Tuesday, February 24, 2015

State Controlled Education–A Good Idea?


I ran across this interesting headline at National Center for Policy Analysis:

State Controlled Education: Still A Good Idea

The point under the headline is that it would be a good idea for states to control education rather than the Feds.  Maybe – but a question that needs asking is this:  why do most assume that some government must “control” education?

What about recognizing the liberty we all should be free to exercise over our own education?  Why do we think that governments know what is best for us and for our families?

Higher education, lower education – pick any category you like.  Why involve governments in this?

Why should anyone agree that education needs “control” outside of the individuals who want it and others who might provide it?

This is not a new question, but it is a question that is never adequately answered, and cannot be asked too often:  if people are unable to control their own education, how does installing other people to control it for them solve the problem?  Who will control the controllers?


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

IRRELEVANT Thinking


Allow me to get myself into serious trouble today.  I stumbled upon an article in RELEVANT today that expresses something that deserves a bit of comment.  The article is “5 Lies American Culture Feeds Us Every Day.”  (I might add that one such lie, not mentioned in the article, is that being “relevant” is important.)

A couple of the five “lies” are good points.  One, “You Can Be Anything You Want to Be” is perhaps something our culture does not tell us as much, or in the way, the author supposes.

But the one I bring to your attention is “Individualism is a Noble Pursuit.”  The author’s explanation of this lie society feeds us is this:

We might not directly say it, but we sometimes believe it: “Who cares if Jesus said stuff about losing your life? Who cares about all of that radical sacrifice stuff? God gave you a brain, He expects you to use it.”  Tragically, Christianity in America often confuses faith in God with just faith in self with some Godly values attached.  Translation: God thinks logically. He would never expect you to make a decision that flies in the face of self-reliance. Don’t sell your house. Don’t give your savings to feed the hungry. Don’t move into the inner city. It is dangerous there.

This kind of thought seems to be the offspring of the “Crazy Love” fad in Christianity.  I was once asked to review that book, and in spite of its popularity, I found it to be full of what I call enthusiastically shallow thinking.  In fact, it is an interesting case of “poisoning the well.”  That is, if you disagree with this approach, you are just exhibiting that kind of individualism that we all know should be condemned.

We need to remember that Jesus sometimes spoke in hyperbole.  He once told us to cut off one of our hands if required.  Should we simply “shut off our brains” as implied in the quotation above and start cutting?  Or should we think about what Jesus no doubt meant by what He said?

I realize that this is one of those uses of the mind that author of the RELEVANT article condemns, but let us suppose that every Christian sold his house and gave away all his savings to feed the hungry.  Let’s suppose these Christians convinced a significant part of the population to become Christians and join them in the selling and giving.

Soon, all these people would join the ranks of the homeless and the hungry.  But not only that, since their savings would no longer be part of the pool of capital that buys the tools that makes the things that people need to exist, at some point there would be no way to make the wealth that everyone is supposed to give away.  Would God simply begin to do a daily “feeding of the five billion” miracle?  Or does God normally care for us via means that we must carefully manage, say, like stewards?

And if the inner city is dangerous but we are required to live there anyway, should we step in front of a bus once in a while too?  For that matter, I don’t remember Jesus or the Apostles even talking about where we should live.  Did not the Apostle Paul say that failure to take care of the needs of your family made you worse than an unbeliever?

That, of course, is thinking.  And the author rejects thinking – except, we must suppose, for his thinking about culture and its five lies.

It is not “faith in God with just faith in self with some Godly values attached” to be both generous and to provide for your family, as the Apostle commands.  And it is not loving to take actions that you know will make you and your family dependent upon others in some attempt to fulfill the fantasies of the “crazy love” misguided way of looking at life.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Rape of Morality and the Morality of Rape


There was a note-worthy article mentioned today in Breakpoint.  It is titled “The Wheels Are Coming Off the Sexual Revolution.”  This article is from National Review Online, and while I am not a conservative in the most common sense of that word today, the author makes some good points in reflecting on the recent discussions about rape on college campuses.

