Archive for the ‘universal human values’ Category

UNDERSTANDING CONTRAST BETWEEN AYN RAND AND JOHN DEWEY ON INDIVIDUALISM; WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO OUR FUTURE.

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Long admired by some conservatives and libertarians, the rise of the Tea Party in 2008 has brought Ayn Rand’s intellectual and cultural philosophy into prominence in current political discussions1. Her ideas have certainly influenced the seeming disdain for the mass of workers in our society, as expressed in Mitt Romney’s comments defining the “47%” who are considered by some as “moochers,” not contributing their share to society. Rand’s followers envision a society where a handful of heroic businessmen are responsible for all the economic good while the rest of us are just along for the ride2.

Rand’s influence is an ethical philosophy based on rational self-interest and not on religion but on an economy of “free” markets without rules or regulations. Her unrestrained faith in “free’’ capitalism is totally incompatible with any aspect of altruism. She considers any formal religion as evidence of psychological weakness and as “evil”. In her cultural vision, the “I” of the individual ego is the supreme being3. The social and political extensions of this philosophy hold that the “the best of us” are autonomous individuals who have no need for other human beings except in what they can do for us. It includes the idea that no social goal justifies “forcing any individual to be a resource for others” An example would be any form of taxation which is seen as a theft from the “producers” in society and taxation for the “public good” is wrong. 4

One ignores these ideas or refuses to take them seriously at the risk of not understanding what intellectual, cultural and ethical forces are influencing and inspiring a number of significant Republican policy makers, public officials and their supporters. These include Alan Greenspan who was an acolyte in Rand’s close group before he became Chairman of the Federal Reserve for more than a decade, and a fierce advocate of the free-market ideology. One of the most prominent is Rep. Paul Ryan [R-WI] the author of Romney’s draconian budget proposal of 2011 as well as candidate for Vice-President of the US in 2012. Others include Rep. Ron Paul [R-TX], one of the main proponents of current libertarianism and his son Senator Rand Paul [R-KY] and Senator Ron Johnson [R-WI]. Other Rand fans include Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former SEC chairman Christopher Cox and former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford1,3.

One antidote to the pervasiveness of Ayn Rand’s philosophy is John Dewey’s concept of individualism. He proposes that our human genetic and cultural endowment includes the ability to cooperate and have altruistic impulses in addition to selfish ones. Dewey stresses that these two characteristics are essential to living in a world of “community causes and consequences”. We thus must realize that we live in a world of human beings whose concerns are every bit as legitimate as our own5. Dewey presents a powerful conception of public virtue and positive liberty which is enhanced by social cooperation. For him this means that promoting and supporting individual freedom and opportunity requires not just private ambition [ego centric] but public collaboration and an open experimental attitude to keep up with changing social, cultural and environmental conditions. It seems quite clear that the Randian-influenced economic domestic policies of the last three decades–instead of promoting individual freedom and opportunity for the majority of us–have through deregulation, deunionization, and regressive tax policies, led to the most severe economic crisis in 70 years, together with soaring inequality, and decreased upward social mobility5. Rand argues that her brand of individualism is incompatible with ‘the public good”. Dewey argues that culture is the seedbed of individuality and that authentic individualism can only develop in a progressive democratic society that cultivates public virtue as well as private ambition. His view is that individuals, by effective self control and a humble observation of existing social realities, can create the conditions for the realization of individual initiative with the help of public education, equal economic opportunity and social development5.

In summary, the difference between these two philosophies is stark. Ayn Rand promotes a utopian fantasy that celebrates radical dissociation, an ethical virtue of selfishness and unrestrained capitalism. Dewey, on the other hand, promotes a democratic, public minded philosophy grounded in the world as it exists. The distinctions are clear. It is not choice between individualism and collectivism. IPPA believes it is choice between competing visions of a free society and how to balance individual self-interest and collective public good. Which of these roadmaps our country chooses to follow may determine the fate of the majority of our citizens for years to come.

  1. http://www.jenniferburns.org/blog/111-ayn-rands-long-journey-to-the-heart-of-american-politics
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/21/opinion/krugman-disdain-for-workers.html?
  3. http://www.alternet.org/story/153454/how ayn rand seduced generations of young men and helped make the u.s. into a selfish and greedy nation
  4. http://www.alternet.org/story/150971/3 fatal flaws in ayn rand’s perverse moral philosophy
  5. http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/12429-the antidote to ayn rand

INCOME INEQUALITY COSTS US MORE THAN WE REALIZE

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

–The Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal.

–In the 1964 President Johnson said all US citizens should have equal rights.

–Our Constitution says we all enjoy the right of equal protection under the law.

–Our collective national ethos says equal opportunity for all is a hallmark of our democracy.

But equal really means “as close as we can get.”  At best, our citizens, our government, our businesses, mass communication, and our cultural and educational institutions share a common goal of treating everyone the same in all our transactions, unless there is a valid reason for not doing so (e.g. special parking places for the handicapped) At worst, the goal is tossed aside and we enter a free-for-all of everyone for themselves.  Folks, we are rapidly approaching that worst.

