Liberalism vs Socialism

Both liberals and socialists value equality and liberty, but their visions for the world can be vastly different from each other. Perhaps the best way to distinguish between liberalism and socialism can be clarified by a single question: Who should own the means of production?

American Liberals would say that private individuals should own the means of production. However, they would also argue that the State should invest in a strong social safety net in order to combat the inequalities created by capitalism. The political philosopher John Rawls gives credit to this view in his work A Theory of Justice. Rawls provides two principles to follow in order to obtain a just and fair society:

The First Principle of Justice

First comes the priority of liberty: Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others.”

Basic liberties include the political liberty to vote and run for office, freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of religion, freedom of personal property and freedom from arbitrary arrest.

(Note: Rawls clarified in the revised version of A Theory of Justice that he did not consider private ownership of the means of production or the freedom of contract a “basic liberty,” although this point is the main source of contention by libertarians and conservatives)

The Second Principle of Justice

Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that:

“(a) they are to be of the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society, consistent with the just savings principle. (the difference principle)
(b) offices and positions must be open to everyone under conditions of fair equality of opportunity(Rawls, 1971, p. 302; revised edition, p. 53-54)

Liberals can satisfy these principles by rationalizing that inequalities exist only insofar that they increase the net prosperity for society while still maximizing basic liberties for all people.

Perhaps the best examples of this are the Scandinavian social democracies. These countries rank high in both economic freedom through “free”-market practices and egalitarianism through supporting a giant welfare state. Given the means of production are owned by private individuals (billionaires) in these countries, they represent the tip of the iceberg of what is possible within liberal democracies.

Socialists, in contrast, would say that the workers should democratically own the means of production. They argue that this would naturally create a more egalitarian society because profit sharing would better reflect workers contribution and profits would no longer be concentrated to a small number of capitalists. Most would agree that this is a noble and ideal goal, but figuring out how this transition of power would occur has been socialism’s major shortcoming.

The other hurdle socialism faces is its perception in the public eye. It’s history in practice consists of failed states and staunch authoritarianism, but its theory is consistently misunderstood by those without a clear understanding of capitalism. Outside of intellectual circles, being a socialist in America is one of the worst things you can be.

The truth however is that one could be a socialist and believe in all of the same liberties laid out in Rawls First Principle of Justice. One could also be a socialist and have social conservative values (which are the values of the Amish). Indeed, socialism is not mutually exclusive with a single social ideology- it is an idea that contains a vast diversity of flavors.

One of the best critics of left wing liberalism came from the socialist G.A. Cohen in his book If You’re An Egalitarian, How Come You’re So Rich? Cohen elegantly points out that liberal rhetoric on equality doesn’t reflect what individuals do with their money. How is it that liberals demand our institutions to act altruistically, but on the other hand say individuals should act in their own self interest? The challenge for a liberal America is to convince 300 million individuals that an egalitarian society is in their self interest and to act on it.

The question remains: Can liberal democracies continue to evolve or will they succumb to socialism in the technological age?

I’ll leave you with this thought provoking video: Humans need not apply.

The Lesser of Two Evils

If Christopher Hitchens was alive today, what would he think about the current U.S. presidential election? I can only imagine the colorful and articulate insight he would have provided us- shredding apart both candidates with their blatant hypocrisy. Hitchens unwavering moral compass in combination with his contrarian love for debate allowed him to call bullshit where no one else would. Nothing exemplified this more than his 1999 book No One Left To Lie to a damning polemic of President Bill Clinton.

At the core of the book, Hitchens describes the Clinton’s strategy of triangulation. Put simply, triangulation is the practice of promising to The Left, while delivering to The Right. Bill Clinton promised change in his campaign, yet actively fought against his own constituents the years following his election and reelection (ex: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Healthcare reform, Welfare degradation). The most depressing, yet successful part of this strategy was that even after duping his supporters, they actively defended him and rationalized his broken promises.

