectives). In essence, by simply promoting the views that she holds, Ocasio-Cortez has created a plethora of instant enemies in Washington DC, among neoliberal think tanks and conservative news outlets, and in the Red Scare reflexes of countless right-leaning Americans.

2) Ocasio-Cortez is young – she was 28 when she began running for office – and has made the same sort of mistakes that both seasoned politicians and rookies make when speaking to the press. However, she is held to a much different standard than most other politicians: she is certainly more relentlessly demeaned, derided and rebuked in condescending ways than…wait for it…any male candidates and politicians who make similar gaffs have been. Certainly the right-wing voices that most boisterously attack her remain noticeably silent regarding our current POTUS, who perpetrates much more grievous, malicious and destructive misstatements with zero accountability.

3) However, some of Ocasio-Cortez’s mistakes are similar in flavor to things Sarah Palin said in her initial interviews: they reveal substantive gaps in learning and understanding about some fundamental issues of public policy. Some of these gaps are surprising, given the fact that Ocasio-Cortez graduated cum laude with a BA in international relations (with a minor in economics). A striking difference, though, is that Ocasio-Cortez can admit she doesn’t know something, or has made a mistake, and that she needs to learn more about a given topic. In fact, she has said this a lot. Another striking difference is that Ocasio-Cortez, at age 29, has never held any public office…unlike Palin, who made arguably worse blunders at age 44 after serving in public office for 16 years (most notably Governor of Alaska for two of those).

4) Ocasio-Cortez is actually pretty bright (Boston University’s Associate Provost and Dean of students Kenneth Elmore said Ocasio-Cortez was “brilliant — she is boldly curious and always present. She makes me think and could always see multiple sides of any issue.”) and she certainly has some compelling perspectives to share. I’ve listed some of her quotes below. Again, though, what I think we can glean from those perspectives is a direct challenge to the old-white-male-plutocracy; that is, the neoliberal elite that have comfortably captured U.S. government for some time now. And THAT is why right-leaning folks are so riled up about her. So the attacks will keep coming, this is certain. In the meantime, I’m hoping Ocasio-Cortez will grow into her elected position, become a bit more media savvy, and polish her public policy chops a bit before doing any more interviews.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Quotes:

“I can't name a single issue with roots in race that doesn't have economic implications, and I cannot think of a single economic issue that doesn't have racial implications. The idea that we have to separate them out and choose one is a con.”

“When we talk about the word 'socialism,' I think what it really means is just democratic participation in our economic dignity and our economic, social, and racial dignity. It is about direct representation and people actually having power and stake over their economic and social wellness, at the end of the day.”

“At Standing Rock, we experienced, first-hand, people coming together in their communities and trying to use the levers of representative democracy to try and say, 'We don't want this in our community; we don't want this in our backyard,' and corporations using their monetary influence to completely erode that process.”

“The thing that’s hard is that you’re supposed to be perfect all the time on every issue and every thing. What people forget is that if we want everyday working-class Americans to run for office and not, these, like, robots, then we have to acknowledge and accept imperfection and growth and humanity in our government.”

“I do think that sometimes, especially coming into this going straight from activism to being a candidate or to being a person who potentially, you know, looks like will be holding political office soon, I think we expect our politicians to be perfect and fully formed and on point on every single issue.”

“I think there's a weapon of cynicism to say, 'Protest doesn't work. Organizing doesn't work. Y'all are a bunch of hippies. You know, it doesn't do anything,' because, frankly, it's said out of fear, because it is a potent force for political change.”

“Democrats are a big tent party, you know, I'm not trying to impose an ideology on all several hundred members of Congress. But I do think that, once again, it's not about selling an - ism, or an ideology, or a label or a color. This is about selling our values.”

“The biggest hurdle that our communities have is cynicism - saying it's a done deal, who cares; there's no point to voting. If we can get somebody to care, it's a huge victory for the movement and the causes we're trying to advance.”

“In the wealthiest nation in the world, working families shouldn’t have to struggle. It’s time for a New York that’s good for the many. I am an educator, organizer, Democratic Socialist, and born-and-raised New Yorker running to champion working families in Congress. It is well past time that we in NY-14 had a true, lobbyist-free representative who lives in our community and fights on behalf of Bronx and Queens families. This movement for Congress is about education and healthcare; it’s about housing, jobs, justice, and civil rights. It’s is about preparing for the future of our environment, energy, and infrastructure. It’s about championing the dignity of our neighbors. And it’s about getting money out of politics.”

“Amazon is a billion-dollar company. The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.”
“We’re looking at our phones until we literally lose consciousness. If our leaders don’t learn to communicate in an engaging manner, our entertainers will become politicians. That’s what we have now.”

“It’s about conversation, not combativeness. Doesn’t mean everyone agrees always, but it does mean we bring folks together and focus on finding solutions.”

"Your attempt to strip me of my family, my story, my home, and my identity is exemplary of how scared you are of the power of all four of those things."

“We may be devastated. We may be disappointed. But we will not be deterred.”

“We are all capable of awakening and commitment. And because of that, we can all be great.”

In what ways could restorative justice improve America?

Sadly restorative justice could improve America by re-introducing a basic sense of community and connection between individuals. I say “sadly” because I believe it is the disconnection and isolation in these relationships that leads to a culture of criminality in the first place. Let’s take drug subculture as just one example. Why does it exist? Because too many folks can’t see any way out of their poverty and pain, and feel isolated, hopeless, and desperate…and drugs are a way out. Not an easy way out…just one of very few ways out they believe is available. How much violence intersects with illegal drug use? A lot. How much crime? A lot. How much destruction to families and friendships? A lot. So if we model healing of crime itself around restoring a sense of belonging, relationship, family, community, intimacy and so on…well, then we’re really just addressing the malady that led to the crime itself. We are removing a cause — one incentive — for criminality by relieving what reinforced a need for drugs. The accountability is secondary…it is the healthy, mutually supportive relationships are primary. How many other crimes (or patterns of criminality and criminal subculture) are a consequence of the breakdown of community, a loss of the sense of belonging, and a paucity of nourishing interpersonal relationships in modern society…? I’d bet that when you take severe psychopathology and cycles of abuse out of the mix, that this breakdown is responsible for nearly all of the remaining serious crime.

