Monday, February 27, 2012

Let Me Apologize: Does Truth Exist?

Before we can lay a solid philosophical foundation, we have to discuss truth.  Specifically, in this post, we have to discuss if truth even exists.  Is there anything, even one thing, that is simply true?  There are those who deny this.  They claim that everything- even the world around us- is subjective.  They say, when we look at a tree, "you're not seeing a tree.  Your brain, through all the training you've received growing up, sees a tree, and interprets it.  What you're seeing may not actually have much relationship to a "tree" in any way."

This is important, because if there is no Truth, then there is no philosophy.  It's that simple.  Either Truth and Philosophy, or No Truth and No Philosophy.  If there is no Philosophy, then I may as well stop this series of posts, because Conservative vs. Liberal is then just a question of preferance.  I like chocolate, you like vanilla.  But, if there is Truth, if it really exists, then it is possible- if not guaranteed- that either Conservatism or Liberalism will be closer to the Truth, philosophically speaking, than the other.  And if this is the case, we have the beginnings of our discussion over which is more true. 

So, back to the question: is there even one single objective truth?  Can we find one thing that we can say "This is how it is," and know that we're correct?  We'll I could simply assert something silly.  I could say, "I, the Dedicated Tenther, on this day, the 16th of February, in the Year of Our Lord 2012, feel chilly," and that would be Truth.  It is true for all people in all places at all times that, today, 16FEB2012 (when this post was authored, not published), I feel chilly.  Not that anyone else does, or that it's a particularly chilly day, or anything like that.  Objectively, I feel chilly.

However, that's a little less profound than we mean, and far more contrived.  So we'll take a different tack.  We will put the burden of proof on those who claim there is no truth.  That truth is not knowable.  Let's take our example, above.  If someone says to you, "Hey.  You see that tree?  You don't really see it, your brain is just interpreting something and saying that's a tree."  He is claiming, at the same moment that he claims truth is unknowable, to know the truth.  For, to know that the tree you think you're seeing isn't actually the tree as it is, you must first have some idea of what the tree really is.  You must have some truth against which you are comparing your vision of the tree, to know that the tree you're seeing isn't truly the tree.

Indeed, it seems that if you claim there is no truth, you're claiming to know the truth that there is no truth.  We call this a "self defeating statement."

Now, some of you may be feeling let down.  "I was looking for something profound!" you might be saying.  If you think about it, though, you'll realize that this is very profound.  Not only, in this post, have we discovered truth, we've discovered that you literally cannot (logically) deny that truth exists, for so doing is claiming to know the truth. 

Box one checked off the list: Yes, Truth Exists.  Next question: is Truth Knowable?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Let Me Apologize.

It is has been often stated, among a certain class of libertarian-leaning conservatives, that social conservatives will cost the Republicans this election.  Most particularly over statements made by Rick Santorum, which will not specifically be discussed here.  As one of the Social Conservatives, however, I feel it is my duty to enlighten and inform, so that we will be less misunderstood.  To do so, we have to get to the heart of why we are conservatives in the first place.

You see, anyone can claim conservative means: lower taxes, balanced budgets, small government, but without some sound foundational principles, it's just one of two competing camps.  Without a logical explanation for why we believe government should be smaller, there is no reason we can give that people should support our positions over those of the Liberals.  We promise them hard work, and pain, and failure.  Liberals promise them little or no work, no pain, and no chance of failure.  Why should they like our position better?

And so Conservatives find themselves in the same conundrum Christians have for centuries (millenia, really): We need to give an explanation of our beliefs, and we need to show why they are true.  In fact, we need to apologize, in the classical sense.  And, as with any good piece on apologetics, we begin with the most fundamental question: What is truth?

For, you see, either universal truth exists, or it does not.  If it does not, then there is no use saying our beliefs are truer or better than the Liberals'.  Next we must settle the question of if Truth- assuming it exists- is knowable.  For, again, even if Truth exists, if we cannot know it, we cannot act on it, and therefore there is no reason for people to accept our ideas over the Liberals'.

So we'll embark on a new series here at Dedicated Tenther: Conservative Apologetics, or, as I like to call it: Let Me Apologize.

There are 11 steps we'll go through.  They'll probably average about a post per point.  Some points may take multiple posts, some posts may cover multiple points.  In the end, I believe I will have established the logical foundations of Conservatism- foundations which some may find uncomfortable, but that are no less true for that.

