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Facebook and the Unexamined Life

April 27, 2011

Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. As a farewell to this blog I would like to examine the role of social networking in our daily lives and the dangerous dependency that we have developed.  The addictiveness of social networking continues to make people slaves to an Internet website and truly keeps one from living an examined life.   Life experiences have become supplements to the Facebook status as people search for recognition in any corner that they look.   Does anyone really care about one brushing his or her teeth, taking a shower, catching the bus or any other miniscule daily event?

Facebook makes people feel like they do matter and places them in an alternate world in which they are the masters of how people perceive them, yet Facebook is the true master. Every social outing or event becomes littered with digital cameras trying to capture the moments so that the rest of ones 1000 “friends” can  share -in jealously.  Does anyone really have 1000 intimate friends? Spending time in a virtual universe around 1000 of ones “friends” keeps one from the personal sphere in which they may cultivate relationships and makes the true connections that are friends. The private realm no longer exists under Facebook as all of ones thoughts, pictures and communication are open to everybody, including employers.  One must always be under the professional guise or risk lowering their chance of employment if any of their Facebook content is deemed inappropriate.

With a current population of over 500 million people, eclipsed by only China and India, Facebook has the power to bring globalization to its zenith and dumb the population down to its core.  Don’t get me wrong, the intelligent use of Facebook can be wonderful- it played a key role in mobilizing the initial Jasmine Revolution and subsequent Arab revolutions and can be used to network and meet people one would otherwise never meet.  The danger of Facebook comes from its addictiveness, often likened to a drug, and the level of use that results in ultimately negative repercussions.  One becomes a slave to Facebook as all of their daily activities or life plans/goals become a supplement to their Facebook page.  The danger is that these websites are taking people away from what really matters; living and examining their lives, true friendships and a whole lot of time that could be usefully used elsewhere.   Excessive Facebook use creates a life that is perpetually unexamined, an impersonal life that is essentially a supplement to the page.

Yes, Facebook can keep one up to date on various events and gossip but it ultimately keeps one away from private time in which one can reflect and truly examine their life.  It is Facebook, along with all other destructive technology, that may work to keep a population at bay when horrible injustices occur- people are often too consumed by what another ate for lunch or where they went out last Saturday.  In a study done by LightSpeed Research it was found that over 1/3 of women ages 18 to 34 check Facebook when they first wake up, even before they go to the bathroom (mashable). This illustrates the dangerous grasp that Facebook has on many people’s lives and the power that it has to distract them from other things as the priority immediately upon waking up is to check Facebook. The rise of the proletariat, predicted by Marx in the Communist Manifesto, may be kept at bay by the distraction that is Facebook as mass populations become engrossed more on the Internet and less in life. Arguably every single person with a Facebook is a slave to it.  Socrates believed that all should be questioned but people are far too often straying away from examining their lives and with Facebook as such a powerful fixture of many lives it must be examined!

Turn on, tune in and drop out before Facebook becomes an unbeatable power and enslaves us all.

http://mashable.com/2010/07/07/oxygen-facebook-study/

Marx and Reality of Selfish Behavior

April 23, 2011

Marx, in his philosophy, said that individuals are not selfish by nature; however they are selfish through the environment they are in. This environmental manipulation causes a major change in state as well as poses a serious threat to Marx’s ideal society view of communism. We have studied many philosophers throughout the course of this class that have touched on the idea of selfish ideals in humans. What do they think and how would they react to Marx’s ideas? Also based on other’s philosophies, can a Marxist society exist and would it ever be successful?

Marx, in the Communist Manifesto, states that individuals cannot be selfish at all in order for society to function properly. All must work their hardest in order to further their society and all earn the same wages even if they are a doctor, or a garbage man. Everyone has their place in society and stays in it as well as maintains the idea of no one being a higher class than others. This controversial view raises many questions concerning human nature along with how their behaviors effect society formation.

Many philosophers we discussed theorized that selfish behaviors in individuals are a portion of human nature. Locke said that humans are allowed to be selfish in order to preserve their individual right to life, liberty, and their possessions. Hume also says that humans are too selfish to work towards the common good and only do so to further themselves in society. If humans are born this way, it would be very difficult to have an ideal communistic society which we have seen in historic examples of such societies. Without the intense cooperation required for this type of totally equal society, it will not function properly and lead to rebellion. Also, submission to the greater good as a whole is difficult for humans due to their invested interests in their rights and not infringing upon them.

Others feel that humans understand their place in society and will submit rights in order to further their society overall. Rousseau believed in utilizing a social contract where individuals were required to submit particular rights and abide by particular rules to create a safe and successful society. The type of submission that Marx requires though is much more intense than Rousseau hypothesized, however according to his theory it still could be possible. Also in Solnit’s work “Uses of Disaster,” she describes how people can come together and work as one unit, but only in times of life-threatening disaster. This can loosely be applied to Marx’s ideas.

Overall, there is overwhelming support for humans having selfish behaviors from the philosophers we have studied through this course, therefore I believe that humans are selfish to a point. Selfish behaviors are usually associated with unhelpful behaviors, however I feel it is what drives a society economically as well as socially to create incentive to prosper. This selfishness also helps advance society through striving to do better for one’s self as well as advancing ingenuity in a society. Marx’s idealistic society has not worked in the past, and will not work due to the idea of human selfishness and desire to provide for yourself directly. I believe many other philosophers agree with my idea and this raises issues with Marx’s work and idea of a communistic society.

Go Go DIY Squad!

April 22, 2011

Internet to DIYers: “You’ve got a friend in me!”

DIY Squad

This image was borrowed from diysquad.co.uk. Obviously.

This is a blog post which touches on a topic close to my own heart: the phenomenon of the DIYer (Do-It-Yourselfer).  In all my years as a human male, I’ve fixed computers, built computers, fixed tvs, made several microphones – a few dynamics using old speaker diaphragms, and a 9V powered stereo condenser with parts from an online store – recorded my own music, made digital graphics and videos from scratch, modified my own electric guitar (an old Fender Squire on which I replaced the neck and bridge pickups, and added two FX switches for an astounding 11 combo sounds, compared to the stock 5), etc.

Porsche 944

This is a 1983-85 model Porsche 944, similar in appearance to my own fixer-upper project car. I hear the letters "TLC" and I'm there!

My current project is fixing up an old 1983 Porsche 944, like the one in the photo on the right.  I have the old Hayne’s manual, years of experience with a wrench, but without the internet and websites like clarksgarage.com and the forums on PelicanParts, I would be sunk trying to take care of an entire automobile while doing all the otherwise expensive maintenance myself.

