Posts Tagged consequences

WALL-E vs. the Jetsons: Materialism and Technological Progress

Jetsons, WALL-E, technology, progress, innovation, Jeffrey TuckerIn my most recent post at Common Sense Concept, I build on Jeffrey Tucker’s piece on the Jetsons and innovation, focusing on the bleak alternative to healthy modernization. As I argue, the society may very well result in the misaligned World of WALL-E.

For Tucker, the Jetsons represent a healthy view of technological progress — one in which the more important human struggles still remain largely intact, with the material stuff staying secondary:

The whole scene — which anticipated so much of the technology we have today but, strangely, not email or texting — reflected the ethos of time: a love of progress and a vision of a future that stayed on courseIt was neither utopian nor dystopian. It was the best of life as we know it projected far into the future.

Yet there is another possibility we all should be wary of.

Here’s an excerpt from my response:

This distinction about a society that “stays on course” is what separates the World of the Jetsons from the World of WALL-E, a realm in which humans assume the role of virtual robots, controlled by their possessions, consumed by their leisure, and subsequently doomed to an existence of myopic and self-destructive idleness.

Instead, the World of the Jetsons is one in which human potential is unleashed. There is a “love of progress,” but such a love is not detached from higher responsibilities and does not confuse or pervert the moral order. For the Jetsons, the stuff remains stuff and life moves on, whether that entails personal goals, family development, community engagement, or a relationship with God (one can only hope, George!).

So what separates the two?  If both worlds experience drastic technological improvements, what changes the people within them? How can we Read the rest of this entry »

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Legislating Morality: We Can’t Help It!

Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Lincoln-Douglas Debate (1858)

Whether morality can or should be legislated has been a common topic of this blog, and Micah Watson has some insightful thoughts on the matter over at The Witherspoon Institute.

Here is the opener:

“You can’t legislate morality” has become a common turn of phrase. The truth, however, is that every law and regulation that is proposed, passed, and enforced has inherent in it some idea of the good that it seeks to promote or preserve. Indeed, no governing authority can in any way be understood to be morally neutral. Those who think such a chimerical understanding is possible could hardly be more wrong. For, in fact, the opposite is true: You cannot not legislate morality.

When speaking of these matters, I think a certain distinction needs to be made. Many would read Watson’s words and take away an argument about the inevitability of moral entrance in the realm of political decision making. But while such inevitability is indeed a reality, Watson is pointing to something beyond mere inevitability.

What is often missed is that morality is inherent in all legislative decisions. It is not a matter of this or that, but of this and this (and so on). Morality is not confined to matters of gay marriage and torture, but is equally involved in those of taxation and sanitation.

Thus, the distinctions we pursue are not to be found in the moral inherence within particular decisions but in the moral consequences thereof.

As Watson continues:

Not every decision has profound moral consequences. But even drawing the line between morally innocent choices and morally culpable choices demonstrates our Read the rest of this entry »

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Orphanages in America: Mourning the Loss of Community Impetus

Home Away From Home: The Forgotten History of Orphanages by Richard B. McKenzieIn modern-day America, orphanages are a thing of the past. Due to the emergence of foster care, the expansion of welfare, and an overall increase in life expectancy, orphanages are now seen to be largely unnecessary.

But there’s another reason for their demise which typically supersedes the rest: People tend to think that orphanages are bad.

Indeed, from Oliver Twist to Little Orphan Annie, we have long been bombarded by images of the lonely child living in cramped quarters with little to eat and even less to read. The masters are cruel, the children are loathsome, and the food is inedible.

But “not so” — or not necessarily so — says Richard B. McKenzie, editor of a recent collection of essays titled Home Away From Home: The Forgotten History of Orphanages. In the collection, McKenzie attempts to inform our common perceptions of orphanages by offering us a glimpse into what the orphanage life was really like.

The conclusion? Sometimes Dickensian, sometimes not. In either case, the McKenzian solution is a bit more cautious than we’re used to.

To build the collection, McKenzie assembled a number of academics to condense their works into more “manageable” chapters. As for McKenzie himself, he promotes a positive view of orphanages, particularly because he himself had a positive experience growing up in one.

“Critics of orphanages stress what the children there did not have.” McKenzie says. “Those of us who were there have a different perspective. We were, and remain, able to draw comparisons between what we had at The Home with what we would have had.”

But although McKenzie has his own opinions on the personal and socio-political benefits of orphanages, he has already edited a volume on that subject. Instead, this book is intended to bring clarity to a forgotten past. He is not trying to Read the rest of this entry »

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To Birth or Not to Birth: Does Parenting Make Us Unhappy?

parentingJennifer Senior recently wrote a fascinating piece for New York Magazine titled “All Joy and No Fun,” in which she discusses whether having children makes us happier.

Although we all probably think we have a good idea of what happiness consists of, it becomes quite elusive when we analyze it as a scientific variable.

Senior adequately recognizes this elusiveness in her article. Rather than taking a firm position from the get-go, she instead drifts from study to study, illuminating some of the more persuasive points while still playing a fair amount of devil’s advocate.

Such an approach is necessary for this topic, for as Senior notes, the majority of mainstream studies say that parenting does not actually make us happier in the long run:

Most people assume that having children will make them happier. Yet a wide variety of academic research shows that parents are not happier than their childless peers, and in many cases are less so. This finding is surprisingly consistent, showing up across a range of disciplines.