With the 2016 election less then a month away, I can’t help but consider Hillary Clinton’s own triangulation, particularly the compromises she’s made with Bernie Sanders during the primaries. Some of these compromises include: Adopting an Anti-TPP stance, supporting an updated Glass Steagall, and ending the era of mass incarcerations. If elected, will she even attempt to push these proposals as promised? Or will she be the mirror image of her husband, continuing the cycle of dishonesty that has plagued American politics and embedded cynicism in our democracy?

In addition to Clinton’s notorious issue of trustworthiness, is the other elephant in the room: The Clinton Machine- a vast network of allies that is loyal to the Clinton family. At the highest level this includes Hollywood celebrities, major media pundits, world leaders and Super-PAC operatives. Their political power is incredibly difficult to fathom and is quite frankly, terrifying.

This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if Clinton wasn’t involved in scandal after scandal throughout her career. And because of the recent Wikileaks revelations, many of the otherwise conspiratorial allegations made against her have either been confirmed or, at the very least, raised skepticism about high levels of corruption Clinton is involved with. It’s not a joke to suggest that The Democratic Party should consider changing their name to Clinton Incorporated®

Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) Mrs. Clinton is running against Donald Trump- one of the most transparent narcissists that has walked the earth. Unlike Mrs. Clinton who cleverly hides her dishonesty behind obfuscations, Trump openly boasts about “facts” that can be contradicted with a 10 second google search. The man takes pride in ignorance with a blatant disregard for physical reality.

Perhaps even worse than his narcissism and slippery relationship to the truth, is his inability to concede or apologize any point. He downplays his comments about sexually assaulting women, scoffs at criticisms of his business practices and deflects everything directed at him as a mass conspiracy. Donald Trump resembles a child who never learned any mannerisms. He screams and pouts every time something doesn’t go his way. It’s appalling to see this behavior in any adult, let alone a candidate for the highest office in the world.

Policy wise, Donald Trump is one of the worst candidates in modern history. He believes climate change is a hoax, has endorsed torture and killing terrorists families, and thinks the United States should default on its national debt. These views are actually insane and dangerous. Of course that’s assuming he’s not bullshitting like usual. Trump is the antithesis of Christopher Hitchens- a man with a hallow moral compass, volatile values and a plain lack of curiosity.

I still have trouble wrapping my mind around how out of the 300 million+ potential candidates, we somehow ended up with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. But here we are, and one of them will be president of the United States of America. If you alone had to decide who would become president of the United States, who would you pick?

In philosophy there is something known as The Lesser of Two Evils principle. Put simply, when faced with selecting from two unpleasant options, the one which is least harmful should be chosen. As a utilitarian, this principle is what it used in order to make incredibly difficult decisions in things like the Trolley Problem. So who is the lesser of two evils in this case?

When answering this question it becomes apparent that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump represent two very different kinds of evil, which makes them very difficult to compare side by side. Hillary Clinton represents the vices of massive power and consolidation, stagnated thinking, deception and oligarchy. Donald Trump represents the vices of irrationality, chauvinism, hatred and fear.

More than anything however, I think this election is between a demagogue and a crook. Unfortunately for Donald Trump, I think he happens to be both. That makes this fairly easy..

I’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton in November.

Philosophers Worth Listening To

Sam Harris @SamHarrisOrg

Sam Harris is a philosopher, author and neuroscientist. Sam’s values of discovering truth and having a rational mindset is something I’ve always admired and have tried to follow in my own life. His ability to discuss controversial issues in objectively is something I think everyone can aspire to. I recommend Sam’s Waking Up Podcast in addition to his books.

Science Can Answer Moral Questions

The God Debate II: Harris vs. Craig

Sam Harris – It Is Always Now

Alain de Botton @alaindebotton

Alain is a Swiss-born, British-based philosopher that runs the popular web series The School of Life. He covers a variety of topics including: psychotherapy, relationships, literature, art, economics, and my favorite- the ideas of past philosophers. Alain offers something for everyone and I highly recommend checking out his videos in addition to his books.

PHILOSOPHY – Nietzsche

Being A Good Listener

Stay in – or Leave – a Relationship?

