Transparency

Bureaucrats tend to shortchange the people when the opportunity arises to do so.

Transparency doesn’t make that impossible, only harder, and then only in a functioning democracy.

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The Wake-Up

Let’s get something straight: when the Wall fell, it was a triumph of freedom over statist oppression.

The short-sighted attempt to reduce the Cold War to a battle between free markets and breadlines is the work of corporatists who still believe that the primary task of government is to serve the interests of the industrial corporation.

Finding a Happier Place

We are species built on tribe; yet we live increasingly alone in societies so vast and populous our ancestors would not recognize them; we are a species designed for scarcity and now live with unimaginable plenty; we are a species built on religious ritual to appease our existential angst, and yet we now live in a world where every individual has to create her own meaning from scratch; we are a species built for small-scale monocultural community and now live increasingly in multiracial, multicultural megacities.

Andrew Sullivan: The World Is Better Than Ever. Why Are We Miserable?

Sullivan’s point makes intuitive sense to me, but acknowledging that my prejudices may be motivating my agreement, I want to dive deeper.

Modern enlightened thinking suggests that blaming human nature for our alienation or other ills is bogus, not least because doing so denies our own agency in our own actions. I cannot completely disagree with that: a core tenet of my ethos is that part of our mission on earth is to elevate ourselves beyond our base nature and mere instinct, to act in ways that are subjectively right and good even when those actions are at odds with our own best interests.

At the same time, we would do well to recognize that in wishing to be angels we cannot shed our sheaths of clay. We should never excuse our choices or surrender our wills to our human nature, but neither should we ignore or paper over those aspects of our hard-wiring that vie against our virtues.

You do not defeat an enemy by wishing him away: you do so by recognizing his nature and either defeating him or coming to an acceptable accommodation. To Sullivan’s point, the satisfaction of our material needs and wants has failed to elevate us as a society or as a species. The nearer we get to the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the deeper our disaffection.

And so, Sullivan suggests, we need to ask whether part of our problem is that we are forcing ourselves to adjust to an existence for which we are, at a deep sub-conscious level, utterly ill-equipped,  whether therein lies a partial cause for social ills, and whether we can change this or whether we need to search for a mode of living that accommodates – but does not surrender to – our nature.

Clintonistas Revisited

Looking back on the election now from the distance of eighteen months, it should be possible for all of us, regardless of political bent, to admit a few things.

One of those is the essential justifiability of attacks on both candidates.

I won’t go into Mr. Trump: he is doing a more than adequate job proving his detractors right.

As to Secretary Clinton, it is fair to say now that not every attack upon the Democratic candidate was correct or true. Time and reflection should make clear that not every question or charge was baseless, either. She was an imperfect candidate, chosen by her party at least as much for what she represented – a nostalgic hark back to more moderate days and a female contender – as for the principles for which she said she stood.

 

Opening Up the Identity Conversation

Men should have the same right to opine on gender issues as women. Having an identity doesn’t give you total authority over certain issues.

Source: Christian Alejandro Gonzalez, Rejecting the Left’s Conversation-Ending Identitarianism | The American Conservative

Agreed. And first principle.

But let’s open this up:

  1. Atheists and agnostics should have the same right to opine on religious issues as the faithful.
  2. All Americans should have the same right to opine on Veteran’s affairs as those who have served.
  3. All people should have the same right to opine on accessibility issues as do those with disabilities.
  4. People of all ethnic backgrounds – including those of us who find ourselves insensitively lumped into the derogatory catch-all category of “white” – should have the same right to opine on racial issues as do people of color.
  5. People of all sexual preferences – including monogamous heterosexuals – should have the same right to opine on sexuality as those identifying themselves as lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgendered, queer, asexual, or polyamorous.
  6. People of any one culture should have the same right to experience and adopt aspects of any other culture as those who are born into or who have hereditary ties to that culture.

The minute you start quashing debate about any of these issues, you have killed democracy and ended the American experiment. That’s a line we cannot afford to cross, even at the cost of causing offense and even hurt feelings.

Same as the Old High

If Marx posited that religion is the opiate of the people, then we have reached a new, more clarifying moment in the history of the West: Opiates are now the religion of the people.

Andrew Sullivan

This is a plague ripping America apart from within, far greater public health crisis than AIDS ever was.

And the Presidential solution is to give it to his wife to manage.

Once again, the band plays on.

In Search of an Historical Metaphor

I am crafting my list of essential reads for politics and policy in America (I’m calling it the Bull Moose List) with a view to sharing it on July 4 if all goes well.

I have just added to that list Cullen Murphy’s controversial Are We Rome? I know that Murphy’s thesis – that there are enough similarities between us and Rome in the fading days of the empire that we should take a hard look at ourselves – was inspired not a little by Bushian/Neocon overreach abroad when he wrote in the mid-aughties. His analysis was nuanced and his verdict equivocal.

I cannot but wonder how the book would come out today. Bush may well have been America’s Diocletian, but Donald Trump is looking increasingly like the Nero that only a decadent empire could raise to leadership.

The question that presses on me is this: is America more like Rome today than it was eleven years ago?

I fear the answer. But I will let you know more when I finish Murphy’s book.