Most parents tend to doubt such findings (including me), but when you actually read the studies, it’s hard to doubt their conclusions (at least from a macro perspective). Certainly none of us are unhappy parents!

“So what, precisely, is going on here?” Senior asks. “Why is this finding duplicated over and over again despite the fact that most parents believe it to be wrong?­”

The only answers Senior is able to come up with are that either (1) “parents are deluded,” or (2) “the experience of raising children has fundamentally changed.”

I would say the second guess is probably more convincing.

As Senior explains:

Before urbanization, children were viewed as economic assets to their parents. If you had a farm, they toiled alongside you to maintain its upkeep; if you had a family business, the kids helped mind the store. But all of this dramatically changed with the moral and technological Read the rest of this entry »

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After the Avalanche: Sleeping At Last’s “Unmade”

I recently wrote a post on how King Saul put sacrifice above obedience to God.

This music video was just put out by Sleeping At Last, and although its message is a bit more obscure than the one found in 1 Samuel 15, I think it hits on some of the same points when it comes to our tendency to get too puffed up and caught up in our earthly schemes.

Take a look:




These lyrics stood out to me in particular: Read the rest of this entry »

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Obedience vs. Sacrifice: King Saul and the Spoils of War

I was reading 1 Samuel 15 the other day and something stuck out to me about the difference between obedience and sacrifice.

In the story, Samuel is sent by God to command King Saul to go out and destroy the Amalekites — a people who were a thorn in Israel’s side. God is extremely specific in His instruction, telling Saul the destruction must be administered thoroughly:

Now go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy all they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.

Samuel Cursing Saul by Hans Holbein the Younger (1530)

Upon hearing this, Saul gathers his men and does what God commanded…sort of. He conquers the Amalekites, but although he kills off the men, women, and children, he spares their king and seizes their livestock. Saul clearly disobeys what God commands. He doesn’t have a problem doing the dirty work, but he doesn’t follow through when it comes to the things he sees as valuable.

Soon after Saul’s victory, the Lord visits Read the rest of this entry »

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Does “Going Green” Lead to Unethical Behavior?

Would driving this ugly thing make you a better person?

Have you ever felt like someone else is better than you because they grocery shop with reusable bags and you’re still snatching 10 to 20 plastic ones?

A new study says that (1) you are most likely being positively impacted by the cloth bag lady, but (2) she is most likely a selfish jerk.

Ok, maybe not quite.

The study actually found that “mere exposure” to green products can increase altruistic behavior, but actually purchasing those products can result in quite the opposite.

Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong, the study’s authors, sum it up as follows:

Although mere exposure to green products can have a positive societal effect by inducing prosocial and ethical acts, purchasing green products may license indulgence in self-interested and unethical behaviors.

But why would that be Read the rest of this entry »

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Gendercide: When Modern Technology Partners with Ancient Barbarity

If you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to read this article from The Economist about abortion and gender discrimination.

As the article states, approximately 100 million girls have disappeared across the world due to abortion. In China and India the ratio of boys to girls is currently 6 to 5.

But why are societies killing off girls? The Economist answers as follows:

The destruction of baby girls is a product of three forces: the ancient preference for sons; a modern desire for smaller families; and ultrasound scanning and other technologies that identify the sex of a fetus.

Here we have both tradition and “progress” contributing to discrimination and infanticide. Abortion has been around since we can remember, but what disturbs me most about these recent trends is the extent to which such acts are premeditated. Ultrasound technology has contributed to so much life among those who have used it for the right purposes, yet it has also been twisted and perverted to feed the goals of ancient bigotry and barbarity.

All tools can be used for evil, and ultrasound technology is no different. Therefore, just like other tools (e.g. money), modern medical technology cannot be blamed as the root cause.

When it comes to discovering the causes behind such trends, one thing that stands out is that Read the rest of this entry »

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Health Care Reform: Physical and Spiritual Consequences

Given the recent goings on with the health care “reform” passed yesterday, I thought I’d offer some brief comments on the situation. These are simply initial reactions, and I’d love to hear yours as well.

Physical Consequences

First, in my opinion, the health care “reform” passed yesterday will most likely result in the following physical (or earthly) consequences:

  • Increased red tape in health care industries (i.e. increased costs, decreased competition) — This reminds me of the damage Nixon did to the system when he passed the Certificate of Need (CON) law in 1972. By establishing more regulation and rules, there will be even more barriers in the way when it comes to creating new hospitals, cutting costs, and delivering services. Wealthy health care giants won’t mind (they never have), because like Nixon’s policy, it shuts out any start-up competitors.
  • Increased mandates for employers — Rather than shifting the system away from employer-based health care, mandates will be imposed on employers who will not be able to afford the requirements without either raising their prices, laying off workers, decreasing product quality, or a combination of all three.
  • Perceived necessity for a public option — Once any of the above occur, people will begin feeling the ill effects of all the government manipulation, but they will still think the free market is to blame. Once again, Obama will tour the country lamenting the free market still isn’t working, after which he will make another attempt to persuade the American people toward the necessity of a public option.
  • Even more limited health care options — We currently have very little real-world liberty in our health care system. In most cases, we are virtually forced to take the health care options offered by our employers (another byproduct of government manipulation). We have some choice (to sign up or not), but for many, answering “yes” to health insurance is followed by only one or two (if any) realistic options. There are two possible outcomes of this bill, neither of which Read the rest of this entry »

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