Monday, April 12, 2010

Winners and Losers

In the brave new world of the coming decade things look bright for the 47% of Americans who pay no income tax. Like candidate Obama said, everybody's better off if we spread the wealth around.

Well, maybe not quite everybody, but life is certainly going to get better for the people lounging in the wagon and a lot harder for the people pulling it:

It's only fair.


The Art of Compromise

From time to time the complaint is aired that conservatives have been too unwilling to compromise with the Obama administration on policy, most recently health care reform. Republicans, at least to the extent that they're conservatives, are labeled intransigent and unwilling to bend in order to reach a modus vivendi to help the American people.

What's usually elided or not understood is that compromise between liberal progressives and conservatives is not a compromise at all. A compromise occurs when both sides give up something in order to gain a little, but in any "compromise" between left and right all that happens is that the country moves further to the left than they were before.

Political compromise is an instance of the Hegelian dialectic in which thesis and antithesis fuse to result in a new synthesis which moves the whole system further away from the old status quo, even as a new status quo is established.

The move leftward may be slow, but it's inexorable. This is because progressives, no matter how much change they have achieved, are always promoting more. There's no point at which they can say that we have arrived or that they are satisfied. If there were they would then no longer be progressives, instead they would morph into reactionaries.

Conservatives, on the other hand, are simply trying to hold on to whatever they can. They've bought the notion, at least Republicans have, that we can not roll back any of the "progress" we've made in the last century. Thus the arrow of change flies ineluctably in only one direction. As long as conservatives are persuaded that compromise is politically necessary the country will continue it's long march leftward.

Any compromise between conservative and liberal can only benefit the liberal. The dialectic ensures that compromise is always a victory for the liberal and always a defeat for the conservative. It's as if a man, let's say a Republican, has a hundred dollars in his wallet and wants to keep it. A Democrat approaches him, however, and asks that the Republican donate the hundred dollars to the Democrat. The Republican refuses so the Democrat, not wishing to appear unreasonable, says "Okay, let's compromise. You give me $50, and I'll be satisfied." The Republican refuses that demand as well, but neither does he wish to seem unreasonable, so he agrees to give his colleague $20. The Democrat, in the spirit of bipartisanship, accepts the compromise.

A deal is struck and everyone basks in the eudemonia that flows from the harmonious resolution of the disagreement. The Republican feels good that his negotiation prevented him from losing his entire $100. He fails to notice that he has gained nothing and is in fact poorer than he was. Months later the Democrat returns and asks that the Republican donate the $80 remaining in his wallet. The Republican, not wishing to appear niggardly and unreasonable, and caught up in the exuberant spirit of bipartisan compromise, refuses to give the $80 but gladly parts with another $20.

And so it goes until one day the Republican realizes that he has nothing left. He's "compromised" it all away. Conservatives realize that compromise is just a strategy liberals employ to incrementally nudge the country leftward. Unfortunately, a lot of Republicans, eager for the public to see them as wise and moderate, don't see that they're being played for suckers at all.


Does God Torment the Innocent?

Philosopher of religion Alexander Pruss constructs an imaginary dialogue at Prosblogion between "Ari" and "Cal" on the question whether, given the truth of Calvinism, God can still be just. Here's the opening exchange:

Ari: Consider this horrific theology: God forces Sally to sin, in a way that takes away her responsibility, and then he intentionally causes eternal torment to her.

Cal: I thought you were smarter than that. That isn't Calvinist theology! Calvinism holds that God intentionally causes people to sin in a way that retains their responsibility, and then punishes some of them.

Ari: I didn't say it was a Calvinist theology. You agree that this is a horrific theology, I take it?

Cal: Yes, of course.

Ari: Why?

Cal: Because God is punishing an innocent.

Ari: I said nothing about punishment. I said God intentionally caused eternal torment. I didn't say that the torment was a punishment.

Cal: How does that make it not be horrific?

Ari: I agree it's horrific. I just want to get clear on why. It's horrific because eternal torment is intentionally imposed on an innocent, right?

Read the rest at the link, but Calvinists are forewarned that they will not like the way it goes. Be sure to check the comments as well.