So what does this have to do with Political Science?  Well it has a lot to do with Karl Marx, to be sure.

If history has taught us anything, it’s that knowledge is power.  Reading and writing were once the privileges of upper-class status, and it’s largely through perpetuating the under-education of the lower class that they retained social dominance.  Most especially, in this case, I’d like to look at knowledge in the form of know how, or the ability of persons to create and produce.  For it is this sort of knowledge whose ascertaining is revolutionized by the DIY movement.

“… as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes… it [is] possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.”     -Marx & Engels, The German Ideology

In the above quote, it becomes blatantly apparent how the politics of Marx align with the DIY plight, and the eclectic sort of know how which has become so readily feasible for private persons thanks to the advent of the internet.  If, say, I want to produce something for myself, evading all the typical postmodern means of production via factory mass-production and assembly-line labor – such as a stereo condenser microphone, or a computer, or if I want to ignore how my labor has been appropriated by my own circumstances and restore a classic car without a background in engineering, mechanics or whatever else the task may call for, the deciding factor in how successful I’ll be is knowledge of the know how sort.  And to attain said knowledge is easier now than ever before, thanks to the politics of like-minded DIYers who learn, and post their own experiences and knowledge to the internet.

And why should the rights of production lie with the bourgeoisie?  Why can’t every man become a renaissance man in the truest sense, producing for himself and his own what he so desires?  In a communist society, Marx, says, the rights of production lie with the workers.  It is, ideally, a beautiful model, in which each is rewarded directly by the fruits of his own labor, rather than by the comparably arbitrary monetary scheme to which a society holds itself.  My own personal feelings are that there are even adverse psychological effects from not producing for one’s own self, namely that without a sense of where a thing comes from, and what goes into it, the entire means of evaluation of worth (of the aforementioned object) is thrown askew, and thus a proper system of cause and effect, and proportionate rewards/punishments is never learned.

What we see with the internet is, perhaps, the beginning of the actualization of a portion of Marx’s prophecies.  He writes:

“The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the laborers, due to competition, by the revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.”     -Marx, Communist Manifesto

If we count the internet in with this “advance of industry”, as a development from modernization in a postmodern society, then considering its enlightening capabilities, the bourgeoisie does truly cut the foundation from under its feet, as information, it would seem, is now essentially free.  My hope is that as the internet progresses, a DIY mentality will replace a lot of the previously-upheld norms with regard to the rights of production, and “folk-knowledge” if I could call it that will assume a position just as important in reshaping the intellectual landscape as more “scholarly” knowledge.

A final point I want to introduce is the ethics of piracy.  It’s a hot-topic, with people on either side of the fence, yet I would be surprised if there were a single person reading this blog who wasn’t “guilty” of it at some point or another.  If knowledge is power, and books, films and music all contain knowledge, do we allow the bourgeois upper-class to fix a price to it?  One can learn volumes just from listening to music, for instance, and the open-minded diversification of personal experiences is infinitely important to one’s own development.  So am I committing a crime by [illegally] downloading everything from Mozart to Dr. Dog?  Tchaikovsky to Zero7?  It’s one of those places in the broad landscape of political theory where the right to accrue wealth and receive [monetary] reward for his or her work butts heads with the rights of the individual to enlighten themselves with all the best that world culture has to offer.  If I were to buy all my Mozart and my Dr. Dog, my Tchaikovsky and my Zero7, and the plethora of other artists I listen to, I would be completely bankrupt, and therefore I’d never have developed the cultural perspective and enrichment that I have today.

Could it not be that, perhaps, the laws of supply and demand are inept at adjusting to account for personal liberty and the enlightenment and enrichment of mankind?  Popular artists hardly starve these days; is it possible the rewards they reap are disproportionately large compared to the work they produce?

“… the separate individuals [will] be liberated from the various national and local barriers, be brought into practical connection with the material and intellectual production of the whole world and be put in a position to acquire the capacity to enjoy this all-sided production of the whole earth (the creations of man).”     -Marx & Engels, The German Ideology


Are Boys better than Girls?

April 20, 2011

But really, are boys better than girls? Ever since the second grade when the “cooties” were a rampant disease and proving that your gender was superior to the other was a sport, the debate of whether boys are better than girls has been ongoing. A major factor in this dispute as a whole is that women have not always had the same rights as men. So, historically speaking, women have always been considered less apt to participate in certain aspects of society than men. But does this actually constitute that men are better than women? According to John Stuart Mill, in his 1869 piece, The Subjection of Women, the sexes SHOULD be equal! So, in my opinion, much like Mill’s, boys are not necessarily better than girls.

In order to fully explain why I believe that Mill is correct in his thinking, we must first briefly examine his work, The Subjection of Women. In this 1869 essay, Mill asserts that during this time women were generally seen as submissive to their husbands and fathers due to the status quo that said that women were both bodily and intellectually less able than men. He continues on in his essay to explain that this prevailing social norm has no substantial evidence to deem it true. I consider this to be Mill’s strongest argument against the case that boys are better than girls. In Mill’s time, the notions that women had to be “taken care of” and biological determinism (the hypothesis that biological factors such as an organism’s individual genes (as opposed to social or environmental factors) completely determine how a system behaves or changes over time) reigned. In today’s world, these ideas would be considered irrelevant to the argument, not only because biological determinism is now considered an inaccurate understanding of the biological model of evolution, but also because 21st century women are now in major positions of power in the work force and tend to take care of their entire family, including their husbands. This shows that women are just as capable as men to taken care of themselves as well as become respected professionals. Finally, one of Mill’s most compelling arguments in favor of girls being just as “good” as boys, is that women in his time were not given the chance to do certain things because men innately believed that women were naturally worse at specific tasks. He goes on to explain that if women are not given the opportunity to prove that they can complete such jobs, there is no substantial evidence that can establish that they are physically or intellectually inferior to men. To further substantiate his claim, Mill states, “The anxiety of mankind to intervene on behalf of nature is an altogether unnecessary solicitude. What women by nature cannot do, it quite superfluous to forbid them from doing” (Chapter 1). By this, Mill suggests that men believe that women are in fact capable of doing certain activities that are usually reserved for men, but men do not want women to engage in these jobs. It is clear from Mill’s arguments that women (in his time) should not be considered inferior to men on the grounds that women are not “allowed” to perform tasks similar to men.