Part of the author’s point is that many colleges and universities have created conditions that, in the end, encourage rape.  It is worth a look to see just how that has happened.  In essence, the set of pet projects pursued by many universities today have created moral conditions is which rape (and many other things, for that matter) should not be a surprising event.

I don’t think many if any university officials who have helped put these conditions in place had any thought of encouraging rape.  But their commitment to promoting certain attitudes and views among students made them at least unwitting participants in the problem.  It’s as though they scattered weed seeds and then hoped that the weeds would not grow – and then they became alarmed when the weeds did grow and produce more weeds.

The problem behind all such symptoms at universities today can be traced to the broad failure to examine moral foundations.  If there are no moral foundations, then why should rape, or anything else, bother anyone?  But if there are things, like rape, ought to disturb us all morally, what is the basis of that ought, why does it apply to us all, and how can we know what it is?

University officials, especially the higher ones who make policy, don’t like to answer those questions.  Most of them operate as though there are ‘oughts’ that apply to us all.  Some of these they are very busy imposing on students in various ways.

But when you ask them things like “Why is your policy on moral matters correct?  How do you know it is true?  What is your ultimate basis for all this?” the answers are never intellectually satisfying.  There is simply the assumption that something or other about human beings and society justifies it all.  But, in my experience (and I have a bit of it) the answers to the question “What makes this right?” are often shallow or pointless – if indeed an answer is even offered.

It is time for those who make policies about moral matters at universities tell us the basis of their policies.  If they cannot or will not, they reveal part of the cause for problems like rape on campus.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving


The other day I received a mass email greeting from the president of the university where I direct a campus ministry.  It was a Thanksgiving greeting.  In it the president thanked the recipients for their “friendship and support” of the university.

That’s nice.  It is good to thank those who have done things for us, or for groups or causes of which we are a part.  But it impoverishes and even bastardizes the American tradition of Thanksgiving.

The point of the day is to focus on expressing thanks to God.  I know university presidents probably cannot officially endorse that today.  But it might be better, if you cannot participate officially in the spirit of Thanksgiving, to just ignore it and let it pass.

In fact, there is very little reason to thank other people for things if there is no God.  If God does not exist, then all things are morally permissible, including ingratitude to other people.  Why are other people important at all, except for your own purposes, if there is no Creator to Whom we owe thanks?

One of the tragic and ironic things about modern higher education is the attempt to pursue learning in an atmosphere of pretended religious neutrality.  In the end, everything is “religious.”  Until we understand that, we will understand nothing.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

LGBT Consistency

Reading the news this morning in the digital way that I now do, I came across the headline in the business section of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Who are the most gay-friendly employers in Cincinnati?

My attention was drawn to the opening words:

Who are the most gay-friendly major employers in Cincinnati? Washington, D.C.-based The Human Rights Campaign is naming names.

In its annual report, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization graded Fortune 1000 companies and other employers across the nation in five general areas: nondiscrimination policies; employment benefits; demonstrated organizational competency and accountability around LGBT diversity and inclusion; public commitment to LGBT equality; and responsible citizenship.

The problem I have with this intense campaign currently underway in our society is not that some people have a problem with the ethics of sexual activity.  People have problems with ethics in many areas.  We often know what we should do but fail to do it.  The problem is that the LGBT lobby, of which The Human Rights Campaign is clearly a part, will not recognize that there can be problems with the ethics of sexual activity.  And clearly, the Cincinnati Enquirer is to some extent promoting this lobby.

My problem is that the LGBT lobby is inconsistent in what they advocate.  They demand “diversity and inclusion” – but only for themselves.  If they truly believed in diversity and inclusion, they would not, and could not, object if some Fortune 1000 company decided to hire a CEO who believed, and made public, her view that homosexual activity is ethically impermissible.  We don’t even have to investigate to know that such a move would be met by the LGBT lobby.

