Saturday, November 26, 2011

Real Reading.

I cannot wait to get to break. Not only does my poor over-taxed little brain need a while to chill, but I have some really serious reading to do, having only completed five novels since the outset of the school year. Was something wrong with me? Have I become lazy in my old age?

I was wondering why I wasn't reading as many books as I normally do. Something had to be amuck. I could not remember another period on record when the number of books I read was so low. It was only tonight as I was sifting through piles of school stuff, gathering together all of my research materials for both of my papers--you know, to take stock--that I realized the truth.

I figured out that I've read 16 complete books for school over the last three months; this number not even reflecting on the fact that a large portion of my assigned readings have been excerpts, and that I have read bits and pieces of countless tomes for my papers...It hit me that I've been doing a ton of reading.

For some reason this did not compute to me as being "real reading." Real reading is the kind you engage in just because you want to. Not for a grade, not because so-and-so said to, not because you need the knowledge, but just because you want it. Mandatory and semi-mandatory reading never seem to count for me, for it is a kind of forced virtue. I take more satisfaction from reading things of my own volition. Who knows why.

I suppose that I am fortunate that the reading I have needed to do this semester is reading which minds greater than mine would probably term real reading. In preparation for one of my papers I have read a book by Amartya Sen, two by Thomas Sowell, a collection of excellent essays on wealth and poverty, Democracy in America, Washington, Dubois, the complete Federalist, Suetonius, Polybius, the Politics of Aristotle, and--once more--The Discourses on Titus Livy. The other works, while not as notable, include a cursory overview of the history of economic theory, a book on the fall of rome, a book on Nero, and one on the relation of the emperor to the Roman army.

I also reread some Dalrymple, but that hardly counts. *nom nom*

Regardless of whether or not I have been reading good stuff, it has been leaving me too tired for Prague cemetery, which is simply not acceptable.

On the bright side, everything will be resolved shortly. There are two possible outcomes. One, I get all of my papers in on time and do not botch my German presentation or Arabic orals. Or option the second, all of the above does not happen and I throw myself on my sword.

It will be interesting to see how this falls out.

Friday, November 4, 2011

On the Idiocy of Arguing Traditional Marriage from a Lockian Liberal Point of View, and the Family

12:10 PM Posted by Patrick , , , No comments
There is no element more important to society than the family. A strong family is necessary to teach children morals, moderation, virtue, and care for their fellow man. The strongest familial education is one that includes religion, which is the ultimate arbiter of perspective; that is, we are each but a small part of the whole, and our greatest good comes from outside the self.

The family must be strong for a nation to have longevity, because there must be a structure in place to educate people to be good citizens, to place value on something other than the individual.

Many might say, there was not such a strong emphasis on the family in early American writings, and I would respond that it was because the family was extraordinarily strong. They did not speak of the necessity to strengthen the family because it was a non-issue.

There is no question in antiquity of the need for strong families. Augustus primary reforms and laws were aimed at restoring and strengthening the family and Gods to a position of reverence after all of the damage done to them in the chaos of the late republic.

The family is the basic building block of society. It is the fundamental unit through which citizens are produced and educated. It is necessary to have a full and traditional family, made up of a parental role model of each sex, and a larger extended family.

You cannot make such an argument from a purely Lockean perspective. If marriage is merely a contract for mutual advantage and pleasure; then there should be no real problem if those two ends are not being achieved. Further, if a contract is all it is, why not marriage between two women, or even three men? What grounds have you for garnishing their contract rights? As long as they are not transgressing another man in their contract; their is no sound argument from this perspective.

Much though it might pain many people who wanted to be sophisticated, have their cake and eat it too, as it were, a strong argument can only be made from an older conservative, largely religious, tradition.

The family must be strong to teach virtue, moderation, and how men and women ought to behave toward one another (I have no patience for those who want to pretend that men and women are basically the same outside of societal pressures; that doesn't jive with the chemistry, let alone with the possibility of the soul). The family is there to teach love and traditional values, without which, you wind up with materialism, greed, hedonism, Warren Buffet and his billion dollars in back taxes, and this occupy infestation, not bathing and despoiling parks.

Redistribution of Wealth.

From the standpoint of one looking for economic and political stability, it is not a good thing that there is such a tremendous spread in wealth. A large, independent, middle class is indisputably the basis for a stable and moderate society.

