by Matthew Boulton: Student of human flourishing and proponent of objective optimism
Ideas, stories, and other content related to the science of politics, always from the perspective of individual rights. If one wants to flourish, one must be free to choose and pursue values, and so one must understand and advocate for the principles of a proper social system.
There is a war on against Christmas. And it’s coming from all directions. From one point, it is attacked for being too “commercial” and “material.” From another, and right in step with the general cancel culture that’s pervaded our society, Christmas is maligned for being “exclusive,” as it is taken as the purview of a single religion (and a majority one in the West, which is an even graver sin today): Christianity.
But what if we separated the holiday from religion?
How are billionaires and trillionaires regarded in our culture, and what does it say about us?
Last week, Matthew referred to a children’s science textbook outlining three symbiotic relationships in nature: mutualism, parasitism, and commensalism, and argued that only win-wins (mutualism) are good while win-lose/lose-wins (parasitism) are immoral.
What is the source of value and production: brain, brawn, or both? How does Disney/Pixar’s ‘Ratatouille’ dramatize the answer? What does intellectual independence look like? What is Anton Ego’s motivation in being a food critic?
“Never has there been a better time to be alive in human history.” So claims the opening line of this podcast.
Guest Jason Crawford delivers an overwhelming case to back it up–which is his business. As a writer on the history of technology and industry, his expertise and encyclopedic ability to highlight example after example of real-world progress in the past centuries, decades, and years will stun you. As a thinker and writer on the philosophy of human progress, he helps reinforce Matthew’s desperate calls to look, see, and appreciate how good we’ve all got it.
The following was written for myself in 2014 but occurred to me when recently reflecting on the reactions to the current pandemic. I went and re-read it and was surprised to see that I found it quite relevant to the current discussion on preventive lockdowns vs. freedom of action in dealing with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. So with only very minor edits in formatting, I publish it here.
Who decides what is safe? For whom? Can others force their tastes on you? What is a right? What constitutes a violation of rights? Should the government protect you from your own choices?
Matthew argues that innovative, fun, delicious, and culture-enhancing products and services that we might enjoy never come into existence because of party poopers. Who are they, and why do they want to poop the party?
Either-or thinking is keeping us from making good choices, both in socio-political issues and in our personal lives. In the former, false alternatives are often erected to establish partisan lines which substitutes rationalization for rational thought, keeping us further from solutions. In the latter, a similar method of rationalization (advocating for choices based on emotional considerations) keeps us from making optimal choices by never defining a rational goal.
I live abroad, but I’m a proud Canadian. No, not in any nationalist sense just because “Canada!” but because of the values it stands for, which I believe to be good. I immigrated to Korea 17 years ago and make it my home, and I am happy to think the values and culture I bring with me are a boon to Koreans who deal with me (to the extent I understand and represent them well!). And as with my writing here, I hope to influence the culture for the better by sharing them.
The medical profession doesn’t just sell relief from pain, but peace of mind. And we should certainly be willing to pay a price for that which, in some cases, only it can offer us. But how much? Around this time last year, I heard a story on Facebook of a friend in the US who mistakenly took the inhale plus exhale of his infant child’s breaths as two instead of one breath and, alarmed at the accelerated rate, took her to emergency only to be made aware of his mistake. Here is a case of this hospital delivering peace of mind to a relieved father, and grateful for that he ought to be.
But the story turns less cute and benevolent when it concludes in him being charged over $700, and I can’t quite wrap my head around it. I live in Korea, and stories like that often end in inverse fashion, the punchline being how little I pay for the relief, comfort, or peace of mind I receive from my health care providers. The following is a brief account of one such episode. Continue reading →
The following was written for myself in 2014 after having finally got around to reading a classic, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and what occurred to me as I was fascinated by various depictions of slavery in the pre-Civil War American South. Having recently thought about the issue of freedom versus our current political and intellectual status quo, and given freedom’s indispensable role in human flourishing–with some clarifying additions, I publish it here.
A popular image of slavery is a cracking whip driving droning, listless workers to some laborious or inhuman task in abhorrent conditions against any will of their own, sucking the days from their lives as if they were of no worth but that of a draft animal. Indeed, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s classic novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin offers vivid images of the villain Simon Legree’s plantation and the manner in which he considers and treats his slaves.