Maria Popova @BrainPicker

146806585059920

Maria is a writer and philosopher known for her popular blog BrainPickings. Her writings focus on culture, history, books, philosophy and eclectic subjects from around the internet. I’ve been reading her blog for the last two years and I’m always consistently thrilled to read the new articles she publishes. I highly recommend following Maria on Twitter for some funny banter and checking out some of her articles.

The Science of Stress

An Antidote to the Age of Anxiety

Famous Advice on Writing

Overpopulation: A Road To Dystopia

Ever since the Black Death in the 14th century, caused by the Bubonic plague, the growth in human population has been on a constant rise. And within the last century, these numbers have risen exponentially. Indeed, in 1927 the population on earth was estimated to be 2 billion. Less than 90 years later in 2016, we have a population of 7.4 billion and it’s continuing to grow.

There are several contributing factors that have led to this population explosion. The most significant being attributed to declining death rates. Thanks to modern medicine and technology, we’ve been able to overcome problems of widespread hunger and poverty. Fertility treatments and better medical facilities have led otherwise fatal diseases and defects to be recoverable. And today, we reap the benefits and comfort that these advances have provided us.

The question remains: Should we be concerned about overpopulation? Within the scientific community there is diverse opinion on both when and what amount the population will peak at before stabilization or decline. Scientific studies have ranges of time as early as 2050 to 2300 and beyond. Estimates for the peak of population hover between the 9-12 billion range. (1, 2)

However, many of these scientific studies don’t take into consideration the potential scientific breakthroughs that may occur over the next two centuries. What if, for instance, it becomes normal to live to be 150 or even 200 years old? Considering the existence of super-centenarians, we should remain open and optimistic to the idea of increased human longevity. This would push the figures well beyond what many of these studies conclude.

Likewise, it is also possible that science could revolutionize the resources we need to survive and flourish. We have a limitless supply of energy in the sun and it’s only a matter of time before we begin to harvest this energy efficiently. In addition, the continuous evolution of technology like 3d printers may have enormous effects in the way we manage our resources. These kinds of innovations could nearly negate overpopulation as a problem altogether.

Of course we should remain skeptical of such ideas. Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see how our population growth plays out over the next several decades and whether this growth becomes a major problem. If it does become a problem, what are the philosophical consequences? Will we need to enable policies that discourage people from having children? Would that be ethical? My libertarian leanings may certainly begin having doubts.

Imagine a world with extremely scarce resources. People are starving and poverty is rampant. Every new child being born into this world would suffer this same miserable existence. In such a world, it may be morally reprehensible to not get an abortion. Can you picture such a thing?

The consequences of overpopulation are definitely reminiscent of those in dystopian fiction in many ways. And while this may be new territory for humans, overpopulation is nothing new for many animal species. When it does occurs to a species, it isn’t pretty. Nature has it’s own way of restoring order. One of two things tends to happen under these circumstances:

  1. There becomes an increase in their predators which naturally reduces the species.
  2. There becomes massive conflict over the remaining resources and there’s a major population crash.

Number one is common among several animals including snowshoe hares, deer and lemmings. If predators are not increased to keep the population low, number two becomes the inevitable result. Starvation and thirst becomes common, and eventually violent competition between their own species arises. However, some animals have learned to refrain from mating under such conditions thanks to their evolutionary pheromones. (1) Thus preventing conflict.

So how does this apply to us? Humans are apex predators, meaning we reside at the top of the food chain in which no other creatures prey. Therefore we would skip number one and go straight to number two. If humans weren’t to refrain from reproduction, we may escalate far beyond the violent skirmishes present in many animal species. In a worst case scenario, we could enter another world war led by fascist leaders. Just how far do you think some people would be willing to go under such dire circumstances? It’s a scary thing to consider.

It’s important to note that many of these violent outcomes are only possible if we let overpopulation get out of hand in the first place. Nevertheless, overpopulation may still present problems to a lesser degree including: major unemployment, increased global warming and a reduced quality of life for most people.

Whether or not overpopulation comes to fruition is yet to be seen, but the conversation needs to begin sooner rather than later. Someday, we may have to rethink our moral intuitions. For better or for worse.

