Category Archives: Republicans

Maslow, Law & Grace, Reactionary & Revolutionary

Figure 1 – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow captured a moment in human evolution which, in the Enlightenment tradition, summed up the need for meaning from an individual perspective. What is perhaps understated to some degree by his model is that the Latin idea of nātūra (nature) and the more radical Greek notion of φύσις, εως, ἡ (phusis, physics) was our tutor and guardian. The dance of environment and individual conspired together to bring us to the next stage of human evolution. Basic needs demanded and required, upon the pain of death, obedience. The height of individualism was addressing the need for human meaning and personal fulfillment. Just as human individuality, from the physics of space-time, essentially entails ‘from a past’, ‘in a present’, and ‘to a future’ so meaning is derived from origin, to presence, and toward telos, a goal or culmination. In Aristotelian terms,

In Metaphysics Α.1, Aristotle says that “everyone takes what is called ‘wisdom’ (sophia) to be concerned with the primary causes (aitia) and the starting-points (or principles, archai).” (Cohen, 2020)

Furthermore, Aristotle writes of dunamis (potentiality) and entelecheia (actuality) or energeia (activity),

Since Aristotle gives form priority over matter, we would expect him similarly to give actuality priority over potentiality. And that is exactly what we find (Θ.8, 1049b4–5). Aristotle distinguishes between priority in logos (account or definition), in time, and in substance. (1) Actuality is prior in logos since we must cite the actuality when we give an account of its corresponding potentiality. Thus, ‘visible’ means ‘capable of being seen’; ‘buildable’ means ‘capable of being built'(1049b14–16). (2) As regards temporal priority, by contrast, potentiality may well seem to be prior to actuality, since the wood precedes the table that is built from it, and the acorn precedes the oak that it grows into. Nevertheless, Aristotle finds that even temporally there is a sense in which actuality is prior to potentiality: “the active that is the same in form, though not in number [with a potentially existing thing], is prior [to it]” (1049b18–19). A particular acorn is, of course, temporally prior to the particular oak tree that it grows into, but it is preceded in time by the actual oak tree that produced it, with which it is identical in species. The seed (potential substance) must have been preceded by an adult (actual substance). So in this sense actuality is prior even in time. which it is identical in species. The seed (potential substance) must have been preceded by an adult (actual substance). So in this sense actuality is prior even in time[1]. (Cohen, 2020)

From Aristotle’s perspective human individuality is not self-identical but essentially interwoven in phusis. Actuality and potentiality are both fundamentally constituent of reality[2]. From the Latin world and Roman Christianity, the individual emerges predominately in the landscape of phusis. This brings us to law and grace.

The law, as what Christianity deems the ‘Old Testament’, was a tutor and guardian until grace, what Christianity deems the ‘New Testament’, would transform the individual in the same way Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs transformed needs. Needs in the fight for survival was unforgiving and ruthless to offenders. Transformations to psychological needs and to higher needs of self-fulfillment also resulted in a kind of reprieve from more basic needs. While Judaic laws required, upon pain of death in certain instances, obedience; grace writes the law in the heart. So, for grace the law is no longer fundamentally wed to phusis but becomes a kind of phusis unto itself in its transformation. This is how individuality emerges from phusis.

Underlying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is the background of phusis. The individual finds meaning by moving from the law to grace, from mere survival to self-fulfillment, self-determination but cannot end in the laws of individuality but move on to the contextual, potentiality, which is determinate of the metaphysic of individuality. This movement is dependent upon fulfilling the earlier requirements of biological dependence on phusis. However, the individual has the potential to transform itself to a higher level of meaning and purpose than mere servitude to phusis and the truncation of contextuality into actuality.

Capitalism is the economic expression of individualism. Capitalism holds the stick of phusis but also raises the carrot of higher individual potentiality. However, it proposes not a grace of human individuality in which the individual attains a transformation of meaning but a domination of phusis. By conquering the slavery of mere survival, ideally, we can put phusis into the position of bondage and subjugation to affluent needlessness. In this then, we find the Error of the illusion of power and the reality of phusis. In Karl Marx’ terms the problem of capitalism is the creation of artificial needs, otherwise called marketing. We must have the next smart phone. In this sense, meaning is accomplished by the myth of Sisyphus. In cheating phusis Sisyphus was forever condemned to push a rock up a hill only to have it roll down once again. The promise of capitalism could never deliver us from phusis but could only forever require our aspirations which, for most, was doomed to fail. Even the most successful capitalist must give way to phusis in death. Furthermore, conquering phusis turns out to merely produce climate change and not the end of phusis but the end of humanity – eternal death of human.

This is how individualism has played itself out through history. However, another marginalized narrative has also held the potentiality of grace through cooperation with phusis. Cooperation does not spring forth from absolute individualism but from collectivity and responsibility. Human meaning is not obtained through the desperations of individualism but through the graces of maturity. Maturity recognizes our dependence upon phusis and each other. We no longer actualize the dynamics of power and subjugation built into the metaphysics of individualism but allow, make way, for the gift of the other; the other as phusis and as the he or she we face. When we give way to the other, we take responsibility for our obligation, our indebtedness to what we are not. We integrate and harmonize, make peace, with reality instead of a pitched battle with it. We no longer blame the other for our lack of power but take hold of our responsibility to the cry of the other. This does not take us back to manufactured needs of self-justification in the form of individual merit.

The bourgeoisie labor in self-adoring-adorning will imputing their metaphysic of failed individualism upon the proletariat. They absolve themselves of responsibility to the higher call of action in care. Democracy is based in a call higher than the metaphysics of individualism can understand. It places political responsibility on the individual to respond to the call of collectivity and the other. By the ‘other’ I mean phusis and the he or she. As long as we lapse into individualism, we absolve ourselves of the phenomenological reality of language.

Language is not private and individual. Language is not something we manufacture for the purpose of creating artificial needs which enrich its producers. Language is an archeology, an origin which we did not create, which preceded us from those we never knew. It is not merely a tool but a history-scape which informs us before we become cognitively aware of it. Self-realization cannot happen without others who have long since receded into language’s background. Even as eyes and ears are filters which let us make sense of the world, language functions as filters we call ‘reality’ in which ‘I’ as an individual never created or became the origin of. In this way, we are ‘individuals’. We name ourselves and bestow on ourselves the title of identity as if we were some kind of self-unification. Insanity is what we call those who have a private language and found identity upon it.

Democracy requires a perspective and a horizon in which each individual has place. ‘Place’ here is not a badge of individual merit. It is bestowed from how we actually are. We are bound and indebted to the other, to phusis, to any such thing which we call reality. While this can be denied in favor of autocracy, whether individual or political, it is ultimately self-defeating as it vaults the individual to heights which can only be maintained by the very opposite phenomenon it employs to create its artificial, virtual reality. It uses language to deny how language is, how it emerges from an exteriority which cannot be solipsistic. The eternal recurrence of the same in linguistic filters are fabricated to protect and destroy the myth of power. The endless repetition of simulacra and re-simulation are doomed from within because they cannot hear the still small voice of phusis. They can only result in the rise and demise of civilization and our environment. This is where reactionary and revolution find relevance.

Reactionary is a throw back to a fabricated past the never was. It is the wild west of individualism. There never was a John Wayne of individualism. It was created, manufactured, re-produced to protect the few violently. However, there is no evil genius here. Rather, it is a result of a linguistic history which advocates against itself. The heroic defies reality in favor of its own phantasma of who it is. It creates a past in which it is its own origin. It is self-caused. It is the creator of heroic and horror-ic values. It is the law in the garb of self-identity.

The Judaic law was given by God not man, but the new version of the law is the created simulacra of man, of a history which wishes to be but cannot be. Reactionaryism can only produce the reality of Sisyphus, an eternal recurrence of the same, reproduction of something that never was. It is wish-fulfillment which attempts to renew itself in itself and by itself. Revolution welcomes the new but all to often fails in the linguistic sanctums of power.

Revolution, as the new which never was, looks toward a future which has never been but is all too often doomed by its self-sufficiency in the phantasms of language which pull it back into the gravitational orbit of self-identity. Just as the revolutionary idea of democracy has lapsed in the United States back into the reactionary simulations of authoritarianism, revolution cannot succeed if it utilizes tools from our linguistic past which were devised to protect the illusion of power. What we need is to re-think language in terms of phusis. Our situatedness in history and phusis is not as masters of power but fundamentally dependent upon that which is not-me. Revolution can only find a higher transformation when it lets the ghost of power and absolute individualism fall into the dust bin of failed, phantasmas of a past that can never be. We must find an ethics which is participatory and essential to the responsibility towards the other. As human we are all part of a pluralistic, heterogenous reality-scape which offers many abodes that can never be commensurate.

Those that revel in power and self-identity have fashioned for themselves a simulacra, a golden calf, which can only be repeated in reactionary violence. The cry of the other, the suffering of the other. The relegation of oppression and self-absorbed denial of who we are and not who we imagine the ‘they’ are is the revolution which will usher in a transformation with ourselves and our environment. Transformation from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Individual Needs must give up the ghost of labor which can only toil in eternal repetition of the same. This is not a new hierarchy. This is an acceptance of responsibility and obligation to the other, to phusis. We cannot arise at the expense of the other and our environment. We must have the grace of making place for the other. We must allow the content of phusis and the real needs of the other to call us to responsibility. The individual does not disappear in collectivity as drop of water in the ocean. This is another illusion built on the mirage of individualism. Responsibility places us as situatedness to that that which we cannot efface and calls us to actualize our responsibility to that call. In this untapped potential for what it means to be human we find cooperation and concern for what we cannot erect a phantasma of. It is founded in a language and history which we cannot have power over but can recognize our absolute limitation in the face of radical alterity which requires our responsibility not our violence in its defacement.