The steps we will go through:

I Truth
    A Does Truth Exist?
    B Is Truth Knowable?
II Some Assumptions
    A Mankind is Created
    B Creation assumes a Creator
    C A Creator means a Moral Law
III Moral Law is Truth
    A The Moral Law Exists
    B The Moral Law is Knowable
IV  Moral Law informs Social Policy
    A Preserving the Moral Law in Civic Law
    B Moral Law is not the same as Religious Law
V   Moral Law informs Fiscal Policy
    A Responsibility is part of the Moral Law
    B Government has a Moral Responsibility to the Governed.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Vampires shouldn't be sexy.

Over at Ace of Spades on Thursday, someone posted this in a comment: "John Wayne is dead, and Vampires are sparkly."

This struck me, profoundly, as an excellent metaphor for America's current plight.  If John Wayne stood for self-determination, and hard work, and independence, and gumption: well, John Wayne is dead.  It seems, all too often, so are those virtues.  On the other hand, Vampires have always been a metaphor for those who feed off the lives of others.  They take what isn't theirs, and they're nigh impossible to defeat.  Once upon a time, Vampires were scary.  Even when they were physically attractive, they simply oozed evil.  From the horrific appearance of 'Nosferatu' to the debonair style of the Vampire Lestat, you never, for even one moment, forgot that they were evil.  But now they're sexy.  People lionize them.  They want to be them.

Well the same is true in real life.  Once upon a time, hard work, and self-determination were the norm.  They were harolded as virtues.  People who built themselves up from nothing were lionized.  Those who had succeeded in business were looked-up to.  If they weren't worshiped as heroes, they were accepted as examples.  Not so anymore.  People who create more wealth in a week than most Americans do in a year are scolded for "making too much money."  Successful business executives are decried for their "greed."  Those who want government to leave them alone so they can determine their own fate are labeled "radical."  They are viewed with suspicion. 

Indeed.  The virtues John Wayne represented are dying- if they're not already dead.

On the other hand, the leaches abound.  From corrupt politicians (BIRM), and their cronies in business (not the same as actually successful executives), to the Occupy crowd, to "welfare queens," they all suck the life from us and our economy.  They create little or nothing of value, and they consume far more than they create.  There was a time this was looked at with disgust, disdain, or pity (depending on circumstances).  Now, it's simply expected.  The TEA Parties showed polite, but firm, disagreement with the over-spending and resultant high taxation coming from various levels of government- and they were labeled as extremists, when they weren't being labeled with sexual epithets.  The Occupy "movement" has no more coherent message than "pay for my stuff," and they're heralded as paragons of virtue.

John Wayne is dead.  And Vampires are sparkly.

Now.  Where's my stake and mallet?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

This Space Intentionally Left Blank

I'm working on a series of posts, and that (plus work and life stuff) has prevented me from getting a regularly scheduled post written.

We should resume our regular schedule on Monday.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Simple Truth: Moral Hazard is a direct consequence of Government "protection."

When Government offers to "bail out" underwater homeowners, some of those homeowners who could make their mortgage payments if they simply prioritized will choose not to do so- because there is profit to them in accepting the taxpayers' money.  When Government forces Insurers to guarantee coverage to those with "Pre-Existing Conditions," many will see that it benefits them not to obtain insurance coverage until they've already experienced some traumatic and/or catastrophic event.

Over at the Ace of Spades, we have a morning "DOOM!" thread Mon - Thurs. (DOOM! Always seems to take a 3 day weekend.  Wish I could do that.)  Over there, the concept of Moral Hazard arises from time to time.  I think it's important enough that I'm going to spend some time talking about it, and explaining why it's important to conservatism.

Wikipedia (I know) defines Moral Hazard thus: "moral hazard is a situation where the behavior of one party may change to the detriment of another after the transaction has taken place."  In less wordy form, Moral Hazard is when I change my behavior due to shared risk- especially in a way that will screw you over.  They then cite false examples of insurance companies (people smoking in bed being a moral hazard for homeowners insurance, for example).  A much better example of moral hazard is insurance based arson.  Not just risky behavior- the likelihood is you would have done that, if to a lesser extent, anyway.  Moral Hazard is when you see an advantage for yourself in screwing someone over due to legal or contractual provisions.

Now, this is important to Conservatism, because Moral Hazard is one of the things we group under "unintended consequences."  For instance, when people see that homeowners are not being foreclosed upon for non-payment of their mortgage, and public policy is such that proceeding with those foreclosures is more difficult or frowned-upon, more people will stop paying their mortgages.  When people know that they can get insurance at any time, they're more likely to go without insurance.  Any time the Government (at any level) offers to pay- or make someone else pay- for bad things that have happened to you, there will be people who allow those "bad things" to happen to them so they can get their payday.