That being said, income redistribution is an insupportable evil. Why would I say such a thing, if indeed it would be better for wealth to be spread more equally. My reasons are hardly simple, but let us touch them briefly.

In the first part, a redistribution of wealth requires a sacrifice of political liberty and equality in exchange for a possibility of greater social equality. Men are not equal under the law when the law is specifically constructed to take from some to give to others.

Next, government stepping in as the arbiter of financial support weakens the role of the family and community. Where caring for your elderly parents, your children, and day to day needs, used to be an action of the family and the community, it is now shunted off as a burden of the state, with the result that communities and families play a much lesser role in caring for one another.

Further, the machinations of government act as a barrier to the creation of wealth. Do not take my word alone on this; it is clearly demonstrated in Gwartney, Holcombe and Lawson's "The Scope of Government and the Wealth of Nations," which surveys the correlation between the interference of governments in the economy and economic growth over a 36 year period.

The answer is not to force the rich to give up their goods. This attitude alone is exacerbating the problem, by placing the goods of economic choice over the good of political equality under the law. Greed is a product of our society; a society that measures a man by his material success.

Yes, material success is good, but a rich bastard is still a bastard, and a good portion of the best men I know are poor; they are also thoughtful and as virtuous as I can expect of my fellow men.

The same people who are infuriated that many of the wealthy live epicurean lifestyles are the same people who oppose the traditions, mores, and social restrictions which would discourage selfish wanton behavior. When a libertine preaches absolute freedom and radical individualism, why does he look for others to take responsibility where he does not?

That is the ultimate casualty. Tocqueville knew it would come. We are a nation of radical individuals, each feeling a general good will for his fellow Americans, but never touching them in any real way. Even our families must be shunted aside, because their demands restrict our individual freedom. Do not bother us with the problems of our extended family; we are responsible for ourselves alone, and material freedom and social equality are not just a civic religion; they are our Gods.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Conservative Ninjas!

8:51 PM Posted by Patrick 3 comments
Life in our house goes on much as it has this past age. The bothers and I are still energetic gluttons with hair growing on top of our feet, and while none of us has taken to pipeweed, we are looking forward to dealing with dragons in the near future.

Sickness takes it out of you. I missed a bunch of work and school, and it just took so long to feel as if everything were back on track, hence the long time since my last blog post. But that is over now, my goals are in cite once more, and my average German grades have improved on three consecutive items. Things are rolling.

I found out today that I missed a very important person on campus when I was giving status updates on the Shewoof. A one S. Roberts hadn't the fuzziest that she was married. Oh well, can't be expected to remember everyone all by myself.

For those who don't know, my sister and her husband have received priority orders from the conservative Illuminati and are currently stationed in the hostile bastion of Madison, where they are working quietly to affect commonsense and intelligence amongst the populace; a difficult and dangerous task.

Meanwhile, I hold the home front. I am currently tasked with passively collecting information and quietly spreading the message. I am seldom engaged on serious field missions, but for those stupid enough to challenge me, they find themselves eviscerated at the hands of an intellectual ninja.

I'm looking into ISI to help with my goals; I had a professor suggest them as a possible place to obtain scholarships/possibly get some of my future writing published.

Also, I talked earlier with one of my professors about staging an invasion of a certain foreign nation, which needs to give up on the Euro and return to the Mark. I have been put on the scent of things that I must do and people with whom I must speak to begin putting together the logistics of such a campaign. Such a campaign likely would have to wait until fall 2012/spring 2013, but it is, I'm assured, a realistic goal. The early plan would have my goal as Tübingen.

Three! Three blog post! Ah Ah Ah!

Postulates.

There are times when there is no point in even having a conversation. I find nothing more aggravating than people standing in the campus green and debating the existence of God. There will be no winning on either side, and it almost always seems to end uncivilly. This argument bugged me more when I was younger than it does now, because I previously did not realize that it was indeed a futile conversation.

In life, one must have postulates. For me, the existence of God is the central postulate, and all other postulates extend from there. Without this central postulate, there can be no objective good, and we might as well just accept Thrasymachus justice. This is key difference twixt a Machiavelli and a Aristotle. Both are brilliant and have flashes of insight, but one believes that there is a higher eternal truth, an ideal which is most nearly approached through love and moderation, and the other is interested only in pragmatics, the how and why of power, and his ultimate virtu is not love and moderation, but military virtue.

