PHILOSOPHICAL RANTS #18: REALITY AS A SIMULATION?

INTRODUCTION:

 

As human’s we often have the propensity to take a lot of things for granted. Especially when it comes to the status quo of what constitutes consensus reality. When assume the perceptual experience we encounter on a day -to-day basis as the absolute or true nature of reality with little question or forethought to the possibility of alternate cosmic permutations the true essence of reality. I am not an evolutionary biologist or evolutionary psychologist, however, I can certainly see the evolutionary advantage in passive acceptance of the state of reality in the linear sense in which we directly perceive it. As far as conventional wisdom goes, for basic it survival it may be the most efficient tool.  However, as the overall quality of life has increased in the western world we have been allotted the luxury of exploring alternate possibilities to the favored heuristic of conventional wisdom. Even with advances in quality of life most people in the western world find any premises challenging the construct of proper consensus reality to be quite jarring. Hence why in western society, there does tend to be a greater abundance of Persisting Perception Disorder engendered by hallucinogenic substances [1].  With no context for such a drastic departure from the status quo reality, it could potentially trigger psychological pathology in those pron to such category of  disorders.

 

Needless to say, it may be a bit challenging for the average modern American to contemplate the notion of alternate dimensions, realities, etc. Maybe the engrossing and immersing nature of hallucinogenic compounds is slightly too intense and abstract of a method exploring such potentials. However, we do see the potential for alternatives to consensus reality in our entertainment specifically  through the media and literature genre of Science fiction.  One such salient example would be the proliferation of the concept of reality being a simulation.  While the apogee of such a notion in our fiction based entertainment was probably the mid to late 1990’s and particularly prevalent in the Cyber-Punk sub-genre of Science fiction. Films ranging from the 1980’s cult film Tron and 1999 film  The Matrix, both explore this possibility.  The potential that everything that everything we take for granted as being objectively true passed on our interpretation of sensory input could the result of code generated by a programmer. Over the past couple of years, theorists have a referred to this as simulation theory.

 

As real as the nature of our consensus reality my seem to be and  as outlandish as the notion of simulation theory seem, there could be some validity to it. It runs into the Godel/Liar’s paradox, where we have the potential of a true statement, however, not means of validating it [2]. While we could analyze the litany of philosophers and theorists that attempt to develop an operational solidification  of the concept of reality, however, each theory has its proponents and detractors.  If we do not have an objective and proven understanding of reality we ,half-witted, saunter  right into the buzz saw.  Most people proudly do so and reject with incredulity  the alternate theories as novel concepts, but not a sober grounding for defining reality. However, isn’t it hasty and board line intellectual sloth to apply Occum’s Razor, when we have not completely unraveled the ball of yarn? I believe that we should more thoroughly exhaust the alternate theories of reality before we reject them with patronizing derision. Without solid evidence disproving simulation theory , it should still be fair game for speculation. After exploring some of the more biological aspects of human perception and understanding how much we adaptive ignore, simulation theory looks significantly less faulty.

 

REALITY AS  SIMULATION AS A PHILOSOPHICAL THEORY:

 

While the premise was originally manifested as contrived novelty for fiction nearly twenty years to it being brought to light in academia. It was not until University of Oxford Philosopher Nick Bostrum postulated this outlandish possibility in 2003 [3]. Bostrum’s hypothesis encompasses the notion that an exorbitantly more advanced civilization was simply running computer generated simulations of the lives lived by their primitive ancestors [3]. The hypothesis claims that this simulated stated of reality is so pervasive that the majority of perceptions of reality are that of the projected simulations of the reality experienced by the ancestors [3]. While the theory itself may seem to be outrageously far-fetched there are a plethora of sober-minded intellectuals open to this possibility.  World renown astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson asserts that their is a fifty percent chance that this hypothesis presents the true nature of reality [3].  While Dr. Tyson is certainly a compelling figure in the arena of science, he is far from the only mainstream figure open to simulation theory. Massachusetts Institute of Technology  Cosmologist, Max Tegmark, due to the rigidity of the mathematical laws of our Universe would parallel coding that is reflected in Video Games and other computer generated media. Tegmark stated :

“If I were a character in a computer game, I would also discover eventually that the rules seemed completely rigid and mathematical,”

“That just reflects the computer code in which it was written.”

[3].

 

Tegmark’s perception of this hypothesis has been substantiated by University of Maryland  theoretical physicist James Gates. Gates states :

“I was driven to error-correcting codes—they’re what make browsers work. So why were they in the equations I was studying about quarks and electrons and supersymmetry? This brought me to the stark realization that I could no longer say people like Max are crazy.”   [3].

While apprehension towards blindly accepting simulation theory as being a valid perception for the true reality of the world is understandable, we cannot discount  this possibility. As what is demonstrated  by Tegmark and Gates is that some of the idiosyncratic aspects of our natural world hint towards this possibility. If you accept the fact that there are specific mathematical theorems and equations that seem to be prevalent in the natural world (as most physicists do believe), it does seem at least on the superficial level seem as if it could be the byproduct of programming coding.  If you consider how humans have an affinity for symmetry. It is well documented that humans subconsciously seek facial and physical symmetry in copulative  partners. People also seek symmetry in regards to institutional and social situations, mean push for equality of outcome. Right or wrong from a moral or logical standpoint, the lower and middle class of the successes of the affluent upper class mirrors this natural drive for symmetry.

It would appear that in the reality that we all accept as the consensus reality we all passively accept, their is in in grained drive for symmetry. Whether in the physical manifestation of appearance or in more abstract applications. This honed focus, on congruence is analogous to what we expect from a computer application or a mechanized machine.  When faced with encoded programming there is always the rigid attempt to balance out deficits. Hence why when our computer is infected with a virus, it still attempts to function as it would normally. Considering the physical laws of nature always reverting back to cathartic homeostasis.   For example, gravity, what is physically in the air must come back to origin due to the magnetic pull of gravity with few exceptions. Which as the uncanny and unwavering bias towards symmetry and rigidity possessed by computer programming.

 

ARGUMENTS AGAINST SIMULATION THEORY:

Speculation is all well and good, however, there is not any hard data or any real way to test the veracity of the claims asserted by simulation theory. The genuinely hard nosed empiricists would still view such claims with an oppressive amount of derision without adequate means of proving this premise through experimental results. Anyone who has had any exposure to the scientific method, even at the undergraduate level, you are generally aware of the fact the ability to replicate results is crucial.

While on a broad and theoretically level, on paper so to speak, simulation theory does seem to fit a specific logical stream of logical. However, we need to test the veracity of this natural observations in an applicable experimental conditions. In the world of science if you are unable to test a hypothesis, you must accept it as being untrue. Essentially, we out of necessity of the pillar of the scientific method accept the null-hypothesis, which asserts that simulation theory is not the correct nature of reality.  Even if we were to apply Occam’s razor with no further analysis, we would have to reject this notion. Just on the principle that simulation theory is too implausibly convoluted and therefore most likely a faulty hypothesis. While Occam’s Razor was originally devised to keep fact and opinion starkly segregated, it is at times obtusely blind to the full range of possibilities[4]. Sometimes the true explanation is a little more complex than the simple and clean explanation scientists crave and revere.

However, regardless of the correct and incorrect aspects of the assumptions imprinted by the scientific method, it is imperative we explore the counter-arguments of simulation theory. As with any scientific hypothesis or manifesto in aesthetic art there tends to be detractors. However, within science unless there is unanimous acceptance of a tested a hypothesis , it can transition from a theory to a scientific law.  Considering there is descent we need to explore the counter claims against simulation theory.