References

Cohen, S. M. (2020). “Aristotle’s Metaphysics”. (E. N. (ed.), Ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2020 Edition). Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-metaphysics/

[1] Interesting to note that Aristotle’s notion of actuality and potentiality seems to me to have some reverberations in modern chaos theory. Chaos theory does not deny order or actuality. Instead, it tells us that order is a co-determination of chaos. Order and chaos are not diametrically opposed as subject and object. They have an essential relationship. The universe is structured as self-organizing as fractals. Fractals have the unique capacity to be both ordered and chaotic infinitely. There appears to no limit to the patterns they can make in the same way as each snowflake is absolutely unique. This is what is called self-organizing. In the chaos theory the universe is self-organizing. There is no limit to the nature of how it organizes. A butterfly’s wings can spark a tsunami on the other side of the world. This makes the outcome essentially unpredictable. Likewise, actuality or energy emerges from potentiality as limitless patterns emerge from fractals. Actuality emerges as particular forms just as language emerges as particular histories, invocations of reality and absolutes. The are uniquely particular and ordered but their origins are not in the absolute of their actuality, of their content, or the mystery we call reality, but in the absolutely unpredictable outcomes of potentiality. Additionally, they are intimately the subject of absolute unpredictable, chaotic changes. Therefore, cause and effect are not a reality but an observation of a commonality, a particular fractal pattern, which emerges in language and history.

[2] I use the word ‘reality’ here on the context of its philosophical history which I cited in my previous post, Maslow, Law & Grace, Reactionary & Revolutionary. Reality is not the simplicity of an object related to a subject as philosophy starting in the 19th century has argued culminating around the same time that Einstein’s theory of relativity was taking off at the beginning of the 20th century. Reality is a chaotic and ordered process of language and its other. It is not self-evident except in supposed, assumed and metaphysical histories. It is interactive and chaotically potential in its actual forms. One simple example is the relativity of space-time. As an individual human we have mass. Since we have mass, we create small but not insignificant distortions of space-time around us. Additionally, time runs faster on the top of a mountain than in a valley (gravitational time dilation). Each individual is wrapped from birth to death in their space-time continuum. Additionally, this space-time continuum has stretch and minute variations which directly correspond to relative masses and speed called frames of reference. It is wrong to think of time and space as static, universal and absolute. Similarly, it is wrong to think of individuality as absolute as it is determined by the other of history, language, phusis, and the he and she. All of this is dynamic and chaotic, its capacity for predictability. Closing down individuality into an absolute is death. As Heidegger tells us, “Death is the possibility of the absolute impossibility of Dasein (human being or more precisely the ‘there’ of being).” The impossibility of individuality emerges in language and history as an absolute impossibility or as Heidegger calls it the “they-self”. The they as a self is immediately contradictory and unsustainable as it is a self-contradiction. Similarly, absolute individuality cloaks it contextual histories which are relegated to its margins. This does not negate the form of the individual but places it in relative context with it’s ‘not’ as a pattern in fractals does not deny it’s infinite, unpredictable, and chaotic patterns but emerges from them. However, the not is not a negation but an affirmation of an absolutely ‘other’, even as death is a possibility in its absolute impossibility. The fear of death is actually the fear of life since no one will ever experience death as Epicurus tells us,

“Why should I fear death?

If I am, then death is not.

If Death is, then I am not.

Why should I fear that which can only exist when I do not?

Long time men lay oppressed with slavish fear.

Religious tyranny did domineer.

At length the mighty one of Greece

Began to assent the liberty of man.”

What is Reality?

I have had several conversations recently which I think bring up this interesting question. My background in a lifetime of interest in philosophy and physics has sometimes caused me to over-assume that others are aware to some degree of how 19th century metaphysics of mechanics is still very dominate in most folks thinking. The metaphysics of mechanics assume an absolute time and space dominated by Cartesian metaphysics in which Renes’ Descartes writing in the 17th century declares, “I think, therefore I am”. At the very beginning of the Scientific Revolution, time and space was thought through the metaphor of a machine. This was no ‘spooky action at a distance’ but with Newton there soon would be ‘action at a distance’ with gravity and later with electromagnetism. The notion of aether had been around for a very long time before Newton but Newton would attribute gravity to a Christian God. Therefore, it was reasonable that shortly before the birth of Newton, Descartes in keeping with Latin Christianity would think of reality as subject and object. The subject was the domain of aether, God, mind, spirit, etc. and the object was matter, substance, body, just dead stuff. This metaphysic of absolute dualism would make the Mechanical Revolution of the 18th and 19th century possible. I use metaphysic from the Latin as the Christianized transformation from Aristotle’s works on ‘first philosophy’ or being as such. This metaphysic became ‘reality’. It became a largely unquestioned assumption which underscores more the impact and vast significance of history as human than any such thing as the ‘real’.

In the 19th century Hegel’s dialectic shattered with great genius and logic this dominate metaphysic. His impact was so devastating that reactions to Hegel spun off Karl Marx and communism (long before the Russian Revolution). Marx vigorously opposed the bourgeois Hegel in favor of material dialecticism. Hegel also spun off the British Empiricists and Adam Smith which became the foundation of capitalism. What was so devastating about Hegel’s observations? Hegel pointed out clearly that the dominate metaphysic of his day was an abstraction. It was not a matter denying the ‘reality’ of Cartesian dualism but of showing how it was an abstraction. Kant tells us,

For human reason, impelled by its own need rather than moved by the mere vanity of gaining a lot of knowledge, proceeds irresistibly to such questions as cannot be answered by any experiential use of reason and any principles taken from such use. And thus all human beings, once their reason has expanded to [the point where it can] speculate, actually have always had in them, and always will have in them, some metaphysics.

—Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason

Isaac Topete writes,

Kant posits a two-fold constitution of knowledge by the two faculties of understanding and sensibility, and thereby, rejects the hypothesis of an intuitive understanding. With these two stances in mind, Hegel—within the Science of Logic—is critical of Kant insofar as he sees these above positions by Kant as detrimental to the project of idealism. Detrimental in the sense that Hegel thinks that Kant’s position is self-contradictory to the extent that concepts exist only in relation to appearance (i.e. illusory being) and, hence, concepts do not have any actual ‘truth’ to them insofar as they only apply haphazardly. So, from the perspective of Hegel, for Kant, concepts are derivative and hold no actual traction beyond that which appears. This, therefore, leads to Hegel’s attempt to critique and overcome these Kantian assumptions within the Science of Logic. (Topete)

Kant distinguished concepts from the ‘thing in itself’ or noumenon as opposed to phenomenon or manifestations – concepts. So, Kant was still to some extent working from Cartesian metaphysics. However, even Kant was already thinking clearly about the absolute abstractions of concepts and their inability to sustain any such thing as ‘reality’ without essentially being a metaphysic. Hegel shows through rigorous and extensive writings that Kant’s dualism resulting in the ‘thing in itself’ could not stand as Kant intended but even Kant’s unstated dualism was itself merely Concept. Hegel thinks Kant is still a victim of abstraction in that he could not break with some notion of reality which maintained the opposition of noumenon and phenomenon. This was the beginning of the end for Cartesian dualism over one hundred and fifty years ago.

Philosophy after Hegel broke into two main divisions: Continental and Analytic Philosophy. Continental meaning mainland Europe and Analytic meaning chiefly United States. However Analytic Philosophy grew out of the British Empiricist’s reaction to Hegel and the German Idealists. Both strains of philosophy have also traversed to widely varying degrees away from the mechanics of Cartesian reality.

Continental philosophy eloquently shows the break from the classical world to the modern world beginning with Existentialism and into phenomenology. Existentialism was focused on the matter of existing in a daily world and how to live without the metaphysics which made the classical world possible. Phenomenology was contemporaneous in the early 20th century with Einstein and Relativity. While not directly affecting each other they had some interesting parallels. Phenomenology started in earnest when Edmund Husserl began by focusing not on abstractions of metaphysics but how phenomenon shows itself from intentionality. As human we always encounter the world with intention which is not passive but active in determining what shows itself. His student Martin Heidegger also working from Husserl discusses two examples of how this works. Heidegger asks how do we experience spatiality? Do we encounter it as linear extension, as feet or inches from objects?

Actually, linear extension is an abstraction. It is a grid we impose on the world. Even Einstein tells us space is not linear but relative to time and frames of perspective. ‘Long’ and ‘short’ change relative to the speed of light. For Heidegger, we have lived-space. We bring close and distance ourselves from regions of contoured spatiality. While the glasses on our face may be much closer to us in linear extension our lived space is what our intentions are occupying in interests beyond and through our glasses. When we are in a class room there is a space between the teacher and the students which we experience as different regions where possibilities are delineated in advance. Lived space is not devoid of everything except dead extension. It is alive and has various qualities which inform us about ourselves, others and the world and how we act in various regionalities. Additionally, lived-time is not linear now moments. Lived time has a stretch of duration from a past through a present to a future. When we are happy ‘time flies’ and when we are bored or depressed time slows to a halt. Lived-time is a stretch of qualities and not just dead time. In terms of Einstein, time is relative to us, our frame of reference. Continental philosophy goes on to show how time and space are concretized by qualities of our experience of them.

Continental philosophy moved on in the mid to latter 20th century to structuralism and poststructuralism, modernism and post-modernism. These movement encompassed vast areas beyond philosophy including architecture, art, feminism, etc. These movements laid a foundation for a critique of abstractions from the classical and modern world and showed how their influences became occasions for violence and domination both to ourselves and our environment. Derrida showed through deconstruction how dominate, historic narratives must necessarily include their own antithesis and undoing. Fanaticism and terrorism result from their inevitable collapse. Furthermore, any form of structuralism is doomed to carry the seeds of its own demise. Derrida even goes so far as to say that “deconstruction deconstructs itself”. A case and point here is the interesting turns we find in Analytic Philosophy.

Analytic philosophy got its impetus from getting back to the senses in British Empiricism and not German Idealism. However, it quickly became entangled in linguistics, semantic and syntax. Once it emerged from the logic of language it took on the philosophy of language in a much more evasive role.

