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January 27, 2009, 12:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized





Politicizing Jesus
January 24, 2009, 3:01 pm
Filed under: Christian Doctrine, Culture, Ethics, Politics

Some Christians (especially those on the left) say they want to re-politicize Jesus.  There is something deeply incoherent about this, for it is usually coupled with a commitment to non-violence.  I think these folks are blind to the inherent violence of politics.  

“Jesus is Lord and so Caesar isn’t.”  OK.  I’m not sure the NT has as much to say in support of this as some folks let on.  But insofar as this is an accurate message, it is an anti-political message, right?  Or it is meant to lower our confidence in political power, right?


I’m generally anti-war and I worry about violence underwritten by the state.  But I don’t subscribe to a position of strict non-violence.  And so it is NOT inconsistent for me to support coercive taxation to fund the social safely net.  (If you don’t pay taxes you’re thrown in jail.  Yes, this is violence!  This is ‘the sword’!)


One problem with the political religious left is they fail to notice the social safety net is the fruit of Caesar’s sword.  It is underwritten by violence.


(FYI – I am a non-violence person with respect to the activities of the ‘city within the city’ called the Church.  If ‘Caesar’, inspired by the teachings of Jesus, decides to implement a social safety net, this doesn’t make him the Church.  Notice that Jesus did NOT instruct his followers to take up the sword and coercively take money from the rich to fund the social safety net.  Which is not to say that Caesar oughtn’t do this.  And which is not to say Christians cannot participate in this as citizens of the city of man.  Yes, I guess I’m a kind of ‘two-kingdoms’ person.)

January 24, 2009, 2:29 pm
Filed under: Culture, Ethics, Politics

Imagine a ‘rags to riches’ story of someone who, through hard work and determination, built up a large fortune.  You might dare to say this person earned their vast wealth, in some sense. Certainly as compared to an heiress like Paris Hilton.  

But the vast majority of the rich are not ‘rags to riches’ people, right?  And even those who worked very hard for their money probably benefited from certain advantages of birth, right?  


Is it fair the rich were born with these advantages?  There is an obvious sense in which they didn’t merit these advantages–they were born with them! 


Birth is unfair.  I have great parents, and did nothing to deserve them.  That I was born to them, and not to some pair of idiots, is not fair.  Someone else was born to those idiots.  There is nothing fair about this.  


Should the government take it as its task to remedy this unfairness?

The some folks on the political left says yes, don’t they? 

But doesn’t this amount to using the coercive power of the state to violently inaugurate the new heavens and the new earth?  This project of ‘ultimate cosmic justice’ is a fundamentally religious project, isn’t it?  (Just because God isn’t mentioned, doesn’t mean its not religious, right?)  No project could be more ambitious, could it?  It is aimed at the complete restructuring of humanity.  It is aimed at the creation a new kind of humanity.  It is predicated on the destruction of all natural human bonds, for these natural human bonds are ultimately unfair.  Death and resurrection to new life, thanks to the government!!!   


Is it right that rich parents get to pass their wealth on to their children?  

If it is unfair that I was born to my parents, then the natural bond I have with them can be justly broken, right?  After all, its creation was unfair in the first place.

But imagine the kind of violence that would be required to break this natural human bond.  Only a totalitarian state could accomplish this kind of ultimate fairness, right?  But the result wouldn’t be desirable, would it?  It would be awful.  Read 1984.   


I believe in the welfare state and the social safety net and all the rest.  I believe it makes sense for the rich to may more taxes.  Those to whom much has been given, much will be required, right?  But I do not believe that the government should take it as its task to establish ultimate fairness.  

Why?  Because the kind of power and violence that it would take to accomplish this is too dangerous.  And the result would be the destruction of all culture and all the natural human bonds that make life worth living.

I think this makes me a kind of conservative, in some sense.  I want to preserve organic human culture and natural human bonds.  And I’m afraid of any government with the powers and ambitions to fundamentally restructure humanity.

Human life is unfair.  But some projects aimed at establishing ultimate fairness would be worse.


Don’t some people on the left assume that social change means harnessing the power of the state to coercively enforce some sort of bureaucratically designed policy?  Does everything need to have a political solution in this sense?