My 2 cents.

How could "Medicare for all" succeed when the program spends 3% of GDP to cover only 15% of the population (3/.15=20% of GDP)?

First, from CMS.gov: “Per person personal health care spending for the 65 and older population was $18,988 in 2012, over 5 times higher than spending per child ($3,552) and approximately 3 times the spending per working-age person ($6,632).”

With a more granular distribution curve you’re going to see the 20% GDP for everyone droping to around .42/.15 = 2.8% GDP. So that’s the first correction to your math.

Second, if Medicare is the only game in town for most healthcare coverage (aside from boutique stuff) then the leverage Medicare will have to negotiate prices is going to be TREMENDOUS. This is why Canada and the UK pay a lot less for the same drugs used in the U.S. — about 1/6 to 1/3 of U.S. prices. Although the margins aren’t as great for medical devices, we could see 50% reductions there as well. And of course removing the bloated private insurers (with much higher admin overhead, and of course impatient shareholders) from the equation means that services will be roughly 40% lower too (this is based on how much less Medicare pays for the same procedures already, compared to private insurers). Even by conservative estimates, this means that overall healthcare costs will be reduced, on average, by AT LEAST 50%. Which brings the total coverage number down to at least 1.4% GDP.

If what has happened in other countries is any indication, all of this will also have the effect of INCREASING the total number of healthcare consumers over time, while REDUCING the per capita outlays over time — especially since every $1 spent on preventative care saves about $6 in lifetime costs. I’d predict, then, that this last bit will result in a wash (i.e. more healthcare consumers at net lower lifetime outlays). And, as preventative care and predictive diagnostics (via genetic testing, etc.) become more refined, I think we’ll see those costs drop even further.

Which means that fee-for-service models are going to eventually become unprofitable anyway…so why not abandon them now?! :-)

My 2 cents.

Breaking Bread with the Republican Hive-Mind: How to Have A Happy Thanksgiving & Other Holidays Amid A Political Storm


This past Friday, on Bill Maher’s last show of the year, he offered a simple recommendation for creating a more harmonious Thanksgiving for all of us: DON’T DISCUSS POLITICS. Pick any other topic and discuss that instead,he exclaimed. And – at a time when our political discourse frequently descends into unhinged rants and hateful name-calling – I think he has a very good point. In fact, it might be a helpful idea to ask everyone coming together for a holiday gathering if they would commit to avoiding political topics and debates altogether during those special times. However, in the event that political topics do arise during your Thanksgiving celebration or other holiday (or even on your FB page), here are some tips on how to mitigate the more unfortunate elements of Republican Hive-Mind thought and behavior:

1. Be a much-needed model for empathy, and affirm a conservative’s emotions, instead of engaging around facts. Nearly all of the pedantic rhetoric that circulates on Right-wing media and all social media is emotionally based. Whether it comes in the form of blaming, conspiracy-mongering, stalwart patriotism, hate speech, self-victimization, dramatic exaggerations, “alternative facts,” anecdotes or personal narratives – whatever is being invoked as part of the propaganda, it’s really all about generating a particular range of emotions. These emotions include pride, group loyalty, grief, anger, indignation, moral superiority, alienation, bewilderment, mistrust of outsiders…all of these and more can be tangled together in the Hive-Mind’s striving for a self-righteous sense of certainty. And as most of us who have tried to reason with our conservative friends have experienced, facts and evidence usually get angrily dismissed or disputed when these emotions are in play. At its core, contradicting Right-wing emotional narratives with facts can be both threatening and embarrassing for conservatives, often resulting in increasingly defensive and emphatic retorts. Essentially, they feel they must double-down on the initial emotion in order to maintain their convictions.

So when you witness the eye-roll, the red face, the frowning shaking of the head, the squint of anger, the arrogant thrust of chin, the pointing finger of accusation, flexing fists that clench at certitude, the flat tone of negation and denial…recognize and affirm what is really going on. These are just irrational emotions, so treat them as such. This can be as simple as saying “You seem pretty upset about this,” or “I can see you feel very strongly about that,” or “It sounds like you don’t agree with what’s been going on,” and so on. By simply affirming their emotional state, you can diffuse escalation…at least a little. But remember, the toughest part may be stopping yourself from adding a rejoinder like “but did you know….” or “an interesting fact about that is…” or “that’s true, but there is another variable to consider….” None of these attempts to clarify a broader, more inclusive truth are likely to succeed. And this inability to engage in intellectually honest discourse can be upsetting until we realize what’s really going on: it is like attempting to reason with a flaming barrel of gasoline.

2. Connect with common experiences and emotions. There is every reason to remain open, intimate and sharing with folks who have lost themselves in the Republican Hive-Mind. We are all human, and we all have more in common than what makes us different. And that commonality is where we can connect with almost anyone. I myself have one or two ultra-conservative friends, as well as some conservative-leaning family members, and I value those relationships because of our shared interests, shared experiences, shared enjoyment of each other’s company, and shared appreciation for how supportive and caring we can be for one another (in everything but our politics!). That connection, admiration and camaraderie does not need to be jeopardized by political differences. So turning to any area of mutual connection can be a peaceful balm and joy in the face of daunting political divides. The problem, of course, is that this connection may be more difficult to achieve with strangers or on the Internet – or with new invitees to our holiday celebrations. Which is why we must take special care to invoke that common ground as we get to know someone new.