Now that we are familiar with Mill’s arguments, it is now worthwhile to address, based on his arguments, whether or not Mill is a feminist. In terms of today’s standards, I believe that Mill would not be known as a feminist, but in the 19th century, yes, Mill went against the norm and would be considered a feminist. For example, in today’s society women have the right to vote and therefore are clearly trusted enough to have a say in government alongside men. However, in 1869, women did not have the right to vote. In his essay, Mill addresses this issue and contends that everyone should have the right to vote except for barbarians and uneducated people. This is because he believes that every reasonable and sound person should have the chance to defend his or her own rights through the power of the vote. For the time, this would be considered a controversial statement because women were not seen as voters but rather solely as homemakers, wives, and mothers. In my opinion it is commendable that Mill had the guts to go against the discourse of the time and not only address the subjection of women, but to rally against it and make a case that women are just as able as men.

Although Mill makes an excellent case for why girls are just as good as boys, in reality, the only way to know who is “better” is by allowing both men and women to perform the same tasks and then evaluate “who did what better”.

http://bcove.me/11n3g44g — follow this link for a girls vs. boys debate video!

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Subjection_of_Women

Boston Rob and his Machiavellian Ways

April 20, 2011

“You will find people are so simple-minded and so preoccupied with their immediate concerns, that if you set out to deceive them, you will always find plenty of them who will let themselves be deceived. (37)”

     It’s Wednesday night and once again I am anxiously awaiting tonight’s episode of Survivor. As I was sitting at my computer brainstorming ideas for my last blog, I realized that one of my all-time favorite characters, Rob Mariano or “Boston Rob”, was a perfect example of a Machiavellian. Rob has been in 4 seasons of Survivor and continues to earn his villainous reputation through his constant control of the game through controlling his fellow contestants. A central theme of Machiavelli in “The Prince” is that in order for a prince to be successful and maintain his power, the prince must use whatever means are at his disposal, and Rob does just that. Rob is known for his crafty, cunning, and tricky ways, as has been known to give many people his word (to keep them safe from being voted out), and then without a blink of his eye, he votes them out. At the same time, he makes it known that if you aren’t “with him” then you will get voted off. He uses fear as a means of control and as a way to make his fellow alliance obey.

     Also, Rob, like Machiavelli, acknowledges that a prince who keeps his word is generally praised by others, but realizes that if you look at history, there have been many successful rulers who have not. Knowing this, Rob always tries to portray to the rest of the survivors that he isn’t so crafty, cunning and tricky. For example, during the season of Survivor: All Stars, Rob had told fellow survivor Lex that if Lex could keep Rob’s love interest (and now his wife), Amber safe, he would “take care of him” in return. Lex followed through by keeping Amber safe, but during the next episode, the tribes merged and Lex was voted out, despite Rob’s previous commitment to him. Rob justified himself by saying, “Make no mistake about it Lex, but the word I gave you was that if I could take care of you I will. I’m sorry, I cannot.” Rob clearly used Lex for his own selfish means and then discarded him when he didn’t need him anymore.

     In addition, Rob agrees with Machiavelli by using his “warcraft” as the foundation of his game. In the current season of Survivor, he has installed a “buddy system” within the 5 other players of his alliance. This buddy system ensures that no one from his alliance is ever by themselves, and ultimately never in jeopardy of being swayed by the competing alliance to join forces with them. His alliance faithfully obeys because they know that if they show any kind of disloyalty, Rob will not hesitate to vote them out. It is this combination of smart tactical strategies, and his intelligent use of domestic politics, which prove that his “warcraft” is his groundwork for success. Rob believes that his ends justify his means, just as Machiavelli does. The following clip is a great example of how Rob plays the game. His quote, “Fear, basically, it’s a tough principle, but fear keeps people loyal. If they’re afraid they have something to loose, then they’ll do what you tell them to do,” shows that he follows Machiavellian principles.

Citations:

Machiavelli, Niccolo. “The Prince.” Modern Political Thought: readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. Ed. David Wootton. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2008. Print.

Farewell Machiavelli

April 20, 2011

For my final blog post, I decided to revisit one of my favorite political philosophers for this course: Niccolo Machiavelli. I believe it is his concept of “Ends Justify the Means” that keeps me so interested in him. What it is about this concept that I find so fascinating I’m not exactly sure. Perhaps it is because I find a way to fit this concept into every aspect of our current life? Whether someone is blaming, forgiving, lying, telling the truth, making or breaking alliances, making or breaking rules, making or breaking promises, or even misleading someone, the Machiavellian concept is being applied in some way. Take even school work for example, how many times have you thought to yourself or said to someone, “Just do whatever it takes to get it done”? I mean that is the main goal is it not? To just get the assignment done as fast and as accurately as possible? Of course you want to get a good grade on the assignment but the end mind set is to just get it done whichever way is possible. This is where a student can falter if they are not careful and take Machiavelli’s idea to far, committing plagiarism or even cheating. I like to believe that I am a good person as well as everyone else on this earth. I am genuinely an optimistic person and pretty forgiving, but there is something that causes all of us, and even myself, to step outside our morals and up-bringing and follow Machiavelli.

While I was researching Machiavelli, I stumbled upon a famous comic that is an all time classic: Calvin and Hobbes. For those of you who have never read it or heard about it, it is basically a comic about a cat (Hobbes) and boy (Calvin). In this particular episode however, Calvin doesn’t believe in ethics and takes on Machiavelli’s concept of ends justify the means.

Calvin and Hobbes meets Machiavelli

When the table is turned and Hobbes takes on Machiavelli’s style, Calvin no longer likes Machiavelli’s idea. Calvin thinks that this concept should only apply to him and no one else. A bit selfish don’t you think? Then again he is only looking out for his best interest is he not? What do you think?

One last example I found was in a movie called Pride and Glory. In the movie, a brother gets caught up investigating a case that involves another brother and brother-in-law. The family is a multi-generation cop family and their morals are being put to the test. In this specific scene I am posting, two of the brothers who are a part of the NYP, get in an argument about how crime has gone down and collar has gone up. The one is upset about how he got lied to and the other one is claiming that it did not matter because he still achieved the end results he was asked to do. Take a look here Pride and Glory .