Harm v. Wrong (What do I have right to?)
January 23, 2009, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Ethics, Politics

It is one thing to harm someone, but it is another thing to wrong them.  

Imagine I parked my car in a parking spot that you wanted to park in.  Because of me you have to walk an extra 100 meters.  

In some sense I’ve harmed you.  I’ve denied you some good.  I’ve caused you suffering of some kind.  Not major suffering, yet some sort of suffering in some sense.  

But unless I butted in line (or something of the like), I didn’t wrong you.  You had no right to the spot (unless maybe you saw it first).


The other day, I heard a debate on the radio about whether mobile phones were a human right.  They are almost certainly a human good.  Or the communication made possible by them is a human good.  Or it is a means to various human goods.  

But are you wronged if you don’t have a mobile phone?  You might be denied some good.  It might even harm you if you don’t have a mobile phone.  But are you wronged if you don’t have one?


Here in Canada we pride ourselves on our universal healthcare system.  Why should the rich get better care than the poor?  I get that.

But why should the rich get better food and better exercise?  Shouldn’t we have a universal food and exercise system?

If you don’t believe in two-tier healthcare, why do you believe in two-tier (or many-tier) food?

Because of this, I’m tempted to think that two-tier healthcare is good and proper.

One more reason: if I have 5 million dollars, and I’m dying, surely I have the right to do whatever I can to save myself, right?  If I’m allowed to buy any number of luxuries with that money, how can I not be allowed to try to save my life?

None of this means I’m against the social safety net.  


I think you have the right to do all you can to save yourself.  But I can’t see how you can have a right to the very best healthcare.  There is only so much money in our healthcare budget.  And so, right now, Canadians aren’t getting the the very best healthcare money can buy.  At most, Canadians get the best healthcare that our healthcare budget allows.  Otherwise there wouldn’t be enough money to go around. 


If we really have a right to the very best healthcare, then we in Canada are being wronged.  

I’d say we aren’t being wronged, though we are probably being harmed.  

Healthcare is undoubtedly a human good.  And so a bad healthcare system is bad.  (Our system is relatively good, I think.)  We’d be a bad society if we had bad healthcare.  And so there is some sense in which we ought to work towards the best healthcare we can.  

But is healthcare a right

Again, undoubtedly it is good.  And it’s undoubtedly bad if we lack it.  But does it count as a right?


What if harms become wrongs given the right context.  That seems right.  The very rich wrong (and not merely harm) the poor when they leave them in their suffering.  And so, since our society is very rich, in our society healthcare is a right.

My Favourite Song Right Now
January 21, 2009, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Favourite Song Right Now | Tags:

Noah and the Whale – 5 Years Time

The New U2 Single Sucks (Updated)
January 20, 2009, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Culture | Tags: ,

The main riff is OK.  But the bridge and the chorus are weak.  And there is something terribly unsexy about the way Bono sings “sexy boots”.  That line alone ruins the song.

{Update:  It is growing on me.  The “sexy boots” line is still very unsexy.  But the song is slowly growing on me.  I initially hated the Vertigo single.  I was dumbfounded by how shit it sounded when I heard it on the radio.  But now I like it.  I can only hope that the music video for Boots is better than the Vertigo video.  That remains an irredeemable piece of shit.}

Surprise (Part III)
January 20, 2009, 2:44 pm
Filed under: Ethics

The meanness of bigotry lies in its denial of our ability to transcend our background, our genes, our culture or whatever.  A good person is open to be surprised by this kind of transcendence.  

The wrongness of expecting a woman to be a worse scientist than a man is not a mistake about genes or whatever.  It would be wrong even if we had decisive proof that women, as a group, tend to have qualities which diminish their scientific abilities.  It is good and proper to open to be surprised by an individual’s ability to transcends their background.  This readiness to be surprised is a sign of excellence of character. 

(BTW – I take it that we don’t have this kind of proof about women being generally inferior.  But sexism would be wrong even if we did have it.  So I’d say that sexism isn’t merely ignorant.  It would be wrong even if based on knowledge.  The right response is not to say “Here’s some evidence that men and women are equal in their abilities in every way.”  That might be true.  Or partly true.  It might be false.  But, in any case, it is mostly irrelevant.  Which is to say that I agree with some of the goals of the egalitarians, even if I’m not an egalitarian in the technical sense.)