3. Make attempts to distract conservatives away from Hive-Mind delusions. Anyone paying much attention to Right-wing media over the past few decades will have noticed the lockstep conformance of propaganda across all such media into a profoundly unified groupthink. There is almost no deviation of opinions or attitudes around a given hot-topic-of-the-moment – or in the policies, views of history, attitudes about other cultures, favorite authorities, explanations for current events, or even the preferred vocabulary that is used to describe conservative alternative realities. The continuity of conformance is stunning. This web of interconnected groupthink is so tightly woven, in fact, that we will hear the same phrases and assertions from different sources (and from our friends on Facebook) all around the U.S. on the very same day – often in the same hour. This is how the Republican Hive-Mind is maintained over time, because this synchronization results in a powerful “illusory truth effect,” where the endless repetition of falsehoods makes them seem true. The illusory truth effect is so powerful, in fact, that it can override preexisting knowledge we already have. And this happens really fast – faster than most people can come to an informed opinion on a given topic. Which is why conservatives can be so confident and certain about their opinions so quickly. So…don’t follow them down that rabbit hole. Instead, change the topic to something you know isn’t in the conservative propaganda lexicon, and try to do so without contradicting them, once again affirming the emotional content of their opinions without revisiting familiar Hive-Mind topics.

4. Remember that feeling provoked or belittled just goes with the territory – and don’t take it personally. Since it is fueled by strongly felt emotions, the Republican Hive-Mind will routinely attempt to arouse passions in others, prompt conflict-seeking attitudes, or encourage folks to become agitated and combative. Using phrases like “libtard;” or attacking public figures you admire or respect; or accusing people they are debating (or “all liberals,” as the case may be) of being uninformed, ignorant or brainwashed; or beginning their arguments with a harsh dismissal of something you know to be true…. All of these are standard tactics to put a perceived opponent off-balance, stimulate an emotional response, while at the same time facilitating quick agreement among those who support a conservative viewpoint. But we just can’t take it personally! This isn’t about truth, remember, or even a coherent ideology. This is about proving loyalty to a particular set of values and ideals, or demonstrating membership in a conservative tribe, or daring others to cross the moat of irrational convictions that protects every conservative from facing uncomfortable truths. In the game of King of the Mountain that is constantly playing out inside the minds of devoted Republicans, such provocations are a kind of “defense through preemptive attack,” a way to feel safe, secure and protected inside of their delusions. In today’s supercharged discourse, this is a default starting position for a lot of folks. But you don’t have to join the fray. Although it can still hurt to be attacked, we don’t have to answer aggression with aggression. Instead, we can use humor to deflect accusations and antagonisms, or agree with some aspect of what is being said to diffuse the onslaught, or just point out calmly that, hey…this or that was kind of a hurtful, dickhead thing to say.

Now…anyone who has interacted with folks who are victims of cults, brainwashing or other forms of abuse will recognize some of these approaches. That is because what is happening on the Right side of the political spectrum – as amplified by the “Trump Effect” – is a consequence of extreme stress, duress, fear and anxiety. Place anyone under similar strain, and they will start exhibiting behaviors that look a lot the consequences of emotional trauma. Unfortunately, conservative-leaning folks already have a hard-wired tendency to tolerate cognitive dissonance to a much higher degree than other groups – which means that what they believeto be true can exist much farther outside of actual, observable evidence. And when that evidence becomes more and more difficult to ignore (as with climate change, for example), such cognitive dissonance can amplify to toxic and disruptive “fight or flight” reflexes. Conservatives also exhibit a strong tendency to prefer black-and-white, simplified, easy-to-grasp explanations for “why things are” – reflexively opposing nuance and uncertainty – and in a world of increasing complexity, such desires often can’t be satisfied without unconscious or deliberate fabrication (what I call “misattribution of causation”). Add to this the real suffering that arises out of losing more and more social status and privilege in society – as most white men with traditional values, and especially those who live in rural areas, have been experiencing for decades in the U.S.A. – and you have a formula for heightening real distress. Add to this tragedy that this distress has been capitalized upon by unscrupulous opportunists who seek power and wealth, and who then sell vulnerable conservatives on authoritative, Strong Man fixes. In order to further their own agenda, those Strong Man carpetbaggers have made Republican distress a lot worse, perpetuating the cycle of abuse. The result is truly heartbreaking, and demands that we have compassion for conservatives who have been lied to, manipulated and encouraged to support agendas that are effectively amplifying their suffering. So yes, at this point in time, managing interactions with someone utterly lost in the Republican Hive-Mind is a lot like managing interactions with a volatile, severely abused person who is operating mainly form emotional reasoning and fear-based reflexes.

** But wait! What if someone who joins you for Thanksgiving or another holiday, or friends you on Facebook, just won’t cease in their combative political grandstanding, pedantry and debate?! **

Well…unfortunately this does happen. People who have been horribly mistreated often have trouble appreciating boundaries, or gaining clear awareness about their own behaviors, or responding to the techniques outlined above in a constructive way. It happens. So…what can we do?

1. You can gently remind them of any agreement they have made to avoid discussing politics, be civil, etc. in your group activity. You could even implore them, out of a sense of friendship or familial bond with you, to let go of their need to discuss politics. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s worth a try!

2. You could leave, or ask them to leave. When someone has worked themselves into a frenzy around a hotly contested Hive-Mind trigger, sometimes it’s a good idea to just exit the situation – or ask them to do so (if it’s hour home, or your Facebook page). That’s the unfortunate state of affairs we are in right now, where no amount of good intentions, patience, compassion or listening to the other side seems to make a difference in how the discourse progresses. Hive-Mind propaganda is a powerful drug.