Those who use the term “philosophy of language” typically use it to refer to work within the field of Anglo-American analytical philosophy and its roots in German and Austrian philosophy of the early twentieth century. Many philosophers outside this tradition have views on the nature and use of language, and the border between “analytical” and “continental” philosophy is becoming more porous with time, but most who speak of this field are appealing to a specific set of traditions, canonical authors and methods. (PhiIn)

I am not as familiar with the Analytic tradition but I understand that sense perception has become inseparable from language games, context, intentions, intersubjectivity and histories. Rudolf Carnap even went so far as to substitute intention for sense. Contextuality is not something added on to reality but constituent of reality. The ‘Pittsburg Hegelians’ have even taken Analytic Philosophy back to Hegel in some important respects. Writing of Wilfred Sellars (an important advocate of the Pittsburg Hegelians) Willem A. deVries writes,

For both Hegel and Sellars, the sociality of thought entails also its historicity. We always operate with a less than ultimately satisfactory conceptual framework that is fated to be replaced by something more satisfactory, whether on the basis of conceptual or empirical considerations… Sellars denies both that there are ‘atoms’ of knowledge or meaning independent of their relation to other ‘pieces’ of knowledge or meaning, and that they are structured in a neat hierarchy rather than an interlocking (social) network. The determinate content of a thought or utterance is fixed by its position in the space of implications and employments available to the community in its language or conceptual framework. This kind of holism is congenial to Hegelian modes of thinking… Hegel is an epistemological realist: he rejects the idea that we do not (or are not even able to) know things as they are in themselves. Yet neither Hegel nor Sellars wants to reject altogether the distinction between phenomenal reality and things as they are in themselves. Sellars calls the distinction between the phenomenal and the real the distinction between the manifest and the scientific images of man in the world.

Hegel provides for numerous phenomenal realities related in ways that require a phenomenology to understand. It is not the distinction between phenomenon and reality itself that Hegel and Sellars attack, but the notion that it is absolute, establishing an unbridgeable divide.

McDowell, however, is concerned to defend our ‘openness to the layout of reality’ and seems not to take seriously the idea that we might have systematically false beliefs about the nature of things… The strategy, boiled down, is this: Kant’s critical philosophy is formulated in terms of basic dualisms, apriori/aposteriori, analytic/synthetic, receptivity/spontaneity, even empirical science/philosophy. Hegel insists that trapped in these dualisms Kant cannot satisfactorily explain human cognition or action. The gaps imposed by the assumed dualisms never get properly bridged. (deVries)

DeVries goes on to state that Sellars rejects the standard static interpretation given by Hegel in Hegel’s absolutisms. The important point here is that even the arch-typical school of sense empiricism has re-discovered, perhaps in some novel ways, the radical and complete loss of metaphysical ground which dominated the West from the Roman Empire to the 19th century.

Physics tells us of the absolute (if you will) relativity of ‘objects’ in which size and even temporal existence is contingent. In quantum mechanics it appears that even the notion of a particle is simply relative concentrations of energetic field densities more like micro and macro waves and currents in the ocean. Subatomic ‘particles’ with no mass (infinitesimal forces popping in and out of existence) energize these densities to create mass, gravity and their relative temporalities. This tells us that a ‘particle’ as a solid piece of matter is an abstraction which we have told ourselves through history based more on a quasi-scientific/theological notion of Newton’s absolute time and space. Newton told us gravity as action at a distance was God.

Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle even tells us that there are aspects of phenomena which are impossible to reconcile (position and momentum of the wave-particle). This hits at the very heart of logic as built upon the principle of non-contradiction.

Schrödinger’s cat in the box thought experiment tells us the cat in the box can both be alive and dead at the same time. This is really an observation about the mathematics of superposition which is the basis of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics tells us about infinite possibilities which are actualized, made real, by observation. The immediate reaction of many including myself years ago was, ‘Are we saying that everything is subjective?’ This jump to subjectivity was the only possibility given to us by our metaphysics when confronted with this observation.

Einstein referred to entanglement as ‘spooky action at a distance’. Most quantum fields have a property called spin. These fields become constituents of many particles such as an electron. One characteristic of spin is called up and down. This is really how a magnetic field effects the orientation of the field. When particles such as an electron become entangled with each other they form a pair that can be separated by billions of light years and a magnetic field on one electron will instantly change the orientation of the other electron no matter what the distance between the two electrons. This seems to violate Einstein’s basic postulate which tells us nothing in the universe can move faster than the speed of light. This appears to violate a fundamental law of physics concerning locality. Einstein thought perhaps there were hidden variables which could explain this problem. One possibility could be that the universe is composed of more dimensions than four, three dimensions of space and one of time. Locality is intuitively thought as the ‘me’, the ‘I’ of ‘I think, therefore I am’. History has taught us that we are all absolute individuals. We have a certain sacred and protected domain which endows us with sacred, unalienable and unquestionable ‘rights’. We typically downplay the absolute of individuality with the equal and opposite other half of rights which is responsibility.

The notion of a multi-dimensional universe has contributed to many-worlds theory (which goes all the way back to the Greeks). String theory and parallel universes coupled with Schrödinger’s observation tell us that possibilities may be more than reality fictions but fundamentally comprise the ‘stuff’ of reality. What we thought as dead stuff, substance, may have much more to it that could make the boundaries of what is thought as living and dead a more complex problem.

Dark energy is thought to comprise 73% of all mass and energy in the universe. Additionally, dark matter is thought to comprise another 23% of the universe. The leaves 4% to comprise everything we see such as planets, stars and people. And, we really have no clue what it is. We know it must exist because we see its effects like wind in the trees. Dark matter and dark energy may solve a problem which resulted in perhaps Einstein’s greatest blunder, the cosmological constant. In short, Einstein inserted this ‘x’ factor into his equations to make relativity of time and space work with gravity. This made the universe static and kept the universe from flying apart. However, many subsequent discoveries have leads us to the dark halls of dark energy and matter as the reason why the universe does not fly apart. Without the gravitational effects of dark matter and energy we would have to accept the almost theological explanation of Einstein’s ‘x’ factor. The mystery of what dark matter and energy tell us is to buckle up, we really know very little about reality.

What is the real? It is neither subjective nor objective but those tired old metaphysics should tell us more about who we are that what reality is. We have inherited ‘filters’ which help us make sense of the world in language and history. Language and history are as much a part of our anatomy as our heart is. The ‘real’ is not some absolute, everlasting reality apart from us to which we are enslaved but essential to us in an ‘essentially’ indeterminate way. Philosophy and physics have come together to show us that our ability to abstract not only is the ‘real’ but somehow indeterminately determinate of what gets taken up as ‘real’.

To speak of the ‘real’ in this way is not to deny the ‘real’ but to put the ‘real’ in a more nuanced and less abstract way than historic embodiments which grossly oversimplify and distort ‘isness’. These distortions lead to the worst of human behavior as they champion the heroic ‘defender of the faith’ at any horrific cost. The threats to reality are manufactured inherent in ‘reality’ not imputed from the unrepentant. We do not really know to what extent our forceful expectations of ‘reality’ force the reality we ultimately find. It may be that the worlds we create become our tomb and not the occasion for an ‘other’, infinitely removed from our metaphysical prisons.

Creation did not happen from our reality but from a reality we never knew. Language was not our invention after birth but in some indeterminate and historic fashion constitutes who we are, what ‘reality’ is or isn’t. It constitutes a past that never was our personal past but somehow participates intimately in our moments and after-moments of creation, of birth. To think of ourselves as an absolute individual is perhaps the momentous sin of ‘reality’ which ignores the grace which makes us possible. We owe a debt to creation, the moment of birth, that gives gifts and makes possible language and meaning. It is up to us as to how we embody these gifts with wistful arrogance or humble gratitude. The other, the he or the she, is not diminished or captured by our petty judgements of them. They are as much the miracle of who we are as language, as ‘reality, as the indeterminate infinity which we choose together and apart. The possibility of ethics is a choice, perhaps the only choice we can make. Over one hundred and fifty years we have traversed from ‘I think, therefore I am’ to ‘We think, therefore we are’. We can welcome this transformation or die fighting it but who is to say if we meet our apocryphal demise, another unaccounted, unrecognized moment of creation will not create infinites of ‘realities’ which once again ask for gratitude, grace and ethical desire for what we know not.

Works Cited

(n.d.). Philosophy of Language. Retrieved from https://iep.utm.edu/lang-phi/

deVries, W. A. (n.d.). Hegel’s Revival in Analytic Philosophy. Retrieved from https://mypages.unh.edu/sites/default/files/wad/files/devries_hegels_revival_in_analytic_philosophy.pdf

Topete, I. (n.d.). Idealism from Kant to Hegel. Retrieved from https://www.csustan.edu/sites/default/files/groups/University%20Honors%20Program/Journals/isaac_topete.pdf

Thoughts on the Afterlife and Other Tales

Part of the beauty of life is not knowing. ‘Knowing’ has a tendency for reduction. It can dampen basic questions of existence. It can provide an answer, at least a contingent answer. It has the allure of solace, comfort, and security. While it does dampen the angst of existence, it also dampens the intensity of passions; of beauty, wonder and awe. It also squelches creativity. Creativity is the catalyst which made science and our present lived-world possible. In religion, the lack of distance from God undermines the passion of the Holy. It gives ready-made answers in lieu of faith. God talks to devotees in regular and daily conversation which they all too happy to tell us about. Whatever happened to the passion of faith was a problem Kierkegaard brought to our attention. Kierkegaard tells us that we do not need faith to believe that 1 + 1 = 2. We have no real stake in the daily and absolute knowledge of a God we know and understand with absolute certainty. That is not faith but the mechanical garbs of science without the objectivity of facts and instead, the subjective experience of knowledge which has become an unfalsifiable fact, which is intolerant of doubt. What we have in this case is the inception of extremism that can solipsistically know no other. What this really brings to the surface is a uniquely historic, 19th century, worldview in which absolute time and space came into fruition with the Industrial Revolution. This is why religious modernity and capitalism have become cozy bedfellows and why anything such as a ‘Trump’ was made possible in the vestibules of faith. All the resentment in religious, reaction to enlightenment is,

“Wokeism makes you lose, ruins your mind, and ruins you as a person”

which Trump tells us is why the US soccer team lost. Enlightenment as the result of unbridled positivism in an empirical reality of objective science has in religious modernity become a battle cry for God-Enlightenment. Science is no longer needed; education has become a vehicle for radical “Wokeism” in which one knows all especially about “two Corinthians”.

