Social & Economic Justice

Social & Economic Justice


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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Speaking Truth to Power and Civil Disobedience

civil disobedience November 17th, 2018

Civil disobedience is a tried-and-true, potent, and ethical way to make your grievances known. Anything from handing out pamphlets to self-immolation can be considered civil disobedience, but the quintessential method is probably group protest that commits a nominal or minor legal infraction. Common would be disrupting traffic during a march, occupying a building during business hours, and picketing that goes beyond the garden-variety. I am not sure if taking a knee at a sports event during the national anthem truly counts – that might just be innocuous free speech. However, since Trump chooses to demagogue about that, instead of letting things take their natural course, it ends up functioning like civil disobedience because of the magnitude of the disruption it engenders. This blog is about the latest trend in left-wing protesting against the powers that be: harassing conservatives during times when these bad actors aren’t working to feather their own nests and undermine the fabric of our society, but simply eating in a restaurant or some such activity.

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Economic Inequality and Political Polarization

inequality November 3rd, 2018

The following is a brief piece written by New York Times columnist, David Leonhardt. In it, he asks the question, Race, class or both? He is referring to whether the 2016 election was in large part won by Donald Trump due to Americans’ racism (the white people, that is) or economic insecurity/economic inequality. It is an interesting summary, and it is recommended that the interested reader follow the links herein to the New York Times to read more. I also include a dozen interesting quotes about economics, capitalism, economic justice, and income inequality by scholar and author Steven Pearlstein.

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Ethnic Studies Courses for White Children

ethnic studies October 30th, 2018

The following blog is written by guest blogger Jon Greenberg, a high school teacher, activist and writer. I wanted to present this take on white privilege because I believe that it is important in this time of hyperpartisanship, ethnic divisions, and political demagoguery. I am pretty much on the left when it comes to how I feel about race, racism, privilege, institutionalized racism, etc. That is to say that I am not all the way to the left; for example, I find Mr. Greenberg’s use of capitalization in the phrase “People of Color” to be silly and overdone. However, it is only slightly more mistaken than a lot of the beliefs and customs that my fellow European Americans to the right of me hold. Somewhere in between political correctness and social justice is where I come down on this topic. What follows is why Mr. Greenberg believes ethnic studies courses are useful for his white children (and white Americans everywhere):

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Magnanimity & Altruism: Saving 50 Jews from Death

magnanimity October 4th, 2018

Eleanor and Gilbert Kraus are very likely two of the greatest unsung heroes in American history – at least, in Jewish history. I watched a documentary about their courageous acts (in 1939), which amounted to nothing less than a full-throated display of magnanimity and altruism. Here is their story. I will also include a selection of quotations about magnanimity by noted Holocaust survivors, human rights activists, altruism researchers, and stalwart exemplars of virtue and honor such as Elie Wiesel, Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Viktor Frankl. 

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America’s Oligarchy Is Repugnant

oligarchy is repugnant September 12th, 2018

I am now preparing for Hurricane Florence to pummel the crap out of my family and me. It is astonishing, angering, and outrageous to hear a tape of Donald Trump touting the great job he and his team did with Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year. He is just such an appallingly poor excuse for a president I can hardly describe it without throwing my computer monitor out of the window. It’s that bad in my opinion. I thought G.W. Bush was bad, but now when I hear him talk, I long for those days! It’s just topsy-turvy in the extreme. My point in this blog is that I hope Hillary Clinton, Bill, Chuck Schumer, the DNC, and especially Debbie Wasserman-Schultz wake up every day and lament their actions in the 2016 Democratic Primary. The Ancient Athenian historian and general Thucydides pointed out that “Ordinary men usually manage public affairs better than their more gifted fellows. For on public matters no one can hear and decide so well as the many”; he was speaking against oligarchy in favor of democracy. Though democracy has never been perfect, and our founders feared granting power to anyone but aristocratic white men, it seems abundantly clear that America’s oligarchy is repugnant. 

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Quotes That Clarify the Cardinal Virtues

cardinal virtues September 11th, 2018

Have you heard the phrase the cardinal virtues? This is how Wikipedia describes their early beginning: “Plato identified the four cardinal virtues with the classes of the city described in The Republic, and with the faculties of man. Plato narrates a discussion of the character of a good city where the following is agreed upon. “Clearly, then, it will be wise, brave, temperate [literally: healthy-minded], and just.” (427e; see also 435b) Temperance was common to all classes, but primarily associated with the producing classes, the farmers and craftsmen, and with the animal appetites, to whom no special virtue was assigned; fortitude was assigned to the warrior class and to the spirited element in man; prudence to the rulers and to reason. Justice stands outside the class system and divisions of man, and rules the proper relationship among the three of them.” This blog examines the cardinal virtues from a transcultural and temporally-unlimited perspective.

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The Values and Virtues America Desperately Needs

the values and virtues America desperately needs September 2nd, 2018

America, if it were a person, would be experiencing anxiety, self-doubt, egocentrism, confusion, self-loathing, and narcissism. Life has never been easy or uniformly positive for all but the wealthy, and even then, the rich aren’t any happier than the other social classes. It’s true, there was what some consider to be a “golden era” as we came out of World War II. The wealthy and corporations paid a large share of the tax burden, had more in common with the other social classes (e.g., “the Commons” were more robust then), and jobs were well-paying and fairly secure. Despite the racial, gender and sexual orientation problems that plagued America then, it was a time of general prosperity, social mobility, and optimism. Something has gone awry to an increasingly dire degree; if America were a person it would be spending a lot of time in bars, occasionally getting into a fight while intoxicated, and dealing with a persistent cough. The values and virtues America desperately needs are the subjects of this blog. It entails social criticism, but I think America can look to its “better angels”, as Lincoln put it. We have to do it. 

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Discrimination, Affirmative Action, & Distributive Justice

discrimination September 1st, 2018

As of this writing, another rights issue has taken the stage: Asian-Americans ability to gain entrance into the most selective private universities. Now, I went to the University of California, Irvine which as high as seventy percent non-white. Diversity is a societal good, and discrimination – not so much. The Asian-American students who are suing for an end to race-based preferences at Harvard University have a point to make, namely, that when it comes to education, the country should be purely a meritocracy. Is it discrimination when private colleges and universities such as Harvard have a quota for the maximum number of Asian-Americans they admit each year? Some considerations around affirmative action, distributive justice, and fairness are considered. Harvard’s history of anti-Semitism must be considered as well.

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