3. You can wait patiently, quietly and passively for them to calm down. If everyone else in your gathering is also doing this, then a Hive-Mind rant can eventually run out of steam. But this may demand tremendous self-control on your part, since pretty much any reaction can be (and often is) misinterpreted by a conservative as judgement or dismissiveness. I’m always surprised how even the kindest, most well-intentioned responses can be twisted into a perceived attack. So…silence can truly be golden.

4. Watch out for well-known tricks and techniques to suck others into a debate or confrontation. We’ve already touched on preemptive emotional attacks, but there are many other methods programmed into Hive-Mind thinking that can take over a conversation. Here are just a few of the more common hooks, many of which are rooted in what we call “logical fallacies:”

a. Making a reasonable opening statement that everyone can agree with, and then using it to justify a position that has nothing to do with that statement.

b. The pigeon-holing label game: “Are you a Marxist? Communist? Bleeding Heart Liberal? Intellectual? Atheist? Socialist?” and so on. This is the Hive-Mind’s way of trivializing and dismissing anything outside of its own groupthink, turning outsiders into simplified stereotypes. Once a label has been applied, the next step is claiming full knowledge of the outsider perspective: “So you believe that [fill in the blank].”

c. Feigning openness to having someone challenge, disprove or debate a Hive-Mind position, but then never allowing that person to actually do so (i.e. through constantly interrupting them, or debating accepted definitions of words, or challenging every point of logic, or talking more loudly over them, or dismissing widely accepted facts, or abruptly exiting the conversation, changing the topic, etc.).

d. Making an outrageous, one-sided, overly simplified or absurd claim to provoke a response, then declaring an unaccepting reaction as being “typical condescending Left-wing arrogance” (or the like). Even though the Hive-Mind adherent has initiated the provocation, they can immediately claim to be a victim of “liberal” prejudice.

e. Promoting false equivalence. For example, claiming that white supremacist hate speech is just as valid a form of free speech as someone advocating GLBTQ rights; or that the “liberal bias” of Left-leaning news media is no different than the outright lies of the Alt-Right conspiracy outlets; or that progressive academic, evidence-based approaches are just as flawed as the fake science funded by neoliberal think tanks; or that Democrat efforts to register new voters is just “the other side of the coin” of Republican efforts to disenfranchise those same voters; or that repealing Obamacare is just as complete a healthcare strategy as Obamacare itself; that Donald Trump’s relentless denigration of women, minorities, immigrants and the disabled is no different than Hillary Clinton’s reference to “deplorable” Trump supporters; and so on.

f. Overwhelming someone with a deluge of proposed facts, which are then combined in such as a way as to lead to a predetermined, ideologically conformist outcome. Lots of really smart, well-read conservative folks have used this technique to wear down progressives who don’t have the same depth of knowledge in a particular area (such as the history of military conflicts, or the evolution of natural monopolies, or the writings of conservative religious thinkers, or the intricacies of the Austrian School of economics, etc.). It’s effective, because a progressive can’t argue from a place of ignorance, and the information being presented can seem superficially valid. Unfortunately, the information often either isn’t valid, or doesn’t support particular conclusions the way the Hive-Mind has indoctrinated its members to believe – the dots don’t really connect in the way they are represented. But how would you know, if you’ve never studied all the writings of Ludwig von Mises? I can tell you from experience, however, that it won’t matter if you have studied a particular topic in-depth, because either you will have to accept the Hive-Mind groupthink on a given topic, or risk being branded a liberal heretic.

Lastly, even if you are surrounded by fellow progressive-minded folks on Thanksgiving, it can still be a good idea to avoid politics. After all, despite the encouraging Blue Wave of the midterm elections, there is still a lot of bad news coming out of Washington DC and elsewhere. The Trumpster Fire is still burning bright, and the political landscape remains pretty frustrating and depressing for even the most level-headed citizen. So again, perhaps picking another topic – any topic at all – to avoid politics at your Thanksgiving or holiday celebration will allow your meal to digest a little more easily, and your heart to remain light, merry, and brimming with fellowship.

Just my 2 cents. Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving.

What cognitive process do politicians try to leverage by repeating the same "talking points" over and over again with the hopes that eventually you will agree with them?

It’s called “the illusory truth effect.” Very powerful. So powerful that it can override pre-existing knowledge. I’ve experienced this in several instances myself — even going into the situation knowing something for a certainty beforeheand. It doesn’t matter. Our memory formation is wired for reinforcement, and will adapt our understanding according to the newest information…even if that information is false. It’s pretty crappy situation in the context of attempts to manipulate voters through social media, or perpetuate propaganda, or sell consumers stuff they don’t need.

Here are some useful articles on the topic:

The science behind why fake news is so hard to wipe out

https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/features/xge-0000098.pdf

My 2 cents.

What do you think about what Jordan Peterson said in his conversation with Helen Lewis that equality of outcome is a pathological wish and doctrine?

Thanks for the question (in reference to this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZYQpge1W5s), but my god that was an incredibly painful video to attempt to watch — simply because of the level of aggressive combativeness in play. And so, alas, I couldn’t find the relevant bit in this video (though I actually scanned through most of it…Ack!). However, I have heard Peterson riff on “equality of outcome” in several other interviews and lectures, so I have a pretty good idea of why he doesn’t like it. In essence, he believes that the only realistic avenue for achieving equality of outcome is to impose it — via the tyrannical force of authoritative institutions. He will then use things like Soviet era agricultural disasters or the failures of affirmative action hiring to exemplify just how tyrannical and ridiculous striving for equality of outcomes ends up becoming.

