“Be Realistic” = Be a Jerk

If someone truly believes it is “Utopian” to expect human interactions to be voluntary, how would you like being one of their family members, or a neighbor?

Do you think they’d be a good cow-orker or employee? (Be careful while orking cows!) Could you trust them at all if you weren’t holding them at gunpoint?

Are they really that barbaric, or are they talking through their hat; not understanding the concepts they feel the need to preach at you about? Perhaps they are just saying what they feel needs to be said to justify archation. I suspect it’s that last one, since they are apparently still alive and able to speak, so they must be choosing voluntary interactions the vast majority of the time.

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Why School Vouchers are a Terrible Idea

For nearly four decades, since the Reagan administration, some among America’s “school choice” movement have advocated for the use of “voucher” systems to give parents more control over their children’s education. Various jurisdictions around the country have implemented the concept, with varying (and much-debated) results.

Most opposition to vouchers comes, as one might imagine, from supporters of government-run, aka “public,” schools for the vast majority of  students. Their concerns include loss of funding for those public schools as students migrate to private alternatives, the destruction of America’s secular character if church-operated schools gain market share, and perhaps even loss of national identity/cohesion as curricula move in different directions.

My own opposition comes from a very different direction: I’m against vouchers not because they might damage, or fail to replicate, the existing system, but because they threaten to make “private” alternatives more LIKE that system.

We’ve already seen this phenomenon play out in our colleges and universities. Government funding, whether it be in the form of the GI Bill, student loan guarantees and Pell Grants, research grants from government institutions, etc., always comes with strings attached.

Even if we like the content of some of those strings (non-discrimination requirements, for example), it is a simple fact that strings in general result in a loss of variety in our higher education options. “Elite” private universities may be able to afford more well-credentialed faculty and nicer buildings, but their curricula and their classroom environments have, over time, lost a lot of what made them different. When you take the King’s Shilling, you must henceforth take the King’s Orders as well.

The history of public education in America is an ugly thing.

You may have been taught that universal public education was implemented for the purpose of increasing literacy, numeracy, critical thinking and so forth among an uneducated populace.

In fact, our system was imported from Prussia and its goal has always been to turn out “good citizens” — drones who get educated enough to turn raw materials into finished goods on an assembly line, or aim an artillery piece on command, but not so well-educated that they might get uppity and question or rebel against the foundations of the system they live under.

It shouldn’t be surprising that such a system would devolve, as ours has, into a gulag archipelago of combination daycare centers / day prisons, many graduating inmates of which emerge barely qualified to press the picture of the cheeseburger on the cash register and count out the amount of change that flashes on the screen.

I’m not interested in saving our broken system. I oppose ideas that threaten to let that system absorb the alternatives to it. Vouchers are just such an idea.

Homeschooling, small cooperative schools funded and operated by groups of like-minded parents, and truly private academies, on the other hand, are our future — if we have a future.

If we’re really interested in reclaiming our birthright of literacy, numeracy, and free thought, it’s time to separate school and state.

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In Defense of Objective Morality

There are those who discredit the philosophy of objective morality, their reason being that we, by virtue of our disparate life experiences, fail to derive a homogenous concept of morality, rather a more subjective take on morality.

Over the last year I’ve come to defend the legitimacy of objective morality based on the concept of natural law among other philosophies. That is, if a benevolent action is acceptable to be performed by a group, it should hold true that the action would be seen as acceptable for the individual as well.

Conversely, if a malevolent action (as defined as a contradiction to natural law) is not acceptable to be performed by an individual, then a group performing malevolent acts shouldn’t be acceptable either.

If one looks at the world today, how many malevolent acts are being perpetrated by groups of people? Why are they being sanctioned, accepted, and even celebrated when these actions are immoral based solely on the violation of natural law?

All this is not to say that natural laws and man made laws are always in opposition. If I could whip up a Venn diagram I could show several overlapping laws covered by both ideologies. Murder, theft, rape, assault… any action which results in a victim pretty much covers it.

It’s the victimless “crimes” that fall under the purview of man made laws that concern me. These laws are the constructs of men and women with no regard to objective morality or natural law. Laws borne of a lust for power and control, not of a spirit of empathy and equity.

Without the understanding of natural law and objective morality one can become tacitly complicit in the illegitimacy of man made laws and possibly suffer the dire consequences themselves.

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America’s Sharia Law

One of the reasons I hear coming from “conservatives” for invading and occupying Islamic countries is so “they” won’t take over America and force Sharia “law” on “us”. You know, kind of an extension of the “fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here” excuse.