The NPR article Why We Are Not In A Video Game- And Why It Matters from March of 2017 certainly reflects such sentiments. The article suggests that there are three main assumptions that need to hold true for simulation theory to remain true: 1.) Humans will likely never survive to reach the evolutionary “Post-human” stage, 2.) Any of the advanced “programmer” civilizations are unlikely to reflect their own evolutionary history in the simulations and 3.) There is a 99.9 percent chance we are absolutely living in a computer simulation[5]. Which in defense of the skeptics are some pretty radical claims to accept at face value.  However, given the assumptions listed above, this would mean that the previous manifestation of the human race has died out with the subsequent species succeeding would be controlling us like video game characters. This one entail for one that free will would be a complete illusion with no degree of autonomy. [5]. Also, the issue becomes if our realities are simulated how do we ascertain that the realities of our “programmers” are not simulations [5]. what happens from  there is that the whole theory devolves into a infinite subdivisions of simulated realities, however, what advanced civilization of beings are the master architects of this litany of simulated Universes?

While the precise point of genesis for the infinite spawn of simulated Universes is certainly a valid bone of contention, there are other valid arguments against this hypothesis.  For example, what precisely would be the motive of simulating the contrived realities of their long lost evolutionary ancestors? Wouldn’t they have had other means of extracting information about their past ancestors from other means? [5]. However, I suppose that they could take interest in ancient history, in a similar capacity that the perceived humans do in this simulated reality. Potentially they are history aficionados.  As much passion as there is for history in our current consensus reality, few are calling for digital  replications of the daily lives of the hominids (an evolutionary ancestor to humans). We also encounter the moral philosophical argument of if we are truly  computer generated simulations, why should we avoid descent into nihilistic self-destruction [5]. This is typically a moralistic consideration that has a significant amount of covalence and a direct relationship to the free will question. However, the question becomes whether or not this is a true perception of the nature of reality, is it a responsible idea to proliferate to the general public?

 

PER SCIENCE HOW OUR PERCEPTION OF REALITY COULD SUPPORT THIS HYPOTHESIS:

If you found the premise of  reality being a simulation to be perplexing and paradigm shattering, then this next one will really be mind-bending for you. What if I told you that our reality is merely a hallucination and that there is ample scientific evidence to substantiate  the hypothesis. Maybe the last part was slightly hyperbolic, however, is it more outlandish than simulation theory?  It can be said that  University of Sussex professor of Neuroscience Anil Seth sees  this hypothesis of as being a possibility. Professor Seth believes that the nature between reality and perception is that reality is generated by with in the brain through the interpretation of sensory input [6]. Due to the fact that the majority of human beings agree in regards to specific interpretation of sensory input that is how we derive consensus reality[6].

The common reality that is perceived by those free of perceptual disorders and psychological pathology. The reason for our brains taking such liberties with sensory input is to bring order from the dizzying array of sensory information that we perceive at any given moment [6].  Back when I was in college I took a bio-psychology course, what was emphasized was that our brains are wired through evolutionary advances to take short-cuts to more efficiently function.  If it was adaptive from  an evolutionary standpoint our bodies would adapt to it. My professor utilized the example of having photographic memory, the vast majority of people do not  have such a robust memory. Why?  As the testing as revealed, those with photographic memories tend to suffer from issues of comprehension of information. Mainly due to the fact that our brain only has so much  capacity and bandwidth to function, overloading it with detail will only hinder cognition.

However, getting back to Seth’s hypothesis, he essentially asserts that  what we perceive to be reality is merely a byproduct of our brain’s interpretation of the sensory information[6]. The byproduct may or may not be necessarily the true nature either from a visual, tactile,auditory, olfactory , or other qualities of the object, place, being, entity, etc we are interacting with. Like I was stating earlier about our evolutionary propensity for perceptual short-cuts. We are very susceptible to optical illusions and the best example I can think of is the Impressionist style of painting that was the premier emerging aesthetic of the 19th century.  The works of Claude Monet are merely broad, loose brush strokes, blotches if you will. It this becomes very salient to anyone the closer you get to the painting, you really see how most of the objects in the painting are not well defined by hard edges. But rather dissolve abstractly into the background with little fine detail. However, the further you move away  from the painting the more the forms and objects resemble those that we are perceptually familiar with. Soon the abstract blobs transform into a ship at sea fighting the bludgeoning wrath of aggressive waves and breakers. This transformation would not be possibility if  we were not predisposed to attempt to derive order from chaos, if our brain were not wired for continuity. Our susceptibility to optical illusions has profound advantages and disadvantages.

 

Many of you are probably contemplating about how this all pertains to the validity of simulation theory. That is certainly and understandable inquiry. How it relates is that if our present, baseline , consensus reality is being projected upon on us by what is generated by our brain, we in a sense do not perceive the true essence or a unfiltered account of the attributes of the world. What we see, touch, hear, smell, and taste are all projected upon us internally versus externally.  Essentially our brain is attempting to grapple with external stimuli in the most efficient manner possible.  Considering the perception that is being projected on to the world is internal, how can we truly pinpoint the true origin. Sure we have imaging technology and other means of tracking what centers in the brain are triggered by specific stimuli and input, how can we clearly delineate that is is coming from the brain versus a highly functioning illusion. If the locus of origin is internal, the byproduct can be in theory from the result of a computer generated program. If our whole world is a cohesive hallucination, how do we know for sure that continuity is not merely a built in feature of the computer program. When the counter arguments are equally as enigmatic  and  lacking  as the arguments for simulation theory we run into the same issues we do with the whole believe in a higher power issue. You really cannot prove or disprove the existence of god, nor can you simulation theory.

 

PHILOSOPHICAL APPLICABILITY OF SUCH A HYPOTHESIS:

As it seems quite evident at this point to make any definite claims about the truth of simulation theory is short-sighted and a colossal leap of faith. You can no less prove the truth or the inaccuracy of this claim in a manner analogous to the existence of God. In the face of science, I would state that we should not automatically condemn claims we cannot test. However, they need to reside in a purgatorial gap between what we define as true and what is assigned as being false. However, as you probably can piece together reality is heavily influenced by what appears from a perceptual standpoint to be the nature of reality. So figured we should probably explore some of these claims in relation to reality made by legendary philosophers. For instance renown Political Philosopher John Locke, made a distinction between the primary (sensory attributes) qualities and second qualities (the metaphysical aspects of an existing entity). That we need to determine the difference between the true nature of reality and what the superficial appearance is [7].  So from a Lockean sense the idea of a simulated reality would demonstrate the logical struggle of superficial appearance and  reality.

While there are a myriad of other philosophers that have their hypothesis in regards to perceived appearance and reality, I will provide one more example. This is due to the fact that if I were to continue I would have  enough material to write a book versus a blog entry. Also, I will provide a hint on who it will not be from, John Sartre. I have attempted to be neutral through out the majority of this blog post, however, my frustration with Post-modernism is well founded. Post-Modernism is great in the sense that it does promote the dissolving of    boundaries, which gives us wonderful hybrids such as Asian Fusion restaurants ( or other forms of cuisine which fuses recipes from multiple cultures).  So  Post-modernism has certainly disinhibited our previously contrived creative limitations. However, in my opinion over application of satire and aims to disrupt societal hierarchy through insincerity is sophomoric. It is akin to a pestilent teenager in their parent’s basement making smug and snarky commentary about a world they barely understand, with no solutions.  The Dadaism movement in art is a fine example of postmodernism, it is merely a self-indulgent exercise mocking society rather than attempting to correct it.

