Social Criticism

Social Criticism


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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Political Extremism: The Authoritarian Voter

January 14th, 2021

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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Fake News in Trump’s America

fake news January 3rd, 2021

Throughout the country’s short existence, the most authoritarian Presidents have been, in order: John Adams, George Dubya Bush, Woodrow Wilson, Andrew Jackson, and Donald Trump. There are grumblings on the Right that Obama was somewhat abusive of his power, and I think that case can be made (certainly, journalists and Freedom of Information Act seekers were very disappointed in him). I intend this essay to be about the psychology underlying political beliefs, and the hot-button topic in this realm is, perhaps with a plethora of absurdity, uttered by Trump almost daily: the term fake news. Trump most likely coined the term fake news, and though he is but a con-man, truth, lies, and deception predate him – laying bare the idiocy of our whole politico-cultural system.

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Eight Myths That Undergird American Society

society August 7th, 2020

Our society should’ve collapsed by now; none should be able to function with this level of inequality (with the possible exception of one of those prison planets in a Star Wars movie). Sixty-three percent of Americans can’t afford a $500 emergency. Yet Amazon head Jeff Bezos is now worth a record $141 billion. He could literally end world hunger for multiple years and still have more money left over than he could ever spend on himself. This is a blog about the myths that undergird American society, written by Lee Camp.

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Political Correctness: Not Seriously Significant

political correctness July 17th, 2020

“Political correctness is the idea that assumes that the worst thing we can do is offend somebody,” said actor Alfred Molina. This is a pretty sensitive topic, but I am going to do what I can as a generalist to delve into the shallow end of the issue and shed a little light on it for both our sakes. I don’t think about this phenomenon all that much, but I’m going to take a page out of the George Carlin/conservative commentator/liberal defender book and analyze briefly the idea of political correctness.

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The Wise Favor Truth Over Conspiracy Theories

conspiracy theories May 21st, 2020

…unless of course there is a conspiracy afoot! That does happen from time to time, when all the stars are aligned. Usually, though, conspiracies fail or never even get off the ground. Isn’t it odd that the same government that the hardcore libertarians we have had in our midst since the inception of the Tea Party which is constantly facing budget cuts and which sees its best and brightest dismissed due to cronyism and corruption is also fully capable of hatching and executing a “deep-state-type” massive, successful conspiracy? We are to believe that the Federal government is at once a bunch of masterminds intent on crippling the decent government officials we duly elected with our awful, dark-money-driven campaign finance system—the “deep state”—capable of engaging in a very sophisticated feat of skullduggery, intrigue, and nefariousness, and yet we can’t even get masks to doctors? Kids go hungry. We can’t control the debt. Mexican immigrants are supposed to be our worst problem if you watch Fox News. I would say the U.S. government could more easily be accused of garden-variety, low-level corruption like Russia, or totally incompetent, like Venezuela, than this!  Nay, this just doesn’t add up. What is much likelier, logically and rationally, is that the people who see conspiracy and libertarian affronts and liberals run amok are suffering from bias, lack of objectivity, fantastic thinking, and group phenomena. They should turn off Fox or Facebook and read a book by Mark Twain or George Eliot, I say. Here are some thoughts.

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Quotes About Vaccines and Public Health

vaccines May 19th, 2020

The rise in the numbers of individuals who choose not to get their children vaccinated—some for a justifiable reason, but most for some religious/philophical/political one—is most concerning. I have heard that some people are planning to refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccination in 12-18 months, or whenever it winds its way through the fairly-complex creation/testing/approval process! I just can’t fathom that. Elderly people dying in nursing homes; children getting a gnarly “Kawasaki-like syndrome” as a side effect of the virus; first responders and front-line workers putting their lives on the line, and on and on. It’s maddening, actually. I think it is a crystal-clear case-in-point of three phenomena a) misinformation/disinformation/ignorance; b) tribalism and political polarization; and c) hyper-individualism/extreme libertarianism. This blog will feature approximately 50 quotes about vaccines, vaccine refusal, and public health that I have collected so far (in alphabetical order).

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Jews Have Special Insight into American Discrimination

May 19th, 2020

I’m not the “most Jewish” person around, that’s for sure. One thing I do have, though, is that I connect my Jewishness up with empathy for what African-Americans have gone through and still experience. We Jews ought to have special insight into America’s long history of racial, ethnic, and class discrimination because of our unique history. My wife came up to me tonight, flaming mad, about another example of the mistreatment of, discrimination toward, and prejudice directed at black people in America. It was heartening to see her make an astute connection, and the point of this blog is to elucidate that thesis for you.

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