Category Archives: Society

Conversations – Selflessness versus Selfishness

One of the things I like about Word Press is that our posts can generate some great discussion.  Unlike many other social media pages where, on occasion (ok, all too frequently) I see many hateful exchanges.

A couple of days ago a post of mine generated some great discussion on how governments and local communities attempt to shape social behavior.  The idea behind this is to favor what is usually considered the betterment of the whole community or the country at large.

Of course, this begs the questions, “Who gets to decide what’s best for everybody?”  And “Just because it’s best for everybody (if it really is), why should I be compelled to do it.”

It’s a balancing of interests.

Continue reading Conversations – Selflessness versus Selfishness

Nudges

So, I’m back to some of my favorite ramblings – terminology.  Only this time with a little bit of a political twist.

While I do have a political section on my blog, I have elected not to fill it with much.  Just too much divisiveness out there right now.  But I don’t consider this piece to really be the subject of irrational argument.  I’m merely puzzling over societal manipulation in one of its many forms, and how it is branded and sold.

That “form” is called “social policy.”  And you may not really realize just how pervasive this is used to shift behavior or the reasoning behind the social engineering in all cases.  But how does one brand this stuff to make it more socially acceptable?

You call it something like “Libertarian Paternalism.”  And then invent the definition for it.  To make it palatable.

For starters, here’s an example of social policy.  The government places a high tax on cigarettes and tobacco.  This has a two-fold goal.  It is hoped that by making tobacco products expensive that some people will stop smoking and get healthier.  The other side of the coin is that if they don’t stop smoking then revenue has been generated with the tax to help pay for the negative health effects created that the government ultimately has to pay to treat.  And to pay for the other societal costs as well, like lost productivity.

I have no idea what the numbers are now, but last I checked, someone died a smoking-related death in this country every ten seconds.

Well, that tax on tobacco is a very direct social policy means at addressing a problem when it’s understood that people don’t always make rational choices.  Nor do they make choices that are good for society as a whole.  Perhaps because we’ve really emphasized the individual in this country.  And, of course, in this particular case, addiction can certainly override rational choice.

And that particular tax (social policy) doesn’t require a fancy label to disguise it in any way.  Nor does a tax on gasoline.  We all know what these taxes are for.  Although people will probably scream if a tax is placed on cheeseburgers tomorrow.

Which brings us back to the label at the heart of today’s discussion, what the hell is Libertarian Paternalism?

In a sense, all social policies are a form of paternalism with the government, either local or national, or even with private interests, trying to elicit certain behavior.  Paternalism, however, runs completely counter to the idea of being libertarian, a philosophy embracing total freedom of choice, the right to live one’s life anyway one sees fit, with only one exception. That exception is that any given persons’ choice or action cannot impede on the equal right of another. “In the libertarian view, all human relationships should be voluntary; the only actions that should be forbidden by law are those that involve the initiation of force against those who have themselves used force – actions like murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and fraud.”

Libertarian Paternalism is the idea (or fiction, depending on how you view it) “that it is both possible and legitimate for private and public institutions to affect behavior while also respecting freedom of choice, . . .”

So, what’s an example of a social policy hiding behind the label of libertarian paternalism?  Retirement.

Yes, it seems people do not put enough money away for retirement.  And society, or at least a portion of our society, is concerned with this for a couple of reasons. First society (or government and private interest groups) wants to minimize the number of people it has to help support through government action, and secondly, businesses need people to have buying power.  It does no good for a business to produce goods, if a large sector of society (retirees) has no money to buy them.

It’s about them dollars.

Under libertarian paternalism, people are given a “nudge” to shape their behavioral economics.

So in this case, an employer would automatically enroll it’s employees in a 401K plan like a good parent would.  But in order to claim that a libertarian freedom of choice of action is still present, the employer provides an “opt out” provision.  Of course, the employee is strongly discouraged from exercising that provision, or may not be told about it.