I digress folks, sorry about that absent-minded rant. We are going to go from the 1600’s Scottish Enlightenment all the way to Pre-Socratic Greece. Parmenides who was well known for his direct critique of the  Heraclitus and Milesian  school of philosophers [8]. He rejected their notion of that whatever has come into existence is derived from an existing entity [8]. He rejected the premise of change, whatever IS or is currently in existence cannot be taken out of existence or it never did[8]. He reasoned that change is not possible as we cannot alter the status of something that does exist to no longer or never have existed and vice versa [8]. He asserts that the nature of reality is that it cannot be altered and that it cannot be destroyed as it cannot be “uncreated”[8]. As this may appear to be a faulty game of semantics by a hard-nosed contrarian, this was the forerunner for the concept in physics the Conservation of Energy theory. Our inability to destroy or create energy [9]. How does this relate to Simulation theory, it does in the sense that if Parmenides was to be  a proponent of this premise it would be only under the grounds that the programs had a set code that could not be altered once devised.

FOOTNOTES:

[1]. https://www.dualdiagnosis.org/drug-addiction/persisting-perception-disorder/

[2]. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-goumldels-proof/

[3]. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-we-living-in-a-computer-simulation/

[4]. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/08/occams-razor/495332/

[5].https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2017/03/09/519376356/why-reality-is-not-a-video-game-and-why-it-matters

[6]. http://www.businessinsider.com/neuroscientist-explains-why-reality-hallucination-meaning-2018-3

[7]. Socrates To Sartre: A History of  Philosophy, 5th Edition, Samuel Enoch Stumpf, 1993, Page 269.

[8]. Socrates To Sartre: A History of  Philosophy, 5th Edition, Samuel Enoch Stumpf, 1993, Pages 16-17.

[9.] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/energy-can-neither-be-created-nor-destroyed/

 

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POLITICAL OPINIONS#54: TORTURE AND THE TROLLEY PROBLEM

INTRODUCTION:

In comparison to the previous administration, the Trump administration is looking to loosen restrictions on torture policies of the United States government.  The president has even if gone so far to proclaim that torture is an effective form of cohesion in  coping with enemy combatants [1]. I am not seeking to play America’s favorite game which malign the commander-in-chief, but would rather analyze the ethics of governments utilizing such measures against enemy combatants ,those guilty of treason, and prisoners of war. Is it ethical to use torture as a form of cohesion to obtain vital information?  If so, under what contingencies is it acceptable to be implement and when is it not? Where do we draw the line? I see much more value in assessing the moral efficacy of state sanctioned torture and if it is acceptable, where do we delineate the perimeter of moral acceptability.  It is certainly a more engaging conversation than partisan tug-of-war with each camp in their totality representing there perspective tribe.

 

While I understand the arguments against torture, I feel that it is important to address the grey area. Typically, no procedure,policy, tradition, or implementation is completely moral or amoral.  But rather exists in spectrum of morality, nuanced by a myriad of contingencies. However, politically I can foresee the potential for civil rights violations and other over extension of authority of the state. I certainly see the noble intentions of those who suggest that the state should not be able to legally do anything  private citizens can do. It is difficult to claim definite statements in regards to morality of torture, especially when the byproduct could potentially save lives of innocent people.  Rather than admittedly push the Pro-torture or Anti-torture paradigm, we should discuss and unpack the positive and negative consequences of torture and then weigh them in regards to the circumstances at hand. When addressing morally complex topics it is most advantageous to look at as a venn diagram, rather than an absolutist dichotomy. A simple “yes” or “no” response is a little too obtuse to incorporate all the facts and possibilities.

 

While it is tempting to give an inclusive and resolute answer regarding a topics as visceral and divisive as torture or capital  punishment, however, I would challenge most to find a more a centralist position.  While we do not want to violate civil rights, basic human decency, the Constitution,  nor give the government undue authority, we need to also acknowledge the other side of the proverbial coin. If the use of torture could save the lives of innocent people through the information extracted, then the levity of the byproduct is more apparent. It is no longer aggressive political rhetoric, but rather tangible life saving results.  When you have the ominous and looming threat of innocent lives at risk, the stakes on the roulette wheel become much greater.  Which certainly parallels the premise of rising the anti in Poker, however, maybe the analogy of Russian Roulette may be more appropriate considering the levity of the risk.

 

MORAL ARGUMENTS AGAINST STATE SANCTIONED TORTURE:

 

Below are a list of arguments against torture from the FIACAT organization’s website, presented in a 2011 article: Arguments Against Torture. FIACAT is an international organization centered on human rights, with no governmental ties. FIACAT main focus is on relinquishing capital punishment and torture.

 

Torture – why it is not fitting for us:

- Torture destroys the victim and the perpetrator. It breaks the latter by making him sub-human and debases those who commit it.

- Every human being deserves respect. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recalls the rights and duties of all of us.

- Mankind, in order to survive on earth, must limit the extent of his violence and put a stop to certain types of destructive behaviour.

- We are responsible for each other which means we must ensure full respect of our rights and the dignity of our fellow men and women.

- Torture is always an evil for those involved; there is no such thing as “good” torture, nor good reasons to torture. The end does not justify the means.

- The consequences of torture remain with an individual throughout his life; his soul and his body will bear the marks of his suffering until the end of his days.

- Torture is useless and does not lead to the truth: “at best the tortured individual will tell you what you want to hear; at worst you will obtain nothing”.

- Torture does not make people talk; it makes them keep quiet.

Christian reasons for refusing torture:

- Man was created in God’s image and part of him is “sacred”. In Jesus’ name we are called upon to protest against everything that degrades man.

- Torture is contrary to the message of love in the Gospel: whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

- Christ was tortured on the cross, but God also overcame death and raised up those who had fallen. He gives hope and strength to those who suffer and leads them to the Resurrection.

- In the gesture of the Good Samaritan, approaching the wounded man on the road, Jesus shows that love is at the heart of the alliance between God and mankind.

- We must work towards a better and more harmonious world; that means never resigning ourselves to barbarity and meanness.

- The Church of Christ has not always remained faithful to the word of the Gospel and has sometimes mistreated men and women and justified the use of torture. Today, however, Churches and Christians fight and pray for both victims and torturers in order to put an end to these inhuman practises.

- Christ calls on all men, even those who commit torture, to “change” and to convert. The love of God reaches even the hardest of hearts.

- The Gospel makes watchmen of us all.

[2].

 

I will certainly admit from a humanitarian standpoint many of these arguments against torture are very compelling.  The organization even attempts to persuade the more  socially conservative among us, with justification from Christian theology to prohibit torture.  The points made in regards to psychological well being such as “dehumanizing” the “victim” and how the harms can even traumatize the torturer. Which is logically congruent when you think about the prevalence of combat trauma/ PTSD among combat veterans. Even among operators of drone strikes have been found to be subjected to such psychological trauma, even though  they are not directly in the line of fire.  In a 2011 survey, it was found that out of 840 drone operators, 48 percent suffered from some variant of “operational stress” [3]. While not precisely the same phenomena it is merely an extrapolation of the similar principle. Unless you are a psychopath or sociopath, humans are not wired to harm other people, unless it is in self defense. Concepts such as theory of mind, empathy, altruism ,etc. are naturally occurring social tendencies that brutal warfare and torture are at odds with. Hence why many people suffering from quite a bit of cognitive dissonance when off of the battlefield or the torture facility.