Where you live, how much money you have, and the color of your skin are the first and foremost determinants of how fairly your equal rights will be applied, what kind of legal protection you will get, and what social and economic opportunities will be available to you.  Paradoxically, although we have put in place numerous laws designed to accomplish equal rights and equal opportunity—the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and affirmative action and equal opportunity requirements in hiring and admission to universities for example—actual opportunities between upper and lower income citizens are not fairly distributed.  This unfair distribution clearly parallels the income gap between upper and lower class wage earners, and like the income gap, the opportunity gap is also widening.   Because no matter how many laws are in place, in actual practice, the power of money to influence politics and social policy trumps actual enforcement of laws and regulations. (more…)

A BAD SOLUTION IN SEARCH OF A NONEXISTENT PROBLEM

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Voter ID laws are unnecessary and undemocratic

Reports of polling place voter fraud are very rare. The incidence was 0.0009% in a review of the 2004 Washington State governor’s race. The same year in Ohio, a review of that year’s election revealed a fraud rate of 0.0004%1. An evaluation of the 2004 election in Wisconsin came up with a 0.0007% voter fraud rate. Studies to determine the amount of improper voting showed that most was either improper voter registration or ineligibility of someone with a previous felony conviction. According to Spencer Overton, a George Washington University law professor and former member of the Commission on Federal Election Reform, “a photo ID requirement would prevent over 1000 or perhaps 10,000 legitimate votes for very single improper vote prevented”2.

Voter ID laws, which are largely championed by Republican and conservative groups, have a disproportionate negative voter eligibility effect on minority groups [African-Americans and Latinos], young voters, the elderly and people with disabilities. These groups, in a large majority tend to vote democratic. There is also a significant cost to taxpayers in states that have passed these laws to educate voters and provide for the photo ID’s. [It’s been estimated at $20 million in North Carolina.] Also in many states several identification forms are required to qualify for a government issued photo ID and many potential voters who will need to obtain them cannot do so because of cost or inability to get time off work.3

The Brennan Center for Justice says that these laws may disenfranchise as many as 3.2 million of the 29 million citizens of voting age in 5 states where new photo ID laws will go into effect for the 2012 election. [Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin]4. Charles Brow, quoting the Brennan Center, reports that prior to the 2006 general election no states in this country required a government issued photo ID as a qualification for voting5. It hardly seems a coincidence that once Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, those opposed to his reelection would come up with plans to suppress the vote of those groups who so strongly supported him and many other successful Democrats in 2008. The takeover of many state legislatures and governorships since 2008 has certainly facilitated this movement. Even in 2008 there was beginning concern that “voter fraud” was a myth and had already become a partisan issue. Also, it pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court, by upholding Indiana’s voter ID law showed that it “will not perform its historic role of protecting voters”6. This movement toward universal voter ID requirements can certainly be considered a sad, outrageous and undemocratic move to reverse the amazing progress throughout the last century, beginning with the women’s suffrage movement and the civil rights movement and voting laws of the 1960’s to encourage universal voter participation for all eligible voters.

For an excellent summary of these issues and documentation of other voter suppression laws and how these actions, if unchallenged, could change the electoral landscape please look at a summary of voting law changes in 2012 from the  Brennan Center for Justice7.  For a discussion of the complexities of evaluating the truth in voter fraud claims see the current article by Steven Rosenfeld in AterNet8   Also see an article by Bill Blum in Truthdig for a discussion of past, current and future worrisome role of the U.S. Supreme Court in evaluating these ubiquitous voter suppression laws9.

1.http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/policy_brief_on_the_truth_about_voter_fraud/

2. Diannis, Judith Browne, Five Myths about voter fraud. Washington Post opinions, 10/04/2011

3. http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/the_challenge_of_obtaining_voter_identification/

4.  http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/voting_law_changes_in_2012/Executive Summary

5. Blow, Charles W. Where’s the Outrage? OpEd New York Times 7/28/2012

6. The Myth of Voter Fraud. Editorial New York Times 5/13/08

7. http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/2012_summary_of_voting_law  changes.8.

8. http://www.alternet.org/gop-voter-fraud-hucksters-latest-lie-felons-made-franken-us-senator?

9. http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/278-76/12784-voter-suppression-and-john-roberts-new-world-order

HOORAY FOR THE “HEALTH CARE FOR AMERICANS ACT”

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

We should all be celebrating the US Supreme Court’s historic decision affirming the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act that finally will provide health care for all Americans. It will further provide many innovations for better coverage for those fortunate enough to already have insurance, and provides for those who do not. The law was passed by Congress in 2009 after strong urging by President Obama and now after many inconclusive federal court challenges, has finally become the law of the land. IPPA maintains that, after decades of effort,what has been realized is that health care for all American citizens is a moral imperative. This places our country, finally, in concert with the other industrialized countries of the world.

Hooray! for the “ Health Care for Americans Act”: IPPA suggests  a new name for the Affordable Care Act.  The new name–Health Care for Americans Act–conveys the metaphor that health care for all is patriotic, and that we’re all affected by public health. It stresses that it benefits the entire country, and that it’s in the long tradition of Americans helping one another1.

