Wednesday, February 29, 2012

News Break

Okay, a show of hands for who was shocked that the latest school shooter was a middle to upper class white kid?  If these were a bunch of black kids doing these shootings, people would be bravely initiating the conversation.  They would be bravely transgressing political correctness.  They would be doing the difficult work no one else is willing to do.  Rich white kids on the other hand?  They just seemed so normal.  Quiet.  But normal.  Oh, and likely victimized.  The last part is true only until years later when a journalist is brave enough to show the dearth of evidence of bullying.

Apologizes for the break from Monday posting.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Government as Preventer of Tyranny

Many in America tend to pine for the old American West.  They look back at a day when all men were equals.  They look back upon a day when any man could live off the fat of the land.  They look back to a time where men organized themselves into communities and ran justice on a local and fair scale.  They look back to a time when they didn't have to worry about interference from the federal government.  They look back at a time when they didn't have to fear the machinations of East coast financiers.  In short, they look back upon a fantasy.

Monday, February 20, 2012


In my more cynical moments, I think the benefit of marriage is to divorce attorneys. Having found myself a marriage advocate for over a decade and having been married for over a decade myself, I simply have difficulty seeing the benefit of it in the modern context. During this time, I have opposed gay marriage, and yet the advocates of gay marriage are convinced that marriage is conferring of some benefit. I don't really want this to devolve into a post on my idiosyncrasies. I do want to advance what I believe to be a communitarian rationale however. Rather than make this post unnecessarily long, I'm going to make some disjointed statements. Taken apart, I'm afraid people will take the opportunity to make pointless arguments on terms I'm unlikely to be persuaded upon. I'm certainly open to arguments, but I'm not likely to be persuaded by appeals to modern liberalism, be they in their Democratic or Republican forms. On the other hand, I recognize that people who come across this blog will be seeking persuasion on those terms.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The New Commons

There is an industry that requires permits to operate. It has hours where it isn't allowed to operate. It is even sometimes zoned into areas it is allowed to operate and areas it is not allowed to operate. The businesses are required to at least not harm the area within which they operate. Ideally they add to the area. These people are street peddlers. They have operated for centuries. Typically being single person operations, they have never had the power of wealth or prestige. Because of this, they have had to bend to the legitimate (and often illegitimate) whims of public pressure.

Through technology, a new commons has developed. Television and radio are the new commons. The Internet is as well, but I won't be discussing it specifically. More people gather in front of their radios and televisions than gather at large public spaces like zoos. Yet television and radio have managed to largely escape the regulatory burdens that apply to other players in the public square. There are of course historical reasons. The first reason is that the infrastructure was fairly expensive. Transmitters and receivers were almost entirely and have almost always been purchased privately. The greater concern was ensuring the system was built. At this point though, the costs of the system are almost entirely sunk.

Friday, February 17, 2012

In The Beginning

In American political life, there is an obsession with choice. Choice is not a bad thing. It should not however be valued for its own sake. Unfortunately this has been what has happened in much discourse. Often, the obsession over choice is treated as the same as the desire for freedom. Freedom is different from choice though. Freedom is about being able to get your legitimate desires. For the man who can't walk, a wheelchair is freedom. For the poor, the freedoms they seek often have little to do with choice. I believe the civic life should be about improving the lives of the poor and marginalized.

For me, communitarianism is the philosophy that sees the flourishing of the person in the flourishing of his community. An academic would put this as social capital being more important than personal capital. As a political program it is about privileging the interests of the community, particularly the poor, over those of the rich. This is not communism, socialism, or for that matter capitalism or democracy. Each is good when it represents the interests of the poor. Each is bad when it represents the interests of the elite. This is also not a third way. This is about working within systems as they are. It is pragmatic.

Philosophically, this is a direct confrontation with libertarianism. Libertarians treat as axiomatic that poor people are better off in a society with greater choice. Communitarians believe poor people are better off when they have maximal freedom. Powerful people are the ones who enjoy choices. This has been true throughout history. Those who defend choice unreflexively inevitably are defenders of the powerful.