 

While the psychological and physical costs of torture are certainly well documented, how can this address the hard nosed pragmatists? Even if all of the standard humanitarian arguments and even theological arguments are inconsequential in your opinion, what would  be a variable of considering for you opposing torture?  Results. The key arguments above hint towards the inaccuracy of the information extracted from utilization of torture. One point being the individual being interrogated either refusing to speak or providing false information just to curtail or stifle the discomfort.  In other words, they are claiming that torture either makes the individual more headstrong or makes them capitulate to the adverse stimuli and tell the integrator what they want to hear. Truth certainly not being a key competent of the answer. However, is this true? The 2017 article from Psychology Today: Does Torture Work? suggests that torture in fact does not in regards to extracting information. One study found that detainees were 14 times more likely to give accurate information early on in the interview if rapport based techniques are used versus torture [4]. It was even found in a 2014 Senate Select Committee report that CIA use of “enhanced torture techniques” was found to be largely ineffective methods of collecting information [5].

 

MORAL ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF TORTURE:

While many of the arguments against torture above might be extremely compelling, you may be thinking, who could you possibly argue for torture on a moral level?  Well, I have found  2005 article from Huffington Post, written by no other than Philosopher and scientist, Sam Harris. Really ironic that the left leaning publication let Sam publish this article, however, I do believe the political climate was a little different 13 years ago. Harris starts the article off by providing a depiction of a scenario where:

“…. a known terrorist has planted a bomb in the heart of a nearby city. He now sits in your custody. Rather than conceal his guilt, he gloats about the forthcoming explosion and the magnitude of human suffering it will cause. Given this state of affairs—in particular, given that there is still time to prevent an imminent atrocity—it seems that subjecting this unpleasant fellow to torture may be justifiable….”

[6.]

This hypothetical scenario is probably one of the most well known moral justifications for torture, known as the “Ticking bomb” case [7.].  Harris illustrates how this scenario can be applied at the micro and personal level (someone abducts your daughter) and the macro level ( the circumstance being a nuclear bomb, greater explosion radius, fallout, etc.).  [6]  When you place such contingencies on the scenario it really illustrates how it makes it less of an abstraction, but puts a real face on the situation. The more distant you are from the hypothetical example, the more foreign the ethical rationale will be. I believe that most people would drastically adjust their moral norms if their lives or the lives of their loved ones are in jeopardy. It is always easy to condemn something when you have never experienced it. When you are an arm chair commentator (like myself) with no skin in the game. However, does that mean that we can devolve to utilizing the callous torture tactics glamorized in American action movies? Do we need to bring to summation Quentin Tarantino’s ultimate wet dream?  I would say if we are going to use torture we should be reasonable about the amount of force we are going to use. I would say use the minimum necessary.  Apparently I am on the same page as Dr. Sam Harris. He condemns the transgressions of the interrogators of  Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay and even postulates the concept of more humane pharmacological possibilities, even an idealistic  ” torture pill” [6].

 

There is also another argument in favor of torture The Beating Case study per the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The scenario details a situation where a  man steals a car from a Mother with a her three-year old son, stops at the gas station to fill her gas tank. The mother finishes up filling up her gas tank and goes inside the store to pay for her gasoline and she accidentally left the keys in the car. Then a man steals the car with the mother’s son in the back seat, ends up abandoning the car with the three year old boy still in the back seat locked in the car. It is an extremely warm summer day. The boy is facing the risk of suffering from death or brain damage due to the interior heat of the car. The car thief ends up being apprehended by the police and the interrogator well aware of the physical risk the boy is facing, starts to beat the man to obtain the location of where the car was abandoned in an effort to save the boy’s life. [8] This specific scenario is similar to the “ticking bomb” case due to the fact that both are time critical situations where the potential for loss of human life being a potential repercussion.

 

HOW THE TROLLEY PROBLEM RELATES TO TORTURE:

The Trolley Problem was a philosophical premise devised by Oxford moral philosopher Phillippa Foot in 1967. The scenario entails that you are a conductor on a runaway train you are approach a split on the rail track. If you veer to the left, there are five men working on the tracks [9]. Which way do you go right or left? Now, lets say the five men are single on the left side and the one man on the right is a father. Does it make it more morally just to kill the five men merely because they do not have any children? All of the moral contingencies that can be applied to this philosophical exercise/ cognitive puzzle are so numerous, I could do a whole blog entry dedicated to the Trolley problem.  However, if we know nothing more about the men and we follow the linear line of conventional wisdom, we would have to make a decision based on a harm deduction model. Which would mean minimize collateral damage by killing as few people as possible. That would  mean veer right and only killing the one rail road worker. In regards to minimizing damage or losses the same moral principle can be extrapolated to the subject of torture. While the detainee and the interrogator may be harmed in some capacity by engaging in the processes of torture, wouldn’t it at a moral level out weigh the the lives saved in a time critical situation?

 

DISCUSSION:

 

Ascertaining the morality of torture is certainly a convoluted labyrinth of ethical considerations. However, the biggest inquiry to surface based on the research for this article would be is it ethical to  engage in a potentially harmful practice if it is proven to be ineffective? That genuinely rises  plethora of different questions regarding the United States using torture as a technique of extracting information. Which leads me to believe that if all the research is saying that it does not work, then the proponents of torture are merely posturing. They are merely pushing torture as a practice to make the United States look tough. An imagine in the minds of many hawkish proponents of foreign conflicts feel has been greatly tarnished by the previous administration. In my opinion if torture does not work and you are merely using it to maintain a certain image, it is merely pageantry. No distinction between that and a military parade, merely the peacock displaying its feathers to us.

Even if we find it to be moral here in the United States, there are many countries through out the world that do not have the same perspective. The Geneva Convention has a plethora of depictions of how torture is prohibited under the terms of the treaty [10]. Technically, the United States has been in violation of international law in regards to torture most likely through out the duration of the Bush administration. So regardless of the moral imperative of it, it still is illegal under international law.  However, if  it has the potential to safe lives couldn’t the prospect of violate international law be justified.  If we are to use torture it should only be in dire situations where lives are at stake and should be done in the most humane manner possible. Minimum necessary force. However, we need to monitor the government’s use of such tactics make sure that it is only used when it is a necessity and to never be used against U.S. Citizens.

 

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1.] https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-38751516/donald-trump-waterboarding-absolutely-works.

[2.] http://www.fiacat.org/arguments-against-torture

[3.] https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/23/us/drone-pilots-found-to-get-stress-disorders-much-as-those-in-combat-do.html

[4.] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/slightly-blighty/201701/does-torture-work

[5.] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/we-rsquo-ve-known-for-400-years-that-torture-doesn-rsquo-t-work/

[6.]https://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harris/in-defense-of-torture_b_8993.html

[7.]https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/torture/#CaseStudTerrTickBomb

[8.] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/torture/#CaseStudBeat

[9.] https://philosophynow.org/issues/116/Could_There_Be_A_Solution_To_The_Trolley_Problem

[10.] http://www.un.org/en/preventgenocide/rwanda/text-images/Geneva_POW.pdf

 

 

 

 

POLITICAL OPINIONS#: 53: TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN: HUCKBEE KICKED OUT OF EATERY

INTRODUCTION:

It is extremely frustrating when the majority of people seem to be missing the overall underlying principle. Especially, when it appears that the root cause of lacking comprehension appears to be unwavering partisanship. The ills of the imposed toxic tribalism is certainly a topic that is not foreign to this blog, nor is a particularly insightful observation. It is starting to become on of those topics where my point of view is already well established and it makes for a boring blog entry. It is analogous to me doing another blog post on gun control, any regular reader of my blog is already aware that I am overwhelmingly a proponent of supporting the Second Amendment. If you have been reading my blog for any duration of time, you are probably aware that I am very concerned about civility in political discourse in this country and that I fear that the Right/Left paradigm is starting to drive a wedge in the populace of this country.  As both sides drift away from the center and veer towards the more radical fringes of their respective ideological spectrum. While this observation of the correlation  between intensification of radicalism and allegiance to political party is a rather superficial and obvious observation, it is an important one to express. Especially considering the overall erosion of civility in the United States at this current moment in time.

