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Jason Merchey the writer, philosophical thinker, and Master’s-level psychologist shares his perspectives on classical and modern applications of values, wisdom, ethics, and personal growth. The goal is to provide insight into what “a life of value” is and how one can live it. Quotations, proverbs, idioms, and historical facts often provide grist for the mill. Occasional guest blogs are featured as well.

Political Extremism: The Authoritarian Voter

February 21st, 2020

Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tend to be the poster children of political extremism if you ask a partisan from the Right. You hear this repeatedly on Fox News — these are their main bogeymen/women. These hard-working patriots will be called frauds, hypocrites, radicals, Socialists (of the Communistic stripe, that is), traitors, and so on. I don’t want to make a defense of those on the far end of the political Left in this country, but I will in this blog highlight a dangerous style of thinking that is the garden of political extremism when paired with political power or demagoguery: the authoritarian mindset. 

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Morality as it Relates to Politics

morality as it relates to politics February 16th, 2020

When we talk about Bernie Sanders supporting a “Medicare for All” approach to healthcare, there are many distinct and legitimate approaches one can take when thinking about it. One is functionality; another is cost. Viability is a third, and unintended consequences is yet another. There are also moral aspects of politics, for example, when it comes to healthcare. For example, is it a right or a privilege? Can a CEO promise it during heated negotiations with employees, and take it away the next quarter? Is there equal access to quality healthcare, or is it, as with most goods in society, available in varying degrees based on one’s privilege, wealth, and power? This is but one example of morality as it relates to politics, the subject of this blog.

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Dignity as an Antidote to Partisanship and Economic Despair

dignity February 11th, 2020

E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post suggests that dignity is an antidote to partisanship and economic despair, and can be the best way to beat Donald Trump. Dionne indicates that dignity is the urgent need in the United States now. His most recent book is indeed entitled: Code Red: How Moderates and Progressives Can

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Moral Dilemmas and Moral Hypocrisy: Politics in 2020

hypocrisy February 7th, 2020

Moral hypocrisy – basically making an exception of oneself when it comes to behavior that is wrong – is deeply embedded in political conservative ideology, in my opinion. In a written piece entitled “Why we are all moral hypocrites – and what we can do about it”, researcher Jared Piazza, who looked into morality, highlights the following: “In one study, we had people consider which traits they rate highest in people who occupied different roles in their life – from staff at the grocery counter to teachers, judges and parents. Moral traits, such as being honest, fair and trustworthy, were valued more than other traits, such as being sociable or intelligent, across these roles. We have also found that people with a moral failing are typically seen in a more negative light than people lacking other traits.” In this blog, I wish to think about politics in light of moral hypocrisy, inconsistency, bias, and a crass kind of moral reasoning that, not surprisingly, can be called quid pro quo.

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Senator Romney Finds His Courage

courage February 6th, 2020

Mitt Romney, former presidential candidate and current Senator from Utah (and Mormon, and former hedge fund guy) is in some ways the last person one would expect to be the shining light in the dark, dank place where the modern GOP dwells. This is a paean to Mr. Romney, having found the courage to stand up for what is right, despite the fact that the vengeful Republicans and their craven Führer are going to rain down punishment on him like a vengeful Greek god. This story is truly one of earnestness, religiosity, courage, and character.

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Partisan or True? Where Psychology Meets Politics

psychology February 5th, 2020

Citing a little inventory about politics, The Atlantic writer Olga Khazan states that “…the issues that most concern political liberals tend to fall under the category of ‘individualizing’ moral foundations, which have more to do with personal standards: care versus harm, and fairness versus cheating. Political conservatives, meanwhile, tend to be more concerned about group-focused ‘binding’ foundations: loyalty versus betrayal, authority versus subversion, and disgust versus purity.” She points out that, “Among the factors that shape such deep-seated political preferences, a prominent one is believed to be fundamental moral beliefs—how someone thinks a good society should function or a decent person should behave.” Khan goes on to point out, interestingly, that perhaps the causal direction should actually be reversed! That is, she is noting that perhaps it is not that certain Americans notice the obnoxious stuff coming out of Trump’s mouth and his pen and find it immoral and repugnant; rather, a certain subset of the population identify as liberals, are partisan and biased, and therefore they subjectively find Trump offensive. In this blog, I explore this complex and intriguing phenomenon.

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Critiques of Capitalism (Part 1)

critiques of capitalism January 30th, 2020

This blog is based on a paper entitled: Critiques of Capitalism. It is one of five parts in a series that takes a long, hard look at the economic system we have in modern America. Whether it goes by the descriptor free-market capitalism, laissez-faire capitalism, neoliberalism, classical liberalism, libertarian economic philosophy,  or its illegitimate children – crony capitalism, supply-side economics, or trickle-down economics – the economic theory that America is based on has a long, significant, storied past. Here is the introduction to the paper, Critiques of Capitalism:

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What Do We Deserve? Moral Desert & Entitlement

moral desert January 21st, 2020

What does a person – let’s confine it to Americans in this blog – deserve? In philosophy, it is termed moral dessert. That is, as a member of society, what rights does one have to goods and benefits and opportunities? Contrast dessert (sometimes spelled desert) with entitlement – the rights one has based on law, contracts, and agreements. In this piece, I want to dilate on this topic, and to that end, will share a brief discussion a friend and I had. You may not be surprised to learn that I take a generally liberal position, and my friend, a fairly libertarian one. I am more likely to see, optimistically, that people deserve opportunity, chances, and help from society at large (i.e., the institutions of government and associated social welfare provisions). You can expect, of course, to see apt quotations brought to bear on the dialogue.

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What is Socratic Dialogue?

Socratic dialogue January 12th, 2020

“In order to improve yourself, Socrates insists, you have to know yourself,” said philosopher Judith Barad. Socrates hasn’t been around since ancient Athens, Greece, but the method of inquiry and self-examination he pioneered is still valid and has a lot to recommend it. “Socrates was the first to call philosophy down from the heavens and establish it in the towns and introduce it into homes and force it to investigate life, ethics, good and evil,” according to also-significant Roman orator Cicero. “Socrates’ method was to go about, as he said himself, ‘cross-examining the pretenders to knowledge and wisdom,’ and by the cross-examination, showing them that they were in error, that what they supposed they knew, they did not know,” noted the luminary Mortimer Adler. This blog is about Socratic dialogue – how to appreciate it, and what it can do.

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Realpolitik: The “Unwisdom” of Assassinating an Iranian General

realpolitik January 6th, 2020

Iran is a “bad actor”, I am completely up-front about. The arch-villain Solemani, whom Trump had assassinated a few days ago, was indeed a rotten apple. This is coming from a Jewish-American who has paid a fair amount of attention to politics, geopolitics, and war in the last 25 years. This blog is about the utter unwisdom of poking a bear in the eye for what amounts to no clear, justifiable reason. I don’t exactly consider myself a “dove”, but I certainly am skeptical of Republicans hatching Middle East operations (to be read in the cadence of “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts“).

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