Tag 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.

 

Compulsion to Flee – Part 3 – Modernity and Hermitism?

I’ve been writing about that urge to roam.  To travel freely.  Unencumbered.  To experience the world through the lens of constant motion.

My first post in this series introduced the terms “Dromomania” and “Drapetomania,” which placed this desire squarely in the medical model for disease.  The word “disease” itself has been defined as: “a condition of the living animal or plant body, or of one of its parts, that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms” that is “not simply a direct result of physical injury.”  A disease has also been said to be “a particular quality, habit, or disposition regarded as adversely affecting a person or group of people.”*

And there are four main types of disease: infectious, deficiency, hereditary, and physiological diseases. Diseases can be communicable or non-communicable, and when we have absolutely no idea what causes one, we call it “idiopathic.”

And let’s not forget mental or psychogenic diseases.

In fact, the suffix “mania,” in dromomania and drapetomania, arguably places the old terminology squarely in that category of mental illness.

So, is the compulsion to flee, to explore, to wander the world, a mental disorder?  And what are those so-afflicted fleeing from?

Continue reading Compulsion to Flee – Part 3 – Modernity and Hermitism?

Compulsion to Flee – Part 2 – Conversion or Reversion?

Picking up where I left off yesterday . . .

We’ve all heard the stories of Cortez conquering the Aztecs and Pizzaro conquering the Incas, but we often only hear the stories of those who are regarded as conquerors.  The victors.  Even if their acts were entirely atrocious and inhumane.

History is distorted that way.

Continue reading Compulsion to Flee – Part 2 – Conversion or Reversion?

Compulsion to Flee

I often write about my travels and the things I experience while traveling.  The adventure of it. 😊  Particularly getting back to Nature and hiking in the wilderness.  Something I do whenever possible.  And the urge to travel, or to continue traveling once on the road, is always at the surface.

Lingering, like a Tiger ready to pounce on its prey.

Frankly, I like that feeling.  For it drives me to drive.  Gives me reason and purpose.  An impetus to greet Grandfather Sun each day.

Continue reading Compulsion to Flee

My Mom Had Guts!

International Women’s Day was yesterday.  To honor it last year, I made a post about my daughter.  Today, I’ll honor my mother.

My mom grew up on a farm in southern Michigan.  The closest “big town” was Sylvania, Ohio.  As soon as she could, she left the farm and found work in Toledo.  While there, she also sold War Bonds  for WWII and was a “War Bond Captain.”

But this wasn’t exciting enough for her.

Continue reading My Mom Had Guts!

A Little “Tude” Please

Well, as language continues to evolve, or devolve, there’s nothing “cooler” than shortening words for effect. 😊  It also takes less energy and effort.  I mean, why bother with all those syllables and pronunciation, right?

There’s also a connotation that sticks with these phrases.  These monotone soundbites.

Today’s example is “tude.”  The short version of “attitude.”  And it’s usually with the negative connotation.  “So, what’s with all the tude man?”  “Too early in the day for that kind of tude.”

I’m sure you’ve heard it before.

Continue reading A Little “Tude” Please

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

The Heart of Storytelling

I read a post a couple of days ago stating that the difference between humans and other animals was the ability of humans to tell stories.  And that this ability is what has led to discoveries, inventions (good and bad), art, poetry, war, etc.

Of course, I believe other species have their own way of telling stories. 🙂

Stories have been said to create a special niche where we love to reside.  Fictional worlds that fill our minds, the majority of the time for some of us, with a central plot-line of underlying “conflict.”  There are generally dark forces to overcome, battles to be won or lost, struggles that define the protagonists, to whom we relate ourselves.

It is us that mirrors back as being the heroine or hero.  Whether defeated or exalted.

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The Internal Dialog

We’re already nine days into the new year and I realize I haven’t posted anything yet.  True, things have been busy.  Crazy busy.  But that’s no excuse.  After all, my mind is constantly churning out thoughts I seem to have no control over.

Spewing and spewing more words, phrases, ideas, and concepts than I can wrap my head around.  Nonstop.  Mass internal confusion.  The collision of thoughts like sub-atomic particles ricocheting around in a super collider.

Condensation trails in a cloud chamber.

It’s no wonder it’s tough to think and write cohesively.

What is that voice in our heads constantly telling us how the world is?  And I don’t mean that voice from the subconscious that warns us when we need it most – that’s our gut talking.  That’s intuition.  That’s something entirely different.

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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

Mile Marker 1000

Well I hit one of those milestones today.  I now have 1000 followers!  And while the stats and numbers aren’t overly important, I do appreciate everyone who visits and pauses to read or comment.

I really enjoy being part of the WordPress community.

I’ve found the people here to be positive, intelligent, and ready to engage in an exchange of ideas that doesn’t match the other social media platforms – in short, people are civil here.  People are artists here.  People are wordsmiths here.  People are poets here.  People share their stories here.

And I can’t get enough of good stories to read.

Continue reading Mile Marker 1000

Lazy or Brilliant ?

My last post was a bit short.  And it really only listed out some research findings.  Although it was interesting research about the power of positive relationships.  And it did include some fun terms like “micro-aggressions,” “micro-experiences,” and “positive alacrity.”

I had to look up that last word “alacrity,” and it means “promptness in response, cheerful readiness.”

One could say that I didn’t put a lot creative effort into that post, or mockingly, and fairly, say that “I phoned it in.”

But sometimes shorter and simpler is better.  The acronym I used for this was “KISS.”  I used it as “keep it short and simple.”  In law school, it stood for “keep it simple stupid.” That’s kind of interesting because one might think that highly educated folks, like lawyers, might not mind long and detailed analyses.  It goes with the territory.

But people are pressed for time.  And maybe that time is not well spent on “legal briefs” or social media?

Continue reading Lazy or Brilliant ?