 

The whole situation where Sarah Huckbee Sanders, Trump Administration Press Secretary, was kicked Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, clearly exemplifies  this point. However, in a less direct manner than the “punch-a-Nazi” rhetoric of late 2016 and early 2017.  Essentially what happened, I am well aware this is old news, however, essentially the owner of the Red Hen Restaurant refused service to Sanders due to the fact she works for President Donald Trump. Sanders father former Arkansas  governor Mike Huckabee proclaimed on twitter that this fit the criteria of “bigotry”. Which certainly in my opinion is slightly hyperbolic interpretation of the events that transpired.

(https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/23/politics/sarah-sanders-restaurant-kicked-out/index.html)

The establishment decision to deny service was not met without opposition as you may have been able to surmise. The restaurant has been bombarded with 1-star reviews on the restaurant review website Yelp and the owner has reportedly received death threats. However, unfortunately other unaffiliated Red Hen Restaurants have been experienced the firestorm of this incident. Essentially being mistaken as the establishment that denied service to Saunders.

(https://www.cbsnews.com/news/red-hens-everywhere-feel-ramifications-of-sanders-incident/).

 

While I can understand the poor Yelp reviews as a form of protest to some extent, however, to some extent it may veer into the realm of slander. However, slander is one thing, where I draw the line are the death threats. Because it is the precursor to use of unnecessary force. I am a free speech absolutist, however, death threats are not free speech. If anything , even if empty, merely  a boorish attempt at intimation. This certainly shows the incivility from the “tribe” of Trump supporters, however, the Democrats are not going to get off so easy in this scenario as it is evident that Maxine Waters attempted to stoke the flames of outrage with more kerosene.  Waters:

“Maxine Waters in which she called for protesters to confront Cabinet members publicly to shame them over the Trump administration’s policies.”

(http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/06/25/sarah-sanders-decries-calls-for-harassment-citing-maxine-waters-restaurant-episode.html)

Clearly a elected official calling for such aggressive action against members of the Trump cabinet really sets a poor example. She is an elected official she should  not be inciting her constituency and the general public to harass people. While she has the right to say it, it looks very poorly upon her. Also, if I lived in the district in California she represents I would be humiliated that she was representing me at the state level. There is nothing dignified or responsible about responding in such a manner. Regardless of your political views what Representative Waters did was boorish and highly irresponsible. If anything she should be trying to bring more civility to the public sphere versus continuing to deepen the chasm.

 

However, the fact that supporters on the left perceiving Sanders being prohibited from the Red Hen restaurant as a major victory, is beyond faulty. On the opposite side of the fence the level of outrage in regards to Sanders being denied service is magnified well beyond necessity. Essentially this situation was a prime example of an issue of property rights disguised as an incident of political discrimination. From any kind of objective measure, if you are honest you have to admit that both Republicans and Democrats handled this situation poorly and when it comes right down to it, this should have never been a News story. This is literally the same circumstance as the whole Masterpiece Cake shop incident in Colorado a few years back.  Essentially, the owners of the bakery chose to deny service to a homosexual couple on the grounds of religious convictions. The supreme court ended up ruling in favor of the owners of the Cake shop on the ground of religious liberty.

(https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-111_j4el.pdf)

There is legal precedent for substantiating denial of service due to religious beliefs, why can’t the same be extended when it comes to political beliefs. The owner of the business owns the legal obligations, means of production, potentially operational buildings, copyrights, etc. why can they not deny service to someone or for something they disagree with? If the owner is truly in the wrong when it comes to the rationale of denying service the market will sort it out, via privately organized boycotts and poor reviews on the internet, just to give a few examples. There would be no reason to take any further legal action in this incident.

 

What all of the angry Conservatives are clearly missing here is that this is the same principle as the Master Piece Cake shop case. The owners have the right to deny service. End of story, no further elaboration. You are a hypocrite if you supported the supreme court ruling on that case, but oppose Sanders being denied service at the Red Hen restaurant.  It is the same underlying principle, it is a property rights issue, not one of partisanship. Not at least until, Trump supports over reacted and the Democrats celebrated in undue jubilation. The democrats are also hypocritical in these circumstances due to the fact that they acted as if the apocalypse was  the horizon in regards to the whole wedding cake ruling. It feels that neither side is really looking to fight for principles or ethos but rather each other for being a member of the wrong tribe. The US versus THEM mentality  is truly poisoning the well in this country and it absolutely needs to stop.

Political Opinions #52: Conservative Perception of killing and Murder

Introduction:

 

Over the past couple of weeks I have been reading the 2012 book, Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late. Much about the authors’ ideological leanings , James Robison and Jay W. Richards, is quite conspicuous from the title. While I am a fiscal and Constitutional conservative, I am far from a social or theological conservative. Many of you are most likely pondering, why would I read this book? Well for starters, I found it at a Dollar Tree store in Chandler, AZ for $1.00, plus tax, approximately four years ago. A dollar and change for a New York  Times bestseller is one hell of a deal! However, this is not nearly as important as the necessity to diversify your exposure to different points of view on social, economic, religious, and even political issues. If you continually envelope your mind in ideas you already agree with unconditionally you be come a stagnate thinker and  live in a reverberating echo chamber of confirmation bias. This a phenomenon that is far too common in the current political climate in the United States and that is equally as flawed as not inoculating yourself against faulty and pernicious thinking patterns.  I as a religious skeptic and socially liberal individual read this book to challenge myself and to gain a better comprehension of the perspective of social conservatives.

 

For the record, this post is not about whether or not I agree with the political and religious messages conveyed in this book. What I am attempting to communicate without attribution or judgement and with good will is an observation that I found to be quite compelling. It is more an analysis  of ideological congruence than it is a debate or judgement of whether the authors are correct in their values, beliefs, and assumptions. Basically, I am exploring philosophical nuance within social and religious conservatism in the United States, above all.  However, for all the agnostics and atheists out there, please note that whether you agree with the gentlemen who authored this book or not does not give you the right to look down upon them with intellectual derision. The book was eloquently written and was not watered down to conform to the stereotypical anti-intellectual image that non-believers tend to smear on practitioners of Christian faith. Author Jay W. Richards holds a PH.D and is a senior fellow at the Discover Institute. Even if he is incorrect in placing unconditional faith in the reality of a higher power, he is far from a dumb man. Even though I disagree with him on several topics, I would still grant him full respect as an seasoned academic and a Christian intellectual.