The so-called “nudge” is supposed to push people towards choices they would make had they not been afflicted with “cognitive and volitional frailties.”  In other not so pleasant terms, this form of paternalism, as most all are, operates under the assumption that we individuals are too stupid to do what is best for us.

So what do you think?  Are we really too stupid to make rational economic decisions? Should government and private employers step in to make them for us?  Are such types of societal manipulation truly maintaining a libertarian view of independent choice?  Or should the government and private entities simply bug off and let the chips fall where they may?

In Metta

Postscript: I bring up the topic of social policy (or manipulation) at this juncture in time because of the current crisis facing us with the global pandemic.  You might find it interesting to observe what policies and actions are put in place by the government and by the private sector to influence behavior, and think about what the motives are for shaping particular changes in behavior.   There may be things going on that are much deeper than just the appearance of an interest in promoting public health.

Photo:  The US Capitol with a bit of photo fun.  I took this pic back in 1995 when I joined a protest march for safe nursing staffing.

 

The Conman

I had finished a couple of beers and an appetizer with a friend at a local pub.  Nice neighborhood.  Quiet part of town.

While he had to leave, the night was still young, and I decided to mosey on over to the bar and have another round before I hit the trail.

I generally like meeting new people at the bar, and I’ve met some fine ones and had wonderful conversations.  Trading stories.  Slices of life.  Different paths in different timelines converge for a bit.

A smiling between souls.

Continue reading The Conman

So Many Buzz Words, So Little Time

From some of my prior writings, you know how I love buzz words.  Especially in the employee-employer context that I see so often in the management literature.

I’m not really sure what motivates people to “rebrand” and try to stake original claim to concepts that have been around forever, more or less.  And I’m also not seeing any of this “elevated thought” being put into actual practice by all of the “influencers” and so-called “thought leaders.”  In fact, I see the old traditional, industrial-age, top-down, hierarchical, my-way-or-the-highway management structure still thriving.

And regardless of all the hype about worker retention, the words of my past managers still ring in my head that “attrition is our friend.”  In other words, if you were one of the creative ones, the ones that offered innovative thoughts and solutions, that in anyway questioned authority and the old “we’ve always done it that way” mentality, well then, you needed to be driven out of the organization, not retained.  You were a threat to management.

In fact, if you were innovative, you were considered a direct and lethal threat to the management team that was busy (barely) trying to justify their own existence.  They didn’t want any smart folks replacing their glacial-moving, accomplish-as-little-as-is-necessary, paper-pushing to retain their Herman Miller “Cosm chair” complete with “auto-harmonic tilt, intercept suspension, and flexible frame” working “together to give them the feeling of weightlessness.” 🙂 

So, with that slightly cynical and sarcastic, yet realistic, intro, here are today’s buzzwords.  And there was a cluster of them today.  “Unbossing,” “servant leaders,” “knowledge workers,” and “compassionate directness.”

And now that the laughter has subsided . . .

Continue reading So Many Buzz Words, So Little Time

Lighthouses and Kleptoparasitism

I have to tell you,  I’ve not been feeling well.  The living situation is draining me right now so I can’t seem to get very fired up about writing.   So, I thought, why not just add a pic to your photo journal today?  But then I also found a reminder about a word I wanted to write about.

I couldn’t remember why I wanted to write about this word.  I know it wasn’t solely from its basic definition.  I had some application or twist I wanted to highlight.  To play around with.

While staring at the blank screen, I either remembered or thought of a new one. 🙂

Today, you get both, the image and the word.

Continue reading Lighthouses and Kleptoparasitism

To Have and to Hold – Part 8 – Dodge the Bullets

Four years after my first divorce, in a courtroom on the other side of the state, the parties were gathering to complete their divorce case.  Apparently, things were going really bad for the husband.  He knew he was going to lose it all, so it lost it all in a different way.

Mentally.

There was limited security in the courthouse.  No metal detectors.  The court relied mainly on its bailiffs to keep order.

