March 28, 2012

"The 'Take Care of Me' Society is Wrecking the USA"

Charles Sykes writes in the Fiscal Times, The Entitled States of America: We Want More!

The 'Take Care of Me' Society is Wrecking the USA
Wants have been transformed into "rights" in America and ultimately into obligations and entitlements.
The entitlement state appeals to voters who believe they will bear no consequences for the costs or sustainability of the program. Questions of affordability don’t come into it, because they know they will never have to pay for it. (Recall that 49.5 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax at all.)

They are not thinking of the burden to their children, their grandchildren, their friends, their fellow citizens of the country, or anyone else. As long as it is free to them – it’s free. And good luck telling them otherwise.

Like Troy Senik at Ricochet, I think Dave Ramsey is doing more to fix America's economy than our President.

America, it turns out, is not just a debtor nation; it is a nation populated by debtors.....U.S. households owe a combined $11.5 trillion on credit cards, car loans, mortgages and other consumer debt, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Ramsey – who counsels against the evils of debt at every turn – has become a sensation throughout the country, largely because his methods, when faithfully applied, consistently work. Against the trend of the age – the get-rich-quick scheme – he preaches instead the virtues of prolonged, patient savings, budgeting, and abstention from debt.

That there is such a robust market for his message augurs well for us. That so many Americans had to turn to their radios for lessons that were taught at the kitchen table only a few generations ago does not.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:54 PM | Permalink

Reverberations from the Big Bang

When Albert Einstein listened to the Belgian priest and physicist Georges Lemaitre describe his theory of the origins of the universe as the Big Bang, he said, "It's the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation I've ever heard".

More in Manjit Kumar's book review of Chris Impey's book, How It Began: A Time-Traveler's Guide to the Universe.

According to the Big Bang model that has grown from Lemaître's insight, the moment of instantaneous creation was 13.75 billion years ago and began with a singularity, a point of infinite mass and density where our present understanding of physics simply breaks down. Yet "the Big Bang is all around us," Mr. Impey notes, in the form of cosmic microwave background radiation, which suffuses the entire universe. Soon after it was discovered in 1964, scientists recognized this radiation as the echo of the Big Bang, an afterglow from the era when the universe was hotter and denser. "There are tens of thousands of microwaves from creation in every breath you take," Mr. Impey delights in revealing.

The static you hear on a radio or see on a TV  is reverberations from the Big Bang

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:50 PM | Permalink

"The sacred is especially difficult for liberals to understand"

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt reviewed by David Goodhart in Prospect.

Elite colleges produce WEIRD people: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic.

[see Science Daily report: Psychological research conducted in 'WEIRD' nations may not apply to global populations]

...[i]n the formulation of a group of North American cultural psychologists, WEIRD—,,, from a sub-culture that is Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic. They are, as we have seen, universalists, suspicious of strong national loyalties. They also tend to be individualists committed to autonomy and self-realization. Balancing that they are usually deeply concerned with social justice and unfairness and also suspicious of appeals to religion or to human nature to justify any departure from equal treatment—differences between men and women, for example, are regarded as cultural not biological.
Haidt is a liberal who wants his political tribe to understand humans better. His main insight is simple but powerful: liberals understand only two main moral dimensions, whereas conservatives understand all five. (Over the course of the book he decides to add a sixth, liberty/oppression.
Liberals care about harm and suffering (appealing to our capacities for sympathy and nurturing) and fairness and injustice. All human cultures care about these two things but they also care about three other things: loyalty to the in-group, authority and the sacred.

As Haidt puts it: “It’s as though conservatives can hear five octaves of music, but liberals respond to just two, within which they have become particularly discerning.” This does not mean that liberals are necessarily wrong but it does mean that they have more trouble understanding conservatives than vice versa.
The sacred is especially difficult for liberals to understand. This isn’t necessarily about religion but about the idea that humans have a nobler, more spiritual side and that life has a higher purpose than pleasure or profit. If your only moral concepts are suffering and injustice then it is hard to understand reservations about everything from swearing in public to gay marriage—after all, who is harmed?

In the New York Times, Haidt himself writes "Forget the Money, Follow the Sacredness"  to better understand what the cultural wars are about.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:27 PM | Permalink