 

The one concept that I found to be the most compelling was the book’s perspective on the line delineated between murder and killing. As well all know “Thou shall not kill” is one of the most obvious of the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament. However, many  religious conservatives are generally in favor of violent intervention abroad, gun ownership, and stand-your-ground laws.  However, they tend to immensely oppose abortion and other forms of contraceptives, viewing it as murder. The logical question becomes what separates capital punishment and war from abortion. Obviously from this political/philosophical perspective there is a deep moral chasm between one form of killing and the other. I feel that form many who do not completely  subscribe to this style of thought patterns are often at a loss of understanding where they are coming from. Wouldn’t all forms of killing, regardless of the intent be prohibited by the Bible? Also,  what precisely makes  war just and abortion sheer murder?  Without the biblical context it would appear to be a selective game of semantics gone awry. However, I can assure you that is not the intention , there is actually a biblical argument discerning such distinctions. Whether I agree with it or not is immaterial, I am merely presenting what I have learned from reading this book.

 

NATURAL GOD GIVEN RIGHTS:

 

Much of the rights granted in the United States Constitution to American Citizens is based on the concept of natural rights. During the era of the Great Enlightenment in European history, the concept of natural rights ,the rationality of egalitarian self sovereignty, and property rights manifested itself into Lockean political philosophy. Which focused on the rights and autonomy of the individual, versus being subjected to the tyrannical whims of royalty. Considering the vast majority of Enlightenment philosophers during this time were Christians, most social conservatives operate under the assumption that natural rights are analogous to be god given. This notion is reinforced by the Christian perception of free will, we are given the ability to reason. Which in turn amounts to the ability to determine right from wrong. If we such ability to rationalize and make choice therefore, our government should allow us the ability to speak freely , own property, etc.  If a higher power gave us these abilities it is only fair to have policies that protect our ability to exercise our free will without imposing on others.

 

For many of that subscribe to this  theological/ political paradigm perceive the right to live as being one of those paramount natural rights. How this intersects with the contemporary reproductive rights championed by those in the feminist movement, engenders the contemptuous controversy we observe in the pro-life / pro-choice debate.  Even many in the libertarian movement are divided on the fault lines of property rights versus the right to life. While typically this topic is too complex to distill down to such broad dichotomies due to the plethora of ethical and biological contingencies. Generally in order to discuss this topic we need to place our flag on one side of the proverbial fence.

Social conservatives such as Robinson and Richards contend that being pro-life in the abortion debate is the only just position. This point is substantiated by the fact that the word of god is greater than the law of the land.

The authors quoted the book of Romans:

“….. Let Every Person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God (Romans 13:1-6)….”

(Robison & Richards, P. 23 & 24).

 

With no surprises here, this biblical passage clearly expresses how while the government may permit that what is sinful or even contrary to natural rights, we must abide by what protects the word of god. Which would in turn be what guarantees natural rights. Which proves to be logically congruent only if you believe in a higher power. However, the  authors find the primacy of divine law to be so significant due to the fact that it is what maintains legal and cosmic order. Without rules and consequences for transgressions, we as a society or as humans cannot be stable enough to guarantee  our rights and privileges we are granted in American society. Which is part of the reason why many of our ethereal laws or man made laws tend to have a  biblical  pretext or influence. Obviously this pertains to our more basic laws involving property rights than the abstractions of tariffs and tax codes. We need to maintain legal and moral order so we can protect the way of life that we enjoy as Americans. Without any limitations we lose our natural rights to the throes of anarchy. Wanton looting, murder, etc does not exemplify absolute freedom but rather the ashes of a failed state.

(Robison & Richards, P. 17).

 

WHAT MAKES ABORTION WRONG, HOWEVER, WAR IS JUSTIFIED:

On a superficial level we could operate under the assumption that killing is wrong and is even prohibited per the bible. Naturally abortion is perceived as a moral failing in the Christian tradition.  For anyone familiar with the moral tenants of Christianity far cry from being shocking. Not so much shocking as intriguing has always been the support of Conservative Christians for capital punishment, foreign wars/ military actions, stand-your-ground laws. If someone is Pro-life wouldn’t they shun the concept of state sanctioned executions? A life is a life, right? This is where the philosophical consistency of Conservative Christians have always gotten murky for me personally. Individuals of a more cynical mindset, could say that many who oppose abortion, but champion the typical Neo-Conservative foreign policies are manipulating semantics to accommodate their ideological agenda and world view.  Personally, I feel that it is more complex than merely shape-shifting definitions for political or social gain. I feel that (especially after reading  Indivisible) that there is more philosophical nuance than diametrical and  linear understand  of the terms murder and let’s say self-defense. The moral question becomes when does the act taking a life veer into the realm of the sinister?  Again is moral question that can only be obtusely answered, if done so in absolutist terms.

 

However, the authors do address to what appears to some to be a paradoxical position for someone who is Pro-life to hold. The authors examine the stance of Progressive Christian organizations such as Sojourners, a group of hardliner pacifists. The authors expound upon how this is misguided. While the bible does preach to not murder people and to “turn the other check”, it does not directly prohibit self defense or use of force. The authors even state that the “… most conspicuous forms of cohesion are violence…” if we never use force our world would be ripe with anarchy (P. 61) Even when faced with the prospect of war the rationale behind our involvement or the criterion for a “Just war”. In a sense, do we have the moral duty to use force, would the ramification of not intervening out weigh us becoming engaged in the conflict?

(Robison & Richards P. 60-65).

 

I am personally not a fan of war, however, I am a big proponent of gun rights and stand-your-ground laws. While pacifism is a noble stance, it is not necessarily  the most pragmatic or realistic. In regards to understanding the more base aspects of the human condition, Conservatives do an excellent job not ignoring this aspect of humanity. The realist stance is not necessarily antithetical to Christianity , depending on how you interpret the bible,  but embracing the unfortunate aspects of humanity. Hence why rules and prescriptions such as the Ten Commandments exist. However, the Bible itself does not depict merely love and kindness, but also the more menacing aspects of human life. With graphic depictions of war, execution, disease, etc. It is certainly a written body of work with  its share of literary illustration of gore. If you think about it, because of the ills of human nature, it is necessary to depict use aspects  of reality, in order to be sincere. Especially when striving to be literary companion of a theological philosophy that strives to the Universal and true beacon of moral guidance.

PHILOSOPHICAL RANTS#17: A Philosopher By Another Name: Anthony Bourdain

 

DISCUSSION:

 

When we tend to use the term “philosopher”, images of Socrates, Rene Descartes, Friedrich Nietzsche , and Jean-Paul Sartre surfaces vividly in our minds. The archetypal paternal image of  a wise and withered sage with a long white beard in a long robe contemplating the more befuddling abstract aspects of life. This Socratic conceptualization of a philosopher is  so salient and stereotypical it could be  confused for being a Jungian archetype reverberating through out the collective consciousness of humanity. However, this stale image of a philosopher while appeasing to our stereotypical notions from aesthetics standpoint does not complete the whole picture.

DEFINITION OF A PHILOSOPHER:

noun
    1. a person who offers views or theories on profound questions in ethics, metaphysics, logic, and other related fields.
    2. a person who is deeply versed in philosophy.
    3. a person who establishes the central ideas of some movement, cult, etc.

 Particularly  sub-definition #3 should suggest that our notion of what defines a philosopher should stretch beyond a narrow scope of what that individual should appear to be. While we tend to look for the stereotypical markings and attributes  of a philosopher in dusty leather bond books in libraries, it does not accurately represent the whole picture. I would be so bold to assert that the rebellious celebrity chief , the late Anthony Bourdain was a philosopher in his own right. From a culinary and even cultural standpoint.