An Adventure: Seattle to Maui

Aloha from Maui, Hawaii! This last week I’ve been lounging on beaches, drinking Pina Coladas and catching up on some much needed novel reading. While I was here I also got to do a bit of sight seeing: driving the Road to Hana, a helicopter ride over Molokai, and hiking through the dense forests of Maui. And of course- doing some writing and rejuvenating my creative juices.

I brought two books along with me for the trip: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut and The Atlantis Gene by A.G. Riddle. Both novels were recommended by a long time friend and fellow science fiction nerd. Unfortunately I haven’t read much Sci-Fi lately (last one was Partials by Dan Wells) so both books were a good fix to a long time craving.

Slaughterhouse-Five is a classic novel that follows the life of Billy Pilgrim- a war veteran, optometrist, and time traveler- who gets abducted by aliens. Throughout the novel, he tackles the philosophical problems of war, death and free will. I loved this book not only for the topics it covers, but for the absurd characters and mix of tragedy and humor. I give it a 4/5. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is.”

“That’s one thing Earthlings might learn to do, if they tried hard enough: Ignore the awful times and concentrate on the good ones.”

And of course, the simple… “So it goes.”

The second novel I read, The Atlantis Gene, dives into the mystery of human origins and evolution. This novel really digs into accurate details for both genetics and biology which really made the otherwise crazy conspiracies come to life in a very realistic way. The pacing was a bit wild at times, but I loved the plot and action making it a thrilling page turner. I give it a 4/5 as well. Apparently this book is the first of a trilogy and is currently being made into a major Motion picture. I’ll definitely be seeing it in theaters.

Outside of reading I also did a lot of writing for the philosophy portion of my blog on the topics of boredom and overpopulation. Once I get these thoughts a little more organized and coherent I’ll upload them to my blog- most likely within the next week or two. Of course that’s assuming I can read my own handwriting (I tend to write terribly sloppy when free writing ha).

Finally I’ll leave you with some pictures. My Android camera and amateur photography doesn’t do these sights any justice, but alas I did what I could. So it goes…

IMG_20160428_193105 IMG_20160429_192658 IMG_20160430_175528 IMG_20160501_175514 IMG_20160504_190810 IMG_20160504_190855 IMG_20160504_190948 IMG_20160504_191033

The Power of 4 Chords

If you haven’t already, watch the video above. Odd isn’t it? How can 4 chords create so many different songs? What are these magical four chords and how do they work?

Before we can answer those questions, we need to have a basic understanding of music theory. In western music there are a total of 12 notes. These notes have intervals of half steps and together form the Chromatic scale. After the twelve notes the pattern repeats:

Beginning with the chromatic scale, we can then derive other scale formulas. The two most popular being the major scale and the natural minor scale. These scales are defined by a pattern of whole steps [W] and half steps [H]. Whole steps are simply two half steps. Both of these scales consist of 7 of the 12 total notes and begins with a root note [R].

Major Scale: R, W, W, H, W, W, W, H

Natural Minor Scale: R, W, H, W, W, H, W, W

Now let’s look at these scales in practice. For example, C Major Scale and A Minor Scale:

C Major Scale: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C

A Minor Scale: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A

For the purpose of this exercise, I’ve purposefully chosen two scales that don’t use any sharps or flats, however, you may apply major and minor scales to any of the other notes which would incorporate sharps/flats to varying degrees. Next, let’s assign Roman numerals to each of the notes. For the key of C Major, this would look like this:

C = I – D = ii – E = iii – F = IV – G = V – A = vi – B = VII (note: the upper/lowercase)

And for the Key of A Minor:

A = i – B = II – C = III – D = iv – E = v – F = VI – G = VII (note: the upper/lowercase)

Now that we’ve selected a couple of keys and have assigned roman numerals to each of their notes, let’s figure out what those four chords are! In music theory, numbers I, IV and V have a relationship called harmony. It is these numbers (1, 4 and 5) that determine 3/4 of the four chords used in the video above.

In order to go from notes to chords, we simply apply each note to it’s corresponding key. So for the C major scale, the chords I, IV, and V would be C Major, F Major, and G Major. For the A Minor scale, the chords i, iv and v would be A Minor, D Minor, and E Minor. You should think of numbers I, IV and V like x, y and z variables in math- they change based on the key they are in.