True, have no wish to live under such a brutal and primitive, and painfully stupid, system. But doesn’t that mean we should deal with the mote in our own eye and get rid of our own version of Sharia “law” too? Otherwise we are just being hypocritical. Again.

Sharia law is no more obscene than most of the counterfeit laws in America. Kidnapping and murdering people over plants? Or chemicals? Or because they refuse to facilitate their own muggings? “Laws” based on what people claim their god wants?

If we refuse to put up with being ruled by Sharia “law”, why don’t we refuse the US equivalent and refuse to tolerate drug laws, gun lawssex lawstax laws, seatbelt laws, property codes, obscenity laws… and the list goes on almost infinitely to embrace any and all “laws”, based on a religion, which attempt to control or regulate anything other than actual aggression or theft.

Sorry, but if your god approves of the War on Politically Incorrect Drugs, or government sanctioned (or prohibited) marriage, or 99%+ of the rest of the things that “The Law” concerns itself with, your god is a monster. And if you continue to follow your god (whatever name you call him) in spite of his monstrosity, then you are no better. And if you think it is a good idea to impose “laws” like this, and enforce them against your neighbors who may not share your religion, you should be happy with Sharia “law”. As for me, I’ll take liberty and respect yours as well.

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Webs

Nobody asked but …

I did run into a spiderweb on my porch this morning.  My blithe forehead snagged one or more strands of the silky stuff.  But I don’t know whether I have activated some god-like black avenger that will eventually see me in my grave.  It’s the not knowing that is the point.

I was asked about Robert Penn Warren’s famous spiderweb imagery in All the King’s Men.  Do I agree with it?  Well, yes and no.  I agree that every action has an equal and opposite set of reactions, and that each of those reactions engenders even further reactions.  The agitations spread ever wider.

What I don’t agree with is that the web of our reality is presided over by a single awesome spider.  If there are one or more spiders on the web, they are each subject to the rules of the web, the natural laws.  There are no amendments that any acting agent on the web can make to overcome the natural law.  No one has enough information.

As Robert Penn Warren points out later in the same book, we cannot know, in advance, the thing that kills us in the end.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Creating & Consuming Are Two Sides of the Same Coin

Should I create or should I consume?

Should I focus on theory or should I emphasize practice?

Should I initiate my own projects or should I observe what the top performers in my field are doing?

Is there any reason why we should do one to the exclusion of the other?

In your quest for knowledge, I suggest being a student of the game and a player of the game.

As a player of the game, you constantly challenge yourself to make things happen. As a student of the game, you constantly challenge yourself to be inspired by what others are making happen.

Here are the two mindsets to avoid:

  1. If I study enough, one day I’ll be able to create.
  2. Now that I’ve created enough, I no longer need to study.

The first mindset treats studying as if it’s a prerequisite for doing. It sets you up for a vicious cycle where you always end up feeling like you need to read one more book, listen to one more podcast, or take one more class before you’re ready. But the truth is you’ll never be ready until you’re in the middle of doing something you’re not ready to do.

The second mindset treats studying as if it’s some kind of punishment that only losers or mediocre performers have to do. Rather than seeing learning as a fun opportunity to expand your horizons and add new things to your tool box, this mindset makes you see it a sign that you’re regressing back to amateur status. But the truth is that your work is an evolving reflection of how much you’re pushing yourself to acknowledge all the people who have experiences and strategies that you have yet to master.

Here’s an excerpt I love from Anthony Iannarino‘s post on How to Become a Student of the Game:

The reading, the studying, and the practicing are what allow high performers to make distinctions. They start to notice things. They notice things about themselves, and they notice things about others. They start to see how tiny changes produce outsized results.

If you aren’t on the plateau practicing, you never make the distinctions. They’re invisible to you unless you spend time looking. But they are the key to performing at the highest level.

You can’t help the poor performer see the distinctions. Because they aren’t reading, studying, and practicing, the distinction is useless to them. They don’t understand it because they lack the context and because they can’t feel it themselves.

Some distinctions can only be seen if you’re trying to wrap your mind around someone else’s approach and others can only be observed if you’re out there on the field trying to work out the messy details of your own project.

Studying enhances your ability to ship and shipping enhances your ability to study because each vantage point contributes it own unique kinds of insights to the creative process.

If you want better output, you have to seek better input.  If you want to get the most out of what you’re learning from experts, you have to put those things into practice before you’re an expert.

If you don’t do the work, your learning will be stifled. And If you don’t take the time to study, your work will suffer.

Working and studying are part of the same process. If you’re not doing both of these things, you probably won’t do either of them very well or for very long.

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