 

As anyone who has ever watched his television shows or who has read his books would know he had a list of stanch core values that would unwavering and applied to culinary exploits and experiencing other cultures. Reject your comfort zone and  experience the more obscure avenues that the world has to offer. If you are in  Ho Chi Minh, why retreat to the comfort of an American or European based restaurant chain when there are a myriad of establishments offering local  fare?  There is little to not point then in visiting Vietnam if   you are unwilling to have an authentic experience from a cultural and dietary standpoint, this is something that Mr. Bourdain demonstrated in the spades. He did not shy away from eating organs or body parts that Americans typically throwaway  or veer away from the outlandish or bizarre. As an impromptu cultural anthropologist he adopted cultural relativism to the highest degree to respect the traditions of the cultures of the countries that he visited. Even if it drastically veered away from the sensibilities of the average New Yorker.  In a sense Anthony did engender ideas that were key to specific culinary movements, is certainly a big influence on the majority if not all self-proclaimed cosmopolitan foodies and cultural thrill seekers.

 

His respect for other cultures was combined with a cavalier disdain for picky eaters and ethically nuanced dietary restrictions. He has rejected ethical vegetarianism as a ” first world luxary” (https://www.onegreenplanet.org/news/anthony-bourdain-thinks-vegans-are-self-indulgent/). Even was poised to proclaim the most vile thing he has ever eaten to be a McDonald’s Chicken Nugget.

(https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/food/wp/2018/06/09/anthony-bourdain-laid-it-all-on-the-table-our-food-and-our-humanity/?noredirect=on).

 

Such assertions are a radical departure from the values of the typical American dinner, however, a man of such audacious dietary preferences would have to reject familiarity and safety to discover the roads less traveled by. Which believe it or not was most likely influenced by Anthony’s love of Punk rock music. Any regular viewer of his former Travel Channel program:  No Reservations  would typically see him wearing T-Shirts representing various Punk rock groups, e.g.) New York based late ’70’s punk rockers the Dead Boys. The adoption of Punk Rock ethos in Bourdain’s culinary craft and preferences was quite salient.  For him to reject safe and familiar as boring and uninspired fits right into the Punk Rock movement’s  rejection of society’s status quo. Essentially cultural and culinary rebellion. Why get at Applebees  and other chain restaurants for the rest of your life when there are some more challenging but more rewarding options? Well obviously not everyone subscribes to this way of thinking, however, for those who reject safety and what is familiar certainly revere Bourdain’s rebellious abandonment of such secure and soft underpinnings. It is easy to eat at Ruby Tuesday’s  for the average American, however, to eat a living Octopus in Korea town in Los Angeles,  is  a much more drastic endeavor. What really sums this who point up and understanding Mr. Bourdain’s crass sensibilities , I feel the below George Carlin quote is suiting:

 

” What are you gonna do, play with your prick for another 30 years? Read People magazine and eat at Wendy’s til the end of time? Take a fuckin’ chance! ”

(https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0246645/quotes).

 

Regardless of whether or not you felt this man and his core beliefs about food and culture were pretentious or extreme he still made a major impact on American culture. In my opinion in a positive manner. Was above all honest. He never veered away from discussing his time as a heroin addict when he was a SOHO chef decades ago. He has been very open about his derision towards celebrity chefs such as Guy Fieri who champion comfort and American familiarity over  advancing the craft of cooking. No one whether you hate him or love him dispute Anthony’s authenticity, that is something rare in the majority of American pop-culture figures. That’s why he was so entertaining. It was refreshing to hear the culinary equivalent of Johnny Rotten say “Fuck Ihop” as the “Pancake man” his on his way. Now just for transparency purposes, I have and most likely will eat at Ihop again, however, that is beyond the point. He just as much as how the Grunge group Nirvana brought punk rock to the masses via a auditory medium, Bourdain manifested it in the culinary. In my humble opinion even showing people that there is another option is a huge deal. His televisions programs were like the Lonely Planet  travel guides on steroids. I am going to show you where people are eating obscure body parts and are chugging moonshine. Not quite what you would expect.

 

 

POLITICAL OPINIONS#51: TRUMP’S TARIFF WARS

INTRODUCTION:

 

There is much debate in regards to the best approach for policy in regards to international trade. On one hand we do want to have an even playing field to function on. My concern becomes to what extent are we willing to manipulate the market to correct for any “unfair” variables. While correcting such measures may seem like a positive solution in the short term, their long term ramifications may be counterproductive and has more harm than good. Some may say that placing restrictive tariffs on imports may have good intentions to help assist the American economy by supporting domestic production, but actually engenders more harm. An alternative perspective, a more cynical point-of-view, being that imposing  import tariffs to benefit select companies and business sectors in the United States is crony capitalism at it’s   paramount.  While I would tend to believe that imposing import tariffs at any capacity would upset the natural balance of trade between the United States and follow trade allies. An economy (being the global economy) and economic transactions form a complex system, one alternation impacts the overall picture.  For example, putting extensive tariffs on Japanese steel might tarnish trade relations with Japan and the United States, which would cause ripple effects through out the global economy.

 

Even for the goods that are imported to the United States, there is still an advantageous impact on the American job Market. U.S. based logistics jobs are created due to the capacity of imported goods coming into the country. Jobs such as freight forwarding agents and operational staff at Centralized exam stations, would not exist without the high capacity of imported goods. But also damaging international trade, would also impact the American job market from the perspective of the retail sector. All of American retail outlets sell imported goods to some extent and once that is eliminated or greatly diminished ,would threatened  the economic health of this business sector. While manufacturing jobs are reduced,  the number of jobs in the shipping industry increases.

 

President Donald J. Trump essentially ran on a protectionist platform during the campaign for his 2016 presidential run. From an economic standpoint, protectionism seeks to eliminate or curtail international trade and keep transactions on national level. Which in the opinions of some individuals, would assist the American economy through  discouraging purchase of imported goods through import tariffs and to keep production in the United states by penalizing companies for using labor abroad. Again, I can see the logic, however, it is not quite that linear and in my opinion it is based upon a very narrow perception of the impact of global trade. Also, to some extent the exploitation of American blue-collar sympathies. Particularly through the scare tactics of rhetoric  of ” They are coming for your jobs”. Trump’s campaign staff are ingenious for exploiting this demographic so tactfully, it falls within the shadows of economic reality.

 

However, President Trump has been hot and cold in regards to the announcements of extensive tariffs and a comprehensive trade war with foreign competition. How serious is he really about imposing extensive tariffs on imported goods? Only time will truly tell and it is far too soon to really assess the true economic impact of Donald Trump’s policies. However, if you have a firm understanding of the benefits of free-market capitalism you can see how some of these economic isolationist policies are problematic. Trump even flirting with the idea of imposing such tariffs can vex our current trade partners and damage these relationships even if such tariffs are never imposed. Also, not following through with such proclaims, demonstrates poor leadership skills.

 

NEWS STORY:

The Economist article  The Trump  Administration Imposes Tariffs On America’s Closet Allies  demonstrates how President Trump’s plan to place tariffs on imported goods. On May 31st 2018, the Trump administration placed a 25 percent import tax on steel and aluminium from Canada, Mexico, and European Union.  This economic plan would be imposing extra taxation on $23 billion worth of transactions. The objective of imposing these tariffs is to give preference American towards “American metal producers”.  Contrary to the Trump administration’s intentions behind the tariffs on imported steel and aluminium, the move has been criticized by several labor organizations in the United States.  Organizations ranging from the American Beer Institute to the United Steel Workers have maligned the plan. Per Goldman Sachs the impact on the American economy will not be pervasive, only increasing inflation “… by 0.01 percentage points…”. However, the Trump administration is looking to further increase the list of goods that will be subjected to import tariffs. Goods ranging from Whisky to sausages and more products to be announced. It does seem as if Canada and the European Union are planing to impose :

“….tariff retaliation on the basis that America’s actions are a “safeguard” action; in such cases the rules allow for near-immediate compensation. America, however, claims its tariffs are in the name of national security and that retaliation is therefore unjustified. So there is a risk that it may retaliate in turn.”