The process of changing these variables to different keys is known as transposing. This is often done to accompany the singers voice- and is exactly what the Axis of Awesome do in the video.

Below is the key of C Major transposed to a number of other keys:

[IMG]

So what about the last chord? The last chord is the number VI (major) or vi (minor). Number VI is unique from the other chords in that it uses the opposite chord type. So for example in C Major, the vi (notice this is lowercase) would be an A minor chord rather than an A major chord. In contrast, in A Minor, the VI (uppercase) would be C major.

The VI distinguishes itself by giving contrast to the other three chords and ultimately helps create an emotional appeal. And that’s exactly why these chords are used so much in popular music. Something else to note is that in the video these chords are played in the same progression throughout (I – V – vi – IV). You can change the order of these chords, switch between them multiple times, or even add some new chords to the mix to create an almost endless number of possibilities.

Another important thing to note, which I don’t think many beginning songwriters realize, is that chord progressions are not protected by copyright. Melody and some other music elements are (I will discuss this more in depth in a future post).

Understanding how these four chords interact can substantially improve your songwriting abilities and how to compose with other musicians. Happy writing!

Songwriting 101: Curiosity

Greetings! It’s been a busy month starting up a new band and beginning to wrap up school, but I’m back with a third installment of my songwriting 101 series! This time I’ll be going over another Electronica song I finished a couple weeks back titled “Curiosity.” Let’s get right into it!

Curiosity is a medium to fast tempo song rocking at 140 BPM. For this song I wanted to incorporate a variety of different elements: ambient pads, natural sounding piano, pizzicato synth, organic percussion loops and soft vocals. The collaboration of these elements resulted in a mellow electropop song which was something I’ve been interested in writing for a while.

To begin, I started by creating an ambient pad progression which can be heard from the beginning of the song and played throughout in entirety. The ambient pitches I use are (B, E, F#, G#) which I retrieved from the major scale of B using the infamous I, IV, V, and VI chords. These chords (The Power of 4 Chords) lay the foundation for the song and create an uplifting and emotive feeling.

Next, I incorporated a simple piano lick to go over the ambient progression for both the verse and chorus parts. The piano is ultimately what gives the song the mid to fast range tempo and further provides a strong backbone for the melodic parts yet to be added. With the backbone completed, I went on to create the song structure.

When first listening to this song one might guess I’m using the song structure ABABCB, but it’s actually a bit more complex than that. I would classify this song as ABAABBCBBD. The reason for this is because both the verse and chorus are double in length after (0:54). The greatest advantage of this song structure is that it gives a glimpse of the entire song early on (AB) and then it expands in more detail as it goes on (AABB). Finally there’s (C) which is just the ambient pad and vocals, the chorus once again, and (D) the outro of the song. You can hear the outro of the song with the change of percussion at (3:12) and the zoning out of multiple instruments.

With the song structure in place, I could focus on defining the main parts of the song: the verse (A) and chorus (B). For the beginning two verses, I wanted to define them by three things: the ambient progression, the piano lick and the vocal melody. The final verse includes these three traits as well, but adds percussion into the mix which you can hear at (1:22).

To define the chorus, in addition to the three elements and percussion, I added a second percussion element and two sampled melodic synth parts. Check out SamplePhonics for some great sample packs to add some flavor into your music. In addition, in order to focus purely on the instrumentation and let it shine, I removed all vocals from the chorus.

As per my usual songwriting habits, I finished with writing the lyrics:

Let’s lose our normality
And get a taste of insanity
Why do I flee from this feeling?
That world is calling

Everyone’s the same
Can’t seem to escape from their old ways
Free will’s to blame
But we weren’t born to regret anything

Forever and ever we live our lives on fire
Facetious desire we hold our dreams up high
One more step until I’m free
One last breath to breathe

Funny how the truth works out
When you open your mind and see
You can’t believe the simple things
If you have a bit of curiosity

This was an incredibly personal song to write. It’s a song about failure, passion, love and understanding. It’s a song about evolving as a person and reflecting on that growth. My goal as always, however, is to leave the interpretation up to the listener. To be perfectly honest, this has been one of my favorite songs to write lyrically in a while. I think my words reveal exactly what I wanted to say. That wraps up this songwriting 101 for the day. Until next time!