The problem, of course, is that Peterson is shoehorning or conflating a lot of subtly different concepts into one very narrow box of his choosing. He is also missing the forest for the trees. Probably the best way to appreciate his error is to understand the idea that “fairness” of distribution is tied to a presumption of equality. In other words, that regardless of how someone begins their life in society — rich or poor, male or female, black or white — they should have sufficient barriers mitigated by society so that their opportunities are truly equal. That is the heart of most philosophical frameworks which include equality of outcome as a desirable goal: there really is very little difference between authentic equality of opportunity and pragmatic equality of outcome in these frameworks, because for opportunity to be effectively equal, similar outcomes must be realistically achievable.

As a simplified example, imagine that two runners are set to race around a track. One of them has shoes, is well-rested, has had regular meals for the past week, has had time to train and prepare for the race, and really wants to win. The other runner has no shoes, is emaciated, hasn’t slept well or eaten in the last few days, and doesn’t have a complete understanding of what a competitive “race” really is (let alone had time to train for it). In Peterson’s vision of the world, once the parameters of such a race are set, and both runners are placed in the same starting positions on the track, then they effectively have “equal opportunity.” Any attempt to level the playing field between them is, for Peterson, an interference with merit. And such interference is anathema to Peterson, ostensibly because it’s “Marxist” (it isn’t Marxist, actually, but anything with the remotest hint of Marx will generally set Peterson off into irrational and pedantic histrionics). No, but seriously, Peterson really hates the idea that any external agency or institution can judge the requirements necessary to achieve equity in such situations.

Now Peterson does have a point: it is very difficult to know how to structure society so that distributions are actually fair (and not punitive, or gamed, or generating unanticipated consequences, or ultimately biased and unfair, etc.). But this is really where Peterson doesn’t “get” the forest of successful civic institutions, and fixates instead of instances of failure (i.e. the trees). Where the intent of a given system of shared opportunity — and the people operating within it — is genuinely grounded in the presumption of equality, it actually works pretty well. Elinor Ostrom’s Nobel-prize-winning research into real-world examples of common pool resource management has definitively proven this to be the case. These CPRMs were organic, self-organized and self-managed systems all around the globe. No imposition of government tyranny was required to make them work. So really, Peterson’s argument is specious because he (apparently?) just isn’t aware of such real world instances.

Anywho, my fun meter has peaked on this topic, but hopefully this can help others navigate these treacherous waters.

My 2 cents.

"Nature taken in its abstract sense, cannot be “unconscious,” as it is the emanation from, and thus an aspect (on the manifested plane) of the ABSOLUTE Consciousness". Does this answer the question of

Thank you for the question Otto. I feel the challenge here is that we humans tend to project our conceptions of consciousness into such inquiries and definitions, when really whatever consciousness exists beyond our own ordinary consciousness is either a) completely beyond our ability to comprehend or categorize, or b) only intuitable in brief flashes of insight. So when we infer various qualities of consciousness against the backdrop of the Absolute — or within the context of its emanations — we immediately begin confining what we mean by “consciousness” to a pretty limited (and thus likely inaccurate) semantic container. Trying to then communicate this with what we assume to be commonly agreed-upon terms can often muddy the water further (at least in my experience). So we may indeed be able to sketch out some assumptions about essential or fundamental qualities of consciousness expressed in, say, the felt experience of perpetual unfolding of Divine Being in our material plane, but I suspect we will always have to hold these insights lightly, acknowledging they are just fingers pointing at the moon, and not the moon itself. That said, understanding this is IMO a worthwhile pursuit…if one that can only be answered satisfactorily via deep meditation.

My 2 cents.

Is there such thing as a rich man or poor man mentality? I read someone that suggested one could be stuck in a poor man mentality and had to change

Thanks for the question Richard. Well let’s see….

Both rich and poor can feel entitled — a poor person might feel entitled to justice or recompense from the rich because their family has been exploited by plutocrats for generations, and a rich person might feel entitled to keep all of their money regardless of how it was earned, and resentful that they should pay any of it in taxes to help poor people.

Both rich and poor can feel like victims — of prejudice, persecution, false accusations, exclusion, etc. merely for the state of being rich or poor.

Both rich and poor can arrive at their condition without much choice or effort, but still feel responsible for it — a poor person may feel guilty and reprimand themselves for not going to college or not earning a decent wage, and a rich person may feel proud of the social status their inherited wealth has provided them. But, in both cases, circumstances entirely out of their control — which they were born into — may have been the single greatest influence on their current state.

Both rich and poor can be deluded about how success actually occurs — Consider that 50% of all small businesses fail after their first five years, and that most people’s dreams or passions are not valued by society at all (i.e. no one will pay for those people to “follow their dream”). Taken together, there is no guaranteed formula for ending up wealthy or in poverty. People often do everything right, and end up with nothing. Others do everything wrong, and are wildly successful. Sure, there are a very tiny few who come out on top, and that leads everyone else to speculate about how it happened. The fact that it is essentially arbitrary just doesn’t sit well with the meaning-making human psyche.

I could go on, but my point is that the “mentality” of rich and poor has more in common than not. It’s just human mentality. So the real question then becomes about living one’s life. What style of thinking will bring the most happiness, contentment, and positive sense of purpose — regardless of income or material accumulations? Hint: it has nothing to do with money.

My 2 cents.

Is the capitalist system fueled by lies when you boil it down? Why or why not?