I love my Machiavelli, but I understand that he is more interested in greatness than goodness, function rather than justice, and as a good little Rudisillian, I do not see how the two might be compared.

If there are no postulates, then all is a vacuum, and the only political matter is the question of what is pragmatic.

Take Darwin; if natural selection is the chief principle of life, then there is no natural right. Natural right presumes that rights are inherent in the nature of things; in human nature and the nature of something higher. But if there is nothing higher, and nature is constantly changing, how can there be any kind of transcendent natural right. You may do what you will to survive, but ultimately, if natural selection is true, then if it is prudent or beneficial for society to sacrifice you individually for the greater good, then that is the right of the masses.

I do not care to allow for any such abominations, so the central postulate is God, with further postulates deriving themselves from that center. Human life has value, because it is God's and he made it and ultimately it should serve him.

Property is similarly good. It is given by God to give us pleasure in this life. Property is best used, not when hoarded, but when used for the good of our fellows. This is not to fall into the myth that it would be good if all things were owned in common. If men held nothing in particular, then they would have nothing particular to give of themselves. Sacrifice and generosity require that there be something to give.

These are just a couple things extracted from postulates and the primary source in which is found the central postulate.

Then one might rightly ask, are we then to ignore these pesky little critters that want to argue about God? No. But do not hesitate to advise them that such an argument can only be fruitless, and that there are better topics to deal with. If there can be no definition of good, then there is no way that you will arrive at a solution that both believe to be good. There are many excellent topics of conversation; just stay away from God. God can become a topic once you have their respect and are not in danger of getting in a stupid fight.

I can toy around and play devils advocate and pretend as if my postulates did not exist, but that is not a serious conversation. It is a game, one in which I am testing my wits and seeing if I can win in their arena, but it is not going to be productive for either side. I used to play the Game with Bryan. We would both play the game, argue the other side, and it was never more than an exercise. Neither of us got anything, other than an enhanced talent for argument.

Along with postulates, there is key element contributing to my worldview: Skepticism.

Everything is taken with a grain of salt, and measured against what I know to be true. This is especially true of ideas. Events or the latest political factoid go in the absolute bull category until such time as I've had it from multiple reliable sources...or Mutti or Evan; that only requires one source.

That is not to say that I disbelieve everyone, rather, that the vast majority of info that is conveyed to me by conversation is half remembered, semi-factual, and highly exaggerated. Some sources are better than others, but people in general have poor memory, and they tend to latch onto the most sensational (often most dubious) aspects, leaving out many of the most important details.

"God is in the details!"

What Goes into a 401 Research Paper

7:19 PM Posted by Patrick No comments
Research papers are coming.

This is not exactly my favourite part of the semester. While the research and writing may not be painful in and of themselves, there is the fact that it must be done to a concrete deadline, and that these papers reflect directly on your quality as a writer and your ability to think critically.

I only have two big research papers this semester, which is mostly because two of my courses are foreign languages, and making you write a long blogpost in German is hard enough. On the one hand, the research topic was niftily provided by the professor, and is on the matter of whether or how the actions of the Caesars impacted roman government as a whole and the day-to-day lives of the Roman people. The other paper is something trickier.

It starts with guidelines. Take a modern issue of your choosing, and examine it in light of the promise and problems of democracy. One must explain how the class has informed their theories on the topic, lay out how it fits, or doesn't, with the great writers of history, and make policy recommendations based on the analysis.

Not content with anything easy like citizenship or economic class, I chose an item that is going to require the most possible research and most difficult structure. I chose welfare.

Now, you might wonder, why in the devil did I choose welfare; it is a completely modern issue. That would be incorrect.

One can find examples of this being hashed out as far back as Plato, and there are few writers dealing with the question of politics who do not address the issue of government aid or stipends.

I will deal a lot with the ideas of charity, particularly charitos, and equality, with special attention to the distinction between social and political equality. The chief question being whether or not welfare is efficacious to the inducement of charity in society, and its effects on social and political equality. And on the matter of maintenance...I prefer using Machiavelli to modern studies; he has already told us all we need to know about the sustainability of the modern welfare state. "Human beings have endless desires...."

This paper is going to be a beast, but there still is time before December first, and I am already getting into research and bookmarking tasty tidbits for later examination. What I really need is modern pundits. if anyone knows of a source who writes with anything like clarity and elegance on this topic, please tell me. I do not know if I can use my favourite doomsday prophet, cause he is writing about Britain....