Tradition and Politics

Detail from James Gillray's 'New Morality'. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

‘Without a tradition, everything is impermanence and flux.’ Thus writes David Brooks in a New York Times piece giving advice to the rebellious and dissatisfied youth of today. If you are one of these youth, Brooks’ advice is that your rebellion should be grounded in a past tradition:

‘If I could offer advice to a young rebel, it would be to rummage the past for a body of thought that helps you understand and address the shortcomings you see. Give yourself a label. If your college hasn’t provided you with a good knowledge of countercultural viewpoints — ranging from Thoreau to Maritain — then your college has failed you and you should try to remedy that ignorance.’

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Government Debt and Anti-Governmentalism

The standout nominees from the Ames straw poll were one Tea Party member and someone who may as well be. They are set to make every possible opportunity out of the obvious weaknesses of their common rival, Mitt Romney, not least, as The Onion put it, his ‘dark past of trying to help uninsured sick people.’ There is a good deal of media fluff and bubble about the border issues these candidates like to campaign on – gay marriage, evolution, and other emotive distractions. But the real meat of their political philosophy comes down to one thing. They are small government people. They are seriously small government people. They are nanogovernmentalists. Rick Perry hates the idea of government spending so much he thinks quantitative easing is treason.

When a political philosophy of this extremity becomes mainstream, the philosopher should take stock. Where does all the extremism come from? The answer does not lie in economics.  According to the New York Times finance correspondent, Floyd Norris, ninety-five out of a hundred economists will say that government should be expanding rather than shrinking right now (listen to him on the NYTimes podcast, The Caucus). Even Christine Legarde has recently made a general recommendation for short-term increases in spending, balanced by long-term commitments to debt-reduction, as have George Soros and Gordon Brown.

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Evolutionary Psych: Too young to be this sexy?

Wasserläufer_bei_der_Paarung_cropEvolutionary psychology is all the rage nowadays. Researchers from around the globe are looking at the interplay between a species’ behavior and its environment, past and present, in an attempt to crack the mysteries of how we came to be as we now are. The appeal is obvious. Darwin seems to have provided a successful explanation of our biological traits. Why not think our psychological traits are to be explained similarly? After all, psychology just is an expression of biology. If reflection on our hunched-back ancestors and their habitat can explain how we came to walk upright, why can’t such reflection also explain our anger over spousal infidelity, why can’t it explain our own infidelity, our altruistic and egoistic behaviors, etc? Continue reading “Evolutionary Psych: Too young to be this sexy?”