Thanks for the question Randall. Of course it is. Capitalism is dependent on continuous growth, but it also aims for increased efficiencies — both of these are motivated by a desire to enlarge profits, but the two expectations actually work against each other. If I create a really good product that “sells itself,” and is also durable and easy to maintain, then as soon as everyone who recognizes the benefit of that product (for them) purchases one, I will go out of business. So I either have to a) convince others who do not need or want my product (i.e. who don’t recognize its benefits) to purchase one, b) persuade customers who have already purchased one that they need a “newer, better” model, c) offer additional services and products to augment the original purchase, d) make sure other companies with competitive products can somehow be constrained, e) change the production quality of my product so that it will continually break and require replacement or repair….or some other strategy along these lines. You see the problem? In order for my business to grow, innovation isn’t enough. I have to start being a little…shall we say…deceptive, or coercive, or manipulative, or underhanded. There is really no way around it. And the larger my company, and the longer it remains in the marketplace, the greater such pressures will become. Hence the drive towards monopoly.

But, in most developed civil societies, there are laws that protect consumers to a limited extent, so this limits what my business can do to maintain growth. So the easiest course is usually to lie…to falsely inflate quality, or functionality, or durability, or prestige, etc. It’s called marketing, and it’s how most products and services that have little or no actual value to consumers can become wildly profitable. For example, how many people do you think knew they had “restless leg syndrome” before they were sold a pharmaceutical solution for their “disorder” on TV…? I would estimate that more than 60% of purchases in the U.S. are driven by such artificially generated demand. Which is why the U.S. doesn’t produce very much any more domestically in terms of manufactured goods…the diminishing return on profits as the U.S. market became saturated, and domestic labor and materials costs increased at the same time, became untenable. That’s why companies have had to outsource. And it’s also why the U.S. economy has been “financialized.” It’s much easier to grow profit through speculative investments and consumer debt than it is via manufacturing — because it’s using other people’s money. And once consumers start accumulating debt — or become addicted to stock market or futures gambling, as the case may be — that condition generally persists. Forever. And as real wages have remained flat for many decades, and the cost of living has increased, and people kept being sold things they don’t need…well…we ended up with the main driver of the U.S. economy being speculation and debt maintenance. And how did consumers get suckered into such a situation? Well they were lied to of course, and then given some cheese every once-in-a-while to condition a compulsive reflex to keep buying and investing indefinitely.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Joan Spark:

The way currencies work are the driving force behind the growth demand for the economy.

And as you have noticed, the real economy can’t keep up with that demand, exponential demand to be precise. At best a real economy can do linear growth, which - tadum - produces growth rates that trend towards zero.

This means, as the holder of money have leverage over every other participants in the economy (monopoly, why is another matter) they extract the exponential demand out of a system that at best grows linearly.. which leads to your observation: “..real wages have remained flat for many decades, and the cost of living has increased, and people kept being sold things they don’t need”

Shall I go on?

TL;DR: you’re blaming the wrong guy. Capitalism is not the problem, monopolies under private control which create cronyism are the problem.


You are touching on a larger conversation in macroeconomic theory around aggregate demand, and I would agree that you have part of the picture in view. But that wasn’t really what I was aiming at — which was more microeconomic in focus. There is a lot of ground to cover in AD, and monetary variables are just one set among many inputs. I don’t disagree that cronyism and clientism amplify the preexisting antagonisms of market economies…but they only make them worse, they don’t initiate the problems. It’s like negative externalities, or opportunity costs, or perverse incentives, or moral hazards…these things are already in play, but some conditions have a fertilizing effect.

What is compassion?

Thanks for the question Avishek. I would say authentic compassion has four primary components — ideally all of these are present as a reflexive and unselfconscious orientation to others, but sometimes they require additional, more conscious cultivation:

1) A felt experience of affection, concern, caring and kindness that is informed by empathy and a deep respect for the other’s being.

2) The felt experience is amplified by a generous and unconditional intentionality: a desire to aid, comfort, nurture, encourage and support the other’s being, with no expectation of reciprocation or reward.

3) These feelings and intentions are then skillfully operationalized as love-in-action, within the context of the greatest good, for the greatest number, for the greatest duration.

4) Efficacy in this operationalization requires discernment, insight, wisdom, humility, and a willingness to continually observe outcomes and adjust methods to improve skillfulness.

The question of how to measure outcomes also becomes important over time. For example, authentic compassion tends to relieve dissonance, ignorance, confusion, suffering and pain for all involved — while at the same time nudging joy, harmony, peace, excellence and truth into the foreground. Authentic compassion also propagates and enlarges itself: compassion begets compassion, becoming a strong force or field that unifies and harmonizes everything it embraces.

Lastly, because these ideas about compassion are so specific, I will often use the term agape instead.

My 2 cents.

Does libertarianism require a higher than average level of social capital in order to work on a large scale?

Thanks for the question Olga. First, I would qualify “higher than average” to be relative to what we have now…which is a fairly broken and meager social interconnectivity. Things like social media (and communications media and technology) have tended to supplant real relations, and created an increasing poverty of social capital — at least that which transcends mere “relationships of convenience” or tribal conformance.

With that said, right-libertarians tend to idealize contractual, voluntary, individualistic relations that do not require social capital to function. Social agreement, sure…but not any complex interdependent social networks…no. Right-libertarian arrangements would still benefit from social capital…but it isn’t a prerequisite IMO.

Left-libertarians, on the other hand, tend to view social relations (usually at the community level, and in a horizontally collectivist sense) as a key component of effective governing of the commons, and are less reliant on contractual obligations. So left-libertarian proposals definitely would benefit from “higher than average social capital” to function well…and really as a prerequisite.

Again…this is all relative to the current paucity of social capital in Western cultures.

My 2 cents.

What is the ideal distribution of wealth in a society?

Thanks for the question Chris. Tom Gregory has a great answer regarding the Gini distribution. I would only offer a slightly different “intersubjective” take….