And I doubt that, even now, most of the LGBT lobby would accept another “B” in their collection of letters:  one that stands for “bestiality.”  And would the Cincinnati Enquirer run the headline “Who are the most bestiality-friendly employers in Cincinnati?”?  Not next year, perhaps, but soon, very soon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Comic Book the World Awaited

Remember Jonathan Gruber?  Who can forget him?  In the little listening to broadcast news I have done lately, I have heard Barrack Obama and Nancy Pelosi (among others) emphatically declare “We don’t know him!”

So it was with no little amusement that I read today that good old J.G. – the man nobody knows – wrote a comic book in 2011.  This little gem, sure to become a collector’s item for reasons never intended by its author, is titled Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It's Necessary, How It Works.

The back of the book carries a little blurb explaining Gruber’s credentials to write this comic book.  Here is what is says in part:

Dr. Jonathan Gruber is a professor of economics . . . He was a key architect of Massachusetts’s ambitious health reform effort and consulted extensively with the Obama administration and congress during the development of the Affordable Care Act.  The Washington Post called him “possible the [Democratic] Party’s most influential health-care expert.

A bit of looking around Amazon reveals that this book is now out of print, so be sure to get yours now for all those “stupid American voters” (according to Gruber) on your Christmas list.  I must say that I at first want to agree with Gruber on that point about American voters.  After all, they did elect Obama twice.  On the other hand, what choice did they have the second time?  The “health care Obama of Massachusetts” named Romney?

And while you are picking up copies of this comic book for friends and family at Christmas, why not be nice enough to get a copy for Barrack, Nancy, and perhaps Hillary.  If they haven’t read it yet, they probably should.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Immorality of False Claims of Immorality

From a recent article in The Freeman:

 

Pure markets enhance good behavior, because in such arrangements, voluntary acts are rewarded and involuntary acts are punished. A pure market, as we define it, consists only of voluntary human action. That’s because a truly free market includes governance structures that penalize coercive harm, and such pure markets do not impose any restrictions or costs on honest and peaceful human activity.

Critics of markets think otherwise. They point to slave markets or a market for stolen goods as examples of market immorality.

More recently, Professor Dr. Armin Falk (University of Bonn) and Professor Dr. Nora Szech (University of Bamberg) conducted experiments in which people were offered a choice between receiving 10 euros versus letting a laboratory mouse get killed. If a subject decided to save a mouse, the experimenters bought the animal, according to the study authors writing in the journal Science.

But in the experimental market with buyers and sellers, more people were willing to accept the killing of a mouse than when individuals were simply offered an isolated choice. Therefore, the researchers concluded, markets erode moral values. Guilt is shared with other traders who are also involved in transactions that kill mice. If a person refused a transaction to save a mouse, somebody else would step in, so the mouse would be killed anyway.

Do Falk and Szech’s analysis prove that markets erode morals?

The author of The Freeman article makes several good points, among which he points out briefly that it is not universally agreed that allowing a mouse to be killed is immoral.  As far as the study he is talking about here is concerned, the rebuttal can end with that point.  Mice have no moral standing.  You can’t murder a mouse.  The fact that professors Falk and Szech do not understand that simply demonstrates their moral ineptitude.  And the fact that they appeal to something many people will incorrectly accept as immoral points to another level of problems with this study.


Because here is something that is immoral:  the attempt to claim that something is immoral which is not, with a view to controlling other people’s behavior with false “morality.”  What Falk and Szech are attempting to do can be illustrated in a more “down home” fashion.  Perhaps I don’t like the fact that my neighbor sits on his front porch and reads his morning paper.  So I travel around the neighborhood telling people that every morning my neighbor is doing something horribly immoral on his front porch – that something being reading the paper – in the hope that I can get them to join me in imposing my will on my paper-reading neighbor.  Since reading the paper is not immoral, I am simply lying about my neighbor in an attempt to have control over his life.

 

Control over people freely trading with one another is exactly what studies like that done by Falk and Szech are after.  They are not just descriptive, no matter how much they pretend to be.  They are covert attempts to limit freedom.  And they are attempts based on falsehoods.  Falsehoods such as the claim that allowing a mouse to be killed is immoral.