Coronavirus Stretches America to the Limit

March 29th, 2020

I took a much-needed break from the media, politicians, and the disease COVID-19 last week. It felt pretty good! Perhaps because I’m lucky, because I chose not to have children, because I work from home, and because of the house my wife and I occupy, I can pull off “unplugging” from the Internet, phone, and cable news (mostly) for four or five straight days. I told my wife, “If we get a shelter-in-place order, hopefully you find out, because I won’t!” I was listening to the radio, watching movies and inane TV, reading, going to the gym (when it was still open), volunteering for Meals on Wheels, and so on. Gone was the “the sky is falling!” feeling that results from watching my wealth manager, whom I pay 1% of my stock assets to every year, having chose stocks that lost 30% in value in twenty days, hearing Donald Trump speak, and thinking of what the virus is doing to Italy and Spain. Now that I’m back, I feel like I’m back up on the cross, not only enduring raw facts about the disease, but all manner of bullshit from the land that invented steel-cage wrestling matches, Cheese-Puffs, and The Apprentice. Here are ten examples on my mind today:

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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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Is There Hope for Free Will and Moral Choices?

free will November 12th, 2018

One of the oldest questions in psychology, and in other fields such as philosophy, is whether humans have free will. That is, are we able to choose what we will do with our lives?” This is how psychologist Seth Schwartz begins his trenchant piece entitled, simply, “Do We Have Free Will?” This article, which originally appearred on, is particularly relevant to the section of this blog called Applied Psychology. I am eager to present this piece here because this 10-minute read carefully captures the intriguing and vexing issue of free will vs. determinism when it comes to human actions – and, importantly, morality.

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Is Religious Tolerance or Fundamentalism More American?

religious August 12th, 2018

Is religious tolerance or is religious fundamentalism a better description of America and what the founding fathers believed we should be?  Did you know that 55% of Americans believe that Christianity was written into the Constitution and that the founding fathers wanted One Nation Under Jesus (which includes 75% of Republicans and Evangelicals) (USA Today)? It is true that Puritan pilgrims came here seeking religious freedom, and that today we are one of the most religious of industrialized nations. In this blog, I discuss this matter briefly and bring in a dozen or so elucidating quotes that are relevant. Bill Maher and Dennis Miller add a humorous flavor as well.

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American History Reflects Certain Values

American February 13th, 2018

I came across a quote that really moved me, and I was getting into it with a friend about whether liberals are biased and whether conservatism is just a bit odious. I want to “sketch out” why I am a liberal (a political designation, but also the more philosophical meaning of the term), and why, therefore, I criticize America. To that end, I will use quotations, not by crafting sentences and paragraphs. I think of it like a mosaic – every piece is made of a small piece of glass, but together it makes sense to the eye. It’s going to read like social criticism mixed with a clear-eyed recognition of some American strengths. In so doing, I will look to history’s intellectuals, artists, and fighters for social justice to do the talking for me.

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Libertarian Quotes by Scholar David Boaz

libertarian February 6th, 2018

One modern expert on libertarian thought is Cato Institute scholar, David Boaz. I enjoyed reading his book The Libertarian Reader. Another interesting book seems to be Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom. He really knows the subject well, and for those who are interested in the strengths of the philosophy, he (and the myriad contributors to the compendium) lays it out clearly. I personally am not a libertarian per say, but I do see libertarianism as offering some “leavening” for my generally progressive outlook. Enjoy these David Boaz quotes: 

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I Will Choose Free Will!

free will January 21st, 2018

“Are we free? Most of us, on the one hand, have the clear sense that we are. We feel free; we feel like we make all sorts of decisions that lead to both beliefs and actions that are wholly of our own choosing. Like, I had oatmeal this morning because I felt like it. This view — that humans are capable of entirely free actions — is known as libertarian free will.” [Similar to but distinctly different from political libertarianism], “they just think that, metaphysically, we can act freely” ~ Ruth Tallman. Dr. Tallman then notes that, however, most of us also accept that all actions have causes. If one looks closely enough, it seems hard to escape the feeling that indeed our acts are all caused by something, and that “my will” is not an acceptable answer to the question, “By what?” This blog explores the question of free will vs. determinism.

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Quotes About Freedom by Famous Feminists

quotes about freedom January 4th, 2018

2018 is expected to be “the year of the woman.” With 2017 showing a rash of sexual harrassment allegations being taken quite seriously, and perps like Bill Cozby and Bill O’Reilly now appearing to have egg on their faces, much progress will hopefully be made this year. Daniel R. Katz edited a wonderful book that features a tremendous number and variety of quotes about freedom by famous feminists, African-Americans, and thinkers of all kinds. It’s entitled Why Freedom Matters. It’s a solid read. Must have 50-60 essays, all of which are more or less good (and some are great). Many are totally foreign to me, and were very welcome.

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A Careful, Critical Look at America Since 9/11

America Since 9/11 November 20th, 2017

What were some of the effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States? Did it give cover for certain forces and cabals to alter America substantially? Have civil liberties been curtailed in subsequent years? Is it fair to call the U.S. “the land of the free”? Have we lost something by torturing, attacking, and jailing both citizens and non-citizens alike? If Lady Liberty had the ability to move, would she be covering her face or standing proud? What do we as citizens need to do to try to halt the slide into a surveillance state in which dissent is quelled and dissenters are dealt with unethically? To help me explore America since 9/11, I interviewed Christine Rose, a documentary filmmaker about her film Liberty Bound: The United States Since 9/11.

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Quotes About Freedom, Rights, & Liberty

quotes about freedom October 26th, 2017

Everyone values freedom, not just libertarians or those on the political Right. It is absolutely fundamental, as evidenced by the amount of literature dedicated to it since the time of the ancient Greeks. As well, wars have been fought and millions have perished fighting for what they perceived to be their freedom. The U.S. Bill of Rights and the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights are rife with language that evokes the natural rights human beings have to choose their own way, and to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Property, health, welfare, peace, and a job might also be considered our due rights. However, one cannot simply look up the word “rights” or “liberty” in the dictionary and get a clear understanding. It takes one additional mental step, and a bit of time. To that end, this blog features a very diverse sample of intriguing quotes about freedom.

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