The path of religion in post modernity is riddled with extremism, danger and desperation. Kierkegaardian passion of faith has been replaced with social media’s fanaticism to indoctrinate and dominate more and more adherents to ‘Sleepism’. Anti-enlightenment is the new battle cry of those who will not settle for anything less than total and absolute submission to the social, economic, political, moral theory of everything which grows as a cancer in the rapidly evolving dogma of religious groupthink. Religion has been replaced with Mephistopheles’ ‘hell of a deal’ when you accept Jesus Christ as you Lord and Savior. You are welcomed into the on-line group where you all become one in everything you always wanted to know about; everything with rapidly evolving answers of salvation, politics, morality, economics, “Wokeism” in general. In all this we see a radical conformism which consumes without cessation. Has this become the actualization of Nietzsche’s “last man”? What we see in ‘sleepism’ is lucid dreaming which can only end in nightmare. The looming problem of ‘sleepism’ that it robs us of what made religions a reality in the first place. Religion was not born of ready-made answers although, like manna from heaven which was miraculous edible substance, decays in institutionalism and even faster now with virtual reality. Could it be that ‘mana’ has been replaced with manna:

Mana is the spiritual life force energy or healing power that permeates the universe, in the culture of the Melanesians and Polynesians. Anyone or anything can have mana. It is a cultivation or possession of energy and power, rather than being a source of power. It is an intentional force. (Wikipedia)

In the interest of provoking some whimsical and perhaps more fresh questioning on the topic of an afterlife, I would like to attempt a thought experiment.

We know that the universe has memory to an exquisite degree. Scientists call this information theory. Entropy is key to information theory as it is a predictor of more and less information. Physicists have traditionally shown that information is encoded in the most intricate and exquisite workings of the universe. Stephen Hawking went against this knowledge base in showing that information might be lost in the long death of a black hole which is called “Hawking radiation”. A long and intense battle with physicists Leonard Susskind and Gerald t’ Hooft ensued in 2008 and ended in the “Susskind quashes Hawking in quarrel over quantum quandary” with the holographic principle. The holographic principle shows that radiation receives quantum corrections which encodes information about the black hole’s interior and thus retains information. Later theories offer further alternatives to the loss of information in non-unitary time evolution. The point here is that the universe has an exquisite memory. Even if other universes exist with vastly different ‘laws of physics’ (coined and piggybacked in Latin Christianity as ‘natural laws’), information theory is still an absolute necessity as only the Hesiodic theory of chaos would be the absolute loss of information…more about this later. Information is also clearly exhibited in chromosomes and the evolution of species. Instinct is also another evident form of information theory.

If the universe has memory in the form of information, it is not hard to understand that information theory is the retention of memory. While I personally am 50/50 on the certain knowledge that an afterlife is possible, I do find that apart from religious concerns, it is not hard to make the uncertain leap from information theory to a thought that information could be retained in the form of memory in other realities. I think this not so much from a personal desire for any kind of ‘proof of an afterlife’ but more from a non-mechanical, 19th century, basis which finds truly astounding and quite unmoored observations in the recent century of Continental and Analytic philosophy trends. Even in the 19th century, in Hegel there is a foreshadowing of information theory in his notion of Concept. Metaphysics, a Latin term not ancient Greek, is a tradition which counters what philosophy and science is telling us about what we [metaphysically] ‘think’ as reality. The question of objectivity and subjectivity are both brought into fundamental question. This Cartesian dilemma which encapsulates much of modernity in historic certainty has truly been overcome in recent trends in philosophy and physics. We see this most clearly in Phenomenology, Structures and History of Language and physics starting in the early 20th century in Einstein’s Relativity Principle. What all this is telling us is that what we think we know is more about who we are and less about reality.

I would not be surprised in the least if there was an ‘afterlife’ which retained the intimate information of what we think as ‘my life’ or ‘our history’. Knowledge does not have to be Blanchot’s unescapable impossibility of death or Sartre’s horror of No-Exit. Neither does it have to be absolute extinction into the impossibility of nothingness. Knowledge itself may be a clue, a bread crumb, to a retention intrinsic to the universe. In Hegelian terms perhaps the universe itself is a retreat from what he deems ‘Absolute Concept’. The larger point for the purposes of this post is to attempt to unmoor ourselves from the supposed history we think as reality and point to a confluence of fundamental inquiries which do not ‘add’ to our current understanding of reality but actually and radically transform our ‘sleepism’ into a ‘wokeism’ which cannot be escaped except into deeper sleep. In sleep we find the brain escapes into non-sense. Perhaps the brain’s cure of too much apparent sense is to counter with a truth of its own; to what may point to an other, a radical other from all our Platonic Forms which history has made static and a kind of living death. Levinas called this static-sation, totalization. Totalization has been saturated through and through with the notion of being, what philosophers call ontology (the study of being). Totalization reduces absolutely. It denies the face in Levinas’ terms. The face absolutely counters the concretization in which sleep-fully determines who and what the other is. Truly totalization is Blanchot’s death of language, Satres No-Exit, and Levinas’ “there-is” in which the ‘I’ entombs itself as if to find relief from the radical alterity of the other. We have devised intricate, historic, linguistic escapisms to give us certainty or apparent certainty in the face of radical otherness. Our dreams tells us that our waking life is fundamentally contradictory and inadequate. Hesiod tells us that chaos or more precisely the ‘yawning gap’ is the face of the-an-other which we tirelessly want to retreat from. We have fashioned for ourselves an oasis in the chaos which we think is dry land but firmly rooted in sub-atomic particles popping in and out of existence in which the vastness a subatomic space implies infinitely more space than matter (if there really is such a thing) – gap, is the root of our realities and incessant daydreams. Perhaps waking up is discovering what we do not know, what inspires creativity and wonder, is vastly more meaningful than what we think we know. All the while an other, the other, which requires ethics, decision, to counter the incredible smallness of our certainties; to actively hold open the beauty of infinities which we behold every day in waking sleep.

A Response to “THE INDIGENIZATION OF ACADEMIA AND ONTOLOGICAL RESPECT”

In the article cited above in the title (Kisner, 2020), Kisner effectively articulates the fundamental problems with ontology (οντολογία). Ontology is derived from the ancient Greek notions of ὤν (ṓn, “on”), present participle of εἰμί (eimí, “being, existing, essence”) + λόγος (lógos, “account”). As Kisner points out early in the essay, the notion of ontology does not need to be interpreted through the history of the ancient Greek notion of being and logos but can simply have a more broad appeal as a methodological way of organizing; “a framework for defining the domain that consists of a set of concepts, characteristics and relationships”1 which could be ascribed under the rubric of sociology, computer science, and even nursing. However, in all these fields a certain Occidental orientation to knowledge (gnósis: a knowing, knowledge) which has already been designated from a particular epochē assigns an orientation to the ‘how’ of what shows itself (e.g., as being). It brings with it a pre-understanding of temporality as presence (and present-at-hand) in Heidegger’s critique of technology as standing reserve. It also takes in René Descartes’ hermetic sealing of the subject as an ‘I’ that thinks and is essentially separate from substance (active/passive voice). This orientation brings into presence knowledge as a system of ‘correct’ statements organizing and making possible any such thing as science. Kisner goes on to bring out the ‘colonialization’ which is inherent in ontology as such. His thesis is that it is almost impossible or very difficult to even separate the notion of ‘indigenous’ from this history. Furthermore, it forcefully places an essential condition on how ‘indigenous’ can let itself appear and further does violence to any possibility which might exceed the pre-canned approach to exactly what could be hidden by the notion of ‘indigenous’.

In my reading, Kisner is trying to bring out the totalization which pre-conditions even our grammatical structures of active and passive voice and has lost sight of middle voice(s) both culturally and historically. We have even seen this in the suppressed notion of the ‘other’. Many people these days have talked negatively about the ‘othering’ of people. In this case ‘othering’ means already understanding the other as the same as my idea of the other. Here the ‘other’ has been degraded into a notion of what I already think the other ‘is’. It is hard to see how this conception of the ‘other’ is true to the notion of the ‘other’. Since, this notion already contains the meaning of what the other is/means, I think it violates any originary or perhaps pre-originary intent of any possible excess to the idea of the other mistakenly taking it as the same as, for example, my idea of the other. This seems to me to be a case of failing to apprehend what the word ‘other’ could be pointing us toward. If the other is thought through the forceful, pre-apprehension Kisner warns us of in the ‘indigenous’ peoples, we have extinguished even the possibility for the ‘other’ to mean anything other. Kisner recommends an ‘ontological respect’ which he seems to think can escape the ‘re’ of ‘respect’ as reenactment, redo, remember, etc. and chooses patience over “all mouth and no ears”. It also indicates perhaps a more genuine orientation to ontology as the possibility for hearing a voice, an other, which has not been overwhelmed by the tidal history of ontology in the West.

If there is this possibility let’s think about how it might be articulated. Could it be that ontology as an organizational structure which to some extent determines, explains, makes possible orientation and significance can be thought as an economy? This notion of ontology makes possible reward and punishment. It accounts for what may be apparent but lacking any necessary connection to the particular phenomenon it claims as its own. If this is the case, it brings with it totems and taboo, punishments and rewards. One thing feminism has taught us is that such indigenous traditions as widow burning and foot binding interrupt the tendency for patience. The need to act sometimes distinct from the patience of allowing the otherness of the other to show itself may require an intervention albeit not with the same violence as the predatory act. We have also seen from Marx’s critique of capitalism a need for action, whether we agree or not with his recommendations, to counter the inherent monarchism submerged in the abstraction of capital. These issues bring up a complexity to the popular notions of cultural relativism.