The husband, seemingly an ordinary guy of even temperament, an aerospace technician, had stashed two pistols in his briefcase.  It wasn’t long before the gunfire began.

He shot and killed his wife.  Shot both his attorney and her attorney.  Shot a bailiff and a sheriff’s deputy.  Shot at, but missed the judge.  All before the police responded and took him down.

He sustained nine gunshot wounds – two to his head.

Before the paramedics arrived, and while he was still conscious, the story is that he exclaimed:

“Did I kill the bitch?!!  Did I kill the bitch?!!!”

Now that is some powerful hatred.  From a man who presumably, at least at one time, loved the woman he just killed.

Continue reading To Have and to Hold – Part 8 – Dodge the Bullets

To Have and to Hold – Part 7 – Bedtime Stories

They say time heals all wounds.  But that’s just a cliché.  Sometimes our minds gift us with the ability to forget, maybe selective dementia, erase the slate, ease the pain.  But other times, not-so-much.  And while writing about this stuff is therapeutic, it also raises those dead memories from the past.  Tears the scab off the old wounds and brings the pain right back to the surface again . . .

Oh, and I still have the paperwork. . . I’m afraid to throw it away.

***

Continue reading To Have and to Hold – Part 7 – Bedtime Stories

To Have and to Hold – Part 6 – Oh Where, Oh Where Did My Property Go?

I was the charge nurse for a general surgical floor and you might say that things were a bit hazardous.  That’s actually putting it mildly.  You might have less risk of harm bungee jumping off the Kawarau Bridge in New Zealand with rubber bands wrapped around your ankles than receiving patient care under these circumstances.

Between sundown to sunup, just what would the body count be?

Working on the night shift meant that in addition to myself and a LPN, my staff was composed of a rotating group of five or six graduate nurses still waiting to see if they passed State Boards.  They weren’t licensed, but the hospital let them practice as though they were.   This small band of ragtag, inexperienced, semi-educated, youngsters and I had to take care of forty-nine very, very sick, post-op surgical patients.

We had twenty-four patients on cardiac monitors, and I was the only RN on duty and the only nurse certified in the reading and interpretation of EKGs.  I was the only nurse on that shift for that ward with any length of experience.  In addition to supervising my grads and ensuring their patients’ safety, I had to take a full load of my own patients.  And based on the hospital’s patient acuity system, each nurse would routinely be assigned 14 to 16 hours of patient care to deliver in an 8-hour shift.

Nice.

I worked those shifts at a full gallop.  And once the graduate nurses got their licenses, they would move on to other units and other shifts and be replaced by another group of graduates.  Thus, the five to six-month cycle of rotating bodies.  This always left me with a staff of inexperienced nurses who needed constant supervision and on-the-job training.

Crazy and dangerous as this was, we also had conflicting and distracting interpersonal situations to deal with during work hours because of the many doctor-nurse relationships.  It was quite a simmering stew of young women mixed with older, rich, prestigious men.

Soap opera and reality combined to form some pretty insane chemistry experiments.  Anything you can imagine, from nurses having “quickies” in the treatment room, to giving doctors blow-jobs in the bath room.  It was safe to say that there were more than just the patients’ body secretions floating about on the ward.

How long would a patient have to wait to get their call-light answered . . .

Continue reading To Have and to Hold – Part 6 – Oh Where, Oh Where Did My Property Go?

To Have and to Hold – Part 5 – The Alpha and Omega

* Ok folks, my apologies.  This chapter is a bit long at over 2500 words.  I had no idea where I’d go when I started writing this morning, but I thought it was important to provide some more personal history before getting to the technicalities of marital asset division.  To provide a better understanding.  Yeah, I was stupid.  Love is blind.  So at the risk of my own personal embarrassment here goes:

It’s said that every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Of course, it’s a little more interesting to jump around a bit, so if you’re looking for chronological order in the tales of my marriages and divorces, well, you might have to string some of my posts together in a completely different way.