The number of examples I could find for Machiavelli seem endless. The few I listed above were just the ones that caught my eye and were what I thought practical examples of “Ends justify the means” were. After examining my own life, I came up with a few instances when I have used this principle. One of the main instances is when I play sports. No matter what sport, whether it be basketball or football, I will do whatever it takes to win. This is the view that almost all athletes have adopted who are super competitive I believe. They will play dirty when the ref is not looking or even talk smack. They, myself included, will do whatever it takes to win. It seems that if one thinks hard and long enough, they can relate Machiavelli’s concept to just about anything! Enough about myself, I’m curious to see in what ways you use Machiavelli’s idea of “Ends Justify the Means” in your life. Leave your comments below!

Farewell to the Blog

April 18, 2011
by

I thought that it would be fitting to make my final post a reflection on blogging through the lens of political theory.

I have found it engaging to be able to learn about theorists in class and to immediately apply them to everyday life. The blog has become one of the first places that I turn when I want to better understand a theory or to see new ways to apply it. It is a fast paced place where we can get our views and interpretations out in the open. We also get to spice things up with videos, pictures, and even polls.

The greatest feature of the blog is the user base. Through comments we are able to give input. We identify good posts and bad posts with ratings. We give our interpretation, critiques, and ideas for improvement. Everyone has something to add.

Haters gonna hate

I also enjoyed how we were able to avoid the "hate"

I feel that Mill would be envious of what we have to work with here on the blog. As he said, “the particular evil of silencing a particular opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion still more than those who hold it.” Here no one is silenced; no opinion or view is wrong until someone gives a convincing argument proving so. Even then, one is only right or wrong in the eyes of those agreeing with a given interpretation. We are able to contribute to the greater understanding of all the students of the class, and it really isn’t an issue of whether we are “right” or “wrong”. All posts have something to add and nothing but the passage of time can hide them. We can even spark up a conversation about new applications and interpretations or add our own ideas in the comments. It’s unbelievable!

We are able to bring about a general will of sorts, similar to the one that Rousseau talks about in his theory. We contribute our interpretations, give rebuttals, and inform other readers of how we feel things should be interpreted. We are able to grow toward a consensus as peers and become more articulate in our interpretation and expression of theory.

This blog is an amazing tool and is an exercise in political theory in it of itself. It has been interesting and I am proud to say that we have been working toward the truth as scholars and equals.

I just like this video and wanted to work it in before the end of the year

Rick Snyder: Signs of Burke?

April 18, 2011

State-appointed Emergency Financial Managers (EFMs) in our great State of Michigan have new, unprecedented powers thanks to Rick Snyder. For those who are unaware of the legislation that has recently been passed, they have the ability to do things that they have never been able to do before. They can essentially “fire” a municipality’s government. The elected officials who make up the city government still hold their specific positions, but they have essentially no power. The Emergency Financial Manager basically takes over. Well, according to the Daily Kos, an online blog, on April 15th the first instance of this very exact thing happened. Our financially downtrodden city of Benton Harbor had its entire government relieved of its power. Here’s the post from the Daily Kos: Emergency Financial Planner Fires Entire City Government

Joseph Harris, EFM of Benton Harbor

Do we see some Burkean influence in our governor, Rick Snyder? Burke believed that not all people should hold positions in regards to the governmental “caste,” if you will. A good fisherman should be content to be a good fisherman and not involve him or herself in the affairs of government because he or she does not know what’s best. Those matters should be left to the select individuals who carry the proper intellect and state of mind to lead the government. So, ultimately, do we see here Snyder believing that the prior city council was not capable of bringing Benton Harbor out of its majority poverty-stricken state, and so it is up to the more capable Emergency Financial Planner to find the solution? Burke did not necessarily believe it is about democracy but that it is about the elites knowing what is best for the people.

Let’s go into the mind…of Karl Marx

April 18, 2011
Doesn’t his beard makes him look like Santa?

To put it nicely, Karl Marx did not like Capitalism. He believed it was exploitive, self-destructive and a “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie”, which would eventually be overthrown because of the inevitable internal conflicts between classes. I do not agree with his philosophies but if we look at the historical context of Marx’s time maybe we can understand why he thought the way he did. Like a wise madden announcer said, “Let’s go into the mind of Karl Marx”.

Karl Marx was born in Germany in 1818 during the Industrial Revolution. The Revolution produced many inventions, but at a cost.  Factory conditions were poor and there weren’t many labor laws or regulations. Thus the workers were subjected to the will of the factory owners who were most likely part of the bourgeoisie. Luckily for Marx he was born into a wealthy middle class family where they did not have to work in factories. His economic situation allowed him to observe the plight of the workers at a distance. What he saw shaped his impression of capitalism, which is different from the system we experience today. In his Communist Manifesto Marx says, “Masses of labourers, crowded into the factory, are organized like soldiers…they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overlooker, and, above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself”(Modern Political Thought, pp.830-31). Like I mentioned earlier, there were no labor unions to speak for the interests of the workers, as opposed to today where we have many that provide a voice if they feel oppressed or wronged.  For example, teachers can negotiate their contracts for better pay, health benefits, etc.  If the offer put forth by their superiors does not satisfy them, the teachers union can go on strike.  In short, today we have many laws in place to ensure that workers are kept as safe and happy as possible.

Keeping this in mind, if Marx had been born one hundred or so years later, do you think he would still dislike capitalism? The question almost becomes a nature versus nurture argument but I think it raises an interesting point. If Marx had been born in a time when capitalism had improved and provided better conditions for its workers, do you think he would still find it oppressive? I think it is an interesting idea to ponder.  In a way I feel sorry for Marx, because his ideas are noble but they work better on paper than they do in reality.

Recently I read a book called Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow that reminded me of Marx’s ideologies.  One of the story lines follows a Jewish artist named Tateh.  In the beginning, he is a firm believer in communism and socialism who dislikes America, specifically New York City.  After traveling down the east coast he eventually tries to make some money by selling a few flip books he designed. Within a few months Tateh goes from being penniless to wealthy and denounces his contempt for capitalism. Marx says, “The modern labourer…instead of rising with the process of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth”(pp. 833).  This is an oversimplified  scenario and explanation.  Regardless of whatever economic system one has, there will be those who will be better off or worse off.  It may have its flaws but capitalism creates more opportunities and promotes innovation.  Tateh from Ragtime a great example that one can make a name for themselves with hard work regardless of they’re background or previous living conditions.

When put into practice communism creates an equal society, but one where everyone is equally poor.  A man may fish one day and then wish to work in a factory the next day, but there is no guarantee of work in such a volatile workforce.  There is less motivation and incentive to create or learn because whether one is a doctor or a fisherman he receives the same pay and regard.

What does that mean for Marx? If he was born in a time where workers had more rights and capitalism had a chance to improve do you think he would still dislike it?