Even now in the United States we are wrestling culturally with the covid-19 virus and how those who refuse to get vaccinated are detrimentally impacting others both by facilitating the spreading of the virus and its genetic derivatives. Wearing a mask has become political and, in a sense, a demand from the far-right for cultural relativism. They articulate it as their ‘rights’, as if God or country requires this of us all even if it is detrimental to society as a whole. We are faced with the individual and how society can hold the absolute ‘truth’ of the individual over such concerns as a greater good. Even the ‘facts’ of a greater good are incessantly denied in favor of alternate facts. We are being haunted by preconceptions of subjectivity and individual sanctity which long preceded any of us. It is as if cultural ghosts are finally coming back to haunt us. Is the appropriate response patience for anti-vaccers no matter what their impact is on other people?

What I am trying to bring out here is that in some senses we cannot afford patience. Perhaps sometimes patience kills. I believe women have suffered way to long from male ‘patience’. My wife tells me if men had hot flashes it would have been cured long ago. The bigger picture here is that an economy, any economy, places a demand on us. In my opinion, this demand comes from a more primal source – the need to act, to make meaning and significance of lived-circumstance. We cannot wait for exteriority and otherness to speak across the gap of multiplicity in all situations. What is more, we tend to, for lack of better words, ‘spiritualize’ our quest to live and put off the insecurity of death and mortality. Economics gives us the promise of freedom and the threat of imprisonment or poverty. It practically communicates a system of articulations which go unquestioned and simply demand the need to act under its rubric. In this context, the capitalist is the Übermensch which determines his financial freedom by sheer willing it thus. Absolute transactionalism reduces the world to a known as everyone is equally dispensable, dependent on the power of the individual to usurp his supernatural powers. We have evolved into a comic of ourselves in which the super-hero and the villain have some sort of inherent, undetermined agreement that organizes and determines all the possibilities we call reality. We have evolved into a reality show of ourselves.

The value in what Kisner tells us and I find in Levinas’ understanding of the other and in the ‘chaos’ of the earliest Greek thinkers is that we have an urgent need to allow ourselves a break in the historic monologue we, and others, have inherited and have become victims of. We need to do the work of going beyond what we ‘know’ as apparent to see if we can truly allow an other voice to interrupt our homogeneity (even marriage is a good teacher of this if we let it). At the same time, we need to act from values and serious considerations of how force and violence defaces and undermines the ‘otherness’ of the other. If we can even hear the voice of the other, it is a ‘still small voice’ which does no harm and takes responsibility for our actions and the actions of others. We need to stop, listen, and disengage to actively promote the ‘not’ of who we think we are and the ‘not’ of the ‘kn-ot’ which yet again wants to reassert our assumptions of how the other could possibly ‘be’. Those who are hell bent on beating-their-chest-individual-transactionalism may become President of the United States, but the result will only be alternate facts, the right to kill and maim as the will of a demi-god and its patriots, and the demise of any semblance of Constitution ending in sheer hatred and violence as the last fetal, destitute act of terrorism.

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1 https://www.techopedia.com/definition/591/computer-ontology [accessed Dec. 4, 2019]

Kisner, W. (2020). The Indigenization of Academia and Ontological Respect. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 16(1), 349–391. Retrieved from https://cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/view/795

On Death

Death is not something that happens at the end of life. As Blanchot mentions in the quote at the end of my recent post,

As long as I live, I am a mortal man, but when I die, by ceasing to be man I also cease to be mortal, I am no longer capable of dying, and my impending death horrifies me because I see it as it is: no longer death, but the impossibility of dying…. I have no relationship with it, it is that toward which I cannot go, for in it I do not die, I have fallen from the power to die. In it they die; they do not cease, and they do not finish dying ― Maurice Blanchot, Literature and the Right to Death.

The only way I experience death is through life. Death is strictly a phenomenon of life. The fear of death is a fear of life as life and death are inseparable. The death of my son in 2017 is not ‘his’ death. He is not experiencing death as he is not mortal any longer; not living. Chris is not human now. He was a beautiful, young, and amazing human but now his humanity is in my heart, my memory, my pain. This is where he dwells now in me and those who knew and loved him. The pain of death is the pain of living. It is not optional but essential. The question remains, how shall we live in the essence of death?

Death is a zenith. It is where life disappears into the infinity of horizon. It is not the horror of hell or bliss of heaven. It is the gate of the infinite. Mortality cannot pass through its gate. The absolute fluidity of this universe breaks upon the shores of death in which there is no return. Does death start where it began as if some universal law of physics requires it to do so?

What we know of physics is that there is a vast multitude of possible and actual physics. The laws of physics in our current universe are themselves a zenith of time and place. The ‘laws’ are an invention of circumstance. According to physicists, they were radically different at the beginning. If not for slightly more matter than antimatter after the ‘big bang’ or the ‘big bounce’ we would not be here at all. As to the question of what’s ‘outside’ the universe we are told two things: 1) Outside is a conventional notion we have derived from this time, this space, this circumstance and says nothing about this mythical notion of an outside to the universe, 2) If there are other universes, they have radically different physics. They would have absolutely no necessity placed on them to mimic our space/time physics in this singular moment of our circumstance.

So, this tells us that even this moment we call ‘life’ is itself a zenith caught on the brink of infinity. We stare infinity in the face every moment of our existence and found or are found by language as history to pacify our delusions of security as we draw in the breath of ‘I’. We forget the boundless ocean of eternity we stand on the shores of. We rationalize and sanctify and flee in the face of this awe and beauty and wonder which is the essence which can no longer be thought as ‘essence’. There is no ground beneath our feet only instantaneous, massless ‘particles’ better thought as infinitesimal force fields which pop in and out of existence and declare, “I am”. What we need in the face of eternity is perspective not absolute determinations.

We breath ‘we’ in this eternity of temporality. Sure, we have individual bodies which are really a communion of organism, cells, molecules, atoms, infinitesimals popping in and out of existence but somehow organizing themselves as an illusion of a whole, a body, my body. We communicate with language which we did not invent but in some undeciphered way acquired from a history we never knew or experienced. ‘Understanding’ is not a something but an acquisition of a ‘not me’, a gift given without merit or even existence as ‘mine’. We think ‘me’ from ‘we’. The ‘me’ that protests, that complains, that judges is a construction of the ‘we’ of language which speaks and has spoken and will speak with and without me, my existence. In all our languages we face plurality of other languages. Not just human but also animal languages, plant languages (actual science behind this). Existence is language. It is communication. It is the physics of interaction. It is the boundary conditions. It is the face. The face is not just a ‘presentation’, a presence. It is an absence of infinity which cannot present itself except as the boundary conditions of this moment, this interaction, this ‘idea’ of reality.

‘Idea’ informs us of notions which give reason, promise meaning, promotes sense and sensible. We even have the notion of ‘absolute’ which finds no home in infinity except as ‘idea’. What is more, ‘idea’ is what Hegel believes is all that faces us. There is no exterior ‘thing’ out there. The ‘thing’ is the idea. There is never a ‘thing’ without an idea. So, in Hegel’s estimation idea ‘is’ infinity and finite, it is ‘isness’. The face of which I spoke is the idea of face, nothing more, nothing less. For Hegel, the ‘notion’ exceeds other notions as being and nothingness and finds place as ‘Concept’. Concept is the embodiment of place, of divine, of me and us, of face. The other and the same cannot remain as they are but must be taken up by the necessity of self-consciousness. There is no self as a notion without an other as a counter notion. The same and the other are the necessity of a self, a me. Even the notion of space and time is a requirement of particularity. We must be a ‘we’ by necessity of Concept not by some exteriority which makes it so. For Hegel this does not do violence to the other as another person for example but requires us to look further into exactly what we are talking about and referring to; to fundamentally question the very fabric of isness and how Concept becomes the necessity of isness.

This leads us to choice. There is no way in my estimation to prove Hegel wrong. He may well be correct that Concept is essentially ‘is’. For Hegel this does not end in some kind of essential narcissism but in a foundation from any such thing as narcissism. Hegel is not bestowing sainthood on individualism and such notions as chest-beating ‘capitalism’. He is certainly providing a foundation for their existence, for existence itself, but not some modern right-wing notion of ultra-conservatism. In any case, there is a question Hegel poses which must be faced, a choice must be made.

I started this post with the notion of infinity. In due course, we have found that infinity and finitude may have and certainly, in some yet undetermined sense, has a basis in Concept but is that the end of the story (or perhaps another beginning)? Even if Hegel is correct, is there an ethical necessity placed on us to face the other, to face my son without Hegel’s face? Are we to abandon ourselves to the necessity of Concept and if so, how does that effect my orientation to the other, to the infinity of the face, to the requirement of my son’s life and living death which I must endure? Even more, what of the suffering of the other? How shall I face this lifetime of suffering which I must endure, my suffering and the suffering of the other? Should I find some kind of solace in the absolute fact of ‘Concept’? Should I think infinity as a necessary condition of finitude? Have I violated something other than my own biases and misunderstandings of Concept? Isn’t ethics just another requirement of Concept, of self-consciousness?

This is where choice determines eternity. I have no basis external to the requirements of self-consciousness for choosing an exteriority which cannot be thought only or more precisely determined by thought. I can choose to found self on Concept and call that ‘isness’. I probably have more reason to do so than not in Hegelian terms. I see many folks who use Hegel (and less intellectual achievements) as a kind of license to justify whatever they want to do to whomever they want to do it to. Perhaps, Hegel’s philosophy is not ready for mere mortals or vice versa. However, I do have to live in the face of the absolute, unsubstantiated abyss of existence. I have to wake up every day with my death, the death of my son, the death of innocence from bigotry, greed, injustice and I have to face it on an ongoing basis without any justification for why it must be so from Concept. In all this I must act and I must make choices not because I am that Concept but because I suffer and I am with those that suffer. My choice is to be self-determined or, without necessity, to heed the cry of the other.