Now, we could attempt to fix this through yet more regulation and more laws- but we've been trying that since at least the 1960's, and it's not working.  Funnily enough, there's always someone who has some other clever way to screw over the tax payers based on new laws and regulations.  A better way is to admit that it's not the Government's job to ensure that you receive medical care, or that you have a house, or any number of other things.  The better way is to get Government out of the way, and allow people to suffer the consequences of their choices.  This will lead to some people being adversely affected through no fault of their own (I think we can all agree that people adversely affected through their own fault are not worthy of assistance), but there are already ways to take care of that.  Charities, Churches, and communities have banded together for centuries to help the poor, the distressed, and the afflicted. 

Indeed, if we'll get government out of their way, they'll do so much better and much more efficiently than the Government can today.

Moral Hazard is a bug that exists any time government tries to protect people from the consequences of their risky, or down-right destructive, behavior.  This bug cannot be fixed.  Indeed, I believe that Liberals- in their quest to relieve you of yet more of your Liberty- see it not as a bug at all, but as a feature.  Far better to deal, as was once said, with the problems attending too much Liberty than those attending too little.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Real World: Buyer's Remorse

Here: go read this.

First off: I don't believe a word of it.  She would have voted for ObamaCare anyway.  The only difference is that she might have extracted some other favor, too. 

That said: even if I believed her, it just proves how stupid (yep, that's the word I want) so many of our Representatives are.  Here was a 2000+ page bill, which no one had read, and which the entire country (even most of that part that wants Nationalized health care) was saying, "slow down, do it right."  Well, Representative Dahlkemper, I don't much care that you have buyer's remorse now.  You had a chance to side with Republicans in slowing down the ObamaCare mammoth.  You chose party and politics over policy and the People, and now I hope you pay for it with your seat.

The fact is that everyone already knew that the current HHS Ruling about the Catholic Church being forced to provide contraceptive medications, or something similar, was coming.  National Health care must, by its nature, force everyone to comply.  That's the only way it has any chance of working.  As long as anyone has any freedom to do anything, National Health care will not work.  From the Catholics choosing their methods of family planning (much more sophisticated than the "rhythm method" but similar in concept), to me deciding to eat a Cheeseburger with bacon, ketchup, and mustard (and french-fries, and a chocolate malt).  As long as we are free to do things our own way, there will not be parity.  Until there is parity, National Health care cannot produce what it has guaranteed- equality in health care.

When Health care is treated as a "Right" that means the Government must go to some lengths to ensure its provision.  When Government is in charge of its provision, Health care becomes another tool of the Government.  Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear understood, back when ObamaCare was being debated, that the bill would represent a fundamental shift in how health care was imagined and provided- and that anyone who interfered or conflicted with the Government's idea of health care would be forced to submit.  Given the nature of the people who implemented ObamaCare and their insane fetish for promiscuous sex without consequence, it is hardly surprising that they would force all health care providers- including private charities- to provide contraceptive medications.  To have assumed differently would have been most foolish.

So, Representative Dahlkemper, I'll say this with great relish: We told you so.  If you didn't want the Catholic Church interfered with, you should not have supported an idea that would inevitably lead to the subjugation of every health care provider in the nation.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Real World: Why is Social Conservatism Important?

Several things happened last week that highlight the vital role social/religious matters play in our lives, be we Christian, Pagan, Jew, or Atheist.  The first is an assault on the Catholic Church (I would say Christianity generally) by the Obama Administration, and the second is the demagoguery over the Komen foundation's choice not to support Planned Parenthood (founded by noted eugenicist Margaret Sanger) while they are under Federal investigation.  They are merely examples of the cultural Civil War this nation has been fighting since at least the 1960's, and probably far longer.

On the one side, we have the Social Liberals.  As with all Liberals, they are not about "liberty" at all, but about controlling what people can do and when.  They hate that the Catholic Church stands on its principles of Life and refuses to provide contraception.  They view any deviation from their Liberal Dogma as sin, as evidenced by the vitriol aimed at the Susan G. Komen Foundation due to its decision to suspend funding for Planned Parenthood in light of their current Federal Investigation.

On the other side, we have the Social Conservatives.  Social Conservatives believe in real social liberty.  Do what you want to do- and then accept the consequences.  Want to have promiscuous sex?  Go ahead.  Have fun.  But remember this when you get pregnant: that is a life inside of you, and that child has more right to Life than you have right not to be inconvenienced.  Want to go out partying every night?  Go ahead.  Have fun.  But when you get fired because you're unreliable at work, or when you lose your scholarship because you haven't been studying, or when you run your car into a pole- remember that it was your choice to have that fun, and fun always comes with a price.

Now, if that's all it were, we might be able to sit back and just let it work itself out.  There might not be a "right" answer to these questions.  Indeed, if the only thing at stake were consequences for social actions, we might just try to find a middle ground.  But that's not all there is.  There is much more at stake.