The Berlin Wall, a symbol of communism.

SOURCES:

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Karl Marx. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/marx/&gt;.

Wootton, David. Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 2008. Print.

Mill on False Facts

April 18, 2011

Mill supports freedom of speech and suggests that all opinions are valuable in the search for truth. He feels that it is the duty of citizens to state opinions whether they are certain these ideas are true or not. If there is a free flow of thought and communication in a society, then truth can be realized. No truth can exist unless it has been proved true.
So we know how Mill feels freedom of speech but how would he feel about freedom of speech in which someone states an opinion as fact and is well aware that said fact is untrue, or is aware that their statement has not been researched?
For example how would Mill respond to Jon Kyl’s false claim about Planned Parenthood?

While Kyl claims that 90% of planned parenthood’s services are abortions, the actual percentage is 3%. When asked how he could make a claim off by 87%, Kyl said that his statement was not meant to be factual but instead was meant to prove a point.
Whether Kyl knew he was lying or not is irrelevant because regardless he was in the wrong. If he was aware his percentage was so vastly off and presented it as fact he is guilty of misleading citizens and is not aiding in the search for truth but instead making this quest more difficult. If Kyl was unaware his claim was false, he was certainly aware that his claim had not been researched and he had no basis for making a claim to which he had put no thought to.
Mill argues that freedom of speech is imperative to society and its development but I do not believe he would support making false claims to make a point (for that point is only proved false if its support is a total lie). Nor would Mill support making a claim that had not been researched. For Kyl to state an opinion about planned parenthood and its services is one thing and perhaps beneficial to the debate on abortion, but for him to falsely present percentages is wrong.
I am interested to see what you think about Kyl’s claims and how Mill would interpret them. Perhaps he would suggest that lying is not such a terrible offense and is beneficial in the search for truth? Bellow is a clip of Stephen Colbert and his interpretation of the situation.

The Circle is Now Complete: On Socrates and Marx

April 18, 2011
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This blog has been an incredible venue for showing off knowledge of the material in absolutely astronomical ways. I have been honored to be a part of it since January and despite the fact that not everyone agreed with me sometimes, we were able to have interesting, vigorous political theory debate day in and day out. And now, as Darth Vader said in Star Wars Episode IV: “The Circle is now Complete.” I would like to tackle the first political theorist we discussed and the last as an exercise on how one can synthesize seemingly differing political theory from completely different time periods and come up with a many similarities as a result. Let us begin with one of the first political thinkers, a founder of Western thought, Socrates:

A Museum of the Vatican bust of Socrates, one of the first political thinkers in the West.

Socrates, a theorist who lived during the transition from Athens’ golden age to its downturn following a defeat by Sparta, dared to challenge the conventional wisdom that democracy was the be-all end-all of civilization. He believed that leaders were chosen on their rhetorical flourish rather than their ability to truly lead the people. Next, Socrates’ views on wisdom must be tackled.From Plato’s text of Socrates, he posits that: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” (38a) He believes that to be truly wise in society, one needs to take a private pursuit of truth in order to fully realize life and what is out there. Finally, however, in the argument against Crito, where Crito persuades Socrates to flee from his death following his guilty charge for not worshiping the state gods and corruption of the youth, Socrates believes that one needs to follow the laws of the state and its Social Contract when one lives in a state (46c-49e).

These ideas are strikingly similar to those of Karl Marx, a philosopher living in the 19th century.

The philosopher Karl Marx in one of his most famous portraits.

While worlds away from Socrates in time and cultural technology (as well as political differences), the two had remarkably similar stances on the above three issues: anti-democracy, pursuits of truth, and following the laws of the state. Marx, in the Communist Manifesto, argues that democracy and capitalism allow a few rich people, known as the bourgeoisie, to dominate the proletariat, the working people. Marx, similar to Socrates, emphasizes that this is not the best method to convey human enlightenment and fairness, and just as one leader is usually foolishly chosen, a community leading would be preferrable following revolution. Also, Marx was an advocate on pursuing truth through education and community interaction. Through community interaction and listening to the perspectives of many people, truth is discovered. Marx calls for “rescu[ing] education from the influence of the ruling class.” (pg 807), strongly advocating free public education for all in “Proletarians and Communists.” Although the third subset, following the rules of the state, is a tricky one, Marx does advocate the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and the necessity for the leaders of this dictatorship to listen to one another and for the bourgeois oppressed to follow their rule (pg 809).

The key element I take out of this comparison is the general similarities of Socrates and Marx in many areas. Although they disagree on implementation vigorously (private pursuit vs. revolution), there are key tenets such as the necessity for truth, following the state’s rules, and making sure not just one foolish leader is in power, that are incredibly similar. One can  find similarities with many of our political theorists, and in this manner can compile a political theory all their own. Thus, the circle is now complete. Have a great night, folks.

SOURCES:

1F. Engels and K. Marx, The Communist Manifesto, reprinted in Modern Political Theory, 2nd Edition (D. Wooton Ed.), 2008, Hackett Publishing Co., Indianapolis, In

2Plato, The Trial and Death of Socrates, 3rd Edition (Cooper Ed.), 2001, Hackett Publishing Co., Indianapolis, In


Why can’t we all be more social?

April 18, 2011

When Obama’s opponents want to really discredit him, they call him a socialist.  In the modern political world, this epithet is far worse than “wife-beater,” “moral degenerate,” or even “devil-worshipper”.  In fact, all of these derogatory appellations appear to be encompassed by this damning label “socialist”.  The devil is, of course, Karl Marx (seen to the right), who visualized socialism as an intermediate step in achieving the communist utopia.  We have been reading the works of Marx and I find some of his ideas very intriguing.  Marx visualized a classless society in which everyone shares in the profit of their labors.  He saw communism as a remedy for the “naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation”1 of the workers by the bourgeoisie.  Marx’s ideas are embodied in a large number of works, the most famous being the Communist Manifesto1, which he wrote with Friedrich Engels.  Communism has now been almost completely discredited due to its failures of the Soviet Union, North Korea, and Cuba.  China is thriving because, while maintaining many of the trappings of communism, it has embraced capitalism with great success.  I think that it is safe to say that communism is dead and cannot, and should not, be resurrected.