To conclude, I would like to add a bit of speculation, highly speculative. We see in nature and physics (whether it is pure Concept or not) a return to regularity, order, instinct; to repetition in some degree. We did not proceed from Concept to birth but from nothingness (certainly with regard to consciousness) to birth. Somehow, I and we popped into existence. Is there a regularity in ‘popping into existence’? Perhaps, we don’t know. However, one thing we do know is that we did become but from what? We can call this Concept and satisfy the need for origin. However, I prefer to leave that to what Hesiod referred to as chaos (really the yawning gap). There is a gap of not knowing which we can choose to reserve. There is also the observation that phusis or physics, biology, ‘isness’ might like to repeat itself. We are gift standing from infinite abyss facing eternity with language and consciousness that is not our own. Who is to say that that gift cannot find repetition, increasing wisdom and another moment when what I did, how I acted in the face of the other; who is to say it is not the foundation for something I know not what…choose wisely.

Myths Exposed: President Obama is Responsible for Historic U.S. Federal Debt and Spending Levels

The far right in the U.S. has been desperately trying to convince the electorate that President Obama is spending the U.S. into oblivion and driving up the debt.

Here are the facts…

The Washington Post and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities compiled this chart:

This chart shows the debt directly attributed to President Bush and President Obama. Much of the recent debt came from the Bush tax cuts.

Let’s look into the debt further…

This blog post states the following:

During 20 years of the presidencies of Reagan, Bush I and Bush II, the federal debt as a share of GDP increased by a cumulative 43% of GDP. During the 4 first years of the Obama presidency, it has increased by 36% of GDP.

This is how the Presidents rank in terms of development of the Debt/GDP ratio per year of tenure:

1. Clinton -1% per year
2. Reagan, Bush II: +2% per year
3. Bush I: +3% per year
4. Obama: +9% per year.

This following data comes from this (xls) Office of Management and Budget (OMB) source:

I re-plotted the data since, you could say, I have trust issues on the internet. It is similar to the data in the post.

The following is “The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2012 to 2022” from the Congressional Budget Office.

What the blog post above did not state is that the historical years since the Bush tax cuts and the recession that started prior to President Obama taking office, have been the major contributors to the rise in spending as a percentage of GDP. Also, the future years the OMB graph shows is a worst case scenario that includes the CBO Alternative Fiscal Scenario which assumes the Bush tax cuts are extended. President Obama did not create the recession, he inherited it. The Bush tax cuts were not enacted into law by President Obama. It is a lie to blame the recession and the Bush tax cuts on President Obama.

Let’s dig down a little more.

This following is historical and projected outlays from The Office and Management Budget by agency. Outlays are the total amount of money spent including authority from prior years that obligates outlays in the current year. The source data from the following charts comes from this (xls) OMB data. The data lines and the legend descriptions are in the same order. My graphics file can be downloaded here (xls). This chart shows that the Federal debt has accumulated from previous years going back to 1962.

OUTLAYS BY AGENCY: 1962–2017

(in millions of dollars)

 

This chart shows that the Federal debt has accumulated from previous years going back to 2000.

OUTLAYS BY AGENCY: 2000–2017

(in millions of dollars)

There is no huge increase in spending starting in 2009 when President Obama was inaugurated. The estimates include the Affordable Care Act. The chart shows that all the major increases in spending started ramping up more quickly in the decade of 2000. The spending is chiefly in the Department of Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration (off-budget), Department of Treasury and the Department of Defense (Military Programs). The Department of Health and Human Services increase comes chiefly from the middle class falling closer towards the federal poverty level as discussed below in more detail. The Social Security Administration increases have to do with baby boomers getting older and rising health care costs. The Treasury Department increases come basically from paying interest on the national debt by financing it with government bonds. The Department of Defense increases have to do with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the costs of gearing up for war. It is interesting to note that the U.S. spends 41% of the world’s total military expenditure. China, the next highest in the world’s total military expenditure, only spends 8.2% (see this).

The baseline scenario in the graph below shows current law and the effect of continuing certain programs that are scheduled to expire.

 

 

If you really want to raise the debt go ahead and repeal the Affordable Care Act according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) according to this publication:

 

Mandatory budget items are not optional year to year. It takes an act of Congress to change a mandated budget item. These requirements were made by Republicans and Democrats over the years. President Obama did not create the vast majority of mandatory budget requirements. The Affordable Care Act is mandatory but as already shown will lower the debt unless it is repealed. Discretionary budget items are voted on each year by Congress in 13 appropriations bills. Here is a chart showing mandatory and discretionary spending for 2010:

Mandatory and discretionary budget items are further explained in this:

Discretionary spending is provided in, and controlled by, annual appropriations acts, which fund many of the routine activities commonly associated with such federal government functions as running executive branch agencies, congressional offices and agencies, and international operations of the government.1 Essentially all spending on federal wages and salaries is discretionary.

Discretionary spending is often contrasted with mandatory, or direct, spending. Mandatory spending includes federal spending on entitlement programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the Food Stamps program), and other spending controlled by laws other than appropriation acts.3 Spending levels for mandatory programs are generally controlled by eligibility criteria and size of the eligible population.

 

Mandatory budget items have gone up for some time now as this chart shows:

 

The recession which certainly preceded President Obama has resulted in many more people qualifying for entitlement benefits. President Obama did not change qualification requirements for these programs. As more people fell towards the federal poverty level, more people have received government benefits. This is shown by the Census Bureau and an article in the Wall Street Journal:

 

All of this data supports the conclusion that President Obama has acted very responsibly in view of the economic catastrophe he inherited. The far right is spinning yet another myth.

Links for further reading:

http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2012/05/26/number-of-the-week-half-of-u-s-lives-in-household-getting-benefits/

http://useconomy.about.com/od/fiscalpolicy/p/Mandatory.htm

http://useconomy.about.com/od/fiscalpolicy/tp/US_Federal_Budget.htm

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/historicals/

http://useconomy.about.com/od/healthcarereform/f/Patient-Affordable-Care-Act.htm

http://useconomy.about.com/od/candidatesandtheeconomy/f/Healthcare_Reform_and_Budget.htm

http://super-economy.blogspot.com.au/2011/08/obama-hockey-stick.html

http://super-economy.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/american-federal-debt.html

http://www.cbo.gov/publication/21203

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/adding-to-the-deficit-bush-vs-obama/2012/01/31/gIQAQ0kFgQ_graphic.html

http://www.cbpp.org/research/index.cfm?fa=topic&id=121

http://www.gao.gov/special.pubs/longterm/pdfs/spring2012_update_slides.pdf

http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/ftpdocs/108xx/doc10871/01-26-outlook.pdf

http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/newsgraphics/2011/0119-budget/index.html

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2011/February/14/President-Obama-Proposed-HHS-Budget-2012.aspx

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2012/assets/health.pdf

http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Research/ActuarialStudies/downloads/HR3200_2009-10-21.pdf

http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3450

http://www.cbp.org/documents/120224_CalWORKs_KeyFacts.pdf

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/08/us/welfare-limits-left-poor-adrift-as-recession-hit.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.kff.org/medicaid/upload/7985.pdf

http://www.ssa.gov/history/BudgetTreatment.html

http://www.epi.org/publication/bp156/

http://www.socialsecurity.gov/history/InternetMyths.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/13/us/politics/13health.html

http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/year_spending_2012USbn_13bs1n_3031#usgs302

http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending

Keynes and Austerity

I believe Lorenzo did and excellent job is his essay pointing out the complex fiscal picture in Greece. He does seem to be a bit at odds with Jeff’s comments in his recent post when he writes this:

As Greece is suffering worst, it becomes the focal point of the crisis. But the Greek austerity measures are cutting so deep, some people may end up paying to have a job. As the Melbourne Weekly reports:

Amid deep humiliation and great uncertainty about what it means to be Greek and, more particularly, European, enraged Athenians are lashing out as the weight of five grinding years of recession and the promise of perhaps decades of crippling reform and restructuring crushes the living breath from them.

And the bailout terms are stark:

The conditions insisted upon by Europe and barely delivered on by Athens, include the axing of 150,000 jobs from an 800,000-strong public sector by 2016 and a 22 per cent slice off the minimum wage – in a country in which average wages have dropped 15 per cent since 2009. The retirement age is to be lifted from 58 to 65 and restrictive closed shops that control the professions and services are to be busted.

However, the austere, tight money policy of the European Central Bank (ECB) seems to be the largest factor for the issues in Europe.

I think that the conservative mantra of Keynesian economics is a bit of a red herring. The assumption they impute to Keynes is that he advocated perpetual government spending and debt to stimulate the economy. This is not accurate and a vast oversimplification. I submit these articles as evidence: New York Times, The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, and AdamSmith.org

I would also like to highlight a quote from this article:

When does the need for deficit spending end?

There’s something else worth pointing out about an analysis that stresses the role of debtors forced into rapid deleveraging. It helps solve a problem Keynes never addressed, namely, when does the need for deficit spending end?

The reason this is relevant is concern about rising public debt. I constantly encounter the argument that our crisis was brought on by too much debt – which is largely my view as well – followed by the insistence that the solution can’t possibly involve even more debt.

Once you think about this argument, however, you realize that it implicitly assumes that debt is debt – that it doesn’t matter who owes the money. Yet that can’t be right; if it were, we wouldn’t have a problem in the first place. After all, the overall level of debt makes no difference to aggregate net worth – one person’s liability is another person’s asset.

It follows that the level of debt matters only if the distribution of net worth matters, if highly indebted players face different constraints from players with low debt. And this means that all debt isn’t created equal – which is why borrowing by some actors now can help cure problems created by excess borrowing by other actors in the past.