Social mores have societal and fiscal consequences.  At the bottom, these are all items related to self-control versus self-indulgence, and a self-indulgent culture is one that is more easily controlled in other matters.  Don't think the Liberals haven't noticed that.  For them the abortions and the sex and the partying are secondary, at most.  If they could get what they want without them, they would have no problem with abandoning them.  However, a society that embraces debauchery is a society which has abandoned the idea of self-control.  And if you cannot control yourself in one thing, why should you be trusted in anything?

And so the Liberals achieve their goal: if you cannot be trusted to do things responsibly, then they will relieve you of that responsibility.  They'll couch it in flowery terms- "freedom to choose," and "privacy," are two of their favorites- but make no mistake, what they'll be doing is taking your liberty.

And so we come to why Social Conservatism is important.  Social Conservatism reinforces societal norms which lead to responsible behaviors without government intervention.  Social Conservatism causes people truly to be responsible, and provides the true liberty of choice.  And because of this, Social Conservatism is an aid Fiscal Conservatism.  By encouraging people to be responsible on their own, Social Conservatives reinforce the ideas of thrift and hard work, of honesty and loyalty.  They then enable people to ween themselves off of the Government's narcotics of welfare and control, and so enable the responsible shrinking of government.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Simple Truth: Personal Wealth is not the same as Personal Worth

Complaining about "the rich" is worthless, complain, rather, about the idle.

Illustration: Dale Carnegie.  Norman Rockefeller.  By today's standards, these men would be hated and castigated for their wealth.  Indeed, History books today try to turn them into evil men who oversaw the virtual slavery of hundreds.  Yet these men did more for our current society than all the Paris Hiltons, Sean Penns, and Danny Glovers combined.

Explanation: When we talk about "the rich" or "the poor" we're normally talking about net value in assets.  Someone like Donald Trump is rich, someone like yours truly is roughly "middle class," and someone on welfare is thought of as "poor."  However, that does not- and cannot, for a variety of reasons- take into account mental/non-actuarial assets.  It cannot take into account your intelligence and education or your drive and dedication.

In an ideal America, there would be little or no barrier to entry to the "upper class."  The only barrier to wealth would be your own aptitudes and attitudes.  Now, this ideal America is impossible, simply because the world does not work that way.  However, we have gone so far from that ideal that most people can't even imagine it, anymore.  They know that stories like those of Richard Sears or (in more modern times) Bill Gates are factually true, but they simply cannot imagine- in any realistic way- themselves accomplishing anything similar.  They have been taught -indoctrinated, really- that the Rich are the Rich and the Poor are the Poor, and only rare, quasi-magical exceptions can change one's station.

This, of course, goes against almost all of American History- and certainly ignores even modern facts on the ground.  Wealth is accumulated over a life-time, in most cases.  The elderly, as a demographic, hold much more wealth per capita than the young- and this simply makes sense: they've had more time to accumulate wealth.  Indeed, there are some born to wealth, but you will find- with few exceptions- that these "trust fund babies" (as they were called for so long) usually fall into one of two groups: those who learned the lessons of frugality and industry, and the "elites."

You almost never hear about the ones who actually learned to be productive.  A cynical man (hey! That's me!) would say because it doesn't "fit the narrative" of the independently affluent as mooches and vampires on society.  Someone less cynical would say it's simply because their lives are not "news worthy" and they are rather boring.  In either case, we have ceased raising them up as examples to emulate, and replaced them with vapid, entitled, worthless creatures who no more understand the word "duty" than they understand what poverty really means.

The fact is, however, that the worth of the worthy is not in their wealth- it is in their industry, and drive, and determination.  By corollary, the poor are not worthy simply because of their poverty.  Neither are they mooches or vampires simply because of their poverty.  What determines whether someone is a host or a parasite is the same for the poor as it is for the wealthy.  Industry, frugality, drive, determination, character, honor, faithfulness- all the virtues we used to laud and seem to have forgotten.

Indeed, by practicing these virtues, the poor will generally find that they can lift themselves out of poverty.  Their virtue will reward them, and those dependent upon them.  It is still possible in America to become the next mega-millionaire: through hard work.

But Liberals would have you believe this is all a lie.  They would have you believe that, in normal circumstances, the only thing standing between the poor and utter desolation is the all beneficent government.  They enable the parasites, and hamper the hosts, and then change the discussion from one of worth to one of wealth.  It is easy, in such circumstances, to see why the poor feel resentment toward the rich.

It is our job to reset the conversation on the correct foundation.

What have you done, of worth, today?