Songwriting 101: Waves

Welcome to the second installment of my Songwriting 101 series where I dissect and explain the rationale behind the art of writing music. Today I’ll be going over a new Electronica song I recently wrote titled “Waves.” Let’s get started.

Waves is a slow tempo song that keeps a steady pace of 75 BPM. Slower tempos are often associated with styles like ambient, jazz, and soul in addition to some newer electronica genres such as downtempo and chill-out. These styles are frequently known for their relaxing and sensual feel. And this was exactly my aim while creating Waves. Electronica music, more than any other type, often begins with defining the tempo before doing anything else.

After deciding on my tempo of 75 BPM, I began to build a core foundation with a groove. For Waves, I decided on forming a groove around a simple drum beat and synthesizer. This core foundation is than repeated throughout the rest of the song, with the exception of a quick break in the middle of the song from (1:29 – 1:42).

With the core foundation created, I went on to form a song structure. I ultimately decided on going with a very simple structure of ABAB. For this song, “A” represents verse and “B” represents chorus. The reason for choosing this simple structure was because of the amount of instrumentation I planned on adding to the song. As a general rule of thumb, when I plan for 4+ instruments, the better it is to keep the song structure simple. In contrast, with less instrumentation, I like to make the song structure more complex to compensate. For Waves, I used 10 different instruments (including my voice) in total for the piece.

With the song structure in tact, the next step was to decide on how I wanted to define the verse and the chorus. After all, what’s the point of creating a song structure if there is no difference between the parts? Here’s how I broke the two parts down:

Verse: The verse is defined by the build of instrumentation. The beginning of each verse begins with the core foundation (groove), and gradually adds instrumentation every two bars. The end of the verse is recognized only when the entire set of instrumentation plays simultaneously (0:51 and 2:33).

Chorus: The chorus is defined by the simultaneous instrumentation and the vocal lyrics (1:04 and 2:46). The end of the chorus is recognized when the bass begins to play by itself (1:29 and 3:11).

I should also note that there is a short outro at the end of the song. The reason why I would still classify the song as ABAB over ABABA is because the length of this part is insignificant and it doesn’t fit with how I categorized my verses. For this reason, intros and outros (unless significant parts of the song), shouldn’t be included in the song structure.

Finally, let’s look at the lyrics:

Idealistic, utopian dream
The Sun and the moon blend into
Pools of emotion, A feeling waves
Can’t you see everything I do?

Like I mentioned in my first Songwriting 101, lyrics should make the listener curious. For this song, because of the minimal amount of lyrics, I really wanted to paint a picture in the listeners head. In order to do this I used several descriptive words like “idealistic” and “utopian” with words that everyone can relate to like “sun” and “moon” and “emotion.” As another general rule of thumb, I purposely like to be more vague for songs with a lot of lyrics because there are more words to play with. For songs like Waves that have few lyrics, detail is king.

Hopefully this 101 has been of some use to you. Make sure to check out my previous article Songwriting 101: Goodbye and to follow my blog for more songwriting tips. Thanks for reading!

Redefining the Political Spectrum

I recently came across a fascinating eBook, Understanding the Political Spectrum by R.G. Price. The 92 page book gives insight on what the political terms Left and Right actually mean and how they’ve changed throughout history. It seems as though everyone has their own interpretation of these terms, but are vastly confused what is truly meant by them.

Like many people I’ve long struggled on how to identify myself politically. On any given issue I could give you a straight answer, but I never seemed to fit a predefined ideology. Why should my view on global warming have any relevance on what I think about gun control?

Price explains that one of the major problems in American politics today is the widespread misconception of what the political spectrum actually looks like. He acknowledges that both the Political Compass and Nolan Chart are useful tools to solve this issue, but argues that they are both incomplete. Particularly their use of “authoritarian” and “libertarian” paints a picture that can easily be shown to be contradictory.