Suppose, in particular, that the government can borrow for a while, using the borrowed money to buy useful things like infrastructure. The true social cost of these things will be very low, because the spending will be putting resources that would otherwise be unemployed to work. And government spending will also make it easier for highly indebted players to pay down their debt. If the spending is sufficiently sustained, it can bring the debtors to the point where they’re no longer so severely balance-sheet constrained, and further deficit spending is no longer required to achieve full employment.

Yes, private debt will in part have been replaced by public debt – but the point is that debt will have been shifted away from severely balance-sheet-constrained players, so that the economy’s problems will have been reduced even if the overall level of debt hasn’t fallen.

The bottom line, then, is that the plausible-sounding argument that debt can’t cure debt is just wrong. On the contrary, it can – and the alternative is a prolonged period of economic weakness that actually makes the debt problem harder to resolve.

And it seems to me that thinking explicitly about the role of debt, not just with regard to the usefulness or lack thereof of wage flexibility, but as a key causal factor behind slumps, improves Keynes’s argument. In the long run we are, indeed, all dead, but it’s helpful to have a story about why expansionary fiscal policy need not be maintained forever.

I think it would be more accurate to assert that Keynes was an advocate of stimulus rather than debt, growth rather than austerity. Keynes would prefer the stimulus to come from the private sector but as a witness to the Great Depression he saw that severe austerity leads to severe depression.

From a personal finance point of view austerity makes perfect sense; the less one spends and acquires debt the faster one can quite paying interest and start to save. However, from a macroscopic economic point when the entire economy is austere no one is hiring, the economy is not growing but shutting down. Private debt and public debt increase under severe austerity.

The 5.1 trillion dollars worth of debt attributed directly to Bush as opposed to 983 billion attribute directly to Obama was in large part due to Bush tax cuts and the vast rate of decline of the economy under Bush. When GDP goes down, debt goes up for both the private and the public sector.

One example of this is how the Republican and Democratic decades old food stamp program which was not changed by President Obama went up dramatically due to the Bush recession from the same link just quoted.

Food stamps have been tied to poverty levels for decades. President Obama has nothing to do with the automatic levels that kicked in due to the recession that started in the Bush administration.

Eligibility for food stamps did not change under Obama. More folks qualified for food stamps under the guidelines many Republicans helped to establish. In any case, the food stamp program is clearly an example of how the slowdown in growth of the economy leads to debt.

Republicans have often sided with the idea of government stimulus. Even Bush cut checks during his administration for individuals up to $600 and couples up to $1,200. This is no different of a stimulus that what Obama did with infrastructure. The idea is that the more money that is available and accessible in the economy, the more likely growth will take place. Keynes did not believe in running public debt forever. He thought it was necessary when austerity prevailed on a macroeconomic level since the private sector was incapable of stimulating itself out of its predicament and continued decline would very likely and historically, demonstrably end in severe depression or recession. When the private sector was growing Keynes was conservative and believed in paying down debt contrary to certain popular beliefs about him.

One more point with regard to austerity, the consumer makes up 2/3 of the US economy. Republicans, Bush and chiefly conservative business folks have vigorously advocated consumer spending NOT austerity to stimulate growth. This is clearly evidence that the notion that Keynes had that stimulus, whether public or private, leads to economic growth. When the economy tanks, private debt grows and the economy slows dramatically. Monetary policy has been created to offset and counter the situation and keep it from worsening. You will also find that the idea that inflation increases with public debt is not historically accurate as this article demonstrates:

What anyone who understood Keynes should realize is that as long as output is depressed, there is no reason increased government borrowing need drive rates up; it’s just making use of some of those excess potential savings – and it therefore helps the economy recover. To be sure, sufficiently large government borrowing could use up all the excess savings, and push rates up – but to do that the government borrowing would have to be large enough to restore full employment!

Keynes would be the idiot Republican’s think he is if what they were parroting was accurate of his thought: eternal, increasing debt whether private or public is the death of a vibrant economy but so is eternal austerity. As is almost always the case, the devil is in the details – oversimplification may make for good emotive politics but tends toward perpetuating mistakes of the past and endlessly repeating histories that we once learned from.

Apple: Price Fixing and Collusion

In this essay I discussed how price fixing and collusion occurs regularly in the ‘free market’. Here is another recent example of what I discussed.

Here are some lowlights from the article in the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. accused Apple Inc. AAPL +0.41%and five of the nation’s largest publishers Wednesday of conspiring to raise e-book prices, in a case that could radically reorder the fast-growing business.

In a civil antitrust lawsuit, the Justice Department alleged that CEOs of the publishing companies met regularly in private dining rooms of upscale Manhattan restaurants to discuss how to respond to steep discounting of their e-books by Amazon.com Inc., AMZN +1.40%a practice they disliked. The executives also called and emailed each other to craft a solution to what one of them called “the wretched $9.99 price point,” the suit said.

The five publishers and Apple hatched an arrangement that lifted the price of many best-selling e-books to $12.99 or $14.99, according to the suit. The publishers then banded together to impose that model on Amazon, the government alleged.

As a result of this alleged conspiracy, we believe that consumers paid millions of dollars more for some of the most popular titles,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.

Three of the publishers settled with the Justice Department, agreeing to let Amazon and other retailers resume discounting of e-books. Settlement of a separate suit filed by 16 states and U.S. territories could lead to tens of millions of dollars in restitution to consumers who bought e-books at the higher prices.

A group of 16 states, led by Connecticut and Texas, filed their own suit Wednesday against Apple, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster. The states said they have reached tentative settlement agreements with HarperCollins and Hachette. Those two publishers have agreed in principle to provide more than $51 million in restitution to e-book buyers, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said.

My working conclusion is that this happens much more often than many folks think that it does. I base this on my own anecdotal experience of decades in business and management and on cases already mentioned in which I cited specific examples. It may sound trite and clique but I know from personal experience that these guys at the top have huge, inflated egos and they do work out these types of situations in their country clubs and on their golf courses. The Justice Department only pursues a small percentage of these types of activities.

As per Jeff’s recent comment, pure capitalism or socialism does not exist. I have pointed this out in this essay. To think of them as polar opposites in practice is a bit naïve in my opinion. We are individuals and collectivities and as such incorporate both of these components in our politics and economics.

I have no problem per se with selfishness or self-interest. If selfishness or self-interest is given carte blanche in economics the rich and powerful will always make sure that they stay that way at the expense of those that are not. If capitalism is the unregulated or nominally regulated practice of selfishness then what is the practical difference between it and oligarchy, dictatorship, fascism (statist), communism or any system that rules from the top by the powerful?

If practical capitalism is to have a form of democracy (as in the ideal of competition) then the best real hope for impartial rules on how the game is played can only be made by government. To the degree that the rules allow the process to be more competitive is the same degree that capitalism approximates its ideal. As Jeff points out, to the degree that corporatism (crony capitalism) determine the rules is, in my opinion, one factor in turning capitalism into simply another name for the powerful consolidating their hold on power. I have also pointed out that this happens with or without government involvement.

The idea that the government is solely or primarily the culprit may have emotional appeal to some but as far as I can tell is not factual. In a democracy we get the government we deserve. If we prohibit government from intervening in the market with regulation we are effectively handing the market over to the rich and powerful. As Jeff points out they will try to use the government to protect their power but as I have pointed out they will not stop there. They have many tactics for staying in power (as I previously illustrated) and are not above using them.

Those that would have the government stay out of market regulation are effectively playing into the hands of the rich and powerful and doing exactly what they claim the government is doing in crony capitalism – making it easier for the rich and powerful to maintain their hold on power. To ‘hope’ that competition will reign in unregulated or nominally regulated capitalism appears to me to be more like a religious ideal than a realistic practicality. Government should be in the active business of making competition in capitalism real and effective, offering constraints to the monopolizing tendencies of power. Our job as voters is to elect politicians that produce results toward this end and fire those that make big business the real constituents that they serve. If we put the fox in charge of the hen house we should not be surprised when all the hens get eaten.

The Free Market Ideal

Thank you Jeff for your thoughtful comments…here are some of my observations.

First, I do think we have some agreement on many of your points. Here are some of the differences that I would highlight.

Regulation is not just something that happens in government. Here are some observations from my own experience. At U.S. Robotics one of the engineering groups I managed was responsible for getting regulatory approval not just for the US but for many countries in the world. We called this homologation. In the US we had to get Underwriters Lab (UL) and FCC approvals to sell in the US. We also sold modems into hundreds of other countries and they all had their own similar approval requirements. These requirements were for consumer safety and radio interference issues.

In the 90s Microsoft decided they would implement a hardware certification process. It was practically impossible to sell modems without the Microsoft certification approval. It was also practically impossible to get all our modems every quarter through the huge bureaucracy of Microsoft. They certainly stifled our competitive efforts based on their regulatory approval.

Microsoft has also required a software vendor like myself to pay private regulatory companies a yearly fee which can be very pricey to “digitally sign” our software. They claim this is to keep hackers from infecting software products. However, there are many very good products available for software vendors like ‘obfuscators’ (which I use) that keep hackers out of code. The actual incidents that Microsoft rationalizes its ‘code signing’ process for is statistically very minimal. However, they do get kick backs from their ‘approved’ code signing companies.

Now, with the release of Windows 7, Microsoft has taken another regulatory step by reporting software that does not have a ‘reputation’. This has nothing to do with the code signing. A company may have their code digitally signed and still run into the ‘reputation virus’. Microsoft reports it as a virus. However, if you read what the ‘reputation virus’ is; it only means that Microsoft has never heard of you. Norton and other virus programs take the Microsoft virus alert and automatically delete the downloaded trial software we produce. They report it as a virus. Microsoft readily admits that 90% of the folks that see the virus alert will not install the product. This means software vendors like myself are not permitted to compete in the ‘free market’ of the software business. I have two products for download on the internet. Both are exactly the same code. The only difference is one byte in a text, configuration file that allows the product to come up as either product. One of my software downloads is allowed by Microsoft and Norton, the other is not. It is reported as a virus and automatically deleted. This affects 90% of my new and upcoming business on the Windows 7 platform. I have talked to literally hundreds of other software vendors on the web who are in total agreement with my contention of Microsoft’s market monopolizing practices.