IMO, the values of society (or “values hierarchies” in the sense of social mores and ethical assumptions) should move away from valuing material wealth entirely. In itself, the obsession with economic materialism is destructive to social cohesion, prosocial traits in individuals, and the growth and stability of civil society. Paul Piff’s research has been pretty conclusive in this regard. The more we fixate on material wealth distribution, the more we remain distracted by class, social status, inequalities, competition for resources, consumerism and a host of other maladies that drive the collective mental illness and corrosion of civil society we are experiencing today.

The alternative is to just let go of economic materialism altogether. Let go of wealth accumulation, the profit motive, the moral infancy of I/Me/Mine, and indeed the conflation of “freedom” and affluence. To do this, I suspect we will need to develop a different orientation to private property itself — reinvoking a mode of collectively shared resources without demanding ownership, a mode that has been successful across many different cultures around the globe. To appreciate this shift, I recommend reading Private Property As Violence.

Are religions the manifestation of the human tendency to live in denial?

Thanks for the question Carl.

I would separate “religion” into two distinct categories or aspects, both of which can be found in almost all religions:

1) The esoteric, the mystical, the spiritual, the enigmatic, the intuitive, the acquiescent

2) The exoteric, the institutional, the dogmatic, the hierarchical, the rationalizing, the dominating

If there is a “spiritual” dimension of existence (even if it is exclusively part of our interiority), then aspect #1 is really just the sensitivity to, interest in, and exploration of that dimension. I would call this kind of religion an “openness to the infinite,” or spiritual curiosity if you will. I think most mystical traditions (Sufism, contemplative Christianity, Toaism, Kabbalah, Hindu mysticism, much of historical Buddhism, etc.) fall mainly in this category, and actually end up in conflict with traditions that emphasize the second aspect. This aspect of religion does not “live in denial,” because it is constantly questioning along deeper and deeper lines of inquiry. If you spend time with any of the great mystical traditions, it quickly becomes evident that they are attempting to penetrate truths beneath the surface of more superficial, materialistic presentations of reality.

The second aspect is all about control, power, orthodoxy, tribalism, and so on — also very common characteristics of human institutions. It is aspect #2 that tends to slip into greater and greater cognitive dissonance as it attempts to maintain its primacy over other social structures and centers of gravity in society — it perpetuates denial as a primary feature of its striving for dominance.

My 2 cents

Do you believe that there is an absolute and objective "good" or "bad" in nature or do you believe that everything is relative and subjective?

Thanks for the question Bruce. First...I can only speak for humanity. I cannot speak for all of Nature. For humans, however, I believe there are values hierarchies that plot along a spectrum, and I’ve included a first draft of a chart that describes that spectrum below. The idea here is that there are indeed absolutes…but those absolutes intersect in different ways, at different times, in different people…to be expressed as what someone will inevitably perceive as a “relative and subjective” difference. In other words, the contexts of culture, time-in-history, underlying belief system and so on shape how a given values hierarchy (and how it is actualized) plot along the spectrum, and how it is understood. But although the perspectives on a given values hierarchy may shift — be refined over time, be critiqued, be valorized or devalorized, etc. — the position of that values hierarchy is actually pretty fixed.

To appreciate the backdrop of concepts from which this chart was derived, see this article: Functional Intelligence



I hope this was helpful.

If spiritual counselors, teachers, and mystics all tell me that “suffering” is a catalyst for a spiritual “awakening”, then why isn’t it comfortable for these experts to re-frame this as a spiritual “

Some possibilities (as pure speculation):

1) Perhaps they’ve overstated their case. Suffering ***may*** be an opportunity for growth. It also may be just plain old run-of-the-mill suffering that every human being has to deal with as a feature of life on Earth, or it may indicate some underlying condition that requires conventional medical treatment, or it may simply indicate situational conditions that can and should be remedied, or it may be the consequence of arbitrary events that have no intrinsic meaning at all. But shoehorning ALL suffering into the context of being an “awakening catalyst” is a bit…well…presumptuous IMO. Thus assigning some external spiritual agency to such conditions or events would, I think, be uncomfortable…since it wouldn’t make a lot of sense in these other instances.

2) They may not have specific discernment into your situation, but are instead stating a general principle, and are trying to avoid influencing you to externalize your own agency. In Western commercialized cultures, it has become second nature to give away our own agency in favor of external solutions. “The Devil made me do it” is really no different than believing wearing a particular brand of clothing or cologne/perfume will result in finding the perfect romantic partner. In the context of healing arts (inclusive of conventional medicine), when a client refuses to take responsibility for their own well-being and prefers to project healing power onto their physician, practitioner, drug, supplement, magical object or whatever…then the healing process has been sabotaged. No real healing will take place (other than the placebo that results from the client’s investment in the external solution). This is a real problem right now in capitalist society. So perhaps — consciously or unconsciously — the folks you are consulting are trying to steer you away from this particular addiction to externalization.

3) In the U.S. at least, one of the consequences of the widespread abuse of “New Age” approaches to wellness has been a mistrust of externalized spiritual agency of any kind. There have been too many abuses by gurus, mediums, psychics and the like asserting knowledge of spiritual causality purely for personal profit or celebrity. Thus attributing anything to a conscious spiritual intervention smacks of “woo-woo” in a bad way for most people who have either been conned or deceived…or who are aware of these deceptive practices that have occurred in the past. Personally, I don’t have a problem framing things this way when it is warranted, though I am still very cautious about leaping to that conclusion too quickly.

4) You and the folks you are consulting with may just be misunderstanding each other.

My 2 cents.

There are two forces in the world today, the drive toward collectivity and the drive toward individuality. They seem to be at odds. How do we appreciate the best of both?