Price paints a different picture of the political landscape with his Rational Spectrum:

rational-spectrum

There are a few things on The Rational Spectrum that may raise a few eyebrows. First is the use of Social Right and Social Left for the vertical axis.  Price explains that both the Social Right and the Social Left don’t oppose each other on any given issue, but rather that they are both opposing Liberalism (The inner circle on the spectrum). In America today, liberalism may be more often thought of as “libertarian-ism.”

Liberalism in its classical sense, to put it simply, is anti regulations and anti authoritarianism. Therefore it is always the opposing force when discussing any social issues and economic issues for both the Left and Right. First, let’s look at some examples of specific social issues to give this point more clarity:

Social Right

Anti Gay Marriage vs Liberalism (freedom to marry regardless of sex)

Anti Marijuana Legalization vs Liberalism (freedom to use marijuana)

Anti Abortion vs Liberalism (freedom to terminate a pregnancy)

Social Left

Affirmative Action vs Liberalism (freedom to hire)

Gun Control vs Liberalism (freedom to buy, own and use guns)

Global Warming Regulations vs Liberalism (freedom to pollute)

Price goes onto explain that the Social Right and Social Left may even agree on some issues, but for drastically different reasons. One example he gives is the issue of pornography. The Far Right is against pornography because they believe its immoral- often times for religious reasons. The Far Left on the other hand is against pornography because it represents the objectification of women. For Liberalism, however, pornography is perfectly acceptable because it’s just another form of human expression. Every social issue is a fight for regulation.

rational-spectrum2

Now let’s look at the horizontal axis. Perhaps less surprisingly, this deals with economics and is what is traditionally meant by the terms “Left” and “Right.” However, Price makes a unique distinction in that Laissez-faire Capitalism is a centrist idea rather than a far right one which many other political spectrum’s claim. Price argues that the far right is actually Corporatism which wants regulations to reduce competition and create Oligopolies. The far left or Socialism in contrast, wants regulations on businesses so that their benefits are shared across society.

Similarly, the moderate left advocates for Social Democracy while the moderate right advocates for corporatistic capitalism. Social democracy is a mixed economy where capitalism is retained, but social welfare provisions are in place to make capitalist’s activity tolerable to society at large. I encourage you to read this article to better differentiate this and socialism. Likewise, corporatistic capitalism is in favor of corporate power, but to a lesser extent then the far right.

rational-spectrum-3

I highly encourage everyone to read Price’s work. His clarity will help shine a light on the disarray that is the American political spectrum. Cheers!

A Word of Advice For The New Year

Happy New Year to my fellow bloggers and readers! I hope 2015 treated you well 😛 This year I spent new years eve in downtown Seattle drinking beer and eating cinnamon rolls with some of my closest friends. We huddled next to a fireplace on a rooftop and got to witness some surreal fireworks dancing above the space needle. It was definitely one of my favorite new years experiences so far!

Like every new year, 2016 represents a time of reflection for our future aspirations. It’s also a time we should remind ourselves of our values because they are so often forgotten in the routine of our everyday lives. Here are 10 humanist ideas to follow for the upcoming year- thanks to one of my intellectual heroes, Bertrand Russell, for inspiring many of these.

  • 1- Read incessantly. Read fiction to enrich your imagination and nonfiction to expand your knowledge of the world.
  • 2- Always doubt and never stop questioning. Never feel absolutely certain of anything.
  • 3- Tell the people you love that you love them. Hatred is foolish, let it go.
  • 4- Be truthful even if it’s inconvenient. Lying is the royal road to chaos.
  • 5- Be open to eccentric opinions. Something that is considered absurd today may become common sense tomorrow.
  • 6- Take chances. Don’t regret avoiding the new and unfamiliar.
  • 7- Don’t be afraid to suffer through discipline. Sacrificing short term pleasures is often a road to happiness.
  • 8- Enjoy the ordinary days. You can only have one worst day of your life.
  • 9- Listen carefully. Overcome disagreement by thinking slowly and controlling your emotions.
  • 10- Never stop creating. Give yourself the experience of discovery and imagination. And then when you’re ready, share it with the world.