For instance, today, I’ll jump towards the end.  And then towards the beginning of my first marriage.  The Alpha and the Omega – in reverse order, of course.  Time to set the stage for the grand dissolution.  The first one.  Then wash, rinse, and repeat, maybe.  😊

Continue reading To Have and to Hold – Part 5 – The Alpha and Omega

To Have and to Hold – Part 4 – A Zigging and A Zagging

When my daughter was a teenager, I told her to avoid two things during her teenage years that could leave her struggling for financial gain and independence for the rest of her life.  Two Albatrosses, that could strangle and weigh her down and prevent her from ever getting ahead.

Smoking cigarettes and having babies.

These two things are incredible financial weights that can decimate monthly earnings, prevent you from going to college or learning a trade, and have the potential to actually impoverish you if take these on early in life.  Especially in your teens, before you’ve even start building a career.

But there are other weights we can acquire later in life just as devastating, and some might put marriage in that category.   Why, because they dissolve and turn into everlasting debt.  Or at least very long-standing debt.  The debt from a divorce can bankrupt you.

***

Continue reading To Have and to Hold – Part 4 – A Zigging and A Zagging

To Have and to Hold – Part 3 – Where the Rubber Meets the Road

I remember in my first semester of law school being in property class.  One of my fellow students was answering the professor’s question.  They grilled us pretty hard.  The Socratic Method.  My classmate made an error.  They had said,

“Well, that’s not fair!”

My instructor paused for a moment.  Chuckled.  And then replied.  “I was wondering how long it would be before someone used the ‘F’ word.  If you’re going to argue that something is not ‘fair,’ then you have to tell me why it is not ‘legally fair’.”

***

Continue reading To Have and to Hold – Part 3 – Where the Rubber Meets the Road

To Have and to Hold – Part 2 – Contract, What Contract?

So, what’s all this talk about a contract?

And forgive me, but this post is going to get a little technical.  But not too technical. 😊

If you haven’t, you might want to read part one first to understand this post’s jumping off point.  Also, nothing I’m going to talk about will cover all of the intricacies of the law, or the evolution of marriage law, nor will it constitute legal advice.  If you want true legal advice, please go hire an attorney.

Here we go . . .

Continue reading To Have and to Hold – Part 2 – Contract, What Contract?

To Have and to Hold – Part I – Myths of Old and New

I listed a couple of my disclaimers in yesterday’s intro into this series, but I better cover them here as well:

My writings on this topic will be based upon a mix of personal experience and my experience as an attorney.

All opinions are my own, and it is not my intent to upset anyone in any way or feed into any stereotypes or traditional prejudices that people may have.

None of us can have a full understanding of what other folks are doing, or what’s in their minds, their perspectives, what they were taught, what their intentions are, or why events in their lives may have unfolded the way they did.

Obviously, since I’m a male, you will be hearing a male perspective, but I’ve tried to balance that and be as objective as possible.  For those following my blog, you may remember I did a series on being “Woke” where I discussed gender roles and patriarchy, and I tried to provide a balanced discussion in that series as well.

Also, readers may span different generations and have been taught completely different things and may approach love, sex, and marriage in completely different ways than prior generations.   Or they may come from a different cultural base that treats relationships completely different than from the way they are treated in this country.  One of my blogging friends just this morning introduced a different term for this discussion – the “bonded pair,” and I like that because it encompasses much more than a single concept.

I have edited parts of my articles to remove personal observations that some might find objectionable.  It is not always easy for people to look in the mirror, or into the mirror I’m holding.  I’m trying to respect that.  But those observations may come out once comments begin.

Everyone will have their views, and I hope you will share yours with me frankly – trust me, I won’t be offended.

All that being said, let’s dive into some myths.  Even at the risk of my own embarrassment. :-0

*****

Continue reading To Have and to Hold – Part I – Myths of Old and New