Socialism adapted to modern society is a more palatable and easily achievable solution to the exploitation of the many by the few.  It is also a system in which everyone would share the benefits of industrialization.  Unlike communism, where the goal is the destruction of the machinery of capitalism, socialism can be adapted to the existing means of production.  The difference is that the means of production would be owned by society rather than private individuals motivated solely by their hungry appetites for profit.  Moreover, socialism is fully compatible with democracy.  While the US is a capitalistic democracy, several European countries are socialist democracies, and they have proven to be quite successful.

It has been argued that socialism runs counter to the normal competitive nature of man where people are motivated by personal gain and are less concerned about society at large.  However, the willingness to act on behalf of the community is not necessarily an unnatural impulse.  It is quite common in the animal world2.  Consider African termites.  The tunnels for entering the mounds built by African termites have only a slightly larger diameter than the heads of the soldier termites.  When the nests are threatened, the soldiers will block the access into the mound with their heads, thus sometimes sacrificing their own lives for the survival of the community.  Furthermore, anthropologists have discovered many different primitive cultures in which people act on behalf of the community, not themselves.  The point I am trying to make is that altruistic behavior can, in fact, be an effective survival strategy. 

So, would socialism work in modern U.S. society?  To be honest, probably not.  The current capitalistic system is highly, probably irreversibly,entrenched and the American people are repelled by socialism.  This aversion is, in part, due to its historical ties to communism. However, they also hate the idea, illustrated by the cartoon below, that the socialist government will take their hard-earned money out of their pockets and give it to the disadvantaged.  Nevertheless, it should be possible to adopt the underlying motivation of socialism: the equitable treatment of all of people living in society.  It seems inexcusable that so many U.S. citizens living far below the poverty line lack health care and have no security in retirement.  Can government initiatives rectify these inequities socialism?  Not even close, but they are moral imperatives that we can no longer ignore.  

 

 

1F. Engels and K. Marx, The Communist Manifesto, reprinted in Modern Political Theory, 2nd Edition (D. Wooton Ed.), 2008, Hackett Publishing Co., Indianapolis, In
2E. O. Wilson, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition, Harvard University Press, 2000.

Environmentalism: the New Socialism?

April 18, 2011

It seems that just the mentioning of the word socialism strikes fear in many Americans. But what about environmentalism? One can hardly argue that the idea of a more sustainable environment is a bad or scary one. So what exactly is it about environmentalism that is socialistic?

According to Rush Limbaugh in this book, The Way Things Ought To Be, “With the collapse of Marxism, environmentalism has become the new refuge of socialist thinking. The environment is a great way to advance a political agenda that favors central planning and an intrusive government. What better way to control someone’s property than to subordinate one’s private property rights to environmental concerns.”

Limbaugh argues that environmentalism is a way for the government to take control of one’s private property; however, most environmentalist will argue that the concept of private property itself is one born out of the modern, capitalistic era.

The following is an excerpt from a paper I wrote earlier in the semester for my environmental history class. It describes some of the arguments environmentalist make against capitalism:

“The story of Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the Americas is learned as far back as elementary school. It has even earned itself a catchy nursery rhyme: “Back in 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, he sailed the Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria.”  There is no doubt that we all know the story; however, for most, it was sold to us under false pretenses.  This famous voyage is known as “the discovery of the New World,” despite the fact that this world was by no means new, nor was Christopher Columbus the first to discover it.  The voyage did, however, mark the beginning of a new era characterized by globalization.  This era, without a doubt, has had detrimental and irreversible effects on our environment. Donald Worster, in his book, the Ends of the Earth,  describes two major forces that have placed our earth in what he refers to as “an unprecedented state of vulnerability.” The first, a significant population increase in Europe and second, the rise of the modern capitalist economy.

Although a capitalist economic systemwould not fully exist as we know it today until the 19th and 20th century, the transition to capitalistic style of thought, which, according to Worster, requires people to “learn relentlessly their own private accumulation of wealth.. They must think constantly in terms of making money. They must regard everything around them – the land, its natural resources, their own labor – as potential commodities that might fetch a profit in the market,” began to develop during the 15th century. In this quote, Worster mentions the concept of commodifaction, or the turning of nature into a commodity, which is further elaborated on by William Cronin, who answers the question, how did colonies support themselves? Cronin discusses what an early explorer, Richard Hakluyt called, “merchantable commodities,” which he describes as “natural products which could be shipped to Europe and sold at a profit in order to provide a steady income for colonial settlements.”  But, what, exactly, was consider a so-called “merchantable commodity?”  Cronin goes further to explain that “a ‘merchantable commodity’ in America was what was scarce in Europe.” So, it seems that we have come full circle. Overpopulation and lack of resources to sustain the population led Europeans to establish colonies in the “new world,” which could provide them with the resources they needed to sustain their growing population. These elaborate methods of trade begin the transition from a barter economy, to a money economy, and ultimately a free market economy (for capitalist societies), which Worster claims has caused much of the environmental evils. ”

Are environmentalist like Worster and Cronin, who blame much the the environmental issues we face today on the emergence of capitalism, socialist?

Professor Lavaque-Manty mentioned that capitalism has the ability to adapt and has made the transition to green.  Although this may be true, one cannot turn back time and undo all the environmental damage which capitalism has already done.

What do you think?

Would you prefer a Machiavellian president?

April 18, 2011

By: Brendan Lapinski

Before I start I want to you to assume that our president is completely honest and frank with us and he only acts morally in everything he decides for our country and would never deceive us or other countries. Now, with that out of the way, would you prefer a president who followed a Machiavellian way to ruling (for lack of a better word)? In my opinion I think our country would be a little better off that way. If Barack Obama did what needed to be done and didn’t have to rely on the Senate or the House to get things done or at the very least slow bill or law passing down to a snail’s crawl, then I think our country would be in a better spot than it is now. We would still have watertight ways of checking his power and make sure he didn’t get too out of control but if we skip all the formalities of the processes then this country would get stuff done much faster than it does now. We would see results faster and, in my opinion, create a better country to live in where a president might actually follow through on his promises and agenda if not slowed by legal formalities. I may be speaking blasphemy here but it’s my opinion and I’m interested to hear what you think or point out any blaring mistakes I made, which I’m sure I have because I’m not too political savvy. But leave a comment below and let me know.

What’s Wrong with this Picture?

April 18, 2011
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Though we have a long way to go, there is no question that today’s society is reaching towards achieving ultimate equality for all. All voices are considered equal, our President is African-American, and there is an ever increasing amount of women scouring the business world. All these amazing feats are something that our country should take pride in and use all we’ve accomplished to help fuel a fire towards doing even bigger and better things.