Thanks for the great question. IMO the solution is to veer away from vertical forms of both individualism and collectivism, and toward horizontal forms that incorporate the best of both. Here is a chart that helps appreciate this difference:



As you can see, an additional consideration (in terms of political economy) is the “materialist-proprietarian” vs. “egalitarian-commons” axis. I tend to aim for the egalitarian-commons side of this spectrum, because I believe it harmonizes much more readily with both democracy and compassionate consideration of other human beings.

My 2 cents.

What gives ownership of property its legitimacy?

Thanks for the question.

What gives ownership of property its legitimacy? Only the fabricated architecture of the rule of law as created from whole cloth by human beings, usually to facilitate material security in isolation from society…and of course to facilitate trade. But extending personal sovereignty over one’s own mind and body into property — as in the longstanding tradition of Locke’s theory of labor appropriation — is a convenient, self-justifying fiction that borders on ridiculous. It’s little different than a dog believing it “owns” a patch of grass that it has peed upon, or a bird “owning” a tree where it has built its nest, or a hunter “owning” a wild animal they caught in a snare…these are all just variations of a King of the Mountain children’s game. There is no “natural law” that extends “mind and body” into property of any kind…only made-up belief constructed to justify appropriation, defense of property, and commerce.

As I discuss at length in these essays: Integral Liberty and Property As Violence,
property ownership is actually a non-rational impulse that interferes mightily with liberty, is predicated on ego-centrism and atomistic individualism, and is incompatible with the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP). It is, essentially, a very immature and irrational way of interacting with our environment (unless you are a dog, a bird, a bear, etc.) that ends up reflexively depriving everyone else of their liberties. In this sense, ownership is primarily an antisocial behavior, regularly violating the non-aggression principle. Someday — hopefully in the not-too-distant future for humanity’s sake — we will begin to shift back into the more sane, rational and prosocial mode of possessing things temporarily for their utility, enjoyment or resource contribution, but without the childish need to “own” them during this temporary possession. We’re getting there…slowly…with concepts like Open Source. But we have a long way to go.

My 2 cents.

Does Steven Pinker's "The Better Angels of Our Nature" suggest or claim that the "ethics" of people have changed over time?

I would say Pinker’s observations are explainable by the rise of civil society and the stabilization of its institutions over time. Ethics have not really evolved all that much during recorded history — not in the broadest moral sensibilities and contracts at least. Sure, there is variation across different cultures…but really no more variation over the grand arc of history than is evidenced in current cultural differences. The ancient Greeks had an advanced civil society with many of the benefits of modern democracies, and we have State-sanctioned genocide today just as we have had for the past two thousand years. The apparent reduction (per capita) of violence, war, etc. that Pinker explores is really not a consequence of ethics changing, IMO, but of civic institutions relieving many of the pressures that produce unethical behaviors. We are shaped by our environments to the extent that our natural propensities will be amplified by either a sense of safety, social support and relative affluence, or by insecurity, fear, deprivation and violence. We have always had (and probably always will have) the capacity to behave like animals, or like saints, but our experiences will encourage one cluster of habits over the other. So the greater the civic stability, the greater the potential for widespread prosocial behaviors.

Just my 2 cents.

Why are more people calling for a Socialist society?

Thank you for the question Rachel. Some possibilities:

1) Because capitalism has been failing most people for a really long time.

2) Because nearly ALL of the social safety nets, worker protections, consumer protections and other benefits for the non-wealthy in the U.S. are a consequence of policies championed by socialists or inspired by socialism. Child labor laws, worker unions, socialized medicine (Medicare) and so on are all a consequence of socialistic values and ideology.

3) Because the lies and deceptions of neoliberal propaganda (i.e. “trickle-down economics always works”, “all forms of socialism have always failed,” etc.) are becoming more and more obvious, and people just aren’t being deceived as easily.

4) Because people see how socialized systems and socialistic values in other countries have been quite successful.
Because, despite concerted efforts from neoiberals and right-libertarians to deny or distort the reality, a “mixed economy” like that of the U.S. is a mixture of socialism and capitalism…and has been for a very long time.

In other words, people are calling for a more socialistic society because they are waking up from the spectacle that has kept them from seeing how rational, compassionate and commonsensical such a society really is.

My 2 cents.

Does a right exist if no one defends it?

Ah. Good one.

I think the answer to this question depends on the level of moral maturity involved. An immature person will tend to disregard the rights of others unless someone (or some thing) is present to enforce or defend those rights. A moral grown-up, on the other hand, will recognize the importance of such rights even if there is no one and no thing present to enforce or defend those rights. This is true of most ethics. The morally mature person may choose to work hard whether their boss or coworkers are watching or not, because they believe it is the right thing to do; whereas the morally immature person may only work hard to impress upon those watching them that they are indeed “a hard worker,” or to reap some sort of advantage or reward. Really what defines being an adult has a lot to do with this willing acceptance of societal expectations without expectation of reward (i.e. simply because it is prosocial), while refining one’s own conscience to act in the spirit of those expectations on the other. A child, in contrast, might only follow the letter-of-the-law while someone is watching, and be excited and thrilled to deviate from societal expectations if nobody is looking.

These contrasting levels of moral maturity quickly become evident in contexts like driving a car: the mature person “drives carefully and responsibly” out of compassion for their fellow human beings, polite consideration that reflects prosocial intentions, and acknowledgement that the rule of law is necessary on public roads to prevent utter chaos and death; the immature person thinks the rules don’t apply to them, that other people’s safety doesn’t really matter, and that their own self-gratification and arbitrary impulses should guide their driving habits. In such a situation, the moral adult has little fear of police presence on a highway, whereas the moral child tends to be a bit more angry and fearful in the midst of their egocentric rebellion. So we might say that, for the moral toddler at least, a right may not exist if their is no one to defend it.

Thanks for the question.