Social & Economic Justice

Social & Economic Justice


Robert Nozick Quotes: On the Examined Life

an examined life July 8th, 2019

Philosopher Robert Nozick made quite a splash with his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974). He assertively planted a flag on the libertarian hill with quotes such as, “There is no social entity with a good that undergoes some sacrifice for its own good. There are only individual people  with their own individual lives. Using one of these people for the benefit of others, uses him and benefits the others.” Fascinatingly, though, he never published an encore, choosing instead to concentrate his scholarship on distinctly different areas of philosophy. One of those later works is the aptly titled The Examined Life. This blog presents eighty or ninety of the most interesting and insightful Robert Nozick quotes from his book on the examined life – a reference to Socratic wisdom if there ever was one.

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Progressive Politics: Government Reform and Rehabilitation

progressive politics June 29th, 2019

This blog is a defense of progressive politics. A writer named William L. Anderson criticizes progressives as bad governors in a piece, “Why Progressives Are So Bad at Governing.” The noted economist and author Paul Krugman leads off my rebuttal, saying, essentially, that conservatives are not that great with governance, either. Indeed, ever since the ancient Greeks, people have been considering at least three main issues: the problem of knowledge, the problem of conduct, and the problem of governance. If Americans aren’t getting it right, it says much about our political system, but it also speaks to fundamental challenges and liabilities inherent in the human species as they try to organize and get along. I make some points and then share some quotations about progressive politics to bolster my position.

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Civil Rights and Responsibilities

civil rights June 10th, 2019

Three social issues of great importance and significant disagreement include the right to abort an unwanted fetus within a certain period of time at a medical clinic (free from harassment or shame), the right to bear arms, and the rights of those who are gay and transgender to be free from discrimination in hiring and in the workplace. These are of importance because whenever a right is withheld in America, there needs to be a very compelling reason, Constitutionally and morally speaking. They are subjects about which there is fundamental disagreement (and not a little contention!) because they are thorny ethical, religious, and cultural issues. In the time of social media and political hyperpartisanship, the solution of these matters of great concern to society are matters of civil rights, and also of civil responsibilities. As well, with the resurgence of the radical Right, settled law (e.g., Roe v. Wade) is now being reexamined. This blog is about civil rights and civil responsibilities when it comes to three key issues.

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Responsibility for Our Fellow Man

responsibility June 2nd, 2019

My wife and I donated five thousand dollars to a local no-cost medical clinic, the Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic. My visit was amazing. It’s a new building, and is at least as nice as my doctor’s. Probably nicer. It was built recently with 100% donations and grants! For an individual making up to about $25,000 a year or a family of four earning around $50,000 annually, primary care and many other specialties are free. Free. It felt like a wonderful asset to our community, which sits in one of the poorest states in the country. Many folks, however, believe that anything “free” is not only a waste of resources, but morally offensive. That is the cult of the individual, and it runs afoul of an important belief underlying progressive politics and moral decency: the responsibility we have for our fellow man (and woman).

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Patriotism: Liberal & Conservative Viewpoints

patriotism April 1st, 2019

Colin Kaepernick has done what many an African American has done in America’s long and tumultuous and somewhat ignominious history: made us all look at the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and centuries of legal precedence in a new light. He has an outstanding foil in the vacuous President of the United States, I am ashamed to say. Both representatives of polar-opposite points of view tout patriotism – though of a very different stripe. It’s an interesting, critical, and telling public debate that I suggest we all weigh in on. At best, we can progress toward higher levels of legal, societal, and emotional development if we accept America’s liabilities and mistakes and move forward with dignity and grace.

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Songs I’m Thinking About Today

March 16th, 2019

Two deep and inspiring songs that struck me today are the following. Van Halen’s “Dreams” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”. Let these masterpieces sink in…

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Society Needs Economic, Social, Political Change

society January 29th, 2019

Three things came across my desk in a mere two days that made me feel like I needed to blog about capitalism again. I have critiqued America’s capitalistic society many times under the heading Social and Economic Justice here on this blog. The three sources that inspired this blog are: economist and Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman writing a piece entitled “Elizabeth Warren Does Teddy Roosevelt”; a surprising critique of capitalism from none other than Tucker Carlson (!); and a wonderful statement by “The Wizard of Omaha”, Warren Buffett. Here is enough about each of these surprising and refreshing ideas about the limits of capitalism in modern American society.

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The Profit Motive, Deregulation, and Financial Crisis

December 20th, 2018

I just watched a great documentary by Vice on HBO called Panic: The Untold Story of the 2008 Financial Crisis. Anyone who watches that, The Corporation, Inside Job, Margin Call, and The Commanding Heights will be well-schooled on how the financial services industry works and how it fails to work. In this blog, I want to briefly describe the Great Recession and the resultant Tea Party movement, which is tied in to the Trump phenomenon. The profit motive, financial deregulation, elitism, politics, and the Great Recession have something to teach us if we are to avoid another, potentially catastrophic meltdown. 

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Socrates, Thoreau, King & Zinn on Civil Disobedience

Socrates December 3rd, 2018

In Plato’s Crito, Socrates is shown to believe, essentially, that one should obey the laws of one’s city-state (Athens), even if in a particular case the law seems excessive, asinine, and/or immoral(i.e., not in keeping with a rationally acceptable view of moral justness and rightness) (in other words, laws that are unjust). Obedience to authority, whether to obey unjust laws, autonomy vs. group membership, and social contract theory are all relevant questions based on a modern and objective reading of Plato’s Crito. Further, these considerations have relevance to the question, Does Socrates have an obligation – legally and morally– to kill himself(i.e., choose not to escape after receiving a death sentence)? It is my contention that Socrates probably does not have a moral obligation to kill himself, though legally he probably does. After bringing in a few relevant theorists/philosophers, I will sketch a working theory on how to deal with obeying the law versus civil disobedience.

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Paternalism: The Individual Vs. The People

November 21st, 2018

Paternalism is the idea that the State (one’s country) has a right to determine some rules that citizens are obliged to follow because the State knows better and something important is on the line. So, stopping at a traffic light might simply be a law – and one that everyone can agree with. Libertarians, however, object to some laws made by lawmakers on the grounds that they are unnecessarily paternalistic, and sap the liberty of the individual. Wearing helmets during motorcycling is a good example of an issue that is debated between libertarians and those who feel that the individual is not necessarily the best decision-maker when it comes to things such as safety. Clearly, gun rights are the issue du jour. Here are some thoughts about who gets to decide what, how, and why.

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