In working to achieve ultimate equality, however, we must remember that respect still needs to be given to those who value traditional values along with the progressive thinkers. It seems to me that in today, if a woman decides to be a homemaker and stay at home to take care of her family, her life is seemingly less important than a woman who decides to work. Speaking as a woman, I believe it’s truly important that a woman should be given the right to work if she wishes. I do not think it’s right, however, to view a woman who decides to dedicate her life to her home as inferior. It’s interesting to me to see how much has changed over such a short period of time. It used to be that if a woman was working, it was a sign of weakness because it meant she couldn’t find a man to provide a proper home for her. Today, it seems to me that almost the opposite is true, where instead if a woman isn’t working it must mean she’s lazy or looking to just be a trophy wife. A woman can still be strong even if she chooses to stay at home and support her family. Similarly, a man shouldn’t be viewed as weak or not masculine if he chooses to be a stay at home dad. Everyone’s personal choices are circumstantial, and no one should have the right to put a value on someone’s voice because of how they choose to live their own life.

Every person has the right to choose what they want to do with their life and how they want to accomplish that. A person’s worth should not be based on what they do, but how and why they do it. Everyone’s opinion is valid and should be viewed as equal. By acting as though one voice is more important than another because of economic factors, we are working backwards. Rather than granting equality, we are instead enabling a new form of separation. Equality should never be circumstantial, but instead be pure and truly granted to everyone.

Efficient and Fair Economy

April 18, 2011

As an American, I was born into a culture where extensive freedoms and liberties are commonplace; however, they seem nearly out of the ordinary when looking at the world as a whole.  Naturally, as I have grown up with boundless freedoms I have come to take them for granted.  This assumption has afforded me the chance to question the efficacy and justness of democracy and capitalism, while still imposing on them the same political and civil freedoms enjoyed in America.

As I read Marx and Engels, I couldn’t help but muse on these broad subjects.  As Marx discussed Communism, I found myself drawing comparisons between the two.  I am opposed to communism.  I’d think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in the US who supports it, but on an economic level, I must admit I did not find it nearly as ridiculous as I thought I would.  In class last week, Dr. Lavaque-Manty asked us how we thought resources and rewards should be distributed in a just society.  The options were either equally, by merit, or by need.  I was in the overwhelming minority in choosing need.  I understand the appeal of a meritocracy, but the question got me to thinking why a Wall Street business man’s job is more inherently merit-worthy than a MacDonald’s cashier.  Yes, a broker could do a cashier’s job while a cashier couldn’t do a broker’s job, but a broker couldn’t necessarily be a farmer, nor an English teacher, nor a lawyer.  I came to the conclusion (and this is merely my personal belief as of this past week, so feel free to disagree) that there is no difference in the merit between two people putting in the same effort and work into a task, be it a cashier or a broker.

cave people cartoons, cave people cartoon, cave people picture, cave people pictures, cave people image, cave people images, cave people illustration, cave people illustrations [But caveman, you don’t have to be a lawyer, as long as you work as hard as one]

So I find myself aligned with neither the capitalists, nor the communists.  If it were possible to record the effort by people put into their jobs, I think an hourly wage system would be by far the best, however, this seems impossible, no matter how technologically advanced we get.  And in a economic system, where everyone gets paid the same amount no matter how they do (and there is not incentive to overachieve or even work at a satisfactory level, because there is no possible pay increase with a raise), there needs to be a way to monitor effort to pay workers on the basis of hours and effort.

[Garfield: hilarious, yet believe it or not, not the best co-worker.  How about “I can… and I will because I won’t get paid if I don’t”?]

However, as I said, it seems highly improbable a technology as such will be invented anytime soon, and I admit I am back where I began from, because without a way of monitoring this, capitalism does seem like the best economic system.

Image: http://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/c/cave_people.asp

Image 2: https://lifeexaminations.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/garfieldlazy.jpg?w=300

“Working Class Hero”

April 18, 2011

John Lennon, in this song, certainly expresses similar critiques of capitalism to Marx’s and Engels’ critiques of capitalism.  I thought it might be interesting to take a look at a few of the lyrics in the song and to bring up connections to those lyrics and Marx’s and Engels’ “The German Ideology.”

As soon as you’re born, they make you feel small.

Marx and Engels say that the “family, initially the only social relationship, becomes later a subordinate relationship” (Wootton 781*).  They also say that the “latent slavery in the family, though still very crude, is the first property” (Wootton 783).  According to Lennon, Marx, and Engels, not only does the government treat people as slaves, the family you are born into treats you as a slave as well (with varying degrees of deliberation).

Keep your dope with religion and sex in TV,

And you think you’re so clever and classless and free,

But you’re still f#%*ing peasants as far as I can see.

As Marx says, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people” (Wikipedia**).  To Marx, religion is completely fictional and is used by the elites of the world to control the weak.  It also, apparently, offers false consolation, just like “opium” offers false consolation to the opium addict.

‘There’s room at the top,’ they are telling you still,

But first you must learn how to smile as you kill,

If you want to be like the folks on the hill.

Marx and Engels say that “[c]onnected with [the development of productive forces] is a class which has to bear all the burdens of society without enjoying its advantages” (Wootton 786).  According to Lennon, Marx, and Engels, people who are successful in a capitalistic system are guilty of oppressing those who are not so lucky;  thus, in order to be “at the top” of a capitalistic society, one must learn how to “smile as you kill.”

After examining these critiques of capitalism by Lennon, Marx, and Engels, what do you think of them?

Works Cited

*Wootton, David, ed. Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. 2nd ed. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2008.

**http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_of_the_people

Marriage Today is Slavery For Men

April 18, 2011

According to John Stewart Mill in the “Subjugation of Women” he compares the institution of marriage to slavery. He argued that women/wives were like slaves because the laws at that time made them subject to their husbands. The laws at that time forced women to obey and basically be a “lap dog” to their husbands. Mill argued that women were worse off than slaves because women weren’t free to do pretty much anything even when they went to sleep at night.

Many years have passed since Mill made this inference and many things have changed around marriage laws. Most of these changes have not been on the positive side. During Mill’s time when he made the inference of women being slaves when it came to marriage, the ball was in the man’s court, but as times have changed the ball is in the middle, which is equality and that is where it should be. But to be perfectly honest, the ball has swung over to the woman’s side and things have reversed and today the institution of marriage is slavery for men.

