Social Criticism

Social Criticism


America Desperately Needs Truth, Wisdom, and Critical Thinking

truth, wisdom, and critical thinking November 26th, 2021

America has a boat-load of problems. To open a newspaper any day of the week is enough to discourage anyone. Partisanship has reached nearly-fervid proportions. I fear we have little hope of seeing the forest for the trees when 45% of Americans don’t think Donald Trump should be tried in the Senate! Indeed, Trump may be the grotesque manifestation of a country that is sick, but the origins of what ails us are older than the huckster in the White House. What does this have to do with values? Truth, wisdom, and justice are not values that one can expect to apprehend if one sits around watching Fox News, “America’s Got Talent”, and football. If we want to improve, to thrive, to avoid disaster, the road is a tough one – much tougher than a trope such as “Liberals have been causing the decay of American society for decades now!” or “The most important thing in 2020 is to remove Donald Trump from office!”

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Knowledge, Education & Wisdom in Colonial America

knowledge November 17th, 2021

Philosopher/psychologist and distinguished man of letters, Daniel N. Robinson, says much about knowledge, wisdom, and education in the citizenry and the founders at the time of the Declaration of Indpendence and the crafting of the U.S. Constitution. It is very enlightening, and he takes pains to connect the state of affairs then with our horrible political, social, and educational predicament that is so clearly exemplified by corporations, Donald Trump as President, and social media bickering today. It’s not a pretty picture, but one worth taking a long, hard look at. I then follow up his incisive commentary on the Founders with quotes about knowledge, wisdom, and education in modern America. Recall that education is not just about keeping the economy rolling: “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty,” wrote the main architect of the Constitution, James Madison. And this is very important; as modern progressive author, Thom Hartmann puts it, “We need to begin paying attention to the wisdom of the Founders and Framers [of the United States] if our country is to survive.”

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Healthcare: Comparing the U.S. to the Leaders

healthcare July 20th, 2021

I came across an article that is so good, I have to take from it liberally. If the New York Times is miffed and wants me to take it down, sure, of course I will. But in the meantime, you will learn a lot about healthcare!  Basically, in this article, the authors, Aaron Carroll and Austin Frakt opine about two-way matchups between eight different countries when it comes to the healthcare systems they have in place to insure and care for the health of their respective citizens. This is like a round-robin tournament comparing the strengths and weaknesses of various healthcare systems to each other. The article does go into more detail, and is worth a read if you’re that interested. Let the games begin!

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Conservative Truth-Teller, Bruce Bartlett

conservative truth-teller July 12th, 2021

Bruce Bartlett is a most interesting man. He is a self-described conservative, but he claims to be a more traditional, principled conservative than the modern crop of neocons, Tea Partiers, and, as I would characterize them, gross hypocrites. He was a leading advocate and theorist about supply-side economics, also called “trickle-down economics.” However, he has since come to realize that the reasonableness of tax-cutting for the top tax brackets to stimulate growth has been misapplied, abused, and inappropriately resurrected by the likes of Bush, Trump, and so on. I aim to share a bit more about Bruce Bartlett, who I am calling a conservative truth-teller, due to his willingness to call spades spades and admit how far afield the GOP has gone since the days of Reagan. I think Reagan made many missteps and was not a particularly wise leader, but at least Bruce and I could agree on much!

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Economic Inequality and Political Polarization

inequality May 23rd, 2021

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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“Strange Fruit” Had a Massive Impact on Society

Strange Fruit May 17th, 2021

America has maximized human and societal potential in many ways – we are truly a republic of great potential and productivity. Of course, being black, Holliday experienced an appalling side of America first-hand, one grossly shy of the beautiful principles on which it was founded. We are the best and the worst of everything in humanity. It is fair, recognizing slavery and poverty and vicious wealth inequality since ideals such as liberty, inclusion, democracy, and opportunity are unambiguously glorious values and aspirations we do treasure here. We must be truthful and integrate all our past and reconcile our darkness with our light. Anyway, Billie Holliday represented something special to many people, and I think the story of her song “Strange Fruit” is quite relevant to the idea of integration – both on a personal level, and certainly on a societal one.

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Consistent Critic: Noam Chomsky Quotes

April 8th, 2021

Noam Chomsky is literally one of the most influential and prolific individuals in the history of mankind. We are all so lucky that he has worked so hard on behalf of values such as truth, justice, social justice, freedom, solidarity, progressivism, and social welfare. Thought of as the founder of modern linguistics, he is extremely erudite and has written on all manner of subject—mostly politics and economics. Known as a “left-libertarian” or a “libertarian socialist”, he is wary of government, the media, the military, and the two big political parties. He has lampooned, lambasted, and laid bare their lies, machinations, and subterfuge. He is a man of the people, and has my deep respect. Bono called him “a rebel without a pause.” A great American.

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Economic Justice Has Gotten Worse Since COVID-19

economic justice March 9th, 2021

Is the American “capitalistic” system fair and functioning well? What makes a society good and economically just? Does America show satisfactory respect for the dignity of its citizens based on the economic system is created? Have things gotten worse since the COVID-19 pandemic? Whether wealth and income inequality are fair and morally justifiable hinges on what one believes about the nature of the socio-economic system in question. The 18th century theorists of great renown, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith both have opinions relevant American-style capitalism, economic justice, and rights/fairness. In the end, I do not believe either would see a justification for the “capitalistic” system America has created.

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What Do We Deserve? Moral Desert & Entitlement

moral desert February 27th, 2021

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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Review of Ch. One: “In Defense of a Liberal Education”

liberal education February 11th, 2021

Liberal education is not typically prized by parents. “What you are not supposed to do is study the liberal arts. Around the world, the idea of a broad-based ‘liberal’ education is closely tied with the United States and its great universities and colleges. But in America itself, a liberal education is out of favor.” This is a sad and even ironic state of affairs. In the wonderful, well-researched, short but stout book In Defense of a Liberal Education, noted columnist and historian Fareed Zakaria, called “the most influential foreign policy advisor of his generation” by Esquire, laments that the humanities are no longer as popular as they were in America’s more prosperous decades. As manufacturing is under severe threat and jobs are increasingly lost to foreign countries or automation, Zakaria maintains that “to succeed today, you need creativity, lateral thinking, communication skills, and, more than anything, the ability to keep learning – precisely the gifts of a liberal education.” What follows is a summary and review of chapter one of this engaging book.

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