Now let’s stop agonizing and grumbling over what is not in the bill and celebrate the many important benefits that are in the Health Care for Americans Act:

1. Perhaps the least understood and discussed, as far as a benefit to our whole society, is the provision for health care for the 30 million previously uninsured American citizens.

This represents a moral victory, the simple decency of providing health security for millions of American families. It also has  the potential for improving public health at large, and is a huge benefit for society as a whole2.

In addition, the new law3:

2. Terminates the “doughnut hole” in medicare drug coverage for millions of Americans.

3. Provides a long-overdue expansion of mental health care.

4. There is an end to limits on lifetime and annual benefits in existing and future health insurance coverage.

5. There can be no rejection in new or renewable health insurance policies for pre- existing conditions.

6. Children up to age 26 may stay on their parents’ health  insurance.

7. There is a requirement that medium and large size businesses provide essential coverage and pay at least 60% of the cost.

8. Health insurance policies must contain free access to preventive care including  immunizations, mammograms, and pregnancy prevention [formally called birth control]4.

9. Some additional benefits specifically for women include; elimination of gender rating, pap tests, domestic violence screening and assurances of continuation of maternity benefits and special considerations for nursing mothers at work5.

As an added benefit, in the Health Care for Americans Act are  many incentives for reducing future health care costs such as the one that requires insurance companies to spend at least 80% of premium cost on direct patient care. Also there are many pilot proposals to explore ways to control costs by changing existing fee for service payments and assisting changes in their organization so that health care institutions can be more efficient and responsive. There is also a premium placed on implementing patient safety throughout the health care system.

IPPA strongly encourages all of us to celebrate this historic progress in health care for all Americans.

1. Lakoff, George and Wehling, Elisabeth, The Little Blue Book, Free Press, New York             2012, p.116.

2. Too Quiet Again on Health Care. Editorial in NYTimes [NYT] July4, 2012

3. NYT July 4, 2012

4. Lakoff p.125

5. forbes.com/sites/brycecovert/2012/06/28/obamacare-decision-why-women-are-the-big-winners-health-care-supreme-court/

“ULTIMATE DESIRES’ AND THEIR INFLUENCE ON PUBLIC POLICY”

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

One of our IPPA founding members, Donald J. Munro has recently published   Ethics in Action: Workable Guidelines for Private and Public Choices [Published by The Chinese University Press, Hong Kong, 2008], derived from his 2006 work at The Chinese University as the Tang Visiting Professor. In this book Munro describes five “Ultimate Desires” rooted in human evolution and common to our shared worldwide humanity. They provide both the motivation and a moral basis for the choices we make in life. These desires contain large instinctive components as well as emotional content and non- instinctive cognitive beliefs about how to satisfy these desires.
The five ultimate desires include health and well being of the body, experienced as joy/happiness and the absence of suffering; love and the desire to be loved, leading to sympathy, empathy and altruism; fairness which is linked to trust, social equality, and reciprocity/cooperation; respect and esteem and their opposite shame, which we seek to avoid;  foresight to anticipate consequences of our actions and have control over our resulting choices (autonomy). At their core is the equal worth of all humans based, among other things, on these shared traits (other traits include language and shared DNA). Most of the desires are interrelated, often linking together as clusters, as do their associated values. These ultimate desires also underlie the core values of IPPA.
To illustrate the application of these desires and values in the business world we would like to illustrate with the Fluor Corporation, a successful company providing world wide construction and engineering service. The values are manifest in the company’s efforts in global responsibility.

The following is a quote from their website [Fluor Corp. http://www.fluor.com].

Fluor strives to become increasingly effective in performing its global responsibilities.—–Fluor Corporation and its people go beyond legal requirements and traditional practices to do business in a socially, economically and environmentally responsible way. In doing so, we believe we will help benefit and sustain current and future generations.

On their web site, under global responsibility, are listed the 6 links which follow below. With each we have placed the value derivatives of the ultimate desires that seem most appropriate.

Community Involvement:   sympathy, cooperation/ reciprocity, and altruism
Diversity and Inclusion: respect and esteem
Integrity: trustworthiness and transparency
Health, Safety and Environment: Desire for the physical well being of employees and those affected by the   company’s work, recognizing the equal worth of all humans
Corporate Governance: foresight, trust, cooperation, accountability
Sustainability: foresight, fairness, environmental responsibility, and recognizing the equal worth of the lives of future generations

These policies and the implicit values which we identify are consistent with the guidelines of Fluor’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Alan Boeckmann who has said that as a leader in their industry, they focused not only on such traditional measures of success as profitability but also on a series of broader measures for doing the right thing. He added that for almost a century, those who founded and built what is now Fluor Corporation have evidenced a strong social consciousness that has helped explain the company’s duration and success.

As further expressed in Fluor’s website:

In part due to our employees’ hard work, dedication to ethics and socially responsible behavior, Fortune magazine      consistently ranks Fluor as one of America’s, and the worlds,     most-admired engineering and construction     companies.      (www.fluor.com/globalreponsibility)

IPPA would like to use this as an example to show how it is possible that these basic universal human values can guide public policies in the corporate world in “doing the right thing”.

Posted by the executive committee of IPPA