Today marriage is not so much important for the male species. Divorce rates are skyrocketing now-and-days. And because “No Fault Divorce” is very common among many states, women can file for divorce for whatever reason they want. These divorce rates infer that today it is easier and more accepting for people to get divorced than in Mill’s time. Divorce laws favor women and that is why the divorce rates are so high. For men, divorce does not work in their favor because most of the time divorce ends in losing their homes and half of their assets or more, that is if you did not sign a prenuptial agreement. If there are children involved majority of the time the mother gets custody of the children, unless there are other circumstances involved. Women getting custody of the children leave men in sticky situations, leaving them with only limited opportunities to spend time with their children. Also not only are visitation limits very slim, men also end up having to pay child support as well, which sometimes can be a huge burden. And you cannot get out of paying child support. Child support and alimony must be paid even if the father is injured or loses his job, and if they do not follow through their can be extreme consequences. Also men can be subjected to pay child support for children who aren’t theirs as well.

Therefore, a male living in the United States is subjected to a form of slavery when making the decision to get married. His wife has a large amount of legal power to making their soon to be ex-husband into a walking slave, getting money out of him, assets, children, etc. This is why many men choose not to get married because a marriage comes with a lot of baggage and commitments. Many women also take advantage of marriage just primarily to simply get money out of the man, that in which we call “gold-digging”. It’s funny how years ago, the institution of marriage was reversed and women were slaves in their marriage and now today it is men in that role. This situation is not fair at all, but that is what society has painted.

For men, marriage is financial slavery. “In examining reasons for the current decline of marriage, one question usually receives short shrift. Why are men reluctant to marry?The Rutgers report — admittedly based on a small sample — found ten prevalent reasons. The first three:

— They can get sex without marriage;

— They can enjoy “a wife” through cohabitation; and,

— They want to avoid divorce and its financial risks.

As a critic of anti-male bias in the family courts, the reasons I hear most frequently from non-marrying men are fear of financial devastation in divorce and of losing meaningful contact with children afterward. In a similar vein, the Rutgers report finds: “Many men also fear the financial consequences of divorce. They say that their financial assets are better protected if they cohabit rather than marry. They fear that an ex-wife will ‘take you for all you’ve got’ and that ‘men have more to lose financially than women’ from a divorce (foxnews.com).”

Sources:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,94415,00.html

People Who Want Babies May Use Surrogacy BUT…

April 17, 2011

I believe that Mill would be a stark opponent to the practice based  The Subjection of Women. Mill was against the social norms that perpetuated the belief that women were inferior and less capable than men. He believed we had no basis to subject women to the treatment they deserved and that by not giving them a chance, we were hindering the progress of society. Luckily, we took heed to the protest of Mill and others and as a society emancipated women, giving them equal rights and liberties under our society. However, our society has transgressed and we have returned to subjecting women to lesser protection of their rights. Surrogacy  has allowed women once again to enter a contract that abuses their rights and requires them to fulfill a physical service. Mill likened marriage contracts to slavery, something he was obviously bitterly opposed to. Even marriage, which in itself is not an oppressive contract, was on Mill’s bad list so that leads me to believe that Surrogacy would be looked upon in an even worse manner. Especially in third world countries, the beneficares of surrogates are forcing women to make the decision to enter surrogacy for the own financial benefit of the husband or someone else, and are preventing women from having a fair chance to showcase their real talents and abilities in the real world.

Surrogate mothers while away the time in a hostel in Anand

The husbands of these women are obviously benefiting by their wives submitting to the practice of surrogacy and will be prone to lobby for the continuation of such a practice. This is similar to Mill’s comment on men and how they will be likely to vote on policies that repress women since they want to protect their own interests. Mill would posit that it is the duty of society to outlaw such a represssive practice that has the potential to turn into a large scale industry. I believe Mill would clamor for surrogacy to be heavily regulated and possibly outlawed if the people do not respect the rights of women and if they are unable to see them as anything other than a childbearer.

Would Mill approve of Surrogacy or would he reject it similarly to the way he clamored for a change to marriage practices?

For further viewing on the ethics of surrogacy:

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/10/world/asia/10surrogate.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7661127.stm

Communism Leads to Dystopia

April 17, 2011

“Communism:  A theory or system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state.”    –http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/communism

According to Karl Marx, the struggle between the upper class (bourgeoisie) and the lower class (proletariats) has always been a constant conflict throughout history.  The bourgeoisie controlled all of the means of production and continuously oppressed the proletariats.  This was completely unfair because the proletariats were the ones to perform hard labor and yet the bourgeoisie gained all of the benefits.  Marx believed that in order to end this so-called “class struggle,” class distinctions would need to be eliminated.  In order for everybody in sociey to be considered equal, there could be no private ownership of materials.  If this were allowed, then some people would have more things than other people which would create another class and thus another conflict.  Therefore, an equalized society would eliminate all conflict.

The problem with this idea is that there is no way that class distinctions or conflicts can be eliminated.  Everybody has different opinions and different views, and somebody somehow (even if everybody has the same material possessions) will be jealous of another person for whatever reason and that will create another conflict.  I recently watched the movie Equilibrium starring Christian Bale which was first released in 2002.  The movie is about a futuristic, dystopian, society governed by the Tetragrammaton Council, a totalitarian state.  WWIII occurred and completely ruined the earth.  The Council decided that the conflicts that led to WWIII first arose because of human emotion.  In order for there to not be any world wars and thus no conflicts, the Council decided to eradicate all human emotion by taking a pill called prozium.  However, there were people in the rest of the society known as “sense offenders” who refused to take the pills because they wanted to experience human emotions.  As a result, the Council sends the Grammaton Clerics (kind of like the police force) to hunt down the “sense offenders” for “punishment” which is death.  Here is the trailer for the movie. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVDiaYQXBVs

This plotline reminds me a lot of communism.  According to Marx, the intentions of communism are good.  I agree with that in a way because it sounds like a utopia where everyone is equal and everybody helps each other.  However, this is  not the case in reality.  Marx said that the main problem causing conflict in society is “class struggle” so communism would eliminate that.  But, class distinctions would still be present even in a communist society.  There would be a totalitarian government controlling every aspect of everyone’s lives and everybody else would be poor and oppressed to even larger extremes.  In Equilibrium, the original intention to eliminate human emotions was good because then there would be no conflict and no wars.  However, this came at a huge price.  The government was tyrannical and they burned people alive simply for wanting to feel.  This is what it would be like to live in a communist society.  People who work for the government would hunt you down for seemingly trivial things if they felt that you were a threat to the way of life in that society.  Thus, communism would never be associated with a utopia, it always leads to a dystopia.