(https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2018/06/01/the-trump-administration-imposes-tariffs-on-americas-closest-allies)

 

DISCUSSION:

 

I will personally admit that I am more biased towards trade polices that favor less restrictive trade with foreign trade partners. Even beyond my ideological disposition, as a consumer I loathe this. I personally brew my own beer and I purchase ale yeast produced in Canada. Not too sound like a complete alcohol fixated booze hound, however, I also enjoy whisk(e)y. While I absolutely relish every sip  of the sweet and oak flavor  in Bourbon , American Rye, and Tennessee whiskey, however, I do enjoy imports as well. Particularly Scotch and Japanese whisky. Trump’s tariff plan would certainly impact whisky from Scotland (which I believe is a part of the European Union). Then again it is unclear with the event of Brexit whether or not the measures taken by Scotland to distance themselves from England has completed. Anyone more informed on Scotland still being a part of the EU, please feel free to correct me. The England/ Scotland connection was never something I had firm understanding to begin with. Scotland being kind of like a separate country, but still being bound by England to some capacity. Please excuse my ignorance. (https://qz.com/943661/brexit-as-the-uk-prepares-to-leave-the-european-union-scotland-has-begun-extricating-itself-from-the-uk/). However, while the tariffs that are to be imposed upon Canada, Mexico, and the EU are well documented, who is to say that Trump will not impose tariffs on our trade partners in Asia or other trade allies abroad. Tariffs on Japan alone would be difficult. I really enjoy their whisky and Green tea, however, that would be a blow to our technology sector.  Consider below in regards to our trade with Japan :

 

“As the only Asian representative of the G-7, Japan is the second largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States with a cumulative stock of $414 billion. Over the past several years, Japan has been the single largest source of foreign direct investment into the U.S. market, with an inflow over $31 billion in 2015. These investments, in turn, support U.S. jobs and contribute to U.S. economic output and exports.”

(https://www.export.gov/article?id=Japan-Market-Overview).

 

While this is not directly tariff related if we do tarnish our economic relationship with Japan through imposing tariffs on Japanese goods, we have a lot too lose. Even though Trump has not purposed such trade restrictions on Japan. I would not assume that he would veer away from it considering he has done so with other close trade partners. Which I would speculate would have a detrimental impact on the United States economy one way or another. Whether it will decrease consumer spending or be reflected in the job market or a combination of the two variables. Then again I am a crazy Libertarian that believes in genuinely free-markets, versus a marketplace artificially adjusted to appease the appeals of the protectionists. Who’s paranoid world view of the economy could potentially stymied the potential for economy growth. Certainly not something I want to see happen.

 

However, speaking of Scotland and tariffs the Scottish Enlightenment-era philosopher and  economist comes to mind. You know the author of  the book: The Wealth of Nations, which I would assume would ring a bell to most of the readers out there. As is evident with anything you read about the Great Enlightenment of Europe the main focus, the main ethos of this intellectual movement was reason. What principles are logical and can be successfully applied to real life economic transactions. Essentially our modern conceptualization of capitalism or what we profess to subscribe two in regards to “Free-markets” was sired by Smith’s theories. For an economic conservatives that voted for Trump with full expectations of implementation of extensive import tariffs, really need to rectify  their cognitive dissonance. As well as re-think whether or not they are truly proponents of free-market capitalism. Here are some words of wisdom from Mr. Smith himself:

 

“When there is no probability that any such repeal [of a tariff in a foreign country] can be procured, it seems a bad method of compensating the injury done to certain classes of our people to do another injury ourselves, not only to those classes, but to almost all the other classes of them. When our neighbours prohibit some manufacture of ours, we generally prohibit, not only the same, for that alone would seldom affect them considerably, but some other manufacture of theirs. This may no doubt give encouragement to some particular class of workmen among ourselves, and by excluding some of their rivals, may enable them to raise their price in the home-market. Those workmen, however, who suffered by our neighbours prohibition will not be benefited by ours. On the contrary, they and almost all the other classes of our citizens will thereby be obliged to pay dearer than before for certain goods. Every such law, therefore, imposes a real tax upon the whole country, not in favour of that particular class of workmen who were injured by our neighbours prohibition, but of some other class. (Bk. 4, Ch. 2)”.

(When there is no probability that any such repeal [of a tariff in a foreign country] can be procured, it seems a bad method of compensating the injury done to certain classes of our people to do another injury ourselves, not only to those classes, but to almost all the other classes of them. When our neighbours prohibit some manufacture of ours, we generally prohibit, not only the same, for that alone would seldom affect them considerably, but some other manufacture of theirs. This may no doubt give encouragement to some particular class of workmen among ourselves, and by excluding some of their rivals, may enable them to raise their price in the home-market. Those workmen, however, who suffered by our neighbours prohibition will not be benefited by ours. On the contrary, they and almost all the other classes of our citizens will thereby be obliged to pay dearer than before for certain goods. Every such law, therefore, imposes a real tax upon the whole country, not in favour of that particular class of workmen who were injured by our neighbours prohibition, but of some other class. (Bk. 4, Ch.2)

(https://taxfoundation.org/adam-smith-trump-tariffs/)

 

Essentially Smith spearheaded this point hundreds of years prior Donald J. Trump even being alive. Import tariffs hurt the consumer in the end, which to many well familiar with Adam Smith’s works would take as a very rudimentary observation. However, this basic economic principle seems to have alluded the Trump administration. Instead of think about what works in the natural state of transactions, this administration would rather artificially manipulate the market to benefit American companies. Which might narrow the scope of trade to domestically versus internationally. Again, would not be an advantageous move economically.  At least we are appeasing the protectionists. But that is besides the point, the global market is a complex system, which essentially means that it operates in a similar manner to an ecosystem in the natural world. If we manipulate it in one manner it will have ripple effects through out the economy through out the rest of the world as when you engage in global commerce, one change has the impact to effect everyone. Would I would suggest is versus vindictively trying to level the playing field why doesn’t the United States try to figure out why exactly Americans would rather buy goods abroad and try to find a competitive advantage that American companies provide over producers overseas.

POLITICAL OPINIONS#50: GENDER, BIOLOGY OR CONSTRUCT

Inverted logic

INTRODUCTION:

Gender as many topics in the present era of 2018, once a largely a noncontroversial topic has become more polarizing. However, the struggle between religious/ social conservatives and the LGBTQ community towards mainstream acceptance of transgender individuals, has made this topic more contentious. I personally do not harbor any prejudice against transgender people and I even  agree with the scientific community when it comes to the biologic basis for transgender-ism.  What I find to be problematic is the  manipulation of the entity of gender for political agendas. The political opportunism utilized to weaponize the “gender as a construct” theory , not only can be considered dangerous but also lacks ideologically congruence. If you accept the notion that there is a biological basis attributing to transgender-ism, it almost appears to be diametrically opposing to believe that gender in of itself is human fabricated concept. A concept that individuals of this…

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