There are many other cases of ‘private market’ regulation that I could cite but this can probably suffice. The idea is that the corrosive effect of regulation is not just a charge that can be levied against the government. It happens all the time in the ‘free market’ as well. Does this effect competition adversely? Absolutely. Is there perhaps some need for regulation by both the government and big corporations? Probably, but as Jeff suggests it is also used as an excuse to kill competition. However, not as a component of government but of the private market itself. I think most folks agree that there is some need for market regulation by an impartial regulatory agency. However, effective regulatory restrictions by large corporations with vested interests are a market distortion that happens often and distorts the ‘free market’ ideal based on competition. When the government becomes a vehicle for the capitalists that do not want competition as Jeff suggest, it is certainly corporatism which is one of the hallmarks of historical fascism.

It is not a matter of is there corporatism or crony capitalism but to what degree it happens not just by government but by big corporations as well. To the degree that this happens, it is not the ideal of the ‘free market’ but a hybrid practical reality of how it actually works. The Bush administration was a perfect example of what happens when regulatory agencies rubber stamp big business. Oil and gas regulation, toy regulations, financial market regulations and more were thrown out the window and companies were given free reign over regulators. Corporations were even discovered to be wining, dining and giving the regulators luxurious trips. This was not the government interfering with the market but giving it carte blanche to do whatever it wanted. The ideal of small footprint regulation, as Jeff espouses, was realized by the Bush administration and it ultimately resulted in the recession. The housing crisis was not caused by too much regulation but the absolute lack of regulation in the derivatives market. One email at Standard and Poor’s stated, “Rating agencies continue to create and [sic] even bigger monster–the CDO [Collateralized debt obligations ] market. Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.” Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, both private companies, are considered to have elevated ratings on CDO’s which are mortgage backed securities to minimize the risk and, in so doing, increase the profits for investors. See The Housing Crisis – Research Revisted, this and this for more data.

Another tactic of the ‘free market’ is price collusion and price fixing. Individual multinational corporations and conglomerations of individual market segment corporations have often been accused of doing this. The diamond market is notorious for this as well as Oil and Gas (remember Standard Oil, Rockefeller) and railroad industries. While this kind of activity in normally associated with monopolies it is still a reality of the practical workings of the free market. It seems to me that thinking of this kind of activity as a rare monopoly situation allows a sort of effective monopolizing in the actual market. Jeff states that, “Thus, monopolies don’t stay monopolies for long unless they are making consumers happy” but how does this measure up? Remember AT&T, officially deemed a monopoly by the courts, -they monopolized the market for decades…is this a short time? In any case, the kind of activity that goes on daily in the market by Microsoft and others has not acquired the label of ‘monopoly’ but shows that monopolizing activity is not a rare court decided phenomenon of the market; it is an analog, practical reality of the market. Microsoft has been brought to court and found guilty at least once that I know of for market monopolizing practices. This kind of activity has to get extremely severe before a public, official pronouncement is made.

Jeff quotes Smith here, “They often propose new laws and regulations, as Smith points out, that are to the benefit of their companies, but not to the benefit of society as a whole (i.e., to consumers).” However, Adam Smith himself, proposed over one hundred pages of financial industry regulations in the “Wealth of Nations” which have largely been neglected by the modern market place. I suppose Adam Smith himself was one the “they”s that Jeff refers to.

My contention is that it is extremely idealistic to think that the ‘free market’ is, in practice, all about competition. Yes, that is a positive aspect of the real market place but it is still an ideal and does not reflect a large part of how the market works. I also agree that government can become the problem when it effectively acts as a monopolist in the market, corporatism. However, as I have shown this is not just an essential evil of the government but occurs in the private market as well. My contention has always been that the free market works best for the public interest when government and big corporations collide. While the David and Goliath story may be cute, two Goliaths tend to do more damage to each other. The government in a democracy is ideally supposed to be the public defender and not the corporate defender although this ideal too has shown itself to be different from the reality. The answer is not to throw in the governmental towel as we did in the Bush administration but to make sure that we elect politicians that will oppose corporatism and government collusion with capitalists.

I find it interesting that Jeff thinks capitalists are capitalism’s biggest detractors. To me, this is like suggesting that churches are Christianities biggest problem. Capitalists vote Republican for the most part. If they wanted more government it seems to me like they would vote Democrat as the Republicans are fond of laying this charge on the Democrats. Republicans publicly state, almost daily, that they are on the side of business and the capitalists. Therefore, they publicly acknowledge that either they welcome the interference with the market that Jeff denounces or they want to return to the lassie faire capitalism of the Bush administration. While the Democrats may be complicitous in Jeff’s charge as well, they are not so bold proclaiming it which might account for something positive (or not). Are we to believe that the best proponents of a philosophy are intent on its destruction? This certainly may add some credence to some of Nietzsche’s discussion and post modernism but it also is a living demonstration of the inability of the system to rationalize itself based on its members. If major and important members are bent on the destruction of the market, are we suggesting that the only way to redeem the ‘free market’ is by the ideal that it proposes? If the reality has anything to do with some of the practicalities that I have suggested and seen, then ‘free market’ capitalism seems like it gets its validation based on an ‘otherworldly’ idealism not unlike Christianity. Are we supposed to believe that the ‘free market’ liberties in the Bush administration were problems of too much government still and therefore salvage the validity of the ‘free market’ ideal? I think this is a bit much to swallow. It is like continually suggesting that historical Christianity is not the ‘true’ Christianity in order to preserve an ideal Christianity that may appear dubious in practice. At some point, even the best metaphysician must live and breathe and have their existence in the world. Dreams are nice but realties are necessary. I do not advocate overthrowing capitalism but simply dealing with the reality of it without using its ideal as a pretense to justify its inadequacies. I think simple answers that make the government the scapegoat for the failures of capitalism are there to reinforce that idealism of a flawed system and enable us to overlook fundamental issues that need to be addressed. I prefer to address the issues directly and smartly while making the market more of a level playing field and less rigged against the interests of the public; a primary concern for Adam Smith and Karl Marx as well.

For me, the problem is better framed not in terms of government versus the private market but big versus small. Is the ideal of the free market demonstrated in TBTF (too big to fail)? What does competition have to do with propping up a business because it is too big? If competition always produces a better value for the consumer how is it that a ‘big’, that is too big to let the competition kill it can come from the ideal Jeff defends (remember Bush and Paulson)? If the ideal of the ‘free market’ is actually realized in practice, is this yet another glitch in the system that we have to rationalize away? How many times can we look the other way and still pronounce the ‘free market’ holy? What interest is served in ‘free market’ apologetics? My point is that ‘big’ is another name for effective monopoly in many cases. I would also apply this to the government with this caveat…the ideal of the government should be efficiency not small. If we make the government a David I would wager that Goliath will win the battle 99 out of 100 times. We need to make the big of the government our friend and defender because if we give that up we will have the mercy of the ‘free market’ and the legacy of George Bush as our BFFs.

A Case for Bashing the Democrats

Here is one issue I can actually agree with Newt’s recent comments concerning President Obama apologizing for burning the Quran. I do not think we should apologize, I think we should get the hell out! Why are Democrats and Republicans for the most part not saying what Ron Paul has said – what the hell are we doing there? In this case, the Democrats are justifying a war that the Republicans started AND continuing the error they made. This is the kind of thing that gives Democrats a bad name.

JFK (a Democrat) continued the ridiculous war that Eisenhower (a Republican) started in Vietnam. As a result many folks now think that JFK started the war. Historically speaking, JFK took ownership by continuing the domino theory, Republican rhetoric of the day for a tragic war that killed 50,000 Americans and maimed many more. This certainly reinforces the communist idea that liberals only serve the interest of the bourgeoisie by diluting and dulling the narrative that conservatives weave. At least it could be said that the effect is the same – the war is adopted, taken over, justified and thus, becomes a Democratic war.

A war is no small issue – the Republicans and Democrats owe us, the American people, an apology for starting and continuing an enormous mistake and human tragedy. We cannot afford the lives or economic cost of this insanity – STOP THE WARS NOW!!! I speak of wars because we still have active troops and ‘contractors’ in Iraq with casualties. Both Iraq and Afghanistan HATE OUR GUTS. We are occupying their country. Just think if Iraq or Afghanistan invaded our country to stop the anti-Islamic hatred in this country. Would we see them as liberators or occupiers? We are doing exactly that to them – HELLO, they hate us and do not want us over there. We have way overstayed our welcome and have only aggravated the problems inherent to their countries. We cannot make them ‘little Americans’. They have a history that has nothing to do with our history. We are imperialists and colonialists. We are wrong and everyone that is continuing our error is part of the problem. If Ron Paul could handle foreign policy and President Obama domestic policy, I would vote for them.

I do like the way President Obama handled the Libyan (and covert Egyptian aid) issue. We gave assistance to NATO and the Arabs, got in and out with the good guys in Libya (and Egypt) winning. I like his restraint with the ‘Arab Spring’. I think we need to support NATO and the rest of the world when and how they resolve to intercede but unilateral or effectively unilateral actions on our part always backfires on us – we make more terrorists by far than we kill – this is not success or winning folks. I have more comments in this essay that I wrote a while back.

Oh, one more rant, I hate and have resented all along that I have to pay taxes for someone else’s political insanity. Republicans talk about paying for ‘Obama-care’ – at least ‘Obama-care’ does not senselessly, in mass, massacre innocent elderly, women, children, kill our kids, and drive our economy into debt like these two crazy wars (the cost of these wars is much higher even in purely economic terms than ‘Obama-care’ – actually, according to the CBO ‘Obama-care’ saves us 100 million dollars over 10 years). These wars will not help anyone, only prolong misery – at least ‘Obama-care’ has the hope of perhaps, actually doing some good.